Alpine Loop Byway and Mirror Lake Scenic Byway

The view from Bear Pass on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway.

The view from Bear Pass on the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway.

I spent a week at my Kamas, Utah camp and while I was there I drove two Scenic Byways, the first was the Alpine Loop which starts at Highway 189 and climbs up SR 92 by Robert Redford’s Sundance Ski Lodge and then I took Forest Road 114  to make it a loop that comes out at the town of Midway. The other one is Highway 150 which runs from Kamas, high up into the Uinta Mountains and then comes out at Evanston, Wyoming. First we’ll look at the Alpine Loop drive.

The Alpine Loop Byway near Robert Redford's Sundance Ski Lodge.

The Alpine Loop Byway near Robert Redford’s Sundance Ski Lodge.

Alpine Loop to FR 114

Like many drives in the area it starts at the Salt Lake Valley in the city of Provo. You take 189 and follow the Provo River through a beautiful canyon towards Heber City in the Heber Valley.  Half way through the canyon you come to highway 92 which goes up the mountain and past the Sundance Ski Lodge and climbs steadily up to a ridgeline where it drops down the other side to the American Fork Canyon and the Timpanogos Cave system. That didn’t have much interest to me, and I didn’t want to end up back in the Salt Lake Valley, so I took Forest Road (FR) 114 at the top of the pass and went east back toward the Heber Valley where I had started from.

It’s a very nice drive  but it suffers from the same problem as all the other drives along the Wasatch front Range in that it’s very crowded.  Until you get to the top and enter the National Forest it’s almost all private property which means lots of driveways and homes. Also, you are too close underneath the mountains to get a good view of them through the trees and houses. Once you are on top and on FR 114 it’s not that spectacular, just another drive through the forest. At least there are several designated dispersed campsites along the way–just get a map at the entrance station into the National Forest and it shows all the dispersed campsites.

The Alpine Loop.

The Alpine Loop.

That’s another knock against this drive, there is a charge just to drive through it. I believe it’s $6 but it’s free with a National Parks pass–since I have one I didn’t pay anything.

All in all I would give it a thumbs down and say skip it–the most interesting thing is the connection to Robert Redford, but it’s not like he’s going to come out and visit with you! If you are just passing through and have nothing better to do then go ahead, just don’t have too high of expectations.

The Alpine Loop.

The Alpine Loop.

Highway 40, 189 Through the Heber Valley

Oddly enough, I really enjoyed the drive on Interstate 40 from Interstate 80 on it’s way to Heber City. It’s not pretending to be a scenic byway so when you find it as pretty as it is you enjoy it. While the Alpine Loop fails to meet expectations Highway 40 exceeds them. The road runs in a valley between beautiful mountains and also passes Jordannelle Reservoir which is a large, pretty lake. The town of Heber City is a very pleasant little town that is big enough to have nearly everything you could want (and Provo is just over the hill) but small enough to be pleasant and unhurried.

I hope to never live in a town, but if I ever have to, Heber City is one I would include on the list of possibilities.

Most f the road leading up to the pass is wide and beautiful like this and has an abundance if dispersed camping.

Most of the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway leading up to the pass is wide and beautiful like this and has an abundance of dispersed camping. One of the few times I saw blue skies on either trip! You can see I was headed up into snow country!

Mirror Lake Scenic By way.

After waiting another day or two for better weather I decided I needed to move on so I drove the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway even though the weather was bad. What makes this drive unique is that it is basically the only one through the Uinta mountains and they are unique because they are one of the few Ranges in the country that runs east-west; nearly all the rest run north-south. On this drive I basically headed due east away from the Salt Lake Valley and climbed steadily  toward the high peaks. Most of the way the valley is fairly wide so you get a good view of the mountains on both sides, but best of all you run along the beautiful Provo River as it runs wildly toward the sea.

