Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, sailing, 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. The organization is pretty much by date of publication because of how blogspot works. Please use the SEARCH option below to find what you are looking for.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Spring Is Just Around The Corner

Today is March 6.  The first day of spring is about 2 weeks away.  Of course, what the calendar says and how the weather behaves are often two very different things.  A couple of years ago we got around 3'of snow in late March!  That being said, it is still time to start thinking about getting ready for your next season of RVing, OHVing, camping, and boating.

Unless you live the in sunbelt you will probably have put all your RVs, OHVs, boats, and camping gear in winter storage several months ago.  Hopefully you did that correctly, making sure everything was clean and properly serviced before being put into storage.  If so, getting it ready for service now should be pretty straightforward.  If not, you may be facing a lot of tedious, unpleasant and possible expensive surprises!  Failure to properly prepare things for storage can result it premature failure of many pieces of equipment.  Damp tents and sleeping bags can mildew and rot.  Perishable provisions can go bad and create a nasty mess.  Gasoline motors that were left with fuel in the fuel system may need expensive cleaning before the engines will run again.  Tools may have gotten damp and rusted.

Regardless of the current status of your equipment, the sooner you inspect it, the sooner you can address any problems that might have developed and get them scheduled for repair.  If you put everything away correctly, preparation for the upcoming season should be pretty simple, mostly unpacking and inspecting things, updating expired provisions, and preparing motorized equipment for operation.  RVs and boats that were winterized to prevent freezing in cold climates will need to be purged of antifreeze and the water systems flushed and refilled for use this season.  All camping equipment should be carefully inspected as varmints can sometimes damage soft goods in storage and hard goods, like tools, may have rusted in damp climates.  Any damage should be promptly repaired.  Items beyond repair should be replaced.  Appliances, such as campstoves and lanterns and in RVs and boats should be tested to ensure they are ready for use.  Spiders seem to have an affinity for propane and often build webs and nests inside the propane lines and burners.  They can sometimes be cleaned out with compressed air but often require a thorough brushing with a special tubing brush to remove them.  Most rusty tools and equipment can be cleaned and lubricated so they can be put back in service.  Some badly rusted joints may require treatment with penetrating oil or even heat from a blow torch to loosen them up again.  Surface rust can be removed by light sanding.  Dull tools should be sharpened.  Wooden handles on hammers, axes, and hatchets may need to be sanded and rubbed with linseed oil.

Getting an early start can help you deal with more difficult and expensive repairs.  Having more time to work on things, order needed parts, or locate replacements will reduce the stress and allow you to spread the expense over more time before you need them for your first outing of the new season.

If you are like me, a lot of my camping equipment may be getting kind of old, but still useful.  Older equipment is sometimes difficult to find parts for.  One of the first places I look for obsolete parts is ebay.com.  craigslist,com is another pretty good option.  You might find equipment at garage sales, thrift stores, and second hand stores that can serve as replacements or as donors to repair what you have when new replacement parts are no longer available.  How camping equipment is used is both good news and bad news.  The good news is that when we find it, it is often still in good shape.  The bad news is most of us never get to use it enough (which is why we can still find older stuff in good shape!).  Sometimes I would rather buy an older piece of equipment in good condition that even a grand new one.  One prime example that comes to mind is the carrying cases for Coleman lanterns.  The older ones were made of metal and had a nice square shape that fit well into storage compartments.  The newer ones are made of plastic and are kind of bulky.  The plastic may actually provide more shock protection and are more resilient to dents and corrosion, but I still prefer the older ones.

After a winter away from outdoor activities, getting our stuff ready to use can be kind of fun and cathartic.  Sometimes we may have even forgotten about some of  the pieces of equipment or the tools we have in our kit.  Going through everything and inspecting it refreshes our memories of what we have and where it is so we can find it when we need it during this new season of fun.  So spring preparation can have a lot of useful benefits as well as being kind of fun after our winter hiatus.

Spring also means the beginning of Daylight Savings Time in most US states.  "Spring ahead; fall back" is a good way to remember which way to change the clocks.  I kind of like the "fall back" change better as it yields an extra hour of sleep instead of stealing one!

Spring into spring cleaning!

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Happy New Year: Go Campers!

First I want to thank all those who have viewed this blog during the past year.  And I want to give a special thanks to those who took time to leave comments.  Your feedback helps inspire me and is often useful to other readers.

The New Year is a good time to make new plans for camping, boating, and off roading. Very few if any of us every get to do our favorite recreational activities as often as we would like.  Looking ahead to a New Year is an opportunity to commit to fulfilling some of our wishes -- things we wish we had, things we wish we did, places we wish to go.

Each New Year many people make New Year's Resolutions.  Unfortunately, many of those resolutions are just good intentions that never get implemented.  You can avoid this problem by either not making any resolutions at all or by only making resolutions you know you can and will complete.

For campers, RVers, OHVers, boaters, and other outdoor recreationalists,  New Year's Resolutions often take the form of goals they want to achieve in the next year.  They can be helpful in focusing attention and resources on your priority goals.  If you really want to implement your New Year's Resolutions, make sure they are reasonable.  For most of us a goal to purchase a million dollar motorhome this year is not at all realistic while a goal to upgrade so some reasonable level might be.  You can still hang onto that dream (or pipe dream) of a million dollar motorhome in your fantasy folder.

Some more mundane but potentially important goals might include completing needed repairs or upgrades to your equipment or planning visits to new destinations.  

Once again, make sure you plans can be accomplished with the resources you have available.  A goal to spend a week camping on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon is way beyond just about anyone but Elon Musk, but a visit to someplace like The Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park is probably within reach for most of us, depending on how far we live from those magnificent attractions.  And there are wonderful places to visit all over the country, so do some exploring!  Many places offer historic or geologic insights that are informative and entertaining.  Making a resolution to visit an important historical site near your home might be a good, achievable resolution that would pay many dividends.

