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Duraburb – November 2015

Build and Shakedown Review:

Duraburb sign

So here we sit roughly 45 days later with 3500 driving miles and 2000 towing miles (yeah we had some traveling plans) on our new Duramax powered Chevrolet Suburban. The one word that is continuously thrown around to describe this project as a whole, whether it is by friends, family, fellow travelers, or car enthusiasts is, and I quote…. “Unbelievable”.

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We’re Goin’ Yamping!

What is yamping you ask? Well it’s yard camping! So we had originally planned to go yamping with a little bit of boondocking on this next road trip. Our plans had to be altered, so we’ll just be doing some yamping and camping this trip. Our new plan is to stay with family and camp in their yard for a day or two in between staying at some campgrounds. We’ll be boondocking in a way because we won’t be hooked up to anything while staying with family.

Why yamping? First and foremost, it’s a great way to visit with family and friends that are near or on the way to  your destination. You can catch up with people you may not normally be able to visit with, and that is truly a great experience!  Another bonus: it’s a great way to keep down costs of traveling!

 

What is boondocking? It is another name for dry camping, which means parking anywhere without any or with limited amenities. Dry camping is more describing camping without hookups at a campground, while boondocking typically means staying in a completely undeveloped area. So for this particular trip, we’ll be boondocking while yamping. 🙂 This actually works out for the best considering we’ve never dry camped, so we’ll work out all the kinks in the comfort of our family’s yard on the front and back end of our trip. When we first bought our trailer, we had all the intentions of dry camping in our driveway to work out any kinks, but got so excited in traveling that we forgot all about that whole “testing it out before getting on the road” theory.

Why boondock? It’s a great way to get out into nature, away from busy cities, towns, traffic, and crowds! Best part…it’s FREE!!

 

How we’ll prepare for boondocking &/or yamping: We’ll be packing more batteries, along with a charger to charge them each day should we need to. We’ll carry full water tanks instead of our typical half or a third because we’ll need all the water we can get! Since it’s starting to feel like fall, we’ll be packing extra blankets for colder nights. We have a 4k watt Powerhouse generator that has a supposed 8 hour run time at full capacity. Therefore, we’ll only be using 1 A/C instead of both. We run this generator on our pack days, but plan to test it on this trip so we can give you all a review after we get back! Also, we plan to refill the generator on travel days whenever we stop for gas.

 

We haven’t even been boondocking yet, but already on our boondocking dream list is:

1. More RV batteries! We’ve been told 4 is a great number! We have….1.

2. Solar Panels!!!!! We can’t wait to make our own power to save for a later time. Not to mention being able to camp in the middle of nowhere for more than a few days! Sounds AMAZING!!

Alright, let’s get this thing on the road!

How NOT to buy an RV

Whut up ladies and gents,

Today I’ll give you the run down on our journey of becoming RV owners, with a man’s perspective of course. Let’s kick this off by first starting to talk about what led us down the road of first considering being RV owners. Well as the story goes, as broke college kids, Mom and I used to hang with the other cool kids at the local RV shows. Of course we were outside the demographic of RV buyers, mainly because of age, but the hair color and size of our wallet had a lot to do with it too. This was a nice bonus though, because we could cruise all day long and not get bothered by any salesmen.

FACT-OF-THE-DAY: RV Salesmen are typically worse than Used Car Salesmen…FACT.

But I digress. We quickly did what all newbies do and picked out the top of the line “5’ers ” (Fifth Wheel) and Motorhomes to call our own. Well, life unfolded like it does for everyone, and we accelerated our dreams of being RV owners/Explorers/Adventurers/Travelers by about 20 years. Of course that meant we had to part with the idea of owning a Unicat (heart breaking) or a Monaco. Can you guess which one I wanted? With a strict budget, the wife and I started at square one… several times.

Monaco

Monaco

unicat

Unicat….Awesome!

Question 1: Should we focus on a Motorhome or a Travel Trailer? Frankly, the maintenance and dingy (towing a secondary vehicle) requirements killed the idea of the Motorhome. We are firm believers in the adage ‘the drive is half the journey’, but we needed an escape vehicle to go exploring, once we put up camp. Having a motorhome, also means having another engine and transmission that would add more cost and maintenance to the picture. Plus, the level of comfort in a travel trailer had a much better bang for the buck. Of course not having a Motorhome meant Mom can’t make sandwiches while I drive, oh well. #firstworldproblems

Question 2: The trailer: Toy Hauler or Travel? The idea of a traditional travel trailer gives Mom what she wants, but basically eats away at my soul. So Mom reluctantly gave in after some thorough convincing and me screaming…”think of the children”. So toyhauler it is, but we needed a tow hauler that could pull double duty. Give Mom the comforts of home and Dad the opportunity to bring the family toys (hiking gear, golf carts, kayak, dirtbikes, ATVs, segway, motorcycles, and on and on). I’m still working on the toys part…

Given our unique taste and requirements we mom, “quickly” (as slow as a damn turtle) narrowed down our search to three models a Carbon 33, Fuzion 303, and Outback 324CG. Here’s Mom’s breakdown on why she wanted these three, i.e. bathroom location, sleeping arrangements, shower doors, sinks, storage, etc. (Yah a shower door was a serious point of contention). My requirements were simple…errr. Cargo Capacity, generator size, fuel tank option, A/C options, Axles, frame design, cargo tie down points, insulation, and LP tanks. This then led me to the realization that our trailer options where weighing in around 10,000 lbs. Gulp, and here comes the DuraMax Suburban topic. Read more about our DuraBurb conversion here!

