Gen 3 Prius Dwelling/Camping - pros/cons

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Main Forum' started by gboss, Oct 27, 2021.

  1. gboss

    gboss Junior Member

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    There seems to be two sides on the forums both for and against camping/dwelling in the Prius overnight using the ICE in 'ready mode' to the run the HVAC for climate control. I'm hoping we can add a few more pros to the list and clear up (or validate) some of the concerns:

    Pros of camping/dwelling in a Prius:
    • Sleep in a climate controlled environment - you can run heat or AC depending on the outside temp. This is the primary reason that most Prius dwellers/campers buy the Toyota Prius, in addition to good mpg.
      • Try to face the car into the wind and use a carbon monoxide detector for safety inside of the cabin
      • You can crack the windows and put a sock/mesh over the window to sleep without the ICE on if you wish.
    • You can lie down flat and level, no problem. You may need to add a board or a few boxes in between the front seats and folded down rear seats to hold up your legs. You can use an inflatable camping mat for comfort or make a memory foam car mattress if you really want to glamp out.
      • Some full-time adventurers remove the rear seat cushions completely and replace them with a plywood platform, similar to what you will find in overlanding pickup truck beds.
    • The Prius essentially acts as a 'generator on wheels' - you can hook up a pure sine wave inverter to the 12V battery and run electronics (including computers, small heaters, instant pots, stoves, etc.).
    • Super inconspicuous when stealth camping and downright hard to tell that someone is even sleeping in it if you stare at it during the night. Most people use a black felt piece of fabric in between the front and rear seats while reversing the car into parking spaces - it's very hard to tell that a piece of fabric is there vs. thinking the car is just dark inside.
    • It's a car....so you don't have any limitations on where you park or boondock for the night like larger vans and RVS do.

    Concerns (expressed here on the forums):
    • Engine wear/tear: (Highly controversial concern - may be true...may be false) The concern is that running the ICE in 'ready mode' all night may be bad for the engine with too many cold starts since the oil may not reach operating temperature. Someone claims that doing this caused his HG to fail, but it seems that claim is heavily disputed when you read through the entire thread. Some argue that Toyota engineers did not consider extended usage of 'ready mode' HVAC and intended it for short idling periods (waiting in a parking lot, waiting for a train, etc.) while others claim that the intermittent ICE cycling was designed to be efficient and there is no merit to claiming that the engine is being abused by running the ICE while in 'ready mode' throughout the night.
      • Assuming this is a valid claim (not yet proven), some people claim that colder ambient temperatures will increase 'damage' to the ICE due to the increased viscosity of the engine oil combined with the short run cycles. From this perspective, running the Prius in 'maintenance mode' (i.e. ICE is on 24/7) instead of 'ready mode' would heat oil/engine to optimal operating temperatures and prevent damage to the engine (minimizing cold starts + preventing back pressure due to exhaust condensation that may have built up during the short & frequent engine run cycles)
    • Sleep Quality: Sleeping when the ICE kicks on/off can disrupt the quality of your sleep (implications: focus, fatigue, and long-term health). I've camped in my Gen 3 Prius already both with and without 'ready mode' and can confirm that I did get used to the ICE going on/off when I went to sleep with 'ready mode' engaged. Although, I am not sure if the constant start/stop of the ICE interfered with my R.E.M. / deep-sleep cycles. This would be a concern for me personally if I was someone that lived in the Prius for any extended period of time. Maybe there is a Priuschat member who is a neuroscience/sleep researcher and can drop some science and insight on this.
      • the brain's Reticular Activating System has been proven to filter environmental noise to varying degrees, but the Prius's ICE also introduces a slight physical 'shake' during cycles, in addition to noise. Not sure if that introduces an issue or not.

    I'd personally like to see what others think about the two concerns above, specifically the first one. The entire point of adventurers buying a Prius for traveling is to both sleep in it and get great mpg....otherwise, might as well get a Tacoma or Tundra and run the engine all night long or use a gas generator for HVAC. Does sleeping in 'ready mode' to use AC or heat really abuse the engine?
     
    #1 gboss, Oct 27, 2021
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
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  2. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    i get up 5 times a night to go to the bathroom, i wouldn't worry about it.

    the head gasket stuff is nonsense. clean the egr circuit, add an oil catch can, and when th gasket blows, don't blame it on camping.

    btw, i have never camped in a prius, but in a tent, the bears keep me from a good nights sleep
     
    #2 bisco, Oct 27, 2021
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  3. 2010moneypit?

