Monday, January 18, 2016

Pros and Cons After Two Months of Traveling Full Time

January 19th marks the two-month anniversary of leaving our real estate behind and heading out on a life of traveling full time in our cargo trailer to camper conversion and a conversion van with which to tow it. Many of the things we have discovered have already been mentioned in previous posts, but little has been said about the actual "living" conditions themselves. That's where this post is going, starting with something everyone has to consider.

But before we go there, I wanted to mention something you might have noticed new in my latest posts. I'm talking about some ads for the products I mention in the posts. Also, there is a generic banner that is going to be inserted between a couple of the top paragraphs. The reason is because of the way mobile devices show sites. Putting the ad in the sidebar may not be seen on some mobile devices until you get to the bottom of the page. That is never a good thing, especially for those who have asked for links so they can buy through our site.

I know some people have an aversion to ads of any kind, and some don't even understand how money is made on the web. Just know that if you choose to buy through our links, you don't pay any more for it than if you went anywhere else on the web. We might even make a few cents from clicks on a link without you even buying anything! Whatever your choice, we do appreciate people buying through our links, and it helps offset our time and effort that we put into our posts, as well as helps pay for the services and equipment that allow us to get them online.

If you want to know how to make money from your blog, or even from specialty sales sites, please be aware that I am currently revamping the entire site on a free Blogger platform, and turning it into a free training blog for anyone wanting to learn. I don't charge anything to help people. The only money I make is through my product links for things that people will buy anyway. The free training posts that used to be on are being updated and transferred to the new blog as fast as I can. I HAVE to have it done by a certain time, and will announce more about it later.

Now, for the rest of the current story...


The double bi-fold closet doors. If we had made a choice at the beginning, rather than make use of what we already had, we would have been wise enough to go just a slight bit bigger with a trailer, to a 7 x 14. Even though our favorite saying is "no bigger than you need", there is also a problem with going too small. Let's just say that we are finding that out.

For some people, the 6 x 12 trailer would have already been a tight fit for one, let alone two people and a mid-sized dog. However, it wasn't actually that bad when we had a table and chairs along the side, rather than a spinet piano. Several people have asked what a "spinet piano" is, so I found an image of one exactly like ours on the web.

An Estey brand French Provincial spinet style piano just like ours.
Before we put the piano in the trailer, we made an initial trip to Indiana with just a small table and a couple of Samsonite steel folding chairs along the wall where the piano is now. That gave us slightly more aisle width, and the feeling of more space. Unfortunately, the piano is a few inches deeper than the table and chairs, and isn't movable. As a result, my idea for the extra inner doors on the bi-fold closet doors didn't work out as well as I'd hoped, and I ended up removing the inner doors before we left Ehrenberg, and took the extra doors to our storage unit.

The double doors were also a problem for the porta-potty, as we have to pull it out from under the hanging clothes in order to use it. That put it even closer to the doors. The "enclosure" that the double bi-fold doors were supposed to create became minimized by its position when using it. And with the piano in the way, and not being able to open the doors fully, they were more trouble than they were worth!

The weight of the new porta-potty. Also, because the porta-potty has to be pulled out, it gets very heavy as it gets full, especially if both tanks are full. Combined, they hold a total of 9.5 gallons (4 on fresh, 5.5 on black) and at 8.34 pounds per gallon, it can weigh close to 80 pounds, plus another 10 pounds of the dry toilet itself! Besides being hard on the back to move, it rubs very hard on the tile floor, which is one reason I decided on the very heavy duty commercial tile. A laminate floor would never stand up to such abuse!

Even to take it out and empty just the black water part of it, the weight is roughly 50 pounds (including half the weight of the dry toilet). So on one hand, the extra capacity is great, but having to carry it any distance can be a problem, especially with a bad back! We always try to arrange for both of us to carry it, and it has convenient handles on both ends for that purpose, though. So far, that has been workable.

The kitchen drawers. We are having difficulty passing each other in the aisle now, and wish the trailer was about a foot wider. The kitchen drawers, that are on full extension slides, also will not come out all the way, as some of them hit the piano. They're workable as is, but if I ever have to get one out totally, it will require releasing the slide latches and then pushing the slides back into the opening so the drawers can be tilted for removal. At least, I "think" that will work. I haven't had occasion to try it yet!

