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Basic Help with towable cooking station and fridge set up (car life, never mind van life)


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Hi all

 

So long story short, I have been living the car life for the past 2/3 years. Fell into it due to my desire to work 80hr weeks, save rent cost, simplify my life and free things up for travel. Its been a journey to say the least and hasnt been without its challenges. 

 

With this said, an ongoing issue for me is food costs - I typically eat from supermarkets such as Tescos, and so while my diet is quite healthy, it is pretty expensive: about £15-£20/day. I know for a fact, that if I was prepping my own food, then these overheads would drop by half. 

 

And so, my concept idea is to purchase a small camping trailer, and fit it out with a small water bowser (wouldnt be heated or anything), a fridge (absolute minimal size, just large enough to keep a couple days worth of food), power infrastructure and a basic cooking station. This would be hitched to my Kia Picanto 2021 5 door hatchback 1.0 petrol.

 

Typically I drive about 15-20 minutes a day, at about 40-50 miles per hour on average. 

 

With the above information, can you answer the following questions:

-is it possible, when considering the electrical demands, to create the following set up?

-besides the quick hitch attached to the cars towbar, as well as the light connector, I am working on the basis that the fridge apparatus, battery etc, would operate independently from the cars own electrical system. Is this actually possible or would the fridge apparatus have to be connected to the cars own systems?

-considering that once the fridge has reached its desired temperature, it wouldn't require the same level of electrical input. With this said would it be possible to have some sort of device which can "switch off" the electrical input to the fridge until it drops below temperature?

-lastly, relating to above, would having an extra battery (or 2), be a good idea, so that if I happen to perform a long journey, I can capitalise on the opportunity to store a load of electricity for the fridge?

 

I am pretty inexperienced when it comes to electricals and mechanics so please offer a basic description of any jargon being used.

 

Many thanks

Trooper

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Your power has to come from somewhere. Either electrics or gas. 

You have no mains and battery power will not last long. 

 

So I think you need solar. And prayers for sunny days!

Graham

Unless otherwise stated all posts are my personal opinion 

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I personally think you are wasting your time trying to work the fridge off of a battery or batteries, the switching device you refer to, to only turn the fridge on when needed is already normally built in, this is the thermostat. I think your  best bet would be to buy a camping fridge/cool box and run it on gas, as WispMan has said, you would be praying for a lot of sun to keep the batteries charged up on solar and even your short journeys could not replenish the battery enough. Sorry to be a kill joy but that’s my opinion, perhaps someone with a bit more knowledge might be able to advise otherwise.

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As the main thrust of your posting is about the fridge that is what I will focus on.

 

Caravan fridges run on 3power sources, mains electric, gas, 12v DC.

However, the 12vDC isonly supplied from the car when the trailer is connected to the car and the engine is running at a fast tickover as the fridge takes it power from the alternator.

 

The Battery or batteries will not last very long and draining a battery too much kills the battery, and a flat bttery takes about 48 hours or more on a good charger.

 

To run it on gas you would need to provide a sealed compartment for the gas cylinder the correct pipework to the fridge.

 

For electric you need the correct flex to the input socket .

 

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Posted (edited)

A really good compressor fridge might use 60ah a day. A 100w solar panel produces about 8amps in full sun so on a good summer day you might be able to get 8 hours worth of that and just about keep up with the fridge demand. Realistically you are going to need at least 2 x 100w panels to keep up on anything but a perfect day. Bargain on at least 200ah of lead acid battery, otherwise you would be discharging them too deeply every night.

 

Of course in winter this goes out the window but then so does the requirement to keep food cool.

 

Also, double check what your Picanto can tow (it won't be much), a quick Google suggests it may not be type approved for towing anything. 

 

Now that I hope I've made a good faith effort to answer that question...are you sure your camping trailer idea is the right way to go?

 

It seems to me that you must have a good amount of money tied up in the car (although possibly it's mostly financed?). Have you thought about some of the larger MPV type cars you could change to? An old Ford Galaxy with the rotatable front seats would be my choice (a bunch of others to consider Hyundai i800, Vauxhall Zafira, Fiat Doblo). These would be much less difficult to park inconspicuously, easier to drive, more comfortable to live in and big enough to have all your requirements inside, less easily stolen etc.

 

 

Edited by ChertseyMike
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With the price of gas, and fridges use a fair amount I think you will think twice about the cost and practicality after a few weeks.

