Skylark Build Sheet (Long -- much too Long) - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 06-15-2014, 12:13 AM   #1
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Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
Trailer: 2014 Escape 21 -- The Skylark. Towed by a 2014 Highlander
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Skylark Build Sheet (Long -- much too Long)

We are coming up on the build sheet confirmation date for our Escape 21, so I thought I would throw out some of the decisions Lindy and I have made about what we are getting / not getting and ask for suggestions / comments, just to see if we are off base in some major way.

A word or two about us. We prefer to camp in state parks, which often have electric and water, but sometimes have neither of those. We also like to camp at places like the BLM campsite just north of Moab, along the Colorado River, which has no hookups. Since we got our current 17b, we have taken off in the spring and the fall, spending about 5 weeks at a time on the road. Usually we stay 2-3 days at a place, but sometimes we spend up to a week. While we agree with the folks who spend the majority of their time outdoors, our trip this spring had a lot of cold, wet weather. In addition, I developed a case of plantar fasciitis this winter that has limited my hiking. Net result is that we are spending more time in the trailer than we used to, but we are hopeful that will change as we go forward. My desire is to have Escape do as much as possible, especially all the options that would require major work later. So here are our choices / decisions:
  1. Kitchen area: I should mention here that evening meals are cooked on the Weber Que, weather permitting.
    • We opted for the three burner stainless steel stove. We prefer the stainless for aesthetic reasons. Although we rarely use more than two burners, we have done so on some occasions. We decided not to get the oven because it is so small (But I like the looks of the stove that comes with the oven).
    • We opted for the stainless steel sink, and the chrome faucet just for looks.
    • We are getting a microwave. We think we will have plenty of storage in the 21, and we often use a microwave for heating water in the morning, or for making popcorn while watching TV on a rainy evening. Also, it turns out that some of the frozen vegetables heat up really well in a microwave.
    • We are getting the regular fridge with the Texas Fan option. Even though we like to shop every few days to get fresh food, I think the larger fridge will be nice. As we all know, absorption fridges are not all that efficient when the weather is warm, so the texas fan option seems like a good plan for the summer time.
    • Our countertops are going to be American Rose (6221-58 ). Just a bit lighter than the Brazilian Brown in "The Lark".
  2. Electrical Systems:
    • We are getting the removable power cord. I like not having a hole in the trailers that bugs can climb through. I will be replacing the Escape supplied power cord with a Marinco right angle power cord. One of the things I found on The Lark is that the power cord soon showed signs of strain at the plug, I think because of the weight of the cord that always hanging down.
    • We currently have the 1500w inverter on the build sheet. I have mixed feelings on this ranging from just forget it to go ahead and have all the outlets powered -- which would be another $300.00. I think the only things that it would be useful for are the microwave (see above), charging computers, and Lindy's hair dryer. It won't power the AC, and everything else runs just fine off of 12 volt power. Would welcome opinions on this.
    • We are getting the solar panel. We currently have it on The Lark, and like it. It is nice not to have to worry about draining the batteries when we don't have power. I am looking forward to the new 160 watt solar panel.
    • We are getting all LED lights, inside and outside. We like the "warm white" bulbs.
    • We are getting an amber lens on the exterior light by the door. Seems to attract fewer bugs.
    • We are getting dual 6 volt batteries. Given that we have solar, and often have electrical, this may be overkill, but I like the notion of extra capacity. I really wish we could have these mounted externally like on the 17b. I take them out in the winter, and I am slightly afraid it will be more difficult to get them out of the dinette. But could be wrong.
    • We are getting built in surge protector. Everyone tells me how bad campground power is. So far we haven't had any problems, but better safe than sorry.
    • We are not getting any of the fancy electric monitoring systems. I have mixed thoughts about this, but I am not sure how much of that is my strange desire to look at gauges, monitors, etc. I was always attracted to the stereo with the most knobs. If any of you have an EMS that you are really happy with, let me know.
