(I searched the archive for the term "amp/hour monitor" and came up completely empty -- am I asking the wrong question?? But there are quite a few for sale out there, so this item does exist. Please forgive me if this question has been asked and answered many times, but I could not find a prior discussion on point.)
Anyway, I understand that monitoring the voltage gives me the state of charge, which can roughly tell me how many amp/hours I still have in the battery. The problem, of course, is that the voltage reading varies for a lot of reasons -- temperature, how much load there was on the battery a few minutes ago, etc. I am hoping that someone can recommend an after-market device that will indicate remaining amp/hours.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
Someone asked about whether you can add an extra step and how tricky it is. Although I haven't actually done that modification to my new Glow Steps, it looks like the job should not be too hard. All of the steps are secured to the "scissor" hardware with fairly ordinary quarter inch bolts, with hex heads requiring a seven-sixteenths wrench. So it should not be difficult to unbolt one of the steps, insert a new step, and then reattach the bolts.
The only caution is this: make sure the bolts are properly torqued. If they are too loose, then the whole set of steps will deploy too fast, with a hard impact. (I know this because the other day, I tried loosening all of those bolts just a little as an experiment, to see if the steps would deploy faster. They sure did, and that's not a good thing. Don't do what I did.)
When the bolts are properly torqued, the whole assembly deploys smoothly but not catastrophically.
Monakayk, actually we have had almost no problems with freezing (until one night on this last trip when it got down to 11 degrees). But on many nights of camping in the high teens and low 20s, we have had no freezing at all, even though our trailer is not really "four-season" rated. I put some insulation (reflectix) underneath, and it seems to do the trick.
After that one really cold night, we just left the breakfast dishes in the sink, went hiking, and came back in the afternoon to find that the ice had thawed -- hurrah! We figured out later that the outlet pipe leading from the fresh water tank to the pump was the problem.
The next few nights were around 20, and we had no more trouble. But just to be safe, I am intending to add some real insulation (a layer of solid extruded foam), with a layer of coroplast under that for protection. That is my next big project!
Here is a shot from another really cold trip -- we were boondocking at 9500 feet in the Eastern Sierra, and the wind was so strong that I had to park the truck right next to the water heater so that the wind would not blow out the flame:
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Wj6YB8Y30c0/U4terrDhoTI/AAAAAAAAKak/CyTdWhG3CQE/s1600/IMGP13231.jpg height=400 width=600
Sounds miserable, right? Nope -- nothing is so wonderful as boondocking in bad weather, buttoned up inside a comfortable (albeit small) RV!
Gary, that link got eaten by a bear -- it takes me to a "reply to thread" dialogue box, rather than to the CBC story. If you get a chance, could you please post a new link?
And Bob, if you'd like to see bears, come on down to the Sierras -- this guy was banging on our trailer one night a couple of weeks ago, and we scared him off by banging back at him:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-nKfrG-k38Hs/Vk1Woc4KD3I/AAAAAAAAS10/7nLE5VvgqyA/s640/599%2Bbear%2Bcloseup.jpg height=400 width=600
(And yes, it was the same bear -- we found his footprints outside our trailer, and then his fresh prints matched those next to our window. It had to be the same prints -- the tread on his tennis shoes matched exactly. ;) )
Phenomenal photos! There is a place called Takhini River Lodge -- it looks like it is not far from you in the Ibex Valley -- that offers Northern Lights viewing. Judging from your photos, it looks like a good area! Might just have to break out the wallet and head up North. Probably not this year, but maybe next.
Two more suggestions -- if your kids can hike a couple of miles, you can have your own private geyser basin -- the Imperial area, near Fairy Falls:
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_dtW7wd3cENA/TNiR4UlCXrI/AAAAAAAACYY/3he6m9PO8vo/s640/2010+10+13+%286%29.JPG height=300 width=600
No boardwalks, no crowds. Just watch where you step! The ground that you sit on can be quite warm -- an odd sensation.
And Boiling River near Mammoth Hot Springs is another easy hike -- bring bathing suits and towels and sturdy sandals. Even if the weather is cold, you can sit in the river where the hot springs flow in -- a natural jacuzzi:
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_dtW7wd3cENA/TNiV4eGGaQI/AAAAAAAACaA/ioUHEzqFYTY/s400/2010+10+15+%288%29.JPG height=600 width=400
If you'd like a few more ideas, check out our blog:
Yellowstone blog post
Well, it's true that the step spacing can be uneven if the campsite is at an odd slope. But three adjustable steps (on the GSR) sure beats the two non-adjustable steps on the original equipment on my trailer! That is especially true when we are boondocking, and the ground slopes away from the door -- we always had to have a stepstool in position for DW, so that she could make that first big step. And the stepstool was not always perfectly stable, especially at a rocky campsite with uneven ground.
myredracer, it seems that the "sloping step" problem can be adjusted with the landing gear, right? There are two ways to adjust the landing gear: retracting the extension and tucking the leg under the step a little. So for example, in the picture above, do you have the landing gear (those little legs) fully retracted? And I can see that the legs are not tucked under -- if you tuck them back a little under the step, that brings the bottom step further toward the ground (and thus reduces or eliminates the slope).
