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.

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 and 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.  

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.  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.

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.   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.

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.

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 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!

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 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 also 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.  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 of the perpetrators.

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!

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 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 than it takes to fix things once they break down.

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.

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.

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 auxilliary 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 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 check and possibly lubricated.  Tent poles and stakes need to be inspected and any damaged items repaired or replaced.

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, 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 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.

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!

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 useable 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.  Worn out or unrepairable items should be discarded and replaced.  Some worn clothing might be recycled as cleaning rags or, if you are really crafty, braided into rugs!

Keep 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, 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 foward 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 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. Even if the approaching group doesn't used 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!


Thursday, July 7, 2022

RV and Tow Vehicle Wheels and Hubs

 RV and tow vehicle wheels and hubs need regular inspection and servicing to ensure proper operation and long life.  The schedule in your vehicle owner's manual is the best guideline for when to perform maintenance.  Lug bolts or nuts ideally should be checked before each trip and torqued to factory specifications.  Wheel bearings should be repacked with grease once a year or every 10,000 to 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.  Failure to keep your wheel bearings properly greased is a pretty sure formula for having them fail out on the highway or off road.  You can be sure that when they do fail it will be at just about the worst possible time and place!

Ideally lug bolts should be checked using a torque wrench to be sure they are adequately tightened to factory specifications given in the owner's manual.  Since many driver's don't even have a torque wrench in the tool box at home, let alone on the road, the next best thing is to tighten the lugs with a proper lug wrench as tight as you can get them using your hands and arms.  Do not use any kind of extender to multiply the force!  Doing so can over-stress, stretch, strip, and even break lug bolts.

Wheel bearings on rear wheel drive axles are usually lubricated by oil from the differential.  Keeping the differential filled to the specified level is essential for lubricating the bearings.  The bearings on the front wheels of rear wheel drive cars and the rear bearings on front wheel drive car use grease for lubrication.  As indicated above, these wheel bearings should be repacked with grease once a year or every 10,000 to 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.  You can have a mechanic do it for $100-200 but if you have the right tools and same basic do-it-yourself mechanic skills you can probably do it yourself.

How to repack wheel bearings.  If you choose to repack the wheel bearings yourself I am sure you can find some good Youtube videos to guide you.  But here are some basic instructions to get you started.  First, here are the tools and supplies you will need:  a jack, chocks for the wheels, a pair of Channel-lock style pliers, a pair of diagonal pliers, a long punch, a ball-peen hammer, a new cotter pin of the right size, and a can of waterproof grease.  Once you have assembled your tools and supplies, put the vehicle in park, chock the wheel(s) on one side of the vehicle, release the parking brake, then jack up the wheel on the other side.  Remove any decorative hub caps.  Then remove the lug nuts or lug bolts and remove the wheel and tire.  I use the back side of my pliers to tap the dust cap off the center of the hub.  Then remove the cotter pin from the large castle nut on the end of the axle.  To do this straighten the flat ends and pull it out using the loop on the other end.  Diagonal plies are a good way to get a grip on the cotter pin to pull it out.  It is recommend that you always replace the cotter pin with a new one when you put things back together.  Remove the castle nut using Channel-lock style pliers and the washer/spacer behind it.  The washer has a tab on it that slides in a slot on the axle.  I put the nut and the washer inside the dust cap to help keep them clean and keep track of them.  Grab the hub and alternately pull on each side so as to wobble it back and forth.  This will cause the outer wheel bearing to pop out so you can remove it.  Then pull the hub off the axle.  To repack the inner wheel bearing you will have to remove it from the hub.  Lay the hub down with the outside up, the use a punch and hammer to tap out the inner wheel bearing.    Once you have both bearings out, clean them thoroughly with solvent and then let them dry thoroughly.  You can buy a tool to press grease into the wheel bearings but, as I was taught by my father, who was a professional mechanic, you can do it by hand.  Put a big glob of grease in your off-hand (left hand if you are right handed).  Then pick up a clean bearing with your dominant hand and hold it with the biggest side down.  Holding one side of the bearing press the other side down into the glob of grease repeatedly until grease pushes up between the rollers of the bearing.  Then rotate the bearing to a new spot and repeat until you have grease pushing up between ALL of the rollers.  Once you have pack both bearings you are ready to reassemble the hub.  Lay the hub down with the outside down.  Place the inner bearing into the back side of the hub (which is now on top).  The bearing goes with the tapered end toward the inside of the hub and the wider side out.  Then put the retainer on the hub over the bearing and gently tap it into place, making sure it is all the way in all the way around.  Clean the axle and slide the hub into place.  Then insert the outer wheel bearing into the hub.  Once again the tapered end goes in first.  Next comes the washer.  Be sure the tab on the inside fits into the slot on the axle.  Then install the castle nut.  Tighten it using the Channel-lock style pliers until it is firmly in place, then back it out about a half a turn to release excess pressure on the bearing.  You don't want that nut to be too tight or too loose!  Align on of the slots in the castle nut with the hole in the axle and install the cotter pin.  Bend the flat ends back toward the axle to keep the cotter pin from coming out.  Then tape the dust cap back on and reinstall the wheel.  Then you are ready to do the next wheel.