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The best thing about the drive is that it has an abundance of dispersed campsites along the way, many of them very close to the river. This area is a playground for the two million people who live along the Salt Lake Valley so even though it is a couple of hours away, it’s still very busy. This part of Utah gets an abundance of snow so it’s heavily used all winter by cross-country skiers, winter backpackers and heavily used by snow machines. In fact when I climbed up into the pass there was so much snow left, even in early June, that there were people out running around in their snow machines.

There was still lots of snow up there!

There was still lots of snow up there!

In the summer the area is heavily used for camping, fishing, boating  and most of all backpacking. There are many backpacking trails throughout the high country of the Uinta mountains and it’s not only beautiful country, but it is one of the least used areas in the country. In fact I pulled into a trail-head along the way and there were a couple guys headed out for an overnight backpack even though there was still at least two feet of snow on the ground. I used to do that when I was a young man, not any more!

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Cody is chasing a squirrel in the rocks. He’s showing his bet side to us!

It’s a very beautiful drive and then you come to the lake country and they are very pretty as well. Since they are stocked there were already fisherman there braving the wind, cold and snow fishing from the shore. Just beyond the lakes you make the final climb up to 10,687 feet at Bald Mountain Pass where you come to the truly stunning beauty of the drive. It’s surrounded by mountain peaks, broad valleys and lakes that combine to form a perfect picture. I really enjoyed the pass even though it was still snowed in and quite cold. I ran around and got some shots and even let Cody out to run around because there was very little traffic up there.

Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake under a storm.

I drove down the east side of the pass to Mirror Lake and made the turn north toward Evanston, Wyoming. I wasn’t finished with Utah yet so I didn’t drive all the way north, I just turned around and headed back to my camp above Kamas.

I loved this drive! What separates it from all the others is you know that just a few hundred yards from the road is true wilderness where you can go and be all alone in wild nature and face real beauty and real danger. The narrow ribbon of the road is a tiny refuge of “civilization” struggling against the real world.

While these aren’t the best photos I hope you can look beyond the bad light and see the underlying beauty of the area.

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Posted in Adventure, Photography, Travel, Utah

For Sale: The Cheap Starter Van that Changed his Life (SOLD!!)

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THE VAN HAS BEEN SOLD, BUT I’M LEAVING THE POST UP BECAUSE IT’S SO HELPFUL

Today’s post is a little unusual, it was originally posted to the CRVL Forum as a classified ad. I was so impressed with the owners story and the work he had done I offered to post it here on the blog in the hopes that he can sell it. I tend I get emotionally involved with some of my vehicles and I hate the idea of them ending up in a junk yard being parted out, and I got the impression that the seller felt exactly that way about this van.

As I read his story I understand why he felt that way, at a low point in his life this van came along and turned everything around. That’s very similar to my story so I felt obligated to this van to see it go to a new home. If you are somewhere in the Pennsylvania area, and you need a way out of a bad situation, here is the answer to your prayers dropped into your lap!! Give the seller an email and let him, and this van, be a blessing to you. His email is twomenind@hotmail.com

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About this van. This van is a fourth generation Econoline 250 built in March of 1992 and the VIN is 1FTHE24Y0NHA92459. It has the 4.9L inline 6 with an OverDrive automatic transmission. The odometer reads 150K. This is the best engine ever built by Ford, it’s super reliable and gets good MPG. I fired it up and took it out on the road today. It runs very strong and the oil and coolant temps during and after an hour of running are all good. The transmission feels strong with no indication of slipping. The power steering works well and has new lines I installed recently. Most of the brake lines I replaced recently. The brakes work great and holds a hard petal.

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For the $1000 purchase price I will put in a new heater core, tune up and fix anything that might be a safety or reliability issue including any body rust. (there is non-structural body rust along the bottom edges but there is no frame or suspension rust). I’ll even paint it if you prep it. If you want to take it, as is, you can have it for $700

looking back at the bed and the sink cabinet on the left.

Looking back at the bed and the sink cabinet on the left. Notice the carpet covering the walls. 

