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. Please use the SEARCH option below to find what you are looking for.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Truck and SUV Tents

Truck tents are an interesting variation of tent camping.  You need a pickup truck and a special tent designed to fit in the bed of the truck.  Truck tents get you up off the ground so they have advantages over ordinary tents in putting you on a flat surface and, when properly installed, in keeping you up out of any rain runoff that can get under a regular tent.   Having a mostly flat surface without rocks and sticks is usually more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, even with the ribs that most pickup beds have.  Truck tents are usually made of light weight nylon and held up by springy fiberglass poles like a dome tent.  The top part usually extends over the edge of the bed so rain runs off onto the ground, keeping the bed dry under the tent.  They are especially advantageous if you are camping in an area where you might encounter poisonous snakes, insects, or other unwelcome critters on the ground.   Other aspects of truck tent camping are pretty much the same as for regular tent camping.  You'll need to set up your camp kitchen etc the same way.   However, you will want to avoid using the tailgate as a food preparation and cooking area because of the proximity to the tent fabric.  Even if you don't catch your tent on fire, smoke and cooking odors may contaminate your tent and even permanently damage the fabric.  Bacon smells good when its cooking, but is won't smell so good coming from your tent fabric as you try to sleep the next night and you probably won't want to live with the residue in your tent fabric as it ages.  Rancid cooking odors are NOT a culinary delight.

Why not just set up an ordinary tent in the back of your truck?  You might be able to get away with this using a self-supporting style tent if it will fit inside the truck bed and you can figure out a way to secure it.  Truck tents are designed specifically to fit the bed of a pickup truck.  They usually have straps that run down the outside of the bed and hook underneath to secure the tent in place.  The top part of the tent slightly overlaps the bed rails with the lower part slightly recessed so if it rains the rain runs off onto the ground instead of into the bed and under the tent.  The bottom part is narrower, to fit inside the bed and between or sometimes over the fender wells.  Truck tents are available in sizes to fit most standard bed sizes.  Make sure you buy the right size for your truck.  A tent that is too large or too small for your truck will be difficult to use and will lose many of the advantages of using a truck tent.  We have used truck tents successfully in full-size, long-bed trucks and in short-bed mini trucks.  As long as you get the right tent for your truck you'll be fine.  If you're more than 6' tall you'll need to bend your knees to lie down in any short-bed truck.

Truck tents may fare better in bad weather than ordinary tents.   Being up off the ground keeps them away from ground water.   Properly designed truck tents will have sides that come down over the sides of the truck bed so rain runs off to the ground instead of under the tent.   The metal sides of the bed add protection against wind and the way the tent is anchored to the truck makes it more stable in wind than ordinary tents.  Having that metal bed around the lower part of your tent can minimize the way the wind sucks the heat out of your tent.  As mentioned before, it also keeps you up out of the reach of crawling insects and other critters that you might not want to share your tent with.  The ribbed metal or wooden floor of the bed won't be soft as grass or sand, but is flat and it will provide even support for your sleeping pad or air mattress and, unless you leave gravel or debris in the bed you won't be sleeping on a randomly bumpy surface.   If you level your vehicle you will have a level surface to sleep on instead of rolling over or sliding down like sometimes happens in ordinary tents set up on uneven ground.   I've waked up in the morning and found myself almost entirely outside the tent when the ground sloped.   NEVER sleep with your head downhill!  Stomach acid will run back up into your mouth during the night and it isn't pleasant!

SUV tents are kind of like an "add-a-room" for your SUV.  They may attach to the side or to the rear of the vehicle.  The expectation is that you will sleep in the back of the SUV and will use the attached tent as expanded, stand-up dressing area, sitting area, and living space.  You will usually use the back of your SUV for sleeping.  If your family or group is too large to all sleep in the SUV some people can certainly sleep in the attached tent.  Sleeping in the back of your SUV gives you a nice flat, often carpeted surface to roll out your sleeping bags.   You have solid steel and glass all around you to protect you from the elements and animals.  If it gets too cold you might run the engine and heater for a while to take the chill off.  Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear so it won't melt or ignite the tent fabric or send fatal fumes into the tent or SUV. SUV tents are usually less susceptible to wind than ordinary tents for a couple of reasons.   First of all, they are attached to a heavy vehicle which increases stability and secondly, the vehicle usually provides some protection from the wind if it is oriented with the tent on the downwind side.  Keep that in mind when parking your SUV in camp. Many designs include straps to attach the tent to the roof rack or to the top of the doors, providing high anchor points not found in normal tents and increasing stability.  The normal interior lights of your SUV can be used at night to illuminate the part of the tent adjacent to the SUV and in the SUV for bedtime preparations.  Just be judicious about the use so you don't run down your battery. Curtains or some kind of shades on the SUV windows will help control both light and temperature and add a degree of privacy most people will appreciate.  SUV tents are often designed for a specific make and model so take care when purchasing one to be sure it will fit your vehicle.

Roof top tents can be used on just about any car, truck, SUV, or trailer.  See Roof Top Tents for some examples.   Roof top tents get you up off the cold ground and out of the reach of most animals or other pests (except the 2-legged variety).  You usually need a ladder to get in and out of them. Some are designed to fit on existing roof racks; some can be adapted to ordinary sedans.  Be sure to get the right configuration for your vehicle.  There are many accessories available to enhance their use, including winter covers and ground floor dressing rooms.  Roof top tents can range from under a couple hundred bucks to more than $2000, depending on size, features, and quality, so be sure to shop around if you're interested in getting one.   I've seen them on Amazon and even on ebay and craigslist.  Be sure the one you buy is designed to fit your vehicle.

You can use a truck tent just about anywhere since it doesn't take up any extra room.   Because SUV tents attach to the side or rear of the vehicle you will have to consider that when parking your SUV. Make sure there will be room for your tent.  Watch out for trees, bushes, poles, and rocks or other markers that designate your parking area that might interfere with your SUV tent.

Get off the ground!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spontaneous Outings

One of the nice things about having an RV -- or being set up to "grab and go" for tent camping -- is the ability to take spontaneous outings.  Just grab some provisions and take off for a weekend whenever you feel like it.  Or pick up what you need along the way.  That is one reason I like to keep my RV ready to go -- or keep tent camping items well organized and accessible in 'grab and go' containers.  You don't need any particular reason, just the desire to "get away from it all" for a little while is more than sufficient justification.  Keeping everything ready also gives you a buffer in emergency situations.  If your neighborhood was hit by an earthquake, tornado, or other natural or man-made disaster, your RV and/or your camping equipment could become your personal relief center as did our motorhome following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in southern California.

Where to go for a spontaneous outing depends on where you live, what you like to do, and how much time you have.   A quick overnight trip to a local beach or park can be a welcome break from the hectic pace of our normal lives.  Small county or state parks are often overlooked and under utilized yet can provide a nice option for a quick get-a-way without having to drive too far.  If your preferred activities include OHVs you'll need to go somewhere you can ride, but just getting out in nature for a few hours of relaxation at a park or beach can be surprisingly rejuvenating.

Preparing for spontaneous outings.  Does that sound like a conflict in terms?  I suppose you could look at it that way, but there is also good reason to make plans ahead of time that will allow you to be spontaneous.  That includes keeping your RV and/or camping equipment clean and in good condition and ready to go at a moment's notice.  You don't have to plan any specific outing way ahead, just keep yourself set up so you CAN take off when the spirit moves you.  It is also helpful to identify some nearby destinations that can accommodate drop ins.  Most well used developed camp grounds are going to need advance reservations, so you should identify some "boondocking" locations where you don't need reservations.  Have your RV prepped and ready to go so all you have to do is throw in last minute provisions and hit the road.   If you're a tent camper, have all your camping gear well-organized and ready to toss in the car and take off.  Nothing will take the spontaneity out of a spontaneous outing faster than getting bogged down getting going, rounding up your gear, making overdue repairs, or restocking depleted provisions.   You will usually prepare for planned outings well in advance and take time to inspect all of your equipment and gear and to develop your shopping list and acquire provisions.  If you keep your equipment at the ready, you'll be prepared for spontaneous outings.  You get home from work some Friday evening and decide "Let's spend the weekend camping."  Just grab the perishable food you'll need or stop at the market on the way out of town and you're on your way.

Spontaneous activities.  There are lots of things you can have ready to go to provide fun things to do on a spontaneous outing.   Horseshoes, badminton, volleyball, toss around a football or softball, take a hike -- or just DO NOTHING.   For most of us, doing nothing is very hard to do.  Maybe you need to label it "nap time" or "time out" or "R&R" to satisfy that inner drive to be doing "something" all the time.   Sometimes "nothing" is exactly what we need to do, even though it has been said doing nothing can be vey tiring -- because you can't stop to rest!   Modern lifestyles are busy -- often TOO busy. So taking a little time off for real rest and relaxation is a good thing.   Just sit and watch the clouds drift by or let the babbling of a brook lull you to sleep.  We found it a good thing to bring our bicycles along and take a ride through local attractions.  Sure, you could take a walking tour, but you can cover more ground on a bicycle and it feels more like you're doing "something" healthy and you can cover more ground than you would on foot, giving you access to more remote destinations. Bicycle riding lends itself well to the spontaneous atmosphere.   You can go fast to burn calories or go slow to enjoy the scenery; follow a pre-determined route or go exploring.  Best of all, you don't have to adhere to any set schedule and you can go just about anywhere.   Bicycles are great for exploring scenic and historic locations.  And they're pollution free.

Spontaneous meals.  Your meals don't have to be fancy. In fact, the simpler, the better.  Hot dogs are usually far from gourmet fare, but freshly roasted over a campfire they are delicious and don't require a lot of preparation or cleanup.   A tub of potato salad and/or a can of pork and beans and some potato chips will turn hot dogs into a pretty complete meal for lunch or dinner.   How about breakfast?  We often picked up a dozen donuts on our way out of town to have for breakfast the next morning. Granted, donuts are not on the top of any health food diet, but they are quick, easy, inexpensive, and tasty and pretty much always a hit with the kids (of all ages).  Still want something healthy?  How about some fresh fruit?  Thanks to a global supply system apples, bananas, and oranges are pretty much available year round along with a growing variety of exotic fruits.  Or stop by a roadside stand for some seasonal fresh picked local produce. What better snack to fit with a spontaneous outing?

