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Old 04-22-2018, 04:12 AM   #61
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

At one point today, the thought of driving my unfinished van off a cliff crossed my mind as I laid on the bare metal floor staring up at the Thinsulate-exposed ceiling.

Needless to say, today was not a fun van conversion day. Very discouraged. Hopefully tomorrow brings a better attitude, and forward progress.

Last edited by hmbltn; 04-22-2018 at 04:16 AM.
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Old 04-22-2018, 04:27 AM   #62
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

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Originally Posted by hmbltn View Post
At one point today, the thought of driving my unfinished van off a cliff crossed my mind as I laid on the bare metal floor staring up at the Thinsulate-exposed ceiling.

Needless to say, today was not a fun van conversion day. Very discouraged. Hopefully tomorrow brings a better attitude, and forward progress.
I had the same feeling today making cabinets. I try and look at it like remodeling my house, a certain number of hours are required to complete the job, I just need to keep putting in those hours. Most of it I enjoy. Some hours suck. Helps me to take a break, get out of the space and think about something different for a few minutes. My mantra is "It'll be great when it's done..."
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Old 04-22-2018, 05:53 AM   #63
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

The wood cabinets in vans are beautiful, but I kind of prefer either soft side bags (especially at head banging level) as well as those clear plastic boxes with lids from target. It kind of drives my wife nuts, but I just hand a box to everyone and tell them "you can take what fits in here". Easy to stack, easy to secure.

One approach is to think about how your family packs for vacations and trips. Are you using gym bags, suite cases, or backpacks to pack your existing vehicle?

Sometimes the easiest way to pack / unpack is to use the same packing method that is already in common use and find ways to accommodate these items, vs introducing new concepts of storage into the vehicle.

In this local climate there is little downside to storing virtually all food related items in a refrigerator or freezer so sometimes people will just skip food cabinets and use that approach.
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Old 04-22-2018, 02:02 PM   #64
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

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Originally Posted by hmbltn View Post
At one point today, the thought of driving my unfinished van off a cliff crossed my mind as I laid on the bare metal floor staring up at the Thinsulate-exposed ceiling.

Needless to say, today was not a fun van conversion day. Very discouraged. Hopefully tomorrow brings a better attitude, and forward progress.
You will have those days.

Most of us underestimate the time required to do a conversion. Just keep working at it and use the van as you do. I am about to complete a second conversion. Thought I would be able to do it in half the time due to what I learned on the first. Wrong again. If anything it is more difficult because you now how much more time will be required to complete it.
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Old 04-22-2018, 02:50 PM   #65
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

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I personally prefer backpacking into the back country. But my wife has zero interest in doing that. My boys are too small to venture far from the trailhead with only one adult in the party.

I envision using the camper to get us out to the State and National Parks with the opportunity to get away from the large crowded campgrounds as much as possible. As well as a place to sleep when passing through urban areas. Rather than spend hundreds on hotels.

The mobile office idea is not something I HAVE to do but would really like the ability to do so whenever I want.

My wife is not even fully onboard with getting a van but Iím lobbying pretty hard for it.

Iím considering the RUV kit as well. Or a custom combination of options they offer. Not sure I want the soft storage or the MOAB bed.
How about van + rooftop tent? Easier than dealing with a trailer. Frees up space in van for other stuff too. Installs on standard Thule etc aftermarket roof rack.

Zero setup hassle if you get the right one. James Baroud Horizon Vision has gas-strut-assisted opening, for example. Literally ready for use in a minute or two. Super-fast to stow when it's time to go.

And no big deal if you want to do a day trip in middle of your camping trip. Tent stows in less than 5 minutes.

If you go with a hardshell RTT (ex: Autohome), you can get models that let you put a bike /gear rack on top of the tent's clamshell.

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Old 04-22-2018, 06:20 PM   #66
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

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How about van + rooftop tent? Easier than dealing with a trailer. Frees up space in van for other stuff too. Installs on standard Thule etc aftermarket roof rack.

Zero setup hassle if you get the right one. James Baroud Horizon Vision has gas-strut-assisted opening, for example. Literally ready for use in a minute or two. Super-fast to stow when it's time to go.

And no big deal if you want to do a day trip in middle of your camping trip. Tent stows in less than 5 minutes.

