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Old 12-01-2022, 09:43 AM   #1
MSL
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Sharon , Massachusetts
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Northwest Trip Starting in Northeast

I'm just starting to plan a trip from Massachusetts to the Northwest, starting the beginning of May. My wife and I plan to visit Badlands, Yellowstone, Olympic, Lake Louise, Banff, Glacier, then probably head back east. We plan to spend a week in Yellowstone but are undecided how much time to spend in the other places, and don't really know where we should stay in each. We're looking for any tips and advice you have for selecting and planning. If we plan to leave the beginning of May 2023, is there enough time to plan this trip? I assume we should have reservations at each place, and especially wherever we end up Memorial weekend.

We have a 22 ft Sport with 2 AGMs and a single 90 watt solar panel, and a generator. I'm assuming we could do a night or two of boondocking, but we've never really done that (a few single Harvest Host nights is all we've done).

All help will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance, Mark
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Old 12-01-2022, 10:12 AM   #2
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We went west last September. Loved it!

We really liked staying at Nomad view just south of Wall SD,(amazing view). It is boondocking. We stayed two nights and took in Badlands national park. We used this on our way to four nights at the rafter J right near Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument, expensive but so worth it for its proximity to everything.

Then on to Gros Ventre at Grand Tetons for six nights. Just loved our stay there , want to return some day.

From there we went to south Yellowstone and stayed at Headwaters at Flagg ranch. If We did this again Id try to stay in west Yellowstone.I’m thinking west Yellowstone area would be a better proximity to everything Yellowstone.

The drive from east Yellowstone to Cody Wy was just beautiful in our opinion!

We only made reservations at Gros Ventre the rest we just called a day or two out and had no problem getting in. The stay at Nomad view south of Wall,SD was boondocking.

As far as how long to stay in each location is a tough one . This was our first trip west and first trip of just over a month long. We just flew mostly by the seat of our pants some times staying longer and some times leaving sooner at each location. We felt like a month was not enough time once we got “out west”.
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Old 12-01-2022, 10:22 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSL View Post
I'm just starting to plan a trip from Massachusetts to the Northwest, starting the beginning of May. My wife and I plan to visit Badlands, Yellowstone, Olympic, Lake Louise, Banff, Glacier, then probably head back east. We plan to spend a week in Yellowstone but are undecided how much time to spend in the other places, and don't really know where we should stay in each. We're looking for any tips and advice you have for selecting and planning. If we plan to leave the beginning of May 2023, is there enough time to plan this trip? I assume we should have reservations at each place, and especially wherever we end up Memorial weekend.

We have a 22 ft Sport with 2 AGMs and a single 90 watt solar panel, and a generator. I'm assuming we could do a night or two of boondocking, but we've never really done that (a few single Harvest Host nights is all we've done).

All help will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance, Mark
Mark, we also have a 22’ Sport and spent a week on the Shoshone River exactly 20 miles East of Yellowstone (hwy 16) in a small NFS campground. It only accommodated about 5 campsites…(but there are several other small campgrounds along the riverbed)….and was immediately adjacent to a swift-flowing trout-stream (Shoshone River) … Just across the stream was a granite-wall/cliff (see pic below) …all of which made for a quiet and pleasant camping experience.
We approached the area driving West from Cody. https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/maps.htm
The campsite had no facilities other than a trash-dumpster and a “host” who lived there during the season…a nice older gentleman very pleasant and not the least intrusive…but very helpful when inquiring about the area.
We left the AS at the campsite and drove each day to/thru Yellowstone and had a great, leisurely tour. A very nice restaurant a mile East of the Yellowstone Entrance also had a small grocery next door.
Otherwise, the only concern was the signs which warned about bears. (Never saw one at that location…but the signs were out.)
If you wish to try a couple days of “boondocking”…. I recommend it.

Glacier was a nightmare to get a reservation…. but we discovered the best way to get a site was to simply enter the park around 9AM and read the little guest-cards at each campsite which indicates which day the camper expects to “check out”… and go directly to the ranger station billboard and reserve that site. We noticed that was a common and successful method for many others also..and allows you to view the site beforehand.
We spent only about 1 hour awaiting the campsite we desired to empty-out…pulled into it…paid the fee and set up camp! Easy Peasy.

