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.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spare Rooms

Your RV, and even your tent, can serve as a "spare room" when you have visitors. For this to work, you must keep your RV clean and well organized. Don't use it as a storage area. Keep the beds fresh, or make them up fresh just before your guests arrive. If your RV has been locked up and stored for weeks or months, you'll need to air it out and freshen the bedding. Make sure any needed appliances, such as furnaces or air conditioners are in good working order. And, unless you RV has been winterized, make sure the fresh water tank is full or it is connected to city water. If your RV has been winterized, make sure you tell your guests not to use any of the plumbing. In moderate weather, your RV can serve as a complete personal suite for your guests. In cold (freezing) weather, it should only be used as bedroom and sitting room. You don't want to put water into the holding tanks that may freeze and damage the valves or tanks.  Of course, if you happen to have an RV with heated holding tanks and plumbing it could be fully utilized.

Tents aren't quite as convenient or as comfortable for visiting guests, but they may sometimes serve as a viable option, so don't rule them out. They will be more appealing in moderate weather, but we have even had some of our adult kids pitch their tent at our place in Utah at Christmas when six kids plus spouses and grandkids overwhelmed our small retirement home. Unless your guests are bringing their own, you'll want to make sure your tent is accessible, clean, complete, and in good repair. Same with sleeping bags, cots, sleeping pads, etc. You may want to set things up in advance so you can make sure everything is "ship shape" and ready to go before your guests arrive. One winter they set up a tent in our large barn so it was out of the wind and weather.

Spare rooms on your spare room. Weather permitting, you can expand your RV using an "add-a-room" -- privacy panels under your awning to create extra living space. I had a tent that attached to my Smuggler toy hauler, giving us a lot of extra room for dressing and for gathering 8 people out of the weather. These are quite comfortable in moderate climates, but you won't want to rely on them in cold or snowy weather. The thin panels don't provide much insulation and the awning won't support much of a snow load. If for any strange reason you need to have your awning open when it snows, keep the snow brushed off to avoid damage to the awning fabric and hardware. 

Screen rooms are another awning variation that can be useful.   Instead of solid "privacy panels", they have screen panels all around that can keep out insects and sometimes reduce sunlight a little bit to keep it cooler under the awning without shutting out the view.

Visitors welcome!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fire Extinguishers

According to rules established by the National Fire Protection Agency, all recreational vehicles are required to have a 5 lb BC fire extinguisher on board. Unfortunately, this requirement is often satisfied by a little unit that is totally inadequate for all but the smallest fires. You will often see one about the size of a can of spray paint hanging on a wall in a motorhome or travel trailer. I don't even like these for cooking fires since the velocity of the spray can splash and spread burning grease and they aren't big enough to really do much. Much better to cover the burning pan with a lid or wet towel or smother the flames with baking soda. I upgraded my motorhome with an additional fire extinguisher, a much larger, 20 lb, residential/commercial style ABC model.  See more about these funky alphabet ratings below.  The only real problem with such an upgrade is finding a place to put it.  It needs to be secure and yet easily accessible.

Fire extinguishers are not required by law for tent camping but it is still a good idea to have one handy. You may need one if your tent or vehicle catches fire. Most cooking fires can be controlled by covering the pot with a lid or wet towel or smothering the fire with baking soda or salt. If you don't have a fire extinguisher, do carry an extra box or two of baking soda and keep it handy whenever you're cooking. NEVER use flour to try to put out a fire. Flour dust is highly explosive. I've heard that about a cup of flour can deliver about the same kick as a stick of dynamite! Sugar is also highly flammable. After all, sugar is the fuel our bodies burn! It is basically carbon and hydrogen, same fundamental elements as gasoline!

Campfires are usually too large for a fire extinguisher, especially if the reason you're putting them out is they're out of control. Keep a bucket of water or sand or dirt and a shovel handy to put out campfires. You probably won't want to waste fresh water to put out a routine campfire at the end of the night so drain a little out of your gray water tank and use that. Take care NOT to release anything from the black water tank! I guaranty you won't like the results. The smell of burning sewage will not contribute anything good to your outing or your reputation around camp and your partner may make you sleep outside after you've been exposed to the smoke.

Proper use of an appropriate fire extinguisher can prevent a small fire in your RV, tent, or tow vehicle from getting out of control and avoid more serious and expensive consequences. Think a fire extinguisher is too expensive? Consider how expensive it will be not to have one when you need it! Speaking of expense, don't waste your money on cheap fire extinguishers. Many are made with plastic instead of metal parts inside that are easily broken and probably won't stand up to the rigors of RV travel and would thus be useless when you need them!

Fire extinguishers are rated according to the types of fires they are designed to put out. The rating is important because an improper extinguisher will not be effective on fires it isn't rated for and, in some cases, can actually make things worse and create a greater hazard. For example, using water on an electrical fire will damage the electrical equipment and could get you electrocuted! Using water on flammable liquids may just spread the flames.

Fire and fire extinguishers are rated according to the types of materials involved. Make sure you know how to recognize the type of fire and use only the right extinguisher for the fire. Using the wrong one is, at best ineffective, and at worse, can be dangerous!

    Class A: ordinary combustible materials (paper, wood and most plastics)
    Class B: flammable or combustible liquids, such as gasoline, diesel, grease and oil
    Class C: electrical fires, involving appliances, breaker boxes, wiring
    Class D: combustible metals like magnesium, titanium, and sodium
    Class K: cooking oils, mostly found in restaurant kitchens

A typical residential or commercial fire extinguisher will have an A-B-C rating, meaning it is good for Class A, B, and C fires. This should be adequate for most RV applications. D rated extinguishers are usually only found in chemical labs or places they routinely use exotic metals. A "K" rated extinguisher might be useful if you have a cooking fire, but it is probably overkill. "K" extinguishers are usually only found in commercial kitchens where they have deep fryer equipment and are usually part of an automatic fire suppression system. You can usually snuff cooking fires by covering the pan with a lid or a wet towel or smothering them with baking soda. By the way, soda is the main component of many "dry chemical" fire extinguishers so it is not a second rate substitute but rather a legitimate, effective, readily available, and inexpensive alternative.  The main advantage to a dry chemical fire extinguisher is that it is more effective and safer to use than trying to sprinkle soda onto a fire from a box.

Fire extinguisher sizes. Fire extinguishers are usually "sized" by weight, indicating the weight of the extinguishing agent. The larger or heavier the rating, the longer the extinguisher will be able to deliver fire suppressant onto a fire. A 10 lb extinguisher will be fully discharged in 17-20 seconds. A 5 lb model will be used up in 8-10 seconds. You can see the tiny little units that probably came with your RV won't last very long -- only a few seconds. Don't give a fire time to get out of control. Tackle it as soon as possible. Your fire extinguisher should be adequate to put out a smoldering cigarette on your sofa, but if the whole sofa is engaged, just get you and your family the heck out while you can. Even a 10lb extinguisher isn't enough to handle that job. You might be able to save the rest of your RV if you can come back with a water hose or a large ABC extinguisher. A useful guideline for whether to fight a fire or escape is to compare it to a fire in a typical waste basket. Up to that size, a hand-held fire extinguisher may be effective. Any thing larger requires real fire fighting equipment and you'd better get you and your loved ones to safety instead of trying (most likely in vain) to put the fire out.

