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RE: Boondocking and working with no electricity

When calculating the true cost of solar vs no solar, you need to put a number on the value of not having to run your generator, to listen to it, to smell it, to refuel it, etc. I don't know how to quantify that variable, but it is very significant, especially if you are boondocking in some beautiful remote area. To put it another way, it cost me a few hundred bucks for a decent 120 watt solar panel, and several hundred for my almost never used Honda generator. You would have to pay me a LOT of money to give up my solar panel and run my generator instead.
profdant139 10/24/21 10:35pm Tech Issues
RE: Installing Glowsteps as a one person DIY job (long post)

opnspaces, I did think about fastening the jacks to the bottom platform on the furniture dolly, and I would have done so if it felt unstable. But that would have meant drilling holes in the base of the jacks -- not impossible, but a bit of a chore. If I were lifting anything really heavy or bulky, I would certainly bolt the jacks!!
profdant139 10/23/21 10:41am Do It Yourself Modifications and Upgrades (DIY)
Installing Glowsteps as a one person DIY job (long post)

If you are reading this, you either have a set of the Torklift Glowstep Revolution steps ("GSRs") already, or you are thinking about buying them. Years ago, I posted a "pro and con" discussion about the GSR at: Pros and Cons And I posted about the installation at: Installation tips and tricks Most of that info is still valid. But this is an update, with some new tips and tricks on the installation process as a one-person job, along with some comments (both pro and con) about some new features of the GSR. First, the back-story – Torklift sent me a free set of GSRs in 2015. They worked great – we did a lot of boondocking in rough terrain, and these steps made it much easier to get in and out of the trailer. But in early October of 2021, I had a blowout of my right tire on my little trailer (a story for another time!), and the flapping of the ruined tire damaged the steps. (Blowout damage is an unavoidable risk on very small trailers, where the door is right behind the wheel well.) So I called Torklift, hoping that they still had the dimensions of my original installation on file. They did, and they offered to ship me a new set, free of charge! I was intending to pay full price, and I told them so. But they were very gracious. I also told them I would post an updated discussion of the GSR on, no holds barred, as you will see below. They understood that I would be as objective as possible. I am impressed with their customer service – their technical staff is here in the USA (in Washington, near Tacoma), they answer their phones, and they are quite knowledgeable. So let's talk about a one-person installation. Before getting going on the installation, you will need to remove your existing steps from the brackets. Be sure to have on hand a full set of end wrenches and/or socket wrenches. Most of the hardware will be 7/16, 1/2, or 9/16. I found it helpful to have some ratcheting closed-end wrenches, which are handy when working in confined spaces because you don't have to reposition the wrench like you do with an ordinary open-end wrench. The GSR comes in two main pieces – the frame, which bolts to the mounting brackets on your RV, and the steps themselves. Both pieces are shipped as one bigger piece. If you are doing a two-person installation, you are good to go – no need to separate the pieces. The strong person will hold the frame in the mounting brackets, and the wrench person will bolt the frame into place. But if you are by yourself, you will have to unbolt the steps from the frame. In my opinion, the relevant diagram in the installation manual (Figure 3.1.B) is not very clear. In addition to the "exploded" diagram, they should have an "unexploded" version with an arrow pointing to the correct bolts to be removed, so that there is no ambiguity. There should also be some textual guidance, sort of like this: "The two bolts to be removed are the ones that join the silver aluminum steps to the black steel frame." Now that you have gotten rid of the steps, you need a way to lift up the metal frame so that it can be bolted to the existing brackets on your RV. I solved that problem with two automotive scissor jacks (see photos below). I first grabbed my furniture dolly and covered it with a piece of plywood. I then put the jacks onto that plywood platform and put another piece of plywood on top of the jacks. Make sure the plywood platform is a little wider than the metal frame so that it supports the edges easily. I then put the frame of the GSR onto the top piece of plywood. I rolled the furniture dolly under the RV and slowly raised the jacks to lift the frame into place between the mounting brackets: "border=0" For Full-Size Image. Notice that although my driveway slants, I was able to use the jacks to align the frame to compensate for the slant. One more tip -- instead of trying to balance the top piece of plywood on the jacks (don't do that -- it doesn't work, as I discovered), I fastened a temporary wooden extender on top of each jack: "border=0" For Full-Size Image. As a result, the top piece of plywood rested securely on the jacks, making it much easier to lift the frame into the proper position. Before you bolt the frame into the brackets, check to see how closely the frame fits to your mounting brackets. If there is a lot of room, use the spacer plates that were included in your shipment from Torklift. The spacer plates are a quarter of an inch wide. They have a strip of two-sided tape, which enables you to put the spacer into place and then raise the frame, while the spacer stays put. You might only need one of the spacer plates. If your mounting brackets are within a quarter inch of perfect, you won't need a spacer plate – just tighten the mounting bolts sufficiently, and you're done. Then re-attach the steps to the frame assembly. The whole job took me a few hours, working slowly and carefully. I should add that I am approaching 70 years old and have a bad back. You do not have to be young and strong to do this job by yourself. Some other comments: This version of the GSR has much better legs than the older model. The portion of the legs that come into contact with the ground are made of high-density rubber and look to be very durable. The foot assembly pivots more easily than the old one did. And the length adjustment for the legs is better than it used to be. Torklift redesigned the locking lanyard pin that secures the steps. It is safer than the former pin, but it is slightly harder to use. I think that the lanyard pin is a little too short -- it is hard to get a grasp on it to pull it out, particularly if you have arthritic fingers. Also, it might make sense to have pins on both sides of the GSR, rather than only on the left side, for extra security. I hope this discussion helps future GSR customers through the DIY installation process.
profdant139 10/22/21 05:44pm Do It Yourself Modifications and Upgrades (DIY)
RuggedFlex solar panels -- a significant new product??

