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Old 08-12-2020, 09:49 AM   #1
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4x4 Tow Vehicle or... not

The majority of Airstream Owners, or anyone towing a trailer DO NOT NEED A FOUR WHEEL DRIVE TRUCK. Although I do as we Off the Grid Boondock, traveling on unpaved roads, that can vary in condition and width. Going from paved, to improved gravel to narrow unimproved to two ruts in forty miles... requiring some backing up skills when the road on the map... does not indicate that the road has not been maintained since logging ended, forty years ago. Kind of road...

Having 'His and Hers loppers' to cut back brush and low hanging tree branches, a shovel to fill pot holes, remove boulders in the road... or a lever to move logs off to the side of the road to get pass. Develops upper chest muscles and strength, not used at home.

Broke one long handled shovel handle since 2006. This was in our yard moving a boulder... attached to the mountain, as we discovered. We now use the short oak handled shovels and have wear to prove it. No rust on our shovels! Just wear them out.

When to stop, walk a possible turn out is a skill set, learned by experience, not from reading a magazine article about Boondocking.

Four wheel drive is a life style, not necessary for most towing a trailer. Few need a 4x4 vehicle, as well. Although many vehicles already have limited 4x4 as standard without locking hubs and high/low. For those living in the 'snow zone'... 4x4 is a great option... when needed.

We travel more Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management roads towing our Airstreams without any need of 4x4 activated... although my F350 has 4x4 high and low.

Few will be every towing their Airstream in Snow. If you do... tell us about why? Even 4x4 is not effective when your Dexter Brakes engage in varying braking power. These are drum brakes, not disc. The responses ARE different. Living in Wyoming it is highly suggested to have a 4x4 vehicle. Living in Florida... maybe get the convertible option which is more practical. Although many vehicles today, like Land Cruisers have 4x4 as standard and works very well, anywhere.

Boondocking Off the Grid... you can get into a soft sandy road grade, or loose gravel and switching into 4x4 is a good idea when you HAVE IT. If you don't, you probably can judge the What Ifs by walking this section of road. Without 'posi traction', one wheel spins and digs a hole in the grit. The other three tires are for looks when this occurs.... Most have 'limited slip' called posi-traction and that is better than one wheel getting all of the power.

I NEED 4x4. We go to places that others may avoid... most I would say. No... this is not beating up our tow vehicle or Airstream. I can drive a unpaved road just as easily as paved... it is experience of avoiding obstacles and brush and tree branches overhanding the narrower roads. Large pot holes... are like a DEAD END sign to us. Those filled with water... even more of a DEAD END.

Maybe some from the 2016 New Mexico or Wyoming Adventures may comment about Off the Grid towing???? All survived, that I am aware.

It is more important to have QUALITY TIRES. I use Michelin E Rated on my F350 and 27 foot International. Not one tire issue. Not one traction issue.

Although when you see THIS SIGN... the wise back up and find a different route. Often having 'good judgment' is more important than 4x4. You can learn the Easy Way or the Hard Way... but some need to learn a lesson to understand.
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Old 08-12-2020, 11:00 AM   #2
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Ray, appreciate the observations. Since my first Subaru many years ago, my eyes were opened to the cost/benefits of available 4X4 capability. I, too, tend to find off the main track places to explore, and there are many around here. Interesting that some locals that decry mining are also the first we find out enjoying the remote country thanks to the miners.

With the Airstream in tow, I find the in-cab 4X4 selector switch in the F350 most excellent, even though the vacuum seals needed replacing on warranty last fall. Handy to be able to reach over and twist the knob to 4H on the fly while crawling up that gravel grade or just getting rolling after a stop in a remote and wet spot.
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Old 08-12-2020, 11:17 AM   #3
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When I was just learning to drive 4x4's in the mountains (long, long ago) A wise man told me that he would use 2 wheel drive until he got stuck. Then engage 4x4 and get unstuck and find a new rout. because if you get stuck when you're in 4x4, Your stuck, stuck.

Of course you could have a wench and snatch blocks. But I digress, that's not usual for me when I'm pulling my trailer.

