We have returned from our 37 day trip through 7 States.
Among a number of places we visited and camped are Big Sur, Redwoods National Park, John Day Fossil Beds, Middle Fork of the John Day River, Stanley Basin, Craters of the Moon, Grand Tetons National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Bear River and the Flattops in Colorado, Crested Butte and Slate River in Colorado, Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep national Monument, North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. We skipped Zion, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks due to the high temps there last week (We have been to Zion and Bryce Canyon before).
At any rate, during the first week I was not getting appropriate performance out of the solar panels so on the recommendation of Rando and Vic (thanks again!) I bypassed the 40 Amp fuse and Blue Sea battery selector during the first week of the trip. The solar panels and Victron charge controller worked perfectly after that. I am still not sure what the actual problem was.
I very much like being able to monitor the panels and the batteries in the camper via the Victron bluetooth dongles when I am in the cab of the truck driving.
I bought a set of remote temperature sensors for the fridge so we can monitor the fridge and freezer temps from the cab while underway. We noticed after one long drive on a stretch of freeway that the refrigerator was warming up. I figured that the propane flame blew out due to freeway speeds. We switched the refrigerator to 12v. It turns our that large Norcold 3-way fridge pulls about 11.5 amps when running on 12V and on average the solar panels cannot keep the batteries charged while the fridge is on 12 V (except in the middle of the day). So I decided to connect the camper to the truck charging system. I used the existing trailer connector and made an adapter but I only get about 6.5 A from the truck through this configuration
During the last week of our trip after getting comfortable with everything we started checking the remote fridge temp with a thermometer on a shelf in the fridge. We found a temperature offset and realized that the fridge was working better than we thought (no wonder we kept getting frozen food in the refrigerator section even though the remote temp said it was 45 degrees in there). After that we decided to leave the propane on and not use the fridge on 12 V. Low and behold it apparently works just fine even at freeway speed. We learned that the temp in the fridge will drift up a bit while underway but the biggest issue was the 8 degree temperature difference between the remote thermometer reading and an actual glass bulb thermometer reading. Once we figured that out we realized the fridge was probably working fine on propane all along.
We had a odd headlight switch malfunction in a campground on the Slate River near Crested Butte. After pulling into camp one night the headlights were switched off, however, the driver's side headlight stayed on (and I did not notice that). Next morning there was insufficient juice to run the grid heaters and then crank the diesel sufficiently to get it to fire. A neighbor camper gave us a jump so it was only a minor nuisance but if we had been in a remote area it could have been a much bigger hassle (i.e. pulling the batteries out of the camper to jump start the truck then putting them back into the camper)..
We had an alternator failure coming back to aour campsite after dinner one night in Mesa Verde National Park. The truck battery had sufficient charge to get me to Cortez the next morning where I bought a new alternator and replaced it in the NAPA Auto Parts parking lot. This was a second case where having the ability to jump start the truck from the camper house batteries would have been a good thing).
We have a club cab Dodge truck and use a medium plastic ice chest behind the center console to keep snacks and beverages in. With a truck cab full of stuff, pulling the ice chest out to empty the water is a PITA. Needing to buy ice every few days is also a PITA.
An initial set of lessons learned
1) Buying the National Park Senior Pass is the best $10 investment I have ever made!!! If you are over 62 and camp in National Forests, national Parks, National Monuments, BLM campgrounds or in State Parks in some states (not California) buy this pass. Park entrance fees are zero (free) and camping fees are 50% off! Yeah, as of September the pass is now $80 but that is still cheap, cheap, cheap!
2) Solar panels coupled with the Victron charger and monitoring via bluetooth charging two AGM 6V batteries works well and the system is reliable. The convenience and comfort in knowledge of the battery charge state from the ability to monitor the battery charge and the solar panel controller output while driving is worth the cost of the bluetooth dongles!
3) It is a good idea to have truck power available to the camper (even if you don't think you need it) if you are using much 12 V power (to run say a 12 v refrigerator).
4) Run big wires (at least 6 ga or better yet 4 ga or 2 ga) from the truck to the camper and install an ML-ACR or a VCR with a switch so so you can jump start your truck from the house batteries if needed.
5) Replace all the camper lights with LEDs. The current draw of LED's is tiny compared to both fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.
6) Put a 12 v refrigerator behind the center console and stop messing with ice blocks.
(these are among the top 10 of a long list of things we will improve in the truck and camper).
Edited by ckent323, 18 September 2017 - 10:25 PM.