'69 Trails West Campster...questions! - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-05-2009, 11:25 PM   #1
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OK, I'm third in line for a gutted '69 TW Campster (the one selling for $250), and first for one about 3 hours away that, by looking at the images and what the seller describes, seems like a pretty decent (if not a bit road-weary) operable trailer for what looks like a very reasonable price.

If I happen to take the first one, I'm probs going to be way over my head, unless I turn it into some funky weird hybrid trailer project.

So it comes down to the second one. I can't see any potential structural issues from the many photos he's sent. Everything's there, but the front tongue has been extended to better suit the use of his truck's tailgate. I'd have to add rigging for propane tanks on the front, and I'd want to take a better look at the welds for the above mod.

Anybody know the interior height/width of the trailer without the pop-up deployed? How's this puppy hold up to winter camping (say, eastern Oregon, Christmas Valley?) without going nuts on ensolite and other insulation upgrades? (Does it retain heat well at all?)

From reading older threads, I've seen something about a reinforced roof. Could the pop-up port be modified to hold an a/c unit instead, tho sacrificing headroom? Just tossing around ideas.

Is the frame/chassis integrated into the shell, or can I pull it off to work on either/both?

How hard is is to find suitable parts for these trailers?

Thanks... I searched as much as I could for info, but still had some Q's. Lots, apparently!

M
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Old 12-05-2009, 11:46 PM   #2
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With no interior insulation it doesn't hold heat very well, even with the pop-up down. You'll want something. Mine has this weird stuff like the soft part of Velcro which does okay but if it is really cold I can feel the cold through it.

Height depends on if it has been raised and the size of tires. Mine has 12 inch tires and I can get it into a 7 foot garage. 13 in would probably squeak through if the driveway is level.

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Old 12-06-2009, 04:28 AM   #3
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Michele,

On the height inside: I've not been in a TW Campster, but I did look at a Compact Jr. which I think is similar. I'm just barely 5'5" and in that rig, with the top down, I could just stand up. By that I mean not hunching, but not with perfect, book-on-my-head posture either. I thought that if I bought it I could easily camp with the top not raised for either cold weather or quick stops (rest areas, Wal-Marts..).

As far as I know, the TWC is, like the Compact Jr, a fiberglass box on a separate frame. In the CJ, the shell comes down and wraps around for about 12", and the rest of the floor is plywood. On the CJ, the plywood stopped about 8" or so shy of the walls, and overlapped the top of the shell "wings," so that's an area to check (i.e. water running down the walls could possibly sit at the shell/ply interface). On the other hand, there was no wood core anywhere that I could see (i.e. the floor), so there wouldn't be any hidden rot that way.

I haven't seen any of the CJ type family that came with insulation I would want to keep (but that's just me). I've seen either no insulation, carpeting (added later), or a vinyl-covered, open-celled, quilted insulation (OEM on some models, apparently).

Having no insulation seems like it would be a pain. Even if you had an ample heat source there would still be a condensation issue. The quilted stuff can absorb water (into the foam), can get moisture behind it, and also seemed to attract mold to the grooves of the quilty bits (of course if you kept it dry and well aired that would be less of a problem). If I bought one, I would plan to add Ensolite, which the "square" shape of the trailer would make a bit easier than a "round" trailer. Keep in mind that if the walls are painted or carpeted you might have to do some prep work before you could install Ensolite (uses glue)

I, personally, wouldn't want to mount an A/C unit on the pop up roof, as I see the "popability" as a big part of the trailer's charm, and a major boost to ventilation (not to mention headroom). The CJ's center roof panel is prone to sagging, but that might not apply to the TWC as the pop-up section is much smaller. But with the trailer body being squarish, I think you could relatively easily mount an A/C unit in a wall or a window.

I don't see parts as being a whole lot harder to get than those for any of our eggs. Sure, you're not going to have Scamp to go to like we do for Boler clones., but most RV parts are pretty generic. Even many of the things Scamp carries are available elswhere.

The one thing that comes to mind that would be nice to not have to find later would be the lifting mechanism for the pop-top. Canvas can be made by boat shops (for the sides). The door is probably not something you could find, but it could be fabricated (at least on the CJ, it's more like a typical stick door than a fiberglass door).

I don't know if this applies to the TWC, but the Compact I looked at had, basically, a "stick built" interior in a fiberglass shell. The framing for that wasn't super high quality and had some moisture damage, so that might be something to pay attention to. Not that the fiberglass interiors are models of craftsmanship, but they stand up a bit better to the ravages of time (and water).

One other thing to note (and I say this having a big soft spot for the CJ, and still kind of wanting one) is that, to me, there is a much different feel inside a Boler 13/clone than the CJ. The CJ has the big bed, and I happen to like the layout where the bunks double as benches (narrower bunks then), but what you don't get is that feeling of having a wide-open room with a big chunk of floor space in the middle.