Using a fire extinguisher. Always aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire. The acronym, PASS describes the proper procedures for using a fire extinguisher:

    P: Pull -- pull the locking pin from the handle
    A: Aim -- aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
    S: Squeeze -- squeeze the handle to begin discharge
    S: Sweep -- sweep the spray from side to side

Once you have started to use an ABC fire extinguisher, you might as well empty it. Particles left in the valve will keep it from closing completely when you release the handle and the pressure will leak away, making it useless. After ANY discharge, the unit must be replaced or rebuilt to remain useful. The only style I know that can be stopped and started is an old fashioned water extinguisher.

Fire extinguisher maintenance. There is little user maintenance required for most fire extinguishers. Mostly you need to monitor the inspection date and check the gauge(if it has one).  Dry chemical extinguishers should be shaken once a month to avoid the chemical "caking up" inside.  Fire extinguishers have a limited useful lifetime and need to be replaced or rebuilt (by specially trained and licensed technicians). About the only type you can maintain yourself is water filled Class A extinguisher. These units can be refilled with water and re-pressurized by the user using compressed air. I keep one in my motorcycle trailer as a portable bike pressure washer, but it could also be used on any Class A fire as well. Water extinguishers are definitely NOT recommended nor approved for Class B or Class C fires.

Fire requires three components, known as the fire triangle: fuel, heat, and oxygen. Take away any one of the three and the fire goes out. Covering a burning pan removes oxygen. Spraying a fire in ordinary combustibles (wood, paper, plastic) removes heat and, as the water soaks the potential fuel, reduces availability of fuel. Dry chemical fire extinguishers mostly prevent the fire from getting oxygen. Water is the most common substance used to put out fires, even by fire departments. But NEVER use water on a fire involving live electrical devices. Once the electricity has been turned off the fire switches from a Class C fire to what is usually an ordinary Class A fire. A fire in a plugged in electrical appliance is a Class C fire; unplug the appliance and it usually becomes a Class A fire. Using water on a Class B fire is not recommended. The spray often splashes and spreads the burning fuel, doing more harm than good. I have seen professional firefighters and even trained C.E.R.T. folks put out a Class B fire using water, but it requires special techniques.  I have tried it myself and it isn't easy.  If you have no other choice but water, do not use a strong stream. Use a broad spray. Aim it at the base of the flames and try to sweep the flames off the fuel. It may be very difficult if the fire is wide or if there is any wind. The fire can easily ignite fumes rising from the previously extinguished areas and jump back again.

Of course, fire prevention is always better than  fire suppression.  You'll always be better off avoiding a fire than fighting one so take proper precautions with your camp and cooking fires.  Watch out for potentially dangerous situations involving combustible materials. 

See also Fire Extinguisher Education for RVers for additional information.

Put it out!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Foggy Windows and Googles

If you do any camping or OHVing in cool, damp weather you're going to experience problems with windows and goggles fogging up. When it blocks your vista of the mountains or lake it is irritating. When it interferes with driver's or operator's vision it is a safety hazard! Make sure the defrosters on your RV or tow vehicle are in good working condition and are not blocked by errant objects left on the dash board. Large windshields like those on Class A motorhomes may need additional assistance. One of the best options are 12-volt oscillating fans like those used by commercial truck drivers. Still it is a good idea to keep a small squeegee or cloth handy to clear excess moisture from side windows and maintain a clear view. Anti-fog preparations will help deter windows and goggles from fogging over. The one I like best for windshields is made by 20-10, who also makes my favorite windshield wiper fluid. For goggles, try Cat Crap -- no, not the stuff from the litter box, a commercial anti-fog preparation popular with off-roaders. The color, texture, and consistency isn't very attractive (actually it is kind of green and slimy and looks more like cat snot than crap) but it works and has been the number one selling goggle cleaning and anti-fog preparation for more than a decade. Rain-X also makes an anti-fog spray that is effective and easy to use.

Goggles should be cleaned after every ride. Don't wipe them with a dry cloth. It will grind fine dust into the soft plastic surface and scratch it. Rinse them with water or wash them with soap and water, then wipe them dry with a clean, soft cloth, tissue, or microfiber towel. If they do get scratched, you'll need to clean and polish the lens to restore clarity. I've had good success using a 3-stage cleaning system from Novus for maintaining googles. Each stage uses finer grit. The first stage removes heavy scratches, the second stage further refines defects, and the final stage polishes the lenses to a clear shine. Applying anti-fog on clean lenses is more effective than wiping it on dirty or damaged surfaces.

Maintain that vista! While keeping the windows clear in camp is not as necessary for safety as it is on the road, it is still something you'll want to do. You'll want to enjoy the beauty of the natural features around you and, if you have children or pets you may need to keep an eye on them. Here again, a small squeegee is a quick way to clear fogged windows. Lacking that, dry them with paper towels. In really cold weather I don't worry too much about the view. I cover all my windows with foam insulation inserts to keep out the cold. Also works well to keep it cooler inside in hot weather. Controlling the condensation as it occurs will reduce the amount of frost that builds up overnight in cold weather. Frost on windows can be quite pretty, but it doesn't do much to maintain a warm interior and when it melts it can be damaging to the nearby surfaces and its a LOT harder to scrape off than mere fogging.

Speaking of frost, it can present other problems. Your RV steps may become dangerously slippery when they're covered with frost. You also aren't going to want to sit on a frosty OHV seat or camp chair unless you like the feeling of having a cold, wet butt. A frozen vinyl seat may also be more susceptible to cracking so wipe off the frost early in the morning and let the sun warm the seat a while before you take a ride. Frost can accumulate on tools left outside. A frosted axe or shovel handle could present a serious safety hazard. Frost on metal tools, like wrenches, pliers, sockets, and screwdrivers can lead to rust and corrosion as well as making them slippery if you try to use them. Try to keep tools in out of the overnight dew and frost and wipe off any condensation or frost before using them or putting them away. Frosty metal can sometimes stick to your skin, especially if your skin is wet. You probably remember some kid (perhaps even you) getting hiss tongue stuck licking snow off metal fixtures like a swing set or flag pole.  If  you do get frozen to metal, flush the area with warm water to get loose without ripping off a layer of skin.

