Sprinter Roof Rails Self Installation: 12 Easy Steps.

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Are you looking for a DIY alternative to Sprinter factory roof rails? If so, we can help.

Check out our step by step guide to self installation of roof rails in your Sprinter camper. Enjoy!

Supplies:

  • Part no. 1575 from 8020.net (for the roof rails themselves)
  • Heat gun, rented from local hardware store
  • Round file
  • 5/16″ counter sink bit
  • Drill Press, borrowed from a neighbor
  • 5/16″-18 flat head bolts, 1 inch long
  • 5/16″-18 nuts
  • 5/16″ Fender washers
  • 5/16″ Lock washers
  • Loctite
  • 3 in 1 oil
  • Butyl tape
  • Ladder
  • Safety glasses

Total cost in 2020 was under $150 (excluding items we already had or borrowed)

Step 1

Make a jig for using with the drill press.

This is dependent on the drill press or equipment that you are using. I do not claim to be an expert on this but here is a picture of what we used.

Notice that the green tape and block dots are for alignment and so that if I remove the jig, I can put it back in the same spot.
Jig for drill press

Step 2

Place the 8020 on its side on top of the van and mark the 8020 at the center of each plug.

We used a mechanical pencil in order to have a very specific line for reference.

Step 3

Use 3 in 1 oil to lubricate each drill site on the 8020.

Step 4

Align 8020 in the jig and drill it at each line.

Consider looking in your drill manual in order to set it to the correct speed.

Step 5

Check the weather report for rain. If the weather looks promising prepare the 8020 and get ready to remove the plugs from the roof.

Step 6

Use the heat gun to soften the glue and remove the plugs one by one.

A second person can help by pushing the plugs from inside the van. Be aware that the plugs and surrounding metal will be hot!

Heat gun removing plugs from roof
Plug from roof
Hole from roof plug

Step 7

Clean the roof but be aware that by the time you get up there with the 8020, it will be dusty again!

Step 8

Dry fit the 8020 and bolts on the Sprinter roof.

Use a round file if fine adjustments are needed.

Step 9

Line the 8020 with butyl tape. Be aware that the front and back of van have a slight curvature so you may need to double layer the butyl tape at the ends.

Additionally, be aware that your local hardware store may try to substitute putty for butyl tape. Stick with real butyl tape. There is a huge difference!

We ended up ordering more butyl tape online and waiting two days with holes in our roof because we ran out and could only get putty tape locally. This was less than ideal!

Step 10

Using butyl tape, line the 5/16-18 screws and the 8020 drill holes in order to fill any potential gaps during installation.

Sprinter roof rails
Butyl tape on 8020 roof rails

Step 11

With the 8020 on the roof, poke a hole through the butyl tape with a nail.

roof rail DIY

Step 12: Sprinter Roof Rails

Apply bolts and hardware and tighten. A second person may help by holding the hardware from the inside of the van.

working on the sprinter camping conversion

Sprinter Roof Rails, Installation Complete!

Congratulate yourself on another Sprinter DIY project complete!

Please follow our blog for other Sprinter tips and adventures!

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For further tips on installation we found the following blog helpful, as well.

How to Install Roof Rails to Your Sprinter Van

Highway 6, BC: 4 Reasons to Take this Route

1. The Needles Ferry

The Needles Ferry is a cable ferry along Highway 6, BC. It connects Needles and Fauquier and runs on a thirty minute schedule between 5 am and 10 pm. After hours, it runs on demand. The capacity is 40 vehicles, which is just enough to feel like you are on a ferry but not so many that it takes hours to load and unload.

It is a short crossing and a relatively small ferry but my kids still found the snack bar.

This is the view.

2. Monashee Pass, Highway 6, BC

Monashee Pass is just over 80 kilometers east of Vernon and takes you up 1,189 meters. It is an easy drive.

I imagine there are views and hiking but instead, we enjoyed a good old fashioned hail storm. The kids were pretty impressed.

3. Nakusp. Highway 6, BC

Nakusp is a perfect place for a picnic. There are beaches, views, a playground, and an antique plow train that is open for tours!

There were also flies.

Nakusp. Highway 6 BC
Plow train from 1921
South between Nakusp and Nelson

4. Nelson.

Nelson is a small town with city amenities. It has a developed downtown full of local cafes and shops. The scenery if full of mountains and lakes, offering something for everyone.

We chose to stay at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. It is a short drive out of town and offers sandy beaches, play grounds, and hiking trails. We hope to stay there again!

Nelson

You can check out this link to find out how 4 of us sleep in our Sprinter 144.

