10 Essential Tips On How To Live In A Four Wheel Camper
Looking to live or travel in a Four Wheel Camper? These iconic campers have been turning heads and making jaws drop since 1972, and I’ve been lucky enough to take them both on and off road on many exciting journeys over the years.
Whether heading to your favourite surf spots or off roading in forests or the desert, these campers can withstand anything that nature throws at them, are lightweight, and come equipped with all the tools that you need to live off grid. hey’re the perfect way to explore America, and for those of you looking to add a Four Wheel Camper to your set-up, I’ve compiled 10 essential tips on how to make one of these epic pop-top campers your tiny home away from home.
1. Master The Art Of Unclipping
I know this sounds like a simple one, but on the many road trips I’ve done with Four Wheel Campers in the past, there has always been a moment when I’ve stepped up into the main living area and had that nervy feeling that I might have left one of the pop-top clips undone.
And nine times out of ten, that nervy feeling ends up being right.
There are 6 clips situated on the roof of each Four Wheel Camper that keep the pop top in place when driving. Make sure that you start at one and work round the van in a single direction, unclipping as you go.
This might sound like I’m being pedantic, but if you regularly forget to unclip clips when pushing the pop-top up, the aluminium frame will begin to bend out of shape over time. Be methodical about it; I like to tap each unclipped clasp with the palm of my hand just to double check its open as I move round.
Top Tip – If you’re travelling in a flat bed truck camper with a Grandby like my cousin and I were on our latest trip, then consider bringing a set of foldable steps with you to throw in the back of your truck. Jumping up to get those back clips means you’ll have to have the reach of a pro climber or have a knack for hanging onto ledges, but with a set of steps, you’ll be able to reach them with ease.
2. Practice Reversing Parking
If you’re a regular pick-up truck driver, then this next point might not be that useful. Still, if you’ve just bought a Four Wheel Camper with the plan on putting it on a new truck, then it’s useful to practice reverse parking into parking spots in your local supermarket and getting a feel for how big your vehicle is.
Backing into parking spaces is a lot easier when it comes to leaving, and the chances are you’re going to be hitting a lot of supermarkets when it comes to shopping, filling up with water, and occasionally finding a parking spot for the night. What’s more, a lot of campground parking spots up and down the West Coast require you to back into spaces, and the last thing you want is to back into a tree or reverse into your neighbour’s tent if you arrive late at night!
3. Look Out For Low-hanging Branches When Raising Your Pop Top
While the aluminium frame that Four Wheel Campers make for each of their campers is incredibly sturdy, the last thing you want is to lift up your pop top and bash it right into a low hanging branch and create an unwanted dint. Likewise, you can quite easily be inside wondering why you’ve suddenly become incredibly weak while trying to push the top against a fallen redwood,
There’s another reason that you might not want to park underneath trees, and it’s not because of the birds tapdancing on the roof in a morning while you’re trying to sleep in; if you’re living in a Four Wheel Camper with a solar package like the Grandby I’ve been staying in, then parking under branches in forests will seriously reduce the amount of sunlight that you’re taking in. It might mean that your appliances and devices will be draining the batteries without them being properly topped up.
Top Tip – The average peak sun hours will change from Summer to Winter, so double check your power needs before you head out off grid. Your summer appliance and device usage are going to dictate your solar supply needs, while winter usage is going to dictate your battery storage needs. In other words, if you want to live in a truck camper all year round, make sure you speak to the guys at Four Wheel Camper about your energy needs before purchasing.
4. Utilise Your Furnace.
Four Wheel Campers come with one of the most intuitive furnaces I have ever used in any camper I have tested. Instead of making things complicated with a digital set up, the simple analogue slider allows you to pick an optimum temperature setting and keep your van super toasty when the temperature plummets outside.
I’ve just spent 3 weeks travelling down the West Coast, and some of the evenings got pretty chilly even in a thermal sleeping bag. By setting the furnace to your desired temperature, it will keep your living area feeling toasty by turning on periodically through the night whenever the internal temperature drops below your chosen setting. Pretty neat, right?
Top Tip – Your Four Wheel Camper will come with enough space to store two 11lb propane bottles in the gas locker accessible from the outside of the vehicle. Always make sure that you have two bottles in there, and when one is empty, replace the other as soon as possible. In the winter months you’re going to be going through a lot of gas while using your furnace more regularly, and the last thing you want is to run out of propane just as you’re boiling the kettle to make a cup of coffee after waking up!
5. Topping up With Water
If you’re new to the world of Four Wheel Campers, then you’ll soon discover that everything is super simple to use. And no, I’m not biased because I love these things.