    • We will have a total of five 12 volt outlets in the trailer, two above the bed, two in the dining area (one on each side) and one on the side of the closet above the night stand. The last one is to power the TV. The other four are to power phone / tablet chargers. I should mention that more and more we use our tablets for reading. We can check out books and magazines from our local library no matter where we are.
    • We currently have an exterior 12 volt outlet on the build sheet. But I think we will be deleting it. Have others found it useful, and if so, what for?
    • We are going to have Escape run a 12 volt drop in all cabinets. We will add LED lighting and switches later on. This just makes it easier for us to find things in the overhead cabinets.
    • We will have switches by the door for the ceiling lights, and the exterior passenger side light. I thought about getting a switch for the other exterior lights, but we haven't used those lights since we got The Lark.
  3. Heating and Cooling:
    • We are getting the dual pane windows, extra insulation and foam on the bottom. I like being cozy in the trailer while it is snowing and cold outside. In the upper midwest, some of the best camping is just after we start to get frosts in the fall. The Lark has all of these, so I don't know if they are absolutely needed, but The Lark is comfortable.
    • We are getting air conditioning. We have only used it three or four times in the Lark, but when we use it, I am very glad to have it, and think it is worth every penny.
    • We are getting the digital thermostat. If we didn't get the Dometic thermostat, we would be swapping the Atwood thermostat or a digital one. That would cost a lot less, but by getting the Dometic thermostat we also get the AC compressor to work with the thermostat. It would be hard to add that later.
    • We opted not to get the smoke colored cover for the MaxFann. I didn't want the remote control because it seems like something else to go wrong, and I need the exercise getting up to adjust the speed. I think the smoke cover without the remote adds $80.00 to the price of the regular fan, which just seemed like a lot for just a different colored cover. On the other hand, Mr. Harley says he enjoys looking at the stars...
  4. Plumbing:
    • We are getting the two way hot water heater. I know we could save a couple of hundred dollars with just a propane heater. But if I am paying for electric at a campground, I want to get all I can for our money :-).
    • I am going to ask Escape if they can install the water heater switch that has a LED to tell me if it is on. If not, I can do that mod later.
    • I wish there was a way to turn off the electric part of the water heater from the inside, but ETI isn't able to make that modification. So I will have to dig through the forum and see how to do it myself. I did burn an element out a year ago when I plugged the trailer in before I filled the hot water tank. I guess the solution is to always store the trailer with the electric switch in the "off" position.
    • We are going to get the shut-off valve for the toilet. Just seems prudent, and we would hate to have a faulty toilet valve ruin a camping trip.
    • We aren't sure about the winterizing "T" valve. I broke down and bought an air compressor last fall so that I can winterize by blowing the lines out. It seems to have worked, so I don't think I need this unless I want to run pink stuff in the lines. The RV tech place did it that way the first winter we had the trailer, and there weren't any side effects. I am going to pass on this option.
    • one of the minor mods we made to The Lark was to intall the Shurflo pump silencing kit on one side (There wasn't room on the other). It made a big difference. Has any one with a 21 felt the need to add the silencing kit? Maybe Escape would install it for me? Also, someone here mounted the water pump on an bit of foam sandwiched between two pieces of wood. I am going to that if the pump is still noisy.
  5. Storage:
    • We are getting the storage box. It is one of our favorite options on The Lark. Holds the water hose, the electrical cord, the bars for the equalizer hitch (when the trailer is stored), 4 camp chairs, the wheel chocks and leveling blocks, a couple of sewer fittings.
    • We are only going with the one standard external hatch on the driver side. We aren't getting another exterior hatch in the rear. I think there will be enough space under the bed for almost anything I need to get to from the outside, including the little tool kit I carry, some nylon rope, some small plumbing things (eg. the water bandit and the adapter to fill the fresh water tank), a bottle jack, etc. etc. Does anyone with a 21 really love their rear hatch?
    • We are getting the cubbies by the bathroom door. It looks to me like it would be wasted space other wise. Are those who have them satisfied with them?
    • We are getting an extra door to get into the storage under the bed. We will be adding some drawers on slide outs like Tom did.
    • We are currently down for a shelf in the closet, but Kim needs to know the height we want. Anyone have a shelf there, and if so, is it above the bar, or below the bar? I thought about ditching the hanging rod and just having shelves. But Lindy says "no" to that idea. We still like to hang a few things.