When you have the hub apart, inspect the hub and the bearings and replace any worn or damaged parts.  Most of the wear will usually show up on the bearings, but loose lug bolts/nuts can allow a wheel to damage the hub and the lug bolts.  Damaged lug bolts can be pressed or hammered out and replaced.  A damaged hub should be replaced.  I once encountered a badly damaged hub on a 50 year or trailer for which there were no modern replacements.  I was able to have a competent welder repair the hub and I replace all the lug bolts for near factory perfect repair.

It is a good time to inspect the brakes and make any needed repairs while you have the hub off.   The main things to look for are thin brake shoes or pads or damaged brake drums or rotors.   Think brake shoes or pads should be pretty obvious.  New ones have 1/4-3/8" of lining on the shoes or pads.  If there is less than 1/8" of lining you should definitely replace then while you have things apart.  Check the brake drums for ridges or a deep lip.  Check rotors for ridges, warping, or discoloration that is a sign of over heating.   Badly worn drums or rotor might be able to be turned at a machine shop to restore the braking surface.  If there isn't enough material left in the drum or rotor for it to be turned it will have to be replaced.  Inspect all the brake hardware and replace anything that is damaged, including weakened springs.

Regular maintenance of wheels and hubs will avoid premature wear that can result in extensive and expensive repairs.

Keep rolling, rolling, rolling!

 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Trailer Wheels and Hubs

Trailer wheels and hubs are all too often taken for granted and fail to get the attention and preventive maintenance they need.  They are fairly simple and don't require a LOT of maintenance, but what they do require is essential to good performance and longevity.

One of the most frequent wheel failures is completely preventable:  loose lug bolts or nuts.  Lugs should be checked before every trip to make sure they are tight.  Vibration from normal operation can loosen them, and if they are not completely tight, the wheel will begin to slip, elongating the holes in the wheel and damaging the lug bolts and the hub.  The best way to make sure your lugs are tight is to test them with a torque wrench.  Not everyone has a torque wrench, especially when out on a trail or road somewhere far from home.  Making sure the lugs are as tight as you can get them with your hands using a lug wrench should usually be sufficient.  Do not use an extension on the lug wrench to multiply your strength as it an easily over-stress or even break the lug bolts.

The most common hub failures are wheel bearings.  Wheel bearing failure is often caused by dry (insufficiently lubricated) bearings.  Next in line is contaminated grease, usually dirt or water.  Contamination gets in when the seals are worn or damaged.  Water incursion sometimes occurs in boat trailer hubs from frequent immersion.   Over aggressive use of a pressure washer can force water into wheel bearings too.  Sometimes the only seal protecting the outside wheel bearings is the dust cap.  If that gets knocked crooked or off, dirt and water and easily get into the bearings.

Trailer hubs contain ball bearings that allow the wheels to turn with minimal resistance.  These bearings need to grease for them to operate smoothly and properly.  If the grease runs out or gets contaminated (usually by dirt or water) the bearings will wear out faster and the friction could generate enough heat to cause a fire.  If you have an owner's manual for your trailer you should follow the specifications given there for how often to re-pack the wheel bearings.  Lacking an owner's manual, you  should re-pack the wheel bearings on a regular schedule based on either mileage or passage of time.  A general mileage guideline for trailers in normal use is to repack the wheel bearings every 10,000 - 12,000 miles.  Since trailers don't have an odometer like motor vehicles do you may have to estimate mileage based on how long and how many trips you take.  Even if you don't reach the 10,000 - 12,000s it is a good practice to repack the wheel bearings at least once every year.  I usually do mine as part of my spring pre-season preparations.  You can usually have a mechanic repack trailer wheel bearings for $100-200 but it is a pretty simple task to do yourself if you have the right tools and some basic mechanic skills.

