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Thread: Bugout Build

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Northern Idaho
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    Default Bugout Build

    I posted about six years ago now (my, time flies) looking for a truck to build an expedition rig. At the time, the idea was to get a diesel to get around California's ridiculous smog regulations and build from near-scratch. I ended up with a GMC K2500 and set to building it up. Given the lack of pre-smog diesels on the market in California my options were limited and the truck needed a lot of work. New shocks, steering, bushings, joints, brake assist/lines, ended up rebuilding the transmission, and swapping the original motor for the redesigned 6.5TD out of an '04-'06 military Humvee with the stronger block. Dumped a lot of time, cash, and resources into making it reliable and minor upgrades. It's still a multi-colored rattle trap with bus-like steering, but it runs well.

    Of course, then I found my out and got the hell away from California making the whole pre-smog investment exercise a moot point. But with that freedom came a lot of other headaches which put the truck last on the priority list for the last three years. The project stalled out with a much more reliable, but still mostly stock truck. That is, until I dragged my wife out to the wilds of Eastern Oregon to see the eclipse. With the potential for masses of sheep, and a great BOV test exercise, the truck became a lynchpin for the mission. Of course the batteries decided to die two days before the trip (6 years isn't bad for batteries that were in there when I bought the truck). Got that taken care of then loaded up for five days of camping with a few extra tests.

    Primary test was a 200W solar system. Having more than enough power to run laptops, radios, fans, charge what seems like a million batteries for my lovely wife's camera, and misc other electronics for hours at night is a really nice convenience when you're in the boonies camping. More so, it may be the difference between being able to receive important information (via radio or satellite imagery) and flying blind in a bug out scenario. It also means I can take more time to avoid problems. Ideally it'll get mounted and integrated on the roof to save space in the bed, but for now an equipment test will have to do. Both 12V panels are wired in series for 24V into a 12V/24V switching controller. Provides plenty of power to charge even when covered. In full sun at an off-angle (~30 degrees off from ideal) it easily charges the battery while running a laptop, a HAM radio, and a desk fan. When pointed right at the sun, I'd bet that holds up with partially-cloudy weather with a 120AHr deep cycle to maintain overnight and cloudy day power. Another deep cycle might be nice for capacity sake. No kill like overkill.

    truck_controller.jpgtruck_panels.jpg

    All said, we had some 15 gallons of water, enough food for 10+ days, my bugout kit, wet wipe showers, and extra fuel to push a 500+ mile range. That afforded us the flexibility to completely avoid the crowds predicted for the eclipse. Boy, was it worth it. It went great. But we preppers can't leave well enough alone, can we? I couldn't help but notice all the improvements that could be made and so the truck has jumped up the priority list a little bit (still below securing a homestead, but much easier to accomplish). It might take a while, but it's time to start moving in the right direction with it. Figured it all starts with plans and feedback might help me get it right without too much expensive trial and error (I spent enough getting around California's restrictions). Right out of the gate my mind went for thorough, the ideas:

