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Old 01-08-2012, 11:35 AM   #1
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Does Trailer Size Matter when Rockdocking?

I own a 23 foot AS. Imagine if I also could have purchased a 25 foot or a 34 footer with a triple axle. Why a 23 foot? It is narrower, lighter and shorter than the larger AS... The 23 footer has dual axles, for reasons I have expressed in the past, but there is disagreement to the advantages I think a dual axle offers to the back country roads versus a single axle. It is also the shortest AS with all of the amenities I could ask for. The AS's up to 22 foot have single axles, which pushed me into the 23 footer. A single axle AS owner that goes into the back country could provide their experience in mobility and travel, since I have not owned one. Please do comment if you are one of these owners.

The Forest Service will post large signs on many back country Forest Service roads that say "Trailers over 20 feet not Advised". Trust me, 23 feet takes a bit of effort to proceed at the one or two "pinch" points on some of these... roads, that could be 75 miles long (Gila Wilderness, New Mexico) and you are risking coming to the last fifteen miles and have to turn around. There are some roads that are not posted, until you GET to that spot, and you have to figure out how to back out or turn around (Beaver, Utah to the east of town has one of these). Nothing like getting wedged and high centered in a big dip in a road, having to dig your way out of a mess.

I am not going bear hunting with a 22 caliber rifle, nor would I want a 34 foot AS. I would not get too far into the back country with a 34 foot AS. In some cases bigger is not better. Size does matter when you are towing a trailer. A longer trailer has its advantages in living space, but for irregular roads it can lead to some bad results. A 16 foot Bambi will make a larger AS look like a whale in a swimming pool, until you understand the limitations of space and capacity that a 16 footer provides. My compromise was 23 feet. I would probably enjoy a 25 foot AS, but I would have to compromise where I could tow and park it. Not a lot, but just a bit more. I am able to pull my AS further into the back country and walk to many places I want to explore and driving as I proceed further from base camp. A larger trailer would take you MOST of the way, park and drive the rest of the distance with the tow vehicle. So who is the smarter boondocker/rockdocker? It is the one who can get off the asphalt, find a base camp that is convenient and have a clear image in their mind of the minute limitations of your tow vehicle and trailer.

Many Forest Service roads were constructed by logging companies to haul long trailers of timber out of the remote locations. If you have met up with a timber hauler coming out of a Montana forest... they do not get out of YOUR way and other than breaking some branches on the way down, these giants can navigate the switch backs with ease. Skill and experience. I was surprised to find a forty foot horse "war wagon" parked at the DuBois, Wyoming Double Cabin camping area. He pulled it with a diesel truck cab, and all custom with NO dents, crushed metal or damage. He, his wife and pack horses ride up towards Yellowstone every couple of years. I could not pull off such a feat. I do not have that skill, nor a forty foot horse trailer to find out if I could develop that skill.

ALL Airstream owners CAN navigate into the back country, with the limitations that trailer length allows. Skill and experience is earned through practice and pushing yourself to go just a bit further up that semi improved road. All that is required is knowing your limitations, being prepared and overcoming problems when they present themselves.

It is not a bad idea for a "newbie Rockdocker" to detach the trailer and scout your way to a camp site in an area new to you. Carefully notating the mileages of potential campsites as you proceed IS the best advice I can offer to you. I detach the AS at times, and there are some areas that it might look like a nice graded road, until you are now on a sharp curve, discovering loose gravel, washboard road and driving a two wheel drive pickup that is NOW under powered on a steep grade. At times, it is the tow vehicle that limits your travel. For those of you pulling a trailer with a two wheel drive pickup, losing traction and having to ease back down and make the switchback(s) is a feat for stunt men in an large filming crew for guidance.

Personally I enjoy my 23 foot trailer, four wheel drive, 5.7L engine, with low four wheel drive (when needed) and E rated Michelin A/T tires. I can go anywhere that my ability to work myself through the bad road conditions can present. One word of experience... when you have detached your trailer and are checking the road for travel and pull offs to set up camp... When you return with the trailer in tow, THE ROAD WILL BECOME MORE DIFFICULT, HAVE MORE TIGHT SPOTS AND PRESENT OBSTACLES YOU DID NOT SEE WITH JUST THE TOW VEHICLE!

