Overland Expo West 2021

I was not paying attention that the overland expo west had been postponed to September and after seeing a post by A2A expedition (Graham Bell) that they were racing to be there. I headed up the night before and camped overnight and managed to make it to the Bell’s presentation. What a neat story and a great journey and such a nice family. (https://www.a2aexpedition.com/).

Graham Bell -A2A Expedition

The interesting thing for me at this expo that was so much different than the last one two years ago was that I was not comparing trailers and sale tactics for the trailers we were representing at the time. I also noticed that all of the tools and gadgets are not needed in my setup. I was looking for two specific things; a better cook system and a solution for more comfort for the next big trip.

Old Jeep truck like my dad’s

I did not find something for cooking that was what I was looking for…but I did see something in a product that resonated with what I was thinking. It is not a bolt in solution, but it is something that I might be able to create or adapt. I did some searching afterwards and still there is nothing like it out there. I am letting the idea percolate and we will see.

Dream vehicle. 89 Landcruiser troops.

The second thing is a more comfortable environment when out on long-term travel. I like the van conversions but there are sometimes places I want to go that those vehicles will not take FJ is amazing and can get just about everywhere, but when Carl and I were above the Arctic circle and mosquitos were insane, it would have been nice to have a couch to sit on or a kitchen to prepare meals. It also has to be as easy to set up. With this in mind, I opened my mind and looked around. Truck slide ins caught my mind.

I found one that really appealed to me. It was open and airy and had a simple setup. Th problem with it was the hefty price. I can probably find a good truck for $30-40k if I look around, but adding on another $45k seems excessive. There were several other brands and some that caught my attention were the ones that had the basics, but also could be modified. That is my sweet spot. And after some looking on Craigslist and some other sites, it turns out there are several models in the $15-20K range or less if I get a good used one. So now my head is spinning and I am working a plan.

Potential options

Maybe my better half can find some time to connect with me and we can discuss what I am thinking.

Camping again – A long time coming

I had not camped with the FJ since May 2021 and I had to get out. I did a trip to Maine by airplane and hiked 87 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which was fun and painful. It is so beautiful up there.

Abol Bridge campground at sunset

Finally in September I got tired of the incessant heat here in Arizona and headed up to northern Arizona. I first did a bike ride on a day trip and then did a two nighter bike trip with the FJ Cruiser Overlander. It is funny now that I have tuned it to such a point that all I have to do is find a fairly level spot and within 10 minutes I am completely set up with a chair and beer in hand.

Camping mongolion rim
Camping mongolion rim

I noticed I wanted some better camp lights and had a friend years ago that used rock lights under the truck. I ordered a set and will have them installed this week so I am ready for the Moab camping trip in two weeks.

Biking the Arizona Trail
Arizona Trail
Camping with the elk herd

To Solar or not to Solar

That makes more sense…

I have lots of favorite upgraded in the FJ Cruiser and one of the many bests is the ARB Fridge in the back that keeps the water, sodas, and beers cold. I have been tuning it for years and made it a full-time item over two years ago. I ran into problems with battery fatigue caused by too many discharges. It turned out that the battery was not being adequately charged with the solenoid circuit and the alternator. So instead of purchasing another battery, I added in a RedArc BCDC2525D charging system. It conditions the AGM battery properly and during the Alaska trip, as long as I didn’t keep the 300W inverter running overnight, the battery would never go below 12.3V. However, now that I live in Mesa, Arizona and it is F****NG hot here, the fridge has a hard time keeping things cold. In its valiant efforts in a 150 degree vehicle, it sucks current from the battery and in less than a day can decimate the battery.

Since the RedArc charger has a solar circuit, I bought a 100W solar panel on Amazon Prime days and hooked it up. It puts out 4-6A of current consistently during the day and since the fridge should not take more than 1-2 Amps, It should not suck the battery dry. The problem, however is that it seems to maintain 12.2V when charging, but when I am driving, it ignores the alternator input and just uses solar. This would be OK if the system would boost charge at 14V, but it will not. I decided to send a note to RedArc and ask for some advice.

To RedArc: I have a yellow-top battery as a secondary in my FJ Cruiser. It is isolated from the main and I use a BCDC2525D system to charge it. The battery is only 55AH, but its primary job is to power USB and an ARB 60L fridge. It has worked great so far on a 7 week overlanding trip. However, I have noticed that if the temperature outside is in the 80’sF (26C), the battery will last up to 2 days with the fridge and the truck off. It has so far charged the battery perfectly with daily driving.

However, I recently moved to Phoenix Arizona, which has temperatures outside above 100 deg F (38C). This makes the truck interior hot and the fridge has to work extremely hard to keep the temperatures down. I generally keep the windows cracked, but basically the fridge will drain the battery in less than 12 hours in this heat. So I purchased a 100W solar panel and in full sun it puts out 4-6 Amps of current throughout the day, so I thought this would keep the battery charged. It seemed to work the first two days with the truck sitting. But the battery was down to 12.0 V about mid day today so I drove it around for an hour on errands and I noticed an issue: the solar keeps the charging voltage to 12.2 to 12.4 V rather than the normal 13.5-14.3V that it was charging from the alternator input alone (through the BCDC2525D). Is this how it is supposed to work? Tonight the battery was at 11.7V and I shut the fridge off to keep it from draining the battery to cutoff.

I understand the temperatures are hot here this time of year, but I would expect the RedArc charger to kick charging up to max 14V when the truck is operating, especially if the solar is only putting out 4-6A.

Should I rig up an isolator that disconnects the solar circuit when the truck is running so the BCDC2525D will use only the vehicle alternator charging circuit?

I will see what they say.