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Old 02-14-2017, 11:46 PM   #1
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DWilliamsTX 2017 RB Sprinter 4x4 Build Thread

Ok, it's getting real now.

After lurking around here for almost a year, and placing an order here in Texas 11 months ago, our (now 2017) RB, low-roof van is stateside and is at the reassembly facility.

It's our first van/RV, which makes me second-guess everything...this forum has been a huge help getting me this far. Things seem to be settling. The plan is a lithium, all-electric setup save for diesel heat. We're doing the penthouse top.

Us
We're a family of 4, two kids under 3. We're aiming for several trips per year until the kids start bumping up against the teen years, who knows what will happen then :/ We're pretty small people (short).

Yearly Usage
Several long weekends to the beach and west Texas mountains/desert, and an extended 6-week trip during the Texas summer where my wife and I both can work remotely. Would love to boondock for a couple days at a time as much as possible. PNW/Canada/Alaska definitely in the cards. Pretty light on the super cold camping, I'd guess.

Systems
  • Lithium Batteries. Van will have 2nd alternator and high idle + solar.
  • Airtronic heat. Flat plate water heater. Danhard.
  • Standard Fridge, single burner induction cooktop, sink with long hose to double as shower.
  • 10G water tank
Layout
I've attached a close-enough floor plan that captures the layout we're after. Should allow the kids to sleep down, with us in the PH. With car seats for the next several years we're stuck with the 4 captain's chairs.

For storage, opted for a counter-height slide out pantry and a small drawer unit next to the gaucho (thinking of getting rid of it to have more open storage). Left the back open...I think it may be more handy as an all-purpose space than a fixed cabinet. Underfloor storage, and aluminess rear bumper with a galley box/tire holder.

All this stuff adds up

Several of the big ticket items seem like nice to haves, but I have a feeling they will be a big help when we do part with this van several years down the line (heat, and lithium come to mind)...but perhaps I'm placing too much emphasis on resale value/ability.

My main areas of uncertainty right now are:
  • Lack of cabinet space. I am naturally drawn to just leaving some areas "open" to maintain good visibility inside the van and make the space more flexible.
  • Will the Danhard and/or second alternator react badly to running the van through a river/stream crossing that makes it up to the van body? That second alternator seems pretty low in Fitz' pictures...
  • Is the Airtronic worth doing for resale-ability and occasional use? I initially was thinking a portable propane set up could fill the gap when needed but read so many threads of people talking about how glad they were they went with the heater I second guessed myself.

Definitely happy to hear anyone's thoughts if they have them. I'm running this all by Brian at SMB tomorrow over lunch, will post his reaction and thoughts as well.

So exited this is actually happening!
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Old 02-15-2017, 07:44 AM   #2
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Welcome. That's the downside of such a long delay between ordering and the build out, too much time to second guess yourself.

Personally, I like a lot of open space. Your needs will change over time, and you can adjust as you go. Me, I've done a lot of hard core offroading (not in an SMB) so I'm big on tie downs to secure my gear. Place tie down points (or tie down tracks with moveable anchor points) in your rig, and you can secure containers, strollers, bikes, etc as your needs change.

Took me a second to figure out your "awnings" were awning windows. Duh. It does make me wonder if you are getting an awning though. Definitely expands the living space by providing some level of protection from sun and rain.

Looks like you've put a lot of thought into your rig. Congrats.


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Old 02-15-2017, 07:50 AM   #3
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Herb, he's got 'F45 black 3.0' on the bottom of the diagram, Fiamma awning.

Welcome D, looks like a nice build. With two kids the 4 cap'ns chairs are hard to beat. i recommend getting the rear passenger one removable and one or both with a swivel. This probably doesn't add much cost and opening up your living space in incliment weather is priceless. You can sit that rear passenger chair outside under the awning when you want some open space.

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Old 02-15-2017, 08:44 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DWilliamsTX View Post
Ok, it's getting real now.

After lurking around here for almost a year, and placing an order here in Texas 11 months ago, our (now 2017) RB, low-roof van is stateside and is at the reassembly facility.

It's our first van/RV, which makes me second-guess everything...this forum has been a huge help getting me this far. Things seem to be settling. The plan is a lithium, all-electric setup save for diesel heat. We're doing the penthouse top.

Us
We're a family of 4, two kids under 3. We're aiming for several trips per year until the kids start bumping up against the teen years, who knows what will happen then :/ We're pretty small people (short).

Yearly Usage
Several long weekends to the beach and west Texas mountains/desert, and an extended 6-week trip during the Texas summer where my wife and I both can work remotely. Would love to boondock for a couple days at a time as much as possible. PNW/Canada/Alaska definitely in the cards. Pretty light on the super cold camping, I'd guess.

Systems
  • Lithium Batteries. Van will have 2nd alternator and high idle + solar.
  • Airtronic heat. Flat plate water heater. Danhard.
  • Standard Fridge, single burner induction cooktop, sink with long hose to double as shower.
  • 10G water tank
Layout
I've attached a close-enough floor plan that captures the layout we're after. Should allow the kids to sleep down, with us in the PH. With car seats for the next several years we're stuck with the 4 captain's chairs.