Okay, I know, describing a Boler 13 like it has a ballroom in the middle is kind of weird, but it has much more of that kind of feeling than the CJ did. I would rather be stuck in the Boler on a rainy day, especially if there were more than one of me (I can now hear people saying "yabut thank goodness there isn't" ). I would also prefer the Boler if I wanted to travel with someone else (or a pet) whom I wasn't looking to share a bunk with -- you can kind of have your separate "ends" of the trailer.

I hope the above wasn't too much of a ramble - it's early for me! I hope you get a crack at one of the TWC's and can at least get to see/try one in person

Raya
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Old 12-06-2009, 06:44 AM   #4
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Everything's there, but the front tongue has been extended to better suit the use of his truck's tailgate.
Tongue extensions will make the tongue weaker unless reinforcement has been added over a significant length - as a rule of thumb that reinforcement would need to go as far back as halfway from the front of the body to the axle.

If the reinforcement is all in front of the body, then it's weaker than it was originally (and that didn't seem to be overly strong on these trailers).

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Old 12-06-2009, 08:48 AM   #5
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On the Campster the floor is solid fiberglass but the plywood does only go just to the edge of the cabinets.

I agree- check the pop-up mechanism! It is a scissors-type thing with springs. The springs are easily replaceable, the rollers and track not quite as easy to find. So if it works but sags, that's the springs, and you can easily get those. You should be able to lift the top easily and it should stay in place. The mechanism is on the outside.

If you want to use the stove, check under it for rust- it can look good on top and be pretty rusted out.

With the pop-top down the trailer does retain heat better but insulation still helps. I wouldn't want to have none as in the places where there is none (such as inside the closet) I can easily feel the cold or heat from outside. The fiberglass is thin. I almost always sleep with the pop-top down but first thing in the morning it goes up to provide ventilation for the stove.

In a mild climate you don't need to worry about AC as the ventilation is provided by the pop-top and is very good. And an AC will mount in any number of places.

I'll agree with Raya it isn't a spacious trailer. The bed, table, etc, take more room, less floor-room is available, and it works well for one person, a bit more crowded with two but do-able. (If I had two I'd probably set up the permanent bed as two permanent cots with a small removable table.)
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:05 PM   #6
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I agree with Raya, a CJ type trailer would be grat for one, but a Boler/Scamp clone is better for two. Having both, this has been answered for us. Carrie & I made one trip in the CJ, and her comment was, "never again" We were in a horrendous rain storm for a day (late summer, Westport, WA-sorta the "rain capital" of WA)-- the walls sweated baad. Also, the galley is too small for two - ya have to be very friendly to pass each other in that area. With no insulation on the walls, it definately sweats, and then when you add heat (we use a Mr Heater, but also have a propane light) ya make water... both are guilty of that- condensation builds up on the inside walls. Gets pretty wet on the late hunting trips. (just got back from a Thanksgiving trip w/both trailers) My friend uses the CJ and since he was by himself in there, did quite well- just stayed away from the walls. We have added a temp layer of Reflectix around the bed and that helped (did that around the bed in the Scamp also-helps keep the bedding dry that's against the wall. And guess who sleeps against the wall in our Scamp? yeah, ME) So, we're looking at a minimum of insulating the lower half of both with two layers of Reflectix, then a "ratfur" type of covering- should end up with an R factor of about 7 or so.

We use a small removable table in the CJ- two diferent plugs in the floor depending on how the beds are set up, i.e. two bunks, single across the front (either 24" or 36" wide), double across the front, or big bed (table becomes the last piece of bed support)

Tongue extension is easy- just add reinforcement ot frame (truss it), in fact, I reccomend reinforcing the whole frame. I now carry the spare and a 7 1/2 gal propane tank on the front. Part of the reason is to add tongue weight, as the CJ type trailer is inherently tongue light.

After all that, our CJ will be up for sale soon.... I'm looking for an early bare bones 16' Scamp for the "rental" as my friend wants a larger "condo" to hunt out of...... Larry
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Old 12-06-2009, 08:55 PM   #7
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... So, we're looking at a minimum of insulating the lower half of both with two layers of Reflectix, then a "ratfur" type of covering- should end up with an R factor of about 7 or so.
No, the R-factor of Reflectix is so "high" because they are counting on the dead air space next to it. If you put something on top of the Refectix (like another layer of Reflectix) you have replaced the assumed dead air space with something else.

Here's a quote from their web site FAQs (http://www.reflectixinc.com/basepage.asp?PageIndex=389):
If You Install 2 Layers of a Reflective Insulation, Does the R-value Double?
With multiple layers of product and airspaces between each layer, enhanced performance will be gained. If the product is simply "doubled" (with no air space between the layers), a very minimal benefit is obtained (R-1.1 (per layer) for the Reflective/Double Bubble product).

Take a close look at Reflectix' documentation, it is quite informative!
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Old 12-06-2009, 10:20 PM   #8
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That sort of performance hit is what has kept me preferring other insulation types, such as closed cell foam (ensolite) or extruded polystyrene (on flatter surfaces).

