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Dry Camping/Battery Charging Questions

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Old 10-11-2017, 09:31 PM
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Dry Camping/Battery Charging Questions

As a newbie RV owner I have some questions for the veteran folks.

We have a round trip to make between Tulsa and Seattle mid December to early January with the travel trailer this winter. We will be in a bit of a hurry to make this trip as it only allows 16 days from beginning to end. Not the way I would like to do it but school and work will not allow for a more lengthy trip/better time of year.

Before knowing anything about an RV we planned this trip with the intention of utilizing the RV and it's amenities to and from the destination rather than spend the money on Hotel, Meals, etc. We figured the cost of the extra diesel fuel needed to pull the RV up and back would about equal the cost of eating out and Hotel expenses for a family of 4. Also the cargo I will be returning with will be better suited to ride in a water tight RV rather than in a "maybe it will stay dry" truck bed with a tonneau cover.

After a bit of reading I learn our trailer is not winter proof (underbelly is open and tanks are not heated). No problem, rather than running through the mountains on the short route I will take the southern route to keep the trailer out of freezing weather and turn a 4000 mile trip into a 5000 mile trip. That blew the hotel vs diesel fuel expense out the door, but hey, trip is still happening so lets try to keep the expenses to a minimum. We would like (in a perfect world) to dry camp at a Wal-Mart or truck stop each night after a 10hr or so drive. Again, to save on the cost of stopping at a KOA for some rest at $50 a night. The ability to plug in, have water, and dump the tanks would be nice, but if I can save $400 or more by not paying KOA then I'm all for it.

So the problem begins - how do we cook, shower, use the toilet, run some lights (LED), and run the furnace and fridge off of a single 12v battery for 12 hours? First lesson learned - furnace doesn't use only propane! After looking at the specs on the furnace it appears to draw around 3amps per hour. Did the math and the battery should support the furnace for that time period. No problem start the truck and drive 10 hours the battery should be good for another night right? Second lesson learned - truck will not charge a depleted battery in that short of a time period.

I can borrow a Honda UE2000 from a friend for the trip and I have a full size Honda 4500w generator I could use. Running a generator at a truck stop or Wal-Mart doesn't appear to be feasible for theft/noise reasons, so I had an idea - why not borrow the UE2000 and bring a charger along to charge the depleted battery while driving?

What would you do? And how?

I have some more thoughts which will require more questions but I want to see what your thoughts are first.
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Old 10-11-2017, 09:40 PM
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Your trailer should connect directly to the Honda generator. It will have a 30 amp plug on it that should fit your trailer.
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Old 10-12-2017, 03:30 AM
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You are really limitied with a single battery.
Very long shoreline to run from back of trailer to truck bed. Have to find a way to do so safely.
I think you will find furnace draw/hour is more than you are anticipating depending on the weather.
Whether or not the truck will recharge the battery depends how depleted it is.
Lots to consider. At some point the equation starts to rebalance to "even if you can, do you really want to?"

Steve
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Old 10-12-2017, 04:54 AM
Chuck's First Ford Chuck's First Ford is offline
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you might NOT like this.

winterize trailer.. the DRY style.. no water.. no freezing...
keep one gallon jugs of water in truck... I carry 6 jugs for 4 days of travel.

put only pee in bathroom... use restaurants restrooms for other.

heat water on the stove.. and wash the body..
or use generator to run microwave... warm half gallon of water and wash cloth.. to wash body..
or pay for use shower in Truck Stops.

going south route is not always a warmer route.. and adding 1,000 miles is not a good plan.

Furnace.. will draw 10 to 12 amps.. mine does... and one battery will never make it.. and truck will not recharge it in 12 hours of driving. as that circuit is limited to 20 amp MAX.

so use heavy blankets... or sub-freezing sleeping bags on bed. and keeping trailer at 60 degrees and only while you are in the trailer... turn off when returning to driving status

this is the way I do it.. 4 days out and 4 days back...
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Old 10-12-2017, 05:38 AM
Sancho Sancho is offline
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I followed chuck's plan towing to Alaska. Winterize the trailer. Add a second battery. Make sure you have tire chains for the western mountains.
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Old 10-12-2017, 07:35 AM
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The thing about cold weather camping is it is more stressful on equipment than any other type of camping as it brings into play all kinds of variables that are seldom considered at the time of purchase. In making all the necessary adjustments, you also remove most of what makes camping fun and reduce it to a task in survival. Sure you can winter camp in a trailer or fifth wheel in the most severe cold, you can even do it in a tent.

Steve
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Old 10-12-2017, 08:32 AM
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RV_Tech What are your thoughts on a big buddy heater? I just got one as a wedding present and plan to tee in to the lp line at the stove/furnace in my camper. I did not want to recommend it as I personally have not used it yet but to me sounds like it would help with the battery use.
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Old 10-12-2017, 08:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chuck's First Ford View Post
you might NOT like this.

winterize trailer.. the DRY style.. no water.. no freezing...
keep one gallon jugs of water in truck... I carry 6 jugs for 4 days of travel.
Not that this post isn't all good advice (it is!) but if you're going to go to this extreme, they why even bother bringing the trailer in the first place? Just sleep in the back of the truck with a propane heater. Obviously you'd need a truck with a cap and then you can just rent a trailer for the trip back for whatever cargo you're carrying.

