POPUP POWER FOR A DUMMY

slepe67

Active member
Hey there.
I'm at the point of my pop-up trailer restoration where I need to address electricity. I know NOTHING about electricity.

Here's the link to my build...


CLIFF'S NOTES VERSION: The camper is a 1974 Coleman Valley Forger Pop Up. I've literally torn it completely apart and am now addressing power supply.

USES:
I live in Central Montana and plan on using it for weekend jaunts around the Great State of Montana. Think bare-bones. I like to CAMP.

I do not intend on having blow dryers, microwave ovens, etc. Since I haven't used it since 2007, I honestly don't know what my needs will be with this camper. Last summer, we camped at Yellowstone in a tent, during a nice rainy week. Between that and my time in the military, I vowed my tent-camping days were over. (So Im restoring a popup camper. LOL).

At this point, I'm thinking minimal electrical: device recharging (phones, Bluetooth speaker, tablets, cameras, etc).

Heat: Mr Buddy (likely)
Water: Solar via PVC tube (likely)
Kitchen: Outside the camper (propane)
Food: Yeti Cooler (looking to upgrade to a refer soon)

///LIGHTING///
I have nothing at this point. A blank slate. I was thinking about wiring in a couple small LEDs on the ceiling, but figured I'd let you guys help me out on that one.
- I've seen folks wire in LED strip lights around the ceiling. (Want, not need)
- I've also seen some killer exterior lighting & entry lighting options. (Want, not need)

I've read may great posts in here about some outstanding builds. The one thing they all have in common is that many were built with expansion in mind. The options are mind-numbing to a dummy like me. LOL

Then more options (confusion) for me:
Jackery Explorer 500
Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 400
Anker 400





With an a portable power station and a solar suitcase (say 100W) would a guy be able to run:
- Charging station (self contained in power station)
- Unknown LED lights (I'll have to research each light and add up the power usage)
- Refrigerator

///QUESTIONS///

- Will I need batteries?
- Will I need to wire all this in, or can I simply keep it all portable?
- What am I not thinking about?

I'd like to keep it all portable in the event I decide to camp via other means than the pop-up.

Sorry about the ranting, I just don't know what I don't know...

Thanks for any and all help in advance. I'm 100% open for suggestions!
 
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luthj

Engineer In Residence
Okay. A few questions.

  • Whats your budget? Rough numbers or okay.
  • Do you want a DC fridge?
  • How many days do you camp at a time?
  • Do you have access to shore power (120v outlet) where you park?

Lighting is pretty easy to deal with, LEDs use very little power, and can be added wherever you like, and run with minimal concern for consumption.

I made this thread for basic setups. It may be a decent starting place. If you only intend to do short trips, and have access to shore power. A single 12v battery and 10A shore power charger may work fine. Just recharge when you are at home. No solar needed.


Don't bother with portable power stations if you are going to have a fridge. Its much cheaper to do something yourself like the thread above. If you just need to run some lights and charge phones, a small capacity portable power bank can do the job at reasonable cost. Don't be afraid of wiring and electrical. It can seem daunting, but once you learn to crimp connectors, and how to choose wire/fuse sizes, its just nuts/bolts/tools.
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
Also, if you plan on winter camping, you might consider a chinese diesel fired heater. This thread has a long process for another trailer owner, who went that route with good results. Its ~200$ plus install materials, and its a dry heat. You will need a modest battery system to provide power. @TantoTrailers, the OP in that thread has a good electrical system you could use as a reference. Its modest sized, and would likely meet or exceed your needs.

 

slepe67

Active member
Okay. A few questions.

  • Whats your budget? Rough numbers or okay.
  • Do you want a DC fridge?
  • How many days do you camp at a time?
  • Do you have access to shore power (120v outlet) where you park?
Thanks for the info!

Budget: Haven't thought about it much I guess. We all like affordability, but when it comes to staying warm and dry, I don't skimp.
DC Fridge: I've been looking into them, but haven't pulled the trigger. Which comes first, wiring or DC Fridge? I assume one would plan around the fridge BEFORE wiring...
Days at a time: I would imagine more than a week or so.
Shore Power: I typically don't like to, but I have done it in the past out of necessity. I plan on being away from it all...but one never knows for sure. The 120V system that was in the camper was tossed out when I gutted the camper. Figured technology has improved since 1974. LOL

Thanks for the link on the heater! I'll read it in detail!
 

john61ct

Adventurer
Weekends, as in only one night off grid?

If the "longer weekends" are pretty rare would you be willing to reduce your consumption to lower overall system cost?

Or would you be willing to spend lots more to be ready for living days and days off-grid?

You really need to make a Ah per 24hrs energy budget either way.
 

slepe67

Active member
You really need to make a Ah per 24hrs energy budget either way.
Well, NORMALLY, we only stay for a night or two (probably due to living in a tent). Last summer, we tent camped for about 8 nights. During that stay, we used zero power (excluding batteries for headlamps, etc), and charged our equipment while driving around YNP, but that wont always be the case. Who knows what sort of durations the pop up will enable?

As far as cost goes, Im up for almost anything. My main problems I don't know what I 'need' yet; but I do need a good starting point.

I'd rather NOT have any large batteries, as I think they wouldn't get used enough to justify their cost. I work overseas and usually only camp about 8-10 days per year. Again, the pop up camper could change that.

Assuming I went with a 100W Solar Suitcase, I'll assume one would have to have a portable power station? Again, not a lot of lighting, just charging electrical devices and POSSIBLY an ARP-style refrigerator.

