Monday, August 19, 2013

Weight of the Camper after it was all said and done.

I had a recent inquiry to the overall dry weight of the camper.  From my calculations and experience in loading the camper I would say somewhere in the ballpark of 600-700 pounds.  I did not keep tabs on the weights of all inputs during the build.  That would have been nice but there was enough detail to have to worry about in other realms so the calculations simply fell through the cracks.

I do know that the entire collection of sheetgoods (Nida-Core) weigh in at 32 pounds per and I had 10, minus the small segments leftover that were thrown away.  Would have been 11 but ended up settling for a piece of 3/4" plywood- epoxied saturated and painted- for the backwall. 
  1) So the weight of 10 sheets of Nida Core = 320 pounds
  2) one piece of 3/4" plywood = 30-45 pounds
  3) must have at least 7 gallons of resin = 80-100 pounds
  4) must have at least 40-50 pounds of cloth

(320) + (37.5) + (90) + (45) = 492

and my guess would have been around somewhere in the ballpark between 500-700 pounds

just right for the 1/2 ton with air bag helper issues in transit

I have never had a chance just yet, to actually obtain my truck total weight on a set of scales since the camper has been added.  But I really feel good about the guesstimate projection.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The shower water heater and choices

When it came time to choose what water heater system to use in the camper I quickly realized the shortage of choices.  I would have loved to have installed an in-demand unit remotely but simply did not have the remaining monies at this point in the build.  Plus, I really did not have the space to mount one anyway, after making appropriate arrangements for a larger water tank.  I guess I could have mounted one on the exterior wall adjacent to the sink I suppose but the cost was the limiting factor.

I had seen an 'in-use water heater shower head' years ago and began a search for a reputable supplier.  I ended up landing on the Marey Heater Corporation site, this firm is located in Peurto Rico and offers the 120 VAC in-use water heater, shower head.  I was a bit concerned having such an arrangement- wet environment, powered unit in the shower- but there appears to be safeguards (insulated housing).  I plan on installing a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) on this circuit.  One should never have any type of electrical install that serves a wet area (sink, countertop, exterior app) without one.  Matter of factly it is a National Electrical Code mandate across US....well yeah- 'national- US..duh!'--lol.  A 30A GFCI circuit breaker will suffice.  

I understand these units are commonly used all throughout Peurto Rico, various parts of Mexico and perhaps other portions of Central America within their dwellings and commercial buildings. 

My plumbing was certainly not the neatest install, but functional.  I have a switch for the shower head and another switch for the water pump. I can turn the power off to the shower head before I disengage the pump, thus preventing a dry element incident.

The piece of angle the shower head is mounted to is for rigidity while in transit because the shower head is forward heavy.  The surface mounted plumbing allows me to remove the unit should it ever need replacing.  Was not enough room in my wall studs for the fitting arrangement and it was O'dark-30 when I was working on this, no stores open and I needed this baby in. Anyway it's not a photo booth, just an area to wash after a day of field research.


Interior of camper snapshots...still a work in progress

I have been gone from the blog world for quite sometime.  Just had some extra time to provide a walk through of the camper interior.  Mind you- it is a work in progress, still needing a water tank.  I had a water tank purchased already but it is a long story as to why it is not in use. 

The space where the heater is now sitting was the place designed for the water tank
after plumbing and electrical is complete will complete cabinetry underneath sink

As you can see in the picture below there is an electrical junction box mounted between the wall studs.  This box is for the service of the 120 VAC instantaneous hot water showerhead.  Also above that is the switch that runs the 12 VDC waterpump.  This allows me to turn off the waterheater electrical supply just prior to turning off the pump to ensure I do not have a dry element and ruin the showerhead.


 Risky facets I agree...but options are very limited in North America when it comes to 'hot water heaters for campers' unless you want to take up a lot of space, spend a boat load of money and then whine about how much you just spent.  This particular unit I installed - Marey Tankless point-of-use, water heater showerhead- is not even offered on the home range, these come from Peurto Rico.  It will be served by a 30A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter breaker in the panel. 
I know, not the most aesthetically pleasing setup.  I'll be the first to shake my head in agreement with's called running out of money at this point in the build.  But there is a method to the madness- the different colored switches will actually empower me to distinguish between the pump and the shower head supply. "A Contraption"- but it will serve to wash the stink off and prepare the old boy for the sack.