Sleeping comfort is another issue directly related to space. I am 5'-10" and Sharon is 5'-9". The trailer is 5'-8" on the inside. As much as I would have liked to come up with a floor plan that would let us sleep longways in the trailer, it just wasn't possible with the piano figured in. As a result, we don't always sleep well. I find myself tossing and turning, trying to get in a diagonal position to gain that extra couple of inches I need. Sharon has a similar problem, but not as bad.

Material comfort

In Sharon's situation, the mattress/cushion materials are more to blame. We "re-purposed" our old dinette cushions from or '86 Honey motorhome to make the front couch and bed. The foam was cheap to begin with, but now is getting old and soft.

Our front couch/bed using the 1986 foam cushions, before covers were added..

We have added a 2-inch memory foam topper over it, but even that tends to sink in after awhile. She has been using the front bunk, since it's easier to get in and out of it, and for just the two of us, we leave it in bunk position all the time, rather than converting it to a couch during the day. We have a couple of huge pillows that we lean against the front wall for back support while sitting. But they also become an obstacle at night, and the only place we have to put them is in the aisle by the entry door. 

Of course, the mattress/cushion problem is easily remedied by buying the better cushions from The Foam Factory in Michigan, which is where I ordered the cushions originally meant for the minivan camper project, and which have also been re-purposed for the rear bunk.

The 4-inch high density foam on the rear bunk.

Those are the highest quality and most expensive foam I could buy, designed for both sitting and laying on. They are a special multi-density foam with a sort of memory foam outer layer, and a denser inner layer for support. When we replace the front cushions, that is what we will get. The Foam Factory will supply the exact foam you choose, cut them to specific shapes, and even provide slip covers if you want them, and then compress (vacuum pack) everything and ship it to you by UPS... free of charge... anywhere you want. Their site is great, and everything can be ordered online. 

The trailer tires. As far as the other materials in the van, everything has been working well except for the two tires and wheels I bought on Amazon. They were only $54 each, already mounted on the rims. Unfortunately, they were falling apart with less than a couple thousand miles on them. The new tires that we ended up replacing them with, from Walmart, were $102 each for just the tires... so you might as well say that, for the ones I bought from Walmart, I bought rims for $54 each and got free tires with them, because that's about all they were worth! The new tires now, are Goodyear Marathons, whereas the others were some foreign off-brand that didn't even have a name... just a logo.

The swing-away tongue jack. The only other issue we ran into was with the original swing-away tongue jack that was on this trailer when we bought it. The jack was way too long at the bottom end to begin with, and then further aggravated by the replacement tongue, which was at least two inches lower to the ground than the original. Since the jack clamps onto the side of the tongue, that lowered the height of it. When the trailer was setting level, there was no way the jack could be pivoted into place without digging a hole under it.

Note the old trailer tongue jack with a hole dug for it.

At home, on dirt, that wasn't a problem, but if we ever had to disconnect the trailer from the van on pavement or concrete, we would have to first lift the tongue high enough to lock the jack in place. I didn't want to wrestle with a tongue weight of around #300 pounds, so in Livingston, I bought a new top-crank style tongue jack.

The new jack post, after being straightened and the bottom cut off.

Installing it wasn't a problem, but still, it stuck out below the tongue way farther than it should, and it caught the first driveway ridge that we came to and bent it back at the bottom. The top end pitched forward nearly 30 degrees, making it unsafe to use that way. The jack tube itself didn't bend, but rather it bent the triangular mounting plate around the jack tube, and also the mounting plate on top of the tongue.

While in Ehrenberg, I removed the jack post, and cut about 4 inches off the bottom, which was as far as I could go without getting into the huge screw in the middle of it. You can see the cut off pieces in the photo above.

I also hammered both bent plates out straight again, but in doing so, the weld on the plate around the jack post cracked about a third of the way around the post, which you can see in the photo below.

If you look closely, you can see the crack around the weld.

So now I have to remove the jack post again, and go find a welding shop that can freshen up the bead around the post. 