Some very worthwhile goals might include establishing a regular schedule to perform required and preventative maintenance on your recreational vehicles and equipment.  Set aside some time, perhaps every week or at least every month, to inspect, clean, and maintain all of your equipment.  Taking a little time to clean things up regularly can help you detect problems early so they are easier and less expensive to take care of.  Cleaning is usually a good way to thoroughly inspect each item.  Look for damage, normal wear and tear, and any stains or foreign substances that might interfere with normal use.  Any issues left unattended are only likely to get worse over time.  Be sure to lubricate any moving parts with the appropriate lubricant.  I like to use a dry Teflon lube on things like awnings and camp chairs so it doesn't stain the fabric.  Some mechanical parts require a specific lubricant.  You are probably already familiar with the grade of motor oil engines on your vehicles require.  Other mechanical parts require different types and grades of lubricant, such as gear oil in manual transmissions and differentials and grease in wheel bearings.  RV slide-out mechanisms require a specially formulated lube that clings to the moving parts without dripping onto the floor underneath while providing sufficient lubrication to ensure smooth movement and reduce wear.  A drop or two of just about any kind of oil is all that is usually needed in the manual fuel pump cylinders on gasoline stoves and lanterns.

Another worthy goal that most of us should be able to accomplish is setting aside time for our desired activities.  Having made a New Year's Resolution to, for example, go camping, boating or dirt biking at least once a month may help you to avoid putting it off.  It is all too easy to allow normal day-to-day things to keep us from having fun.  Sticking to a New Year's Resolution might give you a little more incentive to make time for the fun you and your family need and deserve.  Once again, make the goal one you actually can achieve.  Weekly outings are probably too much for most people while monthly forays might be within reach of almost everyone.

Here is an admittedly self-serving suggestion:  resolve to review this blog at least once a week!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2022

Drones For Campers, Off Roaders, and Boaters

Recreational drones are becoming fairly commonplace among outdoor enthusiasts these days.  As cost comes down and both the ease of operation and licensing and legal requirements diminish it becomes every more accessible to everyone.  However, not everyone appreciates the proliferation of drones around our campground and other outdoor activities.  They can sometimes be kind of a nuisance and may even intrude on individual privacy.  Having someone else's drone buzzing around your campsite can be very annoying.  Sometimes recreational drones interfere with legitimate aircraft operation.  For example, drones flying around an accident scene or incident can prevent emergency helicopters from landing to give aid.

Some people fly drones just for the fun of it.  Just getting the thing to go where you want it to can be challenging and viewing the things you can see from the drone can be exciting.

You might use a drone to explore potential campsites.  You probably wouldn't really need one in developed campgrounds although you might still use them to pre-view potential choices.  But they could come in really handy for checking out dispersed camping sites where hidden obstacles along the way could seriously impede your progress or damage your equipment.

Drones can be really useful for off roaders.  Whether you are riding a dirt bike or driving a rock crawler, it can be helpful to scout the trail ahead.  Or to send out the drone to look for missing fellow riders.  Sure wish we had them when our kids were young!   Tracking down 6 kids out the the desert when they were overdue to return was often a real challenge.  At one point I started thinking about buying an ultralight aircraft for the purpose.  A drone would have been a lot better and easier and less expensive solution.

Boaters might use drones to explore shorelines or view rigging on sailboats.   It could be really helpful to know if there any debris that would interfere with using a cove as an anchoring site -- or if it is already filled with other boats before you get there.

Some drones require FAA licensing or at least registration.  If you own or buy a drone, be sure to comply with all the necessary regulations.  This is important for your safety as well as the safety of others.

Operating a drone requires a certain minimum amount of training and skill.  There are a number of good Youtube videos to both introduce you to operating a drone and to enhancing your skills and capabilities.  But, just being able to manage the controls and get the drone to go where you want it to go is only part -- the easiest part -- of operating a drone.  Much more thought and understanding is required to make sure you operate your drone in a safe and acceptable manner.  Safety largely involves avoiding flying your drone where it can create a hazard for others.  There are legal limits on how high you can fly a drone (400 feet above the ground), but even at that altitude they can interfere with larger aircraft operating in the area.  One thing I have encountered as a volunteer firefighter is drone interference with our Life Flight helicopters.  Basically, if a drone is operating anywhere near one of our landing zones, the helicopter can't land.  A delayed landing of a Life Flight helicopter could literally mean the difference between life and death for some of our patients!

Acceptable drone operation also includes significant consideration for privacy.   Sure, it is possible to fly your drone over your neighbor's back yard and even take videos through his windows.  But it is not ethical nor legal to invade someone else's privacy or property without permission.  As fun as it might seem to spy on your neighbors, don't do it!

Drones are sometimes excellent resources for emergency services personnel.  The fire service is learning to use them to get more detailed views and information about fires and motor vehicle accidents.  They can also be used during river rescues to quickly scan the river for victims who have often been carried far from where they were last seen.  One problem emergency services drones sometimes encounter is interference from recreational drones.  ''Ordinary citizens'' are naturally curious about many emergency situations and may launch their personal drones, perhaps to learn more about what is going on but often just for entertainment.  Those personal drones can interfere with and restrict the operation of  legitimate emergency services drones and that could delay critical actions necessary to respond to the emergency.

Some commercial companies have begun to experiment with using drones to deliver packages.  It some ways that seems like a very good idea, a low cost way of making personalized deliveries quickly.  However, think about what will happen if drone deliveries become ubiquitous.  Imagine dozens or even hundreds of delivery drones buzzing around your neighborhood!  Obviously this will eventually require some kind of regulation and coordination, including prioritization.   One would certainly hope that delivery of life sustaining medications would take priority over delivery of a McDonald's Happy Meal!

Recreational drones can be fun and educational.   And they can provide important services.  I wish we had them when we were dirt biking with my 6 kids years ago!  It would have been so nice to be able use a drone to keep track of them or to help locate them if their bikes broke down far from camp.  Likewise they might be useful in searching for lost hikers or lost pets or scouting routes for hiking, biking, or riding OHVs or horses ahead of time.  There was a time I even considered buying an ultra light airplane to have to look for lost riders.  A drone would have been a LOT better solution!

