Jack2: Another Toyota Tacoma

I got a Toyota Tacoma again, and I'm selling the Jeep.

My last Toyota was shared with Jess. When we were planning to settle down and buy land she started looking at cars. In the end I sold her my half of the pickup because it was perfect for doing K9 Search and Rescue, and I got a Jeep, because she already had a pickup, I work from home so mostly drive to get to the woods and we were going to settle down in Virginia, so why not a convertable? Also, it was cheap ($25k out the door) and available in manual. I loved the Jeep, and it was fun. I spent a few thousand upgrading it, e.g. http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2015/03/jeep-mods.html, and learned a lot in the process.

Well, we broke up, and all my life plans changed, and now I had a Jeep. If you read:
http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2013/10/review-tacoma-as-camper.html you know how much I loved owning and living in a 4wd pickup truck. I pondered and pondered and looked at every vehicle out there. I considered 4wd vans, large SUVs like the ford Excursion, full size trucks, regular cab trucks, keeping the jeep and pulling a trailer, roof top tends, everything you can think of.... and in the end I circled around. The inability to sleep in the vehicle on http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2015/11/trip-report-boondocking.html,  Just confirmed that although the Jeep was a blast, it wasn't for me.

So, I went looking for a 4wd, v6, manual, Toyota Tacoma, between the years 2000 and 2002 inclusive, with as low of miles and as flawless a frame as I could find (tacoma's are known for frame rust), and preferably with a locker. Eventually I found one for $15,700, with 74000 miles, sold by a guy I trust (every truck on his lot was in excellent condition), that had been recently shipped out here from Reno, so had not a spec of rust on it. It was a little expensive, but worth it... so I bought it.

And thus, Jack the camper 2 began. Like the farmer who calls every mule he's ever owned Jack, I decided to re-use the name. The photo below is from the day I picked up the cap... in the middle of a snowstorm.


Here's the build plan I've been working on: https://docs.google.com/a/smalladventures.net/spreadsheets/d/1_ZWVUtGTnxuYMNcJOHucrMbbrerY1BwLsxxAgM757AI/edit?usp=sharing

I'm also going to be posting more detailed build stuff here. Expedition portal is an amazing resource

Step one was to undercoat the whole thing with fluid film I swapped all the fluids (it had non-toyota coolant), pulled the security system 'cause it was obnoxious, and installed a fire extinguisher. Next I got a Leer 122 cap installed with windoors (like I had on the last truck) this time with a 12V power block as well. Yesterday Angie and I installed a new tougher bumper so we wouldn't wreck the truck if we back in to a tree while off-road, and so I have a hard-point and can pull my trailer. I also installed trailer wiring. I'm also slowly removing all the badging on the truck and cap.

Angie is learning to drive stick. She's getting pretty good, but isn't comfortable yet. Yesterday she asked "Why would anyone get an automatic Jeep", and I got a huge grin on my face. Another manual driver is born. Today we finally got Jack to a state where he's usable as a camper. Here's what the back looks like now.


My Jeep is currently for sale. My budget for Jack is whatever I can sell the Jeep (and trailer) for. I'll be writing up some of the specific projects on Jack as well.

As an overview the goal is the same as the last time. I'm looking for a vehicle I can camp out of short-term and live out of long term. The goal is reliable, robust, lightweight, fairly capable off-road so I can boon-dock, but good for long-miles on road. Most of the options I considered were thrown out for reliability reasons. It's hard to beat a Tacoma. A Roof Top Tent was thrown out due to difficulty stealthing, and them just not being that great for snow, wet, and cold. Mostly because of difficulties with drying the material so it won't mold/mildew (Jane ended up soaking wet for almost 2 months straight at one point due to freezing and thawing combined with rainy weather... an RTT would likely not have survived). I wanted something narrow enough to fit down difficult trails, and I wanted a lot of cargo capacity.


Cool link: Bankhar dog project

I've been obsessed with reading about overlanding recently and I just tripped over this wonderful story on Expedition Portal.

It's about the founding of the Bankhar dog project, attempting to maintain low-impact traditional nomadic lifestyles in balance with rare species. It's such a short overview, but there are so many things at work here, things this blog is about. Give it a read:



DYI: More shoe experiments/thoughts

I'm going to talk about several things in this part. A teardown of my Old shoes, and some new shoe ideas and thoughts.

Teardown of old shoesThese are the shoes I found I could actually backpack and hike in, the first (and only) success so far. Their primary flaw was that the heal stretched and I would step on the heal seam. This is a non-turn-shoe made as a simple 3-part moccasin:

DSC00811 DSC00813

It's interesting that the barge cement was still holding parts of the leather very firmly.Looking closely you can see it tore the surface off some of the leather - I glued that leather shiny-side down, and it seems that the shiny bit (That is, the grain in leather terminology) tore off.

You can see very significant stretching in the toe-box. This was expected and is part of why the shoe worked, but it's fascinating to take the shoe apart and actually see it.

The stitching was holding a lot better than I expected. Pulling this apart took a while and was surprisingly difficult. It had torn out around the heal. That spot had been stitched too many times already so I couldn't repair it again... the leather was too perforated, but besides that the shoe was still pretty solid.

New ideas 
Jess went to england and came back excited about the idea of a roman boot. This is a welted lasted turn-shoe with a center-seam sewn after turning. This makes the turning process far easier, which is exciting itself. Here's my sketches of the concept:


This is a lot to tackle and I wasn't confident I could get the toe to come out right at all. I wasn't sure how to last the boot either, so I decided to try mocking it out in canvas. Sadly I forgot to take photos before I disassembled it, but here's what I ended up with.


Note the upturn near the toe of the boot. When I tried it without that it just seemed too pointy if I didn't do some serious stretching of the leather. The upturn helps you end up with a rounder toe. on the other hand, the shoe would look more like this when done:


See how the sole pulls up on the toe? Given the shape of my demo fabric shoe above that would be a fairly sharp turn for the sole to make. It's already hard to get the conveyer soles I've been using to stay attached to the boot, and this makes it worse, so I tossed the idea out.

Jess is going to pursue this idea. I'm really curious to see how it goes, but I think I'm going to go back to something closer to my first design for a boot. I'm thinking of taking the design I had so much success with and

  • Adding an extended tongue to make it in to more of a boot
  • Flipping the two components of the upper, so the forefoot is on the inside like a modern shoe
  • Making it as a welted turnshoe. This makes for only *one* seam around the outside edge where I ran out of leather last time. Just the one that holds the sole on
  • Using an insole of leather to cover up the seam resulting from the turnshoe
The goal with this design is an edge-season shoe. Something tough and light that qualifies as a "boot" and handles mud and snow well.

Not sure when I'll get around to actually making them, but the first step to any project is to actually get the details solid in your head so you understand what you're trying to make and how it will go together... and I'm getting closer!