Pot luck dinners are a fun form of spontaneity.  Organize a put luck lunch or dinner in your campground.   Just invite fellow campers to bring whatever they have that they can share.  You get to meet a lot of new people and often get to discover a lot of fun food you might not have otherwise encountered.  Try to be diplomatic if you come across something you don't find palatable and don't take it personally if your contribution is under appreciated.

Just do it!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hot Winter Camping Refreshements

Winter camping calls for warm treats.  A nice hot cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa on a cold morning or a winter evening is as pleasant as an ice cold drink on a hot summer afternoon.  Preparing warm winter treats is really easy, even without today's modern conveniences.  You can heat water for cocoa or coffee right on the campfire or on your camp or RV stove.   If you have an RV with a generator and microwave you can make a cup of instant tea, coffee or cocoa in about 1 minute. Lacking a generator, you may want to keep a pot of water on the campfire or stove so its always ready when you are.  Wrapping cold fingers around a hot cup of your favorite beverage is almost as enjoyable as drinking it.

Warm winter treats are more than just nice to have, they can be an integral part of your comfort and even your health.  It is no fun being cold and it can be hazardous to your health, so having plenty of warm refreshments to keep you going is essential to your well being.  Warm food helps maintain core temperatures; holding a cup with a hot drink in it can help warm cold hands.  Inhaling the warm vapor from a steaming cup of your favorite beverage can help defrost your cold nose and may even deliver some heat into your core through your lungs.  Warm drinks probably provide more psychological benefits than actual heat for warming your core, but they certainly don't hurt.

Warm winter snacks.   One of our favorite hot treats are camp fire pies.  They're really easy to make if you have the right pie cookers.  These are little metal clam-shells with long handles.  You simply put a slice of bread on each side, spoon in your favorite pie filling, close the cooker, and place it in the coals.   In a few minutes you'll have a fresh baked, personal-sized pie.  It will take some practice to figure out how long to cook it so it is golden brown and the filling heated all the way through, but is well worth the effort.  You might think the bread would just taste like toast, but it actually tastes remarkably close to real pie crust.   Be sure to coat the inside of the cooker with butter, cooking oil, or cooking spray to prevent the bread from sticking.  We borrowed another cold weather favorite from a fellow camper.   Instead of ordinary chips and cold dips, mix a can of heated chili with cream cheese.  It is best served with "Scoops", the big, spoon shaped corn chips.  It really hits the spot on a cold evening.   Of course, anything you can cook on your campfire and eat warm makes a good cold weather treat.   S'mores are the campfire classic, but for variety you might try ash cakes or bread twists, served hot from the campfire with butter and honey or jam or cinnamon sugar.  Cold weather makes breakfasts more important than ever.  Nothing quite like bacon and eggs or some fresh pancakes to take the chill off a cold morning.  The smell of bacon frying over the campfire is camping tradition that is sure to stimulate appetites.

Speaking of something that sticks to your ribs, a nice hot bowl of oatmeal or Cream of Wheat is a great way to start the day.  Instant versions of these traditional breakfast staples make them ready in a jiffy.  You can heat them in the microwave in your RV or fix them with boiling water from pot heated over your campfire when tent camping.   For a pioneer touch, try corn meal mush instead.  Cook corn meal like you would oatmeal until it has softened into a gruel consistency.   I like mine with lots and lots of butter and honey.   Another popular breakfast treat is fresh baked cinnamon rolls.  With a Coleman stove-top oven you can even fix these when tent camping.  Refrigerated dough will give you a fast and easy start but you should be able to make them from scratch using basic ingredients from your camp provisions without having to worry about keep the dough refrigerated until you're ready to use it.  Of course, if it cold enough outside you might be able to keep things cool by just keeping them outside.  A snow bank makes a pretty cool refrigerator.

Winter beverages. Warm drinks are always nice on cold days. In addition to traditional brews like coffee, tea, and cocoa, you might want to try spiced cider or something called "wassail", a mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and topped with slices of toast.  Modern recipes sometimes begin with a base of wine, fruit juice, or mulled ale, sometimes with brandy or sherry added.  Apples or oranges are often added to the mix.  Be sure to check your campground rules for alcohol before creating an alcoholic punch.  By the way, "wassail" is derived from a middle English phrase, "wæs hæil", that means "good health", so those heavily laced with alcohol might not qualify!  Cocoa or hot chocolate can be easily dressed up with extra flavors.   I like to add French vanilla coffee creamer or vanilla or caramel syrup.   Or ordinary vanilla extract will do the trick. Cinnamon and nutmeg are fun variations too.   Carmel syrup always adds a sweet taste.  And don't forget to top it with whipped cream, marshmallows, or marshmallow creme.  A really easy and tasty hot beverage is spiced cider.  Simply heat some cider (or apple juice) together with several cinnamon sticks.  The aroma will fill your RV or campsite with a holiday scent and the hot drink is delicious -- and relatively healthy. In addition to warming your insides, hot beverages are good for warming your hands as you hold them and even defrosting your nose as you sip.  Hot or warm beverages are also helpful in restoring your inside warmth if you get too chilled.

Meals to keep you warm.  Your body needs more calories to maintain your body temperature in cold weather.  Carbohydrates are a good source of those calories.   They are usually quick to be absorbed by the body.   Some friends of mine got caught dirt-biking in a snow storm and by the time they reached civilization they were getting close to becoming hypothermic.  In addition to huddling around the restaurant fireplace they consumed plate after plate of roast beef and hot mashed potatoes and gravy.  Soon they were feeling warm and cozy.   In addition to the physical warmth provided by a hot meal, the best winter meals provide fuel for your body to maintain its own warmth.  Chili is always a hit on cold evenings and hot soup or stew is a close second.  I personally prefer stews and thick soups over the watery kind.  Feels like it will "stick to my ribs" better although thin soups also contribute to maintaining proper hydration.  As I mentioned above, a couple of my dirt biking buddies wolfed down plate after plate of hot roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy after a long, cold winter ride in the snow while sitting in front of the restaurant fireplace to warm up.

Here are some basic food guidelines that will help you stay warm:

    # Root Vegetables - Potatoes, carrots, white radish, onion and garlic (dry and spring varieties).
    # Leafy greens -  Green beans and peas form a part of high energy and high-protein vegetables.  Even adding some celantro to your tacos or burritos will give you a little of the benefits of greens in your diet.   By the way, coriander is what you get when celantro goes to seed.
    # Whole Grain Cereals  - High energy and protein foods provide the required fuel to combat the cold.
    # Fresh and Dried Fruits - Papaya and pineapple are believed to provide warmth. Dates are warm in nature and are highly recommended in the winter months.
    # Spices - Mustard, black pepper, and dill seeds are all warm spices to be used freely. Mustard, ajwain and suva seeds are a valuable remedy for winter coughs and flu, stimulating appetite and digestion and increasing blood circulation.  And, yes, hot chili peppers warm you in more ways than one.

Herbs and Seeds - Basil  is an herb that protects against colds and fever and helps strengthen immunity.  Ginger, (fresh and dry varieties) is very warming.  Sliced ginger with lime and salt is a common accompaniment with meals, while ginger can be added to tea, soups, stews, and vegetables.

Our family favorite for cold nights is my wife's home-made chili.  We fondly refer to it as Marilyn's (or Mom's) Marvelous Mojave Mild Chili.   It is definitely not a "3-alarm chili".   She even won "Sweetest Chili" at a church chili cook off one year.  I'm don't know her exact recipe and I'm not sure she even has one.   She just makes it to taste.  She often makes it with ground turkey instead of ground beef, allowing us to at least pretend it is somewhat healthy.   It is simple to make: mostly ground meat (brown the meat before adding the other ingredients), red beans and tomato sauce and seasoned to taste, primarily chili powder.  I sometimes like to add some brown sugar to enhance the already "sweet" flavor.  To lower the fat content, pour off excess grease before adding the other stuff. The longer it simmers, the better and it is very good as a leftover, so make it in large batches.  We often freeze bags of it for later.  It reheats really well and almost tasted even better.  It is really good topped with shredded cheese and served with sliced oranges.   I sometimes like to add corn chips (Fritos or "Scoops" are my favorites).  You can start it early in the day and let it simmer all day long. It is an ideal dish to let simmer in a Dutch oven while you're out participating in recreational activities.  If you have some frozen leftovers and a microwave it can be ready to take the chill off in a jiffy for subsequent meals too.   No doubt the chili pepper helps warm things up in more ways than one.  Just about any soup or stew will taste good on a cold night and help warm you up.   I prefer thick stews and chowders over the watery kinds of soup.  Sort of feels like it will "stick to my ribs" better.  However, a bowl of hot, thick tomato soup is a nice companion to a grilled cheese sandwich and any hot soup will help warm you when its cold outside (or you're cold inside!).   I prefer not to add the full amount of water the instructions usually call for in order to make it thicker and (to me) more satisfying.

Bon appetite!

Cool Summer Camping Refreshments

There is nothing like a cool refreshment on a hot day. J ust look at the lines at the snow cone and shaved ice stands around town!  But what about cool refreshments when you're out camping?  Well, thanks to RVs and portable generators, you can have a variety of cool treats in camp.   If you have a freezer compartment in your RV fridge you can bring along Popsicles, which have been a summer favorite for generations.  You can make your own mini Popsicles in ice cube trays using your favorite flavor Kool Aid, sports drink, or other beverage and toothpicks.  Cool treats can be healthy if you choose carefully.  Smoothies and treats of frozen fruit juices or sports drinks don't have the calories that ice cream and commercial Popsicles have.   Frozen treats are a little harder to manage when tent camping, but with a really good ice chest, it is possible.  You can't freeze new ice cube treats, but you may be able to bring along some frozen goodies.

Cool refreshments are more than just nice to have:  they can be essential to your health as well as your comfort.  Dehydration and heat related illness are a real threat in hot weather.  Cool beverages are more appealing so you will probably drink more of them.  Proper cool refreshments can help regulate body temperature and help maintain liquids.  To help maintain electrolytes, make some ice cubes using sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade.

