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UPDATE: In the Spring of 2021, we sold our beloved Lance to a nice couple from New Jersey— and we purchased a Winnebago EKKO. Since Lance was such a special part of our FitRVing journey, we’re leaving this older post in our “About” section in his memory!
10/2/2016: Once again, we’re reviewing our own RV, and it’s probably long overdue! We’ve had our Winnebago Travato, Lance, for over a year now. But I kept stalling on doing an RV tour because I kept making additions and enhancements. I wanted to wait until I was “done” to do a walkthrough video.
But Stef finally won out, and convinced me that I’d never be “done” tinkering with the RV. So, off we went into the middle of the deepest forest we could find. That’s where we shot this video, which we’re calling “The Tour de Lance” (get it?):
To go through every little detail on the RV would make for a really long video that would probably bore a lot of people. Plus, we’ve already written about a lot of the systems and modifications we’ve done. So for those of you who are interested in the details, rather than rehash them in the video, I’ll give you this list of write-ups which will cover all the details you could possibly want.
- The Winterproof Travato: Extensive modifications for winter camping.
- Our Generator-Free RV: Details on extensive electrical system modifications.
- Installing Leather Seats: Don’t-Try-This-At-Home details on DIY leather seats.
- How to Fix the Cold Water Blast: Lance’s RV Shower mod that keeps our showers warm.
- Measuring 12 Volt Loads: Basic knowledge on how much electricity our various systems use.
- Hacksawing the Refrigerator Door: Modifying the fridge to be the way it should have been from the factory.
- Installing a Better Refrigerator: Finally gave up on the original one. It sucks.
- Infrared Insulation Assessment: Additional info for wintertime mods.
- MCD Shades for the Rear Windows: Quick install of a popular shade.
- Building a Roof Fairing: Making an aerodynamic accessory from scratch.
- Increasing the Ground Clearance: Adding rear spring helpers to gain some lift.
- Insulating the Travato Doors: How-to on insulating the van.
- Meet Lance: Our initial impressions with Lance out of the gate.
- The Backstory: Stef explains where the idea for Lance came from and how the plan was hatched.
And there are probably more posts with modifications and details that I don’t even remember right now. Anyway, now that it’s done, I’m glad that Stef convinced me to go ahead with the RV tour. It was time.
Hope you enjoy it!
Will you share your Lithionics battery mods and Xantrex 3000 install on the new Ekko? Also are you going to add an additional 117 watt panel in the available slot on the roof?
Well, all 3 spots on the roof are filled in the standard EKKO.
But yes, naturally we’ll share what we do for extra battery capacity in the new rig!
Would you feel comfortable driving Lance on a ski trip? Or, say through high altitude recently thawed Glacier NP situations? I wish Travato came in AWD!
Check out our winter camping tips… starring Lance!
Hey, you could use the space that was dedicated to the generator for an extra fresh water tank! In warmer weather, anyway, or add a heater. 🙂
I love your van. Too bad Winnebago doesn’t offer all of your features. I’d buy it in heart beat. Is your battery the same size as the one in the K/L series? Love the color and the name.
Yeah. We kind of like him too!
I’m curious about the fate of Lance. Especially now that you are going to be touring with the National Park Foundation model.
We haven’t made any plans for Lance just yet. Other than getting him fixed!
Hi James, I love your videos, great job, and great attention to detail.Your videos are a step above the rest..
I am doing a DIY conversion on a 136 high roof 2015 ProMaster since we really wanted a bike garage under the bed and no RV manufacturers (that we can find) offer that. Here;s another vote for the Travato 59BG (BG=bike garage)
I have three questions regarding Lance.
1. With the water tanks inside the vehicle do you hear the water sloshing aroung while driving. I have test driven DIY conversions with the water tanks inside and the water sloshing was quite noticeable. I have been looking for baffled tanks to cut down on the noise, do you have any suggestions?
2. The drivers left armrest, there is’nt one. I have had a Ford Ranger for 20 years and I always rest my left arm on the window sill. When I test drove the Ford Transit the door panel comes closer to you and you can rest your arm on it. On the ProMaster the door panel is too far away to reach. I’m thinking of putting a cushion on the window sill to rest my arm on or getting a clip on armest like this:
3.On the ProMaster the windows don;t roll down all the way, any way to fix this?