    2010moneypit? Member

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    Thank you for all the info very helpful. I just purchased a Prius and joined the site all within a week. I am already making plans on going camping with my kids. We Have tried a tent camping and did not like it because of being on the ground with all the critters. Also I get cold now that I am older! LOL.
     
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  4. rjparker

    rjparker Tu Humilde Sirviente

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    There are a few more cons. One is the potential for CO poisoning sleeping right over the tailpipe in a car that draws air through that area to cool the battery. Two is the fact the hybrid system does not fully recharge the hv battery when it kicks on. It just raises it slightly causing more frequent cycling. The first fully charged period is of decent length but more frequent engine runtimes will occur thereafter. Especially if the ac is on, a rather heavy hv battery load. Three is the thermal cycling concern combined with the head gasket issue. Regardless of how it happens, the hg leakage is often past a warped head or block with an intact hg.. The engine does thermal cycle quite a bit in this situation. Fourth is the concern that something fails in the multiple cooling systems or somewhere in the engine and no one responds. Fifth, some dash lights will be on regardless of stealth attempts. The compressor and cooling fans also run further alerting the park police.
     
  5. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Do the park police object?

    An inexpensive CO detector can be an easy way to rest easy regarding the CO concern. I favor the kind with a parts-per-million display, not just a honker. You can look at it in the morning and see how high the CO level didn't get. Plus even if you ever are in a weird airflow situation where the exhaust travels up to the windshield cowl and gets drawn in, the detector will let you know.
     
  6. rjparker

    rjparker Tu Humilde Sirviente

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    Just a reference to the recent sleeping in the vehicle drama
     
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  7. Hybrid Hound

    Hybrid Hound Junior Member

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    Perhaps if you are a really sound sleeper it might make sense. For me, on a recent camping trip in Florida, it was a warm afternoon and I wanted to take an hour nap. I got in the car, put it in ready mode, turned the AC on and the blower to 2 bars. With a windshield barrier for the sun and a pillow for my head, I was set for a cool snooze. Lasted about 15 minutes. The brakes locked down, the car shook slightly, the engine started with a buzz and a whir, and so much for my nap. And so on for the next 45 minutes. Off...run...off...run. Rest, maybe...nap...not really. Can't imagine 7 or 8 hours of that. Kind of tortuous I would imagine. Just my 2 cents, but you can add it to your fund of knowledge on the subject of "Prius Camping".
     
  8. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    I'm surprised what I can eventually adjust to. It takes more than 45 minutes, maybe more than one night, but anything happening regularly like that....

    When I first moved into this house, it had an ancient natural draft gas furnace that ignited with an epic clang-whoosh every 15 minutes or so, and by the end of the first week I was sleeping like a baby all night.
     
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  9. gboss

    gboss Junior Member

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    Yeah, the CO detector is a great fix. The only time it went off was when a skoolie parked next to me and was using his wood stove (inside the bus) to fumigate the front of my car with massive plumes of smoke.

    In terms of police/security/etc, I never had issues when the engine ran or otherwise. I even parked in front of a police station once. I did use two black pieces of fabric to shove in front of the main display and drape over the radio display + temp display so that internal lights were not shining when someone looked inside. I parked all over too: gyms, Walmarts, neighborhood streets, parks, dispersed camps, empty mall parking lots, etc. It's always easier to use spots where there are others boondocking for peace of mind - you can even download the iOverlander app to find tons of spots easily.
     
    #9 gboss, Oct 28, 2021
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  10. gboss

    gboss Junior Member

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    :D all the more reason to go camping in a prius! You've got an extra second or two before the bear breaks through the glass.

    I wonder if the frequent cold starts during 'ready mode' negatively impact the engine at all or if the Prius engine 'is designed' for those frequent, short runs.
    Awesome! If you do sleep on the ground, I highly recommend making sure your camping mat is 'insulated' on the bottom (you have to search for insulated camping mats / sleeping pads) - sleeping on the ground will make you freeze. Some people also prefer to use cots, but that takes up extra cargo in the trunk. I have an insulated Kylmit sleeping pad that I use inside the Prius and it also works great in my tent.

    Car camping is a lot of fun and very comfortable if you don't want to sleep in a tent - it's basically like sleeping in a Japanese capsule hotel and waking up directly in the outdoors...best of both worlds. I've got to make a post of the setup I used this past month of traveling - it was the most luxurious long trip I've ever done. Throw in a cooler + an inverter + an instant pot and you have an apartment on wheels.
     
