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Discussion Starter #1
I do a fair bit of camping but really wanted to extend camping season deep into the winter this year. I was in Idaho last fall and had to switch from camping to lodge stays due to bitterly cold nights. In the past I have used heated blankets; and they do work pretty well, but they have limitations and I need to keep an eye on battery usage in order to get through the night. 2 heated blankets is the limit for my battery capacity.

I recently learned about diesel heaters and decided to add one to my camping setup. Diesel heaters are frequently used as cab heaters for big rigs, van life vehicles, and in boats.

Diesel heaters burn diesel in a combustion chamber inside a heat exchanger. Fresh air is drawn over the heat exchanger via electric fan and ducted into the living space. Combustion air and conditioned air are always kept separate.

Advantages of diesel heaters
  1. Chinese knocks off are very inexpensive and reliable
  2. Very safe, diesel itself is quite safe, but also the heater is mounted outside and tent and heat is ducted in. Should a fire occur, it would not endanger tent occupants. I bought a small CO detector to keep in the tent.
  3. Low electrical demand, just enough electricity to run an electric fan, fuel pump, and controller. A glow plug draws about 8amps briefly during startup and shutdown.
  4. Compact. The heater itself is about the size of a shoebox.
  5. Fuel efficient. A gallon of diesel lasts between 16-50hrs depending on the heat setting.
  6. Dry heat. Because the combustion air and conditioned air are kept separate, there are no condensation concerns.
  7. Lots of heat. The smaller 2kw heater like mine is about 7000btu. They make a larger 5kw that is 17000btu.
  8. Temperature control. The stock Chinese controllers aren't great, but you can maintain a pretty consistent temperature pretty easily.
Disadvantages of diesel heaters.
  1. One more fuel type to keep track of. In this sense gasoline or propane would have been better.
  2. Lots of little things that could go wrong. The heater has a lot of components. Fuel tank, fuel pump, fan, glow plug, control electronics.
  3. Stock Chinese controller is not great. The controller is locked into Celsius. It also has a very rudimentary temperature control logic.
  4. Provided installation components are not great. I spent a bit extra buying fuel line, exhaust tube, clamps from the name brand companies.
  5. Potential for diesel leaks. Diesel is nasty stuff.
So off I went buying a 2kw heater off Amazon. I decided to stuff everything into a Frontrunner Wolfpack storage box. I decided on the Wolfpack because I already use them, had an extra, and my roof rack is already setup for Wolfpacks. I am powering the setup from the 12v plug in my front bumper. The plug is connected to my vehicle battery. I can also power the heater off a portable power station.

Initial layout. The combustion intake and exhaust are kept far apart to prevent ingestion of exhaust. The small diameter black hose is the combustion intake and the small diameter metal line is the exhaust. The large diameter ends of the heater are the fresh air intake (right) and conditioned air outlet to the tent on the left. I kept fresh air intake away from the combustion exhaust to eliminate any risk of fumes in the tent.
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Now all the functional components are installed. The exhast is wrapped to try to keep the temperature inside the box as low as possible. The heater will run with the lid closed.
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That is an interesting way to go, I'd never have thought about something of the sort.

I've considered going with a camp stove and having my oztent modified to use it safely, or buying a pf bereg tent that can use a stove.

Look forward to hearing your report on how well it works, or doesn't.
 

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Awesome!
I started a similar build, using a flip top lid tote. Which, to be honest, I don't like. I plan to use my hub style ice fishing shelter to also extend the camping season a bit. And, of course for ice fishing.

I'm not familiar with the front runner box. Do you have a part # or link?
 

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That is an interesting way to go, I'd never have thought about something of the sort.

I've considered going with a camp stove and having my oztent modified to use it safely, or buying a pf bereg tent that can use a stove.

Look forward to hearing your report on how well it works, or doesn't.
I have a few friends who run wood stoves in their hub style ice fishing tents and it works well though you need to be able to have the stove pipe safely exiting the tent. . I wanted to go with the diesel heater as I didn't want to have to worry about keeping a fire going all night. The diesel heater you just fire up and go.
 

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2007 LE 4x4 Crew Cab Long Box
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These small diesel heaters are very popular up north here for hunters that use their cargo trailers for first hauling gear to their hunt camps and then sleeping inside the trailer at night. They are cheap, effective, safer than propane, and also does not have freezing tank issues that propane can have at times if left running in cold temps.
 

