Outdoors Overland travel Tech

Off-road Tent Trailer Build, Part3

The trailer tent has arrived. I set it up quickly or some pictures and get a first impression. Of course it was raining so I had to set it up in the shop. I was not able to open the annex and install the walls but the main tent fit (just barely) and I like what I see so far. Well made with heavy sippers and double seams. I have some questions on the travel cover but everything else looks pretty good. Now I just have to figure out how I’m going to mount it to the trailer. I think a bit of extra bracketry is required and will have to pack the tent back up and flip it over to get a better idea.  I will get more pictures one I get it permanently mounted and can set it up outside.


My minimum order is 10, so I think 5 people and I will have to nearly full price. If I can get 8 or more, I will be able to give about 20% discount I think.  If you are interested in being part of the initial order please let me know by using the contact form.

Still waiting on ocean shipping rates. Also looking into the need for fire retardant fabric before I announce a price.

The size of the tent closed is 90″ (~7.5′) long, 66″ (5.5′) wide and between 6″-12″ tall. The width was selected because that is the width of my trailer outside fender to outside fender. I believe the M416 is roughly the same. The base is designed to sit 54″ off the ground. Open, the tent is 17′ wide and 15′ long (7.5′ each for main room and awning). The peak is 8′. The tent fabric is 10oz rip stop poly cotton canvas and the floor is 13oz PVC. Polls and ladder are steel. The base is 3/4″ marine grade plywood with a metal frame under for added support. There are two hatch doors in the base for easy access to trailer storage once setup. There is a 3″ foam mattress. The entire tent weighs roughly 350 lbs.

I am still working on the mounting. I am thinking of offering a mounting frame at additional expense or having the customer provide their own mounting method. The frame would fit customers trailer and have hinges, latches and struts.

Outdoors Overland travel Tech

ARB Simpson Series II Roof Top Tent


UPDATE: ARB has released a new version of the tent, keep reading here for my experience with the Simpson II then go HERE to read about the Simpson Series III

We recently had a chance to get one last weekend of camping in. We were heading east to the Naches River Valley to participate in a Backroad Drivers Northwest tour. This tour was of the Clemen Mountain (ridge) area just east of the Naches River and the town of Nile. The weather called for rain and I didn’t want to sleep on the ground and chance getting flooded out of our tent. Since I have been wanting to try one out I decided to pickup the Simpson Series II Roof Top Tent.


Then tent comes mostly assembled. All that is required is to decide whether you want to orient it to open to the side or to the rear. If you have it open to the rear you can create a nice sheltered area at the tailgate. This way is best suited for full sized SUVs and Trucks. I chose to have it open to the side (passengers for me) as I will be adding the Annex when it comes in off of back order. Once you have decided the orientation, you can bolt on the “mounting extrusions”. All of the parts are tucked way inside the folded up tent so you will need to get them out to continue. These are the parts that will connect the tent to your roof rack. You can use any type of roof rack as long as it meets the load capacity you will be placing on it (tent and occupants). I already had the ARB Touring Rack installed. The tent can also be mounted on factory bars or Yakima and Thule bars. After the mounting extrusion is attached, the ladder is attached using the supplied stainless steel brackets. The ladder has a dual purpose. It is of course the way you get into the tent. The ladder is also the lever you use to open up the tent.


The annex is a nice little addition that creates an indoor changing/storage area under the tent. That is one of the features that drew me to the ARB tent instead of others. The tent has a “vestibule” section that provides a sheltered for the ladder and entrance to the tent. The annex slides into a rail attached to the floor of the tent then zips to the bottom of the tent.

Once assembly is finished, the tent is ready to be mounted onto the rack. This is best done with two or three people. Although it is not particularly heavy the size makes it awkward to handle. The tent comes with stainless steel brackets and bolts and an aluminum runner that slides in the mounting extrusion. This provides limitless spacing between bars.