If you go with a hardshell RTT (ex: Autohome), you can get models that let you put a bike /gear rack on top of the tent's clamshell.

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I for sure considered one of those rack top tents. That would definitely interfere with my solar needs though.
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Old 04-23-2018, 12:16 PM   #67
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

If your wife is not fully on board, that could be a problem. Or not.

You only need 3 things to convert a van - skill, money and time.
Skill is easy. Youtube and forums have answers to every question under the sun. Just don't try to put a hot tub in your van. Everything else has been done and documented.

Money - either you have it or you don't. If your budget allows, buy what you can and build what you must. For example, I'm putting in a chest of drawer - 10 drawers. (I like drawers and do not like cabinets.) I could have built the drawers. I have the tools and skill and space. Instead, I let Barker Doors make me maple, dove tailed, finished drawers. They showed up on Friday and are beautiful. What would have taken me a month in the shop (or two!), took 15 minutes ordering on their web site.

Time - You have small kids. Can you spend 8 hours every Saturday and Sunday working on the van? Progress will be glacial if you can't. I'm doing most everything by myself, but sometimes you need two people. My wife helps out when asked, but doesn't hang around the garage waiting for something to do. If you can't get the occasional 3rd and 4th hand from your wife, things could be tough.

OTOH, if all those things sound manageable, then jump on in. The water's fine.

I've been working on the electrical cabinet for a couple of weeks and finally got to the stage of wiring most of it up. I sat down and made a list of cables that I had to make on Sunday. Something like a dozen cables just for the solar interface and DC panel. After staring at the box, thinking about wiring layout for way too long, I decided to just make some darn cables and see what fit. So, this first draft (everything is a prototype) isn't ideal. I will change a couple of things, but it is in.

There will be days (weekends) where you think, "What did I get myself into?"

By Sunday night I'm usually ready to not think about the van for a while. By Tuesday I'm happily thinking about how I'll spend next weekend working on it.

Last edited by ThomD; 04-23-2018 at 03:35 PM.
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Old 04-23-2018, 01:42 PM   #68
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

The decision that makes the wiring complicated vs relatively simple is the placement of the switches and exactly how convenient plugs need to be.

If your build concept requires that the majority of switches are all in one panel, then every device has a wire pair that goes from the panel out to each device. It looks nice when finished, but in the meantime - tons of wire runs back and forth.

If instead you are willing to have local switching - near the device that actually uses the power, then it can rather dramatically simplify wiring.

If the power system capacity is just barely sufficient for the van to operate, then a lot of effort has to go into rationing and battery monitoring.

Once the electrical system capacity is sufficient / somewhat over size, then micro management, rationing and turning off USB plugs, etc when not in use is no longer an issue.

In a home, we are ecological / not wasteful of electricity, but we don't have to have every plug and light in the house on a single switch panel because the "system" is of sufficient capacity. It is the same for van conversions.

In most vans, the refrigerator is the big power user, followed by the diesel heater. Once the decision is made to have 8 hours of air conditioning from the battery pack:
- The rest of the loads become essentially negligible
- Solar will assist, but the main re-charge power will either come from substantial driving, a generator, or the grid
- The battery pack sizing will usually end up around 8 - 10 kw-hrs of usable capacity
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Old 04-23-2018, 02:11 PM   #69
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

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I for sure considered one of those rack top tents. That would definitely interfere with my solar needs though.
If you're interested, there are some useful threads on ExpeditionPortal.com about using solar in conjunction with RTT.

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Old 04-23-2018, 02:36 PM   #70
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Default Re: Trying to find the courage to do a 170WB build

TomD:

Extremely well summarized. I am mostly retired with plenty of time and have saved/invested my money so money is not an issue. I am fortunate enough to have a barn for a work space with a reasonable amount of tools. Not as skillful as many here but enough to get the job done. I do have a background of 55 years of engineering with enough 2D CAD ability that has helped.

Even with the time money and skills a conversion is not easy for some. One thing you left out is the loss of sleep due to waking up thinking about how to solve a design issue.

I do not know how I could have completed a conversion in my earlier days with kids. It certainly would not have been so complete and would have been much simpler. Just a simple place to sleep/ride/eat. That being said I have strong regrets not building a conversion when I was younger. I keep looking at the calendar wondering if the conversion will be done before I am done.
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