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this is a great post . i am followed. As someone who is just getting into RTT i am very interested in this... well i dont care but it would give me major brownie points with the better half
 
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Looks great. Love to see some photos of it in action with duct into tent. Stay warm out there.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I've considered going with a camp stove and having my oztent modified to use it safely, or buying a pf bereg tent that can use a stove.
I love wood stoves. I have considered a small wood stove in the annex room of the rtt. But I do see a few disadvantages:
  1. Needs to be tended throughout the night. This is especially painful in a rtt since
  2. Burn hazard for kids and dogs.
  3. Need to always have the annex room attached. This is a pain when on simpler camping trips or if we are moving every night.
I think a wall tent with a wood stove would be really fun though.

I'm not familiar with the front runner box. Do you have a part # or link?
I believe they are also known as South African ammo boxes. Pretty nice. They are not sealed, but the lid does overlap the box and in my experience, everything stays dry.

https://www.frontrunneroutfitters.c...wf9_I9-Xgsqv9b83o16G6nkL5ZL3NoHkaAnHnEALw_wcB

I carry two on my roof.
 

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I got the thing up on the roof and running. In this picture you can see the combustion exhaust with muffler pointing forward to keep the fumes as far away from the tent as possible. The exhaust elbow, pipe, muffler comes off and stores in the box during transport. You can also see the conditioned air outlet that goes to the tent (tent not open in the this picture). The wire shown below the duct is the connection for the wired controller that also goes into the tent.

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In this picture you can see the combustion air intake and silencer. You can also see the conditioned air inlet left open. Finally the power connection to the front bumper. All ducting, wires, controller, components store inside the box during transport.

329962


I ran some tests and collected the following data. To test the machine I put in hertz mode which directly allows you to control the fuel pump dosing rate.

On its lowest setting, the machine pumps fuel at 1hz or one pump per second. At this rate the internal fan regulates to 1500rpm to keep the combustion mixture at the appropriate level. I tested outlet temperatures coming out of the conditioned air duct at a length of approx 1m. I have the conditioned air supply pulling air from outside on a 50F day. Uninsulated, the outlet air is 142F. Insulated, 196F.

On the highest setting, the machine pumps fuel at 3hz or three pumps per second. The fan regulates to 4300rpm. Outlet temp uninsulated is 183F, insulated 196F. So the outlet temps are about the same at all settings but the amount of air supplied is vastly different.

Based on this data, I have decided to keep the ducting insulated to retain the maximum heat, particularly at lower settings to reduce noise and fuel consumption. Speaking of noise, it is virtually silent at low settings. You can hear the pump pulsing slightly if you try from inside the tent. At higher settings, the noise from the air flowing through the duct is increased but is a pleasing tone. I will have no issue sleeping.

I could further increase the efficiency of the system by recirculating the tent air back into the conditioned air inlet. It does not appear I will need to do this to keep the tent warm on even the coldest of nights. I would prefer to draw fresh air in to keep humidity in check. I have setup the inlet to accept a duct, but the ducting is just more stuff to carry around.

I let the heater run for several night to check reliability. The tent was empty, body heat will cause the temperature and humidity to be higher than shown here. I have a Bluetooth temperature/humidity probe I left inside one night. It was 33F outside that night and I controlled the temperature to around 57F inside at about 1.5hz. Humidity was around 37%. Temperature was taken at mattress level. Based on my experience the crown of the tent is about 13F higher than mattress level.

329963


I have since used the heater several times for camping. The first time was right on the Puget Sound with nights around 36F and high winds. We slept 3 adults up in the RTT and two kids in cots in the annex area. I added a y-duct to the supply to split the heat between the main RTT and the annex. I also added a flow regulator (think car vent adjuster) to the RTT side of the y to allow most of the air to go to the annex where we expected it to need more heat. I attempted to keep a nice 63-64F about 1 foot above the mattress in the RTT. For this scenario we needed around 1.5hz. The heater worked flawlessly and got rave reviews from the sleepers. :)(y)

329964


Next trip we rented a forest service rustic cabin the eastern slopes of the cascades. Most of us slept in the cabin and huddled around the wood stove. Several spent the night out in the RTT and stayed much warmer. Nights were in the mid-20s but calm. 1.5-1.8hz seemed to work pretty well.

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I would estimate in total I have about 80hrs of run time on the heater. In that time I have had one uncommanded shutdown. The heater restarted no problem after the shutdown. Overall I am very happy and the diesel heater has changed the game for winter camping. Probably the best value/dollar for anything I have added to this truck.
 

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Thats pretty stellar performance. I'm seriously going to have to consider something like this.

My pups would probably be much more happy during the cooler spring and fall camps, and it might allow us to actually get some snow camping in.
 

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AWESOME write up. Any idea on the shut down?

Also, what bed rack set up is that? I've kind of poked around the front runner site before, but was never able to really figure out the rack setup. Yours looks taller than what's shown on their site.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
AWESOME write up. Any idea on the shut down?

