The Woodsy Bit: Adventures of an '88 Phoenix


Hi ajmaudio!
My family is from Tellico Plains. I spent most summers there growing up, so I know the area fairly well. I may be stretching it just a little to call that area the "Tellico basin", when I say that I really mean that whole Tellico / Cherohala / North river / Santeetla area. Those campsites are all along Santeetla creek, near Joyce Kilmer. It's a very nice area. I do mean it when I say that the Tellico River is the most beautiful I have seen, IMO.

So far the new battery is awesome. Hard to believe the power to weight ratio. And, no chance it will be charged below freezing this year! LOL!


Hi subbterrain was wondering how battery is doing and what you run of of it . It's always nice hearing about people's experiences.i still have a brand new one that came with mine hawk last year . So I will be looking for one in future . And it awesome still reading your post. I remember when we talked about getting ours and how hard they are to find on east coast . And now I went three 3 and you have the same one. But I have my hawk the one I always wanted so , time to do some up grades . And I have to do a build when camper comes out of hibernation . Keep your build going love all the work


Hey Rangerdogg,
Still not much to report on the battery yet because it's actually in my other trailer camper at present. The battery system over there had failed, and we are planning on taking it instead of the truck camper to Florida in a few weeks, so I put it in there for a short period. In that situation, the fridge is a little bigger and that camper also has a little larger solar panel setup than the truck camper at 200 watts vs 80 watts. So far, sitting in the driveway and only getting sun for about 4 hours per day, it ran the fridge for 2 days no problem. I shut it down after 2 days, so it was not a good endurance test. One other potential drawback of these LifePo4 batteries is that since they have a flat discharge curve, my old battery meters are no good for telling me how much charge is left. You have to get a gadget that measures how much current you have used, and subtract that from the total after a full charge. I am not sure how simple that will be when you factor in the charge going back in via solar. I am trying to convince myself to just not pay attention to it at all, since the battery has built in electronics that will shut it off automatically when it's dead so it cant over-discharge and be damaged. Likewise, the same electronics keep it from being overcharged, too.

So it is going to be hard for me to say anything more than 'yes, it works to run my heater, lights and fridge, yes it's lightweight, yes the solar system charges it, No, I have no idea how much charge is left. This is a big part of why I intend to have 2 batteries. That way I always have a little bit in reserve.

Now, that said, I have rigged up a redneck (of course) way to run BOTH campers from Ryobi 18V tool batteries also, using a cheap DC to DC stepdown from Amazon. You may laugh, but one 4A big Ryobi battery can run my truck camper fridge for about 2.5 hours @ 70F in my experiments. (about 1.5 hours @ 85F) I'll take some pictures and detail that, in case someone is interested.

The trouble there is, we are likely to be away from the camper when the battery dies, so no one there to pop in a spare battery...

I'm probably worried about nothing though - I have about 6 ways to alternatively power or charge the system: Onboard solar, spare solar panel, generator (when I can run it), onboard shorepower charger, solenoid battery combiner to charge off of truck alternator, & Ryobi Redneck Power Adaptor.

Looking forward to more posts of your Hawk!
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Add Multi-Purpose, Ultralight Lifeboat with motor (with pix of boat and motor!)

Howdy Hi!
Time for more camper shenanigans! For those of you keeping up with this experiment in Redneck engineering...

For some time I have needed
1. A Bike - for both casual and emergency "lifeboat" duty, preferably motorized
2. A battery backup for the camper (with about 24 hour capacity)
3. An electric boat motor

I can now safely report that I have solved all three, and splendidly too!

So, I have tested the new LifePO4 battery, and it's working great so far. It is charging well with the solar system. I still need to test it with the truck-powered charging system, but I expect that will go fine. Since I cant reliably gauge the battery usage with anything I have on hand, or can find really, I wanted to have a backup battery system available to use in a pinch.

A while back, I bought a Rubbee "universal" bike motor system that simply clamps to the seatpost of nearly any bicycle. Read all about it here:
It was expensive, and a pain in the neck to ship - but in the end it was worth it. It's not the most powerful bike motor system out there, for sure, but it has some advantages as you will see...

bike_and_motor.jpg bike_folded.jpg

As far as the bike, and performance, here's that info:
The bike is a cheapie from Amazon, folding aluminum. Weighs 22 lbs. No frills with old-school brakes (pedal backwards to stop)

The motor is mounted with a simple throttle control. No silly cadence sensor or anything. Once you get rolling a bit, you can give it some throttle, and the motor picks up and powers you along at about 18 MPH. 16 on flat, over 20 on downhill, hill climbing slows it way down, and pedaling helps. I'd say it takes 75% of the effort out of a hill, if that makes sense. It will go about 18 miles, give or take. Offroad is do-able, too. I have had it on dirt and gravel, and it's fine with a little care. About the only drawback is water. Wet pavement makes it slip pretty badly. The motor is a 250 watt, 12 volt. The battery inside is a LifePO4 20 amp hour 12v battery. Weight is only 14 lbs. It's the 12 volt part that makes it magic!

After playing with it a bit, I went all-in on voiding the warranty (not like I'm paying to ship it back to Lithuania for repairs anyway, LOL) I cut it open, and spliced into the battery (bypassing the Battery Management System, BTW) so I could use it for other things... like a 20-hour backup for the camper, or to power my 12v trolling motor. If you look closely at the next photos, you will see that I made a quick connect system out of old extension cords. This was to save money, as other high-amperage connectors are stupid expensive. In the future, I may re-tool them to avoid confusion, but it works very well - albeit dangerous! (don't plug into 120!!!) I wrote warnings all over everything, so fingers crossed!

battery_and_boat.jpg boat_motor.jpg

The first test of the Rubbee battery system was using my trolling motor and canoe in the ocean. We safely used it in wind and currents, travelling about 6 miles. I estimate that I had at least half of the battery left afterwards. The AC plug adaptor system did very well, with no heat produced even at sustained full power. Success!

Then I used the Rubbee battery to power the camper when the first battery ran out. Again, it worked very well! More success!
This bike motor has a different battery management system than the main battery that depends on the included charger, so I would not use the solar system to charge it unless in dire need. It would work in a pinch though!

bike_mounted_front.jpg bike_mounted_quarter.jpg


Last thing was to mount the new "Lifeboat" to the front of my junk. The photos show me using commercial bungees but I will come up with something a little less fugly before it hits the road. It is actually supported by the bumper itself. I put down some magnetic vinyl sheeting, sticking to the bumper to keep the bike from scratching the bumper up. No road test, but I think it will work fine. It is out of the way up there, so I wont have to move it out of the way (as if it were hitch mounted in the back), or shuffle it around (as if I had it inside the camper, which I can do very easily if I need to..) I can lock it to the front bumper so no one steals it.

All this and it only weighs 36 lbs! Both batteries AND the bike weigh less than my old battery alone!
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Hey hey dreamers!
Wanted to wish you good luck on your hunt for the camper you’re dreaming big of! We’re still rolling! Many fixes, tinkers and upgrades since my last post, but we got a new “Main Power Unit” (truck) so I wanted to give you some good inspiration

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