The Mule Rides!

Thoughts and plans after the first outing

Back home safely from our after-Expo wandering, we began running through our lists of what worked well, what didn’t, and new ideas from the refitted Mule’s maiden voyage (and our first trip ever with a trailer-top tent). As was expected, the plans for the interior build-out have changed considerably now that we’ve had a chance to live with it for a week in the field.

Handling is a Non-Issue

The trailer itself did fantastic, and aside from the noise, was hardly noticeable even on technical trails. In fact, my only complaint with the trailer was the noise, and it was only an issue because everyone was sold-out of the Silent Hitch Pin before the trip. By the second day out we were carving up twisty mountain roads with confidence the Mule would remain right behind us.

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One of my concerns had been center of gravity, and future plans included moving the water to an underfloor tank. I still don’t have a spare tire mount, so both spares had to ride stacked in the front of the cargo area. Add to that a jerrycan each of fuel and water, and this meant roughly 270 pounds (equivalent to 33 gallons of water) stacked to the lid just forward of the axle. Despite this, and the extra weight of the tent, the Mule was anything but top heavy.

The new plan for cargo is a two-level layout, with a large water tank forward (about 40 gallons) and a pair of rear-opening drawers out back on the bottom. The upper level will be left open for bulkier light weight cargo like sleeping bags, chairs, and tables.

The Frenchy Must Go

Rooftop tents rule, I wish I had jumped on the bandwagon sooner. This trip was a similar experience to our first time out with a fridge—the expense resembled insanity at first, but now having used one I can’t picture the trailer without it. The most complicated and time-consuming part of setting up camp is now connecting the propane hose to the stove.

We knew going into it that our scavenged roof tent had a few issues, and more were discovered over dusty trails and 40°F evenings—dust and cold ingress. Both of these issues can be easily and cheaply fixed by simply adding some weatherstripping to the otherwise nude lid and hatch seams. The deal-breaker came in the form of La Hussarde’s clever, but ultimately limiting gear pod. Its a neat idea, with pass-thru access from inside the tent as well as the outside hatch.

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Unfortunately, it also means the tent can only be mounted on a vehicle in one direction, with the tent opening to the right. This poses a problem with the Discovery’s right-opening door, which dictates we build the right side of the trailer as the kitchen for convenient fridge access. The pod also adds an extra 18 inches to the tents length, causing it to overhang the trailers tongue and preventing the mounting of a spare tire. An Eezi-Awn is the most likely replacement, they make a model that is the exact size of our lid when closed, and it can open either direction off of the trailer.

Stabilizers are a Must

The Mule is tiny… very tiny. Maneuvering the truck around with the trailer attached is a breeze in all but the most crowded parking lots, even in reverse. What isn’t so easy is packing up camp just to make a store run, because half of the camp is physically attached to the trailer. A tongue jack and a set of stabilizers would allow everything to stay in place while we detach the truck for shuttle duty.

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