Snow cones.  We felt really luxurious when we first started making snow cones on our dirt bike outings to the Mojave Desert.  At first I just tried crushing the ice in a standard blender.  The results were passable, but would be more accurately describe as crushed ice cones,  They were pretty crunchy and left something (a lot, actually) to be desired.   I found an inexpensive portable snow cone maker on the Internet.  It uses its own specially shaped ice disks so I have to plan ahead, but the results are practically professional -- it produces a fluffy shaved ice "snow" that distributes the flavoring evenly and yields a texture that is a delight on the tongue.   I also found a Rival brand snow cone maker that used regular ice cubes or crushed ice.  I found several flavors of sno-cone syrups at a local restaurant supply store or you can make your own "syrup" using KoolAid or Jello.

Ice cream cones and sundaes are another long time summertime tradition.   And all the equipment you need is an ice cream scoop -- along with a freezer compartment in your fridge or an ice chest adequate to keep the ice cream frozen until you're ready to use it.   Because they're portable and require no cleanup (unless you drip!) ice cream cones are an ideal treat for camping.  You can choose between traditional "cake" cones or fancier "waffle" or sugar cones.  With a little searching you can find chocolate flavored waffle cones and cake cones that come in various festive colors besides the standard wheat color.  Sundaes are a little messier but if you loath doing dishes you can serve them in disposable bowls and use disposable plastic spoons.  Sundaes can be as simple or as elegant as you want them to be.  I was amused by a local ice cream store who offered a "Topless Sundae".  It consisted of two scoops of vanilla ice cream with a half a maraschino cherry on top of each scoop. More traditional sundaes include your favorite chocolate, butterscotch, cherry, strawberry, or caramel syrup plus nuts and whipped topping.  Or, for a really rich sundae, hot fudge!  Most ice cream "nut toppings" are mostly peanuts but, if anyone in your group has peanut allergy or if you just don't like peanuts, chopped almonds or cashews are also delicious.  (Almonds are MY favorite!)  Various forms of candy "sprinkles", including crushed candy bars add a sweet touch.   For the health-minded, real fruit makes a healthy and tasty topping too.   Sherbets offer a lighter alternative to ice cream and are often more refreshing since they have a crisper taste.  Home made ice cream is always a campground favorite.   You'll need a good recipe, an ice cream freezer, lots of ice and rock salt, and plenty of strong arms.   If you're short on strong arms but have power available you could use an electric ice cream maker, but wouldn't that be cheating?

Smoothies can provide a healthier hot weather alternative to ice cream treats.  They can be made with a variety of fruits and vegetables.  You can find many good recipes on the Internet, but the basic formula includes ice cream or yogurt, sliced or diced fruit(s) of your choice, ice cubes, and some liquid such as water, fruit juice, milk or soy milk.  You can add protein powder for extra energy.  Fruit can be fresh or frozen.  Need extra fiber?  Add a spoonful or two of your favorite fiber additive -- this a tasty way to disguise fiber supplements.  Just combine all the ingredients in your blender and run it until it is thoroughly mixed.  Leave the skin on fruits for added fiber and nutrition.  You don't need a special blender to make smoothies.  Any high speed kitchen blender will do.  Recipes do not have to be exact and you can make up your own using what you have on hand and whatever sounds good to you and flavor to taste.  The more liquid you add and the longer you blend your smoothie, the smoother and fluffier (and more liquid) it will be. If you prefer having a little ice to crunch on or like them thicker, use less liquid and blend it less. If it is TOO crunchy for your taste, blend it more. Leftover smoothies can be poured into an ice cube tray to make mini smoothie popsicles or can be re-blended for later.

Cool drinks.  Cool drinks of just about any kind are always welcome on a hot day.  Plain old water is one of the most refreshing -- and one of the healthiest.  Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade help replenish electrolytes that are lost through perspiration.  Cold soft drinks are tasty, but because of the high sweetener content in most of them, they have a lot of calories and are not the best at quenching your thirst.  Alcoholic drinks and caffeinated drinks like coffee and colas can contribute to dehydration so avoid them if you can or drink them only in moderation.   Fruit drinks can be a refreshing and fairly healthy source of hydration.  Lemonade is a traditional favorite -- jazz it up a bit with fresh strawberries or raspberries or mint leaves.  Or try limeade for a change. It is a bit tangier and crisper than lemonade and I find it more refreshing on a hot day.   It is especially good with slices of fresh lime in it.  Speaking of limes, try adding a slice of lime to your favorite lemon-lime soda or ginger ale.   Gives it an extra bit of tang that makes it especially tasty and refreshing.  Various summer punches can also be a refreshing alternative to sodas.  One of our favorites is a Cucumber Punch.  It is made with ginger ale, frozen limeade, and sliced cucumbers.  It is surprisingly tasty and refreshing.  I like to make it up in a washtub style container and ladle it over ice, making sure to include a cucumber slice in each glass.  A bit of green food coloring gives it extra character.  You might choose other colors to match holiday themes but green seems to suit the flavor.  There are a number of refreshing punches that can be made with clear sodas and sherbet.  A personal favorite of mine is 7-up and Raspberry sherbet. Y ou are limited only by your imagination, your budget, and your taste buds.  Iced drinks are very tempting and tasty, but are not necessarily the healthiest thing to drink when you're hot.  Many health nuts will recommend drinking room temperature water, but I don't particularly enjoy it myself.   Even the Bible criticizes that which is neither warm nor cold but is luke warm and is spewn out of the mouth.   And whatever you drink, don't guzzle!   Sipping a little a time will be better for you and avoid the stomach cramps that can come from drinking a lot of cold stuff when you're over heated.

Plain old water is actually one of the healthiest and most refreshing thing you can drink in hot weather.   Drink plenty of it.  Add a slice or wedge of lemon or lime to give it a little fresh, tangy feeling on your tongue.  Ice water is often a favorite on hot days but having it at room temperature is often thought to be healthier by some.  Cool tap water is a good compromise.   Don't wait until you are thirsty to start drinking.  By then you are already starting to get dehydrated.  Take a few swallows of water frequently throughout the day to stay hydrated and stave off thirst.  Many times, people who are getting dehydrated may feel hungry instead of thirsty.  Sedentary men in temperate climates need about 3 quarts of water a day.  Women need about 2 quarts. Your requirement will increase significantly with activity and with hot weather.   Wearing a "Camelbak" hydration pack or carrying a water bottle and sipping from it frequently is one of the best ways of staying hydrated.

RV refrigerators make having cold treats easy.  You'll need a good ice chest and plenty of ice to maintain cold treats for more than a day or two when tent camping.  I've seen ice chests that promise to keep things cold for up to 5 days.  Tests I've read about and personal experience say they actually work.  Of course the performance of any ice chest will depend on outside temperature, sun exposure,  length and frequency of opening, and how well you pre-cooled what you put in it.   Keep your ice chest in the shade as much as possible and limit opening it.  Don't drain off the melted water right away.  The cold water will continue to cool the interior of the ice chest for some time even after the ice has melted.   Both the ice and the water will be at 32 degrees until all the ice is gone.  If water is soaking the contents and it is necessary to drain some of it off, you might pour it over another ice chest or back over the one it came out of to cool the outside and postpone further heating of contents or use it to cool the bandanna around your neck or even to soak your shirt for extra cooling on a hot day.   If you have sufficient battery reserve you could use a 12-volt cooler instead of or in addition to an ice chest to keep things cool.

Bottoms up!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Housekeeping In Camp

"I'm on vacation..." was the plaintive cry of Billy Crystal in the movie Cityslickers as he was being dragged along a dry wash by a runaway cow.   Many of us legitimately feel that way (hopefully without the part about being dragged by a cow) when we go camping so we have a tendency to avoid routine housekeeping chores and just enjoy ourselves.  After all, we're on vacation!   And shouldn't that mean a vacation from housekeeping chores too?  We'll, no, not really.  Whether you're camping in a second hand tent or a luxury motorhome you need to pay attention to routine housekeeping tasks. Done regularly and properly, they will take up little time and in the long run actually give you more time to enjoy your outing.  I don't think I've ever seen anyone, not even in huge, luxury motorhome, who brought their domestic staff to camp and most of us don't have a domestic staff anyway!

Daily chores. Many of the routine chores associated with camping are the same as those we perform at home.  Details may be different, but the basic list of chores remains the same.  Make your bed.  Do the dishes.  Pick up and put away errant items.  Sweeping and dusting.  You probably only need to clean the windows on your RV as needed, especially if you've been doing proper pre- and post-trip maintenance.  Why bother making your bed in an RV or a tent?  Why not just close the door or zip up the tent and forget it?  One factor is the effect on your attitude. A  friend of mine once told me her mother taught her that "if the beds are made and the dishes are done, your house is clean".  Obviously there are other factors, but those two are highly visible to us as well as any visitors and help give us a sense of order and organization.  Leaving these things undone lends an air of clutter and disarray that promotes even more clutter and disarray.  You will sleep better in an orderly bed than you will in one with loose, tangled bedding.   What about "making your bed" when tent camping?  Well, the process is a little different but is even more important.  You need to air out your sleeping bag every morning to allow accumulated moisture from overnight perspiration to evaporate.  A damp sleeping bag will not keep you warm and, on top of that, it will soon develop rather unpleasant odors.  One of the best ways to freshen your sleeping bag is to turn it in-side-out and hang it outside in the sunlight and breeze for a couple of hours.   Don't leave it there all day as extended exposure to sunlight will damage the fabric.  In inclement weather, you'll need to hang it inside your tent.  Make a clothesline across the inside using light rope or twine.   Turn your bag in-side-out, and hang it over the line for a few hours. It may take longer to dry out than it will outside in the sun and the breeze.   Follow the same procedure if you use a sleeping bag in your RV instead of regular bedding.   If you're camping in an RV for more than just a few days, you will want to bring along enough bedding to at least change the sheets every few days.  Lacking that, remove the bedding and hang it out for a few hours every day or two to dry and freshen it.  And you might want to hit your bedding with Fabreze every day or so to minimize odor problems.  Oh, the wonders of modern consumer technology.