I purchased it from a plumber in 2008 to live in because I had been living in my car for about 6 months and car-living had been hell on earth!! I had just graduated from college with $72,000 in debt, a crashed economy, and 2 practically useless degrees. I found myself competing with guys that had 5 to 10 years in the industry for entry level positions. I ended up working for 10 hours a day trying but not succeeding at making my debt payments. Living in this van made it possible to live though five eastern PA winters with little to no heat and pay off my debts in 5 years and finally get a leg up in life.

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It was January and I had been freezing to death in my car, so staying warm was the number one thing on my mind. I emptied it out and encased the back in sheeting then added 2.5 inches of polyiso insulation and filled all the gaps with spray foam. The average R value should be about R-20. During the deep of winter I would run a propane heater for 5 minutes tops, then go to bed. My body heat would keep it comfortable the rest of the night.

Hi built a wall in the back to create external storage accessible from the back doors. The wall is insulated so it  keeps the cold from coming in from the back window and where the doors meet.

He built a wall in the back to create external storage accessible from the back doors. The wall is insulated so it keeps the cold from coming in from the back window and where the doors meet.

I covered the insulation in carpeting which improved sound reduction and it’s really convenient as a base layer of Velcro. I put Velcro (hook side) on the backs of everything like pop-lights, lighters, carbon monoxide alarm, clock, etc and just stuck-em right to the walls and ceiling, including a string of led Christmas lights. It was very convenient to be able to re-position everything at will.

Then I built the bed, shelves, and counter inside. Having everything build inside the insulation shell eliminates conductive heat loss and condensation. As you can see from the pictures I never finished painting or put on the counter top. The red webbing nicely keeps everything on the shelves while driving. There is a hanging open closet next to the bed if you’re into such things.

Floor to ceiling storage makes excellent use of a small space.

Floor to ceiling storage makes excellent use of a small space.

I kept an emergency toilet under the counter top. The sink would drain into a 5 gallon jug. The other large space under the counter is where I kept the heater tank and a camping stove top.cheap-counter_sink

The floor and bed top is covered in that interlocking rubberized padding that people use in garages. Under the bed panels are storage compartments.

There is a solar panel, controller and wiring. I only used it to run led lights and a fan during the summer. You’ll have to get batteries if you want to run it. I never got crazy with the electric as I found that less is more. I don’t watch TV etc so I have no need to run all that stuff. The food I ate didn’t need to be refrigerated so no worries there. I also had a cubical job at the time so I was able to keep a lot of stuff, battery charger, and a fridge etc at work.

Looking in from the passenger door.

Looking in from the passenger door.

Some people are worried that I used OSB and carpeting because of concerns about them off-gassing. After 7 years the off-gassing is minimal (I can’t smell it anymore). Plus, a counter-top and latex paint on anything else exposed would all but eliminate any minimal off-gassing, if there is any at all. In my opinion, it’s not a concern.

There is no front passenger seat, but he will put one in if that is a deal-breaker.

There is no front passenger seat, but he will put one in if that is a deal-breaker. Personally I’d leave it out for storage and to reduce the chance of theft.

The cab interior is exactly as I bought it. I figured that if I left it looking crappy people would leave it alone. Used parts are easy to come by, so I can get a passenger seat and other things no problem if you want them.

I am in North East Pa and its located in the 18826 zip code. There is some body rust. For an interested buyer I will fix it up. I’m a mechanic and have a garage now, so getting it in good shape is not a problem. I’d rather see it used then parting it out.

For more information on the van, email the owner at twomenind@hotmail.com

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Posted in Conversion Details

Dispersed Camping near Kamas, Utah

Looking down on my lower camp in the Wasatch-Uinta NF near Kamas, UT.

Looking down on my lower camp in the Wasatch-Uinta NF near Kamas, UT.  I think Utah is one of the most beautiful states because of the astounding variety of gorgeous country in it.