    • Storage: it's messy. Mostly backpacks and duffles. The bed is on a plywood platform, but better integration would make getting to supplies easier and allow better use of space. Nets on the shell's ceiling would provide additional space without significantly reducing headroom.
    • Storage: a roof rack would add more room for essentials, or more space for cameras if you ask my wife.
    • Solar: Related to the above, having to pull out the kit to setup solar is cumbersome. Tucking it away would make it automatic, but would also allow me to optimize weight balance and space. Should also look into a grid tie-in for alternate charging options. Speed of setup and teardown may be important in an emergency.
    • Electrical: Also related, adding switches to enable the inverter and to power LED strips in the shell would make things easier and more efficient.
    • Electrical: More things need to be on switches to isolate power draws. The extra gauges, the radios, and extra lights off the top of my head. Down the road, a second alternator on an A/C pulley (fuel savings versus extra charging capability). A battery isolation switch to separate the auxiliary power from the engine power. Allows for bi-directional charging and extra oomph when starting in cold weather.
    • Electrical: While I'm into it, the harness needs some serious repair work. Any reason I shouldn't run breakers instead of fuses?
    • Radios: Need to mount them and the antennas properly.
    • Tacticool/stargazing: A blackout switch cutting over from white interior illumination to red would be handy for preserving night vision. Useful for adventure and staying hidden in an emergency.
    • Lights: Typical trail lights could be useful. Additional programmable hazard light bars would make helping out in emergencies easier as well.
    • Lights: LEDs to reduce electrical load and improve efficiency.
    • Sealing: A bunch of seals need replacing and making the cab and bed water tight to a certain height might come in really handy for water crossings. The differentials need better breathers. An air scoop for the intake, too.
    • Kitchen: Running water, a sink, a stove other than my small camp stove, a surface to prepare food on. The tailgate is nice and all, but it would make things easier all around.
    • Fuel: I get 17.9 mpg highway with a full camping load at 65-70 mph (16+ uphill). Drops to 13.6 offroad. Obviously the 25 gallon stock tank won't cut it. There are options for both a larger tank in the stock location and a rear-axle auxiliary. Best guess, that could net me around 75 gallons, plus any fuel cans. Even with the extra weight I'm probably looking at a range of 1100 miles highway, 800+ offroad. More if I keep the brick aerodynamics under 50 mph.
    • Access: Need cab access. Solid windows on the shell and cab mean getting out to sleep and to mobilize. Not good in many situations, but there are options.
    • Ventilation/insulation: the shell is fiberglass and doesn't hold heat well, especially if a window is cracked to avoid moisture buildup. I've got good sleeping bags and blankets, but that doesn't keep it from turning into an oven during the day. Insulation sheets would definitely help keep the interior normalized. Some way to mount insulation and foil to the windows would be even better.
    • Winch: It needs one for both offroading and storm debris clearing.
    • Bumpers: It needs those too, both for offroad protection but also some ability to push. Will also make room for the auxiliary fuel tank by storing the tire.
    • Suspension: IFS is a weak spot. Despite the added road manners, 1-ton axles will fill the role better. And a minor lift for bigger tires would be nice. It would also let me ditch the torsion bar lift the previous owner did and gain disc brakes. The torsion lift, specifically, limits travel and makes for a crap ride offroad.
    • Annoyance: The dashboard sucks and the previous owner repaired it with multiple parts from other trucks. Ditching it for something more simplistic would give me more operational space in the cab, something easier to clean, and something more useful.
    • Seating: Usually it's only my wife and I so the rear seats are mostly extraneous, but occasionally handy. Having thinner seating back there and fold-out shelving would give the option for passengers, but allow much better organization otherwise. If I can't have both, the shelving wins hands down.
    • Paint: Thinking of a slate or charcoal grey for semi-universal ability to blend in (lifted with bumpers is pretty standard around here). Have to get rid of the three-tone scheme from various donor trucks. Way too visible and identifiable.
    • Frame: Needs a bit of salt protection now that I'm up north.
    • Guns: Not sure specifically yet, but I need secure storage.


    Like I said above no idea how fast this will happen due to time and budget, but between the eclipse trip reminding me of how nice it is to be off the beaten path away from the crowds and seeing bruss01's constant progress on his trailer it's given me the kick in the pants to start working on it again. Having an expedition rig with a 1000+ mile range and the ability for self-contained camping for a month at a time provides a lot of comfort zone and some nice recreation capabilities since my wife enjoys adventuring in far off places where she can take pictures would be useful.

    So what'd I miss? Further ideas? What do you think is priority?
    Last edited by Daelith; 08-31-2017 at 03:03 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default

    I've always wanted to integrate water and air storage into the bumpers (compressed air) . Good luck, slow and steady
    Don't bring skittles to a gun fight.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Central Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by flock6 View Post
    I've always wanted to integrate water and air storage into the bumpers (compressed air) . Good luck, slow and steady
    I have seen this done several times and it works great.



    I don't see a need for adding another alternator. A dual battery isolator should be all you need to connect the engine batteries with the solar batteries as a means of keeping the solar batteries charged. You can wire up a high amperage circuit breaker or a high amperage switch that connects the 2 battery banks together so when you need extra starting power you can just flip a switch.

    There are rubber gaskets that attach the cab of the truck to the camper shell. It requires you to remove both windows. This has to be made of rubber since the cab and bed move around independently of each other when off road or hitting bumps.
    Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
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    Lake LBJ, Texas
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    6,868

    Default

    I have air bags on the rear axle of my truck with a compressor to air them and control in cab. I've thought of adding an air tank to have handy. I tried the air bumpers many years ago, but the volume was not enough to air up a tire.
    Once on safari in deepest darkest Afganistan we ran out of Gin, and were compelled to survive on food and water for several days.


    I typically carry a flask of vodka for snakebites. I also carry a small snake.- W. C. Fields

  5. #5
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    Northern Idaho
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    I've always wanted to integrate water and air storage into the bumpers (compressed air) . Good luck, slow and steady
    I had forgotten about those! I do have a friend who would get a kick out of welding up a custom bumper.
    I have seen this done several times and it works great.

