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Thread: 4 wheel drive to travel

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    4 wheel drive to travel

    Hi all, we hope to go out west sometime this year and I was wondering about the need of 4 wheel drive as a general need to pull off the road for a night or 2 while boondocking and maybe state and BLM lands. I know I won’t be able to pull up on the sand at beaches but not familiar with road conditions out west. We will have a Chevy 3500 express van with posi traction. Thanks, Glenn

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    Site Team Second Chance's Avatar
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    You won't need 4WD on surfaced roads unless there's snow - and then you'll likely need chains, too. Off-road is a different story, and then it depends on where you're off-roading. I've encountered situations twice (really deep gravel) in "civilized" RV sites where my rear-wheel-drive-only diesel dually was almost not enough. BLM lands in AZ can be sandy with places you can easily get stuck. If you're careful about where you try to go and check surfaces out first, you'll probably be OK.

    Now for a funny story... I grew up in New Mexico in the '50s and '60s near a NASA Apollo site. When the contractors (LTV, Grumman, etc.) started moving families from the PNW and New York to New Mexico for the project, some of my new classmates had some interesting stories to tell (mostly the New Yorkers). One family was going to leave behind their electric appliances and get Coleman gas stoves and lanterns (didn't know if they'd have electricity). Many bought firearms for personal protection. Another family was trying to arrange to have a large fuel storage tank delivered and arrange a tank truck to fill it with gasoline a couple of times a year. I think they were surprised to find, when they arrived, that we had electricity, paved roads, gas stations (my dad owned one), telephones, TV stations in El Paso, and all the modern conveniences.

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    4WD is most useful to me at State Park and Federal campgrounds. Uphill into site surfaced with fine gravel is tough going.

    But I’ve always believed a locking or limited-slip rear axle is the first thing you should get to improve traction. When I was a kid, a friend of my dad’s had had a 2WD Chevy truck with limited-slip and granny gear. It would go almost anywhere. It helped having 3 teen-aged farm boys along to work as mules and ballast in the back of the truck, but the truck did most of the work.
    John & Kathy
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    On our last trip of the season last fall all we got was strong down pours day after day. When we got to Wasaga Beach we were given a full grass lot. After simply waking on it before we backed up I looked at the grounds keeper and told him that we were going to leave marks. He acknowledged. As we were backing up, when the truck got on the grass we started sinking and then spinning. Slapped it 4x4 and we were good.

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    I have owned 4wd for 45 years and an RV for three and change. Only one time in three years at a COE park did we need 4wd for the RV. This was a narrow back in site, up hill with a sharp turn and I could not keep my TV on the pavement and back in to the site. A 4wd is definitely not a "must have". It is a nice to have when you need it.
    Geoff and Cheri
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    I opted for 4WD on the truck when we ordered it. It has paid for itself three different times, all with the trailer, and all in grassy areas. I don’t regret having it at all.
    Tom and Janice (known as Tom in PGH on the “other” forum)

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    I opted for a F350 4x4 Dually, I have engaged 4wd a few times and have been thankful each time that I had it available. The first time I used it with the 5th wheel in tow was to back out of a road that was just not a real road that we followed by mistake. I was glad I had the front wheels to assist with backing the camper up hill. I have used 4wd backing into a site that was super sandy and the rear wheels had started to slip, instead of "Digging In" (which would have been my only option with a 2wd) I was able to switch into 4wd and get into the site without any more slippage.

    Bottom line, I am glad I have 4wd available.
    David and Peggy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sail96 View Post
    Hi all, we hope to go out west sometime this year and I was wondering about the need of 4 wheel drive as a general need to pull off the road for a night or 2 while boondocking and maybe state and BLM lands. I know I won’t be able to pull up on the sand at beaches but not familiar with road conditions out west. We will have a Chevy 3500 express van with posi traction. Thanks, Glenn
    So you are not towing, just the van? If that is the case, you are likely good to go on any road that DOES NOT state 4x4 only. Experience is key though. I.e. it is easy for 4x4 to get stuck in mud or soft sand. Big obstacles should be obvious, i.e. turn around.

    I speak mainly of road is UT, CO, NV, CA. Might really help to know your target areas and/or if you are towing.

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    Seasoned Camper Calnca's Avatar
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    Needing 4X4 is like needing a gun......when you need it, only IT will do, everything else comes in second place.
    Cal, Marsha and Bear the Labradoodle
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sail96 View Post
    Hi all, we hope to go out west sometime this year and I was wondering about the need of 4 wheel drive as a general need to pull off the road for a night or 2 while boondocking and maybe state and BLM lands. I know I won’t be able to pull up on the sand at beaches but not familiar with road conditions out west. We will have a Chevy 3500 express van with posi traction. Thanks, Glenn
    Okay, I have to weight in on this. As a rule, this is purely a preference. Most people prefer a 2wd truck for the better gas mileage and truck CCC. For me, I would rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it, like a gun. Although, I have used it in the snow/ice and in mud with the camper.

    We were at a state park here in New Mexico. It rained most of the weekend, which is very unusual for here in the southwest. Being sa state park, most of everything was gravel road and pads, however, most of the gravel had sunk into the dirt. I did need to engage 4x4 to get the camper backed into our spot as the rest tires kept slipping in the mud, and the camper was inching toward a tree. I was glad I had 4 wheel drive on that one.

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    Mark & Mary. Currently hailing from New Mexico. Hopefully full timing in late 2022.
    Current camper: Purchased a 2021 DG Reflection 320MKS!
    Current Rig: 2019 Ford F350 SD Crew Cab, w/8' box, Lariat, SRW, 6.7l Diesel

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