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Canoeist's Pickup Truck
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Author:  Mike McCrea [ September 27th, 2019, 7:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

martin2007 wrote:
I wasn't aware of the cult around "Tacos". I'll have to look into them some more. For the moment I have my eye on a used F150 4x4 with a 3.5 V6. Early research has me considering pairing it with a used Sun-lite truck camper that seems to be compatible with the truck's 1500 lb. payload. Needless to say, I'm wary of letting the tail wag the dog. i.e. buying the pickup because I happened to find a cheap truck camper to put on it.

What I haven't mentioned so far: I've been spending the better part of my last several winters in ski country in Colorado. This year I want to extend our travels in the spring into desert country in the southwest. In other words, I want a versatile vehicle that I can store skis and stuff in, not get stuck in snowdrifts, carry boats on, sleep in when I want to, and road-trip till I'm blue in the face. To be honest, though, I don't know shoot about trucks.

I will amend my statement that a truck with a cap is the ultimate travelling paddler vehicle. A full sized 4x4 truck with a camper cap would be the ultimate travelling vehicle; bigger wider bed, taller cap, more room inside to live and sleep than the coffin sized appointments of my Tacoma. Especially if the “we” means travelling and truck camping with a companion; the back of the Tacoma has room for one, so travelling with a companion meant someone was setting up a tent for the night even on overnight stops.

All of the Tacos I have owned were/are 2wd four-bangers. The first two were also my commuter vehicles, and the current one is my daily driver. I really wanted 4WD capability on the current truck, but the price, and gas mileage, was still a concern. I put snow tires on in the winter, and still need to carry sandbags over the drive wheels just to make it to the top of my steep dirt driveway. And carry chains while winter travelling.

But I have done a 7000 trip with the current truck, including a lot of dirt road travel, and slept/lived in the back of it for a year’s worth of nights. The MPG difference between the Taco and cap and a full sized truck with a tall camper shell mattered.

Used Toyota trucks do hold their value, but I kept each of them for at least 10 years and got my money’s worth.

I know bupkiss about truck camper shells. At least some Sun-Lite campers are described as “lower end, entry level, basic wood framed” shells, and having gutted and rebuilt a friend’s wood framed camping trailer that would make me leery.

Author:  Odyssey [ September 27th, 2019, 8:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

I once owned a small 2wd 4 banger pick up and took it where it oughtn't to have gone, but with adequate ground clearance and foolish confidence I did and encountered no problems. In fact I once crossed a rudimentary bridge several times to and from a put-in only to be told afterwards that it was condemned to traffic and only served skidoos and foot traffic. Confidence can get you in trouble. I was stupid lucky. But the diminutive truck with cap was great. I never slept in the bed even though I had a cap (and racks). And I never felt tempted to upgrade the bed conveniences for comfort as I regularly used the truck for construction work. The only things needed would've been a basic mattress over the plywood floor and a mosquito net over the door. Home sweet home.
I did move on and up to a full size van. Several of them in fact owing to their short longevity. They were ideal with lots of luxurious room to spare. In fact in one cargo van I insanely installed remnant "wall to wall" carpet with underpad. Drop sheets went down to protect that from construction materials when in use working. Ridiculously comfortable to crawl into for truck camping, but uninsulated trucks become refrigerators on cold nights. That ended my vanlife days.
I moved on to minivans, and with the standard insulation and carpeting have been mostly happy, but they're definitely not trucks, think boxy station wagons. Excellent gas mileage, but with the seats removed the floors have mounds, lumps, and bumps. We employ an inflatable air mattress for this discomfort. Another drawback is suggested in the name 'mini". It's a tight fit back there for 2. A queen air mattress inflated to squeeze and fully fill the 4' wide space suits it, a twin leaves gaps along the sides. This is how we roll right now, only sometimes parking at a put-in to stay the night, otherwise we invite ourselves to family digs and rise early for the drive to the put-in. Or late. Perhaps someday I'll get the ideal tripping truck, a full sized 4x4 pickup with cap. When my ship comes in.

Author:  ameaney [ September 27th, 2019, 9:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

martin2007 wrote:
Thanks, everyone, for your responses thus far.

ameany: That looks like a viable system. I can't see on the attached photo what clearance is like at the interface between canoe bow/the roof of the cab/and the windshield. I'm trying to imagine sliding the hull, gunnels on rack, with the bow clearing the cab. An option__less ideal__ would be to manhandle the boat from a standing position within the truck bed.

When I built it I factored in the curve of the bow so that I could slide the canoe along the rack without scraping the roof. I should make a video showing me mounting the canoe.

