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 > Bigfoot (old vs new)

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AH_AK

AK

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Posted: 02/01/21 01:05pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Does anyone know how the construction of Bigfoot TC’s has evolved over the years? Used BFs (pre 2009) are substantially lighter than the new models of the same dimensions. Based on the literature on 2000 BFs, it appears that the older versions relied on a combination of a thinner fiberglass shell and a sparse wood sub frame for their structural integrity. Also, the foam appears to be expanded-in-place (injected) on some models.

An article I found from 2019 describes the new construction as a standalone fiberglass shell with insulated panel facades on the interior. Given the weight of fiberglass, the overall increase in weight would make sense. The shell was likely thickened so it could bear the entire load without interior reinforcement. Am I wrong? If so, where is the additional weight coning from?

I can see the advantage of having the shell be standalone in terms of load bearing. Seems like even a bad leak/rot would not affect the structural integrity of the unit.

I am interested in hearing other general opinions about the new vs “old” Bigfoot design, materials, and construction techniques. Did they get better or worse after the reboot? For reference I am deciding on new vs used TCs for a 1t. SRW (4100 lb payload capacity). Weight is important, but I want to understand the tradeoffs, because you rarely get something for nothing.

HMS Beagle

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Posted: 02/01/21 03:48pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I can't answer many of the questions, but have owned a 1988 5th wheel, 1996 camper, and 2008 camper. I think the newest does have more wood. I don't know if the fiberglass thickness is any different, the new one isn't all that thick and they are chopper gun layup so you really can't go too thin either. The 1988 and as I remember the 1996 ones had XPS foam while the 2008 has EPS foam ("bead board"). The XPS could be used sort of as a structural core, while the EPS really can't. I doubt the fiberglass can support the shell without reinforcement. On the newer ones they seem to be relying on wood stiffeners glued to the shell, and the interior panelling making of the second skin of the sandwich.


Bigfoot 10.4E, 2015 F350 6.7L DRW 2WD, Autoflex Ultra Air Ride rear suspension, Hellwig Bigwig sway bars front and rear

adamis

Northern California

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Posted: 02/02/21 10:49pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I read that same article about the newer Bigfoots and I was envious to an extent. I believe one change they made that you didn't mention was the switch to real wood for their cabinetry. Not sure how much that would change things but I'm guessing it is slightly heavier. Another thing that stuck out to me was the adaption of CNC for cutting materials. This leads to more accurate joinery and a better finish.

In regards to the fiberglass, although I bought a Bigfoot because of the reputation for being water tight, but that really isn't the case. Yes, the roof is the best aspect of fiberglass as it doesn't deteriorate over time like other solutions. However, older Bigfoots were not without their issues.

The first issue I encountered was the use of non stainless steel screws for everything on the outside of my Bigfoot (2001). Couple that with the first owner living on the coast and the constant thermal changes of cold mornings led to the screws rusting out over time. I went back through and replaced everything with stainless where I could. I emailed Grant at Bigfoot and he said he thought they changed to stainless shortly after mine was built.

The second issue is the screws themselves when it comes to exterior compartments. What they did was just drill holes for the compartment hatches directly into the fiberglass and then screw into that fiberglass. There is no backing to give extra bite for the screw. In most areas there is nothing behind the fiberglass but foam so if you have to service the seal on the compartment, you have to be very careful you don't strip out the 1/8" fiberglass the screw goes into.

Another issue is the Propane hatch. First, the hatch itself is on a flat plane however where it integrates with the fiberglass shell it comes together with two slightly different angles. What that means is that it is a bit of a 3d surface so the hatch won't seal flush on the upper fiberglass shell. Extra sealant is required and be very careful about trying to tighten the screws to pull a tighter seal per my previous issue mentioned. I ended up getting some small metal "U" clips that I put on that gripped on both sides so when I put a screw in, it grabs the metal clip on the backside and gives more bite than the fiberglass alone would.

Dry rot can still be a problem, specifically around the battery compartment, propane hatch and fridge hatch. For the propane hatch, on my camper there is a lip that goes around rim of the hatch except for at the bottom. What I realized is that if it is raining, the water will drip down the hatch door and can fall into the metal frame where it has equal chance to flow either back out and continue down the outside or can flow into the propane compartment and find its way into the corners where it is a square box for with a curved rim giving the opportunity for water to flow between the backside of the fiberglass right on top of the wood where the metal bracket for the jack brackets is located. Had they continued the lip all the way around the hatch compartment, the water would have just rolled out. In my case, I can see the wood has gotten wet and though it doesn't appear to be completely rotted out, is certainly softer than I would like it to be. This same problem by the way can be at the fridge hatch and battery compartment as they also doesn't have a lip on the bottom to keep water from flowing inside the compartment.

Now I haven't seen a new Bigfoot so I don't know if they addressed these issues. I suspect that they did at least make some changes as Grant at Bigfoot seems pretty keen on process improvement. If you buy a new one, look at these items and make sure they aren't a factor or fix them right when you get it home so they won't become an issue. If you are buying a used camper, especially an older one, double check these issues and make sure they aren't a problem.

