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.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Off Season Camping

Off season camping can  have a lot of advantages, especially if  you loath crowds and enjoy solitude!  However, there are reasons it is the "off season" and they are usually centered around climate.  The human body is most comfortable around 72° F and as temperatures go much above or below that favored target, things go beyond uncomfortable to intolerable to dangerous or even fatal!  Therefore, we tend to avoid circumstances where we have to contend with excessive heat or cold.  The off season in most temperate climates will be winter, when temperatures drop near or below freezing, but in some places, constant high temperatures make summer the off season.  Off season for some venues is defined by availability of popular activities, such as wildlife viewing or scheduled sporting events. Off season usually discourages many people so often you will find reduced crowds and greater personal access to many popular venues -- if you are willing and able to adjust to the off season climate!  Sometimes there are even lower off-season prices for extra savings.

Camping in the off season, regardless of whether it is defined by low or  high temperatures, often means adapting to the seasonal changes.  Some adaptations may allow you to continue to frequent popular spots, some may require you to change your destinations.  When living in Southern California, we spent almost every 3-day weekend dirt biking in the Mojave Desert.  However, when mid-summer temperatures hovered near or above 100° F we switched to riding in higher mountain areas where it was cooler.  On one trip, the temperatures on the desert floor were too hot (well over 100° F) to even sleep comfortably in our RV at 5:00 in the morning.   A few hours later, having ascended about 5,000 feet into the mountains, it was cool enough that we needed winter jackets when unloading our dirt bikes and setting up camp!

Hot weather camping.  Sometimes we braved the heat and adapted our facilities and activities to make things more acceptable.  On at least one summer outing we brought along an extra 55 gallon drum of water and a plastic wading pool.  Our original intent was to provide a place for the kids to play and cool off but we soon found it also appealed to even the burliest dirt bikers in camp!  The only downside was that is also attracted every sweat bee within miles!  Another useful adaptation was installing a mist system under the patio awning on our RV.  To avoid burning out our RV pump or emptying our drinking water system I set up a separate water tank and pump for the mist system.  It was truly amazing what a difference that mist made!  You might have enjoyed a similar system while standing in long lines at popular amusement parks in hot weather.  Other hot weather preparations including making sure the air conditioners, both automotive and roof top units, were in top shape and working properly.  And don't forget fans!  Fans don't cool the air but by moving air and speeding evaporation of perspiration they make you feel cooler.  Powered RV vents and 12-volt fans can make hot vehicles and tents much more comfortable and battery powered portable fans can be used anywhere -- in tents, hammocks, or just sitting in the shade.   And don't ignore manual, hand-held fans.  Even a paper plate can provide a surprising amount of breeze to speed evaporation and help cool you down.   For added cooling put some water in spray bottle and give yourself a refreshing spritz when you get too hot.  Adjustments to activities included scheduling our dirt bike rides for earlier in the mornings or later in the afternoons to avoid the hottest part of the day, which we spent under the misters, sipping cool drinks or eating sno-cones.

Cold weather camping.  In addition to  personal comfort in cold weather you may have to prevent freezing of water and other supplies.  Some off season opportunities occur before freezing weather sets in, giving you a chance to explore some popular destinations with minimal adaptations in clothing and heating your domicile.  Early fall outings will often find some camp ground facilities already closed for the winter so you may have to plan on "dry camping" even in a developed campground.  If the weather isn't too cold simply dressing warmer and adding a blanket to your bedding or turning up the heat in your RV may be all the adjustment needed.  However, if you are dealing with temperatures below freezing you will have to take measures to prevent freezing of water systems and provisions.  There are a few RV campgrounds that stay open all winter.  If you go to one of these, be prepared to wrap your fresh water supply hose AND the campground faucet with heat tape.  If  you don't, your hose and quite possibly the faucet will freeze and you will be responsible for the cost of the repairs to the faucet.  When you aren't using water, disconnect the hose.  Leaving it connected keeps the frost-free faucets from draining and they can freeze.  That can be a costly mistake, which most campground owners will pass along to you if you are at fault.  You must also protect dump valves and any other exposed plumbing on an RV against freezing.  It is often suggested using a skirt around the bottom of an RV to reduce  heat loss, minimize heating fuel usage, and help protect plumbing.  Foam panels will provide the best insulation to preserve heat but even a light weight tarp to block the breeze beneath the unit will help.  If you are tent camping  you will need to prevent  your provisions as well as your body from freezing.  Sometimes simply storing provisions in a camp cooler in your tent will be enough.  If that doesn't work you may have to seek safe storage in a heated environment such as a cabin or RV.  A tent  heater can add a lot to your comfort, safety, and convenience, but be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to avoid problems.  Some potential problems are obvious, such as fire potential if the heater is too close to the tent to other flammable materials.  Another serious concern is ventilation.  Even an indoor rated catalytic propane heater will consume oxygen and, without adequate ventilation, you will suffocate.  Avoid cooking inside a tent. There are too may risks associated with this task to even consider it.  If necessary, find a somewhat sheltered place outside to do your cooking.   I have seen  people cook safely in tents, but it requires careful regulation of the heat source, keeping flammable materials away from the heat source, ensuring adequate ventilation, and always being alert and careful with fuel and cooking implements.  It is best not to even try it, especially in a small tent.

As the temperatures drop below freezing you will need to adjust your clothing and your activities.  An RV or even a good tent base camp can be a good base of operations for winter sports -- skiing, sledding, skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling, etc.  After some time out in the cold you will welcome having a comfortable place to get in out of the weather and warm up.  Some OHVs lend themselves to winter use:  ATVs and side-by-sides are by nature more stable on snowy terrain than dirt bikes, especially if they are equipped with 4WD.  Dirt bikes will be more stable if the tires have spikes added to improved traction and grip.  Not matter what  you are doing you will want to dress in warm layers so you can adjust to changing temperatures, weather, and levels of activity.  While it  may seem counterintuitive, avoid getting TOO warm and sweating in cold weather.  It can cause hypothermia!

In some fairly rare instances there may be an off season that isn't defined by weather, but such situations are few and far between.  Some activities may be based on things like animal migrations foliage displays, or sporting events and if you aren't there at the right time, you will miss out.  However, if  you are simply seeking a pleasant, natural experience,  you may be able to take advantage of the time when fewer people will be there to simply get away from it all and relax.  The biggest adjustment you will have to make in cases like that is to adjust your expectations.   Don't camp out on the beach at the wrong time of the year and still expect good viewing of whales, birds, or other wildlife.

Getting off is fun!