See you in the Kootenays!

Yosemite, Camp 4.

Do you dream about sleeping among the granite rock walls of the Yosemite valley? Have you heard of Camp 4?

Yosemite is impressive and beautiful.

We arrived in CD’s Honda civic. We had come from Colorado via Utah, Nevada, Southern California, and Highway 101. The mountains were a welcomed site. We were road weary and our legs were begging to hike all day.

We rolled into Camp 4. I can’t remember if we were seeking Camp 4 or if we just needed somewhere interesting to camp.

Welcome to Camp 4, Yosemite

Camp 4 is a campground and a community. It is a lifestyle choice than a housing choice and this is obvious when you are there. It is a famous home base for climbers.

The cost was $6 per person per night. There are 30 some walk – in sites. There are rocks for bouldering, granite mountain sides for climbing, and trail heads for hiking.

We were greeted with a list of rules. You must remove all food from your car and place in designated lockers. Camp 4 is loved by bears almost as much as by climbers.

We followed all of the recommended procedures. I cleaned the car, used the bear lockers, kept a clean campsite, and properly disposed of my dish water.

Camp 4, Yosemite

I convinced CD to use our largest tent. Who knows why we packed this way but we had CD’s sleeping tarp from the PCT, a new backpacking tent, and my old six person tent. It seemed logical that I would be less likely to be mauled by a bear in a six person tent than in a two person tent. CD didn’t agree but was kind enough to go a long, however.

camp 4, Yosemite. It is quiet in the afternoon.

Bears and Messy Campsites

The bears showed up at dusk, right on schedule. You could hear the classic: “hey bear” and “get out of here, bear”. Neither the bears nor the campers were particularly concerned.

The campground was relatively rowdy and a bit messy. Chip bags and beer cans were rolling around. Nobody really cared. Everyone was happy. I admit feeling a bit judgmental of the other campers food storage habits.

We passed by tons of climbers on our way to the trail.

A few hours later, the climbers from Camp 4 were below us and this was the view we found.

The view is spectacular, as you can see

Ultimately, I slept with one eye open but still felt rested. I reaped the benefits of being surrounded by free-spirits. They were having fun and it showed.

It is unlikely that I will stay at Camp 4 again since they don’t allow sleeping in the parking lot and the sites are not accessible to our van. If we sell the van, I will likely be too old and spoiled to sleep on the ground in Camp 4. I guess you never know.

As John Muir said: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”.

Please check out our blogs for other National Park adventures.

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A Glimpse of Southern Utah

It is spring in Utah when the rivers are running high, the sun is shining, and the roads are full of Colorado license plates. There is no better way to celebrate the end of ski resort employment than to leave the high country in favor of the red rocks of Utah.

I started this tradition prior to meeting CD and we continued it together every May until we moved from Colorado. Utah has so much to offer that I don’t even know where to begin. While the order is irrelevant, I will start southwest, go roughly northeast but stay south of I-70 and then end southeast near the four corners.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is my favorite, hands down. We have been there over and over. We have hiked end to end, climbed its peaks, and waded through its slot canyons. Its red rock is made more brilliant by the Virgin river and green trees. The proximity to the town of Springdale with its cold drinks and hot breakfast doesn’t hurt either.

The Desert Pearl, in Springdale. If you are looking for a break from camping, this place is unlikely to disappoint.

Angel’s Landing is its most well known hike. It starts with switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. It is well known that I love switch backs for the exercise alone. There is no better way to start the day.

It isn’t until after the switchbacks that this hike really separates itself from the rest. Angel’s landing is no joke in terms of exposure and drop offs.

The trail narrows to one way. There is a chain link railing. You are exposed to the depths of the valley floor, more so in some places than in others.

My first time up Angel’s Landing was with my brother. Making it to the top was a rush. Making it back down alive was even better. The next time was with CD. The rush was not as great but the feeling of relief after was even greater. The third time was with CD again. The steps felt more narrow and the valley floor seemed a bit further than before. With that, I decided that three times up Angel’s Landing is likely enough for me.

We looked for other routes with bigger and better views. Observation Point hit the mark. It is a more physically challenging and longer hike. It climbs 2100 feet and rises 700 feet above Angel’s Landing.

Zion, Utah
Angel’s Landing

Zion, Backcountry

Back country sites are accessible from the main entrance. Below is the view from our camp site along the West Rim Trail. It is worth noting that we started the hike with a crowd headed to Angel’s Landing. As soon as we turned away from that route, we were on our own. It was super windy and we were surrounded by dead trees. We woke up in the morning to distance runners coming down the rim trail.

