We had two weeks off end of Sept so we took the 2 year old (Hugo) and 4 year old (Abbie) out of the Phoenix heat for some camping and fall colors in Colorado! I'm going to try to be a better forum member and write this stuff up while it's fresh in my memory banks. This will be a partial trip report, partial equipment report as the two always seem to go kind of hand in hand for us. In short, no issues whatsoever on this trip (as opposed to our big trip Aug 2018
)! Everything worked great, and we LOVE our CCV pop top and even moreso LOVE not towing anything anymore! This is going to be lengthy, so apologies if it bores anyone. And I'll add pictures shortly...
I'll start with the equipment changes we made in the past year or so:
• Lizard Skin sound and heat insulation, as well as an additional heat shield inside the doghouse, new 6.0 fan clutch: I think this has helped with the heat and noise in the cabin, used to be that we could barely have a conversation up front let alone talk to the kids in the back. Although still a noisy rig (that’s a big diesel engine sitting right next to you) you can now have conversations at a reasonable level up front, and with a bit more volume talk to your passengers in the back.
• Tru-cool max 40,000lb transmission cooler & Magnafine filter: Based on this thread
, I had this installed just before our trip and WOW what a difference. Our baseline transmission temp was usually around 200F with peaks around 240 (scary), now it’s consistently around 150F on flat grades, and the highest I EVER saw it get even on some of the steepest passes in CO was 195. So, now my peaks are below my old baseline. One of the best spends we’ve made dollar for dollar on the van.
• L-Tracks w/ Sienna seats: This has worked out great for us. The siennas are safer for us with the child seats in back, and in the future will be ultra-comfy when the kids are out of those bulky seats. It has been really nice being able to arrange the rear space as we need to. For the trip, we just put two seats in kind of in the middle of the rear area, and had our nice big 90qt Dometic 2-zone fridge right behind the driver/passenger seats. As an added benefit the fridge works great as a 1st step for getting into the penthouse (2nd step usually the top of the driver seat).
• CCV Penthouse! HTT- @1der : Did this this past spring, with boatloads of help from Ray and could not be happier with the result. We LOVE not towing, we LOVE being able to park our van in regular parking spaces, and we really LOVE sleeping up there! Our daughter loves it even more, sleeping in the space above the driver/passenger seats. In a couple years we’re going to have a fight on our hands when little brother is old enough to be jealous of her spot up there – worry about that another day The only real downside is all the attention you get when you pull in someplace and pop it up… so you have to be friendly if you’ve got one of those tops! Lots of curious campers.
• Jetboil basecamp: This might be seen as a minor thing but we bought this to replace our 2-burner traditional coleman stove, and it has worked out great. The burner adjustment range is enormous, and we found that with the pot and skillet included, as well as a the add-on satellite water boiling burner we have everything we need in about a cubic foot of storage space. Fits in the 2nd shelf of our Aluminess deluxe box with the propane below for our CampChef firepit (which sits strapped down on top of the box)
• Mitsumoto low-temp thermostat: Recommended by Twoxentrix, I have to admit the affect for me with this was minimal, and my guess is because of the high ambient temps in Phoenix. Our coolant probably was flowing all the time already, even with the higher temp thermostat.
• New Radiator: Noticed our little plastic pieces on the edge were getting ready to fail, so this was preventative maintenance. Performance Radiator just down the road from us in Phoenix.
• Aux fan – since removed: I put this in, which you can find in some of our threads but I didn’t find that it really made any difference in cooling our EOT or WT’s. I removed it to make room for the Tru-cool
• Aux switch for fan clutch: This was a great idea, I’m sure others have done but my mechanic buddy recommended. Basically just a "100% on" switch for the fan clutch. If I want to drop our temps really fast I switch it on. Now I don’t need to turn off AC on a steep grade with high ambient temps, or slow way way down. I can just flip this thing on at the beginning of the climb, and it will drop temps really quickly. Sure it’s loud but it does the trick!
• Solar 200w: Have two 100W Renogy panels on the roof rack now, and their solar controller mounted inside. Our van does not have a house battery as of now (going to put it in this month), but the diesel has two frame-mounted starter batteries that we upgraded this past year. The fridge is a beast so it does drain the batteries quite a bit overnight esp if we are running the espar or maxxair fan, but the panels top off the batteries pretty quickly come morning. Still, this is something I want to improve on – see rest of this thread. As an added benefit, this is like having a trickle charger on the van all the time, so it should keep the batteries pretty healthy. Phoenix is notoriously hard on car batteries if you just park them without keeping them topped off.
• Inverter/charger: Haven’t really used this much, but we have the ability to use shore power now (110V) if we want to.
• Espar Heater: We used this a few different nights and man this thing cooks! Nice not having to worry about the kids getting cold at night. Ours is mounted below the driver seat.
• Blackout shades: These have worked out great (link
), takes maybe 5 minutes at most to put them all down, but keeps the van nice and dark in the morning (our kids tend to wake up at sunrise if they can see it). Still want to figure something out for the windshield and driver/passenger windows. I have one of those RV windshield covers, but I don’t really like it. Still lets through light, and if its rainy or you get dew, it’s a mess when you put it away. I think I am going to plan on putting a blackout curtain all the way on the CCV top ceiling that stretches to the floor.