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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
Intro Comments: My goal is to build a reliable, functional off road vehicle that will also get me to work 5 days a week. I don't plan on rock crawling with it or seeking out challenging trails, but it needs to be able to handle the washed out roads and water bars my girlfriend and I encounter on our way into the backcountry. Fuel economy and on-road ride quality matter to me so I don't plan on lifting it (much), T-swapping, running M/Ts, etc. So far the stock configuration has handled it admirably. Most of my previous off road experience was as a kid in my Dad's '86 Subaru GL wagon, so this is a serious upgrade. (That's not a knock against the GL. That thing got us places it had no business going.)

Instead of suspension upgrades, I'll be focusing mostly on overlanding style interior storage and electrical improvements.

Username: Solarisphere

Make: Nissan
Year: 2006
Model: Xterra
Trim: Off Road
Color: Night Armor

Purchase Date: April 2019
Purchase Price: $4500 CAD
Home Base: Victoria, BC Canada

Intro Photo:
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Here's what I've accomplished so far:

Maintenance & Repairs
  • Radiator replacement – Spectra CU2807
  • RF wheel bearing & hub replacement – Timken
  • Rotors & pads – Centric
  • Shocks – Bilstein 4600
  • Spark plugs
  • Fluid flush
  • Battery bay cleanup – washed, wire brushed, and painted corrosion around battery
  • Headlights – polished and clear coated
  • Bulbs – removed the shitty chinese LED/HIDs and returned to stock incandescent for now
Mods
  • Hood shock kit – direct from China, copy of Off Road Gorilla kit
Electronics
  • Head unit upgrade – Sony XAV-AX100
  • Backup camera – Cheap Amazon model
  • Speakers – Pioneer A series components
  • Bully Dog tuner – removed the tune and 3D printed a mount
Electrical
  • LED fog lights – Morimoto XB
  • Battery clamp – upgraded to brass marine clamp
Gear
  • Air compressor – Viair 88P
  • Jump starter – NOCO GB40
  • Awning – Offroading Gear 6' x 8'
  • Sleeping platform – build underway, see details below
  • Sunshade – Intro-tech Ultimate Reflector
  • Window reflectors – cut from reflectix to provide privacy and keep the morning light out
  • Wind deflectors – Nissan OEM
  • Floor mats – Maxpider Kagu all-weather mats
At this point my main goal is to get the sleeping platform built. Now that most of the maintenance is up to date it's the last major piece of what I had envisioned when I bought the truck, and a large part of why I went with an Xterra instead of a smaller SUV that would be better suited to the city. The goal of the sleeping platform is to raise the cargo area to get above the wheel wells and provide storage underneath that doesn't need to be rearranged to sleep in the back. Most of the time I'll be driving around the city so I need to be able to use the back seats.

This is the rough design I've come up with. Unfortunately the 3D curves of consumer goods (especially vehicles) are really difficult to model accurately, so the design is approximate and will have to be refined with cardboard templates once I start building.

It has two parts: The semi-permanent drawer system that fits behind the seats, and an easily removable platform that can be added once the seats are folded down. One of the rear drawers will be empty for storage, and the other will have a spot to mount the propane stove and a nested drawer that pulls out to reveal dishes and a cutting board on top (cutting board not shown). The front platform will lock into place with some plywood tabs and have a leaf that folds out once the front seats are pushed forward to give me enough room to stretch out. It is supported by some retractable cantilevered 1x2's. The whole thing will be covered with speaker box carpet and have a 3" foam mattress on top.

That's the plan, anyways. Once I've got it built I'll figure out what works and what doesn't and what needs to be redesigned.

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Trips she's gone on to date:

Nitinat Lake & Carmanah Valley

This was our first test of how the gf and I like sleeping in the back. It was a bit tight to fit all our stuff in the front seats with the air mattress blown up, but that's what the sleeping platform will be for. She liked how you can't hear the monsters (read: squirrels, wind) rustling the bushes at night and it keeps her safe from the bears, which are apparently lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce. She's a city girl. If this is what it takes to get her into the backcountry then I'll make that happen.

We used the popular Rubbermaid action packer trick to extend the cargo area over the footwells and a double air mattress fits ok in the back, although it does get pushed up at the sides by the wheel wells.

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Mt Arrowsmith & Cameron River Valley

My brother and I took 'er out fer a rip to the Port Alberni area to climb Mt. Arrowsmith. We drove right past the collection of shiny new Tacomas parked at the base of the spur road drive right to the trailhead. Lifted Tacos might do well off road, but when you have to sell both kidneys to afford one you're a lot more hesitant to actually use it like a truck.

2hrs and 870m later we reached the summit for the best views on south Vancouver Island.

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That night we camped in spot right on the cameron river, and got up early to check out Labour Day Lake and the logging roads throughout the valley. Unfortunately most of them are gated, but we still managed to find a couple good camping spots near Cathedral Grove.

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Walbran Valley

This valley is right on edge of Carmanah-Walbran provincial park, but unfortunately some of the largest groves of trees are just outside the park's boundaries and were under threat of logging. Activists have have now built an impressive network of trails and boardwalks, outhouses, and camping spots just off the logging road to encourage the public to visit and raise awareness.

To get there we drove through Port Renfrew and took Bugaboo main. We stopped at Avatar Grove on our way through. At one point on Bugaboo main we drove through an active helicopter logging camp and had to wait for the skycrane to take off before we could pass through. It's crazy how many city cars make it out here despite the rough crushed-limestone logging roads. Avatar Grove had a Tesla and a Modo car-share at the parking lot, and in Walbran Valley we followed a trail of oil down the road to find a VW golf with a hole in its oil pan.

