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Old 01-05-2021, 05:17 PM   #1
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Remote Work Support

So with the shift in work mentalities due to Covid, we're now looking to add a twist to the van build out - working remotely for a week or so at a time.

My home internet is already 4G LTE based so I was planning on just bringing the modem with us. Probably add a signal booster.

Have a 1000w pure sine wave inverter for the laptops.

Will have to do the math on battery storage + solar but that's easy since the modem and laptops are a fairly small draw.

What else am I missing? Any must haves for remote work or lessons learned from prior experience?

I know the whole #vanlife movement is supposedly about people living + working out of their vans but I have no idea what kind of work they are doing.
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Old 01-05-2021, 06:21 PM   #2
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So with the shift in work mentalities due to Covid, we're now looking to add a twist to the van build out - working remotely for a week or so at a time.

My home internet is already 4G LTE based so I was planning on just bringing the modem with us. Probably add a signal booster.

Have a 1000w pure sine wave inverter for the laptops.

Will have to do the math on battery storage + solar but that's easy since the modem and laptops are a fairly small draw.

What else am I missing? Any must haves for remote work or lessons learned from prior experience?

I know the whole #vanlife movement is supposedly about people living + working out of their vans but I have no idea what kind of work they are doing.

My wife and I work a lot on the road, we live in our EB self converted wheelchair van pretty much half of the year. I was working remote even before covid came out and I can give you a couple of tips.

Get an external MIMO antenna + hotspot, I found this combination to get faster speeds than a booster, especially important if you have more than one device connected. A booster would only give me bars but no video calls would load at all!. The external antenna would get me 1-2 bars and lots of speed in very remote places, enough to work and attend calls.
I found verizon to have the best coverage, even better than google FI... We cannot wait for starlink!

For power, you might spend a lot of time inside of the van working depending on where are. You have to make it comfy to do so, We alternate between swivel seats and the bed, if you're in a cold climate a heater goes a long way. I have a propex and it works perfectly since the combustion happens outside so we don't need to worry about poisoning or condensation.
Talking about condensation, you also want to make sure you have a fan so you get some airflow and prevent condensation/mold, this is the number one must-have for us, we use the fan all the time and I cannot imagine spending large amounts of times in the van without it (especially having a musical a*s with all the veggies we eat). It makes it bearable in summer and prevents condensation in winter, we also hang wet or sweaty clothes after snowboarding, climbing or bike rides below the fan and it dries them pretty quick, especially with the heater running.

If you plan to live for long periods of time a fridge goes a long way and it'll save you $$ in the long run by not having to get take out (and keep those 6 packs cold)

We run a 170ah renogy lifepo battery (inside of the van to prevent charging below 0c), It has never let us down, the thing has enough power to power our 2 laptops for a full day off work, lights, fan heater, and fridge for 3-4 days without recharging. We recharge from a renogy DC-DC 50amp charger connected to the alternator + 200w solar. This mix is important because we don't always camp in the desert and we also do lots of snow activities, here in the PNW we get no sun at all so we charge mostly from the alternator but when going to the desert or south to UT, CA the panels keep the battery topped off. For "a week at the time" trip I wouldn't necessarily get pannels at all but the dc-dc charger is a must (or isolator for an agm battery) so you have power on demand if you're running low. I like the renogy 50Ah dc-dc charger because It gives you the option of adding panels down the road for when your trips get longer than a "week at the time".

When the weather is good, we work outside in a kelty loveseat low chair, it is extremely comfortable and easy to deploy/store, you might need an extension cord depending on where your isolator is located.

For the inverter, my one advice is to go with a good quality one, I had 2 Chinese ones failing on the road after 3-5 months. This means you will only be able to work until your laptop runs out of juice, then you'd have to head into town... We have a 1000w xantrex which we've been using for 2 years without any issues. It also has a USB port where we plug the 4g hotspot so everything work-related is powered by the inverter.

My advice is to build a scalable system, vanlife is addictive especially if you're into outdoor sports .... I mean hell We barely spend time at home. Cheers and safe trips!
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Old 01-05-2021, 06:51 PM   #3
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Look into getting a straight DC adapter for your laptops rather than using an inverter to power them. Most laptops run on DC so itís inefficient to use an inverter to convert DC to AC and then back to DC.
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Old 01-06-2021, 09:44 AM   #4
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@BrianW Good point on the DC adapter for the laptop. Not sure how I missed that one. Looks like it'd need a little step up transformer to get to 19.5V but that'd be it. Already have a dc cord for the modem.