Interesting questions. Here we go:
1. No. We never hear the water sloshing around. Our water tank is in an upholstered enclosure. Never been an issue.
2. I think that thing should more or less work for a driver’s door armrest. You may have to cut or modify it somewhat, but I see no reason why it won’t work. Also, you will likely have to remove it to rotate the seat around.
3. Nope. That’s just the way they are. It only seems like an issue until you drive one for a while. Never bothers us.
You have done a great job with Lance. I like your technical explanations. Now that Lance only uses propane for heat and hot water I am hoping you can evaluate if the inverter could support:
The Heatworks Model 3 for hot water:
Electric vehicle heat pump for hot air:
Hopefully, Lance will be propane free in the future and Winnebago will adopt your designs
Interesting ideas, and perhaps some day they will work. But for now…
The water heater you mention requires 240v power. We couldn’t run that in Lance, even when we are hooked to shore power. Most vans have only a single 30A 120v circuit.
Heat pumps are a good idea in milder climates, but we sometimes get really cold, and would still need a supplemental source of heat. They do presently have rooftop heat pump units. But it looks like the one you linked to requires being built into the vehicle from the start.
Good ideas though!
Thanks for the explanation. Keep up the good work of keeping Lance up to date with the latest technology.
Hi James & Stef, my wife (5’6) and I (5’10) are deciding which Travato would fit us best. While the 59K has the two single beds which can adjoin, the layout of the 59G feels much more conducive to our lifestyle. My biggest concern with the G is the Murphy bed size and I’m womdering if fit fits both of you comfortably? Any advice or testimony you can give on getting a good night’s sleep in your G would be most helpful. Thank you for all of the great content you provide!
Well, there’s no hiding the fact that it’s not a huge bed.
For the most part, it sleeps the two of us comfortably. Neither of us is really sprawling out up there, but we do both fit. Take that for what it’s worth.
Where we do run into trouble is if the cat decides to try to sleep up there as well.
Then it becomes a bit… crowded. Mainly because he doesn’t have the bed manners we humans have developed.
Simply incredible! There are too many details to comment on to give justice to all of the wonderful innovations. Lance, James, and Stef are the ‘Golden’ measures to compare with for sure.
Thank You and for all of your follower’s feedback which help educate others. Building a living system is the most complex exercise possible. Thanks again for help in prioritizing activities, and then showing how to do it too!
I have been in contact with http://www.bullbar-praguri.ro/ patrick is the GM and I have just ordered a 3″chrome bullbar which cost $450 including $150 shipping cost to california probably take around a month to make and get delivered the expected times are two weeks for manufacturing 3 days for packing and shipping and then down to UPS to get it here , I will keep you all informed
Yep. It will take a while, but they will come through!
Reference the bullbar from romania did it take long to get to the USA I am already in contact with the company just waiting for shipping costs from them. Was it easy to install?
Also reading about your clear bra protection I have found that clear plastidip is easy to install and if it gets damaged peel it off and reapply just make sure you clean paintwork prior to install and put 3 or 4 light coats on the surface and you are good to go.
Yes, it actually did take quite a while to get the product from Romania. I was beginning to think I had lost my money, but they came through in the end.
The install did require a couple modifications to plastic grill parts to get it working. I suppose in Europe, those mods aren’t necessary.
If I had it to do over again, I would probably skip the clear bra on the bumpers and go with the grey ProMaster bumpers instead of getting them painted.
I Received the bullbar from Romania it is a quality item not available in the USA cost $400 plus $150 for shipping took about four weeks to build and then about three weeks for shipping via customs installed with no adjustments needed funnily enough used two of the tie down bolts to secure before ordering M8 security bolts to allow it to be still in place no matter where we park the vehicle.
Glad you like it! They have lots of different style options available, for those who haven’t had a look.
I caught a quick glimpse of the bed’s spring/suspension system in your video tour of Lance. It looks very similar to the Froli system, but I couldn’t tell for sure. Can you provide some details?
As I looked around your website more, I found confirmation that your bed does indeed have the Froli system under the mattress. Can you comment on how comfortable it is and what you like or dislike about it. For instance, can you use a thinner mattress with it than you would on a plain surface?
