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Shakedown cruise: Getting used to my new RV

| Updated Jan 13, 2013

We were deep in the piney woods of Southwest Georgia, a half mile off a red dirt road, parked in a small clearing not far from our deer blind.

It was the last weekend of Georgia's months-long deer season and Matthew, who just took up hunting as any good Southern boy does, had invited me down.

GandMatthewwoodsSince we were heading to the big Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa Jan.16-21, the hunting trip made for a perfect stopover. We were seriously boondocking. There was no power or sewer hookups, no cable TV, no “tinominium” campground that surrounded us with huge Type A motorhomes walling us in from the campsites next door.

Just us. Me and my 10-year-old grandson, Matthew. in out new eTrek, the all-electric and solar powered new Sprinter campervan from Roadtrek Motorhomes. It was my first real test of the lasting power of the eight AGM batteries and the diesel alternator-generator that is supplemented by a 250 watt solar panel on the rooftop.

We left Michigan three days before, overnighting in a commercial campground. But I was really anxious to see how the new eTrek performed on its own power system.

Jennifer stayed back at my son's house. So did Tai, our Norwegian Elkhound, who, we discovered earlier that day, had a tick affix its hungry little self near his ear. Tai wasn't happy with the extraction process so we let hm stay with Jennifer. We think he met the tick at a rest area in Jellico, TN, where he visited some woods off a little dog walk to do his business.

So there we were, Mathew and me in the woods, all camoed up and far from civilization. Coyotes howled at night, close by, too. So cool.

I thought we'd be using the heater at night. Normally, it dips near freezing at night this time of year down here. Instead, thanks to an unseasonal heat wave that had the daytime temperatures near 80, we fired up the air conditioner.

The mosquitoes were out already. The snakes were out of their dens, too, making us glad we had knee high boots.

We didn't even see a deer, but who cares?

The eTrek was a luxurious deer camp for us. We had TV, DVD and a refrigerator filled with cold drinks. I was able to fill the water tanks, now that the risk of freezing is over. The eTrek has instant hot water and filtered cold. I was amazed how much I appreciated that, especially since the coffee maker I bought back in Michigan for the eTrek didn't work. The instant hot made instant coffee. Not my favorite brew, but caffeine nevertheless.

We had two minor glitches. The center faucet in the kitchen only trickles. I suspect there's a valve somewhere I need to open. And the inductive stovetop doesn't heat up. It turns on but when I put a pan on it, no heat develops and it soon turns itself off. I'll ask the Roadtrek people I meet in Tampa if they have any ideas.

Everything else worked better that I could ask.

inverterWe ran off batteries for well over 30 hours. Lights, TV, the fridge, the AC during the day. Before we knocked the red dirt off our boots and headed home, the inverter showed I still had 12.7 volts of power.

The eTrek was parked in my son's driveway before and after the trip to the woods, I kept the battery on. The fridge ran continuously. There was no discernible battery drain. I think the solar charger really keeps those batteries topped off.

Besides the impressive power system, I liked the ride in this Roadtrek. Although I had no problems with the '06 RS-Adventurous I owned, this was the first Sprinter I have driven with dual wheels and I think it adds stability, particularly in crosswinds or when buffeted in the slipstream of a passing eighteen-wheeler. Jennifer drove two stints on the way down and said she, too, found it very easy to handle

In terms of mileage as compared to my '06 RS, the eTrek understandably fares not so well. The new eTrek is a six cylinder on a 3500 series frame. The '06 is five cylinders on a 2500 frame.

In the '06, I routinely got between 20 and 21 miles per gallon.

On the eTrek, my average so far is 17.65 mpg.

backsignThere's some signage promoting the blog on the back of the Roadtrek. I was surprised to have received two emails from folks who saw it on the drive down. One was interested in getting a Sprinter, the other was from a former Roadtrek owner who thought he'd like to get a new one.

Monday, we head to Florida and Tampa. We'll be at the Tampa Fairgrounds for several days, site of the RV SuperShow. Then I'll be looking for a beach before heading back north to the cold…. although… there's an invasion of giant Burmese python snakes near the Everglades. There are so many of the huge snakes that the state has declared a special python hunting season with a $1,500 prize for whoever gets the most pythons.

Some estimate that nearly 150,000 pythons are living in the Florida Everglades. Officials say the Burmese pythons are eating wildlife and with no natural predator, the population is overwhelming. The Everglades have become crowded with the snakes and the pythons have started to move into nearby neighborhoods and campgrounds.

Doesn't that sound like a great story?

I need to figure out how to convince Jennifer of that,

Meanwhile, when I was at the Roadtrek factory a week ago, we had the eTrek up on a hoist and, in answer to several questions from readers, I shot this very sort video showing where those batteries are stored.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2013-01-13

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

7 Responses to “Shakedown cruise: Getting used to my new RV”

February 05, 2013at2:49 pm, Steve said:

Hi Mike – In one of your earlier post about the eTrek the headline said “Roadtrek’s new RS E-Trek is Perfect for Boondocking” which seems to be a little too upbeat. Reason, the potable water capacity is just WAY to small at 27 gallons. The ability to stay “off the grid” is great, but I learned long ago that water is essential – electricity is not. I applaud Roadtrek for trying to innovate but for true boondockers they need to do something about the inadequate water capacity.

Enjoy reading you site. REALLY like the videos.


January 19, 2013at12:09 am, D. smith said:

Hello Mike. I follow your adventures, and insight on class B motorhomes, as I will be buying one later this year. As far as the inductive stove top issue, make sure you are using “induction” compatible ferromagnetic cookware, to produce the required eddy current for conductive heating. Safe travels

January 15, 2013at10:04 am, Jim Hammill said:

Hi there Jim Hampton. Roadtrek is at the Tampa show, and has all our models to view there. Luckily, Mr Wendland and his bride are visiting us there as well.

Please look for Roadtrek at the Supershow, and you will see the van you want!!

January 14, 2013at6:13 pm, Jim Hampton said:

Hey Mike…you passed me going down I-75 in Florida today near Ocala and I saw the back of your RV promoting your blog and just went to your website. This was providence as we’ve been shopping for a small van for my wife and I. I just read all your posts here. Will you by chance be at the Tampa Super RV show this week? We were thinking of driving down. After reading your blog I feel we are old friends and would love to buy you a refreshing drink of your choice and pick your brain. That ETREK Sprinter looks very promising.

January 13, 2013at10:51 pm, Meryl and Me Hit the Road said:

30 hours on all electric is VERY impressive and I am glad that you have posted this because lately I have been reading a lot of uninformed opinions that the ETrek just cannot do what Roadtrek claims. There is no doubt that you have proved that wrong!

January 13, 2013at8:55 pm, Jim Hammill said:

Mike, likely the inductive stove issue is a training issue. You have to turn it on, and then move the heat up using a different button, which, unitl you have doen it a coupole times, is a bit confusing. The unit was winterized before you got it, so likely the valves for fresh are still off. We can talk you through both on Monday, no issues. I am pleased to see that the electrical side of things is working fine. Your experience matches our tests so far!!!

January 13, 2013at11:32 am, Dallas Stone said:

Mike, nice article. Hey, I’ll take nearly 18mpg any day over my class A mileage. Have you ever weighed your etrek loaded?

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