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Old 10-20-2010, 01:46 PM   #241
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Stealth Camping

The Stealth Camper has officially Stealth Camped.

I needed to bring the truck into work so one of my work buddies could take a look at the computer, so I figured, why not drive in the night before when there is no traffic?

I asked the facilities guy if I could spend the night in the parking lot and relearned why it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.

That night I show up and start looking for a parking spot near work, but I hadn’t realized that all the streets in the light industrial area are posted no parking from 10:00 PM to 5:00 am. So I drive around and find a side street off of Central Expressway with a huge dirt moving truck parked on the side of the road. I figured if he can park there then so can I. (Bad idea.) I watched some TV and then went to bed, but cars kept whizzing around the corner and some of them would come by so fast that the truck would shake from their bow wake. I may be dumb, but I do learn (slowly).

I got up and drove the truck to a quiet neighborhood near where I used to live. I found a small street with parking on the curb along the side of a dark house. It was dead quiet all night long. I got up early to go to work, and I doubt anyone even knew I was there. The diesel makes a bit of a racket when I start it up, and of course the back up beeper is annoying, but I keep it to a minimum.

Yes, the truck sits very un-level on the side of the road, but I had planned for that. The bunks are designed to be “head high” with the truck leaning to the right and it isn’t a problem.

So I think the lesson is, show up late on a quiet street, go to bed, and then leave first thing in the morning. There are any number of free flat places to park during the day, including at work.

To be continued….
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Old 10-20-2010, 03:49 PM   #242
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California House Car

The Stealth Camper is now registered as a California House Car, or at least I assume it is…. The registration document certainly reads differently, but they guy at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) had no idea what a California House Car was, and I can’t figure out how to read all the codes on the registration. Here is a summary of the codes, what they were and what they are now. If anyone wants to enlighten me, or confirm that I am now registered correctly I would be grateful.

Old Data Entry Field
VLF Class DF
TypeVeh 32Y
Type LIC 31
Body Type Model TB
MP (Motive Power?) D (Diesel?)
MO QP
AX (Axels?) 2
WC (Weight Class?) A
Unladen/G/CGW 15000
Type Vehicle Use Commercial



New Data Entry Field
VLF Class DF
TypeVeh 12J
Type LIC 11
Body Type Model MH (Motor Home?)
MP (Motive Power?) D (Diesel?)
MO RX
AX (Axels?) No Such Field
WC (Weight Class?) No Such Field
Unladen/G/CGW No Such Field
Type Vehicle Use Automobile


So here is the story. I made a standard appointment to discuss registration issues with my local DMV office in Santa Clara, CA. I arrived a few minutes early, took my number at the front counter and waited for about 15 minutes. The man at the window was intelligent and professional but obviously hadn’t done anything like this before. I told him what I wanted and gave him my paperwork, and he immediately ran off to talk to his supervisor. A couple of minutes later he was back and ready to move forward with no hassle.

I had provided him with a CA DMV “Statement of Facts” form, with the key part being section G., where it says, “I the undersigned state:”

“My personal, privately held vehicle, VIN XXXXXXXXXXXX, Mitsubishi Fuso FE650, has been converted to a California House Car per VC Section 362. It is permanently altered, and equipped for human habitation. It includes sleeping quarters for 2 people, and permanently installed facilities including: fresh water supply, toilet, microwave, stove, oven, heater, and air conditioning.”

I did not sign the CA DMV “Statement of Facts” form ahead of time, but waited to sign it in his presence. (I don’t think he cared.)

I also provided him with pictures of the inside of the living quarters showing the toilet, sink, beds, etc. (I don’t think he cared about that either.)

I also gave him my then current registration.

He asked me if I had a picture of the outside of the truck, which caught me off guard as I didn’t happen to have one. He said he just wanted to know what kind of a truck it was so he could classify it. I told him it was a “box truck” but that didn’t seem to mean much to him. He asked me if it was a “flat bed” and I told him that it was fully enclosed and showed him the pictures of the interior again. I also told him repeatedly that it needed to be classified as a “California House Car” and I was trying to avoid the use of the words “RV” as some folks had suggested in various posts on this and various other forums. The term “California House Car” didn’t seem to mean anything to him, so he asked me if it was a “mobile home”. I said yes, but not the type that just sits there (still trying to avoid saying RV). He seemed to understand that it was a fully mobile vehicle and was happy at that point.

I offered him my recent weight certificate but he said that it no longer mattered.

He gave me a form (I don’t remember what) and asked me to fill out name and address and then sign it. He also asked for $31 which I gave him. He then gave me the new registration with the new stickers for the license plates and sent me to a different window to pick up the new plates. I still have to install the new plates, and drop the old ones back at the DMV, but other than that it appears I am done. Hopefully it is done correctly… The whole process took maybe 10 minutes, plus the 15 minute wait.

Now I assume I can remove the weight stickers from the sides of the cab and I should never have to stop at a weigh station.

