Help with my bug out camper

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by sdr, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. sdr

    sdr Monkey++

    Last year I purchased a 23' 1979 Fleetwood wilderness camper. Only paid $1000 for it. It had been sitting for a number of years. Original owner. It needed a ton of work but the guy said everything worked good. Which most of it did. I'll list the repairs I've done... 1874a8d9-d478-4b82-9550-6e770874d11b.

    Replaced all 4 roof vents.
    Cleaned and sealed the metal roof.
    Replaced the sewer vent cap.
    Repaired the frig and furnace roof vent.
    Replaced all the running lights.
    Repaired both doors (rotted bottom frames).
    Replaced all the screening (mainly for the smell).
    Removed old and recaulked the exterior as needed.
    Replaced exterior light.
    Replaced o rings in both propane tank valves.
    "Flipped" both axles.
    Repaired, checked, repacked and adjusted all 4 hub assemblies.
    Repaired 1 split abs drain line.
    Sanded, cleaned and repainted the tanks, frame and load levelers.
    Replaced the tires.

    Repaired 2 areas on the ceiling (Water leak).
    Replaced kitchen and bath faucets.
    Installed newer water pump.
    Replaced all poly water lines with pex.
    Upgraded the thermostat.
    Installed all led lighting.
    Made new curtains as needed.
    Checked, repaired and lubed all window hardware.
    Replaced the carpet.
    Recaulked the tub/shower.
    Resewn the cushion cover seams as needed.

    And a few other small items.



    Cleaning was the biggest challenge. Had many years of dirt in it. Luckily the only signs of mice was in the bath vanity. Must have come in through the holes in the floor where the drain lines come up under the tub. Still need to figure out how to seal them.

    It's been fun working on it. The repairs have been pretty simple. Thinking I have about $500 - $600 in parts. I've been looking at getting a camper for sometime now. Just didn't want to go in debt buying one. This one is built and designed very nice. Tons of storage space. The rear of the camper has a large compartment under the floor.

    My wife and I want it set up as a bug out camper as much as possible. I do understand that moving a large camper isn't the ideal situation during shtf however it will give us another option to utilize. I figure worse case is having to unload the gear into our bov's and continue without it. Best case is making it to our bol. Which is around 1.5 hours west.

    Now that it's warming up I'm continuing the final work on it. Setting it up the original way it was intended is pretty straightforward. Doing the modifications needed for a more permanent use is slowing me down.

    Instead of listing all of the issues I'm running into on one post I think I should separate them into different ones.

    In the future I would like to ask advice on topics like

    Emergency food ideas and storage methods.
    Additional water storage and purification.
    Alternative methods of heat.

    Yesterday I started on the solar charging system. That's what I would like to concentrate on now. Originally it has one battery mounted outside behind the propane bottles up front. From what I can figure it doesn't have a way to charge the battery when the camper is plugged into AC power. It is wired to be connected to the tow vehicles alternator but from what I've read it isn't a good way to charge the camper battery. Installing a solenoid or switch to disconnect the trucks battery while running on the campers battery sounds like the best way to charge it using that method.
    I would like to install the battery in one of the storage compartments instead of up front. Figure it would be better protected from thieves and weather. Not sure about how to properly store it. Acid, maintenance and explosive gas are my concerns. Plus, when I add batteries, they all won't fit on the tongue. I have it wired up in the front compartment now. Connected to a charge controller and a 54 watt homemade solar panel that's sitting on the dog house in the yard.

    Any ideas on how to properly store the battery in one of the compartmens?
    Is it possible to hardwire an ac charger straight to the battery leads so when the camper is plugged in it automatically charges it? Without effecting the solar charge system?
    How would I trickle charge the battery when the camper isn't being used? Permanently mount a solar panel on the roof?

    Next weekend I hope to finish the battery install. Any ideas is greatly appreciated.
  2. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Strap the battery down with a marine tie down and battery tray

    I'll let others address the charging and solar issues. One thing you didn't mention was tires. They should be replaced if you haven't, and find a place for a spare.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
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  3. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    I think your on the right track, how ever, a few considerations I have is the weight and amount of storage currently available, and recommndations to correct those things! I guess before getting into all that, I would ask how you intend to use this as a Bug Rig? It is also going to be used as a more traditional R.V, or is it just for getting from A to B and staying there, and do you plan to live it it once you arrve at your final location!
  4. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    It sounds as if you have a location to BO too, I would put in a camper shed to park the camper under, Then that's were the solar panels and battery's come in play.
    TnAndy, Seepalaces, Ura-Ki and 5 others like this.
  5. Altoidfishfins

    Altoidfishfins Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    If you want to have a larger battery bank and move them to the inside shell of the TT, I'd go with AGM type batteries. They're more expensive, but you don't have acid or gassing issues unless something seriously malfunctions.

