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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Camp Site Lighting (Again)

Camp site versus camp lighting.  Camp site lighting refers to the need for general lighting to illuminate a large part of a camp site, usually for group activities.  Camp Lighting would include the needs of individuals while camping, to work in a tent or at a picnic table or move about safely.  Individual camp lighting needs are usually adequately met via flashlights or lanterns.  General camp site lighting often requires more robust sources of light.

Do you  really need extra lighting at a camp site?  Very often moonlight or the campfire provides enough light for most activities and lends a nice ambiance to the evening.  Artificial light might be needed for tasks that require detailed work, like food preparation or reading or games, but it can also interfere with other activities and impair your night vision unnecessarily.  Bright lights kind of destroy the normal ambiance of a campfire.  Auxiliary camp site lighting is definitely optional and you should exercise discretion when using it.  That being said, what are your options for lighting a camp site when needed?

Many times all you need is gas or battery powered lantern on your picnic table.  Camp site lighting usually involves illuminating larger areas for group activity.    You might use several strategically placed lanterns to provide general illumination.  That can be very helpful on dark desert nights.  If I need to light up the whole camp site for general activities I have a 500 watt halogen light I can run off my RV generator.  It mounts to my RV ladder on an extendable stand that lets me put it high above the 11' roof of my RV, giving me coverage over a huge area.  There have been very few times I have needed that much light in camp.

There are many ways to light a camp site.   A long standing traditional camp site light is the lantern, a kerosene lantern or a Coleman lantern.  Having a lantern hanger on a tree or RV or a lantern pole can give you more choices for where to use it.  For general camp site illumination you may need several powerful lanterns strategically placed around the are where activities will take place.  Many RVs have camp site lighting.  The porch light standard on most RVs provides some illumination.  Others have more comprehensive flood lights that can really light things up.  There may be other specialized lighting needs.  For example,  I use a set of strobe lights on the roof of my motorcycle trailer to identify our camp to late night arrivals.  I have seen strobes built for the top of flag poles for similar purposes.  I also adapted flood lights from a retired ambulance as outdoor work lights on my motorcycle trailer.

Campfires are often enough to light up a camp site for most activities.   More light might be needed for food preparation and sometimes even for eating, but you don't want TOO MUCH light.  Excessive light spoils the mood and destroys your night vision.  You might need a lot of light for nighttime group activities but normally you should limit the amount of light pollution.  We get enough of of that in town!  It is usually really nice to enjoy the starry skies when we are camping.

Modern LED lanterns offer some nice options to gas and liquid fueled lanterns.  They are bright, efficient, and easy to use.  Some even have remote controls so you can turn them on and off and adjust the level from quite a distance away.  Some are have built in solar chargers so all you have to do to keep them charged is leave them out in the sun during the daylight hours.  LED lantern are usually cool to the touch so they are safer in tents and under awnings and canopies.  They are also quiet.  People are sometimes bothered by the hiss of white gas lanterns.  Old style incandescent lights and lanterns were about 90% efficient as heaters and about 10% efficient as lights.  LED lanterns produce almost no heat and the batteries and bulbs last a long time.  LED bulbs are usually rated at tens of thousands of hours.  Battery life depends on the total power being used and the quality of the batteries.  I once left an LED lantern with 17 LEDs on in my barn overnight.  It was powered by 4 really cheap "D" cell batteries.  The lantern continued to function perfectly for more than a year without changing the batteries!  An incandescent lantern would have completely drained the batteries before morning the night it was left on.

If you have generator you can use high-powered halogen flood lights to illuminate large group functions.  I rigged a light stand with a 500 watt halogen flood light that attached to the ladder of my Class A RV for use when we needed broad camp site coverage at night.   With the light about 6' above the roof of my tall RV it did a really good job lighting up pretty much the whole group area.   I just plug it into a convenient outdoor outlet on the back of my RV.  You can find a variety of halogen work lights at your local home center.  They usually have tripod stands that fold up nicely to make transporting them to camp easy and keep them steady in use.   You would normally want to use them on the ground but if you REALLY needed broader coverage you might set them on top of an RV.  I would suggest strapping them down to the luggage rack to prevent an errant breeze from blowing them off the roof.

