Showing posts with label RVdesign. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RVdesign. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Almost Needing a Heater

It is easy to poke fun at ascetics. I do a bit of it myself, particularly where the 'holy man in the van' syndrome displays itself, usually ostentatiously. Therefore it will seem ironic that this post appears to strut its asceticism before the readers.

Perhaps asceticism only seems ridiculous when it concerns itself with a topic that doesn't interest you, personally. Somebody who, say, gets up at 5 a.m. and runs five miles every day may laugh at people who are abstemious at the dinner table. There are many such examples.

In my case, small RVs don't particularly interest me. It seems like common sense to keep a rig small-to-medium in size, and that is that. But what does interest me is avoiding heaters in a camper. There are some obvious practical reasons behind this, but I would only be fooling myself if I started running on about microscopic 'practical' justifications.

The real reason is that the challenge of living without heaters inspires me. Blame my ethnicity, past habit of reading polar exploration books, a childhood or delivering newspapers in the frozen Midwest, or more recently, my dislike of summer camping, and growing appreciation of winter camping.

At first the weather gods were predicting that it would fall to the high teens this morning. Then they backed off to 20 F. Still, the chances were pretty good I'd break my personal record of 28 F inside the trailer by this morning. 

Ahh, but this time I have a secret weapon. Perhaps you have seen the classic movie, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. There are two really good reasons to watch the movie: looking at Gene Tierney, and listening to the musical score of Bernard Herrmann. 

Courtesy of IMDB.com
At one point Gene Tierney's character, a young widow in England in the 1930's, prepares for bed by heating some kind of water container. Of course!, we 'moderns' have forgotten that a large reservoir of hot water kept people warm at night, before the age of central heating.

So I bought a Platypus brand water bottle, the flexible kind, with a capacity of 2 liters. I put the hottest water I could stand in it. The plastic and the seams did not melt. The heat lasted for three hours, and I slept like a baby. What a magnificent comforting feeling it gives you in bed!

So take that! Mr. Buddy Heater, Olympian, Propex, and Dickinson heaters. We live in harmony with nature in this camper.
 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Appreciating Cuteness

What statement from his wife does a married man dread the most? You could choose worse than this one: the couple is shopping. The poor fellow is bored out of his mind, but the path of least resistance is just to humor her. There is something noble and admirable about his stoic resignation. 

After awhile he finally hears what he knew was coming: "Honey, look at this. It is so cyoooooooot!" It is particularly cringe-worthy if spoken with a girlish squeal. Whereupon the wife comes running up to him, cooing and cuddling some utterly useless item that she has squandered unconscionable sums of money on. It might be the item's shape or texture, but it's probably the color.

The demographic of human males who suffer in this way is fairly broad. Their suffering may be more intense and predictable if they are middle-class, from a northern European Protestant heritage. And if they do something technical for a living.

This lengthy preamble was probably not really needed to establish my credentials with the reader as one of those no-nonsense guys who has no appreciation for cuteness. Until recently.

The other day a vehicle pulled into the campground with a small trailer behind it. I wanted to run it down, and even before they got parked, start mushing and gushing how cyoooooot! it was. It was small, and had only one axle. The paint job was fresh and custom. Some things had been done on the inside, too.

Although 'retro' style trailers have become quite the rage, this little baby was authentic: it was from 1967, had the rounded look, and some of the Z trim patterns they put on back then.

If only I could remember what color it was... 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Creating the Perfect Tow Vehicle Out of Imperfection

Wiser men than I have fallen victim to the 'previous investment trap.' That is my official excuse for taking so long to turn an imperfect -- and steadily worsening -- tow vehicle situation into a drastically better choice. 

(Since I refuse to carry a mountain bike on the outside of a vehicle, my tow vehicle choices are restricted to a van or a pickup with a heavy, expensive cap on the back. I am afraid the white cargo van has become such a stereotype that it will receive prejudicial treatment from rangers.)