The Froli system is quite comfortable.
We have not tried changing the mattress, as the one Winnebago provides suits us just fine. (Plus, it has a hinge in it that would be difficult to duplicate.
The only annoyance we have with the Froli is that sometimes the springs come off. Winnebago is installing a newer model of Froli in later models that does not have this problem.
James According to. Jason at the RV store in Iowa Lischen or something. He says all that solar addition and air condition. Connection to solar power on Lance can no longer be done on newer Travado . There is no longer room on roof to add solar power.
HE says the Revel air condition can only be used if it Pluged in To AC. He say can only have 200 Watt solar panels on Revel roof because that is all there is room for. Is all this true? Seems like they are going backwards in technology if that is the case. Thanks for your help.
The Travato 59G can still fit 3 solar panels.
The Travato 59k has a different roof configuration. But I routinely see people put a total of 260 watts on the roof.
True, Revel air conditioning can only be used with a 120v power source.
Also true – the Revel has a smaller roof than the Travato, so 200 watts of solar seems about right. No problem with the technology there, just the physical space on the roof.
Enjoy, Messe Düsseldorf Caravan Salon 2017.
If you have any questions, come to Entrance Nord B and ask for David.
Thanks, David! This is going to be fun!
Are you happy with the bed width of the 59G vs the 59K? We are couple of similar size. I was thinking the 59G bed width would be too narrow. I am leaning toward the 59K but I like the large bathroom of the 59G.
I had the exact same fears as you…that the G bed would be too small for us. In fact, I was leaning towards a K for that very reason! James convinced me the G worked way better for our lifestyle…having the office space up front (aka the dinette) AND having the separation of the sleeping area so one person can stay up, AND having the garage space in the back under the bed. I’m SO glad he did. The G bed is a non-issue. We sleep and fit comfortably!!! If we had to replace Lance today we’d not hesitate and we’d buy the G floorplan again. I’ve never once wished we had the K. 🙂
Like all your videos and have been a subscriber for some time. Your write up on dropping the generator and installing batteries was great.
We own a Trend so we have the same chassis and I hate the generator and installed a LP snorkel kit to run it off LP. It starts better but we have not been up in Alt to see how the LP works. I installed one 100 solar panel and it provides 5a of charge. We also installed a 2000W Xantrex inverter and second AGM to give me enough power to run the microwave for a minute, enough to heat a breakfast biscuit without starting the gen.
I like the bumper guard and would like to see how it was installed, and why it took so long to arrive. Thx!
I’ve actually since replaced that bumper guard with a new brush bar and skid plate. You can find those details here!
Great site for info guys–do you know of a Travato layout (or similar vehicle) with seating for 5 while driving–we’ve got 3 boys. Thanks!
The Winnebago ERA 70X actually seats up to 7!
I enjoyed your video and am interested in sewing a drape (separating the cab from the living quarters) for my RV. Can you share w me where you bought the hardware?
I wrote a post about it. You can find that post here.
We watched your you tube about Truma and you never told us what it was! 🙂
Oh my! The Truma is our comfort heat and hot water appliance!
They also make tankless water heaters (that actually have a tank… long story).
We did an article on Winnebagolife.com the previous year that explains a bit.
Sorry to ask about the window again but I’ve been trying to find it with no success. You have an inside pic on the page- https://www.thefitrv.com/rv-tips/the-winter-proof-travato/
-So it is the Seitz, but they show only bigger ones on their site. It is possible you could find the model number? This is the best solution for the penthouse bunk bed.
Turns out, it’s not a Seitz window. It’s a similar product, made by Plastoform. Google “Plastoform Window” and you should be able to find it.
Sorry for the confusion!
Thanks. I can’t find it exactly on their site but I have contacted them with a picture and will let you know what I find.
I found out from Plastoform they made only a very limited sample of the small window used in the Travato model here. So it is unfortunately not available for purchase.
Hi. Thanks for video and the great information. I’m also considering a composting toilet for the same reason you mention – winter. We live in New Mexico and there are so many beautiful places to go but we have to be sure to protect the van and us from the cold. I considered creating a separate toilet area but also plan to use airhead and will put it in a wet bath. Did you ever consider running the vent line to below the van rather than above? Probably not a good idea but I wanted to ask. Any updated tips/suggestions? Also, why do you have a black tank? Thanks for great information.
