Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Christmas Toys for Boondocking

There’s not a whole lot of things to go buy yourself for Christmas here in Baja, so I decided to buy my Christmas toys a few weeks early while I was still in the U.S.  After my extended boondocking experience in Nevada, I wanted to shore up a few deficiencies and make the Winnie an even better boondocking-mobile for hitting the beaches of Baja this winter.

The weakest link in my Winnie systems seemed to be my 3-year-old Sams Club Duracell AGM batteries.  I had really expected these to hold up longer than they did, but as this was now my second set of low-cost batteries to die an early death, I finally had to admit “you get what you paid for” and pony up to make a proper battery investment.   Just like all the cheap Windows laptops I once had to buy and toss before finally investing big bucks on my Macbook Pro laptop (which is now 3+ years old and still looks and runs like new!).

So my new battery decision was now a no-brainer to buy the “Apple” of the battery world – a pair of Lifeline 6-volt GPL-4CT AGM batteries.

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I had tried finding them in Las Vegas, but everyone had to special-order them and I couldn’t wait around there that long.  Fortunately, calling around to the Los Angeles dealers, I found that Powerstride Battery had them in stock at their distribution warehouse and they had a nice wide industrial park street that I could easily u-turn and park my RV and Tracker while performing the swap.

The warehouse manager apologized for being short-staffed and not able to help me install them, but he loaned me a handy rolling cart to transport the new batteries out to the rig (and roll the old ones back for recycling).  When he saw me hand him over the old Duracell AGMs he laughed and said “you’ve just upgraded from a Pinto to a Cadillac!”  

So far, he’s been absolutely right!  The Lifelines have never yet dipped below 12.8 volts (whereas the old Duracells would routinely drop to 12.2 or lower every night)!

My next early-Christmas present was a Black Friday special.   I hate Black Friday and gave up chasing around big box stores in the pre-dawn hours years ago.  But Renogy Solar happened to have a sweet online Black Friday sale on the same 100-watt bendable panels that I had installed a few months ago.

At $35 off it’s normal low price, and only another 3 1/2 lbs, I figured an extra 100 watts of solar might come in handy for helping the roof panels on the shorter, less-efficient winter days (or cloudy days the rest of the year). I’ll  just use this one as an “as needed” portable panel for now.

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My final Christmas boondocking treat was to get a supplemental LP heating system that wouldn’t suck my propane (or batteries) dry in a matter of a few nights like my furnace seemed to be doing when boondocking in the cold.  I was going through a tank of propane every 2 weeks in Utah and Nevada!

I had used Olympian Wave heaters in my tiny T@B trailers in the past and really liked them, but didn’t like their lack of a thermostat control.    Friends Jim & Gayle happened to mention that their Kozy World infrared “brick” heater had a thermostat and worked great to heat their 30’ Lazy Daze RV.  So, I decided to order a KozyWorld KWP122 (2-brick heater with a thermostat control) and give it a try.

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When I was staying in Vista, CA, I found a fantastic RV shop there called Desert Sport RV.  The co-owner, Chad, offered to make a house-call to install the LP tee I was wanting for the new heater line.  As a full-time RVer, not having to pack up Millie and the whole house just to get a simple upgrade installed was a great convenience!  Chad even showed me how to do the “soapy water test” to check for small LP leaks (as the hose, shut-off valve, and quick disconnect fittings had not yet arrived so I would be installing these items myself later).

So, here’s where the new LP hose and tee resides— behind the louvered access panel door beneath the clothes closet (where my water pump, hot water heater, fresh water tank valve are).  There’s tons of room in that space to keep the 10’ LP hose out of sight when not in use.

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When I want to use the heater, I turn this new yellow shut-off valve on, unroll the hose, and snap it into a quick disconnect fitting that stays mounted on the heater.

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Easy-peasy!

But, the jury is still out on whether I’ll be keeping the Kozy World long-term, or sell it to buy a smaller Wave heater.   So far here in warm Baja, the Kozy World hasn’t gotten used much, and when it has, it’s been too powerful (keeping the rig too warm).  The second challenge has been the unit’s size—it looks a bit oversized when inside the View, and when not in use, I struggle to find a place to store it (it’s currently riding around in the back of the Tracker most of the time).  So, I’ll give it a bit longer and wait until I get back up north to the colder U.S. before making a final decision.  In a bigger rig, this unit is surely perfect, that’s for sure!

