6-day boondocking trip, lithium battery, solar charging, etc. experiences

I'm back from my longest boondocking trip yet: 5 nights/6 days with a 12.8V/100 Ah LFP battery and the teeny tiny fresh/gray/black tanks of my 2014 [email protected] 320 S. If all my camping photos look similar - lots of evergreen trees - it's because all my trips (since acquiring my [email protected] in Nov 2020) have been on Vancouver Island, due to prior Covid restrictions and the added travel time/cost to take my trailer over to Vancouver on the ferry (approx $300 round trip). But I hope to do a longer trip on the mainland in September and explore the Similkameen and Okanagan valleys. 
This latest trip was to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park to camp at China Beach campground, which has limited services: fresh water and pit toilets. It's a beautiful campground that is only open 5 months of the year and has lots of time to rest in between camping seasons. The old growth cedars were logged out long ago. Only the stumps remain and their girth is about the size of the queen size bed in the [email protected] The current 2nd growth mixed Cedar/Hemlock/Douglas Fir forest gets lots of rain and is beautiful and lush. This location is very much off the grid - no cellular reception at all.


This was the first time I camped for 5 nights straight. The battery charge "under load" held steady at 13.2V for most of the trip, until I decided to use the Jensen connected to my iPhone to play some music, which quickly drained the battery down to 13.08V (30%) - the lowest I've ever let it go, but still within the 'safe' range for lithium, thinking I could charge it with the solar panel the next day. However, I was only able to charge it up to about 13.14V due to the dense forest and very cloudy/foggy weather. I think I'm going to get a rechargeable, bluetooth speaker and avoid using the Jensen unless I'm on AC power.
Here is a useful article on lithium batteries, charge levels and storage requirements. I learned from this article, that my battery should not be exposed to heat above 30C (~95F) and so I should have brought it indoors during  the big heat wave a few weeks ago when it was nearly 40C. Something to keep an eye on for the future: https://www.solacity.com/how-to-keep-lifepo4-lithium-ion-batteries-happy/
Things I learned about managing my small tank sizes on 'solo' trips:
- I use a smart siphon to refill the 5 Gallon fresh water tank, usually about 1x per day.
- the 6 Gallon Black tank is plenty if I keep it for mostly night time use and avoid flushing toilet paper. A small sacrifice to keep things manageable.
- the 19 Gallon Gray water tank is plenty and I can drain some off into a 10 Gallon blue boy as needed. 
- Happy Camper does a great job at neutralizing black/gray tank smells and I added more throughout the trip, just in case.
My next trip is 4 weeks from now to Strathcona Park, also on the island. On the way home, I'm getting the Alde fully serviced for the first time since my trailer was built in 2013. It will get fully flushed and refilled with the new RhoGuard heat transfer fluid. Exciting!!!
2014 [email protected] 320 S "Sunny" - 2015 Toyota Sienna LE - British Columbia, Canada

Comments

  • Michigan_MikeMichigan_Mike Administrator Posts: 2,752
    Good post and thanks for sharing!   I will say that the Canadians DO know how to build beautiful parks as the provincial parks are very pristine.  We enjoyed our stays on the way up to Alaska back in 2015.  And agree, the canopy in many of these areas will limit your solar production and forces you to resort to even more precise power consumption measures.  Having a rooftop flat panel helps, as does having an added portable suitcase model to snag as much sunlight as you possibly can.  400 watts of solar will provide a nice boost and means a quicker and much more productive charge rate.  If you don’t already have them, the solar powered Luci lights are a nice thing to have in your solar arsenal too as it will help save power in the trailer battery.  Minimizing use of the pump and fan also are good ways to conserve energy and as you noted, a rechargeable blue tooth speaker.  If sunlight is adequate you can charge these items up during the day and enjoy them non-stop if conditions are right.  