Zion, Kolob Canyon

Kolob Canyon is Zion’s less known North entrance. It offers day hikes and backpacking trips with few other people around. Our back country site was in an old river bottom. Much of the hiking was in loose sand. Snakes loved it.

If you have seen the wide open spaces of Zion and are ready for a change, the Narrows may be your next stop. Do your research. Be informed. Watch the weather. These slot canyons are beautiful and it is good to pay attention if you plan to do much exploring. CD met a friend there for his fortieth birthday and they didn’t end up finishing their chosen route because of flash floods.

The Narrows: Zion
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Bryce Canyon National Park

From Zion, you can get to Bryce Canyon in a short day. It is higher and cooler. This is great in the hot months and not as great in the early spring. It is smaller and more compact. The Hoo-doos are unique and impressive. I tend to pass through Bryce westbound to Zion or eastbound to Capital Reef but CD is a fan of the views at sunrise. He also has told me good things about a coin operated shower at the general store.

Apparently, he has a great memory of enjoying a post-hike beer from the general store while sitting on the lodge porch at sunset after a hot shower.

Bryce Canyon

Capital Reef National Park

I rarely hear people talk about Capital Reef but we have found it to offer great hiking, impressive rock formations, and amazing views. I don’t recommend hiking there if you are hoping to meet people and chit chat over hand fulls of trail mix. The trails are largely empty.

Capital Reef

San Rafeal Swell, Utah

At this point it is worth mentioning the San Rafeal Swell. It offers slot canyons with campsites tucked away on BLM land. My advice: Go there, if you have time. Bring your own shade. Do what I did and go with someone that has been there before – hopefully someone proficient at navigating slot canyons. Goblin Valley State Park is near by and may be a better choice if it is your first time in the area.

The price was right but shade was sparse.
This was our route to enter the slot canyon.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is easier to access from Moab than from the Southwest. The views are endless. The hiking is interesting and fun. Regions of the park have names like Needles, Island to Sky, and The Maze. Mountain biking the White Rim Road loop is popular and it is on my to-do list for sure. We have not camped in the back country but we have camped just outside the park and there are beautiful starry skies.

Canyonlands

Arches National Park

Arches is a straight shot from I-70 and is complimented by it’s close relationship with Moab. The Colorado River provides contrast to the red rock backdrop. The La Salle mountains rise up with snowy peaks and provide further contrast and depth to the scenery.

Moab is like the old west meeting a trendy art gallery. The restaurants and shops are full of personality and there are tour companies to suite everyone’s needs. You can sign up for 4 x 4 tours, mountain biking, hiking, river rafting, paddle boarding, horse back riding, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

While I cannot speak to the tour companies, I can attest to the hiking and camping. Hikes range from easy to more difficult. Arches is typically one of the more crowded Utah parks but for good reasons. Campsites are dotted along the river banks and range from rustic and isolated to developed and popular. I recommend them all!

Double Arch

Castleton, Utah

Just a bit East and on BLM land, you will find Castleton.

Castleton Tower from above the parking lot

Pretty much everyone was there to climb. CD climbed with friends while I hiked and then read a book at the campsite. It was great. Everyone was happy.

Hiking up to start the climb. It looked taller in person.
This is where I turned around and CD went up
Our tent – in the shade!

If you don’t climb, it is still beautiful to see but you will likely enjoy camping somewhere else more than camping here. This was packed with climbers and surrounded by wide open desert.

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Mesa Verde National Park, Utah

Dropping down to the four corners, you can hop into Mesa Verde. While the cliff dwellings are interesting and worth seeing, you may find a bit of crowd. My favorite feature is its proximity to Durango. Check out the Silverton Narrow Gauge railway and head North to Ouray or East towards Pagosa Springs on your way out of town.

These petroglyphs are at Mesa Verde, Utah. You can see similar markings along I-70 just West of 191.

I could keep going on and on about Utah but will stop myself here for now. Utah is dense with natural wonders. I recommend going there and seeing it first hand.

Red rock dust from ten years ago still stains my hiking boots. Seeing it makes me smile.

Please consider following our blog for more adventures.

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Iceland: The Last Minute Ring Road Adventure

Arriving in Iceland, we were already aware that our Laugavegur Hut to Hut Trek was not possible. The trail follows the geothermal valley of Landmannalaugar and along the base of Eyjafjallajokull, which had been erupting for the past three months. This is a short tail about our last minute trip around Iceland via the Ring Road.

