Working on a Trillium 5500 - Page 9 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-27-2016, 08:56 PM   #113
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I also screwed an aluminium edge band to replace the old plastic trim and the edges of the vertical supports. It is visible in the previous picture, as well as in the next:



Here is one of the ugly yellow plastic brackets holding the shelves in my trailer (most Trillium owners will recognize this):



We decided to simply paint them over using silver spray paint. Looks entirely different now:



Here's the whole cabinet ready to be reinstalled:



Before we put it back in, I needed to clean the metal brackets. The wire brush on my drill removed the dirt and surface rust, then I sprayed them with the silver paint:



There's about a dozen of these holding the kitchen counter and cabinet (and another dozen throughout the camper!)



Two of these brackets (one on each side of the cabinet) were attached through the roof with pop-rivets (there is no wood to screw anything on the ceiling).



On the roof, the rivet is covered with some sealant. Although there was no sign of leakage, I was sure this was the result of some botched job of a previous owner, but after asking about this on the forum, it's apparently how they came off the factory!



(8 picture limit - continued next post)
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Old 06-27-2016, 09:14 PM   #114
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Of course I had to drill the rivets off to remove the brackets and the cabinet. I'm not a big fan of pop-rivets, especially in a spot like this, and I decided to replaced them with small SS bolts. To guarantee a water tight repair, I spoke with my local RV repair center. I explained what I wanted to do, the fact that's it's a fiberglass shell. They agreed that silicone was NOT the sealant to use, and I was recommended some Sikaflex 221 as being the best stuff to use. It's even available in "colonial white" that matches the trailer's exterior color.







Then the cabinet was finally put back in position. Now was time to install the stick-on stainless steel tiles we'd bought just for this. They are glued on a thin plywood.

Then I snapped a bunch of pictures. I found it pretty hard to take good pictures of the final result, due to the light contrast of the window. But I took a bunch of them anyway. They are not all good (I tried again later as it was getting darker) but you'll get an idea how it looks with the stainless steel counter:










Here's the link to my blog, using translation from Google:
https://translate.google.com/transla...-text=&act=url
You may just want to scroll through the pictures if you're interested (there are more than I posted here) and you can revert to the original text if you feel like practicing your French!
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Old 08-31-2016, 02:29 PM   #115
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As previously mentioned, we are currently renovating our house, and working on the Trillium isn't our first priority right now. But I did work on it a bit, just to get out of the house for a change.

My next big job will be the electrical system. I will redo pretty much everything, AC and DC. However, there are a couple things I need to do before I can start working on it.

One of the things I needed to fix, are the upper cabinets and shelves on the ends of the trailer. The reason is my future electrical system includes new light fixtures, and these fixtures are mounted under the upper cabinets and shelves. There must have been 3 ou 4 differents types of light fixtures in that trailer, installed by the previous owners over the years. Every time a fixture was installed or replaced, new screws were used, new holes were drilled under the cabinets. As a result, the cabinet's bottoms are full of holes. Also, various curtain rods and blinds have been installed and removed over the years, they were also screwed under the same cabinets, and also left a bunch of holes. So the bottom of the cabinets and shelves are not looking very good, and the wood has serious damage in some places.

Here's how these cabinets and shelves look in a 5500. I'm talking about those up near the ceiling, the ones with the sliding panels, and on the sides they are simple shelves. The front and the rear of the trailer have a similar arrangement (this picture is not from my 5500 but mine is made the same):



All these cabinets are made with aluminium extrusions and angles, and thin 1/8" plywood with a "fake wood" finish. Everything is held in place with a bunch of screws, attached to the windows' interior wood frame. So it's simply a matter of removing a few screws and the whole cabinet/shelf assembly comes off.

Here are a few pictures of mine. Pictures are taken with the camera pointing up, to show all the holes and wood damage under the cabinets.









The interior of the cabinets wasn't very good looking either. As it was on bare wood, it was almost impossible to clean thoroughly.

So I was looking for a way to fix or hide the damaged wood, have a proper surface to mount my fixtures, and make the inside easier to clean.

