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Mavis and all her DIY

Cheine Matheson

It all started with needing a new roof hatch… well not exactly needing, but more a case of wanting. Out with the old and in with the new.

Ceiling and curtains

The problem now was that the shiny new hatch far exceeds the old worn ceiling; new plywood with a fancy grey paint-wash finish added to the list, and while I’m at it, I thought I might as well throw some left-over ceiling insulation in there too. House skirting boards were the perfect size and shape for ceiling scotia and made excellent curtain track mounts. Curtains were a must, so some home-made block-outs were made to fit perfectly around the whole inside.

Here’s a brilliant idea… while everything is stripped apart, why not…

This started what is known as “the slippery slope” or “the worm hole.” Here’s a brilliant idea… while everything is stripped apart why not add a “little bit” of solar power… so in went a few ceiling lights while telling myself I will not add too many things.

Solar power — internal

Burnsco and Jaycar… these are the only 2 shops you need, and they have a loyalty program so the more you spend the more “essential treats” you can get. Burnsco supplied me with the “100Watt solar package” which was so incredibly easy to install with a120Ah battery, 20amp controller and a 100Watt panel. Naturally I had to add a bluetooth module to the package so I could monitor everything without having to get out of the camp chair. Jaycar supplied me with all the wiring, switches, lights and accessories. There are usb ports and 12v cigarette sockets dotted around the inside plus an outdoor heavy duty power source. Everything is on separate, fused, master switches located in the “old fridge cupboard.” For extra “treats” I purchased a 300W inverter that I use for the portable broadband and sky decoder on those rainy days.

Solar power — external

After a few camping trips during the cloudy season I decided to upgrade the original 100W solar panel to a 200W panel. Now I have a 100W panel spare … and Mitre10 has a huge sale on tool boxes! I’m about quarter of the way down the worm hole now, but in my defence, it’s always good to have a back-up power supply… Right??? A very, very simple set-up, that is just a waterproof solar module to charge the battery from the original 100watt panel and a set of 12v accessory power supplies. The only downside to the solar module is you cannot see how much charge your battery has, however a green light comes on when at full capacity.

Battery cooling

With summer approaching I was a little bit worried about the heat affecting my batteries, so a quick shop on GrabOne found me a “Chicken Hut” cooling fan set-up, no power supply needed, a small solar panel powers the 2 fans when in sunlight so one fan went in the tool box and another in the inside set-up… works perfectly maintaining a steady airflow drawing air from under the caravan.

Diesel heating

Best thing I ever bought … don’t skimp on the heat output. I chose a portable 8kw unit that was also on GrabOne for only $200. I have run it all winter and never had a problem with it, the only thing I added was a fuel filter and upgraded the air filter. People say you only need 2kw however I have seen others have to run at full heat just to get a toasty room. With 8kw I only ever run it on absolute low. My theory is with the 8kw you use less diesel and power only having to run it on low. Over an 8 hour period I use 2.5 litres of fuel and about 10% of my 120Ah battery. Super quiet compared to a 2kw screaming its head off. The benefit of a portable unit is that come summer time I don’t need it, so save valuable storage space. The heat output duct is on a swivel inside so you can have it pointing straight out the door if the awning is set up and it warms the entire area within minutes.


The original sink was one of the first things to go, too small and very used looking. Top tip for searching caravan parts… search for boat parts instead. They are smaller and lighter… and for some reason cheaper. Easy quick install with a boat tap also. A 9 litre a minute electric pump, fitted alongside the water tank, feeds ample amounts of water via the waterproof push button switch. The tap has a separate on/off toggle on it that I turn off while travelling to eliminate any water dribbling through. Burnsco supplied all this and they have a huge selection to choose from.


Winter saw a lot of preventative maintenance, new tyres were fitted with the rims getting sand blasted and repainted at the same time. The chassis was already in great condition so I went over it again with a wire brush and repainted it with PA10 rust proofing paint just to make it really shine. Dwights waterproofing was applied to all the canvas — I was a little disappointed that it didn’t make the water bead off and thought I had wasted my money on it however it gives you that wet look when raining but dries almost instantly. It pays to waterproof both sides as per instructions too… only doing one side doesn’t achieve much.

Future ideas

Not a lot of other things to do at this stage, I am currently making a bracket to attach to the drawbar in front of the tool box that will hold a cantilever umbrella instead of having to put up extra poles and shade sails. Originally was toying with the idea of self-containment but I cant justify it as I prefer to frequent campgrounds and the free overnight camping areas that have the facilities for you. All the plumbing work I have done is up to self-containment spec though, in case one day I decide to go for it.


Labour weekend at Mangawhai

Four poptoppers in attendance at the Labour weekend gathering. All very different set-ups, a great group of people and lots of stories and ideas floating around. Much like myself, everyone had their own special touches on their poptops that made them their own.

Only 2 of us brought garden ornaments and started competing. Unfortunately the Flamingos took out my Chickens  — I was too under-prepared for someone just as competitive as myself! (It’s the next get together that I’m looking forward to — already I have purchased more, haha!)

, p


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