In fact I haven't been this pleased and excited for a long time. There really is something to be said for agonizing over a problem for a long time before finally 'hitting the ball out of the park.' It adds drama to life.

When I put the doggie door into the rear cargo ramp in my cargo trailer, I finally broke free of the Previous Investment Trap. I abandoned the idea of making a screen room out of the back of the trailer, and decided to see if the mountain bike could be mounted on the cargo ramp.

Could it really be this easy?

i

But won't the bike snag or jam something as you raise it to the inside?


Nope. It is the same each time, so the empty space around the bike can be filled with storage bags or boxes.

But what about the chain reaction this was supposed to cause inside my trailer? It only took a day to work all that out. A bit of downsizing helped. Having the bike inside has only made things slightly more cramped.

The end result is that my next tow vehicle can be 'anything.' It will probably be a Chevy Silverado pickup or a Nissan Frontier. No cap will be necessary. I'll put a couple wheel-well tool boxes in the bed of the truck.

__________________________________

But how does any of this help the reader if they are under different circumstances? The details don't, of course. But if we back up a step at look at the principles involved in the problem solving, it can be useful. 

1. Rebelling against the Previous Investment Trap.

2. Hitting a 'double' on the rear cargo door before trying to hit a 'home run.' (Think of the cautious, build-on-small successes taken by the USA and the UK in rolling back the Wehrmacht in North Africa, then Sicily, then Italy. Also, consider the island hopping by General MacArthur in the Pacific war of World War II.)

3. Being nudged by comments on this blog and on other blogs. Not trying to operate in a vacuum. Not surrendering to the romantic nonsense of the solitary inventor.

4. Realizing that I am dissuaded by a half dozen small disadvantages to some approach, because I have a tendency to exaggerate the cumulative effect of all of these. Perhaps it is the messy clutter that makes me lazy.

5. Solving the tow truck conundrum by not falling into the 'take that hill, boys' approach of a stupid general. The general should try a flanking movement or move his offensive to an off-center theater of operations. (Consider the success that General Sherman had in the Chattanooga/Atlanta/Savannah theater in the American War Between the States. I believe that, despite its failure, the Gallipoli operation in the Great War was brilliant. It failed because of tactical mistakes.)

6. The consequences of stubborn, moral intransigence. Even though my current mountain bike only has garage sale resale value, I have simply refused to transport it on the outside of a vehicle. That created the conundrum in the first place.

But I'm glad I didn't surrender on this point. 

7. Forcing myself to give in on something before I could expect to gain something.

8. Although it has never been a habit of mine to look back at a solved problem and lay out the principles involved, it should have been. It should be.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thinking My Way Out of a Dead End


Finally I have some good news to report about my new tow vehicle.  There are so many headwinds to face, thanks to easy financing by the Federal Reserve and more restrictive regulations coming from Washington, DC.  I have complained about these trends before, so today I want to discuss this on a different level. Let's think of it as an example of problem-solving in general. 

There's no point in pissing and moaning about these negative trends because I can't do anything about them, other than work around them as well as I can.

Even though I have fewer options for tow vehicles compared to the past, I have more options than other campers. 

Depending on how you categorize these tow vehicles, I have a half dozen options. None of them are terrible. So what is the basic approach here? So far, I have always thought myself half to death by trying to come up with one more option: one magical, exciting, new option that revolutionized the situation  -- something that I had somehow overlooked.

This approach seemed so irresistible. But it produced nothing. Finally I faced up to the fact that this was just juvenile romanticism.

Look at what I was doing to each of my half dozen half-decent options: I was immediately assassinating them with a 'yea, but...'

What if I actually acted like an adult, for a change, and accepted these half dozen options as being the 'hand of cards that I have been dealt', and tried to improve one or two of them, instead of running off to escapist romanticism about a whole new option? Well, I did it, and it worked: nothing radical, but a noticeable improvement of what existed before.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

UPDATE: Hope for the Generator Ghettoes During Winter

There is a tendency to be discouraged by the noise pollution when camping in the winter. Don't be. Things are improving. Solar panels and high quality generators are becoming more common.

