Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Refinishing Formica tables and countertops

Many RVs, especially older ones, have Formica tables and countertops.  While there is some appeal to upgrading to more modern and luxurious materials, such as granite or composite solid surface, these are usually cost prohibitive for the average RVer.

If you have faded Formica, you may have gotten discouraged looking for solutions to restore the color and shine on the Internet.  Mostly what I found in my initial search was that it could not be restored, but had to be sanded and painted.  Some folks recommended various waxes and furniture polishes, but in my own attempts, none of them worked.  A good aerosol furniture polish made it look good while it was wet, but as soon as it dried it was back to its old dull, faded color.

Then my wife suggested trying the SC-1 detail spray we use on our dirt bikes.  And wa-la! Success!  We had a badly faded walnut grain Formica table in our nearly 50 year old sailboat.  I thought I was going to have to paint it or get a new one.  But the SC-1 brought it back to like new condition!

A second trick for restoring old table tops is to replace missing or damaged edge trim.  It is easier than you might think.  The edge trim was long gone from our boat table.  I bought some iron-on walnut edge tape at my local home center, sanded the old edge, and ironed on the tape,  trimmed it with a razor knife, then sealed it with a good clear coat and now instead of ugly old exposed plywood the edge is a nicely finished walnut that matches the restored Formica table top.

Of course, if you want or need to change the color of a table or countertop or if they surface has been physically damaged by scraping or badly stained beyond redemption, you can still paint.  Sand the old surface to remove any contaminants and smooth out imperfections, then clean it with rubbing alcohol or acetone, the paint according to the paint manufacturer's instructions.  A gloss paint will be easier to clean but a semi-gloss will hide imperfections better.

There is no need to live with ugly tables or countertops.  With a little creative effort they can be restored to give new life to your RV.

Happy restoring!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Alternate Hot Weather Activities

When the hot summer weather arrives, camping and dirt biking in dry, desert or even mountain environments gets to be a little be uncomfortable.  Water activities usually provide opportunities for cooler recreation -- swimming, boating, or just lying around the beach (and taking advantage of the water to cool off now and then).  For that reason, and because I've always liked sailing, we have recently acquired a 24' Venture sailboat, complete with outboard motor for windless days and a trailer to get it to and from the lake.  It is small enough to trailer and for two of us to comfortably sail but has a large enough cabin to provide protection from sudden squalls and room to stay overnight in a remote cove.

Yes, I know, it is said that a boat is merely "a hole in the water into which you throw money".   But, like any other recreational pursuit, it will be what you make of it.  Just like RVs and OHVs, you can spend a lot of money on boats and related equipment and accessories, but you don't have to.  For example, we got our 24' Venture for free! There is even a web site that specializes in free or low cost boats:  http://www.free-boat.com/.  I was surprised at the number and variety of boats I saw there.  I have also seen inexpensive boats on ebay.  Some are offered by an organization that solicits donations and then sells them to fund their charitable operations.  I recently saw 25' sailboat in seaworthy condition go for $611 on ebay!  But, if you find a good deal, be aware there will be title and registration fees to be paid and, if the boat is in a marina, you may have proof of insurance and have to pay moorage fees.  If it comes with at trailer there will be DMV fees for the trailer.  So, even a free boat will not be entirely free.

In some ways, our sailboat is like a floating RV and many of the lessons learned while RVing can be directly applied to "living" on a sailboat, for example, limited and scale down resources, and water and power conservation.  However, there are unique safety and operating procedures we all need to become familiar with before be embark on any maritime activities.  You can often get started with a free online instruction, then augment it with hands on training classes or guidance from experienced sailors.

Unlike RVs, which usually have standup headroom in even the smallest campers and tent trailers,  the cabins on boats may be considerably shorter, except in larger yatcths.  You can stand up somewhat bent over enough to move around inside the cabin of our little 24' sailboat and it isn't too uncomfortable to cook on the camp stove inside and very comfortable to eat at the dinette or sleep in the berths, but we always have to walk bent over and be sure to duck our heads!  Sleeping in the v-berth (in the bow of the boat) has the headroom limitations of a truck camper with the added narrowing at the bow that pushes our feet together.

