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Old 09-11-2014, 12:19 PM   #1
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Location: Topeka
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Post First time RV/TT Owner wants to modify SLX 184BH

This is my first foray into camping. I finally got tired of listening to friends and relatives brag about this and had to jump in with a nice small starter unit! Dragging around a mini-house on vacation sounds very appealing, and your own clean bathroom too

I bought a barely used 2012 SLX 184BH for over $2000 less than book. Being a basic trailer I like to change a few things to make it easier to camp in.

First one is propane. How long does a 20lb last? If anyone knows the various BTU usage numbers on all the appliances that would help me figure it out. I've been assuming that while boondocking that my black tank will fill up faster than the gas is used up. My thoughts were putting a 30lb on, rather than two 20s since it doesn't really seem like two would fit right. I know the Baja version has a 30 so at least Jayco deems it safe/possible. Anyone tried it?

The battery. I imagine this is hard to calculate and mostly depends on experience, but how long could you dry camp on it? You cannot drain it more than 50% without damaging it right? I've got an inverter generator (Champion) that will always be with me anyway, but it would be nice to avoid using it if possible. I have a bigger battery box, and the biggest deep cycle you could buy at Walmart left over from the boat I sold. Would that be a drop-in replacement?

The bunk mattress. Weird sizes, but I did find someone on ebay selling mattress pads for 50 bucks. Anyone tried these? I'm probably going to do the cheapskate route and buy a pad from Walmart then cut to fit. I figure at the very least I need to get a fitted cover sheet to make it look nice.

Fridge. Doesn't work like the one in my house, outside temp makes it vary a bunch, although the freezer can easily make it's way down to -5 !!! There are fan kits to buy for the outside venting which I've figured out will solve the problem because we tested using a small AC fan placed inside there.

I'll probably find more as it's used but for now these are what I thought of.

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Old 09-11-2014, 12:33 PM   #2
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Matt, Welcome to Jayco and the forum.

I can't answer all of your questions, but here is my take on a few of them.

1. Propane.. That is really going to vary with use.. We live in Texas so as you can imagine we don't do a whole lot of freezing weather camping here. I do have twin 20# tanks on mine. Both were full January 1 of this year and we have been out 5 times (2 days each time). We did run the furnace last January, Feburary and March and use the gas stove each time and 4 hot showers each night.. As of right now both tanks are about 3/4 full..

2. Bunk Mattress. I have never heard of anybody liking the stock mattress that comes with their TT, just go buy a nice 3 or 4 inch foam topper from Walmart, or Kmart or someplace like that and cut to size..

Good luck and enjoy the new (to you) TT...

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Old 09-11-2014, 02:56 PM   #3
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The leftover boat battery will make a good backup battery, you could carry it in the bed of the truck, fully charged and swap it out, or wire it up in parallel if in good shape. Do your research on setting batteries up in parallel as they need to be in the same overall condition or the weaker battery will drain the better battery quickly, and you are then not in any better shape.
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Old 09-11-2014, 03:41 PM   #4
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Welcome to the gang! And congrats on your new trailer!

I'll chime in on the propane usage. Like was stated by Tex1961, YMMV with your usage. I bought my trailer with 2 full 30 lb cylinders back in September of 2013. I still have gas in the first (main) tank. I haven't even tapped into the second tank yet. Now granted, it's just two of us camping in Texas, so usage may be lower than most, but we run the fridge on LP while traveling, we both take showers every night and I use gas at that time for quick recovery while using electric at all other times, we use the stove for most of our meals including perking a pot of coffee each morning, and we had to run the furnace twice (once for about 30 minutes to burn off the manufacturing oils, and once to keep the coach warm, but it was supplemented with a space heater so it didn't run much).

Battery: Down here they put on one multi-use marine/RV deep cycle Interstate Grp 24. It's not really a very good battery for this purpose IMO, but it's cheap, so that's what they use. I have never tested it, but I would be surprised if it lasted one night in my RV. I know my rig is considerably larger than yours, but the basics are pretty close (fridge electronics, lights, various safety devices, radio etc.). If it wasn't totally dead by morning I would be very surprised.

