Noobie Seeking Advice

Marine359

New member
Hi gang,
We recently sold our Micro Minnie TT because dw never would drive a truck/trailer and I have some health issues. Concern was what she would do if something happened to me. She will drive the truck. Therefore, we would like to do truck camping with a hard-sided shell type pop-up. First step is a a bigger truck. Planning to sell/trade my Canyon for a 1/2 ton crew with 6.5 ft bed. We’re seventy-something’s, so like the Hiatus with barn door, but haven’t ruled out Topo Topper or Oru Design. We like off-pavement and BLM, SP, NP, FS. Never want to stay at a commercial campground …ever. But we are not hard-core expeditioners. No truck rock climbing. Don’t want a diesel truck. Advice on a good used truck appreciated. Thinking Tundra best for off-road, but correct me if I’m wrong. Don’t want to spend a fortune on suspension mods.

I have good DIY skills, having DIY installed electrical upgrades, solar, and LFP. I’ve already got many of the components. please advise if you’ve done a pop-up build out, like things that worked and what to avoid. This will be an all-electric camper; no combustibles, except for truck engine. I’m thinking my 2kWh Ecoflow can handle all ac chores, and be the solar charge controller, and 4kWh of LFP charged by Orion 50 amp dc/dc charger to handle dc loads and recharging the Ecoflow if needed. Probably 200w portable solar. Don’t know if that will be enough for target of 5 days without an engine burn. Won‘t be carrying a generator. Heat by 12v thin film subfloor, programmable PTC heater and ac mattress heating pad. Maybe A/C with Wave2. Water from Reliance jugs rigged with 12v pumps. Hot water from one jug using immersion heater.

If this plan is not doable, please chime in. I don’t want to make expensive mistakes.
 

simple

Adventurer
Opinions...

Tundra is the winner for reliability but fuel economy is lower and used ones cost more overall. I've had good luck with the Silverado 5.3 platform which has slightly better fuel economy than the tundra. I wouldn't buy an F150 ecoboost and I don't think Ford's standard V-8 gets very good MPG's either.

Hiatus look pretty neat but I have yet to see one up close. I'd go with the model that has vertical sides so there's more room inside and bigger sleeping space.

I have a 100 watt solar panel and it barely keeps up. Solar is so inexpensive and the power stations can handle a lot of watts. I'd do 2 200watt panels if they would fit.
 

Marine359

New member
The Ecoflow has two XT60i solar inputs. I’m going to use one of them to connect (switched) to the LFP bank. I’m thinking even without using a 12/24 step up converter, the constant 12v will keep the Ecoflow charged. i need a portable though, as likely sometimes camping in the shade. Maybe I can do a 200w portable parallel to 200w roof mount. What did you do or plan for solar Besides the 100w panel? Thanks for the heads up on Chevy 5.3L. Did you have to make suspension changes, or go to bigger tires?
 
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simple

Adventurer
The Ecoflow has two XT60i solar inputs. I’m going to use one of them to connect (switched) to the LFP bank. I’m thinking even without using a 12/24 step up converter, the constant 12v will keep the Ecoflow charged. i need a portable though, as likely sometimes camping in the shade. Maybe I can do a 200w portable parallel to 200w roof mount. What did you do or plan for solar Besides the 100w panel? Thanks for the heads up on Chevy 5.3L. Did you have to make suspension changes, or go to bigger tires?
Click the build link at the bottom of my post for build details. Regarding the truck, the suspension and tire size are bone stock.
 

Ozarker

Pontoon Admiral
I'd suggest you not fall for the "Expo" bling.

If you are concerned about your health or, like me, are just getting older with aches and pains, go for comfort, a truck that rides, drives, hauls nicely without mods. The best truck is a reliable truck, that generally means a bone stock truck.

Tires make a big difference, other than that, don't buy anything until you get the truck and camper set up, then drive it and use it, let actual experience guide your investments in this camping fling. Keep resale in mind too, you may not be doing this stuff in two, three or five years, who knows.

I suppose 200 watts or so will take care of a fridge and charging your phone. I'd suggest you shoot for at least 2000 watts storage if you want to run appliances, heating pads, micro wave or any A/C. 700 watts in panels should keep most 2000 watt gens going.

You can take a trip to the Artic Circle and never get in an area where you need any "off road" bling (raising the truck, special shocks, suspension mods, lights that could light up a runway for a 747 or recovery gear to run a part time wrecker service). All paved and gravel roads, a stock Preus can make it.
 

Marine359

New member
Opinions...

