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5th Gen 4Runner Overland Build

Discussion in '5th Gen 4Runners (2010-2024)' started by strannik, Feb 4, 2024.

  1. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:14 PM
    #1
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
    Member:
    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    Table of Contents

    Vehicle

    Repairs

    Drivetrain


    Break System
    Steering
    Suspension
    Undercarriage
    Exhaust System
    Fuel System
    Miscellaneous

    Mods

    ***​

    Camper Conversion

    Design
    Electrical System
    Heating System
    Water System
    Cooking System
    Miscellaneous

    ***​

    Overlanding Lifestyle

    Staying in Shape
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2024
    Han4Run likes this.
  2. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:19 PM
    #2
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    107
    Designing Living Space – Part 1

    My initial attempts to design a living space were a complete failure. I was simply relying on the ideas that other people implemented in their designs. Eventually, I came to conclusion that what works for one person may not work for another. Through many trials and errors, I finally figured out what is working for me. It took me many miles and a full year to design a space where I truly feel comfortable.

    In one of his videos, Dan Grec said that all that you need for overlanding is a car, a place to sleep, and a place to cook food. I would like to add “comfortably” before each one of these key words. I found out that the last thing that you want is to go on a long overlanding trip and sleep in a place where you cannot get a good night sleep, cook food that doesn’t give you strength to keep on going, and have a vehicle in which it is uncomfortable to drive long distance.

    I have found out through personal experience that when you are just starting out overland travel, the road is going to throw challenges at you left and right. The last thing that you want is having to deal with the challenges of the road, in addition to the challenges of everyday life. On the other hand, if you have designed a place where you feel like home, you can easily recover from any challenges the road may throw at you and continue your trip full of strength and vitality.

    Initial Design

    Initially, things were taking up too much real estate. They bullied me into a corner, and there I stayed for about half a year. I had no room for activities because all the space was taken over by organized storage of things that I needed.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    With propane locker added, and storage cabinets in place, the entire passenger’s side of the vehicles was turned into a gigantic storage unit.

    [​IMG]

    The standard of overlanding storage space – sliding drawers.

    [​IMG]

    Sleeping platform and working space.

    [​IMG]

    Some more stuff.

    I felt like the focus of my initial design was on living outside, rather than inside of the vehicle. The vehicle was not considered my home, but rather a storage place for things that could turn my campsite into a comfortable home. Living in a place like this made my overlanding experience hell.

    Over the past year, I have torn the old design apart and rebuilt the space with the focus on the inside.

    ***​

    New Design

    [​IMG]

    upload_2024-2-4_21-18-23.png

    New design has a predetermined layout of the space. The middle portion is the living space that stays free of clutter, and where various activities can be performed.
    • Gray – The right side is the wall storage unit. All the things that were before scattered around can be found in that location.
    • Pink – The left side is the technology side. That is where I have water system, heating system, parts of electrical system, and all the control switches.
    • White – The left side of the platform is leveled at a seat height. This area is used for storage as well as to seat on.
    • Yellow – The right side of the platform is a large surface area, which gets used a lot during daily activities. Underneath this platform is electrical system.
    • Turquoise – This area in the back is reserved as the main storage. I further mentally subdivided it into 4 compartments. It can be accessed from inside of the vehicle and from the rear. It is mostly used for long-term storage of food items and clothes.
    [​IMG]

    Wall storage unit. Notice that refrigerator now serves as an extension of the sleeping platform. It no longer dominates the space by sitting on top of the platform.

    [​IMG]

    Technology side.

    [​IMG]
    Work space.

    [​IMG]

    View from the back.

    [​IMG]

    View outside with sleeping mattress unfolded.

    [​IMG]

    View with all the storage spaces opened.

    [​IMG]

    Storage space below the platform can now be opened from the inside and from the outside. Sliding drawers have been removed, which created additional space for storage. I have mentally subdivided the interior of these storage spaces into 4 compartments. Two rear ones can be accessed from the back of the vehicle, and contain tools and long-term storage items. Two front ones can be accessed from the inside of the vehicle and contain items that I use on daily basis.
     
    ID_Yeti and kjfswkr like this.
  3. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:22 PM
    #3
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Designing Living Space – Part 2

    Freeing up the Space
    Before even starting designing the space I had to remove quite a bit of stock components.

    Central Console Removal
    I had to make a few modifications to the stock design of the vehicle to expand available living space. The first thing that got removed was the central console. I wasn’t using it for storage anyway, and it was blocking direct access to the front of the vehicle.

    [​IMG]

    On earlier generation 4Runners central console can me dissembled into parts, allowing you to keep the trim in the front without doing any major modifications. On 5th generation 4Runners things have become a bit more complicated. I had to take out the entire assembly and cut out the rear portion that contained AC duct and storage compartment.

    [​IMG]

    I covered the hole with a piece of plywood and made a trim around it.

    [​IMG]

    I had no clue what to do about AC duct, so I connected HVAC duct and extended it to the rear of the camper. Paired with a small fan, it was providing much better circulation of cold air than stock AC duct. After a while, I ended up removing it completely because it was getting in the way.

    Sliding Rear Cargo Deck Removal

    My 4Runner came with sliding rear cargo deck. The following video shows step-by-step removal process.

    https://youtu.be/QH393WhO8pI

    Rear Seats Removal

    The following video does a decent walk-through on how to remove rear seats on 5th gen Toyota 4Runner.

    https://youtu.be/w6C4WSKV5mU

    Seat Belt Removal

    I found this step useful in making the space look cleaner. The last thing that you want is seat belts hanging from the wall. I couldn’t figure this part out for quite a while until I came across the following video that shows how it can easily be done.

    https://youtu.be/hEsXMgokt64


    Camper Conversion


    Main Storage

    [​IMG]
    • Turquoise – This area in the back is reserved as the main storage.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I further subdivided this storage space into 4 compartments. The ones in the rear are for long-term storage items that don’t need to be accessed on daily basis. These include power tools and recovery gear. The ones in the front can be accessed from the inside of the vehicle. They are used for storage of long-term food items and clothes.

    [​IMG]

    I repurposed front drawer sides and created hinged doors for the rear storage compartments.

    Getting Rid of the Drawers

    [​IMG]

    The drawers were removed to create more storage space. The amount of space that was gained and the weight that was shed after removal of all that hardware and plywood made this revision worth considering.

    [​IMG]

    This is the picture taken when I was preparing to pack all of my belongings. The drawers were taking up so much valuable storage space inside of the main box that I could barely fit a medium size packing cube.

    [​IMG]

    This is after removal of the drawers. My entire closet could easily fit in there with some space left over.

    Main Storage Attachment Points

    The most challenging part of any camper conversion, in my opinion, is finding how to use available attachment points to your advantage. The first question that I always ask myself before I even begin brainstorming ideas is, “How am I going to secure this?”

    [​IMG]

    I had to modify existing brackets to which the seats were initially bolted, and attach an L-shaped bracket to which the box would be secured with a bolt. I then placed a block of wood on top of the L-shaped bracket to provide additional support for the box.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In the rear the box is secured in both of the cubbies by turnbuckle wire tensioners.

    Secondary Storage

    [​IMG]
    • White – The left side of the platform is leveled at a seat height. This area is used for storage as well as to seat on.
    • Yellow – The right side of the platform is a large surface area, which gets used a lot during daily activities. Underneath this platform is electrical system.
    Secondary Storage Attachment Points

    [​IMG]

    To attach secondary storage, I made another set of L-shaped brackets and secured them where the seats were bolted before.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:23 PM
    #4
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
    Member:
    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    Secondary Storage Construction

    [​IMG]

    To even out the surface for storage, I first created foundation out of a thick piece of plywood.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Walls were then secured with joints and corner braces.

    [​IMG]

    Once open, the top can be secured to the headrest, thus creating a flat surface for things to rest on.

    [​IMG]

    Initially, I had the rear cover for this storage space permanently secured with screws. After a while, I came to conclusion that a sliding top would allow me to access the items underneath much easier.

    Wall Storage Unit

    [​IMG]
    • Gray – The right side is the wall storage unit. All the things that were before scattered around can be found in that location.

    [​IMG]

    Wall storage unit began with a simple vertical storage that was attached to the main storage box with several screws.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It further expanded with addition shelves that branched off of it in both directions.

    Additional Storage Spaces

    [​IMG]

    Additionally I store items in door storage area. The area underneath the wall storage unit is used to store jack stands , uni-jack, and some other miscellaneous items.

    [​IMG]

    5th gen 4Runner owners will recognize this space. This is the space where stock bottle jack and stock tool kit is located. I relocated stock tool kit and got rid of stock bottle jack. Uni-jack took its place. The space was converted into storage space for spare parts and various maintenance tools. To do this conversion, I cut off the brackets where bottle jack was secured with Dremel rotary tool.

    [​IMG]

    Glove box perfectly fits .
     
  5. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:24 PM
    #5
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Designing Living Space – Part 3

    Fitting the Cooler

    I dedicated a separate post to this because finding the right size of the cooler for your needs, and a suitable location for it in the space that you are creating takes a bit of experimentation.

    What is the Right Size For Me?

    Initially, I purchased Massimo CX50 Electric Cooler from Costco with the following specs:
    • Product SIZE (L X W X H): 25.1 IN X 15.9 IN X 22.8 IN
    • Weight: 34 lbs
    • Capacity: 50 Liter
    • Average Power Consumption: 45 +- 5W
    [​IMG]

    During the day it served as a backrest while I was sitting down, and during the night time I slept next to it. It was my constant companion for about 6 month. After fridge slider was removed, I could easily open the cooler inside of the vehicle due to the way its top opening was designed.

    Dimensions of the Base (Length and Width)

    From my own research, length and width of any electric cooler on the market will be a constant variable. The height, on the other hand, will differ based on the model that you choose. Massimo’s coolers have the base that is 25.1 in x 15.9 in. Other brand will have different dimensions, but design scheme will still be the same. The base will be the same in all of the models, whereas the height will differ based on the capacity that you choose to go for.
    When it comes to designing a camper, it is good to brainstorm all the possible locations for the cooler and look for one that has the right base that will fit those locations. I made a mistake of buying my cooler after I build the platform, and all the storage units. When it arrive, I set it up on a fridge slide and left it like that for some time. If you are planning to go that route, then dimensions of the base are not as important. On the other hand, if you are are planning to fit your cooler behind the driver’s or passenger’s seat, then you need to be more specific.

    Height

    Let’s say you have chosen a cooler with the right base and it fits perfectly in the space you have chosen for it, then the next question to ask I would ask is if the cooler’s height is appropriate.

    [​IMG]

    I have moved Massimo cooler about a dozen of times. At one point it was relocated behind the passenger’s seat and would have worked fine there as a table if I was to seat cross-legged.

    [​IMG]

    I didn’t like the idea of seating cross-legged for a long period of time, and eventually relocated it behind the driver’s seat. Since the base of the cooler was perfectly fitting both of these locations, I could have chosen either one of these configurations. The problem with both of them was that the cooler was too high. It was too high to serve as an extension of the sleeping platform, and it was too high to serve as a table.