I decided to replace all the plywood parts, except the sliding panels, which are still in good condition. I got some 1/8 plywood from my local hardware store, and I used the old ones as a template to cut the new ones. No need to saw, the thin plywood is easily cut using a simple utility knife. Here I've cut the bottom of both main cabinets:



One issue I had was the old plywood had this "fake wood" finish, and the new one was on bare, natural wood. Finding a wood stain that matches that faux finish proved next to impossible. There are too many colors available, and the type of wood also affects how the stain will look. So after a couple tests we decided to do it differently.

When I rebuilt the cabinet above the counter last spring, I lined the underside of the cabinet with a thin sheet of aluminium, to protect it from the heat of the range burners. It looks nice, the bare aluminium matching the stainless steel countertop and the aluminium extrusions of the cabinets. So we decided to do the same with all the cabinets and shelves.

The aluminium sheet I used is regular aluminium flashing you can get at most hardware stores. Thin and light, it is usually painted on one side and on bare aluminium on the other side.



It is easily cut using a utility knife.
On the inside of the cabinets and shelves, we put some metallic finish, Con-Tact brand adhesive shelf liner. Very durable, easy to clean, and looks super nice.

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Old 08-31-2016, 02:33 PM   #116
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So here's the rear cabinet, rebuilt with the new material. The interior metallic adhesive what is visible.



Same cabinet, turned over, showing the underside lined with the aluminium sheet.



(the electric wires were going to the old fixtures. I kept them for now but they are not connected to anything now).

In all, I did 6 cabinet/shelves, 3 on each end of the trailer.
Before putting the cabinet back in place, I figured I might as well attach the new curtain tracks. They are KVARTAL tracks from IKEA. I bought them last fall, while they still had them (I was told they were about to take them off their catalog, so I bought them right away. Good thing because it looks like they are actually discontinued now). We liked the brushed aluminium look, they are small and simple to install in the trailer. Here's one track screwed under the cabinet:



I have 6 such tracks, of various lengths. The following pictures show the cabinets back in place in the trailer, with the curtain tracks installed. Ignore the ensolite around the windows for now, everything will look more cleaner once I've put frames around the windows to hide that.











So... I'm ready to eventually start on my electrical system. This will probably deserve a few posts here and on my blog. I've got a few interesting ideas in my mind, and I already have in hand pretty much everything I will need to built an entirely new system: wiring, breakers, volt and amp AC and DC meters, fuse box, terminal box, switches, light fixtures, etc. I love electrical work, and I can't wait to get started!
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Old 11-19-2016, 08:25 AM   #117
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The installation of the new electrical system in my 5500 is almost completed.
A previous owner of my trailer had messed so much with the electric stuff that I decided to rip everything out and start over from scratch.
All I kept is the original wiring for accessories, wiring that runs hidden behind the cabinets and the Ensolite.
Out is the old converter, light fixtures, batteries, and all the stuff the previous owner installed over the years to "improve" the trailer. I'm back to a more basic, simple and reliable system.

To give you an idea, here's how my trailer was "improved" by a previous owner:

On the AC side, there was non-original wires running at many places, 14/2 "romex"-type residential wiring of various colors (some white, some red, some blue), even some "BX" armoured cable, multiple junctions boxes here and there, an outlet here, another one there...




Different types of "lamp wire" running in many places, some was white, some was brown, or clear. An old style screw-in 120V fuse, rigged in a lamp socket.



Some switches, lights and labels added to the the converter front panel.



It wasn't better on the DC side. A bunch of terminal blocks screwed on the back of the converter case, white wires labeled "Blue", others labeled "Red", a 12V socket here, another one in there, dozens of connectors, fuses, all kind of different wire types and sizes, sometimes connected, sometimes not.



In one of the cabinets, sat an old Canadian Tire marine-style battery charger, hard-wired into all this. A small inverter, also hard-wired. Two large deep-cycle 6V batteries (both dry and dead). Two small solar panels, with a charge controller.



Many light fixtures had been replaced over the years. I don't think there was two of them identical.
And then some tv coax cable, small 120V adapters, 12V fans, and multiple lights and switches added.



To link the 7-pin harness from the tow vehicle to the trailer's lights system, a big and heavy metal box containing some big fuses and a bunch of large terminal blocks has been installed under the front dinette seat. The thing was about the size and looked like a residential 240V sub-panel!



One night I sat in the trailer, and just tried to understand the logic behind all this. I'm no electrician, but I know how AC systems work, and I'm pretty familiar with quite complex DC system as they are part of my work everyday. I just couldn't figure it out, and couldn't imagine how I could make this safe and workable. So I decided to take everything out and redo it.