Don’t miss Wyomings’ Dinosaur Center…and ESPECIALLY visit the NPS Quarry Exhibit Hall in CO/UT https://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvis...hibit-hall.htm
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Old 12-01-2022, 10:26 AM   #4
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Old 12-01-2022, 11:51 AM   #5
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If you are going to make it all the way to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, a really nice campground is Fort Worden State Park. It is near Port Townsend which is a nice Victorian style town. You will need to make reservations early though, they fill up quickly. If you do not have reservations, you may be able to get in for a night or two; or, there are a couple of other campgrounds in the area that may have openings (Fort Flagler State Park, Point Hudson). Then you can go on to Sequim (which also has a State Park) and then to the pacific coast. Or you can do your trip in reverse ending your Olympic Peninsula loop at Fort Worden. If you have military MWR privileges, you should stay at Pacific Beach Resort on the coast ($18 per day, water and power only).
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Old 12-01-2022, 12:22 PM   #6
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So much that can be said here …… I’ll focus on the camping without electric hookups.

Many of the state and national parks do not have any electric sites, and many don’t allow generators at all or only in a subset of sites. Be aware of this as you make reservations (which you should do soon.)

How long you can go unplugged has two significant variables: the size of your solar/battery installation, and your individual power consumption. You are on the small side for solar and storage, so you might consider an upgrade, which could be as simple as a portable panel. Power consumption is a wide variable with folks on this site reporting as little as 10Ah per day (us) to as much as 120Ah per day or more.

I suggest before you hit the road you get a shunt based battery monitor installed (like a Victron 712), they are not very expensive. With this you can manage the situation because you can determine the state of charge, and rate of charging or discharging. You can also learn the power demands of your electric devices and monitor/manage your use of them.
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Old 12-01-2022, 02:05 PM   #7
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Northwest Trip Starting in Northeast

While many recommend campgrounds outside of Yellowstone, if it was me, I’d try and reserve a site at Bridge Bay or Canyon ( start now).

You wake up and you are in the Park — no 45 minute drive from Pahaska, no 45 minute wait at the West Entrance…

Most of the Bridge Bay sites are in the sun so your solar will help a lot, especially with those loooong May daylight hours. Dump station onsite. Potable water as well. Gnarly old retired bison do all the lawn maintenance.

Get up, chow down and roll up (or down if at Canyon) to the Hayden Valley and I will almost guarantee you that wildlife will abound. The whole secret to YNP is to go critter hunting at dawn and dusk, lunch siesta, late afternoon do geysers (most of the tour busses are gone by 3:00).

Ask any NPS folks you see (doesn’t matter what division) about what is going on where — we all use the same radios so…
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Old 12-01-2022, 05:37 PM   #8
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Keep in mind when planning stays and timing that there is a very real possibility of a late season snow at higher elevations. I have seen 3 inches of snow west of Cheyenne the second week in May.
Having some flexibility to hunker down if you do encounter a storm could be a good thing to do.
Enjoy the trip. It is a lot of fun driving across the country for pleasure.
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Old 12-02-2022, 05:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by n2916s View Post
While many recommend campgrounds outside of Yellowstone, if it was me, I’d try and reserve a site at Bridge Bay or Canyon ( start now).

You wake up and you are in the Park — no 45 minute drive from Pahaska, no 45 minute wait at the West Entrance…

Most of the Bridge Bay sites are in the sun so your solar will help a lot, especially with those loooong May daylight hours. Dump station onsite. Potable water as well. Gnarly old retired bison do all the lawn maintenance.

Get up, chow down and roll up (or down if at Canyon) to the Hayden Valley and I will almost guarantee you that wildlife will abound. The whole secret to YNP is to go critter hunting at dawn and dusk, lunch siesta, late afternoon do geysers (most of the tour busses are gone by 3:00).