Tiki torches are a fun and popular option.  Fueled with citronella oil they will also help keep insects at bay.  Tiki torches are easy inexpensive, easy to transport, and kind of romantic and festive.   And they usually contribute to a nice ambiance rather than wiping it out.  You will need to make sure the fuel containing bases are empty or are stored upright to avoid fuel spills in transport.   Some bases are metal cans with screw-on lids.  That type can help prevent spills en route.  Look for the ones with the caps tied onto the cans with a little chain so they don't get lost so easily.

Candles are good and even romantic for table lighting but usually don't put out enough light for area lighting -- unless you have a  whole LOT of very BIG candles!  I once saw some large candles on sticks to shove into the ground to provide pathway or area lighting but haven't been able to find a current source to buy them now.  They might have been custom or artisan made.

Handheld flashlights are handy for illuminating your path or looking into dark cabinets or for specific tasks but are not particularly good for general illumination.  You might attach your flashlight or personal headlight to an empty milk jug to use it for general lighting.

Glow sticks won't provide much in the way of area lighting but they can be useful in marking trails or flagging obstacles such as guy ropes on tents an awnings.   We sometimes used them to mark the signs we put up on the road to help late comers find our dirt bike camp at night in the desert.  Once advantage to glow sticks is that they usually don't put out enough light to destroy your night vision -- or the ambiance around a campfire.

Light up!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Preventive Maintenance for Campers and RVers


 Maintenance is usually defined as routine servicing or repair of equipment or units as need to keep them operating correctly.  Way too often we wait to perform maintenance until something has gone wrong, like doing an oil change when the oil light comes on or checking the radiator when the engine starts to over heat.  Too many times maintenance is ignored until the lack of it precipitates necessary repairs.

Preventive Maintenance (PM) is a predetermined program to keep machinery and equipment in optimal operating condition.  Changing the oil on your car on a regular schedule is a form of preventive maintenance.  All too often maintenance is put off until something fails and has to be repaired.  A good preventive maintenance schedule can often avoid expensive repairs.

Preventative Maintenance is standard procedure on critical machines and equipment worldwide.  Aircraft have a very strict schedule for required preventative maintenance.  Same with trains, city buses, school buses, and hospital equipment.  Many of these are even set by law to ensure public safety.  Although you may not be bound by law to perform preventative maintenance on YOUR personal equipment, you may be under an obligation to do so to maintain warranties.  Even if your vehicles and other equipment is out of warranty you should still adhere to the prescribed maintenance schedule to ensure optimal performance and avoid unnecessary and often expensive repairs.

Preventive Maintenance for new vehicles and other mechanical equipment  is usually described in the owner's manual.  Often you must show proof of performing required preventive maintenance before any warranty will be honored.  Preventive maintenance usually includes inspecting or changing lubricants and filters but may also include adjustments and inspections of parts that wear down in normal use, such as brake pads and shoes.  Lacking an owner's manual for your vehicle or boat, contact a qualified dealer or mechanic or another owner of s similar piece of equipment to learn what they do.  If all else fails, try to find a maintenance schedule for a similar piece of equipment, perhaps a different brand to form the basis for creating your own maintenance schedule.  Typical preventative maintenance on any piece of machinery or equipment involves regular lubrication of moving parts, regular inspection and/or adjustment of specific items, inspecting all safety features to ensure they are working properly, inspection and if needed, replacement of air and fuel filters, belts and hoses, and general cleaning.

