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Intro:
This is not a common build here on this forum, but this build is part of another long term build, that has been going on for 10 years now. I feel it is fitting to share this build here, since so much of it's companion is documented on EF. This thread is as detailed as my patience has allowed. I want to be able to help others that might be searching for methods/ideas, and "how to" for much of the build. I do belong to other Overland forums, and will link this thread from them, to share with others.

About:
This trailer is a short compact, stout, capable, high clearance, Swiss army knife of a camper. It is not a popup camper, nor is it a sleep in hard shell camper. It will offer all the creature comforts those do, but in a little different fashion. This style trailer, makes you enjoy the outdoors. You cook/dine, lounge & hot shower outside, but you sleep inside a roomy insulated roof top tent, 78" off the ground.

The tow rig:

The Black Hole

The entire build for the tow rig, has always been with this build in mind, and it has been extremely difficult to keep that to myself, and why it was built the way it was. It is a purpose build, with a specific objective.

The Objective:
To be the living quarters and storage, for off the beaten path journeys yet to come.
To have everything needed to sustain myself, and a few others, out in the middle of nowhere, only accessible by unpaved trails, such as old mining roads. Hauling all the boondocking gear behind, instead of overloading the vehicle's suspension. To minimize setup and tear down times for camping, and have camping items readily accessible, whenever needed.

The trailer needs to be capable of following wherever the tow rig goes. Matching tires, axle width, and the same, if not more height clearance as the tow rig. Sleeping & shelter for 4 comfortably, sustainable cold food storage, food prep space, gas powered cooking, AC/DC power supply, and hot showers for days at a time, are all the requirements for this build.

Goal:

This is the other half of that long term build plan. I am slow at the building and fabricating process, and this will take about a year to complete. Updates will happen as the build progresses. I have entered the 7th month of the build, and expect another 3-4 months left to get it road worthy at the least. Just like anything I have done, it never ends, and improvements will happen, as I gain experience & knowledge with what works best for me.

Baby steps:

This is the first time I have ever attempted anything like this. I am bound to make mistakes, and corrections/improvements are all but a guarantee. I do have a final vision for what I want this to be, as it has been a thought process for many many years now. Please bear with me as this thread goes. Some items won't make sense until it comes to be. I am not going to tell you how things should be done. I am just sharing how I did things on this build. Agree/disagree, like it or leave it, it's mostly a learning experience by mixing what I know, and what I had to learn, to get things as I want them. Definitely not for everybody. Heck, I know I will change things down the road, as I find ways to improve on it. That is part of the fun!



Why am I building this?
I'm Tired of ground tent camping all my life. Tired of the time it takes to set up & tear down. Tired of all the tedious packing, unpacking, moving things from place to place after every trip. Plus, I don't want a motor home that can't leave the roads.
I plan on getting lost a few times, venturing out to places unknown and unseen. We live in a large, beautifully gifted geographical location on the planet. Our own back yard is filled with amazing spectacles. Places that can only be seen on dirt trails, off the beaten paths, not by roads covered in pavement, and delivery trucks. Exploring into the dark hours of the night, and setting camp in the middle of nowhere, instead of heading back. We can traverse a lot of ground this way.

Kudos:

A few friends helped with this build, and I couldn't have got as far as it is without them. Special thanks to James, Matt, Kurt, Ryan, & Jacob. You guys rock!

A warning from the author:

This thread contains: Long drawn out boring tedious explanations, Dry humor, embarrassing anecdotes, speech in the 3rd person, countless pictures, and some content is for Mature audiences. There is a little for everybody here, but be warned, this is not your typical build thread, and not from your typical builder. I am not responsible for your emotional mood swings, due to reading this material. ;)

Edit: Progress pics as of 10/15/18. Getting closer every day!

Dr washed.jpg

RTT on front pass side full view.jpg


First real use!

