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Friday, June 1, 2018

A Test Of My 30 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 Battery

I had bought a 50 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery for my FWC camper for this year’s (2018) travels.  I figured I would want more than 30 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery I used as my house battery in the Prius.  The reason for the larger battery was that the camper had vent fans, more lighting, and more things to charge.  

The 50 Ah was great this year and even with heavy cloudy conditions I got .5 amps charging from my 170 watt solar.  I guess that I could have used the 30 Ah battery but decided to have it as a backup.  In the end I didn't use the 30 Ah at all.

I decided to conduct a test of the 30 Ah battery (before returning it to the Prius as the house battery) and a 900 watt inverter to make iced tea in my iced tea maker that uses 750 watts. (Setup in picture below)

For the technical inclined the 900 watt MSW inverter is set up with 4 gauge wire 24” long.

The Bioenno manual for the battery states 30 amps continuous with max 90 amps for 2 seconds only.

My test with the 750 watt draw used 64.8 amps continuous for the full brewing cycle.  This is about 10 minutes.

The voltage dropped to 11.47 volts during the 64.8 amp draw.

When the brewing cycle was done the battery rested at 13.17 volts. (It started at 13.3 volts). 

Since I was using 64.8 Ah from the battery it would have been fully depleted in about 20 minutes.  So my test used about 1/2 of the battery’s capacity or 15 Ah.

If charging with the 10 amp charger from Bioenno, or 10 amps from my 170 watt solar panel, it would fully charge in a bit over 1.5 hours.

I contacted Bioenno and asked if it was ok for the battery to be subject to this high of a current draw considering the specs stating 30 amps continuous.  Bioenno said it was ok for me to draw this higher amperage the way I did.

Bioenno makes great LiFePo4 batteries and their technical support is very responsive.  Remember that once the  battery is depleted it automatically shuts off to protect itself.

The purpose of this high current test is to confirm that the Bioenno LiFePo4 batteries can run a 600 microwave like the one below from Amazon and be recharged with solar or other charger.

Although I may not run a small microwave.  The battery has the technical ability to do it.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Conclusion On Vandwelling Vehicle Experience

In the last 5 years of Brent’s Travels I have traveled between 16K and 20K miles in my approx 4 months each year inbthe road.

To recap my first year of travels in 2014 I had a Class B camper below.  Years 2,3&4 (2015,2016,&2017) my Vandwelling Choice was a Prius.  Finally this year was my Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper (FWC).

Over a series of blog posts I have looked at different aspects of my various Vandwelling travel choices.  I now share what I plan on using next year 2019 Travels.

What I vehicle will I use next year:

Since I don’t have the Class B what is in the picture is my Tacoma/FWC or my Prius.

I actually like driving the Prius more than the Tacoma. The Prius is more cost effective, but it can’t get me off road to places I still want to go.  Overall I rated the Prius better too.

I have thought about the gas prices going up in this analysis, but I want to go back to Utah and go off road to see more sights.

Therefore, I pick the Tacoma/FWC camper for 2019 and I’ll live with the added fuel costs.  I think I can get at least 1 mpg more next year by reducing weight of what I carried.  Using 1013 gallons of gasoline this year means saving 1 mpg I’ll get to travel 1000 miles free.  So this is my goal to offset the rising cost of fuel. 

I’m sure I can save 1 mpg with the reduction of things I take next year.  

I’m not giving up my Prius.  In fact, I’m already putting back the 12v things I took out and used in the Truck/Camper and didn’t end up using.  The Prius will be able to be put into vandweller service if I want to take a trip or attend a gathering.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Didn’t I Use - 3 Vehicle Comparison

In the last 5 years of Brent’s Travels I have traveled between 16K and 20K miles in my approx 4 months each year inbthe road.

To recap my first year of travels in 2014 I had a Class B camper below.  Years 2,3&4 (2015,2016,&2017) my Vandwelling Choice was a Prius.  Finally this year was my Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper (FWC).

Over a series of blog posts I will look at different aspects of my various Vandwelling travel choices.