Preventive Maintenance on non-mechanical gear is also usually described in the original owner's manual or instruction sheet.   Maintenance of tents usually includes cleaning and also inspecting and repairing poles, tie downs, zippers, and stakes.  Sleeping bags should be regularly aired out and occasionally dry cleaned.  Back packs and pack frames should be inspected to ensure straps and buckles are safe and functioning properly, any fasteners are secure, and snaps and zippers are in good shape.

Preventive Maintenance on camp stoves and lanterns mostly consists of regular cleaning and sometimes servicing of pump gaskets on liquid fuel devices.  Replacing the mantles on lanterns might be considered maintenance but is more appropriately part of the normal operations as they usually need to be replaced at the beginning of each use.  Likewise with fueling liquid fuel appliances but regular cleaning of the fuel tanks might be part of the preventative maintenance.

Preventative Maintenance may also be applied to clothing, such as hiking gear and OHV riding gear.  Proper cleaning after each use will extend the life of most articles.  Items should be regularly inspected for any tears, loose, or damaged fasteners (buttons, snaps, zippers, cords, etc.).  Some items, such as boots, may require special cleaners and/or polishes.  Hiking and riding boots often benefit from a waterproofing treatment as well.

Each RV or camping appliance will have its own preventative maintenance schedule and requirements.  It is important to know and follow those procedures to ensure proper operation of your appliances.  Many times an appliance failure can be traced directly to failure to perform required maintenance, and that can be a frustrating and expensive proposition.

Even your body will benefit from good preventative maintenance.  Many medical insurance plans require you to have an annual "wellness check".  Many times this may uncover a developing problem BEFORE it becomes serious or life threatening.  We all know that insurance companies are most interested in their own bottom lines so offering free wellness checks is one way they avoid paying for costly treatment by detecting and correcting problems early.  The fact that you avoid unpleasant and painful disabilities is a nice side effect!  You could consider your regular exercise program a form of preventative maintenance.  Same with maintaining a good sleep schedule and proper diet.  Pre-hydrating before strenuous activities, especially in hot weather, is another good preventative maintenance for your body.

Do not delay PM!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How To Restore Teak Trim on a Boat

Teak trim is an important part of the beauty of many boats, especially sailboats.  Teak is quite durable but over time it may fade to a dull, concrete gray color and dry out and develop cracks, especially if not properly maintained.  Fortunately, faded teak can usually be salvaged and restored to very near its original beauty.  It just takes a little time, patience, elbow grease -- and oxalic acid.  Here is a photo showing two pieces (the companionway slides) from my 50 year old sailboat.  The one on the left is what it looked like when we got the boat; the one on the right is after cleaning it with oxalic acid.  What a difference!

To restore teak trim it is best to first remove it from the boat.  Usually the time it takes to remove it is less than the time it would take to mask off the surrounding areas and the results will be much better.  With the wood off you it is much easier to clean, bleach, sand, and refinish each piece.  Be sure to keep track of the fasteners.  Sometimes you will find different length fasteners used in different places on the same piece of trim. Putting them back in the right places can be critical.  Using a short fastener where a long one is needed will weaken the connection.  Trying to use a long fastener where a short one came out may let it poke through, damaging other surfaces or equipment.  It may seem overkill, but if there are differences, it is a good idea to number them and the corresponding places the go.  If any are stripped. broken, or badly corroded, get new stainless steel or brass hardware to replace them.  The new hardware will be much easier to install, will be safer and more secure, and will give you many years of good service.  Using damaged hardware can yield unsightly and unsafe results and might cause expensive damage.  Brass is typically needed in underwater applications and either brass or stainless steel should work find above the waterline where most of your teak bright work will be.

If you have large areas of teak decking or other places where removal isn't practical, mask off any adjacent surfaces to protect them from damage from cleaners, solvents, sanding, and new finishes.   Blue painters tape and plastic drop cloths or newspaper should be sufficient.

