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I love the side opening battery box. Was planning to put my batteries in similar location but didn't want to have to pull the bed apart to gain access with a top loader.
 

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Discussion Starter #123
I love the side opening battery box. Was planning to put my batteries in similar location but didn't want to have to pull the bed apart to gain access with a top loader.
Yeah, top access would be a PITA. My bed can supposedly come apart. But that involves putting the mattress somewhere, and each bed section is heavy and very difficult to maneuver.

In other news, wiring a switch to the negative side and putting it physically right next to breakers was a mistake. Makes hooking stuff up difficult. Gotta hook the positive terminal last to keep short opportunities to a minimum. I did make some sparks the other night when I mistakenly hooked the terminal first and then the other end brushed the negative on the switch. And I thought I was being VERY careful. Went and disconnected positive before completing the work.
 

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Discussion Starter #124 (Edited)
Installed the new solar panels. Bought some 1/4" plate, bits, and various nuts and bolts to mount them to the unistrut. Cost over 100 bucks. The guy at the store said drilling would be easy but I wouldn't be able to cut them with a jigsaw. Found some blades for my circular saw but turned out they didn't fit. My saw has a very small spindle/whatever it's called. Ended up burning through a couple jigsaw blades to cut 2 of the plates in half, but it was still easier than drilling.

Drilled (6) 7/16" holes to receive the 3/8" bolts to the unistrut nuts, and (16) 3/8" holes to bolt to the solar panels with 5/16" bolts. Drilled pilot holes in the first plate before full size holes, then used the first plate as a template clamped to the next 5 plates to drill the larger holes straight away. Painted them for protection.

Here is the $10 drill bit taking a break:
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Watching more paint dry. I knew I'd find a use for this annoying leftover floor plywood I had clogging up the van.
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Bolted plates to panels with 5/16" bolts from the bottom, with washer and lock nuts in the panel frame. Plates are oversized cuz I didn't want to cut anymore lol, but it made the nuts hard to reach.
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Used these Simpson anchor plate washers to space the 1/4" plate off the unistrut to make sure the solar panel bolt heads fit:
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They feel super sturdy. Good thing I measured carefully, the unistrut bolts just barely fit. Found a document online speccing 26Nm for the channel nuts and my torque wrench goes up to 24 so that's what they are at. Good for 1000 lbs each (about the same as the steel plate).
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At this point it was dark and I had the wires up there and the backup camera housing open. Checked the weather and rain was forecast for 8am. So I walked to ACE and asked the only employee for ideas. Ended up with these 9/32" rubber grommets just the right size for a tight fit.
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Ran the wires through the unistrut to the back corner. Still need some way to wrangle the loose wires at the back. I still have one 10ft unistrut so I'm thinking of cutting it in half and fastening across the rails at the back and just behind the solar panels for a deck or just whatever. Get it out of the van.
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You might want to consider adding a blob of silicone or some kind of sealant on top of and around the grommets. Water seems to be able to get in via the smallest of gaps. Especially when aided by gravity. At least that's my experience.
 

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Discussion Starter #126
Oh I also forgot to post that I hooked up the Whynter 90 quart fridge/freezer and the Maxxair. Both work. Fridge is using 5 amps and the fan about 3.5 on high. I bought blade terminals to hook to the DC outlet for the fridge. One felt loose. Clamped it with pliers, taped it up, then taped up the whole thing. Maybe I should just replace it but it seems to be working fine. Will stick with this for our road trip down to AZ this weekend. Also this DC plug on the fridge is a little wobbly on one side. Already replaced the first fridge which was damaged. Probably gonna just leave it and hope it stays put.

68892
 

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Discussion Starter #127
You might want to consider adding a blob of silicone or some kind of sealant on top of and around the grommets. Water seems to be able to get in via the smallest of gaps. Especially when aided by gravity. At least that's my experience.
I was thinking of that but that locks the wires in place. Might do that once I'm satisfied with the wires. But the housing itself doesn't seem to have any rubber, it's just clamped to plastic. So I'm not sure I'm letting in more water especially since it shouldn't pool around the wires.
 

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I was thinking of that but that locks the wires in place. Might do that once I'm satisfied with the wires. But the housing itself doesn't seem to have any rubber, it's just clamped to plastic. So I'm not sure I'm letting in more water especially since it shouldn't pool around the wires.
I think silicone can be peeled off fairly easily. I've had to remove some from a bathtub. Maybe ensure there's a "dip" in the wires before they enter the van. Water could flow along the wire.
 

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Discussion Starter #129
Ran the solar wires down the rear pillar today. In the process, I discovered that in building my electrical box I blocked access to one of the screws holding on the black cover on the pillar, so it was a bit of a pain jiggling the wires from the top and trying to guide them with a screwdriver through the black slotted cover. But I eventually succeeded and hooked up the solar.

On to the roof to wrangle that rear wire. I cut in half and painted my last unistrut. Was going to mount the strut open end down over the existing one, but discovered the channel nuts can't be tightened that way (they spin). So I flipped it and used a washer. Since I already ran the wires, I couldn't run them through the unistrut holes. For now I wrapped them around the outside corner, but they are visible from the street. They also now have to come out the top of the middle of the unistrut across the rear. Don't really like, would rather they went out the bottom. May try and figure out a way to flip the strut, or may just leave it.
 

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The strut nuts should have grooves to pull tight against the lip of the upturned strut. May have to hold them in place while starting, but once pressure is applied they should bite. They're designed to hang things from the open side so you should be able to attach your top piece either way since your first runs are turned up.