If you have questions you would like answered please let me know.

What I didn’t use:

The Class B has a lot of things I didn’t use on the trip. 

- A/C - lack of need - Jan, Feb, March
- 3-way fridge - had my Engel fridge and 3-way fridge is inefficient and a pain to switch over from 12 v tonpropane and back every time I move.  Also a pain having to level the rig to get it to run right.
- Flush Toilet (black water) - seemed like too much work so I bagged my waste. I did use gray water.
- Dinette - used as full-time bed and slept diagonal. Roll over couch as bed required me to set up each night, bunk bed was to hard to get in and out 
- Bunk Bed - used as storage for soft items
- propane furnace - used too much 12 v power - would require me to find a place to plug in or run my Harbor Freight noisy generator.
- portable generator- only used a couple times on trip

I used every spacebin the Prius I had and used everything as I brought little extra.

- misc items - I had or collected that I didn’t want to carry I mailed home - no extra room so mail stuff home
- winter coat - mailed home when March came - my last year in the Prius I bought a down coat that was packable so I didn’t need to carry this winter coat anymore.

- 12 volt parts - I brought wire of different sizes, as well as various crimps, and other items in a plastic tote that I kept behind the drivers seat in my extended cab that I brought in case I could help people build out their rig but didntbuse them.
- back country backpack and all the related equipment.  Joanne and I had wanted to take a back country hike but the weather didn’t cooperate so we passed this year.  The full backpack was stored behind the passenger seat in the extended cab.
- awning materials- I thought I would make an awning for the rear of the camper while on the trip - I never worked on it.
- variety of tools - I brought a couple tool bags - one smaller bag I used a lot as it had common items and what I carried in the Prius - the other tool bag had some tools not used and a couple that I only used a couple times.
- bunk bed - I used it only a few times choosing to sleep on the lower bench bed.  It was cold many nights and to retain heat I would lower the roof.  I would raise the roof for washing, cooking, and having visitors.  

What I didn’t use, In Summary:
(The higher the number the more I used of what I brought with me.)

Class B - 3
Prius - 9
Tacoma - 4


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fun Factor - Q’s & A’s

Rainbow Arch National Monument 2018


I appreciate questions, and Happy Runner, who initiated the blog sequence with his original question about “Fun Factor”, has followed up with some great observations.  I will be giving you the insights regarding his thoughts, from my trip this year.

Note that I am more a technical writer than one to write of self, feelings, and deep thoughts.  Happy Runner’s follow up to my original post are right on with his perceptions, and I feel that it is well worth all knowing the answers.

My answers are marked A: throughout the text with my comments under the answers started with -


[Brent's Travels] New comment on Fun Factor - Has It Waned?.

Happy Runner has left a new comment on your post "Fun Factor - Has It Waned?": 

I'm honored that you took the time to respond to my question with a such a complete answer. I had asked because, being a long-time reader, it seemed like things weren't as exciting for you this year, starting with RTR. Not to be an arm-chair psychiatrist, but your post talks mostly about years before this one!!

A: You are correct.  There was a lot going on in the background of my mind and body this year’s travels (2018).  No, this year didn’t beat last year’s fantastic hikes.  I agree that it must have shown in my writing.  

- This year I suffered a lot of mixed feelings about moving from the Prius to the Tacoma/FWC.  I hadn’t had a time to have tested out my camper or finish what I wanted before I left.  I was missing the Prius travels even before I left in the truck.  I did have fun building out the camper shell to what I wanted and that was fun.  

- I kept telling myself you will get to go to places the Prius can’t go.  Remember last year how bad Escalante was and you hadvtobrent the Jeep for $250 for a day to get to The Wave.  Oh, yes I know I would say as an appeasement to myself.  

- I was told by family and friends that you will have more room and that will be good, the Prius is so cramped.  I would mildly agree, not wanting a debate.  I knew it wasn’t about space for me that mattered.  You Prius folks out there know that I had plenty of space as I engineered my Prius to utilize space.