Even after using an anti-fog product you may have trouble keeping your goggles clear on cold wet rides. Tuck a soft cloth or some tissues in a convenient pocket or pouch on your fanny pack and stop as necessary to dry the inside of your goggles. Rain and snow can accumulate on the outside of your goggles. I've seen riding gloves with a built-in wiper on the thumb to squeegee precipitation off goggles.  You might get away with wiping them with a gloved finger, but it usually leaves streaks that can interfere with your vision.   Exercise caution when wiping away mud since the grit in it may damage your goggles using either your finger or a glove-squeegee.  If rain or snow is making it hard to see, take time to stop and clear it off from time to time.   Ultimately you will get back to camp faster than by limping along blind and it could save you a nasty crash. If the crust on your goggles contains dirt or grit, take care removing it so you don't scratch the plastic.  If you are having problems with your goggles fogging up and don't have any anti-fog solution with you, try cleaning the inside of the lens with saliva.  This is a trick borrowed from SCUBA divers.  Yeah, it sound kinds of yucky, but just spit on the inside of the lens and wipe it all over and then dry the lens.  This will usually reduce fogging, at least a little.

On cold days I like to wear a nylon face mask when riding my dirt bike to keep my face and nose from freezing.  The only down side I've found is that if I cover my nose to keep it warm my breath fogs my goggles.  And if I uncover my nose so I can see better, my nose freezes!  It turns into a kind of balancing act, keeping my nose warm versus keeping my goggles fog free.  If the eye opening is large enough you may be able to keep the googles in contact with your face to avoid breath coming up from inside the mask into your goggles.  That isn't going to work if the mask has two separate eye holes instead of one large one.

Keep it clear!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Camping & Family Togetherness

Nothing brings a family together quite like camping. Whether you're jammed into a small dome tent or elegantly sequestered in a luxury RV, you'll have no choice but to be physically closer than you are in even the smallest home or apartment. Often that alone forces a level of personal interaction missing from our normal everyday lives. But physical proximity is not the only kind of closeness camping generates. Camping typically requires a level of cooperation and interaction that is sadly lacking in our modern, compartmentalized, electronic-oriented lives. Even the most affluent families are not likely to bring along the maid, butler, and/or chauffer on camping trips (although that might be an interesting experiment) and everyone is going to have to pitch in to make things work. Shared tasks and shared adventures create a kind of bonding that each doing his own independent thing lacks.

Camping may force a level of togetherness that families are not used to -- and some family members may have difficulty adjusting. Recognize this may happen and mentally prepare yourself for it.  It may take some patience and some work before it is comfortable, but it can be done and is more than worth it. In days gone by people lived in much smaller homes (many way smaller than today's RVs), with 2 or more generations sharing a single one room cabin. They managed, and usually formed very strong family bonds, though how they found enough privacy to continue having children after a few arrived is a question that deserves pondering.

Family-oriented activities are often the heart of camping and related outings. Our family choice has always been dirt-biking. While many of our rides included other members of our informal off-road group, we always set aside at least one as a family ride. Fishing, hunting, hiking, picnicking, bird-watching, and water sports also lend themselves well to a family focus. Exploring points of historical and natural interest together allow sharing of experiences that promote family bonding. With just a little practice you can identify many "teaching moments" where you can expand your kid's knowledge of science, nature, history, politics, religion, geography, and family history. Knowing they have ancestors who were directly involved in historic events helps bring those events to life. I recall that in grade school, every Thanksgiving teachers asked if any of us had ancestors on the Mayflower. I didn't learn until much later (when I was already a Grandpa) that the first of my family arrived in America as step-sons of Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony and also included John Alden and Priscilla Mullen in the family tree when one of them married a daughter of John and Priscilla. No doubt I would have paid a lot more attention to the stories of the Pilgrims and Longfellow's "The Courtship of Miles Standish" if I'd known they were talking about my own ancestors. Knowing something of YOUR family history might spur extra interest in historic events and sites.  BTW, Longfellow  (author of "The Courtship of Miles Standish") was also a descendant of John and Priscilla.

I'm not saying camping will cure a dysfunctional family, but, like chicken soup, it can't hurt, and may help create bonds that help prevent the fractures that lead to the relational gaps in the first place. If nothing else it gives everyone in the family a common base of shared experiences and that in itself helps tie folks together.  And lacking any other common interests, camping just might turn out to be the one thing that brings everyone together.   In Robin Willam's movie "RV", the family starts out really fractured and skeptical(even down right angry) about his renting an RV for their summer vacation, but by the end of the movie, shared experiences have brought them closer together than ever.  I doubt if any of us would do as well without the benefit of Hollywood script writers but in today's hectic world we need all the help we can get!

Family vacations create memories your kids will treasure their whole lives. I recall the story a young man told of how his large family had tried for years to save money to add a second bathroom to their tiny little house. But each year they tapped into the "bathroom savings" to finance a family vacation. The bathroom never did get built but after he left home he recalled those family vacations with great fondness. It is doubtful anyone would have remembered the new bathroom with the same passion.

For all its benefits, togetherness does have its limitations, especially if you're not used to it. Couples may want some privacy that is difficult to achieve in a tent or RV shared with other family members. You may need to plan or at least allow some time for individual activities or "quiet time". Being jammed together for several days can cause people to start to get on each other's nerves. Recognize this up front and arrange some break time at the first sign of tension building. Get out and take a walk or go for a swim. Go throw a ball against rock or a wall. Skip rocks across the lake.  Allow your companions a little personal space and make some for yourself.  In his book, The Prophet, Kalil Gibran, wisely advises "Let there be spaces in your togetherness. For the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow". But he also said "Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.", so don't go overboard on private time. You may have special need of spaces in your togetherness when squeezed into a camping environment, but making the most of being together is what is going to form familial bonds and forge fond memories.

Togetherness: Try it. You'll like it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Camp Trash

The "camp trash" I'm talking about is not be be confused with "trailer trash". Unlike "trailer trash", it isn't people, it is the garbage people sometimes (too many times!) leave behind when camping. That being said, people who do leave their trash behind quickly gain a reputation as "trailer trash".  Why would anything as mundane as camp trash deserve its own post? For one thing, way too many people fail to clean up after themselves when camping. Too many have the "I'm on vacation" attitude and think someone else should clean up after them. Or they're just careless and let things blow away. The old back packers adage "Pack it in; pack it out" definitely applies to all kinds of camping.  I've seen beautiful national forest campgrounds that, after a holiday weekend, looked like the downwind area next to a landfill. Such behavior is inexcusable. I was amused and inspired by an innovative park ranger who, after collecting two large bags of identifiable trash from a single camp site at the end of a holiday weekend, sent a letter to the city folks who had left it behind, notifying them they had left some personal belongings behind and he was shipping them to them C.O.D. and to watch for the package. Then he boxed up their trash and sent it to them -- at their expense! Imagine their surprise when, after paying the C.O.D charges, they opened the box, expecting to find a lost camera, cell phone, sweater or camping equipment and finding instead all the garbage they left behind for someone else to clean up. As I recall, these particular campers had consistently ignored posted rules and basic guidelines for acceptable behavior in general. I'm pretty sure they broke every possible rule. So they pretty much deserved it.  I'm pleased to report that the offenders were NOT OHV riders and that every time I've been camping with OHVers we've left our camp sites and the surrounding area cleaner and in better condition than we found them.  That isn't to say that all OHV riders are so considerate.  However, when our Desert Rat group sponsored a cleanup day at one of our favorite staging areas, we filled a 40-yard dumpster and very little of the trash we collected could be traced to OHV activities.  Most was household and construction debris dumped by residents of surrounding towns.  I've run other service projects and talked to organizers of other similar projects and they've experienced the same thing. How anyone can think OHVers are hauling sofas and toilets around on their dirt bikes and ATVs and dumping them is beyond me!

