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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bungie Cords

Bungie cords are very handy and have many uses when camping.  You'll find dozens of uses for them in your RV, toy hauler, and around camp.  You can wrap them around sleeping bags, tents, tarps, and awnings to keep them under control when they're rolled up.  You use them to secure items inside your RV or trailer so they don't bounce around on the road.  You can even use them as belts or suspenders.

                                                            Image of Keeper 06014-10 Bungee Cord,multicolored,13" L,pk10

Finding a good place to anchor bungee cords in a motorhome or trailer is often difficult.  Sometimes you can use existing brackets for curtains or shades, but as often as not, those brackets aren't designed for the loads you'll be putting on them and you may break or bend them, or pull them out of the wall.  Ordinary cup hooks can be used where you have solid place to screw them in but I prefer to use marine eye straps or rope guides.  They fasten on with two screws and have no open ends sticking out to catch things on.  They're more expensive than cup hooks, but they are also sturdier, more secure, and easier to use.  You can get cup hooks at any hardware store.  You may have to go to a marine supply store for eye straps/rope guides or order them online.  I've used both plastic and stainless steel versions and both provided satisfactory service in my RVs.

                                                         Rope Guide,Narrow Saddle,5/8"Rope Dia

Have a cabinet that keeps coming open on the road?  You may be able to secure it with a bungie cord.  Sure, it takes a little extra time every time you need into the cabinet, but compared to the time it takes to gather up all the stuff that might fall out on the road and clean up the spills, its nothing.  Just wrap a bungee around 2 or more cabinet door handles to keep them closed.

Bungie cords come in many sizes.  Most bungie cords are about 3/8" in diameter and typical lengths are 6", 12", 18", 24" and 36".  Mini bungies are usually bout 1/8" in diameter and about 4"-6" long.  They all have hooks on both ends.  I have tried both plastic hooks and wire hooks and I like the wire hooks better.  I find the plastic ones are often too large and clumsy to be easy to use.  If you need a different length you can usually cut a bungee down to the size you need, reinstall the hook, then tie a new knot in the end.  Some bigger bungies, like those used for securing loads on pick up trucks, are about 1/2' in diameter and several feet long.  They also may come with either plastic or wire hooks.  I prefer the wire hooks.  They fit in more places and I've found them to be more durable than the plastic ones.   Wire hooks will sometimes bend under stress, but plastic hooks may break.

Bungie cords usually last a fairly  long time but if you stretch them very tight and leave them that way for a while, they will stretch out and lose their usefulness.  They can be used outdoors, but extended exposure to sun and weather will also significantly shorten their life.

Bungie cords are really helpful for anchoring tarps and awnings.  I use them to secure the lower edge of awning extensions on my RV awning.  The top of the extension slides into the accessory rail on the awning or attaches to the awning roller with special hangers and "S" hooks.  Using long bungies from the bottom edge to tent pegs driven into the ground keeps the extension taught and where I want it instead of flapping in the breeze.  If you're making your own awning from tarps, bungies are the fastest and easiest way to anchor them.    Pulling a tarp taught with rope or twine works too, but bungies provide some shock absorbing capability that keeps the tarp taught without over-stressing it and pulling out the grommets.  Rubber tie down straps serve a similar function for securing a tarp over load on a vehicle.  They are usually about 1" wide and 1/4" thick with "S" shaped metal hooks on both ends.  They are usually stiffer than bungie cords, making them more difficult to use but more resistant to stretching out and getting loose.

Bungies are good for securing light loads on your OHV.   I keep one or two in my fanny pack or fender bag with my tools in case I need to tie something down out on the trail.

You can adapt bungie cords to replace a lost or broken belt or fashion suspenders to hold your pants up.  Perhaps not the most fashionable of accessories, but very functional.  You might use bungies as a sling for a broken arm or to secure bandages.  In a dire emergency, a bungee might be used as a tourniquet.  Be aware that current medical thinking only recommends the use of a tourniquet in extreme situations where there is no other way to control life-threatening bleeding.  Where you once were told to release the tourniquet every 15-20 minutes they now say to leave it.  Releasing it may allow contaminated blood from the isolated limb back into the system and cause severe problems.