And yet some people still buy one of those yellow P.o.S generators from China just to save $600. What fraction is that of their total rig expense? For many RVers, it is less than 1%. Hell, that's round-off error.

For those who are burdened by the $600, consider the alternative I posted about in the tab "Almost Needing a Generator," at the top of the screen.

Regardless of the noisiness of your neighbor's generator, most of its 'on-hours' would simply disappear if he put $200 into a proper "three stage" charger, such as Iota, Xantrex, Blue Sea, Samlex, etc.

But instead, your neighbor simply pulls the electrical power cord out of the hole in the side of the RV, just as he would in an RV park, sticks an adapter on the end, and plugs it into his generator.

Then what happens?! The AC power goes from the generator to his rig's "converter/charger", which powers the DC circuits and slowly charges the rig's battery at 13.5 Volts. You can't charge a battery quickly unless you get up to 14.4--14.8 Volts, which is what would happen with a proper three stage charger. Thus most of his generator hours are wasted. 

Does anyone know what fraction of RVs come from the factory with crappy "converter/chargers" that only put out 13.5 Volts DC to the batteries? After writing this post, I bumped into an answer. See the Epilogue below.

For instance I bought a 30 Amp charger from Samlex for $200. I charge my two 6-volt GC2 "golf cart" batteries this way, on a cloudy day.  I will run it 30 minutes, and be optimistic that the solar panels will get lucky later in the day.

__________________________________

Epilogue. Quartzsite is a good place to learn about these things. I was pleased to learn that the standard RV supplier of converter/chargers, Progressive Dynamics, sells a $30 optional module, with a cable and connector, that upgrades the Intelli-power 9100 series into a 4 stage charger. You just mount the little "Charge Wizard" module to a hole in a wooden panel, connect it, and push the button to go into 4 stage charging.

Hooray for them! This would be a good way for your neighbor to cut down on his hours of generator usage.

Check out the Series 9200 of Intellipower converter/chargers. It might have the Charge Wizard already built into it.   

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What If You ALMOST Need a Generator?

Long-suffering readers know that I like to poke fun -- gently I hope -- at campers who are Gandhi or Thoreau wannabees. They also know that I am not a solar purist. A rational and professional camper uses technology up to the point of diminishing returns. (Or more correctly, the point of diminishing marginal utility.)

And yet there are solar purists who make it work for them. People who have vans or motorhomes probably don't count, since they can always charge their house batteries from their engine battery on a cloudy day. So let's only discuss trailers.

A trailer-puller can connect their tow vehicle to the trailer, and run the engine. But that charges too slowly, perhaps 7 or 8 Amps.

So what do you do when you finally admit that even Arizona is not sunny every day, and that you occasionally park under trees, or near the perpetually cloudy Coast? Buy a windmill? Never heard anything good about them. Besides, you need to supplement a solar system with a secondary system that doesn't depend on the weather.

You could always suck it up and pay to camp at some place with electricity. But let's not give in to defeatism. We will remain loyal to the Cause.

What is so bad about good generators?, such as a quiet-running Honda 1000 watt inverter generator. Well of course, there is the $850 cost.
  1. You must put it inside at night, worry about it walking off, or increase your insurance. Lifting a 30 pound device into a vehicle is asking for a back injury. You must be careful.
  2. Do occasional maintenance, and drag a gasoline can around. Invariably you will forget to fill the gas can when you fill your vehicle.
  3. Find space for it. (probably in a plastic tub, that won't leak oil.)
You must also get a 30 amp, three-stage, battery charger. Of course you need one of them to plug into shore power, although it could cost less.
______________________________________

So I tried an experiment:
  1. Hook an inverter to the battery of the tow vehicle, and run the engine.
  2. Run the output of the inverter to a battery charger for charging the house battery.
Obviously I run the van's engine when the inverter is sending 500 Watts to the battery charger in the trailer. I use a common outdoor 25 foot long extension cord to connect to the charger in the trailer.