Our sailboat is a 1970 MacGregor Venture 24.  It is structurally sound but shows some signs of nearly 5 decades in the sun and water.  The gel coat on the deck is crazed and will need to be sanded and painted.  The once lovely teak trim had weathered to a dull uniform grey.  The nice walnut grained Formica table in the cabin was faded until near the center edge it was about the color of hot chocolate powder and the edging was gone, exposing raw, rough plywood.  A few feet of iron-on walnut edging tape painted with clear coat quickly solved the edging problem.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and effective the iron-on tape was.  As for the Formica, my attempt to find a suitable solution on the Internet resulted in a few, ineffective suggestions:  furniture polish or wax.  I tried a variety of products and while some made it look nice while it was still wet, it returned to its dull, dingy color when it tried.  Then my wife suggested using the same SC-1 Clear Coat detailing spray I use on my dirt bikes and in just minutes, we had a table that looked like new!  You can usually buy SC-1 at your local off road bike shop but if they don't have it they can probably order it.  It is made by Maxima, who produces a number of products most bike shops regularly carry.    SC-1's tag line on the can reads "New bike in a can" and you will be surprised how well it works.   Fun to find cross-over skills between our RV/OHV lifestyle and our new maritime addition.

As you might imagine, our nearly 50-year old sailboat needed some TLC, both the make her look better and to prevent further deterioration.  The paint inside the cabin was chalky and peeling.  It took some scraping and sanding to get rid of the damage.  A coat of Kilz is then a good idea as a primer and to reduce the possibility of mildew.  Marine grade paints can be quite expensive.  However, the small area involved may help keep the cost down and they may provide longer life than house paints.  I've heard of people using ordinary interior house paint inside their boats, but I would prefer to use and exterior acrylic latex or at least a paint rated for kitchens and bathrooms since the inside of a boat will by its nature be exposed to a lot of humidity.

Outside, the teak trim was barely recognizable as it had weathered to a dull, uniform grey color.  I was delighted to find it can be cleaned with oxaclic acid to bleach out they grey, then a coating or two of teak oil to restore the luster and depth of the color gets it ready for a suitable clear coat like polyurethane to protect it from the element and give it a deep, rich shine that both looks good and is comfortable to touch -- especially nice for hand rails.

Most boats, even sailboats, will have some 12-volt wiring for lights.  Lights may include convenience lights in the cabin and cockpit and required navigational lights for night time cruising. Wiring on a boat is not too different from wiring on an automobile or an RV, although some larger boats may have 24 volt systems instead of 12 volt systems.   However, be aware that marine wire is different than automotive wire.  The same gauge wire will be made up of many more smaller diameter strands and each strand is tinned to prevent corrosion.  Yes, it will be a lot more expensive than ordinary primary wire for automotive or RV use, but it is necessary to ensure long life and good connections in the marine environment.   You don't want your navigation lights to fail due to corroded connections while you're out on the water at night and even losing cabin lighting could be more than just inconvenient.  I found some cabin lights in our Venture had been wired using ordinary 2-conductor zip wire.  I'm sure it was cheap and convenient for whoever did it, but now all the connections are a badly corroded to a dull green and I'll need to replace the wiring to ensure reliability and performance.

If you decide to explore boating opportunities to augment your regular camping and OHV outings, be sure to get proper training on how to operate your boat or personal watercraft.  Also make sure you wear proper safety gear.  Personal Floatation Devices are required for every person on a boat or personal watercraft and larger boats (over 24') must have at least one throwable floatation device.  This could be a life saver ring or simply an appropriately configured deck cushion. 

There are also signals you need to be aware of to indicate to other boaters your intentions and for them to indicate theirs to you.  Boat horns have much more specific meanings than car horns.  When approaching another boat, a short single toot of your horn indicates you want to pass them on your port (left) side.  Two short toots means passing on the starboard side.  A hint for remembering which is which:  port has one syllable and one toot, starboart has two syllables and two toots.  Three toots mean backing up.  Five toots mean danger!  Or that you don't understand or disagree with the other boat's intentions.  For example, if they indicate passing you on the port side and there is a swimmer or an obstacle there they can't see, you would respond with five toots of your horn.  In poor visibility (e.g., fog) use one long blast when coming around a blind corner if you're in a power boat or one long and two short blasts for a sail boat, repeated about every two minutes.  You need to know these signals so you can recognize them when you hear them and be able to use them when necessary.  Short blasts or toots are about 1 second in duration.  Long blasts are about 4-6 seconds in duration.