    In addition, most can be mounted in different positions (check the manufacturer) if you need to save space, impossible with flooded type lead acid. Make sure they're deep cycle and designed for alternative energy use.

    I'd also have some sort of a low voltage disconnect. AGM batteries, from what I've seen where they've been used in solar powered communications sites, don't handle being run completely down. Do it once, they're scrap.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
  6. toydoc

    toydoc Monkey+++

    My Wilderness trailer had a battery charger under the kitchen sink in a wooden box. Had some fusses in it that were open and when I replaced them it would charge the battery if I was using shore power. AGM batteries are the way to go. Good looking and good luck with with the solar stuff.
    Seepalaces, Gator 45/70 and Ura-Ki like this.
  7. Zimmy

    Zimmy Wait, I'm not ready!

    Lots of good ideas here. Especially the AGM batteries. I upgraded to them when I upgraded to all LED lighting.

    Do you have a propane fridge? That can save energy as well.
    Seepalaces, Gator 45/70 and Ura-Ki like this.
  8. sdr

    sdr Monkey++

    Tires are new. Good idea on the marine box. I was also considering a used cooler. One big enough to hold 2.

    It's going to be used as a traditional RV. We just feel it's best to keep it stocked and ready. I could always pull out the heavy storage bins when we go camping and replace them when we get back home. I have a cabin at the bol. Camper is just another option and potentially guest house.

    Great idea on the garage to park it in at the bol. I've done that before when I lived in a motorhome back in the early 90's. Woodstove made heating it pretty easy.

    AGM batteries would be nice. Definatly solve the maintenance and gas problems. Cost is a big concern for me. Maybe in the future.
    Seepalaces, Gator 45/70 and Ura-Ki like this.
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    As it is for the majority. What price can you place on secure and (more or less) comfortable existence in exile?
  10. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Started on? Like what? Already purchased panels and a charge controller? Or, still in the design phase?

    The first order of business is to sort out the age of the battery at the front of the trailer. New? Used? Flooded lead acid? AGM? Deep cycle, hopefully? Amp hour rating? Give us some details here, if possible, please. I am asking these questions, because you don't want old and new batteries mixed. If it is new, decide how many batteries you can store in an out-of-the-way location inside the camper, and buy them now.

    As has been advised above (by @Altoidfishfins), if installing the battery bank inside the camper, DEFINITELY go with a battery system that does not off gas. Do NOT go with flooded lead acid batteries.

    Back when I owned a 31' tag along camper, it had an AC / DC power distribution unit in the kitchen, mounted in a cabinet near the floor. It had a panel you could open, offering direct access to AC breakers and DC fuses. It also had a charging circuit built in, to charge the house batteries when on shore power.

    When I wired the 7 pin trailer plug for the camper, one of the lugs provided power from the truck's charging system, would charge the camper batteries while being hauled by the truck. Does yours have this type of plug?

    Or, is it wired with a 4 pin flat trailer plug? (Sorry. I just am not sure what differences there are between the older model trailers and the newer ones. Not even sure when 7 pin plugs were invented.)

    Forgive me, if I come of sounding as though I am talking down to you. I do not mean to be. I just do not know how familiar you are with the electrics on campers. I am far from being a guru myself, only knowing basic electrical knowledge of the charging system, because I wired mine.

    Anyway, I also towed mine with a 1980 Ford truck. So, I was able to add an aftermarket adjustable voltage regulator and battery isolator, which was better for charging the house batteries in the camper. I also changed the batteries in the truck from automotive, to a deep cycle, the same type I ran in the camper.

    Additional thoughts: I would consider adding a battery switch, like the Guest brand dual battery switches you find in boats, to disconnect the house batteries from the camper, for maintenance schedules, etc. offers excellent quality Marine Rated Fuses that mount directly on battery posts. You may wish to consider these, when installing your batteries. They also offer Battery Switches, similar to those I was referring to, above. (Honestly, though, you will probably be able to buy switches much cheaper, at someplace like Wal*Mart or Amazon. Not sure about the fuses and holders.)
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
    Ura-Ki likes this.
  11. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    If that is the case, do NOT install FLA batteries inside the camper, without them being in a sealed compartment, with proper venting to the outside of the camper.

