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Old 02-29-2016, 11:49 AM   #1
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Newbies first trip

We are new to trailers and towing and got back yesterday from our first ever camping trip with our 21. We went to Sly Park for the weekend, just over an hour from our home. It's a beautifully developed and maintained park that I would highly recommend except that it has no hookups, and no water in winter. Here are a few of our first impressions, in no particular order:


  • Kevin brought home our empty 21 from the factory using his brother's F250. This time we borrowed his 2006 V8 Nissan Titan. He says there was a noticeable difference in the towing experience. You could really hear and feel the Titan working to pull up the many hills. Of course this time we had a full fresh water tank (and didn't empty the black/gray until we got home) and a lot of firewood in the truck on the way up. It wasn't a problem in any way but settled the Highlander vs pickup decision for us. We will be getting a pickup.
  • Loved the solar. Brother-in-law had to use a generator to recharge batteries for their camper. We loved the concept of recharging our batteries silently and for free! We were parked under a lot of tree cover and the skies ranged from cloudy to sunny and our battery level never dropped below 2/3 full.
  • Had problems with the fridge and the inverter (mentioned in another thread). Will be calling Dometic and Samlex for advice on those problems.
  • Definitely need to buy slip on/off camp shoes. Despite having an outdoor rug plus a mat to wipe our feet we tracked a huge amount of dirt into the trailer. Also grateful we got the standard floor as you couldn't see most of it until you got down to clean it!
  • After ordering our 21 we went through a period of buyers remorse and wondered if we should have ordered the 15 or 17 instead. Towing the wide and long 21 is certainly more challenging than a smaller trailer would be. However we loved so many aspects of the 21 and hope that with practice towing will become a more relaxed experience.
  • We added a 2” memory foam topper to our bed and found it amazingly comfortable. I worried about the double size vs our king at home, but it was cozy and good.
  • Loved having the dinette with the full size table for this trip. It was quite cold out so we spent most of our time around the campfire, but it sure was nice to come in for a warm dinner for 4 in the dinette without our food getting cold. Having said that, I will also be getting a separate smaller and interchangeable table made for when we go out just the 2 of us, and will likely keep the smaller table in “lounge” position most of the time.
  • We kept wondering at the amazing experience of camping and being able to use the bathroom without having to go outside AND having easy access to water to wash our hands AND having hot water AND even being able to shower while camping without services! Then there was the joy of getting a good sleep, and being able to warm up simply by turning on the heat!
  • Dumping the tanks was clean and easy peasy
  • Keep your extra set of keys in the car, and keep your car keys on you at all times or maybe hidden somewhere outside the trailer. One time I shut the door on the trailer and somehow it locked itself. By pure chance the other set of keys was in the truck and the truck was unlocked so no problems. But it could have been!
Looking forward to our next trip now!
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:06 PM   #2
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Congratulations! Sounds like a complete success. And... a California lake with actual water in it! A far cry from the Folsom Mud Puddle we saw when we met you last Spring (we hear Folsom is looking much wetter this year, too). Wishing you many more fun trips in your 21.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:08 PM   #3
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Nice review and wonderful pictures, but the second photo looks upside down! ..............just kidding!
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:32 PM   #4
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Jill,
Thanks for the report. It is good to hear about first timers' experiences. We expect to be in the same situation sometime in July.
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Old 02-29-2016, 01:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jill View Post
  • Keep your extra set of keys in the car, and keep your car keys on you at all times or maybe hidden somewhere outside the trailer. One time I shut the door on the trailer and somehow it locked itself. By pure chance the other set of keys was in the truck and the truck was unlocked so no problems. But it could have been!
Great report, thanks for posting. I'm very much looking forward to our first trip when we get our trailer.


I bought a small key ring holder that will go right next to the door, on the end of the kitchen cabinet. going out - grab the extra keys. coming in - hang up the extra keys. I plan to have a set with just the truck and trailer key and that's our extra set. But keeping an extra trailer key in the truck also sounds like a good idea - just in case!
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Old 02-29-2016, 01:42 PM   #6
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I keep my extra key in my pocket.
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Old 02-29-2016, 04:51 PM   #7
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Thanks for the report. We hope to be writing one like it after we pick up our 21' in May. But hope not to have refrig problems as we are going to head north to Alaska. Think we'll stay close to Chilliwack for a few days while we get accustomed to the rig.
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Old 02-29-2016, 05:00 PM   #8
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Great report, Jill! Thanks for sharing - I agree the towing will get easier with more practice... And that carrying firewood sure adds to the load. The other thing about solar is it doesn't stink (no exhaust); and we've also used the indoor dining when conditions weren't picnic suitable. Getting in the mood to get going again! (We're heading to Surprise, AZ next week, to watch a little baseball.)
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Old 02-29-2016, 09:34 PM   #9
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Hi Jill- great report and glad you got your fridge working.