Don't get me wrong, I love my Bigfoot and would consider it again in a heartbeat if I was in the market for a new non slide camper. Just don't get too caught up in the idea that fiberglass can't have water issues.

Lastly, if you do make the investment, spend some money to figure out how to store it with a roof over it. So many water issues would be solved just by keeping it covered from the elements to begin with, especially when one isn't using it and thus is prone to miss leaks while it is stored.

* This post was edited 02/02/21 10:58pm by adamis *


1999 F350 Dually with 7.3 Diesel
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AH_AK

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Posted: 02/03/21 02:18am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

This is excellent information. Thank you so much for your reply and the detailed information on “known offenders”. The way I see it, the benefit of fiberglass is no corner seems. As you point out though, every shell perforation is a potential ingress point for water. That is certainly disappointing that there is not reinforcement at screw mounting locations (on the older models. That is asking for the threads in the shell to get stripped. Need to be very careful not to over torque the screws. It is good to know what I am getting into and what to look for when inspecting used campers. I am in AK and plan to store the camper outside. I am used to clearing snow off vehicles so I am not worried about snow load, but I had planned to make a custom cover to deal with water and UV exposure during storage. Will probably look into building a carport at some point.

My big issue right now is the Canadian border closing. There are some descent deals in BC, but I can’t go get them. Maybe I can convince someone in BC to drive the camper to the border, but I doubt it. Seems like TCs and RVs in general have gotten very popular during the pandemic. Couple this with reduced production and it is a seller’s market. The factory Bigfoot outlet in Anchorage is 12 months out on new builds. I am trying to educate myself as much as possible so that I can recognize a fair deal quickly and move to secure it.

I digress. The wood cabinetry may be the culprit (or one of the culprits) for the weight gain. Bigfoot is known for its superior fit and finish. Personally, I am more worried about the structural integrity / leaking / rot. I am new to the TC world though and I am gathering that leaks and resealing are just part of the ballgame. I am surprised that they don’t glass the cross sections at the perforations an use sealed inserts for the fasteners. I’m sure it comes down to cost. Could they make a lighter camper that leaked less? Sure, but no one would be able to afford it. I hope that Bigfoot engineers are getting feedback from savvy owners like you and addressing the design related leaking issues.

TxGearhead

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Posted: 02/03/21 06:38am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

On my 2008 I can see where the factory cut/hacksawed the lip out of the bottom of the propane hatch. I assume for fear of propane settling low in the compartment in case of a leak. It always held water. I bought some 3/4" X 3/4" aluminum angle and glued that in. No more water and I'll take my chances with a propane leak.
Another issue I have never understood is the plastic tray the batteries sit in. All four of the bottom corners had a 1/4" hole drilled in them. Any battery acid that puked out ended up draining out of the compartment and down the side of my truck. Duct tape and silicone plugged the holes.
I love it but don't use it much and am considering selling it.


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2018 Landmark Oshkosh
2008 Bigfoot 25C9.4
2014 NauticStar 21 ShallowBay 150HP Yamaha
2016 GoDevil 18X44 35HP Surface Drive

AH_AK

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Posted: 02/03/21 01:40pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If you decide to sell it, I would be interested. I would need to figure out how to get it from TX to AK though. Hopefully Canada starts allowing through traffic soon.

adamis

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Posted: 02/03/21 02:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

AH_AK wrote:

If you decide to sell it, I would be interested. I would need to figure out how to get it from TX to AK though. Hopefully Canada starts allowing through traffic soon.


I am no expert but I think if it was what you really wanted you could arrange for a specialized carrier to pick it up and drop it off to you. Border might be closed for pleasure but it is still open for commerce.

hedgehopper

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Posted: 02/03/21 05:07pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Don't want to hijack your thread. But I am wondering how much of this applies or doesn't apply to the Northern Lite. I thought you might want to consider a NL as an alternative. We started out wanting a Bigfoot but wound up with a NL.

Reisender

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Posted: 02/03/21 06:23pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You might want to phone Grant at the factory. I think they actually changed how they weigh them in regards to what is included in the weight on the sticker. I am not sure though so you might want to call grant.

I am about 20 km from the factory. Have been their many times. [emoticon]. Cool place.

Reisender

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Posted: 02/03/21 06:27pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

adamis wrote:

AH_AK wrote:

If you decide to sell it, I would be interested. I would need to figure out how to get it from TX to AK though. Hopefully Canada starts allowing through traffic soon.


I am no expert but I think if it was what you really wanted you could arrange for a specialized carrier to pick it up and drop it off to you. Border might be closed for pleasure but it is still open for commerce.


Yep. The local dealer (4 km down the road from me) sells and ships bigfoots all over North America. As well, if you take possession on the other side of the border you don’t have to pay Canadian sales tax. The border is about 150 km from here.

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