The next step is to get the truck insured as an RV, and hopefully start saving some money. That brings up a whole bunch of new issues I will have to work through, like how do they value this thing, can I (should I) insure it for replacement value, can I get liability insurance (like homeowners insurance) for people who slip and fall off my back bumper etc. There is also the issue of making sure they don’t refuse to pay when they discover that I am living in the truck full time (which I am not just yet.)

To be continued…..
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Old 10-20-2010, 05:43 PM   #243
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Good job. I often park in out of the way areas when we're on the road and need a place to sleep. I like to find a business or industrial area on the edge of a town just before sunset. That way I can get a good look at the layout. Find a good spot. Then leave in the morning before anybody shows up. I've also learned (the hard way) to make sure there are no train tracks nearby.
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Old 10-22-2010, 05:35 PM   #244
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Hi everyone,

I've been lurking here for some time, and have to say this is one of my favorite websites.

Randy, I wanted to say that your doing a great job with this,

it's been a great read, and has even helped me turn otherwise skeptical people in favor of my own plans for such a conversion.


I finally am able to contribute to your project now, since my area of expertise is computers and such,

and so here is a link to a company that sells 12 VDC converters for laptops.

I use one with my HP,and it works great. No need to turn on the inverter and waste power.

http://www.shopbattery.net/power-car.html

Most wireless Keyboards, and mice have auto shutoff now, witch keeps them from burning up batteries like the old ones.

Even the cheep stuff.

I was very surprised that you did not include a Solar setup in your build.
I realize you have just a 14 foot box, but at the same time i know many full timers who love their solar setups.

WIth the limited space we have available on the roof of our boxes, the point is not to replace the generator, but to minimize it's use.

I have my parts picked out for a 720 watt system, and i should be getting out the door on it for less then 3k.

Even just on a average day, I should be able to recoup 140-160 Amp hours. (6.81x6x4= 163.44) That calculation is with just 4 hours
max sun. even if i could just average 120 amp hours a day, that would still decrease the use of a genny to once or twice a week.

http://www.dmsolar.com/solar-module-1.html


Back at the beginning you mentioned that a solar panel required more power to make then what it would produce over it's life time.

I dont know if that's true or not, but even if it is, once you have made the upfront cost expenditure to make solar panels,

and use them to make more of them, eventually the cost reduction would come into play, as you will produce new panels using just the energy gained of the panels you already produced. In 200 years time... I think you can extrapolate my logic.

Then again i don't know the specifics, I only know that it's appealing to me to be able to have a clean reliable source of power
If SHTF, or the price of fuel goes crazy. Not to mention if I'm short on cash, in normal times.

Over all man, I have to say thank-you! This thread, and your diligent work is a inspiration,

and it enables me to open up my future plans in conversation with my family, and friends with out them looking at me as if i had just beamed down from a mother ship!


PARKING...

In time you will develop a instinct on where to park, and such.

Any place where other vehicles are whizzing by will quickly get on your nerves. I look for the back corner or side lots of 24 hour stores, or commercial zones.


Quite country lanes are where i get hassled the most, it always seems to me that when i park near a road way, it's just a invitation for the Law to come roust ya. Even if it's out of the way.
I had one Deputy tell me, "Hey ya know this is our hang out here, if you park here we're going to be messing with ya a bunch,
so pick another place." I was not laughing at the time, just a lot of yes sirs, okay sir, will do roger wilco.

I thought it was funny later though, they didn't even care i was Van dwelling they just wanted me out of their spot!

Store parking lots are the best IMHO, and your Box truck should fit right in!

Even a medium sized town has several big box stores open 24/7... just rotate your stays.

Again thanks a ton for all the work, and pics. I know for a fact i wont be making some of the same mistakes that you did,
because I have had the privilege of this information.

Alas, I will probably make my own mistakes! haha.

~Nomadic Wolfy~
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Old 10-27-2010, 04:44 PM   #245
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Wolfy,

Thanks for the encouraging words. I was hoping there were some folks lurking out there that might gain some benefit from my mistakes.

Actually, all I need to make my laptop work without AC power is 5V and minimal current to power the USB hub/switch. I may just wire up a linear regulator that I have in a junk box somewhere. A DC to DC converter would be nice for keeping the laptop batteries charged up though.

I actually have a wireless mouse that came with the laptop. I don’t know how long the batteries will last, but you must be right. If they died that frequently no one would put up with them. In some ways the wires are a good thing though. I tied them off so the KBD and Mouse can’t slide off the tabletop when I am driving. I also put a pad of Velcro on the back of the KBD so I can stow it for travel, but sometimes I forget to put it away properly.

I am starting to think that I might have been wrong not to look into solar more carefully. From the reading I have been doing on various other forums it seems that Solar and a small generator (like mine) make a good combination. The generator is good for bulk charging the batteries at relatively high current, and can support heavier loads like an air conditioner, but is wasteful when the batteries are 90% charged and slowly nudging up towards 100%. Solar is good for lower current charging and as you say, is quiet and free (well sort of.) There are those out there with lots of solar panels and big battery banks who almost never need their generator, or so they claim. Of course it all comes down to lifestyle choices. Some people are energy frugal and some are not.