I did often get into the bed to tie down belly straps and adjust where the canoe was sitting on the rack but it was never an inconvenience. This will not be an option for me in my new truck because it has a cap so I will be resorting to a step stool :x

Author:  Odyssey [ September 27th, 2019, 9:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

"resorting to a step stool".
Standing on the top of the rear tire can work. Also finding foot holds in an open front door. This comes close to wall climbing and may be not suitable for those with blem-free vehicles who wish to keep them that way.

Author:  duNord [ September 27th, 2019, 9:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

I use a Yakima Boatloader to help ease loading canoes on top of my truck. I place the bow of the canoe on the Boatloader arm and place the stern on the ground. Then I pick up the stern and pivot it onto the rack. I realize this may not meet the OP's needs as he said he doesn't like placing the deck plates of his wooden canoes on the ground, but perhaps he could place a carpet square on the ground first.

Another thing I like is to mount one of the crossbars near the front of the truck cab and the other near the rear of the topper. This allows for a long spread between the crossbars which increases stability of the load and eliminates the problem of the bow of the overturned canoe hitting the truck cab.

I also have Thule top tracks mounted on my topper. This gives me infinite adjustability along the length of the topper in case I want to carry items shorter than a canoe. Note, Yakima makes an identical rail. Yakima towers will fit Thule rails and Thule towers will fit Yakima rails.

Some photos of my setup are attached:

Author:  Mike McCrea [ September 27th, 2019, 10:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

martin2007 wrote:
Because most of my paddling involves wooden boats, I don't like loading or portaging that will necessitate placing a canoe deck on the ground while I maneuver the boat into its next position. That goes both for loading and portaging.

With a tall camper shell it is either the slide on method, or climb a ladder while shouldering a canoe. Having twice fallen off truck-side ladders while unencumbered by a canoe I am not attempting the ladder latter.

(BTW, if you go the ladder route, buy one with big “feet”, not little tubular pegs, which will suddenly sink in the soft ground, leaving you upended and wondering what the hell happened. Twice, the second time both the ladder and I were a bent and crumpled mess)

I have some boats I am loath to set stem on ground (or, eeeshh, pavement) to slide onto the roof racks. I have an old DIY seat pad that I place on the ground behind the truck, when I put the canoe diagonally on the rear crossbar or slide it off the stem rests protected on the pad. I have forgotten to bring the pad a few times and used one of the truck floor mats.

Odyssey wrote:
I did move on and up to a full size van. Several of them in fact owing to their short longevity. They were ideal with lots of luxurious room to spare.
Ridiculously comfortable to crawl into for truck camping, but uninsulated trucks become refrigerators on cold nights. That ended my vanlife days.
I moved on to minivans, and with the standard insulation and carpeting have been mostly happy
Excellent gas mileage, but with the seats removed the floors have mounds, lumps, and bumps. We employ an inflatable air mattress for this discomfort.

I don’t know about short longevity with a full sized van. Our 19 year old E-150 is still running, though rusting out from too many snowbirding winter escapes involving salted roadways. We owned two Chrysler minivans that struggled to get much over 100,000 miles.

There are insulated truck caps and camper tops. The Leer cap I have is full carpeted, which helps. What helps more is that I glued exercise foam to the bed walls and floor. That insulation also helped with enclosed sleeping condensation issues, and with road noise if shift driving with a companion sleeping in the bed.

The E-150 van has extreme “lumps and bumps”, eight large metal brackets on the floor to which the rear seats attach. With the two rear seats out, and one left in, there is a 6 foot x 3 foot (actually 74” x 38”) rectangle left open between the wheel wells.

I built a 2x4 reinforced plywood platform that rests atop those lumps and bumps, with a headboard so pillow don’t slide under the remaining seat. That platform, sans removable headboard, is in the shop on sawhorses right now, being used as a fabric cutting table. One “bed” in the back, one bench seat and two buckets up front allowed us to do some continuous shift-driving 3 or 4 person cross-country trips.

The bigger live aboard issue with most vans is the lack of screened windows ventilation, both for sleeping overnight condensation in the morning and for summer trips. I have screened windows and a small fan in the truck bed, which helps with temp and air movement, and with white noise if parked in a campground. A rooftop vent/cover and fan would be ideal, but I’m not cutting a DIY hole in the cap roof.

martin2007 wrote:
You're feeding my imagination. I risk going off in 14 directions all at once. Actually, too late. I've just started looking at toppers, truck campers, trucks, rack options, and post-graduate engineering studies in vehicle modification. I've harboured on-and-off fantasies about sleep-in road-tripping vehicles for years.

Martin, I’m kind of envious. The advantages of having a live-aboard vehicle are too numerous to count, and figuring out must-have needs vs wants vs dreams vs cost vs MPG vs wallet size is an interesting exercise.

At least 14 different directions, but, for the plural “we”, spending winters in Colorado, spring in the desert, paddling trips and etc, provided you can tolerate the MPG (paid for by motel rooms skipped) I think you are on the right road - full sized 4WD pickup, with room to sleep two in a decently appointed camper top.