Sorry if Im not making sense. Im confused as all hell.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
That's OK, we all start somewhere.

Without knowing how many Ah per 24hrs you need to accommodate, best to be ready for more rather than less if you aren't poor.

As an example a portable 12V fridge is a pretty heavy consumer for off grid use, depending on variables usually between 20-50Ah per day.

Charging phones is miniscule, a laptop or running fans, in between. Powering a fuel-burning heater can be more than a fridge, and forget aircon, need a genny to run that.

For light usage, if overnight shore power is available every 2-3 days, or you are doing lots of diving that often

then no off grid energy source like solar or genset is required, just a storage bank sized to carry you that long.

For energy storage best value is a $200 pair of flooded golf cart batteries.

This gives you over 200Ah by far the best value, but some downsides. Lead is a bit bulky and heavy, awkward to take in and out, not portable.

It needs to be kept topped up, ideally at 100% Full every few weeks, or just sitting on a little maintenance "Float" charge.

And with this best value flooded FLA type, water level needs checking say quarterly while in use cycling, some don't like the smell if charging inside a living space.

AGM is another lead type more expensive shorter lifespan fussier to care for but less fumes no watering. Just as big & heavy.

Then we have LFP chemistry, the only LI chemistry I'd recommend for your use case.

About twice the energy density, can even make portable packs.

OTS packs at 12V available, but **very** expensive, like a grand for under 100Ah @12V.

Much cheaper, and IMO better, but yes technically challenging to just buy four cells in the size you want, maybe add a BMS, learn how to care fir them well can last for many decades given your usage, no need to get to Full, in fact better to keep at low SoC while not cycled, no watering, can just isolate them in a cool spot and forget them for many months at a time.

Also unlike lead because they wear out so slowly, you could start out with under 100Ah now, and go to 2-300Ah later after you find you need it, without any penalty.

With lead best to have all the units match including the mfg date as close as possible
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
for a noob doing a full build w/ability to make space for whatever, I'd say start off with a pair of GC2's, a good ~20A charger for it w/float and keep it full when not in use, add a Low Voltage Disconnect to keep batteries healthy and stop unattended deep discharges (like forgetting a light on or something silly), and at least a basic Battery monitor so you have a good idea how much is left in the bank.. then build what you need up from there, either that will be more than enough power for your outings and you can charge it when you get back home, or as you start adding stuff you'll want to look into adding field charge sources such as Solar, vehicle charging, generator.

A ~230AH GC2 Bank and ~200W+ of Solar will easily run most peoples small trailer setups w/fridge, furnace, fans, and phone/laptop chargers, at least in the spring-fall.. winter is pretty hard for solar for many reasons.

For heat, screw a buddy heater and upgrade to a Wave.. Ive used both and the wave is 100x better and worth the money.. also can be recess installed.. it takes no power, and a popup will have more than enough ample ventilation.
 
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john61ct

Adventurer
All good but solar in off season I'd double the reco to 400W if possible 200:200 ratio would be struggling in winter.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
ayup, aint nobody complained about having too much solar.. 200W I suggested was a minimum..and portable would be better, fixed solar definitely cover every square inch you can.. and you might still need to bring along some portable ones.. fixed on a trailer is really nice for charging while driving, highways are usually full sun unless your in a canyon or bad weather and if your using OEM vehicle wiring it wont charge very well, or even fully w/out a bunch of mods to tow vehicle to get the required amps and voltage all the way back there.. my fixed solar can both run a crockpot and provide a very good charge current to my trailer battery while on the road... its so great rolling to camp late, beat and having a hot meal ready to go w/no effort.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
If your usage pattern means 100+ amps from driving can be on average a major proportion of your Ah per day energy inputs, then really a no brainer to make it so.

Just takes a bit of knowhow and extra money, probable cheaper and easier than a kW of panels plus SCs.

Being too dependent on just solar is not as good as having plenty of options, and anything cuts down on genset runtime is A Good Thing.

But for those that stay put off grid for weeks at a time, upfitting your alt setup may not be worth the investment, more for people doing long drives at least every 2-3 days.

Which may even eliminate the need for solar with a big enough LFP bank!

All depends on the use case and budget.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
still no small feat, running heavy gauge wiring all the way through a modern vehicle is at least a major disassembly project.. then the expense of a DC charger to ensure proper voltages and charging, plus not overload my alternator since mine is LFP is not negligible.. that covers cost of a couple fixed panels.

When I was lead based w/a trailer I found vehicle charging mostly pointless, I'd unhook the trailer and explore all day long but that didnt charge nothing.. and then after a few days w/a largely depleted bank I'd hitch up and drive for a couple hours to the next spot, but not all day long.. so it'd put a little back in the tank, but never full.. was a nice supplement but not really capable of sustaining that unless I was willing to travel 8h+ w/my trailer every couple of days, and thats not really my style.. I could see how it might be for some nomads always on the move, but I like to relax and hop around.. I try to keep full days of towing to a minimum, but no problem spending all day going down trails because thats fun and not just burning asphalt... now if I had a RTT/Truck Camper and every min I spent exploring I was charging the house it might work, not w/trailers and lead banks tho.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
Yes as stated depends on the use case. I've seen rigs where a couple hours driving gives nearly a weeks' energy, so no solar no genset required, might only see shore power couple times a year.

The HO large frame alternator might found on eBay for just a couple hundred, but a good external VR (so no DCDCs required) can be very pricey, with the rest of the parts and labor might be a couple grand altogether.

Sometimes the serpentine conversion and the right ratio pulley alone can be half the overall cost.

But **in the right context** worth every penny.
 
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