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Old 07-01-2017, 04:02 PM   #1
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Boondocking- 4 x 4 Tow Vehicle

Not everyone needs a 4x4 tow vehicle. You already know who you are and need not even go any farther into this Thread. By not having all the extra weight of the front differential, drive shaft and axle... you can carry more 'other stuff' in their place.

If your Boondocking is concentrated to paved roads and gravel roads with minor increases or decreases in elevation... your rear wheel tow vehicle is all you will ever need. You do not need a 4x4 tow vehicle.

If your Boondocking consists of RV Parks and established camp grounds, you are going to do just fine.

But... if you live in a region where roads do not always follow a single contour line on a map or maintains a constant grade... you may want to reconsider the extra security of having the 4x4 option at your finger tips. Lumber road dozers want a reasonable grade but in the shortest distance. Lumber haulers come up empty and going down, gravity gives them plenty of momentum... unless you are in the way, of course.

If, and I hope you have not... find yourself going up a steep grade on a gravel Forest Service road and you 'loose traction', causing the traction wheel to dig a hole in the road. You are just going to be... well, out of options, but to back down the road and try something else. Likely... another route option.

There are two ways to get into a wonderful, remote Boondocking sites in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. One from Reserve, NM or the other I took 2015 and 2016 Quemado members... from Quemado, NM.

The road grade from the south is close to 10%, going UP or DOWN, maybe more at some spots. Towing a trailer without 4x4 AND also the option for High 4x4 or Low 4x4 Transmission... you are stuck, or will be shortly. Backing down a mile or more will not be pleasant. You are at the proverbial 'Up the Creek, Without a Paddle', or something like that, but with short contact of tires to the road. What there is of it... more, or less at times when the road is wet, loose gravel after a plow has come through, powder dirt on the surface... or just plenty of mud holes to work around.

Choose your Tow Vehicle, at first, without looking at the MSRP sticker price. What suits your needs better? Are you pulling more trailer than you should be with your imaginary tow vehicle? Pulling on a flat road and TOWING up a steep grade are not fair comparisons.

You will limit your ability of access to many areas. A tow truck recovery will cost more than the cost of the 4x4 option, IF a tow operator wants to even get involved.

When someone posts on the Forum... "Will my vehicle be able to Tow my trailer?"... you need to post a lengthy Thread, explain what kind of Boondocking do you do, length of trailer and how many family members are brave enough to attempt a... second Boondocking trip going out of Reserve, NM with you in charge. A 'white knuckle' adventure to many is routine to many others.

(Wally pulled an Airstream with a bicycle, so give me a break.)

Safety need not be reconsidered, after the need, but Before the Need. Good Luck and thanks for hanging into the finish line!
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Old 07-01-2017, 08:36 PM   #2
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Havin a capable 4x4 was my number one requirement in tow vehicle. I woulda gotten less trailer if I hadn't been able to find a capable vehicle but a Ram Tradesman with a Power Wagon package is quite affordable and very capable and I didn't have to spend any time buildin it up.

There are still places it can't go that my Jeeps could... But that's the sacrifice, I suppose.

I keep a tent and sleeping necessities and a fridge in it so that I can spend the night away from the trailer if needed, though I do that less nowadays as I get old and lazy.

But this Ram can climb rocks and sludge through mud and sand and creeks pretty good.

There may have been a point when I was in Anza Borrego desert in California when I must've gone for days without seein pavement. But most of the real tough spots ain't places ya can drag a trailer so ya gotta drop it then go explore.
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Old 07-01-2017, 09:24 PM   #3
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Being in the construction business I ordered my old Suburban 3/4 ton with the following:

4 wheel drive
Locking rear differential
Full skid plate package
42 gal fuel tank
Tow hooks
Towing package

Being a '97 its about 400 ft/lbs of torque can't match the newer diesels. However in 4 wheel low and good weight distribution I have pulled out many Ram and Ford pickups.

She's an old girl, but in my garage now. That's one reason I bought the 25' Safari. That model is lighter weight than Internationals or Classics, and it suited my purposes. I think the truck is well matched to the trailer.