Being near or out on the water means you are going to be exposed to a lot of sunlight and will need to pay attention to proper UV protection.  The sunlight reflecting off the water can burn as quickly and as badly as direct sunlight from above.   Sometimes you won't notice you're burning because of the cooling affect of the breeze and/or spray, but don't let that fool you.

Personal watercraft, such as jet skies and SkiDoos, have a particular appeal to folks who usually ride dirt bikes or snowmobiles.  In fact, jet skis are sometimes called 'wet bikes' and are ridden much like a motorcycle.  SkiDoos are a lot like snowmobiles for the water.   However, just because the conformation and controls are familiar doesn't mean you don't need to take time learn how to ride them!  Taking a little time to get familiar with and learn proper use of any kind of motorized recreational equipment is essential and will pay back dividends in safety and fun for years to come.

Canoes and kayaks are popular vessels for personal use and use by small groups.  Since they have no motors or sails, there is a lot less that could go wrong or require maintenance.  They are economical to use, being powered either by hand or water currents, and are usually small enough and light enough to be easily transported from your home to various venues -- or around obstacles you might encounter on a river (like dams and falls).  About the only downside to these craft are that they ride very low in the water, are somewhat unstable and can be easily capsized if you aren't careful.  There are very few Boy Scouts who haven't gotten dunked in a canoe at summer camp!

Sailboats have a kind of nostalgic aura and there is a certain feeling of accomplishment and connection with the sea (or lake) that comes with operating them.  They may be as simple as a sabot (about 8' long with a single sail) or as complex as the Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow's pirate ship in Pirates of the Carribean.  Most popular are boats in the 20-30 foot range, with a single mast (known as sloops) and with a small cabin that provides basic creature comforts out on the water and in port.

Power or motor boats appeal to a lot of people.  The controls for a power boat are similar to those in a car, except that there is no brake!  To stop a power boat you have to reverse the rotation of the propeller.  They are mostly steered using a wheel like a car although some with outboard motors have a tiller more like a small sailboat connected to the motor.  They come in many sizes and shapes from sleek, high-powered racing boats and water-ski boats, to huge yachts that are like floating palaces.  A popular mid-sized boat is a cabin cruiser.  These luxurious vessels provide a lot of creature comforts on the water and at anchor.

If you take up water skiing, there will be additional safety measures and signals you will need to know and, even if you don't water ski, you should become familiar with some of these signals any time you are on the water since you are likely to be sharing the space with water skiers and ski boats.  One of the most important signals is the flag that indicates there is a skier in the water.  This is a bright, hunter orange flat about 12" square and is used when the skier is down.  When you see this, slow down and exercise extra caution around that boat to avoid running over the person in the water.

Most states offer boating safety courses to help you get acquainted with rules and proper practices.  In some cases, proof of having completed such a course are required before you can operate a vessel in that state.

Boats with cabins usually have some kind of sanitation facilities.  On larger boats there will be holding tanks like those on on RV.  Unless you take the boat out of the water and have a way to drain the holding tanks, they will have to be pumped regularly to empty them.  Most marinas where you can rent moorage offer these services.  On smaller vessels you may have a portapotti which you can remove and empty yourself into a suitable dump station or maybe even into your own toilet at home.  In either case these will require the same kind of care and treatment as a black water tank on an RV.  Use only RV-safe toilet paper and never put facial tissue, sanitary napkins, wet wipes (not even those designated flushable), or paper towels into a toilet on a boat.  And, of course, keep an eye on the level of waste in the holding tank, including the little one on your portapotti!  Be sure to empty them BEFORE they get completely full.

If you get a boat with a cabin and plan to sleep in it, either docked in the harbor or at anchor in a remote cove, be sure to try it out where you have a way to easily escape if you find it unsuitable.  For example, we plan to aclimatize ourselves by sleeping in our boat a few times while it is still on the trailer at home before we add the strangeness of the sounds and feeling of being on the water.   Larger boats may have comfortable staterooms equipped with very good beds.  In smaller boats, like our 24 footer, the berths are under the bow (v-berth), in the converted dinette (much like the bed on a truck camper but with thinner cushions) or along the port (left) side under the cockpit.  Sleeping in the V-berth in the bow is a little like sleeping in a truck camper with limited headroom but with your feet jammed together into the narrow prow of the boat.  It isn't as uncomfortable as it sounds, but it may take some adjustment.  Be aware that even when tied up at a dock (and even more so when at anchor) a boat is going to rock.  Wake from passing boats, waves in the water, and even a gentle breeze blowing against the boat may cause it to move.  For some people it is soothing, like being rocked in a cradle.  But for other people this can be disquieting, even to the point of getting seasick.