I just read this article: Article I don't know enough about flexible panels to evaluate this new product, but it seems like a game-changer. I wonder if it could be used for portable panels, in addition to permanent installations? My guess it that it is kind of expensive on a "dollars per watt" basis, but the rugged engineering would provide enough value to justify the expense.
profdant139 10/22/21 12:33pm Tech Issues
RE: Anderson connectors: if too small, is that a bottleneck?

So many great responses -- thanks to all who have posted!! The controller is currently (no pun) attached to the underside of the portable panel -- protected from the weather, but it sounds like I should try to move the controller to be near the battery. I'm not sure exactly how much juice this "120 watt" panel provides, but it has been a workhorse -- we point it south, tilt it up on its frame, and away it goes. Most of the time, it provides all the juice we can use -- our group 31 battery never gets below 12.2 volts and is usually at 12.7. (I check with a multi-meter.) When I redo my cable to a full fifty feet, I will monitor the panel's performance and will post a new thread. Thanks again for all of the help!
profdant139 10/16/21 02:37am Tech Issues
RE: Anderson connectors: if too small, is that a bottleneck?

Ed, I am the OP, and I am again showing my ignorance here -- why would a 120 wat portable panel (like mine) be immune to a voltage drop? Is the drop worse for more powerful solar panels? The more I read the posts on this forum, the more I wish I had taken some electrical engineering courses in college, rather than a bunch of soft social sciences!! ;)
profdant139 10/13/21 09:34pm Tech Issues
Anderson connectors: if too small, is that a bottleneck?

(This question is an offshoot of my question about cables to portable solar panels -- but since the subject of Anderson connectors comes up in a variety of contexts, I thought it would be better to start a new thread.) Anderson connectors seem to be very useful for "plug and play" electrical power. I did a little research, and (of course) managed to confuse myself thoroughly. I see that they come in various sizes. To borrow a phrase, does size matter? For example, if I am using ten gauge wire to draw power from my portable solar panel, but I choose a too-small Anderson connector, have I created a bottleneck that defeats the purpose of the heavier wire? The obvious analogy is to a garden hose -- if you hitch a 3/4 inch hose to a half inch hose, you are going to be limited to the flow rate of the smaller hose. Does the same limitation apply to the Anderson connector? And if so, how do I choose the right connector for the job? Thanks in advance for your collective insights, bearing in mind that lots of us who read the Tech forum postings have little or no technical expertise.
profdant139 10/13/21 10:09am Tech Issues
RE: Need advice on 50 ft cable to portable solar panel

I am going to display my ignorance here, so be ready to laugh. How do I tell what kind of controller I have?? It is built in to the portable panel -- but I bet I could un-attach it, with enough brute force. ;)
profdant139 10/12/21 01:02pm Tech Issues
RE: Need advice on 50 ft cable to portable solar panel

