Sue North

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Category: Projects

Subaru Outback Camping Platform

In celebration of our departure this morning, we thought we’d share more details on a key component of our cross-Canada trip to the Yukon and NWT – the platform! This is Antoine’s first official blog.

The platform idea came into fruition in September 2017 after our first car camping experience at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. We quickly learned that while the Outback’s truck was flat and comfortable for sleeping, there was not enough storage for our camping gear with a mattress in the back. The design of platform iteration #1 began shortly after this trip!

Final iteration during our test pack

I knew that the platform needed to meet a few requirements:

  • It had to maximize trunk space, because the back is only as wide as a double bed;
  • It had to allow optimal access to the storage areas and our gear;
  • It had to come apart in multiple small sections to suit the shape of the car (ie. the trunk opening is narrower than the width of the interior).

Little did I know, there were a few other requirements to be learned such as weight, adjustability, levelling and general woodworking skills.

Thankfully I had more than enough time to build and test multiple iterations of the platform.  Since pictures are worth more than a thousand words, here are some pros and cons along with photos of the first and final iterations of the platform:

Iteration #1

Pros

  • Quite sturdy – made of 2x4s
  • Foldable legs made for easy storage in the garage
  • Simple design, limited woodworking knowledge required

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Legs had to be cut to exact height (no adjustability)
  • Front legs took up prime storage space

Strong frame but legs right where you want to put things

Trying to figure out optimal leg height

Modular panels allow for maximum interior use

Foldable legs and sturdy / heavy frame

Iteration #2 – Final Design

Pros

  • Much lighter – used 1x4s primarily and 2x4s for critical load bearing sections
  • Custom-made adjustable legs
  • No legs in prime storage areas
  • 4 storage drawers with hinges for easy access to gear
  • Latches for storage drawers

Cons

  • More sophisticated design (wood joinery used instead of hardware)
  • More legs required because frame is not as strong as iteration #1
  • (This list is subject to growth following 5 weeks of use 😉 )

Adjustable legs and front frame – 2×4 moulded to the shape of the car bump

Lots of storage space from the side doors, with room for a car cooler

All storage spaces are accessible from the top

Latches keep storage bays down while driving

We compromised sleeping space for a comfy mattress and lots of storage space

Signing off for now! We hope to post a trip progress post once we reach Liz’s camp in Armstrong on Saturday.

Antoine & Liz

PS. Please excuse any spelling or formatting mistakes – this one was written while on the road!

Pilot Testing – practice makes perfect!

Oh boy, our countdown keeps dropping… We are only 3 weeks out from our departure date of August 3rd!! With the date creeping ever closer, we recently chose to dedicate a few nights towards pilot testing our car camping set up to ensure we’ve fixed and/or optimized everything before we begin living in Sue full-time this August.

For our first test of the platform, we traveled with friends to the high peaks region in the Adirondacks. Our first night was spent on the trail, where we backpacked approximately 4 miles in the dark to a lean-to. On arrival we found the lean-to to be occupied by backpacks, but no campers to be found. Nearby a poorly strung food bag was left dangling less than shoulder height from the group – this was not going to stop a bear! So we set up our tents in the forest underneath a no camping sign, knowing that we could justify our choice should a ranger happen upon us. We woke the next morning to continue our hike to the top of Dix Mountain. The weather was rainy and the hike challenging but super fun! We bid adieu to our friends at the summit, as they continued onwards for 4 more peaks as training for their upcoming adventure to Mount Rainier.

We spent the night at a trailhead near Lake Placid for the first big test of our platform since Antoine completed it. We found the platform to be quiet during the drive, and sturdy through the night, with no cracking or squeaking sounds coming from the wood. We also tested out my first curtain which crosses the front of the car and blocks our sleeping space from the front. I’d consider this curtain a success, but we were less lucky with our screens. I had only managed to make two screens in time for the trip and based on a Youtube recommendation, I’d decided to use small magnets to hold the screens up around the window frame. Let’s just say iteration #1 of the screens was not a success. The magnets were not dependable, and because of the forecast of rain we could not open the windows very much. It was also a humid night, so we decided to open the front windows as well. Rookie move! Without screens, we were inundated with mosquitos who woke us up periodically through the night with their buzzing. In the moment we thought there was only one or two that had made their way into the car, but the next morning we discovered we had underestimated them. Better, more reliable screens became our next big priority!

We decided velcro would be a more dependable, permanent solution to our screen dilemma. I went about ordering three kinds of velcro to use for both screens and windows: velcro tape (around the window), velcro tape for fabric (screens), and sewable velcro (curtains). The velcro arrived just in time for pilot test #2: Pinery Provincial Park. We decided to make a 1 night stopover at the park on our way to visit Antoine’s brother in London. First of all, I can’t believe I’d never visited this park while attending Western University. It’s gorgeous, and less than an hour away!!! Thick Carolinian forests and Savannah Oaks reminded us of our recent trip to South Carolina, and we were impressed by the sand dunes and sunset over Lake Huron.

 

We also had a chance to finally set up our Napier tent extension for the Subaru! What a luxury this is! It makes the space in the back of the car feel much larger and more open. It also makes getting into and out of the car easier, and provides better airflow throughout. It almost feels like we have our own camper trailer when we have this thing set up, and we suspect it might be a shared reprieve from the mosquitos when we head up to the Yukon.

But it hasn’t been all about prep! We also got to spend the first week of July with Antoine’s family, touring Ottawa and later London. Vegetarian meals  were served a plenty throughout the week, and we were so happy to see his parents and brother’s family. If you’re looking for great vegan recipes to try with friends and family, check out Grillable Veggie Burgers, Cauliflower Mushroom Tacos and  Greek Power Bowls (sans feta). We really enjoyed these recipes last week and are left wishing that our families were at least 6 hours closer to us so these visits could be more frequent!!

And speaking of family, my Uncle Craig recently visited the Yukon and collected a whole bunch of literature and maps for us along the way. It just arrived in the mail this week and we are SO excited!!! I had been meaning to print off some of the maps, but these are full colour books, maps, travel planning guides, campground and hiking trail guidebooks and more. I can’t thank him enough for thinking of us.

That’s all for now folks! We’re sticking around Ottawa this weekend to continue our preparations. Sue recently had new tires and rims installed; so this weekend we will tackle the mud flaps and  storage basket installations! Final work also has to be done on the platform to secure it to the car, and I’m hoping to start the side window curtains and do some dehydrating meal prep for the trip. Last but not least, I’m looking to buy some storage containers for underneath the platform so we can do a test packing session in the near future. Let’s hope these preparations make the last week before we depart a little bit less crazy?

Thanks for following along on our journey!

Liz & Antoine

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