    Capacity

    What size of e-cooler should I go for? I have asked myself similar questions many times while building this camper, and I still continue to ask them from time to time. Through experience I realized that all of the answers that I may find on YouTube and online forums derail me from the truth. The truth is that no one can really give the final answer. It was always up to me to find out what it is exactly I am looking for in a solution, and what products exist on the market that can become that solution.
    In the beginning, I fell for the trap of getting the largest size possible because that was the most popular response on online forums. 50L cooler has enormous capacity. Personally, even if I meal prepped for 4 days, and loaded it with 2 gallons of milk, 32 oz yogurt container, 32 oz cottage cheese container, a load of vegetables, and other miscellaneous things, I would still have some space remaining. For one person, 50L is an overkill.
    I found this out by doing an experiment and setting up this refrigerator as my main one. I put it in my room and moved all the food from the main refrigerator to this e-cooler. After one month I knew that I didn’t need a cooler with that much capacity. I ended up selling it to Aibnb owner from whom I was renting the room, and purchased smaller version of the same cooler.
    Massimo CX40 Electric Cooler was shorter by about 3 inches, which allowed me to use it as an extension for the sleeping platform. It also had the right amount of space for food storage. Everything was great until it died on me about a few weeks into the trip from Colorado to California. Which brings up another important topic when choosing a cooler.

    Buy Cheap, Pay Twice.

    My experience with Massimo was not the best, to say the least. I called them the same day that my cooler stopped working. Certified technician determined that the problem is electrical and that the circuit board had to be replaced. The problem was not so much in the failure of the circuit board, but rather in the fact that there was no warranty on the cooler at all. The company representative that I was transferred to said that the only warranty that I had was 30 days after the item was purchased. I looked all over Massimo’s website, and through the documentation that was provided with the cooler. Nothing was mentioned about warranty on e-coolers.
    I ended up scratching “E” from E-cooler and used it as a regular cooler for the rest of the trip by relying on good old ice. When I got to California, Massimo e-cooler found its resting place in a trash bin. After looking around for a reputable brand that sells quality coolers, I decided to go with ICECO. It is a reputable US brand that stands behind its products, and which provides 5-year warranty for compressor and 1 year warranty for parts. I purchased ICECO 42QT JP40 12V Portable Freezer, which had the same dimensions as Massimo e-cooler. It was approximately $100 more than Massimo CX40, but as the saying goes, “Buy cheap, pay twice.“
    At the time of writing this, Massimo has revised their warranty. Even after making this step, I don’t think they can change my experience with them.
    E-kooler, E-bikes, Powerstations, Solar Panel warranties cover any repairs needed, parts only, no labor, to correct defects in material or workmanship reported during the applicable warranty period (Up to 1 Year) and which occur under normal use:
    • Components – 1 year parts Exchange • Battery (when purchased with new unit): Continental Batteries are covered with Continental directly. Non-continental batteries have 30 days of coverage.
    https://www.massimomotor.com/warranty
    Cooler’s Current Location and Function

    [​IMG]

    Currently, the cooler is located behind the driver’s seat. Besides being a cooler, it serves as an extension for the storage wall unit, and the sleeping platform.

    [​IMG]

    It has a different top opening design than Massimo e-cooler. I had to create a holder out of paracord and S-hook, which allows me to have the top open while I am removing items out of it. The only disadvantage to this design is that I have to move front seat forward to give enough room for the top to fully open. This doesn’t bother me a slight bit.

    Additional Insulation

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    There is always an option to add foam insulation around the cooler to conserve the amount of energy it draws for from your battery bank. I tried doing this with Massimo e-cooler and found it to be unnecessary for my needs. The thing is that I am not much of a camper. I like to move around from one location to another, rather than sit in one place for long periods of time. Even if the fridge will draw a little more power, I can always replenish it with DC-DC charger while driving. Since 1 inch of insulation on all of the sides will take up additional space, it is something to consider when making this sort of modification.

    Latest Additions

    I have made a few changes over the past few month that improve usability of the space.

    [​IMG]

    Main control panel has been slightly revised to achieve a cleaner look. Now, all the plumbing is covered by opaque plexiglass sheet.

    [​IMG]

    Majority of activities are done on this section of the upper platform, so it gets used a lot through out the day. After returning from the previous trip, I decided to cover it with aluminum sheets to increase its durability.
     
  6. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:26 PM
    #6
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
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    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    Designing Electrical System

    Jackery

    Electrical system in my camper has evolved drastically over the last year, especially during my stay in Colorado. Initially, I started out with the most basic setup you can imagine. Jackery Explorer 300 was the main power station that run refrigerator, laptop, and a few other electronic devices. The problem was with not so much in the power station, but in ways to charge it while I was on the road. If I was planning to run refrigerator continuously, the battery had to be charged intermittently. During winter time, as I eventually found out, it is not a problem. But in the scorching heat of the summer time, when temperature in the car climbs up above 100 deg F, power consumption is a huge problem.

    In Search of Power

    Stock Inverter

    I tried a few methods of charging while I was on the road. First, and the most obvious, was to use a built-in inverter that already came with 4Runner. There was a big problem with this setup right from the start. Stock inverter could only generate 120 V AC/100W while the vehicle is being driven.
    While the vehicle is being driven the maximum capacity of the power outlet is always 120 V AC/100W. After driving car for 30 minutes I could charge Jackery only by 6% (85W input).

    Solar Panel

    The next stage was experimentation with solar panel. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that show you how to connect Jackery Power Station to Renogy 12 Volt 100 Watt Solar Panel. After assembling this system I began my own experiment, which proved to me that this system was a failure for long-term overlanding. It was an okay setup for a weekend warrior, but in the end you will run out of power.
    My experiment was based on pure data. I looked up peak sun hours in SoCal during summer months. It was around 6 hours per day. I then created a chart with multiple columns that represented degree of the sun, time of the day, input from the solar panel, draw from refrigerator, and total percentage of charge. I would check input and output data on Jackery status screen every 30 min to an hour during the day. The data was collected for several days.

    This is what one of the charts looked like.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It was constantly a catch up game, since there was reserve. On some days, there would be 24 power gain. On other days, there would be 24 hr power loss.

    Most of the draw happened during peak sun hours. Most of the charging happened during the same time as well. Average input was around 55 watts/hour. Total input during the 6 hour period was around 315 watts. The biggest problem was that total output was equal to total input during that 6 hours period. If refrigerator was to remain in the hot car overnight and there was no input to compensate for power loss during the night hours, then the battery will eventually run out of power. This was exactly the case. On the 4th day of my experiment, Jackery was close to being dead.

    Another problem was the weather. On a cloudy day solar was not able to catch up with power consumption. If I was to use solar power to run my system, it had to be supplemented by another method of charging.

    Renogy 12V 30A DC On-Board Input MPPT Battery Charger

    It seemed like I had to upgrade my electrical system quite a bit if I was to run my refrigerator continuously. I calculated that my greatest power drop overnight was 124W. If I had a 30A DC-DC charger, I would be able to replenish that energy in 17 minutes of driving. To work I went.

    My new setup would was Renogy 12V 30A DC On-Board Input MPPT Battery Charger connected to Weize 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 Lithium Battery. 30A DC-DC charger, along with Renogy 12 Volt 100 Watt Solar Panel. were able to catch up even with the toughest demands … in Southern California.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Colorado

    I moved to Colorado in Fall of 2022. Up to that point I was living in Southern California for a very long time. Coldest weather I was accustomed to was 55 deg F. After staying in Colorado over winter time, I learned much about how cold effects electronics.
    The first thing that I noticed was that my solar panel was practically useless in that part of the country. I ended up removing it, because most of the power was coming from inverter either way. If I was a weekend warrior that was living in one part of the country all the time, then solar power made perfect sense. From long-distance overlanding perspective it made no sense at all, unless you were traveling in sunny parts of the world.

    Renogy 12V 60A DC to DC On-Board Battery Charger

    I sold the entire system on Craigslist and purchased Renogy 12V 60A DC to DC On-Board Battery Charger. With this unit, I had an option to charge my battery at 60A, and 30A an hour. I still wasn’t sure if I needed 60A charge, but it was good to know that I had that option. The problem was that stock alternator on 5th gen 4Runner is rated at 130 amps with 80 amps at idle.

    High Output Alternator

    I tested total power draw with clamp meter. These are the results that I got with my current setup.
    • Engine OFF, Accessories ON: 9A
    • Engine ON, Accessories OFF: 7.5A
    • Engine ON Accessories ON: 22A
    The tests concluded that if I wanted to run DC-DC charger at 60A while the engine was idling, I had to get HO Alternator. I was maxing out this system at that rate of charge.
    • 60A + 20A = 80A
    • 80A x 1.2 = 96A
    After studying alternator output curves, I concluded that to charge at 50 amps, I will have to turn off everything (7.5A) , and go at at least 2000 rpm (100A). 4th gear at 55mph = 2000rpm on 4Runner. Simply speaking, if was driving at highway speed, stock alternator would be able to catch up with the demand of charging at 60A.

    https://bobistheoilguy.com/forums/threads/what-engine-rpm-maximum-alternator-output.319575/
    I decided to wait with installation of HO alternator for the time being, and see if I even needed it. Maybe charging at 30A was plenty enough for my needs.
    Charging LiFePO4 Battery in low temperature

    Another challenge that I faced living in Colorado during winter time was inability to charge LiFePO4 Battery in low temperature. I was oblivious to this fact until I discovered that my battery charge level fell below acceptable. After doing some research I found out both the problem and solution.

    Problem

    • Lithium iron phosphate batteries do face one major disadvantage in cold weather; they can’t be charged at freezing temperatures.
      • You should never attempt to charge a LiFePO4 battery if the temperature is below 32°F. Doing so can cause lithium plating, a process that lowers your battery’s capacity and can cause short circuits, damaging it irreparably.
      • Li-ion can be fast charged from 5°C to 45°C (41 to 113°F).
      • Below 5°C, the charge current should be reduced, and no charging is permitted at freezing temperatures because of the reduced diffusion rates on the anode.
    • In order to charge a LiFePO4 battery in below-freezing conditions, you need to raise its temperature first. The easiest way to do this is to simply move the battery to a warmer environment. You can also try wrapping the battery in a thermal blanket, or placing it near a small space heater.
    Some battery website.com
    DIY Lithium Battery Heater Setup

    Once I discovered where the problem was, I quickly found solution on one for the forums. I thought that this was an ingenuous idea that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I followed example described in that post, and had a full system up and going in a few days.
    The main part of the system consists of 2 aluminum sheets that have 2 heater pads were attached attached with self-adhesive tape.
    [​IMG]

    The sheets are then attached to the sides of the battery with duck tape. This heating device is then connected to a thermostat.