The furring strip screwed to the bottom of the plywood keeps the whole thing from sliding off. I added an external fuse to the positive line of the inverter and the charger.

So far, so good. Remember, this is only to be used occasionally, as an alternative to buying a generator. (About 20 days per year.)

I did learn not to take the nominal ratings literally [1].  So I downsized the battery charger to a Samlex 30 amp charger [2]. Initially it eats 500 Watts from the inverter. After 15 minutes it has charged four flooded golf cart batteries to the point that they are going into the second stage -- so called "absorption" stage -- of charging, and the power falls gradually. I plan on shutting everything down after 20 minutes total.

You might consider this solution a bit of an extravagance: the pure sine wave inverter did cost $250, after all. Perhaps a modified sine wave inverter would have sufficed, and cost $100 less. But I have had mixed with results with these. 

And the new inverter will be my backup inverter, and perhaps be able to power a 110 VAC tire inflator or powerful tools with it. If it were really necessary, you could get double duty out of your house inverter, if you made it easy to remove.
________________________________

[1] A 45 amp IOTA battery charger was too big for a 1000 Watt pure sine wave inverter (Xantrex ProWatt SW 1000), even though the nominal ratings would suggest otherwise.

[2] I always buy electrical controllers, inverters, etc., from DonRowe.com in Oregon. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Murphy's Law Has Loopholes

Obviously the world doesn't need to see any of my photographs of the Moab area, with all the tourists running around with iPhones. Still, I like to take a few photographs on a mountain bike ride, perhaps just as an excuse to stop and enjoy certain spots. I did so here.



Just then I noticed something weird happening on my face. My prescription sunglasses had just fallen apart. Actually it was just that one screw in the frame had come off. Can you believe it? With all the crap that I bring along and never use, I didn't have the little screwdriver and a couple spare screws that you need to fix eyeglasses.

What if I were a rock climber and this had happened? Or a sea kayaker? Is this why 'four eyes' used to get draft deferments?

At any rate I was able to mountain bike back to the van with only one lens, and the other eye closed. My three-dimensional vision was messed up, and it is surprising that I didn't goof up on the Utah slickrock.

But just think. I've been wearing eyeglasses for 50 years, and this is the first time that something like this happened outdoors, on some kind of outing. Why doesn't it happen frequently? Anything could damage a pair of eyeglasses: going over the handlebars on a bike accident; stepping on your eyeglasses when sleeping in a tent; a rambunctious dog chewing on them, etc. 

And there is no Walmart optical department in Moab. That means that you will have to go to a real eye-doctor. The receptionist will probably inform you that a new state law requires you to get a $150 eye exam whenever the customer merely needs a new nose-piece or tiny screw for his existing eyeglasses.

When I came home I easily fixed the sunglasses once I had found the little screwdriver and pile of spare screws. The last time I went to the Walmart optical department, they used Loctite threadlocker on the tiny screw, so I did that too.

Looking around the trailer I wondered if there were other things that are miraculously immune to Murphy's Law. There are.
  • the propane stove,
  • screws sunk into wood. They never rattle loose, despite the washboard roads,
  • the Shur-Flo water pump,
  • roof vents, and Fan-tastic fans,
  • Rubbermaid storage tubs made out of 'LDPE,' low density polyethylene. The opposite applies to Sterilite tubs made out of 'PP', polypropylene.
  • mountain bike tires and tubes. I can go for years without a flat,
  • and LED lights, I suspect, although they are new enough to be unsure of.
Since most people spend quite a bit of money and worry on repairing automobiles, it seems counter-intuitive to claim that most of an automobile seems immune to Murphy's Law, but let's not forgot just how many parts there are.

You could say the same of animals' bodies, including human bodies. It isn't Murphy's fault that people squander their youthful, healthy years while hoping to "really start living" at a retirement age that is past their biological expiration date.

If you want a challenge, make a list of the things in your life that seem curiously immune to Murphy's Law, and then make the opposite list, of things that seem invented just to exasperate you. Can you explain the common property of the items on each list? Things can't end up on the 'good' list or the 'baddie' list at random. There must be explainable principles at work.