Camp set 1.jpg

Camp set 2.jpg

Bat wing awning up.jpg



Current specs:
Main Frame- 12'.5"L x 48"W
Whopping 25" of ground clearance with 35" tires
Fenders- 72" Long x 14.00" Wide tapered to 0.00" in front
Cabin- 48"W x 72"L x 36"H
Overall Width - 76"
Overall Height - 68" Roof Rack lowered - 78" Roof Rack lifted
Overall Height- 80" With CVT RTT stowed - 140" RTT open & rack lifted
Dry weight- 2300#'s

2"x3"x3/16" Steel Tube Frame, with 1 pc center tongue beam from front to rear.
3500 Lb Timbren Axleless Independent suspension
10" Electric brakes
35"x12.5" Goodyear MTR's w/kevlar & matching spare
15"x10" Mickey Thompson black satin aluminum wheels
Lock N Roll off road articulating Hitch
14 Ga steel cabin walls & roof
3/4" Ply floor, stained, sealed, & 5 topcoats of acrylic gloss clear
Commercial 60 Mil Waterproof TPO membrane under belly skin
12 Ga steel Fenders on Sq frame & 2" x 3/16" Round slider tubes
Spare tire mount on cabin front
16 Ga swing out 4'W x 2'D x 24"H Tapered Tongue box
16 Ga Side boxes with Tapered front compartments
Telescoping Roof rack (12") with scissor jack actuation
Two rear 31" BAL C leveling jacks & swivel plate base
Dual 5K swivel weld ring flat plate base Tongue jacks
ARK dual wheel offroad 750 HD Tongue jack
Slider system for hidden Solar panel storage
Dual 11 lb Propane tank storage mounts
Quick Disconnect Water supply
All Stainless & Aluminum hardware, where applicable

Interior:
Front compartment 48"Wx24"Lx36"H
Two side doors, and upper 12 ga shelf with expanded metal rear wall
Rear Compartment 48"Wx48"Lx36"H
3/4" PT wood flooring, custom finish, clear satin marine topcoats.
Tie downs on frame tubes
1-60W Led rear cabin, 3-10w Led front cabin
Wiring plumbed with flex and hard conduit
Split cabin with full rear cabin deck, tie down racks

Power:
Dual Group 31 MAGM deep cycle 110 AH batteries
110 shore
100W Renogy Solar
Charge:
NOCO Marine 110v 20 amp onboard Dual smart charger
30 amp Renogy Solar charger
140 amp traveling vehicle charge, via smart charge isolater
Soon to come: 40 amp-500 watt DC-DC charger from alternator

Accessories:
4 season Ripstop CVT Mt Shasta Pioneer Stargazer RTT W/ 8'x6' Annex room - Cold weather hood, Secondary rain fly, telescopic ladder Open 56″wide x 132″long x 50″high.
Oversized high density 3" thick 56" x 96" mattress. Cold weather cover, additional secondary rain fly.
Rhino Rack 8.5' Bat Wing 270* Wrap around Awning (2019 version)
5Liter - 1.5 gpm - On demand instant hot water heater
ARB/ViAir 150 psi onboard air system
Ready Welder II
Slide out Kitchen/storage- 1/2" Baltic Birch, sealed/stained/clear coats 350# slides
ICECO VL45 portable fridge/freezer - AC/DC
Custom powder coated locking Fridge slide out.
Wireless controlled winch (upper roof rack storage, rear bumper hitch receiver)
Rear door interior fold down table
Dual 11 lb propane tanks (rear fender mounted)
Marine control panel, rocker switches w/circuit breakers, 12v battery meter, Aux outlets
30 gallon fresh water tank & 3.0 gpm instant on pump w/ inline filter
Trailer Harness Connection lock box
First Aid field kit (large)
Dual Fire Extinguisher's

LED Lighting:
Front- 2-45w dual pods w/amber fogs
Sides- 4-18w pods
Rock- 4-10w blue IP 67
Cabin- 1-60w 3 setting round rear compartment ceiling fixture, 3-10w pods front compartment
Tails/brakes/turns- 30w 6" oval
Reverse- 30w 6" oval
Markers- 3w red & amber
7 pin RV trailer harness & J box

Tongue box build:
Full box tube frame & 16 ga sheet, w/plate and tube gussets
Dual battery mount tray
Red oak Shelf for Noco dual 20 amp charger, 20amp solar charger, 12v systems (3) circuit breakers, fuse panel, main power cutoff switch
3 space divider walls & front storage shelf
Gas lift struts, 2"x 3/16" thick Aluminum lid hinge
Dual SS locking paddle latch handles
Dual 4" SS louvered vents w/bug screens
Pass thru power cord outlet with weatherproof door hatch
NOCO 110v wall power plug w/ weatherproof cover
2k locking latch to frame, & dual 7/16" clevis pins to frame
5/8" spindle for swivel action, for spare tire removal/security

Paint:
Frame- Chassis saver gloss black
Cabin Exterior- Acid etch primer & Single stage Gloss Black automotive 2k urethane
Cabin Interior- SW DTM Gloss White
Side & T boxes, All doors- Urethane Epoxy primer & Single stage Gloss Black 2k Urethane
Roof rack- Chassis saver gloss black
Fenders-Acid etch primer underneath & Urethane base topside, Black Raptor liner w/grip additive

Trim: Aluminum



Lots to add to that list up there, and I will as the build progresses. :)

I hope you enjoy the thread, as much as I have enjoyed the build itself.
 