You may need to repack bearings more frequently if your trailer is exposed to heavy use or is used a lot in dusty or wet (like a boat trailer) conditions.

 If your trailer hubs get excessively hot when towing or you hear any noise or feel any roughness when you spin the wheels your bearings will most likely need to be replaced.  If they spin freely and quietly repacking them should be enough to keep them working fine for another season.

How to repack trailer wheel bearings.  If you choose to repack the wheel bearings yourself I am sure you can find some good Youtube videos to guide you.  But here are some basic instructions to get you started.  First, here are the tools and supplies you will need:  a jack, chocks for the wheels, a pair of Channel-lock style pliers, a pair of diagonal pliers, a long punch, a ball-peen hammer, a new cotter pin of the right size, and a can of waterproof grease.  Once you have assembled your tools and supplies, chock the wheel(s) on one side of the trailer, then jack up the wheel(s) on the other side.  Remove any decorative hub caps.  Then remove the lug nuts or lug bolts and remove the wheel and tire.  I use the back side of my pliers to tap the dust cap off the center of the hub.  Then remove the cotter pin from the large castle nut on the end of the axle.  To do this straighten the flat ends and pull it out using the loop on the other end.  Diagonal plies are a good way to get a grip on the cotter pin to pull it out.  It is recommend that you always replace the cotter pin with a new one when you put things back together.  Remove the castle nut using Channel-lock style pliers and the washer/spacer behind it.  The washer has a tab on it that slides in a slot on the axle.  I put the nut and the washer inside the dust cap to help keep them clean and keep track of them.  Grab the hub and alternately pull on each side so as to wobble it back and forth.  This will cause the outer wheel bearing to pop out so you can remove it.  Then pull the hub off the axle.  To repack the inner wheel bearing you will have to remove it from the hub.  Lay the hub down with the outside up, the use a punch and hammer to tap out the inner wheel bearing.    Once you have both bearings out, clean them thoroughly with solvent and then let them dry thoroughly.  You can buy a tool to press grease into the wheel bearings but, as I was taught by my father, who was a professional mechanic, you can do it by hand.  Put a big glob of grease in your off-hand (left hand if you are right handed).  Then pick up a clean bearing with your dominant hand and hold it with the biggest side down.  Holding one side of the bearing press the other side down into the glob of grease repeatedly until grease pushes up between the rollers of the bearing.  Then rotate the bearing to a new spot and repeat until you have grease pushing up between ALL of the rollers.  Once you have pack both bearings you are ready to reassemble the hub.  Lay the hub down with the outside down.  Place the inner bearing into the back side of the hub (which is now on top).  The bearing goes with the tapered end toward the inside of the hub and the wider side out.  Then put the retainer on the hub over the bearing and gently tap it into place, making sure it is all the way in all the way around.  Clean the axle and slide the hub into place.  Then insert the outer wheel bearing into the hub.  Once again the tapered end goes in first.  Next comes the washer.  Be sure the tab on the inside fits into the slot on the axle.  Then install the castle nut.  Tighten it using the Channel-lock style pliers until it is firmly in place, then back it out about a half a turn to release excess pressure on the bearing.  You don't want that nut to be too tight or too loose!  Align on of the slots in the castle nut with the hole in the axle and install the cotter pin.  Bend the flat ends back toward the axle to keep the cotter pin from coming out.  Then tape the dust cap back on and reinstall the wheel.  Then you are ready to do the next wheel.

When you have the hub apart, inspect the hub and the bearings and replace any worn or damaged parts.  Most of the wear will usually show up on the bearings, but loose lug bolts/nuts can allow a wheel to damage the hub and the lug bolts.  Damaged lug bolts can be pressed or hammered out and replaced.  A damaged hub should be replaced.  I once encountered a badly damaged hub on a 50 year or trailer for which there were no modern replacements.  I was able to have a competent welder repair the hub and I replace all the lug bolts for near factory perfect repair.