In summary, bungie cords are one of the most versatile and useful accessories you can add to your camp kit.   I try to keep a good supply on hand -- in my motorcycle trailer, in my RV, and in my tent camping stuff.  You can find them at department, hardware, and camping stores.  Sometimes I find packages of them at my local dollar store and it is a really good  $1.00 investment.  Each packages usually contains 2 each of 3 different lengths.  I always like to stock up and buy several packages when I find them there.  There is always someplace to use a bungie cord.  I have a dedicated rack in my enclosed motorcycle trailer where I hang a bunch of bungee cords and keep an ammo can filled with bungies in my motorhome.

Tie one on!

ICE your Cell Phone

Hold on, don't head for the freezer just yet!  ICE stands for In Case of Emergency.  Some of the newer smart phones already have an ICE function where you record your emergency contacts, but you don't have to have a pricey phone to make it easier for emergency services responders to reach your emergency contact.  Just add "ICE-" in front of the name of your emergency contact. It costs you nothing but a minute or so of your time could be a lifesaver in an emergency. 

Having an ICE-number in a cell phone is especially important for elderly people and adolescents.    It could also be very important for RVers and other campers who might find themselves in an emergency situation far from home.  Elderly people may be prone to memory problems, especially during the trauma of an emergency situation, and under-age children may need your permission to get treatment.  Emergency services personnel don't need your permission to treat minors with life-threatening emergencies but your child may have to suffer a long time waiting for other treatment if they can't reach you right away. 

The idea for standardizing "In Case of Emergency" contacts in cell phones started with a paramedic in Australia.  Instead of having to search through a cell phone address book hoping to find a listing for "Mom" or "Dad" or "Home" or try to guess which names might be a good emergency contact, having an "ICE-name" in your phone can save a lot of time.  Time might be critical if the victim has some medical condition or allergy that might affect treatment and could greatly speed up treatment for underage patients. 

Be sure to tell your emergency contact that you have designated them as such and provide them with any special medical needs (prior surgeries, medications, allergies, current diseases like cancer, diabetes, hemophilia, or high blood pressure). 

Putting ICE on your cell phone is free and easy and could save your life!

ICE it!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Preparing Meals In Camp

Meal preparation in camp should always be at least easy and convenient.  Ideally it should be downright fun!  You definitely don't want meal preparation to be time consuming or onerous and interfere with your planned activities.  If we do it right, meal preparation can and should be fun.

Preparing meals in camp, whether you're camping in a tent or an RV, will be a little different than your normal routine at home.  When cooking in an RV you usually have a range that is similar to the one at home -- but somewhat smaller.  When tent camping, you'll likely be cooking on a Coleman stove or campfire, unless you opt for one of the newer portable ranges that gives you  stove resources similar to those you would have in in RV.  But even then, or when cooking in an RV, the differences in size and performance will require some adjustments to your normal procedure.  No matter what you're cooking on, it is going to be different than your gas or electric range and oven at home.

Camp cooking should be fun!  After all, we go camping for fun, so cooking should be fun too and usually it is.  One of the things that will make it more fun, especially for the primary cook, is for everyone to participate.  Plan your meals with that in mind so you have appropriate and productive things for everyone to do.  Plan simple meals that don't require a lot of elaborate preparation or cleanup.  Take advantage of outdoor cooking opportunities (BBQ or campfire) to add variety and distribute the labor.  Cooking on a campfire can be fun and quite an adventure and is a good way to involve many family or group members.

Your first step toward successful camp cooking starts even before you leave home.  That is to plan an appropriate menu.  Think "simplicity.  Plan simple meals that will require minimum preparation:  hotdogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, foil dinners, stew, chili, cold cereal, etc.  One of our traditions is to have donuts for breakfast the first day in camp.  Yes, I know, it isn't the most nutritious meal, but we aren't exactly making a habit out of as rarely as we get to go camping and it lets us get going quick!