For all the conveniences of home of included in modern RVs, trash containers are usually conspicuously absent. In nearly 40 years of RV ownership I've only had one or two that came with even a small built-in trash can, about the size you normally use in a bathroom, certainly not adequate for a weekend family outing. Some of the huge, luxury, bus conversions may have trash compactors, but even those seem to be few and far between. A couple of motorhomes I owned had little a wastebasket built in to the counter top behind the sink. In all other cases, we've had to "make do" with plastic trash bags or putting a modest sized trash can in a cabinet or even in the shower in some cases. RV stores have plastic bag holders that can be attached to the inside of a cabinet door that will turn ordinary plastic grocery bags into convenient trash containers. If you have to resort to putting a wastebasket in the shower, use a bungee cord or other strap to secure it so it doesn't tip over on the road. The lack of trash receptacles in RVs reminds me of the anecdote about an architect who was designing a new cathedral. He sent the plans to the Cardinal for review and they came back with just one question "Are they angels?" After puzzling over the comment for some time, the architect discovered he had not included any restrooms in the design! I guess RV designers must think their customers are angels and don't generate any trash while camping. In reality the opposite is true. Camping often generates more trash than at home since we have a tendency to use more convenience foods, which means more packaging to dispose of.  I suppose the lack of a permanent trash container in an RV makes people use plastic bags and take the trash out more often instead of letting it collect and spoil in an enclosed space, but it sure is nice to have a handy trash can, especially when preparing meals.  And tent campers are not exempt!  You'll want to keep a trash receptacle handy when preparing your meals and cleaning up afterwards, even it its just a plastic bag clamped to the edge of your picnic  table.

Controlling outdoor trash. Most developed campgrounds will have trash cans and/or dumpsters conveniently located so you can easily dispose of your trash. They will often even have trash barrels at each camp site. When boondocking you'll need to provide your own -- and remember: pack it in, pack it out! Most of us don't have room to carry around a big trash can, but you can use large contractor trash bags, with or without a collapsible holder to corral your outdoor trash so it doesn't end up all over the landscape. Even the slightest breeze will send loose napkins, paper plates, and paper cups, scattering. Collapsible trash cans take up little room during transit but function like "real" garbage cans in camp.  Put a large plastic trash bag in one and you have really convenient garbage can.  When it comes time to empty it or head home, just pull out the bag and tie it off for transport to a proper disposal site. I modified some "quad" camp chairs to hold plastic bags and serve as medium sized trash receptacles. I removed the fabric seat then removed the back test. The result is a sturdy square framework that takes up little room during transit but conveniently holds large plastic trash bags in camp.  I've since discovered leaf bag  holders designed to  hold large contractor trash bags for yard work that work the same way.

Incinerating your trash. You can often reduce the amount of trash you have to store and bring home by burning combustible stuff in your campfire. Make sure there are no pressurized containers (like whipped cream, shaving cream, paint, or cleaning supplies) in the trash you put into the campfire. Otherwise you're going to get a nasty surprise that may cause serious injuries when the cans explode. Even tightly capped plastic water and soda bottles can explode with surprising force when they heat up, not to mention the toxic fumes from burning the plastic.  While plastic bottles don't generate the kind of lethal shrapnel that metal cans do, the explosions can send out a rain of hot coals and flaming debris.   Don't put batteries in the campfire. They do not burn well, actually, not at all! However, paper goods (plates, napkins, cups, bowls, and packaging) can be burned. Some folks prefer to avoid styrofoam or other plastic containers as they think they may emit toxic fumes when they burn, if you burn a lot at one time.  Most of the vapors from burning styrofoam are water and carbon dioxide, but they also emit a small amount of styrene.  Tin and aluminum cans often find their way into fire pits, but someone will just have to fish them out and cart them away sooner or later. Some light-weight aluminum cans may melt and even burn in a very hot fire, but here again, you don't want to be breathing the fumes from burning metal.  Campfire coals can  get surprisingly hot, especially if they are fanned by a light breeze, which effectively acts like a blacksmith's bellows.  Aluminum vapor doesn't make a good lining for your lungs! Better to crush cans and keep them separate for proper disposal or, better yet, recycling. Crushing them reduces the space they'll take up and can be made into a game for the young people in camp. Stomping down aluminum cans is pretty easy.  I've seen guys who think they're macho, smash them against their foreheads, but I certainly don't condone or recommend the practice!  Putting non-combustible materials in your campfire will soon fill the fire pit and make it ineffective and unsafe. You can probably get away with burning paper plates that still have food on them if no one is sitting around the campfire. Burning food can sometimes produce offensive odors, so burn such things before people gather around the fire or after they've gone or, at the very least, get their permission before dumping a bunch of smelly garbage into the fire. Wet kitchen garbage won't burn well and may smolder and give off smoke and offensive odors for a long time. Some people are allergic to certain foods, and exposing them to the smoke could cause serious reactions. If you insist on burning your peanut shells, you may need to have an epi-pen handy to counteract the anaphylactic shock that can result from an allergic reaction in someone who is allergic to peanuts. Be considerate.

Tent campers should follow the advice above for controlling outdoor trash. You may also find it convenient to hang a grocery bag inside your tent to collect candy wrappers, napkins, tissues, etc.  Another convenient spot for a trash bag is near your "kitchen" area or on the picnic table.  Having a place to collect trash instead of leaving it all over the place keeps your tent and your camp site neat and tidy and will save you a lot of time chasing errant trash and cleaning up at the end of the trip. Leaving trash lying around inside your tent invites pests -- insects and vermin -- that may chew up your gear as well as leave unwelcome, unpleasant, and unsanitary droppings.

Make it convenient. The secret to keeping trash under control is to make it convenient to put it where it belongs. Have trash cans or bags close where ever you are opening packages or preparing food. Clamp one to the end of your picnic table. Hang one on a door handle of your vehicle or RV. If you have to go all the way to the trash can in the shower in your RV to get rid of a hand full of trash it is likely to end up left out and get blown away. But if you have trash bag handy, you can keep it all together and make only one trip to the trash can at the end of the activity. Keep a bag near the entrance to your tent.  You might have a tendency to push it back out of the way, but then it won't get used.  Few RVs have garbage disposals.  Adding more solid waste to holding tanks isn't a very practical thing to do.  So food wastes go into the garbage.  Using small trash cans or bags and emptying to disposing of them frequently helps prevent the accumulation of smelly garbage in your tent or RV.