Sweeping the floors.  Regularly sweeping out your tent or RV may seem to be a waste of time since someone will probably track in more dirt before you can even put the broom away.  However, keeping the floors as clean as possible is important to keeping them in good condition.  Grit gets into the fibers of carpets and tent floors and literally cuts them off.  On hard surface floors it grinds away at the shine.  You shouldn't be anal about sweeping the floors, but neither should you be lax.  As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Keep a mat outside the door or your tent or RV to wipe your feet on before entering.  An awning mat alongside your RV also traps a lot of what would otherwise end up inside.  One suggestion is to use an old burlap bag as a mat.  They are cheap, take up little room in transit, and are easy to clean. You can hose them off when you get home or even toss them in the washer.  The rough texture helps scour mud and debris from your shoes and dry the soles before you track it into your tent or RV.  When I'm camping in my little pop-up dome tent, I just stand in front of the open door, pick the tent up by the poles and shake out any loose dirt and debris that has accumulated at least once a day, usually when I get up in the morning.  For a more securely anchored tent I use a short broom or a whisk broom.  You can use a full size broom in an RV or a big tent.  Some RVs come with central vacuum cleaner systems but as along as you have shore power or a functioning generator you can use any vacuum cleaner.   Canister styles are easier to store in an RV than uprights.   I have mine in the space under one of the dinette seats.  I chose a Kenmore with an air-powered brush to enhance cleaning power.  The disposable bags make getting rid of the swept up gunk a breeze.   Just make sure you bring along some extra bags.

General clutter should always be avoided.  When you are finished with an item, put it back where it belongs.  The old adage, "a place for everything and everything in its place" is particularly valuable when camping.  Whether you're in a tent or an RV, you have limited space, limited resources, and limited time.  You may be able get by rummaging through a pile of stuff on the workbench at home looking for something when you need it, but when you're camping, you don't want to spend your valuable leisure time like that.  Avoiding clutter requires some initial organization to find the right place for each item.  From there it is just a matter of putting things back when you finish using them. Putting them away properly does more than maintain the appearance of your RV or campsite, it keeps you from wasting time looking for things the next time you need them.  Once you have established where things go, avoid putting them away someplace else.   It is OK to thoughtfully re-organize things as you learn what works best and what doesn't, but don't just stuff something in a convenient drawer just to get it out of the way.  And don't re-organize too often!   If you keep moving things around you'll never remember where you put them.   It might be better to have something in a less logical place where it has "always" been if you know where it is.

Laundry can be a difficult task while camping, unless your RV is equipped with a washer and dryer or there is a laundromat at the campground.  It is, however, something you will need to do.  Primitive civilizations did their laundry in lakes and streams, without soap or detergent, pounding them on the rocks to work loose the dirt.   Not a very appealing solution, especially if you have delicate fabrics. You may be able to successfully wash your clothes in ordinary laundry soap in the RV sink or in a plastic washbasin and hang them out to dry.   If you use a washbasin, be sure to dispose of the soapy water where it won't contaminate the local water supply or make a mess in the campground.   If you do choose to wash them in a lake or stream, be sure to use biodegradable soaps as normal soaps will contaminate the water and make sure you are downstream from anyplace people are swimming or drawing water for drinking and cooking.  Just rinsing things out with fresh water will help keep stains from "setting" and will usually make your clothing fit to wear again -- if you don't go too long between washings.   If you are backpacking or find your self in survival mode with no means of washing your clothes, just hanging your clothing out in the sun and air for a few hours will help freshen it.  The UV in the sunlight will kill bacteria and viruses and the air will help eliminate accumulated moisture and odors.

Personal hygiene is sometimes thought of as a luxury or even a nuisance while camping.   It shouldn't be.  Personal hygiene should be routine if you're camping in an RV or a tent and have adequate provisions.  Even in a survival situation, personal hygiene is essential to maintain health and comfort.  Personal hygiene isn't just a way of making you more pleasant to be around, it can be essential to maintaining your health.  Avoid getting dirty when you can.   If you have a suitable water supply, take regular baths and rinse out your clothes.  If your water supply is limited, take "cat baths" using just a wash cloth and a pan of water to clean your hands, face, and other parts of the body that need special attention.   If water is scarce, take "air showers" -- strip down as far as weather and propriety allow for at least a few hours every couple of days or so. This allows air and sunlight to cleanse your body of germs and dry and air out your clothing.  Keeping your hands clean has been shown as an effective way to reduce spreading of disease.  Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds if you can whenever they may have been contaminated by germs, especially after handling raw meat.

Outdoor housekeeping.  When camping you need to pay attention to outdoor housekeeping as well as keeping things neat and clean inside.  Campers usually have a bunch of outdoor items (camping chairs, recreational equipment, firewood, shovels, axes, OHVs) and everything needs to be well organized to start with and kept orderly throughout the excursion.  Careful organization will makes our experience more enjoyable and we'll feel better about our camp site and ourselves if things are neat and clean and conveniently located when we need them.  You don't need to go to the extreme of the Boy Scouts at Jamboree where they mark off and outline and put signs on each area, but you and your fellow campers should be able to easily identify the function and boundaries of each section. Sure, you can just dump your box or bag of firewood on the ground, but it looks better and is more convenient to use if it is stacked neatly.   Remember, when you're building your fire you need tinder, then kindling, then progressively larger pieces of wood.   Having it stacked neatly makes this task much easier and quicker than if you have to dig through a random pile of junk wood to find what you need.  Put large pieces of wood on one end and add progressively smaller pieces as you work toward the other end. Keep your fire pit in good condition.  If someone has dumped in non-combustible materials, remove them while the fire is cool.  Realign the rocks around rock fire pits to maintain a proper fire ring.   Coolers should be kept out of the sun.  Sometimes you can slide them under your vehicle so they're shaded all day.  If they won't fit under your vehicle try putting them under the picnic table.  This also keeps them out of the way so people don't trip over them.  Tools, like shovels and axes, need to be stored where they're convenient to use but out of the reach of children and where they won't be a trip hazard or fall on someone.  Camp chairs should never be left standing around a campfire when you leave the fire.  At the very least, fold them up and lay them down flat so they don't get blown over into the fire pit after everyone has gone to bed.  Better yet, move them away from the fire and lean them up against your vehicle or some other consistent place in your camp. Sliding them under your vehicle or picnic table keeps them out of rain and overnight dew and prevents them from becoming a tripping hazard.  I've seen people take outdoor housekeeping to what I think is the extreme: such as sweeping their camp site down to the hard pack. Sweeping your camp site makes sense if you're on a paved surface, but to me, sweeping dirt is going over board!   Still, if that makes you happy, go ahead!  ust don't kick up a lot of dust that drifts into a neighboring site or contaminates your tent, kitchen, sleeping bags, sitting area, or RV.

Survival housekeeping.  Housekeeping may not seem to be a priority when you are in survival mode.   After all, you must have shelter, water, and food in order to stay alive and that takes time and effort.  But housekeeping should be a part of your survival plan.  You will need to keep things neat and organized to facilitate your other survival tasks.  Collect fire wood and potential building materials into designated places.  Create a "laundry room" area to hang out your clothes and bedding. Though not a pleasant subject for polite company, you will need to have a latrine area to dispose of body wastes.   Ideally, it should be located conveniently close to your main camp, but far enough away to provide privacy and avoid odors from polluting your main living space.   Put it down hill and down wind if you can.   Keeping things neat and clean will also provide a psychological assist you need to maintain a good survival attitude.  If you are stuck for any length of time, creating some creature comforts for yourself and your companions will both give you something productive and rewarding to do and make your lives easier.  The more you can turn your emergency camp into your own personal or personalized living space, the more at home you will be, improving your attitude and your chances of survival.  Keeping things clean and organized will reduce the potential for disease and make life more comfortable.

Keep it clean!

Back Yard/Driveway Camping

In several posts I've touted the benefits of camping in your driveway or backyard as way to get ready for "the real thing".  Backyard or driveway camping is most applicable to suburban or rural residents and will have very limited opportunities for urban and apartment dwellers.  However, you may be able to benefit from "living room" camping anywhere --  you can set up your tent and try it out indoors if you have room and it is a self supporting style that doesn't have to be staked down.  Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of your practice exercises.

Timing.   Try to do your home "dry run" at least a week or two before any planned actual outings.  That will give you time to make any needed repairs or other adjustments to your equipment and skills.  If you find your tent or sleeping bags are too small -- or too large -- you'll still have time to change them.  If your stove or lantern won't work you can get it fixed or replaced.   If your provisions aren't right you'll have time to get what  you need.

Make it as real as possible.  Pretend you are out in a campground or primitive area and don't run back to the house every time you get a little bit uncomfortable.  When you discover items you should have brought with you, make a list, make do for this exercise, and bring them next time.  If you are RV camping, don't connect to shore power or water -- unless you intend to only camp in places with full hook-ups.   Don't run back into the house for every little additional convenience you want.  Try to make do with what you have on board, just as you would if you were away from home.   Of course, if there is a medical or other true emergency, take whatever steps are needed to ensure the health, safety and comfort of you and everyone in your group.   It may be helpful to attempt to handle minor problems using what you have with you so you can augment your first aid kit, training, and medical supplies as needed for actual outings, but don't put your victim at further risk or through extra suffering just for the sake of practice!

Tent camping in your own back yard can be a lot of fun and give you a chance to practice setting up and using your tent.  You'll probably be setting it up on a fairly level, grassy site, whereas you may encounter sloping, rocky, uneven terrain in a primitive camp site.  Even so, practicing at home will let you develop skills and techniques that will make setting up your "real" camp easier and you can adjust to the sensations of sleeping in a tent in a safe and familiar setting.  Setting up your tent without the pressure of being in a camp site and perhaps under the scrutiny of family, friends, strangers and fellow campers gives you a chance to master the components and techniques before they become critical.  It will be useful to practice driving and removing your tent pegs so you can test your tools and your technique.  Sleeping in your own back yard allows to you begin to get used to sleeping in the tent without quite as many disturbing factors as you might find in a campground.  Then you'll be more comfortable in your tent and will only have to adjust to unusual factors of the specific camp site environment.  Be sure to check local regulations about open fires if you plan to have a campfire. Otherwise you may get an unexpected visit from the local fire and/or police department which doesn't usually contribute favorably to the camping experience.  Cooking fires are usually permitted most anywhere, but may be prohibited during high fire danger and there are often permanent restrictions against recreational fires in residential areas.  And, you might not have an appropriate place to build a campfire in your backyard.  You may have to make do with your camp stove or your patio BBQ when camping in your backyard.