Sorry, Ray. I couldn't locate my National Forest boondocking spots. I have some pics, but I'm not very good at filing them. They will show up, and if this thread is still running I will post the them.
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Old 07-02-2017, 12:47 AM   #4
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If you need a 4 x 4 to tow your Airstream, you probably got the wrong trailer, the 4,000 rivets won't take well to being twisted through the ruts.
This forum will worry about popping rivets if the tire pressure is off by 10 lbs. on the interstate, but then tow a AS thorough a road that would make a lumberjack cry?
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Old 07-02-2017, 05:57 AM   #5
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Nah ya only tow the airstream so far. The 4x4 is really needed once the trailer has been unhitched, although it does help in situations that are a little slippy or steep. But for me it's either havin a capable tow vehicle or havin a class a or b that can tow a capable vehicle but I prefer the first. And by capable I mean built to go off road.

That said, ya can get an airstream into pretty good spots if ya go slow. It's all about goin slow. But it's definitely not built for major wheelin. No full size trailer really is.
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Old 07-02-2017, 10:10 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mollysdad View Post
If you need a 4 x 4 to tow your Airstream, you probably got the wrong trailer, the 4,000 rivets won't take well to being twisted through the ruts.
This forum will worry about popping rivets if the tire pressure is off by 10 lbs. on the interstate, but then tow a AS thorough a road that would make a lumberjack cry?
*********
Our new International 'popped its rivets' on asphalt between Denver, CO and Tucson, AZ. I did a Thread about Popped Rivets and how I repair them. Not with another... rivet. Much like 14" Marathon tires that are chronic for falling apart... why replace them with another? The purists prefer pop rivets... myself, something that will not pop when the going gets... tougher.

I do hope that the Airstream frame is not twisting when on uneven roads. That would make I-40, west of Flagstaff a hazard to all trailers! Although we noticed long stretches being repaved this Spring in these areas.

The Airstream's plumbing on the driver's side of the trailer is always at risk. An experienced Off the Grid and Off the Pavement owner know how to navigate. You are more likely to have your poorly designed interior cabinet doors come loose from their hinges... than additional loose rivets. The cabinets I took care of the week after our purchase, 4x4 or not.

Rivets... the interior curved areas seem to pop early, no matter what road surface you are traveling. Each trailer when made must have stresses built into the interior skin. Once those are popped, the interior can say.... aaaahhhh. Much like the buttons on one's shirt that are too tight. Aaaaahhhh... pop!

We would living in a fantasy world to believe that each Airstream is a perfect engineering wonder. Well, think again. Each are unique...but similar to one another. Even the fender wells can be different, within the same year and model. When some upgrade to 16" tires... it becomes more obvious. These are 'Hand Made' and assembled from parts and pieces. Unlike mass produced automobiles. Even the rivets may be off a bit. At Jackson Center with our 2006 Safari, they took out the 'aluminum snips' and trimmed them to seal the fender wells from drawing dust into the interior!

There are a lot of other possible causes to popped rivets... hitches, maybe tire pressure... maybe a section of interior that with a slightly off fit. After a couple years.. it all takes care of itself and we can all sit back and say ..... aaahhhhh.
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Old 07-02-2017, 10:47 AM   #7
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Well that is the point of rivets... to pop under stress. Easy to replace. On my old trailer sometimes I'd re rivet and sometimes I'd use a small stainless steel bolt. Dependin on whether or not I thought a pop was necessary to avoid stress fractures in the area.
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Old 07-02-2017, 11:54 AM   #8
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I've seen numerous 2 wheel drive TV's get stuck on flat ground on grass when wet. An early or late scattering of snow will also pucker up a 2 wheel driver. A true rear locker replacement makes a huge difference in traction, but they are dangerous on side hill situations.
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Old 07-02-2017, 12:40 PM   #9
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The problem is a good tow vehicle has a long wheel base and is more likely to get stuck in 2 wheel drive. A shorter wheelbase has less need for 4x4 but once ya get these giant wheelbases like we got on our trucks, it's easy to get bit by soft terrain.

4x4 is really important with that. Coil suspension, sway disconnects and front/rear lockers make it even better. And a winch. I dunno I'd feel weird going on the road without a winch but maybe that's just my upbringin.

But these new vehicles like the new power wagons and new Jeep rubicons make ya feel like you're cheatin.
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Old 07-02-2017, 12:55 PM   #10
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Our 4WD comes in handy mostly when out-and-about after unhooking the trailer. Yesterday, for example, working my way through a road that was more sand dune than road to get to a good fishing spot at Lower Bowns. One thing I despise on this old Ford F-250 is the manual front hubs, something that requires a bit of trail planning.

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Old 07-02-2017, 02:31 PM   #11
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I figure I am tripling the weight of each replaced rivet with my Teks Lath Screw #8 x 1/2". The smallest carton contained 260 of these little devils... so I have plenty to go around and not worry about weight, nor the additional cost of these 'fancy screws'. I find them a very attractive addition to the interior of our trailer.