Speaking of getting seasick, it is not uncommon for people to get ill from the movement of a boat, especially until they get used to it.  There is popular commercial product to treat seasickness.  It is called Dramamine®. You can get it an just about any pharmacy without a prescription.  If you know or even suspect you are susceptible, be sure to pick some up before your first aquatic outing.  Some people even need it when traveling by car, train, or plane too.

Aquatic activities can provide a welcome respite from summer heat and a pleasant alternative to hot, dry, land-locked excursions.  As with any kind of camping and motorized recreation, boating is a great way to create quality family time and create family bonding.

Ahoy mate!

Monday, October 9, 2017


OK, so what does Surviorman have to do with RVs and OHVs?  Well, nothing directly, but you could find yourself in a survival situation if your RV or OHV conks out on you or you get lost during an outing.  That is one of the reasons this blog also covers camping, wilderness survival, and emergency preparation and why I have referred to Survivorman in several previous posts.

Survivorman is one of my favorite TV shows.  Les Stroud is genuine, in both his survival activities and his mistakes.  He isn't afraid to let you see when he screws up.  He doesn't do it very often.  Survivorman is an excellent source of wilderness survival tips and techniques. Since he takes his adventures all over the planet you can very likely find one that matches where you like to go.

Les Stroud's techniques are usually things just about anyone can do without any special tools or special training.  But be aware he does seek expert advice from competent sources who are knowledgable in each area he goes into.  Some of his tips are generic and can be applied in many different environments.  See 24 of the Best Survival Tips from Surviorman.  Look over the list and see what you are likely to use in the situations you may encounter.  Every one is a golden tidbit taht will make survival easier.  Then take a little time to practice each one.  You don't want to find out you missed or forgot something just when you need it most!

Even though Surviroman is no longer on regular TV, you can stream every episode of “Survivorman” on his site.  I have viewed every episode multiple times.   I learned (or re-learned) something new each time.  Whether time has simply erased some tidbits of information or my experience has matured during the intervals between watching doesn't really matter.  Learning something new or reinforcing important previously learned lessons is always good use of time.  And, if you're like me, it is fun!  I am somewhat disappointed that there are no new episodes of Surviorman, but the wide variety of environments he has endured (from ice and snow to steamy tropical jungles, from dry deserts to deserted islands) is a veritable encyclopedia of survival techniques.

As I said in the opening paragraph, one of the things I most like about Survivorman is that Les Stroud is genuine.  Some other "survivor" shows are scripted and staged and are filmed by a separate film crew that accompanies the adventurer.  That might make for more exciting television, but isn't particularly realistic or educational.  Les simple chooses a situation/location, gets dropped off with minimal tools and supplies (usually just his trusty multi-tool) and cameras.  Then he has to play it by ear.  Not only does he have to take care of his own survival, he has to do all the filming and lug all the camera equipment through his ordeal.  In many cases that means he has to backtrack to retrieve camera equipment making almost every leg of his trip twice as long as it seems on camera.  Since things are not scripted or staged, his camera records his mistakes right along with his successes and the mistakes aren't edited out of the final print.  I find that refreshing and informative.  Sometimes it is good to know what DOESN'T work and why so we can avoid making the same mistakes.  Having a film crew might give more polished cinematography, but Les' real world view is honest and educational.  From my perspective there are plenty of beautifully filmed dramas and documentaries I can watch if I'm just looking for technical film perfection.  I rather enjoy the unpretentious, sometimes even raw, presentations on Survivorman.

You never know when what you learned on Survivorman may come in handy.  A while back I read of a young couple traveling in a pickup truck in snowy country who mistakenly tried to take "short cut" and ended up stranded miles from nowhere and had to walk out.  One of their survival techniques, which they credited to an episode of Surviorman, was to make mukluks out of the the upholstery and padding from the seat cushions to protect their feet from freezing while walking out to safety.  As a dirt biker I particularly appreciated an episode he did simulating getting stranded on a dirt bike somewhere out of Moab, Utah and attest that his choices and techniques were valid.

