Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rocky Mountain Overland Rally and Solar-Battery Upgrade

The Rally included a Four Wheel Camper area.
The white arrow is pointing to our rig.  

Rocky Mountain Four Wheel Camper (RMFWC) and Juniper Overland invited us to attend the inaugural Rocky Mountain Overland Rally in Gunnison, Colorado at the I Bar Ranch. We had never been to a rally before and were curious. The rally offered nightly campfire raffles, happy hours, an on-site technical course, instruction, classes and vendor demos. They delivered! If you ever get a chance to go to a concert at the I Bar Ranch or to attend an Overland Rally - jump at the opportunity. You will not be disappointed.  Huge thanks to Chris and Josh for the invite!

When we bought our Four Wheel Camper, we didn't have a solar system installed because we knew we wanted to get an upgraded battery and solar set up that would work for us. Greg wired our van himself and we used a portable solar panel to charge up the house battery which worked really well. But, we wanted something that would be more permanent and where we could solar up even when on a hike.

Greg and I both use cpap machines. We made sure we got the lowest energy usage cpaps, but they are still energy hogs. Additionally, our Four Wheel Camper frig is a two way, meaning it operates using battery or shore power.

Matt of Off-Grid Engineering's
rig at Overland Rally
One goal we had for attending the Rocky Mountain Overland Rally was to see other folks solar/battery setup and to possibly meet vendors who could help us plan the right battery/solar build. On the last day of the rally, we walked around to all the vendors booths. We met Matt of Off-Grid Engineering and we could tell he was the one. Greg and Matt hit it off right ways. I tried to keep up with the battery geek talk between the two of them, but didn't succeed. Matt got what we were looking for and had great suggestions. I also appreciate that he was able to come down to my level to explain the build in plain terms for a novice like me. Greg has been researching components for awhile. We had already purchased some parts including the flexible solar panels. Matt supplied the missing pieces, the labor and the expertise! Greg dropped off the camper on Thursday morning and by Friday at 11 a.m. our dream setup was done. We are very, very pleased so far! More on this later in this post.

Trail Ride coming and going

We love going to Gunnison and nearby Crested Butte. The first day of the rally, we signed up for a trail ride from the rally site to Crested Butte past Gothic to Emerald Lake. We were a little nervous as this was our first time on a rough 4x4 road with the camper on the Taco or travelling with a group. It was fun although we all had to turn around before we made it to the lake because of a landslide. We were both really happy with how the Taco Shell performed and how comfortable we felt. We drove back on our own and stopped for a hike and to enjoy the beautiful wildflowers.

The flowers were amazing even
though we missed the peak
Even though it was in the 80's the hike to the waterfall overlook was spectacular. We never get tired of the awesome views from the Gothic area.

Back at the rally, we watched folks navigate the technical course and marveled at their skills. We hope to feel confident enough to do the course at a future rally. We spent quite a bit of time watching a really big rig get stuck on the course and an even bigger rig come and pull it out. Excellent "demo" of recovery gear.

To the rescue 

The nightly campfires and prize drawings was a lot of fun. We also enjoyed just sitting by our camper and chatting with other Four Wheel Camper owners. A great group of folks.

Very impressive campfire at the I Bar Ranch
Back to our build.  I am going to quote Matt from Off-Grid Engineering with the technical specs of what he did for us. His description is below in blue and the following five photos are by Off-Grid Engineering of our rig's solar setup. We are VERY happy with Matt's customer service, vision and execution! Check out his website at

@sockmonkeytrekkers are planning to get some serious use out of their new Tacoma/FWC combo... but first they needed a bit of an electrical upgrade. 

We started by removing the factory dual purpose 79 amp hour battery and isolator. Then we upgraded the size of the charging wire from 10 AWG wire to 4 AWG welding cable front to back, added a @redarc electronics 40 amp DC to DC charger, 200 watts of solar, a Victron Energy solar charge controller (with Bluetooth), and two 6 volt AGM batteries for a total of 250 amp hours! 

The before set up
Matt installed our two flexible solar panels on the roof

New batteries fit perfectly
although a tight squeeze

Greg previously bought this Victron Energy controller.
It has a bluetooth function so we
can monitor from our phone! 

REDARC  DC to DC Charger

Greg will do a blog down the road with his full review of our new solar-battery system when we have been able to test it out more. But, he reports that the first night was great and he enjoyed being able to check the battery levels from his phone and the fact that the roof panels are constantly recharging the system. We are very happy campers!   

Stopped for lunch at Little Molas Lake on the way home
from the Rocky Mountain Overland Rally

Check out Rocky Mountain Four Wheel Camper at

Check out Juniper Overland at

For more info on the Rocky Mountain Overland Rally visit

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