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Hey folks! So I've been lurking on this forum for a bit and am closer than ever on pulling the trigger on a 2016 CPO PMC. My question for the group is how many of you gave up a 4WD or AWD vehicle with decent ground clearance for your PMC? My current vehicle is a Sub Forester XT, and I've got it all set up nice for camping, but it's cramped, and I've been wasting waaaay to much time over the last few years daydreaming about a small van camper build. Like many of you it needs to fit in my garage with my wife's vehicle as well (weird front to back two car). So that limits me to the PMC, FTC, or NV200. For those of you coming from a 4WD/AWD vehicle with decent clearance, have there been times where you cursed your decision on a little van with 5" ground clearance and FWD? I'm not concerned about inclement weather, I'm all about FWD and some snow tires. My concerns are wanting to go somewhere and being like Crap...I can't get down there, or if I do I might not get out. I lived out west for a while and built up/off loaded a couple Jeeps, so knowing how to drive off the pavement isn't an issue. Just wonder how far some of you have pushed your PMC where the black top ends and were there ever any significant regrets for giving up a 4WD/AWD vehicle. Thanks in advance for any advice.

-Dan
 

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Yep previous vehicle was a Subaru Crosstrek and I also have a small camper trailer with great clearance so we could get into some rather crude forest access roads. I wanted to be able to carry our mountain bikes inside on road trips, hence the PMC. And it is a great road trip vehicle but it will only go where any 2 wheel drive car will go. BTW 5" is to front air dam which is rubber and flexible, actual clearance is better than that. If there was a PMC with AWD and 9" clearance it would be the perfect vehicle. Yes I miss having vehicular access to remote places. Fortunately I also have easy access to great remote places via canoe tripping and bike packing. It comes down to which is more useful to you, that vehicular access or a great economical road trip camper. For myself personally if I was doing it again right now it would be the GMC Canyon Crew Cab long box with the Duramax diesel in the 4AT package and a Four Wheel Campers Fleet Shell mounted in the box. Not cheap mbut that combo I think could do everything I would want in a vehicle. Meanwhile here is my "rig"
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Hey there Crabapple, I wanted to know if you had the trailer wiring harness installed by a dealer or did you do it yourself?
As for the OP,
We have really been enjoying our PMC. Have been to WV, NY, NH, ME, VA, all in free campsites. Unlike Crabapple, I store my bike on a bike rack on the trailer hitch that I installed myself. My daughter helped and it wasn't that bad of a job. I have a roof cargo basket and a homemade solar shower installed up top. We store our camp carpet mat and chocks up there along with extra water storage (coleman 6 gallon). It has been a great home away from home every time. We have a portable shower tent that my wife uses as a bathroom and a changing area. I bought the Thule potty seat and use a 12 inch bucket with peat moss and disposable composting bags for pooping. We made an awning out of suction cup tie downs, 8x6 white tarp and two collapsible tent poles that get to 8 ft. Really is just a great design. 3 2x8 cut to length with a 6x4 plywood on top all connected to the four tie down parts in the van. Storage underneath the bed. Works for us.
We have bottomed out the middle of the van going very slow a couple times. Have to watch due to the oil pan being right in the middle, but take it slow and watch for middle crested forested roads. All good. No complains other than "more space" when it rains. Best of luck..😃
 

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I would like to get the front end raised somewhat but the only company I know of that used to offer it doesn't anymore I believe.
 

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Hey there Crabapple, I wanted to know if you had the trailer wiring harness installed by a dealer or did you do it yourself?
As for the OP,
We have really been enjoying our PMC. Have been to WV, NY, NH, ME, VA, all in free campsites. Unlike Crabapple, I store my bike on a bike rack on the trailer hitch that I installed myself. My daughter helped and it wasn't that bad of a job. I have a roof cargo basket and a homemade solar shower installed up top. We store our camp carpet mat and chocks up there along with extra water storage (coleman 6 gallon). It has been a great home away from home every time. We have a portable shower tent that my wife uses as a bathroom and a changing area. I bought the Thule potty seat and use a 12 inch bucket with peat moss and disposable composting bags for pooping. We made an awning out of suction cup tie downs, 8x6 white tarp and two collapsible tent poles that get to 8 ft. Really is just a great design. 3 2x8 cut to length with a 6x4 plywood on top all connected to the four tie down parts in the van. Storage underneath the bed. Works for us.
We have bottomed out the middle of the van going very slow a couple times. Have to watch due to the oil pan being right in the middle, but take it slow and watch for middle crested forested roads. All good. No complains other than "more space" when it rains. Best of luck..😃
Dealer installed hitch and wiring. Note that if you have the back up sensors on your van there is a module that must be wired to also. That functions to shut off the proximity beepers whenever a trailer is hooked up. Otherwise every time you reverse the beepers are going to drive you crazy! Doesn't work with a bike rack though.
 