Try a dry camp, no facility experience, just once. You will find that the worry was not a concern after testing your experience. Now you have to get better, detailed Forest Service maps to navigate the much larger access to Public Lands, than you could have ever imagined.
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Old 01-08-2012, 12:02 PM   #2
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That would be awesome. I would like to rough it like that,..but being from Texas,..how to go about it seems to be difficult. I mean as in knowing where to begin. I wonder if east Texas has places like that. I have to drive 14 hours to get to the forest in Colorado. Is there a link to these "open" areas?

Gotta talk the wife into it,..but would like to get away,..just don't know how to start the adventure. I'm home bound,,,I'm 43 and to retired yet. Time is limited...can't be gone too long.

You are living my dream...congrats to you and thank you for the post.

Shane
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Old 01-08-2012, 03:12 PM   #3
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Head West Young Man...

Hi Shane.

Connect your trailer, put that pickup into Drive and head West to where the Public Land Grant lands exceed the private property ownership. I want you to live your dream. My dreams are pretty hard to figure out.

Find an an area of... lets say New Mexico you would like to travel. Buy a Forest Service map for that area, study it a bit to see where there are some decent county/forest service improved roads (they rate them from jeep trails to black top). As you get near a major city, options decrease. Even in the National Forest you can find the "water" deeded. This would include creeks, streams, rivers, ponds and former mining claims that cattle ranchers keep for themselves. Colorado is a bit tough in that regard, as are the eastern halves of Wyoming and Montana, for private property on both sides of the road and no where for you to pull out. Arizona has large Indian reservations to avoid as the council is not interested in finding you camped on their reservation. But, at times there are roads that lead to wide open public access... the hidden jewels you mark on the map and you have just made camping memory number one. You will find some examples of these places within the Boondocking Forum to get your experience and confidence reinforced, by using prior AS owners travel into some areas. There are Forest Service campgrounds marked in many "Hunter's Atlases". I use DeLorme. Not the most detailed, and that is why you need to get the smaller scale Forest Service map for these public lands. This includes BLM lands.

At the worst, you find yourself at a RV Park, Forest Service campground for a day's recovery. Then proceed to check an area out with the trailer parked.

The first season the wife and I went out with our new AS, the tension was there. After the first week, it was a piece of cake... in most cases. You learn to cut back brush, overhanding branches when necessary and roll a few boulders out of the road. Good for you and other travelers. It is not uncommon to see a tree fallen onto the road, blocking half of it and people will drive around it into the ditch to avoid having to move it. We will get out and move this dead timber, which is easy and in a way, entertaining. We have even brought our Stihl chainsaw with us to remove some bigger timber in southwestern New Mexico from wind falls blocking our access to good agate hunting areas. You can drive in one day and find two trees across the road the next. If they are small, you can move them. It they are three feet in diameter and wedged, you then are walking the other "options". Like making a bypass route or back tracking to that jeep trail that now looks much better than earlier. When traveling unfamiliar roads, watch your left and right sides of the trailer, look for low hanging branches and high spots in the road to avoid dragging your plumbing... Sounds difficult, but I found it easier than flying a helicopter where now you have also added down and 360 degree hazards to complicate the picture. When you have a pine branch with green needles slide against your aluminum, it wil leave a "scuff". With a fine rubbing compound and wax, you would never notice it. Avoid the dry wood branch tips and of course, the heavy timber part of the branch. It can crease the aluminum, but these roads have had larger trailers in the area than yours and have already "trimmed" these back for you.

When you are first testing yourself, find a pullout not too far from the main road. Hunter camps are easy to spot and they usually are pulling tall, wide trailers during the numerous hunting seasons out west.
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Old 01-08-2012, 03:28 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THEPILL View Post
That would be awesome. I would like to rough it like that,..but being from Texas,..how to go about it seems to be difficult. I mean as in knowing where to begin. I wonder if east Texas has places like that. I have to drive 14 hours to get to the forest in Colorado. Is there a link to these "open" areas?

Gotta talk the wife into it,..but would like to get away,..just don't know how to start the adventure. I'm home bound,,,I'm 43 and to retired yet. Time is limited...can't be gone too long.