Tundra is the winner for reliability but fuel economy is lower and used ones cost more overall. I've had good luck with the Silverado 5.3 platform which has slightly better fuel economy than the tundra. I wouldn't buy an F150 ecoboost and I don't think Ford's standard V-8 gets very good MPG's either.

Hiatus look pretty neat but I have yet to see one up close. I'd go with the model that has vertical sides so there's more room inside and bigger sleeping space.

I have a 100 watt solar panel and it barely keeps up. Solar is so inexpensive and the power stations can handle a lot of watts. I'd do 2 200watt panels if they would fit.
Thanks, great build, and good ideas for me.
 

Marine359

New member
I'd suggest you not fall for the "Expo" bling.

If you are concerned about your health or, like me, are just getting older with aches and pains, go for comfort, a truck that rides, drives, hauls nicely without mods. The best truck is a reliable truck, that generally means a bone stock truck.

Tires make a big difference, other than that, don't buy anything until you get the truck and camper set up, then drive it and use it, let actual experience guide your investments in this camping fling. Keep resale in mind too, you may not be doing this stuff in two, three or five years, who knows.

I suppose 200 watts or so will take care of a fridge and charging your phone. I'd suggest you shoot for at least 2000 watts storage if you want to run appliances, heating pads, micro wave or any A/C. 700 watts in panels should keep most 2000 watt gens going.

You can take a trip to the Artic Circle and never get in an area where you need any "off road" bling (raising the truck, special shocks, suspension mods, lights that could light up a runway for a 747 or recovery gear to run a part time wrecker service). All paved and gravel roads, a stock Preus can make it.
I suspect battery size and array wattage are trade offs, if you can’t afford to go big on both. Since solar is not as reliable, I’m thinking some solar, but big on LFP, like about 5,000-6,000wh (including 2,000wh in my Ecoflow). Hoping Orion’s new 50 amp dc/dc charger will do the heavy lifting for charging with solar filling in. What’s your experience been on the “right” mix? Thank you for advising to avoid suspension/tire mods for now.

i pretty much know total daily power consumption needs. The wild card is HVAC. I think the Wave2 with battery will work for A/C with a daily solar recharge, but probably no good for cold weather heating. I can calculate draw for electric mattress pad, and the low draw of under-floor thin film, but PTC draw is an unknown in really cold weather. Have used a PTC to heat my TT, and it does great, but 1,000w constant. Wondering if a 250-500w PTC with thermostat will get the job done, leaving it on in the before bed, off at night and back on in early morning. Also thinking I can recharge devices while driving, as well as my extra (small) powerstation from the truck 12v outlet, and still have enough alternator current left to run the dc/dc. Please shoot this stuff down if in your experience I’m smokin’ something.
 

simple

Adventurer
I did switch the tires to E rated all terrain. They are the stock diameter but have upgraded durability, weight rating and snowflake rating.
 

MR E30

Active member
IMHO I think you are smoking something with your electrical system specifications and desires.

Wife and I live, and work, full-time, in a Tacoma. 400w solar and 200ah in LifePO4 batteries, and I can't fathom trying to run an AC unit off of the setup. I pay very close attention to my power setup, daily, and know it and its performance in and out.

I routinely do 5 days in a row with no use of the engine. Using the engine is always painful, as the dc-dc charger limits what goes into the battery, which ends up being a paltry sum relative to what the alternator can produce. Just idling for hours and hours and hours to keep the system charged enough to work.

In my experience (with an off-grid property supported by solar panels and Ecoflows atm), the Ecoflow is a bad system to go with. They are really restricted in what they can accomplish (charging rates primarily), and they are an all in one unit. If one thing goes wrong inside you are in trouble. You very well may see marketing that convinces you otherwise, but my experiences have not aligned at all with what people say. My piece-meal truck setup charges ~2x as fast, with half as much solar, and more capacity, than the sheds Ecoflow system because my charger puts more juice into the batteries.

The truth is, the reality of the situation rarely jives with what we have envisioned in our minds. You should diversify imo. Putting every single one of your systems in the 'Electricity' category just completely shuts you down if something goes wrong. And things definitely go wrong.

Diesel heaters are so massively effective, and so incredibly cheap, that not using one to stay warm seems a bit silly to me.

I pull 3a running a tiny dc electric blanket, that barely gets hot enough to keep us warm while we are under a fleece blanket and comforter. It creates zero residual heat, even 1 inch away from the blanket. I can't imagine trying to run an electric blanket/pad/element with the hopes that it would actually warm up the air inside of the camper.

I have read about guys who are having to run their trucks to stay functioning, and they have no AC and use diesel for heat.