We boondock (national forest, BLM Bureau of Land Management) most of the time so I do like having the 4x4 (auto, High, Low) option when I want/need it. Also E rated Michelins. I learned about having only D rated tires the hard way.

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Old 08-12-2020, 12:49 PM   #4
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Desert boondocker here. Yes, I need 4WD.

IMHO if you boondock or camp in the greener parts of America on grass or vegetation. You may well need it too.

Have seen 2 WD trucks on wet/moist grass spin their wheels.

Since the added price of 4WD brings added price when you sell. You may as well get it. As they say...

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
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Old 08-12-2020, 01:33 PM   #5
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I have needed the 4x4 a few times while towing Once while going up a steeper gravel hill the rear wheels were slipping a bit. The other while backing into a spot that was making my wheels spin. But as they say, "About the time you don't have it you need it." Plus I live in WI and need it for ice and snow when not towing. And I can imagine even in the south where you may have rain and mud it would come in handy. The extra cost is fairly minimal. In fact I don't even think they sell just 2 wheel drive trucks in WI. No one would buy them.
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Old 08-12-2020, 01:41 PM   #6
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I have needed and used my 4x4 dozens of times. Not to go off-road with the Airstream in tow, but wet grass, sand, etc all can be a problem. Sure limited slip alone can help, but there have been handfuls of times where if I didn't have 4x4, I'da been in trouble. For the other times, I keep it in 2wd, but as an RVer, I would not be without 4x4, but it's a lifestyle and personal choice. I'm not sure I'd say the majority don't need it. You only don't need something until you find you don't have it when you need it most.
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Old 08-12-2020, 01:59 PM   #7
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Rocky Mountain Experience?

When in doubt... back up?
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Old 08-12-2020, 02:12 PM   #8
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Backing up is also a Skill Set. Backing up on a curved road... even more so. These are towing the 25 foot with 16 inch Michelins. Having deep tread makes a difference between spinning tires and traction tossing mud on everything within eight feet! Often on the rock guards and mud flaps. It will dry and fall off... somewhere.

Some earlier examples of roads we have encountered and worked our way to back up and reverse direction. This happens in the National Forest and Bureau of Land Management roads as they do not 'service' them often... if at all. Even if these are on State Maps that indicate they ARE passable... OK?... sometimes not.

The muddy ruts were on a route displayed on the Wyoming State Map as improved. It was along the headwaters of the Greys River into Alpine, Wyoming. The route from the North would take you there if you kept going south. (second photo)

This proved not to be a short cut.

The ruts were in Utah. I managed to ride the high points and when we arrived at the 'Pass' the snow drift was more than we could manage. This was on the Utah State Highway map as an 'improved and through route' in the high Fish Lake National Forest. (first, third and fourth)

Nancy gets to dig some dirt to fill a stubborn spot to travel over in the fourth. She is a true Camper. This skill set works well when gardening at home. She knows which end of the shovel to use. Others... they need supervision and a video to understand HOW a Shovel is suppose to work. (Just kidding... maybe.)

When you find Aspen along side the road... expect it to be up high and wet. Eventually it drys and may be passable. Us and the mud...
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Old 08-13-2020, 09:48 AM   #9
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Quote:
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When in doubt... back up?

That's either photoshopped or someone has been capturing images from my nightmares!
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Old 08-13-2020, 09:55 AM   #10
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Hi

4WD vs 2WD is actually a bit more complex.

You can have straight 2WD.
You can have 2WD with a manually locked rear axle (cheap and worth it BTW ...).
You can have the "AWD" version of 4WD that comes on a lot of kid haulers ( yuck ....)
You can have 4WD that does not give you a 4 wheel "low" setting. (why ???? )
You can have 4WD that gives you a low range and some form of limited slip ( the minimum for "real" 4WD).
You can have 4WD that allows you to lock transfer cases / axles / hubs .....

No that's not even close to a complete list. The further you get down that list, the better it's going to do. It will also weigh more (so less payload). It will cost more (so less beer money). It likely will increase the ride height of the vehicle (so short people will be less happy ... and they *will* let you know about that ...). The compromises in the suspension probably make it less "fun" driving the interstate or down curvy roads.