Ask any NPS folks you see (doesn’t matter what division) about what is going on where — we all use the same radios so…
Agree completely. Get out of bed at 330 or 4 and head into the park. COMPLETELY different experience. And absolutely awesome.
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Old 12-02-2022, 10:33 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
Mark, we also have a 22’ Sport and spent a week on the Shoshone River exactly 20 miles East of Yellowstone (hwy 16) in a small NFS campground. It only accommodated about 5 campsites…(but there are several other small campgrounds along the riverbed)….and was immediately adjacent to a swift-flowing trout-stream (Shoshone River) … Just across the stream was a granite-wall/cliff (see pic below) …all of which made for a quiet and pleasant camping experience.
We approached the area driving West from Cody. https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/maps.htm
The campsite had no facilities other than a trash-dumpster and a “host” who lived there during the season…a nice older gentleman very pleasant and not the least intrusive…but very helpful when inquiring about the area.
We left the AS at the campsite and drove each day to/thru Yellowstone and had a great, leisurely tour. A very nice restaurant a mile East of the Yellowstone Entrance also had a small grocery next door.
Otherwise, the only concern was the signs which warned about bears. (Never saw one at that location…but the signs were out.)
If you wish to try a couple days of “boondocking”…. I recommend it.

Glacier was a nightmare to get a reservation…. but we discovered the best way to get a site was to simply enter the park around 9AM and read the little guest-cards at each campsite which indicates which day the camper expects to “check out”… and go directly to the ranger station billboard and reserve that site. We noticed that was a common and successful method for many others also..and allows you to view the site beforehand.
We spent only about 1 hour awaiting the campsite we desired to empty-out…pulled into it…paid the fee and set up camp! Easy Peasy.

Don’t miss Wyomings’ Dinosaur Center…and ESPECIALLY visit the NPS Quarry Exhibit Hall in CO/UT https://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvis...hibit-hall.htm
Glacier first come sites are very difficult as they have gone to reservations at most campgrounds, including Apgar now. Many Glacier may have some, but long drive back there only to find no room at the inn..check with the ranger stations where ever your considering to get their advise.

Forgot to note: getting "into" Glacier now is controlled by reservations...and they do check each visitor prior to getting to the entrance to see your "reservation" . Folks wanting to drive "Going to the Sun" have ruined day use, if your not staying inside the park. Many folks will make a "reservation" to stay a few nights, then cancel at last minute, just so they have the reservation in their hands to enter the park. We found many sites in Apgar empty the 14 nights we stayed there last summer...Rangers said nothing they could do..folks only loose one night deposit, so money not an issue...just sad to see empty campsites...
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Old 12-02-2022, 11:13 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by gypsydad View Post
Glacier first come sites are very difficult as they have gone to reservations at most campgrounds, including Apgar now. Many Glacier may have some, but long drive back there only to find no room at the inn..check with the ranger stations where ever your considering to get their advise.