When we settled into our in Reykjavik hostel, we didn’t have a plan.

Our host recommended driving the Ring Road. That sounded fine to us. We inquired about a car rental and the conversation went like this.

What kind of car do you want?

It doesn’t matter.

How long will you be gone?

How long does it take?

Eventually, the hostel host said that he may know where we could get a car. He stepped out for a minute and came back with car keys. We rented his car and hit the road.

Pingveller National Park

Pingveller National Park was our first stop. It was amazing and beautiful and green and quiet. We spent all day hiking and looking at lichen. We made dinner at whatever time we were hungry and got back on the road.

There weren’t any hotels or restaurants. We weren’t watching the clock and we weren’t tired. It was overcast but not dusk. We found a gas station and pulled in for gas. The gas station had a sign up that said: “Closed. Will return at 8 am”.

The gas station was closed for the night. What?

We had failed to account for our latitude and the date in relation to the summer solstice. Now we were in Iceland and low on gas. Even if we had a full tank of gas, we really didn’t know where we were going anyway.

The gas station opened in the morning and that was our first night on the Ring Road in Iceland.

Iceland’s Ring Road

The next day we headed out and found a cafe in house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The parking lot was fifty yards or so from the cafe and the walk was picturesque. From there we went on to check out the sights.

What sort of scenery did we see on the Ring Road in Iceland?

Craters. Viti was the first was saw and it was beautiful.

Viti

Icelandic horses. They don’t look like other horses.

Geysir. This is the original geyser and hiked way up on a hill to look at it from a far. This was also the biggest crowd we saw in Iceland.

One way Tunnel. We survived a long, dark, one way tunnel between Dalvik and Olafsfjordur. Depending on which direction you were driving determined if you had the right of way or if you were expected to yield by pulling into a designated M space and wait for traffic to clear. It was nerve racking and bizarre but there wasn’t much traffic.

Camping. Shortly after that we found a campground on a grassy hill. Every tent had every guyline attached. There wasn’t any wind but we certainly took note that they seem to expecting wind. It was warm and the grass was perfect. We slept on the ground next to our car. I still expected a moment of dusk but it didn’t happen. There was basically the same amount of light, day or night.

Mývatn (Midge Lake)

Vatnajokull National Park. We stuck to the Ring Road and headed south. It was substantially colder but worth wearing an extra jacket.

I have seen other glaciers but this was different. It was remarkable and stunning. The ice was shiny and clean; it felt ancient and fragile. Wow!

We woke up in the morning surrounded by fellow campers. We are the second camper from the left in the picture below. Everyone else seemed to be a bit more equipped than us. What I would have given for our Sprinter and Lil Buddy heater in Iceland that day!

Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park

Our last minute tour of the Ring Road was a success. I am sure it has changed since 2010 but here are a few things I remember.

  • Hotels may be hard to come by and will likely not be exactly what you expect.
  • Be attentive to the time of day. We didn’t see any 24 hour services.
  • Cheese can be eaten for lunch and dinner.
  • Bring a rain jacket, a winter jacket, a hat, gloves, short sleeve shirt, and sun screen.
  • Expect to see whale and puffin meat for sale. We didn’t try it.
  • People in Iceland are tough. We saw people tubing behind a boat near Reykavik. I was wearing a winter hat.
  • The Blue Lagoon will not be exactly what you expect.
Blue Lagoon. Notice the lifeguard in a biohazard looking suit. The weather was crazy that day!

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Storage In Our Sprinter: A simple solution

Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. This means that we may get a small commission if you click a link and purchase something that we recommend. Clicking these links will not cost you extra money but will help us grow our website. Thank you for your support!

We tried suitcases, duffel bags, and plastic tubs but none of these solved our family of four’s Sprinter storage problem.

What Is Our Priority?

Easy and fast access to clothing and daily use items.

Where Did We Find Extra Storage In Our Sprinter?

Under a bed with a hinge.

Our bed has a hinge and folds up from the front.

It is then be held open by two pieces of wood.

Sprinter Storage under our bed. Easy to access, organized. I love it!

What Is Inside The Space?

Typically there are four red bins and two square black bins. We get one red bin each.

Four red bins hold our clothes, everything from socks to sweatshirts.

Two square black bins are there as well. One hold toiletries and the other holds a bag full of dirty laundry.

Past the black bins in an open space that hold our curtains and two blankets. Our curtains go up each night when we put away our toothbrushes and go back to storage each morning after we change our clothes.

Follow our blog for more tips and family Sprinter adventures. Have fun out there!