For storage, opted for a counter-height slide out pantry and a small drawer unit next to the gaucho (thinking of getting rid of it to have more open storage). Left the back open...I think it may be more handy as an all-purpose space than a fixed cabinet. Underfloor storage, and aluminess rear bumper with a galley box/tire holder.

All this stuff adds up

Several of the big ticket items seem like nice to haves, but I have a feeling they will be a big help when we do part with this van several years down the line (heat, and lithium come to mind)...but perhaps I'm placing too much emphasis on resale value/ability.

My main areas of uncertainty right now are:
  • Lack of cabinet space. I am naturally drawn to just leaving some areas "open" to maintain good visibility inside the van and make the space more flexible.
  • Will the Danhard and/or second alternator react badly to running the van through a river/stream crossing that makes it up to the van body? That second alternator seems pretty low in Fitz' pictures...
  • Is the Airtronic worth doing for resale-ability and occasional use? I initially was thinking a portable propane set up could fill the gap when needed but read so many threads of people talking about how glad they were they went with the heater I second guessed myself.

Definitely happy to hear anyone's thoughts if they have them. I'm running this all by Brian at SMB tomorrow over lunch, will post his reaction and thoughts as well.

So exited this is actually happening!
1. How are you attaching the flat plate water heater?

2. I would at least add cargo tracks to that back area so you can secure stuff to the walls/floor. I would guess you're going to have kid-stuff that doesn't fit neatly in a drawer, so It makes sense to have that area open if you're not doing a roof rack.

3. Do the airtronic. Deserts can get chilly at night, and it's a really solid system. I personally hate propane. It does add some cost up front, but with small kids and helping ensure you and your wife are comfy - it's a no brainer.

4. There is no issue with submerging the second alternator. You'll want a skid plate to protect it from debris, though. Jeeps and trucks have been submerging alternators for decades. Spending a lot of time in dirty water will shorten the life, but it sounds to me like you're doing occasional stream crossings - which is no biggie. I think Fritz was referencing someone else's post who raised the question but may have been using bad/incorrect information.

5. I would consider going with the isotherm 130 fridge. Bigger and more efficient, but fits in the same space as a Norcold. I don't see the standard fridge being able to keep your family fed for more than a weekend trip.

6. I'd also look at adding a cabinet porta potti. Could easily fit it in that back corner, and with the cover, makes a great foot rest.

7. I'd also look into a 20 gallon water tank - or whatever the biggest tank you can fit. 10-gallons for 4 people (and two of them are young) won't last long.

8. Your design looks incredibly tight on storage space for clothes. You can't fit kid seats on that long bench you get with the RB50 layout?
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Old 02-15-2017, 09:16 AM   #5
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Ditto on the 10G water tank being a tad small; you'll probably be afraid to shower for fear of running out of drinking water, or worse, the kids won't be afraid to shower and you WILL run out of drinking water!

Double-check this, but I notice you've got an awning window on the passenger side. That might interfere with the sliding door, so I think SMB will modify it so that it barely opens. Consider a sliding window instead.
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Old 02-15-2017, 09:54 AM   #6
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Herb, he's got 'F45 black 3.0' on the bottom of the diagram, Fiamma awning.
doooh !

Didn't pay attention to that because I thought it was some kind of vehicle designation/color code.


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Old 02-15-2017, 10:51 AM   #7
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Subscribed and looking forward to following along!

Great comments above, a few more for consideration:

1. A bigger fresh water tank is great, but understand the space where it will expand into. Mine is partially under the forward facing rear bench seat and partially in the storage space to the rear of the seat, thus taking away some of the storage and creating two "pockets" of storage on either side.

2. I'm with BroncoHauler on liking lots of open space. I have a big open "living room" between the rear bench seat and the swivel front seats and my wife and I are happy with it every time we use it. There is a tie down track all across the base of the rear bench seat and a tie down point on the base of each front seat, thus if it will fit in the space I can tie it down, thus making the space very versatile.

3. You mentioned working remotely. I have done it, for me that means a table where I can put my laptop with enough room next to it for a stack of paper. Post #207 of my build thread describes the table I added to the front of the van for this very purpose, here is another option I saw in a new Sprinter build when I was at SMB Fresno last week:




I don't know any of the details, but I was interested enough to take the pictures so here they are for consideration.

4. Front receiver hitch. Van Compass is now selling a 2" front receiver hitch that (like everything I have seen from them) is really well made. With kids come bikes, you might consider this now so you will have a convenient place to install a bike rack later on.

5. Car seats. Our kids our adults now, but we have one grandson and another is on the way. We originally had planned a layout similar to yours but when (during the planning stage) our oldest daughter told us grandson #1 was on the way we switched to the forward facing rear bench seat with three seatbelts and the ability to install car seats.