@lashidalgo Great tip on the mimo antenna, thanks! Is that a permanent fixture, or do you deploy it as needed? Our modem (mofi4500) is at&t based but there are coverage maps that help plan out where there should be signal. My garage door is also only 10' tall and with the high top, lift, 35s - it's already a snug fit.

Seating has definitely been a topic of discussion. This will primarily be in warmer weather but rain can be a factor. I was thinking the swivel seat would be a nice compliment to the bench, just with some kind of table or support for the laptop.

And yes - was absolutely planning on charging the batteries off of the alternator plus a bit of solar. I have built similar setups in my prior vanagon and trillium, so I know the path, just need to run the #s.

Already have a fridge + fan so we're good there. Heater is a toss up between hydronic or air, but that's in the queue as well.

You make a good point on outdoor work. We have an awning, chairs, and a decent table but it might be smart to get the extra room that can attach to the awning for a bit of shade. Also a minor detail - mouse pads for the table since it's an expandable metal one.

My job has site visits that will keep us from working for too long of a stretch from the van, but 2 weeks at a time is a very real possibility if we are able to successfully pull off 1 week at a time.

Thanks for the replies!
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Old 01-07-2021, 02:28 AM   #5
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When the weather is good, we work outside in a kelty loveseat low chair, it is extremely comfortable and easy to deploy/store
Thanks for this bit of advice. I had never heard of the Kelty loveseat low, but I looked it up, read the reviews, and promptly ordered one!
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Old 01-07-2021, 02:17 PM   #6
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Thanks for this bit of advice. I had never heard of the Kelty loveseat low, but I looked it up, read the reviews, and promptly ordered one!
You're gonna love it!, my wife and I have spent hours on it working. The best thing is how easy is to deploy and store. I wish it had insulated can pockets to keep the beers cold but it is pretty close to perfection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by b. rock View Post
@lashidalgo Great tip on the mimo antenna, thanks! Is that a permanent fixture, or do you deploy it as needed? Our modem (mofi4500) is at&t based but there are coverage maps that help plan out where there should be signal. My garage door is also only 10' tall and with the high top, lift, 35s - it's already a snug fit.
I have it mounted permanently in an aluminum pole with a U bolt. The u-bolt is has a butterfly nut on one side so I'm able to pan and tilt the antenna to get an even better connection. It is pretty impressive the places I've been able to get decent service. I have a mifi jetpack with the two ports where I connect the antenna.



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Old 01-07-2021, 02:52 PM   #7
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Oh, that's not too bad - for some reason the pics I saw of the antennas looked far larger.
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Old 01-07-2021, 07:14 PM   #8
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Oh, that's not too bad - for some reason the pics I saw of the antennas looked far larger.

It would probably be very easy to rig up a tripod mount for an antenna if you don't want it mounted to your van.


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Old 01-10-2021, 11:15 AM   #9
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Our plan

I'm aiming to do the same thing with our RV currently being converted.

We went with a PepLink Puma antenna which is relatively small and can be permanently mounted.

Also, a Verizon MiFi for LTE all linked to a PepLink SOHO router to manage the connections. The router is key to avoid having to connect each device to the local WiFI service each time.

The potential issue is that the Puma has 2 WiFi antennas but the SOHO has 3. I _think_ it will work with two connected to the Puma and one with a short builtin antenna for the in the van coverage. We shall see.

My job requires a lot of video meetings which consume a ton of bandwidth, and the "unlimited" plans are in reality limited to 50GB/month. So I'm hoping to be able to get to local libraries etc to 'borrow' or pay for a days worth of WiFi as needed so we can work remotely for a few months.

This limits how far "off the grid" we can get, at least during the day, but it's a work in progress, so to speak!
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Old 01-10-2021, 05:33 PM   #10
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Here's a solution for your antenna mast:

https://w3atb.com/portable-multiband...t-and-support/

Since you probably won't being too high, I suggest fabricating something that will work with these surplus fiberglass poles. It could even be made out of wood:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/23356529389...AaAiVcEALw_wcB

Alternatively, fittings are available for a tripod mount:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/ANTENNA-RAD...EAAMXQjq5Q-BQb

And here's a link to a lot more info on the wifi antenna, etc:

https://www.irv2.com/forums/f115/my-...es-515316.html

Note: I don't have any personal experience with the wifi issue, but, as a Ham radio operator, I've used both the fiberglass and aluminum poles with great success. I'd go for the fiberglass pole since they won't scratch things up in storage. Since they're military surplus, they're very well made.
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