I have been thinking about my two big side doors which open up to be awnings. If they were covered with solar panels, and I parked the truck with the awnings up and facing south, I bet they would be in a great position to gather sunlight. The down side is that my Stealth Camper would no longer be stealthy at all. Also, the solar panels would stow down low where any passerby could take a rock to them. Everything is a compromise I guess.

My comment about the energy required to make a solar panel being more than it can deliver over it’s lifetime is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. It relates to national or even global energy policy, not the viability of solar in an off grid situation. A remote cabin in the woods, or an RV set up for dry camping have a unique cost/benefit calculation. You pay for the energy up front in the cost of the panels, and then you get it back with some help from the sun. If on the other hand, you have access to the grid, you might as well use the energy directly. Turning energy into solar panels and then getting only some of that energy back over the life of the system is a waste. Until they improve the technology to get that ratio up over 1:1, the more solar panels you make/use the more energy you waste. Anyway, all of that has very little to do with truck conversions so sorry for the hijack.

It sounds like you are a far more experienced stealth camper than I am. I assume you are familiar with the website

http://cheaprvliving.com/

Their information on living in a Box Van was a huge part of what got me started down this path.

I am not sure if you can hold me up to your relatives as an example of sanity though. Doing what I am doing probably only proves that I am crazy in their eyes. If you want to show them that living full time on the road is not a fringe life style then you would probably be better off looking at the Escapees forum:

http://www.escapees.com/index2.asp

They have tons of honorable people living the full time lifestyle and not all of them rich retirees either. Lots of them are work camping:

http://www.work-for-rvers-and-...obs-listings-04.html

Forgive me if you already know all this stuff, but someone is out there lurking and now they know it too.

Thanks…
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Old 10-28-2010, 08:30 PM   #246
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Randy,

I Don't think the panels on the awnings would work to well either, besides being damaged as you say, I would worry about theft,
And of course the stealth issue goes out the window as well.

Yes i am familiar with all those sites, and frequent them often. But its always nice to keep them refreshed for the new people coming in.

About the Solar...

You already have a couple things on the roof that would cause loss from shadow.

Shadows cast on the panels is a big killer of the output.

You could go Amorphous, they are much more tolerant to shade, and cloudy days, but generally
don't out put the same amount of power per square foot of coverage. They do have the added benefit of being cheaper.

However IMHO, I think for your application, they would be the only choice, as you are almost sure to get shading from the other items on your roof.

BUT......
You mentioned before that you really don't want to leave your tools behind, and that losing your garage would be hard on you. I think you mentioned that pulling a small cargo trailer for your equipment could be an option. If that's the case, another use for that cargo trailer could be the placement of your solar setup. A cargo trailer goes with a box truck like pea's and carrots... In fact it would Enhance your stealth this way, as you could mount a ladder and such as well, and maybe even some fake PVC pipe... One on each side of the roof running it's length would hide the panels from view on the ground.

You could easily fit 720 watts on that roof,
and the only draw backs I see here is cost,
witch would be considerable.(Just the heavy gauge cable to run from the trailer to your power center is scary!)


You still have another year to go on your planned completion date, perhaps this can be like your part 2

~ Wolfy is a dreamer so forgive him if he gets to far off base.~



As far as the viability of your credibility... Pictures, and your detailed journal of this whole process speaks highly in your favor.

Sure this project is outside the norm for "nesters", But you, and others are blazing a trail of possibilities for those of us who are yet to go that way.

It also is helpful to survivalist types looking to build out "Bug out" trailers and such. My best friend in fact is almost as enthused about my future build as i am, and he wants to build one too.

Yes, i am a well versed urban camper, a Vandweller, a park surfer, and Frugal lifestyle extraordinaire. Well... Maybe not so grandiose,
but I surely came up in the school of hard knocks. I know my fair share of the tricks.

I am very happy with my freedom, and i don't have to have a lot of income to survive.

My total monthly expenses are less then my brothers truck payment! I laugh about it but he doesn't laugh so much... I feel bad for him but
I told him to wait for a bigger down payment...
But i digress...

I have found that stealth is not as important as i thought it once was. 24 hour stores are everywhere. No one messes with you as long as your not out camping in the parking lot with lawn chairs, the barbie running, awning down, and speakers jamming out "freebird".

As long as you don't litter,and otherwise make a mess, or Mess with anyone else... THEY DON'T CARE.

My favorite spots have about 5-6 other vehicles that i see often that are doing the same thing i am, and its completely obvious what they are.

All of them are like me though. We are quite, we don't bother anyone, we are clean, and we don't
hang out all day long. We come in, sleep, and then go about our bushiness during the day.

The only thing i would complain about is the space i have. (My van is a Mercury Villager Mini-Van), And let me tell you It's not easy, or very fun with such a small space.

I have to put up with it though, so i can upgrade to something roomier, either a pulled trailer behind this van like a 7x14, Or a Box truck, although in my eyes it's gotta have a pass through!