Also, what bed rack set up is that? I've kind of poked around the front runner site before, but was never able to really figure out the rack setup. Yours looks taller than what's shown on their site.
Thanks. Hard to say on the shutdown. I'm guessing for whatever reason, it flamed out. Just like a diesel engine, the glow plug is only energized to start combustion. If the flame dies, there is no mechanism to automatically re-start it.

On the rack. I bought the Tacoma rack part number (KRTT900T). The kit listed for the Frontier has the same rack and legs, but includes an add on bed track. Since my truck has the utili-trac, I had no need for the add on track and additional cost. I did not care for how low the Front Runner rack sits with the factory legs. So I bought some 3"x3/8" aluminum stock and made these longer legs. I bent them at a buddy's place. They are intended to look just like the Front Runner legs, but longer. I think it is a mistake Front Runner does not offer longer legs. I also added a stiffener to the back out of concern for the longer legs being more flexible. The stiffener doubles as additional tie down points. They are just painted and now pretty hammered up from use. They will get powder coated to my match my bumpers at some point.

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I got the thing up on the roof and running. In this picture you can see the combustion exhaust with muffler pointing forward to keep the fumes as far away from the tent as possible. The exhaust elbow, pipe, muffler comes off and stores in the box during transport. You can also see the conditioned air outlet that goes to the tent (tent not open in the this picture). The wire shown below the duct is the connection for the wired controller that also goes into the tent.

View attachment 329961

In this picture you can see the combustion air intake and silencer. You can also see the conditioned air inlet left open. Finally the power connection to the front bumper. All ducting, wires, controller, components store inside the box during transport.

View attachment 329962

I ran some tests and collected the following data. To test the machine I put in hertz mode which directly allows you to control the fuel pump dosing rate.

On its lowest setting, the machine pumps fuel at 1hz or one pump per second. At this rate the internal fan regulates to 1500rpm to keep the combustion mixture at the appropriate level. I tested outlet temperatures coming out of the conditioned air duct at a length of approx 1m. I have the conditioned air supply pulling air from outside on a 50F day. Uninsulated, the outlet air is 142F. Insulated, 196F.

On the highest setting, the machine pumps fuel at 3hz or three pumps per second. The fan regulates to 4300rpm. Outlet temp uninsulated is 183F, insulated 196F. So the outlet temps are about the same at all settings but the amount of air supplied is vastly different.

Based on this data, I have decided to keep the ducting insulated to retain the maximum heat, particularly at lower settings to reduce noise and fuel consumption. Speaking of noise, it is virtually silent at low settings. You can hear the pump pulsing slightly if you try from inside the tent. At higher settings, the noise from the air flowing through the duct is increased but is a pleasing tone. I will have no issue sleeping.

I could further increase the efficiency of the system by recirculating the tent air back into the conditioned air inlet. It does not appear I will need to do this to keep the tent warm on even the coldest of nights. I would prefer to draw fresh air in to keep humidity in check. I have setup the inlet to accept a duct, but the ducting is just more stuff to carry around.

I let the heater run for several night to check reliability. The tent was empty, body heat will cause the temperature and humidity to be higher than shown here. I have a Bluetooth temperature/humidity probe I left inside one night. It was 33F outside that night and I controlled the temperature to around 57F inside at about 1.5hz. Humidity was around 37%. Temperature was taken at mattress level. Based on my experience the crown of the tent is about 13F higher than mattress level.

View attachment 329963

I have since used the heater several times for camping. The first time was right on the Puget Sound with nights around 36F and high winds. We slept 3 adults up in the RTT and two kids in cots in the annex area. I added a y-duct to the supply to split the heat between the main RTT and the annex. I also added a flow regulator (think car vent adjuster) to the RTT side of the y to allow most of the air to go to the annex where we expected it to need more heat. I attempted to keep a nice 63-64F about 1 foot above the mattress in the RTT. For this scenario we needed around 1.5hz. The heater worked flawlessly and got rave reviews from the sleepers. :)(y)

View attachment 329964

Next trip we rented a forest service rustic cabin the eastern slopes of the cascades. Most of us slept in the cabin and huddled around the wood stove. Several spent the night out in the RTT and stayed much warmer. Nights were in the mid-20s but calm. 1.5-1.8hz seemed to work pretty well.

View attachment 329965

I would estimate in total I have about 80hrs of run time on the heater. In that time I have had one uncommanded shutdown. The heater restarted no problem after the shutdown. Overall I am very happy and the diesel heater has changed the game for winter camping. Probably the best value/dollar for anything I have added to this truck.
Thanks for sharing and providing the awesome write up and photos. I am going to look into something like this as I too am always subjecting my better half and 2 dogs to cold camping trips in our RTT.

Great setup.
 
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