Thought about the vent underneath, and decided against it. (Smells, strange airflow underneath might push air into the toilet, etc.)
Our black tank now holds the water from the shower. So basically, we doubled our grey tank.
As far as toilet updates – you need to check out our video on that. You can find it here: https://www.thefitrv.com/rv-tips/the-straight-poop-on-our-composting-toilet/
Are your runningboards the same one that are on euro camping van.com ? I saw a pair on there for about $462 want to know if it was the same brand thanks for all the videos Brian
Hi Brian –
No, these running boards are a Winnebago part. They’re made specifically for Winnebago by a US company.
You can order them through Winnebago parts.
I really like how you can store bikes inside after raising the bed. How much clearance do you have for the bike(s) to fit under the bed? Do you have to take off the front wheel, saddle, or any other parts?
Very cool modifications!
Well, our rig is special, but as Winnebago created it, we have about 1 meter of vertical space to store bikes. We have to remove front wheels, but that’s it.
I’ve since built a rolling tray that we mount the bikes on, and then it just rolls in to the garage all at once.
Is that a mod that can be ordered from Winnebago? Does Winnebago offer customizations? Love your blog and you tube vidoes!
Hey – unfortunately, Winnebago doesn’t make that an option for regular ordering. Lance was a one-off just for us.
Sorry! (But believe me, I let them know every time someone requests it.)
Thanks for the response, James. Hopefully they will listen to your feedback. 🙂
Great video. What a cute camper. Have you ever done a blog post (I’ll look) or a video on the drawers you installed in your pantry? I’d love to put something like that in our camper.
Don’t think I ever did a write-up on the drawers. It was pretty basic stuff. I think Stef may have put some pictures up on Facebook though.
Enjoyed your video on YouTube. My wife and I are considering an RV for retirement living and or travel.
I enjoyed your video and am looking forward to seeing the rest.
Glad you liked our videos!
If you do decide to jump in to RV ownership, hopefully we’ll see you out on the road!
Hi. I am the owner of Composting Toilets USA. I was contacted by a reader of your blog, who mentioned you had some challenges with the Airhead. I don’t sell Airheads, but I do know they are pretty good toilets. Have you talked to Airhead? Usually these are odor free, and two people should empty them about once every 3-4 weeks, if using it full time. If this is not your experience, something may be wrong with your toilet, the installation, or use of it.
Hi Richard –
Yes, we have been in touch with AirHead since before the toilet was installed, and have followed all of their recommendations and suggestions.
While there are a number of ways to do a composting toilet “wrong”, after over a year, we’re absolutely not doing any of those.
The main issue that cannot be overcome with our composting toilet is capacity. Plain and simple.
Thanks for the info on the window.
I’ve been looking at the Cruise N Comfort 12V AV system, for example http://stores.12voltairconditioning.com/ves-12l-invisible-air-8k-btu/
I have spoken to the owner and it seems a very efficient solution for off grid AC. Have you checked it out? Any thoughts?
Well, I’ve not looked at the 12v systems very much. But I’d be worried with only an 8k btu air conditioner. Depending on the heat and humidity, some days our 13.5k btu unit has trouble keeping up!
You’re right about the size. We have a Roadtrek 190 with just 5k BTU. We’ve used it up to 110 desert degrees. It still cools an area it’s aimed at in those extremes but not the whole space so well. Anyway we’re fairly heat tolerant. So for us 8k in a well insulated Promaster should be ok, but it’s not for everyone. For Lithium power boondocking it will be great because, besides its super efficiency, it saves the conversion loss at the inverter vs a 120V rooftop unit. I expect it should give us cooling for a full night on battery. For day we will have 400-500W of solar. We have 200W of flex panels now (barely visible from outside) on our Roadtrek which works great for charging etc.
The small bedside window is neat, exactly what we want. Is that unit available for sale?
You’d have to try to get one from Seitz, or Plastoform, or one of the European manufacturers. They’re not readily available here.
No we didn’t cross paths in Forest City. I ordered completely via phone/fax/emails after looking at a 2014 unit locally, then flew to Minneapolis and Lichtsinn picked me up there on Oct 5th, to take delivery (it was actually ready late Sep, but my schedule fit a 10/5 pick-up).
