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Winter / cold weather optimized Hawk Shell

shell hawk winter ski skiing tundra

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#1 biggb

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 09:12 AM

I took a lot of inspiration from the generous exchange of ideas WTW users shared when customizing my own camper ... and this is my flavor of FWC Hawk Shell optimized for winter ski adventures. Works fine the rest of the year as well, though kayak racks are a bit of a problem we've had to work around. 

 

Several years ago I had purchased a busted 93 Jayco pop-up for $600 with the dream of having the ability to take ski trips to places I would never consider paying for lodging as well as a comfortable base camp for backcountry ski destinations. Even with the limitations of the behemoth old camper on my 2002 Tundra it worked out great and whetted my appetite for a nicer, lighter and safer camper a few seasons later.

 

Our Jayco helped us figure out we really wanted in a camper: A place for 2 adults to lay around, relax and eat food after a long day of ski touring or riding lifts in the winter. Bonus points for laying around, relaxing and eating after summer adventures as well.

 

We purchased a new 2016 shell model for 2 reasons: It was quite a bit cheaper and we could customize it to fit our winter needs. In reality, I asked FWC to strip away more than they would agree to and they insisted on a few things I could have done without. We were able to get an inverter, battery system, propane furnace, recessed stove ... and that was about it. We did get the arctic pack. No water system (to freeze up), no fixed fridge, no 2nd fan over the bed (to rain condensation down on my head). It was a good start.

 

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We decided on modular storage via rubbermaid boxes and duffel bags, a Dometic "cooler" fridge, a single bench "couch" and an additional "leather comfy chair" seat just inside the door to the right. Lots of hooks over the door for hanging snowy gear that needs to dry and contact strip type velcro to attach a laptop for entertainment on long winter nights. Cooking equipment is in the rubbermaid just to the right of the stove w/ a cutting board on top. Under the couch, we have a cooler fridge (added 12-Volt plug for power), another rubbermaid for food, 4 x 1-gallon jugs of water (depending on trip, sometimes add 5-gallon blue water container), a TV tray (dinner table) and whatever else needs a place to live at the moment. Everything slides out and back easily. The trucks extended cab is used for things that we don't need on hand in the back. Pee bottle lives outside one of the turnbuckle flaps. We put recycling outside the other turnbuckle flap and have a small plastic trashcan that shares the battery compartment. 2 layers of matching rubberized home depot utility carpets insulate the floor. I added a wooden handle to the door (helps to grab with gloves, reaching from inside or to lean on when stepping out). I remove the screen door during winter.

 

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WARMTH: We added reflectix just about everywhere possible. I remember reading WTW and seeing debates over R-factors, insulation materials, etc. For the cost and ease of use, I chose reflectix. We used 2 inch foam insulation and / reflectix to cover all the main windows and velcro + reflectix for removable door window and vent fan insulation.  I lined the lower "floor level" walls under the couch with reflectix. We spray-glued flannel fabric to two lengths of reflectix to insulate the middle "lounge level" for comfort and a cozy style - We remove half of this during the summer to allow for window access. On the upper "bedroom level" we also insert reflectix all the way around between the arctic pack and the plastic tent fabric to create more insulation. It takes about 5 minutes to put up each time, 2 minutes to remove. Worth every penny spent and time used IMHO. Wouldn't go without it. I fashioned a reflectix layer to go around the outside as well (It was really sweet and fit so perfect) but when tested was deemed too precarious in high winds so we stopped using it. With this setup we are toasty warm and comfortable with the propane furnace (usually sleep with it set to 45 at night). We're REALLY comfortable when we can score a plug-in to shore power and run our tiny electric space heater ... which we often can at the ski area we frequent (or poach that shite with an extension cord anywhere feasible). I'll be playing with a plug-in dehumidifier this winter. It hasn't been an issue but depending on conditions over the course of a weekend (or longer) we usually keep a kitchen rag handy to wipe wet spots on the ceiling and walls (metal interfaces that freeze overnight / the tacks in the ceiling). I always take steps to dry everything out when we get back from a trip in prep for the next.