Driveway camping in your RV allows you to experience some of the things you will encounter elsewhere.   If you have a steeply sloping driveway you may have to try parking on the street or resign yourself to making practice runs to local campgrounds.   In a real pinch you might spend a night in a local Walmart parking lot.  You can experience and practice many aspects of RVing without leaving home.  You can determine if your bed and bedding are comfortable and practice using the on-board appliances, shower and galley.  You can make sure the stove, refrigerator, water heater, and furnace are working properly and that you know how to use them efficiently.  You can see if you have any leaks or other problems with your fresh water system.  You may have to deal with the sound of traffic in the street instead of the calls of wild animals or the rushing of wind through the or the babbling of a nearby brook so it is only an approximation of a true camping environment.   However, RV camping in your own driveway is still a very good way for novices to learn how to use and enjoy their RVs without spending a lot of money or taking a lot of risk and to get used to sleeping in the RV instead of a familiar bed at home.  It is also a good way to make sure everything is working before you're out where you can't do anything about it if it doesn't.

Pre-trip preparation.  Use your at-home camping experience to practice your pre-trip preparation techniques.  Perform the same steps you would if you were headed out to a campground.  You may get away with not topping off vehicle fuel tanks, but you really should pretty much do everything else as if you were headed out in the great outdoors.

Post-trip procedures.  The same thing applies to post-trip procedures.   Practice the cleaning, inspection, and inventory you would do after a trip to a campground.  When you are done your RV and/or camping gear should all be clean, all non-perishable provisions re-stocked, holding tanks emptied, and ready for the next event.  Practicing both pre-and post- trip procedures is a good way to verify and refine your checklists so they'll be what you need when you actually hit the road.

Have fun!  Your at-home camping practice should definitely not be an onerous exercise.  If something does go wrong, recover as quickly as you can and go on to the next activity.   It will likely make an amusing story for sharing in the future.  At-home camping is a good time to practice fire-making and other survival skills and teach them to other members of your family.  Try out camp recipes and cooking techniques.  It is much better to find out if there are any problems before you're away from home and can't do anything about them.

Practice makes perfect!

Hot Weather Camping (Reprise)

Why two posts on hot weather camping, especially so close together? Well, isn't that when we do most of our camping?  Sure, I could have just updated the original post, but adding a second one will increase awareness.  Here are a few more thoughts and tips for hot weather camping.

The most ideal camping weather would usually be under clear skies with moderate temperatures.  However, since camping is, at least for many people, a summer activity, you may frequently find yourself facing hot weather.  If you are planning outings for July and August you may want to think about heading up into the mountains or down to the beach instead of your favorite local haunts to escape the heat but even there you may get struck with unexpectedly warm temperatures.

Hot weather makes demands on both you and your equipment and you will need to be prepared to address the issues for both.  Sometimes you can plan activities that will mitigate the affects of hot weather.  Swimming and other water sports are probably near the top of the list for most people.  If you don't have access to aquatic facilities you may have to simply adapt your normal activities to accommodate the weather.  Scaling back, moving them into the shade, or choosing less strenuous pursuits are some of the ways of dealing with the heat.

Yes, I know, I just  posted an article on Hot Weather Camping not long ago.  However, because most of us to most of our camping in summer, we will encounter hot weather most of the time and it bears a second look.

Hot weather can be very hard on vehicles.  You will want to make sure the cooling system on your vehicles (motorhomes, tow vehicles, family car, OHVs) is in good shape and that liquid cooled engines have sufficient antifreeze.  Check radiator and heater hoses regularly to ensure they are in good condition and have no leaks.  Keep an eye on the temperature gauge if your vehicle has one and if it starts to climb unexpectedly, stop and figure out why.  Some increase in temperature is expected in hot weather, especially if you are running your air conditioner or are climbing hills.  Many steep or long hills may have signs admonishing you to turn off your air conditioner.  Doing so will reduce the load on your engine and the amount of heat the radiator has to disperse.  Turning on your heater is one way to boost engine cooling, but it will be more uncomfortable for you and  your passengers.  The heater core is essentially a little radiator that can remove some heat from the coolant that flows through the heater hoses.  You will have to decide whether the additional cooling is worth the extra discomfort.

Hot weather will stress coolers and RV refrigerators.  Limit opening them as much as possible.  Try to keep coolers in the shade.  If your RV fridge has a vent fan, be sure to use it.  If it doesn't have one,consider adding one.  I like the solar powered versions because they don't put any drain on the battery system.

Keep curtains or shades drawn in RVs or protect the windows with awnings to reduce accumulation of heat inside.  Use reflective foam panels in the windows for even better protection against unwanted heat.  Start the A/C early in the day BEFORE things heat up.  It is usually easier and more efficient for the A/C to keep up than to have to cool down an already hot rig.

Hang out in the shade.   It is sometimes surprising how much cooler it is in the shade.  Many campgrounds offer tree-shaded sites and activity areas but you can always create your own shade using your patio awning or standalone canopy.

Mist systems are a handy way to cool things down under your patio awning or standalone canopy.  If you're in a campground with hookups and running off city water you can usually use them without worrying about running out of water but if you're relying on your on board water supply you'll need to keep an eye on usage so you don't run out.  I like to have a separate pump drawing water from a separate tank or from 5-gallon water jugs to supply my mist system so I don't run the risk of burning up my main RV pump or running our of fresh water.  Personal mist systems can be used to keep your cool too.  Or just spritz yourself from a spray bottle of clean water now and then.  Spray bottles are a very inexpensive and effective way to keep cool and they're portable enough to take just about anywhere.  You can even spray the outside of your tent and the windows to help reduce temperatures inside but they are most effective when sprayed on you.  You can even buy spray bottles at your local dollar store so they are inexpensive and can be easily replaced if lost or damaged.

Cool treats are always enjoyable on hot days.  Topping the list are cold beverages and icy treats like snowcones.  See the article on Cool Summer Camping Refreshments for even more suggestions.

Fun in the sun!

Cold Weather Camping

Cold weather is usually not the time of year for most camping trips, but sometimes the weather may turn bad and we get stuck in cold weather -- and, believe it or not, sometimes, people actually choose winter camping activities.  A properly equipped RV makes a good base camp for snowmobiling, snowboarding, sledding, ice skating, ice fishing, and skiing.  A good four-season tent can also be a fairly comfortable winter home away from home. Admittedly most of the intentional winter camping experiences I've done have involved Boy Scout tent camping activities rather than personal or family RV outings, but many trips have been memorable.  We've experienced unseasonably cold weather on more than one dirt bike trip in southern California, even to the point of an unusual several inches of snow in the Mojave Desert a couple of times!  Cold weather camping can be fun and even comfortable if you are properly prepared.  Keep in mind that everything takes "twice" as long in the winter (getting there and back, setting up camp, breaking camp, cooking, even going to the bathroom (remember those snow suits as a kid?), etc.) and plan accordingly.  I'm sure more than one child wet his or her pants while wrestling with the multitude of zippers, buttons, snaps, belts, and strings on multiple layers of clothing.  You can enjoy almost any cold weather if you're properly dressed for it -- neither rain nor snow nor dark of night need stay the avid camper from his appointed (or chosen) rounds.

RV Cold Weather preparations.   Most RVs do not come from the factory equipped for use in sub-freezing weather.  At least most RVs made in the United States.  Canadian models are more likely to be winter ready.  Fortunately, most unexpected cool weather during camping season isn't going to plunge you into days of sub-freezing conditions.  I have seen RVs with dual furnaces and even dual hot water heaters to enhance winter camping, but most units aren't well equipped for cold weather, at least those made in the U.S.  Many Canadian built RVs ARE, out of necessity, designed for cold weather use.  If you do plan to use your RV in sub-freezing temperatures you may have to make some modifications to prevent the water and sewer systems from freezing.  Even in milder cool weather you will want to ensure your RV is free from drafts and insulate the windows to prevent unnecessary heat loss for your own comfort and to conserve propane.  Some RVs have heavy drapes or shades but most can benefit from the installation of foam/foil window covers behind whatever window coverings are there.  Reflectix brand is an example of bubble foil/foam insulation that can be easily cut to fit any window.  Make sure you top off your propane tank before you leave, since cool/cold weather is going to put a higher demand on your furnace, water heater, and, most likely the stove as well since you'll want more hot meals and beverages and probably won't be doing a lot of campfire cooking or outdoor BBQs.   Because heat rises, roof vents can be a major source of heat loss. RV stores sell square pillows that can be stuffed into the opening and vinyl covers that snap over the vents on the inside to block heat loss. Make sure your furnace is in good condition before you leave home.  Replacing a faulty thermocouple or even a bad computer control board is a lot easier and less expensive at home than it will be in the wild, not to mention more convenient.   Make sure your batteries are in good condition and fully charged.  You'll need them to keep the furnace going through long winter nights.  Run your vehicle or on board or portable generator enough each day to recharge your batteries.   If your vehicle isn't equipped with a good multi-stage charger, get an automatic battery charger from an auto parts store and connect it to your batteries so they will be charging anytime there is 120-volt power available.  If you wake up in the middle of the night and it is cold in your RV yet the furnace fan is running, you have most likely run down your batteries to where the furnace won't operate properly -- or run out of propane.  It is ironic that a low battery condition will cause the fan to continue to run after the burner has shut off, further depleting the batteries.   If this happens, about all you can do is shut off the furnace to avoid running the batteries down even more, put an extra blanket on the bed or put on your favorite "bunny" pajamas, and recharge your batteries as soon as you can.  For future trips, make sure your batteries are in good condition and monitor your power usage to conserve them to run the furnace at night.  If it becomes a recurring problem, consider upgrading your battery system. Keep your slippers near the bed for late night ventures to the bathroom or to adjust the thermostat for the furnace, especially if you'll be walking on hard surface floors.