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CDW6212R

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Thanks, I had found that almost none are suitable for normal car use, and my high end charger can't work for those, it has an automatic de-sulfating function built into it.

That 7.5" width is slightly more than the group 65(about 7"), but it could work for my old truck if two of them could survive the alternator. I might look into that if I find the time, it's a busy season now for me.
 
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gmanpaint

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They won't work for a starting battery, even if they fit. That's not what these are made for.

A cars alternator puts out way too much power for these. Max input is 20 amps.

Checkout Dakota lithium for a starting battery, and you will see what it takes, for these to work in that application
 
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BKennedy

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Those batteries are very cool. If I ever wear out the 4, 6 volt AGM's I recently bought for the RV I might go with something like that.
 
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gmanpaint

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Fun Trip is over, back home, back to work, and back to these batteries.

So the entire reason for these batteries wasn't for the tongue box main house batteries. I wanted a portable solar Generator box. I am almost there with it. Almost!
For now, let's just share how far into the build it is.

Purchased an 18" weather proof sealed box made for ammo mag storage. Couldn't find the size & style I was after local, so I put my trust into Amazon for it.

It has a gasket sealed lid, with a sealed compartment and lid, on top of that main lid. Lid Lid Lid Lid Lid..... Phew..... enough of that!!

The plan on paper looked much better than it came out, but it still works just fine as is...... I think.

The Box:

This is what you see when it is closed up, and not in use.

Power box closed.jpg


Top compartment lid hiding all the usable goodies.

Lid tray open.jpg


What your looking at in the picture above is this:
Left side: Gasket flush mount ACC panels
12v ACC power ports. (2 ea)
3.0 USB (2 ea)- Switched
2.4 USB (2 ea)- Switched
12v Meter -Switched
Middle:
200 amp circuit Breaker
Main Battery disconnect that shuts down everything
Pos+ & Neg- 12v pass thru posts (waterproof bulkheads)
Right:
Pos+ & Neg- flush mount terminals (dual posts)
Lighted toggle switches (2 ea)

The underside of the main lid. (been updated since this pic was taken)

Underside of lid wiring.jpg


Under that lid has the 4 awg for the batteries to disconnect, and to the junction terminals.
8 awg supply, for the 40amp shunt fuse, then 10awg for each of the 12v ACC panels.
The 2 toggle switches have 14 awg with a 15 amp inline fuse.
16 awg was used for four flush mount 9w LED lights.
I had to use 90* flag terminals for depth reasons. Biggest trouble for me was the wire placement, and the available space for the items on it.
Good thing these nice batteries create no heat whatsoever.

Now for the batteries inside the box. I fortified the bottom with a pc of 1/2" Baltic birch, and a simple L bracket to a block of soft pine, to snug up the batteries inside.Used some bullet connectors for the LED lights. so the lid can be removed easily.

Inside box no batteries.jpg


Well, that's the box build. I like it for a 1st run. Now to set it up with the batteries.
 
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gmanpaint

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With both batteries inside the box, and hooked up to the disconnect, it was time to test the systems.

First up was the use of the exterior posts. I drained the batteries some using a 12v HV air pump. Then the smart charger was hooked up, and it did it's thing.

Smart charger on.jpg


It toggles thru various displays as it charges, and the display numbers change as it goes.

Volts

Charger with volt display.jpg


Battery temp in Celsius. (Haven't figured out how to change it to F* yet)

Charger showing temp in C.jpg


And when Full, it shuts off completely, as these do not trickle charge unless in a repair mode (pulses). The fan on this thing is big and loud, so it's easy to hear it when it shuts down.

Full charge.jpg


OK, now it's fully charged, and I know the wiring was correct, it was time to test the rest.

Turned on the 12v ACC panels with the little switches on them, and Bam! We have Power!

12v power outlets and meter lit up.jpg


Next up was the LED lights via the lighted toggle switch.

Switches work!