(continued on the next post due to the 8 pictures limit of the board)
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Old 11-19-2016, 08:25 AM   #118
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My plans were for a more simple and efficient system, understandable by anyone:
-We opted for a single 12V, GR27 deep-cycle battery. In our old popup, we could run over a week on such a battery, I don't see why it wouldn't work the same in this small trailer. And we now have two solar panels that our popup didn't have.
-Our popup had all interior LED lights, and we needed to upgrade the lights of the 5500 to LEDs as well.
-The old 70s era converter had to go. It has been replaced with a newer unit with a good charge control.
-We added a CO/LP detector, as the trailer didn't have any.
-I wanted a DC voltmeter to keep an eye on my battery charge level, and an AC voltmeter to make sure the campground's power is adequate.
-I wanted a "master switch" to shut off everything in the trailer when we're not camping.
-I wanted USB sockets to recharge our phones and pad.

Once my plans were made, I sourced all I needed from various online sellers (DealExtreme, Amazon), my local electronic stores, and local hardware stores.
Here are the details on my components:

Converter

After many web searches, I opted for Progressive Dynamics' PD4135.



Good reliability record, compact size, great battery charge control, and enough AC and DC branches to fit my needs. Found it at a fair price from a reseller based in Nova Scotia (I'm in Canada, I try to avoid buying anything from the US due to the very high customs and brokerage fees, on top of the bad exchange rate).

30A cord

My trailer came with a 15A cord, I'm guessing 14 AWG wires. My new converter has a 30A capacity. I could simply have put a 15A main breaker in the converter and keep the trailer on a 15A system. But this new converter was giving me the opportunity to upgrade the trailer to 30A service. All I needed besides the 30A main breaker is to replace my old 15A cord for a 30A-rated one.

These are usually quite expensive, but I found a 25' 30A RV extension cord at Costco at a good price. I simply cut the female end of it and wired it in the converter. As a bonus, I used the discarded female end to make a 15A to 30A adapter, so I can plug the trailer on a standard 15A outlet if needed.



Light fixtures

As mentioned, I was going all LED.
I was looking at those under cabinet 12v LED puck lights that they sell in places like Home Depot. I found them usually quite expensive, like 12$-15$ each. And I needed about 10 of them...
Another issue is many of these are made for residential use, powered by a constant 12V supply. In a trailer, sometimes the converter may push over 14V, which could eventually damage the LEDs or shorten their life. Not good.

Then one day I was at my local hardware store when I saw a cart full of these pucks on sale for $1.75!!



The thing was, they were not LEDs, they were regular G4 xenon bulbs.
But then I thought that I could maybe replace the bulbs with LEDs...
The pucks had a brushed metal finish, exactly what we wanted. I couldn't pass that up, so I bought 10 of them.
I figured if I can't make them work in the trailer, $17.50 isn't too much of a loss.

I found some G4 LED on the internet, at about $3 each. And they are rated for 8V to 30V, so I guess they can survive the converter's highest voltages.



That made the pucks about $5 each, still a good price.
However, I had to tinker a bit with the pucks: I found there wasn't enough space in them to install the LEDs. There is a metallic reflector behind the xenon bulb that I had to remove to make space for the LED.



I simply had to drill a small rivet to take the reflector out.



However, the same small rivet also held the whole fixture together, casing and outer decorative ring. The light was falling apart!



The fix was simply to glue the parts back, using construction adhesive.



(continued on the next post)
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Old 11-19-2016, 08:26 AM   #119
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The whole thing took a couple evenings of my time to do, but it was well worth it.



Side by side, original xenon bulb, and modified with LED:



The LEDs doesn't put out as much light as the halogen bulbs, but the difference is not that great. Can you tell which is which?



Also, a single original halogen bulb draws 1.45 amp, while the replacement LEDs are only drawing 0.12 amp each, less than 10% of the halogen.

One difference between using pucks like these versus regular RV light fixtures, is that the RV fixtures usually have switches on them. So I had to add a few switches to control the trailer lighting, and find a place to mount those switches.

