Hodakaguy's Vagabond Camper/Truck Build - Yes Again!


Time to get some Solar installed on the Vagabond! Solar is great peace of mind when running an electric fridge, heater etc as your batteries are always topped up and ready to go. I prefer roof mounted solar since it's always working plus you don't have to mess with storing the panels when not in use and taking up valuable interior space.

After looking at panel sizes we selected a Renogy 160W Mono panel, this panel fit perfectly between the factory L-Track rails and won't overhang the camper. Here we're trying the panel on for size, that should work nicely!

The panel will be bolted down to the L-Track using 4 adapters and custom mounts. The adapters lock into the L-track.

With the panel fit tested we popped the top up to locate the location of the solar wiring. When we ordered the camper I requested that solar wiring be placed in the front passenger corner but left un-terminated, the other end of the wiring is down below in the walls. Lots of room to play with here for wiring.

Next up it's time to install the cable gland pass through fitting for the solar wiring. I'll be using a Seaview Cable Gland, I've used these several times in the past and have never had one leak. These are available in different sizes and colors, we went with the Stainless Steel housing.

Here's the location where the cable gland will be installed. The gland will be placed towards the rear of the solar panel so there will be enough slack to slide the panel back on the L-track if we ever want to add a front Yakima rack etc, Always good to have options :)

Here are the parts of the cable gland. The bottom gasket and white body assembly get bolted down to the roof of the camper. The wires will pass through the tapered rubber seal and the stainless top will screw down to the white body and compress the rubber seal, forming a water proof seal around the wires.

Holes drilled and screws installed. The roof is 1/8" thick aluminum so even with a pilot hole you need to work the screws in slowly to prevent them from breaking off.

You need to apply some sealant on the base screws to ensure a water proof connection. Here I'm using Sikaflex 221 to seal the screws.

Next up we need to drill holes in the rubber seal for the wires to pass through. You need to make sure your brill bit is slightly smaller than the wire that will pass through the hole so there will be compression on the wire when you tighten the assembly up, compression is what creates the waterproof seal.

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The cut will allow the wiring to be inserted easily even if there is a plug on the end of the wiring (Won't be in this case)

At this point you drill the hole through the roof for the wires to pass through, I put the rubber seal in the pass through fitting and use a drill bit to mark the hole locations. Once the holes are drilled you assemble the cable clam and tighten everything down using more Sikaflex on the upper 4 screws.

It's really not necessary but I added a bit of Sikaflex to the top of the assembly as an extra measure.

Wiring placed in a small piece of loom and ready for assembly. You can see how far we will be able to slide the panel rearwards if needed in the future, for now we will keep the panel fully forward to ease in opening and closing the top.

Next up is to fabricate some brackets to attach the solar panel to the L-track. We will be using some scrap stainless steel angle iron that we had on hand.

Cutting out the strips.

The solar panel is slightly narrower than the L-track so the brackets will have to overhand the panel a bit, I'll taper them in at the top to give them a bit more pleasing appearance.

And mounted up.

The roof of the Vagabond has an X rolled in it for added strength but this makes the roof get higher as you approach the center. The solar panel just clears the roof when mounted directly on top of the L-Track adapters, if the panel is slid rearwards washers will need to be added to raise the panel and clear the roof.

With the panel mounted it's time to pop the top and finish up the wiring. Here you can see the solar wiring passing through the roof.

Wiring extended and attached to the factory Vagabond wiring.

Wiring in Loom and attached to the ceiling, there is enough slack in the corner to allow flex when opening/lowering the roof.

The other end of the factory solar wiring was located behind the aluminum corner panel.

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I'll be installing a BlueSky 3000I MPPT solar controller to manage the power produced by the solar panel. I've used this controller a couple times in the past and it worked great.

The controller will be mounted on the side of the heater box to prevent damage to the unit from stuff getting slid in and out of the truck. The interior of the heater box is vented and stays cool even when the heater is in operation so this should be a good environment for the controller.

Laying out the cut lines.

And hole cut, edges haven't been cleaned up yet in this pic.

Controller mounted.

You can't tell but it's about 110 deg inside the camper while I'm doing the install! I forgot to take pictures while routing and wiring the controller.

Mattress re-installed and another shot of the panel wiring. I didn't have a small bolt on fairing to clean up the penetration point on hand so I'll be adding that at a later date.

Wiring finished just before the sun went down, unit up and running. I took the below picture showing 1amp of charge with the roof flat, when the top was opened and the panel was pointed towards the sun the charge went up to 4amps, even though the sun was very low on the horizon. Depending on how you park the truck you can maximize your solar input. The ML-ACR under the hood will auto combine the batteries when the solar starts charging the aux battery keeping both the aux and starting batteries fully topped up.

Now to just blow all the aluminum shavings off the top of the truck and call it a night.

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Next up on the Drifter is to install an awning. We installed a Shadow Awning on our last FWC and loved it so we decided to go the same route this time around. The shadow Awning is a 270 Deg awning that deploys quickly, offers a ton of shade and is built very sturdy. The Shadow Awning will handle quite a bit of wind without having to deploy the leg and tie downs.

Here is a link comparing the Shadow Awning to the Batwing 270 Deg awning which is another option in this class. We swapped our Batwing for the Shadow on the FWC and I documented the differences, the Shadow awning is far superior: CLICK HERE

Camper ready for the awning install.

