1 Year Update
Hard to believe but the White Turtle is 1 year old. Or al least it is 1 year since I got most of the Turtle III finished. Well by finished I mean to the point that I can enjoy it. Over the year I have loved using it for shoots and for driving. Plus over that year I have had a chance to evaluate how I use it and what I want to change / add / modify.
A lot of the changes that I am planning have more to do with how I use the van than anything. For me the van is a place to sleep, carry gear and if in an emergency to cook and use the washroom. I am / was not planning on living in it. If I changed the use of the van I would have to change a lot more.
Many of the things work as planned and I am really happy with them.
- The bed is VERY comfortable and while it is short it fits me perfectly without using up a lot of space. I have thought long and hard about whether I should have gone with the longer wheelbase van so I could have a larger the bed. But after thinking about it I am happy I went with the 148″ wheelbase. Like I have said before the main purpose is to drive the unit and a longer unit would make it harder to turn around and park.
- Insulation is more than enough. If there is a weak spot it is the doors (back & side). I have solved this with a couple moving blankets over the doors. I was out the other night and it got COLD, went to bed around 10:30 and it was warm without the furnace running till 4:30, then I turned the furnace on for a few minutes to warm the van up. Then shut it off the furnace and went to sleep till 7:30. Turned it on again at 7:30 and it was toasty warm. I did not use the moving blankets that night for the doors or to block off the cab so I still could have kept it warmer. The other day I took the van out shooting. I drove around for an hour with only the vehicle heat on. After coming home and leaving the van parked for a couple hours I went out to do some work and when I opened the side door I could feel the heat come out. Pretty good for just sitting in the cold parked.
- Bathroom. While the bathroom is nothing more than a porta potti in a closet it is perfect. I have not used it much but it sure is nice to know it is there should I need it. The porta potti could have just put it in a cupboard, or on a slide under the bed but having it in the closet gives more privacy and I have storage above the toilet for towels and toiletries.
- I love the size of fridge that I went with. I could always use a larger fridge but honestly don’t need it. Again I use the van mainly for driving so the fridge is for short term storage and I am not filling it for a week at a time. It cools fast and does not use much power. I have had a issue with the second coldest level and that it runs a lot more than I figure it should but I am going to add a vent fan for the rear cupboard and see how this does. SO happy I did not go with a propane fridge as I never worry about the angle of the camper when the fridge is running
- When I built the cupboard that houses my food and dishes I thought it may be too small. I was wrong big time. At this time it is just a cupboard with two shelves and I use a couple containers inside. It holds a lot of stuff!!! Added a slider and put in a platform so I can pull out the food and dishes easier. Works great!!!
- I originally was going to put a stove and sink built into the counter. So far really happy I did not. Have yet to use the portable stove. I have changed what and how I eat when traveling and just have not needed it. Not that I won’t use it just that when I am shooting I eat small snacks / meals all day rather then a huge one at the end of the day. Plus I am eating more food that does not require cooking. Sandwiches, vegetables, fruit have taken the place of cooked meats, eggs etc.
- Sink / water was a big issue for me to decide on. I wanted running water/ hot water but did not want the extra stuff to do it. So I did not even add a sink and I carry a collapsible water container under the bed. So far it is working perfectly. I do not miss the running water. I have started to wash up at gas stations, tourist information stops and in campgrounds that have hot water. If I do need hot water I have the portable stove to heat some water on.
- Flooring was another area that I struggled with when planning. Do I build a wooden floor, or leave the floor with the cargo mat and cover it with carpet? I decided on the cargo floor insert that came with the van, underlay and carpet. It works / feels GREAT!!!! Again I am not on it 8 hours a day but even then I think it would be enough. AND the time / cost / weight that I saved is HUGE!!
Some things I still want to tweak
- First is the house battery. Currently I have the group 31 battery under the passenger seat. When I put it there I did not cut any of the bolts or modify anything so I can easily remove the battery and return to stock. After 1 year I have decided that I want to move it to the back under the bed for a number of reasons; The battery weight will be at the back for some extra traction. Also I can add a second battery easily. With the battery out from under the passenger seat I can add a swivel to the passenger seat. I cannot add the swivel now as the battery is too high. The battery(s) will be close to the external power and I can add a charger / maintainer to the set-up easily. I can also add a inverter (lots of space) to get 110v power when on the road.
- Exhaust fan and roof vent is being added. This is still a question with me as I am happy without it but I know in the heat I will appreciate it.
- I really want to finish the wiring as it has been 1 year. I did not know what I wanted for power & wires when I built it and now I think I do. So far the wires are rough run and I want to finish that up. I also want / need to run power to the exhaust fan I am adding. May also add another light over the bed for reading but honestly the light I have is really bright.
- Slider for the food cupboard. I have some bins in there now and it works but I think if I have a slider then it would work even better.
- Fan on a switch to move more air from behind the fridge. Will run it while I am driving to keep it cool behind the fridge.
- Passenger seat swivel. After 1 year of use I decided that I want it.
- Considering a bench by the door for sitting. It would add a lot of storage space as well and the space could be used for easy outside access. Really not sure about this, will have to keep designing and thinking about it. Have some cool ideas but really do not need it. May be a fun project! Could add some lights and a drop down table.
- Screen door(s) and screen for the side windows. I have inserts for the side windows for at night but will make some screens for during the day. Also may make a screen for the side door with magnetic closer.
I really do LOVE the van. It is not a luxurious as many campers but it is homey enough for me and I love it. Now all I need to do is to get out some more!!!