Van furnishings – Cabinets Part 2

So it’s been a number of months since our last update, sorry. I blame a combination of a good ski season, laziness, employment (ugh). Today though, let’s get caught up on the second section of our interior cabinet doohicky.

After much debate over prioritizing gaining more storage and organization space vs ease of use of the compost toilet, we decided on the former. The toilet is used semi-infrequently, at least while we’re still city bound, since we utilize public restrooms whenever possible. So if we have to do a little more work to use it… so be it.

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Update On The Goal Zero Yeti 1250 After One Year – Buyer Beware

As you may or may not know, we decided to use a Goal Zero Yeti 1250 as the basis for our power needs in the van. Now that our system has been in use 24/7/365, I’d like to report back on how it’s holding up.

The short answer is: mediocre

The Yeti 1250 came with a one year warranty upon purchase, which I didn’t think much of at the time. I figured it was a relatively short warranty mostly because of the battery. The life of a lead acid battery can be drastically reduced if it is run completely dead (more than 50%-60% depth of discharge) multiple times, and especially if it is left uncharged for extended periods. I can understand how Goal Zero would rather not be responsible for replacing abused batteries, so a one year warranty makes sense. Besides, the battery in the 1250 is user replaceable, so when the battery does eventually need replacing, it’s much cheaper than the entire unit, and very quick and easy.

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Van Furnishings – Cabinets Part 1

We’ve been living full time in our van for over a year now. The only things permanently installed are the sofabed and the composting toilet. Everything else has just been scattered around on the floor. It’s time for that to change.

We didn’t expect to be waiting so long to install more fixtures in the van, but it’s taken us this long to figure out exactly what we wanted to do (we also tend to prioritize outside activities over ‘house work’).

fridge_cabinet1

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Insulating The Van Part 11 – Curtains

There was one last, minor step to insulating the van fully, and I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time, but after a full year, the following temporary solution seems to have become permanent: curtains.

Knowing the majority of the heat would be lost (or gained) through the windows, we determined that that some insulating curtains were in order. In addition to helping keep our living space insulated, they also provide privacy and block out daylight (and street lamps at night).

Van Curtains 1

Curtains as seen from cockpit

What is there to say about curtains? Not much, so this will be a brief post.

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Curt Trailer Hitch Install

Picked up a Curt class IV trailer hitch for the van. No, we don’t have a trailer, and aren’t currently planning on getting one (for the moment). But in my experience, having a 2 inch hitch receiver is quite handy for things like bike racks, etc. Plus, they are fairly cheap and stupid simple to install, like, done in 10 minutes in a parking lot simple, so we figured why not.

van_hitch1

Curt class IV 600lb. tongue weight, 6000lb. towing hitch ready for installation.

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Our 1 Year Vanniversary

We sold our truck and camper and bought our van exactly 1 year ago today. We’ve done a bit of reflecting back on how that year has gone. Not everything quite went exactly as planned, but that’s the nature of (van)life.

Colorado Trail Sign

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Van Furnishings – Batteries and Charging

It’s been quite a while since we installed solar panels on the roof, but we haven’t yet talked about what those panels are connected to. When we were trying to figure out how much solar we could get, we were also simultaneously trying to figure out the whole battery situation: how much power we need, how much of a battery bank is possible based on how much solar input we can get, what kind of batteries we wanted, and how much space the batteries would consume.

When we completed the solar, way back when, we left some wires dangling from under the headliner, ready to be plugged into whatever charge controller and battery we chose. The actual amount of power and batteries we get is limited by how quickly they can be recharged by the amount of solar that we managed to fit onto the roof in addition to the cargo boxes.

Circled in red are the two wires coming from the solar panels.

Circled in red are the two wires coming from the solar panels.

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Van Exterior – Headlights

Headlights are an important yet often overlooked feature of a vehicle. The stock headlights on our van are decent, but not quite what we want on our van long-term. So, Nate went searching for other options, of which there are quite a few. We have a cargo van, as opposed to the passenger version, which means it comes with the cheaper of the two front grill and headlight options from the factory (yes, the cargo could have been custom ordered with either option, but we didn’t custom order the van).

chevy_express_cargo

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Van Exterior- Roof Cargo Boxes

We were fairly sure, nearly from the beginning, that we would want cargo boxes on our roof for the extra storage space.  While we have pared down our possessions to be quite minimal, two people and a dog plus stuff all inside the van is quite cramped.  Putting some of that stuff, especially seasonal items, up on the roof should help quite a bit.  The only other options were to get a larger van or tow a trailer, both of which are unacceptable! (How would we get easily into back-country that way?)

van_solar12

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Van Exterior – Solar Panels

Power is absolutely necessary.  We like our computers and refrigerated food among other things.  Living in Colorado makes solar a no-brainer with the 250ish sunny days we get per year, not to mention it is silent, stealthy, and reliable.  In the future, when we’re out of debt and able to travel, we may end up in places with fewer sunny days, but hopefully it will still be a worthwhile investment.  We know from past experience with solar on both of our previous truck campers that we want the most power we can get, but somewhere around 250 watts is just about right for us.

van_solar16

We ended up getting two 135 watt panels for a total of 270 watts.  After assuming an 80% efficiency, we should be expecting about 215 watts of real output.  If we need even more power, we have a pair of 30 watt portable solar panels that can be quickly deployed, boosting our total theoretical output to 330 watts, and the expected output to about 265 watts, but these will only be used when we don’t have to urban camp.

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