One of the major goals of having the truck camper, besides letting me RV while my trailer is being built, is to give me real-world experience living this lifestyle. By doing so, my trailer can start out at version 2.0 instead of straight from scratch, as I’m essentially doing with this camper. On this trip, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.
I don’t like living outside. Some people enjoy staying in tents, and even having their indoor feel like they’re “outside.” Being outside is fine, but I am an indoor cat, and as such, I need a place that is just like a regular home to be comfortable and recharge. Sure, I can do the hot weather / cold weather / wet weather for a while, but that’s a temporary situation and not something I’d want to be dealing with all the time. This has increased the priority of having a trailer that is always able to deal with the weather, which brings us to point number two:
Trying to follow good weather doesn’t work. Especially for how I want to travel, where I can go anywhere, at any time. I had planned on well insulating the trailer, but that priority has gotten even higher. I want to be able to be comfortable in just about any semi-reasonable condition.
Critical structures cannot be made of wood. In the last month or so, I’ve had temperatures from 100°+ to the mid 40’s. Wet and humid to fire-danger dry. With all this variation, various pieces of wood in the camper have started warping. There’s also previous water (plus stress) damage on other parts. This leads me to the conclusion that any structural elements must be made of metal, preferably aluminum, but steel will do if it is coated to prevent rust. Looks like I’ll be learning to weld as a part of this build.
I still want my soundproof sleeping area. No matter where I go, there’s always noise. Whether it’s highway noise, diesel trucks, or generators, there’s various people noise. If I’m far enough away from people, then there’s birds. Birds, or as I call them, flying alarm clocks, can’t be avoided. In Texas we even have a monotonous robot bird that prevents one from going to sleep. The soundproof sleeping area is required for full-time living.
Solar panels are awesome. The more solar you can get, the better. I haven’t needed to plug into power once this entire trip, and I’ve used as much electricity as I’ve wanted (save of course the air conditioner, which does not run on my current solar setup).
More amp hours = better. When I replaced my house batteries (the batteries that are in the camper unit) with new ones, it was amazing how much capacity they had. One night I stayed at a national forest, which was of course heavily forested, and even though I had practically zero solar coming in, I didn’t adjust my usage habits at all. The batteries had no trouble holding me over until I could get some more sun the next day on the road. Also, when running high-amperage loads, the more and larger the battery bank you can spread that load over, the lower the impact on each battery, and the more efficient it is both in terms of handling the short term load and the long term life of the battery.
Here’s the changes and proposed solutions to the issues above:
DC Air Conditioner. This unit works as both an air conditioner and a heater in temperatures from 5°F to 122°F. That’ll cover me just about everywhere I can think of going. It’s also extremely efficient, so in theory, I could leave it on all the time and have a trailer that is always at a reasonable temperature. That particular idea sounds wonderful as I’m typing this up in my nearly 100°F camper right now.
I’m planning on modifying one of my previous trailer layout designs and converting the multi-purpose man-cave / bedroom into two separate areas split into a loft and lower area. The lower area will have all of the soundproofing (which means I’ll need to use less), and the loft will have the couch and TV. This eliminates the two-room design I had previously had and allows the air conditioner to work effectively in the entire area.
How to weld. I’m going to teach myself welding so I can build all critical structures from steel instead of wood. This includes the loft, support systems for the batteries, cabinet skeletons, and perhaps the raised floor support structures.
For a battery system on the trailer, I’m still debating. It’ll either be about 24 Trojan T-105’s, or some number of lithium cells. Either way, the batteries will be able to support running the air conditioner (or heat pump) continuously for at least a full day without any sun. How far beyond that I go will likely be up to budget and weight restraints. I’m also unlikely to go with a Magnum hybrid inverter as I had previously planned and instead will use standalone components since I don’t need the hybrid’s power-blending feature.
Overall the changes I’ve come up with while on this trip will result in a trailer that has:
- Less soundproofing, but it’s more effective
- A more stable (temperature-wise) environmental system
- Longer-lasting batteries
- A more open / airy design
I’m finding that my travels on this trip have been limited in some aspects due to high temperatures and lack of available parking options. The high temperatures can be defeated by means of a well-build HVAC system, and the parking issues can be overcome with the use of a soundproof sleeping area.
I’m also re-learning various things about myself. I like to go out and explore, but in limited doses. I need to be able to come back “home” and have it be comfortable and quiet so I can recharge. I’d love to go hiking in all kinds of places, but generally for a few hours at a time. It’s OK to venture out, but coming back to the (mobile) sanctuary is even more important to me.
I’ll get back to Texas sometime likely in early August and start devoting some time to laying out the timeline of events as well as more research into lithium batteries of various kinds and designs. I have a Wisconsin trip coming up in early October, and after that I’ll probably get started on the actual build.