Toggle switches On.jpg


Then the bright azz Led lights.

LED lights on.jpg


Those lights will come in handy, when fumbling around in the dark at camp!

Now for the next Post test. I got a nice little 500w Pure sine wave inverter that stores inside the box, in front of the batteries. It works! Wooo!

Here it is being used with the HV 12v air pump used for filling air mattresses. I also use that pump to stoke a campfire. Works amazing for that! LOL

Inverter test with pump on.jpg


Ok, now for the big test. The 12v fridge freezers in the rig & trailer. This should run them in the event the house batteries drain on me, and I have a hard time charging them back up fast enough. This box can run the fridge/freezers while they charge. That's the hope at least.

1st test for fridge with new battery box.jpg


Ok, so when I first turned it on, the fridge compartment was at 59*. I set the compressor to max, and set the t-stat to 25*. The volts dropped on the battery meter from 13.9v to 13.4v......... Interesting. After 30 mins, the fridge temp was at 25*. The volt meter was still at 13.4v. Ok, cool. Now I am letting it run until the fridge shuts down. I will see what the real Numbers are after this test. I'm hoping it takes a few days. I will update this after the time is known.

So for a battery break down...
I paid $135/ea battery = $270.00
Combined in Parallel: 80 Ah at 1024 Wh
That's a total of $0.26 per Wh, from a used battery, pushing 97% capacity at a C Discharge rate. Compare that to a new Battleborn or Dakota, at almost $2.00/Wh, and yes, this is making me feel fuzzy warm inside. 😁

That is frigging incredible! 💪🤯🤘
Lithium Iron Phosphate technology, is simply amazing. Sad to say it but, the Chinese know what they are doing with this, and they lead the world in Lithium tech.

One last tidbit.... The box weighs in at a whopping 28 lbs. That is half the weight of One of my 75# group 31 MAGM's, in the tongue box that have 110 Ah/ea =220 Ah's. I can only use 50% of that dual system safely, so it's only 110 Ah total Usable power before charging is needed. I am really thinking of getting 4 more of these, and replacing the MAGM's. That will reduce the weight by 75%, and increase the banks power to 160 Ah & 2048 Wh's. These can go thousands of full drain cycles, unlike the MAGM that can only go around 600-800 full drain cycles. 🤔

Battery test with 45L IceCo fridge/freezer & 80 AmH @25*
Edit 1: 24 hours
Edit 2: 36 hours
Edit 3: 48 hours
Edit 4: 60 hours
Edit 5: 72 hours
Edit 6: Day 5 and it finally drained the bank.
5 days and 5.5 hours it ran the Freezer at 25* with an constant ambient temp of 60* inside the trailer, inside the garage. I will do a charge test to see how long it takes with a 10 amp charge, to bring it back to full charge next. I think I can get 10 amps with the 100w solar setup, so it will be a good test using the 120v charger set to 10a.

I'm pretty happy with it, even tho on paper, it should have made it to almost 7 days. The fridge uses less than 0.5A below freezing and averages 10.8w. It has a very efficient compressor.
 
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Amazon product
Here's another LiFePo4 battery to look at. The one review I saw was very good for it, quality internal parts etc. But the follow up reviews sounded like the company was being hard to contact, and the supplies were scarce. The price went from $350 to $400 right after the review, it's still there now, has been out 2-3 times in the last week, and back in stock again Sunday. If i could contact them, I might ask if it could handle an old car(smaller alternator typically(55 amps)). That could be great for a car driven very little, and might set for two months between starts.
 
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CDW6212R

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That one lists to be 20 amps for normal charging, and 100 amps maximum. That's the 100AH version, the lesser ones drop down, and the 200AH I never ran across, has the same specs. They can be wired in parallel to 48v, the review took one apart and checked the components, I think it mentioned max of 75 or so volts. The reviewer was happy to see a low temp cut off, which worked, he stuck it in a glass of ice water and it shut down each time, and turned back on automatically. I liked the many built in automatic features, it's promising that more batteries will be made with full protections that work well(that BMS device/board).
 
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gmanpaint

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100 ah is discharge, not charge.
1 amp for 100 hours or 100 amps for one hour.

If the bms allows a 20 amp charge, I would be surprised by that. The 200 ah units like a 10 amp, but some use a 20 amp charge.

Then you have to consider high cranking amps, which these are not made for.

Did you look at the Dakota dual lifepo unit I suggested to you?
 