If your trailer has brakes it is a good time to inspect the brakes and make any needed repairs while you have the hub off.   The main things to look for are thin brake shoes or damaged brake drums.   Think brake shoes should be pretty obvious.  New ones have 1/4-3/8" of lining on the shoes.  If there is less than 1/8" of lining you should definitely replace the shoes while you have things apart.  Check the brake drums for ridges or a deep lip.  Badly worn drums might be able to be turned at a machine shop to restore the braking surface.  If there isn't enough material left in the drum for it to be turned it will have to be replaced.  Inspect all the brake hardware, including the electromagnets that operate the brakes and all the wiring and connections.  

Some trailers are equipped with Bearing Buddies.  These have grease fittings that allow you to grease at least the outer bearing without taking them apart using a grease gun.  This a good way to add a little grease between repacking the wheel bearings to maintain performance and longevity.  Axles that were designed with Bearing Buddy type grease fittings might even grease the inner wheel bearings, but many Bearing Buddies are after-market installations and the only way for grease to get to the inside bearings along the axle, which is not very efficient.  For best results, follow normal schedules for repacking wheel bearings even if you have Bearing Buddies.

With regular maintenance your trailer wheels and hubs should last a long time.  The time and effort or cost to keep them up to speed (pun intended!) is well worth the investment.  Failing to do so an result in much more extensive and expensive repairs!

Bear with it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Is Disposable Kitchenware OK for Camping and Boating?

Disposable kitchenware (paper, styrofoam, and plastic plates, cups, bowls and utensils) can add a lot of convenience when camping or boating.  They are light weight and do not require washing, which are both very helpful advantages during an outing.  They save time and reduce the use of water and filling of holding tanks.  About the only downside to them is that they are not reusable, which means we are buying them just to use them once and throw them away.  Then throwing them away creates its own problems as they can quickly add up to a lots of trash to manage.  The bottom line is balancing cost and convenience versus time and resource management.  Some hard core environmentalists sometimes campaign against using disposable products at all.   I too value the environment, but I also value my time and would rather spend it in enjoyable activities instead of washing dishes and wasting water.  Conserving water is almost always a priority when camping.  By the time you count the cost of soap and water, contribution to sewage, and its impact on the environment, disposable items might even actually come out on top!

Paper plates, cups, and bowls can almost always be easily disposed of in your campfire, reducing the amount of trash you have to corral and haul home.  Avoid leaving too much food on them or you may generate unpleasant smoke and odors from the fire, depending on the content left.  You should also avoid burning them when the wind kicks up as being light weight burning fragments are easily caught by the breeze and launched off into possibly combustible material around or even some distance from your fire.

Some people prefer not to burn plastic or even styrofoam items as they can generate toxic fumes.  That being said, you will still see lots of people regularly tossing them into the fire.  As far as I have been able to determine, burning small amounts should not be a problem unless perhaps you are standing directly in the path of the poisoned smoke and inhaling the fumes, which most of us will surely avoid anyway.  I avoid burning large quantities at one time -- better to get rid of them as you use them instead of hoarding a whole bag to burn all at once, which might increase the toxic fumes.

Disposable kitchenware is handy, is easy to store, easy to set up, and pretty easy to dispose of.  All of that adds up to time savings at mealtimes in camp.  Time saved doing repetitive, tedious tasks gives us more time to enjoy the activities we go on our outdoor outings for in the first place.  The modest cost of disposable items usually is a small price to pay for the added convenience and reduced cleanup time and effort.  Not having to wash them saves fresh water and reduces filling holding tanks.

Paper plates come in a variety of thicknesses.   Heavy duty plates can handle just about anything your regular dinnerware can handle but thin plates might need a little help.  Thin plates might be better thought of as "plate liners" as all too often they are not adequate by themselves.  A few years ago I picked up some plastic paper plate holders that are perfect for holding the thinnest, cheapest paper plates, making them both cost effective and convenient.  They even have a tapered lip built into the bottom where you can slide the top of a soda or beer can and use the can as a handle on the plate.  Using thin plates without a holder is good way to end up with your lunch in your lap or on the the ground.  Frisbees are often about the right size to support a paper plate and are fun to play with between meals.  Commercial paper plate holders are typically available in wicker and plastic.  You can usually find them at Walmart and on Amazon.com.  Sometimes you can even get them at Dollar Tree.  I found mine on a closeout at Big Lots several years ago and am oh so glad I stocked up on them at the time!