 

RACKS: We didn't want any roof racks on top that might gather snow / ice. In retrospect, I'm glad because clearing snow / ice buildup can be a problem sometimes even with only a roof vent to deal with. In order to carry skis we had a metal shop make us some custom racks that bolt onto $50 wal-mart fender tie-downs on both sides of the truck. This allows us to strap a ski bag on each side. We can easily carry 4 sets of alpine skis, 2 sets of cross-country skis, all the poles, skins, etc ... in the bags. I use kayak straps to attach each bag. It works pretty well. In the warmer seasons, we are also able to carry 2 whitewater kayaks or SUPs (1 on each side) with paddles strapped underneath the camper overhang (above the fenders). It's not perfect, it's a pretty damn wide load with kayaks (especially when crossing the skinny ass metal bridge between Hood River and White Salmon ... nightmare), and it blocks a bit of rear-view visibility ... but it's what we found works best right now. Why not put the kayaks on the back with some type of rack? That is where the mountain bikes go ... and we have to be able to get in and out of the camper without loading / unloading. It's working so far.

 

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IN RETROSPECT: I would have had FWC put in a 2nd battery. I would have had them actually wire for solar ... not the pretend "wire for solar" they do when you don't buy solar panels from them. I later bought a panel / controller all-in-one and it works fine after some futzing. Someone did an absolute junk show install of the exterior shore power plug (it wasn't the factory ... think it was the salesman) and it's way loosey goosey but I had to have it. The inverter / battery / furnace config I got should be standard ... and maybe it is now ... but at the time it was treated as a special request and I got what I got.

 

Please enjoy!


Edited by biggb, 22 November 2019 - 09:38 AM.

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#2 WjColdWater

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 01:04 PM

Nice cold condition mods! Enjoy your setup.  :)


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#3 Kolockum

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 04:12 PM

Nice mods. Do you lock your skis up? I am always paranoid about somebody stealing them.

 

Semi-off topic have you heard of the Indie Pass? 44 Independent Resorts with 2 days of skiing each for $199. We are using it as a reason to travel the NW (and maybe out to Utah) and ski at bunch of different small resorts.


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#4 biggb

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 07:55 PM

kolockum ... I do lock my kayaks / bikes ... but have yet to feel the need to lock my skis. It helps that I'm rarely going any place in the winter where I have felt the need. I have relied on security by obscurity as well as strapping things down to the point that someone would have to put in some work to get the ski bag off ... not just grab and go. I could use my long cable lock I use w/ kayaks to lock the bags with a grab loop ... but a motivated thief with a knife could make short work of the straps / loop and ... adios!

 

I have considered a thin gauge wire running through the bags ... but as of yet, have not followed through.

 

As for Indie Pass ... that looks real fun ... I've yet to warm up to the big resort style of skiing ... that might be just the ticket for sampling new places w/o the big resort madness.

 

If you want small resorts and have have a rig to live in ... you'll want to visit Anthony Lakes in Eastern Oregon. It doesn't get any smaller nor more "Mom n Pop". They also have a limited number of power plug-ins for your winter comfort ... if you can snag one.


Edited by biggb, 20 November 2019 - 08:01 PM.

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#5 Wandering On Wheels

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Posted 20 November 2019 - 11:24 PM

Really like the couch idea!  Do you have any progress pics of construction and how you mounted the lumber to the camper?

 

thanks 


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#6 m.r.h.

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Posted 21 November 2019 - 10:56 PM

That dang skinny bridge between Hood River and White Salmon! Im going to keep my eyes open for your ridge cruising around the NW.


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#7 biggb

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Posted 22 November 2019 - 09:02 AM

Wandering On Wheels: I don't have progress pics ... it was done in a snap. I simply glued two nice pieces of plywood together to make a very strong platform and used 2x4's on each side mounted horizontally on the benches with bolts & washers.

 

I used 2 pieces of 2x4 on each side as vertical support for the horizontally mounted 2x4's ... cut them tight and squeezed them in (between horizontal support and floor) and mounted with some type of small metal plate at interface.