Forgot to note: getting "into" Glacier now is controlled by reservations...and they do check each visitor prior to getting to the entrance to see your "reservation" . Folks wanting to drive "Going to the Sun" have ruined day use, if your not staying inside the park. Many folks will make a "reservation" to stay a few nights, then cancel at last minute, just so they have the reservation in their hands to enter the park. We found many sites in Apgar empty the 14 nights we stayed there last summer...Rangers said nothing they could do..folks only loose one night deposit, so money not an issue...just sad to see empty campsites...
Boondock inside Flathead. Hundreds of sites.
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Old 12-02-2022, 12:03 PM   #12
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So many things to add to this post, but as Seattle-based Airstreamers, here are a few:
*
If you are heading to Banff, DEFINITELY take the 3 ½ hour drive up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. You will see way more glaciers than Glacier NP and the Canadian Rockies/Jasper National Park are truly spectacular – on par or perhaps (it pains me to say) more beautiful than our National Parks here in the US.
*
Canada’s National Park campgrounds are really nice, with power and water. We stayed at Wabasso campground in Jasper. Whistler and Waipiti campgrounds looked great too. In Banff, Tunnel Mountain Campground has great views and is just a short walk/drive into Banff. You could cruise through both parks in a couple of days or spend a full week easily. Heads up, reservations at all of these campgrounds are extremely competitive and are going on sale soon.
*
In Olympic National Park, Kalaloch campground (boondocking) is beautiful, on a bluff above the ocean.
*
I second the previous post about Fort Worden, probably the best ONP park with hook ups. It’s on a decommissioned military base where they shot “An Officer and A Gentleman” right in the middle of the cool little town of Port Townsend. The campground has a bunch of beautiful old US Army Quartermaster buildings that are being repurposed into cafes etc.
*
Things to do in Olympic National Park: walk along the sea stacks at Rialto Beach, grab lunch or coffee at historic Lake Crescent Lodge, take a walk in the Hoa rainforest (quietest place in the US), check out the view from Hurricane Ridge, lots more.
*
Finally if you are coming all of the way to the west coast, look into the Northern Cascades (cool town of Leavenworth has the Icycle River RV park or boondock at Colonial Creek campground on the shores of Diablo Lake) and Mount Rainier – both are spectacular.
*
Massachusettes must be beautiful this time of year. Hope you have a good trip!
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Old 12-02-2022, 12:12 PM   #13
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Rather than a full week in Yellowstone spend some time in the Teton national Park which is next to it. Part of that is Jackson (Hole) WY.
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Old 12-02-2022, 12:28 PM   #14
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Where ever you roam, be sure you have reservations for ALL Friday and Saturday nights as well as any holiday weekends during the nice weather; even pretty county campgrounds fill up when the work week is over and the sun is shining. That does require quite a bit of planning and less freedom as you travel, unless you are willing to boondock any where (parking lots, Harvest Hosts, empty lots). Nothing is quite so disturbing as to be told the nice camp you came into on Thursday must be vacated by 11:00 on Friday as it is completely reserved.
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Old 12-03-2022, 10:23 AM   #15
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Boondock inside Flathead. Hundreds of sites.
Missed the point; There are many campgrounds $$ outside the park, but if you don't have reservations inside Glacier, good luck getting in even for the day. Flathead or Swan Valley area have some state camping still, but all going to reservations. We used to stay in Apgar, St. Marys, Many Glacier, and also up around Hungry Horse all the time up until 2 years ago...all reservations now..crazy. Yellowstone and Teton same way...
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Old 12-05-2022, 01:05 PM   #16
MSL
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Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by FloydCoVa View Post
We went west last September. Loved it!

We really liked staying at Nomad view just south of Wall SD,(amazing view). It is boondocking. We stayed two nights and took in Badlands national park. We used this on our way to four nights at the rafter J right near Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument, expensive but so worth it for its proximity to everything.

Then on to Gros Ventre at Grand Tetons for six nights. Just loved our stay there , want to return some day.

From there we went to south Yellowstone and stayed at Headwaters at Flagg ranch. If We did this again Id try to stay in west Yellowstone.I’m thinking west Yellowstone area would be a better proximity to everything Yellowstone.

The drive from east Yellowstone to Cody Wy was just beautiful in our opinion!

We only made reservations at Gros Ventre the rest we just called a day or two out and had no problem getting in. The stay at Nomad view south of Wall,SD was boondocking.

As far as how long to stay in each location is a tough one . This was our first trip west and first trip of just over a month long. We just flew mostly by the seat of our pants some times staying longer and some times leaving sooner at each location. We felt like a month was not enough time once we got “out west”.
Thanks, very helpful info! We were looking at Nomad and may give this a try.
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Old 12-05-2022, 01:08 PM   #17
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Good Glacier Tip

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
Mark, we also have a 22’ Sport and spent a week on the Shoshone River exactly 20 miles East of Yellowstone (hwy 16) in a small NFS campground. It only accommodated about 5 campsites…(but there are several other small campgrounds along the riverbed)….and was immediately adjacent to a swift-flowing trout-stream (Shoshone River) … Just across the stream was a granite-wall/cliff (see pic below) …all of which made for a quiet and pleasant camping experience.
We approached the area driving West from Cody. https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/maps.htm
The campsite had no facilities other than a trash-dumpster and a “host” who lived there during the season…a nice older gentleman very pleasant and not the least intrusive…but very helpful when inquiring about the area.
We left the AS at the campsite and drove each day to/thru Yellowstone and had a great, leisurely tour. A very nice restaurant a mile East of the Yellowstone Entrance also had a small grocery next door.
Otherwise, the only concern was the signs which warned about bears. (Never saw one at that location…but the signs were out.)
If you wish to try a couple days of “boondocking”…. I recommend it.