Safety is always a primary concern in a survival situation, whether it is planned (as in the case of Survivorman) or accidental (as it would be for most of us!).  While Les does not have anyone looking out for him directly during his escapades, he does prepare carefully for each one and has a rescue team standing by if he doesn't show up that the designated rendezvous point at the designated time.  We can all take a lesson from that and always leave word with family, friends, or appropriate local officials to let them know when we are going, when, and when we should return so they can take appropriate steps to find us if something unexpected happens and we don't show up at the end of our outing.

Thank you, Survivorman!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fall has fell...

Well, almost.  September 21, which is only a few days away, marks the official beginning of fall on the calendar.  Don't know about where you are, but where I am in western Oregon now, it is beginning to feel like fall.  Unusually hot summer temperatures have faded and we're headed into Oregon's famous rainy season.  It is about time to think about putting our RV and camping equipment away for the season.  See End of Season  for details about winterizing your RV and preparing your other equipment for storage.

If you live where you will get freezing temperatures you will need to winterize your RV and make sure there is nothing in your tent camping storage that will be damaged by freezing.  Tents and sleeping bags should be clean and dry before storage.  Sleeping bags should not be rolled tightly during extended storage as it will crush the loft and destroy their ability to keep you warm.

If you're feeling adventurous you might venture out for a few more outings before the really cold weather hits.  If you do you will want to take weather conditions into consideration and bring along warm clothes.  Be sure your RV has plenty of propane and that the furnace is working properly.  A tent heater might let you extend your camping season a bit, but be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid any problems.  Tent heaters can cause fires so make sure they are kept away from tent walls, sleeping bags, clothing, etc that might catch fire.  Tent heaters, even catalytic heaters that allegedly give off no toxic fumes, will still consume oxygen so make sure you have adequate ventilation.

A trick I learned for sleeping on snow or cold ground is to unroll and unzip a couple of old sleeping bags.  Put one under the sleeping bag(s) you'll be sleeping in (I like it between the bag and the sleeping pad) and the other one over the top.  If you are sharing your tent with a companion, put the second sleeping bag so it covers both sleeping bags.  That way any heat that escapes from your primary sleeping bags is caught by the top cover and you effectively share body heat to keep you both warm all night.

If you are camping in desert areas where night time temperatures are still warm, you may want to add or include a battery powered tent fan.  We recently spent a night in the Virgin River Gorge in northern Arizona and it was 106ยบ around 7:30 pm and didn't really cool down enough to sleep until around 3:00 am!  We used a spray bottle liberally to cool both us directly and the little bit of breeze we got through the screens but a fan would have been very welcome.  It is definitely on the list for next time!

I've always found it more difficult to keep cool than to keep warm.  After all, you can always add layers to keep warm but there is only so much clothing you can remove to cool down!

Fall camping is cool!

Friday, July 28, 2017

2 Wheel Bug Out Vehicles?

When we think of bug out vehicles we usually think of trucks, SUVs, or RVs that can carry us and a lot of survival equipment.  However, there are other options that might be more versatile.   For example, I keep my dirt bikes ready to use at any time.  If roads are impassable due to an earthquake or flooding, I can use my dirt bike to get to safety through or around all kinds of terrain that would stop just about any other kind of vehicle.  It can also be used as a messenger vehicle during a local emergency where normal roads are impassable.  If you prefer an ATV or side-by-side, it too could provide options to go places where a normal street legal vehicle can't.  You' might want to find a way to attach some kind of hitch to the frame of the dirt bike.  Towing a trailer will limit some of the places you can go but it will give you the ability to carry a lot more survival gear with you.

An option seldom considered is a bicycle.  Bicycles have several advantages.  They are not terribly expensive (unless you go for fancy road racers or competition level mountain bikes), they require no fuel, they are light weight so you can carry them through terrain too rough to ride through.  A good bike could be your best bet for escaping an unsafe situation.  You don't see too many folks pulling trailers with bicycles (except in third world countries), but it is possible and would increase your cargo capacity.  You should be able to pull up to 600 lbs on flat ground, which gives you considerably more room to bring along what you need than you'd have in even the biggest back pack.  If you decide to include a bicycle in your survival gear, the best bet would be a mountain bike, with off road tires and multiple gears.  Racing bikes are great on pavement, but the narrow tires wouldn't handle damaged roads or going off road if necessary very well.  A cruiser style bike will have tires capable of handling more types of terrain but usually are only one speed so they wouldn't be as good for negotiating hills or heavy loads.  As with a dirt bike, you will probably have to engineer your own trailer hitch if you decide to pull a small trailer.