After getting some feedback that 4x4 may be a bit much for a TOW vehicle... I just will not use the 4x4 unless I need it. That makes it a 4x2 and carrying some extra weight up front. Someone living in the Big City, like Tonganoxie, Kansas would not care, one way or the other and not know what we are talking about.

There are NO SPEED LIMITS posted on the Off the Grid dirt and gravel roads we travel. The Salt Flats west of Salt Lake City... they get going 200+ mph and not worried about being pulled over. I travel 1mph to 45mph depending if I recognize what I am traveling upon is a road, or just an outcrop of rock overlooking the Grand Canyon. There are also no Stop Signs. You have to be on top of things when driving a 4x4 converted to a 4x2.

I like Utah Man's attitude towards good fishing spots. Why take the time to lock the hubs one wheel at a time, while the fish are not expecting anyone? A fish can hear that faint 'click' when you turn the dial to lock. Those streams around Richfield are narrow, but cold and moving fast. I see plenty of parked vehicles along the south side of I-70 going up into the mountain. Most appear to be lost, but some may be fishing. The Fish Lake National Forest seems to have taken over most of that part of the State of Utah. Good luck scaring anyone away with the 'Sand Dune' gag. See you fishing there some day.

TravlinMan never owned a 1961 Willys Jeep with a flat head 4 and 4x4. Top speed of 45mph and it could climb a tree, like in the movie 'The Gods Must be Crazy' with the South African school teacher. I could hunt Indian Artifacts north of Cheyenne, Wyoming (with permission on a Ranch), and it would idle and move along with me walking. Never stuck in snow... it would just High Center and you could change tires.

A 4x4 truck is a standard out West. A 4x2 is a City Car. A SUV is a full time 4x4, but used as a 4x2.

The day I could afford, a used, 1965 4x4 Bronco with manual hubs... I went where no VW Bug was able to go.
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Old 07-02-2017, 03:17 PM   #12
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I had a U Joint go out on my 1967 Plymouth Fury III. Probably now a classic valuable 2x2 8mpg gas hog it was, but after having a couple guys push me to the side of the street, I was able to chase down a U Joint and use the tools at a Service Station to get going again.

With a pickup 4x4, you just drop the drive shaft that is out of service, and use the front as a front wheel drive to get you into some local community.

There. A real positive option, but I had to move a lot of boxes in the garage to come up with that one.

Now, after trading in my reliable Tundra 4x4 on this F350 Ford Tank... I cannot go back to a standard 4x4. My wife's Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4 full time, too... feels like I am on a skate board going to a Casino in Henderson, Nevada. The Tundra was higher and needed a step to get into it. This F250 with a $300 leaf spring on each side... you would need a ladder to get people older than myself into the back seat. Tossing a 55 or 70 pound Blue Heeler into their Pet Porter on the back seat... is a distinct disadvantage. (We now use a portable folding 'gang plank' for the 70 pounder.)

Women dream of a SUV tow vehicle. Leather seats, sun roof and tinted windows.

Western Women dream of getting the biggest, baddest 4x4 Truck, used or new, that is available within 500 miles, maybe 975 miles.

Men in the West... look for these women and happy to provide the biggest, baddest Airstream with towing accessories...

It is a win / win in the Rocky Mountains States. We need more of you out here. Check out the Parking Lots in rural America, in the Rockies or where ever parking is free in America.

(The Las Vegas Strip now have many Casinos charging to park. The 4x4 Tundra would fit... but the rest of you... be careful.)

Pickup Trucks, 4x4 and the King of Overkill... Monster 6 x 6!!!! Not for me, but if you are a single woman in Cattle Country driving that beast... you are going to be noticed by every single Cowboy and create traffic congestion where you go.

...and of course, I make this up when we are getting ready to leave for camping. In ten days I am looking for that one road missed in the last eleven years of towing Airstreams. There has to be one out there... and please you SUV 4x4's, pull over to let this beast and silver beauty pass.

Life is too short to poke along looking for an arrow, showing you where to go.
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Old 07-02-2017, 06:40 PM   #13
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As a bystander in the Home Depot parking lot once said, as I was loading 2x4s onto a roof rack on a Volvo sedan, "A man's just gotta have a pickup truck".