- There we’re supporting comments for the truck camper, but I felt they were based on the stigma of living in a car more than anything else.  Somehow some family and  friends feel living in the camper is more legitimized than “a car”.

- Yes the 4x4 truck can go places the Prius can’t, but was that enough to offset the great time I had in the Prius?  I suffered mixed feelings throughout the trip too.  It wasn’t like moving from the Class B to the Prius as there was no way I was going in the Class B a second time, but it was more feeling torn.  I would say to myself if the truck/camper doesn’t work, just sell it.

- So now you know I was uneasy about my travels this year with the truck/camper from the very start.

- The RTR was a disappointment for me because of its size.  I didn’t get to spend quality social time with some longer time friends.  It was just too far to get to anyone and main meeting area (mile walk one way).  The RTR was nice at a few hundred people vs a few thousand.  Right now I’m 50/50 on going to the RTR next year.  The move to the new BLM area could be good or bad.

- While at the RTR and for a few weeks after I had foot pain that was absolutely debilitating and it wouldn’t go away.  I doubted I would be able to stay on the road for 4 months.  I eventually figured it may be plantar fasciitis and was able to resolve the majority of the problems with jell inersoles.

I'm sure that part of the fun is learning, with everything being new -- seeing a problem or something that could be made better, and figuring out (engineering) a solution that makes life better or more comfortable. As time goes on, those opportunities become less and less.

A: Correct again.  You must have studied my blog well.  I love the problem, evaluation, design, and solution build.  There were more I could have done with the Tacoma/FWC while on the road but I sought out to help others.  

- I became a bit complacent with the camper having spent so many hours with the build before I left.

- I separate my travels into sections. 
- January - RTR / Visit CA Son and family/ Tucson conditioning hiking & disc golf
- February - touring Southern AZ, Southern CA, Southern NV & hiking, Disc golf with friends (if time permits get a preseason baseball game in too)
- March - Utah touring and Hiking with friends
- April - head East, visit aunt in Chicago, attend the SE GTG, visit cousin, visit MD son and family, disc golf before heading home.

- Although I have a general focus for my travel time, I enjoy having alone time and time with friends, and willing to alter plans for the special thing.

- I was bummed this year because the spring weather didn’t come to Utah until the end of March.  Originally I was going to go to the Escalante area of south central UT but the weather made Escalante a bad choice for a couple reasons.  Wet roads in Escalante on slickrock makes for a day of not moving, also its elevation results in more snow.  After seeing the weather was not changing, Joanne and I decided to go to Southeastern UT, as we could be from 4000 ft to 8000 ft depending on the weather.  Snow was typical above 6000 ft from the storefronts.  This area gave us the ability to still explore but stay below the snowline.

I had a selfish reason for asking -- I'm definitely into Prius camping having spent 95 nights last year and am hopefully on track to a similar amount this year. Unlike you, my camping is "stealth urban" as I follow a college softball time I like, as well as flee to warmer weather for weeks of triathlon training (swim, bike, run). It also urban because I need a strong Internet connection to work.

- Ah the Prius is just great for stealthing.  I got good at it, but when out west I don’t need it as much and the truck/camper got me access to new places.  The east coast it’s needed.

- Internet service.  I was also down in March due to lack of internet.  Joanne carries both AT&T and Verizon and she has service where I don’t, as I only carry AT&T.  What I couldn’t figure out was that Joanne’s old Samsung 3 had AT&T service at times when my IPhone 7 had nothing.  I am working on addressing this now.  This will be aseparate post. 

The camping has been fun as well as the "game" of staying under the radar. My innovations go not only to making the camping more comfortable, but also to being more stealthy. It's still a thrill of living a "secret life" right under people's noses, but I asked the question since my "engineering" is becoming less needed and I was wondering how I might feel in another few years.

A; Yes That is me.  Ah, someone like me, liking the chase but when you get there there is a feeling of loss.
I have switch to help others when I can.  I brought tools and equipment to help others.  I remotely designed the solar for Susan, that I installed on her new RAV4.