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For more ideas check out this post!

11 Camper Van Bed Designs For Your Next Van Build

Sleeping 4 in a Sprinter: Budget Friendly Guide.

Sleeping 4 in a Sprinter 144 is our challenge. I knew that it could be done but we wondered if we could do within our budget.

Starting points:

  1. We need two beds.
  2. Our budget is a consideration.
  3. We can’t sleep on the van floor because then we have to move everything.
  4. Sprinter camping should be fun!

Our Plan for Sleeping 4 in our Sprinter

CD came up with a plan. I didn’t see his vision. He resorted to talking with neighbors. A short time later, and to my surprise, we had storage boxes and two beds!

The Final Product: High Roof Sprinter 144 with 2 Beds.

  1. The first bed is a fixed structure behind the third seat. It has storage underneath.
  2. Two mattresses are stored on the first bed during the day. One mattress was custom cut. The mattress measurements are as follows.

Bed #1: 54 x 72

Bed #2: 48 x 68

3. We remove the second and fourth rows and leave the third row in place.

4. Bed #2 gets built in front of the third row as needed.

5. Wooden storage cabinets are secured behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats. These are constructed in such a way as to support bed #2.

6. Bed #2’s platform pieces are stored next to the third seat. Directions to construct are below.

7. The second mattress gets pulled down from the first bed and placed on the newly constructed second bed.

To construct the Bed #2, follow these steps:

  1. Piece 1 goes under our cooler to add height to the cooler and allow it to be part of the support system.
  2. The next piece is a bridge between the two fixed storage boxes.
  3. Piece 3 is a 2 x 4 that pulls forward and attaches on the passenger side storage box.
  4. The final piece is a hinged piece that opens and covers the remaining space. It is supported by the storage box edges and the 2 x 4.

10 Reasons We Love Our Two Beds

  1. The total price tag was under $500. This includes two mattress, one of which was custom cut.
  2. Bed #2 is elevated off of the floor so that shoes and other items can be stored underneath.
  3. There was a steep but short assembly learning curve. We are quite proficient at assembly and can even assemble with the kids asleep in their seats.
  4. We can sleep two people per bed and not feel crowded.
  5. The mattresses are comfortable.
  6. Our <a href="http://Reliance Products 9881-03 Luggable Loo Snap-on Toilet Seat with Lid for 5-Gallon Bucket, Black, 13.0 Inch x 1.5 Inch x 14.0 Inch""“>luggable loo is easy to access.
  7. Our cooler is helpful rather than in the way.
  8. I can sleep head to toe or side to side. CD is a bit more limited in his choices, however.
  9. We can assemble the second bed in under 10 minutes and without stepping foot outside the van or opening the door. This is amazing news during a downpour.
  10. We wake up well rested!

Our Inaugural Sprinter Van, Sleeping 4 Conversion

We drove 8528 miles with a trip timer of 190 hours, 55 minutes and we slept at campgrounds, friends’ driveways, gas stations, Walmart, rest areas, and parks. No matter where we slept, we woke up well rested and ready to go!

CD’s second bed conversion is pure genius as far as I am concerned.

Sleeping 4 in a 144 and how it can be done! Sprinter van conversions can be fun, too
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Suttle Lake, Oregon: Camping Review.

We live in the Willamette Valley and enjoy camping in Oregon.

The coastal range is to the East and the Cascades to the West. It rains; it is wet. Lichen and fungi are prolific.

CD and I met in the high mountains of Colorado. The high desert is a comfortable climate for us. With that being said, we both enjoy the Willamette Valley. It is not typically until I leave the valley that I realize how much more comfortable I am with brown pine needles than with banana slugs and trees chocked by lichen.

Birthday Weekend Camping: Oregon

It was CD’s birthday weekend. We had been home from our summer trip for less than a month. Our Oregon to Oregon odometer reading for the summer was 8528 miles and our trip timer reading was 190 hours and 55 minutes. Even with just having returned home, we missed the Sprinter life. The kids and I suggested an overnight camping trip for CD’s birthday. It needed to be a quick 1 night get-away.

We all agreed to drive East towards Sisters. CD had eyed up a few places and chose Suttle Lake mostly because we were short on time. It wasn’t as far as Sisters or Bend but was still on the dry side of the pass. There were several National Forest campgrounds and had easy access from the highway. Although he is not a fisherman, CD was kind enough to suggest that the kids and I bring our fishing poles and try our luck. We were sold.