I also second the idea that going 1000 miles out of the way because cold is not a good idea. For me that's another $250 in fuel.

First of all, who is "we"? As in, who is making this trip? Is it just you and your wife or are you bringing 4 kids with you too? I think that makes a HUGE difference in any advice given.

Noise is not a concern at truck stops, but theft is. I'd look for some way of securing the generator if possible.

Also I think your idea of stopping every 4-5 hours to make food is going to severely impact the number of miles driven per day. If you are trying to make it out there and back quickly, spending the time to cook your meals is going to nix that.
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Old 10-12-2017, 08:53 AM
JayTheCPA JayTheCPA is offline
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Am with Chuck and Sancho: winterize the trailer and get a second battery if possible.

Another consideration is the zero-slack timeline. One winter storm can blow the time tables into the unworkable zone.

As it looks like driving is a requirement, consider checking into a full size van rental and whether there is enough space for sleeping next to the gear. Sure this might eat some of the planned savings, but at this point it is clear that everybody agrees that the weather will force trade-offs.
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Old 10-12-2017, 09:29 AM
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dirthawg, I have a similar trailer situation. My tanks are exposed to the elements and that alone is my primary issue. The difference between your trailer and mine is that I have dual 6v batteries, a single solar panel and, most importantly, an on-board generator. The truck will probably provide more juice than the solar panel but I would have few worries about power since I can always crank on the generator and run it even while driving. Do your tanks have heating pads on them? Mine do.l

I haven't had to dry camp in my trailer. But I have hundreds of nights camping in tents without facilities available. So I can make due. Maybe use one of the camping toilets instead of having to worry about flushing the trailer's toilet?

With regard to the Big Buddy heater, I think that would work OK. Since the tanks aren't heated by the furnace there really isn't an absolute need to run the furnace if the Big Buddy heater will do the job. I have one of those (same model) and I've used it a few times in a tent as well as in the bed of a truck. It was overkill though for those small volume situations. I'm headed to Elk camp next week and my Big Buddy heater will be going with me. I'm not sure if it will be used as the primary or backup heater. The furnace dries me out so I'll give the Big Buddy a try for sure.
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Old 10-12-2017, 09:35 AM
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With another battery (which is necessary; one battery will not cut it) you are definitely going to need a way to charge them for several hours each day. Your options are solar, a generator, land power, or your family is going to be very unhappy in the cold after about 2 nights. Solar is obviously going to be tough to do (and prohibitively expensive for one trip's use) in the winter. So if you don't want to stay at an RV park every night, pick a generator and find a way to secure it. The Honda 2000 is a great generator and will have no problem running the furnace and everything else all night long. However, they do walk away as they are expensive and relatively easy to carry.

How is your RV for staying/moving around in it with the slides in? There isn't really enough room in a truck stop to move the slides all the way out. I know wal-mart is fine with staying in their parking lots overnight, but I've never moved the slides out and actually "camped" there for a night. I just pull in, eat, sleep, and get up in the morning and go.
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Old 10-12-2017, 10:26 AM
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When generator shopping, put this one on the list of ones to look at

FREE SHIPPING Powerhorse Portable Inverter Generator 2000 Surge Watts, 1600 Rated Watts, CARB Compliant | Inverter Generators| Northern Tool + Equipment

Good reviews and hundreds cheaper than the Honda. Hondas are tough to beat, but these look like they could be second best.
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Old 10-12-2017, 10:49 AM
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Honda set a high bar for generators in the 2000 watt class. I'm seeing a LOT of companies get into that market segment. Hopefully prices overall will come down with the increased competition.
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Old 10-12-2017, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandon_oma#692 View Post
RV_Tech What are your thoughts on a big buddy heater? I just got one as a wedding present and plan to tee in to the lp line at the stove/furnace in my camper. I did not want to recommend it as I personally have not used it yet but to me sounds like it would help with the battery use.
Great idea. I love the Buddy Heaters. Only caveat is to tee it like a pro. No rubber hoses and hose clamps for the line. Other than that, heck yes, go for it!

STeve
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Old 10-12-2017, 12:17 PM
Chuck's First Ford Chuck's First Ford is offline
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I do not dry camp in real sub-cold.... 25 has been the lowest..

my travel is Cleveland Ohio to McAllen Texas in 4 day.. down in November and Up in April.... so Elizabethtown KY... is the first night down and last night up...
I stay at a chain restaurant overnight.. in the rear parking area , after asking permission
and 6 hours will deplete a single battery at 30 outside and 60 inside.

and I am 66 years old... with a wife.. she uses a sleeping bag and a blanket it will not kill her for 2 nights a year.
being retired and on a tight budget.. you mind your pennies.

fyi, for meals.... wife prepares days a head of time.... reheats.... quicker then McD's and better.
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