In my last travel post I had  just left Bryce Canyon and travels to the Salt Lake City area to take some of the scenic drives through the Wasatch and Uinta Mountain Ranges. After a long day I headed over to Kamas, Utah and drove up Highway 150, the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway to find a campsite. I knew from a guidebook that there was a lot of dispersed camping on this road so I took the first Forest Service road that looked like it had a good chance of having one, the Upper Setting Rd, FR 34. It climbed fairly steeply  up the side of a mountain and I like camping on mountains so I headed up. There were four nice camping spot at the bottom but they were too close to a busy road for me to let Cody run free so I passed them. I quickly came to a fabulous campsite but someone was already in it, so I kept going up. I passed a few spots but there was something wrong with all of them so I kept going. Pretty high up we finally found the perfect spot so we settled in there for the night.

This is my first, upper camp near Kamas.

This is my first, upper camp near Kamas.

The problem with doing a lot of mountain driving is it is very hard on your vehicle; the engine works really hard on the way up, and then your bakes are pushed to the limit on the way down.  On some of the steep downhills I had been driving on I had noticed a burning smell coming from my brakes, that’s a very bad thing! In 2008 I had spent 6 months in Colorado crawling up and down it’s mountains and twice I had got that burning smell and both times my brakes had failed shortly after that. So I always get my brakes looked at as soon as I smell any burning.

The road near my high camp.

The road near my high camp.

Here’s the key to keeping your brakes happy on step hills: NEVER RIDE YOUR BRAKES! If you get on and stay on your brakes they never get a chance to cool off and they will get so hot they literally start to burn off from the friction, thus the burning smell. The solution is twofold: 1) put your transmission in a lower gear so the engine does some of the braking, and 2) get on the brake hard until you’ve slowed down too  much, then get off them and let it accelerate. While you are off them, they will cool down–as soon as you are going a little too fast, get on them hard until you are going too slow again; repeat as needed.

Cody and I climbing around the mountains above our camp.

Cody and I climbing around the mountains above our camp.

I’d been following those rules so I was very puzzled why I was getting the burning smell. In every other way the brakes were working perfectly and I had replaced them not very long ago. Most odd was that even while they smelled hot, they were still working perfectly.

SKC-kamas-camp-view

Looking west toward the Wasatch Front Range from my camp. Kamas is in the distance beyond that ridgeline.

So the next morning I broke camp and went into Kamas to get them checked out. There was only one tire place in town so that’s where I went.  Small, out of the way towns usually aren’t too busy so they got it right in and took a look. Just as I suspected the front brakes were perfect with more than half the pad left. But when the pulled the rear wheel and drum it was full of axle grease which meant the axle seals were leaking and the grease was into the drums. When it got hot, it started to smolder, in fact the mechanic said it could get hot enough to literally catch fire. They gave me a quote to rebuild the back brakes and put in a new seal and I made an appointment for the next day to get it done.

Cody running along our road.

Cody running along our road. It’s big country!

When I got back to my temporary mountain home the perfect campsite I had passed the day before was empty so I grabbed it. It was fairly high up the mountain and looked straight down the valley toward Kamas so I was hopeful it would get a good internet signal–I was right, it got a very good Verizon 4g signal! That was Monday and I liked that camp so much I ended up making it a base camp to explore the area and stayed there five days until Sunday morning when I headed north toward Wyoming.

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You can see why I stayed here a week!

On Tuesday I got the brakes done. It took longer than they thought it would so I was there quite awhile. Cody sat with me in the waiting area while I worked on the computer. He is very well behaved around people so he was no problem. I worked for awhile and then we got restless so we went for a walk and wandered around town. Kamas is small so there wasn’t a whole lot to see! There was a Forest Service Ranger station in town so I went in and asked some questions, then I tied him up outside the Chevron station while I went in and got us hot dogs and me a coke.  We sat on the curb outside and had lunch. By the time we wandered back to the tire shop the van was all done so I paid and we headed back to camp.

The weather continued to be very volatile and I was hoping to get a chance to have good weather for photography but it went from bad to okay and back to bad so I stayed in camp when it rained and went for drives when it was at least decent. Wednesday we drove the Alpine Loop Byway and on Friday we drove the Mirror Lake Byway.  More about them in the next post.