If you have even driven Highway 20 from I-5 to Sisters, you may remember that there is a tipping point were the lichen stops and the high desert begins. I can’t tell you at exactly which mile marker this happens. This time, I didn’t think much of it until we pulled in to the campground. The ground and the air was dry.

The campgrounds were only a few miles from the highway. We drove through Blue Bay campground. It was nice but we kept going and settled on Link Creek.

Link Creek Campground

There were plenty of sites available. We chose a central site so that the kids could fish from the dock and we could see them from the van.
There was a dirt boat launch, fish cleaning stations, and pit toilets. The sites were plenty large and it was generally clean.

It was CD’s birthday so he was calling the shots. CD was happy to sit on the picnic table, strum his guitar, and enjoy the air. The view wasn’t anything spectacular.

Sprinter DIY. #vanlife
Sprinter DIY. #vanlife

I set up the kids fishing poles and started dinner. There were a few boats on the lake. From where we stood, it was shallow and not very inviting for swimming. It may be noted, however, that I was born and raised in Michigan and have high fresh water standards.

The Boats, Oregon Camping at Suttle Lake

In any case, it wasn’t long before we heard a motor revving. Some sort of race boat with two exhaust pipes sticking up launched at the adjacent dock and was driving around the lake. This lake isn’t huge, by the way. The boat would speed around the lake two or three times, then idle for a bit. When it was driving it was so loud that we could barely talk to each other. I am sure other campers were irritated but I was more amazed, interested, and surprised. The whole thing went on for an hour or so and then they loaded the boat on the trailer and drove away.

The second most interesting thing we saw was a good sized cabin cruiser. It was anchored off shore a bit. Again, this is not a huge lake. I assumed they would sleep there but rather than doing so, they pulled into the dock at the campground and slept in a tent.

I guess people really love boating on this lake. Based on our lack of success fishing and the fishing equipment on their boat, it occurred to me that you may need a boat to get to the fish.

Several campers had kayaks pulled up on shore and easily accessed by walking paths from their campsites. This seemed like a nice idea to me.

The Great Awning Experiment

By the time the kids and I got back, CD was fully immersed in his much anticipated awning experiment. Years ago he made an awning for our minivan. He had been wanting to try it out on the Sprinter. Rain was expected over night and I guess he decided this was his chance.

Here it is. Don’t trip over the guylines. Sprinter DIY. Oregon camping
oregon camping

Well, he did it. It was set up and surprisingly solid. I was curious about the sag in the middle but it sounded like he had a plan. The guylines were a bit of a hazard but I was willing to humor him and give the thing a try. It was his birthday after all.

He told me to walk around the van to see how he secured the awning.

This is what I found:

oregon camping

He seemed to know it was ridiculous and not any sort of ground breaking invention. Since we couldn’t open the driver’s side door, it was barely even a short term solution but he was so happy.

HB woke up around dawn. We found a bridge that we had failed to see the night before. There were fish rising and jumping all over the place. We tried every fishing trick I knew but they just didn’t bite. We watched the sun come up, saw trail runners and walked some of the trail. It may be worth mentioning that you can see and hear highway 20 while standing on the shore but we didn’t notice this from our campsite.

Shortly after CD and Grace woke up, the skies opened up. The awning held. We ate oatmeal in the van and broke camp.

The Suttle Lodge

CD was curious about the Suttle Lake Lodge. It was near Highway 20 and not far off the road. We walked into the main lodge and were greeted by a crowded room of happy lodge guests. There was shelf after shelf of board games. The dining area was community style with big long tables next to sofas and coffee tables. Dogs were welcome and everyone was smiling. Big windows and glass doors offered a lake view. A large patio and lawn were beyond. There were docks with row boats and fishing boats for rent.

I am quite sure that CD didn’t intend to spend time or money here but it was just too tempting. I ordered fresh squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, and an egg sandwich with aged cheddar.

We already had breakfast at camp but the opportunity to drink fresh squeezed juice while playing board games by a hot fire with tons of happy people just seemed like the right thing to do. The kitchen was slow but for good reason. The place was packed and they were obviously making every order one by one. We didn’t mind the wait.

In Summary,Oregon Camping Review:

Would I camp at Suttle Lake again? Probably not.

What would I do differently if camped there again? Walk, boat, or bike to breakfast at the Suttle Lake Lodge. Spend time playing corn hole and drinking fresh juice. I may consider happy hour at the lodge too. I may consider just staying at the lodge if I need an easy to get to lodging location for a few people that like that kind of thing.