Walbran creek has some great swimming holes. This is a shot of my gf looking out over the emerald pool.
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And here's upper Walbran falls, where you'll find some pools at the top of the waterfall and even a short natural waterslide.
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This is the Castle Giant. It's hard to tell the scale from the photo, but you could park an Xterra in its footprint.
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Discussion Starter #4
Copper Mountain & Kokanee Glacier:

This is the latest trip we went on. Some friends were getting married in Nelson, so I took the opportunity to get the X into the mountains. We camped in the back near Keromeos on the drive up, and rolled into Nelson the next day. After shuttling some friends up into the mountains to do some biking, I took off on my own, ignored the "ROAD CLOSED" sign, and stumbled on a great trail that took me up into the subalpine. It was totally unplanned so I hadn't fueled up and eventually had to turn around when the gas gauge hit E. Still got some good photos and saw some great scenery.

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On the wedding day I got up at 6:00, drove into Kokanee Glacier Park, hiked 1200m up the Keyhole trail and into the clouds to reach the Kokanee glacier and Esmeralda peak. At the parking lot it was cool and overcast but by the time I got to the summit it was snowing sideways. I was at the summit at 10:00AM, and still had time to make it to Kokanee Lake and get back to the resort in time for lunch, where it was 25°C and sunny.

Overnight guests need to wrap their vehicles in chicken wire to keep porcupines from eating their brake lines.
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Kokanee Lake
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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
The sleeping platform is slowly coming together. This past weekend I met up with my brother and we took off into the mountains to try out my sleeping platform and his new (to him) 4runner. Now I've decided I need some sort of radio to communicate; I just need to convince him to get on board.

The sleeping platform is mostly together, but the last 20% of the project is taking 80% of the time. I still need to raise the back end of it up somehow (the cargo area isn't actually level), find a way to bolt it to the rails so it doesn't shift forward on hill descents, coat the drawers so I can clean them easily, figure out how to strap the cooler down, add wings to support the side pocket doors, and source a mattress and cut it to shape. The design for all that is going to take longer than the actual build.

So far it works fairly well though. I also used the awning for the first time. It was great to have an area to get out of the truck in the morning and stay dry.

I've written a complete trip report here if you're interested.

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Discussion Starter #7
Finally "completed" the sleeping platform. It's in quotes because, while it looks great and is totally usable, there's still a few things I want to tweak to make it easier to use.
  • The folding mattress is a bit difficult to fold/unfold inside the truck. Might have to cut it down a bit
  • You have to lift the mattress to get at the wheel well storage cubbies. I can't see a solution to this without cutting up the mattress and sewing together a new cover for it so I might just leave it and store recovery gear or something in there that I don't plan on using regularly.
  • The cutlery drawer is slightly out of alignment and I can't stow it with the cutting board in place. Should be a quick fix with the belt sander and a few more coats of poly.
  • The front leaf isn't held up very well on the driver's side. I'll have to make some tracks for the support bars to slide in and tweak the fit.
If there's enough interest I might do a write up with some more photos detailing how it's put together and all the mistakes I made.
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Here's one of the wheel well storage cubbies. This one has the portable jump starter, air compressor, and a few spare water bottles for emergencies. At the moment you need to lift the mattress to get in there.
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To get the full 6.5' both front seats have to be slid forward and reclined The fold-flat passenger seat is the perfect height to support the leaf but on the driver's side I've got some 1x2's that slide out. They need a bit of work.
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Here's the passenger side in its stowed position with the mattress and passenger leaf folded back. Not the smoothest to deploy but it'll do.
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That's cool - I'm on a quest to build my own cost has been a factor but also I have other "performance" and maintenance things to do first. I'm almost there though - once I do my nerf bars and rear bumper it will be onto the electrical and storage phase of my build which I'm really looking forward to! Thanks for sharing your pictures, if you have sketchup files or anything like that and don't mind sharing I'd love to get a copy of them! Here's a rough idea of what I'm planning with mine - my buddy has a CNC machine and says we could just get everything setup and then cutout all the parts and assemble.

Since I initially laid this out I've had some changes in mind though. One I think I'm going to go with more of a roller floor type system (popular on the ARB drawers) and I'm going to ditch the sink compartment and probably one of the drawers as well. I want to try and keep it as low as possible so I can still see out the back window. I also have been thinking about putting in some sort of lift system for the drawers, similar to what truckvault built so I don't lose access to that storage area under the floor. With the drawers on top it could be a really nice place to store valuables.

Mostly the goal for me is to not have to unload/unpack anything from the truck when I'm at camp besides the tables and chairs. I'd also like to have a secure storage drawer.

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Awesome build. I literally just closed on buying a 2009 Xterra Off-Road earlier today. Live in Colorado, big time hiker, camper, backpacker, so I'm already looking to build out a sleep platform. Looking forward to diving in to a project. Already have a retractable awning I've been sitting on for 6 months while I waited to buy a new vehicle, so I'll be camp-ready in no time.
 

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Enjoyed following this topic.
Thanks for all the pictures.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Now that the mods have slowed I haven't been on the forums as much lately and missed the last few comments come in. My newly minted Instagram is here if anyone wants to keep up on photos. It's private but I'll approve. It's mostly outdoor photos and video clips from the new drone with some occasional Xterra glamour shots.
 
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