    [​IMG]

    The whole system is then wrapped in insinuative sheath that consists of reflectix, and foam board. I tried 1 and 2 layers of foam board. It is obvious that 2 layers was better than one, as far as power consumption goes, but there is also a concept of diminishing returns of adding more insulation. I decided that power consumption of the battery heating system was not so significant, and the energy loss could be easily replenished while driving.
    In total, the whole system draws 16 watts (4W x 4). If the heater is working only 6 hours total out of 24, then it is only 96W consumption. For a battery that is rated at 1280 Wh, this is nothing. In the winter time, refrigerator is working mostly in maintenance mode, so overall draw on the battery is insignificant.

    [​IMG]

    I also mounted several watt meters to calculate input and output.

    [​IMG]

    This was a prototype of the new electrical system that was ready for cold weather.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:28 PM
    #7
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
    Member:
    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    Current Electrical System

    After playing around with the space that I had available, I figured out a way to install all the components of the new electrical system into the space where my old system was.

    [​IMG]

    Everything fit perfectly, without much pace to spare.

    [​IMG]

    I mounted all the fuses and shunts on a small divider panel.

    [​IMG]

    The left over space I use for storage.

    [​IMG]

    Krieger 1100 Watt 12V Power Inverter comes with a remote that can be relocated. I mounted inverted remote and outlets close to other control switches for convenience.

    [​IMG]

    As was mentioned earlier, DC-DC battery charger can be configured to run at half of its capacity, which is 30A. I made a switch that would allow me to switch between 60A and 30A. There is also cigarette lighter splitter that is connected to the fuse box. I use it only for accessories that require this sort of connection, the rest are connected directly to the fuse box.

    [​IMG]

    The outlet for stock inverter has been relocated under the passenger’s seat, and outlet adapter was added to make it a bit more versatile.

    [​IMG]

    I also added power distribution blocks to accommodate ever expanding demands on the system.

    [​IMG]

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-27-49.png
     
    Gripster likes this.
  8. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:30 PM
    #8
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
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    Diesel Heater Installation

    Coming from Southern California, I never even considered adding heating system to my camper. A cooling system would probably be a better idea. It wasn’t until I got to Colorado, and the temperatures began dropping below 0 deg F, that I started considering getting some kind of heating system for winter camping.

    [​IMG]

    At the time of purchasing Little Buddy heater, I didn’t know anything about existence of diesel heaters. As soon as I stumbled on a website that showed what these can do, I immediately sold Little Buddy heater and ordered myself VEVOR 2KW Diesel Heater. This heater proved to be the best solution to keeping interior of the camper warm during cold hours of the day.

    Installation

    There are plenty of videos on YouTube covering installation of these types of heaters. I found the following video helpful during the installation process.

    https://youtu.be/DgSkCvJ7RoE

    Mounting the Heater

    [​IMG]

    I installed the heater inside the wall storage unit, which is located on the passenger’s side. 2KW version fit perfectly, leaving some room on the sides. I mounted the heater to a plywood base, which was then attached to the sidewall of the storage unit with 2 corner braces. The same method that was shown in the video above.

    [​IMG]

    4 claw nuts show the location where I mounted corner braces. I made a hole in one of the sides for the outlet duct, which is held in place with paracord. Paracord allows me to adjust which way the outlet duct is facing.

    Intake and Exhaust

    [​IMG]

    I already had a hole in the floor that remained there after propane locker was removed. I made this hole larger with appropriately sized hole saw drill bit and used it to install thru hull exhaust fitting. Another hole was made for intake pipe.

    As you might have already guessed, I had to extend both of these pipes in order to reach the floor of the vehicle. To extend exhaust pipe, I purchased 24mm exhaust pipe that was long enough for my needs. To extend intake hose, I purchased washing machine discharge hose from a local Home Depot and tapped it to the kit hose with duck tape. After installation was complete, I wrapped exhaust pipe with fiberglass exhaust wrap.

    [​IMG]

    An extension of the platform was built to cover both of the pipes.

    Silencing Fuel Pump

    While doing my research I came across many ways to silence the evil Chinese fuel pump. I tied building a box out of plywood, filling it with acoustic foam, and hiding it far away where human ear would not be able to hear ticking noise of the pump. That didn’t work.
    [​IMG]

    What worked somewhat well is relocating the pump into one of the cubbies, wrapping it in a thick layer of acoustic foam, and then wrapping a pillow around it.

    [​IMG]

    The pillow was then stuffed into the cubbie, and the top of the cubbie secured with several screws. I made sure that the pump remained angled at 30-90 degrees as I was adding all of this insulation. Slight noise can still be heard when the heater is just starting to warm up, but when it is blowing at full speed, the noise it inaudible.

    Fuel Canister Modifications

    [​IMG]

    I gave the canister that came in the kit away, because it was completely useless to me. Instead, I purchased from Harbor Freight Tools and made a few modifications to it to accommodate fuel tank standpipe and a vent. Both of these are very simple mods that prevent possible diesel leaks in the future. Fuel pipe was also replaced with the one that is more rigid.

    Other Things to Consider

    There are plenty of tips online on how to install these heaters and what to do after installation. It would be a waste of my time to write a tutorial on something that was already covered hundreds of times. Instead, I will cover the challenges that I faced after installation of the heater, and solutions that I implemented to deal with them.

    Voltage Drop

    After installing the heater, I couldn’t get it started. It would constantly turn itself off at the warm up stage. The problem was in the length of the wires supplied with the heater and also their diameter. I followed solution suggested below, and the heater fired right up. Since the fuse box is only several feet away from the heater, I didn’t have to get larger diameter wires.
    The CDH kit comes with a wiring harness. The positive and negative wires in the kit are 16ga and extremely long, probably to allow you to place the heater anywhere. However, the long length of wire actually limits the voltage that the heater receives during startup.
    This voltage limitation happens because the wire isn’t a large enough diameter (gauge) for it’s length. This is commonly refereed to as voltage drop.
    https://www.stokeloafvan.com/blog-1...-tricks-for-using-a-chinese-diesel-heater-cdh
    Limitations of 12V Splitters

    At the time of the installation, I didn’t have a dedicated fuse box. Some of the things in the vehicle were working off a 12V splitter that was connected directly to the battery. These splitters have a limit of 100W. So if you have other accessories plugged in while you are starting your diesel heater, then the fuse in the splitter will constantly blow. I found out about this small problem the hard way when I was just starting the heater and trying to use portable 12V vacuum at the same time. These heaters can easily draw close to a 100W when they are just starting. After warming up, their power consumption drops significantly. My solution to this problem was to install a 100A fuse box and run all of my accessories through it, including the ones that had to be plugged in 12V outlet.

    Parts List

    upload_2024-2-4_21-30-27.png
     
  9. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:34 PM
    #9
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Water Heater Add-on for Diesel Heater

    Not so long ago I stumbled upon an idea of using diesel heater to heat up water through use of heat exchangers. Bobil Air Xchange is the only product on the market that can do this. It is a good quality kit that includes everything a van dweller would need to take a warm shower. This product can easily be installed in any van, but it would not work in my build due to size constraints. After doing some research, I found a few portable DIY alternatives that use two water cooling computer radiators to accomplish the same goal.

    This is one of the best examples of a portable diesel water heating system.

    https://youtu.be/9G1cqmZkNwo

    Portable DIY Diesel Water Heater

    Limited by space constraints, I decided to go as small as I possibly could in the design of my version of the diesel water heater. This meant that it had to have only the essential components, which are heat exchangers, water pump and thermometer.

    [​IMG]

    The whole design consists of two heat exchangers that are positioned next to each other and linked together with tubing. They are housed in a plywood box that acts as a tunnel through which hot air from the diesel heater blows.

    [​IMG]

    The pump that is connected on the side of this box cycles water from a reservoir through the two heat exchangers.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    The box is designed in such a way that heat exchangers can simply slide into place.

    [​IMG]

    Once I am ready to warm up the water, I just plug in diesel heater duct into the box and insert the tubes into the water reservoir. I use a regular 5 gallon gas can as my water reservoir. Water temperature inside the reservoir is measured with a simple aquarium thermometer.

    [​IMG]

    This is the the front view of the box in action. There is no need for outlet duct to blow hot air out, because all the heat is absorbed by the water and the air that comes out is cool.

    [​IMG]

    The best location that I found to mount this small add-on was on the side, next to the water heater. For mounting hardware I used several angle brackets.

    Testing the System

    upload_2024-2-4_21-33-19.png

    These are the results that I got after leaving the system running for 20 minutes. Reservoir tank was filled with 5 gallons of water. Every 5 minutes the water temperature would raise by 5 def F on average. The total draw of the pump and diesel heater was around 20 Wh.

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-33-50.png
     
  10. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:34 PM
    #10
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Designing Water System

    Complex isn’t Always Good

    Just like electrical system, my water system has gone through many iterations. At first, I was inspired by Dan Grec’s idea of having multiple shut off valves that redirect water for the purpose of filtering it as it comes into the tank and goes out of the tank. The idea of having a clean water storage tank was truly worth exploring.

    [​IMG]

    Unlike Dan’s system, my system had a basic 2 stage, RV sediment water filter.

    [​IMG]

    This water system got me to Colorado, and there it stayed. After temperature fell below freezing, my water filter exploded, which led me rethink that setup.

    [​IMG]
    New Design

    Problems with Old Design
    • The system was an overkill for developed countries. It was designed for Africa, where water needs to be filtered several times before consumption.
    • The system was designed to have an inlet hose used for filling the tank. If I was to use this method, I had to open the door, place tube in a clean container, turn the pump on, and filter the water that was already filtered. Why?
    • The system consisted of a water pump and a filter, both of which do not work below freezing temperatures, and have to be winterized.
    • The system was difficult to use inside of the car.

    In Search of Better Ways

    Water Bottle Pump and Scepter Water Container

    Just like with electrical system, if I was to redesign this system it had to be able to withstand 4 seasons. The best solution that I found is to use water bottle pump and Scepter water container. Both of these can be used below freezing temperatures.

    This system was extremely basic, but reliable. I was leaving Colorado in April, and temperature at higher elevations was still falling below freezing at night time. Water bottle pump and scepter water containers got me by without an issues.

    New Design

    Water Container

    For me, water container is never clean. During a long overlanding trip you fill up water at dozens of suspicious locations. Expecting that water to be potable, and expecting that nothing will grow in your container over the entire trip is a bit unreasonable.

    I remember on my last overlanding trip I was filling up water at a gas station that was far from any civilized establishments. After a while I was alarmed by a smell that reminded me of sewer. Very soon I discovered where the smell was coming from. It was the water I was filling my container with. After this incident I first smell the water, and only then fill up.

    Cleaning water tank is a huge hassle, while cleaning 5 gallon water container is a piece of cake. If you have two 5 gallon Scepter water containers, you can fill one up with potable water to be used for drinking, while you clean the other one. After cleaning the other one, you can fill it up with water and bleach solution and leave it overnight to further disinfect it.

    5 gallon water containers are portable. It is so much easier to fill them. While overlanding, I had to fill water at some hard to access locations. Stretching a long water hose sometimes was not an option. There are plenty of examples of such locations on iOverlander, where filling a 5 gallon water can would not be a problem, but filling a fixed tank will.

    They can also be easily replaced. Having a modular system where every component can be swapped out at any time is a huge advantage.