Wife noted the admonition, and bought us one....
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Old 07-27-2017, 07:21 PM   #14
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My F-150 has a four wheel drive feature, and I find it useful for winter's slippery roads, and so forth.
But I have also needed it in wet grassy campgrounds, trying to pull that 30 foot 'Boehonk' to it's resting spot.
It's useful; and I became 'spoiled' for 4 wheel drive after owning two Subarus.
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Old 07-27-2017, 07:28 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mollysdad View Post
If you need a 4 x 4 to tow your Airstream, you probably got the wrong trailer, the 4,000 rivets won't take well to being twisted through the ruts.
This forum will worry about popping rivets if the tire pressure is off by 10 lbs. on the interstate, but then tow a AS thorough a road that would make a lumberjack cry?
Oh, gimme a break!
A fourxfour has many other uses besides towing Airstreams all over the backwoods.
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Old 07-27-2017, 08:48 PM   #16
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Hi

If you are going to be driving on "questionable" routes (it's a choice .. the wife has a more colorful term than "questionable" but we still enjoy them):

An electric locking rear end does not add much weight or cost to your TV. I've most certainly been in situations where it came in *very* useful.

Why this nonsense of yet another option to order?

With a "normal" 4x2, you push on the gas and one wheel spins like crazy while the other one goes nowhere. You are stuck. With an "automatic" rear end, the loose wheel gets 90% of the spin and the stuck wheel gets 10% .... good luck. With a manual locker, both wheels turn at the same speed. That *may* get you unstuck.

With a 4x4 you would *think* the problem would be gone. Not so much. You now can have *two* wheels spinning while the other two go nowhere. Lock up and you have at least three wheels out of spin mode. Yes true full locking would be better, it's rare on a pickup truck.

Note - once you get off of a soft surface, all this stuff is a really great way to shred tires. Manual hubs are neat (and very strong), but electronic / automatic stuff is *so* much easier.

Bob
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Old 08-01-2017, 06:46 AM   #17
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I just recently camped on a dry river bed that was a soft gravel bar and I would not have been able to get there without 4wd. I agree with Bob about lockers, I got full lockers front and rear and I use em. Just depends how adventurous ya are with your campin. And I've found when I go slow, the airstream ain't got much of a problem with ruts or hills. The one rivet that popped so far was from a bumpy highway.
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Old 08-01-2017, 08:00 AM   #18
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Here in the hill country of Kentucky you don't find many 2wd pickups. Heck just going to a friends party, county fair or some other semi rural event 4wd is needed just so we can find a place to park.
I have camped at an AS WBCCI rally where it rained 2 inches overnight - the 4wd pulled the 2wd trucks/trailers across a muddy field the next day.
Sometimes I use 4wd low for slow speed control to pull the trailer up on several blocks when the campsite is very unlevel. It can happen frequently here in hill country.
I use 4wd just to pull the trailer across the yard so I don't tear up the grass.

One can certainly get by with 2wd as many do but it is used frequently enough to justify the cost and minimal weight/mileage penalty.
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Old 08-01-2017, 08:13 AM   #19
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Here in the hill country of Kentucky you don't find many 2wd pickups. Heck just going to a friends party, county fair or some other semi rural event 4wd is needed just so we can find a place to park.
I have camped at an AS WBCCI rally where it rained 2 inches overnight - the 4wd pulled the 2wd trucks/trailers across a muddy field the next day.
Sometimes I use 4wd low for slow speed control to pull the trailer up on several blocks when the campsite is very unlevel. It can happen frequently here in hill country.
I use 4wd just to pull the trailer across the yard so I don't tear up the grass.

One can certainly get by with 2wd as many do but it is used frequently enough to justify the cost and minimal weight/mileage penalty.
Yep.
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Old 08-07-2017, 09:26 AM   #20
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My vote also for 4x4. One would never consider braking with only one axle. So why drive a 40' long rig with only one axle? Sure, I do agree that this depends on your usage, with most people sticking to tarmac only, but for any sort of mixed condition or all weather use, 4WD is a easy safe insurance. Along with low range to help ease the trailer with precision over sloped areas.

That said, and this is rarely mentioned... In other regions, the vehicle of choice to tow a "caravan" over endless unpaved roads in the "outback" is the venerable Toyota Land Cruiser. They don't have many of our familiar domestic pickups. They're equivalent is the Land Cruiser 70 ute, known for their unflinching reliability in the outback and over washboard roads.

For those looking for a 4WD SUV for boondocking, it would be hard to do better than a Land Cruiser, IMO.
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