- My blog is another outlet too.  Not as much at home but on the road it gives me focus while traveling.  Roxy ( is a friend who publishes more nice places to go than I have time to visit, or weather doesn’t allow.  She has her blog above, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and she has a lot to offer.  The blog allows me to share, but there were more followers writing about Prius life.  Thanks to all that followed my travels this year.

- The highlights of my 2018 Travels include visiting Rainbow Bridge NM, traveling the many deserted miles of the Notem-Bullfrog Road, 4x4’ing Butler Wash/Bears Ears, visiting the many cliff dwellings/Petroglyphs, and the many hikes.

Thanks for the insight! 

A: Your welcome

- Brent

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gas Milage Comparison - 3 Vehicle Comparison

In the last 5 years of Brent’s Travels I have traveled between 16K and 20K miles in my approx 4 months each year inbthe road.

To recap my first year of travels in 2014 I had a Class B camper below.  Years 2,3&4 (2015,2016,&2017) my Vandwelling Choice was a Prius.  Finally this year was my Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper (FWC).

Over a series of blog posts I will look at different aspects of my various Vandwelling travel choices.

If you have questions you would like answered please let me know.

Gas Milage, Comparison:

My first year with the above Class B camper was a get out the door and go see the country trip.  I knew the Chevy G30 (one ton chassis) history and had a full evaluation of the vehicle by a mechanic before I left having things fixed and preventive things adddressed too.

All this work including a full tuneup can’t fix the vehicle weight, the V-8 350 engine, and non-aerodynamic design.   Although getting an average mpg of 10, it was the wind and climbing hills that sucked the gas.

The Prius my first year I didn’t use the engine for heating or electricity (hybrid battery) for cooling, so I got over 50 mpg.  At the request of some of the blog viewer feedback to test using the Prius for heating and cooling, I did go down to 46 mpg.  I have to say that warming the car before bed and before you get up was a nice feature, but A/C usage was limited because of not having too many hot days in the spring.

Now for the tale of two Tacoma’s.  Above is my Tacoma with my FWC Fleet camper and with what is carried in the cab I was carrying about 1,000 lbs (1/2 ton)

My average mpg was 16.  

My detail 2018 stats are as follows;
- drove 16,210 miles
- spent 2,637.52 in gas 
- used 1013.0 gallons of gas
- I filled up 115 times (in UT I filled up every time I was in town to ensure I was prepared)

So that gave me 16 mpg that I averaged $2.60/ gallon, and cost me $0.1627 for fuel each mile I drove.

Note: the highest I got on a fill up was about 18 mpg.

Now for the other take of  my Tacoma.  Without my FWC on my truck I get around 20 mpg on highway driving and 18 mpg around town.

I plan to go to Maine for an event in June and with all that I don’t need to carry for this trip, I’m hoping for higher mpg.

Gas Milage, In Summary:

Class B - 3
Prius - 10
Tacoma - 6

In retrospect, I had guessed I would get around 17 mpg.  17 sounds so much better than 16🤔, although it’s not.

I can say that I’m not unhappy with the Tacoma mpg as it brought me places the Class B and Prius could not go.

On the FWC owners FB page I even felt better about my 16 mpg after seeing this post below where this owner has a Tundra (larger Toyota truck than mine) and FWC Hawk model (heavier model than my Fleet), only got 11.4 mpg.

I sure wish, along with other high clearance vehicles, to be in the 25 mpg range, but IRS an elusive dream.

As I said in the past, if I didn’t have to drive across the country to get to the southwest, the fuel costs would not be as big an issue.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Staying Warm - 3 Vehicle Comparison

At face value, staying warm in a vehicle seems all the same, regardless of the vehicle.  I found out there is a difference for heating each of the three vehicles.

In my Class C Campervan I had a propane heater but it used electricity for the fan and controls, and the one house battery had limited power to run it long.  So, plug in at a campground was necessary to use the heater more than taking the chill off.  I didn’t have a generator built in.

