Aluminum topper condensation barrier
I am going to fix up my aluminum topper and truck's bed area for truck camping. Nothing fancy... cheap and easy, just like me . It'll be used for quick solo hunting/fishing/scouting in the Rockies of CO and WY, spring to late fall. Maybe bring my 6 and 8 year old girls a couple times this summer, just for fun, instead of using the Coleman pop-up. I'll probably use a Roll-a-cot for sleeping and a Pelonix electric heater/fan (run w/ a Honda 2000 generator) to help keep it dry(er) and warm. The floor has a layer of closed-cell foam sleeping pads covered with indoor-outdoor carpet.
I'm thinking of using Reflectix taped (with acrylic-backed foil tape) to the 1" aluminum frame members, leaving a 1" air space between the Reflectix and the outer aluminum skin.
I'll make cut-to-fit removable window covers from Reflectix and adhesive backed Velcro strips around the edges or press-in pieces of closed-cell foam sleeping pad material right inside the window frame members. I'll leave a removable section so I can open the sliding side windows for ventilation.
I'll run the electric heater/fan and keep the windows open at night to keep the moist interior air moving while I'm in there sleeping to reduce condensation, too..
Here are my questions... Will this be worthwhile to reduce condensation like I'm hoping? Is the air space unnecessary for this application and should I just glue the Reflectix directly onto the aluminum skin?
I have seen spray foam and some other more expensive materials. I'd like to keep it simple and I can get the Reflectix and tape at ACE here in the boonies of Wyoming.
I'm not too worried about insulating for warmth since I'll have the heater/fan running as much as possible to keep the air circulating. My main concern is condensation.
This is my first post. I want to thank you guys for the info and pics I've checked out here as an unregistered lurker here for the past couple weeks!
More research has me thinking spray foam insulation is the best way to go. Cost with shipping is $145. Has anyone tried the spray foam iinsulation in a topper-type application?
Here's what I came up with...
I put 2 layers of Reflectix on the aluminum ceiling and along one side of the truck bed under the sleeping platform I built. I didn't stand off the second layer of Reflectix on the aluminum framework like I intended because I wanted to save the extra headroom. I also put down a piece of 1/2" carpet padding and a new carpet on top of the old green indoor/outdoor.
I taped Reflectix to cardboard for sliding window covers on the side topper windows and used Velcro to attach window covers to the front and back topper windows.
I'll just use a Heater Buddy for 20 minutes or so before bed and in the AM for most trips. If it's really cold, I could bring the generator and the small electric heater.
Since the inside layer of Reflectix will be warmer than the aluminum ceiling, I'm thinking the moisture in the air won't condense as badly? There should definitely be less condensation than there was with only the bare aluminum ceiling.
The solution to condensation is ventilation.
That's a fact, Tom. I know I can't eliminate condensation but I'd like to reduce it some.
I'm hoping the double layer of Reflectix and the air spaces in between will cut down on the dampness and droplets on the ceiling? Seems like it would, to me, anyway. At the very least, it will make it quite a bit warmer in there.
Good point about ventillation. I'll definitely keep the windows open as much as the cold Wyoming winds and my old bones allow. I've got good sleeping bags etc., for sure.
That wind on the prarie howls like a lonely dog!
I remember my first attempt at winter backpacking back in the '70's. The outside thermometer in front of a cabin we passed read 20 below in the sun at 11 AM. I don't know what it dropped down to at night but the trees were cracking like rifle shots all night long. My buddy and I brought a coated (non-breatheable) nylon pup tent. The moisture from our breath condensed on the ceiling and snowed down on us while we slept. When we woke up, everything was frozen solid, from my boots to the $90 J.C. Penny's down jacket I brought. Could have used a lot more ventillation that night!
i think without some covering, the framing members of the cap will frost up, too. could the bed be lowered so just the plywood deck rests on top of your wheelwell? you are the primary producer of moisture in tha cap - unless you're boiling water for extended periods of time. so the more distance between you and the upper surface will give the moving air a better chance at disapating breath, perspiration, poops, whatever!
also, ventilation needs to come and go, so opposite openings will help carry it away. for example, the spaces around the tailgate and opening the lee side window a scooch.
great progress, BTW
Excellent advice, southpier. Thanks!
I read somewhere that a guy drilled holes in the frame members and sprayed in Great Stuff-style foam for the very reason you mentioned. I bet that would help, for sure. I let it go when I decided not to use spray foam.
The whole topper isn't worth $100 and I just decided to go quick and easy. I probably also threw good results out the window when I decided that, too!
You make another great point about the bed height. I see what you're saying about the more distance between me and the ceiling the better. I could lower the sleeping platform but I wanted it high as possible for under bed storage of paddles/fishing rods/boots/duffles etc.. Now I'm wondering.
I can see a new (used) raised roof topper or a rebuild in my future if the first trip out doesn't cut the mustard! I called around all the local topper places before I started my "build" to see if there were any used fiberglass toppers with the higher roofs around but no dice. One guy had a nice ARE with a high top and the hatchback/walk-in door, too, for $600. It's for a 1999-2008 Chevy GMC and mine's a 1997... danged thing would not fit. Son of a Bit%$!
It's been a fun project but spring bear opens April 15th and I gotta get on to more important stuff. The first night I'm layin' in there and the drips are drippin' I'll be thinking, "I shoulda listened to those guys on the E. Portal!".
I built a small table/shelf and put the finishing touches on the Bear Buggy today. Ready to go!
Thanks to all for your advice and input,
Tim, how much condensation was building up inside? I recently obtained an aluminum shell. I replaced the front single window with a sliding one from ARE. Cost was only $65. The whole unit was one piece with the framing. Something to consider to help with air flow and lessen the condensation.
Slliders in the topper and cab would be nice for access and ventillation etc, no doubt. Thanks, Mike. The condensation is at a tolerable level for me now, considering how much I use it. It's ok for quick run and gun trips but if I were going to use it more often I'd definitely have to upgrade.