Focus on acquisition (maximize panels for sure), while keeping storage secondary (though don't ignore it completely obviously). A 4:1 ratio (acquisition:storage) is generally considered what is necessary to function in perpetuity.

Truck campers, like the ones you mentioned in your OP, have a terrible time holding heat. IME the only way to keep it warm is to continuously warm it. The idea of 'getting it hot and then shutting things down and staying warm' just isn't reality. I can make my camper 100 degrees inside, and within two hours it is already back down to whatever the outside temperature is. It simply won't hold that heat say, overnight.
 

Marine359

New member
IMHO I think you are smoking something with your electrical system specifications and desires.

Wife and I live, and work, full-time, in a Tacoma. 400w solar and 200ah in LifePO4 batteries, and I can't fathom trying to run an AC unit off of the setup. I pay very close attention to my power setup, daily, and know it and its performance in and out.

I routinely do 5 days in a row with no use of the engine. Using the engine is always painful, as the dc-dc charger limits what goes into the battery, which ends up being a paltry sum relative to what the alternator can produce. Just idling for hours and hours and hours to keep the system charged enough to work.

In my experience (with an off-grid property supported by solar panels and Ecoflows atm), the Ecoflow is a bad system to go with. They are really restricted in what they can accomplish (charging rates primarily), and they are an all in one unit. If one thing goes wrong inside you are in trouble. You very well may see marketing that convinces you otherwise, but my experiences have not aligned at all with what people say. My piece-meal truck setup charges ~2x as fast, with half as much solar, and more capacity, than the sheds Ecoflow system because my charger puts more juice into the batteries.

The truth is, the reality of the situation rarely jives with what we have envisioned in our minds. You should diversify imo. Putting every single one of your systems in the 'Electricity' category just completely shuts you down if something goes wrong. And things definitely go wrong.

Diesel heaters are so massively effective, and so incredibly cheap, that not using one to stay warm seems a bit silly to me.

I pull 3a running a tiny dc electric blanket, that barely gets hot enough to keep us warm while we are under a fleece blanket and comforter. It creates zero residual heat, even 1 inch away from the blanket. I can't imagine trying to run an electric blanket/pad/element with the hopes that it would actually warm up the air inside of the camper.

I have read about guys who are having to run their trucks to stay functioning, and they have no AC and use diesel for heat.

Focus on acquisition (maximize panels for sure), while keeping storage secondary (though don't ignore it completely obviously). A 4:1 ratio (acquisition:storage) is generally considered what is necessary to function in perpetuity.

Truck campers, like the ones you mentioned in your OP, have a terrible time holding heat. IME the only way to keep it warm is to continuously warm it. The idea of 'getting it hot and then shutting things down and staying warm' just isn't reality. I can make my camper 100 degrees inside, and within two hours it is already back down to whatever the outside temperature is. It simply won't hold that heat say, overnight.
Thanks a bundle. That is extremely valuable info. I’ll have to rethink. Wave 2 runs off its own LFP battery, but I’m not committed to getting one from the start. It appears from all who have posted, that a diesel heater may be in order to cope with cold weather. Really didn’t want combustibles or the moisture they create, but we’ll have to adapt. Is your diesel heater inside or outside?

BTW. Our Ecoflow Delta 2 Max worked great until it didn’t. The charging system shorted out. Took almost 2 months haggling with Ecoflow with email and sending videos before they finally agreed to warranty replacement. It works fine now. Using it for outage backup at home when we’re not camping. If I had a “do over” I would have bought Bluetti EB200 Instead of Delta 2 Max.

OK, how about a stick a 400w used Qcell on the roof and get a 200w portable panel. Together with dc/dc charger, is that enough? Then I’d be able to run a PTC all night @250w right (8x250=2,000w). With our TT, I was able to farm about 1,500wh daily with 3x 100w CIGS panels and one 100w portable panel. Not enough to replenish what would be used overnight with PTC running. Looks like diesel heater in our future.
 
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MR E30

Active member
You're welcome. Happy to share.

Diesel heater actually helps kill moisture. The air it pumps out is so hot and so dry that condensation doesn't form in our camper, even down in the 20's. We even use it to dry wet shoes/gear/clothes, it really is that effective. Using our LPG Dickinson fireplace on the other hand leaves a ton of condensation inside. We basically never turn that on anymore after installing the diesel heater.

Mine is mounted 100% outside, except for the thermostat. I have it set up underneath the bed of the truck. I have one hole cut into the bedside for the hot air to come into the camper. I am on the fence about adding an inlet hole on the other side of the camper, so that the heater doesn't have to warm outside air constantly.

