Hodakaguy's Vagabond Camper/Truck Build

Tom, after all the work on both trucks and the FWC, surprised you unloaded them. I liked the looks of the Habitat. If I was young, I think these would be great starters, far cheaper than a FWC. Looking forward to seeing how you modify the interior. Top loading Fridge? jd
longhorn1 said:
Tom, after all the work on both trucks and the FWC, surprised you unloaded them. I liked the looks of the Habitat. If I was young, I think these would be great starters, far cheaper than a FWC. Looking forward to seeing how you modify the interior. Top loading Fridge? jd
Yeah we will be using a top load ARB fridge in the drifter, works really well.

Camping season is upon us...Time to get a heater installed in the Vagabond.

We purchased a Propex propane heater to install in the Vagabond, we used this heater in our Syncro build and it worked great. We were going to fabricate a custom enclosure for the heater but found a pre-made unit locally that works really well and saved us a bunch of build time. This box will also eventually house the solar charge controller and power ports.

Here's a shot of the box and the heater unit.


Drilling holes in one of the shelves, the heater will be bolted to this shelf.





Test fitting the heater in the box, along with the upper shelf. Combustion air and exhaust holes cut in the bottom of the box, the combustion air/exhaust hoses will pass through these holes then through the bed of the truck.



Outlet duct installed



Holes cut for the propane supply line along with return air holes for the heater. The return air will flow into the box and over the heater on it's way to the intake of the heater, this will help keep the heater cool when in operation. One of the return air holes allows access to the propane tubing connection to allow tightening the compression coupler.



Power and control wires, this hole will have a rubber grommet installed to protect the wiring.


The heater will be mounted in the front of the bed here, doesn't take up to much space and will be a good location for the electrical center/solar charge controller.


Now to paint all the bare edges and gather a few more supplies before mounting everything up. The propane line will run under the truck and terminate at a quick disconnect fitting at the rear of the truck. Eventually we will have a swing away bumper that will carry a small propane tank, for now we will use a portable on the ground.

More to come....

I note that the access door to the Propex heater itself is facing away from the open box door. I would have tried to mount the heater so that this access point was easily accessible. There are fuses and connectors in there that you may need to get at later.
Vic Harder said:
I note that the access door to the Propex heater itself is facing away from the open box door. I would have tried to mount the heater so that this access point was easily accessible. There are fuses and connectors in there that you may need to get at later.
The lid is easily accessed even on the back side so that shouldn't be an issue. I wanted the exhaust and intake to be located as close to the corner as possible as they don't come any extra long, plus we wanted the outlet on the right side.

A little more progress on the heater install, been waiting for parts to show up. Sorry...crappy cell phone pics today.

Started today by adding a quick disconnect for the propane connection under the bumper. Eventually we will have a swing away tire carrier and an aluminum tank mounted on the back. For now we will set the tank on the ground behind the truck.

Here we're making a mount for the quick disconnect, it will bolt onto the factory trailer plug mount.




Mounted up.



Now to wire up the electrical connector that will tie the truck battery to the aux battery that will be installed in the bed. Using 4awg wire and an Attwood two prong trolling motor connector for the disconnect.

Plug wired and ready for install



Plug installed in the side of the bed


Setting up the intake and exhaust for the heater. We're using fire sleeve to shield the bed etc from the heat.




I used Butyl tape to fill the gaps between the bed ribs and create a tight seal around the penetrations in the bed.


And mounted in place.


More to come soon.

More work....

Fabricating a small stainless bracket to hold the exhaust in place and give plenty of clearance from the fuel tank.


Exhaust mounted in place, the 4awg wires heading to the front weren't yet wrapped in loom in this shot. The tires were lowered to get the setup into the garage :)



Propane lines completed and checking the system for any leaks...no leaks :)



Installing the Aux battery into the back of the truck. We are running a Northstar 27M battery that will power the Propex heater and an ARB fridge when camping, eventually we will tie solar into the mix as well.

Using pre-tinned marine wire for power in the camper



Thermostat mounted for the Propex, Power and control wires hidden in the built in wire chase that Vagabond provided. It's mounted within easy reach of the bed for those midnight adjustments :)



All mounted up and running good. My father camped in the setup last night to try it out and said it was very comfy :)



Now waiting on parts to finish tying the Aux battery to the truck battery, more work soon.

More work on the truck today.....

First up is to install the new Northstar battery under the hood. Here's the original 2012 battery that's being replaced.


The Northstar we purchased is a Group 27, the original is a 27F. The 27 has the posts on the front of the battery instead of the back so the cables will have to be extended to fit. We got a good deal on the 27 so it's worth messing with the cables. We're running a Northstar 31M in the rear for the Aux batt.

Removing the OEM battery ends.


Fabricating new cables





While I was setting up the wiring dad was fabricating a stainless base for the ML-ACR.


The ML-ACR mounted/welded on the factory battery hold down bracket.



Fabricating the wiring for the ACR.


And wired up. The ML-ACR will auto combine the two batteries when the engine is running and the batts are charging, it will also separate the batteries to keep the trucks battery from getting drained when a load is on the aux battery. You can manually force combine the batteries to jump start the truck from the aux battery as well, a handy feature.



In this shot you can see the Blue Sea low profile fuse on the output of the ACR to protect the 4awg wiring going back to the aux battery, there is a fuse on each battery.


I'm installing a Powerlet port on the heater box to supply power to the ARB refrigerator. The Powerlet outlets are great, they snap in place and won't wiggle loose when going down rough roads like a standard cig plug will, you don't want power to the fridge going out unexpected. I'll be installing the 90 deg fitting on the end of the ARB power cord.




Now to install the USB charger and standard cig plug in the back of the drifter. They will be located in the rear aluminum panel.


I'll be using a knock out to punch the holes for the power ports, they leave nice clean holes. I'll use a Unibit to make the pilot hole then the punch to finish it off.

Pilot hole drilled.


Setting up the knock out.



Continued Below.....
Continued from above.....

Final hole, nice and clean.


Drilling the pilot hole with the Unibit for the USB charger next.


And both units mounted up and ready for use!




When the USB ports are powered the battery voltage is displayed for the rear AUX battery. You can see that the rear battery hasn't been charged yet.



And back out of the shop. Ready to stay warm when camping :)




More to come.....

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.



Continued below.....
Continued from above....

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.



Continued Below....
Continued from above...

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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