You will need a pretty small trailer to use behind a dirt bike or bicycle.  There are some trailers designed to pull behind ATVs and some for street bikes that might be a starting point.  Even a little garden cart designed to be used with riding mowers and garden tractors might work, but they usually aren't designed to be particularly light weight.  You might also consider building your own trailer from scratch.  The trailer kits you can find at places like Harbor Freight will usually be too big and too heavy for pulling behind a bike (pedal power or motorized).  You might make one from bicycle or tricycle parts or even use a child's "Radio Flyer" style wagon.  Some of these are available with big, soft, all-terrain tires designed for garden use and would adapt well for off road towing.

You will  need to limit the size of the trailer for several reasons.  First up, you don't want it to be too heavy.  The lighter the trailer, the more gear you can carry and the easier it will be to pull.  Secondly, you want something that you can pull through small spaces without difficulty.  In really difficult terrain you might even have to pull the trailer by hand or even be able to lift it over obstacles.

I have seen neat little tent trailers to pull behind ATVs that would even provide shelter, but you will sacrifice some cargo capacity if you choose one of these and they would probably be too big and heavy to reasonable tow behind a bicycle.  If you need or want to be able to camp along the way, an easy, light weight, and inexpensive alternative is to toss in a small tent or maybe just a tarp you could toss over you and the trailer to protect you from hot sun or bad weather.

In a pinch you could rig a travois behind a bicycle or dirt bike to carry your gear or even transport an injured person.  You need a couple of poles lashed together at one end to attach to your bike with a tarp, blanket, or net stretched between the other, spread out ends to carry your load

Speaking of bicycles, I have even seen some three-wheeled rigs with a camper attached,  looking kind of like kind of pedal-powered Class C motorhome.  While those might provide the ultimate comfort for bugging out, they wouldn't be very practical on damaged roads or rough terrain and I, for one, would not want to try to pedal one of those up much of a hill!  Likewise, there are custom made motorcycle based Class C motorhomes that would provide many of the features of a larger motorhome as a Disaster Recovery Vehicle, but might have greater range due to lower fuel consumption.

One of the chief characteristics of survivalists is their ability to innovate.  Be innovative in your preparations as well as in your survival techniques.

Think outside the box!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Camping Equipment Maintenance

Tent campers may not have to deal with the mechanical maintenance tasks that those who choose mechanized or motorized modes of travel and recreation, but there are still some things we need to do routinely to keep our gear and equipment in top shape.  Failure to maintain gear and equipment is a sure recipe for premature failure.  A couple of good times to do routine maintenance are when you are preparing for an outing and when you return and put you stuff back in storage.

Tent maintenance.  Maintaining tents mostly consists of cleaning them and inspecting them for leaks or tears and making necessary repairs.  Small tears can  usually be sewed up and sealed with seam sealer.  If caught in time making repairs will avoid catastrophic failure that would force you to buy a new tent.  Temporary repairs for small cuts and tears can be made in the field using duct tape or some kind of waterproof sealing tape.  These should be properly sewed and sealed when you get home and before your next outing.  Another important part of tent maintenance is cleaning.  You should always sweep out your tent before taking it down and brush away debris from the fabric as you roll or fold it up for transport and storage.  If it is wet or damp from rain or dew, be sure to unpack it and let it dry out before you put it back in storage.  Inspect the roof and sides for soiling from birds or tree sap and remove such deposits as soon as practical.  Avoid putting your tent into storage with soiled spots.  Bird crap can usually be removed satisfactorily with soap and water.  Sap may require a stronger solvent such as Goo Gone.  Some folks use turpentine to remove tree sap but it may damage tent fabrics so it would be wise to test it on something non-essential (like the tent peg bag) before using it on your tent.

Sleeping bag maintenance.  Unless your sleeping bag is badly soiled or smells bad all you normally need to do is hang it out for a few hours to let it air out and dry before putting it away.  It would be a good thing if you have room to store it hanging.  It avoids compressing the fill.  Tightly rolling your sleeping bag may let you store it in a smaller space, but it will destroy the loft and it will no longer keep you warm.  If you can't or don't want to hang your sleeping bag, fold it carefully and store it in a tub or box that lets it remain loose.  If you detect a light odor you might try spraying the bag lightly with a fabric freshener such as Fabreze.  Be sure to let it dry before rolling or folding it for storage.  Badly stained or awful smelling sleeping bags should be taken to our local dry cleaners for cleaning.  It isn't cheap, but its way less than a new sleeping bag!

