The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Converting Cargo Trailers into TTTs

Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby kirkupnorth » Fri Dec 27, 2019 11:38 pm

Now that we've been going out camping in the CTC for a little over a year, we've learned a few things. One big lesson we learned was that our one battery was not enough! While it's sometimes a nice luxury to camp where we can plug in, there are just too many awesome camping opportunities in the boondocks. That sort of camping -- more space, fewer people, less traffic, etc., is what really appeals to us. Our one battery was not enough for boondocking, so we're upgrading the battery storage and preparing to add solar. We're really excited about these changes!

We're replacing our single AGM battery with two six volt golf cart batteries, which we're running in series. This will give us 230 amps, which is more than double what we previously had.

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We're putting them into this battery box which fits into the cabinet where the old battery was.

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The battery box came from amazon, and is here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NNMZC3R/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
We modified the box with a battery box vent so we can vent it outdoors. Then we ran flexible battery vent hose tubing out to the exterior vent. The battery box vent kit is from amazon, here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ON29N7C/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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We've ordered the solar panels, and they should be here next week. We already installed the MPPT Solar Controller. We decided to mount it just above the kitchen countertop, on the side wall next to the door. It's directly above the batteries and is easy to see, but it's still fairly inconspicuous.

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The controller also came from amazon, and is here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GGPQD1W/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o06_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

We're really excited about these upgrades and are looking forward to the additional freedom and flexibility they should give us.
8)
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby featherliteCT1 » Sat Dec 28, 2019 3:11 pm

I like that battery box.

Glad to see you added the solar system. I looked quickly through the User Manual for that controller and see that it has an almost bewildering array of features … which in my opinion is a very good thing. If I understood things correctly, you can program the charge parameters to match your battery manufacturing specifications.

Battery management can become another disease … at least for me. :D
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby kirkupnorth » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:29 pm

It's been a few days since we started our big project to add solar power to our CTC. We've made pretty good progress, while working around holidays and family obligations.

We got all of the wiring ready for the change, and got the two new batteries safely in place and vented. Geez....those things weigh a ton!!

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Then, we had to get busy on the solar panels. We decided to go with a 200W "Solar Suitcase", for a few reasons. Since we'd already installed our awning there was no room on the roof to use a rail system, so we would have had to drill some holes through the roof. We kind of like to avoid that whenever possible! Secondly, we often end up parking the camper in shaded/partially shaded sites. That was going to make rooftop solar kind of tough to deal with. We wanted some flexibility to find the sun in these situations.

We started shopping for solar suitcases and we were not too comfortable with the prices we saw. Renogy's 200W suitcase is $489, and Zamp's 230W is $884. We also were not thrilled with the included controllers, and the power loss we would experience running down the cables to the camper. We're planning to run 30' of 10AWG Solar cable and use an MC4 to SAE adapter. This way, our MPPT controller could be installed in the camper.

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We clearly had some pretty specific "must-haves".So, we decided to make our own solar suitcase -- how hard could it be, right??

We bought two HQST 100W panels -- the two-pack was $152.99. That was the easy part. Then, we had to figure out what type of "leg" system we'd be happy with. After ridiculous amounts of research and pondering, we decided to use aluminum stock for the legs and casement window hinges to operate them.

Here are the hinges, attached to 1" aluminum box stock. We used aluminum rivets to attach everything on these suitcase panels.

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After those were complete, we attached them under the panel rails. They fit perfectly!

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We used 1" L-shaped aluminum for each leg, and a 1" flat aluminum cross member to attach them. Each panel has its own leg system.

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When folded down for storage the legs fit easily within the panel rails, and they don't make contact with the back of the panel.

So, that's where we are right now. We still need to install the latches and the handle on our suitcase, and put the little protectors on the ends of the legs. We hope to finish it up in the next day or two, and then give it a test. We'll let you know how it goes.
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby hankaye » Mon Jan 06, 2020 7:05 am

kirkupnorth, Howdy;

You sir are a man with some talent. Well thought out and the most
important thing is you are happy with it.
:thumbsup: :thumbsup:

hank
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby kirkupnorth » Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:36 pm

Well, thanks Hank!