There may be special occasions when you want or even need to use more sturdy plates etc.   Cutting steak or other fairly heavy meats on paper plates can be difficult and even dangerous.  Any knife sharp enough to cut through the meat is surely sharp enough to cut through the paper plate and then into your flesh!  Sometimes you may have a special occasion to celebrate when you want things to be a little fancier.  Just be prepared to invest extra time in cleaning and washing the dishes and putting them away after you special meal.  You might find disposable items that are suitable for celebrations.  There are a variety of fancy plastic cups and glasses, even nice looking wine and champagne glasses.  Typical plastic cutlery is light weight and cheap looking but with a little looking around you can find heavy duty clear plastic or even shiny silver plastic cutlery that has a nice look and feel but can still be disposed of instead of needing to be washed.  If you still want to use disposable plates look for plastic plates or check out some of the fancier and heavier paper plates and bowls under the Chinette brand.

Of course, ‘Pack it in, pack it out’ is one of the original tenets of back country travel and clearly one we should always honor as outdoor enthusiasts where ever we may go.  Whether you are in a developed campground, dispersed camping site, back packing, or out in your boat, you always need to control your trash to prevent damaging or contaminating the environment.  Leaving stuff lying around or letting it blow away makes a mess for the next visitor -- and that next visitor could be you!  Trash tends to beget trash.  If you fail to pickup something that blew away, it is more likely that subsequent visitors will be less careful also and the trash will build and build.  It only takes a few seconds, minutes at most, to clean up around your camp site.  Our Desert Rat off road motorcycle group always organized a quick policing of our camp site and the area around it.  We often did fire pit maintenance too, one time using a magnet to drag more than 10 lbs of rusty nails out of one fire pit!  Sure glad we didn't run any of our vehicles through there before the cleaning!

The Bottom Line:  Yes, disposable kitchenware is suitable for camping and boating, as long as you dispose of it properly.   It can save time and reduce water usage  It is also usually lighter to carry around than regular dinnerware.  Used appropriately is shouldn't have any more impact on the environment than ordinary kitchenware.

Keep it clean and easy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

COVID and Camping -- Summer 2022

In most places most COVID restrictions have been lifted by now letting us get back closer to what was once normal.  Here in Oregon masks are still required in health care environments, including pharmacies as well as hospitals, clinics, doctor and dentist offices but not for other locations.  However, as new COVID cases increase there is currently talk of reinstating mask requirements indoors.  Fortunately that hasn't happened yet (mid-July) but it if the number of cases picks up again, we could see more restrictions.  I have been somewhat annoyed to see people without masks stand with a sign right at eye level telling them masks are required in that facility while all the workers and most of the people in line with them are properly wearing masks.  Yes, I know, the masks are a nuisance and inconvenience, but everyone really should make an effort to comply with posted regulations.  Think about it:  where are you most likely to encounter people with illnesses, including COVID?  Of course the answer is in health care settings!

Masks are no longer required for most outdoor activities.   That is excellent news for campers and boaters!  For the most part we can once again enjoy our outdoor recreational activities without restrictions on the number of people in our group or having to wear face masks.  I recall a while back when there were numerical restrictions on the size of gatherings I heard an amusing story.  Since normal gatherings were limited to 10 people but the limit for funerals was 30, one creative guy listed his Thanksgiving feast as a funeral for his pet turkey, allowing him to invite more than 10 people!  O admired his creativity!

With restrictions being eased, the number of COVID cases is peaking again in many areas.  If we want to reduce the chances of getting COVID, we still need to be on guard.  Avoid contact with anyone who has or is suspected to have COVID.  Maintain social distancing, even in out door situations.  Wearing an ordinary mask helps prevent you from giving COVID to someone else if you happen to have it.  Wearing a KN95 mask actually provides you some protection as well.  Even before COVID we wore KN95 masks as EMRs in our volunteer fire department when responding to medical calls where we could be exposed to any number of airborne or bloodborn infections.

If you believe you have COVID you should still quarantine yourself until you are safe to be around.  Initial quarantine for travelers was 14 days after returning from out of country or out of state but more recently it was lowered to 3 days.  Home COVID tests provided by the government let you find out right away if those unpleasant flu-like symptoms you might be having are actually COVID. If you have COVID symtpoms, stay away from other people!  You would not want to responsible for giving COVID to any of your family or friends.