Layout and Design

Since nearly two years were spent playing around with the floor plan and design, we haven't found anything that we really don't like about the design, considering we had such limited space to work with. If the trailer was a foot wider, it would solve most of the problems we have run into. As far as placement of components, it's working well. If we had started with a 7 x 14 trailer, the extra two feet in length would have also allowed for a separate space for the porta-potty, instead of it being in the bottom of the closet. But it is what it is, and we'll have to deal with it.

Electrical issues

As far as capacity, we have had no issues at all as far as the wiring blown fuses or even low power issues. Everything has been performing as designed... except for the solar charging. 

When we started out with just 200 watts of solar, laid flat on the roof, we knew it would be a test. Most RV's have a gas/electric refrigerator, so boondocking doesn't require any more than a small electrical current for the controls. We chose a compressor refrigerator, which is much less expensive to buy, but also uses a lot more electricity. If it weren't for that, we would only be running LED lights, the water pump and low power charging on our computers and phones. Even the initial 200 watts would have been plenty.

We really had quite a time of it for that month in the Arizona desert, with trying the keep the refrigerator down to proper temperature. First, there is the fact that the sun is much lower in the sky at this time of the year. Since our solar panels are laid flat, we can't tip them toward the sun for maximum charging current. But from everything I've read, tipping them only increases the charging ability by about 20%, and for that little gain, I'm not going to dig out a stepladder every time we stop and get up on the roof to play around with them. Besides, it only helps on targeting the height of the sun in the sky. As it changes directional angle east or west, you would have to keep moving the vehicle, or have them mounted on some kind of pivoting assembly so they could constantly rotate toward the sun. No one goes to that much trouble except commercial installations for power grids!

So instead of tipping the panels, I ordered a third 100-watt panel, which in effect would give us 50% more charging capability. Problem solved... or so I thought.

Secondly, we expected Arizona to have bright sunshine most of the time. Instead, we immediately got into winter storm Goliath, and many days of overcast skies and high winds with blowing dust, both of which reduce solar output drastically. That, coupled with a low sun angle, drained our batteries to unsafe levels (I'm talking 37%) within the first few days. They never recovered totally.

Winter storm Goliath approaching from the west.

Once the refrigerator temperature went up, it ran all day, just to try to recover, so the batteries never got a rest. We DID shut down the fridge at night so as not to drain any more from the batteries. The best charging was only between 10 AM and about 3 PM, so the batteries never came up fully, the refrigerator ran constantly and the temperature never came down fully. It was a losing battle, even with the third solar panel installed.

Thirdly, this trailer was never designed from the factory with batteries in mind. The two dome lights were meant to draw power from whatever vehicle was towing it. Therefore, no charging circuit was ever run from the trailer plug that connects to the towing vehicle. In fact, it only had six wires on a seven pin plug, so there was no way to add it without buying a whole new pigtail! I recently purchased a brand new seven-wire pigtail and a terminal box to go on the tongue, so as soon as the weather warms up, that will be my next outside project.

When we had the new upgraded receiver hitch installed on the van, we had the trailer charging circuit and isolator relay installed at the same time. I haven't tested it yet, but if it works, that part, back to the trailer receptacle is already done. I just need to get a new wire from the trailer plug back to the batteries, and that will allow charging of the trailer batteries while going down the road. Or even when stopped, we can always start the van and let it idle for an hour or so to bring the charge back up. With no generator on board, that is the next best thing. 

But without that, we were trying a combination of things out in the desert, including using our smaller inverter in the van to power up the on-board battery charger in the trailer, but even that wouldn't keep up. The charger was only a 15-amp charger, but wasn't putting out enough to help much. A 2-amp draw at 120 volts being run through an inverter equates to about ten times that much at 12 volts, so in effect, even if the battery charger was running at 100% of it's capability, we were drawing over 20 amps and only capable of putting a maximum of 15-amps back in!

We also tried running heavy jumper cables from the minivan, in through the door and straight to the batteries. That had the best effect, but after the wind started kicking up and it turned cold, we couldn't keep the door open for the cables to come in. The only thing we didn't try was getting some ice to supplement the cooling, and the only reasons we didn't was because (1) we didn't have room for it, and (2) with two separate doors on the refrigerator, it would only work for the lower compartment.

