Electrical upgrades

Finding new batteries for Tulák took time and some research on-line. Scott Ingham at Expedition Imports in Vallejo, California was most helpful. He led us to Napa! 

After a quick trip to Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho and an easy border crossing we were home with two new lead-acid batteries that fit the Unimog battery tray perfectly.

We’d always intended to install a battery cut-off switch for the “house” batteries but somehow had overlooked it. A Blue Sea model with a simple ON/OFF switch for a single circuit met our needs. Tucked up behind the house “Lifeline” batteries the switch is a great safety device enabling work on the “house” system.

Next up? It’s time to get the differential leak fixed.


Tulák’s southbound

“Inveniemus viam aut faciemus”

Governed by Hannibal’s quotation (“We will find the way or we will make it”) the transformation from ambulance to camper is complete – for now at least, until experience during our trial run indicates modifications are in order.

Accompanied by our mascot, the Good Soldier Švejk we’re headed to Independence, California and wherever else the road takes us over the next four months. We’re southbound for some warmth.






The hunt for a heater


After testing a Mr. Buddy heater we realized this type of catalytic heater would give us condensation issues. At the other end of the price spectrum a diesel heater would have been ideal but was eliminated given its difficult installation. To drill for a fuel standpipe, you’d have to drop the diesel tank. Without a shop, this job just wasn’t doable in the back lane during a Canadian winter.

So when you have a problem, talk about it to everybody. It was during one of these chance discussions that an alternative came to light – the Propex HS2000 – a propane, thermostatically controlled, blown-air heater.


With forced air combustion and a two stage stainless steel heat-exchanger, this heater is touted to be a clean and highly efficient way to heat a camper. As it exhausts all products of combustion externally there’s no carbon monoxide and no moisture in the “house.” As cabin air is re-circulated instead of using cold air from outside the heater’s efficiency is improved. They’re also apparently very efficient on electrical current consumption.

Propex Air Heaters Canada had a 24 volt version in stock so the order was placed. About the size of a shoe box, the heater will be installed inside one of the dinette seats.


Go to it Laddie! With help from Tony at Alpenglow RV Services the job was completed without any leaks.

With a turn of the thermostat dial we have heat. Now, we’re good to go south.




The Dinette

With the driver’s side storage unit in place, fitting the seats and table for our dinette was the next challenge. The pieces came together well. There’s great storage under the dinette seats.

Laddie’s “shoe” for the table leg will keep it secure while underway. The tabletop can be lowered to create a lounge area. In fact, Anne’s so short she could sleep here.

Custom cushions from Wheeler’s Upholstery complete the job.




Basic plumbing for water

Trip 292

Two water tanks store 220 liters (48 gallons) of potable water under the bed platform. Fill connections are accessed from the side door.

To fill the tanks, a drinking water-safe hose with an in-line 100 micron filter will be used. The filter will reduce bad taste, odors, chlorine and sediment in the water going into the tanks and should also help prevent bacteria growth in the tanks. As the tanks can be filled independently, in the event a water source is questionable we’ll only fill one tank so that any contamination is isolated to one tank.

At the galley sink, water is pulled from the tanks with the use of a foot pump.

All drinking water will be purified on a daily basis using the MSR Guardian water filter. “Grey” water from the sink goes directly into a canister below.

The galley is good to go.


For simplicity we opted for a non-pressurized system and no hot water. What are we to do for a shower? Well, we’re going to give this portable camp shower a whirl.



Our first decision was to use the on-board 24 volt system in the “house”. A second independent alternator was fitted for charging two Lifeline deep cycle “house” batteries exclusively. Joined in series, these 12 volt batteries will produce 24 volts with a total 100 amp capacity for the “house”. Mounted on a sliding tray they’re accessible from the side door for servicing.

The first junction in our electrical layout is a bus bar which transmits power from the the batteries to the fixtures.