Regardless of which heater I settle on for the long-term, I’m thrilled to once again have a portable, super-efficient, super-quiet radiant heat source in my RV!  It’s like having a little fireplace that you can stand close to and warm up your hands and feet on a chilly winter’s night!  Just delightful!

16 comments:

  1. Nice upgrades on the batteries and the additional panel. I really like the sweet installation of your LP hose - neat, clean, and out of the way! Have a Happy New Year!

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    1. Yeah, it sure is nice having that cubby with lots of space to keep a long hose out of sight. Also much easier than figuring out how to drill holes into the cabinetry for a quick connect valve!

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  2. Looks like some great upgrades for sure. Happy New Year and safe travels!

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  3. I love it when you share your purchases - even the stuff that doesn't work. It has helped me add good stuff to mine. On to 2015!

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    1. Look forward to seeing you on the road next year!

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  4. I love my Wave 3!

    My next batteries will be AGMs. I'd love two more batteries and another solar panel, but don't' have room for two more 6 volt batteries. It's going to be expensive, though - I'll replace 2 deep cycle 6 volts for four AGMs. Those babies will cost me! But I can put them inside, under the dinette bench seats and not worry about them being inside. Some day, some day.... :)

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    1. Oh, this is great feedback Barbara, Many of the View owners have Wave 6's but I just hate the thought of buying too big a unit again if I give up on this KozyWorld. I'm still thinking a Wave 3 would be about right for my 24' rig assuming I'll usually be staying in relatively warm places every winter.

      Before you buy 4 AGMs, try first replacing your 6 volts with a pair of 6 volt Lifelines. You might find that's all you need. I've frankly been shocked at how much better they're holding a charge than ANY previous new AGM or golf cart battery I've ever owned. Now to be fair, this is the first set of batteries I've had with rooftop solar constantly charging them, so they've not had to endure the peaks and valleys I had when boondocking with just a generator to recharge them. But still...the Lifelines are seriously great stuff, even if they do cost twice as much. If you find you're still needing more battery power after that, then adding a 12 volt AGM or two to that mix is certainly an option (and/or more solar), but so far, I've not needed to use my new 4th solar panel because my new batteries have been staying so well charged!

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  5. Who knew there was so much stuff to rving! I thought, innocently, that you just got in and drove..........ha.

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    1. Ha ha! No, that would be called just sleeping in your car (as the gentleman next to me at this RV park in Loreto is currently doing!). Sure makes me wonder why I need 24' and all this stuff when all he's got is a sleeping back in the back of his covered pickup truck!

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  6. Those are some wise upgrades. I too switched to LifeLine AGMs and they work like a charm. Also, thought about getting a portable space heater. But, since I'm rarely in cold climes for long, I have settled on just using the furnace for now.

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    1. sure nothing wrong with fleeing cold climates! Baja nighttime lows have only been below 50 a night or two!

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  7. Loreto? I'm on my way do there in March. What did you need to get Millie ascot the boarder? Did you do the trip alone or are you caravanning with friends? Just asking as I am a solo...

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    1. Susan-- I'm in Loreto right now! A lovely little town with some nice restaurants, historic missions, and the marine park (which I just didn't get a chance to get to...so, something for next time!). I caravanned down here with another View-Nav couple, but they went on down to La Paz, and I've been solo traveling the past 2 weeks. Will go see them again tomorrow, but will likely make the drive back to the border solo. I feel just as safe here as I did in mainland Mexico, but the only thing that's a little more unsettling here is that there are some long stretches that have no cell coverage, but as Mex 1 is about the only hwy there is, there's usually folks driving by, and trust me, if you break down on Hwy 1 and block a lane of the shoulder-less road, I'm sure the Green Angels or local mechanicos will get you up and running pronto to clear the hwy!

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    2. Great to know - how about Millie's papers?

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    3. Last year, I took her to a Yuma vet to get her official Health Cert for Mexican customs. They never once looked at it, so this year I decided to skip it and just brought along her normal US rabies & shot records. No one has yet looked at those either! As I understand it, only Mexican Customs cares about the Health Cert. US Customs only cares about the US rabies cert & shot records (if any of them ever bother to ask for them).

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