Your next biggest problem in sub-freezing weather, after keeping your furnace going all night, will be keeping your water and sewer systems from freezing.  You can add antifreeze to drains and holding tanks but you'll need to keep your fresh water tank and all water lines warmer than 32°F to prevent them from freezing.   A 100 watt incandescent bulb (soon to be obsolete) can be used to heat an outside compartment containing holding tanks and/or dump valves if you have access to 120 volt power.   Just keeping the inside of your RV warm and cozy won't necessarily prevent plumbing from freezing.  Some sewer and even fresh water components are in unheated compartments or even completely outside the RV.  Heating pads are available to protect holding tanks.  Some run on either 120 Volt AC or 12 Volt DC power and most are thermostatically controlled so they only turn on when temperatures approach freezing to conserve energy.  If you don't know how to protect your RV, take it to a qualified RV technician to see what, if anything, you can do to make it suitable for winter camping.  If you're tent camping you'll need to either find a place to store your water where it won't freeze, or be prepared to thaw it out when you need to use it.  I've seen people avoid freezing pipes at home by leaving a faucet open so the water keeps moving, continually bringing ground temperature water into the pipes. We used to do that on my grandfather's ranch in Idaho.   This isn't likely to be a good solution for RVs.   In the first place, if you're, connected to city water, you have several feet of hose directly exposed to the cold outside.   Second, there is no safe place for the water to go. Leaving a faucet open would only transfer the freezing problem from the fresh water line to other plumbing like drains, holding tanks, and dump valves.  Of course you wouldn't want to even think about leaving water running if you're dry camping and depending on the water you have on board.  If you are connected to city water be sure to wrap your hose and the faucet all the way to the ground with heat tape or disconnect and drain your hose.  If you leave it connected and the faucet freezes you'll be facing an expensive repair bill from the campground.  Digging out and repairing or replacing those frost-resistant faucets isn't cheap, especially if the ground is frozen!

Windows, windshields, and goggles are likely to fog or frost up in cold weather. Using a good anti-fog preparation will help minimize problems, but you may still end up having to scrape ice and/or snow off your windshield, sometimes inside as well as outside. I recommend starting the vehicle and running the defroster to loosen any ice or snow before trying to scrape if off. Then use only a plastic scraper, not a metal one like a putty knife or metal spatula. Metal can damage the glass. Also avoid pouring hot water on an icy windshield. It may crack the glass! Goggles, face shields, and OHV windscrreens will become brittle in cold weather so exercise extra caution in handling them. You may have frost on the inside of windows other than the windshield and it is a good idea to carefully scrape it off to avoid have it melt and run down the walls or damage fixtures or furniture.

Cold vehicle seats are one of the discomforts of cold weather camping. Heated seats are really nice, but not all that common except on high end luxury vehicles. Adding electric seat heaters is an appealing solution, but not usually a good job for the average do-it-yourselfer so it can be expensive. A simple, effective, inexpensive alternative is to install slip on plush or fleece seat covers.  The best are real sheep-skin, but even a plush fabric will be warmer than sitting on cold vinyl or leather seats. Fake sheep skin will put a thicker pad between you and the cold seat material and you may be able to machine wash them when needed.  Real sheepskin is the warmest and most comfortable and the most durable -- and the most expensive.   Sometimes you can find heated slip-on seat covers or a heated vibrator cushion to warm your backside.  Of course you should only use seat heaters when the engine is running to provide power.  Running them off the battery will run the battery down very quickly.  Heaters are high-resistance wire and essentially a dead short that uses a lot of current.

Tent cold weather preparations.  There is little you can do to increase the ability of a tent to hold in the heat.   Of course a heavy canvas tent will retain heat a little better than a thin nylon one, but neither gives you very much of an R-factor when it comes to insulation.  A dual-wall tent provides some additional heat retention due to the air space between the tent wall the the rain fly.  You may get some additional protection from wind and moisture as well as help trap heat by putting a tarp over your tent, but you will probably ant to focus more on sleeping comfort.  I found that rolling out one or two sleeping bags on the floor of the tent before I put in my sleeping pad and personal sleeping bag helps keep us warm when sleeping when camping on snow.  Foam/foil insulation can be used in your tent when car camping to add insulation and reflect your body heat back inside instead of letting it escape through thin tent walls.  You might also want to use it on the floor and cover it with a tarp. Foam tiles on the floor will really be appreciated in cold weather!  Tent heaters are available but always exercise caution when using them.   Even flameless, catalytic heaters get hot enough to melt or set the tent or other fabric on fire if they come in contact with it. And although properly designed interior heaters usually don't produce toxic fumes, they will consume oxygen so you MUST keep a couple of windows slightly open to avoid suffocation.   An old pioneer trick is to heat up some rocks or potatoes in the fire and put them inside your sleeping bag or bedding.  Be careful that there are no coals clinging to the items and that the items are not TOO hot or you may burn your feet or melt nylon fabrics or set your bedding on fire.  A trick used by the well-to-do in medieval times was a foot warmer. This was long-handled metal pan with a lid that was filled with coals. You might have seen one in Pirates of Caribbean when Elizabeth Swan was being kidnapped and dumped one on the pirate's head.  An old mountain man trick is to lay out your sleeping bag or bedroll over a warm fire pit.   If you try this, make sure the fire is well covered with dirt beforehand. Y ou might recall the scene in the movie Jeremiah Johnson where Robert Redford discovers he didn't have enough dirt. His seasoned companion quipped "Didn't have enough dirt.  See'd that right off."  An extra wool blanket over your sleeping bag or an extra sleeping bag laid flat over the top can also preserve heat and keep you warmer. T his technique is especially effective when covering two or more sleeping bags side by side so you can share body heat.  If your sleeping bags are the style that can be zipped together and you have a willing partner, you will sleep warmer when you share than you will alone in individual sleeping bags.  Do NOT try cooking in your tent -- unless you have a properly installed and ventilated tent stove!  The temptation may be great when the weather is bad, but it is definitely NOT worth the risk!   Both being out of the weather and the potential for warming your tent is definitely an attractive idea, but a dangerous one, unless you have the right kind of stove. Find a sheltered spot outside where you won't risk setting your abode on fire, breathing toxic fumes, or suffocating when the stove uses up all the oxygen!   Plan ahead and set up a weather-proof (or at least weather-resistant) camp kitchen BEFORE the bad weather hits.  Wind usually comes from a single direction (prevailing wind) so you can set up a permanent wind break to protect your cooking area.   If you are in an area where the wind direction shifts frequently you may want to try to rig up a movable wind break or just settle for small wind breaks right around your stove to protect the flame and prevent the wind from blowing the heat away before it cooks your food!  The lid and side panels of most Coleman-style camp stoves provide a pretty good wind break and you can usually purchase add-on wind breaks for other stoves that protect three sides, leaving the front open so you can access your pots and pans.

Make sure your wardrobe is stocked with clothing appropriate to the weather and dress in layers for maximum warmth and flexibility to adapt to changing conditions.   For the most comfort, start with thermal underwear and add layers as needed, depending on temperature and activities.   If you expect or experience wet weather you will need rain gear.  Even the warmest parkas will be of little use if they aren't water resistant and they get wet.  Hats with ear flaps are very important. I really like the furry Russian military hats known as "ushankas" (means "ear hat" in Russian).  They are very warm and protect your neck, ears, and part of your cheeks.  You can lose as much as 80% of your body heat through your head.   My grandmother always said "If your feet are cold, put on your hat!" -- and it works!   Speaking of feet, make sure you bring along plenty of dry socks.  You will NEVER get your feet warm in wet socks!  If you get your feet wet, change to dry socks and dry your shoes or boots as soon as you can.  Gloves or mittens are essential for any outdoor activity in cold weather. Wearing latex or nitrile gloves under your winter gloves will add a little insulation and prevent the inside of the gloves from getting sweaty but your hands will get sweaty.  You can use rubber gloves over your knit or other gloves for extra exterior protection against water.  Be sure to by them at least a size bigger than you would normally wear so they'll fit over your gloves.  You can get glove liners or simply wear a pair of small knit gloves inside your gloves for extra warmth.  You lose some dexterity with mittens, but they will keep your hands warmer than gloves.  Chemical hand and toe warmers can be used to provide up to 10 hours of additional heat to keep your extremities more comfortable.  Large versions are available as "body patches" to warm your chest or back if necessary. I t may seem like the special clothing available for various outdoor activities (skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, riding OHVS, horseback riding) is extravagant, but if you've ever tried to "get by" without it, you'll appreciate the comfort and functionality the right clothing provides.  The right gear is designed to fit properly and allow appropriate movement and ventilation while retaining body heat to keep you warm.  The wrong gear, even if designed for cold weather, may retain moisture, restrict movement, or otherwise interfere with activities.  You will be far more comfortable in clothing appropriate for the activity you are involved in.  After one winter of having my feet freeze while horseback riding, I broke down and bought a pair of insulated cowboy boots.  The next year things weren't nearly so bad.   "Windchill" jersey's and gloves added a lot of comfort to winter dirt biking and I've never regretted investing in quality snowboarding clothing when we tried snowboarding, which kept me warm and comfortable in daytime temperatures around zero, although I did thoroughly enjoy the hot air hand dryers in the restrooms when we took a break.  Nothing takes the fun out of a hot activity faster than being cold!  Winter clothing should also breathe or you will get soaked in your own sweat, and then you'll freeze.  Properly designed winter clothing also allow for correct ventilation to prevent overheating and then getting chilled from excess sweat.

Cold weather health hazards. The two most obvious, serious and well known cold weather health hazards are frost bite and hypothermia. Many people are surprised to learn that dehydration is also a major concern during winter activities.  You lose body fluids through both respiration (breathing) and perspiration (sweating).  Too much physical activity can make you sweat which will then cause you to get chilled when you slow down or stop.  Think you don't lose much to respiration?  Just look at the little clouds that appear when you breath out or look what happens when you breath on your glasses or goggles to clean them.  You still need several glasses of water per day.  Eating snow or drinking water from melted snow can provide hydration but it also contributes to hypothermia because it uses core body heat to warm the snow.   Better to heat your drinks and sip warm liquids, which will hydrate you AND help keep you warm.  However, if you don't have any other source of hydration, by all means, eat snow.