+1 on the mattress toppers. I got mine at WM, but I've heard Kohl's has pretty good deals to look for. One JOF member decided to put his 4" memory foam topper under his mattress and reported excellent results. I haven't tried it yet because my topper is structured more like a mattress pad, it is sewn into a fitted sheet, so I couldn't really do this easily, but I may try next time I have the rig home just to see how it feels.

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Old 09-11-2014, 03:46 PM   #5
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Speaking of the propane, what is the best way to see an accurate level in the tank? Do those little screw in-line gauges work?

I suspect mine is the same battery too, it appears they all have green interstate 24s. Based on the size I think my big one is a 29 marine batt.

I bought some LED lights from china off eBay to replace the halogens since they get VERY hot and I assume that has got to be just sucking power since my converter fan runs constantly when just three are on.
Jayco Swift SLX 184BH
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Old 09-11-2014, 04:51 PM   #6
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I have heard mixed reviews on the propane gauges. One way to check it, but may not be convenient when camping, is to pour hot/warm water over the propane tank. The empty part will feel warm, the propane will feel cold.
Not sure if you have dual tanks, but I just run one til its empty then flip the switch to full one. Then I go fill the empty one.
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Old 09-11-2014, 06:12 PM   #7
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If your TT is stored at your house, or a place where you can access it, and you want to know how long your battery will last while you are dry-camping.... try dry-camping on your driveway.

Check the battery water level, charge up the battery, turn on the lights you think you will have on, turn on the Tv and monitor your batteries voltage until it hits 12VDC. This will give you an idea as to how long the battery will last you. You can use a volt meter to monitor the battery voltage.

RV/Marine batteries are not TRUE deep cycle batteries, but depending on how many things you use, you could make it through the night, but not much more... that 50% or 12VDC battery level comes fast on one 85/100Ah marine battery.

Another point is that you should never wire 2 batteries together that are not the same Mfr, make, model, Ah rating, they do not charge the same and you could do more harm to the batteries than good.

Just my thoughts,
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Old 09-13-2014, 02:14 PM   #8
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Just a few things I'd like to add. The mattress pads are fine for my two boys. We did find college dorm size sheets work best on them.
One way to cut down some battery usage is to install LEDs in your lights.
The holding tanls are small. For boondocking I picked up a portable waste tote.
I do use a Champion 2000 inverter. It isn't loud and will provide a good amount of power.
Welcome and enjoy yourself. Some of the best memories camping will be unexpected circumstances.
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Old 09-13-2014, 08:20 PM   #9
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We just purchased a 2012 184bh in July. We've camped in it three times already and are very happy with it! I don't have any advice or info about the propane or battery, but we did try to leave the fridge running on battery for a few hours and came back to warm stuff. We realized we should have put it on propane instead, perhaps.

We haven't found it very practical to camp without hookups unless restrooms and showers were available. Our grey tank filled after 1 day of hand washing and one reasonably short shower, and our black tank filled pretty quickly as well (leading to the new rule that we use the campground restrooms except at night unless we have sewer hookup). We still are learning the best ways to manage all of this.

We have two boys sleeping in the bunks, and they don't mind the mattresses at all. Regular twin sheets work fine. For the dinette bed, I bought a full size mattress pads and sheets since that seemed to match the dimensions best. I bought a cheap pad and already decided we will definitely upgrade before next year! We are also thinking about pulling out the table and putting in thick boards to keep the bed more stable. We decided we don't care to set up the table while camping since we mostly eat outside or can eat without a table.

Hope you enjoy your camper as much as we have. We still have plenty to figure out, but it's already been a fun adventure.

*I just realized I replied to the last post instead of the OP. Sorry!
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Old 09-15-2014, 08:46 AM   #10
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I bought the in-line propane gauge and they aren't very useful. Since they work on pressure they will show low on a cold morning even though you have plenty or show as full as the first time after a fill when the sun is beating down on it. Just my 2 cents.

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