    • The current plan is for a total of 10 Umbra hooks in the trailer. 3 right below the "stripper pole" when you come in to hold the dog leash, towels etc. 3 on the bath room wall right above the foot of the bed for jackets. 2 on each side of the dinette (by the fridge wall and the wall by the stove) to hold hats, my small back pack, etc. I know I could use command hooks for some of these, and will be adding some of those in the bathroom, and in various places to hold keys, etc. Escape will install the Umbra Hooks for me.
    • We opted not to get the front window -- solely because we like having a shelf above the bed for glasses, wallet, etc. etc.
    • we are getting three walls reinforced -- the bathroom wall facing the bed, the fridge wall facing the dinette, and the closet wall facing the bed.
  6. Towing:
    • we opted for the regular weight distribution hitch as opposed to the Andersen. Currently, we tow The Lark using the Reese WDH we got from ETI, and it works well. I had to grease the ball, and the place where the bars go through the hitch, but since then it has been quiet. I did a lot of reading in a lot of RV forums about the Andersen, and there were a few questions about how well the WDH part of the Andersen works. But overall, I didn't find anyone who said the towing experience was much improved with an Andersen vs a "regular" WDH. If anyone here has real-world experience that makes them prefer an Andersen to a regular WDH, I would reconsider.
    • The frame will be bike rack ready. We will probably need a bike rack as well. Currently we put the bikes in the Sienna, but I doubt they will fit in the Highlander. We may have to go a with Draftmaster Rack.
  7. Entertainment & Electronics:
    • We are getting it TV ready, with the regular Winegard antenna. We rarely watch broadcast TV, so don't think I can justify a "jack" antenna. We use a 12 volt Jensen LED TV. We are mounting the TV on the closet wall facing the bed. We currently have a 19" TV, but that is going to the new owner of The Lark. We will buy a 24 or 26" TV depending upon where the price break is. I am trying to figure out why the ETI TV bracket only works with 19" and smaller TVs. It can't be the weight.
    • We are getting a Jensen AWM 975 wall stereo. It will be mounted behind the microwave, facing the bed (Just below the overhead cabinets). I know a lot of folks here would choose not to build in any electronics, but we like watching DVDs. The 975 has an HDMI output, and we will run a cable from the back of the stereo to a wall plate near the TV. The Jensen also has an input for our iPhone, and a weather band.
    • We are getting four speakers, two above the bed and two above the dinette. They can be turned off and on in pairs, so while watching TV, we would only use the speakers above the bed.
    • In The Lark, we get RFI from the LED lights. So I am having ETI install an external antenna for the FM Radio.
    • We are getting Escape to install a Cell Phone antenna, probably Wilson model 308433. Is that the model others are using? Do you have to get a mount? It looks like this one has a bracket made for mounting to truck mirror, but I can't see how it would mount on the top of the trailer. Do you know if Escape will just run the cord inside, hopefully to somewhere front of the trailer? I think folks are hooking this up to a Wilson Sleek cradle -- at least that is my currently fantasy. Is that accurate, or do I need something more expensive? Mostly we care about this so that we can use the iPhone as a hot spot.
    • We decided not to have Escape install an antenna for a wifi repeater. Sometimes the WIFI at campgrounds is spotty at best, but I think with a cell phone we will be ok. And if not, we can read a book or watch the birds.
  8. Decorative:
    • We are getting 4 aluminum rims. Just because they are pretty.
    • We are getting impulse blue graphics because they come come closest to matching the dark blue Highlander we have on order.
    • The name of the trailer will be on the rear. We are naming the new trailer "The Skylark". The current 17b is called "The Lark", and we wanted to continue in that vein. Also, I wanted to pay a bit of homage to the sci-fi novels of E.E.(Doc) Smith, which feature a space ship named "Skylark". I suggested "CAS-EGG-Grande" but Lindy would have none of it. "Casablanca" got used for our old white VW camper.
    • We are getting an opening window in the bathroom. Not sure if this is decorative or not, but it seems like a nice thing to have a bit of light in there.
I think that is about it. Lindy and I would very much appreciate any feedback others have about our choices -- is there something important we are forgetting? Is there anything I have said here that just seems wrong, or that you disagree with? We have been very happy with The Lark. Recently Lindy asked me if there were any options we got that I regretted getting and I couldn't think of any. And maybe some others who are still in the "wishing and hoping" stage will enjoy the peek into our decision making process.