With the tent mounted you are now ready to open it up for the first time. Start by releasing all of the straps that hold the tent closed. Extend the ladder and the locking pins will engage the holes. Pulling on the end of the ladder you should have enough leverage to start to open the tent. Once the tent is just over half way open the weight will shift to pushing down on the ladder. Slowly lower the ladder to the ground making sure the tent opens all the way. Now slide out the overhang supporting bar (U shaped aluminum bar) and insert into the retaining sockets. Make sure the corners of the bar are all the way into the corners of the tent. Get the spring steel rods from inside the tent. These are used to support the outside window awnings and the flysheet. Insert the U shaped end into the eyelet in the awning/flysheet. The other end is inserted into the aluminum base of the tent through the eyelets. Be sure to make note of the angle of the hole and position the rod at this angle to make insertion easier. Remove the 4 bungees. If the bungees were not installed when shipped they will be in one of the parts bags.

Now the annex can be installed. Start by sliding the rope sections into the extrusion at the hinge area of the tent base. Using the zipper attach the remaining three sides. Spread out the floor and stake in to the ground. Install the Annex Floor, making sure to place the rubber mat under the ladder to protect the floor. If you need the ladder extension, be sure to check on the “Well Extension” in order to extend the depth of the floor equal to the ladder extension.

I set it up once in the shop before leaving. My second setup was in the dark during a downpour. Except for forgetting to attach the flysheet, assembly went smoothly and tool only about 15 minutes. Since we were going on a drive the next day I had to take it down again. I think the takedown time, after all the bags were removed, was about 10 minutes. It says you can leave your bedding (except for maybe pillows depending on bedding size) inside the tent when it is folded up. I think I will do that next time. Once I have the annex I will make a short video of the setup.


Outdoors Overland travel Tech

Off-road Tent Trailer Build, Part 2

idaho-trip-by-david-031Now that the trailer has been completed and test I thought I would finish up the trailer build with some finished pictures, a recap of features and parts used as well as a summary of the trailers performance.

We recently completed a 1625 mile trip (about 100 miles on dirt/gravel roads) to Idaho.  The full write-up is HERE.

finished_trailer_13The only changes I need to do to the trailer is to change the axle from spring under to spring over.  Once fully loaded with water, camping gear, extra fuel and bikes (or tent in the future) I have very little travel left between the bump stops and in the fenders.  It will also allow for slightly larger tires.  Here it is with 31″ tires.  I would like to fit 34″ tires to match the Land Cruisers.

finished_trailer_12The next area of improvement would be lid strength and stronger struts.  With the bikes on top it was very difficult to lift.  The lid also flexes.  If there are not two people to lift it is almost impossible.

Features that need to be added still are fuel can holders.  I picked up a pair of J Cans from Expedition Exchange.

finished_trailer_11I also need to add some brackets to hold the propane tanks but I haven’t decided on the size of tank.  Right now I have one 11# tank it it was more than enough for a week of camping with cooking and hot water.  I don’t think there is a need for a 2o# tank.  The current plan is to mount the tank on the tongue using a bracket similar to the ones used on the Fleetwood tent trailers.

Pictures of the interior of the trailer. I used AGM batteries for safety and reliablility (like optima just no spiral).

When at a campground our at home, I use a trolling motor charger to keep the batteries topped off. When driving I charge through the vehicle using a hellroaring battery isolator I installed as part of my Dual battery setup into an 87 FJ60 | OlympiaFJ60

The back of my power box. I used circuit breakers from the batteries to the power. One battery is for the water pump and lights. The second batter is for the inverter.

For the inverter I just used a 400 watt inverter I had wired with a relay to switch on and off from the switch panel.

Here is a shot of the water heater. You can see how much space this thing takes up. I think in my next trailer I will use the on demand type heater instead. The second picture is off the whole inside. The water tank is the other item I would change. It is too tall. I think a wider but more flat one would work better for storage space. Even with the limited space I am able to carry the camp table, chairs, tent and shower/toilet enclosure.



Blue Highways Outdoors

Owyhee Sheep Camp Expedition, Part 3



After our two nights at Boni Spring we decided we would visit Silver City before heading north to find our last campsite of the trip. After a hearty breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs we broke camp. While David and I finished packing everything into the trailer and truck Mom took Farron for a walk down the road. I guess it took us a while to finish loading as we found Mom and Farron nearly a mile down the road, Farron was running ahead trying to extend his hike as far as he could. We continued west into the Jordan Valley.