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Posted in Boondocking, My Daily Life, Photography, Travel, Utah

Driving Utah’s Wasatch and Uinta Mountains

Approaching the south end of the Wasatch Front Range on Interstate 15 gives an amazing view of some beautiful mountains! They seem to just shoot straight up out of the ground into the sky.

Approaching the south end of the Wasatch Front Range on Interstate 15 gives an amazing view of some beautiful mountains! They seem to just shoot straight up out of the ground into the sky.

After I was done with Bryce it was time to move on and begin the actual Rocky Mountain portion of my summer travels. The Wasatch and Uinta Mountains to the east of Salt Lake City (SLC) are considered to be part of the Rockies so I wanted to do some of their drives. Every time I’ve driven through Provo and SLC I’ve always been amazed at just how beautiful the mountains behind them are. They rise like sheer cliffs and dominate the skyline and are stunningly beautiful, especially when they are snowcapped. I’ve never taken the time to drive through them, but I had always heard they were gorgeous, now I aim to find out.

My camp near Nephi, UT.

My camp near Nephi, UT.

Rather than drive up Interstate 15 I decided to take 89 which basically parallels it. Utah is a surprisingly mountainous state and the great majority of Northwestern Utah is pretty valleys between mountain ranges. When the Mormon settlers came here, they settled in the valleys–89 follows one of those pretty farming valleys. I was going to SLC because I had ordered something from REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated) and I was picking it up at the store in SLC. If you’ve ever driven through there, you know how terrible the freeway traffic can be. Because it’s extremely hectic and unpleasant I always plan to drive through there on Sunday morning when many good Mormons are in church and the sinners are home in bed (just kidding!).

My campsite outside of Nephi, Utah.

My campsite outside of Nephi, Utah.

That meant I needed to camp a few hours south of SLC to be able to get there when REI opened at 11:00 am on Sunday. Last year Judy and I found a beautiful camp just outside of Nephi, UT and did the exact same thing, got there Saturday night and drove through SLC before noon on Sunday. So I camped there again this year. As you can see in the pictures, it’s a beautiful spot I’ll plan to stay at whenever I’m through the area.

Because that country was all new to me I really had no idea where to go. I looked for guidebooks to the area and all I could find was “Scenic Driving Utah” (which is part of a series that covers many of the states) while it is fact-filled, it gave me no idea which drives were the best ones and I shouldn’t miss, and which ones were just okay. But at least I was aware of the drives which was better than nothing. For more info, see it on Amazon here: Scenic Driving Utah

Gaurdsman Pass looking west toward SLC. The Aspens are just  budding so they aren't very pretty, just a dull brown.

Gaurdsman Pass looking west toward SLC. The Aspens are just starting to bud so they aren’t very pretty, just a dull brown. Plus, it was an overcast day so the light was poor.  

When I got to the REI I asked them about which drives were the best because these were local people who loved the outdoors and had hiked and biked through most of it. I figured they would know the drives and could advise me; and I was right, they knew all about them. I took my maps in and showed them where I was thinking about going and asked what they would recommend, after a discussion they suggested four drives they thought I needed to take. One of them was very nearby so that’s the one I took that day.

The view west from Gaurdsman Pass.

The view west from Gaurdsman Pass back toward SLC.

The Big Cottonwood Canyon Drive to Gaurdsman Pass and then down to Park City is very pretty and a great drive. Like most of the drives through the Wasatch Front Range (the mountains directly behind SLC and Provo) they begin in very narrow steep canyons and climb steadily away from the city.  Because it was Sunday afternoon the road was very busy with people out enjoying nature. Every pull-out and trail-head (of which there were many!) was packed with cars. At the top of the pass were two ski resorts which weren’t operating. Although it was early June there was still snow on the ground (just not enough to ski) and the Aspens were just starting to bud. But a few cross-country ski trails were still open so people were out doing that and the Ski Lodge Restaurants were full.

The view to the east down toward Park City.

The view to the east down toward Park City. I’m standing in the Wasatch Mountain Range and in the distance is the Uinta Mountain Range, both are part of the greater Rocky Mountain Range.