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Sprinter Van Shopping List For The Minimalist

I could write dozens of blogs about products we use and love in our Sprinter. Each time we change the layout of the van or try a new design, we end up with new products. Some last the test of time; others are quickly proven ineffective and re-purposed or passed on to the next person. The most important products are best discussed in detail with friends on a Friday afternoon. In any case, here is a minimalist’s Sprinter shopping list.

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Light My Fire Titanium Spork

Light My Fire Titanium Spork: We stand by the titanium model but please beware that if you pair stainless steel plates with a titanium spork, you may have to tolerate the metal on metal scraping noise.

For those of you that are not quite ready to commit to titanium, there is a plastic model as well.

3 mm Accessory Cord

3 mm accessory cord: CD’s exact words are: “3 mm cord is handy“. It may be because CD knows every knot and when exactly to use every knot but I actually am starting to believe that string is an important travel accessory. Regarding everyday use, we have a piece approximately 6 inches off the floor of the van, extending from one end of the kids seat to the other. This cord keeps the storage boxes under each seat from sliding across the floor and it is quite effective!

Plastic Soap Dish

Plastic Soap Dish: When CD recommended this, I laughed. It reminded me of going to the community pool in 1985. That led me to consider going to garage sales looking for one. I don’t really like shopping, however.

I soon admitted that the best option was to just spend a few dollars, sacrifice a little plastic, and buy a soap dish. Wow, what a game changer. Our Sprinter has a hand washing station and now our bar of soap stays nicely in its soap dish.

No Mess! Clean hands! This was a win!

National Park Passport Books

National Parks Passport Book: Pick up at any National Park. Warning: May be habit forming.

CD has commented that he is glad we didn’t have one of these before we had kids or else we may have doubled the length of all of our trips by just driving around to get our stamps.

Hydroflask

Hydroflask: We live in Oregon. This is standard equipment. It really keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. It doesn’t leak. Try it!

Dustpan and Brush

Dustpan and Brush: This is another one that I thought I would never use. CD had this in his Honda Civic when we met. I never used it and was actually against using it. I just thought it was crazy and the car would be sandy anyway.

My opinion has since changed. Last summer CD caught me brushing out the van floor, step, and seats. Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I keep this next to the sliding door, secured by 3 mm climbing cord, of course.

A quick brush of sand or dirt off the step or floor is super satisfying. It may be the mom in me speaking but I just can’t see traveling without it!

All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon.

We travel with the smallest version of this book. We love it. It inspires us. The full size edition is great for a baby shower, grandparents gifts, or just anyone that appreciates a pick me up.

“Hope and Peace and Love and Trust, All the World is All of US”.

Headlamp

Head Lamp: The kids and CD love their headlamps. I prefer to use my “night vision”. Ha! I am sure we couldn’t travel without these!

Notebook

  • Notebook: An old fashioned lined notebook . There is just something great about it!

Portable Charger

Portable Charger: We charge this each day using our portable solar panel. Then we charge our cell phones or whatever else. It has saved us tons of times. We have the Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh

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Portable Solar Panel

Portable Solar Panel: We have the Biolite Solar Panel 5 and we like it. It even works on cloudy days.

Small Wooden Cutting Board

When you eat cheese and crackers everyday you need a good cutting board!

Have fun out there!

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Sleeping Bear Dunes: Bike, Swim, Repeat

We have driven from Oregon to Ontario each summer since 2016. We see beautiful sights and have amazing experiences along the way. The kids start talking about the trip as soon as spring arrives. They set their sights on our annual Sleeping Bear Dunes camping trip!

Whether it is because our nephew joins us on this trip or because we have consistently hit it out of the park in terms of fun, all I know is that they love going to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake shore. They come by this naturally, as CD and I were married there in 2008. 

Glen Arbor Family History

CD was voting for getting married in the back country of Colorado; I was voting for somewhere a bit more accessible. Next thing I knew, we were in Glen Arbor. I can’t remember if we were having a drink at Art’s or sitting in the coffee shop, but somewhere along the way a local recommended we get in touch with “Don”. Don was well known in the Glen Arbor community. He was elderly and his health was not the best. Don didn’t have any children and he was an active member of the community.

I can’t remember if we were given his number or if we simply walked up to his door and knocked, but later that day we were sitting in his living room. He was happy to meet us and told us about how he met his wife when they were middle aged. She was the love of his life. He asked tons of questions about skiing, Colorado, and where we would ski next. We heard stories about skiing in Chamonix and flying in and out of Aspen. We had an instant friendship. His Lake Michigan beachfront was adjacent to a public access and he invited us to use his beach for our wedding. Glen Arbor has become much more hectic since then and Don is no longer with us but the town still holds a certain charm. Sleeping Bear Dunes is easy to love. 