Very interesting points about moving the controller -- I will have to experiment with that to see how much difference it makes.
profdant139 10/11/21 10:57pm Tech Issues
RE: Need advice on 50 ft cable to portable solar panel

Lots of good tips so far -- keep 'em coming! I had not thought about welding cable -- I bet that is available at Harbor Freight -- they have a whole welding aisle.
profdant139 10/11/21 07:27pm Tech Issues
Need advice on 50 ft cable to portable solar panel

We have a 120 watt portable solar panel -- it almost always generates enough power to top off our battery every day. We usually park the trailer in the shade and put the panel in the sun. We have a 30 foot cord -- heavy gauge (I think 12 gauge). Very little voltage drop. But there are times when we wish we had a longer cable -- 50 feet would do the job for sure. So that is my question – I know that a ten gauge cable would be ok, but it is thick and heavy and awkward to deal with. Would a twelve gauge cable cause a significant voltage drop? Are there reference tables that indicate how much of a drop is caused by a cable of X gauge at Y feet? Thanks in advance for your expertise!
profdant139 10/11/21 05:51pm Tech Issues
TR: Eastern Sierra

Here's another just-published blog post: Eastern Sierra
profdant139 10/11/21 05:07pm Public Lands, Boondocking and Dry Camping
Aurora activity high -- and not much moon!

Bundle up! Looks like some great aurora activity is on the way -- I wish I were way up North. Good luck, and hope for no cloud cover. Article about solar flare Aurora forecast
profdant139 10/11/21 11:32am RVing in Canada and Alaska
RE: "All-terrain" step stool??

I think I just found a possible solution -- it is kind of low to the ground for what I had in mind, but it's a start: Possible solution
profdant139 10/10/21 10:40pm Tech Issues
"All-terrain" step stool??

There are times when I need a step stool that can adapt to uneven surfaces -- we mostly boondock, and an ordinary step stool can't cope with rocky and un-level ground. Probably would have adjustable legs, I guess. Do you know of a product that fills this need? Thanks in advance for your collective wisdom. (And if someone takes this idea and makes millions off of it, I will be your first customer!)
profdant139 10/10/21 10:37pm Tech Issues
TR: Northern Coastal Redwoods

Here's our blog post -- lots of photos of big trees: Norcal Redwoods
profdant139 10/10/21 05:35pm Public Lands, Boondocking and Dry Camping
RE: Will Fed shutdown bar access to Nat Forests? Nat Parks?

BLM land is a great thought -- gotta do some quick homework to find an alternate if the shutdown takes place.
profdant139 09/24/21 10:26pm Public Lands, Boondocking and Dry Camping
RE: Will Fed shutdown bar access to Nat Forests? Nat Parks?

Yes, charleston -- if Congress does not extend the deadline, the government will shut down on Sept. 30. Assuming that this really happens (and it has a few times in the past), the question is what effect this will have on the forests and the parks. Again, I am making no political judgments here -- this thread is just about access to the forests and the parks. And, as you might guess, I am on the verge of a camping trip that would be seriously affected by those closures -- so I am trying to figure out what to do. Stay home? Go and hope for the best??
profdant139 09/24/21 12:55pm Public Lands, Boondocking and Dry Camping
Will Fed shutdown bar access to Nat Forests? Nat Parks?

Note -- I am seeking factual info and am not making a political statement. I do not care who is responsible for the upcoming shutdown. I just want to know this: if I am already boondocking in a national forest (which happens to be near a national park), and the shutdown happens, will I have to leave the national forest? Even if not, will I be able to enter the national park at all? My guess is that there is no hard and fast nation-wide answer to those two questions -- the answers may depend on the decisions made by each national forest and each national park. Thanks in advance for your answers. Please bear in mind that if we veer over the edge and start blaming one side or the other for this impasse, the moderators will shut down the thread, depriving all of us of a potentially useful discussion.
profdant139 09/24/21 09:57am Public Lands, Boondocking and Dry Camping
RE: Redwoods...Ave of the Giants and Newton Drury Pkwy

Agree on Ancient Redwoods -- very big rig friendly. In late May and early June, the cherry trees planted between the sites have ripe fruit -- these are Rainier cherries. They are a little tart but very flavorful: "border=0" For Full-Size Image. And in August, they have great blackberries, too.
profdant139 09/22/21 06:02pm Roads and Routes
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