Agree that a non full-size with less than 300 lbs. of torque is going to make pulling a 21- shall we say- more work? Really wish there was more competition to a Dodge Durango that is a RWD platform unibody that has a V-8 option. Am somewhat skeptical of the brand but every time I see one I wonder.

Solar is great! And having it on the roof lets you do one less thing(as if there aren't enough already) to enjoy camping. Many don't know having that option is also a great thing for battery maintenance in most cases as the charge controller is way more efficient than the WFCO house converter for charging.

On the inverter issue- we met another newbie two days ago in Monterey reporting the same problem and they left before I could digest it. The 120V plug wont' work for a minute or two after turning on the inverter...it's not like plugging in with full hookups.

We hide keys for the Tug and trailer in different locations. Don't want to be breaking in and have insurance for that odd chance someone would find them.
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Old 03-01-2016, 05:10 PM   #10
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Congratulations! Sounds like a complete success. And... a California lake with actual water in it! A far cry from the Folsom Mud Puddle we saw when we met you last Spring (we hear Folsom is looking much wetter this year, too). Wishing you many more fun trips in your 21.
Thanks Doug. You wouldn't believe how bad Folsom lake got. Standing on the levee you would have to walk over a mile to get to the water. It was very visible. Looking much better now!
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Old 03-01-2016, 05:12 PM   #11
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Great report, Jill! Thanks for sharing - I agree the towing will get easier with more practice... And that carrying firewood sure adds to the load. The other thing about solar is it doesn't stink (no exhaust); and we've also used the indoor dining when conditions weren't picnic suitable. Getting in the mood to get going again! (We're heading to Surprise, AZ next week, to watch a little baseball.)
One more thing about solar - you don't have the potential danger of carrying around an extra gas can!
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Old 03-01-2016, 05:44 PM   #12
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Many don't know having that option is also a great thing for battery maintenance in most cases as the charge controller is way more efficient than the WFCO house converter for charging.

On the inverter issue- we met another newbie two days ago in Monterey reporting the same problem and they left before I could digest it. The 120V plug wont' work for a minute or two after turning on the inverter...it's not like plugging in with full hookups.
Count me among those who didn't know that about battery maintenance. But then I have a ton to learn about all that. I just tested my inverter with the coffee maker again. This time I was sure to wait a full 2 minutes after turning on the inverter, before starting the coffee maker and it worked! However I'm a bit confused on all the readings.

Before I started, my battery level showed full and the solar showed 12.8w and 151 amp hours and the inverter showed 12.8w input. While making coffee, the inverter reading showed 11.2 input, and dropped to 11.1 towards the end of the cycle. After the coffee was done, the inverter showed 12.4 input, the battery level dropped to 2/3 full and solar showed 12.4w but still had 151 amp hours. I would have expected the 151 amp hours to drop as well.

Anyway, the good news is that the inverter may be working properly. My guess is that I was so eager for that morning jolt that I didn't wait long enough for the inverter to fire up.
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Old 03-01-2016, 06:13 PM   #13
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This may help you better understand The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)
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Old 03-01-2016, 11:03 PM   #14
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This may help you better understand The 12volt Side of Life (Part 1)
What an awesome resource - thank you for sharing that!
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Old 03-02-2016, 10:53 AM   #15
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Count me among those who didn't know that about battery maintenance. But then I have a ton to learn about all that. I just tested my inverter with the coffee maker again. This time I was sure to wait a full 2 minutes after turning on the inverter, before starting the coffee maker and it worked! However I'm a bit confused on all the readings.

Before I started, my battery level showed full and the solar showed 12.8w and 151 amp hours and the inverter showed 12.8w input. While making coffee, the inverter reading showed 11.2 input, and dropped to 11.1 towards the end of the cycle. After the coffee was done, the inverter showed 12.4 input, the battery level dropped to 2/3 full and solar showed 12.4w but still had 151 amp hours. I would have expected the 151 amp hours to drop as well.