You are living my dream...congrats to you and thank you for the post.

Shane
I've no idea how remote or wild the forests are, but the NFS lists 4 National Forests in East Texas, and there's the LBJ National Grasslands up by Decatur where my WBCCI unit camps a few times a year. The Grasslands has a designated camping area, but the website for the NFS land in Texas specifically says that "primitive camping" is allowed except for deer season anywhere it's not specifically prohibited.
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:18 PM   #5
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...
I own a 34 foot AS. Imagine if I also could have purchased a 25 foot or 19 footer, with dual or a single axle. Why a 34 foot? It is an Airstream, narrower, lighter and shorter than the larger 5th Wheelers, we spend 95% of our time traveling, kinda what I think Wally intended... The 34 footer has triple axles, for reasons expressed in the past, but there is disagreement to the advantages I think a triple axle offers on the roads versus a dual or single axle. It is also the roomiest AS, having all of the amenities I could ask for. The AS's up to 32 foot have only dual axles, which pushed me into the 34 footer…
Break…
Most of us are willing to tow 1,800 beautiful miles to get to a place where only the last 18 miles are too rugged for us to get to camp in. I have traveled in the Forest Service roads, sans trailer, and enjoyed the solitude.
Toss us “Big Trailers” a bone! Most folks ARE longer than 23’ and are not lookin to trade down…Where CAN we get into and enjoy? Help us taste extreme Boondocking…
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Old 01-08-2012, 06:33 PM   #6
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Different strokes for different folks

We sure do love our 34. Rather have it than two 17', if they made 'em.
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Old 01-22-2012, 07:41 PM   #7
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I gave out 31' a 2" lift and run LT 235/75r15 tires. The extra clearance and departure angle makes a huge difference with no noticeable handling side effects. I may lift it an additional 2" at some point so we can explore more remote areas with this size trailer.
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Old 01-22-2012, 11:02 PM   #8
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Tim, how did you do the lift? Any pics?
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Old 01-23-2012, 12:01 AM   #9
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We do lifts all the time, up to 6". The process is not cheap or easy but often worth it. We do short lifts by changing out the down angle of the axles to the max of 45 degrees. For more lift we install new axle plates to move the pedistals (axle openings) down and then install the 45 degree axles.

On the Orvis trailer we gave it a generous 6.5 inch lift for better back country travel.
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Old 01-23-2012, 03:30 AM   #10
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Similar situation, with different options-

Hi, we were looking at the same type travel, but decided that we wanted a big trailer, which is where we spend most of our traveling time, on open roads and open spaces, and for trail camping, we started looking at truck campers, which when mounted on an F350 diesel 4X4 will go anywhere.

Haven't picked one up yet, but appealing are the ones that pop-up on the top. They have showers and toilets and sleep 2 adults above the cab and 2 kids in the dinette when folded down. The camper will stay on the truck all the time, if its folded down, very little wind resistance and fits to the back of the bed of our truck- no overhang to interfere with the Airstream.

We're all looking for the best of both worlds, I'm not sure there is one, but lots of nice options to explore! We want 2 Airstreams, one small for local short camping trips and the other for long hauls out west to do these trail camping weekends.

I'm researching this pitifully hard! Does it show?

Heather
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Old 01-23-2012, 05:14 AM   #11
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heather, have you read this thread?
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...hel-82641.html
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Old 01-23-2012, 05:30 AM   #12
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Thanks!

Quote:
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heather, have you read this thread?
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/...hel-82641.html
I'm having an issue with the construction- most seem to be made from OSB wafer board, which my husband refuses to accept as a construction material.

I'm looking for one that will fold down and stand up to the test of time like an Airstream. Would be nice if someone would build them out of alclad! The old Cayo and Avion truck campers are too high for our travels, we really want the lower profile.

Thanks much!