324cg_2016

324CG Floor Plan

Carbon 33

Carbon 33 Floor plan

Fuzion 303

Fuzion 303 Floor Plan

I really liked the other two options. Sure, they were super heavy, but I felt comfortable reinforcing our hitch and towing the family around. Best part about the other trailer options was that the interior seemed very utilitarian…at least that was the best part for me. Mom, on the other hand, didn’t think so. It was a struggle, but we fell onto the 324CG model through a brochure at a Camping World we had driven to in Georgia to see another model. Which upon arrival, the salesman who assured me he had the other trailer on the lot, now couldn’t find it. So big’ol middle finger to Camping World of Oakwood Georgia, for letting me drive my family 1.5 hrs out of our way to stare at an empty parking spot. Whoa, sorry off topic again.

The Outback pamphlet was randomly placed on a table where Mom found it and I asked the question which was basically answered with…I’ve never seen that brand/model. Great job Camping World. We began hunting for the 324CG and the closest we could find was in Ohio and New Orleans, so like any good consumer I got the two dealers into a bidding war. With the boundaries drawn, the Ohio dealer took the win for best price. We took a weekend trip to New Orleans and visited “Steve’s RV” , which is a literal Mom and Pop RV dealer, just to put our hands on the trailer and take a serious look at it before buying from the Ohio dealer.

So we walk up to the trailer and BOOM, it has every option available: “Artic Package”, “Diamond Package”, “Designer Package”, and “Comfort Package”. Great curb appeal…let’s open this baby up and take a peak. By the way, Steve’s RV was AWESOME!!! We walked through the door and said we were looking at one particular model. The salesman pointed it out and then left us the hell alone, zero sales pressure.

Here is how the 324CG almost failed, or I for that matter. I was in full blown numskull mode and made some pretty big assumptions.

Assumption #1: Thinking every toy hauler comes with a generator.

Assumption #2: Thinking every toy hauler comes with a fuel storage tank.

So about 10 minutes into looking at the trailer I am frantically circling the outside of the frame, while I hear Mom Ooo’ing and Aww’ing from inside. It takes a lot to impress her and her picky decisive self. I break out in a cold sweat with the realization that I just drove my family across three states, ruthlessly haggled four hours between dealers, and was all for NOT! Why? Because a generator and gas tank were paramount for our boondocking adventures to isolated national parks. I kicked the dirt, which is the international sign of I messed up. Mom caught the body language, and 10 minutes later after agreeing on how perfect this floorplan was for us, we put Steve’s RV and the 324CG in our rear view mirror. Steaming in anger and wanting to salvage the trip, we made a decision to go into New Orleans and have some family time. I know that sounds like an oxymoron but there was plenty of family friendly attractions to see and the history…amazing. (Here’s our NOLA post)

Over a wonderful pizza, I’m thinking about all the time I spent as a crappy welder’s apprentice to my uncle, and how standalone generators were in fact, not a figment of my imagination. So I started “googling” (that’s a verb right?) what other owners were doing. After researching, I came to find out that one of the reasons this trailer’s cost was so competitive is because Outback took out the generator and gas tank. In doing so, Keystone cut down their liability insurance and overall production cost. This allowed the customer to buy at a more competitive price, and later choose to install their own generator, saving over 30% by installing it as an aftermarket option versus a manufacturer or dealer option. (POWERHOUSE 4000i/e review coming soon!)

So the 324CG model may not be dead quite yet…

The next morning we headed back to Steve’s RV. We struck up a conversation with a salesman about setting up a generator and options for boondocking, because the trailer was hitting all the man requirements on my list: AMPs, Cargo Capacity, Insulation, ACs, Weight, etc. The dealer setup a demonstration with a PowerHouse Generator system. Granted I won’t be able to run 2 ACs off the generator, but it would get the job done.

The Q&A lasted about another 4hrs, which led us into a bartering session. Long story short, Steve’s RV was able to match the Ohio Dealers price, plus through in some goodies and a steep discount on a Husky WD Hitch and a Power House generator. While its not a Honda, and while it has some quirks, it is proving to be a solid piece of equipment.

We made a deal, shook hands, and arranged pickup a week later. Easy right? All told, it took over 6 years of savings, 2 years of on and off research, 3 months of actual searching, and 3 hours of negotiating to get make this dream a reality.

Now for those of you interested in the nitty gritty details and specification on the trailer, click here!

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