If I was to plug in to electric I was more apt to use the electric heater in the A/C roof unit vs the on-board propane heater.  On cold nights I would sleep in the back dining area where my bed was generally set up and I would close the curtains to the front before the kitchen to keep the heat in the smaller space.

When cold and without electricity I would hang a blanket from the front bunk down behind the front seats to block off the cold from the vehicle cab.

I then may run the propane stove to get some warmth.

If you have a propane heater you need sufficient house battery amp hours to power the heater fan for the time you need to heat.

What can I say, the Prius as a heater is great.  In “Ready Mode” it runs the engine as needed to heat the engine as the engine cooling system is the heat source.  You can call for heat and when the engine cools down to a set point it will start and run the engine to heat the engine again.

My sleeping bag is a zero degree bag so I had no problem staying warm once in bed.

When getting ready for bed I would run the Prius heater a few minutes to warm up the cabin before bed.  I would also run heat in the morning and when I washed up.

There was no extra items to deal with.  This made the Prius a great forcstaying warm.  I stayed in 14 degrees overnight on I81 and the engine would start every 10 minutes.  

The camper required some getting used to.  I designed the camper to sleep with the top down, thus being a bit more stealthy and requiring less heat to stay warm.  The smaller space was quicker to heat.

With the top down this is my bed, and sleeping bag I used in my Prius.  If the bag was warm enough for the Prius it would be for the camper too.

With the roof raised I did design a thermal layer to keep heat in and out.  That’s right, the plastic sides transfer heat quickly.  Adding my thermal layer allowed less heat and heat lasts longer.  The thermal layer also kepbthe afternoon hot sun from overheating the inside.  Of course in the winter this isn’t much of an issue.

I used Reflectix on flat surfaces like the floor under the mat and under my bed.  This helped reflect heat back in.

I also made thermal curtains for the windows.

You also see my 360 deg. electric heater that I did use where shore power is available. 

I also had a Wave3 heater tonise off grid.  My CO alarm did not get set off running it as it is extremely clean heat, but it does use oxygen, so windows and or vent need to be cracked.

I did not run the Wave3 while sleeping, it was only for awake time.  The great part about the Wave3 is that it uses very little propane.  I have a 10 gal tank and I only filled it once during the 4 months.

The Prius was the most convenient and economical to heat.   Next was the Four Wherl Camper and last was the Class B.

Class B - 4
Prius - 9
Tacoma/FWC - 7

PS - the following is a cab heater used to keep vehicle cabin warm.

My friend Joanne has one like this in her Sprinter.  It gets its fuel from her vehicle’s fuel tank.  You can buy them tobtun on diesel or gasoline.

I want to evaluate one for possible inclusion in the FWC.  The separate 2.5 gal tank can be used as I need a stand-alone design as the camper comes off the truck.  It comes with the tank and they are exhausted outside the vehicle and it circulated the air inside warming it as it runs.

Joanne likes hers but she does say that it can be viewed by others as noisy.  I parked along side of her and I could hear it but it never bothered me or was loud enough to wake me.

If anyone has any experience with these heaters please let me know.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fun Factor - Has It Waned?

One of the blog followers asked the question aboutfun factor over time, as follows;

“I'd also be interested in learning whether, regardless of the mode of transportation, the "fun" factor of your travels is as high as it was at the beginning or whether the fun has waned now that you've been doing it for four years.”

Like most newbies to Vandwelling I had my apprehension, insecurities, and emotions about the lifestyle.

I’m an engineer so I planned and when I throughly I was done planning, I found more to plan.

My hidden plan when I finally decided to retire at 62 was to get a cap for my Tacoma.  I designed the inside bed and storage and made a list of what to bring with me, while keeping my eye on Craigslist for a campervan.  When a campervan turned up just VWR the state Line into New Hampshire, I went to see it hopeful of it being right for my travels.  

By the way, I knew nothing of CheapRVLiving at this time.

My plan was to take my mom to Florida to stay with her sister, and stop at oldest son’s house in Maryland on the way.  Then I would tour the state and look up some old friends and relatives that live there.  Then I would move west to California to see youngest son before heading to up the Pacific Coast Highway and back to Yosemite.  Finally I would head back to Arizona to tour there.