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Old 06-15-2014, 12:32 AM   #2
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Two comments, pathetic in view of the extensive build sheet. I switched to an amber LED lamp at the door and then I switched back. The amber light I had only illuminated itself. You almost needed a flashlight to see the amber light. And, if it doesn't attract insects, somebody should tell the insects.

I'd not worry about bringing batteries inside for the winter. Just keep them charged. Of course, I don't live in Minnesota. My trailer is plugged in year round.

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Old 06-15-2014, 12:59 AM   #3
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Our 21 sheet was almost a copy except for audio gear brand and the cell antenna; I chose Wilson Electronics Dual Band - 800-1900 MHz Roof Mount RV Trucker Antenna with Spring - 11.5-Foot RG58 Coax Cable with FME Female Connector
and mounting it just behind the fridge.

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Old 06-15-2014, 01:42 AM   #4
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Sounds wonderful very excited that you are getting close to getting your Skylark so I can finally get the Lark! I keep buying stuff for camping it's all in a box waiting!
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Old 06-15-2014, 07:36 AM   #5
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I like including the rationale for your choices - makes it much easier to make (hopefully) useful comments.

I would spend the $300 for the transfer switch - all outlets powered. This would be a pain to do later. I have used it for the microwave and for 110V tools when working on the trailer. (We have to store it in a remote lot with no power.)

We do not have an exterior 12V outlet. The only use I can think of would be for a 12V air compressor.

I would have the inside switch for the exterior passenger side light connected as a real 3-way switch. (See

The water heater is easy - just intercept the 110V feed wire and install a (lighted) switch. Leave the outside switch always on.
Doug and Karen
2014 Escape 19'
2005 Toyota Tundra V8 Access Cab
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Old 06-15-2014, 07:41 AM   #6
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If you get the E-Z winterizing kit, it moves the water pump to under the bed for ease of access for any future changes. It is very quiet there. There are no low point drains in the 21' so the air compressor method for blowing out the lines will not work, thus the E-Z winterizing becomes easier. You mention the oven being small, the microwave is even smaller. You can cook a lot more in the oven, off the plug in circuit than you can with the microwave. As far as heating the water with the microwave, use your new 3 burner stove, that is what they did before microwaves. I'd skip the electric in the water heater, too easy to blow a circuit. I turn my heater on in the am and off an hour later after doing dishes, still plenty hot for evening washing. All you need it too turn it on for an hour and then off, with or without the reminder led mod. Too many Umbra hooks, the only nice wall is the bed/bath wall for hanging items. I installed leash hooks right inside door between the screen and exterior door, space for 4 hooks. Check out post # 15 here Planned modifications for my 19'
By eliminating the inverter and the wiring all the 120v outlets you will also be saving both $$ and weight. Remember you have to tow all these options everywhere you go. Concentrate on using everything to 12v and you will be fine. In my unit, everything but the a/c is 12v. By the way, having had just the smoke lens in my 19 without the remote and now with the remote in my 21, is handy. You can still operate the fan without the remote but if there is ever any issues it will be with the fan electronics, not the remote.
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Old 06-15-2014, 07:52 AM   #7
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Perhaps think switch the microwave to a microwave / convection oven ? two birds one stone . Some thing I am going to do is switch out the regular outlets with Shop Cooper Wiring Devices 15-Amp White Decorator Duplex Electrical Outlet at . I did not see any of the accessory plugs though I might have missed them in the list I am installing WEST MARINE Single Receptacle, 1-1/8" dia. x 2-1/2" | West Marine I like them better with the covers closed when not in use. Just some thoughts

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Old 06-15-2014, 09:04 AM   #8
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regarding the inverter -- go all in, or go home... If you think you want 120vac off your battery, get every plug powered or your going to wish you had. But do you really need an inverter at all? There are other ways to heat food, computers can usually charge off 12v (either with the specific car adapter for your computer, or with a generic small plug-in inverter). Of course if Lindy's hair dryer is an absolute requirement, you're stuck with it...

removable power cord: good planning... the pull-out cord annoys me...

dual 6-volt batteries -- maybe overkill, particularly with the new larger solar panel ETI uses now. You might consider ditching this if you're looking to trim the list a little.

Have you started planning the Skylark of Valeron yet? I'd guess not... As I recall it was under plan while Skylark 3 was being built, and you're only on number 2 at this point... (I did enjoy that old-time space opera when I was a kid...)

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Old 06-15-2014, 09:09 AM   #9
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We use the exterior 12V plug for a cooler/fridge for drinks, while outside.
Chapi II
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Old 06-15-2014, 09:10 AM   #10
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I am just starting my build sheet for a 5.0, I appreciate your thoughts in a written form for me to ponder on. I was searching for a starting point and you provided a good one. When is your build sheet due? As I read through your post more thoroughly I will respond with opinions.

I have been planning this build for many years. Now that it is time to get serious I am a little nervous. MY build sheet is due Dec 1, 5 months is not a lot of time if you goof off.

I would recommend the external 12V outlet, maybe even a second one. As Jim has suggested moving toward all 12V appliances reduces your dependency on the power bush especially when you have solar. A second reason is a 12V fan, I currently camp in a tent and carry batteries with me. I use a DC powered fan quite often, and intend to use one when setting outside my 5.0 too.

I removed the inverter option for several reasons.

1: I am in Jim's corner on the moving to battery powered equipment.
2: The total added cost inverter & transfer switch, and all outlets wired was $750. You can buy a lot of 12V equipment with that.
3: Should I desire to add an inverter it could just plug into a 12V outlet for single appliance or if I wish to add one to feed the trailer fishing wires in to do this should not be difficult.
4: Inverters are not efficient, a one amp ac load is 10A plus losses. Most inverters are 85 to 90 percent efficient. 1X10X1.15(85%)=11.5A That is a lot of battery capacity to replace.

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