The truth is, if we had not had to leave the desert when we did because of a visitor arriving, we would have had to leave anyway to find someplace with power available, to take the refrigerator off the inverter, and let the charging come up and the refrigerator temp go down. We were fighting a losing battle, and if we had stayed, we would have lost everything in the freezer. As it was, we were barely able to drive to our next stop (here) and had only surface melting going on in the freezer, so we were lucky. Another day and we would have had to throw food out!

Boondocking places

Finding free places to park. Before we left home, I ordered all the Benchmark Atlases for all the western states. But they really didn't go into the detail I was looking for. We also downloaded some free apps for my Android smart phone, on everything from free sites to paid sites, free Walmart parking spots, and dump stations. We really didn't use the Benchmark Atlases on the way out here, as they are of most use for looking for BLM land out west, which we found without using them. We have yet to use them.

But amazingly, the spot we found in the Arizona desert is not shown on ANY of the apps that I have! The only place I have found it listed is in the paid "extra" information that is supplied by an Escapees RV Club member in the Days End Directory, and you can only get the information if you are a member of Escapees! That just goes to show that there are probably a lot of other places out there that still aren't shown on any published apps or guides! But that's the key word..."guide". There are still many places to be discovered, and some people will not report them to the guides because they want to keep them away from the media!

Since arriving here, I have also bought and downloaded the US Public Lands app that Chris and Cherie from developed, and it works great! I also bought the AllStays app (by a different developer), although I have yet to get it to work when clicking on the screen's location icons. I felt like getting my money back, but until I find out "why" it isn't working like it should (in case it might be a memory problem with my phone), I'll hang onto it.

Still, the one app (actually two) that tells me more than any of the others, is Google Earth and Google Street View. The US Public Lands app tells me where the parking spots "should" be available, and then satellite views tell me exactly where they are, even if they aren't listed in any guides!

When I can't find accurate directions any other way, I can go to a satellite view of the area, and follow roads right out to the actual camping areas, along with views of whatever else is around the area, as well as terrain and elevation markings. If I want to see what the entrance to a place looks like with an actual street view, I use Google Street View. As the old saying goes "pictures don't lie".

Many people, including us, have been fooled by great descriptions of campgrounds, with photos taken under ideal circumstances (and possibly several years old), only to find out the place is a dump when we get there (or next to one). Web sites and other listings are great, but often contain bad and misleading information. I try to check things out on Google Earth and Google Street View when I have the time to do so, but keep in mind, satellite images are often as much as two years old already, so if storms, floods or some other catastrophe has hit the area in recent months, it probably won't show it. I also check online for reviews of the places. Many apps come with the reviews already built in. 

I know a lot of people have an aversion to even the slightest bit of technology, whether it be a smart phone or a regular computer, but they make it so much easier to find out what you need to know, from the cheapest gas close to their location, service facilities to handle the special needs of large RVs, whether the camping site you chose is in a flood area, or what the weather is going to be where you plan to travel so you can avoid any bad situations. To me, a computer is indispensable in today's world, and can save a person SO much time and money, that they literally pay for themselves over and over again! I don't know how people can travel efficiently without one! 

Food and other personal necessities

No picky eaters here! Salt, MSG, or even turnips... bring 'em on! First, let me say that (thankfully!) neither of us have any major dislikes of food, nor any dietary issues. If we did, that would take SO much fun out of life! We always make allowances in our budget for trying local specialties in every new area we travel to, and have never been disappointed! Some things, we may never go out of our way to eat again, but that's part of the adventure in life... to try new things and expand our knowledge, experience, and build memories. 

However, we don't eat out "all" the time, and for those times when we choose to eat in, we like to have more than just rudimentary capabilities. Cooking over a flame of any kind can get old very quick, especially if you are on the move nearly every day. Doing it when camping for the longer term is great, but when you travel full-time, you want some variety! Also, the weather doesn't always cooperate when planning for outside meals!

For us, a microwave is a necessity. Sure, we could get by without one while on a short vacation, but for the long haul, it HAS to be part of our equipment! It saves SO much time for so many tasks that we could shoot down any argument from people who refuse to use one! But again, that's your choice.