COVID vaccines are working to reduce the number of deaths and hospitalizations from COVID.    The COVID vaccine may not completely guarantee you won't get COVID, but it is still a good idea to get it.  I know of a number of people who were fully vaccinated and had the booster shot and still got COVID.  However, their cases were much less onerous than unvaccinated victims.  They did not require hospitalization and recovered quickly.  I realize there are people who object the the vaccinations for legitimate religious or personal reasons.  However, I strongly urge everyone who can to get vaccinated to help reduce the chances of getting infected, to minimize the affects if you do get it, and to help reduce the overall spread of the disease.

The Bottom Line:  we should be able to go camping, boating, off-roading, and enjoy most of our favorite outdoor activities without wearing masks, at least for the time being, which is a very good thing!

Camp COVID Free!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Sleeping Pads and Mattresses for RVing, Camping, and Boating

If you go RVing, camping, or boating for more than a few hours at a time you are going to need a good place to sleep.  Sleep sometimes seems like a luxury but actually it is absolutely essential.  Sure, you can push things and skip a few hours of rest now and then, but sooner or later it will catch up with you.  If you want to enjoy your outings to the fullest, figure out how to get a good night's sleep every night you are out.

Getting a good night's sleep when you are away from home can be challenging.  It isn't unusual to experience difficult sleeping away from home even if you are in an expensive, comfortable resort hotel with excellent beds.  The problems are greatly magnified the more different your environment is from what you are used to at home.   Sleeping in your RV, tent, or boat is going to take some getting used to and perhaps some adjustments.  Obviously the bed will be different, sometimes VERY different but there a a lot of little things like lights, sounds, and smells that might interfere with sleeping., things we normally don't even notice or think about at home.  Rain and wind on a tent or even the roof of an RV or boat cabin will be much louder and disconcerting than it is at home.  Even strong, mature folks may find themselves cowering like they did as kids when the thunder and lightning booms and flashes.

One very common problem of sleeping in an RV, a tent, or a boat is that the bed isn't always as comfortable as the one you have at home.  It makes more sense to invest a lot of money in a good bed at home.  After all, we use it every day and spend about 1/3 of our lives in it!  We are often reluctant to spend the money to make the beds in our recreational activities as comfortable since they aren't used as often.  Limited space together with weight limitations may also restrict our choices.  As a result, we often pay the price in terms of aches and pains and fatigue that negatively impacts the activities we have so been looking forward to enjoying.

What you are sleeping on most likely has the biggest impact on how well you will sleep.  True, there are other factors such as strange noises or smells and different temperatures, but for sure you aren't going to sleep very well if your sleeping bag is right on a rough patch of ground with twigs and rocks that poke you all night or your mattress is too hard or too soft.  RV and boat mattresses are all too often designed more to conserve weight than to be good for sleeping on.  The beds in RVs and boats are often too hard (not enough padding) or too soft (too much or the wrong kind of padding).  Either way, you are not going to sleep well.  Fortunately, RV and boat mattresses can be upgraded.  Sometimes all it takes is a good mattress topper to make one of these beds more comfortable.  We typically use a 3" memory foam mattress toppers in our RVs and boats.  These tend to compensate for mattresses that are either too thin, too hard, or too soft.  Most modern memory foam products provide pretty good ventilation so they don't cause the "too warm" problems often associated with older foam mattresses.  The upgrade is well worth the investment to get a good night's sleep on outings.

For tent camping many people use sleeping pads.   Most sleeping pads are 1/2"or less thick and made of a fairly dense foam that protects against sharp debris and provides some padding beneath you.  Sleeping pads are never going to give you the same level of comfort and support you get from a thick mattress at home but they can go along way toward mitigating the problems of being on cold ground or lying on top of rough stuff.  They should be thick enough and sturdy enough to protect you from cold rough ground but light enough to be easily carried to and from your camp site.  Backpackers sometimes opt for a short pad that only reaches from shoulders to hips but longer pads will do a better job of keeping your sleeping bag (and you) up off the cold, rough ground.  If one pad isn't enough to be comfortable for you, try using two.  Air mattresses are another popular option for tent campers.  As long as you don't have a leak in the mattress they can provide several inches of comfortable support and they are adjustable.  You can add or extract air to make them harder or softer to suit your needs.  They are light weight and when deflated take a very little room for so they are good for hiking and back packing.  Most air mattresses can be fairly easily inflated simply by blowing air into them.  Manual and battery powered pumps are available if your lungs aren't up to the task.  There are even some self-inflating mattresses that expand and draw air in when they are unrolled.