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Old 01-24-2012, 03:57 PM   #13
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2" AS Lift

I removed the axles and made spacers from 2x2x3/8 square steel tubing. I bolted and welded them to the frame and reattached the axles to those. The shock mounts did not need relocating. If I were to lift 4" I would want some lateral supports to eliminate any damage from tight turns when one axle is forced to one side and the other is forced to the other side......scrubbing. This works well with our mildly 4" lifted F-350 CC shortbed.
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Old 01-25-2012, 01:20 AM   #14
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Tim, thanks for the description. I may break down and resort to something similar. Sigh.
Brett, thanks for the info, dunno that I'm ready to replace two axles on a new trailer yet. Maybe if I have to go to 16" wheels to get decent tires.
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Old 02-01-2012, 02:17 PM   #15
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Thanks for the good ideas ... wish that AS made a 20-21 with dual axles as we didn't want to go to 23 for just two people and a small dog. Around here 'docking our FC20 at elevations has maxed out my capabilites for off road driving / negotiating / turning / backing on dirt roads ... trying to keep it scratch free.
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Old 02-01-2012, 07:03 PM   #16
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Great thread OP! Just needs pics of your rig as hitched, some dimensions of same (total length and the distance from the hitch ball in both directions) so we can all make some comparisons. A shorter "tractor" might make it possible to yank a 25' around . . . or, what am I missing? (I think your advice prudent as to length, but I can't be the only one thinking this thought).
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Old 02-01-2012, 08:23 PM   #17
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Have you looked at the Alaskan campers?

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Old 02-02-2012, 12:01 PM   #18
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Everyone has their system but I'm hoping to get an Avion C-11 for any serious offroading.
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Old 02-05-2012, 12:30 PM   #19
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Hmmmm ... serious offroading for us around here is a short wheelbase 4wd ... Jeep Wrangler ...
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Old 02-05-2012, 01:16 PM   #20
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FS maps show jeep trails (often marked 4WD) and FS roads. Either may have numbers, but once you are out there, a lot of signs have been vandalized or stolen. FS maps are also incomplete and you may see more roads than the map shows. It is easy to take the wrong one. Numbers on thr maps may be different than those on the ground; the FS changes road numbers on a whim it appears. USGS topos have more detail, but can be decades old. They may have been updated badly.

It takes some experience with these maps to understand them.

Jeep trails can be full of very deep ruts (more than 1 foot), big rocks, and other obstructions. They are often too narrow for a full size pickup because someone will eventually be coming the other way. Plenty of places can require backing up when you meet someone—on shelf roads that can be a long distance. A shelf road is on one the side of a mountain and they can go on for miles. At Colorado altitudes that may mean no trees to hold you when you slide off the side before you drop about 500 or 1,000'. These roads are often off camber and late spring and early summer may mean a snow blockage and slippery surface or a wash out. Some high altitude rods never open after a winter with heavier snowfall. Some of these roads are scary. In the forest, mud may be a problem. The one or two thousand feet below tree line is often quite wet, muddy, steep, full of stream crossings and holes. Switchbacks may be too tight for a full sized vehicle. It is not fun to have to back up on a steep switchback on loose soil and have your tires slip. Doing it with a trailer would be lunacy. If you watched the dangerous roads version of Ice Road Truckers, those roads are better than many Rocky Mtn. 4WD drive roads.

These are not places for full size pickups or SUV's, much less trailers. A road marked jeep trail may be ok for a mile or so and not look so bad, but check it out beforehand. If you are not experienced on these old mining and forest 4WD roads, get some experience first.

Rockdocking is a term that has showed up lately and seems to mean extreme boondocking. A small trailer with a small truck seems to be the first requirement. Then, lots of tools, air compressor, tire repair kit and extra water and gas (4WD travel sucks a lot of fuel). Note that travel in the back country can take hours and hours to go very few miles.

I'm all for adventure. We have explored many a 4WD road and have scared ourselves. We haven't done that for many years and the amount of traffic in the back country has increased tremendously. Camping somewhere where you hear trucks groaning in low 4WD up steep grades is not enjoyable. Sounds travels far. It isn't so quiet out there anymore. Camping above tree line means cold temps in summer, and can mean lightning, wind and even snow. Views are incredible, but it is better to visit in the morning by foot or truck (before thunderstorms; you actually can feel the electricity in the boulders as the storm approaches), and camp lower. Valleys or canyons are also very cold in the morning, but that's where the camping sites are. Watch out for flood plains too.

I guess I sound like an old maid, but being aware of what is ahead of you is a good idea.

Gene
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