Highlights of our Sleeping Bear Dunes Annual Trip

  • DH Day Campground
    • Pit toilets, water, access to the bike trail, close to Glen Arbor and Glen Haven
    • Reservations: Until summer 2019, this campground was first-come-first-serve only. We typically try to avoid crowds by going August, mid-week. I have mixed emotions about the reservation system but we were able to get a site, so it has worked out so far.  
Glen Haven
Walk to Lake Michigan from DH Day
  • Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
    • This paved bike trail is the gold standard by which I measure national parks and campgrounds. We rode North to Glen Arbor and South to North Barr Lake in 2019. Together with three kids, we logged 29.1 miles on the trail in 2 days! The kids would have gladly ridden farther if we had stayed longer.   
    • Here are some reasons that we love this trail
      • It keeps you and the kids from riding on the shoulder of the road
      • You can get from DH Day to Glen Haven in under 5 minutes. You will find nice restrooms with flush toilets and running water when you get there
      • You don’t have to find a place to park in Glen Arbor 
      • It keeps your car free from of sand after the Dune Climb
      • You feel motivated to swim in Lake Michigan. Simply ride, get hot, swim, and repeat. The kids and I are all about this plan!
      • It is good exercise and better for the environment
      • It’s nearly impossible to ride and not smile
      • You get to talk with other riders 

2019 Biking Itinerary

First Day: 

  • Bike from DH Day to Glen Haven to rescue raggedy Ann from a shipwreck using a Lyle Gun.
  • Ride bikes from Glen Haven to Glen Arbor to pick up provisions at Anderson’s Market
  • Bike from Glen Arbor to DH Day

Second Day:

  • Bike from DH Day to the Dune Climb in time to catch the Dune Climb Concert
  • Ride bikes from the Dune Climb to DH Day

Third Day:

  • Bike from DH Day to Glen Arbor for breakfast 
  • Ride bikes from Glen Arbor to DH Day
  • Bike DH Day to North Barr Lake

CD was kind enough to be the support vehicle. He packed up the campsite and met us at the North Barr Lake parking lot.

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Parking in Glen Arbor: 2018. Dinner at Art’s
Dune climb parking
2018
2018. DH Day to Glen Arbor
Crazy storm damage from straight line winds: DH Day to Glen Arbor
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake shore
    • Too many great trails to mention. I have pretty much tried and like them all.
    • The Dune Climb trail has earned a quick mention though. Don’t underestimate this trail. If you think you climbed the last dune and are headed for the beach, you aren’t. There are still more dunes to climb! Before having kids, I loved this trail for the pure exercise.
    • South Manitou Island
      • There are campsites. Our site was fine but some of the sites looked really amazing. Try to get one of those!
      • We spent one night there and hiked all the entire island
      • It would be a fun place to take the kids. One night would be enough
    • North Manitou Island
      • More remote than South.
      • We camped one night and walked around the island. It is likely that we would have gotten restless there if we stayed longer
North manitou, 2011?
A few dunes up on the dune climb. Fewer crowds here
Sleeping bear point trail
Sleeping bear point trail; Sleeping Bear Dunes

Towns

  • Glen Arbor
    • Art’s Tavern: A local favorite. There may be a wait in the summer. Bring cash – they don’t take credit
    • Good Harbor Grill: The food here is genuinely good and fresh 
    • Anderson’s Glen Arbor Market: bigger than the store in Empire
    • Great Lakes Tea and Spice: Pick up Christmas gifts while you are here!
    • Crystal River Outfitters: We rented kayaks here in late September and spent a day exploring the Lake Michigan between Glen Arbor and Glen Haven. You can also paddle the river.
Glen Arbor public access. Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • Empire
    • Village Park: 1 block from downtown. 2 playgrounds, 2 beaches, boat launch, shelter, vault toilets. Fires are permitted in fire rings. This park was free previously but now parking fees apply. Parking may be tough to come by during the summer. 
    • Empire Bluff Trail: This is a “do not miss” trail if you are looking for the best views in the park
    • National Park Service headquarters: Just in case you need a park cancellation for your park passport book
      • There are at least 4 cancellations in the park.
        • Dune Climb
        • Visitor’s Center
        • Glen Haven general store
        • South Manitou 
Empire Beach

South End

  • Riverside Canoes: Platte River
    • Head here during the fall salmon run. You won’t be disappointed. Avoid it in the summer unless you love crowds!

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