The beds in RVs and boats may or may not be the same size and shape as residential mattresses.   If they are you can usually use standard sheets and blankets.  If they are not, you may have to make temporary or permanent adjustments to get your bedding to fit.  Temporary adjustments can usually be made by tucking excess material under the mattress.  Permanent changes require cutting and sewing the bedding to fit the specific mattress shape and size.  RVs sometimes have corners cut off beds to facilitate movement around the RV.  Queen and King RV beds are usually a little smaller than their residential counterparts.  Boats often have a primary bed in the bow called a V-berth.  The V-berth in our 25' sailboat is a bit wider than a queen bed at the head and only 9"wide at the foot.  Sometimes you can buy commercially made replacement mattresses to fit RVs and boats.  If you can't find one that fits you can make or have one made of foam to fit exactly.  Be sure to try out various densities of foam to make sure you get one that meets your personal needs.  If it is too soft it will collapse and you will end up sleeping on the hard platform beneath it.  If it s too hard, it will not let you get comfortable.  Either way, you are not going to get a good night's sleep.

Cots are a way of making sleeping in a tent a little closer to sleeping at home.  They get you up off the ground and that often makes it easier to get in and out of bed as well as keeping you off the twigs and rocks under your tent floor and off the cold ground.  That can be especially helpful for older people or people with physical disabilities that inhibit movement.  Most camp cots are made of canvas and that together with the flexing of the frame provides a little bit of springiness, but nothing close to your box springs at home.  A good sleeping pad or air mattress is will still usually be needed for comfort and the best rest.  If you have room to transport them you can even buy "real" mattresses to fit cots.

Modern memory foam mattress toppers can be a boon for many situations.  They work especially well in RVs and boats but you might use them to good advantage when tent camping if you have enough room to cart them around.  They come in various firmnesses and thicknesses so be sure to find one that meets your needs.

Careful choice of sleeping pads or mattresses can ensure you get the best sleep possible in camp or on your boat.   The closer you can match your bed -- and in fact all your sleeping conditions -- to the environment you enjoy at home, the more comfortable you will be and the better you will sleep.

Don't just lay there!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Sunglasses for RVing, OHVing, Camping, and Boating

Sunglasses are nearly essential for just about any outdoor recreational activities.    We see a lot of sources promoting the use of sunscreen to protect our skin against cancer-causing UV light.  Our eyes are also subject to UV light and are worth protecting.   Good sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory or comfort.  They are essential for protecting our eyes against damaging UV radiation. Sunglasses can be especially useful when we are around water -- on our boats or near the ocean or a lake.  NOTE:  sunglasses are NOT an adequate substitute for safety glasses or goggles when you need to protect your eyes from flying debris.

Sturdy sunglasses can provide some protection against flying debris like wood chips from chopping wood or sparks kicked out by a popping campfire.  They are not an adequate substitute for safety goggles, but can provide some protection.  You should still wear real safety glasses or goggles when performing any task that might generate flying debris or when riding in or on OHVs.  While sunglasses might block some things flying directly into your eyes, they lack the strength and wrap-around protection provided by safety glasses.  The primary use of sunglasses to to reduce the glare and discomfort and improve vision in bright sunlight along with protecting from UV radiation.  To many people they are also a fashion statement.

You've probably seen OHV riders wearing sunglasses instead of goggles.  Not a good idea!  You really need the extra protection of googles when riding in an open OHV.  Sunglasses provide some but not enough protection.  Sunglasses might be OK if you are in a side-by-side with a windshield, but you should always wear goggles riding a dirt bike or ATV.  I always wear goggles even in a side-by-side.  If you need dark lenses, opt for shaded or light sensitive lenses for you goggles.  Or get goggles that will fit over your sunglasses, which is also a good option for folks who wear prescription glasses.  You always want to be able to clearly see where you are going!

Polarized sunglasses have lenses that filter out reflections from horizontal surfaces such as bodies of water, paved roads, and even the hood of your vehicle.  If you are driving on icy roads you might want to see those reflections so then you might want to wear non-polarized lenses.  Polarized lenses also affect how well you can see LCD screens making it difficult or impossible to read some phone and computer screens with them on.