On the 'evil' list I would put zippers at the top, closely followed by those hateful butane flame throwers that you need to start the stove. Regarding the latter, why don't I just use matches? They seem pretty immune to Murphy's Law.

'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars...'

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Counter-intuitive Habit #2: Navy Showers

Well, thank goodness that last post is over. It doesn't happen very often: this blogger flipping into "prophet" mode, and coming down from the mountain top with stone tablets, full of warnings and proscriptions to the Children of the Wheel.

So let's just reiterate the bottom line: Counter-intuitive habit #1 = Learning to start an outing going downhill, when it makes sense.

At the moment I am trying to entice a friend to come up and camp with me. She has the most perfect rig I have ever seen for hook-up-free camping, down dirt roads, on public land. And coming from me, that is worth something. It is a "Tiger." In fact, considering how illogical most people's rig-choices are, it might make sense to say that choosing a Tiger is on our official list of counter-intuitive camping habits. Let's let that stew awhile...

Unfortunately I suspect that she is still a slave of "real" showers, as one gets at New Mexico's state parks. My sermons have not inspired her to renounce sin, apparently.

Very well then, when I was a lad my father, a sailor in World War II, was disgusted with the wasteful and decadent showers that I always took. A hundred times he said something like, "We only got a gallon and a half per day on the ship, and that was for Shit, Shower, and Shave." I was not impressed. I would just park myself under the hot spray, and count on erosion to do the job. I barely used a wash cloth. The shower only ended when the water turned cool. Thus, when I started dispersed camping without hookups, I really wondered if I was doomed to failure. 

It helped to break the problem into pieces, and to use words exactly. The sheer quantity of water was not my weakness -- the temperature was. To this day, I despise swimming in cool water. But as long as the water was plenty hot, it turned out to be pretty easy to be happy with less of it.

That is particularly true if you want to minimize trips to somebody's water spigot, and you want to minimize the weight and cost of camping. Water is the heaviest thing that you have discretionary control over.

As with any habit that initially appears abstemious and puritanical, I helps to visualize it in a positive way. Believe it or not, I get pleasure from visualizing a molecular layer of surfactant and a couple layers of water molecules starting at my head and running downhill, until they exit at the toes. I know that sounds silly, but it works.

Although it takes a certain amount of trouble to set up the shower in a small rig like mine, this can be turned into a positive thing if you visualize it as a "sacred" ritual, or at least the moral equivalent of cultural rituals like "getting the tea going" or entertaining guests with a complete meal. Let it be leisurely -- it helps you savor it more.

Or consider reading a broad historical survey of human civilization. Think of how important water has been! You could easily make a long list of turning points where water was crucial. And if that isn't enough, consider how much of your own rotting carcass is water. But does anyone living in a First World economy every dwell on such things, deliberately? Wouldn't it be great to actually appreciate this marvelous and fundamental material? You do that every time you take a navy shower. And it isn't just sentimental abstraction -- the appreciation is solid and real.

My success at converting to navy showers was helped by avoiding the "back and forth" syndrome. Most people are more successful at eliminating bad habits if they snap over to the new habit all at once, and never "reward" themselves by backsliding into sin. There is a fine quote from William James on that, if I could find it.

Aw hell, I'm wasting my breath. Trying to talk a damn woman into navy showers is like convincing her she can be happy without Bed Bath and Beyond, or Trader Joe's, or Costco.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cost of Converting a Cargo Trailer into a Travel Trailer

So, can you save a fortune by converting an enclosed cargo trailer into a travel trailer, rather than buying a travel trailer from the dealer? The answer may be 'yes' if you put minimal improvements into the cargo trailer, and use it merely as a hard-walled tent for camping a few weekends per year.

The answer is vaguer if you add enough to the cargo trailer to make it practical for most (non-extremist) full time RVers. 