6. The Aluminess rear bumper with a galley box and spare tire mount is GREAT and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but keep in mind that both the spare tire and the fully loaded box are heavy and thus unlatching and swinging them out of the way is more difficult than you might imagine if you have only done it on new, clean and unloaded ones. Not hard, but in my case it's my job to do as my wife has trouble with it. Just a thought for consideration as you think about how you will be using the van.

7. We love the Espar D5. Works every time, simple and effective, I believe this is one of Laura's favorite features.

Enjoy the process, it's a lot of work and filled with a lot of second-guessing, but worth every minute!
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Old 02-15-2017, 11:13 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by 86Scotty View Post
With two kids the 4 cap'ns chairs are hard to beat. i recommend getting the rear passenger one removable and one or both with a swivel. This probably doesn't add much cost and opening up your living space in incliment weather is priceless. You can sit that rear passenger chair outside under the awning when you want some open space.
I'm pretty sure ours are removable, I'll be sure to check though. This is great context...thanks!
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Old 02-15-2017, 11:22 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
1. How are you attaching the flat plate water heater?
I'm not sure...I think they mentioned it was in the engine bay? I'll ask.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
2. I would at least add cargo tracks to that back area so you can secure stuff to the walls/floor. I would guess you're going to have kid-stuff that doesn't fit neatly in a drawer, so It makes sense to have that area open if you're not doing a roof rack.
Great tip. I'll ask about where they think tracks could go/be helpful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
3. Do the airtronic. Deserts can get chilly at night, and it's a really solid system. I personally hate propane. It does add some cost up front, but with small kids and helping ensure you and your wife are comfy - it's a no brainer.
Awesome context. Thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
4. There is no issue with submerging the second alternator.
Whew. Assume the Danhard is OK too?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
5. I would consider going with the isotherm 130 fridge. Bigger and more efficient, but fits in the same space as a Norcold. I don't see the standard fridge being able to keep your family fed for more than a weekend trip.
Will ask for sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
6. I'd also look at adding a cabinet porta potti. Could easily fit it in that back corner, and with the cover, makes a great foot rest.
I was thinking of just picking one up and tossing it in if the trip warranted it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
7. I'd also look into a 20 gallon water tank - or whatever the biggest tank you can fit. 10-gallons for 4 people (and two of them are young) won't last long.
I agree that 10 gal will be very little water for 4 - would love to do 17 or 20. Early on I got feedback from SMB that I didn't have much interior space for a big tank (and the other systems), and that I could carry extra water cans if the trip warranted it. That was when I had propane spec'ed though. Begs the question, how easy is the tank to fill from non-pressurized sources?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrinkledpants View Post
8. Your design looks incredibly tight on storage space for clothes. You can't fit kid seats on that long bench you get with the RB50 layout?
I am thinking we'll be OK living out of clothes in duffel bags stashed in the open areas? I could be way off base there, though - it does seem like cabinets are the norm. We're approaching this from a "fancy camping" angle if that helps.
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Old 02-15-2017, 11:32 AM   #10
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I'm with BroncoHauler on liking lots of open space. I have a big open "living room" between the rear bench seat and the swivel front seats and my wife and I are happy with it every time we use it. There is a tie down track all across the base of the rear bench seat and a tie down point on the base of each front seat, thus if it will fit in the space I can tie it down, thus making the space very versatile.
Super helpful context - thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
You mentioned working remotely. I have done it, for me that means a table where I can put my laptop with enough room next to it for a stack of paper.
Great point. I hate not having a table. I'm not convinced the table in the middle of the four captain's will actually be usable when installed. Those seem like tight quarters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
Front receiver hitch. Van Compass is now selling a 2" front receiver hitch that (like everything I have seen from them) is really well made. With kids come bikes, you might consider this now so you will have a convenient place to install a bike rack later on.
Definitely on the radar now...good point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
5. Car seats. Our kids our adults now, but we have one grandson and another is on the way. We originally had planned a layout similar to yours but when (during the planning stage) our oldest daughter told us grandson #1 was on the way we switched to the forward facing rear bench seat with three seatbelts and the ability to install car seats.
The killer, for me, on the RB50 is not being able to seat more than 5. I do buck such a proven layout with caution, though.

I'm hopeful the van will also be a road trip machine and an asset on group trips where seating a few more will be handy (the gaucho has 3 belts, I think?). I think this layout may honestly be the most limiting thing, re-sale wise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
6. The Aluminess rear bumper with a galley box and spare tire mount is GREAT and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but keep in mind that both the spare tire and the fully loaded box are heavy
Ya, I'm not sure I want the box on there all the time for the reasons you mention. I took a look at the instructions and think I might be able to take that arm off easily enough...happy to hear on the ground knowledge for sure, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fitz View Post
7. We love the Espar D5. Works every time, simple and effective, I believe this is one of Laura's favorite features.
Great context and advice all around. Thanks again Fitz for putting the work in on your thread...it was very helpful to me!
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