We needed a place to stick the trailer battery, so we made up a support for it. It is a simple skid plate of plywood reinforced with steel for extra strength, since the battery is rather heavy. It would be pretty disastrous if the battery were to fall out!
We needed a place to store our clothes and any other goods we might want to access while inside the sleeping quarters. We decided to utilize the space above our refrigerator for this purpose, and cut an access panel into the headboard. A couple of hinges, a gas spring, and a handle facilitate opening and closing of the door. A magnet assures it stays closed.
We thought long and hard about how best to incorporate music into the trailer. We had considered putting a standard car audio head unit in with a pair (or more) of speakers. Eventually, we came to the realization that this was really an unnecessary complication, because it offered no major benefit. True, we could have gotten better sound quality, if we were willing to spend more money on the components. We realized that a portable Bluetooth speaker would be sufficient for our needs, and would also offer the benefit of being able to take it outside, or wherever we please. We built a shelf in the headboard. This will house the speaker, and probably our phones, or whatever devices may need charging overnight.
We also defined a need for storing dry, non-refrigerated foods, as well as some additional cookware that we want to carry, but that does not fit in storage drawers we already made. What we decided was to build some shelves above the sink. We did a test fit with everything we could think of that we want to bring, and we had tons of space left over. So it should be just enough.
Finally, we wanted a place to store some larger items. The main things are a small folding table and a 10ft. x 10ft. standalone canopy. To support the table was simple. We made a floor for the rear area underneath the mattress, and walls to separate this storage area from the propane tank. The table fits neatly inside, with plenty of room left over. The extra space will maybe hold tools or something, we aren't sure yet.
To secure the folding canopy, we made a simple U-channel about the length of the canopy when it is folded up and stowed. This is located along the passenger's side of the trailer, adjacent to the folding table storage. The canopy's packaging has wheels on it, which helps to slide it in and out from the rear of the trailer.
So with all of the storage compartments sorted, we could start to enclose everything with exterior walls. This part of the process was both exciting and nerve-wracking. Everything that has been done up to this point suddenly becomes a lot more important because although it can all be hidden, it all determines what the exterior skin is going to look like. If everything doesn't line up correctly, the outside will be wavy or things might not line up correctly, and this can cause leaks. All this is amplified by the fact that the exterior material is pretty expensive. So, no mistakes, no room for error.
The upside is that the fear motivated us to everything more slowly, and to be aware of each step of the process. We caught a few mistakes this way early enough that we were able to correct them before any irreversible damage was done.
First, we pulled all of the necessary stuff off the front end, including the dummy panel that has been there for ages. It looked so empty!
In order to ensure no mistakes, each cut gets marked in pencil in its entirety, and then double-checked by both of us first. We cut a notch in the front wall in order for it to sit in the proper location around the tongue tubes.
This allowed us to locate the fastener holes and bolt it in place.
We spent an evening with layout tools (i.e. - pencil, straightedge, tape measure, etc.) and drew all of the parts that were hidden behind the front wall. This included all the walls and shelves, which was critical for locating the large cutouts that needed to be made. There was very little room for error in marking and cutting the hole for the refrigerator drawer. If the hole is too large, there will be no wall to secure the supports for the drawer slides. If the hole is too narrow, the drawer won't be able to open.
The water filter housing that we ordered a while back came with a wrench that is designed specifically for tightening and loosening the canister. We found that the outside of this special tool has the perfect radius for a pleasing corner for these openings. As a bonus, it has a convenient handle, too!
The straight edges were cut with a circular saw and a straightedge for a guide. The corners are cut freehand with a jigsaw. The corners were absolutely the scariest part of the process. But in the end, the cuts came out fantastic. We were pumped.
So from that point, we simply had to reassemble all the stuff that was in there before we started this task. We started with the fridge, because that has the smallest tolerance. It slides perfectly.
Then we put hinges onto the water heater door to secure it back in place.
And finally a shot with everything closed up.
It's been a while since we've given a status update. To be fair, we have been a little busy moving about the world. But we have not forgotten or given up on our trailer. In this episode, we install most of the electrical system.
Like everything else, we started with a need. In this case, it is a need to see our way about a campsite when we're setting up at night, relaxing around the fire, midnight pee runs, etc. We have headlamps, of course, and they contain white and red lights. We've found we use the red quite a bit more than we initially anticipated; it's great when you only need a little bit of visual aid after your eyes have adapted to the dark of night.
We wanted to incorporate that feature into our trailer, so we purchased two sets of rock lights. Rock lights are usually a few LEDs contained in a small housing, and their design intent is to be installed on a rock-crawling off road vehicle, near each wheel, to help light rough terrain for off roading at night. We purchased one set of four with white LEDs, and another set with red LEDs. We also purchased a 2-way light switch, so we can toggle between white and red with a single switch.
We thought that was going to be the tricky part of the wiring, and wanted to get that out of the way first. So once the testing proved successful, we moved our focus to the trailer's road lights. You know, brake lights and turn signals and all that. Since every trailer has them, we figured it would be simple. It was not.
We agreed that the trailer should have orange turn signals, separate from the brake lights. It is common for trailers to condense running lights, turn signals, and brake lights all into a single dual-filament bulb. Separating the turn signals out helps to reduce ambiguity of the signaling going on in the back of the trailer. It increases safety. It also increases the amount of parts and wiring required to make it all work. It was a little confusing at first, but we worked it out!
After the road lights harness was completed, with running lights, brake lights, turn signals, side markers front and rear, and reverse lights, we bundled it all up for installation. We borrowed our friend's truck, which is wired for a trailer connection, to test the harness and make sure everything works. We were pumped to find that everything worked according to the plan!
All the electrical demand we'll be creating needs a source. We made a power budget; conservative, but not unreasonable. We began shopping for a battery in the size range of 100Ah, somewhat larger than a typical car battery. We explored myriad options - two 6V batteries in series, two or more small 12V batteries in parallel, etc. We researched battery chemistries - lead acid, lithium polymer, absorbent glass mat, etc. We shopped around so many manufacturers and vendors. In parallel, we revisited a discussion we'd had previously about how we'd be recharging the battery. The tow vehicle can maintain a charge in a full battery with a small demand on it. We were concerned this would probably be insufficient, so rather than install solar panels at some unknown future date, we decided to bundle solar panels, a battery charger, and battery all together. We could be confident that all the components will play nice together since they were all packaged as a kit from a single supplier.
We installed the system monitor and a battery kill switch inside the sleeping area, in the headboard. The monitor shows us information like battery charge as a percentage of full, how much electricity we're using, how much power the solar panels are generating, etc. The kill switch disconnects the battery from the trailer electronics, but it keeps the solar charger connected to the battery. The charger can be easily destroyed and catch fire if it is disconnected from the battery while the solar panels are connected.
We also installed a switch for a pair of lights which will get installed in the ceiling, and a pair of USB outlets, for charging cell phones and whatnot. There is a spare switch spot, in case we think of something we want to add in the future.
After the components were mounted, we set about connecting them all together. This part was pretty straightforward, although complicated slightly because the cold weather makes a lot of the wires quite stiff. Getting them to go where we wanted was somewhat difficult.
With the help of a couple of space heaters in the garage, the wiring eventually began to cooperate and we got everything in its correct place. Stay tuned for our next episode: storage spaces!
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.