    #10 gboss, Oct 28, 2021
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  11. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    first of all, i don't think they are cold, because the engine comes on fairly often.

    unfortunately, no one has studied the effects of low load on the engine, but driving in between camping should clean out most of the junk.
    i would do an italian tune up in between camp sites :p
     
  12. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Even when it comes on while camping, it is generally not idling. It will be turning idle rpm, but at part throttle and producing more power than idle. (If you're listening, you can hear the difference that makes in the engine note. Right when it is about to shut off, it quits generating first, and you'll hear maybe a second of genuine idle before the engine stops.)

    Not as much as the Italian tune up, but on the order of several HP.
     
  13. gboss

    gboss Junior Member

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    I did notice that when I was going to sleep. Now that makes sense.

    I'm really surprised that nobody has hacked the software on the Prius to fully charge the battery vs. the stock setting of 'just enough'. Plenty of engineers and devs on this forum.

    Also, I wonder why Toyota set the ICE to only minimally charge the HV battery in short run cycles...there must be a reason.
     
  14. rjparker

    rjparker Tu Humilde Sirviente

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    They expected people who bought hybrids wanted to save gas, not burn it while they were sleeping. However I am guilty of using AC while waiting for over an hour in a South Texas steam bath. The normal purpose is to keep the hv up enough to get you going when the traffic jam clears. Then there will be more regen contribution to a full charge. Using a vehicle as a portable air conditioner was not in the manual.
     
  15. Rocky Mountain Priusman

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    I have camped many nights in my gen2 and gen3 prius but I simply dont get this obsession with leaving the car in ready mode to have climate control all night. It really seems unneccessary in 98% of weather. If it is cold bring a sleeping bag. If its hot maybe crack or open the windows and devise some sort of mosquito netting.

    Not only does it seem like it would be annoying to have the engine running all night, YOU ARE CAMPING! Enjoy nature, enjoy the quiet, learn how to bring the right amount of blankets to keep you warm.

    The Prius is a great camping car simply because it is a wagon (all wagons are great for camping), and because it gets good fuel economy which means your trip will be very affordable. Also its quite a stealthy option if you just want to pull over somewhere and sleep for the night while on a road trip. Another major advantage of sleeping inside the car vs the tent is safety. Whether that is if you are in a busy city or parking lot and you are worried about other people, or if you are in bear country you can store and eat your food inside the vehicle without having to worry about bears. When camping in a tent you have to make sure all food scents are outside the tent, and you cant lock yourself inside a tent like you can in the Prius.
     
  16. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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  17. vvillovv

    vvillovv Senior Member

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    :cry: :p where'd that come from? :LOL:

    One thing for sure, I think :(
    keeping in ready mode all night will sure mess with the MPG calculations in the ECU (if that is where the MPG calculations are done) :rolleyes: as well as the history data, whereever that stuff is kept. :notworthy:
    edit oops that 2 things for sure, I think?
     
  18. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    There are the bears who have figured out door handles, and the bears who aren't particular.

    [​IMG]
     
    #18 ChapmanF, Oct 30, 2021
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  19. Rocky Mountain Priusman

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    This is a real thing, but particularly in places where bears are food conditioned (see Yosemite National Park). I've lived my entire life in bear (grizzly and black) country. Bear break-ins to cars are definitely possible, but they are rare. It is generally seen as "safe" by experts and those who live in bear country to store food within a vehicle unless you are in one of the few locations where bears have been food conditioned in the wrong ways and are known to break into vehicles, and those areas are widely known. Storing food within a tent is not seen as "safe" in the same places.

    Anytime you speak about safety you have to think about probabilities. Any person or bear can break into a car, house, etc. You and your items are usually safer within a locked car or house than being exposed in the open, but you are never 100% safe, no matter wherever you are.

    In the end it is all about what makes you feel safe at night and get a good sleep. It's largely psychological.
     
  20. black_jmyntrn

    black_jmyntrn Active Member

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    I recently returned from a trip starting in Los Angeles with Alaska as the destination, slept in the car all of the way there and ferry for most of the way back down to Washington.

    I might be slightly addicted to what I like to call Overlanding in my Prius.

    These days I try to sleep and utilize the car as much as possible not in READY mode. That's why I now have two 85AH batteries to keep things going, now if I can just figure out how to make the A/C run off batteries like my Plug-in can when charging I'll be a happy "camper" hahahahaha

    After getting my Napier tent and ceramic heater, I can't wait for more snowy cold nights.

    https://black.jmyntrn.com/2021/02/21/napier-tent-on-my-toyota-prius-is-a-win/

    https://black.jmyntrn.com/2021/06/10/electric-heater-for-the-win-in-my-toyota-prius-camper/
     

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