First up is to move the rear latch on the passenger side. The passenger side latch is located right where the rear awning bracket will be located and needs to be moved to the rear of the camper.

A drill and a punch make quick work on removing the latch assembly.

With the latch removed we marked and drilled the holes to mount the latch on the rear of the camper. A few pop rivets later the latch is installed and functional again.

We re-installed rivets in the existing latch holes to seal them off.

We planned on fabricating custom brackets for the awning but Iggy from Vagabond Campers contacted based on a post I made and let me know he just designed some stainless steel brackets for this exact awning. Iggy had a set on hand and got them out to me ASAP......Thanks Iggy! These brackets look great and will save a lot of fabrication time!

A picture of the brackets....Nice!!

Test fitting the rear bracket. I used a drill bit to mark center on each bolt hole then drilled the 4 mounting holes into the camper.

With the rear mounting bracket holes drilled we turned our attention to assembling the mounts onto the awning. You need to make holes in the awning cover for the mounting bolts to pass through, here we are making the holes for the rear bracket. I used a awl for the centering holes to mark the correct locations.

Once I knew where center was I slid a thin board inside the cover and used a gasket punch to enlarge the holes to the correct size.

Rear bracket mounted in place. You can only get to three of the mounting holes while the awning is on the ground, it needs to be fully extended to get to the 4th hole so we will assemble this bolt once the awning is mounted on the truck.

Repeating the process with the front mount. The front mount can be located anywhere along the awning, we chose about 1.5' back from the front of the awning

We used regular nuts instead of lock nuts at this step since the front bracket will have to come back off once proper location is marked on the camper.

Wife and Dad helping out holding the awning in place while I mark the front bracket location. The awning is not heavy at this point since the lips on the brackets hold the weight of the awning against the camper.

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Front bracket location marked. Now the awning can come back down and I removed the front bracket once again to use as a pattern to mark the mounting bolt hole locations.

Front and rear mount holes drilled.

This is the backing plate for the rear mount that goes inside the camper. Since our camper had the latch in this location and now has two rivets that are plugging the existing holes for the latch we had to drill two holes (One hole and one notch) in the backing plate to clear the rivets and let the plate sit flush up against the camper.

Mounts back on the awning. Both nuts will be swapped out to lock nuts once on the truck. I applied Butyl rubber tape to the mounts to seal the bolt holes going through the camper.

Awning mounted to the camper. Here is a shot of the rear bracket before it's tightened down.

As you tighten the mounting bolts the Butyl rubber squeezes out of the bracket, it also squeezes around the bolts and forms a tight waterproof seal.

A plastic scraper makes quick work on removing the excess Butyl.

Next up is attaching the tension strap to the rear of the awning. I used an awl to make a hole big enough for the pop rivet and doubled the material for strength at this connection.

Hole drilled in the rear awning arm and strap mounted in place.

Latch assembly mounted onto the rear corner of the camper.

And in action. The tail has been trimmed and the edges sealed/melted.

And finished! The shadow Awning is a sweet setup offing a lot of shade in a small package. Living in the desert the shade from this baby will be welcomed!

Awning on the truck.

Front shot with LOTS of bugs on the camper lol.

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Curious about your experience with dust intrusion. I think a wedge camper would be a great fit for us, but dealing with dust from a previous pick up with a shell really sucked.

Interested to hear your views on this, it’s the one issue that has us looking at a FWC or a Khaya. Which leads us into payload issues with the Tacoma. Desert people need water capacity.


New member
I own an AT Habitat and although I have not seen a bunch of dust intrusion, due to the limited amount of time I've spent on dusty trails, I have tossed around the idea of wiring in some sort of positive pressure fan system to avoid it if it ever becomes an issue.

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Well-known member
Curious about your experience with dust intrusion. I think a wedge camper would be a great fit for us, but dealing with dust from a previous pick up with a shell really sucked.

Interested to hear your views on this, it’s the one issue that has us looking at a FWC or a Khaya. Which leads us into payload issues with the Tacoma. Desert people need water capacity.
I'm beginning the fight myself. I don't mind some dust, but I want to minimize it as much as possible.

The tailgate area is a giant leak zone, especially if the bed sides have splayed outward over time. I'm going to try a tailgate seal like DwW suggested, but I don't have a lot of hope for a true seal.

I can't speak to the other generations, but the 2nd gen Tacoma has all sorts of holes and gaps in the bed. A major offender is the plastic bed rail caps. I removed them, used aluminum tape to seal the many holes in the top of the sheet metal, and installed KB Voodoo caps. I also added a bead of caulk to the outside edge of the steel caps, so nothing is getting in through there.

Front & rear bed cubbies, and the power outlet leak, and there are drain holes at the front of the bed. I have Decked drawers, so I'll be disassembling that to access those problem areas. I figure whatever water I get in the bed can drain out the tailgate, so I'm plugging the holes at the front.

With my GFC, it's easy to find gaps in the bed and tailgate by climbing inside on a sunny day, with the tent closed. You could do the opposite in the dark with a bright light outside the bed.
I sealed the cubby holes using tube patches. I pulled the cubbies out. heated the patches with a torch to stretch for the latches and hinges and taped them in place with aluminum duct tape on the outside of the boxes. I plug the drain hole with a plug I found in the plumbing section at Ace. I don't get much dust in the bed and I live in the Utah desert.