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2018 3500 EXT Camper Conversion in CT (TX for now due to Covid)
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My vehicles I kept in the northeast for work were a 1989 Dodge B350 and a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek. I used the crosstrek for driving and the Dodge as a camper, but I would occasionally need to drive the dodge when it was cold, rainy or snowy because I was in it when it started snowing, etc. Often times I would end up paying for a hotel in bad weather because I didn't want to drive the dodge in the poor weather. so I would drive the subaru to a hotel. This wasn't such a great plan and I eventually bought the full size promaster. I drove the Subaru back to my house in Texas where the AWD is completely unnecessary (probably the BFG AT KO2s are not either, but they look nice).

I outfitted the Promaster and sold the Dodge B350 RV. I now drive the Promaster in the northeast and I can say without hesitation it handles like a dream in almost any conditions. I would not hesitate to drive it in the snow, ice, wind, or rain. No, it can't go where the Crosstrek can, but it is extremely solid in handling. Part of this is the modern electronic stability control, anti-lock breaks, front wheel drive. The other is that these front wheel drive vans by nature have a lower load floor and a lower center of gravity that contribute to stable handling. A competent driver would feel very comfortable in these vehicles in my opinion and experience.

Once the pavement ends the same characteristics that make it nice on the road, make it stable off road. Keep the load low in the chassis, stay out of the ruts, and it will go anywhere the limited ground clearance allows. That will always be the issue with these front wheel drive based vehicles, the limited clearance will only allow so much. I've driven down light trails, but I got to where I was going. The right tires would be your friend.

But if you are thinking off roading for the sake of off roading, you will probably be disappointed. I can't imagine the promaster city as a trail vehicle. Maybe a roof tent for the Forester.
 

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Crabapple, yes I am aware of the beep with the back up camera and the bike rack. Once it sounds off the triangle comes on and the beep never sounds off again, just the initial time. NO more beep after that. Just the triangle with the warning to get the back up sensor checked. Hasn't been a problem.
Did the dealer have any problems setting up the wiring harness? I hear dealers don't know what they are doing most of the time with this task. Thanks
 

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Crabapple, yes I am aware of the beep with the back up camera and the bike rack. Once it sounds off the triangle comes on and the beep never sounds off again, just the initial time. NO more beep after that. Just the triangle with the warning to get the back up sensor checked. Hasn't been a problem.
Did the dealer have any problems setting up the wiring harness? I hear dealers don't know what they are doing most of the time with this task. Thanks
Ah! Good to know regarding the beeping backup sensor and bikd rack! No the dealer had no problem. In fact I told them it was a PITA job. I have the passenger wagon so they had to remove the ceiling plus a bunch of other interior panels, cut ghd bumper per instructions for hitch install, remove bumper etc etc. The "book" allows 2 hrs for the install! That has to be based on the empty cargo van! Anyway, it took them all morning! But dealership was great, they only charged me the 2 hrs labour per the book even though it took much longer and I offered to pay actual hours!
 

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Re: 4x4 to FWD transition. I went from a short series of 4wd vehicles to the PM City. It followed a Jeep Wrangler, a Jeep Patriot, and a Syncro Vanagon camper.
I guess I got most of my trails out of the way with them, but I still miss traveling them some. I can always rent a 4wd, if needed.

The PMC is smoother and faster on the highway than the 4x4s, with much better gas mileage, though the Patriot was also good. With the PMC, getting to a distant jumping-off point is much easier. If the goal is a graded dirt road, even roughly maintained, all is well.

Then what? The PMC handled some mildly rocky roads with sand and some minor water crossings. This was driving across Paradise Divide to a camping area. Fortunately, with little mud, it was do-able. Anyone coming from a 4wd vehicle will have skills that will help keep the PMC out of trouble.

The front overhang of the PMC needs care; I forgot what I was driving on a forest road when I first got it, and nosed it into a hard sand dip that got my attention. Front wheel drive is not the ideal for an upgrade on sand, and I had to make more than one approach, slowly, in some spots (coarse sand inclines with short rock steps at the top). Putting the transmission into a low gear manually before going into an obstacle is a great help, as is maintaining a slow steady speed uphill.

None of these tracks had trail ratings that I know of. They were mild. I traveled in tandem with a jeep; its driver didn't notice any obstacles at all, while I was having to pick my way around them. The rest of our stay, the PMC stayed in camp, and we used the Jeep.

Bottom Line: I didn't find anything the PMC couldn't handle on that trip. I don't know if it was near its limits or not. I was glad not to push it in those circumstances, but maybe sometime....

A lift kit is very tempting. I'd love to hear from someone who's owned one for a while, to find out about any changes in highway handling.
 