Having said all of that, I find it a little hard to push in the small detent button that retracts or extends the legs -- the spring inside the leg is pretty hefty. No big deal, but it could have been a weaker spring, with no loss of functionality.
Right -- I understood that you meant the many "scissor bolts," for lack of a better term. I really like the idea about tuning the steps -- very clever.
(See end of first post in this thread -- if you try to tune the scissor bolts yourself, be very careful. I tried it -- big failure -- and re-tightened all the bolts)
Deez, I think the answer to your question depends in part on what you like to do. Do you plan on going to a destination with full hookups and staying put for a while? Or do you really like spur of the moment camping in remote places, moving frequently? Do you like to hike, or do you like to spend a lot of time inside the trailer?
The reason I ask is that you live in one of the most wonderful areas of the world for outdoor recreation. There are lots of little forest service campgrounds (not to mention boondocking) that would be fine for a small trailer but not so great with a big one. On the other hand, if being in the boonies is not your thing, and you want to spend time inside listening to the rain (which is really great in a trailer -- terrific sound on the roof!), then you might want a bigger trailer.
As you can see if you click on the links in our signature, we went with a small trailer. Our original decision to do so was by accident -- we had no idea if we liked camping or not, we were tired of hotels, and this little trailer fell into our laps. It was an experiment. That was our first trailer, and our second one is the same size -- very, very small. It has changed our lives -- we now spend every vacation in the wilderness, if at all possible. It's not for everyone -- a few rainy days in a row would get to be a real hassle.
Anyway, if you can give us a little more guidance on your needs, perhaps we can help you narrow down the choices somewhat!
Ed, be sure to check out my post on installation over on the DIY forum -- you may not need to do any welding. Just a little drilling. And some folks have found that they did not even need to do that. But welding or not, I would bet that your young strong nephew will come in real handy when it comes time to install! ;)
Dewey, our local weather people are great meteorologists, but they know nothing about snow -- yesterday it was 90 degrees at my house, and I would have gone to the beach except that there were no waves at all! I figure that most of the folks who read this forum know more about snow than anyone in Southern California ever will.
But based on what I am hearing from you folks in the North, this was indeed one of those once in a lifetime events. My wife and I have a list of those sorts of things -- like the time a dolphin surfed a wave with us and then did a backflip in front of us. Or the time that she petted a baby whale in Baja, after its mother herded it toward our boat. Or a moon-rainbow at Yosemite Falls on a winter night. Or swimming in the freezing indigo water of Crater Lake, on a hot summer day. Or, under very dark skies, seeing the reflection of the Milky Way in a still stream high in the Canadian Rockies, with several bull elk bugling in the forest all around us.
But we still have never seen the aurora during the winter -- we have seen dim glimmers during a summer bike tour in Alaska, but that is not the same thing.
I attached a cable tie to the pin and then fastened it to the release lever on the steps -- now, when I pull the pin and deploy the steps, the pin dangles from the cable tie and won't get lost. I often camp in deep dust or sand -- it would be easy to lose that locking pin if it dropped in the dirt!
Westend, I do have a full set of those step bits, but I find that they are not sharp enough for some applications, and I can't figure out how to sharpen them. I sharpen my own twist drill bits, which work just fine. The only downside, of course, is that I have to change bits when going to the next larger size.
Phil -- thanks! It's on the trailer forum -- concerning the Glowstep Revolution, pro and con. I'm not sure these steps would work on your RV -- how would you deploy them from inside when you first arrive at a campsite??
(See update at end of this post. Bottom line -- don't loosen the scissor step bolts. See below for details.)
As you probably already know, Torklift contacted several folks and offered to send each of us a Glow Step Revolution (“GSR” – much shorter). They asked us to post our impressions of the product on rv.net, but (of course) they did not tell us what to say. Bottom line: this is a fairly “glowing” review (pun intended), but this product is not for everyone, as I will explain below. You can see more about the product here – I won’t repeat the stuff on the manufacturer’s website:
Glow Step site
The purpose of this posting is to help folks who are already interested in the GSR and who are trying to decide whether to order one. I posted a separate entry regarding installation on the Do It Yourself forum, assuming that you want to try to install it yourself (which I did). (I am going to try to cross-link the two discussions, but I am not sure that is possible.) Here is the link:
Installation tips and issues
So, here are the Pros: First, I think that the GSR is much safer than our original equipment steps were. There is no big gap to watch out for when going up or down. The stairs go all the way to the ground. We won’t need to tote along a step-stool, which is so often wobbly (especially when boondocking in rough terrain). The GSR steps are much steadier, since the legs rest right on the ground. (And the legs adjust to different heights, since the campsite always slopes up or down a little, and sometimes a lot.) Since the GSR provides you with three or four steps instead of two, each step is smaller, requiring less effort to balance safely (especially when carrying heavy loads in or out of the trailer).
