We just returned from a 17 day trip, our first long sojourn in Oliver, the 17B which we got this spring. We had a tremendous, trouble-free voyage, thanks in no small part to all the help we got from this forum. This topic gives me the chance to post notes on some of the modifications and choices we ended up making, and how they worked for us. This is long but hopefully will be helpful to someone.
Possibly the best choice we made was to get the solar panel. It seemed to charge us up even in mostly shady conditions. We NEVER have to worry about running out of juice, even though we charged multiple iPads, phones, and a computer -- with the MaxxFan running all day in some cases. That said, we did have very good weather ... I suppose in days of rain we may have had trouble but mostly we were surprised at how little light it seemed to take to charge us back up. There seems to be NO reason to plug in unless you are using the AC (or maybe watching TV or using a microwave, which we don't ever plan to). Paying for powered sites seems like a waste to us.
We went a full eight days running our fridge on 5-6 and still had not kicked over to our second propane tank. We didn't use the heater much, and the hot water heater heats so quickly -- and stays hot so long -- that we never had it on more than 30 minutes at a time. Getting the electric option would have been silly.
We had Reace put in a small cubby/shelf that is attached to the bottom of the cabinet over the wardrobe. This ended up being a great space to put things we needed to grab quickly -- and kept the wardrobe counter clear.
We had four drawers installed in the wardrobe cabinet. We wouldn't be able to operate without these. One drawer holds all our little necessities (pens, screwdrivers, paper, tape, scissors, rubber mallet, batteries, etc etc). The second covers all our toiletries, and the bottom two hold an astounding amount of clothes. There's no way we could store nearly as much in this space -- and with such easy accessibility -- without the drawers. They're amazing and well-built (thanks, Reace!).
The storage bin on the front of the camper allows us to put nearly everything we need for outside use OUTSIDE, freeing up even more space inside the camper and inside the car.
The larger fridge holds an amazing amount -- totally worth it, and kept us from having to run to store as often. We did notice a hum from the unit when we slept that was slightly annoying; guess this is normal though.
We changed out the showerhead to a Oxygenics Body Spa handheld unit (recommended by someone on the forum). And it is MUCH better, with a shutoff valve that allowed us to be super efficient with our showers.
A mobile grey/black dump tank (sold to us by a very generous forum member) -- and two 5 gallon water tanks (recommended by said forum member) came in hugely handy. Together they meant we didn't have to leave our site to dump even when staying put for a week.
We had Reace add a switch inside the camper so we could flip our "porch light" on from inside ... and we also had him add extra brake lights above the back window of the camper so that people could see our brake lights even with bikes/rack on back. Both very helpful.
Speaking of …. we are NOT thrilled with our Swagman bike rack, which seems a little flimsy for the job (and also scratched our bikes up a bit). Our bikes are pretty heavy, and are at the weight limit for the rack; this may have something to do with it. Still, I wouldn't recommend it.
We had Reace put in a 12 volt outlet that sits inside the wall of the shelf that is in the front of the camper. This allows us to put our iPhones and iPads up on the shelf to charge without having cords running all over the place. We do wish we had Reace move the other 12 volt outlet that's on the fridge side of the bottom of the dinette bench ... anything plugged in here means that there's a wire hanging out under your feet if you're sitting there, and if you try to get out you might just trip over the wire (don't ask us how we know this).
We bought a CGear Multimat from REI.
These are ingenious because they allow dirt and sand to sink back through weave of the mat and keep your entryway relatively clean. This was great for our two 80 pound dogs, who, by the way, slept on the bunk formed by the front dinette. Some of you may remember we had a lot of anxiety about fitting the pups in with us but in the end it's working out great.
We did take down and set up the bed every day in back; this was helped greatly by using an REI sleeping bag (which we checked to make sure had dimensions that cover the bed space in the 17B)
Therm-A-Rest Tech blankets
and Cocoon sheets
We stuff all our bedding under the bench next to the fridge; quick up and down. Totally comfortable. As a result though the external storage access we had here isn't used (why would we need it when that hatch only accesses sleeping bags?)
Hook racks? Thumbs up. UMBRA. We have three of these, installed by Reace (we sent them up to the factory).
Pull out spray faucet in the sink? Excellent. Great for washing clothes. Worth it (we had this sent up too).
TV hookup? A mistake. I don't think we'll ever use it.
We thought about nixing the bathroom sink -- that would have been really silly. We use it all the time -- Dan cooks breakfast while I get ready in the morning, then he gets ready while I clean up. We get on with our day faster without getting in each other's way.
Extra insulation? Invaluable. Very little condensation -- amazing, really (we also got the extra "bottom" insulation which I think is helping too -- it is VERY quiet inside, btw).
An inexpensive digital thermometer with a wireless sensor helped us monitor the fridge. Super helpful; the fridge does need a lot of adjustment depending on ambient temp. I didn't realize how important this was until we started having fridge problems this spring.
We hate our camp toaster!! Does anyone have one they really like (not those circular ones that rust)?? (I'll be looking on the forum for one later no doubt)
We finally got to try our Fox Hill Oven!
It made swell brownies and frozen pizza on the cooktop inside the camper. Here's the thing though, we got the double oven and it was very difficult to maneuver under the fan about the stove - it was a little bit too tall and unless you have a large silcone mat to sit it on when you're pulling things out of it it will NOT be easy to get your chow out. If the dimensions on the single are shorter that might be a better choice, just remember that you may still need to move the unit off the cooktop to pull stuff out of the top ... and if that's the case you need somewhere to sit a very hot box. If you aren't wanting to make frozen pizza, ultimately the Omnia oven may be a better choice for inside use.
Enough!! Thanks to all of you for getting us started on a lifetime of happy camping.