Gas stove maintenance.  Gas stoves, whether white gas or propane, are usually quite reliable, even without a lot of preventive maintenance.  But that doesn't mean you can or should ignore them.  Be sure to clean up any cooking spills after each use.  Clean the burners and the bottom of the stove.  Be sure to clean the openings in the burners.  If there are places where a spill has clogged some of the openings, there won't be any flame there, creating a cold spot in your cooking surface.  Gas stoves have a pump built into the fuel tank to create the pressure needed to feed gas to the burners.  These pumps usually use a leather washer which can dry out and become inaffective.  A drop or two of oil will usually restore flexibility.  If that doesn't work you may have to rebuild the pump.   Rebuild kits are available at most sporting goods stores where the stoves are sold.  If the pump is working fine and there is fuel in the tank but the stove still doesn't work, it probably has a bad generator.  This is a little brass tube through which the liquid gasoline travels and is converted to a gas before entering the burners.  Generators are fairly easy to replace and only cost around $10.

Gas lanterns.  Gas lanterns may use gasoline or propane.  Propane cylinders are pressurized.  You have to pressurize the fuel tank on gasoline lanterns using the pump built into the tank.  If the pump stops working, a drop or two of oil may soften the leather gasket and restore enough flexibility to get it working again.  If it is too badly worn it may have to be replaced.  Just as with gas stoves, there are rebuild kits.  The kits for any given brand can usually be used on both stoves and lanterns so you shouldn't have to carry multiple rebuild kits.  The most frequent maintenance chore for gas lanterns is replacing the mantles.  Th mantles are little sock-like mesh bags.  You have to remove or lift the globe of the lantern to replace the mantles.  There may be one or more mantles in each lantern depending on its size.  The mantles have a string threaded through the open end.  Slip the open end over the end of the flared tube inside the globe and tie it tightly in place with the string.  Then take a match or lighter and burn the silk mesh sock.  The ash that remains is heated white-hot when the lantern is lit.  Because the mantles are made of ash, they are quite fragile.  Bumping the lantern may cause them to crack or break and then they will no longer confine the gas and burn properly.  Always carry several replacement mantles with you when you're using a gas lantern.  Another routine task is cleaning the globe.  Always do this when the globe is cool.  Cleaning a hot globe may result it burning your fingers.  If the hot globe comes in contact with cold water or a cold cloth, it may crack or even shatter.  Carefully clean both the inside and outside of the glass globe before each trip and s often as needed when using the lantern.  Cracked or broken globes should be replaced.  Most gas lanterns are  held together by a knurled nut at the top.  Make sure this nut is always snug but don't over tighten it.  Regularly check to see if the bail or handle is properly attached.  If it is loose and you try to pick it up, the lantern my slip off and fall.

Battery lanterns.  Battery lanterns are far easier to care and less fragile than gas lanterns.  But that doesn't mean they don't need some attention.  You will want to check the condition of the batteries before each trip and either recharge the lantern or replace the batteries if the voltage is low.  Check the battery compartment for signs of leakages or contamination.  Carefully clean any yucky stuff out of the battery compartment paying special attention to the contacts the battery connects to.  They should always be clean and shiny.  You may need to clean the globe periodically too.  Since there is no soot or smoke inside, normally all you have to do is clean the outside.  Window cleaner, like Windex, usually works well but just to safe, check your owners' manual.  Some plastics may have special cleaning instructions.  Ordinary soap and water is usually safe for all surfaces.   Be sure not to rub too hard or too long in one place as it may scratch or burnish the surface.

Camp chairs.  Camp chairs mostly just need to be cleaned once in awhile.  Some of the old style aluminum folding chairs used screws to hold the mesh to the frame.  If you have one of these you'll want to make sure all the screws are tight before each trip.  Cloth chairs like the popular "quad" chairs can be cleaned with soap and water, rinsed with water, and let dry.  The mesh on folding aluminum chairs can also be cleaned with soap and water if badly soiled but if they're only dusty you might just blow them off with compressed air.  If you find your folding chairs are getting hard to open and close or they make squeaking sounds when you open and close them, you might want to put a little bit of lubricant on the pivot points.  Don't use a lot of oil because it will just collect dust and get on the fabric when the chair is closed up for storage.  A dry Teflon lubricant would be a good choice.  If you use a wet lubricant like WD-40, be sure to avoid spraying on too much.  You might even want to spray some in the cap and apply it with a little water color brush or Q-tip so you don't get goo much in one place.  The legs on some chairs have caps or feet on the end.  These often get lost or damaged.  You may be able to purchase rubber cane tips to replace missing feet on round legs. 