Second, I think the GSR is a lot easier on the knees, ankles, and hips, which is a big deal for older campers (like me) – three smaller steps instead of two big ones. It would be easier for small children and small pets, too, but I do not have first-hand experience with that. I can also add that because my wife is vertically challenged (about 5 feet tall), she finds the GSR makes it easier to get in and out. That is especially true because our trailer is raised (due to an axle-flip) for boondocking and off-road travel, so there is a long way to climb.
Third, the GSR greatly reduces shaking inside the trailer when in use. There are two major benefits to this feature – it is less annoying to the folks inside the trailer. But more importantly, it cuts down on the progressive loosening of the stabilizers over time. Have you ever noticed that even if your trailer is pretty stable when you first set up, it gets less stable over a period of a couple of days? I think that’s because the stabilizers settle a little every time you go in and out of the trailer. The GSR really cuts down on that problem, in my opinion.
Fourth, the company did a great job with “fitment” -- they told me exactly what measurements to take, and the new steps slipped into place perfectly (with one exception – see the “cons,” below).
Fifth, the GSR is easier to deploy and retract than our original steps were. Those heavy steel steps were very balky and awkward. The GSR glides in and out – very slick. This is not a huge plus, but it is not trivial, either.
So now, the Cons: First, this unit costs a lot of money, even without paying for installation (discussed below). Is it worth it? The answer is “it depends.” If you have great knees and hips, and if your trailer is not raised, and if you don’t mind the shakes, and if you are on a budget, this product may not be worth it. But as you check off the various factors (aging legs, decent finances, a shaky trailer, a desire for greater safety, small pets), then the GSR becomes more of a necessity and less of a luxury item.
Second, the engineering of the steps is beautiful – a clever and intricate folding mechanism. Why is that a “con?” Because I am a little concerned that the sand and grit of boondocking will abrade the moving parts. Obviously, I will open up the steps and rinse them off after every trip, but still, it is a concern. It is too soon to tell if this will be an issue. Frankly, I have looked on the Internet for complaints about this, and I have found nothing, so this may be a non-issue. (I plan to add a mud flap behind my right tire, which is right in front of the door and the steps, to cut down on the mud and grit.)
Third, the installation was a lot of fun (I love working on my trailer!), but it was not effortless. I did it by myself – no helper – and I had to develop some work-arounds to lift it into place. (If you are interested in the details, see the Do It Yourself forum.) I had to drill through the metal step brackets on my trailer – that is a necessary part of the job. There was a lot of bending and kneeling and squatting, on less-than-wonderful legs (see above). I would say that unless you are both moderately fit and moderately handy, this is not a job that you want to do yourself. So that adds some cost, if you have it done at a dealership or by a mechanic.
Fourth, the design of the GSR makes the installation a little tougher than it should be. Without getting into too much detail, the heads of the rear pivot bolts protrude slightly from the sides of the step frame housing, so you have to make room for them by cutting into the metal brackets on your trailer. The instructions that come with the GSR say: “Side brackets vary by manufacturer, and may need to be trimmed to clear the hardware protruding through the sides of the GSR frame.” Measuring for that cut-out and drilling the hole in the bracket to accommodate the bolt heads was pretty tricky. (I searched for other people’s installation stories, and many of them mentioned this exact issue.)
The unit would be much easier to mount if the rear pivot pin were brazed, welded, or cast as part of the frame, rather than being secured by a bolt. Alternatively, the bolt head could be countersunk into the side of the frame, to avoid interfering with the brackets.
Until this minor issue is fixed, the installer has to be a moderately competent do-it-yourselfer or a professional. But if that obstacle were to be removed, almost anyone could install the GSR, thus expanding the market for the product. I say “almost anyone” because there are people who are not comfortable drilling through metal with a hand held drill motor, and holes must be drilled. Of course, the mounting holes on the GSR are not matched up with the existing holes on the mounting brackets on the trailer – there is no way that they can be matched up, since there are so many different bracket configurations. And the drilling has to be done with the brackets on the trailer – most brackets are welded on.
Given all the pros and cons, and knowing what I know now, would I have paid my own money to buy this unit? Yes, certainly. I might have had to persuade my wife that this was a good investment (she is very thrifty – thank goodness), but I think I could have done so. After all, if you take the cost of the GSR and amortize it over however many days of camping you expect to get out of your trailer, it comes out to pennies per day.
Anyway, that’s my review -- I hope you found it helpful, and I would be happy to answer any and all questions.
(Update -- during the course of the discussion below, someone suggested loosening the scissor bolts slightly, so that the whole assembly would deploy faster and easier. I thought that sounded like a good idea. There are 36 bolts secured by nylon-core locknuts. Almost all of the bolts and nuts are seven-sixteenths, with the exception of a couple of allen-wrench bolts. I carefully backed each one off by an eighth of a turn -- a tedious job, but not technically demanding. I then put the steps into the stored position and then tried to deploy them.
Well, they deployed real fast, but not easy -- the whole step assembly shot out of the frame, and the "landing gear" slammed onto the ground. No damage to the steps, my fingers, or my feet, but this is not good. I retightened the bolts, and the whole thing now glides sedately out of the frame into position, no drama, no damage.
Your mileage may vary -- maybe loosen them by a sixteenth of a turn? But I am going to leave well enough alone!)