Keep up the good work man, can't wait for the future updates!!!

~Wolfy~
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Old 10-29-2010, 09:10 PM   #247
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Of Cables and Curtains…

I started moving my stuff into the Stealth Camper and became concerned about the heavier items, like canned goods, pushing out against the cabinet doors and pushing them open. Several of you have warned me that the magnet latches aren’t enough by themselves. Also, if the shelf is not full then things can slide around and smack into one another pretty hard. I decided I needed some sort of a strap hold back system. Some of you suggested Velcro straps and I am sure that would work, but I ended up with something else.

I decided to use inexpensive vinyl clothes line material, the kind with a white vinyl coating and a thin strand of Kevlar in the middle. I like the smooth vinyl as it should be easy to keep clean. I also like that it is soft and flexible, but still plenty strong for what I need.

I made some simple aluminum brackets to mount it inside the cabinets. The bracket towards the rear of the truck is just a small flat plate with holes for 2 screws. The clothes line is pinched between the plate and the wall which holds it very well. The front end is held by a simple L bracket. It has 2 holes where the clothes line threads though and then back through again. The idea is that I can easily adjust the clothes line for length or disconnect it altogether if I need to, but it still holds plenty strong to serve its function.

Depending on the specific shelf the rear bracket is mounted farther back inside the cabinet to help gather the contents against the back wall. It can still bow out to allow the cabinet to be filled completely though.

These hold back cables are now mounted on all my shelves. Yes, they sometimes get in the way when accessing the stuff on the shelves. So far I am finding it easiest to keep them rather slack so I can push them down and out of the way for access. I think they are still tight enough to do the job though. It also remains to be seen how they will do with really short items that slide under the cable. I may end up adding safety latches to the cabinet doors as well. I will just have to live with them for a while and let you know.

I also made some privacy curtains for the Stealth Camper. I made one for each of the bunk bed openings and a larger one to block off the toilet bay. If I was living in the truck by myself, all these curtains would be unnecessary, but if my son is to join me, he needs some privacy. I could care less, but he doesn’t like the idea of me watching him do whatever.

I found some simple blackout curtains at the local thrift store for about $12. It took a little sewing to make them the right size, but not much. They were already the correct width, so I just had to hem them to length. For one of the curtains I had to sew in the sleeve for the curtain rod, but as sewing projects go it was really easy.

I made the curtain rods out of heavy ¼” diameter bungee. The mounts are nothing more than screws with a short piece of tubing to cover the threads where they stick out from the wall. The tubing is a little smaller than the diameter of the screw head so the bungee loops snap on and hold nicely, but are still easily removable. The bungee loops are just wrapped with heavy thread and then coated with Goop to make sure they don’t unravel over time. It’s all very simple and works great.

I have found over the years that heavy bungee doesn’t need to be stretched very far to give the desired tension, so it can hold that tension for years without sagging.

The bunk curtains just slide down the rod to get out of the way. Bungee isn’t slippery like a metal curtain rod, so you have to pull the curtains, not push them, out of the way. The toilet curtain doesn’t slide on the bungee at all. I simply disconnect it from the front mount, and reconnect it to a 2nd mount along the back wall. The curtain sort of swings like a door and stows against the back wall alongside the toilet. It almost gives the illusion that I have a window back there.

As always, pictures can be found under keyword “Stealth”.

To be continued….
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Old 11-07-2010, 09:47 PM   #248
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Odds and Ends

The Stealth Camper is essentially done, but there is still a seemingly endless list of tweaks, fixes, and improvements.

The fuel filler for the main diesel tank wasn’t working very well. I had to hold the filler nozzle at a particular angle and run it at about ½ speed or less in order to avoid backwash that would cause it to trip off. That and it would drip fuel the entire time I was filling the tank. I dug into it and found the tail piece that was screwed onto the tank was only put on finger tight. Also, the angles of the tail piece, rubber tubing, and the filler opening didn’t line up very well. I tightened up the tail piece with some Teflon tape on the threads, and reworked the angles on the tubing to make it as straight as I could. Now I can fill the tank at full speed and it doesn’t drip, even when filled to the very top.

My telescoping ladder arrived, so I worked out a mounting system under the truck between the frame rails. It’s nothing fancy, Just a wooden cross piece between the frame rails with a couple of notches to match the ladder legs. I added a bungee to hold it down and keep it from extending. I could add a security cable and a lock but I don’t think it will be necessary. It is pretty well hidden up under there.

I ordered Plexiglass acrylic mirrors from

http://www.eplastics.com/Plast...d?range=49%2C66%2C66

They cut the sheet to the exact sizes I needed and even sent me the scrap. I didn’t need any special edge treatments, but they would have done that too if I had asked them.

I was impressed by the quality of the mirror finish. It is every bit as good as a glass mirror. I assume it will scratch, so I don’t want to scrub it with a paper towel, but it really works well.