If you browse around on the internet, you will encounter low-ball estimates for how much it costs to convert an enclosed cargo trailer into a full-functional, self-contained travel trailer. There are several reasons for this:
  1. Sloppy accounting. After all, it isn't fun to save all the receipts. The mind gloms onto a couple of the big-ticket items that are easy to remember; then it is easy to claim that that is the cost of converting a cargo trailer. Nonsense! In fact you are eaten alive by a thousand-and-one small expenses.
  2. Lifestyle cheerleading. With good intentions, converters want to offer encouragement to newbies or wannabees. They become more interested in selling the idea than in accuracy. Or they may be interested in clickbait income or even have guru aspirations. (Neither makes them evil, but it makes their information unreliable.)
Trailers made by the RV industry are really not very good camping machines. But they have attractive color schemes. After all, they are not aimed at serious outdoorsmen. This results in expensive frills and junk that a serious camper will probably have to alter or dispose of.  So it makes sense to start with a "blank piece of paper" and only put the stuff into it that you want. 

Otherwise the do-it-yourself approach wouldn't make much sense. You cannot compete against a factory, and only naive newbie do-it-yourselfers make that mistake. The "fortune" that they expect to save is illusory.

Still, it will save a few thousand dollars to convert a cargo trailer. It will be lighter, simpler, and easier to repair. You will be able to camp in a wider variety of locations -- and that is the real point. You will be able to tow it with a lighter duty pickup truck or van.  

A small window was added to the door and the driver's side, after this picture was taken. But what really counts is being able to camp in places like this.

There is a discussion forum dedicated to these conversions, 
http://tnttt.com/viewforum.php?f=42 . Be skeptical about their advice: I'm not sure if most of these guys really go camping with their conversions, or whether they just enjoy their labor of love. Despite wallowing in microscopic details, they seldom mention the 'bottom line' regarding the weight and cost of the conversion.

My cargo trailer is a standard size for a single traveler: nominally 6 foot X 12 foot, single axle, standard steel frame with an aluminum skin on the walls, with a blunt V in the front. It has proven to be the perfect size. 

(Cargo trailers are sized rationally, by the size of the box. Travel trailers are sized by the total length, even out to the hitch. So a 6 X 12 cargo trailer is the same size as a 6 X 16 travel trailer.)
___________________________________

Weight: a naked cargo trailer of my size weighs 1400 pounds with brakes. When the conversion was done, it weighed 3000 pounds, which amazingly enough is the nominal GVWR. 

(Even more amazingly, the weights on the left and right tires were equal, to within 10 pounds!)

Well, what do you think? Is adding 1600 pounds [1] during the conversion good or bad? Note that the 3000 pounds was weighed on a scale, and it contains all my stuff for real living.

Footnote [1] may convince you that I am not cheating by ignoring something, and that the grand result is self-contained for hook-up free camping. 

Although I was surprised how much the little things added up to, in weight, I am happy to be able to downsize my next tow vehicle. Essentially it will be the same as for towing one of the larger fiberglass trailers, like the Casita.
___________________________________

The inside standing height is 6.5 feet. It takes a bit of looking to find that extra height at a dealer's lot. The standard stripper height is 6.0 feet. That might be OK if you are under 5'9" tall.

Cost: The trailer was bought off a dealer's lot for $3000. It included an RV side door, a ramp in the back, and 15" tires. But a standard trailer off a lot has those dreadful 4 inch drop axles, and no brakes. Half the reason for doing the conversion is to escape the low ground clearance of lightweight travel trailers. So I swapped out to a straight axle, resulting in excellent ground clearance. 

The cargo trailer has this kind of ground clearance after the straight axle was installed. And the springs are UNDER the axle!  I could switch to a bigger diameter tire when the time comes. No drain plumbing dangling below the trailer. Success.


You can get brakes added after you buy the stripped down trailer from a dealer. You get this done at a trailer shop -- which usually is not an RV dealer.

So, after swapping to the straight axle and adding the brakes, the naked trailer was now up to $4000.