    I settled on 2 LCI 5 Gallon Water Cans. They are the same quality as Scepter water cans, but at a cheaper cost.

    Water Filtration

    As could be implied from the above information, I wanted to have a builtin inline water filtration system, which required water filter and a pump. I also wanted to have an option to winterize them.

    This time around, I purchased SEAFLO Water Diaphragm Self Priming Pump 3.0 Gallons/min (11.3 Lpm) 45 PSI. You can design much better plumbing system with this pump, plus you can attach Camco Permanent Pump Converter Winterizing Kit to it.

    For filtration I chose to go with AQUA CREST 5 Years Capacity – Inline Water Filter as a pre-filter, and iSpring UVF11A UV Ultraviolet Light Water Filter for biological filtration. Both can be emptied during winter time.

    Finding a permanent place to install this setup was a challenge. I decided to go with unconventional ways of approaching this design problem. Since the left side of the camper was dedicated to technology, it was appropriate for me to install the system there. Side window was already covered with an insulation insert, so by placing a piece of plywood over it I could create a wall onto which plumbing system could be mounted.
     
  11. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:36 PM
    #11
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    New Water System

    This is what the entire setup looks like.

    [​IMG]

    This is the picture that I took in Colorado when the system was still not in use. Winterization kit is installed on the inlet of the pump. At that time I was still using water bottle pump.

    [​IMG]

    I don’t think it is necessary to go into too much detail about how all of this was put together because the picture shows the whole layout of the water system and the parts list is provided below. The only part that needs attention is Scepter water can cap modification.

    Scepter Water Can Cap Modification

    I was struggling with the design of this part for a while. As can be seen in the pictures, I was placing attachment from the old system through the opening in the cap and securing it with duck tape. I found permanent solution in the following video.

    https://youtu.be/Iwfab5YjmF0

    I repurposed Pex Tubing and Brass Push-To-Connect from the earlier setup, and added 1/2″ Washing Machine Valve and Garden Hose Quick Connect. In the end, I had a fully sealed water system.

    [​IMG]

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-35-42.png

    Going Back to Basics

    [​IMG]
    On my last trip to the Northern part of North America, I had to spend a few days camping close to a ferry crossing along Dempster Highway. Ferry stopped working due to high waters, and I had no choice but to wait it out. I had plenty of food and gas, but my water supplies were running out. All that time I was close a lake with plenty of water around, but no ways to filter it.

    It didn’t get to that point, but if I had to last a few more days, I could have pre-filtered water in the lake through one of the t-shirts and boiled it. After this event, I decided to make slight modifications to my existing setup that was designed only for water fill ups at civilized locations.

    [​IMG]

    As soon as I got to the US, I ordered Survivor Filter Pro Water Purification System that seems to have best biological filtration on the market. To complement this purchase, I also bought millbank bag to pre-filter water. I hope I won’t have to use these items as often, but it sure is better to have them for those rare occasions.
     
  12. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:38 PM
    #12
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Camper Shower

    Showers can get expensive when overlanding. Before my trip to the North, I didn’t even realize that one can make a fortune on charging travelers for taking a shower. At some locations found on iOverlander, showers could easily cost around $10. Add to this a limit placed on how long you can take a shower and the wait time to take one, and you will soon appreciate having your own shower system.

    Portable Shower

    [​IMG]

    Before even starting this trip, I made myself a simple camping shower out of 2 Gallon Garden Pump Sprayer. This was usually enough for one shower. The rear tent served as a privacy curtain in this setup.
    This portable shower is good for short weekend trip, but depending solely on one of these on a long overlading trip is not a good idea, in my opinion. This shower is limited in what it can provide:
    • It has to be constantly pumped to maintain adequate pressure.
    • If you extend the hose, which you will have to do if you want the shower head to reach over your head, the pressure will drop. There is simply not enough pressure to push water along a long hose, so the flow is very limited.
    • The water in the container is cold. I stored it on top of the roof rack, so the water can be warmed up by the sun. The problem with this is that if you travel in areas where there is little to no sunshine for sever days, the water in the container remains cold.
    I used this portable shower for a long time until I finally decided to redesigned my water system again.
    Built-in Shower

    [​IMG]

    When I designed my water system, I installed winterization kit on the inlet of the pump. During my last trip, I made another revision to my water system to incorporate a shower.

    [​IMG]

    Winterization shut-off valve has been relocated to the outlet of the pump. Now it serves as a shut-off valve for the shower head.

    [​IMG]

    The tube that connects to the water container has been elongated, so it can be submerged in a different water container.

    [​IMG]

    To take a shower, I heat up the water in the red water reservoir with diesel water heater.

    [​IMG]

    After the water has been heated, I relocate the suction tube from the green potable water container to the red water reservoir and flip the pump on.

    Shower Head

    [​IMG]

    I used a regular spray nozzle for the shower head. The output of the water pump is 3 GPM, which way too much for my needs. To reduce the flow rate, I installed shut-off coupling on the spray nozzle. With this small modification, I can take several showers with 5 gallons of water.

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-37-46.png

    Getting Water While Overlanding

    Getting water along the way was initially a problem, because I lacked knowledge and skills. After realizing that all I have to do to get water is ask, I could get water almost anywhere I went. Gas stations and visitors centers were my primary locations to get water. If a gas station didn’t have a dedicated location for portable water, I would ask attendant if there is a spigot I could use to refill my 5 gallon containers. iOverlander also has plenty of mapped locations that other overlanders shared with the community.
     
  13. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:40 PM
    #13
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    In Search of a Perfect Stove for Overlanding

    In Search of a Perfect Stove

    The most important part of any cooking setup is a stove. So far, I have tried quite a few of them. I started with Camp Chef Everest stove. This stove was great in every aspect, but was way too large for my build.

    [​IMG]


    After looking around, I found a suitable alternative that only had one burner, Grill Boss Dual Fuel Camp stove.

    [​IMG]


    These stoves had something in common, they all run on propane.

    Propane Locker

    The most challenging part of transporting propane, for me, was finding a place to store it. After doing a bit of research, I found out that one of the most secure ways of storing propane inside the vehicle is to create a propane locker. I didn’t want to store it outside for a few reasons. It was inconvenient, and it took up space on the roof rack that was already fully loaded.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I chose to go with 5 lbs propane tank that could store so much propane that I could go for weeks without refilling it. I made a sealed plywood box to enclose the tank, and secured a thermometer probe inside to monitor interior temperature. I thought that this would be a useful feature to have, knowing that the temperature inside of the car can easily get above 120 deg F. To my surprise, no matter how high the temperature was in the car, it the box it was always cooler.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After a long search for the place to make a hole for the vent hose, I decided on this location.
    This setup worked great for me for about half a year until I decided to redesign my entire cooking system. I was not too happy with a few things.
    • First of all, it was taking up an enormous amount of living space.
    • It was inconvenient to set up. Braided steel propane hose was a hassle to unwind and hook up to the stove.
    • It was difficult to use inside of the vehicle, which meant that I had to cook outside even when weather conditions were not the best.
    • And, last but not least, it is another source of fuel that I needed to rely on while overlanding. I really wanted to simplify my setup and my life.
    I found the answer fairly quickly. I used gasoline burning camping stoves during motorcycle overlanding trips years ago, so I decided to give them a shot once again. Back then, I was using the WhisperLite International stove with great success. After watching a few reviews of Coleman Sportster Duel Fuel stove by other overlanders I decided to give it a go.

    Gasoline Burning Stoves

    Coleman Sportster Dual Fuel Stove
    My initial experience with this stove was very positive. It was compact and easy to use, plus I did not have to deal with the smell of gasoline while filling it, priming it, or storing it. All in all, it was exactly what I was looking for.
    I have used this stove during my last two trips on a daily basis until one day it failed me. The main selling point for me was this stove’s time tested design and reliability. I had to find out the hard way that there is a huge drawback to its design that can leave you with a truck full of food and no way to cook it.
    The thing is that this stove is not made to be serviceable in the field unlike MSR WhisperLite stove that has a modular design, which allows you to service and replace any part of the stove anywhere you are. About a month into the trip, the generator on the Coleman Sportster got clogged so badly that I could not even extract the wire out of it.

    Clogged Generator

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This generator has an interesting design that allows you to clean it as you rotate the regulator. The small wire that runs through the generator is attached to a cleaning needle that pulls the wire in and out as you rotate the regulator. This allows carbon deposits to be cleaned out inside the generator tube and at the end where the jet is attached. In my case, the end of this wire came off the cleaning needle it was attached to. I have no idea when this happened, but for a good portion of the trip, the generator was not being cleaned. The cleaning wire was just sitting there while carbon deposits built up around it.

    On my first day of driving Dempster Highway, the stove suddenly stopped working. I was puzzled by what I was going to do. I had weeks’ worth of food, but no way to cook it. The good things was that all of this happened while I was still close to Dawson’s City. I had to drive all the way back to civilization, connect to a nearby Wi-Fi, and Google how to clean this darn thing.

    Some people suggested trying carburetor cleaner, so I purchase a can at a local NAPA store and gave it a shot. The stove didn’t work. In desperation, I run into a local Trading Post store and told the owner about my predicament. He was an older guy who seemed a bit more knowledgeable about camping stoves. After several attempts to find a solution, he came to the conclusion that generator had to be soaked in carburetor cleaner overnight. Since he didn’t sell any replacement parts for this stove, he couldn’t offer me much of a solution of what to do at the moment. Overnight soaking strategy was not going to do it for me. Hungry and tired, I decided to buy a cheap Coleman Bottletop Propane Camping stove and a few 1 lbs propane cans. That day my lunch was at 7PM.

    After eating, I tried another method of cleaning the generator, which seemed to work a bit better. Someone on an online forum suggested heating up the generator. That same evening, I took the stove apart. Fixed the cleaning needle, heated up the generator, and run the cleaning wire through it several times. When I fired up the stove, it worked, but the intensity of the flame was never the same. From this day on, it was my backup stove.

    A few weeks after, I found a sound solution of how to clean this generator in the field.

    "I just picked up my first black Peak 1- 400b stove. My plan is to remove the gen, see if the tip can be removed, then heat and quench the gen with a torch then water until it runs clear.
    https://colemancollectorsforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=34131"

    I followed this advice as well. With a propane stove I could easily heat up the generator until it was red hot and then quench it with water. After placing the generator in a cup of water, water would just shoot out of the end that was not submerged, thus cleaning the inside from all broken down carbon buildup.

    The generator worked fine after cleaning, but would still continuously clog up. In the end, it stopped working properly despite all of my attempts to fix it. Eventually, I just gave up on it.

    [​IMG]

    As soon as I got to the US, I ordered MSR WhisperLite International stove and picked it up at an Amazon locker in Seattle, WA.

    MSR WisperLite International Stove

    That was a good lesson. Never again I wanted to deal with equipment that is not serviceable in the field. I would rather have a design that is a little harder to use, but will keep on going no matter what demands are placed on it. I wanted AK-47 type of gear. Simple, reliable, and serviceable. So in addition to the MSR WisperLite International stove, I got myself MSR Expedition Field Service Kit with extra jets and other parts that would allow me to maintain the stove in the field.