I do plan to get to the “left coast” within a year or two, and as I pass near/thru Utah, I will certainly contact y’all and perhaps we could meet up then.
James, We are very likely to buy K in the next 2 months but recently have been looking at a Promaster Zion with the “underhood generator”. It seems similar to your system with extra solar, inverter and power source but I’m not convinced that idling the engine for long periods to charge the house is good for the engine. I saw your comments about re the Zion but could you critique their system in a little more detail? Also my wife is convinced the workmanship of RT is better than Winnebago and seeing how easily the ends of drawers come apart with little use it’s tough to refute that. Thoughts? Thanks, Hal Smith
Well, if you think about it for a minute, idling a gas engine is probably not as damaging as idling a diesel engine. (No soot, no particulate filters to clog up, etc. etc. etc.)
I really can’t comment on the Roadtrek system, as I’ve not had any experience with it first hand. I’d just be talking about brochure points.
As to the quality, we’ve had no build quality issues with our Travato. Not sure what you’re talking about with cabinets coming apart. I haven’t owned a Roadtrek, so I can’t give them a similar endorsement either way.
Great video and thanks for taking the time to it.
My questions are about the curtain you made. Would you share some dimensions of the fabric and the source for the track? Also, how did you attach the track?
Yes. I do intend to do a post on the curtains in the near future. I still have the pattern, etc, so it should be no problem.
Awesome! I love what steph has done to personlize the place it takes away the sterile nature of the euro look. Plus the unique seats add flair. The bed is great plus in cooler weather it will keep you warmer. The engineering panel is geek heaven. Well thought out and estetically pleasing to the eye. I think u guys make for a great team on camera.
I watched this “convert a van into a off grid camper” you have probably already seen this but I will link to it anyway. He has some neat ideas just would not want to be in there when it was raining, no real vents or windows or windows that open. Propane in the cabin! But the look with the wood is awesome.
Glad you liked the video!
Yes, the bed up there does stay several degrees warmer than the rest of the coach.
The smaller the coach, the more ventilation is important. I’ll have to check out the video. Thanks!
James, Steph, love the Travato! Since Ethyl and I want to follow the weather, I don’t need so much cold protection, but still, it can get cold quickly! I hope Winnebago puts all their Travato pipes inside like on yours! And tank heat strips. And Truma thingamajigs. Then, I hope Ram makes the van with 4×4! Now we’re talking!
4X4 would be cool!
For Lance, it makes sense. As for a regular Travato, I’m most owners will avoid heading out in sub freezing temperatures.
Having the water lines inside obviously means running the risk of pipes and or fittings failing inside the coach. I don’t think risk/benefit ratio bodes well for a most Travato owners/potential owners.
Do you still have/use the propane? Are you going to compressor fridge, which seems sensible, but what about the Truma?
I do have my eye on a compressor fridge. I have a feeling it will happen eventually.
That will leave us with just the Truma using Propane. We’ll be keeping that – it works too well, there’s no easy gasoline powered alternative, and electric there would be pretty expensive. So when I said “all electric”, I probably should have said “almost all electric”.
Thank you for the prompt response. Some posters over on Class B Forum were reading/hearing no propane/all electric in very, very video nice overview of Lance. Eye on a compressor fridge? Like Marlon’s mod or redo the cabinetry and get one of those Nova Kool separate fridge/freezer combos like on the new Paseo?
By the way, you do great video. Most “take” videos, i.e. walk around with their phone, talking. FitRV “makes” videos – staged, scripted, shot, edited. Very professional. It does take time, though.
I haven’t decided on a fridge yet. I could do almost anything I wanted to with that space, so the sky’s the limit, really.
First things first though, and that’s to get the induction cooktop in.
Glad you appreciate the work that goes into our videos!
Here’s food for thought on the compressor fridge. In the Safari Condo we have on order, they put two smaller compressor fridges at different locations instead of one bigger unit. That way one is situated under the counter next to the sliding door, so you can access from it from the outside for grabbing drinks and such when lounging outdoors under the awning. Not having to enter the RV to grab a bottle of water means less sand dragged in..Ha Ha.