I spent 5 years living in a van full time across Europe and America, so I value simplicity and ease when it comes to using every day amenities. I’m used to filling up a 6 gallon jerrycan with fresh water and having to carry it back to my van, but filling up the 20 gallon water tank in the Grandy is an absolute breeze. Just unlock the cover, either hook up to the fresh water supply using an optional filter, or add the hose directly into your tank to fill up with potable water.
Top Tip – All Four Wheel Camper models can be made with a freshwater indicator to show you how much water you have left. If you’re living off grid for long periods of time, you really don’t want to be letting this go lower than ¼ before filling up again. Preferably, and this is what I always do, you should be topping up the tank whenever you pass a potable water source, just so you know you’re always covered.
6. Disposing Of Grey Water
All Four Wheel Campers come with 20 gallons of fresh water storage, but rather than adding extra weight to the vehicle by including a 20 gallon greywater (or wastewater) tank, each of the camping pods has a small tank that leads to an outlet valve situated on the outside of the camper. You can’t miss it; a little screw cap attached to the camper’s exterior by a little plug chain.
Rather than letting your wastewater just spill out everywhere, Four Wheel can provide you with a length of hose that screws onto the greywater outlet, which then feeds down into an easy-to-carry wastewater bag, allowing you to carry and dispose of your greywater in an appropriate area!
7. Planning Your Storage
Storage isn’t something you’re going to have a problem with when living in a Four Wheel Camper; these things are like Doctor Who’s Tardis, just with a much better sleeping platform and a nice pop-top roof.
If you check out our Four Wheel Camper Grandby review, you’ll see that these campers have storage pretty much everywhere you can think of. Lift up the bed above the cab to find ample storage space for all your clothes, pull up the two flaps underneath the table to reveal three storage trays sunk into the floor, remove the seat pads to find two large storage wells big enough for suitcases, duffel bags, tools and more, and keep all of your food and kitchen utensils neat and tidy in two drawers and two cupboards situated underneath the sink and fridge units.
Put it this way, if you’re filling all of these areas, then you’re probably travelling with too much stuff and should be thinking about downsizing a little bit.
Note – In some Four Wheel Camper models, the fold-up flaps in the floor reveal an indoor shower tray rather than a storage area. Just make sure you’re not about to store your drone in the same spot your partner or friend is blearily going to be showering while half asleep the next morning!
8. Place Rechargeable LED Lights In Your Cupboards
While the lights in your Four Wheel Camper are perfect for cooking, reading, or playing games at night, they don’t quite reach into the cupboards or underneath the storage area underneath the bed. You could use a headtorch to look into the back of your cupboards when searching for the dried basil or that last tin of tomato puree, or you could get a couple of stick-on LED push lights to place inside each to literally shine some light on the problem.
Whether you’re waking up to head out and catch that sunset, searching for a pair of socks in the middle of the night, or trying to find some cookies for a midnight snack, a couple of push lights will make a massive difference for very little money, especially during the winter months when you’re not going to be getting a lot of light inside your camper.
9. Creating A Through Draft & Airing Your Space
One of the things that I’ve always loved about these Four Wheel Campers is the window set ups and how easy it is to keep your space cool in hot climates.
Each Four Wheel Camper window set up is made from three segments; a privacy flap, a see-through plastic flap, and a netting web that lets air in while keeping pesky bugs out. Each of the flaps attaches with a Velcro strip, allowing you to essentially let in as much light or air as you want.
When the weather gets hotter, you can create a through draft incredibly simply by just opening two windows, letting the breeze air out your space and keeping things smelling fresh (which is perfect if you’re travelling with someone who hasn’t washed their socks in a couple of weeks!)
10. Keeping The Space Tidy
Finally, and this is something that I’ve picked up from living in a van over a 5-year period, it can be incredibly easy for a tiny space to get cluttered. A tidy space leads to a tidy mind, and through some simple tips and tricks, you can make sure that you keep your Four Wheel Camper clean and mess free.
It might sound a little low tech, but a dustpan and brush are two of the most underrated pieces of Van Life equipment around. Sweeping out sand and leaves left over from the day’s adventures takes seconds, and if you’ve got a carpeted area or need to clean up a crumb spillage inside a cupboard or hard to reach area, then having a cordless vacuum to hand for sticking into pesky corners will make things much easier. The last thing you want is ants (believe me, I’ve had to deal with this myself and it’s not fun!).
Give everything a proper place and make sure it goes away when you’re done with it. The chances are that if you’re travelling around a lot, you’ll get into a routine of securing everything away before you set off to avoid pasta or rice spice spilling everywhere while you’re off roading.
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