Setting up your camp kitchen or RV galley properly will have a big effect on the efficiency -- and fun -- of camp cooking.  RV cabinets and counter tops are much smaller than their residential counterparts so you may not be able to have everything at your fingertips like you are used to having at home.  You may have to get things out in advance and have them staged "at the ready" so you don't waste time and energy digging in the backs of cupboards for what you need.  Have your utensils and all ingredients needed for the current meal gathered up and ready to use.   When tent camping, all your stuff is going to be in a back pack, duffle bag, tub, or chuck box so the same practice applies, perhaps even more so.  Set up your camp kitchen so all ingredients and necessary cooking implements are organized for easy access.   Have a dishpan ready for rinsing or soaking dishes, spoons, etc.  Make sure your campfire is properly formatted for cooking or that your camp stove is fueled and ready to go.  You may need to set up a wind screen around your stove or even around your campfire on windy days.

When preparing meals in an RV you will want to be as efficient as possible.  That means more than just minimized use of the stove to conserve propane.  You need to reduce use of water consumption, generation of trash, and restrict how often and how long you open the refrigerator.   Also, conserve your time.  You need so think carefully about how long it takes to prepare each dish and schedule cooking times to try to get everything ready at the same time.  Avoid messy dishes that make for a lot of cleanup.  All of that comes down to planning.  First, plan your meals in advance, way in advance.  By planning your menu long before you hit the road you can make sure you have all the right provisions and you have a chance to organize them so they'll be handy and easy to use on the road.  You may even want to pre-measure some ingredients and put them in labeled plastic bags so they're ready to use.  Sometimes  you can also pre-mix dry ingredients to reduce preparation time.  You don't want to have to search through cupboards or boxes of supplies to find a bottle of cooking oil after you've already lit the stove.  If you are accustomed to cooking at home, you probably have routines that work for you there but you may have to make adjustments when cooking in an RV.  A smaller stove may mean you can't cook as many things at the same time as you do at home and the smaller burners may mean it will take longer.   Think about what things can be prepared first without becoming unappealing if they sit for a while.  Baked potatoes hold their heat pretty well but mixed veggies cool pretty quickly, so keep things like that in mind when you structure your meal preparation.  Sometimes you can augment your cooking resources by shifting some of it, like steaks and burgers, baked potatoes and corn on the cob, to an outside BBQ or to the campfire.   This also lets you share the work by recruiting a companion to take charge of that part of the meal and outdoor cooking can even be fun.   And always plan ahead. If you're planning on having baked potatoes for dinner, you might want to wrap them in aluminum foil and tuck them in the coals of your campfire an hour or so before dinner time.  A potato baked in the campfire for an hour makes an tasty side dish.  A potato baked in the campfire for 3 hours makes an excellent hockey puck!  Taking advantage of the campfire also helps you conserve propane and creates some opportunities for several people to participate in some old fashioned pioneer type experiences.  You can let everyone cook their own hotdogs but you'll probably need a designated burger flipper to do hamburgers on the grill or campfire.