Maybe 15 different directions. I see often folks with their camper tops off the truck bed, resting on a platform in their driveway or carport, which returns the open truck bed to more utility for hauling firewood or mulch or trips to the dump. That ease of on and off and attachment might be important for a truck bed camper.

Author:  redstart mouser [ September 28th, 2019, 7:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

This is it! :thumbup: ... 5005746966

You might have to trade in the wooden canoe for a pakboat though :)

Author:  Mike McCrea [ September 28th, 2019, 4:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Maybe 16, 17, 18 different directions.

By far the most interesting and appealing live-aboard rigs I have seen in the last few years are tall Ford Transits or Benz Sprinters. Most were outfitted far beyond my skills or wallet.

I met an older couple in the Everglades travelling in a tall Transit or Sprinter, professional outfitted down to a small wood cabinetry kitchen, bed/table/chairs, side screen door (nice touch), lights and fans and dual Thule Hullavators for loading two boats from ground level. It was beautiful inside and out.

Met a guy back in Escalante in a (sponsor-logoed, easily $100,000) customized 4WD diesel Sprinter and every imaginable feature from snorkel exhaust and winch to solar panels, batteries, lights to kitchen sink. Really, a small kitchen sink, with a water reservoir and grey water storage. It probably had an ecologically-friendly composting toilet; I was too overwhelmed during the tour to remember everything.

Too rich for my blood, and beyond my simplistic outfitting capabilities. My mind kept hearing the dropping of coin, Ca-ching. . .ca-ching. . . .ca-ching

We outfitted a shorter roof naked Ford Transit van with racks, fold up bed and storage shelving, sound deadening material covered with insulating exercise foam and curtains for small change. Crude but lightweight. ... 9396857482

One of those new-style tall roofline vans is a blank canvas awaiting a DIY palette. Thinking about storing skis and paddles and etc, there are lots of manufactured pull-out sub-floor shelving units for trucks and vans

And lots of after-market outfitting parts and pieces and services for those tall vans. Just Googling “Sprinter van camper conversion” opens world of outfitting ideas if you are of a mind to DIY something on your own. ... T6FO7gt8Gw

19, 20, 21 different directions.

Author:  ski_it [ September 28th, 2019, 5:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Friend just got a brand new Mercedes sprinter diesel 4wd, decked out- $150000 US.
But that's his home now.

Author:  Mike McCrea [ September 29th, 2019, 10:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

ski_it wrote:
Friend just got a brand new Mercedes sprinter diesel 4wd, decked out- $150000 US.
But that's his home now.

There ya go Martin, sell the house and live full-time in a 4WD Sprinter.

I guess I vastly underestimated the cost of the fully outfitted Sprinter in Escalante. The used (2WD) Ford Transit cargo van we outfitted was very reasonable.

Author:  Mike McCrea [ September 29th, 2019, 2:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Ladders and tall roof lines

FWIW I don’t need a step ladder for the 2WD Tacoma, and the ladder height need to access the canoes and belly lines atop the E-150 van are two foot tall 3-steppers. To reach the higher roof line of the Ford Transit (or Sprinter or other high roofed van/camper top) something taller was needed, especially for peering over into Rocket Box storage.

The must-be-folded-out paint tray on my next tallest step ladder inconveniently positions the ladder further away from the side of the vehicle than I would like on a tall roof line.

ImagePA221285 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Trust me, you want to face your work on a ladder; leaning over sideways and reaching is asking for unbalanced trouble. The ladder for the taller roof line Transit has a more beneficial design, with increasingly wider steps, and a configuration that keeps the ladderee closer to the side of the van with easier reach.

ImagePA221279 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The shallow flip-open tray was handy for holding mechanical tools and parts when installing roof racks or switching rack accessories for gunwale stops, bike racks, Rocket Box or ski accessories.

ImagePA221283 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I have step ladder envy, but we already have a half dozen step ladders, from 2’ high to gigantic 20’ tall house rooftop level. Contractors abandoned step ladders on every big construction job I managed; maybe for compliance with new OSHA regs, but, whatever the reason, thankee very much, I drive a truck with roof racks and carry spare rope. If I had a ladder that size my friends didn’t. And do now.

It’s a damn shame contractors didn’t abandon more tools (a big Skil-saw with an easily repaired sliced cord, and the largest, heaviest angle grinder I have ever seen), but the materials, parts and pieces they left behind when finished have continued to come in handy. 30 years later I still have some leftovers.

The sheer amount of waste materials left behind on a large construction project is incredible. Boxes of dry wall screws, self-tapping screws, nuts, bolts, washers, brackets. Into the dumpster, or into the back of my truck?