 

Because the added wooden platform does not cover the bench tops the flip-up bench storage space is still accessible with a bit of effort (have to lift up the cushion). The wooden platform also fits snugly so it doesn't need to be mounted in any way and can be easily lifted off.

 

In total, I only drilled 4 small holes in the plywood bench walls, nothing in the floor.

 

My goal is to be able to sell it someday as a shell and the new owner can have a blank slate again w/o a bunch of holes, etc. Also, I can take the whole couch / kitchen / fridge out in a couple of minutes and it's back to an empty shell if we needed to haul a load in back ... as I did a few weeks ago to get my snow tires swapped. When done, back together in a moment.

 

I follow the K.I.S.S. theory.

 

Hard for me to explain, easy for me to build .... and I'm all thumbs ... i hope that makes sense.

 

M.R.H: Maybe I will see you ... but hopefully not as oncoming traffic on that friggin bridge. If so, please move over!


Edited by biggb, 22 November 2019 - 09:19 AM.

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#8 LetsGo

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Posted 31 January 2020 - 02:43 AM

Just wondering how you deal with snow on your roof? At what point do you go out in the middle of the night to remove it? Any issues with lowering roof with snow on roof or the side panels. I would like to take my atc cougar on a ski trip but worry about the roof load
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#9 biggb

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Posted 31 January 2020 - 04:05 AM

I've only been worried about snow loading on the roof a couple times ... back when I had the old Jayco camper. That roof was already super heavy with old ass hardware holding it up ... not snow but super windy nights were the sketchiest.

 

When I do need to mess with snow on top I drop the camper at one end and use a windshield scraper with an extendable, soft "snow broom" and I push / pull the snow off ... then swap and do the other end. Can't get 100% of the snow but can get more than enough to lighten the load. I tried a squeegee on a telescoping pole but it wasn't better than a push broom or brush.

 

I haven't yet felt the need get up at night to mess with snow, but I guess it would really depend on what the snow is like. A super heavy dump of Sierra / Cascade Cement (like you might see over there on the coast) might get me worried but that would be abnormal for Eastern Oregon / Idaho / Utah where I usually ski. I wish I was involved with more snow dumps that would cause concern but no such luck as of yet.

 

An issue I've found to be challenging is after days of camping with melt / freeze conditions (either from heater or sun) and an ice layer builds up ... that can be pretty heavy and you can't really scrape it w/o risk of damage ... so you just roll with it. I've had zero issue with snow buildup on the sides, so that has been great. I've had to chip ice out of the clip clamps to secure the top for travel ... a few minutes with a screwdriver took care of that. 

 

As for lowering with snow, I have lowered it with a good amount of snow on top and it came down really fast. The next time I had a similar situation I left the door closed and only opened a single turnbuckle door ... that helped keep the inside pressurized to support the weight on top and the roof came down slower.

 

If the snow was crazy deep, in a pinch we could drop the top and sleep on the "bench" ... but have never had the need to do so thus far. Fingers crossed for that!

 

I ordered the back steps on the wall to help me stand up higher in anticipation of clearing snow ... they help a little but not much as there is nothing to hold on to up there with no rack. I've found them more useful to hang wet gear to dry in the sun than to help scrape snow.

 

Unless the dump is a Powderchaser Steve "Snorkel Alert" I wouldn't worry about it.


Edited by biggb, 31 January 2020 - 04:21 AM.

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#10 Kolockum

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Posted 31 January 2020 - 04:11 AM

I have the struts installed on my FWC Eagle and will just lower the front and let the snow slide off the the camper onto the truck. Sometimes I bang on the roof to get the snow to slide. I let the front down because I can do it without leaving my sleeping bag. Occasionally the snow sliding off the roof would knock my windshield wipers off on my Dakota. Small price to pay for not leaving my sleeping bag.

 

If there is a lot of weight ~8-10" of heavy wet snow or ~14" then the roof will come down a little on the quick side. I honestly never really sweated the weight but do make it a point every day to clear the snow off because of the ice problem biggb mentioned.


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