I'd get a right angle attachment for your drill or a low profile ratchet with screwdriver bits so you can remove the black panel if you need to change the taillight. Looks like you have enough clearance.

I wouldn't use silicone until you're ready to finalize, it sticks pretty good and nothing sticks to it, so you really need to clean it off if you want to redo it. I don't have a trick to move the middle of wires without undoing an endpoint, but if you figure it out I wanna know.

Edit: Actually, if the wires are just laid in the strut, you could flop them over the side and ziptie to the side of the strut facing the center of the roof. Any excess could be collected too to reduce visibility.
 

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Discussion Starter #131
The strut nuts should have grooves to pull tight against the lip of the upturned strut. May have to hold them in place while starting, but once pressure is applied they should bite. They're designed to hang things from the open side so you should be able to attach your top piece either way since your first runs are turned up.

I'd get a right angle attachment for your drill or a low profile ratchet with screwdriver bits so you can remove the black panel if you need to change the taillight. Looks like you have enough clearance.

I wouldn't use silicone until you're ready to finalize, it sticks pretty good and nothing sticks to it, so you really need to clean it off if you want to redo it. I don't have a trick to move the middle of wires without undoing an endpoint, but if you figure it out I wanna know.

Edit: Actually, if the wires are just laid in the strut, you could flop them over the side and ziptie to the side of the strut facing the center of the roof. Any excess could be collected too to reduce visibility.
The channel bolts all work when tightening from outside the strut, but when tightening from inside, the nut tends to turn and the grooves come off until the nut is parallel with the strut. I could use a washer, bit would need to be quite thick and just the right size.

I was considering flopping over the side. I may do that if/when I flip the strut.

The screw is very tight. I cant even fit a bit held by vice grips. But it's physically possible that a low enough profile contraption could work if the bit was shorter.
 

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Discussion Starter #133
I think I'll get longer bolts. Will be a tight fit for the wires but maybe they'll fit if I use 1/4" bolts
68941
 

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Discussion Starter #134
Flipped the strut and used 1/4" x2.5" bolts from the top through double washers tightened to 8Nm. Threading the wires around the channel nut was harder than it looked on CAD, as everything is, but finally squeezed it in. Looks better.

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Also bought some temporary stuff, some of which may stick around for a while:
A 6 gallon trash can, 5 gallon water jug, 5 gallon bucket with sealable lid, beer and soda. Wife is out buying dinner and breakfast stuff.

I feel like backpacking is easier cuz I already have the gear and stuff is dialed in but this should be fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #136
Just got home from our first trial van trip. Drove from Petaluma (45 minutes north of SF) to Chandler (30 minutes south-east of Phoenix).

Drove Saturday and Sunday both weekends. I did all the driving because my wife doesn't really like driving and is 5'-0" so she can't reach the pedals anyway. We spent the week doing The Great Driveway Tour of 2020. I have 6 siblings, so we stayed in one of my brothers' driveway twice, my in-laws driveway twice, my sister's once, and another brother's once.

Before and after photos:
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My in-laws insist on giving us stuff we don't want, so we ended up leaving with a license plate holder camera without monitor that won't work as a rear view cuz the image will be reversed, a trailer hitch tray that's rusty and rattles and would just get in the way, and an old Coleman toilet when we really want a dry toilet.

We planned our camping spot by the hot springs on the way down, but decided to wing it on the way home. I saw a little green patch in Ventura county and saw a campground and figured we'd just sleep along the road if it was full. Wasn't full, but many RVs were parked along the nearby streets. Was nice to have a fire pit for warming our Thanksgiving leftovers and bathroom for #2.

Things to make it more comfortable:

1) Surfaces would be ideal for next trip. We only had the fridge and a tiny patio table that we had to fold up each time we drove.
2) Storage to stash our stuff instead of several bags.
3) A sink to wash dishes.
4) A dry toilet for #2
5) Heat. It was really cold each evening and night and we were outside most of the time we visited, so a heated van would be so much more comfortable. It was upper 30s at the lowest and the bed was warm enough once we got in and warmed it though. This is about the cold limit I'd want memory foam. The foam mattress is ok in the cold but a firm pillow is weird. I'll probably get non-foam pillows for the van.

Other random thoughts:
1) Asparagus is off limits in the van. It's delicious, but the urine is pungent.
2) Urine smells, but once the lid was closed it was fine. I assume a dry toilet with a small opening will be fine.
3) My favorite place to sit is on the edge with the slider open, feet up to the rear and back leaning on B pillar. It's so nice that I'm considering leaving at least the floor at the sliding door clear just to sit there.
4) We had some low sun and drove a bit each day and the batteries only went below 80% when we made 2 batches of coffee with the 1500 watt electric kettle we bought for the trip. Always 100% immediately upon driving anywhere. And this was with the inverter on all night charging our stuff.
5) I bought a 5 gallon jug for drinking water. We went through a tad over 2 jugs in 9 days drinking a little elsewhere. So I'd guess 10 gallons per week. With dishes and showers I really think 40 gallons is ideal as a permanent solution.
6) Second guessing back door shower. We showered at her parents place a few times, but think driving out to nature just to shower twice a week would be a pain. Gyms might work any other year though.
7) Bed is big. It's 58" wide and we probably would have been just as comfortable with 48". But I need space for a bike tray anyway and if we bring the cat in the future he'll be taking up a good bit of space lol.

I didn't remember to photograph The Great Driveway Tour of 2020, but did get this great #vanlife shot one morning:
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