A peek underneath the sink shows where the incoming water line will be connected and the sink drain/vent.   

if you missed the shower rough-in, check that out here


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Truck Air Springs (Air Bags) Install - Air Lift Ride Control

I searched a little across the web and ended up going with the decision to purchase Air Lift Ride Control Air Springs, Air Lift 59501 Ride Control Air Bags specifically, to install on my truck to aid in better handling with the camper on the truck.  I have a friend of mine that has a set on his vehicle and had nothing but good things to say about the bags.  He had never had a rupture or any issues with them after hauling cargo and weight continuously throughout the years  So this extra push, overcame that inertia and I bit the bullet and spent the little sum of money.

I was a bit concerned with having sufficient wheel clearance between the back sides of my tires and the air bags when inflated after reading some of the reviews about the bags that are posted online. I believe most of those individuals have larger than factory type, off road tires.  Although, I have a hybrdized off road tire on my truck they are not as wide as some of the one's specifically geared towards offroading are. I was able to install the bags on my truck and even after inflating them still have ample space between the two. 

I spent the better part of 6-8 hours one evening to take both rear truck tires off and to install the springs. Ended up calling a good friend so that I could utilize his concrete driveway to do so.  Was not about to execute this feat on grass lawn.  The proper mounting of the brackets come with a handy dandy little device in the kit, that allow you to properly align the two bracket halves alongside the chassis where they are to be mounted, so you can obtain location specific marks for drilling. 

Then I had to drill some holes in the chassis...newly purchased, sharp HSS bit made this go smoothly.

Overall, the install was not difficult.  Routed a little bit plastic air hose to the rear of vehicle (supplied in kit) where I mounted my valve stems in the bumper near the registration plate mounting area and I was in business. It only takes a small bicycle tire handpump to maintain these bags.  I am able to keep them taut with only minimal air pressure.  I am impressed with the ease of operation in inflating these...they really work well. 

I have not had any issues with loss of air from the bags and they have been on over a year now.  

installation location of my air bag valve stems
 This was one of the better decisions that I made, to go with this purchase and install. Not sure what it would have driven like without these air springs but the truck drives and handles superbly with these installed. I must say I'm Impressed!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Giving Truck Grille A Paint Overhaul

My truck's grill was overdue a much needed painting, which I managed to accomplish prior to the beginning of the camper build.  The last thing I wanted was to have the camper completed and on the truck, ready to go and the grill looking downcast.  Well it wasn't as bad as I am implying I suppose, but it did need to be touched up some.

I used the Petit EasyPoxy Marine Grade Topside Paint from Jamestown Distributors, cut a little with thinner and sprayed through a cheap high volume-low pressure, gravity fed sprayer.  The paint job turned out, well almost terrific.  The quality of the paint had everything to do with it, I'm certain.  Self leveled and cured flat, smooth and glossy.

 You can see after sanding just how bad the grill was, those grayish areas is the underlying color composition of the plastic where the paint had depleted.

Some sanding and clean up with acetone, took me about 35-45 minutes approx.  No, the blog isn't upside, neither are you...(laughing)


 Here you can see just how nicely that Petit EasyPoxy goes on, covers and cures.. i'm super pleased.

Camper Tie Down Attachment Point UPDATE

The camper has been on the truck for some time now and seen quite a bit of road miles across a varied topography and been in positions that have undoubtedly placed stress and strain on the attachment points.  I am glad to say that the design behind the structural compound filled pockets lapped over and beneath with 1708 biaxial cloth have created a structurally sound connect.  You can see the initial design and construction here  and the reinforcement of the system with 1708 biaxial cloth overlay here.

The eyebolts purchased from McMaster are serving me well, of course I ended up purchasing overkill in regards to the eyebolts.  After several months, a check of all the attachment points are seemingly doing fine.

The HappiJac camper tie downs mounted on the truck cab are doing well although they are digging into the truck bed some, thus cracking the paint job and deforming the metal ever so slightly.  The deformation is minor at this point.  I did not install a torsion bar between the bed mounted tie downs.  Being my truck is an older model, I'm not overly concerned.  However, if I had a newer model truck I would certainly have used the torsion bar in conjunction with the plates.  The torsion bar is supposed to prevent that 'digging in' from occurring.  Mind you...'my camper is even lighter than all commercial units', so I would certainly use that torsion bar tie-in if I were carrying one of those manufactured units in my truck bed.

