Lexie mentioned on our Four Wheel Camper page that she would like me to make a guest post describing all of the modifications that I have completed on our Four Wheel Camper. When we were looking for a Four Wheel Camper there were a few things that we really wanted as far as options. We were going to buy a used Four Wheel Camper as we could not afford a new one but there were a few things that we weren't willing to compromise on. In roughly 2001 Four Wheel Campers changed the way their windows opened. They switched from an exterior opening window to an interior opening window. This change allows the owner to open the upper windows from the inside instead of climbing up a ladder to open them from the outside. So that being said, we know we wanted a circa 2001 or newer camper. A few other options we wanted were: sink with pump, propane stove, propane furnace, roof vents with preferably a fan, camper jacks, and lastly a deadbolt on the rear door. We managed to find the exact camper we wanted and didn't even have to drive to the west coast to get it. Now on to the modifications I have made since owning it so that it fits our needs.
When we finally got the camper out of storage in the spring we decided to take a quick shake down trip to Shenandoah National Park. We were planning on staying for two nights but one of the issues that we seemed to be having was that the refrigerator was constantly running and effectively using up all of our battery power even though I have two batteries connected in parallel doubling the power the camper comes with. Needless to say, we were unable to stay the two nights and headed home after just one night. Once I got home I researched to see if the factory refrigerator was known to cause this issue and sure enough the Dometic refrigerators are power hogs. I still had the ARB refrigerator that we used to use behind the truck driver seat and having traveled over the past 5 years I knew that one battery could run the ARB refrigerator for about two days without the batteries needing to be recharged. I decided to try and install the ARB refrigerator in place of the Dometic refrigerator that came with the camper and to my amazement it fit perfectly. The one good part with the Dometic was that it was front loading and the ARB is top loading, which was blocked from opening all of the way by the counter. My solution to this was to put the counter on hold open hinges allowing the counter to be opened and allow full access to fridge. All of this change also had a secondary benefit of freeing up some space next to the fridge allowing me to store our Snow Peak Pack and Carry Fireplace next to fridge for an ease of access.
Another project that was rolling around in my head was solar power. Once we got home from Shenandoah, I started researching solar and came up with what I think is the perfect setup for our camper. I ended up purchasing a ALLPOWERS 100W solar panel, Victron Energy MPPT 75/15 Solar Charge Controller and the required cabling and connectors. Using a panel like the ALLPOWERS solar allows me to store it under the upper mattress and not take up any extra of our valuable space. One of the main things I realized during our Shenandoah trip was that there was no way for me to accurately monitor the power being used by the camper appliances, or even the power being generated by the solar: enter the Victron Energy BMV700 Precision Battery Monitor. This monitor is amazing and like I said allows me to monitor in real time, the power being used by items like the fridge, furnace fan, vent fan and assorted lights. The secondary benefit of this monitor is that looks like it was installed at the factory.
During that same trip we also realized that the factory curtains did not block the light coming into the lower part of the camper were Ruby sleeps. This is a major issue especially when our daughter is trying to sleep but headlights are continually shining into the camper from people entering the campground. My solution to this issue was to get some Reflectix. My thought on using Reflectix was that it would block the light as well as add some insulation to the windows, keeping the camper cooler during the day and warmer at night. To my happiness this item has worked perfectly and Ruby now sleeps like a baby, pardon the pun.
Like I mentioned above, one of the options we wanted was the propane furnace/heater but I did not realize how much we would actually use it. On our trips to OH, NY, VT and Canada we used the furnace to ensure that Ruby was warm enough. She does not sleep with any blankets and it can be difficult to sure that she is warm enough when the temperature fluctuates drastically. The camper came with a analog thermostat that didn't seem to be very accurate, so as a way to manage the camper temperature a bit better, I installed a Honeywell digital thermostat. This modification allows me to set an exact temperature so Ruby sleeps warm and cozy.
One last thing I wanted to mention was the organization modifications I have added since we have owned the camper. This is a small space so even the most minute additions can made a huge difference. The stool that comes with a Four Wheel Camper is a Rubbermaid two step that takes up all of the walkway in the camper and is something that you have to move every time you want to get into the camper. This can become quite a pain if you are just getting into the camper for a quick bite or to change a diaper. I decided to get a Kikkerland Rhino Tall step stool that folds and I can velcro against the propane box out of the way. Now no more moving the stool every time we want to quickly get into the camper. I added a few storage pockets to the lift panels so we can keep random items off of the counter, made some drawer dividers for the eating and cooking utensils and even installed a foot switch for the faucet. The foot switch allows us to actuate the faucet with our foot saving us from getting water everywhere when washing our hands and dishes and cuts down on our water usage.
I still have lots more ideas on how to make this camper more efficient, including a new fan install, but Lexie keeps a tight reign on the budget, so we will wait on future modifications, and as I make them, I will update and post. If you have any questions or ideas, email us via the blog, or comment below, and I'd love to talk with you!