Picture by Mom

Since we didn’t know how far it would be to Silver City and out again we decided to fuel up in Jordan Valley, Oregon. We also stopped to take a picture of the Pelota wall and the Old Basque Inn.


Picture by Mom
Picture by Brandon
Picture by David

While in Jordan Valley we also asked for directions to Silver City. We headed north out of town on Hwy 95 looking for Cow Creek Road. After about 15 minutes we turned east onto Cow Creek road. It is a good two lane gravel road with turnouts. It was Sunday just before noon so many of the weekend campers and hunters were heading out. Once we turned onto the Dewey-DeLamar road we were on a primitive one lane road that resembled the historic ghost town we were heading for. It follows a stream was narrow in spots and made of dirt and native rock. All along the stream we saw people panning and prospecting. We passed old home sites as well as one currently occupied residence. We hardly knew when we passed the old towns of Dewey or DeLamar. We arrived in Silver City about lunch time. We took a little walk down town and decided to have lunch at the Idaho Hotel.



Picture by Brandon
Picture by Brandon
Picture by Brandon
Picture by Brandon

After lunch we took a quick drive around town. It was getting late and we still had some driving to do before we found a campground for the night. We left town back toward Ruby then east on the Silver City road toward Murphy. Once we got down to Hwy 78 just outside Murphy we found we had cell phone reception again and made some quick calls that we had survived then headed west to Hwy 95 North. On the way we drove through Marsing were mom’s Grandparents had lived and saw Lizard Butte. We followed Hwy 95 through Homedale, Fruitland, Payette, Weiser and countless other small towns.



Picture by David

In Weiser we had to decide on camping back at Farwell Bend or continuing north. We had decided to stay of the interstate on the way home so we didn’t really want to head for Farwell Bend. Looking on the map we saw a campground at Evergreen but could not find any phone number or GPS location for it. We decided to keep north on Hwy 95 and try our luck. It was getting late, about an hour before sunset, when we stopped in Council to fuel up again. We asked the clerk inside about Evergreen campground. She didn’t know anything about Evergreen but said there was a Lost Lake about 15 minutes further down the road. We stopped at the ranger station on the way out of town and looked at the recreation map. There was an Evergreen Campground as well as Cold Springs and Lost Valley. It was 30 minutes before sunset now as we pulled into Evergreen Campground. Had we been traveling in a Motor home or pulling a large camping trailer this would have been the ideal site with its nicely paved parking pads and hookups. It was not going to work for our large tent.



Picture by David

We decided we would head up to Lost Valley. At the restaurant in Pine Ridge we turned left onto Lost Valley Road, another gravel forest road. The first campground we came to was Cold Springs. It looked a little torn up as they had recently finished a large danger tree removal operation. The grounds were still covered in limbs and debris. We made a quick drive around and settled on a nice large site close to the rest room. Again Mom and Farron went to register our site as David and I set up the tent and got out the stove for our last camping trip meal. Mom made some great ½ pound burgers and we ate by lantern light listening to all the forest sounds. This was much different the camping we had done at Boni Spring with the wide open space. Cold Springs is tucked away in the forest with only a few feet to spare around our tent and pick neck table. We even saw a resident pair of deer, a doe and young buck. Luckily they were the only cows crashing around we heard that night. Regardless, we locked up all the food and garbage in the back of the Land Cruiser. We had a good sleep and, as far as we know, didn’t get any visits by Yogi.



Picture by Mom

We decided since we had run out of water in the trailer for dishes, an easy breakfast would be best. After breakfast we broke camp for the last time, packed up and were on the road again. Heading north on Hwy 95 we followed the Little Salmon River until Riggins where we picked up the Salmon River. Riggins is home to several white water rafting companies. We followed the Salmon until just before White Bird. Here we left the river and had a steep climb out of the Salmon River valley then down into the Palouse and Grangeville. From the top of the grade we could see the location of the 1877 Battle of White Bird Canyon which was the first fight of the Nez Perce war. Grangeville is near an excavation of a Mammoth skeleton in the early 1990s. With further excavation they found a mammoth grave yard containing hundreds of skeletons. This was also the beginning of the wheat fields we wouldn’t see the end of until Ritzville. We traveled across the Nez Perce Indian Reservation to the Clearwater River near Lewiston. In Lewiston we had our second to last fuel stop then took the nearly 7 mile long Lewiston Grade out of town back up to the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse.



