Our Rig And Enhancements

No site about fulltime RVing would be complete without a section on the rig itself. Ours is what we now feel is the perfect combination for us.  It is a 2016 Keystone Montana High Country 293RK and we haul it with a 2016 Ford F350 diesel truck.

Some people say that it is unwise to buy everything new because of depreciation etc. To that I say two things. 1) an RV is  not an investment. Rarely will you sell it for more than you bought it for. I could make the argument however that over time it is a heck of a lot cheaper than an apartment. It IS smaller than most apartments but you can’t take your apartment with you cross country. 2) We aren’t that lucky. When I was younger I owned a series of used vehicles. As a result I often had issues that left me by the side of the road. This did not impress my wife-to-be at the time. I used to have a VW that had a shifter that I had to hold together with bailing wire.  Every so often it would break in traffic or on the Interstate and I would have to pull over and fix it with the roll of bailing wire I always kept in the back seat. With that same vehicle I once had the driver’s side rear wheel fall off on the parkway and roll past me. I still have some music from an old Little Rascals show in my head whenever I think of it. If you are old enough to have actually seen those there was an episode where there was a runaway car wheel going down the road causing all kinds of havoc. I can never remember where I left my keys but I can always remember the music during that scene.  What’s up with that? It was pretty comical when I look back on it but it was also pretty freaky to see your wheel roll past you.  Luckily it didn’t hit anybody and eventually just rolled to safety on the side of the road. Anyway, then I got my first new vehicle and never looked back. I just don’t want to inherit other peoples issues. That and the fact that it seemed like every used RV we looked at smelled weird.

As anybody who owns an RV will tell you, they will have issues. Ours has been no exception. But considering many of the descriptions I’ve seen from others about  their problems right out of the box, ours have really been very minimal. We  did have the water pump die on us about two days after it was out of warranty, but it was an easy fix. Other than that and a few loose pieces of trim, a pantry disaster, and broken shower door,  it has performed pretty well thus far.

We wanted to get a truck that would have more than enough power to pull us up steep grades without having to slow down to 30 on a busy road.  It’s first real test was in some 7% long grades in Arizona. It performed beautifully! I had no problem sustaining the speed limit and was even able to accelerate and pass some slower moving 18 wheelers with power and speed to spare.  We only have 17K on it right now but it has been trouble free thus far and we couldn’t be happier with it

RV Mods

Of course like all RVers we have done a few mods to our rig. The first thing we did was replace a couple of the absolutely terrible MCD knockoff shades.  MCD shades for those of you not familiar are fancy RV shades that roll up very slowly when you open them. They are a bit pricy for us since we are doing this on a slim budget. The ones installed by Keystone are a poor substitute to say the least. We took the two biggest ones down and replaced them with these nice thick curtains which also have some thermal value as well. I think they cost us about $15 a piece at the Christmas Tree Shop. We have plans to replace a few more of the stock shades as soon as we get near a Home Depot. We are going to replace them with just good old fashioned house shades. Next to it you can see another mod we did. The RV came with two recliners and a love seat. The dining table was on the slide-out next to the recliners.  We were never going to use the small and uncomfortable pullout love seat so we pulled it out…get it?….HA! Anyway moved the dining table over to that spot and saved a bunch of weight with the bonus of having a place to put the cat tree and not feeling so claustrophobic.

We knew we were going to be doing a lot of boondocking on our adventures, so it was going to be important to have sufficient power. To that end we bought 4 6V Trojan T-105 golf cart batteries as our “power plant”. <iframe style=”width:120px;height:240px;” marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″ src=”//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=gonewalkabo08-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B004UJXPYU&asins=B004UJXPYU&linkId=0470707b2f161ea693e4582b3d74b99d&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff”>
</iframe>This provides 450 amp hours of power of which roughly 225 is usable because you don’t want to run them down past 50%  lest you shorten your battery life. This provides enough for us to do pretty much whatever we want without too much worry. To keep those batteries charged we have an Intellipower 70 amp charger hooked up in the front compartment which we power with our Champion Inverter generator in back of the truck.
We use this for some bulk charging in the mornings and let our 400 watts of solar panels take over and top off the batteries after that.

As Olga was very unsure about putting holes in our nice new RV roof we had first bought a 200 watt kit from Zamp Solar. I wanted to run the generator much less than we were so we bought two more 100 watt panels from Renogy and I constructed my own little kit by riveting some hinges to the panels so they could fold up nicely for storage.

It’s a bit of a hassle moving them around but we tend to stay in places for a while so it’s not all that bad.  I hooked up some quick connects so it’s a 10 second job to get them tied in to the system. The conversion from battery power to AC is done by a Prowatt SW 2000W pure sine wave inverter.

 

Currently I have the RV’s power cable plugged in to it so all the outlets are working. If you do this just make sure you keep your converter turned off at the breaker panel. I plan to run a new circuit for only two or three of the outlets to it. We only actually use AC on those outlets anyway and it will be easier than having to drag the big heavy 50AMP cable out every time we boondock. It’s a bit of a mish mash of stuff but it works perfectly well.  I keep track of the systems progress with a Trimetric 2030RV monitor from Bogart Engineering that provides lots of valuable information.