I mirrored the entire front of my refrigerator including both the refrigerator door, freezer door, and the valance on top that hides the cooling coils. Now I have a full length mirror, with gaps, for dressing. As a side benefit, it will reflect the heat from my radiant heater so it doesn’t warm up my refrigerator. I also mirrored the side of one of my kitchen cabinets for a convenient head and shoulders view. Finally, I mirrored a portion of the microwave door over the sink. I could have mirrored the entire door, but I wanted to be able to look inside the microwave when it is running to see when things are boiling over. The small mirror on the microwave is perfect for shaving when leaning over the sink.

I finally got around to adding the small AC exhaust fans in the bunk beds. The intent is that they will gather heat from the TV, DVD, and most importantly from the PS3, and push it out of the bunk and into the adjoining closet area. This was more necessary in my original design that was based on my son’s PS3. More recently I noticed that Sony has come out with a “PS3 Slim” that uses about half the power (and makes about half the heat) of the original PS3. I decided it was worthwhile to go ahead and buy one, so now my son has a PS3 in the truck, and one in the house as well. The kid is spoiled rotten I tell you.

I also added the last of my task lights under the shelf over the computer monitor. Sometimes the computer desk is just a writing or eating desk and some additional light is needed. My tiny little truck now has 7 task lights in addition to the two main overhead lights. None of them is overly bright, but they all put the light exactly where you need it and draw very little current.

Speaking of current, my electrical system monitor has been invaluable for learning what is drawing power and when. As I live with the truck I am finding many more dependencies in terms of what can be used at the same time than I had anticipated. For example, my laser printer sometimes draws very short bursts of high current. If the microwave happens to be on at the same time then the inverter shuts down. I always knew the microwave was a power hog, but it turns out that the coffee maker draws almost as much current, but fortunately only for a short time. The waffle iron also draws quite a bit. It’s almost scary to see the charger dumping 90 amps into the batteries at the same time as the inverter is sucking almost 200A out of the batteries, meaning the inverter is really drawing almost 290A. That 3,480 watts, and the inverter (rated at 2,500W) won’t support it for long. If I didn’t have the current monitoring system I wouldn’t know what was happening until the inverter shut down.

All of these heavy loads are short term so the total energy consumption is modest. I stealth camped near work for a couple of nights, meaning I never went home. (You have to really love a 1 block commute.) It’s hard to know how much battery capacity I had left. I know the no load battery voltage was still about 12.7V, and when I fired up the generator it was almost immediately in voltage control mode, meaning the current was starting to taper down below the 90A maximum. One half hour later the charge current was down to about 40A so it was probably 90% to 95% of full charge. I connected the truck and house batteries together for the drive home. 45 minutes of stop and go traffic later everything was fully charged again.

I am living in the Stealth Camper almost full time now. Even as I sit here typing, I am warm, and a nice warm bed is beckoning. The S&B (Sticks and Bricks house) is becoming my weekend home. I am mostly moved out except for the garage. I still have a lot of sorting, and storing, and selling, and just plain trashing of stuff to do, but most of what I need to live my daily life is in the truck now. If I combine the truck with the facilities available at work there is almost nothing left that I really need. A washer and dryer would be nice, but that is what Laundromats are for.

Oh, and one last thing. I just put new front tires on the truck. The old ones were worn on the outside edges, presumably due to hard cornering before I bought the truck. The sidewalls were also starting to crack just from age. Little by little, the stealth camper is becoming long term life and road worthy…

To be continued.
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Old 11-08-2010, 07:13 AM   #249
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This is great news RanD. I'm glad things are coming together so well and you're finally able to start using it. What about those cabinets? Do they stay shut while driving? You're in California, arent' you? Mrs and I are planning a trip out there this spring to follow the Tour of California. Maybe we can find you hiding somewhere and get together?
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Old 11-08-2010, 01:26 PM   #250
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Bob,

So far, I have never had a shelf door pop open. Then again, I haven't driven up a gravel logging road either. I did have a mouthwash bottle trip over a 1" shelf lip and end up in the sink. I also opened my refrigerator door and managed to dump my butter plate on the floor. (It seems my shelf guards are just high enough for the butter to slip under) I have seen little items fall over inside the shelves, the most annoying being my salt shaker which makes a little mess every time.

As these things happen I find new solutions. In some cases I just ignore the problem. (So what if my prescription bottles fall over inside the cabinet...) In other cases like the salt shaker, a little dab of velcro has solved the problem. Oh, and I don't put the butter on that shelf any more.

My biggest travel worry is actually the antennas. I just know I an going to forget to pull them down before leaving and that will be the end of that. I have already managed to crank one down while pointing in the wrong direction. (No harm done, but it did look funny hanging off the side of the truck.)

Thanks,

R.D.
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Old 11-15-2010, 09:34 PM   #251
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Odds and Ends (The sequel)

The list of “To Do” items keep growing as fast as I can knock it down. I took the truck into the local dealer to have the two outstanding recalls serviced. Something to do with the shift linkage and replacing a critical bolt. Both were done for free. While I had it in the shop I had them do a basic service, fluids and filters, etc. During the service they told me that my serpentine accessory belt was showing some cracks, so I had it replaced.