Sunglass lenses are available in various colors.  Lens color is more than a fashion statement.  Green lenses  provide better contrast than gray lenses and transmit color accuracy better than brown lenses. Ideal for both sunny and low-light environments, green lenses have a way of reducing glare while brightening shadows. Blue and yellow both tend to distort color perception even though yellow can help sharpen images, hence their use by hunters and shooters.  Reflective silver lenses look cool but it is the base color underneath that will affect how you see.

Sunglasses do wear out.  Some signs of wear, such as scratches, damaged ear pieces, or missing nose pads are obvious but even the polarization as well as the tint will fade over time.  On average, sunglasses should be replaced about every two years, more frequently if wear them daily in a high UV environment.

Cost.  Sunglasses can cost as little as $1.25 (at Dollar Tree) and you can spend well over $200 for high end designer glasses.  Are the expensive sunglasses really worth the extra cost?  That is a very subjective question, one that only you can answer for your own situation.  If, like me, you have a tendency to lose to break your sunglasses often, less expensive ones will lessen the emotional as well as the financial impact of frequent loss.  More expensive sunglasses are usually made of better materials and may provide a better fit and may have more features.  Generally speaking, the lower the cost of your lenses, the fewer features you have available.  Personally, I like to have several pairs of sunglasses in different places so they are always convenient when I need them.  I keep some on my dresser, in my car and truck, in my motorhome, in my boat, and in my motorcycle trailer.  Stocking all those places with designer glasses would cost me a fortune so I tend toward the less expensive glasses that I can also replace cheaply as often as needed.  I wear them when driving, when doing yard work, and when just relaxing outdoors.  I have recently started seeing ads on TV decrying the high cost of designer sunglasses.  One begins by saying it is ironic that the most expensive part of what you are wearing is also the most fragile, at which point he removes his companions designer sunglasses and easily snaps them in half!  But even their ''affordable'''sunglasses are more than $50 a pair! Guess it beats $200 a pair!

Prescription sunglasses.  If you normally wear eye glasses you might want to consider getting prescription sunglasses for outdoor use.  There are a couple of alternatives.  One is to opt for light darkening lenses on your regular prescription glasses.  The lenses will darken in just a few seconds when exposed to bright sunlight, making them pretty good for driving.  But they are slow to lighten again when you go inside, which can be a problem if you drive into a long tunnel where you need more light.  Clip-on or flip-up sunglasses can be worn over prescription glasses.  If they contact the lenses they can scratch or rub them so always be careful putting them on and off and make sure they don't press against the prescription lens.  Sometimes, if your prescription hasn't changed too much, you can have your old prescription glasses tinted to use as sunglasses when you get new glasses.

Sunglasses usually don't fog up because we usually aren't using them in the cold, damp environments that contribute to fogging (skiing might be an exception).  If, for any reason,  you encounter fogging you might protect them with anti-fog compounds used for off-road goggles.  One of the most effective and most popular is a brand named Cat Crap.  As unappealing as the name may be, the stuff really does work.  There are also a number of anti-fog sprays and anti-fog wipes that will help keep your lenses clear but I'm told it only lasts about half an hour.  Rubbing alcohol is also said to work.  Also detergents.  Anti-fog preparations work by changing the surface tension so water vapor doesn't condense on the lens.

Cleaning sunglasses.  Like all lenses, sunglasses should never be rubbed dry.  Your best bet is to wet the each lens, add a drop of liquid soap, clean the lens, rinse it, and dry it with a soft, clean cloth.  Paper towels are usually too coarse to safely clean lenses.  Facial tissue often contains lotions that can leave deposits that fog or streak.  Even some toilet tissue is coarse enough to scratch lenses or has lotions that leave streaks.  The safest thing to use is a lens cleaning cloth designed for that purpose.  Lots of people use handkerchiefs or shirt tails but they are too coarse and over time they will scratch and dull lenses.

Sometimes you can clear scratches from sunglasses to improve clarity, but often they are probably already nearing the end of their useful life by the time they get enough scratches to become cloudy.  I have used a 3-part plastic polish successfully on googles and motorcycle face shields but have not tried them on sunglasses.  The 3-part system uses progressively finer grits for removing scratches then polishing the lenses.  Sometimes the optical departments at places like Walmart offer lens cleaning services that might be worth trying.  However, the cost might be higher than replacing cheap sunglasses.

I can see clearly now!