Those Stainless Steel HappiJac Turnbuckles are everything individual's claimed them to be and a little more.  They are extra durabable and have not given me any problems, they stay tight and the inert springs work as the manufacturer claimed, providing me with stress relief when turning into and driving across driveway drainage configs.  Occasionally, I can hear the spring as it is being compressed and relaxed, but this is not a bother to me...Heck, put this kind of load on your back and you just might croak every now and again as well (laughin)

You can see the large, 1/4" thick fender washers and there are 5/16" thick flat iron plates that sit on top of the reinforced area in the interior. 

Months of driving and no movement, the reinforced fiberglass area is holding up as planned. To see the structural fiberglass mixture recipe which was used to reinforce this region for the bolt-throughs.  The pockets were cut and filled, wrapped in 7-8 ounce cloth, layered with 1708 biaxial cloth on top (both on exterior and interior), both interior and exterior recieved a little more lamination as corners of panels were lain (as seen in photo above) can see the wrap.  Eyebolts protrude through a 5/16" thick plate on the interior, another 1/4" thick structure washer and possess two nuts.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Camper Brake / Turn / Clearance Lights...the thoughts concerning laws and the install

Installed some basic red lens combination lights on the camper rear.  The 12VDC lights that I bought were purchased from Agri-Supply and made primarily for metal fleeced trailer walls.  Thus, had to install a grounding wire to the fixture prior to mounting in my walls to complete the circuit.  Had already ran my wires from the truck's brake/turn/run into the rear wall region.

You can see that portion of the electrical rough-in here.

Prior to mounting the camper I drilled a 1" hole in this tailgate channel stop to accept a 7-pin female 12VDC receptacle.  Spliced into the wires feeding this left rear brake light to pick up the circuit.  Also, robbed two of the pins inside the receptacle to serve as a feed and a switchleg from a switch up in the cab that would operate a brighter backup light on the back wall of the camper.  

I mounted a agricultural harvester light with a trapezoidal pattern that would allow me to see the light in both side view mirrors.  Mounted it a little high to distribute the pattern well and it works pretty good.  Not sure if a flood would have worked better but it does provide ample light when backing up in dark spaces.  Also have it switched inside the camper as well, in case I were to ever hear a rustle at night near the door. 

 I understand that the Federal Transportation Laws mandate that brake/turn/running lights on tractor trailers, dump trucks, anything with a fixed bed or box of the sort has to have these lights arranged so as to signify the width and height of said box.  That having been said, slide-in truck campers are somewhat of a special animal.  From what I understand of the written laws, they are considered 'truck cargo' and thus do not meet that criteria.  Furthermore, noticing that most of the manufactured units have their brake lights mounted much lower than mine and some do not even have any at all, I thought I would be kosher in the arrangement chosen.

It seemed that some of the manufactured units had upper brake light strips in combination with another pair of lights but most did not.  My original plans were to have a 2.5 foot strip centered at the top in conjunction with the these 6" round lights.  I had even purchased the strip but after the door was installed and the "much needed" rain gutter....something had to give.  --> it was the light. 

I considered height of install in respect to the 'seated approaching motorist' and wanted them in the plane of sight.  These lights are about the same height above ground as the cab brake lights found on all modern pickups and I mounted them just above the vertical plane of my truck lights.

The closer proximity of the light arrangements are far enough apart to be seen as separate at 200-300' but close enough to grab one's attention.

  The install didn't turn out half bad.  I'm pleased with the overall setup, although I do wish I could have had somewhere to mount the upper brake light strip.

Smittybilt Beaver Tail Step purchased for ease of access

As I was looking and prodding for a select step for entrance into the camper, I quickly discovered that the tubular types are marketed all over the internet.  Wanting something safer than tubular, I kept looking until I landed upon the Smittybilt product line.  They make a step called the Beaver Tail that is absolutely bullet proof in its composition, design and weld quality.  Not to mention, a flat stepping surface area as opposed to tubular. 