Now we can proceed to the cost of the conversion proper.

The final cost of the converted trailer was $11,500. Therefore the conversion proper cost $7,500. [2]  This is no clerical error. All receipts were saved. No costs were hidden by moving "off budget," which is the usual accounting trick. I double-checked the total from the receipts by looking at the total of the withdrawals from my bank account. 

I hope you aren't disappointed with that number. Remember that this was a conversion for a full-time RVer who wants the same level of comfort as in a conventional travel trailer. You could take the opposite approach, treat a naked cargo trailer as a hard-walled tent, and make piecemeal improvements as funds permit.
   
I hope these bottom line numbers correct some of the false expectations that are promulgated on the internet. This was a worthwhile project that I would do again. Remember that it only uses the skills that any home-improvement enthusiast has.
__________________________________

[1]  A 5 gallon jug of drinking water, a 5 gallon porta-potty, food in a 12 volt compressor-based refrigerator, two burner propane stove, small sink, large and pretty laminated kitchen counter-top, clothes, tools, office chair, etc.

It only includes one small (5 gallon) tank of propane, four deep-cycle flooded 6 volt batteries, and 480 watts of solar panels.

The conversion did not add a water heater, awning, or microwave. The spare tire is put inside the tow vehicle. Most of the drinking water is in 5 gallon jugs in the tow vehicle.

[2]  But surely, you say, I must have been extravagant. I could supply character references if you like that less than $50 was spent on making things look pretty.

A)  But...but...you could have knocked the four batteries down to two, you say. 

Well yea, but then you just cycle the batteries deeper and they don't last as long. How does that save money?

B)  But...you could get by with 320 Watts of solar panels instead of splurging on 480 Watts.

Well yea, but by adding that last panel ($200), I was willing to do without a generator. These days, skimping on solar panels is false economy.

C)  But...you could get by with an ice chest. Or restrict your diet to brown rice and oatmeal.

Give me a break. Besides I carried over a used ($500) Whynter refrigerator from the old trailer. So the $11,500 total does not include a refrigerator. Is that cheating? I don't think so, because everybody probably has a certain amount of stuff from the basement, garage, or old trailer that they will move into the new trailer for "free". In my case, it was a $500 refrigerator, and that is all.

D)  But...you don't really need a water pump to survive. You could use baby wipes, and wipe a little here, and a little there. 

Big deal, a water pump costs $80, and is one of the real success stories of RV technology. It gets used 30 times per day, and will last for the next 20 years. It spares you all that spillage. And how do you take a shower, or clean anything for that matter, unless you rinse it off with pressure?

E)  But...you added two small windows and a Fantastic fan roof vent. Your trailer would be more stealthy if you had omitted those extravagances. 

This is not a stealth cargo trailer. You are at the wrong blog if you are interested in that.

F)  But...you shouldn't have wasted all that money on fancy woodworking, exotic paneling, imported Italian granite countertops. (eyes rolling) 

Once again, character references will be supplied on request...

G)  But...you included two months of rent in an RV park for the conversion. You could have done it at an LTVA or in a national forest and saved a fortune.  

Yea right, transportation is free. Do you have any idea of how many trips you take to the hardware store on a project like this? In my case, it was three shopping expeditions per day for 2 months.

I had great luck by finding an RV park in Farmington NM that let me boondock the old and new trailers, side by side, in the storage row in back of a regular RV park. He charged a total of $175 per month. I was a couple miles from Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, Ace, a trailer store, and even a metals supplier.

So I had it as good as it could be. Still, all that running around was ridiculous. I included $500 in the total for transportation and eating-out during the conversion.