One word of caution when buying a drone.  There are companies out there offering "free"drones.  Beware!  They usually come with a hefty monthly (and often hidden) "subscription" to some online service you probably don't even want!  That subscription may be as much each month as you would pay to buy a drone on amazon.com!

If you own or are considering buying a drone, please take the time to learn how to fly it properly.  And remember, that means a lot more than mastering the technical skill to make it fly!  Know when and where to fly -- and when not to!

Drone on!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

December 12, 2022 -- Winter Solstice and First Day of Winter!

Today is December 21, 2022  It is the winter solstice (shortest day of the year) and is the first official day of winter.  By now you should have already winterized all your recreational vehicles, off highway vehicles, and camping gear.  If you haven't you'd better get it done quickly, especially if you live in a 4-seasons climate.  As temperatures drop, anything with water left in it is going to freeze.  Since water expands when it turns to ice it can destroy plumbing and any container that isn't flexible enough to accommodate the expansion without cracking or breaking.

You don't have to be a Druid to appreciate the Winter Solstice.  It is the shortest day of the year and marks the end of days getting shorter and the beginning of them getting longer again.  For primitive cultures this was a significant, almost magical or supernatural and very welcome event.   It is still a very welcome event for us today, especially for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Winter Solstice often falls on December 21 as it did this year and will do again in 2023.  However, it may shift a day or two from year to year.  That is because our calendar does not exactly match the actual movements of the Earth.  Our calendar uses 365 days a year, with 366 on leap year.  The actual orbit around the sun takes 365.256 days.  Leap year approximately accounts for most of the .0256 day difference every 4 years, but there is still a .006 day variation that isn't accounted for quite as regularly.  Leap years are skipped when the year is divisible by 100 but not divisible by 400.  Thus, 2000 was a leap year but 2100 will NOT be a leap year.

Traditionally, the winter solstice has been a time to celebrate the harvest, the return of the Sun, and the dichotomies of life and death.  Harvest is usually complete by winter solstice and since it marks the shortest day of the year, it is the end of days getting shorter.  Daylight will last a little longer tomorrow than it does today.  The transition of days getting shorter to days getting longer seems to be an appropriate reminder of life and death.  Some winter solstice traditions include the burning of a Yule Log.  Today, Yule Logs often include candles and many seasonal decorations.

Traditional menu items for winter solstice celebrations include nuts, berries, squash, potatoes, and meat, just what you might expect to be readily available this time of year.  Modern societies don't generally make a big deal out of it, but in pagan societies, winter solstice was a significant cause for celebration.  It is very likely that our celebration of Christmas on December 25 is at least loosely connected to ancient winter solstice rituals.

If you are looking for an excuse to have a party, winter solstice isn't a bad choice.   You may have to a bit of research to establish any realistic themes or activities, pretty much all of which will have pagan roots.  Just celebrating the start of winter might be kind of fun and given modern attitudes toward winter, it might include winter activities such as skiing, ice skating, sledding, tobogganing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling.  Your winter solstice feast might include meat, potatoes, and wassail (usually made with beer, wine or cider and spices and served hot and is used to toast someone's health).

Here's to ya!

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Winterization Reminder

Just a quick reminder that if you live in a 4-season climate, it is time to winterize your RVs, OHVs, and camping equipment.  Since I have covered winterization in detail in previous posts I won't repeat it here, just cover a few basic topics to help remind you of what you need to be doing.  Not properly winterizing your RVs, OHVs, boats, and camping equipment can expose them to severe damage caused by freezing in cold climates and may invite mold and mildew or damage by pests everywhere.  Water systems are usually a primary focus of winterization.  In cold climates unprotected systems can freeze and since water expands when it freezes, freezing can cause significant damage that can be expensive, sometimes impossible, to repair.  In milder climates water systems stagnant water may develop bad odors and can even accumulate toxic mold and mildew.  Winterization focuses mainly on freeze protection because that is most likely to cause severe damage, but properly cleaning and storing everything is critical to keeping it in good working condition and prevent unwanted damage during storage.  Soiled tents, sleeping bags, and clothing will attract pests that can wreak severe damage on the soft materials.  Bugs (including moths) eat holes in things; mice chew things up and leave nasty droppings everywhere;  mold and mildew weaken fabrics as well as giving them bad odors that are sometimes impossible to get rid of.  A little extra care in preparing your items for storage and prevent a lot of this kind of damage.

Keep an eye on the weather, especially dropping temperatures.   You want to make sure you have winterized all your camping gear and recreational vehicles BEFORE you get regular freezing days and nights.  As long as the temp remains above 32F water and water-based products won't freeze but below 32F they will begin to freeze.  RVs will usually withstand a little freezing overnight temperatures but when it drops below 24F or so at night and never gets above freezing during the day they will be very likely to experience frozen water systems if they have not been properly protected.  Water expands when it freezes with enough force to rupture even sturdy steel pipes.  The plastic pipes and water tanks on RVs are even more susceptible to freeze damage if not protected.

Any vehicle or piece of equipment that includes water needs to be freeze protected.  Either completely drain any water based systems or replace the water with potable RV antifreeze.  Engine cooling systems should be protected with automotive antifreeze of the proper concentration, usually 50-50.

RVs and OHVs that will be stored for next season need to be cleaned and serviced.  If they have water cooled engines, make sure the coolant contains enough antifreeze to protect them against freezing.  Today's gasoline with ethanol deteriorates quickly so it is best to drain fuel and purge fuel from fuel systems.  Turning off the fuel at the tank and letting the engine run until it runs out of fuel usually does the job.  Then drain the tank.   Additives such as Stabil can extend the usable life of gasoline but draining the tank is more reliable.