Switches

My local electronics parts stores carries a large selection of different switches. Not sure which type to pick, I consulted with my decoration department manager (my wife). As an ex-flight attendant, she said she liked the old aircraft-style traditional toggle switch like they have in aircrafts. Fine with me, as they are quite easy to install (just a hole to drill).



Now her "aircraft-style" comment got me thinking, and that gave me a couple ideas on how I was to mount the switches. More on this later!...

Master Switch

I also wanted a battery cut-off switch, to switch everything off in the trailer while we're not camping. All I could find were the big red standard battery cut-off rotary knob. I didn't like the look of them, as I was planning to mount it on some "control panel" with my voltmeters and solar panel controller. Most standard toggle switches are only rated for 15 or 20 amps, not quite enough. Thanks to member Francois here on the forum, I was able to source a 50A-rated, similar-looking toggle switch at Canadian Tire.



DC voltmeter

A few years back I put a digital voltmeter in my popup camper to monitor my battery. It worked good enough, but since then, things have evolved a bit and now some nice little meters can be found at decent prices. I went with what is called a "power analyzer", which is a tiny meter primarily designed for RC hobbyists (to monitor and test battery and motor performance of radio-controlled toys). The same meters are also popular for use with solar panel arrays. Mine is sold under the "GT Power" brand, but clones can be found online under other names (Turnigy, Medusa, etc), just google them up.



This little thing measures and displays in real time voltage and current, then computes watts. It also computes total Ah and Wh, so I can really see how much power the trailer uses over time. The unit also stores in memory the peak amps and watts, and lowest measured voltage. You can look up on Youtube for various videos showing this meter in action or undergoing accuracy tests (it is very good). I paid $17 CAD for it.

It comes in a black plastic case, not really made for panel mounting, but I opened it up and got rid of the case and managed to install it in my control panel.

AC voltmeter

Just to keep an idea on the campground's AC voltage, which could be damaging to equipment if too low.
I put this in the "nice to have" category.
It also lets me know how close I am to the 30A (or 15A) limit.



Solar panel controller

This controller was already in my trailer when I bought it. Sold by Sunforce, it is a decent 30 amp PWM controller, that they still market. I decided to keep it and mount it in my "control panel".



(continued next post)
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Old 11-19-2016, 08:27 AM   #120
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Reading lights

We wanted bedside reading lights. I found these 12V LED lights on the web, they have a flexible neck and narrow light beam, so one of us can read in bed without disturbing the other.



USB sockets

We wanted the ability to recharge our phones in the trailer. I found these 12V USB sockets on the web. I hard-wired them, as they draw virtually no power when not in use. I installed two of these, one at the rear near the bed, and one up front near the table. Both are near shelves, where the phone or tablet can be left while charging.



Wiring

My Dad had some 8 AWG wires laying around that he gave me. Perfect to hookup the battery, converter and charge lines.



Needless to say, I also needed smaller 14 AWG wire, numerous crimp connectors, terminals, wire loom, heat shrink, switches, tie-wraps, etc.

As soon as I'm done cleaning up the trailer, I'll snap a few pictures of the final result!
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Old 11-20-2016, 07:22 AM   #121
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My new Progressive Dynamics converter didn't fit the opening left by the old unit.
But, just below where the old unit was, is an empty space in that cabinet.
Also, I wanted to have the connections between the trailer circuits and the converter branches to be inside some sort of protective enclosure.
And I needed some place to mount this "control panel" I wanted, with the switches, voltmeters and solar controller. Once the old converter removed, it looked like this:



So I decided to mount my new converter just below in that empty space (i just had to cut an opening), and use the metal enclosure of the old converter as a junction box, since it already fits the opening above the new converter. My new "control panel" will be used to close the front of the old converter metal casing.

First I opened up the old converter, salvaged what components were worth saving and threw them in my parts bin. I junked all was left but the metal casing. The old converter internals:



Then I cut and opening below for the new converter:



Here I have the new converter in position, with the wires from the converter and the trailer up in the metal box. I started to put nice identification labels on each circuits using my P-touch, it looked real nice and clean, but then I ran out of tape. So I reverted to using painters tape... I hate doing that!



Now the famous "control panel"...

When my wife said she wanted to have aircraft-style metal toggle switches, I thought of pushing the concept a little farther. First, I decided to use an aluminium plate as a front panel, with appropriate openings for the switches, voltmeters, etc. The plain aluminium look will fit nicely with all we already have in the trailer.