    Looks like your site and surroundings were gorgeous and it’s always nice to camp in the remote areas and away from generators and the hub-bub of the busier campgrounds.  
    Mike 
    Howell, Mi
    2019 [email protected] 400
    2021 Chevy Silverado LTZ
  • pthomas745pthomas745 Member Posts: 2,081
    You have spent more than a thousand dollars on battery/solar setups.  You watch your battery "flicker" under a very small load...and now you want to spend more money on another item to "save" your battery?  What exactly are you saving it for?  What state of charge chart are  you using that shows a battery at 13.08 at 70 percent?  Was that reading on a rested battery or a battery that was still in use?  (Even  more:  what part of the Jensen would use 30 amps worth of battery in such a short time?  I'm estimating that from guessing you have a 100 amp hour lithium, and 30 percent of that battery would be 30 amps from the Jensen.....that would be.....quite a lot.)



    2017 Outback
    Towed by 2014 Touareg TDi
  • SusanDSusanD Member Posts: 17
    Sounds like an awesome trip, looking forward to being there in August! Just cancelled a week in Shuswap due to air quality which was terrible at the time - unfortunately for me it seems to have improved since then.  Just curious, did you use your fridge throughout the trip? Would love to know if there is enough solar to offset it or not.
    2021 Tab320S Boondock, 2019 Subaru Outback 2.5
  • XenanMeXenanMe Member Posts: 21
    Great post.  A few weeks back (before the fires broke out) we did a 5 day boondock in Wells Grey park.  Found that solar helped keep the lithium topped up on sunny days.  We also emptied some grey water into a small pail a few times and poured it into the tent campers grey water drain.  We also filled our kettle at the spigot rather than via our water tank just to make sure we had enough water for showers (none available at the site).  I highly recommend a small rechargeable bluetooth speaker.  Aside from battery useage, the small speaker has much better sound quality for both music and the tv sound.  Happy travels!
  • dsfdogsdsfdogs Member Posts: 409
    @pthomas745, this is the battery chart for lithium:

    13.6V = 100%

    13.4V = 99%

    13.3V = 90%

    13.2V = 70%

    13.1V = 40%

    13.0V = 30%

    12.9V = 20%

    12.8V = 17%

    12.5V = 14%

    12.0V = 9%

    Debbie in Oregon
    2018 [email protected] 320 S/2019 Toyota 4Runner SR5
  • Mellow_YellowMellow_Yellow Member Posts: 276
    You have spent more than a thousand dollars on battery/solar setups.  You watch your battery "flicker" under a very small load...and now you want to spend more money on another item to "save" your battery?  What exactly are you saving it for?  What state of charge chart are  you using that shows a battery at 13.08 at 70 percent?  Was that reading on a rested battery or a battery that was still in use?  (Even  more:  what part of the Jensen would use 30 amps worth of battery in such a short time?  I'm estimating that from guessing you have a 100 amp hour lithium, and 30 percent of that battery would be 30 amps from the Jensen.....that would be.....quite a lot.)
    Always insightful questions, @pthomas745. In hindsight, I was probably at about 13.15 under load when I started using the Jensen. I follow a chart similar to @dsfdogs above and estimated 13.08V under load to be about 35% charge remaining. So yeah, the Jensen did seem to suck a lot of power. Maybe it was the 80s music I was listening to that sucked the life force out of my trailer. I was using auxiliary input from my iphone. Not sure if that would drain it more than using just the radio. It is suprisingly nice, clear sound but expensive as far as battery drain is concerned.
    My [email protected] has been more than a bit of a money pit, but it is a happy little pit!
    2014 [email protected] 320 S "Sunny" - 2015 Toyota Sienna LE - British Columbia, Canada
  • Mellow_YellowMellow_Yellow Member Posts: 276
    SusanD said:
    Sounds like an awesome trip, looking forward to being there in August! Just cancelled a week in Shuswap due to air quality which was terrible at the time - unfortunately for me it seems to have improved since then.  Just curious, did you use your fridge throughout the trip? Would love to know if there is enough solar to offset it or not.
    Hi @SusanD - Do message me when you're coming out to China Beach. I'll happily come out to meet you and see your 2021 [email protected]! The fridge in my 2014 trailer is 3-way and can only feasibly be run on propane while off grid. It surprisingly quiet and efficient. The only other propane use was a bit of Alde/hot water and a daily pot of coffee. After 6 days, I guesstimate that I have about 1/2 tank of propane left. Plenty for my next summer trip, but I'll likely refill it anyway. 
    As I mentioned in my trip report, solar capture was challenging because of the tree cover and foggy/cloudy weather. Depending on your site and the weather, you may have better luck. 
    2014 [email protected] 320 S "Sunny" - 2015 Toyota Sienna LE - British Columbia, Canada
  • Mellow_YellowMellow_Yellow Member Posts: 276
    XenanMe said:
    We also filled our kettle at the spigot rather than via our water tank just to make sure we had enough water for showers (none available at the site).  
    Hi @XenanMe - I bring a Brita filter jug along for potable water. It fits perfectly in the little spot beside the stove. Sometimes the chlorination at rural locations is a bit heavy and the Brita takes the edge off. Despite carefully bleaching and draining of the lines before each trip, I consider the water in the [email protected] as non-potable and use it only for showers, dishes and flushes. Once I did a better job of bleaching than I did of rinsing the lines and had a few bleachy surprises. Lessons learned:
    - run the pump with the lines to the Alde open to make sure the bleach solution runs into the Alde hot water reservoir. Drain the hot/cold water lines from the Alde to the outside and into a bucket before rinsing the lines. 
    - make sure the bleach solution gets into the shower hose and nozzle. Sometimes a bit of stagnant water collects there and it is not pleasant.
    - drain the Alde again to the outside after the rinse and before the final fill.
    - drain the bleach out of the gray tank and give it a rinse as well so that the gray water is more biodegradable, in case you need to "water the plants". Best avoided, but emergencies happen.
    - drain all the lines, including the Alde when you get home.
    2014 [email protected] 320 S "Sunny" - 2015 Toyota Sienna LE - British Columbia, Canada
  • ColoradoJonColoradoJon Member Posts: 392
    I thought that lithium batteries tended to 'voltage dump' when the reserve capacity got low?  i.e. read higher than actual voltage as the battery drains, and then loses voltage very quickly at then end.  That would explain why it appeared that the Jensen used all of your power :)
    Jon & Angela | Florissant Colorado | 2017 Outback S
  • DanLDanL Member Posts: 14
    Hi @Mellow_Yellow.    I live on Vancouver Island as well.   It’s always nice to know there are other [email protected] owners out there on the island.    I bought from Revy RV in Duncan but they are now closed.    I’m curious, where do you get your [email protected] serviced?    Dan.
    2019 Jeep Cherokee pulling a 2018 [email protected] 400.
    Victoria, British Columbia.
  • ChanWChanW Member Posts: 2,978
    OMG. What a photo.

    You sure grow em pretty up there!

    Thanks for sharing.
    Chan  -  Buffalo NY (Beau Fleuve)
    2014 S Maxx - 2011 Tacoma 4cyl 
     [email protected]'ll_Do_Ya
  • Mellow_YellowMellow_Yellow Member Posts: 276
    DanL said:
    Hi @Mellow_Yellow.    I live on Vancouver Island as well.   It’s always nice to know there are other [email protected] owners out there on the island.    I bought from Revy RV in Duncan but they are now closed.    I’m curious, where do you get your [email protected] serviced?    Dan.
    Hi Dan - Sunwest RV in Courtenay is a brand new Alde service centre! They are also a NuCamp dealer, the only one I know of on the island. My contact there for Alde servicing is Trish at 250-338-5344.
    2014 [email protected] 320 S "Sunny" - 2015 Toyota Sienna LE - British Columbia, Canada
  • DanLDanL Member Posts: 14
    Hello @Mellow_Yellow and @RetireeBC.   Thanks for the tip on the dealer in Courtney.    I’m in Victoria so I was hoping to find a dealer that will provide service closer to home……but good to know there is an option on the island if absolutely necessary.     I have been frequenting The Living forest in Nanaimo during the pandemic which is great but I do look forward to venturing further afield and south of the border.   Maybe I will see you around.   
    2019 Jeep Cherokee pulling a 2018 [email protected] 400.
    Victoria, British Columbia.
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