We finally got the suitcase finished and were able to test it out. Here are photos of the completed DIY 200W Solar Suitcase:
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The finished product weighs 35.5 pounds, which is about what the "store-bought" suitcases weigh. We put rubber corners on each panel corner, and little rubber feet on the ends of the legs.

The clasp and handle hardware were all a pleasant surprise, as far as quality goes. Much nicer than we expected!
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By far, though, our most impressive purchase was the battery minder. The Victron minder at $200 was just way too pricey for us. Instead, we got this from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FGFFHC6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 This was probably the best $43 we've ever spent! It works great, has a very low profile, and is very nice quality. The shunt is also very nice quality.
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So, hubby took the suitcase outside yesterday and hooked it up for a quick test. Keep in mind that it's January in far northern Minnesota, and it was 10:00 AM. AND...it wasn't really pointed at the sun, since he had it resting on a snowbank. Even so, we were able to get 6.2 Amps charging. We really just wanted to assure ourselves that it worked, and it does! We're really anxious to try it come spring and summer!

SO, if you're wanting portable solar but don't want to pay a premium price.....it is possible to build it yourself. If we can do it, you can, too!
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby hankaye » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:21 pm

kirkupnorth, Howdy;

:) , :thumbsup: , :thumbsup: , :applause: :applause: :applause:

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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby fishboat » Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:27 am

Very nice work on the suitcase panels.

Would you have a link to the solar panels themselves?

thx..
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby kirkupnorth » Fri Jan 10, 2020 8:13 am

Here are links to some of the components we used for our suitcase. Everything came from Amazon.

Solar panels: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018BP22LA/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s02?ie=UTF8&psc=1
I will say that the prices on these seem very fluid. When we bought ours, the two-pack was the best price. Sometimes, though, buying them as singles is the best deal. We chose this panel because we liked the shorter, more square-ish shape. Also, we wanted the thicker frame that this one had. We knew it would make it easier to attach all of the hardware.

Battery Minder: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FGFFHC6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
We really like this battery minder. It's super affordable, and full-featured. The shunt is rated at 500 Amps, and measures current flowing both into AND out of the battery. It tracks current amps and total amp hours. We set the gauge to 115AH, which is half the rated capacity of our batteries. This way, when the gauge shows empty battery, we've really used only 50% of our capacity. This provides a very accurate indicator of the current battery state. The traditional method of using voltage to monitor battery health is not accurate when charging, or when there is a heavy load on the battery. The high resolution of the amperage gauge, (up to three decimal places), shows how much power a particular device, or combination of devices, is using. At only $43, it's a lot more affordable than a Victron.

SAE Power Socket: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B081QXFXNG/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
We installed this socket on the wall of the camper so we can easily plug the suitcase in. It works great.

Solar Extension Cable: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BRFPD6R/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s03?ie=UTF8&psc=1
This gives us thirty feet of cable to be able to place the suitcase in sun, even if the camper itself is parked in a shady spot. We think this will be enough for most situations.

MC4 to SAE Adapter: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07V8SKTML/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1
This goes from the 30 foot cables to the power socket.

This project turned out to be a real learning experience, as a lot of research was required. We are very excited to finally have solar capability, and are looking forward to doing a lot more boondocking than we could do in the past.
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby kirkupnorth » Wed May 20, 2020 11:38 am

We've been busy adding an improvement to the CTC. With a 6x12, storage is at a premium. We've been wanting more on-board storage, so decided to put some boxes on the exterior front. The V-nose makes it kind of challenging, but where there's a will, (and a welder!), there's a way.