Then looking up the web, I saw I could get some nice ring-type switch guards that are often used with toggles switches in aircrafts and spacecrafts. Now I thought that would look great. I could get the guards from the manufacturer or some eBay reseller, but I found them quite expensive (remember, I'm in Canada!).



Searching the subject on the web, I saw a cheaper alternative to achieve a similar look: small, nickel-plated u-bolts. So that's what I went with.



Mounting the switches

I could have mounted the toggle switches right through the cabinet's plywood. But I wanted something that looked nicer, and something in line with the look of my main control panel. So I made two switch panels, using the same aluminium plate I used on my main panel. The first one is mounted on the side of the fridge cabinet to control the rear lights. It wasn't so evident for the switch panel for the front & galley lights. The best spot was a 4in wide wood trim between the door frame and the galley.

So I started to cut some aluminium plates, and drill holes in them to mount my switches and switch guards. A drill press would have helped, but I don't have one. It turned out not too bad. Here are the front are rear switch panels:



The rear one has a larger hole to mount a USB socket.
Once I was satisfied with the small switch panels, I cut the larger main panel. Unfortunately, I deleted by mistake the pictures I took when working on it.

(continued on the next post)
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Old 11-20-2016, 07:23 AM   #122
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Here I'm testing how the rear panel will look, with the switch guards and USB socket:



I had to cut a hole in the trim between the door and galley to make space for the switches.



Here is my main panel, face down, with the wiring almost completed.



Switch labels

Now, how to identify the various switches?
I thought of simply make some labels with the P-Touch. But they would look like what they are, simple P-Touch labels...
I was looking for a way to print my own labels on the aluminium plates. Searching the web, I soon came across some metal printing technique used in electronics to fabricate home-made PCBs (printed circuit boards). I will not explain in details how PCBs are made at home, you can Google that up or search YouTube on this and you will find a lot of information.

The principle is to print a mirror image whatever is needed on glossy or photo paper using a laser printer. Laser here is important, an inkjet will not work.
Then the paper sheet is laid face down on the metal plate, and then a hot iron is used to press down the sheet against the plate. The "ink" used by a laser printer, called toner, is actually a fine plastic powder. The heat from the iron will melt the toner, which will stick to the metal plate. Then the plate and paper sheet is soaked in water, after some time the paper can be rubbed off, and the toner stays on the metal plate. Voilą, printing on metal!

Electronic shops actually sell a special toner transfer paper to make PCBs. I bought some and decided to give it a try.

I was starting from scratch, so I could print whatever design I liked. I already had a Trillium logo on file, and a "Trillium 5500" lettering that looks like the original. But for the switches, I just needed some kind of ON and OFF labels.

I like graphic design, and I'm a typeface maniac. I wasn't going to simply print my labels using Helvetica or Arial! For me, the typeface choice was obvious, there is only one that fit the theme: Eurostile!
For some reason, Eurostile is THE font to use when you want to give a retro-future or 1970s high-tech style to any display or electronic equipment. This font can be found in just about all sci-fi movies, or anytime a futuristic look is required in a picture, book or computer screen, so much that we don't notice it it anymore. Check this:
Fontspots: Eurostile
So I had no choice but to use Eurostile. Most people will think this is no big deal, but it's small details like this that make the difference at the end. And as I said, I just like fonts!!

However, in the end the toner transfer technique didn't give as good results as I expected. I have seen, on the web, super sharp transfers to copper or aluminium plates, but after a few tries, even using a special toner transfer paper, I was never able to achieve super clean transfers. They look OK, but sometimes the letters are not as clearly defined as I'd like them to be. Maybe one day I'll try to do it again, but for now they are good enough.

The best labelling would have been using metal etching. If you want to see amazing vintage-style faceplates made with etched aluminium, using the Eurostile typeface (and some very good electronic works) check this:
Audio Infuser 4700

Photos of the final result in the next post:
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Old 11-20-2016, 07:24 AM   #123
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Old 11-20-2016, 07:24 AM   #124
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Now some pictures of my LED light fixtures:















They are calling for snow tonight, so I'm not sure how long I'll be able to work on the trailer this year.