Knives and axes.  Inspect  your knives and axes.  Test the blades and makes sure they are clean and sharp.  Gently sand away any rust.  Coat the metal surfaces with a light oil.  Make sure handles are secure in axe heads and that the handles are smooth and in good condition.  You may sand rough wooden handles.  Rub wooden handles with linseed oil to protect them against moisture, make the comfortable to handled, and give the handle a nice "glow".  Dull tools are more dangerous and more difficult to use than sharp ones.  Sharpen blades as needed and use some kind of blade protector while the tools are in storage.

Other equipment.  Depending on what kind of recreational activities you normally participate in you may have other pieces of equipment that need your attention.  If you have an owners manual or instruction sheet, be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations.  Lacking specific guidelines, be sure to regularly clean and inspect each item and make repairs as needed.  Check the functionality of each item to make sure it is working right.  If it doesn't work right, examine it for damage.  A frequent cause of problems in anything with moving parts is contamination or lack of lubrication.  A little dry Teflon or even a modest application of WD-40 may work wonders.  Metal components of equipment may have gotten bent and you might be able to restore proper movement by straightening the bent part.  Slight bends can usually be successfully straightened but anything that has been kinked will probably have to be replaced.  Check for and tighten any loose fasteners but take care not to over tighten them.  Over tightening can damage parts and interfere with proper movement.

Keep it working!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

OHV Mechanical Maintenance

Like any other piece of machinery, an OHV is going to require a certain amount of maintenance.  Without it you will experience premature wear and equipment failure.  The last thing you want is for your dirt bike or ATV to break down when out on some remote trail miles from nowhere.  Performing regular maintenance will help minimize the chances of that happening.

Each machine is going to have its own maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer.  The maintenance schedule will be included in the owner's manual.  If you purchased a used machine and didn't get an owner's manual you may be able to find one at your local dealer or on the Internet.  In the meantime, there are many routine maintenance tasks you can perform to keep your machine in top shape.  You may have to guess about period between major tasks like changing engine or transmission oil or servicing hydraulic brakes and clutches but it wouldn't hurt (except perhaps in your pocketbook!) to do them once a year.  Engine oil should be changed more often, especially if the machine is getting lots of use.  2-stroke engines rely mostly on the oil mixed in the gas and don't have oil in the pan.  4-stroke engines do have an oil pan and pressurized lubrication systems and you need to keep an eye on the oil level (check it before every ride).  If when you check it is gritty or smells burned, it needs to be changed regardless of how recently it has been done.   Black oil is OK.  Most oils contain detergents to keep the engine clean so fresh oil can quickly become black soon after an oil change.  Other lubrication should be done as needed.  Drive chains should be lubricated before every ride and after they have been cleaned.  Wheel bearings and suspension should be lubricated several times a years, more often if your rides include water crossings.  Throttle, brake, and clutch cables should be lubricated frequently.  Because they are enclosed they probably don't need to done for every ride, but once a month would not be too often.

If you have the owner's manual, or can copy the maintenance schedule from someone who does, be sure to follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

Another significant part of routine maintenance is checking for and tightening or replacing loose or missing fasteners.  The constant vibration and sometimes jarring impacts OHVs experience causes bolts, nuts, and screws to work loose.  Using a thread locker like Loc-Tite will help keep them secure but is no substitute for checking them often (at least before every ride).

Some, but not all, OHVs have electric starters.  If yours does, it will  have a battery.  You will need to monitor the battery condition and make sure is properly charged for each ride.  Check the electrolyte level at least once a month and top it off with distilled water if it is low.  Use a "trickle charger" to keep the battery fully charged when your equipment is in storage between outings.

Brakes and clutches need regular adjustment to function properly.  Brakes that are too tight or clutches that are too loose will slip.  When that happens not only do they not function right, they will wear out quickly.  Brake pads or shoes can usually be changed by a fairly handy DIY mechanic at home.  Clutches often require special tools and techniques, but many riders learn how to do this themselves too. 

Spending a little time and money doing routine maintenance will pay back many times over in avoiding expensive and inconvenient breakdowns out on the trail.

Work it!