Collapsible trash cans are a convenient way to corral camp trash. They are inexpensive and take up little room in transit. Line them with a plastic bag to avoid permanent stains and odors. The bags can be deposited in the local dumpster or tied tight and hauled home for proper disposal. Collapsible trash cans come in a variety of sizes so they can be easily adapted to just about any need -- kitchen, bathroom, or outdoors. They are especially useful when you have a place to dispose of the bags of trash so you can close them down again for the trip home. Before the nylon collapsible trash bags became readily available, I cut down some inexpensive camp chairs to make them into trash bag holders. Essentially I reduced the chairs to their metal frameworks and removed the backrests, leaving a 4-posted collapsible frame to which I could attach trash bags. Worked like a charm. Another handy tip is to use or re-purpose an old collapsible clothes hamper as a trash bag holder.

At the end of your outing, have everyone make a pass through your campsite and adjacent areas and pick up an errant trash that has managed to escape. When I was in the army they called it "policing the area" and the drill sergeant who sent us out  about arms length apart barked all he wanted to see was "backsides and elbows". His exact words were a little more colorful but you get the picture. That way you leave the site in good condition for the next camper (who could be you again!). If you leave your trash behind you invite the next person to do the same. If you clean it up, you're setting a good example and encouraging subsequent users to keep it clean. Involving everyone in your group will also help them appreciate how important is it keep control of their trash through the outing and make the task go faster.

Most developed campgrounds have large trash receptacles (cans or even dumpsters) for your use but when boondocking you'll be responsible for hauling out your own trash.    Never leave your trash bags in camp or along the road.  Be sure to close the lids on any public trash receptacles when you use them.

Make sure any leftover trash you have to take home is well contained. Tie off plastic trash bags, even those in waste baskets to prevent them getting spilled and to control foul odors. Double-bag anything that has potential for making a mess -- things with sharp edges and particularly nasty or gooey stuff. I'd rather waste a couple of trash bags than have to scrub crud out of my carpet or have it seep under cabinets!  Ordinary plastic grocery bags make pretty good trash bags.  For larger, stronger choices, purchase kitchen trash bags or even contractor trash bags.

Keep it clean!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Old Fashioned and Nostalgic Camping Options

Camping itself, in any form is a kind of traditional, old-fashioned, nostalgic thing to do, even if you're "roughing it" in a fancy million-dollar motorhome. But if you want to "go retro" and experience an even greater range of pioneer activities, fall back to tent camping.  If you're already a tent camper, look for pioneer recipes and activities to spice things up.   But even if you still prefer the comfort of an RV, there are lots of traditional fun things you can do in camp.

Often the basis of getting the best of RV-based camping today is the latest gadgets and electronic entertainment systems while enjoying the luxuries of our homes on wheels or finding ever more elaborate and expensive conveniences for tent camping. Advertisements promote fancy and expensive upgrades and equipment and trying them out can be a lot of fun.  But sometimes it is also fun to step back and try something a little more traditional, perhaps even doing tent camping instead of staying in your RV or trying a more rustic form of roughing it other than fancy, multi-room dome tents. Or just schedule some traditional activities during your regular outings. You might substitute a kerosene lantern for the bright Coleman lantern or modern battery powered lights. Try cooking your bacon and eggs right on the campfire in a cast iron skillet. Maybe give your breakfast a pioneer flavor by having corn meal mush instead of oatmeal, best served with lots of butter and  honey. Ash cakes are another easy and tasty pioneer treat. They are simple to make and require few ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and water. Bake them directly on the coals or hot rocks. Then top or fill them with melted butter and honey or your favorite jam or jelly. Try sleeping outside, under the stars on the grass, or stringing your hammock between some trees some warm summer night. If you choose to sleep on the beach, make sure you are well away from the high tide mark! Also check for sand fleas before settling down. And don't forget to practice your survival skills by starting your campfire without matches. Ever pop popcorn over a campfire? You might have trouble finding an old-fashioned campfire popcorn cooker, but it will be a fun activity for kids of all ages if you can pull it off. Search online for "campfire popcorn popper" or "campfire popcorn cooker". You can also find fun recipes for "campfire popcorn", including an option for cooking it in aluminum foil -- if you can't get a traditional, long-handled campfire popcorn cooker. We like pies cooked in campfire pie cookers. They are long-handled, clam-shell type devices into which you place 2 slices of bread and put in your favorite pie filling. I was surprised how much the toasted bread tasted like pie crust.

Back to basics. If you're an RV camper, you might want to occasionally try tent camping trip for variety. If you're not sure you're up to it, maybe pitch a tent beside your RV so you can escape to its comfort if things get too bad outside. If your activities include horseback riding, hiking, or backpacking, consider spending a night or two on the trail in a cowboy bedroll instead of your $200 E.L.Bean sleeping bag or under the down comforter in your RV.

Campfire cooking instead of using your RV or Coleman stove offers primitive flavor to meals in camp (pun intended!). It can be quite an experience preparing meals on the fire and it may take a while to get used to it. Chances are you'll have under- and over-cooked parts of your meal until you master the technique, so be patient! Cooking can be done directly on the coals of the fire using cast iron cookware. A campfire grill will add a lot of convenience. There are several styles. Some have legs that fold down at each end and create a sort of bridge over the fire. Some have rigid legs. They are usually a little more stable, but are clumsier to transport. Another option is an 18" round grill that fastens to two steel posts using thumb screws. Just drive the posts into the ground with the grill over you fire (or build your fire under the grill). One I saw has a patented raised edge to keep food from sliding off into the fire. You might be able to make your own from the grill from a defunct backyard BBQ. I used such a grill for a cooking surface on our portable "R2D2" fire pit. R2D2 is the tub salvaged from on old washing machine. I use the agitator tube in the center to support a grill when we want to cook on it. Of course, you can cook over a campfire without a grill or without any cookware for that matter: meats and even bread can be cooked on a stick. Remember, things cook best over the coals, not in the flames. Most of us don't have the patience to wait for a good bed of coals before we start burning our meals over the flames, but for best culinary results, cook over coals.  Then you can enjoy roasted instead of burned hot dogs and marshmallows.

Candlelight. Candlelight is a nice way to add a romantic touch to dinner in your RV or at camp. Citronella candles are also helpful in keeping insects away outdoors. If you're going to be eating outside you may want to look for some windproof candle holders. They usually look like little lanterns with glass sides that shield the candle from the wind. Avoid using candles inside a tent, even if they are protected. If one gets knocked over on the floor or against a wall, poof! Your whole tent goes up in flames! Even though most tents are treated to be fire-resistant, I wouldn't want to bet my life on them being fire proof!

