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, September 19, 2015

Fall Camping

Fall is when most campers put their stuff away for the winter.  But there are some really great experiences to be enjoyed as the leaves begin to turn.  Weather won't be too bad yet and is usually even more comfortable than hot summer days.  The cooler evenings are perfect for campfires.  You probably won't have to deal with freezing weather in early fall, but, depending on how high up in the mountains you go and how late in the season it is, you might encounter some pretty cold nights so be prepared to protect you and your equipment against snow and freezing overnight temperatures.  And bring your  cold weather clothing too.

Fall brings colorful leaf changes in many parts of the country.  Be sure to check out potential locations near you where you can enjoy the bright yellows, oranges, and reds as deciduous trees prepare to shed their leaves for the winter.  The only downside to seeking good viewing of fall foliage is that you may encounter heavier than normal traffic as others take the "scenic route" to also enjoy the colors.  Be aware that it is often freezing temperatures that trigger the dramatic changes in leaf color, so don't be surprised if you encounter very cold nights, especially at higher elevations.

Fall doesn't usually deliver the freezing temperatures of winter, but Mother Nature may choose to surprise you, so be prepared.  I remember a "Fall Encampment" I did with with one of my sons in Boy Scouts when it dipped to 24° overnight.  The next day it stayed pretty cold and we even got some snow.  The California boys were totally unprepared for temperatures that cold and took turns warming their hands and other body parts in front of the fireplace in the lodge.  Make sure the furnace in your RV is in good working order and that you have sufficient propane and battery power to keep it going.  If you're tent camping, bring along your tent heater and/or your cold weather sleeping bags -- or an extra set of sleeping bags in case you need to double up to keep warm.

Fall weather is usually more volatile than summer weather.  It might be beautiful when you leave home, but that can change rapidly, so be sure to check the forecast before you leave home and then monitor the weather during your outing.  A NOAA weather radio is one of the best ways to monitor regional weather but just listening to local radio stations may be useful. And, of course, keep an eye on the sky and check with local rangers or fellow campers familiar with the area to know what to expect for local conditions.  Remember, mountains, which are often a first choice of campers, often generate their own weather so what you see might not show up on regional forecasts.  While the weather seems to be rather fickle almost all year round, the fall variations tend to deliver  more unpleasant surprises than spring and summer. 

Camping facilities, especially Forest Service and other government run campgrounds, may begin to shut down as winter approaches.  Sometimes that means they are completely closed.  Other times they may have already shut off the water to faucets and bathrooms, but the camp sites ares still open to those who come prepared to do without an on site water source.  Commercial venues are less likely to shut down but you may still encounter some reduction in services so always check ahead of time so you don't get surprised and have to forgo your planned activities. 

If you are camping at a full hookup campground in an RV, be sure to bring along some heat tape to wrap your city water connection (hose and faucet) in case you encounter any freezing temperatures.  Often it is freezing overnight temperatures that trigger the magnificent change of leaf color that makes fall camping so much fun.  A heated water hose will solve part of the problem but you'll still need to protect the faucet itself with heat tape.  If you don't have heat tape, disconnect your hose from the faucet, drain it, and store it inside a protected cabinet each night.  If you leave it connected, the frost-free faucet can't drain and both your unheated hose and the faucet can freeze.  The faucet can still freeze if you use a heated hose.  If that happens YOU will be liable to the campground for the cost of repairing the freeze damaged faucet!  As you can imagine, they are not cheap and the labor to dig them up and replace them is not trivial, especially if the ground is frozen!  

When boondocking, make sure you have plenty of propane.  You're likely to use more for cooking and hot water as well as keeping the furnace going on colder nights.   You can get an "Extend-a-Stay" kit to connect an external propane tank to a motorhome to supply extra fuel for normal propane appliance, but since it supplies gas, it won't work for generators which tap into the liquid in the bottom of the fixed propane tank.  Night time temperatures can be surprisingly cold during fall weather. 