The one thing we discovered about our microwave is that it doesn't like our old modified sine wave inverter. It literally growls at it! As a result, we had to purchase a new Xantrex 2000-watt PURE sine wave inverter, but I haven't installed it yet. Until we get the charging issues resolved, and can keep the refrigerator at proper temperature when boondocking there's no point, because we wouldn't want to add the extra load to the batteries anyway. And if we have shore power, both problems are solved!

An oven is also a necessity to well-rounded cooking. We are finding out that we miss a decent oven. We have one of the Coleman Camping ovens that fold up, but haven't tried it yet. Some say they don't get hot enough. I can understand that, since they are all aluminum with no insulation around them. If you use them outside on a camp stove, the stove has limited BTUs anyway, and if there's any wind blowing at all, it could cool off the oven cabinet before the oven ever has time to heat up. Also, baking usually takes way longer than heating something on the stove, so all the time you are baking you are burning propane or butane, depending on what stove you are using under it. And the longer you have to operate a burner, the more ventilation you have to have.

I think a better way to use the Coleman oven would be over an outside BBQ grill, with the briquettes piled high right below it, and with no wind, or else wind protection around it. The briquettes are going to burn a long time anyway, so you might as well make use of all that time. And that's all great, if you're cooking outside, but for crappy days, it would be nice to have a way to bake inside, too.

Right now, we have a little 700-watt microwave, but if it ever goes, we have a large enough space around it that we would replace it with a small microwave/convection oven. But although you can run a small microwave for short periods without depleting your batteries, you don't run something like a convection oven off an inverter. Warming something in the microwave for a few minutes is one thing... but baking something for an hour takes way too many amp-hours, so that will have to be reserved for when we have shore power available... or a generator...which we are trying to avoid!

Electrical cooking outside. One thing I have on my "to do" list in the near future is to install an outside receptacle near the back right-hand side of the trailer, close to an outside table. Whether it's for low power requirements when boondocking, or for larger appliances when we have shore power, a receptacle within reach of an outside table will be very handy. I have all the stuff with which to do it. I'm just waiting for a warm day when I have nothing else planned.

Basic recipes are what we like. Although we have no problem with a few convenience foods, we also carry most of the staple shelf foods with us (beans, rice, flour, noodles, pasta, instant potatoes, etc.), and of course fresh vegetables and fruits. If we don't have enough storage space for refrigerated items, we will revert to canned for most things. And although we do stock some fresh and frozen meat, we also used canned beef, chicken and tuna for many meals.

I have a blog already started on cooking in a small RV, but haven't let it loose to public view yet. When I do, I will announce it here, and get more into RV cooking there. 

Heating, cooling, and personal comfort, including hygiene. I have everything I need to finish the shower we have planned for inside the trailer, but I ran into a glitch with the Zodi Camp Shower unit I wanted to use. We bought it while we were in Ehrenberg.

We discovered that even though some ads tout the Zodi as an "on demand" shower unit, it really isn't. You have to light the burner manually, and the burner stays on all the time, so you have to keep the water moving all the time, or it will boil inside the unit! The only way to get around that is to recirculate the heated water back into the sump (the carrying case) until it gets hot enough and then shut the burner off and just use the pump to get it to the shower. And for an outside shower on a portable cabana tent, that would be very workable.

Of course, the whole thing is an outside unit (you don't run a propane burner in an enclosed, unventilated space), so a remote switch would have to be used to control the pump from inside the trailer. I thought of the possibility of using a pressure relief diverter, so that when the shower wand is shut off, the water keeps running, but goes back into the sump. But that's a lot of "finagling" to work around a basic issue. And if you delay too long with the burner on, the water in the sump could still get hotter than you want it!

It's just not what I had in mind for our unique situation, but I'll keep it for now and see if I can make any modification to it so that it will work for us. If nothing else, it could work very well with an outside shower enclosure when we get to remote areas in warm weather. But I'm still considering some kind of small indoor electric (or gas) "true" on-demand water heater that we could use inside. I don't care if the unit itself is outside... as long as it is a true "on demand" unit on which the burner goes off when the water flow stops. If it will do that, I can compensate for the rest.