Mealtime when tent camping is usually quite a bit different than at home.  You may find yourself having to prepare your meals in adverse weather -- rain, wind, even snow.  Never try to cook in your tent.  That is a recipe for disaster!  If you;'re in a campground with canopies or pavilions, try to take advantage of them to protect you and your food from the weather.  If all else fails you might be able to stretch a tarp between some trees or poles or anchor it to the roof of your vehicle to give you a little shelter from the storm.  Just make sure it is high enough that it won't melt or catch on fire when you're cooking.  Depending on how much shelter you have around your camp kitchen, you may have to exercise special care to avoid getting rain in your flour or pancake mix or blowing debris adding unwanted variety to the taste and texture of your creations.  Rain falling into a frying pan filled with hot oil can be especially hazardous.  Water is heavier than oil and will sink to the bottom of the pan where it quickly becomes superheated and can virtually explode, scattering hot, possibly, flaming, oil all over the place.  As with cooking in an RV,  your cooking space is limited and planning is key to success.  You will most likely want to plan different meals than you usually prepare at home, choosing things that are appropriate to the season, are easy to prepare, serve, and clean up.  And, again, take advantage of campfire resources when you can.  As you gain experience cooking in camp you may discover you want to upgrade from a 2-burner stove to a 3-burner stove or perhaps even bring more than one stove.  Extra cooking facilities is especially helpful (and necessary) when you are cooking for larger groups.  How you organize your camp kitchen will have a significant effect on how convenient preparing meals will be.  Plan ahead and have ingredients well organized and close at hand. Some campers find it helpful to build a "chuck box" to organize their kitchens.  This is a tried and true option, one that goes back at least to American pioneer wagon trains and the chuck wagons on cattle drives.   For a modern variation, check out the little kitchens in the back of teardrop trailers. Lacking a chuck box or room to transport one, organize your provisions and utensils logically in plastic tubs.  Use dividers or smaller containers inside large tubs to protect individual items and make it easier to find what you need when you need it.   If everything is simply tossed into one large tub you'll find yourself digging through a foot or two of odds and ends to find a spoon or a spatula. Proper storage of foodstuffs is especially important.   No matter how careful you are, things are likely to get spilled in transit.  Loose ingredients like flour, sugar, and salt, get all over everything if the bag or box breaks . Escaping liquids will seep through and into unprotected packages of dry ingredients and soon you'll have to pretty much throw everything out and start over.   Proper storage can prevent a lot of problems.   Make sure caps are tight on all containers, then store bottles of liquids in their own plastic storage boxes so if they crack or the cap comes off, the contents will be contained and the rest of the bin or cupboard not contaminated.  Keeping dry ingredients in their own sealed plastic containers protects the packages from damage, prevents them from being contaminated by external spills, seals them from environmental moisture so they don't absorb moisture from humid air, and keeps the bugs out.

Campfire cooking is a fun way  to prepare your meals in camp.  But it requires proper preparation, special equipment, and careful procedures.  Get your fire started about an hour before you want to start cooking.  It is best to cook on the coals, not the flames.  You can even cook most meats directly on or over the coals without the need of a grill or pan.  Special equipment might include a grill, "pot dangler", or cast iron skillets and pots.  Keep an eye on what you're cooking.  Temperatures in a campfire are much different and more likely to change without warning than the temperatures on your stove at home or even your trusty Coleman stove in camp.  Check out these Ten Commandments for Campfire Cooking for more helpful tips.

 No matter what you are cooking or where, clean up as you go instead of setting dirty dishes and utensils aside to be washed later.  Usually cleaning things right away avoids having to deal with scrubbing dried or cooked on residue and will save you a lot of time in the long run.  And, since you probably have limited items, it may make things you need available when you need them again instead of having to stop and clean them before you can use them when you need them.

Tin foil dinners, such as hobo stew, are handy ways to have tasty, nutritious campfire meals.  They can be assembled from basic ingredients (usually meat and vegetables) and cooked right on the coals.  We like to make ours up ahead of time at home, sometimes even pre-cooking the meat in the microwave before wrapping them in foil.  They don't take up a lot of room in the fridge or cooler, they don't spill, they are really easy to cook on the campfire, and they really taste great!  And they don't dirty up a lot of pots and pans.

If you're camping in a developed campground, there may be a roofed area that will at least get you out of the rain or snow but usually these are open-sided so you may still have to deal with the wind.  Sometimes each site has its own canopy; sometimes there are larger shared pavilions.  If your camp site doesn't have one you may want to set up your own portable canopy, maybe a dining fly or an EZ-up.  I've seen campers set up tarps to protect their campsites, stretching them high enough between the trees and leaving a small opening in the middle so they can even have a protected campfire.  That will help keep rain out of the hot grease in they frying pan, but having anything overhead brings its own risks, so be careful!   Tarps will sometimes collect significant pools of water in low spots.  Eventually the weight may cause the tarp to tear or pull loose, dousing everyone and everything beneath with copious amounts of cold rain water.   Monitor water accumulation and periodically dump the pools before they dump themselves in the most unpleasant and untimely way.   Some additional tarps hung along the windward side may help shelter you from the wind.  Exercise special care when cooking under a canopy.  An unexpected flareup could catch your roof or walls on fire!