Frost bite usually occurs on exposed extremities like fingers, toes, noses, and ears.  The cells of the skin and muscles near the surface literally freeze solid and rupture.  Water expands when it turns to ice and our bodies are about 70% water.   If you or one of your companions gets frost bite, do NOT rub the area with snow!  That has been a popular myth, but it is not sound medical advice.  What you want to do is to gently warm the frozen area. Be aware that severe frost bite is likely to have done irreparable damage to the tissue.  Ultimately affected areas may die and slough off or may have to be surgically amputated.  Less severe cases may benefit from gently warming to thaw the frozen parts. Sometimes just placing the frozen fingers or toes next to warm body parts (like arm pits) will do the trick.  Warm water can be helpful but do NOT use hot water.   To prevent frost bite, avoid exposing the skin to cold air.  Wear gloves, thick socks, and boots and cover your ears and nose.   A full-face ski mask may not look very fashionable, but it may keep your cheeks and nose and chin from freezing.  Even something like a nylon stocking pulled over your face will provide some protection. DO NOT warm frozen tissue if you won't be able to keep it warm.  Thawing and refreezing will cause even more damage.  Wait until you are sure you can keep it warm before you attempt to thaw it.

Dress for the weather.   If you are dressed appropriately for the weather you can stay relatively comfortable in just about anything short of severe weather conditions.  Take a lesson from skiers and mountain climbers who sometimes face fairly extreme weather conditions.  Dress in layers.  This provides both maximum insulation and greatest flexibility to deal with changing weather conditions and levels of activity.  You don't want to stay all bundled up when involved in strenuous activities that make you sweat.  Doing so may subject you to chilling that can lead to hypothermia and even death.  Dress for the type of weather you are going to experience.  Even the warmest parka or snowsuit will not keep you warm in rain if it isn't waterproof or at least water resistant.  Avoid getting wet!  You lose body heat 25 faster in wet clothing.  You can become dangerously hypothermic even in fairly mild weather when you get wet.  As water evaporates is absorbs more heat than ice melting!  It takes 539 calories to convert 1 gram of water to water vapor but only 80 calories to convert 1 gram of ice to liquid water so you will lose heat faster from evaporation in wet clothing than from melting snow or ice.

Hypothermia occurs when the core temperature in the body drops below the minimum required to sustain life. Hypothermia can occur even on warm days if you are submerged in cold water or stay in wet clothes.   A drop of only a few degrees in your core temperature can be serious, even fatal. Typically you can't survive more than about 3 hours in cold weather.  The normal body temperature is 98.6° F or 37° C.  Hypothermia occurs when the core temperature drops to only 95° F or 35° C. Your body reacts to cold by first reducing circulation to the extremities to save heat for the vital organs so extremities, like hands, feet, nose and ears, will stop being warmed by your blood as your body redirects it to protect the vital organs in your core.  That is one reason your hands and feet and face are hard to keep warm.  Feeling cold and shivering, especially uncontrolled shivering, is an early sign of hypothermia.  When shivering stops without getting warmed up, the victim has progressed from mild to moderate hypothermia. Since loss of mental function is also an initial sign of hypothermia, early signs often go unnoticed.  Initial hunger and nausea will give way to apathy as the core temperature continues to temperature drop.   Confusion, lethargy, and eventually even coma may develop.  Eventually you stop feeling cold, even though your temperature has dropped dangerously low.  At this point people often just want to go to sleep -- an extremely dangerous thing to do in such circumstances.   As hypothermia takes hold people often just lay down and die!  Victims may develop "raccoon eyes" and pale, bluish or grayish skin.   Anyone showing or experiencing signs of hypothermia should be moved to a warm location as soon as possible.  Passive rewarming with warm clothing in a warm environment may be all that is required for a conscious person who is still shivering.  Warm compresses or chemical heat packs may be applied to the chest, neck, and groin. Do NOT apply direct heat, but use warm blankets and body-to-body contact to warm the victim. Chemical hand and toe warmers may be used, but should be wrapped in a cloth to prevent direct contact which could cause injury.   An effective procedure for warming a hypothermia victim is affectionately called the "burrito", where you wrap the victim in successive layers of dry clothing and blankets.  For mild to moderate hypothermia, the victim will usually warm enough from just their own body heat to start struggling to get out of the wrappings in 15-20 minutes.   Severe cases may require wrapping a warm healthy individual in with the victim to provide enough heat to warm the victim. Always remove wet clothing and replace it with dry clothing as soon as possible and definitely before wrapping up your victim in the burrito.   Avoid shaking or rough handling of lethargic victims as this can cause heart problems.   If the victim is conscious, warm fluids may be given to help warm internal organs.  If you have a victim in moderate to severe hypothermia, notify emergency medical services (call 911 or send for help) as soon as possible. Someone in severe hypothermia may appear to be deceased. Normal vital signs (blood pressure, heartbeat, breathing) may not be detectable in a severely hypothermic patient.  An emergency medical axiom states that a person isn't dead until they are warm and dead. A person in severe hypothermia can sometimes be successfully revived through appropriate professional medical care, so don't give up too soon!  If you are in a situation where hypothermia might occur, keep an eye on each other for the "umbles":  fumbles (unusually poor coordination), grumbles (irritability), and mumbles (slurred speech).  All are symptoms of hypothermia.

Dehydration.  Believe it or not, hydration is just as important in cold weather as it is in hot.  We still lose a lot of moisture through respiration -- just look at those little clouds we breathe out in cold weather.  We can also lose quite a bit through perspiration.  Vigorous activity will cause you to sweat even in cold weather, especially if you start out comfortably wrapped in cold weather gear.  You won't need quite as much water as you would in hot weather, but you still need to maintain hydration levels.   For comfort you might want to drink hot cider or even warm up your Gatorade.  Remember, alcoholic and caffeinated beverages contribute to dehydration and should be avoided during strenuous activities.  Cold drinks, especially iced drinks, can speed lowering of your core body temperature and should be avoided.

Cold weather activities.   It is possible to still have fun in cold weather if you are properly prepared. Dirt bikes are kind of skittish on snow and ice but ATVs, especially if they have 4 wheel drive, can be a lot of fun, but you have to dress appropriately or you're going to be VERY uncomfortable, perhaps even to the point of becoming hypothermic, which can be very dangerous, even lethal.  And, of course, snowmobiles are a fantastic means of getting around on the white stuff.   Consider skiers and snowboarders.  How do THEY do handle cold weather?   First of all, they are dressed for it.  They know to dress in layers for maximum warmth retention and flexibility in adjusting clothing as activity increases.  You don't have to be involved in sub-freezing temperatures to be subject to hypothermia. A cold rain or immersion in a cold lake or stream can create fatal hypothermia even in mild weather, especially if there is a breeze.  If you expect or experience rain, use rain gear -- not just warm winter clothes.  Warm does not necessarily mean water proof. W et clothing is one of the fastest ways to become hypothermic.  If your clothing does become wet, switch to dry clothing as soon as possible. If you have no dry clothing, remove the wet clothing and wrap up in whatever you have to keep you warm while you dry your clothing -- blankets, sleeping bags, burlap bags, tarps, trash bags -- anything that will hold in the heat and keep out any additional cold and wetness.  The last thing you need is to waste your body heat trying to warm up wet clothing!  Wet clothing will suck the warmth out of you 20-25 times faster than dry clothing.  Avoid activities that may take you far from camp in the late afternoon or evening. Y ou don't want to be stuck out in the cold after dark!  And don't overlook traditional winter fun like sledding, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and ice fishing.  Make sure you are dressed appropriately and for added comfort and fun, bring a long some warm treats.

Fire.  Man has always had a fascination with fire.   It is certainly one of our best friends in cold weather.   Take care that you don't build your fire under trees.   Rising heat may cause accumulated snow to fall and put your fire out and possibly injure you or your companions.  Try to build your fire in a sheltered spot, out of direct wind.  Having a large boulder or fat tree behind you as you face your fire can help keep off the wind and even reflect a little of the heat onto your backside.  If your windbreak isn't big enough, it may just create eddies that are even more troublesome.  The temptation may be to build a big fire when it is cold but in many cases you'll just be wasting fuel.  Make your fire only as big as you need it to warm yourself and your companions.  That doesn't mean you have to all try to crowd around a tiny little Dakota fire pit, but it does mean you don't need a raging bonfire with flames higher than your head!   If you need more heat, it may be better to build several small fires, perhaps in a circle so you can gather in the middle of them and be warmed on all sides.  Better yet if you can build a fire in front of some kind of shelter that keeps the wind and elements off and captures some of the heat from the fire.  Sometimes you can build a short wall of logs or even snow on the "far side" of your fire to reflect some of the heat back toward where you want it.  A fire in a cave is tempting but you need to be constantly aware of maintaining adequate fresh air to avoid suffocation.  Fires in caves can also heat up the rocks, sometimes causes big chunks overhead to break off.  Fires are less likely to spread when we're in wet or snowy weather, but it is still of some concern.  Monitor the direction and extent of blowing embers and be sure to build your fire on a non-combustible surface.  Just building it on snow may not be safe, since the snow will melt and the fire may quickly sink down to where it can ignite grass or debris beneath the surface and then it will be hard to control.   Building directly on deep snow may result in a short-lived fire as melting snow may drown it. If you have to build a fire on deep snow, try to create a platform beneath it using rocks or even green logs.  Your goal is to prevent loosing your fire into a big hole in the snow as the snow melts.

