V2 Review -- Beware removing you rear panel & GFC as a 3 season tent

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The regret of removing the back panel
Recently, I took off my back panel to shuttle bikes up the dirt roads around Downieville and Mt Hough (RIP, was burnt down a week later in the Dixie fire) & following instructions from GFC’s youtube video I wasn’t able to put it back on.

The challenges

  • snapping the hinge back into place is not easily done
  • using a flathead screwdriver that fits perfectly ended up stripping the three silver lightweight aluminum screws.
  • Then when storing the removed panel leaned up in the inside of the truck, because the hinge isn’t permanently attached to the panel, the hinge slid out & proceeded to get run over & bent leaving me without a way to re-attach the panel.

I currently have an email chain with GFC to resolve this issue, and they’re currently suggesting I pay ~170 for them to produce another hinge & replacing the stripped screws, saying “i should have put tape on the flathead to prevent stripping,” even though this wasn’t in their video.

From what I heard about newer features when the V1 was released, GFC was all about iterating to get their product right & ensuring customers were stoked about it. I hope the folks consider improving this back panel, as I was pretty hyped about this feature when I found out I was getting the V2 vs V1.

Some suggestions for GFC:

  • Update the youtube video on removing the rear panel to advise using tape around your flathead screw drivers
  • Change the three flathead screws to be compatible with allen wrench or star wrench to prevent stripping
  • Lock the hinge in place versus allowing it to slide all the way out of the back panel when stored vertically when transporting bikes

Anyways, I’ll update with the status as I try to get this fixed and would be awesome to hear for anyone’s experiences / suggestions / feedback.

GFC as a 3 season tent

When I first picked up my V2 Camper in April, I spent the first 2-3 weeks in it in some cold, windy weather. I ended up many nights taking the tent down due & sleeping in the truck bed due to the amount of movement shaking the tent. Also there’s the brutal flapping because the side windows don’t zip all the way around, but that’s something earplugs can solve…

I’ve camped in many 3 or 4 season tents in bad weather, but was frankly pretty disappointed in how the GFC handled in this case. Sure, I’d park facing into the wind, but winds frequently shift overnight.

Has anyone figured out ways to add rigidity / stiffness to their GFCs in more extreme weather while maintaining comfort. I’ve added an additional bungee cord in the inside with very negligible success? With winter coming, I’d be so much more hyped if this GFC was sliiightly better in 4 seasons.

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I could see them replacing the screws free of charge since they stripped, but the hinge getting run over is not GFCs problem. I am glad to hear they are offering you the ability to buy replacement parts, and $170 for a replacement seems reasonable based on it being a custom extrusion, and the fact that supplies are in extreme short supply.

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Taking the back panel off is really straightforward unless you don’t get the pocket locks (the thing that the head got stripped on) aligned correctly. If you have to force it, it’s not yet in place. This can absolutely be tricky the first few times.

To be fair, the tape around the screwdriver is definitely not ideal, but it will work in a pinch as a failsafe to keep folks from stripping the head on these fasteners. That should have been mentioned in the video, but a better solution would be having the correct tool. As a more long-term solution, I am actively working on getting some tools made that we will have available in our shop for customers. Basically just making a little driver bit that can be used with a nut driver. Find image below.

Screen Shot 2021-08-12 at 6.47.54 AM

Regarding the 3 season performance of the tent, do you have anything loaded on the roof? My experience and the majority of customer feedback are very positive about the GFC performance in high winds. I recently camped in Mexico at the Bay of LA with winds at 60mph+ with no issue on the go fast end. That said, the GFC setup does add a bit of surface area to catch the wind and can cause the vehicle to sway if that’s the issue you’re describing, but that’s going to happen with any tent on a vehicle.