A small mod was to install a bar on the screen door.  It stiffens the fairly flimsy door a bit and provides a good place to solidly grab the door as opposed to the stock handle provided.  On the outside door we installed one of those thingys (technical term) that has a hook that you can put in a slot on the outside wall to keep the door open in nice weather.

We have had to do a couple of “forced mods” while on the road as well. One was to replace one of our rear windows with Plexiglas after it got shattered by a tree branch in Flagstaff and replacing the sliding glass doors in the bathroom with a nice shower curtain after one of them shattered into a million pieces in  Quartzsite.  The rear window we will get replaced but the shower curtain is here to stay. We like it way better than the glass doors and again it saved a bunch of weight.

Next we had to rebuild our pantry. That’s right. It seems ridiculous and it is. We arrived at a site one day, opened the door and most of the contents just came piling out.  Somebody in their infinite wisdom decided it was a good idea to use staples to attach the shelves in the pantry. Although we didn’t  have very much weight on any one shelf the staples gave way and it all came crashing down. So off I go to Home Depot again. For about $20 I got the materials and built the inside completely over in about an hour.  Believe me those shelves could withstand anything we can throw at them now.  And in the process I added an extra shelf so we now have more storage than we did originally. All I need to do now is finish them to match the colors. Or maybe paint them something funky to really throw some color in there.  We haven’t decided yet.

We had yet to use the space on top inside our closet because again nobody saw a problem with making a closet shelf with no way to keeps things up there as this 5 ton rig bounces down the road creating earthquake like conditions on the inside. So for a couple of bucks I added a little strip of wood that keeps things up there nicely.

In terms of sound and vision I pulled out the lame sound bar installed by the manufacturer and replaced it with my Sony receiver from home. It’s a 100% improvement in sound and you can actually hear it which was very tough with the sound bar. We also got a satellite dish – King Tailgater or as we call it Darth Vader – from Dish Network which is just fine and allows us to easily call in when we move to a different area and let them know our new location and they will change it in the system which allows you to get the local network stations wherever you are.

 

One of the other things that RV manufacturers go cheap on is tires. In our research we had read many stories of people being stuck on the road because their “China bomb” tires from the manufacturer had exploded as they were going down the road, sometimes causing significant damage to the body of the RV in the process. I wanted no part of that.  As I said before I’ve spend enough time on the side of the road to last me a lifetime. So we bit the bullet and bought a set of Goodyear G14’s.  From my research it seemed to be one of the best you could by to replace the originals.  Although they are crazy expensive at $300 per.

It is totally irksome that you should have to do that. Sometimes I don’t know what RV manufacturers are thinking when they do these things. For really very little more money overall they could deliver a FAR better product to customers and avoid their generally poor reputations. Hitting a low price point is one thing but making choices that affect safety to save a few bucks is something else in my mind.

Yesterday I completed step one of keeping the front basement area free from marauding animals when we get to Montana this Summer. I decided to install these ports on the outside of the battery compartment to allow the door to stay closed at night or when we are out working.  They seem to work pretty well with no discernible difference in performance from just going straight to the charge controller from the panels. Be sure to use plenty of silicone between the body of the RV and the back of the port before you screw them down.   So problem one is solved.  Step two will be to put a GFCI outlet in a weatherproof  electric box on the outside from the inverter which will allow me to either plug in the whole RV to the inverter while the battery bay door is closed, or eventually when I get the wiring done, to be able to just use those couple of outlets without having to drag out the 30 foot 100 pound python that passes for a 50 amp RV power cord.  Ultimate flexibility!

I came up with this idea before we ever got on the road. We knew we would be doing a lot of boondocking. Our RV was not built to be gravity fed through the water inlet.  It has a hose attachment.   I could have rigged something up with a water bandit  and stood there with a water container and fed it in that way, but I’m way too lazy for that. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about this is a water bandit.

So instead I bought a 12V water pump.   When we use up the 64 gallons we have on board we just dump our water jugs which contain 15 gallons total by dropping the inlet hose for the pump in one of them, then we run a 20 foot water hose between the pump and the water inlet on the driver’s side of the RV.  Now this is NOT the fastest pump in the world. It takes probably 5 minutes or so to drain each container but it’s not like we have so much else to do.  When you full time RV your full time job pretty much becomes maintaining your rig and or looking for ways to improve or simplify your life even further.  Or of course as I wrote about in a  previous post..napping.

I also made life less frustrating by getting a little garden hose reel and mounting it to the floor in the basement right inside the door.  Previously I had been trying to stuff the hoses in one of those low flat storage boxes that people use to store excess crap under their beds. This was roughly akin to trying to arm wrestle an octopus who just by his nature has a six arm advantage over you. The hoses never seem to want to just curl up nicely into their original state. So for around $30 I tamed the beast. Once again man shows his dominion over rubber!

 

 

I finally finished bear/moose/elk/skunk/raccoon/alligator/dust mite proofing our battery and electronics area by adding this nifty little box on the outside to plug in the anaconda without having to have the front compartment door open.  Now when we get up to Montana this Summer we can keep things all locked up when we leave so no critters can get in.  Well the dust mites can probably make it no matter what but the rest of them will have a hard time.  Next comes the wiring of just a couple of outlets so we can have AC during those overnight stays while on the road without having to haul out the anaconda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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