This points out the problem I had with all these Utah Rocky Mountain drives and why I don’t really recommend them even though they are pretty–they are just too crowded.  They are so full of people there is no “wildness” left to them, so I suggest you look elsewhere for the best Rocky Mountain drives.  You don’t have to drive very far to get to drives that are prettier and have much less population and traffic in Idaho, Wyoming or Montana. There are 2.4 million people living in the Ogden-SLC-Provo corridor which is only slightly less that the combined population of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming together (3 million) and four times the population of Wyoming alone (563,000) and more than double Montana’s population (989,000). Needless to say, you’ll have a lot more breathing room in Wyoming than you will have near SLC.

This map shows the three drives I took in the area and the location of my Kamas camp. You can see how close it all is to the Logan-Salt Lake City Provo Corridor with its millions of people.

This map shows the three drives I took in the area and the location of my Kamas camp. You can see how close it is to the Logan-Salt Lake City Provo Corridor with its millions of people.

Once at the top of Guardsman Pass your treated to a beautiful view down at Park City and you begin the steep descent down to it. Cody and I stopped for lunch just below the pass and went for a walk. There was less traffic on this side because most of those people turned around and went back to SLC, but it was still a busy drive. This is a very steep descent with tight switchbacks, you’ll need to drop into a lower gear to save your brakes. Park City is famous for the Sundance Film festival and is supposed to look quaint but to me it just looked gaudy–it’s not my kind of place so I didn’t stay very long.

We stopped here below Gaurdsman Pass for lunch. Th Aspens are starting to bud at this lower elevation so there is some green to them, none above here yet. Cody has his head in a gopher hole trying to get a better lunch!

We stopped here below Gaurdsman Pass for lunch. The Aspens are starting to bud at this lower elevation so there is some green to them, none above here yet. At the bottom of the picture and to the left of the van Cody has his head in a gopher hole trying to get a better lunch!

By then it was getting to be a long day so I needed to find a place to camp. From my guidebook I knew that Highway 150 near Kamas, Utah was famous for having lots of dispersed camping; since it was only an hour away I headed over there. The guide book was right and I found a great campsite for the night.

We’ll pick up there in my next post.

Posted in Photography, Travel, Utah

Installing Flexible Solar Panels From the Side of the Van

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Fred’s three Renogy Flexible Solar Panels laid out on the ground charging.

I’m getting complaints about too many travel blogs, so I’m going to mix it up. My good friend Fred is a retired full-timer and has been on a journey of downsizing since I’ve know him. He started in a Travel Trailer, but felt restricted by it, then downsized to a slide-in camper on a pickup. But even that limited his freedom so he finally downsized to van which was just right! But the drastic loss of space required some sacrifices and changes, one of those was his solar setup.

This is what he usually does, he attaches them to holes in the gutte rand hangs them down resting on two painters poles.

This is what he usually does, he attaches the panels to holes in the gutter and hangs them down resting on two painters poles.

He didn’t want to mount the panels on his roof  because he prefers the versatility of laying them out on the ground away from the van and tilting them. The solution he settled on was to buy three Renogy Flexible solar panels that he carries inside the van and then lays out when he is camped. (Get the panes from Amazon here: Renogy® 100W Bendable Solar Panel) or get the complete kit here: RENOGY® 100 watt Flexible Solar Kit:

They have the advantage that they are so light and easy to handle he can move them in and out of the van very easily, much easier than any fixed panel. They are very easy to store in the a and then he can lay them out flat on the ground if he needs to, but he prefers to lean them up against the van attached to two painters poles. That accomplishes two very good things:

  1. It puts the panels at a good angle to the sun for better power production especially in the winter when the sun is low on the horizon..
  2. It puts some shade onto the side of the van

Fred very generously took these pictures of his solar setup and answered these questions for me.

  • Where do you carry the panels?
  •  I store the panels in the van either lying on their side but leaning up against the bed (against the covers) or upright against the drawers on the opposite side of the bed) with a bungee across the center.
The Renogy panels come with grommet hols so Fred put "S" hooks through the ones at the top of the panel.  He drilled holes through the gutters just large enough for the "S" hooks to go through.