600w is certainly a decent amount for a pickup truck. I can't speak to exacts of the setup you mentioned, only actual use will tell. My system only has 80% of actual usable charge, as dipping LifePO4 batteries below 20% regularly shortens their lifespan considerably.

We normally fall to around 55% capacity by the time we wake up in the AM. This is typical for over the winter, with the shorter days. Only on the best, clearest days would the system replenish to 100% by ~4 pm or so. Normally, we would slowly 'deplete' the system over our 4-day work week, to the point where Thursday morning the system would be hovering around 30% capacity in the AM. But it would quickly get back to 100% on Friday, when our electrical demands basically disappeared (computers being charged primarily).

With these longer days we are seeing now we are at maybe 60% in the am, with full charge being more common each day, usually around 3 pm.

We are 'stuck' out here, as we are fully committed to living in this truck, through thick and thin. I can't tell you how morale boosting the hot air from a diesel heater is. It is so pleasant that it really helps me deal with the cold, day after day, night after night. I haven't come across another system yet that can provide that level of relief, and so quickly too.
 

Marine359

New member
You're welcome. Happy to share.

Diesel heater actually helps kill moisture. The air it pumps out is so hot and so dry that condensation doesn't form in our camper, even down in the 20's. We even use it to dry wet shoes/gear/clothes, it really is that effective. Using our LPG Dickinson fireplace on the other hand leaves a ton of condensation inside. We basically never turn that on anymore after installing the diesel heater.

Mine is mounted 100% outside, except for the thermostat. I have it set up underneath the bed of the truck. I have one hole cut into the bedside for the hot air to come into the camper. I am on the fence about adding an inlet hole on the other side of the camper, so that the heater doesn't have to warm outside air constantly.

600w is certainly a decent amount for a pickup truck. I can't speak to exacts of the setup you mentioned, only actual use will tell. My system only has 80% of actual usable charge, as dipping LifePO4 batteries below 20% regularly shortens their lifespan considerably.

We normally fall to around 55% capacity by the time we wake up in the AM. This is typical for over the winter, with the shorter days. Only on the best, clearest days would the system replenish to 100% by ~4 pm or so. Normally, we would slowly 'deplete' the system over our 4-day work week, to the point where Thursday morning the system would be hovering around 30% capacity in the AM. But it would quickly get back to 100% on Friday, when our electrical demands basically disappeared (computers being charged primarily).

With these longer days we are seeing now we are at maybe 60% in the am, with full charge being more common each day, usually around 3 pm.

We are 'stuck' out here, as we are fully committed to living in this truck, through thick and thin. I can't tell you how morale boosting the hot air from a diesel heater is. It is so pleasant that it really helps me deal with the cold, day after day, night after night. I haven't come across another system yet that can provide that level of relief, and so quickly too.
That’s huge. Made up my mind for me, Condensation was always our worst enemy when camping in our TT with single digit ambients using propane furnace. Only way to remedy was to open roof vent and turn on fan. Quickly got cold again and remoistened in no time. Plus it burned a lot of fuel. Imagine the diesel heater is more efficient than propane. Thought it may be better to mount it on the inside, so it’s not exposed to elements, rust, corrosion, and just run a fuel line to an outside fuel tank, but IDK. Never installed one B4. Also thinking with 50 amp Orion, a 5 hour drive yields 3,000wh of charging.

Have you posted any photos?
 

Dave in AZ

Active member
Have you posted any photos?
Here. This is his truck camper adventure blog, one of my favorite, I check every day to see if he has an update. His energy use and info is, right now, the #1 most valid data I have found online... and I read everything posted for canopy campers lol...


@MR E30 great reply, glad you took the time, I didn't want to type so much and burst his bubble besides saying his heat plan wasn't going to work lol... (@Roadkill69 over there...)
 

Dave in AZ

Active member
@Marine359 , you have a lot more reading to do I think, before you try to nail numbers down like you are. When you aren't even aware of how a diesel heater runs a separate combustion loop outside, so there is zero moisture added...nor that there are similar closed loop propane heaters (Truma, Propex), then you need to hold off on all these pre-conceived solutions you have until gathering a bit more info ;)

Here are some links.
Spreadsheet with common electrical items and their power use, adds up to see what system you need to run.

Trying to find a basic system build spreadsheet I saw that lets you input devices used like this, battery size, solar panels, where you are, how long you need batteries without solar, etc. Then it shows you what you can run on a battery and panel size, for how long. Can't find the thing again...

Anyways, that air-conditioning you are looking at... meh, not a very good solution. But your large battery sizing plan is good to see ;)
 
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