Subfloor

I am 6’3″ and insulating the floor in my Sprinter van is not an option for me. I also plan to travel in moderate climate so it should not be an issue. Van came with OEM floor and I am keeping it. It is a very good quality 1/4 (plus) plywood treated on both sides.

I am removing and filling in most of the factory anchor rings to create flat surface for my flooring. But first, extra support blocks in 3 channels that run in the middle. They are deeper than other ribs. Since my subfloor is only 1/4″ it is important to get good support underneath.

I cut bench of wooded blocks and used construction adhesive to attach it to the metal floor. Doing it this way was easier to get the perfect height match with other ribs.

Solar Suitcase

If I have a choice I will park my trailer or van under the tree. Having solar panels permanently attached to the roof makes them less effective. Parks and mountains have trees and camping in wooded area is common unless you are in the desert. I decided that my van could use both, couple panels on the roof for convenience and couple portable panels to position where I want it. For this purpose I decided to build my own portable “suitcase”. Unlike commercially available systems I didn’t attach a charge controller to the panels. My plan is to have a higher end solar charge controller in the van handling both permanent roof panels and my portable system.

House Batteries

Battle Born Batteries are one of the best choices on the market for lithium ion batteries and they became extremely popular in RV world. No doubts in my mind they have very high quality product and they are my number one choice for lithium ion batteries. In addition their website provides lots of valuable information I recommend anyone interested in this topic should read. They also have variety of system bundles that include most of the major components one would want to build a very robust power system.

Why lithium? It is a better battery, in my opinion.

AGM. I think it is still a viable option in some cases. If you have limited power needs, you don’t camp off grid very often, or you are just a weekend warrior single AGM might suit your needs. Most of the class C rental RV’s come with single lead acid battery mainly charged white driving and from shore power. But if you are building your own adventure vehicle you are probably lithium material, ready for more capable system.

SketchUp

SketchUp is free for personal use. Someone said the best things in life are free. Well, they didn’t mean software but it is close enough. Yes it takes time to learn how to use SketchUp but you don’t have to be an expert. Sizing 3D shapes of elements you want to use in your project and putting them together to create a mockup is almost enough. I highly recommend it. It was invaluable tool when designing and building my lower kitchen cabinets. I wanted to fit a fridge, water heater and water tank inside of my kitchen cabinet and still have space for couple of spoons. It took several different ideas before picking my final design. It was a fun project and my design looks very promising.

TIP. Watch some tutorials first. It is very tempting to just learn as you go, to try to figure it out on your own. At the end you save time and have more fun if you have some skills.

Aluminum Brackets for 8020

If you are considering using t-slotted aluminum extrusions in your build you can save some money by making your own brackets. They are not expensive to buy if you only need a few. In my case I will need a lot. Being able to make them also saves time and shipping cost when reordering. This particular bracket is called 15 Series & Ready Tube 2 Hole – Inside Corner Bracket.

Material: 3/16″ Angle Aluminum 1 1/2″ leg
Tools: Non-Ferrous Metal Saw Blade
Supplier in Canada: www.acklandsgrainger.com

This short video shows basic technique to make accurate cuts safely. I use removable stop block for size consistency and also to eliminate miter saw kickback. It takes a little bit longer but it works.

TIP. Cut your brackets 1.25″ wide. This way they are a little bit narrower than 15 series profiles.

In the next video I drill to holes in the bracket. Simple jig made out of plywood makes this step quick and easy. It takes a few minutes to set it up to make sure the hole is in the middle.

TIP. I made my holes a little bit bigger to give myself a little margin for error. It won’t make the joint weaker but gives a bit of play room when aligning two profiles.