Camping equipment needs to be clean and dry when put in storage for the winter.  Damp and/or dirty items are subject to rot, mold, mildew, and insect damage.  Perishable provisions should be removed and each one stored appropriately.  Gasoline fueled appliances liked stoves and lanterns need proper fuel treatment.  Camping and OHV clothing along with tents and bedding should be cleaned and stored where it will be safe from pests (insects and rodents mostly).  Adding moth balls or used dryer cloths to the storage container will help deter pests.   Using dryer cloths avoid having the unpleasant smell of moth balls on your clothing or linens.

Camping tools, such as axes, hatchets, shovels, etc. should be properly cleaned, repaired, and oiled before storage.  Metal parts that are not protected are likely to rust.  Wooden handles benefit from being wiped down with linseed oil to prevent them from getting over dried out while in storage.  Canopies and camp furniture should be clean and dry before being put into storage.  Any moving parts should be lightly lubricated.

The off season is usually a good time to perform preventative maintenance and/or upgrades to your equipment.  Doing so during this time lets you take advantage of  "down time" to work on stuff without impacting normal usage and gives you something related to your hobbies to do during the off season.  You might also be able to take advantage of reduced off-season prices.  Or, if you snagged some bargains during year-end clearance sales, now is a good time to get them assembled and or installed.  You might have to wait until next season to try them out, but you will have them ready to go when weather does permit taking out your rig.  Go over your "to do" list for your camping stuff.  Winter is a really good time to make repairs or improvements without impacting your camping schedule.  It is also a fun way to stay involved with your hobbies when heading outside isn't desirable or practical.

You can also use the off season to review and catalog the last season's activities and do research and make plans for next year.   The sooner you document your activities, the better chance you will capture accurate memories of them.  Converting camping log books into more detailed histories for example.  You might be able to expand on some of your camping notes before the memories fade.   Or copying hand written logs into electronic format for easy long-term storage and retrieval. Researching new equipment and new destinations can be a fun way to use the time you normally spend participating in your chosen activities the rest of the year.  Finding things to add interest, fun, or convenience to your camping experience is always a productive use of time.  Identifying new places to go and explore expands your options along with bolstering your knowledge of your environment.  I found it was a lot of fun to learn more of the history of the mining camps and communities where we went dirt biking in the Mojave Desert.   We even got to visit the crash site of one of the X-1 test planes.

Make good use of your off time!


Monday, October 10, 2022

RV Power Cords and Adapters

 RV power cords and adapters are pretty straightforward.  Just plug them in and you're all set, right?   Well, maybe.  If you have the right cord and the right adapter and plug it into the right source, it really is that simple.  However, if any of those are NOT right you could and probably will  have problems.

Most RVs come with an attached power cord that is appropriate for the power needs of the unit.   Most RVs have either a 30 amp or 50 amp electrical system.  30 amp systems have a 3-prong plug; 50 amp systems have a 4-prong plug.  It is virtually impossible to plug these into the wrong receptacle without using some kind of adapter.  I have seen some truck campers and older trailers that have a separate power cord and it is easy to use the wrong one here.  The unit is equipped with what is called a ''motor base''.  This is essentially a recessed male electrical plug into which the female end of an ordinary extension cord can be plugged in to supply modest power needs of these small RVs.  If anyone has added electrical components, such as heaters or even TVs that significantly increase the power demand these connections might not be adequate.  Likewise if any RV has significant electrical additions it could exceed the capacity of the original power cord.  Most RVs use a 3-prong, 30-amp power cord but some larger units have 4-prong, 50-amp power cord.  Regardless of which one you have, it is imperative that you do not exceed the rated capacity!  Monitor use of appliances with high power draws, such as air conditioners, electric dryers, and electric heaters and make sure you don't try to run too many at the same time.  Even some hand-held devices, like hair dryers, consume significant amounts of electricity.

There are many different types of adapters available to give you more options.  However, just because you CAN install an adapter it doesn't mean you SHOULD use it!  You can get adapters that let you plug your 30 or 50 amp RV cords into an ordinary 15 amp household receptacle.  That is OK if you don't try to run any high-amperage appliances (like air conditioners).  It will usually run your lights and power the fan on your furnace just fine.  A lot of RVers use a 15 amp adapter when running electric heaters in their RVs in the winter and that is BAD NEWS!  Very often the adapters will overheat, even to the point that they melt and could cause a fire.  Using an adapter to plug a 30-amp cord into a 50-amp receptacle shouldn't be a problem since the power available exceeds the demand from the 30-amp rated vehicle but you should still keep an eye on power usage so you don't exceed the rated capacity of your RV power cord or the adapter.

Another common problem of inadequate connections comes from using adapters and ordinary extension cords with standard 30-amp or 50-amp RV power cords.  Adapters are available that allow you to connect both 30 amp (3-prong) and 50 amp (4 prong) RV cords to regular 15 amp female outlets and ordinary extension cords.  These allow you to use low demand features like the 12-volt lighting but should NOT be used if you are using higher demand appliances like heaters or air conditioners.  NEVER use less than a 12-3 extension cord.  12-3 means it uses three 12 gauge conductors.  Smaller gauge cords will be likely to overheat and short out, possibly caused a fire.  Smaller gauge cords are less expensive but will cost you more in the long run because they can cause damage to electrical motors and appliances as well as increasing the risk of a catastrophic failure of the cord itself.  There are small, self-contained adapters that connect RV plugs directly to 15 amp female receptacles.  These will usually work fine for just running the lights, but if you use them to run heater or any other high amperage appliances they will over heat.  I have seen them melt both the female receptacle on the extension cord and the plug on the RV cord to where they could not be separated.  Larger, more expensive adapters consist of separate plugs -- a receptacle for the RV plug on one end and an ordinary 3-prong 15 amp plug on the other, connected by a heavy duty cable.  These adapters will be less prone to over heating but using high demand appliances in the RV could still result in damaging the connections or over heating the extension cord.  Also be sure to fully extend extension cords when using them.  If you leave part of them rolled up they can overheat often to the point of melting the rubber outer layer and perhaps causing a fire!