The Renogy panels come with grommet holes so Fred put “S” hooks through the ones at the top of the panel. He drilled holes through the gutters just large enough for the “S” hooks to go through.

  • Do you worry that the panels could flip up and the “S” hooks could come out of the holes?
  • So far the s-hooks have never flipped out of the gutter since I have bent the hook together just a bit so that it barely fits through the hole in the gutter.  If there is THAT much wind, then I would suggest removing (stowing) them away for the moment.  BUT I have laid them flat on the ground in 50 mph winds and they stay put.
The first step of hanging the panels is to put the poles in place on the side of the van.

The first step of hanging the panels is to put the poles in place on the side of the van.

  • Do You attach the poles to the van?
  • The painter poles do NOT attach to the van at all.  They are held in place on the bottom with the 80 penny nail and are pressed under the top lip of the window.  This has always held (so far).  There are additional bungees (the small ones with the sharp hook) that hold the poles in place.
He drilled a 5/16th inch hole through the bottom of each pole as a stake hole. He uses 80 penny nails as stakes.

He drilled a 5/16th inch hole through the bottom of each pole as a stake hole. He uses 80 penny nails as stakes.

  • Do you Stake out the panels?
  • I do NOT stake the panels themselves but I DO stake the bottom of the painters poles by drilling a hole about 2″ above the threads in the bottom.  (see pic) It is held with an 80 penny nail (5 /16″ inch drill bit for the hole) and perpendicular to the ground when the pole is extended.
The three panels are attached to each other with key rings through the grommets.

The three panels are attached to each other with 1  1/2 inch key rings through the grommets. He originally tried zip ties but they didn’t work well.

  • The panels are attached to each other only by key rings? Is that working okay?
    Yes, that’s all, but the grommets sure need improvement as far as reliability and quality.
To attach the panels he walks between the poles and hooks the "S" hook of the top panel to the holes in the gutter.

To attach the panels he walks between the poles and hooks the “S” hook of the top panel to the holes in the gutter.

Next, the second panel just flips down like a three-ring binder.

Next, the second panel just flips down like a three-ring binder.

Finally the third panel flips down and you are done!

Finally the third panel flips down, connect the wires and you are producing power!

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Extension cord from solar controller to the panel. The cord from the panels is actually a 20 foot extension cord cut in half and the ends cut off and the bare wires connected to a standard three-prong household end. If he had cutoff the ends of the cords coming from the panel, that would have voided their warranty.

He uses the mini-sized bungee cords to hold the two poles together.

He uses the mini-sized bungee cords to hold the two poles together. They’re so small you look at them and think they will just fall apart, but they  have worked well for Fred. Home Depot sells them.

Then he runs a bungee from the poles to the key rings on the panels.

Then he runs a bungee from the poles to the key rings on the panels.

Finally, he runs a bungee from the bottom grommet to the hole in the pole.

Finally, he runs a bungee from the bottom grommet and wraps it around the pole.

You might think that the system is fragile but all the small connections make it surprisingly rigid. It’s firmly attached to the van at the top by the “S” hooks and to the ground at the bottom by the stakes through the poles. Best of all it weighs next to nothing and can be set up and taken down in just a few minutes. When stowed away it takes up almost no room in the van. But does it work?

  • How is your system working? Do you have enough power?
  • I have 3 panels right now all in series (100w x 3) = 300 watts into 2, 12volt AGM, 150 AH batteries in parallel (300 AH total).  I would like to get one more panel for a total of 400w.  Right now I have no trouble having enough power to run my fridge, TV and power antenna, charge and run my computer, charge my phone, charge my MiFi, and interior lights.  The longest I have been without any measurable sunlight is about 2½ days and the volts were down to 12.1.  I may in the future rewire the panels into 2 sets of 200w and 11.8a each when I get 4 panels, but I am not convinced that it would work better than what I have now.

Posted in Electrical, Solar Power

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