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Old 06-02-2022, 08:31 AM   #1
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Off-grid trailer for the Interstate van

This thread follows up on (and hopefully will expound) Interstate camper van on a diet, in which the topic of trailers was explored. My husband and I have tentatively decided to TRY to get a small trailer and to customize it for long-haul off-grid Interstate trips.

I say “try” because we cannot predict what we will discover to be sold out next with all the global supply chain foul-ups that are continuing unabated. I no longer make any assumptions about what I can buy, and cannot buy. One key missing component can scuttle an entire project for months at a time, as we recently confirmed on other unrelated initiatives.

Anyway, this may be a short thread for the immediate future, but let me add some value despite the uncertainties. Here’s a great DIY example of a simple off-grid solar trailer, and a money shot of that author’s configuration:

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Old 06-02-2022, 08:51 AM   #2
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My friend has one of these and they’re quite clever and very well built. Plus they source components locally.

https://www.sylvansport.com/go-camping-trailer/
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Old 06-02-2022, 10:15 AM   #3
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My friend has one of these and they’re quite clever and very well built. Plus they source components locally.

https://www.sylvansport.com/go-camping-trailer/
Today in the category of "small world phenomena", your referenced North Carolina trailer builder either shot or photoshopped his homepage imagery in Meat Cove Nova Scotia, which is 74 miles from my own off-grid paradise (and man, we could tell you some tales about that whole place):

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Old 06-02-2022, 11:55 AM   #4
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This is a sobering consideration for any off-grid build aspiration. Raw lithium feedstock is now eleven times the cost it was a few years back when we installed a 300 AH battery in our Interstate.

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Old 06-02-2022, 12:40 PM   #5
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Hi

We have a few months / few thousand miles in on our version of the "trailer for a van". It's got a pair of fridges and about 350AH of Lithium batteries. The only real complaint is impact the top speed and fuel economy of the van .

Bob
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Old 06-02-2022, 04:42 PM   #6
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Hi

We have a few months / few thousand miles in on our version of the "trailer for a van". It's got a pair of fridges and about 350AH of Lithium batteries. The only real complaint is impact the top speed and fuel economy of the van .

Bob
Did you post pics of that on any threads? I'd like to see it.
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Old 06-02-2022, 04:59 PM   #7
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Y’all need to learn a new word if you haven’t already, because it’s already Word of the Year for 2022 even though we’ve only made it as far as June:

Allocate.

If you want anything in this period of acute shortages, the best way to get it is to go in person to a reputable retailer, and have him/her help you jointly plead your case to their wholesaler. Ask the wholesaler to allocate one unit of production to the retailer on your behalf. Ask nicely. Say “please” a lot. Gently prod them on the delivery date.

If you don’t do that, then the wholesaler will probably allocate the scarce resource to some other retailer, because the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

So that’s what I did this afternoon on a Cargo Mate TXEHW58SA. I told the wholesaler over the phone that I really wanted to give the nice retailer man (in whose office I was standing) a deposit on the trailer, but I needed to have an idea as to when said allocation would occur. I can wait a while, but I can’t wait until October. The wholesaler gave me a verbal commitment of end of June or, failing that, second week of July (because the factory shuts down for the July 4th week).

I learned this tactic during April and May of this year as we were desperately trying to replace my husband’s 17-year-old daily driver during this time of no car production, because the old POS finally died. It’s all about the allocation. It took us a month, a nation-wide search, and a great deal of finagling, but we finally got allocated a new car (at $2K over MSRP, which is a steal given that a low-end car often sells for $5K - $10K over MSRP these days). This approach takes incredible amounts of time, energy, and persistence, but it can be done.
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Old 06-03-2022, 05:23 AM   #8
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Continuing the off-thread: Your 'nation-wide search' must have been in a different nation. In mid April we put a $500 deposit on a car with a planned build the week of 8 May. We took delivery of it on 31 May. We have never ordered a new car before, so am not sure what is normal. Paid MSRP. MSRP for the new car minus what they gave us for a 4 year old, 44,000 mile trade-in of exactly the same model/trim meant that we drove our traded-in car for $1500 per year.
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Old 06-03-2022, 05:57 AM   #9
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Continuing the off-thread: Your 'nation-wide search' must have been in a different nation. In mid April we put a $500 deposit on a car with a planned build the week of 8 May. We took delivery of it on 31 May. We have never ordered a new car before, so am not sure what is normal. Paid MSRP. MSRP for the new car minus what they gave us for a 4 year old, 44,000 mile trade-in of exactly the same model/trim meant that we drove our traded-in car for $1500 per year.
No, it was here, but we are not in rural Iowa. We live in a metro of 7 million people where the competition is 100 times as intense for any given scarce resource.

I am now noticing the same phenomenon with trailers as we did with cars: stock is not being distributed on a per capita basis. For example, this morning, I might be able to snag a trailer that approximates what I want if I drive 90 miles to Beaumont TX, population 117,000. But here in Houston? Zero chance.