There are still a few things I haven't posted about yet on the electrical system: I don't have a battery yet, but the wires are in place and ready to hookup, same thing for the charge line from my tow vehicle. Also I've replaced the big metal box in the front with a smaller and neater plastic one. I will write a post about this later.

Visible in one of the pictures, I mounted a combined CO/LP detector just to the left of the converter, in the adjacent cabinet.

The water pump switch was originally mounted to the left of the converter. Down below like that, it just wasn't a very convenient location. I took the switch out, redid all the water pump circuit wiring and put the pump switch on my new switch panel near the galley, near the sink (the wide aluminium plate of my main control panel hides the opening of the old switch). Also, since the trailer has a small bathroom with sink and shower, I thought that a 2nd switch for the water pump near the bathroom sink would be useful too. In the end, my plan is to have two 3-way switches for the pump (just like staircase light switches), and a small indicator LED near each switch that turns on when the pump is turned ON by one of the switches. A lot more wires, but since I was redoing it all... The pump isn't wired yet - especially in the bathroom - but all the wires are in place, and if you look closely at the front switch panel you will see the pump switch and indicator light already installed and ready (bottom right switch).

If you look at the main panel, there is a red button just below my DC voltmeter. This is a reset switch, to momentary cut power to the meter in order to reset the accumulated Ah and recorded peak values. This stupid switch worked about 3 times then failed. Fortunately it failed closed, so the meter still works, but I can't reset it (unless I cut power entirely from the trailer). So I will eventually have to open up the panel and replace that switch.

Next job I guess will be the interior window frames. I had to unglue the Ensolite around the windows last year to replace the rotten wood, it was a PITA, so I don't intend to glue it back. And there is a bit of damage to the Ensolite around the windows that I need to cover with something (visible on some of the pictures here). It's getting cold now, so this will probably have to wait to next year.
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Old 01-06-2017, 11:17 AM   #125
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I've owned this trailer for a year and a half, yet due to the renovations I hadn't spent one single night in it.

It never crossed my mind that my first night in it would be on the 5th of January, with a morning temperature of -17C !
Well that's exactly what happened!

No, my wife didn't lock me out of the house!
And no, it wasn't an irresistible urge to finally spend a night in the trailer!

It's because I'd just bought a new winter sleeping bag, and I wanted to try it out before I head on a real winter camping trip!

I love winter camping, I've done it a few times in the past. I'm talking camping in a prospector-style tent, not in a trailer. Usually in the middle of nowhere, in a snowmobile expedition.

My old sleeping bag was getting old so I was looking for a new one, which I got at a good price after the Holidays. It's a NorthFace Aleutian -20F-/-29C, a real winter bag.

So I wanted to give the bag a test before going on a real trip, to see how it compares to my old bag. We have a lot of snow this year, and I first thought of building myself a quinzhee (snow shelter similar to an igloo) in my backyard. If I get cold, all I have to do is go back in the house. But then my wife said: "Why don't you try it in the trailer". Hey! Good idea! I never thought of that!

My trailer is in my backyard, snowed in, but fully accessible (I check inside regularly to ensure everything is fine), there is a comfortable mattress, and it's probably going to be colder than a quinzhee (which has a fairly good insulation by the snow and can actually get slightly above freezing even if it's much colder outside). The forecast was showing colder temps over the next few days, with a nice -17C for last night. Just perfect!





Hopefully it's the last winter my trailer has to spend outside. Next year I should have a shelter for it.
I always remove the snow off the roof.

So last night I put on my warm underwear and set everything up for a night in the Trillium. I didn't lit up the furnace, the idea being to sleep in the cold.



The vertical post in that picture is one of 3 temporary roof support I set up in the fall to avoid any damage by the snow.

I don't know what was the temperature inside the trailer this morning, but outside it was -17C as forecasted. Maybe 1 or 2 degrees warmer in the trailer due to my presence and the trailer's thermal inertia and limited insulation.

And I never got cold! Not even the slightest feeling of coolness. My bag kept me warm all night, so far I'm satisfied with the purchase.

So there it is, I broke the ice and slept my first night in my Trillium!

This morning there was frost everywhere on the windows, walls and shelves, due to the moisture of my breath.









Now I'll try to plan a little winter camping trip with my brothers and my Dad. Dad is always willing to go on such trips, although he's 81!
Here's the video of our last winter camping trip, two years ago.

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