8 month Unimog Renovations

One of the nice byproducts of returning to the USA was the opportunity to perform some light renovations to MogTug based on our experiences thus far in the rig. We will try and detail the changes quickly and the rationale behind them in case it helps the next overlander.

Replacing our Fantastic Vents with MaxxAir Deluxe Vents

We installed the top of the line Fantastic Vents in the roof of MogTug. One at the rear of the box and one at the front of the box. We typically ran one pulling in and the other sucking out. This provides a great cross breeze in the box and keeps us pretty comfortable even in triple digits.  The problem we ran into with the vents was humidity and it triggering the rain sensor to close the vents. The fantastic vents have a nifty rain sensor that is supposed to automatically close the vents in the event of rain. This protects your rig from flooding. The problem is that the vents could be triggered by humidity in the air if we were parked too close to the ocean. The practical experience was sleeping in the box at night, and waking up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, because the vents had closed. Or waking up to the sound of them closing and having to get up and reopen them. One thing we have recently learned, is that you can override the rain sensor by opening the vent manually from the closed position. But then, what if it rains for real? In addition, we often leave Syncro in the box if we need to go somewhere quickly on the motos, so I was becoming paranoid, that he wouldn’t be safe. With that in mind we bit the bullet and purchased the MaxxAir Deluxe vents.

A key difference of the MaxxAir’s is that they have an integrated rain cover and can be run in the rain. They don’t have a rain sensor because they don’t need one in their design. Their design opens like a sliding clamshell, vs just popping straight open like the Fantastic Vent. Unlike the Fantastic Vent, you never have a clear opening to the sky, which does cut down on the natural light that enters the box. This is a bummer. With the fantastic vents it felt like we had skylights and they let in a lot of light. So this is a negative to the MaxxAir approach, as we miss the light.  The MaxxAir’s came with remotes and have a numerical thermostat to set the temperature for them to operate. It’s nice to be able to set a discreet temperature for them to come on and go off, especially with Syncro in the box.

The installation itself was pretty straight forward as they fit into the same size opening as the Fantastic Vents. The build quality of the MaxxAir is excellent, and the vents work great. If anyone is looking

Max Air Going in 

Replacing the Roof To Tent with Storage Boxes

The next major renovation was the replacement of the roof top tent. Our vision for the roof top tent was to have a nice outdoor bedroom to sleep in. What we found is that we really didn’t like the mechanics of the rooftop tent on a vehicle as tall as MogTug. Deploying and stowing the roof top tent was considerably more difficult and time consuming than on a smaller vehicle. So what we found is that we avoided using it unless we were going to be stationary for a week or more. Given our style of travel, that doesn’t happen often. As we were figuring that out, we also got into hammocking and were sleeping more and more nights in hammocks and it was a revalation. We much preferred the hammocks to any other option. So we decided to remove the roof top tent and get some more storage for toys and fun enablers :).

Contact us if you are looking for a roof top tent! It’s for sale!

Roof Top Tent For Sale

Finding a storage box to fit in place of the roof top tent was tough. There are two major manufacturers of metal cases, Zarges and Alubox. We liked the products of both, but Zarges has a much larger footprint in the USA and were able to contact them directly to figure out a solution. They were fantastic to work with and very supportive in finding boxes for us. We ended up with two boxes from them, as there wasn’t a single box that would meet our needs.

Storage!

Storage

To mount the boxes to the roof rack we were able to use an extra set of the aluminum extrusions from the roof top tent.

Finishing touches

Having more fun!

As we have traveled now for almost a year in MogTug, we have met lots of other travelers and seen lots of different lifestyles on the road. It quickly became apparent that we aren’t taking advantage to have more outdoor fun. So we decided we would pick up some new toys. We bought some additional fishing equipment, a new inflatable kayak, snorkel gear, and a BBQ grill among other toys.

This mountain disappeared neatly in the storage boxes.  

Getting Better Internet

Since we do have to complete work while on the road, Internet service is a key enabler for us to travel. We destroyed our side mounted high gain wifi antenna on the side of the box while in La Paz, so this opened the door to upgrades!

Our system had a Cradlepoint MBR1400 router at the heart of it. It can connect to a wifi network and then use that wifi connection to provide Internet to all of the device in our network in MogTog. It can also have a cellular modem plugged to it and it can get online on its own and then provide that Internet to all of the devices on our network. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of kit. We typically purchase a data SIM card from a carrier when we enter the country and then have Internet for all of our computers, tablets, phones, etc. In addition to the smashed antenna, we were finding that we just weren’t getting the wifi performance out of the Cradlepoint that we wanted, so we wen searching for options.

WifiRanger is a company that specializes in connectivity for mobile markets. We decided to purchase a couple of their products and give it a shot. It should provide both the ability to connect to wifi networks and redistribute as well as connectivity to a cellular modem. They use very inexpensive hardware that can be had for <$125 but they have developed their own custom software that  seems to be quite good. That pushes their costs up beyond $350 for a basic kit.  It doesn’t have the sophistication and polish of the Cradlepoint software but it does seem to be more effective than our Cradlepoint solution. Part of the different is that we have moved the antenna to the roof and in the WifiRanger kit, the unit on the roof is actually a mini router in and of itself and the unit on the inside as well, so they work in tandem to provide indoor and outdoor coverage.

Overall the system is performance has been much better on wifi from a range perspective but the software isn’t as polished as on the Cradlepoint and their are bugs from time to time. The WifiRanger team has been excellent from a support perspective as a lot of our install is not the norm. I have always been able to get a response within a day!

Odds and Ends

In addition to the bigger jobs we also tackled a small list of minor repairs and tweaks. We rebuilt our mounting bracket for our on board welder to reduce vibrations.

The welding generator is spinning happily in its new mount in the lower left hand side of this pic.
We replaced our auxiliary diesel tank that was springing leaks anytime we hit bad track.  We were given the tank for free because it had a couple leaks and we thought we had patched t sufficiently. But our brutal trip to Mike’s Sky Ranch showed us that we needed a replacement. Our epoxy patches weren’t going to be a solid long term solution. We also rewired some of our battery management system as we had some damage from our over voltage event when we were heading to San Pedro Martir National Park. And finally we installed a new ladder on the cab to make accessing the roof top storage boxes. Whew. Not bad for a week of work.

Now we find ourselves departing again for Baja, with our tweaks complete and excitement to get to the Ferry.

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