Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Camper After One Year

It's hard to believe that a whole year has passed already since we got the camper. On the other hand, we have done three cross-country trips to or from the west coast, including a trip up the Pacific coast from San Francisco to Seattle, as well as a few trips closer to home. Throw in a 6-week trip to Europe and it was a full year.

As for a review, the camper and truck have performed well. We are happy with both. We are gradually learning to pack efficiently and the camp set-up has become routine. We travel light. Most of our gear fits into a large Action Packer box. Dry food usually fits into a small Action Packer and the fridge capacity is sufficient for a week's worth of our cold food.

There is room for another large and small Action Packer if we need to take more stuff. That gives a lot of flexibility for packing- two large Action Packers, one large and two small, or two large and two small- all fitting on the floor of the camper for travel. 

Clothes and personal items go in two soft-sided duffel bags that ride on the benches for travel. Two camp chairs and the roll-up table, the fold-up dog kennel and the folding stool complete the gear that gets packed in the camper.

The porta-potty bucket lives under the bench by the door.

Miscellaneous stuff like the first aid kit, water filter, cards and games, batteries and chargers and spare 1 lb. propane cylinders go in one under-bench storage compartment. The awning and screen house stuff go in the other. In cold weather, we use the under-bench storage for the arctic pac and reflectix insulation.

At night, the Action Packers go in the cab of the truck, which will hold all four plus miscellaneous stuff like chairs and the dog kennel if we decide to pack everything in there, which we do in bad weather.

I made a new shelf for the interior of the camper. The idea is that we can have a work counter inside if we want to cook or do other work that requires a work surface when the weather is bad. With the shelf installed, the bench becomes another shelf underneath. When we don't need the counter, it stores under the bench cushion. It worked out pretty well. It adds a lot of functionality to the interior and still allows seating on the other bench. The original idea was to make one for each side. The two of them could be placed level and between the seats to make another bed to sleep on with the top down. I'm not sure I will pursue that. We both think that is an unlikely scenario.



Kathy made some pockets that attach with velcro either to the slide out bed or above on the arctic pac to hold things like glasses, flashlights, clock, keys so they can easily be found during the night. I also mounted the controls for the vent fans for easy access.

We find that there is plenty of room in the camper if we keep things organized. One puzzle we haven't solved yet is where to put wet/muddy shoes. We generally keep them on the floor in front of the door, but they seem to be always in the way. Maybe they need to live outside under the truck or something.

The interior layout has worked out well. At night before bed or when the weather keeps us inside, we like to sit on the benches to read or play games, which we can do even with the bed pulled out. The benches are long enough to stretch out our legs with our backs on a pillow against the back wall. Very comfy. The dog sleeps on the floor in front of the fridge when he isn't on Kathy's lap.

I have made some electrical additions to the camper.

I added a digital thermostat to control the furnace.The original thermostat was difficult to operate and had too wide a temperature swing.

I changed out the original fuse panel for a Blue Sea panel which is better quality and has a cover, which the original did not.

I also added a third ceiling light to light the inside of the camper when the top is down.

I added an exterior porch light to the passenger side and changed out the motion detector light by the back door for a matching porch light.

The motion detection didn't work well due to all the equipment mounted around the light and we decided after living without it we didn't need it. We haven't used the flood lights very much either, but I like having them- they are very bright when needed.

I mounted a switch panel by the back door to control all the lights.

I added a battery charger for charging the camper battery from shore power when needed. It is wired into the camper battery so all I have to do is plug it in.

This required a switch to disconnect the camper battery from the truck for charging the camper battery by itself when the truck is parked, which is necessary for proper maintenance. The IBS battery control system that we have connects the battery to the truck whenever a charging current is present. Normally, that is good so the camper battery gets charged by the truck alternator while driving. When the truck is parked, the truck battery typically doesn't need charging while the camper battery does. The switch allows the charger to feed only the camper battery. When both batteries are fully charged, they can be connected for maintenance.

I also cut an access port for the 120 volt outlet that is in the bed of the Tacoma. While I doubt we will use it very often, I wanted to have access to it if necessary. It requires the truck ignition to be turned on, which is inconvenient, but it is nice to have 400 watts of 120 volt power available.

That's the full report of modifications and changes after a year. I'm sure we will continue to make changes and additions to the camper and we look forward to many more trips in it.

Edit: I added a post regarding some storage cans and an outlet for the bed inverter here:


  1. I have told you before that your design setup is exactly what I want when the budget allows. This post really reinforced that. Thank you for being so transparent about your travels. Seeing the way the Action packers fit in is perfect, with just enough room for chairs on the side. How did you mount your refer? or is it just set in place?

  2. Thanks for your comments. We are pleased with how the action packers fit. When packed, everything is snug so nothing slides around. The fridge is bolted in with turnbuckles to eye-bolts mounted in the camper walls. It can't move.

  3. Thanks for your earlier reply about the Partner Stove-also thanks for answering my wife's query about traveling with dogs.

    I have a question about the size of your action packer tubs-You mention that you use the large and the small action packer tubs by Rubbermaid. How many gallons are each of them rated for? What are the dimensions of them. I see a few of these on Amazon. It looks like yours have the handles on each end.It looks like the small is 8 gallon, while the large is a 24 gallon? I also see a 35 gallon one. I just wanted to clarify the sizes of the ones they use. Where did you purchase your footwell water tank - That looks like a nice setup

    Thanks again,


  4. Reggie, the action packers are 8 and 24 gallon sizes. They fit just perfect on the floor between the benches. There are handles on each end that lock the tops on. We like them. We lucked out and found them at Costco for a great price. Haven't seen them there again since. The water tank came from Sierra Expeditions: http://www.sierraexpeditions.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=33234

    1. Thanks so much for your reply - They are very helpful - Have a wonderful day!

  5. Question on your Dometic fridge-what is the capacity? What are the outside dimensions? Thx again

  6. It is the CF-50 (52 quart/1.7 cf) size. The dimensions are about 25 x 14 x 19 inches.