Quilts can add an old-fashioned touch to sitting around camp or sleeping.  In pioneer times quilts were essential to winter survival and our ancestors developed remarkedly god techniques for making them warm and sturdy.  These days we mostly lean toward high-tech sleeping bags or comforters so a home-made quilt is sort of novelty for most of us.   Our high tech sleeping options are carefully engineered to be warm and comfortable but you might be surprised just how warm and comfortable homemade quilts can be and they make an interesting item of conversation. I also have a couple of "Indian" blankets we use when camping. I'm pretty sure mine are commercial replicas instead of authentic items, but they're still kind of fun and very cozy. If you can lay your hands on the real thing, they'd be even more fun to use and to share with your fellow campers. A family quilt or a blanket with lots of family history can be quite a conversation piece and sharing its story may warm your heart as much as the quilt or blanket does your body.  A heavy Mexican serape is a nice way to stay warm around the campfire with an authentic old west flair.

Stargazing is more interesting and rewarding once you get out away from city lights. All you need is a star chart and clear skies. It is fun, entertaining, and educational to find constellations. Almost each one has an interesting history behind its name. I found it interesting that the "Seven Sisters" actually consists of only six stars, but its identity as seven stars is consistent across many different cultures.  Apparently sometime in the distant past there were seven stars there.   It is the model for the logo for Subaru. If you want to deepen your experience, invest in a telescope. I think the one I've used is just an 85mm model, yet with it I can see the rings of Saturn, the red color of Mars, and the famous Red Spot on Jupiter. BTW, the moon is too bright to explore using a telescope unless you add filters to reduce the glare. Ordinary binoculars can give you a better view of some of the craters and enhance star gazing but even then you will probably need filters so the glare doesn't hurt your eyes. After all, moonlight is reflected sunlight.  When looking at the moon you are indirectly looking at the sun.

Themed outings. It can be a lot of fun to plan an outing around a special theme, like cowboys, pioneers, miners, trappers, mountain men, or historical military events. You might even try using a teepee instead of tent if you have the means to purchase, borrow, or construct one. Do some research to make your outing as authentic as possible. Try to use period clothing, tools, menus, and activities. Today's kids are inundated by electronic games and modern sports. Check out some pioneer games on the Internet. You'll be surprised how much your kids and grand kids might enjoy them. An old-fashioned tug-of-war is suitable for almost any group and requires only a sturdy rope. A tug-of-war is made more interesting if there is a mud puddle in the middle for the losers to get pulled in to, especially if it is a hot day.   Another good physical game is the "stick pull" and can be done with just two people. The participants sit facing each other with the soles of their feet together and hold onto the same sturdy stick with both hands. Start with the stick centered between the two contestants.  The object of the game is for one person to pull the other person over. It is harder than it sounds and a lot of fun both to do and to watch! When was the last time you participated in a sack race or three-legged race? You don't need a lot of expensive equipment for activities like these and can organize them just about anywhere. Of course they're more comfortable on nice grass or beach than rough, rocky desert ground, but difficult terrain may just add to the challenge (and provide opportunities to practice your first aid skills).

Check out the options for alternate adventures. One I've read about and find appealing but haven't had a chance to try yet is a wagon train outing in Death Valley. Or, you might look into a cattle drive, a la "City Slickers". Even without the commercialism of the dude ranch setting of the movie, you might hook up with a real cattleman. If you opt for something like this, prepare yourself physically and mentally for the activities you'll be expected and even required to perform. Riding a horse for 8-12 hours a day is not something most of us are accustomed to doing -- or even riding in a wagon or stagecoach. You'll find it a lot more physically demanding than you might expect. If you're up to it, you might want to sign up for a one or two week survival school. That will not only be fun and challenging, but you'll learn valuable skills and gain insight into your own character. River rafting is another "back to nature" adventure that is usually quite exciting. Check around. There are various levels of rafting trips from leisurely family floats to demanding white-water trips to choose from. I've done the Colorado River from Blythe to Yuma in canoes with the Boy Scouts, a family trip on the Rogue River in Oregon, and a white water trip on the Kern River in southern California. Each one had its own special appeal and created many good memories. On ANY water adventure, make sure you always wear appropriate flotation devices in case you end up in the water instead of on it! And make sure you pack your gear in waterproof bags. And, no, Ziploc sandwich bags aren't waterproof enough if your gear gets dumped overboard! Invest is some good, marine-grade waterproof containers, especially for cameras, electronic equipment, dry foods, and medications.  Plastic containers like Tupperware are better than plastic bags, but unless they have secure latches they can still pop open.  True waterproof containers will have secure locking mechanisms to tightly clamp down the seals and keep them from accidentally coming open.

Water sports are pretty much a guaranteed hit on hot summer afternoons. Try bringing along enough squirt guns for the whole group (you can probably pick some up at your local "dollar store") and enjoy cooling each other off while practicing your marksmanship. A squirt gun fight often brings back memories of days gone by for us "older" folks and creates lasting memories for the youngsters. I was always surprised how boyish and playful my father became with a squirt gun in his hand. Today's "super soakers" are a really good way to cool each other off on a hot summer day -- if you have an adequate water supply to keep them filled.

Campfire activities are traditional hits for evenings. Sing-a-longs, story telling, and charades are all classic options. Ghost stories are a popular theme and seem to gain special believability around a campfire.Bring along your acoustic guitar and bone up on folk songs and traditional campfire favorites. Other traditional instruments include banjo, fiddle, tambourine, and harmonica.  In case you didn't know, a fiddle is the same thing as a violin, just played in a different style.  A harmonica is an especially good choice if you're hiking or back packing since is small and light weight and fits in a pocket. Even Survivorman carries a harmonica on most of his adventures.  Or, just sitting and watching the flames can be a relaxing way to end the day -- and stay warm and cozy as it cools down after the sun goes down.  Recounting the day's activities or planning tomorrow's are common campfire topics.  You don't really need any planned activities for a campfire to be a successful nostalgic activity.  Things will usually kind of take their own course.

Swap your bright, hissing Coleman lantern for an old-fashioned kerosene lantern. The flickering yellowish light offers far more ambiance with an Old West flair. They are quiet and can be turned down low for a romantic dinner in camp.  If you don't like the smell of kerosene, fill your lantern with liquid parafin (which is odorless) or a fragrant lamp oil.  Citronella lamp oil will help keep bugs away.

Traditional indoor games are especially good for passing the time on rainy afternoons or when it is too cold or windy around the campfire at night. Various card games, board games, and puzzles take up little room and provide hours of entertainment for young and old. Or bring along a few good books or those magazines you've been meaning to catch up on. I find RV and OHV magazines have special appeal when I'm actually involved in related activities. Try having a taffy-pull. Not only is it a fun activity, but the product is very tasty! Make popcorn over the campfire.