Anyway, the good news is that the inverter may be working properly. My guess is that I was so eager for that morning jolt that I didn't wait long enough for the inverter to fire up.
All of this makes sense, although you should change the "w" to "v" since w stands for watts and you are describing voltage. The inverter load on the battery and wiring pulls down the voltage while operating the coffee pot. When it is done, the current draw drops, the voltage goes back up, but since you used some of the battery capacity, not as far up as when you started. Over time, the solar panels will replace the used amperage in the battery.

As to why the solar controller shows the same amp hours, it can't determine what you used from the battery since it can only measure voltage & amperage going out of the controller. Essentially, it tells you what the solar panels produced since the last time you reset it.

To determine actual battery amp hours you need a battery monitor, a device that is placed in series with the battery at the battery so that all current goes through it. It will measure what goes into the battery from any source (tow vehicle, converter or solar controller), and what goes out to any load. This provides a far more accurate measurement of usage, but is not a standard (or even optional) item on Escapes.

While there are several manufacturers, I installed a Bogart TriMetric 2025 (current model is the 2030) in my trailer.
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Old 03-02-2016, 11:10 AM   #16
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Good explanation Jon. I was at a loss at what I was looking at on the factory solar at Quartzsite and Jon walked me through everything that I could do and measure from the controller display. I really appreciated his help on interpreting all that info, and you definitely get to see why he was and still is a successful teacher.
I'm not sure at this point I need more measurement than currently exists, but when we hit the road full-time like Jon, I will need the additional battery monitoring. Of course, by then there will probably be an RV Powerwall by Tesla that will change how we approach everything.
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Old 03-02-2016, 11:26 AM   #17
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All of this makes sense, although you should change the "w" to "v" since w stands for watts and you are describing voltage. The inverter load on the battery and wiring pulls down the voltage while operating the coffee pot. When it is done, the current draw drops, the voltage goes back up, but since you used some of the battery capacity, not as far up as when you started. Over time, the solar panels will replace the used amperage in the battery.

As to why the solar controller shows the same amp hours, it can't determine what you used from the battery since it can only measure voltage & amperage going out of the controller. Essentially, it tells you what the solar panels produced since the last time you reset it.
Thank you Jon - that makes perfect sense. Lots of learning opportunities here and I love it!
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Old 03-02-2016, 12:28 PM   #18
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All of this makes sense, although you should change the "w" to "v" since w stands for watts and you are describing voltage. The inverter load on the battery and wiring pulls down the voltage while operating the coffee pot. When it is done, the current draw drops, the voltage goes back up, but since you used some of the battery capacity, not as far up as when you started. Over time, the solar panels will replace the used amperage in the battery.

As to why the solar controller shows the same amp hours, it can't determine what you used from the battery since it can only measure voltage & amperage going out of the controller. Essentially, it tells you what the solar panels produced since the last time you reset it.

To determine actual battery amp hours you need a battery monitor, a device that is placed in series with the battery at the battery so that all current goes through it. It will measure what goes into the battery from any source (tow vehicle, converter or solar controller), and what goes out to any load. This provides a far more accurate measurement of usage, but is not a standard (or even optional) item on Escapes.

While there are several manufacturers, I installed a Bogart TriMetric 2025 (current model is the 2030) in my trailer.
Jon how hard was it to install the Bogart?

And we'll have dual 6v and an inverter

Does that make it harder to put in the shunt?
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Old 03-02-2016, 12:32 PM   #19
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Installers manual. Probably more than one needs to know.
http://www.bogartengineering.com/sit...s1-27-2016.pdf
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Old 03-02-2016, 01:40 PM   #20
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Jon how hard was it to install the Bogart?

And we'll have dual 6v and an inverter

Does that make it harder to put in the shunt?
It depends on the original wiring. If the inverter is run with separate wiring from the rest of the feed between the batteries & the converter, you have to add the shunt between the battery and ALL negative connections for it to provide accurate readings.

In the case of my 17B, I rewired the jumper between batteries & the main feeds from them to the inverter with #0 wire, then #6 between the inverter & the converter. The shunt went in the line to the inverter. Not difficult, other than dealing with 1/2" thick wire. I placed the TM2025 next to the solar controller & ran a lightweight 4 conductor cable between them. How difficult this would be depends on the location of your shunt & the TM2030.

While Escape won't install the TM2030, they will prewire for the run between the shunt & the device if your ask, and give them the locations (and probably pay for it).
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