My husband wanted one of several models of Hyundai, although we were flexible and also searched for comparable hatchbacks across multiple other manufacturers. The problem with nationwide searching proved to be the endless game of bait and switch, which is why I won't try the same strategy now in procuring a trailer for our Interstate. Dealers were either lying about the availability or lying about the price. We never could get a confident feel that it was worth cashing in some frequent flyer miles to go get a new car. My husband probably spent 40 hours trying.

Just to give you one data point, we live in the "greater Clear Lake" area of Houston, population approx. 300,000 (loosely defined). One of the car dealers in this immediate area was allocated 4 new cars for the month of April. Four new cars total ended up on their sales lot. How much competition do you reckon there was for those units?!

When we finally identified an acceptable Hyundai (the model was not our first choice), we were on the dealer's lot within 90 minutes of its delivery, prepared to pay cash if necessary. The dealer proceeded to make us wait there in the dealership for 3 hours before we could close the sale, because he was desperately hoping that another buyer would show up and start a bidding war. Fortunately it was a weekday with the usual bad rush hour traffic, and nobody materialized in time, and he was compelled to sell it to us.

Now, back to my aspirational Interstate trailer. Yesterday, I drove outside of Houston to a rural area and met with the family-owned business that I hope to buy from. I don't believe that they will double-cross me, but they are at the mercy of their supplier.
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Old 06-03-2022, 10:56 AM   #10
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Did you post pics of that on any threads? I'd like to see it.
Hi

I'll get a picture up eventually.

It's nothing special. We got a Hiker ( brand of SOB) and did work inside it to mount this and that. The 100W solar on the roof is a joke with what's mounted over it ....

As long as we are "in motion" the DC/DC from the van charge wire keeps up with the two Domestic fridges pretty well. If we park for more than four days the batteries are pretty far down. With our travel vs "hang around" profile that's worked. It might not work for somebody else. There's always the generator in the van to top things off ....

Bob
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Old 06-03-2022, 03:22 PM   #11
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Hi

....We got a Hiker ( brand of SOB) and did work inside it to mount this and that. The 100W solar on the roof is a joke with what's mounted over it ....

....
Those are neat looking trailers. We hope to put multiple solar panels on top of ours (assuming we get it) so that we can run maybe a 3.5 cubic foot freezer, plus power our lithium landscaping tools. On our 2020 trip, the van's existing 300 watt solar / 300 AH lithium / inverter setup did manage to charge those huge Ego batteries, but I had to be careful with energy budget, and I would like more solar to work with.

Plus take two full-sized bicycles, and the modular kayak, and a big fire ring, chain saw, gasoline tank, extra propane, and take a boat-load of other weight off the van. That's the goal, anyway.

I could even get a Dutch oven which I've wanted for years, and carry a big bag of charcoal to go with it. Who knows?? Maybe even an Instant Pot if I had additional electrical capacity.
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Old 06-04-2022, 09:12 AM   #12
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Hi

Still struggling with pictures here. This is the model we got:

https://www.hikertrailers.com/2022-eor

They have changed the trim options yet again so our "everything including the rear spare tire" trim is no longer on the list. Clearance wise that model is way more capable than the van. If a motorcycle or something like that was on the "need" list, it would be very impractical. The bed height and doors simply would not work for that. For putting Dometic CFX3 fridges at the right height, it's ideal .... There never is a one size fits all answer.

Bob
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Old 06-04-2022, 05:21 PM   #13
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Very cool idea, something I’ve been thinking about for a while.
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Old 06-04-2022, 06:38 PM   #14
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Hi

If you go the "teardrop" approach as we did, be careful about weights. The information we received in ordering ours was less than helpful in this regard.....

Bob
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Old 06-07-2022, 06:31 AM   #15
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No, it was here, but we are not in rural Iowa. We live in a metro of 7 million people where the competition is 100 times as intense for any given scarce resource.

.....
Coincidentally, a woman just went viral with a short video describing her shock and disorientation at actually being able to buy goods and services within the state of Iowa. It is worth reemphasizing this phenomenon because it's a game changer for those of us who do a lot of technical DIY work.

For that matter, it has become a game changer for anyone who wants to buy, or have serviced, an Airstream in the first place. Or a new car. Or anything else.

It's easy to see why this distortion is occurring. Manufacturers want to be able to showcase a nice map of distributors showing red location dots blanketing the entire country. Look at all the coverage we have! Look at our market penetration!

Well, in order to retain those distributors, the manufacturers have to supply each one of them with a de minimis inventory of product. Otherwise, the distributors are forced to absorb all the overhead cost associated with a distributorship, but they get none of the profit in exchange for that, and so they will drop the manufacturers as a result.

And that is one big driver behind what we are seeing right now, which is zero chance of ever obtaining many products inside major metro areas. In shortage conditions, manufacturers are sending similar de minimis quantities to markets that have a 70,000 person population as they are to those that have a 7 million person population. There's no longer any ability to scale deliveries on a per capita basis.