Meal schedules are likely to be modified when camping.   Hey! One of the reasons we go camping is to get out of the daily 9-5 grind!  The variety of activities and the potential for unforeseen circumstances to impact mealtimes pretty much dictate you have to be flexible.  Most times that isn't a problem, unless you make it into one.  You will find it is best not to try to maintain a fixed meal schedule tied to the clock when camping.  Don't worry about setting an alarm clock.  Have breakfast whenever you finally roll out of bed in the morning.  Although some people don't usually eat breakfast at home,  normally do try to start each day camping with a more or less nutritious breakfast (donuts the first morning are one of the more fun and less nutritious breakfasts).  Lunch works just about anytime you might think of as "mid day", but it doesn't have to be at a specific time.   Wait for a natural break in activities.  And have dinner in the evening after you've finished your day's activities and are ready to settle in for the night.  Having dinner at that time also lets you cook on the campfire, if you like, then just relax around it after dinner.  You meal schedules should be more governed by the sun, your body rhythms, and your activities than by the clock.  However, if you find benefit in keeping a regular schedule, by all means do so!  People with special diets or medical requirements may need to keep to a fixed schedule.

Clean up is far more important in camp than at home.   It is ALWAYS a good idea to clean up as you go, but if you don't keep up with it in camp there can be larger consequences than you normally experience at home.  Dump some water into pots and pans a soon as you're removed the food so they can begin soaking right away before stuff dries and bakes on.   If you're cooking on a campfire, you may want to leave the pots and pans on the fire with water in them for a while to loosen deposits, but don't let them boil dry.  Dispose properly of scraps before they can attract pests.   Even in an RV, you are likely to be surrounded by more potential pests than you have at home and when cooking outside you are smack in the middle of their environment.  Flying and crawling insects are usually among the first to arrive, but larger (and more dangerous) critters like raccoons and bears may also be drawn to unattended (and sometime attended) scraps.  While unwanted creatures are less likely to be a problem in an RV, spills and scraps left around contribute to unsanitary conditions and may produce unpleasant odors that are hard to escape or eliminate in the small space inside an RV.   Cooking fumes and odors can also be a problem in an RV, so try to maintain adequate ventilation.  Open some strategic windows and take advantages of the fan in your range hood (if you have one) to expel odors as quickly as possible.  Roof vents, especially those with fans than can be used to evacuate air from inside the coach, are also helpful in getting rid of odors before they saturate carpet, curtains, and upholstery or cling to walls and windows.   Give cloth upholstery a shot of Fabreze and vacuum them now and then to minimize the accumulation of cooking odors.   Clean interior glass and vinyl surfaces to remove the build up of film from cooking fumes.   Meal preparation in camp should at the very least always be easy and convenient.  Ideally, it should even be fun!

Presentation is often a big part of meals at home.  My wife can whip up some frozen corn dogs and make it look like a gourmet meal.  Options for elaborate presentation in camp are probably going to be much more limited than at home, but you may still want to spiff up some meals.   And remember, just eating off paper plates around the campfire or at your RVor picnic table is perfectly acceptable.  Fancy dinnerware or serving containers are definitely NOT required when camping.  Consider that billionaire William Randolf Hearst served all condiments in their original containers at his "ranch" at San Simeone (better know as Hearst Castle), even when entertaining VIPs like politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and even royalty.   If you do want to add some decoration, sometimes you can put some wild flowers in a plastic cup for a centerpiece at dinner (just be sure picking the flowers isn't against the rules where you're camping!).  A single candle, even a little votive light, can add a touch of ambiance to the table without taking up much room in your cupboards and if its a citronella candle it will help keep insects away.   Even a little LED faux candle looks nice and you can often get them at dollar stores.   And they don't present a fire hazard if used in tents.  I've seen RV advertisements in magazines and displays at trade shows with lavish flower arrangements and even live plants.  That is OK for a trade show or a commercial, but, personally, I don't think it is very practical for real  camping.  I would prefer to give the space and weight consumed by such items to things that add more convenience or functionality.  In most places we go camping, the location itself provides more than enough "eye candy".   You can always do something fun like learn fun and spiffy ways to fold paper napkins or add a little pretty garnish to your meals.  Sometimes you may even be able to find suitable garnish in the wild (one of my favorites is water cress), but be sure you know what you're picking and that picking it isn't prohibited or the food is contaminated.

Now you're cooking!