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, September 20, 2015

Winter Camping

 Winter camping?  You've got to be kidding!  No, there are actually some good reasons to go camping in the winter.  Winter camping may not be as appealing as other times of the year, but if you are into skiing, snowmobiling, or ice fishing, winter camping might provide a good base camp for those activities.

One thing is certain:  winter camping requires special equipment and special preparedness.  If you are camping in an RV, the RV must be equipped to withstand cold temperatures.  That means being well insulated and having an adequate furnace or other heater(s) and protecting all the water based systems against freezing.  If you are camping in a tent you will want a 4-season tent for starters.  Then you will need winter sleeping bags.  A tent heater may be a welcome addition.  Just be sure to follow proper procedures for safe use.  When camping on snow I have found it useful to have a couple of extra sleeping bags, he rectangular type that can be opened up.  I laid out one on the floor of the tent under our sleeping bags, then put the second one over our sleeping bags, giving us extra protection against the cold from the snow beneath the tent and retaining body heat that escaped from our personal sleeping bags.  Temperatures that night were well below freezing but we stayed warm and comfy all night.

Your provision may also need extra protection against freezing.  If you are in an RV and your furnace and/or heaters are sufficient to maintain a room temperature that is comfortable or at least above freezing, your provisions will probably be OK.  But, if you are camping in a tent, you may have to take steps to protect at least some of your provisions from freezing.  Ice chests are used to keep things cold during warmer months but you might find them useful for protecting things from freezing during colder times.  If you have anything that is particularly sensitive you might try putting inside the foot of your sleeping bag, if it will fit without messing up your comfort.  Vehicles like cars and trucks soak up some heat from the sun during the day and may help protect your provisions from freezing over night.  If you wake up to find your provisions frozen, consider running the heater for a while before retiring or even getting up a few times and running it again during the night.  If you are safely using a tent heater it might protect your provisions over night inside your tent but I prefer not to use a heater when I'm sleeping for fear I might never wake up!

Winter camping also means dressing properly for the weather.  You need to consider both temperature and wind chill to determine how warmly to dress.  It is always best to dress in layers so you can adjust as temperatures rise during the day or your own activity starts to make you too warm.  Getting warm and perspiring in cold temperatures is a recipe for hypothermia.  Try to keep your clothing dry.  Brush off snow before going where warmer temperatures will cause it to melt.  Change out of wet clothes as soon as possible.  You will lose body heat 25 times faster in wet clothes than in dry clothes.  Extremities, like fingers, toes, noses, and ears are especially susceptible to cold.  Warm gloves or mittens are needed on your hands.  Warm socks and winter boots to protect your feet.  Chemical hand and foot warmers can be added for extra warmth.  A hat that covers your ears or good ear muffs or a warm hood can help keep your ears warm.  My favorite winter hat is a Ushanka -- a Russian ear hat.  Its warm, fuzzy flaps cover my ears and much of my cheeks.  About the only thing you can use to protect your nose is a face mask.  It surprised me just how much even the thin nylon face masks we can wear under our motorcycle helmets did to keep my nose warm.  The only problem I've had with face masks was that they often caused fogging of goggles and eyeglasses.

Winter camping activities will probably include a roaring campfire that is even more welcome and enticing than at other times.  Of course if your camp is a base camp for skiing, snowmobiling, or ice fishing you will be spending a lot of your time participating in your preferred pastime.  Make sure you have properly prepared yourself and your equipment so you can enjoy a failure-free outing.  Also take appropriate precautions for each activity.  

As you should for any remote outdoor outing, be sure to leave word with some you trust as to where you are going and when you expect to return so they can initiate search and rescue if you run into any trouble.

Most important of all, be safe and have fun!  The safety of you and your companions should always be a priority.  Getting sick or injured is never something you want to happen. 

Winter camping is cool!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fall Camping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall into fun!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Summer Camping

 Summer is probably the most popular time for camping.  The kids are out of school, vacations are usually taken in the summer, the weather is usually clear and warm.  Campgrounds and other attractions are open for business.

Summer camping is what, most likely, you usually do.  You probably don't need a lot of advise to get ready for summer camping.  But there are a few things you might want to consider that will help ensure a pleasant experience.

Summer usually means lots of sunshine.  Therefore, be sure to bring along enough sunscreen to cover you and your group for the length of the outing.  And don't forget hats and sunglasses!

Summer temperatures invite light clothing, often swim suits or shorts and tank tops.  However, you might actually stay cooler wearing loose fitting long sleeve shirts and long pants.   Covering more of your skin exposes you to less sunlight so you avoid direct heating and sunburn.  Loose clothing allows for perspiration to evaporate, making best use of your body's natural cooling system.

Summer often delivers some really hot days.  Even if you are traveling and staying in an air conditioned RV you will probably be outside in the heat at times.  Keeping hydrated is essential for avoiding heat related illness such as heat cramps, heat prostation, and heat stroke.  Take along plenty of water and make sure everyone has convenient water bottles or canteens to take water on all activities.  One way to cool down is to spray yourself with water from a spray bottle.  Squirt guns might make the process a little more fun, especially for the kids.

Summer travel may put extra stress on your vehicles.  Hot days may stress cooling systems and hot roads can make tires overheat more quickly.  Overheated tires are more likely to blow out.  Check the condition of your vehicle coolant, radiator and hoses before leaving home.  Also check your tires to be sure they are properly inflated and have enough tread to be safe.  Under-inflation is a common cause of overheating and tire failure.

Summer night are good times for campfires and star gazing.  Nights are usually cool enough to enjoy the warmth of  campfire.  Summer nights often deliver clear skies, allowing unobstructed views of the moon, stars, and planets.  A modest celestial telescope can let you see the rings of Saturn and the Red Spot on Jupiter.  Even binoculars can give you a closer view of the moon, but be careful, it is very bright when viewed through binoculars and you should probably use filters on the lenses to prevent damaging your eyes.  It is, after all, reflected sunlight!

Summer fun!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Spring Camping

Spring camping is almost a no-brainer:  we are usually very anxious to get out again after a winter in hibernation.  However, there are a few things that make spring camping different from the more frequent summer outings.  First off, don't let the cabin fever you've built up being shut in all winter stir you to jump too quickly into action.  Although we are all anxious to get out again, taking time to make sure both you and your equipment are properly prepared for that first spring outing will pay long term dividends in comfort and safety.

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

Chances are your spring trip will be the first time you have used your RV or OHV or boat in some time.  You will want to make sure both you and your equipment are prepared and take a little extra time to warm up.  Engines and drive trains that have been idle over the winter need time for lubricants to circulate before putting any significant stress on them.  Drivers often need to refresh their memories of what it like to drive an RV, OHV or boat after months behind the wheel of a daily driver.  Take it easy until you and your vehicle have "shaken off the cobwebs".

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

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

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

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

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

Spring into action!