Trekboxx Camp Shower

TrekboxX

Supporting Sponsor - TrekboxX
#1
Hey guys. I wanted to share a project I’ve been working on and get your feedback. If there is enough interest I will start selling these either as DIY kits or complete systems.

In my search for a hot water solution for a growing family, I couldn’t find a system that met my needs. So I ended up building my own (happens a lot around here). Here were my criteria:
  1. Something that actually works. Like the first time. I don’t want to recycle water in a bucket, etc. to have hot water.
  2. Doesn’t require running the truck. We do showers all at once, but also having hot water available to do dishes, etc., saves water and time. I don’t want to start the truck every time I need hot water.
  3. Serves more than one purpose (more on this later)
  4. Is field serviceable. I didn’t want any proprietary imported plastic do-dads whose failure could put the whole system out of commission.
  5. Is easily moved to another rig, next vehicle, etc.
I looked at most everything out there and they all lacked in one or more of these areas. I really liked the Ecotemp/Camp Chef Triton style of heater, but by itself it was hard to manage. It needed a home. So after some prototypes (and almost 2 years of testing) I ended up with an aluminum enclosure that fits the Ecotemp L5. The Ecotemp really works. It gets even cold stream water much hotter than you need the first time, and has both a temp adjustment and a flow adjustment that work well.

Shower Head/nozzle
The shower head that comes with the unit ended up in the trash. This is because it has an on/off switch that is difficult to operate one handed when you just need a quick squirt for rinsing a dish, etc. We ended up leaving it on longer than required just to avoid the hassle, at the cost of wasting water. After testing numerous nozzles, I ended up with basically a hose nozzle that has different spray patterns, has a catch to leave it on for showers, and has it’s own flow adjuster that will completely shut off the water if you want. This allows us to really stretch the water we bring with us.

Pump
I also wanted a way to refill our onboard tank, as well as utilize natural water sources for showers if we are close to a lake or stream. I ended up with a Shurflo 2.9 GPM pump. It will prime high enough to reach a nearby water source, and has plenty of power to pump uphill to a rooftop water tank.

Design
The Ecotemp is a big unit, so I wanted to keep the enclosure as tight to the unit as possible. Hence, a custom box. Also, I wanted to be able to have a fully contained unit, so the box also houses the pump, pump cord, and hoses. It is fully enclosed so it can be stored or mounted outside the vehicle. It’s aluminum for obvious reasons (heat, water, weight). The lid closes with draw latches to prevent rattles. The pump is mounted on a pump plate which quickly detaches from the unit so it can be lowered off a bridge, for example, to draw from a creek below.

I used all quick-connect fittings for the hoses because it’s nice to be able to change input/output hoses quickly. However, they inevitably leak. Even though it’s just a drip-drip-drip, it’s annoying. I may go back to standard threaded fittings. This would also reduce cost and make it even more field serviceable, even though the quick release garden hose fittings are available at most box stores. The design also allows you to bypass the pump and use a gravity fed source in case of a pump failure. This was one of my big concerns with having a pump built into a spare tire area water tank, for example.

There are 4 footman loops on the outside of the unit. These make it easy to tie it down to a roof rack, hang it from a tree, etc.

There are no proprietary parts except the Ecotemp, the pump, and the enclosure itself. Everything else can be repaired or replaced with a trip to the hardware store.

Upgrades/changes
The first upgrade was obvious- I started with a wood box as a proof of concept. This was upgraded to aluminum which saved about 10lbs. Total unit weight now is 30 lbs, including pump, hoses, etc.

The next was the addition of a much longer 12 volt cord for the pump. It’s nice to have your shower/wash station away from the vehicle to prevent a muddy pond developing outside the passenger door. I ended up with about a 30-40’ cord. It has worked very well.

Next, I will be installing a switch for the pump. I have a switched 12volt outlet on the truck, but since I usually setup the water station 30’ away the unit needs it’s own switch. That’s an easy fix.

Drawbacks
The main drawbacks are the weight and size. There are smaller and lighter units available, but I’ve spoken to owners and they all say the same thing. They have limited heating ability and therefore require recirculation to get up to temp, and then sometimes it gets too hot. This unit works flawlessly if you can sacrifice the size and weight.

Overall I think it’s a good solution if you are actually looking for a solution. For decades I never had hot water while camping and was just fine. But with young kids in tow, well, things are different. And I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t amazing to have a hot shower every night…

So, I’d like your feedback. I’m thinking of running a group buy/pre-order type of deal with enough interest. I need to build about 100 units to start getting any real price breaks. The box itself and pump plate would run about $150 (ballpark) including pump plate, draw latches, etc. They would be laser cut, CNC bent, and tig welded. We could do a kit where the box comes with a parts list, or a turn-key unit.

I could look into bulk discounts on the pumps (normally about $80) and the Ecotemp units ($120).
Hanging on tree.JPG On roof.JPG Bundled.JPG Overall open.JPG Enclosure.JPG
 
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#3
@TrekboxX I have the exact same set up as you described, and of course, I experienced the same challenges.
What are the dimensions and weight of that box?

For those that have this same set up. It's a huge benefit to be able to hang the entire unit (with all the components) from a nearby tree, or lean the unit up against a tree or even your tires to be near the shower tent. I like it. I would be interested. This is a good design @TrekboxX
 
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TrekboxX

Supporting Sponsor - TrekboxX
#4
This is what Kickstarter et al are for.

Very interested.

For the size issue, did you look at marine units?

More expensive of course, and many burn diesel not propane. . .

http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f74/source-of-hot-water-while-cruising-208102.html

https://goo.gl/Hs15jX

And of course there are many sailing forums out there.
Yes, I have seen them. They are $$$ and would be hard to repair/replace. The Ecotemps you can grab off of Amazon. As far as a kickstarter- I don't think it's quite necessary. I'm just looking for a general yes or no from the community. I've definitely learned what works for one person may not work for another...

@TrekboxX I have the exact same set up as you described, and of course, I experienced the same challenges.
What are the dimensions and weight of that box?
It's about 29 x 12 x 6.5". 30 lbs all in.
 
#5
Not saying required, but get well prepared, line up some credibility resourced, write it up well you may get pre-funded very quickly for the first 100 prototypes.
 
#7
Also add-on components of a hydronic space heating setup, with instructions.

A small insulated tank couple of passive radiators on the inside, and/or a fan-run water / air exchanger,

Hang the burner / pump unit outside and safely toasty without unvented propane burning in the living space.

Integrate with an engine coolant / water exchanger and save propane when showers / heating is needed after a road trip.
 

TrekboxX

Supporting Sponsor - TrekboxX
#10
Any opinions on the heater unit- Ecotemp vs. Camp Chef vs....? I've only used the Ecotemp, and it's great. But I don't know if there's any real difference. I think they're about the same size. One option would be to leave the 2 mounting holes for the heater off to allow you guys to mount whichever. I'd need to confirm fitment of other units, of course...
 
#12
Any opinions on the heater unit- Ecotemp vs. Camp Chef vs....? I've only used the Ecotemp, and it's great. But I don't know if there's any real difference. I think they're about the same size. One option would be to leave the 2 mounting holes for the heater off to allow you guys to mount whichever. I'd need to confirm fitment of other units, of course...
The more flexibility the better of course, long as the overall size didn't increase too much
 
#14
Well done TrekboxX. I like that. I agree with the comment that if you make sure it fits the CampChef version as well it would allow for more people to "retrofit" existing items they have. Maybe they haven't added a pump etc so a somewhat ala cart version might make a lot of sense. Good luck!
 
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