    I am not sure what they put in the fuel now days, but even MSR stove got clogged after some time of use. When that happened, I just took it apart and fully cleaned out all the carbon deposits. After my experience with Coleman Sportster stove, it was pure joy cleaning this beauty. I know it will not let me down.
     
  14. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:40 PM
    #14
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Use of Passenger’s Seat as Storage

    Ever since I started traveling, I got into a habit of using passenger’s seat for storage. The leg room is used to store additional 5 gallon water container and various camping equipment. The vertical part of the seat is wrapped with a bungee cord that secures table top and RBT board. On horizontal part of the seat I keep my backpack, whereas the gap between the passenger’s seat and the door is used as storage for miscellaneous things.

    Side Storage

    The problem with using the gap between the passenger’s seat and the door for storage is that the things always fall out once the door is opened. To solve this minor, yet annoying shortcoming, I devised an attachment for a bungee cord at the car door footstep.

    [​IMG]

    It was a very simple modification that required to drill a hole and make a paracord loop.

    [​IMG]

    The loop then passes through the plastic trim and attaches to the bungee cord hook. With several bungee cords securely wrapped around the seat, it becomes a capable storage unit.
     
  15. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:41 PM
    #15
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    107
    Mosquito Nets

    When I was preparing for the trip to the North, I devoted a lot of time to research bug protection for the camper. In the Southwest of the US mosquitos are not a major problem, but bugs are, especially at night time. There are plenty of ways to approach bug and mosquito protection. Here is my take on it.

    Sunroof Mosquito Net

    I place mosquito nets in two locations to facilitate cross ventilation. One of them is sunroof.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    At first, I tried one-size-fits-all approach, and this product ended up being too short for 4Runner’s sunroof. Unable to find another product that would fit the opening, I ended up making my own with Stansport Mosquito Netting Sheets.

    [​IMG]

    The trim around the sides is made out of outdoor fabric that I purchased at a local Joann Fabrics Store. Small pockets that are spaced evenly around the entire perimeter of the mosquito net, house 18mm x 5 mm magnets.

    Rear Window Mosquito Net

    For the rear windows I used PEYOU 2 Pack Car Window Sun Shades. These do not work on the front windows, so the only place where I can use them is the rear passenger’s side window.

    These form a tight seal all the way around the windows, except the bottom. I found a great solution to create a tight seal on the bottom of the window on this website.

    [​IMG]

    I am not a big fan of flexible magnetic tape. I tried it once and concluded that it was not strong enough. Plus it looses all magnetic power when the temperature falls below 0 deg F. Instead, I mounted 1 in strips of metal along the bottom of the window with double-sided tape.

    [​IMG]

    I use rectangular ceramic magnets to secure mosquito netting along the bottom of the window.

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-41-29.png
     
  16. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:43 PM
    #16
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Yescom Awning Installation and Modifications

    At first, I was doing fine without an awning. I lived and traveled mostly in the Southwestern part of the US where it is sunny most of the year. I love sunshine and can stay outdoors even in the scorching heat. My mentality changed after I took a longer overlanding trip to the North. The route passed not only through various time zones, but also through different latitudes, which affected the climate, day length and other things I was accustomed to.


    [​IMG]
    All the regions in the Northern parts of the US that I traveled through, received a lot more precipitation than in the South. This is Idaho in early June of 2023.

    In these parts of the country, the rains could easily last for days. In Alaska, the situation was about the same. I really wanted to visit Denali National Park to see Mount McKinley. I camped at a nearby forest for several days, hoping that the weather would change. I had no awning, so all that time I had to spend in my camper. Having an awning would have made a huge difference in my overall stay there, allowing me to spend some time outside. Maybe then I could have waited a few more days for the weather to clear up enough for me to visit the park.

    Yescom Awning

    Upon returning from this trip, I decided to invest in an awning. For me, it is one of those things that I will not be using on the daily basis, but would love to have for rare occasions like the one described above.

    [​IMG]

    After doing some research, I stumbled upon Yescom awning. This awning required quite a bit of modifications, which I was happy to do. I am sure there are better options that come out ready straight out of the box, but with the mods described below this awning will withstand anything.

    Mounting Hardware
    I wasn’t too happy about the mounting hardware that the awning came with. After digging around, I found a clever way to mount the awning using exhaust pipe clamps.

    https://youtu.be/jIsze6uVGB8

    The video above shows this mounting approach.

    [​IMG]


    For my roof rack I used 1-1/4 in exhaust pipe clamps that I purchased at O’Reilly Auto Parts. One thing to note about the factory corner bracket . The stainless steel is top notch. It is the hardest material I ever had to drill holes in. Make sure to use good cobalt drill bits.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    This is what the hardware looks like when mounted onto the roof rack.

    Modification of Poles

    Horizontal Poles

    Many reviewers suggested to modify the poles that the awning came with. The holes that have been drilled at the factory are too large for the hinge bolt, which makes the poles too wobbly.

    [​IMG]

    I cut off about 3/4″ from the end of each pole, which was just enough to remove existing thru-hole.

    [​IMG]

    The rubber end was used to mark location of new holes. It was removed entirely afterwards.

    [​IMG]

    New hole was drilled for tighter fit. The hinge bolt is 5/16 in.

    [​IMG]

    Another reviewer mentioned that he added PVC pipe inserts to make construction even more rigid. I decided to follow his advice and added a foot long inserts for the horizontal poles, and 3 inch inserts for the vertical ones.
    I followed their advice and cut off the ends and re-drilled the holes to a tighter tolerance, but I decided to go one step further. I replaced the bolts with 80mm ones to run all the way through the base so the weight is spread out along all three fins of the back plate; and I added a pvc pipe on the inside to add some durability, but keep some flex. The pipe I used is 13″ long, but depending on your need you could go shorter or a bit longer as it will impede how far you can shrink the poles.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    To compensate for the gap between the bolt and the back plate fins, I added several washers on the top and the bottom of the pole. The factory bolt was replaces with a 3 inch long bolt. As was mentioned above, this allows the weight of the pole to be spread out along all the three fins of the back plate.

    Vertical Poles

    [​IMG]

    Left side. The eye bolt is acting as a hinge bolt.

    [​IMG]

    Right side. The eye bolt is separate from the hinge bolt.

    Vertical poles were modified in the similar fashion. In addition to other modifications, I added eye bolts to each end following advice given in the following video.

    https://youtu.be/Xuc1mShs2mA

    Carabiners and Tent Stakes

    [​IMG]

    I purchased regular CamJam Tie Down Rope Carabiner Clips and Coghlan’s Heavy Duty Steel Tent Stake as was suggested in the video above. I did not see the need in CamJam XT for this application.

    Back Plate Modifications

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Another problem that I encountered was related to the attachment of the back plate to the main plate. Once horizontal poles are extended they start to exert a lot of leverage that pulls the back plate away from the main plate. If the back plate is not secured properly, the whole construction will eventually fail.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I secured to the back plate to the main plate with two small bolts.

    [​IMG]

    This small modification significantly improved structural integrity of the awning. Now I don’t have to worry about the back plate being pulled off with the leverage created by the horizontal poles.
     
  17. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:44 PM
    #17
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Camper Rear Tent Design and Installation

    During the research & experimental stage of my camper build I came across a very interesting product for VW called Reimo Tent Technology Rear Tent.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I really liked an idea of having something like this in my 4Runner Camper Conversion build. The problem was that the company only made this product for VW and it was based in Germany. The only comparable product that I found on Amazon was HASIKA Tailgate Tent, which I tried on my first camping trip and returned it right after getting back.

    I really wanted something that was very simple and easy to setup, and provided decent level of privacy. Reimo Tent Technology Rear Tent was exactly that. I could set this tent up in less than a minute, and pack it in approximately the same time.

    Here is a video of this product being installed and tested in VW T5.

    https://youtu.be/_1DuQlW9ukw

    Design and Construction

    My solution was as simple as the product, I decided to make a similar rear tent for my 4Runner. All I needed was thin and durable tarp, and a way to secure it to the interior of the rear hatch door.

    [​IMG]

    I decided to go with light duty tarp that is fairly thin, which allows the whole tent to be rolled up in a compact roll. This was very important for me because I already had drawers installed in the vehicle. This meant that when the rear hatch door was fully closed, the tent roll had to fit in the little space that was left between the door and the drawers.

    [​IMG]

    The design of the tent is fairly straight forward. It is a rectangular piece of tarp that is attached to the rear hatch door with a thin metal plate.

    [​IMG]

    On the sides, the tarp is held in place by several ceramic magnets, which are attached to the tarp with duck tape.

    [​IMG]

    Thin metal plate acts as a clamp for the tarp.

    [​IMG]

    When rolled up, the tarp is held in place by two mini bungee cords that hook on to overhand loops. To secure bungee cords and overhand loops, I made holes in the trim and tied knots on the opposite side of the trim. Metal plate was secured in a similar fashion, but with bolts and lock nuts.

    [​IMG]

    On the bottom, I added a round metal tube that serves two functions. It help me to roll the tarp up, and it also serves as a weight that helps the tarp unroll quickly when two bungee cords are released.


    This tarp has been one of the best additions to my camper for several reasons.
    • It serves as a privacy curtain in populated areas. I often have to establish camp in populated areas. Surrounded by a group of people, it is difficult to do some of things that require privacy, such as taking a shower or taking a dump. At these moments, all I have to do is setup rear tent and do what I have to do. All it takes is to step out of the car, open rear hatch door, unhook two bungee cords, and attach magnets to the side of the vehicle. If I really want to, I can do all of this in less than 30 seconds. It takes equally about the same time to roll this thing back up.
    • It serves as a tent. Whenever I wanted to hide myself from the elements, this simple tent allowed me to do just that with less effort than it would take me to setup an awning.
    If I was to make a personal list of essential items for an overlanding trip, this would be one of the first ones on my list.
     
  18. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:47 PM
    #18
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Camper Security System Installation

    Ever since I built camper conversion I wanted a surveillance system to assess the situation around me without getting out of the vehicle. My initial attempts to build a decent system failed and I was continuously searching for new ways to accomplish this goal.

    Initially, I tied to replicate design explained in the following video. To my disappointment it miserably failed because of low quality of video output. The concept looks great in the video, but in real life it was not what I was expecting it to be.

    https://youtu.be/g0m6PnLSwPU

    I absolutely had to have good video quality during the day and at night. The small backup cameras that are shown in the video may produce good quality image during the day, but during the night time the quality degrades substantially. Pair that with a 7 inch monitor that is also limited in what it can reproduce, and you have a system that belongs in a garbage can. That is exactly what happened on my first attempt.

    USB Cameras

    After this, I began experimenting with USB cameras for computers. Some of them can produce very good quality image during the day time, and a decent image at night time. I enclosed each one in a 3 inch PVC pipe caps to make them weather-proof and sealed every opening with silicone. I still use one of these as my front view camera.

    [​IMG]

    I mounted it with zip-ties to the front grill and ran the cable to the interior of the car. To do this, I got a long USB cable extension. The advantage of having a system like this is that you can pair it with your cell phone by using an app called USB Camera. Now, you have a front view camera output without requiring an additional monitor.