I didn’t do the math, so I not sure if this has any advantages on the cost and energy use. Probably not, so it’s more for the convenience. Although if you often do weekend outing, it might be possible to run just one fridge for the required food.
If you’re going to modify the counter to integrate the induction cooktop, this is the right time to consider this possibility.
There were several units in production at the Lake Mills plant with the running boards. New Travatos are being offered (maybe all of them?) with the running board instead of the motorized step. This is a good change.
Agree – the running boards are AWESOME! Everyone should have them!
WELL DONE GUYS! See you in Pomona. Mike
With bells on! (Or maybe at least a dinger…)
Loved your video tour. I cast it to my regular TV and watched it (twice) instead of my regularly scheduled viewing. You should produce a DVD box set “The Complete Works of Stefany and James”
1) Did you use the magnetic mount external antennae for the WeBoost, or something different.
2) Any particular reason you used the Victron battery monitor instead of the Trimetric
Lol. Well, regular TV really has gone down hill…
1. Yes, we just used the regular magnetic mount antenna that came in the box.
2. I’ve used a Trimetric before. The Victron does all the same things (and more) plus it’s about half the size. The wall of controls was getting pretty crowded.
When does it cross the line and is no longer a Travato?
Admit it James, you really wanted to build one from the ground up, and now you are getting even….Ha Ha
Being a rocket scientist, I expect it to fly eventually (or blow up …LOL)
PS: You guys are really keeping the suspense going on that composting toilet blog. Can I “smell” dissension between the two of you?
Well, the badges on the side still say “Travato”, and I’m sure Winnebago would still claim it. So I don’t think I’ve crossed the line yet.
There’s no dissension about the toilet between Stef and I. The delay in the video is just a matter of motivation more than anything else. By now, we’ve put it off so long, we wonder if anyone is still interested!
I for one am! I’ve seen some pretty passionate opinions either way. I am extremely interested in an objective first-hand analysis.
You do that well sir.
I don’t know if I’d say I’m “passionate” about the toilet, but we have had it long enough to form some pretty good opinions.
Should have qualified- the “passionate opinions” were from others I’ve seen online. I am curious to see what your objective firsthand analysis offers on the subject.
James, did you swap the usb chargers, remove the blue LEDs, or paint them? I’m assuming Winnebago uses the same insanely bright chargers in the Travato as our Trend.
We have the same USB chargers. In the dinette, we left them alone. By the bed, I cut a piece of electrical tape to go over the LED.
OK, I’m now holding out for the FitRV Special Edition Travato!!!
Lol… I sometimes wonder if Winnebago regrets some of the changes they tried in ours!
So many of your changes seem like they should be something that WBO should be doing by default. Others seem like they’d be great options for folks if they could order them from WBO. Either way though, the price would go up, probably significantly; and one of the great things about the Travato is its relatively low cost.
Overall though, very cool… I’ve been following all the updates to Lance since he first showed up, but its nice to see it all together in one bit.
You might want to look into the new GE induction cooktop that can be used for sous vide cooking. This involves using a thermocouple to precisely control a water bath (pot of water) within a few degrees to achieve restaurant quality cooking results like perfectly cooked steaks, vegetables, and those Japanese soft cooked eggs garnishing bowls of ramen.
Hi! Regarding the bull bar, is the source http://www.bullbar-praguri.ro ? I see a model FDB 12 there (Romania) for about $312. Did you merely contact them through the online order? About how much was shipping (Maybe I’ll be less to ship to Delaware).
PS- I am curious about the clear bra- Are you concerned with future discoloration or high cost to replace?
PPS- My Travato is the dark gray one (btw- I ordered it on the same day you where picking yours up!).
Also, thanks for the continuing information on all you do. I especially follow the M/E/P etc. changes, and also the fitness ideas and the “RV meals” ideas. Thanks for being such a great team!
Glad you like our stuff! $300 seems about right. Don’t remember how much shipping was, but yes, I just contacted them through the form on their site. They will eventually get back in touch with you, but the process seemed really long.
Not at all worried about the clear bra. I’ve had it on every car I’ve owned for the last 15 years with no real issues.
Did we see you at Lichtsinn?
I ordered the bull bar from romania it has been shipped total cost was $450 including shipping it has just cleared customs in NY and should be here soon it did take about a month to manufacture just so you know