I recently had an RV shop tell me they get lots of customers asking why their adapters burned up and they said virtually all of them had been running electric heaters in their RVs.   They do that, of course, to prevent freezing during cold winter months, and it seems to work OK -- until the adapters burn up!  Much better to properly winterize the water systems on the unit and remove all contents that might freeze.  And you won't be wasting money running the heater!

If your RV is too far from the receptacle for the built in power cord you can purchase both 30-amp and 50-amp extension cords.  They are not cheap, but they will function properly and safely.  And they can be used for very long reaches.  I recently read that cables appropriately sized for 50-amp RV cords can be used for up to 60 miles!  30-amp version are rated up to 20 miles.  No one is going to run extension cords any where near that far, but is nice to know they will work properly for our RV if we need to run an extra hundred feet or so.  The general rule for ordinary extension cords should not exceed 100 feet!  If you must use an ordinary 3-12 extension cord to reach or RV avoid using any high-power appliances.  About the only safe thing to run is lights; A/Cs and water heaters will exceed the capacity of the 3-12 extension cord and/or adapter.

Proper handling of power cords is essential to ensuring good connections and long life.  The most common abuse comes from mishandling the connectors  You should always plug and unplug cords by getting a firm grim on the connector.  Pulling or pushing on the cords tends to break the cord right where it enters the connector, which can cause failure, might shock or even electrocute you, and could start a fire!  Similarly, bending cords close to the connectors weakens the wires and can cause problems.  Of course, you won't have good results if the plug isn't inserted firmly into the receptacle either.   Another fairly common problem is leaving excess cord rolled up when in used.  This can result in heat buildup that can melt the insulation, which results in failure and possible fire.  Cords can be damage by being run over or dragged over sharp objects.  Inspect all your electrical cords frequently and replace or repair any that have been damaged.  Small nicks in exterior insulation can sometimes be temporarily repaired using electrical tape, but cords with deeper cuts should be replaced or the damaged section cut out and proper repairs made to reconnect the remaining good parts.  If you are not absolutely sure you know how to make proper, safe repairs, replace the cord or have it repaired by a professional.

Using the right power cord, adapters, and extension cords (if needed) can deliver safe and adequate power to your RV.  Proper connections will relieve you from having to worry about damaging appliances and equipment in your RV, melting adapters and connectors, or over heating the extension cord.

Power up safely!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

RV Covers

The best way to protect your RV from sunlight and weather is to put in a garage or at least under a carport.  However, those are not viable options for many RV owners.  Not everyone has room on their property for an RV garage or even a carport and construction costs can be very expensive.  Structures have to be extra tall to accommodate most RVs.

The next best option is an RV cover.  Some folks make due with tarps, but they have definite disadvantages.  For one thing, they don't really fit your RV.  A second problem is that many tarps prove to be somewhat abrasive where they contact RV surfaces.  And they don't breathe.  Sure, one of the purposes of any RV cover is to protect the rig from rain and snow, but RV covers are made to be breathable so moisture trapped under the cover can escape while tarps are nearly waterproof and will trap condensation inside, which can be detrimental to the unit being stored.

As fall approaches, it is just about time to start planning winter storage for your unit.  If you don't already have an RV cover now would be a good time to measure your unit and start looking for a good value on an RV cover to fit it.  Custom made covers will fit the best, but will be the most expensive.  I purchased an off-the-shelf universal cover of the right size for my 36' Holiday Rambler Vacationer and have had excellent results.  It fit quite well.  Even the zippered door was exactly where it needed to be to line up with my RV door.  I have had it for about 5 years and it is holding up very well.

Covering your RV with a tarp, while not ideal, could be better than leaving it exposed.  Try to avoid having the tarp contact any painted surfaces where it could rub the paint away.  Stake it out so it is secure but leaves a little room underneath for circulation to prevent condensation and moisture buildup.  Making a framework of PVC pipe to hold a tarp up over an RV might be an affordable way to get fairly good protection without the problems associated with having a tarp in contact with the RV.

Installing an RV cover can be quite a project.  It works best if you have an extra person or two to assist you.  Unpack the cover and determine which end is the front.  You may have to lay it out on your driveway or in a parking lot to find the front.  Then re-roll it from the back.  Carefully get it up to the roof of your RV.  If you are comfortable with the weight you might be able to carry it up while climbing your RV ladder.  If not, climb on upon the roof and use a rope to haul the cover up.  I like to start by laying the rolled cover in the center or the roof near the back of the RV, then unrolling it all the way to the front before spreading it out and down over the sides.  Be sure to remove or flatten any antennas or other obstacles that might poke holes in the fabric before rolling it out.  One way of dealing with things like roof vents is to put a plastic tub up-side-down over them to support the cover.  Once the cover is fully extended down all 4 sides of the RV get down and pull it snug and, if it has a door zipper, try to align the opening with the RV door.  There are usually straps on the front and back to snug it down and ropes to pass underneath the unit and tie off on the other side.  You don't want to pull it so tight it stresses the fabric anywhere but it should be snug enough to keep it from flapping in the breeze.  If you are using a universal cover, make sure the zipper for the door is on the right side before you tie it down.  You may also have a little bit of leeway to adjust the cover to line up the zipper with your RV door.

Keep the cover clear of debris while it is in use.  That usually means getting up on top of your RV and brushing leaves or pine needles away periodically.  Accumulation of debris can hasten rot and can sometimes add weight that puts unnecessary stress on the fabric and even the roof structure.  Snow removal is also a good idea if and when it can be done safely.  You might want to try clearing snow and other debris from the roof by standing on a sturdy ladder beside your RV instead of walking on the covered roof.  Trying to walk on the covered roof can damage the cover and can be dangerous.  You might trip over obstacles hidden under the cover or be tripped by folds in the cover itself.

If your RV is stored anywhere near trees, frequently check to make sure no limbs or branches have fallen on to the unit and damaged the cover.   Carefully remove offending sticks and patch any holes they may have made in the cover.  Small, temporary patches can be made with duct tape.  For more permanent patches sew small tears and use similar fabric to patch larger holes.  Sometimes you can scavenge patch material from the storage bag if your cover came with one.