    I don't see a need for adding another alternator. A dual battery isolator should be all you need to connect the engine batteries with the solar batteries as a means of keeping the solar batteries charged. You can wire up a high amperage circuit breaker or a high amperage switch that connects the 2 battery banks together so when you need extra starting power you can just flip a switch.

    There are rubber gaskets that attach the cab of the truck to the camper shell. It requires you to remove both windows. This has to be made of rubber since the cab and bed move around independently of each other when off road or hitting bumps.
    Second alternator comes in handy in some circumstances. Primarily running lights and radios at night while maintaining battery capacity for when you're parked. Also makes for the ability to weld with a proper setup (don't want to expose your engine's electrical system to that). Of course, minus the welding I could bump from the stock 105A unit to a 140 or 200A unit and use the space for an engine-driven air compressor instead of the electric model I have under the seat.

    I'm familiar with the gaskets, but need to keep a window there to lock things up if the shell is broken into. Not that I think it will slow them down much, but better than quick and easy full access.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    3,155

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    Congrats on hanging in there fellow tortise!

    My Scout just blew the brake booster so i guess that is next up on the project list here. These project bov's take a lot of effort but it can be a really rewarding experience.

    What a great "excuse" you found for an expedition!
    In a crazy world, it's the crazy man who can get by - and it's about to get cray-cray up in here.

  7. #7
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    Northern Idaho
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    So I discovered a major flaw this last month and it's got me thinking about engine swaps. Not one, but both of our cars took a dump this last month. Wife's car ate itself and will get replaced shortly (once homestead paperwork gets cleared), and while driving her around in the truck the fuel solenoid driver / pump mounted driver decided to die as well. That led to some serious research and it turns out the electronics on these motors are "when" not "if" they blow out. Supposedly mounting them away from engine heat with a remote kit will remove that failure mode but my truck just proved otherwise (mine is already mounted under the front bumper). Most of the suggestions I found were "keep a spare on hand." Sure, $200 later I had one 2-day expressed to my door but a spare only works once and that's absolutely not an option if the country decides to go Banana Republic on us.

    I always had a bit of a thing for the 12V Cummins. Big diesel with only a start wire and a stop wire. I've seen some fitted with a crank start, but never had much experience with them.

    Any experience? Any suggestions? I'm seriously sick of electronics, but slightly concerned about mileage.

  8. #8
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    Sweet Tennessee
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    If you're worried about mileage them you need to look into something other than a 12 valve. They go for a premium as do the swap kits if you can even find either. You can buy 5 or 6 beaters and pay to store them instead. You're thinking like a teenager lol. Let's say you did the swap...... you think you're just going to drive around the rest of your life? Things break, especially when things are put together different than they were intended for.

    Don't get me wrong, the swap overs are sweet! If done right, and I've seen several it boosts the price 15 to 20k. But people that worry about mpg generally won't have one. Not because of mpg but $$$$$
    Don't bring skittles to a gun fight.

  9. #9
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    Northern Idaho
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    I can find complete stock motors sub-$4k, that's not a huge deal. The Dodges rust right out from around them around here. Nor is dropping one into my truck (just a little bit of welding and wiring, both of which I'm capable of). Heck, I'm planning on dropping in a solid front axle and have already pulled the whole thing apart in the past. It's the labor that drives up the cost of custom trucks and I've got that part covered.

    I'm worried about the reliability of a set of known-problematic electronic parts that may just "go out" at any time and are potentially susceptible to EMP versus a mechanical system which has fewer failure modes. Right now, I have an ECU, FSD, fuel cutoff solenoid, electronic injection pump, electric lift pump, multiple vacuum solenoids, and a handful of sensors. Moving to a 12V would reduce that to the fuel cutoff solenoid from what I'm reading; not a crippling component if it dies, you can kill the engine manually. It also eliminates the reliance on a whole host of other things like the alternator since the mechanical system simply doesn't require any power to continue running.

    Fuel mileage just calculates directly into range which is important; $6k in parts and six months of garage time less so if it nets me a better vehicle that won't leave me stuck in the Rockies somewhere because some electronics overheated without warning.

  10. #10
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    Sweet Tennessee
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    I've spent more on worse things lol good luck. If nothing else you can sell it for a nice profit and build a nicer better one.
    Don't bring skittles to a gun fight.

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