Easy outdoor games with a pioneer flair include a tug-of-war and a stick pull. For a tug of war you'll need about 40-50' of heavy rope. Tie a rag in the middle to serve as a scoring device or, for the really ambitious, set up your tug-of-war across a mud pit so the losers get dragged into the mud. For a stick pull you just need some sticks or dowels about 2-2 1/2' long and about 1 1/2" in diameter. Two people set with the soles of their feet together and both grasp the stick and pull. The object is for one to pull the other over. It isn't as easy as it sounds and it involves more strategy and leverage than brute strength. Various forms of tag can be a lot of fun and usually don't require any special equipment. Group games like "Red Rover" and "Mother May I" can be played just about anywhere you have enough people and a reasonably clear and level playing area.

Choose a rustic or nostalgic campground. These days there are tons of "luxury" campgrounds with fancy swimming pools and lots of electronic games to attract visitors. If you're looking for a more nostalgic experience, search out a remote mountain resort where you may find cozy cabins, wooded camp sites, open fire pits, horseshoes, and plenty of nature.

When it comes to nostalgic camping activities I generally recommend foregoing electronic entertainment devices, but movie night can be a fun activity too, if you have the facilities for it. Watching a favorite family or classic movie in your RV is a good option when the weather isn't inviting.  Or choose a movie that is relevant to your site or activity.   Movies have been around long enough now that many of them qualify as "nostalgic".   For broader social appeal, you might use a modern LCD projector to display the movie on the side of your RV for the whole camp to enjoy. Granted, this is moving more toward high tech than nostalgic, but many movies can be quite nostalgic even if the technology to present them is not. One enterprising camp store at Kennedy Meadows in California ran 16mm movies they got free from the local library on weekends to attract visitors. I lost track of the number of classic films we watched there.  Of course the store sold lots of sodas, popcorn, and ice cream snacks because of their free movies.  I applaud their innovative approach.  With light weight portable generators, movie night is even an option for tent campers. A lot of classic movies can be found in the bargain bins at Walmart and similar stores. With a little careful selection they might even be educational (but don't tell the kids that!). And don't forget the popcorn, which, by the way, if popped over a campfire can be adventure in itself.

Have some good old-fashioned fun!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Personal Safety

Fortunately, most recreational activities and destinations are pretty safe. But because RV owners and even tent campers are often perceived (rightly or wrongly) as affluent, they are all too often the object of crime. Besides ordinary theft, RVers and campers are sometimes the target of jealous rage or envy or just plain harrasssment by those who see their activities as signs of wealth and power they themselves lack or who disagree with their lifestyle. Sometimes campers are viewed as enemies by environmental extremists. I once had my parked dirt bike sabotaged by so-called environmentalists while I was working on a Forest Service service trail project.  While most of us rely on law enforcement to protect us, ultimately, your personal safety is your personal responsibility.  How can you best protect yourself and your investment against those who might seek to steal from you or harm you or your equipment?

There is an old saying that "locks just keep honest people honest". Certainly a determined criminal is prepared to disable or bypass locked doors or chained and locked equipment, but proper locks can prevent crimes of opportunity. Leaving your $1200 mountain bike leaning up against the back of your RV overnight or while you're away from camp is an invitation for someone to "acquire" it for themselves, if only for a short joy ride ,and it may come back damaged, if it comes back at all. Simply cabling or chaining and locking it up can discourage unauthorized use. Other, less expensive but easily transportable items, such as lanterns, camp stoves, camp chairs, sports equipment and portable entertainment equipment often tend to "grow feet and walk away" when you're not looking if they are left out and aren't secured or monitored. Clearly label your items so someone won't mistake them for their own and so you can identify them if they do go missing. Law enforcement often suggests etching an ID number on items. For camping, I like to tag my chairs, coolers, etc with vinyl tape that matches the patriotic red-white-blue stripes on my motorhome and trailer. It makes it really easy for me to locate my coolers, shovels, and camp chairs around camp.  Securely locking your RV or vehicle when you're away is the first step in preventing theft and vandalism but it may not be enough. You may want to add a security system. Often the sounding of a loud alarm will attract enough attention to discourage would-be thieves. Make sure you are well practiced in disabling the alarm before entering your vehicle so you don't enrage your fellow campers when YOU return late at night. Sliding windows on RVs are fairly easy to force open but there are locking clamps that can be installed on the track to ensure they can't be opened. Or just lay a piece of dowel in the track. Some folks have furry security systems.  You don't need a vicious, snarling, Rottweiler , even a yapping Pekinese may make enough noise to send would be thieves scurrying to find a target that will attract less attention.

Several RVers have suggested bringing their canine friends along to deter intruders. It is unlikely anyone is going to break into an RV with a pair of big growling Akitas or Rottweilers in the front seat! However, even a Chihuahua may make enough noise to send a would-be burglar looking for a quieter and less obvious target. You may not need to make your RV totally burglar proof, just harder to get into than others nearby. I heard the story of two hunters who encountered a bear. As they were running away, one said "We can't out run that bear." The other replied "I don't have to out run the bear, I just have to out run you!" Not a very considerate concept, but you get the idea. You don't have to make your RV 100% burglar proof, you just need to make it a less attractive target than others to reduce your chances of becoming the victim. Good locks, properly secured windows, and an alarm system (furry or electronic!) is a good start.  Outdoor motion sensitive LED lights are relatively inexpensive these days and may also serve as a  deterrent to would-be thieves as well as a convenience for you when you return after dark.  Thieves like to work in the dark so  it is difficult to see what they are doing and so they can't be easily recognized if they are seen.

Personal attacks in camp grounds are not very common, but have been known to happen. What can you do to prevent attacks or defend yourself is one does occur? Prevention often involves making sure you don't make yourself a likely target. Don't wander around lonely paths alone at night. If you have to make a late-night trip the the rest room alone, carry a large, heavy flashlight -- and be prepared to use it as a weapon if you're attacked. Many criminals rely heavily on a lack of defensive response from intended victims. Criminals are prepared and even planning to hurt you, but most ordinary people are NOT prepared to hurt even someone who is attacking them. If you are attacked, make as much noise as you can and be committed to inflicting as much pain on your attacker as you can as quickly as possible. You want to disable or discourage them before they can harm you. Taking some classes in self defense techniques might be helpful. You don't have to become a black belt in Judo or Karate, just learn how to protect yourself if you are the victim of a personal attack. Good street fighting skills will be far more useful during an attack than the choreographed movements of some of the popular martial arts. LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) officers advised downtown employees where I worked to always have their keys in their hand when they left the building and be prepared to gouge out an assailant's eye if they were attacked on the way to their car. That is a fairly easy maneuver and will put a serious kink in the plans of even the biggest and burliest attacker. Most "normal" people wouldn't think of inflicting that kind of injury on another human being so you have to prepare yourself mentally if you're going to be successful in protecting yourself and your family from "the bad guys".