Author:  Captaincanadian [ September 30th, 2019, 11:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Interesting to see some of these truck set ups. Allot of great ideas. I have a short box F150 full size crew cab,and I just put the foam blocks on the canoe rails and lift it up on the roof tying it down just like I would on my car. Been thinking about getting a roof rack, but so far haven't had any issues. I am a tall guy so lifting it up there could be a challenge for someone under 6'.

Author:  martin2007 [ September 30th, 2019, 8:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Thank you to everyone who has replied with ideas. Many good ones to help me get started. As for the F150 4x4 I was considering, it appeared too early in the research/shopping process and it sold out from under me just as I was about to bite. What I've learned this past few days, in addition to the fun I've had considering the possibilities of the wonderful scenarios suggested by CCR folks, is that the half-ton truck I'd been considering is at the light end of the spectrum of what would be required to heft the lightest of truck bed trailers. And I was already thinking that an F150 4x4 w/ V6 was overkill for much of the driving I do.

As for some of the vehicles suggested here, i.e. the sell-the-house-Hello-open-road!- RV's I do kind of wonder just how long my wife and I could sustain our enthusiasm for long-term nomadic wanderings. I'm a reluctant and inexperienced do-it-yourselfer who is proud as punch when he manages to change his own flat tire. Granted, describing myself as a DIYer would be delusional and therefore, worrisome. I'm at best a make-shifter. A re-inventor-of-the-wheel kind of jury-rigger. Fugging around with building and repair challenges ain't my forte. Learning the unforgiving arts of wiring, plumbing, closet organizing, interpreting instruction manuals, and almost all activities involving the word "tantric" probably isn't on next week's agenda. Nonetheless, I'm damned envious of those of you who are at home in deep DIY waters.

Anyway, I've taken a break today from vehicle research to try to re-build the rotting wood frame of my utility trailer.
And configuring a rack system on said trailer to accommodate a wide squat cargo carrier that's been hiding under a tarp in the back yard for a year or two. I want to use all and sundry for a week of base-camping in some interesting but unfamiliar country northeast of North Bay. Strange how I get these inconvenient DIY urges mere hours before departure!

If the well hasn't run dry, keep the flow of ideas coming. They're helpful.

Author:  recped [ October 6th, 2019, 2:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

I don't have to much to add but........

For many years I had a couple of GMC Safari vans which were fantastic for canoe tripping, lots of space inside for doing shuttles with 4 or 5 people, gear and a bunch of boats on the roof, I really miss those vans.

I then inherited my mothers 2002 Tacoma, 4x4 long bed, it's still my current vehicle and probably will be for another 10+ years as I don't drive it much except for 4 - 8000km per year getting to and from canoe trips.

It has a Leer cap, super easy to load my boat by myself, gear in the back with space remaining for my Thermarest for stealth camping during the to/from journey. Only downside is when I'm with a another paddler and I also need to squeeze in a shuttle driver, it's an "xtra-cab" but pretty skimpy leg room in the back seat.

I just use foam blocks for a single boat, plenty of great attachment points with perfectly located holes in the frame. Also carry a set of cast off home made racks which are basically just a pair of 2x2's, with those I can put two boats side by side and then stack another 1 or 2 on top of that for the shuttle drives.

Basically it's Mike's setup without all the nice customization he's done with his. Like Mike I also covet a Sprinter or full size Transit (the roof height is problematic for loading boats of course) but I'll never be able to afford a new one of either, perhaps in 10 years I could find a used one. Of course neither of those vehicles are as suitable for really bad and small bush roads which is where the Tacoma really shines.

Author:  martin2007 [ October 10th, 2019, 5:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Canoeist's Pickup Truck

Thanks Recped for your input on this.
Update: I'm now leaning away from pickup trucks as I believe, for my uses, they're overkill. I've been checking out compact and mid-size SUV's with AWD on-line and at dealerships. Can't say we're enjoying the research and shopping, though. Rip Van Winkle awakes to discover that vehicles cost a wee bit more than before! And while it seems everybody's buying them, these vehicles aren't particularly good at accommodating canoes. The much-lauded Subaru Outback (2019) comes with a flimsy built-in, unremovable, roof rack system with extremely high side-rails and flimsy short retractable crossbars that store alongside the rails. Not half as useful or versatile as what I've already got on my old Mazda. Spoilers on the rear gates on all models make opening the gates for packing/unpacking with a boat on top unfeasible. That's not a deal-breaker, though. Of course there's always access through the rear passenger doors. Of several makes and models we've considered our short list contains 3 of the usual suspects: Rav4, Outback, and Mazda CX5. Most spacious and highest ground clearance goes to the Outback. We've taken all three for short test drives, but can't say that doing so has been a big help in choosing. We're not there yet.

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