We got two nice quality locking storage boxes from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X8SFVY9/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Then, of course, we had to figure out how to safely attach them while still leaving room for the LP tank. Hubby got busy with the welder and some steel stock. I'm not gonna lie -- figuring out the angles took some head scratching, but he finally aced it! He built a frame to hold the boxes and tank. He cut off part of the base of our old tank holder to use on his new frame.

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He ran a vertical bar and welded a captured nut on to it for the LP Tank hold down. Here's what we ended up with:

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We're really excited about this, since it will increase our storage by A LOT!

We're still planning our big summer trip out to Yellowstone. It looks like all or most of the campgrounds in the park should be open by mid-June. I'm obsessively watching Yellowstone's web pages for updates!
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby McDave » Wed May 20, 2020 4:24 pm

:applause: :thumbsup:
I like it. I have a 6x12 also and agree there is little space to store anything inside. I have my generator on the tongue and spare attached to the ramp. Luckily, my tow vehicle is a van so I can carry more than I should. One word of advice, keep an eye on your tongue weight and just general weight and balance.
Really nice job on fabbing that system. It looks like you should have no problems with sharp turns or backing up. That's a pretty handy guy you have there
Mrs. Upnorth. Might need to give him a raise?
I will be just east of Yellowstone june 19-22 at Red Lodge and Beartooth Pass in Montana and then back there the 3rd weekend of july for the Ironhorse Rodeo and Bike rally, then back to Sturgis I think Aug. 5th or so. There is a lot to see at Yellowstone but if you want more check out the Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Hwy going to Cody. It's spectacular and not too far from where you will be. Grand Teton is awesome also.
Have a great time!

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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby Tas » Fri May 22, 2020 7:06 am

I'm new to this forum but not new to forums in general....how the heck do you subscribe to this thread?

Many great things in this one.....expecting pickup of my soon to be built Proline 6x12 and I'm collecting ideas.
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby kirkupnorth » Fri May 22, 2020 7:44 am

Hi, McDave-
Your comment about tongue weight really got us curious about what ours is. If I understand this correctly, a person can go to a CAT scale and get the trailer and truck weighed to figure it out. The nearest CAT scale is about an hour south of us. We're taking a small trip in June, so I think we'll stop by that scale and get it figured out. That way we can have good information before we load up and head out for Yellowstone.

Mr. UpNorth really appreciated your kind words about his metal fabricating, so thanks! You're probably right about him deserving a raise. I don't complain, though, so that's pretty good payment, right?? :D
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby kirkupnorth » Fri May 22, 2020 7:49 am

Tas wrote:I'm new to this forum but not new to forums in general....how the heck do you subscribe to this thread?

Many great things in this one.....expecting pickup of my soon to be built Proline 6x12 and I'm collecting ideas.


Hi, Tas, and welcome to the CTC party!! I don't know how to subscribe to a particular thread...maybe someone else does. Thanks for your kind words about our camper. We had a lot of fun building it, and we really enjoy using it!! We used to tent camp, but we hadn't camped in years before doing this project. This is so much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground!!

We can't wait to watch your Proline build -- take lots of pictures, and enjoy the build!
8)
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby onehoser » Fri May 22, 2020 12:59 pm

Tas wrote:I'm new to this forum but not new to forums in general....how the heck do you subscribe to this thread?

Many great things in this one.....expecting pickup of my soon to be built Proline 6x12 and I'm collecting ideas.



hi tas,

you can subscribe right at the very bottom left of the page
I am the wisest man alive, for i know one thing, and that is that i know nothing. (socrates)
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Re: The Adventure Begins: 6x12 V-Nose Conversion

Postby McDave » Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:58 am

Hey Mr. & Mrs. Upnorth,
I stumbled across this video and thought you might like to see it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78HnNT689ac

I am heading up to Red Lodge this weekend (hopefully) and will be riding the Beartooth and Chief Joseph Highways. Then back there again the third weekend in July for the Rally. Crazy weather here lately, snow last weekend, over 100f Saturday and yesterday and very windy. Hoping for somewhere in the middle this weekend. :NC

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