Picture by Brandon

Just past the Grade we left Hwy 95 for Hwy 195 north to Pullman and Spokane. In Colfax we changed Highways again for Hwy 26 West toward Othello. At Washtucna we turned north on Hwy 261 toward Ritzville and a milkshake. As a child I remember stopping often in Ritzville on our way home from Spokane to get a good old fashioned shake. It was pretty windy by now and the fields in the area had been recently plowed. This made for a slow dusty drive. Unfortunately when we arrived we found the stand to no longer be there. With a milkshake still on my mind we stopped at Zip’s Drive Inn. Now for our only interstate portion of the return trip, 45 miles headlong into the dust storm.


We stayed the night in Moses Lake. After Dad fixed us breakfast David, Farron and I continued on the final leg of our trip. We took a slight detour (following the bicycle detour) at Snoqualmie Pass. We followed the old road down between the east and west lanes to Denny Creek Campground. All my life I have traveled I-90 and never new there was a wonderful campground and recreation area between the freeways. Once in Olympia David moved his belongings to his Volvo and headed out for Seattle.

Trip total, 1,625 miles. 7 days 6 nights. 9 full gas fill-ups.


Outdoors Uncategorized

Owyhee Sheep Camp Expedition, Part 2



Picture by David

After a brief explanation of our visit I signaled to mom, David and Farron it was ok for us to look around. When they came down I introduced them to Duane, the resident employee of the Cattle Ranch and a genuine, honest to goodness cowboy. You couldn’t hope to meet a nicer person up here in the mountains.

Picture by Brandon
Picture by Brandon
Picture by Brandon
Mom and Anita – 1950’s

We were so excited. Duane invited us inside the cabin for a look around. He explained to us that he was trying to bring the cabin back as close to original as possible. He added a few modern conveniences like caulk between the logs on the inside and some insulation to fill the gaps in the roof. He also showed us where he had found some names written and scratched on the walls.

Picture by Mom

We told him about the copy of Grandma’s old map. He sounded very interested. We looked over it together and he told us about some of the areas he ranged the cattle. He also told us about an old sheep pen with loading stocks. We decided we would try and find it if we had time.

Too quickly it was getting dark. We mentioned we had better get going if we hoped to make it to a camping spot or the campground that was another 20 miles down the road. Duane offered for us to camp right there at sheep camp. He irrigates out of the spring so there were a few nice semi green spots. We quickly accepted. He had to get up early the next morning to meet the rest of the crew and would stop by if we were still around in the afternoon. We headed over toward the new building to find a good place to set up the tent and all our other camping accessories. We decided to camp further away from the cabin so we would not disturb Duane.

Picture by Mom

Once again we were pushing darkness to get the camp setup. While David and I set up tents mom and Farron explored around the area a little and started getting the dinner together. We still had firewood left over from Farewell Bend so we decided to finish of the hot dogs and have a few marshmallows. As the moon rose in the east, we finished the out house then settled down to a nice evening around the camp fire.

and Now

Everyone pitched in for a hearty breakfast of Pancakes and bacon. Coffee by David, pancakes by Brandon and mom cleans up. After Breakfast we all took a walk around looking at the old buildings, the spring and the horse corrals. Duane has several horses with him here at the camp. He said that he uses them all for different jobs as well as trains young horses from time to time.

Picture by David

After a morning of exploring around camp we decided to have lunch before heading up to the sheep pen and Boni Table. Just a short drive from camp we found the road Duane had told us to take. It is hard to miss with it’s crooked fence post.

From here on it was four-wheel-drive. The trail was rough with native surface and washouts. Not only were we looking for the old sheep pen but another trail that would take us up on top of Boni Table. Duane wasn’t sure if we would be able to make it up but we figured we would give it a try.

Picture by Brandon
Picture by David

After returning from our four hour drive we were ready for dinner. We invited Duane to join us but he had already eaten supper and had another early morning. He gave us some information about Jordan Valley and offered to let us stay at his place in town if we didn’t find a camp site.

After dinner we finished off our firewood and enjoyed the last of the marshmallows under another full moon