I wonder how Scamp gets R-15 in their trailers with Reflectix insulation? They must be relying on more than one layer of insulation; plus, it seems that you would have no air space with even just one layer of Reflectix if you had it up against a wall on one side and a covering on the other side, right? Or am I misunderstanding and a layer of Rat Fur would be counted as air space? (I couldn't find on the Scamp site where they say how they apply the insulation, just that they say it is R-15. That seems amazingly high to me for a thin wall.

Edited to add: Okay, I did find it, on page 4 of their .pdf owners manual. The text says that a layer of foil insulation (looks like Reflectix) is glued to the outer shell, then another layer is on top of that (no air space) and then the Rat Fur is glued to that. A drawing shows a cut away section that looks like a close sandwich of all the layers, with no extra space.

And Dana, that is interesting! I went to Reflectix's website, and not only do they "require" (for R-value) an air space on both sides of the Reflectix, but it has different R-values when facing down, up, or sideways. I can't see where two layers with no air space could be more than about 5.5 (facing down) or 2.8 (sideways). Or am I reading it all wrong (I've never used this type of product.)

R.
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:31 PM   #9
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And Dana, that is interesting! I went to Reflectix's website, and not only do they "require" (for R-value) an air space on both sides of the Reflectix, but it has different R-values when facing down, up, or sideways. I can't see where two layers with no air space could be more than about 5.5 (facing down) or 2.8 (sideways). Or am I reading it all wrong (I've never used this type of product.)
You read it the same way as I read it -- which means that extruded polystyrene panels are better for our purposes, especially if you have aluminum foil on the side against the trailer wall. The foil is to reflect the radiated heat from the sun on bright days.

The bad thing about the polystyrene panels is if they ever catch fire. The Reflectix isn't good stuff in a fire but the polystyrene is far worse!
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:36 PM   #10
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Okay, so I'm not nuts. I'm getting the impression that Scamps R-15 claim is impossible by a pretty wide margin (although if I'm wrong --- and I certainly could be --- someone please correct me).

I can't remember if I've ever read the R-value for the 3/16" Ensolite. I suppose that IR Foam might have some information on that. I doubt it's a whole lot, but it's a whole lot better than nothing, and rigid panels would be hard to fit easily to a Boler/clone.

You're right about fire and polystyrene, Dana. Let's hope if that ever happens evacuation is an option.

Raya
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:41 PM   #11
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... You're right about fire and polystyrene, Dana. Let's hope if that ever happens evacuation is an option.
Evacuate? -- I prefer to not even be there in the first place!
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Old 12-07-2009, 01:05 AM   #12
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Well if we're choosing, let's just not have a fire at all
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:38 AM   #13
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No, the R-factor of Reflectix is so "high" because they are counting on the dead air space next to it. If you put something on top of the Refectix (like another layer of Reflectix) you have replaced the assumed dead air space with something else.

Here's a quote from their web site FAQs (http://www.reflectixinc.com/basepage.asp?PageIndex=389):
If You Install 2 Layers of a Reflective Insulation, Does the R-value Double?
With multiple layers of product and airspaces between each layer, enhanced performance will be gained. If the product is simply "doubled" (with no air space between the layers), a very minimal benefit is obtained (R-1.1 (per layer) for the Reflective/Double Bubble product).

Take a close look at Reflectix' documentation, it is quite informative!
Yup-- went back and read it again..... Then again, in another spot, by "attaching" (cement, staples?) to a garage door, ya get R-3... Dunno. I will tell you tho, I have a chunk of it doubled (contact cement) with a layer of fleece on it up against a frozen single pane window (it's 15 F outside) and the fleece is still pleasant to touch. My pillow wouldn't freeze to that! It's certainly got to be better than just the Elephant hide on my walls. Larry
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:47 AM   #14
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Yup-- went back and read it again..... Then again, in another spot, by "attaching" (cement, staples?) to a garage door, ya get R-3... Dunno. I will tell you tho, I have a chunk of it doubled (contact cement) with a layer of fleece on it up against a frozen single pane window (it's 15 F outside) and the fleece is still pleasant to touch. My pillow wouldn't freeze to that! It's certainly got to be better than just the Elephant hide on my walls. Larry
As they say, it really depends on the air space. Each layer is about a quarter inch thick and has an R-factor of about 1. Two layers thus has an R-factor of about 2. Add to that the R-factor of the glass and fleece and you get about 2.5 or 3, which isn't shabby at all. In contrast, the quilted vinyl is at best a quarter inch thick which best case would have an R-value of 1 -- the foam on my quilted vinyl is pretty dead so I doubt mine has an R-value of even 0.5!

As long as we can keep the air from moving (to prevent heat flow via convection) we get an R-value of about 4 per inch of thickness. Argon is much better and and has an R-value of about 7 per inch, but it's expensive and wants to leak out.

It just seems to me that there are better ways of getting that same air space than to use Reflectix. I like the polystyrene because it is flat, uniform, somewhat flexible, and cheap. The walls of the Compact Jr I have don't have much bow to them so the flat sheets are easy to install. And unlike the Reflectix they have no pattern. Even so, I would like to cover it with something like elephant hide just to make it less susceptible to dings and gouges, and still be easy to clean.
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