The business from which I ordered my trailer (which I may or may not ever receive) is backordered by one thousand trailers, as reported to me by the owner. Many will not be delivered until at least 2023. I drove outside Houston to place that order, but due to time constraints, I only went into one of the nearby rural counties. I probably should have gone a hundred miles further out.

Thread adaptation from the viral vid story linked above. The vid is short and worth watching (language NSFW):

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Old 06-19-2022, 06:14 AM   #16
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Within the next 8 business days, I will either have a trailer, or I will not. That was the original projection for delivery on the CargoMate upon which I put money down.

And based on that delivery outcome (or lack thereof), plus realities in the solar market, we will make go / no go decision on whether or not to attempt Phase 1 of this off-grid trailer project in 2022.

Incidentally and relatedly, I've been contacted off-forum by multiple people lamenting how much they miss the epic DIY threads that used to be published by me and other heavy posters in this subforum.

Those were the halcyon days of Interstate ownership, weren't they?? When barriers were few, when the free market was still functioning properly such that goods and services were predictably attainable at competitive prices, when upon driving solo cross-continent without a care in the world I was mortified because I was forced to pay $3.00 per gallon for diesel in Pennsylvania, one of the highest prices in America at that time (where today it averages $6.53).

I just wanted to say that I miss those threads and those days too, the halcyon days of Interstate DIY in the world that author Peter Zeihan described as "an embarrassment of riches", when we could count on the world supporting all of our experiments, mods, and envelope-pushing antics, and everything was such a creative adventure - the sky was the limit.

We can barely do anything at all anymore, the logistical and financial barriers are now so high. And I don't know if we will ever be able to return to our former glory in that regard. Zeihan, for one, clearly does not believe that we will.
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Old 06-19-2022, 07:28 AM   #17
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I would suggest making the solar panels on the trailer adjustable for tilt/angle if it will be parked for any length of time. Since they work much better rather than flat (unless you are on the equator).
Where I live ‘year-round’ angle is 59º but of course better to adjust summer/winter. I see them mounted at 45º here (or less) and especially in winter with minimal sun that doesn’t make much sense. The ones I installed on mountaintops were all fixed, since the cost to fly up and change them was prohibitive- not to mention the less time in the air, the safer you are. Plus with high winds, snow, rime ice etc- there are good arguments for solid mounting.

Since it seems likely the trailer will not be parked so panels can point south- having them ‘spin’ for direction would be optimal. Of course, tracking durning day is even better- but mechanism could get quite expensive/heavy.
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Old 06-20-2022, 10:35 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
Within the next 8 business days, I will either have a trailer, or I will not. That was the original projection for delivery on the CargoMate upon which I put money down.

And based on that delivery outcome (or lack thereof), plus realities in the solar market, we will make go / no go decision on whether or not to attempt Phase 1 of this off-grid trailer project in 2022.

Incidentally and relatedly, I've been contacted off-forum by multiple people lamenting how much they miss the epic DIY threads that used to be published by me and other heavy posters in this subforum.

Those were the halcyon days of Interstate ownership, weren't they?? When barriers were few, when the free market was still functioning properly such that goods and services were predictably attainable at competitive prices, when upon driving solo cross-continent without a care in the world I was mortified because I was forced to pay $3.00 per gallon for diesel in Pennsylvania, one of the highest prices in America at that time (where today it averages $6.53).

I just wanted to say that I miss those threads and those days too, the halcyon days of Interstate DIY in the world that author Peter Zeihan described as "an embarrassment of riches", when we could count on the world supporting all of our experiments, mods, and envelope-pushing antics, and everything was such a creative adventure - the sky was the limit.

We can barely do anything at all anymore, the logistical and financial barriers are now so high. And I don't know if we will ever be able to return to our former glory in that regard. Zeihan, for one, clearly does not believe that we will.
Hi

Getting in *all* ( as opposed to most ) of the parts to convert the Hiker took *way* longer than expected. A lot of other work that should have been done on didn't get done as a result .... I don't even want to think about the cost.

Bob
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Old 06-21-2022, 05:10 AM   #19
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Hi

.... I don't even want to think about the cost.

Bob
Heh. If I had bought the CargoMate BEFORE the danged shortages and inflation set in, I would have been paying around $1,800 - $2,000. I checked the prices at that time.

Today? While it is on order? They can’t even tell me what it will cost. They HOPE it will be somewhere near $3,450, but commodity prices are rising so quickly that my contract says that I have the right to turn it down and get my deposit refunded if the final price is not agreeable to me upon delivery.
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Old 06-27-2022, 02:25 PM   #20
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If any readers of this thread are Airstream trailer owners (as opposed to Interstate owners), can you please point me toward your favorite trailer hitch lock thread?

I will do the dive, but I know that topic has come up umpteen times before, and I may get lost in the comments before I manage to identify the device that I need to get.

This will be for the 5' x 8' cargo trailer that I am now being told might be delivered in 2 to 4 more days. It's not like I am trying to protect a six-figure Airstream, so I don't necessarily need the best most expensive lock out there. Just something reasonably good that would foil a thief.

Thanks.
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