    There is another version of this app that allows you to connect two cameras. You can further manipulate the system to connect two cameras to your cell phone by using USB C to USB Adapter and 4-Port USB Hub. Since I am only connecting one camera, I use USB C SD Card Reader that I carry with me on daily basis.

    [​IMG]

    I occasionally use this camera while off-roading on a rocky terrain. Having a lift puts me at a slight disadvantage as far as viability goes. The camera is positioned close to the driver’s side front tire allowing me to better choose a line. The tablet is used primarily for navigation.

    WYZE Cam

    In the next attempt I used WYZE Cam v3 Wi-Fi cameras. It is a great system to have if you have a good WiFi connection most of the time. I got this idea from the following video.

    https://youtu.be/jujXMMGdeOo

    My setup was fairly simple. I could pair these cameras to my phone’s hot spot, and have life footage of what is going on around me. There were several problems with this system. It definitely wasn’t stealthy, and it required Wi-Fi.

    I was only able to stream life footage when Wi-Fi was available. Most of the routes that I take pass through areas where there is little to no service even with a cell phone booster, so having a Wi-Fi camera defeats the purpose. I ended up returning this setup after about a week of experimenting with it.

    The quality of the cameras is top notch though. They come with built-in infrared LED lights, which significantly improves visibility in low light conditions.

    Analog Cameras

    About a few month into my last trip, I felt the need for a good surveillance system. After doing some more research on the type of cameras that existed and my needs, I finally came up with a list of features that I want in my surveillance system. This was my list:
    • The camera has to be weather-proof.
    • It has to be analog. Wi-Fi camera was a big no-no.
    • Recording feature is not necessary. I needed the camera only to stream life footage.
    • The camera has to be able to produce good quality footage during the day and also at night time.
    • It also has to be 12V DC camera.
    This setup was a bit too technical and required a dedicated monitor and DVR. My overall setup consisted of the following items:

    upload_2024-2-4_21-46-14.png

    Wide View Cameras

    This system was superior to all the ones I previously had, but the cameras were a bit bulky and were not wide view. This is one of the features that I didn’t consider when I was making my list. The problem is that the angle of view that you get with regular cameras is not wide enough for around-the-car surveillance. No matter where you mount the camera, you still get a view that is too narrow to be useful.

    I started looking for analog cameras that were wide-view, and soon came to conclusion that if I was to build an analog camera surveillance system for my camper, it would cost me an arm and a leg. So I ended up returning this system as well.
     
  19. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:51 PM
    #19
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Going Back to Where I Started: Car Back Up Cameras

    With all the knowledge that I acquired during this search for a practical surveillance system for my camper, I set out to create my own surveillance system. I revised the list of features that I wanted my surveillance system to have. This time I was much more specific.
    • The cameras have to be weather-proof.
    • The cameras have to be analog.
    • Recording feature was not a necessity.
    • The cameras have to be stealthy.
    • Good quality night time footage was an absolute necessity.
    • The cameras have to have a wide angle.
    • Power source has to be 12V DC.

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-49-51.png

    Specification

    As they say, “The devil is in the detail. The idea of using car cameras for surveillance system is a good one. My problem was that I didn’t have enough knowledge in the very beginning to design a system that would meet all of the requirements that I listed above. This time I dived deeply into specifications of all of the parts I was putting together.
    Camera

    upload_2024-2-4_21-50-22.png

    I looked at the specs of 4 cameras currently available on Amazon. All of the cameras were wide-view cameras with RCA connectors.
    • I needed a 12V DC camera.
    • I needed the highest resolution this type of camera could produce, which was 720 px.
    • I needed the widest angle that this type of camera could produce, which was 170 deg.
    • I wanted a quality camera that wouldn’t break my bank.
    In the end, I went with DoHonest camera that was on sale at that time for $19.99.
    Monitor

    I already had Haiway 10.1 inch Security Monitor from analog camera setup, which I decided to keep. This monitor outperforms surveillance monitors that you buy with 4 built-in RCA connectors. Here is the list of its features:
    • Monitor Resolution: 1024×600
    • Monitor Dimensions: 10.1in
    • Aspect Ratio: 16:9
    • Video Input Interface: HDMI/VGA/NC/AV/USB
    • Audio: Left/Right Audio output
    • Video Format: PAL/NTC Auto Switching
    • Viewing Angle: 178 Degree / Wide
    • Power Support: External Power Adapter (12V DC)
    RCA Splitter

    Since this security monitor did not come with a built in RCA splitter (4 IN 1 OUT), I had to find a way to connect 4 cameras to a monitor that had only one RCA Video input. Auto Wayfeng WF® 4 Cameras Combiner Box was a perfect solution for this. Here is the specs list:


    [​IMG]
    All this equipment is made to be used with wide-angle, high resolution cameras.
    Putting It All Together

    [​IMG]

    Everything worked as expected when I put it all together. The image quality of the image was beyond my expectations during the day and at night time.
    Side-view Cameras

    The biggest challenge of installation, aside from routing all the cables, is finding a location to mount all of this equipment. The best location that I found for two side-view cameras in the front was the trim around the wheel well.
    [​IMG]

    This location allows the cameras to be stealthy, and at time same time provides wide enough view of the surroundings.

    As with everything in this world, there is nothing that comes perfect out of the box. I had to make a few modifications to the camera to mount it anywhere on the car. The thing is that the camera mounting hardware included a split nut. This was unacceptable mounting solution for me. Every time I tried to tighten the camera, split nut would loose its grip and slide up the threads, thus damaging them. After several unsuccessful attempts, I went ahead and purchased M6-1.0 lock nuts from a nearby Home Depot to secure the camera.

    [​IMG]

    To thread the nut, I had to cut the cable.

    [​IMG]

    The trim is secured in place by several screws, which have to be undone to separate it from the body of the car.

    [​IMG]

    Once the screws are taken off, there are a few clamps that would need to be undone to move the trim to the side.

    [​IMG]

    The camera wire could then be threaded in through a hole and the lock nut secured.

    [​IMG]

    All of this is followed by soldering all the wires back in place.

    The best location that I found to route the wire inside of the vehicle was a hole under the driver’s/passenger’s leg area, which was originally closed by a rubber cap.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I drilled a hole through the rubber cap to pass the wire through. Additional silicon may be added to ensure weatherproofing.

    [​IMG]

    Since there was no direct access inside of the cabin space, I had to drill out a hole in the frame. A while back, I made a drill extension that would allow me to access hard to reach places. It is basically a threaded rod with a wheel chuck attached at the end. Harbor Freight Tools sells , and Home Depot sells threaded rods.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once the camera cable was routed inside of the cabin, I removed the trim and routed it along the stock wiring.

    upload_2024-2-4_21-47-29.png
     
  20. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:52 PM
    #20
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Front-view Camera

    [​IMG]

    Mounting front-view camera was a bit easier. I had to remove the top grill to drill the hole. The process of attaching the camera was the same as previously described.

    The most challenging part of this installation was routing the wires inside of the cabin space.

    [​IMG]

    There is huge hole that I made by expanding existing hole in the frame. Existing hole was covered with a rubber cap, just like the one underneath the vehicle. I used the same drill extension that was shown earlier, and a to accomplish this. I have a lot of wires going through this hole already. If you are planning to do something similar, I suggest to make the hole large enough to accommodate future modifications.

    [​IMG]

    To route the camera cables, I passed a long, cooper wire through that hole into the cabin of the car.

    Rear-view Camera

    There are several places where you can mount rear-view camera. I already have a camera on the rear hatch trim, so I decided to add security camera to the spoiler.

    [​IMG]

    Taking off the Spoiler
    The spoiler is held in place by 4 bolts and several clamps.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The bolts are located on the interior side of the hatch. You would need 10 mm socket to undo them.

    [​IMG]

    You have an option to remove rear wiper arm by undoing the bolt that holds it in place, or take of the trim that is around it.

    [​IMG]

    In my case, the arm was seized in place and will have to be cut off if it ever needs replacement.

    [​IMG]

    I took the path of less resistance and undone the clamps that held the trim in place.

    [​IMG]

    Once the trim is out of the way, you just need to undo 4 more clamps on the top of the spoiler and take off the connector.

    Installation of the camera
    [​IMG]

    The spoiler is a sealed unit. The only access to the interior that I could find was the light cap that is in the front. I could not undo the two screws that held the cap in place because, just like with the rear wiper arm, they were seized in place by corrosion and mineral deposits. Instead, I made a hole to mount the camera.

    [​IMG]

    The hole was then sealed with several layers of duck tape. It is not an aesthetic way of sealing large holes, but it certainly gets the job done.

    [​IMG]

    I already had a bundle of cables running to the interior of the vehicles, so I routed camera cable in a similar fashion.
     
  21. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:53 PM
    #21
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Monitor

    The most convenient location for the monitor that I could find was on the passenger’s seat headrest.

    [​IMG]

    I searched on Amazon for products that would allow me to secure the monitor in that location. The best product that I found was WONNIE Upgrade Tablet Holder for Car. It seemed good enough until it fails, and it will surely fail very soon because of the thin rubber holder. I decided to design my own monitor holder that would be able to endure everything I would put it through.

    [​IMG]

    It was designed to be held in place by the two rods that hold headrest in place.

    [​IMG]

    The monitor is mounted onto the vertical plane of the holder with four M4-0.7 flat head screws. The screws had to be shortened to 20 mm.

    [​IMG]

    The bottom of the holder is made out of several 1/2″ plywood pieces that were glued together to create a groove into which the vertical piece can be placed.

    [​IMG]

    I had DAYKIT 10 Pairs 12V Male+Female 2.1×5.5MM DC Power Jack Plug Adapters laying around, so I used them to make power cord for the monitor. The monitor already comes with a power cord, which can also be used.

    [​IMG]

    RCA Splitter

    RCA slitter was attached near the monitor on the side wall of the car.

    [​IMG]

    I taped on/off switch on top of it to have all the control switches in the same location.

    [​IMG]

    There is also an option to use a remote control that comes with the unit.

    Picture Quality

    You can judge picture quality for yourself. Distortion in the images is picked up by the phone camera, just like when you take a picture of the computer screen. In real life, all the images are smooth, and picture quality is clear.

    [​IMG]

    Quad display.

    [​IMG]

    Side-view camera. This view cannot be rotated. The quad screen display can be configured to show the side view footage on the side, but the picture looks out of proportions.

    [​IMG]

    Front-view camera.

    Monitor Settings

    This monitor comes packed with features that allow you to manipulate the image. You can adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness, color, hue, and many other settings to get desired picture. I desaturated all of my images, adjusted a brightness, contrast, and sharpness to my liking, and set NR and Dynamic Contrast to Low.

    [​IMG]

    Night Time View

    These cameras produce satisfactory results at night time. They do not have infrared LED lights, which would improve the quality of the image in very low light conditions. Description of the camera says that it is large aperture figure lens, which means, to me, that it needs at least some light to perform well.