If you run your RV now and then while in storage (as you should about once a month), be sure the cover is clear of the tail pipe and air intakes.  The same thing applies to the furnace and water heater if you need to use them while the unit is in storage.  I have seen vents burn holes in RV covers and it could ignite the cover and burn up your RV!

Removing your cover in the spring is another strenuous task.  Once again, having an extra person or two to assist you is usually very helpful.  First, sweep any debris off the cover.  Then unfasten all the straps and ropes, then make sure the cover is clear from bumpers and mirrors.   You might want to mark the FRONT before you roll it up.  Then remember which way you roll it!  It will make putting it back on easier next season.  I usually pull up one side and drag the whole cover across the RV and drop it onto the ground on the other side. You may need a second person to guide it away from bumpers and mirrors as you pull it off.  You will want to find a flat, fairly clean space to lay it out to roll it.  Driveways, parking lots, and grassy areas are usually good candidates.  Don't lay it on a wet surface and make sure any pavement is free from oil stains.  Stretch it out from end to end, then fold both sides over to the center.  That will usually make a roll about 6' tall so, depending on the space you have to store the cover, you may want to fold it over again.  That will give you a shorter but much fatter roll.  I usually go with the taller, thinner format and stand it up in a plastic trash can for storage.  Remember which end you start rolling from so you will know where to position it on the roof the next time you install it.  If you start rolling from the front, you will want to unroll it from the back and vice versa.  Keep a brush or broom handy to brush off any debris from the roll as you go so you don't trap garbage inside.  Dirt and debris left in place during storage can cause staining and premature wear.   Once is is all rolled up, tie it off with rope or bungee cords to keep it from unrolling.  Store it in a clean dry place.  You might want to put some moth balls and mouse traps in and around the cover to keep pests out.

You will want to cover your RV before the winter weather sets in.  For one thing, it will be easier to peform the other winterizing tasks, such as freeze-protecting the water systems, with the cover off.  For another, you won't want to be installing the weather in the rain or snow and getting it on early will help keep leaves and pine needles from collecting on the roof or other surfaces and creating stains.

Installing your RV cover is a lot easier if you have at least one extra pair of hands.  Your first task is getting that heavy cover up on the roof.  Having someone to lift it up to you once you are at least half way up the ladder is the best solution.  An alternative, especially if you have to do it solo, is to use a rope to haul it up once you are on the roof.  Be sure you are standing in a stable spot and not too close to the edge as you raise the cover up.  Once you have it on the roof, try to orient it so the FRONT (which you hopefully marked when you took it off) is toward the front of the vehicle.  If not you will end up with it the wrong way and turning it around on top of your RV once it is rolled out is not a fun task!  One year I marked mine but forgot which way I rolled it up so there was no way to know which way it went until it was unrolled and found the FRONT marking on the inside end!  Once you have to going the right way, unfold the sides and drop them down.  I have my assistant help pull the sides straight and the same length and also help me align the zipper with the door.  The next step is to buckle up the fasteners on both ends, then connect the tie down ropes underneath.  It helps to tie a weight to the end of the rope so you and toss it under the RV to your assistant.  A simple overhand knot is usually enough and is easy for your assistant to undo on the other side.  Along with the RV cover it is a good idea to install tire covers to protect  your tires while your unit is in storage.

Cover up!

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Illegal Campfires

What are illegal campfires?  Well, quite simply, they are campfires in defiance of posted fire restrictions.  They can be found in dispersed camping areas, back yards, and even in developed campgrounds during times of Extreme Fire Danger.  Fire Restrictions are NOT some kind of government harassment! They are legitimate rules implemented to protect people as well as our forest from the very real dangers of wildfires!

I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who continue to light illegal campfires during fire season!  As it has been said, I guess you can't fix stupid!  Those HIGH and EXTREME fire warnings are there for a reason!  During HIGH fire levels campfires are only allowed in approved fire pits, usually only in designated campgrounds.  Gas and propane stoves usually may still be used in dispersed camping areas.  During EXTREME fire levels, NO CAMPFIRES or even gas or propane stove are allowed anywhere in restricted areas, not even in Forest Service campgrounds!

Last week, as a volunteer firefighter, I got called out at 1:45 am for a small forest fire a few miles from our home.  Of all places it was right across the highway from the local US Forest Service Ranger Station!  From what we could tell the fire was started by a camper who fled the scene as we arrived.  I sure thought that the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire and the smoke blowing in from current wildfires and current hot dry winds would still be fresh enough in people's minds that they would be more careful and more willing to observe posted fire restrictions.  After all, you have to drive through miles of burned up forest to get where we are!  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  There have even been a number of residents within the Holiday Farm Fire burn area who we have had to shut down for illegal backyard burning during HIGH fire restrictions.  Sometimes they think that the burned over area is no longer  in danger of burning.  They could not be more wrong!  For one thing, most of the trees killed by the fire are still standing as dead snags, just drying out and ready to burn.  For another, the nice rains this past spring promoted a lot of growth of grass and shrubbery, all of which contributes to easily started and fast moving fires as it dries out in the summer heat, fires than will easily ignite the dead trees left over from the 2020 fire.

A while back we were called to a forest fire at one of the local private campgrounds.  Fortunately we were able to contain the fire before it spread to more than a few acres.  The fire was the result of deliberate and blatant violation of fire restrictions not ignorance or simple carelessness.  The entire area was under EXTREME fire restrictions.  It was posted multiple places along the highway the camper drove along.  It was posted at the front desk and they were informed/reminded of it at check in.  In spite of that they started a campfire.  A member of the staff discovered it, reminded them of the restrictions, and put it out.  As soon as he left they re-lit the campfire!  Before long it had ignited the forest around them.  What idiots!  I believe the campground charged them a small fee for the violation, which was added to their credit card.  Kind of hope the State goes after them for all the costs of fighting the fire too!  Don't often see that but it does happen, especially when there is no question about the identity and negligence of the perpetrators, as it was in this case!