Our needs are basic: lights and ventilation fans. Some of our “appliances” don’t have switches and require a distribution panel. The first line from the bus bar goes to this 6-gang distribution panel that has in-line fuses.Distribution Panel

From this panel, using the rocker switches we’ll control two muffin fans and the pre-existing ceiling light/ventilation fan. Bonus – the panel also includes two USB ports, a 12V DC socket and a voltage readout.

Other “appliances” including two LED cabin tube lights, a gimballed cabin fan and a LED goose-neck reading light have built-in switches. From the bus bar, the second line goes to a fuse block. From the fuse block, lines go to each of these “appliances”.


InverterCharging 110V appliances such as a camera, laptop and flashlight batteries demanded our electrical layout include a pure sine wave inverter.

The inverter, directly connected to the house batteries is also grounded to the vehicle chassis. This 350 watt inverter won’t handle the load a toaster requires but it’s more than adequately sized to meet our needs.

For safety and to keep wiring tidy, surface conduits are used throughout the “house”.


With a great deal of help from our friend Steve, the electrician we can see light at the end of the tunnel. 

Entry & Exit Extras

The existing stairs at the rear of the mog were not adequate for safe entry and exit. The first step was too high off the ground for us short-legged folk and the treads were very narrow. Wider custom treads were welded in such a fashion that the unit still retracted.

Next we had to overcome the distance of 24 inches from the ground up to the existing stairs. As both weight and stow-ability were concerns, it took some time and on-line research to find the right solution.

The Hailo “Mini-Comfort” was made for the Mog. It very conveniently stows inside the mog’s rear door recess. It’s lightweight and has two large aluminum steps with non-slip ribbing for support.

To lend-a-hand, a folding assist rail was installed on the bulkhead.

Now we can enter and exit “the house” with confidence!



Driver’s Side Storage Unit

The width of the ambulance box provided an opportunity for storage together with the dinette opposite the galley. On the driver’s side, from the bed bulkhead to the back door it’s 64 ½” long and 12” deep. From the floor it rises up to the “crease” in the ambulance ceiling to 54 3/4″ in height.

This space was divided into three levels. The bottom level (the garage) is accessible when the rear doors are open.  Long bulky items such as our folding camp table and chairs will be stored here. The “crane” for the spare tire also fits.

Since the dinette bench seats will butt up against this storage unit and the table will be affixed to its center, access to the next level had to be unique. We settled on open access holes. If necessary cargo nets can be used to restrain the contents.


The upper level has doors on hinges and are self-supporting in the open position with some skookum struts.

Here again surface bolts are used to secure the cupboard doors while under-way.


Next up – the dinette.


Galley rehearsals


Our galley is very basic. No oven, no micro-wave, no toaster. We’ll cook on a propane 2-burner stove.


In our research we came across a product designed in Sweden called the Omnia Stove-Top Oven. Also known as a “Wonder Pot” it’s for baking without a conventional oven.  So we ordered one from    Sea Dog Boating Solutions


Our first attempt was to follow the recipe for Thyme Bread included with the unit.

The silicone liner inside the pan was prepared with pan release and sesame seeds. The dough was mixed by hand in a simple bowl and shaped to fit. After rising for an hour it was placed on the stove top.

For our first trial we were impressed. And our taste buds agreed. This is going to work.

Voilà – it will also roast chicken thighs.

Bottom line: The Omnia stove-top oven is small, light and easy to use.

The Galley

a28d73e1909d8d5c81b034958e4336a4Our galley will be very basic. From the bed bulkhead to the rear door we only have 64 ½” to work with. A good-sized sink was considered essential. As well, space had to be dedicated for the stowage of several items:

  • a 2-burner propane stove
  • water canisters, a cooler
  • and the foot pump for water.


Storage space for food items and kitchen utensils was also on the list. And where would the porta-potti go? Check out the high-end casters on the throne’s dolly/cart.

The day the counter-top was fitted the galley started to take shape.

With plumbing hoses and valves installed behind, the essentials fit. A modest galley to be sure but we hope to be cooking and dining outside a good deal of the time.