I replaced the two front tires. The rear tires are in good shape, so now I have good rubber all around. The stealth camper is fully travel worthy.

In some of my around town driving I went over a driveway threshold at a slight angle. The resulting side to side swaying motion was enough to throw the contents of my freezer against the inside of the door, and from their all over the floor. I have now added door latches for both the freezer and refrigerator. They are very simple, easily operated with one hand, don’t prevent the doors from closing on their own, and almost invisible.

I bought 6 of those little LED puck lights with 3 AAA batteries inside. I put one each on the ceiling of each of my 5 underbed storage bays. The batteries won’t last long, but I won’t be leaving the lights on for long either.

I mounted the 6th puck light on the wall behind my water supply buckets. I then made a couple of “ring floats” out of some new grey garden hose that was left over from the build. They float inside the buckets and allow me to easily see the water level through the translucent bucket when I turn on the back light.

Thus far, it seems a 5 gallon bucket of water lasts me about a week. That’s a week where I mostly have use of the facilities at work though. I expect full time living in the truck would require about twice that. I have learned to use very little water by mostly drinking it. It takes mere teaspoons of water to wash dishes, just lot of paper towels. Personal hygiene takes a bit more but not as much as you might think, especially if I have access to running water at work.

I drove the truck to a friends house which took me up and down some very steep but short hills. Nothing moved or fell out of any cupboards. I still haven’t pounded down a washboard gravel road for miles on end, but so far everything is working.

I spent 4 out of 5 nights away from home in the truck last week. 3 of those nights were near work, and the 4th was in the back yard of the truck repair place. The latter was not so great because I had big trucks rolling in and out all night, but at least no one rousted me. I had internet even at the truck yard. It seems I was close enough to the local light rail to pick up their free public Wi-Fi. It wasn’t enough bandwidth to watch a movie, but at least I could surf the net.

Even after 4 nights away from home, I have yet to put a serious dent in my battery capacity. I ran my generator for a half hour after 2 nights, but it was almost immediately pushing only 40A into the batteries, which is half of the chargers rated capacity. The implication being that the batteries were not down far enough to take the full rated current.

Two of the mirror panels I put on my refrigerator have developed ugly blemishes in the pattern of the glue I mounted them with. It seems I didn’t let the water based vinyl floor adhesive dry enough before I mounted them and it is corroding the silver finish on the back. Fortunately 2 of the 4 panels I put up are just fine. I will give the whole thing time to stabilize and then replace the two bad panels. At least now I know what to be careful of.

I cleaned out the ash bin for the toilet. I say ash, but it’s more like hard black gravel. There was only about a cup of it. I made a tool for scraping it off the bottom of the fire box. It is as “clean” and odorless as charcoal. It’s a minor inconvenience and reinforces the idea that the incinerating toilet is only to be used when there is no better alternative. For the moment, there almost always is.

At this point I would not recommend the EcoJohn for any other RV application. It is a necessary part of my overall design because of the low current draw but it also has many negatives. Of all the parts of the Stealth Camper design, it is the thing I am least happy with. It is also, however, the only viable choice for this application. An Incinolet would have been cheaper and might possibly work better (I can’t personally compare the two) but it would have required a much more robust electrical system. Knowing what I know now, I could have gone with a bigger generator with an auto-start function, a much bigger inverter, etc. The end result would have been much less efficient, and also less stealthy, but it might have been a better overall choice.

I can and will make the EcoJohn work. I am still learning the best ways to use it. I will try not to gross you out with the details, but there are some things I can tell you. The auger for moving waste into the firebox is a messy and very imperfect system. The paper liners that they sell with the toilet are a joke. They just wrap around the auger and trap the waste so it never gets to the firebox. Toilet paper does the same thing. Cleaning the auger is next to impossible not to mention disgusting. The good news is that it doesn’t smell, or at least not like raw sewage. If I run the exhaust fan while it is burning it will backdraft and smoke up the entire truck. If I run the exhaust fan when the toilet is dead cold it smells faintly of burnt cookies, or something close to marijuana. I have learned to run my exhaust fan blowing air into the truck instead. Then it doesn’t smell at all, at least not inside the truck. Outside, my neighbors probably think I am a pot head.

I don’t use the paper bowl liners, or toilet paper either. Baby bottom wipes are the much better choice, for personal hygiene, but they don’t go into the toilet. Fortunately, whatever anti-bacterial formula they use seems to keep them from smelling as well. I have given up on keeping the auger clean, but the toilet bowl is easily cleaned. I have a spray bottle with water and a bit of rubbing alcohol that serves to wash it down after use. Fortunately, the toilet seems to work well for urine and liquids in general. It quickly boils them off to nothing. On cold mornings there is a very visible plume of steam coming from the flue.