The step weighs a hefty amount as it is all solid metal, no hollow stuff here....just solid metal.  Its designed to serve a two fold purpose; a step and an attachment point for vehicle retrievals.  Used extensively with those sporting offroaders that need to pull one another out of tight spots and continue onward.

When I say it is hefty and durable, they are understatements...this is a great step folks, really it is.  One of those few items that you buy 'once' and it stays intact the remainder of your days.  Heck, may even end up on your child's vehicle one day.  They are just that tough.  After dealing with the vast array of cheaply designed product on the market today, I must say "I was overly impressed."

The only slightly negative feedback I have against the step is the powder coated finish does not have much texture to it thus making it slick and hazardous when wet out.  I ended up purchasing some step traction tape off of ebay, cut into strips and installed on my step.  Made all the difference in the world.  My wife's complaint was, "Why I didn't take my time to cut and install the tape in a more fashionable manner".....i admit it...i was rushing.

The step is perfect for slide-in truck campers, the surface area is just right allowing both feet to firmly planted at the same time if need be.  Also, built proportional to most full size truck bumpers.

Here you can see the distance the step protrudes from the hitch when mounted.  Overall I am pleased with the Smittybilt Beaver Tail Step 


Rain Gutter Install Over Door

Bought a piece of aluminum channel from McMaster to install over entrance door to divert roof waters.  Was a little bit of a challenge getting it fastened due to the width of the channel preventing easy access for tools, but I managed to do so.  Just took me a while.

What seemingly appeared to be a 20-30 minute install turned into a much lengthier one.

revealing the tight clearance above door that I desired

Performs well, even in severe rainstorms.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Design and building of Entrance Door

I looked high and low for available camper entrance doors for sale but could not find an affordable choice for purchase during that time.  Furthermore, I simply did not have necessary time to search the countryside in an effort to locate a more reasonably priced version.  So, I simply decided to make my own entrance door. 

I took a piece of 3/4" good grade plywood and coated the exterior side really well with 2-3 coats of thin set epoxy which cured a waterproof exterior shell on the sheet.  Placed a piece of Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) on the exterior of the door.  Then made my sealing flanges for the door out of 4" wide fiberglass cloth, that after cure, would be mounted to the outward edge of my door.  It worked fairly well.  Not the 'most professional looking and certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing' one you have ever seen but it does the job for now.

Thin fiberboard strips cut to appropriate size and wrapped in wax paper to allow me to drape wet fiberglass cloth over the ledges.  The idea was that the wax paper would prevent the polyester resin from bonding to the fiberboard and the 1/4" variation in height would create an offset in the cloth thereby creating a 1/4" area to accept weatherstripping so door would shut tight and seal out rain. 

 Mounting piano hinge and outward edge flanges.
 Roll out caulk placed upon hinge line and then hinge fastened.

Door installed and interior insulated.

Interior Electrical System Rough-In

As you might have discovered this posting is somewhat out of order considering there are earlier posts showing the camper already sitting on my truck, which is true.  The interior has been completed in regards to paint, shower, wiring...all I need now is the fresh water tank.  So, yes it is sitting on the truck with interior complete for the most part.  

This part of the build was just not uploaded within the appropriate timeframe, that's all.  little behind guys!

The interior work came at a time when I was extremely busy with other business ventures.  Lots of the construction occurred within crunches 'for time' thus I simply snapped away with the photos and did not have the time to upload and blog during that busy time.  So here we are now!

As you recall from the earlier phases of construction, the entire camper is Nida Core honeycomb panels except for the rear wall.  (the reason why? i chose wood)

I insulated the rear wall with residential construction foam approximately 1" thick which will be wrapped with some form of paneling on the interior.

Black SJ cord fastened in place is a 5-6', 6 conductor pigtail plugged into 6 port receptacle feeding parking lights, left turn, right turn and brakes.  The fifth and sixth contact was chosen out of the receptacle to feed my rear backup light which is operated from a switch in the truck cab.

Placed horizontal strips of wooden reinforcement in this region where one's back would rest when sitting on the bench, to prevent bowing and damage to the thin wall paneling.

 Insulation going up in wall region where shower stall will be installed, notice the sloped seat in this region.  The seat was sloped to allow for water drainage when taking showers.
 Insulation in place in door before interior panel side was installed. Also can see some of the incipient stages of inlet power installation going on in the background.

