Saturday, July 17, 2010

Campa USA builds a campa'

In May I had the privilege of joining Bob Bancroft and Chris Cole, owner of CampaUSA, for a couple of weeks of exploring the backcountry of Nevada, California, Utah and Northern Arizona. My goal was to field test the new Maggiolina Air Top and to enjoy the remote country and time with my friends. More about the trip in a later post.

Chris was driving his recently revamped 70 series turbodiesel-powered Landcruiser pick-up truck. It is quite a truck. 

Here is Chris and his Daughter, Emily, crossing a playa in central Nevada in his latest creation. This one ton, 70 series Landcruiser pick-up is an incredible expedition rig.

Chris sent me an e-mail detailing how he has deployed his Maggiolina, and the reasons that he chose the Maggiolina for his expedition rig. Here's what he says...
For me the obvious choice was a Maggiolina roof-top tent. Being tall, I elected to get the longer version in the medium width size. I have used Maggiolina’s before in various climatic conditions and, in my opinion, there is no tent that compares favorably. The design, simplicity of deployment and comfort combine to provide an unparallel sleeping quality in all weather conditions. The sleek low profile, I believe actually IMPROVES fuel consumption.
I elected to mount the Maggiolina “backwards” with the larger part facing forward. The logic behind this was that fuel efficiency with regard to “wind” consists of two elements; the first element is the frontal area of the vehicle that must be pushed through the air, the second element is the drag [drag coefficient] created by the first element together with the shape or profile of the rear of the vehicle. Placing the Maggiolina backwards created a roof shape much like an aircraft wing that is designed to minimize drag [turbulence] when passing through the air. Thus without significantly increasing the frontal area, the goal was to significantly reduce the drag coefficient thereby improving fuel consumption
I tested this theory and found that it actually worked. Prior to building the unit on the back, and with the old bed on the back I drove across country from Ohio to California and back. My average fuel consumption was 15 mpg traveling at about 70 mph.  
After I had installed my unit with the “backwards” Maggiolina I drove from Ohio to Arizona but this time towing a 2500 lb. Campa All Terrain Trailer and got the same fuel consumption [15 mpg average] at the same speed. This meant to me that the additional work required by the engine to pull a 2500 lb trailer was negligible but what was the reason?
A few months later I drove out west again, this time without a trailer so was similar to the first occasion and thus I could really compare apples with apples. I averaged a little over 17 mpg at a similar average speed, a significant improvement of 13% in fuel consumption.
I also took the opportunity to weigh my vehicle prior to each trip. On the first trip to California I weighed in at 6400 lbs. On my last trip I weighed in at 7600 lbs. as I was loaded for a two week expedition. The improvement of 13% in fuel consumption in spite of weighing 19% more is most significant. It appears my theory worked. One can actually decrease fuel consumption through minimizing ones drag coefficient by installing a Maggiolina backwards. I doubt any other tent can claim that.
In order to protect the Maggiolina, I built a robust frame from stainless steel square tubing such that the all the sides of the frame would protect the sides of the Maggiolina from damage. I incorporated multiple cross bars not only for added strength as a roll cage but also to offer better support for the Maggiolina. The frame was designed such that the bottom of the frame was at the same height as the top of the cab rear window thus not restricting my rear view. 
With the incorporation of a cab roof rack that I had lowered, I had the height of my cab roof rack with the Pelican Case bolted to my roof rack a little higher than my Maggiolina. As such I would strike [and hopefully deflect] any objects with my Pelican Case and prevent damage to the top of my Maggiolina. My integrated roll bar on the vehicle also has the Maggiolina tucked in under it so should I remove my cab roof rack, I still have protection for my Maggiolina.
The other aspect I like about the Maggiolina is its hard shell case. I have had occasion to thoroughly wallop the top of my Maggiolina with no damage at all. I have also had branches scrape down the length of my Maggiolina and been surprised at how the hard shell fiberglass top deflects under the weight of the branch and then pops back to its original shape. Also being familiar with regular roof-top tents, I doubt a canvas cover would have remained intact with that abuse.
I shortened the ladder so that I could stow it under the frame instead of inside the Maggiolina as is customary. Thus I don’t have to clean my ladder in order to prevent soiling my sleeping area and bedding. I also have more storage for soft being in my Maggiolina without the ladder in there. On the one side of the Maggiolina frame I incorporated an awning that I modified to the same length as the Maggiolina roof-rack.
The width of the medium Maggiolina is 57” and the vehicle width is 70”. As such I have 6 ½” clearance from the edge of my vehicle at an approximate height from the ground of 54” at the top of the wheel arch container, to my Maggiolina 24” higher up. In other words I have 6 ½” of clearance over 24” which translates to an angle of approximately 15°. This means if I clear my vehicle passing a tree, one even leaning in towards me a little [by up to 15°] I will clear my Maggiolina too.
Chris, thanks for your contribution to the blog. I hope to share a trail with you again soon.