The electric wall heater has already failed on one half of the heating elements. When we realized that the low setting of 500 watts had quit working totally, I flipped the switch (that I installed) to pull in the second heating element. Normally this would have been the high setting, with both elements on at the same time, but since the first one went out, it is still only running at 500 watts... but at least it works, and 500 watts keeps us plenty comfortable even down into the teen temperatures. When I have time, I will take it apart to see what the problem is, and fix it if I can. We also have our little Sunbeam electric space heater that was intended to be used in the van (when shore power is available), but since we aren't sleeping in the van, the Sunbeam is now our "back-up" heater at this point. Of course, neither heater can be used without shore power available, so we need propane heat for boondocking.

We also have the Big Buddy catalytic heater mounted on the front wall, above the bunk but yet far enough away from the ceiling, and in between our two back cushions. That was the only place with no obstructions. It works great, but because it is up off the floor, and heat rises, it never gets the floor warm. And if we use the little 120-volt 9-inch cage fan to circulate the air, that uses more battery power through the inverter so it becomes self-defeating when boondocking.

Although the Big Buddy heater has a fan built in (the lesser models don't), it doesn't seem to last long using D-cells. We bought the AC adapter for it, but haven't had a chance to try it yet.

We also bought a small O2Cool 5-inch battery operated fan, and it works well to set on top of the Big Buddy heater (while it's against the wall), and it moves a lot more air than the built-in fan. We get a couple of days out of two D-cells, but unfortunately, it doesn't have a provision for an AC adapter. Some of the larger O2Cool fans can use both.

We have only been able to run the Big Buddy on one pad, on the low setting, and only for about ten minutes at a time, because it will literally run you out of there if left on for more than a few minutes! It would be great if someone designed a small catalytic heater that was only capable of about 1000 BTU, but I have yet to see one. They all seem to put out 3500 BTU or more, and that's WAY more than you need to maintain heat in a small space like a van or a trailer!  

Future plans

I don't know how soon it will be, but at some point, we want to get a small Class C rig. If anyone has seen any Nomadic Fanatic videos on YouTube recently, we want one just like (or at least similar to) his. He found an extremely nice 2001 Tioga Arrow (25 feet long) on a Chevy chassis, with only 23,000 miles on it! That's as close to being brand new as you can get, and still be at a decent price! A unit with that same floor plan would work very well for us, although we prefer something with a molded fiberglass roof, like a Born Free or Lazy Daze. Corner seams require constant maintenance to prevent leaks.

His has the corner bed in the back right-hand side with the bathroom in the other corner, the kitchen in the middle, a dinette behind the driver, an easy chair behind the passenger, and then a front bunk over the cab. We see similar units available, so we know they are out there, but we aren't ready to buy just yet. As always, timing is everything.

We are still waiting to close on our house in Arkansas. We have arranged everything at our end, and are waiting on the buyer to finish his end, hopefully by this week yet. Also, I am still putting figures together to see exactly where we stand as far as expenses. We want to get that out of the way, and we know it can take another two months for the credit bureaus to get all caught up with their reports. If we have to wait awhile, we're OK with it. When the timing is right and the right deal comes along, it will happen, and not before.

If we go to a small Class C, we will figure on using it for our daily driver, too. After all, we're retired and seldom venture out unless we need supplies. That might be twice a week, at the most. The trailer would then become our "studio". It would house our musical instruments, our digitizing equipment, our computers, and still serve as overflow for whatever comes along. It would still retain all the features it has now, so could still be used as guest quarters.

Any RV will buy will have to have a generator and air conditioning, so we can keep our Angel happy if the weather gets too warm. And for our own convenience, we want something with full facilities for ourselves, too, so we don't have to rely on finding places with facilities for guests like we are doing now.

We would still have solar on it, but by having a gas/electric refrigerator, it would also be more energy efficient for boondocking. For heat, we would also want it to have a catalytic heater, so we wouldn't have to waste electricity on a furnace and blower when boondocking. We can use our portable Big Buddy for that. But with the right layout, we can install the extras ourselves. We'll recognize the right unit when we see it.

Other tasks. In the meantime, I need to do a little cosmetic work on the Chrysler van before selling it before we leave here. On the Chevy van, the left rear window that mysteriously exploded for no apparent reason has been replaced as good as new. We just have a little tape residue to remove around the perimeter of the frame yet.

The new left rear window in the van matches the original perfectly.