So no, it's not a simple A vs B decision with all the pluses on one side. From what I've seen, a lot of simple "4WD" setups simply let you spin 2 wheels at once instead of just one. They add very little to your ability to get unstuck. It is pretty easy to set up a course that a simple 4WD will not handle, but a rear locking 2WD will .... ( our big long driveway in CT was a good one most winters).

Common sense often is in short supply. If having 2WD makes you more cautious / careful, that's a good thing. If 4WD convinces you that you can take on anything and everything out there .... that's a bad thing.

Lots of variables.

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Old 08-13-2020, 10:05 AM   #11
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Question. We love boondocking in wild places - towing a 2017 FC 27ft FBT with an F250 Powerstroke. Our biggest problem is the Airstream shaking apart. Shower door broke, kitchen cabinet hinges broke, underseat drawer broke, rivets fall out, the kitchen faucet shook on once when we forgot to turn off the pump - flood.

How do yall address this when on rough roads?
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:26 AM   #12
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There have been several occasions when I depended on having 4WD. It’s not a common need, but I was so glad to have it when I needed it, I swear by it now. Here are a few examples:

1. On our shakedown “cruise”, a trip we took to Jasper AB in September, we ran into a freak snowstorm that dropped about 20 cm of snow as we headed to the campground. My Sequoia had all season tires, not snow tires. It was a bit of a white knuckle experience, especially being new to towing, but we made it through safely, thanks in part to my experience driving in snow in my youth, and having 4WD enabled.

2. A trip to a festival in California, where the designated RV campground was on a field riddled with gopher holes. Trying to level and stabilize the trailer was difficult enough, but as we were leaving, the ground was so soft, I had to kick in 4WD-low and exercise a lot of patience to extract our Airstream from the field.

3. At another music festival in BC, the access roads were dirt and relatively loose. And we also had to deal with a relatively soft and uneven field where we camped. Having 4WD gave us a lot of peace of mind. And there were a number of vehicles that got stuck attempting to leave, but I was able to maneuver around them.

So, if you plan to travel only in summer months, avoid mountainous areas, stay on paved roads, and camp in well established RV parks, having available 4WD is probably redundant. But for the 5% of the situations where you end up in a remote area, or run into severe weather, you will be glad you had it.
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Old 08-13-2020, 10:43 AM   #13
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manage inertia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave18134 View Post
Question. We love boondocking in wild places - towing a 2017 FC 27ft FBT with an F250 Powerstroke. Our biggest problem is the Airstream shaking apart. Shower door broke, kitchen cabinet hinges broke, underseat drawer broke, rivets fall out, the kitchen faucet shook on once when we forgot to turn off the pump - flood.

How do yall address this when on rough roads?
Likely related to speed over rough terrain, my guess. When the coach cycles between X degrees tilt to the left and rapidly back to level or to the right over rutted roads, there is a lot of acceleration-deceleration. The coach axles don't have the same amount of suspension travel as the TV, even though the TV suspension is plenty stiff. Someone suggested mounting a go-pro camera in the coach some time, then watching the movie after a rough patch of road.

If you use Levelmate Pro, might turn on the sending unit prior to entering the rough spots and have your passenger monitor the real-time changes in side-to-side roll. you will be surprised how slow you will need to crawl over some stretches in order to keep the "roll rate" reasonable.
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:27 AM   #14
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Newbies w/4wheel drive when on ice or snow packed and slippery rds. can get up to speed pretty fast, don't realize does not stop fast, then in accident, spin out or off rd.
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Old 08-13-2020, 11:36 AM   #15
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Question. We love boondocking in wild places - towing a 2017 FC 27ft FBT with an F250 Powerstroke. Our biggest problem is the Airstream shaking apart. Shower door broke, kitchen cabinet hinges broke, underseat drawer broke, rivets fall out, the kitchen faucet shook on once when we forgot to turn off the pump - flood.

How do yall address this when on rough roads?
Not trying to be a smart butt here but.

I slow down.

As a desert boondocker. Washboard dirt roads are the norm and rocks and bumps when towing off road do the same.

We hauled our 25FB all over the desert for eleven years with no towing damage.
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Old 08-13-2020, 12:11 PM   #16
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4x4's since 1981 and going...

