What I Learned On My First “Boots on the Ground” CleanTech Glamping Trip (Part 2)

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In Part 1, I gave readers an update on my efforts to bring more “boots on the ground” coverage and review work to CleanTechnica. Getting even a basic and cheap cargo trailer built proved to be a bigger challenge than expected, but I manage to build it, get it loaded, and take some items out on a trip.

The First Test Trip

I’ve covered this a bit in some of the product reviews, but I’m going to go into some greater detail on the trip itself in this article. I ended up needing to take several dogs and some caged pets along with us on this first test trip, and it was more than the Bolt EUV could hold. For future trips, I’ve since built a better fence at home and made other arrangements to avoid taking the whole zoo along, so I’ll be able to make future trips on electric power. But, sadly, for this first trip, I had to use my gas crossover.

The rest of the setup is exactly the one I plan to pull with my Bolt. In the trailer, I packed my Shiftpod insulated shelter, a Jackery 3000 Pro power station, 800 watts of solar panels, an EcoFlow Wave2 AC with heat pump, an EcoFlow Glacier refrigerator (the review for that one is still in progress), bedding, food, water, and other camping odds and ends.

Our destination? Monjeau Peak in southern New Mexico, and we chose it because it’s interesting in several ways. The biggest thing is the mountain’s size, with the top just shy of 10,000 feet. It’s also part of the Sierra Blanca mountain range, a set of tall peaks that mark the divide between the Great Plains ecoregion and the rest of the drier American West. From the old fire lookout on the top of the peak, you can see a broad variety of forest, desert, and plains landscape. Towns as far away as Roswell (plus the alleged alien crash site), Ruidoso, Capitan, and even some large wind farms almost 100 miles away are all visible, too.

Since this was the first outing, another advantage to this location is its excellent internet connectivity. After all, it’s not hard to get a signal on a peak with thousands of feet of prominence.

How The Gear Performed Up There

While we thought we were going to put the gear through a mild test, fate had other ideas.

For one, the typical cool mountain air wasn’t that cool this time. Not only was the whole region (like the rest of the northern hemisphere) experiencing record heat, but a thermal inversion actually made the top of the mountain hotter than the highlands at the bottom of the hill. We still got a break from the heat of the desert floor, but not by nearly as much as we had hoped.

The Jackery 3000 Pro (Read Kyle Field’s full review here) performed exactly as advertised. I had four of the 200-watt panels with me, which should have been enough, but I was dumb and left two more of the panels at home. Even in decent sunlight, there was still some shade from the recovering aspen trees on the peak, and unexpected clouds also ended up interrupting the power.

So, while the Jackery performed just as it should have in the conditions, the intermittent sunlight still put a lot of UV light onto the tent, heating it up during the day. Even at night, the temperatures didn’t go below 70 degrees, leading the tent’s insulation to holding in the body heat of two humans and four dogs, keeping things hot even at night. All of this led to much higher than expected HVAC energy needs, which frequently overran the available solar power, leaving us to deal with the heat.

But, it’s worth pointing out that when the air conditioner was running, things were quite comfortable. EcoFlow makes a great heat pump and air conditioner, and it’s quite efficient. Even in the hotter parts of the day, it only pulled around 500 watts. But, I just hadn’t planned adequately for it.

Everything else went great, though. The trailer carried everything up the hill right, and didn’t have a noticeable effect on fuel economy (in Part 1, I discussed energy usage on the Bolt, which was roughly a 15% loss). I was able to successfully test and get pictures for several products to review on the trip. Bedding, food, and hot water (from the Yakima Roadshower, review coming soon) were all great.

What I’ll Be Doing To Make This Setup Work Even Better

The purpose of any good shakedown cruise is to figure out what the bugs are and make improvements. While running into problems isn’t fun, it’s a great way to identify them and make it better.

The obvious thing we’ll do on future trips is increase our energy storage. The Bolt EUV has a battery with around 60 usable kilowatt-hours of energy, which would have been a great way to keep the Jackery 3000 topped up, in addition to any solar energy we can gather. I’m either going to need to use an inverter to AC charge the Jackery from the vehicle’s 12v battery, or run DC power directly from the 12v battery to the Jackery on the trailer.

Another thing I realized is that we need to have easier access to kitchen equipment. On future trips where the Bolt will be pulling the trailer, charging stops will be an ideal time to cook. In the next couple weeks, I’ll be building a box on the tongue that can be opened to let us cook without unpacking more of the trailer. It will also provide a much better place to store the refrigerator and prevent damage in transit. I’ll also be storing the Jackery 3000 and solar panels in that box for easy access and more space for other things in the main cargo box.

Finally, I’m going to add a couple of coats of cheap paint to the trailer to protect the thinner plywood from rain in the coming months (assuming we ever get any this year).

I was going to take a second trip this month (July), but we ended up getting sick. In an article next month, I’ll write another article telling everyone how it goes on the first long trip with all of these improvements!

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

 


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