Staying warm at night.  Ever try going to sleep when you are cold?   Doesn't work very well -- unless you are seriously hypothermic, then sleep will come all too easily -- and you will never wake up!  Laying there shivering is sure to keep you awake -- for a while.  To get a good night's sleep in cold weather, prepare your bed so it will keep you warm.  Start off with either a sleeping bag designed for the temperatures you'll be in or several good wool blankets.  A thick, down comforter might be a nice option in an RV.   It might be difficult to transport and to keep clean when tent camping and too bulky for backpacking, but it could add greatly to your comfort there too when car camping.  Try to make sure your body is already warm before you go to bed.  Get out of wet or damp clothes.   Dress warmly and comfortably for bed.   Don't wear your daytime clothes to bed. Y ou won't be comfortable and they probably contain moisture that will make you colder.  However, warm flannel pajamas would be a good idea. W arm them up in front of a heater or fire before putting them on for added comfort.   Remember the old-time sleeping caps?  You'll stay warmer if you wear a stocking cap to bed.  You can lose up to 80% of your body heat through your unprotected head.  I've seen folks try to sleep in exercise sweats.  I don't find this very comfortable as they tend to be bulky and restrict movement in bed and often have bulky seams that create painful pressure points, but if they are dry and you're freezing, give it a try.  Don't wear sweats you've been wearing all day to bed. They are probably damp and you will be cold all night.  Some people like to wear socks to bed to keep their feet warm.  Others find them uncomfortable or claustrophobic.  Got cold feet?  Try tucking them alternately behind the other knee.  The warm flesh of your thigh and calf will help warm those cold toes.  Do what works for you. Some warm rocks or baked potatoes in the foot of your sleeping bag or bed can help keep your feet warm and warm the entire sleeping area, just make sure they aren't hot enough to burn or scorch your bedding or burn your feet. Make sure you have adequate insulation between you and the ground or snow when you're sleeping in a tent.   If after all your preparations you are still cold when you go to bed, get up and warm yourself and your bedding at the fire and give it another try.   If you run out of blankets, open a coat over your coldest parts to help conserve heat or put on a sweater.   Usually you will need to focus on maintaining your core temperature, so protecting your torso is probably your first priority.  Anything that may mitigate the effect of any breeze and help reflect heat back on your body will be helpful.  A tarp or a large plastic trash bag, for example, or even several layers of newspaper.  Your body has its own mechanisms for combating cold.  It will automatically protect your vital organs.   In doing so it reduces blood flow to extremities so your hands and feet -- and nose and ears -- will get cold first.  Your body will willingly sacrifice fingers and toes to preserve vital organs.  Wear thick wool socks to protect your feet.   Mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves.  Chemical hand and toe warmers (see more below) work wonders.  A good ski mask or balaclava can help protect your nose and ears.   I have a fairly thin nylon mask I can wear under my helmet when dirt-biking and it provides a surprising amount of protection for my face against the cold.  The only problem I have is, if I cover my nose and mouth, it fogs my goggles. If I don't cover my nose, my nose gets cold.  When snow camping I found it helpful to double up the ground cloth, then roll out an open sleeping bag on the tent floor to put the sleeping bags on.   We then pulled another extra open sleeping bag over the top of our individual bags and stayed warm all night, even with outside temps into the lower teens.  Remember the movie Jeremiah Johnson? He rolled out his bedding over a fire that he had somewhat covered with earth. His more experienced partner later noted, when Jeremiah jumped out of bed on fire, that he hadn't used enough dirt "see'd that right away".  Putting your bed on top of a defunct fire may be one way of staying warm, but be sure there is enough dirt to prevent catching your bedding on fire!   Some sleeping bags can be zipped together.  This doesn't work with "mummy" style bags, but it does with most rectangular bags.   By zipping two bags together you and a willing partner can share each other's warmth throughout the night.

Hand and toe warmers can provide a lot of comfort.  There are reusable hand warmers that run on lighter fluid or butane but the most popular and convenient styles are chemical packs.  You simply remove them from their air-tight packaging, shake them in the air, and slide them inside your gloves -- or stick them to your socks.  The chemicals inside react with air to produce heat.  Larger versions are available as "body warmers" and you can put these on your chest or your back.   Hand and toe warmers can be used to help warm your blood to raise your overall body temperature.   The best places to put the smaller packets for general warming are in your armpits and on your thigh near the groin where it can warm blood in large arteries close to the surface. Blood vessels are also near the surface on the inside or your wrists. Sometimes you can warm cold fingers faster with warming pads here than in your palms. Hand warmers work better in mittens than they do in gloves, just as mittens generally keep your hands warmer than gloves. On cold nights I pulled one of my hand warmers out to warm my nose too. Hand warmers can last for several hours. If they start cooling down, take them out and shake them.  This exposes more of the chemical to fresh air and restarts the heating process.  Same thing applies to toe warmers, but its a lot harder to take off your boots to shake the toe warmers than it is to refresh the ones in your gloves.  Unless you have a sheltered place to remove your boots, your feet will probably be colder than if you'd just left your boots on.  Sometimes stomping your feet or wiggling your toes will reactivate the toe warmers.  It is definitely worth a try -- and, if nothing else, the exercise may help increase blood flow and help warm those tingling toes.  Your hands will freeze in wet gloves.   Change to dry gloves as often as you can if they keep getting wet.  Store wet gloves on a broom handle or a small bottle with the fingers pointing up to allow them dry inside more quickly.  Do not put them in an oven or close to a heater or fireplace. Rapid drying will stiffen leather gloves and may cause a fire hazard.  If you have trouble getting them dry inside, try using the blunt end of a pencil to turn each finger inside out so moisture isn't trapped inside.

Staying warm in your RV.  Your RV provides several basic features to help keep you warm.   First, it keeps you out of the wind and weather.  Second, its walls provide insulation to preserve heat.  And, of course, its furnace should be able to maintain a comfortable temperature inside 24 hours a day. Sometimes, if it is cold enough, your furnace may have trouble keeping up with the demand.  Give it all the help you can by limiting opening of doors and by covering the windows with foam bubble insulation inserts and keep the blinds or curtains closed.  Check for drafts, even inside cabinets.  Many times you can seal cracks with spray foam insulation or by stuffing pieces of fiberglass insulation into the openings.  Adding styrofoam sheet insulation to exterior cabinet doors can also help. Of course, these are all things you need to do BEFORE you go camping in cold weather.   If you find drafts in camp you might get away with stuffing paper towels or tissue into the openings to reduce heat loss.   If you do a lot of cold weather camping and your furnace is not adequate to keep you comfortable, you may need to upgrade your furnace.  One option is to replace the existing unit with one with higher output.  Another alternative is to add a second furnace.  This is an especially good option for large RVs where one end stays cold.  You just have to find appropriate cabinet space you can sacrifice for the installation, run appropriate fuel and electrical lines, and provide proper ventilation.  Another option is to install a catalytic heater.  Permanently mounted catalytic heaters will require plumbing for the propane.   Portable units run off 1 lb bottles.   Catalytic heaters are usually radiant heaters and don't require any fans so they won't run your batteries down.  If you have a generator or are usually staying in campgrounds with electric hookups, an electric heater can sometimes add enough heating capacity if your existing furnace performs marginally.  The electric fireplace we use in our motorhome gives a nice ambiance and delivers 1500 watts of heat. Higher output heaters are available if you need more.  Keep ALL heaters away from curtains, drapes, upholstery, carpets, and other combustible materials.  You may be able to reduce the heat loss by parking in a sheltered area when possible.  And don't forget sweaters and long johns!  If your RV isn't warm enough, maybe just putting on a sweater will be enough to keep you comfortable during waking hours.  At night, forget the sexy silk pajamas and go for the fluffy flannel ones with bunny feet!  You may be warm enough in bed without them, but you'll appreciate them if/when you have to make a middle of the night trip to the bathroom!   If your RV has hard surface floors, add some carpet  runners.   They will help insulate the floor against the cold and be more comfortable to walk on.   Keep some warm slippers handy.  I have an old pair of snow boots I use as "desert bedroom slippers" in my RV and around the campfire.

Staying warm in your tent my be a little more challenging.  Even 4-season tents are fairly thin compared to the walls of an RV and tent heaters aren't nearly as efficient or as effective as RV furnaces.  Exercise caution whenever using a tent heater and carefully follow all of the manufactures instructions and recommendations.  Even a catalytic heater that doesn't give off toxic fumes will consume oxygen and you can suffocate without adequate ventilation.  Using an extra long rain fly or extending the original rain fly so it nearly reaches the ground will help prevent excessive heat loss from your tent.  Or cover it with a tarp.  Provide as much insulation between you and snow or cold ground as  you can.  Extra layers of ground cloth will help.  Foam tiles like those used in front of workbenches will add even more comfort and insulation.  You  may get some benefit by setting up your tent where it will receive maximum sunlight.  That won't help you a lot after dark, but it will make it more comfortable during the day and may even capture a little heat in the things inside the tent to stave off the cold as long as possible.  Try to protect your tent from direct wind whenever you can.  Wind will carry the heat away much faster than still air.  That is one reason for using a long rain fly or a tarp over your tent.  Keep the doors and windows closed as much as you can while maintaining sufficient ventilation for safety and avoid going in and out except when it is absolutely necessary.  Tents with a vestibule to protect the entrance may help minimize losing heat when going in and out.  An extra sleeping bag, extra sleeping pads, air mattress, or foam times beneath your sleeping bags help you stay warmer at night.  You may be surprised how much warmer it will be in your tent than it is outside even without a tent heater.  I recall a rather rude awakening on one boy scout outing with one of my son's.  It was cool in the tent when we woke up, but it was freezing outside (literally!).   Even though it may seem counterintuitive, snow is actually a pretty good insulator.  If your tent is strong enough to support some snow, it might actually help keep the inside warmer, essentially turning it into an igloo!  If you choose to try this, keep an eye on the weight and don't let it build up enough to bend or snap the poles.

Whenever you are caught in cold weather there is a good chance you're going to get wet.   Cold rain, sleet, snow, hail, any kind of precipitation is likely to get your clothing wet.  And once it gets wet, you're going to get cold.  You will loose body heat as much as 25 times faster in wet clothes than you will in dry ones.  Therefore, if you get wet, try to change into dry clothing as soon as possible.  If you don't have any dry clothes to change into, hang your wet clothes somewhere to dry (inside a warm vehicle or tent or near -- but not TOO near -- a fire or stove.  Wrap yourself in a blanket or crawl into your sleeping bag to get and keep warm while your clothes are drying.  If you have leather gloves that get wet, they are likely to get very stiff when they dry.  You might be able to restore some of their flexibility and suppleness by rubbing them with leather balm or even hand lotion.  A leather preparation such as Leather Balm is better, but you probably don't carry that around with you whereas you just might have some hand lotion in your RV or camp kit.  The best way to dry gloves is to put them on a stick with the fingers pointing up.   Or hang them by the finger tips.  Either way lets the damp air fall out as it cools. And don't rush the drying.  That will only increase the risk of scorching and will most likely make them stiffer than if they dry slowly.  Take care when donning clothes that have been dried near a stove or fire.  They may be very in some spots!  If there were near a fire there might be embers that have blown inside.  Zippers and the copper rivets on jeans can be especially treacherous.

Keep warm!