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Likely related to speed over rough terrain, my guess. When the coach cycles between X degrees tilt to the left and rapidly back to level or to the right over rutted roads, there is a lot of acceleration-deceleration. The coach axles don't have the same amount of suspension travel as the TV, even though the TV suspension is plenty stiff. Someone suggested mounting a go-pro camera in the coach some time, then watching the movie after a rough patch of road.

If you use Levelmate Pro, might turn on the sending unit prior to entering the rough spots and have your passenger monitor the real-time changes in side-to-side roll. you will be surprised how slow you will need to crawl over some stretches in order to keep the "roll rate" reasonable.
******

Partially the blame although slow is a BIG consideration on Left to Right 'thrusting' of the trailer AND tow vehicle. If you feel it with the tow vehicle going slow... reconsider or be very careful... the Airstream's center of gravity will create earthquake interior energy.

Exiting or Entering a Service Station at an angle over steep drainage curbs will shake the 'noodles out of the cabinets'. Be very cautious with these.

I pass on some Service Stations because the LEFT to RIGHT shaking is worse than any road we travel off the asphalt.

When you are turning into an irregular curb to anywhere and having to pick up speed as you are crossing on coming traffic... be aware of the potential of a dramatic tossing of back and forth motion as pjshier says.

We see ruts Off the Grid. Ruts are easy. We know how to navigate them. Curbs entering a parking lot or Service Station are... WORSE.

None of this has anything to do with a 4x4 towing as the OTG driver is already focused. A small SUV towing is not safe from the Side to Side thrust of the interior of an Airstream.

Watch for hitch 'drags' entering or exiting any place. Be careful. Do not lose your rear bumper or drag the hitch and assembly. The hitch drag can be mediated by flipping it and save you a lot of grief.

All of this is learned from watching others and avoiding their poor judgement. I hate to be an 'example'. Figured this out by trial and error. If in DOUBT... have someone watching outside the vehicle.

More damage is created AT Service Stations. Sharp turns hitting their concrete fuel pumps is a BIG Mistake and expensive. You will figure out a Left turn out works best as YOU can SEE the trailer as it... clears.

Experience can come cheap... or expensive. Having a 4x4 for US is 100% a no brainer. For the large majority... a whim, but when 4x4 becomes needed... even they come around. The resale of a 4x4 finds their market.
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Old 08-13-2020, 12:21 PM   #17
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That's either photoshopped or someone has been capturing images from my nightmares!
******

Yes. Someone did a great photo shop. Does draw attention when you... want to pass.

Reminds me of some of the Durango to Ouray, Colorado Highway 550... adventure. Paved and still just... enough... space to clear.
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Old 08-13-2020, 01:14 PM   #18
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is that Lone Butte? (pic #2)
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Old 08-13-2020, 01:25 PM   #19
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is that Lone Butte? (pic #2)
*****
Beaver Rim, Wyoming 2020. South of Lander, Wyoming. Beaver Rim is maybe twenty miles of View... if you can find the right road.

The 2006 Wyoming Adventure under Boondocking had an 'easier to get to' campsite on the Lander - Rock Springs Stage route. It may have photos, as well.

Two photos of Beaver Rim 2016 Wyoming Adventure. Photo from the VIEW side of the Rim and the second from the Prairie View of the... well... Wyoming in 2016.

To the North and West were Teepee Rings... so we were preceded hundreds of years ago by American Indians. We camped there as well.

We seem to have camped everywhere. We are running out of places to find to camp in the Rocky Mountains.

One big requirement. We have to be able to get the trailer there, otherwise we have to go back to Tent Camping, like in 2019 and after that... purchased the 2019 International. Sold the 25 foot in 2018 and gained a 27 foot in the process. Life is wonderful... when you learn a lesson that Tent Camping does not require the tool box, which I missed. Yeah, Right.
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Old 08-13-2020, 02:47 PM   #20
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When off road the other technique is to lower tire pressures a bunch. 20% or more. You have to go slow to not overheat but that will reduce bounce. This also means you need a way to reinflate once your back to improved roads.
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