    [​IMG]

    This is the view in low light conditions.

    The other cameras of similar design that I listed in the table also do not have built-in infrared LED lights. There are other ones that have comparable features and come with infrared LED lights, but they cannot be mounted on the side of the vehicle like this one. In the end, there is a trade off for everything.

    [​IMG]

    My solution was simple. I have outdoor LED lights that provide plenty of light to illuminate the vehicle all around. With LED lights on, the view of surroundings is exceptional. In the city, there is plenty of light even at night time, so there is no need for this extra step. In the wilderness, I can just turn on outdoor LED lights if the situation calls for it.

    Last Words

    I ended up removing this setup after my testing it on my last trip to Minnesota. In the wilderness it was practically useless even with LED light turned on. Front and rear cameras had very limited visibility. Side cameras functioned somewhat well.

    Side cameras were too noticeable and attracted too much attention. No one else around has side cameras installed, so my car stood out among others with two black cameras protruding on both of its sides. I wanted to make this setup as stealthy and simple as possible, but result was quite the opposite.

    I left attachment for the monitor in place. It can serve as a stand for the tablet when I am watching movies.
     
  22. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:54 PM
    #22
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    Roof Rack Cargo Design

    Roof rack cargo space on my build has gone through various changes over the past year. I consider it to be a continuation of the cargo space inside of the vehicle, so as I make changes to interior storage space, it immediately reflects on the design of the roof rack cargo space. You will soon see what I mean.

    Initial Design

    [​IMG]

    The initial design of the roof rack cargo was a learning experience. A few months after I built it, I encountered several problems with it.
    • Storage space was limited because solar panel was taking up more than 1/3 of the total available space.
    • The roof rack was too high because it was mounted on roof top cross bar set.
    • Recovery boards were taking up the other half of the roof rack space. They were positioned underneath the solar panel, so the total storage space available on the rack wasn’t much.
    First Revision

    The first problem was immediately solved after I revised my electrical system and got rid of the solar panel. To solve the second problem, I installed 03-23 4Runner Rola Rack Mount Kit. Even though it was intended for Rola Rack, it worked perfectly for ARKSEN 64 x 39 Inch Roof Rack that I had installed on my 4Runner.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This is what the hardware looks like. It is a simple design that allows you to use factory roof rails to mount your roof rack.

    Second Revision

    Over time, I felt the need to free up interior space. Things were just piling up and taking up precious living space. My solution was to install 2 x 108-Quart Plano Storage Containers. Sometimes you can find them at Home Depot for a lesser price than on Amazon.

    [​IMG]

    To do this, I had to tackle the third problem on the list. Recovery boards had to be relocated somewhere else. I looked all over the web searching for alternative ways to mount recovery boards, and could not find anything that I liked. Thinking outside of the box, I came up with the following solution.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The thing is that there is plenty of space under the roof rack. If I could find a way to place recovery boards under the roof rack, the problem would be solved. My way of doing this was to place recovery boards on pipe insulation foam that is sold at Home Depot. Its spans the entire length of the boards, it is light, and it is durable. The foam pushes the boards away from the roof, thus preventing them from scratching the paint. The boards were then secured with a cable lock for safety and security purposes.

    [​IMG]

    This was roof rack cargo space design before my last trip to the Northern part of the North American.
    • Huge trash bag that could store a week worth of trash on the left side.
    • Jerry can on the right side.
    • Recovery gear in the middle.
    • 2 x 108-Quart Plano Storage Containers in the front.
    Third Revision

    [​IMG]

    This revision happened after I crossed Canadian border. Somewhere in the remote wilderness of Canadian Rockies I came to conclusion that I could easily relocated a lot of things that were stored in the Plano containers to the interior storage wall unit. The problem that I had before was related to the rigid plastic storage containers I was accustomed to use. When I repacked all of the important things into , these bags fit perfectly in the spaces on the storage wall unit where plastic storage containers couldn’t.

    [​IMG]

    I also threw away a bunch of stuff that I didn’t need, but was carrying around with me for a long time. Why did I need bulky jumper cables when I had Jump-N-Carry jump starter? Why did I need inflation hoses for the other two tires when I was only inflating/deflating them two at a time?

    In Canada they have trash bins everywhere along the major highways, and no thrift stores around. After a few days of driving I decided to make someone a present, and placed all off these items along with Plano cases in one of these trash bins.

    [​IMG]

    By the end of the trip my roof rack was looking like this. I would say that I was blending in fairly well with city surroundings. My car was looking more like construction worker’s car rather than overlander’s car.

    Side Note

    I travel a lot for work, and on regular basis. Having a clean looking, low-profile car has become a necessity rather than something I wanted to do.

    Parking Garage Restricted Height Clearance

    When I travel for work, I have to park in parking garages with restricted height clearance.

    [​IMG]

    Ever tried getting in one of these with a lifted 4Runner that has Plano containers mounted on the roof rack? This is a picture that I found online, but the last parking garage where I had to park had similar restricted height clearance. I could still park there with both of the Plano boxes mounted. This was before getting the lift. I am not sure what the situation would have been after I got the car lifted. Right now, without Plano containers, the car is 7′-3″ high.

    Sketchy Neighborhoods and Campsites

    I also, sometimes, end up living in locations that are a bit sketchy. When I arrived to Colorado I rented a good Airbnb that was located about 10 min walk from East Colfax Ave and Quebec St, probably one of the worst neighborhoods in Denver, CO. It was too late to change anything after I realized where I ended up. The rent has already been paid. Parking a modified vehicle with rooftop storage containers in areas like this was not something I enjoyed doing. I moved out of that place eventually.

    International Overlanding

    In my opinion, crossing international borders is also easier when your vehicle and you attract less attention. At Canadian boarder I and the guy in a classic car who was transporting valuable transmission were stopped, searched, and interrogated thoroughly about our belongings and the nature of our travels. I think, I would also be alarmed if I saw strange looking dude with two cases full of who-knows-what pull up at the border intending to cross.

    I did three more border crossing after removing Plano containers from the roof rack. Not even a single time I was asked more than a few questions about the nature of my travels before being allowed to pass. I think Ted Simon nailed it when in one of his interviews he mentioned that the last thing that you want is to appear as a threat to the locals.
     
  23. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:55 PM
    #23
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    RAM Mount Cell Phone and Tablet Holders

    I use tablet for navigation and cell phone for many other things, so having them in a convenient location while driving is a must. I also travel trough areas where 4WD is required. Speaking from personal experience, regular cell phone and table holders will not last too long with this type of driving. RAM mount is the only solution that I found, which allowed me to build a strong and durable holder that I could mount in a convenient location.

    Cell Phone Holder

    [​IMG]

    I mounted cell phone holder on a flat area near the stereo player using RAM Mounts Diamond Ball Base with 1″ Ball. Diamond ball base was then attached to RAM Mounts Composite Double Socket Arm. For the cell phone holder I chose Beam Electronics Phone Car Air Vent Mount Holder. The mount that comes in a kit is made specifically for an air vent. To establish connection between cell phone mount and double socket arm, I used iBOLT 25mm / 1 inch to 17mm Composite Ball Adapter.

    There are several problems with these cell phone holders. The biggest one is that the mount holder breaks at the point where the arm meets the ball. This problem is eliminated by using a heavy duty composite ball adapter. The other problem is that the internal mechanism of the holder breaks. The only good solution that I found to this is replace that part of the mount with a new holder.

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-55-7.png
    Tablet Holder

    To make this mount I followed a similar design posted on an online forum.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This design can be adapted to any vehicle, but the mounting location of the ball bases will differ. This is where I mounted them on 4Runner. To mount the lower one, I had to drill several holes through the body of the car and secure it on the outside of the vehicle. The upper one is secured to the plastic trim that forms a part of the center console.

    This design should be easy to replicate and adapt using the parts list below.

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_21-55-25.png
     
  24. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:56 PM
    #24
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

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    107
    Hidden Winch Mount and Winch Installation

    Overall Weight of Assembly

    After full suspension overhaul I felt tempted to replace stock bumper with LFD Off Road Adjustable Hidden Winch Mount with Recovery Points. This hidden winch mount served dual purpose by having recovery points built into it. I didn’t want to install heavy steel bumper because of the cost and additional weight. According to my calculations, I was gaining 118 pounds by installing hidden winch mount along with Tiger Shark 9500SR 12V Synthetic Rope Winch.

    Item Weight

    Stock Bumper: 24 lbs
    Winch: 59 lbs
    Bumper: 83 lbs
    Total Weight: 118 lbs

    Installation of the Winch Mount

    By this time, I have already cleaned out all the threads, and replaced old bumper bolts with new ones. All I had to do was install winch plate in place of bumper reinforcement sub-assembly.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Power Steering Hard Line Relocation

    Installation of the winch sometimes requires you to rotate power steering hard line that is located in front of the radiator. I didn’t have to do that since I planned to relocate winch control box under the hood of the car.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Relocation of Winch Control Box

    To relocate winch control box, I had to first find space where I could safely mount it. After some research I decided to mount it in the location where a lot of people mount their ARB air compressors. To do this, I had to come up with a way to fabricate my own mount.

    Design of the mount was based on design of air compressor mount that I made not so long before this. A sheet of plywood cut that was shaped to fit available space was mounted on 3 studs, and secured by locking nuts above and below. The board was leveled by adjusting lower bolts. They are covered by washers in the picture below.

    [​IMG]

    View of the studs underneath the car. I eventually replaced them with long bolts.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Winch control box mounted in place.

    [​IMG]

    Winch Wiring

    My winch came with 2 AWG wiring. For winch control box relocation I ordered WARN 89960 ZEON Control Pack Relocation Kit, which was a big waste of money. I could have ordered 2 AWG wire and wire lugs for much less, cut the wire to size, and installed new lugs.

    Shut Off Switch

    Some people say that you need shut off switch for safety, while others say that it is pointless to have one. I decided to install one just in case.

    From one of the forum posts I found that Blue Sea Systems 9003E switch seems to be the right one for my application.

    Continuous Rating 350A
    Intermittent Rating 600A (5 min)
    Cranking Rating 30 sec 1200A

    "I went with a Blue Sea Systems 9003E after talking with Blue Sea by email. This is his reply to me
    Thank you for the question. The 9003e is rated for 350 amps continuous, but also 600 amps for 5 minutes. Then 1200 amps for 30 seconds cranking. It is highly unlikely you will draw over 600 amps for 5 minutes while winching. Most batteries simply cannot provide enough amperage at this level for that amount of time.
    https://www.wranglerforum.com/threads/winch-circuit-breaker-or-not.2418364/"

    [​IMG]


    Other Winch Mods

    Wireless Remote Control

    I liked the idea of having wireless remote control. I went with LIEBMAYA Wireless Winch Remote Control Kit that is sold for around $20 on Amazon. For that price you can’t go wrong. I still have an option to use wired remote control is this one fails.