    EDIT: By the way, I meant to add to my previous post, that camper is looking great. You have put some serious work into it. It looks great, man, for sure.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
    Ura-Ki likes this.
  12. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    On my shop trailer I built a box that resides between the axils the 6- 6 volt deep cycle golf cart batteries reside . I have access panels in the floor just over the box . All my solar panels ,wind mill and other charging equipment are wired to a switch panel so that at random any component can be tested any time . 3 position switch center off.
    The hook up to the inverter I use 3 constant duty, heavy duty solenoids for the 3 -12 volt banks of batteries .
    Every single component is on fuses ,mounted in the switch panel .
    It never hurts to use wire larger then you actually need , but it always hurts if you go smaller.
    Though the whole top of my trailer is covered I plan to build awnings for more solar panels, and those I plan to make larger then I actually need so that I can easily up grade to future larger panels.
    Plan for growth of the system .
    Another recommendation I have is to acquire some boat shrink wrap, preferably "white" and set up a tarp to cover the whole thing while not in use especially the tires that will age in the sun .
    If this is a bug out vessel for emergencies it needs preservation . If you live in freezing temperatures make sure no water is left in the system or us RV antifreeze , is it potable and safe for drinking water systems .
    IF this a bug out emergency vessel two spare tires jack and dc air compressor and wheel bearing kit are appropriate.

    Good job by the way on the restoration .
    Ura-Ki and Asia-Off-Grid like this.
  13. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    This is a great thread, reminds me that I need to be working on my trailer plans for when I can get back to it! Right now, it's a two axle trailer and bare frame!
  14. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    Standard convention among RV/TT dwellers is to never discharge FLA batteries below 50%. So if your battery is rated at 100AH, you have 50AH useable before needing to recharge.
    IIRC, AGM batteries might be able to go a bit lower, but you need to verify. Drawing batteries down too low reduces their life cycle.
    Gator 45/70 likes this.
  15. It is easy to see from the décor this is a 1970's trailer. Great idea. Looks like you have done a superior job of re-hab. Really through. Correct about the wiring, over size it. And a properly sized fuse ALWAYS does it's job, breakers have been know to short catastrophically. ( I'm biased, I'm a retired industrial electrician). I like the thought of spare anything you can carry. Look at how the WWII submarines were loaded when they went out on patrol. Did anyone touch on a supply of tools? How secure is storage at your cabin?
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
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  16. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    For alt heat

    A WAVE 3 propane heater is very common in RVs, tho caution is required as they are not vented. I'm sure you have both a working CO and smoke detectors in the rig.

    An alternative would be a Mr Buddy heater and a small propane tank - please note that both of the these (and kero heaters) can pose a real humidity problem over time.

    something like the
    ToyoStove Laser Direct Vent Kerosene Heater
    are direct vent, but you should talk to an expert before installing one in your RV.. I one similar to this at home for back up heating.
    most of these require 110/220 to run a set of fans, so may not be suitable for you specific RV.

    I sold my 5th wheel a couple of years ago - it had just become too much of an expense for the little use it got. We have a eurovan camper now -something that can be a daily driver and parked at home....
    Ura-Ki and Gator 45/70 like this.
  17. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Oh no, exactly what kind of solar stuff did you already buy?

    When I wire a trailer now what I do is install a vehicle connector plug on the trailer too, on the tool box.
    That way you don't have a pig tail just hanging out in the weather all the time.
    Ura-Ki and Gator 45/70 like this.
  18. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Here is an Idea that just occurred to me, sitting in my office this afternoon, for folks that tow a Trailer similar to the OP’s for Recreation, and or Vacations... Many such Trailers have a Considerable Power Draw Requirement when not moving down the road, and being used in a Stationary Operation. With batteries built into the trailer, an easy way to keep them charged, while towing... If one put a 00 Battery Cable between the Truck Starting Battery System and the Trailer Battery Bank, the Truck Engine can replace whatever charge was used up the previous night... This connection could also be used as a Backup Starting Battery for the Truck, should the Truck Battery Fail... On e would only need Enough 00 Cable to go from the Positive Truck Terminal, to the Trailer Battery PositiveTerminal, and then from the Truck Frame to the Trailer Frame... If I were doing this in my Truck, I would make a Connection near the Trailer Hitch using the type of commecter used on Electric Forklifts... Good for 200 Amps or so...
    Ura-Ki and Gator 45/70 like this.
  19. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Anderson connectors?
  20. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Yep, those are the ones... Big A$$ed ones...
    Ura-Ki and Asia-Off-Grid like this.
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