Be polite. Just being polite to your neighbors and others you encounter while camping may help avoid confrontations. Keep your electronic entertainment systems at a reasonable sound level. If you are one of those people who like to feel the music as much as hear it, wear headphones so you don't disturb others within earshot. If you have kids or pets, keep them under control too.

Weapons. There are many laws governing possession and use of weapons, especially guns. Improper use of weapons can bring legal consequences for you that are far worse then your assailant faces. If you feel you need a weapon to protect you and your family, make sure you check out the local laws where you are going. Laws vary a lot, even from city to city, so be sure to investigate the local rules so you don't find yourself in more trouble than the thug who attacks you! I had a friend who was charged with a weapons violation even though he had a concealed carry weapons permit when he pulled over to answer a cell phone call in a school zone and a curious police office found a tactical knife in his car.  Motorhome magazine published a good article on carrying weapons titled "Have Gun Will Travel" in their January 2011 issue. A good online reference for the United States is Handgun Law US. In most jurisdictions you must have a concealed carry weapons permit in order to carry a concealed weapon. That usually applies to mace and pepper spray as well as guns and knives. However, since laws change frequently, any published resource may be out of date so always double check with local authorities to be sure of the current law. A major factor in deciding whether to carry a weapon is whether you are sufficiently trained and motivated to use it. Too often, homeowners are killed with their own gun when an intruder takes it from them. Remember, you have every right to defend yourself and your family, but you may not have the right to use deadly force to defend your property. If you aren't confident in your ability and commitment to use a weapon, you are probably better off not to have one around. An intruder is unlikely to hesitate to use your weapon against you, yet many "honest citizens" will hesitate, often to their own disadvantage, even in the face of imminent danger to them or their loved ones. If you carry a weapon, you not only need to know how to use it (through appropriate training and regular practice) you should be mentally and emotionally prepared to use it and know under what circumstances you can do so without undesirable legal consequences.  Be aware you may face criminal charges even when using your weapon in self defense.  When choosing a weapon and ammunition, consider your environment. Any high-powered projectile is likely to pass through your intended target and through the walls of your RV. For that reason many gun owners choose hollow point ammunition for their hand guns for self defense. It transfers more of the force to the target (which is a good thing if you want to stop an attacker) and is less likely to pass through and strike innocent bystanders. Some people will choose shotguns for the same reasons. A lot of people think shotguns have such a wide spread that they don't require much skill or accuracy. In fact, that isn't true at most self-defense distances (5-20 feet). At that range the pattern from a shotgun is only a couple of inches so you still need pretty good aim.  Shotgun pellets aren't as likely to pass through an assailant and penetrate walls and hit unintended targets. Many people are intimidated by just the sound of a 12-gauge shotgun being cocked so it may scare off some would-be intruders without the need to be fired. Likewise, staring down the gaping 12-guage barrel when one is pointed at you can quickly trigger a flight response. Even seasoned law enforcement professionals have been know to require a change of underwear after such an encounter.  Mace and pepper sprays are a good non-lethal alternative to firearms but they still sometimes require training and licensing. In an emergency, a can of wasp spray can effectively deter most attackers. It has a range of 15-20 feet, compared to 5-6 feet for mace and pepper spray so you can keep potential attackers far enough away so they can't hurt you or your family. If you spray them in the eyes, it is almost as effective as pepper spray. And there are no laws against having a can of wasp spray in your RV. Did you know there is a "heat" rating for peppers? The green and red peppers we enjoy in our salads have "Scoville Heat Rating" (SHR) of zero. Jalepenos score around 5,000. Typical consumer pepper sprays are rated around 200,000; the latest professional, law enforcement pepper spray has an SHR rating of around 5,000,000 -- 1000 times as hot as jalepenos. I have personally observed someone sprayed with professional strength pepper spray and experienced some of the over spray during body guard training. It is VERY effective. My friend is a pretty tough guy, but he was pretty much out of commission for at least a couple of hours. By the way, if you should accidentally spray yourself, we found Dawn dish washing detergent the best way to remove it. Using it in your eyes is not a very appealing prospect, but it beats leaving the oily pepper spray there! Some recommend using baby shampoo, but we found that, while it is gentler on your eyes than Dawn, it is too gentle to be effective in removing the oily pepper spray. If you get sprayed, you can count on being at least partially disabled for an hour or more. It is very hard to focus on anything else when your eyes are burning and you cannot see. No matter how macho or tough you are you will not be able to open your eyes once they've been sprayed.  By the way, as mentioned above, ordinary wasp spray makes a pretty good substitute for pepper spray and it requires no training or licensing.  It also has the advantage of a much greater range.  Pepper sprays are designed to be used at about 5'.  Wasp spray will shoot 15-20'!  How close to you want an attacker to get to you or your family?

Remote locations are attractive destinations for camping, RVing, and OHV activities. Most remote locations are pretty safe. However to ensure you won't become a target, camp in groups. A single RV way out by itself might invite a "crime of opportunity". We sometimes enjoy skeet shooting in the evening after a day of dirt biking in the desert. It is highly visible to any would-be intruders and lets them know we are an armed camp, and given the number of clay pigeons shot down, we're pretty good shots. We've never had any problems. I think it has more to do with the remote location and generally safe environment than it has to do with any show of weapons but making your strength known doesn't hurt. We've never even encountered any problems with theft of dirt bikes on any of our desert outings. Everyone pretty much cables or chains and locks their equipment at night to discourage any would-be scavengers, just in case.

Safety is a personal choice. Prevention is the best defense. Avoid giving would-be criminals an opportunity to take advantage of you or your family. Strength in numbers always beats becoming a lone and defenseless target. Try not to leave your camp site unattended. I am a licensed Personal Protection Specialist (Executive Bodyguard) and fully trained and certified in Monadnock police techniques, including batons, pepper spray, and defensive tactics as well as several tactical weapons. Even so, I consider prevention as the best approach to personal protection. If you choose to carry a weapon, make sure you know how and when -- and be prepared -- to use it. Learn a few basic self-defense techniques, practice the moves until you are comfortable with them, and prepare yourself mentally to use them when necessary. Never fear hurting an attacker -- they are fully prepared and have no qualms about injuring -- or even killing -- you! Most of us have been taught to avoid hurting other people and not to hit them in the head or face. Mentally prepare yourself to ignore that conditioning if you are attacked. Your goal should be to stop an attacker as quickly as possible. In professional terms is is called "neutralizing the threat". Your goal is not to kill or injure your attacker, only to neutralize the attack -- but often that may require hurting them. There may be consequences for defending yourself, but at least you may be around to do it! A friend of mine put it this way: "I'd rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6". You can't protect your family if you are out of commission. In any hostile situation, your immediate need is to discourage or disable the attack or neutralize the threat by discouraging or disabling the attacker(s) as quickly and safely as possible.  Avoid confrontations if possible.  I've always taught my kids to avoid a fight if possible, but if it can't be avoided, win it!

Safety First!