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I own a Forester and did have a PMC, which I replaced with a Mercedes Metris. I loved the PMC, but, it was just a little too little as a camping van where you want a hard-sided vehicle you can sleep in. I really like the Metris for camping, but, may be driving the Forester this winter. I'm in Colorado. Metris is rear wheel drive with no limited slip differential. I wanted what you want, but, it doesn't exist, I believe. People question Metris's ground clearance, but the gas tank measures 8" compared to the Forester at 8.5. I have had no issue with Metris's ground clearance, but, I haven't had it very long. I did hit bottom on very rough roads, Lake Agnes in Poudre Canyon, CO, for one, but I can't say it was a major problem for the PMC. Certainly, it was not the deciding factor with the PMC. Because it is so low, I was very careful not to get it high centered.
It's a tough decision. I wish there was a perfect vehicle, but nobody has fully listened to the market we represent. The Metris would be perfect for me if it had AWD. The PMC would be better higher and slightly larger. Good luck in your deciding.
 

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RE: PMC as a camper. I like it very much.


The "Wally" camper interior kit from Wayfarer Vans in Colorado Springs is a bargain. I've used it for over a year now, with a 10-night stay as my longest. It is very well designed. It's simple to install, needing no modifications to the van. There is no wiring or plumbing. Their magnet-attached insulation is brilliantly done. The whole kit installs quickly, with no nasty surprises. It all fits!

It's also easy to use. With many camper conversions, there are too many features to fit the limited interior space. In some, the transition from driving to camping, or from cooking to sleeping, can require too many cramped shifts in table tops, cooktops, or seats-to-bed. In the PMC, with the Wayfarer kit, there is room for two to sleep, although I'm solo traveling. There is more bed length than in my Jeep Patriot. People (plural) can sit up in the PMC, and there's room for a fold down table. Kitchen gear, water, and cooler stow at the back, with good access. If there's a need for a quick exit from a campsite, the driver's seat is accessible from the cargo area. (Stay limber for this bit.)

BTW, I'm a satisfied customer who paid to have the kit shipped to my home. I'm not otherwise associated with Wayfarer Vans. There are other good options, and the cargo van is a good blank canvas for a DIY interior, as well.

Things I tried in the past:
Moving on from tents, I put a sleeping platform in my Wrangler for solo trips, removing the passenger seats. It worked, but was pretty limiting.

The 1986 VW Syncro camper followed. It's the classic camper and has off-road capability, but oh, my. Some people make these work for them; I spent wayyy too much time and money maintaining the rig for six years, and trying to upgrade features. In part, it was just old, with all the quirks of a 30-year-old car. The amount of time spent making the interior work for me, doing mods, could have been spent traveling. I thought I could win at VW roulette, but...

The Jeep Patriot was almost the solution, similar in ways to a Subaru Forester. It was a good all-around vehicle, and would do moderate jeep trails -- Mosquito Pass in Colorado, for example -- but it was very cramped for sleeping. Any activity inside (i.e. getting dressed) was a pain. I could not sit up in back.

The PMC is a good solution for me. It drives well and sleeps well, and is trouble free so far. It's very functional, and is a good daily driver.
 

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gumbhi::: Does the magnet attached insulation really serve as insulation? I have contacted Wayfarer about the insulation kit only and was very close to buying it but after thinking about it and following a mountain bike you tuber who has a wayfarer van, I decided that it wasn't worth the $1800.00. IT really does add some aesthetic appeal to the inside of the van and like you said it it is brilliantly done but I am asking about the actual R value of the insulation. Thanks for your input in advance.
 

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Tankhead: Yes, it's insulation, though IDK the R-value. It's heavy fabric over foam. The thickness is about 1/2", narrowing to 1/4" at stitched edges. The magnets are mounted with 5/8" metal studs that let the magnets adapt to the van wall angle, and the foam panels to overlap where needed. They provide some air space behind the insulation. Every little helps.
I get it about the cost. I was willing to do it, being tired of fiddling with Reflectix (still use it over front windows). But Reflectix would work in a pinch. Its effectiveness, you know, varies with orientation: best under a floor w/air space; then up at the ceiling; last on walls. Sure beats bare metal anywhere.
 

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Tankhead again: The amount of insulation is about like lining your van with a decent-thickness Insulite sleeping pad.
 

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Former 4x4-ers,
Have a look at this guy's website from about 2017:
"Vanholio."
He drove and lived in a Promaster City and documented it well.
Articles:
"stuck-on-freezing-new-years-eve"
"mud-bogging-on-mesa-de-cuba"
Many others. Useful, funny, and containing adult language.
 

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I traded in my very high clearance Silverado 4x4 for a PMC. I added the Wayfarer "Wally" kit. The Silverado was so comfortable, but got about 10 miles to the gallon in a good tailwind. I like to do extended road/camping trips (often over 5k miles) so the PMC mileage at 26-28 mpg makes a big difference. The PMC is not cushy but still ok (I'm 6' 7"). I still do dispersed camping and find myself on a lot of back roads. However, I now must be much more selective to keep from getting stuck. The OEM tires on the PMC are probably not the best sidewalls for sharp rocky areas either.
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