We have the process started to get the deer damage repaired on the Chevy van grill and lights, plus another body part replaced that was missing when we bought it. We may get new wheels before we leave here, too, as ours were badly corroded when we bought the van. It looks like the previous owner must have had a male dog... an improperly trained male dog! When we find the RV we want, the Chevy van will either be sold or traded. 

As for the nearer future... I'm turning in. G'night all, and thanks for reading. Leave me a note in the comments, and I'll reply in the morning.


Scott Baldassari said...

Great stuff. I like to hear about the daily irritations, and not just all the great stuff about living on the road. What price range are you looking for in a class C?

Gary Wood said...

Good information John. I agree with Scott above, reality is nice to hear. I've used several of the resources you are using, like the buddy heater. They work great, even for a small fifth wheel like mine. I may try that idea using the tent fans. I have a couple in storage in Calif.

John Abert said...

Hi Scott! Thank you for commenting. I agree that too much positive information only clouds the information for those looking for truth. I would feel bad for anyone that jumped into this lifestyle based on all positive reading, and then gave it up before giving it a chance because of running into all the little setbacks. Everyone needs to find their own way, but needs honest information.

As far the Class C cost, we know there are plenty of them out there like Eric bought...good, gently used ones with low mileage. Based on what I have seen on, I'm sure he paid well under $20,000 for his, and that's where I figure to be. At less than $10,000, it could be too old or have too many problems, but for buyers, the NADA price guide for RV's is in our favor. It doesn't matter how well the RV was taken care of or how low the miles are on it, the books dictate the maximum price that can be charged for it. Once our house business is out of the way, we could feasibly buy a much more expensive RV, but why? It is only going to depreciate more, and cost us more money. We don't need anything bigger than what it takes to be comfortable in, nor any newer than we want for it to be dependable. We'd rather spend that extra money on traveling, and not be forced to limit our travels because of the cost of owning and maintaining the RV!

John Abert said...

Hi Gary! Thanks for the added words of confidence! The Big Budy has been working well for us, other than the fan built into the unit. I changed batteries on it the last time we used it, and installed brand new Duracells, and while I was sitting on the couch next to it, I could actually hear the motor slowing way down. Those new batteries should last at least a couple days of running constantly. I haven't checked it out yet to see what the problem is, but I did recheck the batteries that came out and appeared dead. When I put a meter on them, the needle popped right into the green area, so I don't think it is a battery issue. It almost sounds like a bad fan motor...which is why I bought the little O2Cool fan. It was the only thing I could get on short notice, but I am going to look for a larger one, that will run on both batteries and an AC adapter.

The issue we are having, more than just circulating the heat, is that the heater is mounted above the front couch and only about 18 inches from the ceiling. Also, the Fantastic vent is right above it. Without some type of fan blowing the rising air forward, the ceiling gets plenty warm, and could do damage to the plastic trim around the fan...if not immediately, then for the longer term of every day use. Even with the little 5-inch fan, it keeps the ceiling much cooler. And with a larger fan, I would go to the trouble of mounting it in the corner of the ceiling above the heater, so it actually blows the air downward, toward the center aisle, and that may also help with keeping the floor warmer.

In our little trailer, when we were out boondocking in the desert, we left the pilot flame on all night, along with the little fan, and that actually raised the inside temperature to about 20 degrees above the outside temperature, even with the front vent open about a half-inch. Getting up in 50-degree temps isn't bad, compared to freezing temps!

As soon as we got up, we turned one pad one (two is too much in there) and let it run only long enough to come up fully, and then turned it down to low for about 10 - 15 minutes. That was all it took to come up to 72+ degrees, and then we had to shut it down! We sometimes started it one more time as it cooled down, but usually by then the sun was coming up and starting to warm the trailer.

The Big Buddy was really a case of "over-kill" for our small trailer, but we knew that we would eventually be getting a bigger RV, and the size would come in handy. Also, from everything I've read, one propane bottle only lasts about 5 hours of running constantly, so I figured that two would last twice as long...if it needed to. Also, the Big Buddy is the only one that has a fan built in, and we thought that would come in handy, which it has...when it worked right. However, the fan is small, and for that sized heater, I could see using a much larger fan, either in front of it, or above and slightly behind as not to get damaged by the rising heat. I hope this helps anyone thinking about buying one.