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Personally I don’t see why the back panel needs to be removed in order to hang bikes out the back. I guess if you hang bikes out there on a very regular basis and never want to put the panel back on it might be a good idea but I just don’t see the market hype on this and didn’t understand why GFC advertises it this way. There is plenty of room to hang the bikes ( the most I have done is 4 bikes) on the tailgate with the panel open. My rear panel doesn’t come crashing down and hit the bikes. At first I would tie the panel down so it didn’t move around but it’s just not necessary. Sure it might flap a little but it’s not going to hurt your bike and it’s not going to hurt the panel.

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Yeah, absolutely. I take the full fault on the hinge sliding out of the truck bed (i guess the solution is to flip the panel up upside down leaned up against the side of the truck bed). And, I’m definitely naive about the design, but I don’t see the reason why it can slide off at all.

I agree… I’m hoping to get at least the screws replaced free of charge or even waiting to pay for a new solution /update / instructions or trying that would avoid any potential of stripping bolts in the future. Ideally, i’d dream of being able to take on/off the back panel a few times a week to transport or shuttle bikes without buying a bike rack.

Being based out of my truck until winter, maybe i’m just cheap and surprised at the parts cost from trying to use a newer feature. Hoping to learn from other’s experiences here and further improve/dial in the camper.

Fortunately I’ve been managing for now with a large chain lock & 2 u bike locks, but definitely looking forwards to some further security.

Yeah, good point. I guess it’s worth testing out.

What’s your experience been like on highway or on bumpy dirt roads? I’ve been spending most of the time with just the bikes hanging over the tailgate.

I saw some folks also you say it might flap a little, and try not to have too much highway driving so was probably more hesitant to drive with it on when transporting friends nice carbon bikes.

Spending the last month + based out of the truck mountain biking across norCal, oregon (black rock, hood river, sandy ridge), washington – galbraith etc, i’d definitely see the hype in having the back panel off over buying an expensive bike rack or worrying about damaging bikes. With bike theft pretty rampant on the west coast, going without a rack is definitely more covert when parking in a city/town for an hour plus.

I know someone who’s using those Kuat Dirtbag Truck Bed Mounts. Once I get the new rear panel hinge, I may pivot to that for my bikes then if transporting others bikes / shuttling, test out keeping the back panel on…

Having a tent on top of a truck lifts it more into wind flow were as a tent on the ground has a little more protection from shrubs, brush, grass to help break up the wind

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On dirt roads it’s fine. I guess it depends on how bumpy the road is. In another thread some guys were talking about putting plastic tubing on the struts to lock the tent out to prevent it from bouncing in the wind. I thought this might be a good idea for the rear panel. There are aftermarket things you can put on struts to lock them out as well.
I drive on the freeway quite a bit with the panel open. This is where it is most stable because the road is so smooth. I have been driving a trailer lately and I like the rear panel open as is it makes it easier to see when backing up so I often just leave it open.
I have a 1 up bike rack as well. I go back and forth between using this, hanging bikes off the tailgate, and just putting the bike in the bed. When it comes to securing the bike I will put the bike in the bed and run a chain around the the bike and the frame of the gfc and then cover the rear window up. A dedicated thief could still get in but they have to get in the bed of the truck and then have some serious bolt cutters.

:point_up: :ok_hand: :metal: — This would be awesome!

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I appreciate the effort to make another tool, but can you share why a custom tool over something existing is preferable?

Prior to committing to removing the whole rear panel, I tested out using a flathead that fit near perfectly and even un-latching the bolts in place which caused the beginning of the stripping. And it sounds like there were other’s facing this issue as well.

@GFC it’s been > 2 weeks. Can you respond to my email & phone calls to send free replacements of these stripped screws / pocket locks?

Thanks for the input here!

I’ve never loaded up the roof of my GFC and yeah, I also experienced that the GFC handles wind well if you park in the direction of it really well and that’s super rad!

When you mention it might cause the vehicle to sway, do you think folks with different suspension on their trucks notice this sway differently? Does anyone have suggestions if so?