 

But looking at it positively, you could but an old trailer tent, which usually have the cooker part at the back fixed in position and strip out the tent bit. Some will have fridges but the cost my be alot more. 

 

I am astounded that you can live in a Picanto.

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Look at the door pillar on the drivers side when the door is open. 

Tell us the four weight numbers or photo it and we'll tell you how much your Picanto can tow. 

Best to do this before you take any financial decisions. 

Graham

Unless otherwise stated all posts are my personal opinion 

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8 hours ago, WispMan said:

Look at the door pillar on the drivers side when the door is open. 

Tell us the four weight numbers or photo it and we'll tell you how much your Picanto can tow. 

Best to do this before you take any financial decisions. 

 

 

Picanto all models 700kg braked 400 kg unbraked/auto.

 

A Sawafuji swing motor fridge/freezer (Engel/Dometic) is very efficient and economical at 12v 3 amp when running.

A large capacity battery may provide enough power between charges.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Can I say, thank you for all the solid responses. Its been very much appreciated.

 

I have checked the towing capacity, and as I understand it, it can tow about 700kg. The brand of trailer I have my eye on is an Erde 102 which has a gross weight of 300kg, so plenty of extra weight plus I won't be doing a lot of long distance driving nor will I be travelling along rough roads and terrain. Even then, I dont plant on carrying alot. Literally, this entire endeavour is just so I can have a normal eating routine and food set up. 

 

Solar really isn't a practical all year round method to be honest. Where I am, it is usually grey skies and a part of my operation is keeping myself stealthy and unnoticeable - a solar panel is a dead giveaway, especially if it was placed on the trailer. 

 

Mains electric isn't an option either as I am always on the move.

 

That leaves me with gas, fuel generator and kinetic energy transformer (from the wheels turning when driving).

 

Would it be possible to have all 3 of these connected to the battery or directly to the fridge?

 

One thing I can do is when I am not working or tending to errands, I spend about an hour to an hour and a half a day in the car (watch Netflix or Southpark)- this could be used to operator a generator of sorts to fill up the battery for the next 24-48hours. 

 

I have seen blogs etc on using fuel and gas generators to power up batteries. Just any other thoughts would be gd and obviously, if I can capitalise on my driving time in some way, then that is a massive pro. Usually once every few weeks I make a 70-90 mile journey to see friends for the weekend. Again, another oppertunity to capitalise on. 

 

It might seem sketchy to some of you guys, but honestly, after living this way for 2-3 years, I have a fair idea of where improvements can be made, its just the technical expertise I lack.

 

Many thanks again, if I meet any of you, I'll buy you a pint ;)

Trooper

Edited by Trooper149
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If you get your car towbar wired for a 13pin caravan style plug and make sure its fully wired, as I'm sure whomever fits it will look at you strangely considering it could not tow any real caravan. You will have the fridge and battery charging feeds supplied. However, typically these are around 20amps max. This means if you are driving for an hour you might theoretically be able to put 20ah back into your battery. However, as I said before your fridge is likely to use more like 60ah a day. 

 

There are work around like using a heavy guage (think welding wire) and Anderson connections to get more power to the batteries. However, lead acid batteries only like to be charged at a maximum of 10% of their capacity, so the 200ah I mentioned above would take 8 hours to charge from 80% discharged (which is the maximum you ever want to discharge them). The same applies even if you use a small generator.

 

Lithium batteries can be charge quite a bit faster but they are very expensive and require more complex chargers.

 

 

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Just a thought - if stealth is important to the point that solar panels will ‘give you away’, then any kind of fuel-driven generator will also be noticeable.

 

It seems you simply don’t drive the sort of distances needed to power the trailer you have described - not forgetting that the car has to look after its own electrical power needs as well.  Solar is the only power source that is available everywhere for ‘free’.  Gas is also portable but at the moment not cheap, and requires correct installation and handling.  You may end up spending more on your self-sufficient lifestyle than you save on ready-made food.

 

That said, as a project, your trailer idea is all doable, just with some reality constraints.

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Thanks for the further responses - they have given me a place for further research. 

