Close up of the curtain "rod". This is from the front view. In retrospect, I should have gotten the curtains that is just one big opening for the rod and not the ones with straps... or whatever those things are called. The rod would be hidden better with the other type of curtain and look nicer from the front. Overall they're quite sturdy and fits really close to the roof so there is zero light leak.
The end of the rod slips right into the side molding. I double checked to make sure there is no airbag in that section.
Just random misc. camping stuff from this weekends trip.
It was about 30 F this weekend and we were kept plenty warm with a small 12v electric blanket under our sleeping bag. Our sleeping bag in the type that is meant to pair with a mattress so it's basically a sheet on the bottom. We have a trifold mattress it goes over. If it was a typical sleeping bag this would probably have to go inside to feel the warmth. The nice thing about this particular blanket is that is only pulls around 60 watts and it doesn't have an auto off, so you don't get cold in the middle of the night or have to remember to click it back on. Even with it being half the power of most home electric blankets it still got too warm so I'm going to look for a PWM control (pulse width modulation... (auto on/off on a timer)) so I can control the heat a bit.
I currently only have a very small 100-150 watt hour portable battery, so it would only run this blanket for about 2 hours before it ran out of juice or ran too low of voltage to turn the blanket on. So we put the car in ready mode, turned everything off and charged it with the 12v from the car.
The blanket pulls just over 60 watts and the car charges it just over 40 watts. The idea was to keep the car from having to start and run too often. It worked okay. Some people have already tested that the HVAC will cycle around 7 off and 3 minutes on when running a/c. Just drawing about 40 watts cycles the car resulted in about 45-60 minutes off and 3 minutes on. I didn't do a very scientific experiment, just tried to keep an eye on it before I fell asleep. Even still I don't like the jolt of having the car start and eventually just turned the car off.
Had some issues with cooking this weekend. I was using my solo stove primarily with wood pellets. I didn't bring firewood because I didn't want to get the inside of the van dirty. Well my old Ikea coffee filter basket at the bottom of the stove hack finally got all sooted and clogged up so it couldn't get enough air. Pulled out the propane burners and it was too cold for the propane to do anything except mildly warm some water. Today I cleaned out the solo stove and filter. But, decided that I could do something better than that. Got some chicken wire and made a base and chimney inside the stove so it never risks the chance of suffocating. Just did a test run with a full load of wood pellets and got a really nice clean 1 hour burn without refilling it. Pretty happy about that.
The 3" lift is amazing. I would pull up to a rock or some deep ruts on the trail, jump out and except to see my bumper ready to hit... but it never happened. In fact, I felt silly sometimes with how much clearance I had. My old van (with rear airbags) had a good amount of clearance (8" inches or so), but the suspension was so soft it would bounce and hit stuff, especially the rear tow hitch. And I have a little summer car which is literally 4" off the ground, so its gonna take a bit of getting used to. I was comfortably able to get to spots I was afraid to go before. The only stuff I avoided was rutted out mud trails. I'll wait until I have some traction boards and all terrain tires before I attempt clay/mud or soft sand.
I got a couple new toys from Black Friday. I know stuff isn't supposed to make you happy but sometimes it really does.
There were 3 main issues I wanted to address. 1) Sleeping in the cold weather. We have a small 12v electric blanket that goes under our sleeping bag. We have a small 150Wh battery that would keep the blanket going all night and in fact got us too warm. I bought a hazard light flasher switch and wired it with a 12v car socket extension cord. It effectively pulses the blanket on/off so you can control the temp. It also helps conserve power from the battery. But if we're doing more than 2 days in one spot, we would need to run the car to recharge the battery and it would only charge at 40W/h.
2) Stealth/city cooking, coffee and tea. We have a little wood stove and also a white gas stove but those are really meant for cooking outdoors or to take on an overnight hike-in camp. I definitely wouldn't use either of those in the car. I've used a propane stove and buddy heaters in my last van, but that van was $4000 and I was mostly going on solo trips. Now that my van costs as much as my first studio condo and my wife comes along, I'm not going to risk the fire or CO hazard. And 2 people in a minivan with an open flame just doesn't work.
3) Tire reliability and offroad confidence. I've already patched one of the stock tires in less than 4,000 miles. And my last van I patched and replaced tires way too often. I have very little confidence driving forest service roads. Even with airing down my tires to help avoid punctures I still am so weary of sharp rocks and debris. Also throw mud and snow into the mix.
It really helps that Fifteen52 had a buy 3 get 1 free sale for Black Friday. They also don't charge sales tax to my state and offer free shipping. At discount tire they were just over $1200 for the set but, ordering direct ended up being $837. I should be receiving the tires in early next week, so I'll update then about the pricing and fit.
I've been watching the solar power stations for about 2 years now and couldn't ever pull the trigger because the price and size for something actually usable. If I could dedicate the van purely for traveling, I would have taken out the rear seats and just built my own system but there wasn't enough room with the seats in. Finally, just said heck with it and took the plunge. The Jackery got down to $849, which is by no means cheap, but felt reasonable and was on par with the other options like the Bluetti and Ecoflow. Some lesser known brands were down to $700, but I dread the thought of trying to return to a kick starter type company or through a Chinese importer. I chose the Jackery primarily for the reliability and the size/weight. It fits perfectly with the induction stove and in the wire shelving.
The induction stove defaults to a power level of 5 out of 10, which is perfect for the Jackery. The inverter is rated at 1000W and the stove comes in right under that. Even at that level it's more than enough to boil a pot (2 cups) of water in a few minutes.
Connected to the 12v from the car, it pulls in 80W/h. I know there are others that are much faster, but I didn't want to pull too much from the car. I'm totally comfortable with not straining the 12v system. At this rate, I can drive, make a snack and a drink, and heat the sleeping bag daily without using any battery. If I'm stationary, I should be able to easily get a few days out of it, even if I need to charge phones and laptops.
With the leftover curtain material and gromets I made a mini curtain to hide the Jackery out of plain sight. It's also going to be locked down to the frame of the floor, so it doesn't walk off on its own or hit someone in the head while I'm rolling down a hill.
Next on the list is:
Mount and balance the tires
Replace all the funky colored straps, ties, and bungies with black one
Inserts for the wire shelves so they don't look so terrible. I really don't like seeing the axe, saw, and ice scrapper from the cabin. I'll think I can use some wood grain contact paper on styrene to simulate it being wood shelving. Eh we'll see.
Wheels and tires are on just in time for snow in the pass.
Falken Wildpeaks A/T Trails 245/65R17 on 17x8 38 offset Fifteen52 Metrix MX in Frosted Graphite.
No rubbing. Nice and quiet on the road, very similiar to the stock Yoko Blue Earth.
Just a bit firmer and more road feel. They also like to center themselves more while driving.
It looks like there is just enough room to put on 255s.
Clearance at the front bumper plastic with the wheel slightly turned.
Back of front tire has plenty of room
The closest clearance is between the front tire and the strut tower. Still an inch of room. These wheels are almost stock offset.
This space is probably best if I need to throw on a set of chains.
** update... tires in action **
Traction was really secure in a nice cold fresh snow over the forest roads. Word of advice, clear the roof of snow before opening the side doors. It likes to fall directly into the van.