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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Day 52 2/23/17 - How Much Clearance Is Enough

Above is the route out of the BLM land I've been camping at for the last 5 days.

I'm often asked about my Vandwelling Prius clearance and where I can't go because of the low clearance.  This picture helps me explain how I deal with clearance issues.

I carry off-road chains for emergencies and if chains are required for snow conditions.  Emergencies are just that, if I  get stuck I will use them.  In my 3 years of Prius travels, I haven't been stuck yet.  I can take out the chains and put them in the tires or just put them under the tire for traction.  I do everything possible not to get stuck.

Take the road above.  It's dried out with a large center ridge.  I knew I wouldn't get stuck in the hardened mud, but I did rub the undercarriage of the Prius when I drove through.

Backup 5 days and this was a slippery silt mess of mud.  A Vandwelling friend had noted their difficulties in getting through this with a Sprinter Van.  If a Sprinter was nearly getting stuck, then a Prius would surely get stuck.

I didn't even trying to get there via this route.  I took the only other route around that added 50 miles and an hour to my travels.

Yes. The low clearance of the Prius limits when and where I can go to some places.  I may have to adjust my route or timing in going somewhere based on weather, and road conditions.  

I do not go places I know I'm risking getting stuck.  I have a good visual ability to tell when there may be a problem.  When in doubt I will get out of my car and walk the area.

At the RTR the grader was grading the road.  There was a dirt ridge down the center of the road.  I knew I could make it over it but I would rub underneath and I did.  I also found the grader had made the off road access difficult to get to the RTR parking area as the grader created a ridge on the road edges.  Getting over the ridge required me to get out of the car and knock down the loose dirt with my foot to make it easier to enter without scraping the Prius bottom.

There are places I wish I could go on like poorly maintained Forest Service Roads, Roads with large amounts of sand, through washes that are rough or water is too high, or over cattle grates that have a large drop off on the other side.

I could go these places with my 4x4 Tacoma Truck or even a higher clearance SUV/Crossover, but I then trade off stealth, mileage, and my Prius as a generator, air conditioner, and heater for comfort.

There is no perfect vehicle to give you all these things with off road ability, and the Prius mileage, but the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comes the closest.  The only problem as one of the blog followers sent me a video about is that the hybrid version is no AWD but the non hybrid is.  AWD app rears to give better traction than the hybrid.

Those that have been following me know I don't seem to miss out on much having a Prius, nor do my full-time Prius friends, David and Suanne.

We all get to see the real beauty of nature in our Prius's. 




  1. Do you carry a snap strap in addition to chains?

    1. Bryce,

      Yes I carry a automotive store tow strap with hooks on both ends. I've never used that either.


  2. Every thing is a trade off comfort or mileage. You have your system figured out! Best wishes on your travels. Thanks also for your report back on the lifepo4 battery. Tim

    1. Tim,

      Exactly! What works for one doesn't work for someone else. I'd be fine in many vehicles but I would always be looking to improve.

      By the way. The solar panel setup for my LiFePo4 battery worked great in the desert. I'd be in float mode in less than 2 hours of sun.