 

A fuel generator is fine, as it is concealed and obviously I wouldn't be running it without my person being there. With solar its the case, that if you have them permanently fixed to the trailer, then not only are they noticeable, but theft is also a probability. Different if you are mounting them on a van roof, as they are concealed from the majority of traffic or if you have large panels which you can just pull out for an hour or 2, acquire your energy needs, then put away. Given my panels would be small, the climate is mild and they would only be out for 1-2hrs daily and usually in the evening (as I am busy during the day), they just wouldn't be suitable. 

 

I do need to do some further digging and consideration of my own logistics and set up, prior to posting further, though everything that everyone has posted has been helpful, including the reality checks. I have a concept, and I just need to figure out the realism of it. 

 

Quite simply, all I need, is enough energy to power and maintain temperature in a small (maximum 30L fridge) for 24hrs, in a temperate climate via a combination of/ solely from the cars own daily 10-15 mile journeys, fuel/gas generator (for 60-90 minutes/day) and/or the rotary power from the trailers own wheels (during the same daily journeys.

 

As said, I need to do more number crunching and research but everyone here has given me some solid parameters to work with. 

 

Trooper

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On 18/05/2022 at 18:45, Trooper149 said:

I have checked the towing capacity, and as I understand it, it can tow about 700kg. The brand of trailer I have my eye on is an Erde 102 which has a gross weight of 300kg,

Hi Trooper,

Firstly we have owned a couple of 1Ltr Picantos and there should be no problem with towing a small camping trailer such as you describe. I have such a trailer and use it most weeks.

image.png

Secondly, I tend to think that you probably do not need a freezer compartment, just somewhere to keep food fresh for a couple of days. If that is the case, have you considered a simple insulated cool-box?

I know the Picanto boot is tiny but with a bit of thought, my guess is that you could also dispense with the trailer and possibly the cost of fitting a towbar and electrics to the Picanto. 

Fourwinds Hurricane 31D Motorhome. Also MGTF135 1. 8i Roadster (fun) & Volvo V70 3.2Ltr LPG (everyday car)
Unless otherwise stated, my posts will be my personal thoughts and have the same standing as any other member of Caravan and Motorhome Talk.

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All you need in your trailer is a free standing 3way fridge running on gas about £200 from a caravan showroom/shop. To power it you need a 6kg Calor propane bottle & regulator connected with gas hose & jubilee clips.  This will run your fridge for over 2weeks continuous. Refill around £25. You could probably fit a larger 13kg propane bottle which is more economical but heavy so needs to be over trailer axle.  When you install all this in trailer you need slight basis of weight to front for a stable tow.  Or have 2x6kg bottle to change over when one runs out. 
 

For your cooker you need a 2 ring camping stove cost about £40. You can run this from same gas bottle with T connector in gas hose.  Then for water rather than 1 big container 3x5 litre containers are more practical. 
 

Ypu can buy everything from same caravan shop & put it all together in a couple of hours. You will need lockable hard top for trailer. 

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Hi all - Camperdom, many thanks, I have taken a look and that looks like the optimal strategy. There is plenty of locations I can refill and the cost per week would be fairly low - would certainly drop the costs of food from where they are now. Also pretty much everything I purchase, retains its value as a sellable asset, as I don't need to perform any actual modifications (with exception perhaps to fitting a lid onto the trailer, and getting the towbar installed on the Picanto). 

I had considered using a coolbox, but to be honest, I do not have much personal space in the car, and so I keep the majority of my kit in the boot already, as well as a roof box. It would be preferable, but even then, I think when I ran the numbers, it would drain the battery - unless someone else has come up with a different result (I am totally open to having my calculations being critiqued, as I am no expert). 

All I have to do now, is confirm that I can get a towbar fitted to my car, without compromising the Warranty on it. 

 

I shall keep you all posted with updates, and thanks! #carlife

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Without reading the whole thread I am intrigued as to how you dispose of your toilet waste?

 

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35 minutes ago, Blackrat 51 said:

Without reading the whole thread I am intrigued as to how you dispose of your toilet waste?

 

 

If you have to ask you have a lack of imagination 🤪

 

Presumably the exact same way tens of thousands of truck drivers do when they are away from home for the whole working week.

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Hmm

I am one of those thousands that you mentioned.

Its very different to living in car! 

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On 24/05/2022 at 21:59, Blackrat 51 said:

Hmm

I am one of those thousands that you mentioned.

Its very different to living in car! 

 

Sorry to say, but I have not slipped beyond deprivation in this area - strategic planning of public facilities is the answer! ;) Otherwise, scruffy and on the fly in all other areas!

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