Glacier was a nightmare to get a reservation…. but we discovered the best way to get a site was to simply enter the park around 9AM and read the little guest-cards at each campsite which indicates which day the camper expects to “check out”… and go directly to the ranger station billboard and reserve that site. We noticed that was a common and successful method for many others also..and allows you to view the site beforehand.
We spent only about 1 hour awaiting the campsite we desired to empty-out…pulled into it…paid the fee and set up camp! Easy Peasy.

Don’t miss Wyomings’ Dinosaur Center…and ESPECIALLY visit the NPS Quarry Exhibit Hall in CO/UT https://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvis...hibit-hall.htm
Thanks for the Glacier tip! We already have our Yellowstone reservation, but that place you mentioned on the Shoshone River looks interesting, as well as the dinosaur and quarry info!
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Old 12-05-2022, 01:24 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by MSL View Post
I'm just starting to plan a trip from Massachusetts to the Northwest, starting the beginning of May. My wife and I plan to visit Badlands, Yellowstone, Olympic, Lake Louise, Banff, Glacier, then probably head back east. We plan to spend a week in Yellowstone but are undecided how much time to spend in the other places, and don't really know where we should stay in each. We're looking for any tips and advice you have for selecting and planning. If we plan to leave the beginning of May 2023, is there enough time to plan this trip? I assume we should have reservations at each place, and especially wherever we end up Memorial weekend.

We have a 22 ft Sport with 2 AGMs and a single 90 watt solar panel, and a generator. I'm assuming we could do a night or two of boondocking, but we've never really done that (a few single Harvest Host nights is all we've done).

All help will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance, Mark

Banff is one of my favorite parks. Spend some time there. If you can, also travel up to Jasper and spend a bit of time there. I love the Icefields Parkway between them. And there are so many things to see and do around and between and all over that area.


Some parks will have campgrounds that are specifically first come first serve (Olympic, for instance has several and if you show up early enough on a weekday you'd be fine; Glacier on the other hand has first come first serve sites, but you usually have to show up before they open and get in line to get them).


If you are hitting Olympic, spend some time in the North Cascades, and a visit to Rainier is well worth it. Also, if going to Yellowstone, spend some time in the Grand Tetons.


Personally, Moraine Lake is more beautiful than Lake Louise, but much less parking so harder to get into. There are also many really great lakes in that area, and some really cool boat tours down them.


Sounds like a great trip! Enjoy!
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Old 12-05-2022, 01:52 PM   #19
MSL
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Sharon , Massachusetts
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Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 10Smiles View Post
If you are going to make it all the way to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, a really nice campground is Fort Worden State Park. It is near Port Townsend which is a nice Victorian style town. You will need to make reservations early though, they fill up quickly. If you do not have reservations, you may be able to get in for a night or two; or, there are a couple of other campgrounds in the area that may have openings (Fort Flagler State Park, Point Hudson). Then you can go on to Sequim (which also has a State Park) and then to the pacific coast. Or you can do your trip in reverse ending your Olympic Peninsula loop at Fort Worden. If you have military MWR privileges, you should stay at Pacific Beach Resort on the coast ($18 per day, water and power only).
Thanks for this info! I have a reservation at Log Cabin but it looks pretty bad; no room between sites, many bad reviews.
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Old 12-05-2022, 01:56 PM   #20
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Sharon , Massachusetts
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Good Info, Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by field & stream View Post
So much that can be said here …… I’ll focus on the camping without electric hookups.

Many of the state and national parks do not have any electric sites, and many don’t allow generators at all or only in a subset of sites. Be aware of this as you make reservations (which you should do soon.)

How long you can go unplugged has two significant variables: the size of your solar/battery installation, and your individual power consumption. You are on the small side for solar and storage, so you might consider an upgrade, which could be as simple as a portable panel. Power consumption is a wide variable with folks on this site reporting as little as 10Ah per day (us) to as much as 120Ah per day or more.

I suggest before you hit the road you get a shunt based battery monitor installed (like a Victron 712), they are not very expensive. With this you can manage the situation because you can determine the state of charge, and rate of charging or discharging. You can also learn the power demands of your electric devices and monitor/manage your use of them.
Thanks! The planning of this trip almost makes it not worth it! Thanks for the tip on the Victron 712. Is the temp monitor required for AGM batteries? I have a 2019 22' Sport with two AGM batteries just behind the propane. Can the shunt go under the bed where the bus bar is?
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