When you go camping, be sure to check the current fire restrictions where you are going.  They are usually clearly posted along the highways and at fire stations and ranger stations along the way and at the entrances to campgrounds.  Know what the limits are for each level of restriction and comply with all restrictions ALL THE TIME.  Ignorance will not be an adequate defense if you light an illegal campfire.

There are more than enough forest fires ignited by lightning or downed power lines.  The last thing anyone needs is for campers to ignore fire restrictions and cause even more fires!  We are losing pristine camping areas fast enough without setting them on fire!!!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Keep It All Going -- RVs, OHVs, Boats, Camping Gear

No matter what form your outdoor recreation takes, you have to invest a little time and effort and sometimes a little money to keep it all going so you can use it when you want to.  Motorized equipment usually requires the most effort and attention but even non-motorized camping equipment needs a little attention now and then to keep it in top shape and extend its useful life.  If you let things go, sooner or later it will catch up with you and your equipment will let you down -- usually at the worst possible time and place!  You might be surprised how little effort it actually takes to keep things in good shape.  Pretty much always a lot less time, effort, and money, not to mention inconvenience, than it takes to fix things once they break down.

Preventative Maintenance is the term usually used to describe what we do to keep our gear and equipment in top condition.  It consists primarily of performing required cleaning, lubrication and adjustments and is usually done before any problems have begun to show up.  Taking care of apparent problems falls under the category of repair rather than Preventative Maintenance.  Proper Preventative Maintenance can usually prevent many problems from every reaching the level where repair or replacement is required.

Motorized equipment (RVs, boats, OHVs) usually have owners manuals to guide you in required maintenance.  If yours didn't come with one you can usually purchase one from the dealer or find one online.  Lacking any owner's manual basic, some basic regular maintenance needed is to change the oil, oil filter, air filter and fuel filter.  Most vehicles also required regular chassis lubrication.  Chain driven vehicles like motorcycles and ATVs need to have the chains cleaned regularly and lubricated before every ride.  Air cooled vehicles need to have the cooling fins cleaned and any air access ways kept clear.  Liquid cooled vehicles need to have the coolant level checked frequently (before any trip in an RV and before any ride in an OHV) and changed according to vehicle and or coolant manufacturer's recommendations.  Coolant does break down and it can also get polluted by oil or engine gases.  Low coolant, caused by leakage, can result in catastrophic overheating which is usually VERY expensive to repair.  Radiators need to be kept free from dirt and debris and checked for leaks.

RVs and many boats are equipped with convenience systems that also required periodic maintenance.  Whenever your unit has a stove, furnace, refrigerator, water heater, water system, air conditioner, or any kind of electronic navigation or entertainment systems they will also need to be inspected and serviced as needed.  Owner's manuals for each device or system are the best source of maintenance schedules and procedures.  If you don't have owner's manuals for all your systems and equipment plan on inspecting and evaluating every one at least once a year, more if they get a lot of use.  Some things to check include any electrical or fuel connections, condition of burners on stoves, water heaters, and even gas refrigerators, lubricating any moving parts, and proper operation of on/off switches and safety devices.  Furnaces and air conditioners may have filters that need to be cleaned regularly.  Refrigerator cooling cools need to be clean and have nothing blocking the normal air flow required for cooling.  Water systems need to be checked for leaks.  Fresh water tanks may need to be purged and sanitized.  Waste water tanks need to be dumped and cleaned regularly and proper chemical levels maintained.  Electronic devices may have wiring or connectors that need to be inspected.  Any frayed wiring or loose connectors should be repaired or replaced ASAP.  Damaged circuits may not only degrade performance but may cause loads that can burn out internal components or even cause a fire.

Any vehicle with wheels and tires will need to have the wheels and tires checked before every trip and wheel bearings service according to manufacturer's specifications or at least once a year.  Tires need to be checked for proper inflation, adequate tread, and inspected for any sidewall damage.  Tires with inadequate tread or sidewall damage need to be replaced ASAP.  Proper inflation is necessary for comfort, performance and safety.  Of course this includes boat trailers as well as RVs, camping trailers, and tow vehicles -- as well as your daily driver!

Boat have their own special maintenance needs.  Motorboats have engines and drive trains that require service; sailboats have masts, rigging, and sails to take care of and often have auxiliary engines too.  In order to get the most of of any boat, you will have to keep it in good condition.  Not only that, you must keep them in good condition for safety!  Mechanical failures out on the water can be far more vexing and dangerous than in a camper or OHV on land.

Non-motorized camping equipment still needs to be inspected and taken care of on a regular basis.  Burners on appliances such as camp stoves and lanterns need to be cleaned at last once a year.  Pumps on liquid fuel appliances need to be checked and properly cleaned and lubricated periodically.  A few drops of oil on the leather gasket on lanterns and stoves will help keep it from getting dried out and stiff.  Fabric items, such as tents, awnings, packs, and sleeping bags need to be kept clean and stored where they are protected from moisture, sunlight, and pests.  Any tears or other damage should be repaired as quickly as possible.  Zippers on sleeping bags and packs need to be checked and possibly lubricated.  Tent poles and stakes need to be inspected and any damaged items repaired or replaced.  Tools need to be inspected and properly serviced according to the needs of each tool.  Axes, hatchets, and knives need to be sharpened.  Wood tool handles should be kept smooth and lightly oiled.  Metal parts of all tools should be lightly coated with oil to prevent rust or corrosion while in storage.

Disposable provisions can be both perishable and non-perishable.   Perishable items are usually removed after and replenished again for the next trip.  Non-perishable provisions, such as cleaning supplies and many first aid items need to be regularly inspected to make sure they are still serviceable.  Some items may have marked expiration dates, some may get used up, some may get worn out, and some, like Bandaids and adhesive tapes may lose their ability to stick.  All non-perishable items should be checked at least once a year and doing it more often (like before every trip!) will likely save you a lot of disappointment and aggravation.  Depleted provisions, sundries, cleaning supplies, camping supplies, automotive supplies, first aid supplies, etc., should be replenished before each trip.  Some specific things to check might include shampoo, dish soap, lantern mantles, motor oil, and spray lubricants.  Also be sure to check out any medicines (OTC as well as prescriptions) to make sure you have enough for each trip and they are not expired or contaminated.

