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Vertical Freedom for Travelers

Motorists are not completely oblivious to gaining or losing altitude, but generally they think in terms of miles traveled.  Horizontal miles. The same is true for most RVers, since they are just motorists. Of course the limiting case of "horizontalists" are boaters.

Bicyclists and hikers can go both directions. One way to quickly assess a new hiking or cycling buddy is to see where they line up on horizontal/vertical divide.

The limiting case of a "verticalist" would be an ice or rock climber.

Leaning heavily towards the verticalist end of the spectrum is the back-country, RV-ing dispersed camper. (I frown on the term, boondocking.) In particular, it has always been my dream to get higher ground clearance in my rigs, especially the travel trailer. Of course, the low spot on most RVs is the holding tank drain valve. A commenter once encouraged going to a welding shop and having a serious steel-skid-plate installed, to protect that vulnerable drain plumbing.

Actually 3 digit forest roads are not that rough, but a camper still has to cross a ditch on the side of the road in order to camp. Also, there are arroyo crossings and eroded ruts whose conditions can be bad, depending on recent weather. Roughness goes up drastically if you venture down 4 digit forest roads. And I don't even want to think about 4 digits with a letter after. (Those are best for full-suspension mountain biking.)
Progress continues very quickly with my new cargo trailer, which I'm converting into a travel trailer. And it is time to compare inches with the reader. I'll tell you up front that you ain't got a chance, buddy boy, now that I have replaced the factory-4-inch-drop-axles with a straight axle, thereby raising trailer box by 4 inches.

The standard 16 inch high Reliance 7 gallon water jug. Notice the 15 inch tires. Geesh, do I ever hate small tires! No tricks here -- the trailer and the ground are flat and horizontal.

There will be NO drain plumbing ever installed on this cargo trailer, although I might get around to installing a holding tank below the floor, but no drain plumbing!

The nominal ground clearance for the trailer box is 17 inches. But what really counts is the lack of any under-parts dangling down below the frame. The lowest parts are the U-bolts that clamp the axle to the springs.

The mechanic at the trailer store laughed at the 4 inch drop axles that tend to be the industry standard. He used to live in snowy country. Looking back in the mirror he would see that the trailer's drop-axle had smoothed the snow into a perfectly flat surface. 

The standard Rubbermaid Rough-Tote tub under the axle. The bottom of the center of the axle is 12 inches above the ground.

It is so predictable and such a cliche to talk about the 'freedom of the open road.' Actually paved highways and horizontal travel are pretty boring. Hopefully I've convinced the reader to change their orientation to "vertical-ism."


Boonie, curious as to what kind of trailer you got, size, etc. Or maybe just post a photo?

Of course, your trailer clearance can't outdo your tow rig's or it doesn't much matter. No point flipping the axle if you're pulling with a low-rider, eh?
John V said…
Nice clearance. I'm just worried about you getting out of bed one day and putting your foot right through that 24" OC plywood floor!
Bob Giddings said…
I have an old single axle 17 footer. The height of the body is 21 plus inches, the axle is 12 inches, the drain comes down to 9 inches right behind the tire, and the levelers are at 10.5 inches. 90% of the time I have no trouble at all, but such is my wanderlust that I have cracked the drain pipe and torn off one of the rear levelers at various times. The tanks are well up in the body, and have never touched anything but air.

Life is full of compromises. While you can gain an inch or two going your route, I would not do without fresh and black tanks just to avoid the rare repair. Replacing all the valves and several feet of drain pipe cost less than $200, labor included. Plus the embarrassment of dripping brown stuff a dozen miles or so through the boonies. However high you go with the trailer, you can always find a ditch, a rut, or a rock that will do you in. Heck, my right read leveler was torn off leaving a filling station.

The old saw about 4wd is that it just lets you get further from the road before you break something. The same applies to trailer design. I have been doing this for many years, and have found it better over all to travel with the standard amenities and repair as needed. There's always the chance of breaking something, but being careful counts more than trailer design. I'm playing the odds for the sake of a hot shower at hand and 40 gallons of fresh water.

But I'll be glad to follow along and see what you come up with. And how it serves you. It is never too late to learn when the price is this low. :o)

Why does everybody want to see a picture? Besides, I photographed the undercarriage -- and that's what matters. The rest is just a standard white box.
24-inches-on-center is the industry standard in the cargo trailer racket for floors and ceilings. Mine is 16 inches on center in the walls.
I agree with much of what you have said, Bob. In the short term I will try one of the porta-potties with the 5 gallon black tank. Free RV dumps are getting hard to find, and I hate paying $10, or even $15..

If being lightweight interests a person, then dragging around 3 weeks of crap (200 pounds) doesn't make sense.

The trick is to do all your errands in town, once per week. I'll just put the 5 gallon porta-potty in the tow vehicle on these weekly errand days. There are a lot more outhouses at trailheads and free day use areas than there used to be. Rest stops no longer have RV dumps but they still have public toilets that I can dump the porta-pottie in. And city parks.
Bob Giddings said…
10 bucks every three weeks to get somebody else to put up with my shit? Sorry, but I have to laugh. What a bargain that is!

My experience is just not the same as yours. I have had no trouble locating dumps at need, and often free. I think one big difference between our outlooks is that I seldom spend more than 5 days at one spot. Being generally on the move generates possibilities. I own a 12V macerator pump for those times when only an uphill outhouse is available, but actually I've never been hard up enough to use it that way. In fact the only time I've used it is in my driveway, out of sheer laziness, to avoid hooking up for a drive to the dump. And to prove it works.

Your new plan seems much the same as my very first one: traveling the country living out of a pickup camper shell. Now there's a camp-anywhere rig. I didn't even have a porta potty, but as I was always on the move I had no trouble finding rest rooms, and five gallons of fresh water is a LOT if all you are going to do is drink it.

I had a great time. But I was in my 20s. Breathing was a great time, back then.

You mentioned Occam's Razor, earlier. My main reaction to your project, which is to admire your gumption but not the likely outcome, is in line with what a bright man once said about perfecting a theory, and maybe life in general: it should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Enough negativity. This is your project, and I'm going to shut up about it. I am not you. I expect to enjoy as much of this ride as you are willing to share. It should be entertaining.
edlfrey said…
That is what I was calling a cassette toilet in my comment to your prior posting. The small holding tank can be removed and as you say dumped in many convenient places not requiring a hose hookup. The outside access door is just an added cost of installation and I think the toilets are conventional in appearance inside. I know bling is not your thing so a simpler porta-potty is much better than the side drain that you mentioned a few posting ago.
John V said…
Unfortunately correct. I've found a few that are 16" OC in the floor, but I'm going to pay close to $6,000 for a 7' x 14' with that feature. Being the frugal guy you are, I doubt you paid that much for yours!
John V said…
I agree with Bob. So far this year, we've spent a grand total of $20 to dump our dirty tanks and refill our water tank. That's travelling all through AZ and now on up to OR. We've found free dumps all along the way, and once you get to WA, ID, MT there's a free dump and water in almost every town.