The general rule of thumb seems to be if you’re not camping in cold, snow or constant, variable direction high winds(>30mph), a 3 season tent is the way to go. A lot of folks push it with 3 season tent’s and that’s cool. But also a 4 season tent like the north face base station are ultra-cozy and have minimal condensation in gnarly conditions.

Just to elaborate on my experience… I have the two side doors, but maybe it’s more secure and tight & flaps less without these side doors. It seems like there’s a decent bit of extra fabric that’s not tight, and because there’s no complete zipper at the bottom or way to stake into the ground for more tension. I guess the double instagram-able windows (photo from yesterday) > more tension & 4 szn comfort haha

I just got in contact with Nick who is now running the service department to give you a call back. Appreciate you checking in on that.

4 season is a marketing term made up by REI. It doesn’t mean anything other than it can be used to camp in the winter. Condensation in the tent is not a driver of assigning the name, as there are in fact 4 season single wall shelters. The reason you don’t see condensation on the tents you are referring to is that they are likely double wall or well ventilated.

A lot of GFC users are coming out of a double-wall tent or have very little camping experience, so forgive me if you are already aware of this information. The front windows of the tent should be open in cold weather to allow for adequate ventilation so that you do not experience condensation forming on the roof and walls. It seems counter intuitive, but the air temperature delta is what causes the dew point to happen.

Regarding suspension, something like a sway bar disconnect would be the only thing that would likely make a difference as there are really no dynamic suspension lock out solutions.

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That was quick! Just got a call from @GFC & appreciate their help responding & working with me to resolve this issue. We’ll be waiting until I can get their new custom tool to & doing the replacing via FaceTiming with me to make sure my non-handy self can properly re-install it haha.

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maybe add some velcro to secure the flaps. One way you could make your rig less susceptible to swaying is put stiffer coils or springs or and stiffer shocks. Not sure what rig you have but airbags would also probably help. I Have a Power wagon and it sits pretty tall and accept the fact that anything that adds weight up high and catches the wind can rock me a bit. I think unfortunately if you have a nice suspension that does well when driving down rough roads and articulates offroad you will pretty get some movement from the wind.

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I guess I’m missing something. I didn’t know anyone used flathead screws any more.

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4 season tents are really 1 season tents… I have a Mountain Hardware EV2 and a Black Diamond First Lite… both are single walled with sealed seams. They hold up to high winds and snow loads but I don’t care if it is 32 degrees or -60, there is always some wetness inside.

For this, people are somewhere between RV and tent in mindset - I think the roof vent fans are the best solution I have seen although I believe that’s a warrantee no no…

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So we are talking about apples, and this is an orange, but cautionary tale none the less…

My prior topper was a Leer 122 and running it around with the door open a handful of time - like 6 short trips from the hardware store, caused the extruded hinge to work harden, crack, and eventually fail and full detach. The gas struts were too powerful for the weight of the glass and when it was up and acting like a spoiler, instead of absorbing it in the gas struts, it went to the hinge. Leer (awful to deal with BTW) offered absolutely no warranty, replacement parts, etc. After getting the run around for a while:

“I cant really do anything with the hinge as the door comes as a complete assembly . I can get the door and it would cost $ 359.00 plus $42.50 labor to install it”

Guess it is my way of saying that if the door is not built to act as a spoiler, I would be careful about running it up while moving.

Again - not the same topper but very similar issue.

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I have been driving with the rear panel open on and off for 2 years. So far so good. Never had a camper shell. Thanks foe the input.

I’ve had my Leer 122 for 7 years, have done long trips doing 120km/hr with it wide open; probably over 100 trips to the hardware store and never had a problem with the hinge. I’m optimistic that my GFC will do the same. But it’s all about luck of the draw I think. Sometimes you get a lemon…for instance I’ve owned a handful of different years of Polaris sleds, some have been great…some have been complete piles. I just home I don’t get a ‘Friday’ GFC :wink:

Any news on making these tools and having them available for sale?

Cheers!