Battery powered devices may be subject to battery failure or even corrosion.    Always remove ordinary batteries from flashlights and other devices before leaving them in storage for any extended length of time.  Check all battery powered devices and replace or recharge dead batteries prior to each trip.  If you find corrosion, clean it out as quickly and thoroughly as you can and put in new batteries.  A trick to prevent batteries from discharging excessively in storage is to flip one of the batteries in a multiple battery system around.  That lets you keep the batteries in the device but it can't get accidentally turned on.  Some LED flashlights depend on correct battery orientation and flipping batteries in them might damage the circuitry so exercise extra caution.

Things like camping chairs and beach umbrellas usually need very little maintenance but they can benefit from regular cleaning and occasionally the hardware may need to be adjusted and/or lubricated.  Greasy stains or bird droppings may speed deterioration or attract insects that can damage fabric.  Bent, rusted, or poorly lubricated components can cause excessive wear and premature failure.  Often even aluminum chair frames have steel components that can rust and could fail at the most inconvenient moment and leave you sitting on the ground!  Bent components might be carefully straightened but bent parts are likely need to be replaced eventually as bending (and straightening) them will have weakened the component.

Tools, like axes, hatchets, hammers, saws, and shovels should be inspected and kept properly sharpened.  Believe it or not, sharp tools are actually safer than dull ones.  Handles should always be smooth and tight.  All the tools in your tool box(es) should be checked regularly so make sure they are still there and are in usable condition.  Unpainted metal items should be protected by coating of light oil like WD-40.  Wooden handles usually benefit greatly from being rubbed with linseed oil.

Cooking utensils should always be kept clean and inspected for damage, such as loose handles or ragged edges.  Damaged items should be repaired or replaced.  Knives should be kept sharp and edges protected in storage both to maintain sharpness and to prevent you getting injured getting things out of the drawer or compartment.

Camp clothing should be cleaned and inspected.  Repairable items should be properly repaired as soon as it is reasonable to do so.   Often you can patch camp clothing in ways that are quite attractive and the patches themselves can become part of the camp ambiance.   Decorative patches or even recycled military insignia often be used to make attractive repairs. Worn out or unrepairable items should be discarded and replaced.  No sense letting useless stuff take up valuable room in your valuable and limited space!  Some worn clothing might be recycled as cleaning rags or, if you are really crafty, braided into rugs!

Keep it going!

Friday, July 8, 2022

Off Road Hand Signals

Most OHVs don't have brake lights or turn signals.  However, it is still a good idea to let other riders around you know what you are going to do.  The hand signals you might have learned way back in traffic school to use in cars and trucks can be used to indicate when you are slowing, stopping, or turning.  That can be really helpful to riders following you in a group or approaching you from ahead of you on a trail or at an intersection.

Standard motor vehicle hand signals include signals for slowing, stopping, and making turns.  Slowing is usually indicated by extending your left arm out at shoulder level and slowly moving it up and down.  Stopping is shown by extending the left arm down a few inches from your body.  A left turn is indicated by extending the left arm straight out and holding it steady at shoulder level.  A right turn is signaled by lifting the left arm to the square.  You might signal you are going to speed up and want riders following you to do the same by raising your left arm up by your helmet with a closed fist and moving it quickly up and down.  This is based on the signal used by leaders of military units to instruct their folks to double time (run).

These hand signals are helpful for both approaching riders and riders behind you in your group.  You might be surprised how much nicer it is on a ride when approaching rides or riders ahead of you let you know what they are doing before they do it.  Be sure to return the favor and make proper use of hand signals to communicate appropriately with other riders around you.  Knowing how many more riders are still coming in a group makes is easier and safer to plan your own progress.

There are some other handy signals often used by trail riders that can add safety and convenience out on the trails.  They are used by two groups of riders approaching each other to alert the oncoming riders to the number of riders following the rider doing the signalling.   It can be VERY helpful to know how many riders are coming at you.  If you see a raised fist they probably are not shaking their fist at you (especially if the fingers are facing you), they are letting you know there are not more riders in their group behind them.   Other hand signals are pretty self explanatory.  Raised fingers tell you how many riders remain in the group behind the group behind the rider doing the signaling.  Holding up one finger (not the middle finger!) indicates there is one rider behind you, two fingers means two riders, etc.  Holding up a closed fist means you are the last rider in your group.  Always hold it with your fingers forward so it doesn't look threatening.  If there are more than five riders in the group behind you extend all five fingers and close them and extend them about 3 times.  The idea is to let oncoming riders know there are lots (at least more than 5 riders) coming behind you not to try to count how many are actually there.  So, for example, if you are number 1 - 15 in a group of 20 riders,  you might show all five fingers three times but just holding up all five fingers lets oncoming traffic know there are AT LEAST 5 or more riders behind you.

The use of hand signals to alert oncoming traffic to how many riders are behind you contributes to better safety as two groups pass each other from different directions on the trail.  Once you have experienced it you may feel it inconsiderate or thoughtless of oncoming riders who don't give signals.   It can be frustrating not knowing if there is yet another rider coming around the corner in front of you and can help keep your safe is there is! Even if the approaching group doesn't use signals, try always to use them yourself as it can be helpful to approaching riders, make it safer for the riders behind you in your group, and might even inspire other riders to learn more about it and how to use them themselves.

Talking about hand signals reminded me of something that happened during my Army Basic Training many years ago.  The instructor was testing us on hand signals and one of the guys in my platoon was really, really good at them.  Two instructors fired off different hand signals in rapid succession and he never missed one.  After several valiant tries to trip him up they gave up and told him "Get lost!" To which, without hesitation he flipped them the bird!   Quick thinking!  And, BTW, the instructors were not offended but were rather impressed with his skill and creativity.

Hand Signals are Handy!