Cooler fall days are often a good time to hit the trails on your dirt bike, ATV, mountain bike, horse, or just hiking.  Moderate temperatures make for pleasant outings.  It is usually much easier to dress in layers to accommodate cooler weather than to try to stay cool when temperatures soar.  After all, there is only so much clothing you can remove when it gets too hot!

Fall is often hunting season in many parts of the country.  That can be a mixed blessing.  You may want to go camping to do some hunting, but if you are not a hunter, you may find yourself wandering around where they're likely to be shooting so you'll want to take appropriate precautions.  Wearing bright orange clothing is one way of distinguishing yourself from potential game but it is a better idea to avoid tramping around in popular hunting areas in the first place.  Most hunters are thoughtful and careful but there are always a few bad apples that spoil things for everyone else.  When I was growing up in Idaho a hunter was bragging in the barber shop that he "got off some sound shots but didn't hit anything".  When the barber asked him what he meant by "sound shots" he said "I heard a noise in the bushes and shot at it, but I didn't hit anything."  The barber proceeded to shave stripe down the middle of his head from front to back in a kind of reverse mohawk and when confronted by the hunter for what he did he defended his actions with a straight razor in his hand and said, in affect,"guys like you should be marked so everyone know who you are".  Taking any shot without a clear view of the target -- and what's behind it -- is never a good idea.  Even if you're lucky and don't hit something you shouldn't (like a fellow hunter!), obstacles in the path of the arrow or even a bullet can deflect the shot so you miss your intended target and possible hit something you didn't intend to shoot.

Fall into fun!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Spring Camping

Spring is an ideal time for many camping and other outdoor recreational activities.  After a winter off, most of us are beginning to experience the affects of cabin fever and need to get out.  The weather is usually mild, not too hot, not too cold.  Trails are usually in fairly good condition, unless you head out so early they haven't been cleared of winter windfalls or dried out enough to be usable.  You will want to check on trail status before leaving home.  Sometimes trails will be closed for a while due to blockages, snow, or mud.  Hiking trails are usually less affected than OHV trails.  Going around a closed sign on your OHV is a real no-no!  You are very likely to do permanent damage to the trail and that may result in a permanent closure.  In addition, you may find yourself and your vehicle in difficult or dangerous situations that can easily result in serious damage and/or injuries.  Just because the trail looks OK as far as you can see from the gate/trailhead, doesn't mean it is OK further along.  It will be well worth the wait to ride when the trail has been officially opened.  You might contact the local ranger station and volunteer to help with trail work so more trails can be opened sooner.  Trail work might include clearing fallen trees, repairing bridges and washouts, checking and adding or repairing signage or sometimes even re-routing trails where major damage may have occurred during the winter.

Spring is the perfect time for a shakedown cruise to check out new vehicles and equipment.  You will likely have days that are warm enough to test air conditioner in your RV or other transport and nights that are comfortably cool enough for campfires and to verify operation of furnaces and heaters.

Spring often gives you an opportunity to enjoy wildflower displays in many locations.  We even found some glorious wildflowers blooming in the Mojave Desert during some spring outings there in areas usually thought to be quite barren.  It might be worth doing a little online research to identify areas and timing for opportunities in or near places you normally visit.

Spring camping is a perfect cure for the cabin fever that we often experience during the winter.  Get out and get going.  Get some fresh air.  Exercise both your equipment and your body.  In many places spring avoids some of the air pollution that plagues places during the summer months when air tends to stagnate.  Occasional spring showers contribute to an awesome environment for camping and outdoor activities.

Spring has definite advantages for OHV riders.  First of all, the temperatures are usually mild so it isn't too hot for riding, making riding more pleasant for you and less stress on your machine.   In many cases the ground may still be little damp, minimizing dust and maximizing traction.  Some areas may still be green!  Spring runoff might even create temporary water crossings, so be sure you know how to handle them safely and without damaging the environment.

Spring is a great time for a shake down cruise to make sure you and all of your gear and equipment are in optimum condition for another season of activity.  Try to try out all your equipment so you can discover any needed repairs or replacements and get them done in time to let you enjoy a full camping season.

Put some spring in your step!