To be continued…
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Old 11-21-2010, 01:54 PM   #252
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The Price of Stealth

Now that the Stealth Camper is done, and I am trying to get it insured, I need to demonstrate its value to the insurance company, at least in terms of what it cost me to build it. I don’t have a finance director to keep me in line like Bliz, so I don’t have every little receipt. I do have the receipts for most of the big ticket items, and I also have my credit card statements for the entire time I was building the truck. Unfortunately credit card statements don’t tell me whether I was buying paint or plywood, just that I spent a lot of money at Orchard Supply Hardware, Lowes, and Home Depot. Most of the on line purchases are a little more revealing as there is usually an E-mail trail.

The bottom line is that I spent just shy of $40K building the Stealth Camper. That’s just the money that went into the truck itself, not including taxes, registration, insurance, maintenance, or the things I bought that didn’t make it into the truck for one reason or another (mistakes). Here is the list of items over $150.

Stealth Camper Materials Cost
$ 39,743.03 Total
$ 14,000.00 1/24/09 Truck, Mitusubish FUSO, 2002, 14ft box
$ 4,688.24 8/27/09 ECOJOHN Propane toilet
$ 2,341.92 9/10/09 Alternative Energy Store, Sunfrost RF-12 Refrigerator
$ 1,504.19 12/29/09 Lifeline AGM Batteries
$ 1,092.49 8/4/09 Camping World, Honda EU300i Generator
$ 1,034.14 10/2/10 3 each NAXA 22" 12V TV w. DVD Player
$ 781.34 8/4/09 Camping World, Coleman Mac Air Conditioner
$ 575.72 10/6/10 Wallmart, Toshiba Laptop
$ 543.90 9/1/09 Qualtek Industries, Inverter Power Express 2,500W
$ 533.97 8/17/09 Platinum Cat Propane Catalytic Vented Heater
$ 465.34 11/3/09 Fry's, Gas Range
$ 396.06 9/10/09 Alternative Energy Store, Battery Charger
$ 365.44 11/6/10 Americas Tire - New Front Tires
$ 343.33 9/15/09 Radiolabs International, WiFi Antennas
$ 334.63 10/20/10 Walmart, PS3 Slim
$ 314.76 4/18/10 Lowes, Plywood and misc. hardware
$ 302.62 3/14/10 Lowes, Plywood and misc. hardware
$ 260.53 7/6/09 Camping World, TurboMaxx vent cover w Fan
$ 248.58 8/5/09 MRO To Go.com, Clamp on Current Meter
$ 245.84 10/4/10 R E Williams Contractor, expanding ladder
$ 227.60 7/17/10 Lowes, Plywood and misc. hardware
$ 197.00 6/2/10 Matress Insider, Matress
$ 194.49 6/20/10 Lowes, Plywood and misc. hardware
$ 180.96 3/6/10 Home Depot, Plywood and misc. hardware
$ 178.95 9/3/09 Stark Electronics, TV Antenna
$ 174.10 6/4/10 Lowes, Plywood and misc. hardware
$ 173.95 6/22/10 Comfort House, twin mattress
$ 166.39 10/21/10 Rideout Plastics, Mirrors
$ 154.26 8/31/09 Improvement Direct, Stove Hood
$ 7,722.29 Total of items under $150 each

Here is a breakdown of where I spent the money for items under $150 each.

$ 3,021.66 Orchard Supply Hardware, Misc. Hardware, Plumbing, Paint, Materials
$ 1,551.61 Lowes, Misc. Plywood, Hardware, Plumbing, Paint, Materials
$ 828.65 Home Depot, Plywood Flooring and misc. hardware
$ 716.22 Fry’s Electronics, Microwave, Computer accessories, misc. electrical stuff
$ 222.71 Kmart, Misc. bedding and furnishings
$ 153.06 Camping World, 12V Lights, roof caulking
$ 1,249.12 Everything Else, Antennas, Cables, Mattress Pads, stools, stuff I can’t remember…

I also spent about $2,000 on taxes, license, and registration for the truck. There’s another $2,000 or so on insurance over the last 2 years. There’s also about $1,000 for things I bought and don’t need, like an Atwood 3 burner range. I may get a few hundred back by selling some of that stuff, but most of it will probably end up in the trash.

From an overall cash flow perspective the Stealth Camper has cost me about $45,000 in almost 2 years. If I compare that to the monthly rent on my sticks and bricks house, I will have to live in the Stealth Camper 28 months rent free to break even. That is entirely possible, but it also remains to be seen.

Someone could certainly build a fully functional Stealth Camper for a lot less. You could probably do the whole thing for under $10,000 if you had to. It wouldn’t be near as nice, but it would work. Then again, you could probably buy an older used RV of some sort and fix it up or modify it for a lot less as well. I never said my path was the cheapest. As a matter of fact I believe I said that it was not the rational thing to do from a purely economic perspective. Now I have proven it…

To be continued…
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Old 11-21-2010, 02:53 PM   #253
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Well if misery likes company welcome aboard!! It is easy to think it will only cost X, but when its all over it costs X times 3!! Most guys wouldn't want to admit they have as much in their projects as we do, for fear that people may think we're either nuts or lavish spenders and they could do it so much cheaper. They cant and we are not. You and I both had specific design criteria yours stealth mine a 9' garage door.