Monday, March 25, 2013

12 volt DC System and Onboard Battery Recharge System

I wanted a 12 VDC system for the camper that could be recharged and 'topped off' as I was in transit.  Knowing that I not only wanted to recharge the onboard camper battery with my truck alternator but that I would want that battery to be available for a starting means, meant a significant wire guage would be needed.  If I was just planning on the recharge and not potentially having to use the camper battery to start my vehicle I would not have searched for such a large wire size.

Well as you may very well know....copper wire is a tad bit pricey.  I needed at least a #2 guage for the potential 200 amp starter draw and the wire needed to be multi-stranded so it would be flexible....

(think..think....?) ahhhh!..."a set of heavy duty jumper cables."  Purchased a 20 foot set of #2 AWG heavy duty jumper cables and chopped off the gator clips.  The extra fine strands will allow for the ease of routing the cable on the truck frame.

Purchased some 200 amp Anderson Power Poles to use for connection means, a rather nifty crimping tool that can be used with a hammer and I was in business. Wowsers are those crimping tool pliers expensive...this little nifty crimping tool that I picked up from Amazon instead, fit the bill.  I was impressed with the overall strength of this tool considering I paid under $20 for it and those wire crimping pliers are at 'the least' $200.00. By the way, I searched high and low and this tool seems to be the only one of its kind living out there.

 Made very strong connections..Impressed! 
Cord end for the truck is ready, now need to make the shorter pigtail for the camper.

The longer cord was run from the truck battery whereas the shorter pigtail was mounted on the camper itself.  I ran the longer pigtail along the truck frame towards the rear of the truck and mounted the powerpole connector to the cross member, to serve as a quick-disconnect region, for when camper is loaded and off-loaded.

A #12 guage wire was run alongside which was 'fed' from camper battery, serving a switch in cab that I can use to energize the coil of the battery isolator located underneath the hood.

I mounted a Stinger, 200 amp water-tight battery isolator in the engine compartment.  I installed a 200 amp ANL fuse and fuseblock to protect the long length of wire and ultimately the camper battery from ground faults and short circuits or from overloads if using to start 'third party' vehicles.

The shorter leads used in this connection were just battery leads purchased from a local automotive store.  The isolator is controlled from switch in cab fed from camper battery.

I had to purchase some side-post battery bolts w/ extensions in order to make accommodation for the new circuit additions.  The Raptor brand are a nice choice as they are available in both short and long lengths and vehicle make/model specific to fit your battery.  The longer extension bolts were perfect for the two positive, stacked OEM cables on the positive side of the battery.  I was pleased with the overall quality and durability of the Raptor brand.  Plus they are corrosion resistant or proof perhaps.  I found these on Amazon.

The longer bolt was purchased for use on the positive side of the battery, to accommodate the two, stacked OEM cable terminals; the install was painless.  As far as the extension portion goes, that section is plenty long as well...have room for future use built-in.
Notice how nicely the two (red) OEM battery terminal ends stack on one another along this new bolt, thus providing good continuity.

The short bolt lengths were used on this end of the battery where I only had to mount one factory OEM battery cable.  The OEM cable terminals slide over the bolts and fit snugly along a portion of the bolt allocated for them.  I could not hardly believe that these bolts actually fit perfect, both different lengths and for different sides, but model specific had everything in the world to do with it....Hooray for Raptor!

Showing both battery side-post extension bolts in place and with circuits connected.

Shorter pigtail from camper was dropped down between cab and truck bed to make the needed connection.  I used a 1.25" or either 1.5" LB PVC conduit body as a means of entrance through the 1.25" Nida-Core panels.  I was able to pop-rivet the side of the conduit body to the fiberglass skin.  The protruding 1" portion of the LB protected the cable insulation from scrubbing the raw fiberglass hole.  I filled the LB up with electrician's non-hardening duct seal.

Cable was routed through LB and then into the battery compartment box.  Used duct seal here also in order to prevent noxious vapors from entering camper.  (See construction of battery compartment box)

Mounted a battery tray by pop-riveting it to the fiberglass panel.

Connections were made

To see the creation of the battery compartment box visit here

see you around, chris