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Thanks. Yes I did see the Dakota Digital 60AH starting battery. I like it and it looks like the best model right now, but the price of $700 was way over my hopes. I did read some on their site, for that battery, and the information about charging LiFePo4 batteries. Some of that was new to me, the lithium batteries need lower current rates to maximize lifespan, higher than 1C hurts the cells much more and wears them out faster.

So I learned more, the price will need to include a special DC-DC charger, have to learn how that gets wired in. Plus solar charging controllers can be had for lithium/unique from SLA(higher voltage(14.4-14.8v)), which means more cost and more wiring complexity for some applications.

The one recommended DC-DC charger was $165, the solar controller I didn't check the price on.
 
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gmanpaint

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Good deal. Glad you looked it up, and got a feel, for what it takes (and costs), to run Lithium, on that application.

Not as simple as just replacing a battery for a new one. Cold weather charging is a real issue for these batteries. Dakota must have worked around that.
Charging alone is quite different. The benefits that I can see is weight loss, less charge time, battery longevity increased, and an increase in engine bay space due to the smaller size. For some, all that is worth the extra costs for a disposable consumable. For most consumers, the costs and efforts to convert over to LifePo, is stopping them from trying, and I'm sure Dakota is feeling that in sales.

I really don't know of anyone else out there, that makes/sells a dual starting LifoPo battery, besides Dakota.
Maybe bring this up in the Modified section, of your generation rig?
 
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XS Power XV Automotive Series lithium batteries are lightweight, powerful, and offer five times the life over lead acid and AGM batteries. These Lithium Titanate batteries are available for automotive applications in many common BCI group sizes for a direct fit in your vehicle.
 
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gmanpaint

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XS Power XV Automotive Series lithium batteries are lightweight, powerful, and offer five times the life over lead acid and AGM batteries. These Lithium Titanate batteries are available for automotive applications in many common BCI group sizes for a direct fit in your vehicle.
$500.00 for a 6 Ah & 70 Wh? 670CCA at 32*? That's $7.14 per Wh! Wow!
Those specs are horrible on that battery. No surprise tho, as those are not LifePo4.
Still tho, it's another brand offering the Lithium with CCA power.
Those have only been around for less than a year. I imagine as time goes on, these will improve, and the price will drop.
 
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XS Power XV Automotive Series lithium batteries are lightweight, powerful, and offer five times the life over lead acid and AGM batteries. These Lithium Titanate batteries are available for automotive applications in many common BCI group sizes for a direct fit in your vehicle.

I do like the pricing for those compared to the few prior, which have been almost sized for a car. I saw that in the XV2400 size for $450 on eBay, pricing elsewhere matched the XV6500 size. I think with a one year warrantee, and the different chemistry, it may take a while to learn how they will do. The charging for those lithium types, seems to be significantly lower than traditional batteries, and that greatly effects lifespan. The voltage needs to stay high up around 14.6v constantly, until filled. Automotive voltage regulators vary that a lot, and it drops when near to full, which is around the 80% point at most for LiFePo4 cells. So it looks like a dedicated DC-DC charger is needed onboard to protect the cells, and get them fully charged every time. I'm going to call about that wiring, it may be fine to do my old Ranchero like that given how little I may drive it. I got a link for that battery for $540 at the moment, thought the charger(special DC to DC), is about $130 elsewhere. Those have an 11 year warrantee, on defects.
 
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gmanpaint

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Yep. Can't have more than 0.5v change in charge voltage for the lifepo4.
Dcdc chargers are all over the board for pricing. You get what you pay for. I would only buy well known proven brands. Like Redarc or Renogy. They come in a variety of sizes too. I plan on installing one on this trailer, as mentioned previously in this thread. I can eliminate the 140 amp smart charger in the tow rig currently used for the magm bank, as the dcdc work for all types of batteries.
 
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CDW6212R

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The Dakota person tells me that they haven't had anyone use theirs with an onboard DC to DC charger as mentioned in the description. That page is long and doesn't detail everything suggested or hinted at, so that idea of using in a vehicle with more than an 80a alternator, is to be determined. They are planning to make a bigger unit to possibly work for bigger alternators, this one is the first and intended to be a drop in and go deal. So the warrantee in plan is a full replacement for the term, again to be determined over the years I'm sure. I'll try the one in my old 73, we'll see how that goes. I'll have to fix the carb or replace it to drive it much at all.
 
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