What's important is that folks come to this forum for info not BS, they need honest costs and realistic expectations, if they think they can take a worn out old Freightliner they bought for 6 grand at an auction and they dream of a 200K Showhauler, they are not going to build it with surplus parts foe just 10 grand, like you show above, it takes a 5th of that just in taxes and licensing.

Thanks for sharing your project, and its costs, now we want to hear of all the fantastic places in our wonderful country that you will be visiting.

Unless of course we now get to follow along with a trailer/garage/living room build to go behind the Stealth Camper!

I hope all goes well for you in that smaller space, it still seams tight to me but it is very, very well constructed and should hold up well for years.
-blizz
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Old 11-22-2010, 01:06 PM   #254
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Randy,

It's a shame that the item that had the second highest cost is your least favorite thing.

If you where to have to do this project again,
we could reasonably say that you could reduce your cost by a 3rd or more, would that assumption be correct?

What others will save from reading about these builds,(yours, Bliz's, and others), should have some value too.

You cant touch it, or use it, but you surely have to know that you provided a valuable service, and inspiration to at least a few folks,(myself included).

I should have spoken up earlier in your build,
as I wished you would have went with a more robust electrical setup, that relied less on generator, and more on renewable energy, as well
i was in the electric toilet camp, and agree with GEO(Propane sucks). Yes, I know, I should not have lurked that long, and NO, i'm not trying to Monday morning quarterback you!

I know your probably pretty fed up right now, looking at the costs,but i bet if you use this stealth camper for 5 years you will be way ahead. Even if you end up part timing, or using it for vacations or what not.

It's kinda funny thinking about what Bliz said about the small space. To me that's A LOT of space! For one person that would be plenty.
I don't know how well it will do with two though!

Anyways, I hope you'll at least think about the towed garage idea.
Not only would it fulfill some of your storage and space needs, it will serve as a workshop, and also offer you a place to go for some privacy and "Me" time. Not saying your kid is annoying or a pain in the rear, just that everyone needs their "space".

In addition, it opens up the possibility for you to add renewable energy collection to your home. You wont have to be so dependent on acquiring fuel for your electricity. (as of right now you have to pay for every single electron you are consuming), either from the alternator, or generator.

I hope that you will continue to add updates about your build,and how your lifestyle changes,(because it will),and how you adapt and overcome obstacles related to this build.

Further, I wish you luck, and many years of trouble free service with your build,
May it serve you well!

~Wolfy~

P.S. If you do get a trailer, Make sure it's tall. You don't want your truck casting a shadow on it, and you wont want people to know there are solar panels on it.
If SHTF, you wont be as dependent on fuel,and price fluctuation wont effect you nearly as much.
Water, and food are a whole different ball game, but at least you would have 2 of your 4 bases covered in a SHTF scenario.
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Old 11-22-2010, 05:36 PM   #255
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"Well if misery likes company welcome aboard!! It is easy to think it will only cost X, but when its all over it costs X times 3!!" - Bliz

"I know your probably pretty fed up right now, looking at the costs" - Wolfy

Actually, it never occured to me to be upset about the cost. I was just reporting the figures. Now that I think of it I wouldn't mind if someone put $40K in my pocket, but I don't feel like I ripped myself off. I am usually pretty tight, (cheap, miserly, etc.) but I lavished money on this thing. I was (am) building my home for years to come. The Stealth Camper is no weekend toy. It's an investment in my future life.

I would gladly let it turn out to be just a weekend toy, but I am pretty sure my X-wife will never let that happen. At the very least she will probably chase me for 5 years before she gives up, possibly considerably longer. Sometimes you make just one big mistake in your life that you can never recover from. If anything, that would be my regret.
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Old 12-31-2010, 09:40 AM   #256
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Very interesting post Chenchen. I'm confused about sneaking in a link to a jewelry sales place? Does the jewelry sales place sell the blue wire? Or do they sell Nike Air Jordans and Uggs? Hhhhmmmmmmm?
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Old 12-31-2010, 02:39 PM   #257
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Good job, moderator!
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Old 01-01-2011, 07:08 AM   #258
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Have to admit I registered to post on this thread...

Randy: great truck. I would have bet making a LCF Fuso a livable housetruck was impossible...but you seem to have done it. Great job, best wishes to you.

And thanks for your firsthand info...I briefly considered an incinerating toilet for my bus conversion. Your posts here have confirmed my thoughts.

Then again: 9200btu roof A/C units? Where'd you find that? All I have seen are 15,000 and 13,500BTU.
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:29 PM   #259
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Jarlaxl,

See this web site for the 9200 BTU Polar Cub

Low Profile RV Air Conditioner on Sale

Thanks,

R.D.
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Old 01-06-2011, 12:07 AM   #260
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Randy, the Polar Low Profile A/C is the same unt I put on the Rum-Runner Overall hieght was very important for my project.

works good! I ran it a bunch as I worked in the interior, cheaper than running the shop a/c
blizz
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