    [​IMG]


    License Plate Holder & Winch Shackle

    I didn’t like an idea of winch hook hanging in the front, so I ordered MZS Winch Shackle that I can hide behind Astra Depot 254mm Flip-Up Hawse Fairlead Mounted License Plate Holder. The vehicle looks a little bit less aggressive with this setup.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  25. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:57 PM
    #25
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
    Member:
    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    Cell Phone Booster Foldable Antenna Mount

    Overtime, I found myself at great disadvantage having booster antenna mount that did not permit folding. The further North you get, the thicker the forests become. Driving under fallen trees when height clearance is barely enough for the car to make it through, becomes a daily occurrence. Aside from that, your car attracts a lot of attention from locals as you are passing through remote parts of the country. Looking cool and techy isn’t always the best thing.

    I have not seen any such products on the market when I first installed cell phone booster. Back then, I installed basic aluminum antenna mount. The only way for me to lower antenna was to unscrew it from the mount and lower it on the the roof rack.

    After some research, I came across this video on YouTube where a guy used flag pole holder bracket to make a foldable antenna mount. This was the solution I was looking for! I quickly ordered all the necessary parts and made one of these in the next few days.

    https://youtu.be/kRsNaBWPwNM


    This is what came out in the end.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  26. Feb 4, 2024 at 9:58 PM
    #26
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
    Member:
    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    DIY On Board Air System

    Air Compressor Mount

    Up to this time, I have been storing my air compressor inside of the vehicle. I have seen a few examples where people would mount them under the hood of their vehicle using specially fabricated mounts. There are a few mounts on the market for 4Runner that are compatible with ARB Single & Twin Air Compressor. Most seems to mount their air compressors in one single location. After looking under the hood I discovered that there is another spot next to the power steering fluid reservoir where one can easily mount air compressor without purchasing any additional mounts. My VIAIR 300P fits beautifully there, mounted by several bolts.

    [​IMG]

    To find location for the bolts, I disconnected and overlayed air compressor plate over the spot where I was planning to mount it.

    [​IMG]

    This gave me a general idea where to drill the holes in the mount to which power steering fluid reservoir is attached to, and air compressor plate. After careful measurements I drilled the holes, and inserted bolts through the holes by guiding them with a thread.

    [​IMG]

    The bolts were then secured with lock nuts. This created studs onto which I could easily place air compressor plate.

    [​IMG]

    Once air compressor plate was in place, I secured it with another set of lock nuts.

    [​IMG]

    Now, air compressor has its own home. I connected it directly to the battery. It has a toggle switch on its body, so there was not need to do any additional mods. I made a longer hose that could reach all the way to the ground. This allows me to connect it to tire inflator/deflator attachment that has become a part of on board air system.

    Tire Inflator/Deflator

    Until I came across this idea, I have been using Staun tire deflators. I can’t say that I was very fond of this tool. You can build full set of tire inflator/deflator for about the same price, which will be far more versatile and efficient.

    There are plenty of tutorials online that thoroughly cover the process of making this tool, so I am not going to go into too much detail about it’s creation. Here is the one that I followed:

    I simplified my design slightly, but overall the principle is the same. This is the list of parts that I used for this project. Most of them can be purchased on Amazon and Harbor Freight Tools. Total time it took me to make it was around an hour.

    upload_2024-2-4_21-58-29.png

    After a while, I further simplified the system to include only one extension that can attach to two tires at a time. My air compressor isn’t powerful enough to inflate four tires simultaneously, so carrying extra hose just to save a minute on deflation wasn’t something I wanted to do. Now, I can store the entire on board air system under the hood of the car.

    [​IMG]
     
  27. Feb 4, 2024 at 10:11 PM
    #27
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
    Member:
    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    Sunroof Cover

    After my trip to the Northern part of the Americas, I discovered that I often had to rely on sunroof for ventilation. Cracking windows open is just not enough to provide adequate ventilation in the camper. On the other hand, if you crack one of the windows open and open up the sunroof, there is plenty of ventilation in the camper to cook food and live comfortably.

    The big problem is elements. The sunroof is open to the elements and surroundings. The sun is constantly shining on you and all the interior gets wet from even slightest precipitation. I used to leave my sunroof open overnight, with mosquito net on, and upon awakening find my seats and electronics wet from a rainfall that appeared out of nowhere.

    My initial solution to this was to cover sunroof with a tarp that was suspended at an angle from the edge of the roof rack, and secured in place by passenger's and driver's side doors. This temporary solution worked fine for some time until I came across Nissan Xterra.


    [​IMG]
    When I saw the car, I thought to myself that whoever engineered it, was very thoughtful person. To my disappointment, I found out that this part of the roof rack doesn't serve the purpose of sunroof cover. Nevertheless, it sparked an idea of creating a permanent cover over sunroof that would protect interior of the camper from the elements, overhead cameras, and curios people up above.

    Sunroof Cover Construction

    [​IMG]

    Design of the cover is fairly simple. It consists of two pieces of corrugated metal roofing sheets. I was able to find project size sheets at home depot that were about 2 feet in length and just connected them together with screws along the middle. To give this construction rigidity, I reinforced it with several PVC pipes. The part that touches the roof of the vehicle was covered with pipe insulation foam and secured with large zip ties.

    [​IMG]

    I also added roofing material to the roof rack, to extend protection from the elements, especially when it rains.

    [​IMG]

    This is the end result.

    [​IMG]

    To secure the lower part of the cover, I drilled several holes along the edge of the sunroof opening. I then tied the cover with paracord that passed through newly made holes. Paracord is soft and thin enough to allow the sunroof to close completely, yet it is strong enough to hold everything in place.

    The top portion of the cover was secured to the roof rack with large zip ties.

    [​IMG]

    This is the view from the interior of the vehicle. The passenger's side of the cover is protected with awning. The driver's side is open to elements. I will have to see if I want to place additional protection along the sides. So far, I had no problems with rain getting into the vehicle.

    Last Words

    This construction was subsequently removed. One of the things I learned about building an overlanding vehicle is to never forget that I will mostly be traveling in the places where there are people. Before I started crossing state and international borders, I thought that I could build a car of my dreams and have all the possible things hanging off its exterior. I wanted the car that you see in the magazines. Right now I want the car that attracts as little attention as possible - just a vehicle that blends with with the rest of the traffic.
     
  28. Feb 4, 2024 at 10:13 PM
    #28
    strannik

    strannik [OP] New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2023
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    #34370
    Messages:
    107
    Overlanding Gym: Resistance Bands Bar and Platform

    Staying strong and healthy is one of the my main priorities while traveling. Overland travel that relies primarily on technology forces you to adapt a sedentary lifestyle if you don’t do something about it. Hiking or biking, on the other hand, is an activity that is naturally an endurance exercise, so the people that choose that style of travel have to be less creative when it comes to inventing their version of overlanding gym.

    Why Not Just Use Commercial Gyms?

    This was the first question that I asked myself. Commercial gyms are convenient because aside from quality workouts, they also provide other services that people may find useful in their travels. You often hear of van dwellers relying on commercial gyms for showers. This approach works fine if you are travel in the US, because there are plenty of gyms to choose from pretty much anywhere you go. The real problem begins when you start planning an overlanding trip that will take you to places where commercial gyms simply don’t exist.

    [​IMG]

    When I was planning my trip to the North, I mapped out all the Planet Fitness gyms along the route. There were plenty of locations to choose from in the US, but the further I traveled into Canada, the less options were available. Along the Alaska Highway, gyms became even more scarce than the gas stations.
    For this trip, my plan was to use PF gyms for showers and workouts. Taking a shower at a gym was not a problem. Working out, on the other hand, was a challenge. All the equipment that I would normally use at my home gym would always be taken by someone, so I always had to adapt to the situation. Knowing that I was limiting myself tremendously by relying on commercialized services I decided to come up with a better way to approach my fitness and hygiene. Just like with everything else, I decided to become self-reliant in this area as well.

    Resistance Band Training

    Resistance band training was the best solution that I could find to keep myself healthy on a long overlanding trip. It required minimum equipment, which could be stored in a small bag, and provided enough resistance for strength training.

    [​IMG]


    I could easily fit all the resistance bands that I needed in a small bag that I stored in the glove box.
    During my last trip to the North, I successfully used just the bands for my workouts. I could perform the same exercises I did in a gym without any significant issues. Although as the resistance increased, it was becoming harder and harder on my ankles and palms. To adapt this system to strength training, I created resistance bands training platform and a bar. With these new modifications, I can lift as heavy as I want without causing any discomfort to my ankles and palms.

    Construction

    [​IMG]

    The platform is made out 1 in x 12 in x 27 in red oak board that I purchased at Home Depot. This material is very dense and can easily withstand a lot of tension.

    [​IMG]

    A hockey pock was attached on each one of the four corners with 1.5 in screws.

    The platform is similar in design to the one shown in this video, but the length of the board is longer than 18 in. 18 in cutting board is a great material if you just want to do deadlifts and other exercises, but if you are serious about squatting, you probably want to get a board where you can keep your feet about shoulder width apart.

    The following video shows a commercialized approach to the same style of training. The equipment used here is far more ergonomically appropriate to maintain proper form while doing squats and other exercises. Also the design of the bar is much more versatile as opposed to the one used in the video before.

    This man has created a similar version of the RBT bar that is sold on Amazon, but from a galvanized pipe. I found his solution to be better for several reasons.
    • The pipe is already 1 inch in diameter without any extra padding added on top of it, which allows you to get a much better grip.
    • You don’t have to guess if this bar will withstand the load that you are placing on it. You simply know that it will, because all of the parts of the DIY version are rated to specific loads. Eye bolts, for example, can withstand 200 lbs each. While looking over reviews of the bar that is sold on Amazon, I saw plenty of comments regarding questionable nature of the manufacturer’s load rating. Making your own bar will removes any doubts.
    [​IMG]

    This is all the hardware that is required to make the bar. Triangular quick links are added afterwards. I decided to go with stainless steel parts because of the load rating.

    Parts

    upload_2024-2-4_22-13-3.png

    Personal Impression

    This system can successfully replace traditional Deadlift and Overhead Press with a barbell. I did not have a problem deadlifting and pressing at my 5 RM. Squatting with resistance bands, on the other hand, doesn’t feel right, even with addition of a platform and a bar. When you are deadlifting or doing overhead presses, the band is pre-stretched very well. This gives you significant resistance along the entire range of motion. When you are squatting, there isn’t enough tension in the band at the bottom of the squat even if you choose the largest band. If you choose the largest band that gives you a lot more resistance at the bottom, resistance on top may be too much for you to even do a few reps.
     
    n0mad, Han4Run and Ironguy like this.
  29. Feb 5, 2024 at 5:26 AM
    #29
    Ironguy

    Ironguy New Member

    Joined:
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    6,379
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    First Name:
    Ralph
    Bisbee AZ
    Vehicle:
    2020 Black 4Runner Venture 1967 FJ40 Land Cruiser
    New pine scent hanger, new sun shade
    Excellent write-up! Some nice ideas amd good links to other projects.
    Thanks and safe travels.
     
  30. Feb 5, 2024 at 1:13 PM
    #30
    kjfswkr

    kjfswkr New Member

    Joined:
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    Kevin
    New Hampshire
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    2023 4 Runner
     

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