When I started, everything was a learning experience. Everything!  I hated the Class B campervan. Hated!  In Florida I had a hard time finding places to boondock.  I wondered if I wouldn’t just head home.

There was one thing I haven’t planned and that was being happy spending time by myself.  If I can offer one thing to happiness as a vandweller is to learn how to be happy with self.  Then look for your internal compass that will guide you when you loose your way possibly getting down about things.  Your alone, get used to the feeling. For me writing my blog was an outlet.  Many of the family and close friends wanted to know what I was doing then and the blog surfaced to not have to write each one.

I began to have fun dispute hating the Class B and the first year costing over $10K for 2014 Travels

(Me at Havasu Falls in the Havasupai Nation Grand Canyon 2017)

After my first year I had my Prius and I was inspired with some knowledge and a compass to point me in the direction I decide to head in.

The fun didn’t wain, it multiplied.  It was like starting all over again in 2015.

I planned the Prius but not my route.  I met people online that I later met in person at the RTR.  I met many others too.  I went to odd places.  I did what I wanted and when I wanted.  I stopped worrying about “what if”.  I got to a good place in my mind.  

(Me at The Wave, AZ / UT border, Grand Staircase Escalante 2017)

My 2nd year of Prius Travels was better than the first and I started helping others that wanted to travel in an economical Prius.  My blog took off with thousands of views a month.  

I had been told by many that I was living the dream, but it took awhile to know that.  I met so many people that were interested in living in a Prius and how I did it.  I also met many others that were put back by my story.  Comments like “You don’t look homeless.” By a woman on a Meetup Group Hike in Tucson didn’t bother me.  I explained that I wasn’t homeless but chose to live in a car.

I met people that I never would have met otherwise.  I listened to people’s stories and hardships that sent them living in a car, when I did it by choice.  I learned a lot about people that were one paycheck away from disaster.  I talked to homeless people in the streets, and I appreciated their honesty and candor.

I was transforming from someone who would have walk past a homeless person not wanting to make eye contact to someone who was interested in “their story”.

I learned how to truly be a minimalist as a Prius offers much for anything that isn’t a must.

I learned to be a better listener too.

I became an avid podcast listener.  I get great satisfaction from becoming more worldly from listening to them.  

Yes, I changed as a person but it was my core as companionate person that was becoming more refined.

(Me at The Wave, AZ / UT border, Grand Staircase Escalante 2017)

My travels with vandweller Joanne last year (2017) to Havasu Falls and to “The Wave” was just so memorable and rewarding to have experienced.  Yes, I’ve experienced many things on the road, this year too.  So, 2018 is no exception than past years..

Mountains climbed, washes hiked, disc golf courses played, history uncovered, 4x4 roads explored, time with friends and relatives enjoyed, natural wonders experienced, and wildlife seen, are all part of my adventures.  

My eyes have seen so many wonders in the last 5 years.  My feet have taken me hundreds of miles each yea. I’m guessing well over 200 miles each year for 5 years.  (I go through one pair of hiking boots a year.).  

I am so very lucky to be able to experience what I do.

Back to the question about my “fun factor”.

When September rolls around I begin to think about my next year travels.  I start engineering my next designs and I get more obsessed about getting on the road again.  I like Spring, Summer, and Fall in New England, but come January my heart turns to the love of the road as a vandweller.  I have no regrets.  Nearly all my time on the road is filled with happiness.

Therefore,  my “fun factor” has only increased over my 5 years of travels.  Thanks so much for asking the question.

I only hope that I can physically travel for years to come.  

The above is only a fraction of my thoughts.  I follow a personal belief; to be true to ones self.  In other words figure out who your are and what you stand for, and be that person.  Don’t try to change anyone, just be the best you can be.  Self honesty is a trait I seek out in  the company I keep.  Get rid of self generated negativity in your life, and fill it with positive things.  You will find the world and your Vandwelling experience a lot easier to deal with.