_____________________________________________________

COMMENTS:

  1. I don't think it would be possible to outfit a decent fulltime rig for less than you did it. You are a poster child for frugality. Hell, we carry 3,000 pounds of wine, water, guns, ammo, and food on our rig before you even get to all the other stuff. :~)
    ReplyDelete
  2. Good stuff. I'm in a truck camper now, but considering the van/cargo trailer route, so it's nice to have a data point cost-wise. On an unrelated note, based on extensive investigation of the clubs during my younger years, I'm pretty sure that there is not a "standard" stripper height. But if there is, it's less than the 6 feet you indicate above, unless you're also counting the high heels. ;)
    ReplyDelete

    Replies







    1. Glad you liked it. I am still experimenting with footnotes, appendices, and smaller fonts to keep the overall theme intact for a first reading, with details off-loaded somewhere.

      I guess my reference to strippers was a Freudian slip, brought on by talking about "naked" trailers.
      Delete
    2. I have always liked pickup campers, except for the cost of the camper and, even worse, the heavy-duty pickup truck that it takes to hold 2500 pounds in the bed.

      The virtue of a cargo trailer is more comfort/cost, lower overall price, and you can use a common and "inexpensive" tow vehicle.
      Delete
  3. You mention the cargo trailer is a "blunt V" in the front. In the posted photo, I see a a totally flat, squared off front. Am I missing something in the orientation/perspective of the photo?
    ReplyDelete

    Replies







    1. You're right, Chris. That camera angle plays a trick on the eyes. But the wedge extends forward 18". Gives you a bigger desk in the front of the trailer, and still leaves room for one 5 gallon propane tank on the tongue.
      Delete
  4. "Since the RV industry makes expensive junk"

    Make no mistake. Your utility trailer is junk as well. It's just bare bones, less expensive junk. :-)
    ReplyDelete

    Replies







    1. I'll certainly admit that the RV-style, side door is junk. It doesn't even have an interior aluminum frame. It is held on by aluminum trim that is glued to the rest of the door. Ridiculous!
      Delete
  5. The idea of converting a cargo trailer into travel trailer is brilliant! My family and I love to go camping in the summer, and now that it's getting warm, this is something I will have to look into. What kind of trailer would you recommend for this project? We don't have a cargo trailer to convert, so any advice is welcome!

    Cargo Trailer
    ReplyDelete
  6. You don't provide enough details for me to really respond.

    Keep in mind that my conversion was aimed at full-time RVing for a single man. The details will change quite a bit for a family who wants to do weekend camping.

    You might enjoy reading the cargo trailer conversion sub-forum on tnttt.com . Most of the contributors are men with families who go weekend camping. Keep in mind that they usually overdo it on the conversion. Perhaps it is "man-cave" therapy for many of them.

    You can treat the cargo trailer like it is a hard-walled tent, move some camping gear into it that you already own, and resist making a small suburban house-on-wheels out of it.

    1. Your "cabinets" inside would just be Sterilite and Rubbermaid drawers and stackable tubs.

    2. "Furniture", "desks", and "kitchen counters" would just be Luann plywood thrown across the plastic tubs.

    3. "Chairs" would just be folding outdoor chairs that you probably already own.

    4. "Plumbing" could just be 5 gallon plastic water jugs,

    5. Pots and pans from a thrift store.

    Not comfie enough, yet? Too much like real camping? Then nibble away at improvements, one at a time. You will appreciate each of them. Maybe it is a good chance for the kids to learn how to work with tools.

    But it is hard to imagine that a family (you didn't say how big) could adapt to a trailer box smaller than 7' X 16'. It will have to be pulled by a pickup truck, not a minivan or hatchback CUV.
    ReplyDelete
  7. Excellent suggestions. The bit by bit would apply to me since my wife is strictly motel minded!
    ReplyDelete
  8. Ron, glad that my bottom line cost of a COMPLETE conversion didn't scare you away from taking a "nibble away at it" approach.
    ReplyDelete
  9. Great write up of your conversion. I also love your rational thinking process about costs, including travel time to the supply stores. I always mention roundtrip mileage when discussing distances, and people look at me with a puzzled look if they don't indeed challenge the figure. I look forward to reading your other posts and live the "free life" vicariously!
    ReplyDelete
  10. I there somewhere I can see the in side? I want to see what the 7k+ goes to lol
    ReplyDelete