Teak trim usually needs a good cleaning as the first step in restoration.  A solution of TSP is often recommended for removing dirt and grime.  If the teak is badly faded, use oxalic acid to bring it back to near its original color.  I couldn't believe how well it worked on the teak trim from our 50 year old Venture 24!  It started out concrete grey and cleaned up to a nice, natural teak color.  Use a stiff brush to get into any grooves and crevices in the wood.  I used a 4" plastic scrub brush.  When you are finished rinse and wipe of any excess cleaner and let it dry thoroughly.  Next you will most likely want to bleach out and deep clean the faded surface using oxalic acid.   Oxalic acid usually comes in a powder or granular form.  Follow the directions on the container to mix it with water for use  Brush the solution on the teak, working it well into crevices  You should quickly see faded, grey surfaces returning to their natural teak color.  If at first you don't get good results right away you may need to repeat the process, perhaps using a stronger concentration of oxalic acid.  Once your teak is clean (it will actually look like teak again!), rinse and dry it.  Then sand it lightly to smooth the surface and prepare it for the final restoration steps.  If there are any major cracks or any holes that won't be used for installation, fill them with wood putty and stain it to match the wood.

Once your teak has been cleaned and restored using oxalic acid and dried, rub it down with teak oil.  Be generous as you apply it and rub it in well.   Let the teak oil soak in for a few hours until it is no longer wet to the touch, perhaps even overnight.  Then give it a light sanding with fine sandpaper and wipe it down with a tack cloth before applying your finish coat.

Apply a finish coat of clear varnish or clear polyurethane.  I prefer to use spar varnish.  It has been proven through centuries of use on wooden boats and yields a rich, shiny finish.  Polyurethane, a modern replacement, is usually less expensive but will probably yield good results, at least for a time.  I recently read that varnish may chip or chalk over time and polyurethane will retain its deep shine longer so I may be switching to polyurethane and in fact am trying it out on some teak handrails now.   You will probably want to apply two or more coats with light sanding with 400 grit wet and dry sandpaper between coats.  Some experts recommend 6-8 coats!  Do not sand after the final coat!  Handrails and toe rails that get a lot of use are strong candidates for multiple coats of varnish to protect them against wear and exposing the wood to the elements.  Same with teak decking in high traffic areas.  The recommendations I've found online suggest 6-8 coats of varnish or polyurethane for teak.  Give yourself plenty of time since it will take several hours for each coat to dry before you can apply the next coat.   There is some support for the idea of "hot coating", e.g., applying a second coat while the first one is still tacky to enhance bonding of the two coats.  Everything I've read says never do more than two layers at a time when hot coating.  You don't need to and probably can't sand between coats when hot coating.  Letting each coat dry enough to be sanded between coats ultimately should yield the deepest, smoothest, shiniest finish.  I have found I usually get a nice, deep shine with just 3 or 4 coats of clear finish, but it may not stand the test of time as well as the recommended 6-8 coats, especially in high traffic areas.

Finally re-install each piece in its original position, using new stainless steel hardware as necessary.  Tighten securely but don't over tighten.  If you refinished pieces in place, remove the masking around them.  Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, including the compliments from fellow boaters as well as how nice it looks to you!

If your hand rails are too badly damaged to be restored you can buy replacements.  They come in sizes from 1 loop to about 6 loops.   If your boat doesn't have hand rails you can install them fairly easily.  I would measure the length of the area where I want the rails and order the size and/or number of new teak rails I need to cover it.  When they arrive I would take them inside the cabin and mark the ceiling in the center of each place the rail will contact the deck.   Choose stainless steel screws long enough to pass through the mounting surface and about 3/4""to 1" into the base of the rail.  Then drill holes through the mounting surface just large enough to accommodate the the stainless steel screws you will use to install the teak.    You might also want to drill small pilot holes in the handrail to make installing the screws easier and prevent splitting.  Most of the hand rails I've seen are attached using wood screws from the bottom but there could be models that have bolts pre-installed in each base.  The procedure is still basically the same.  You could mark and drill the holes from the outside but I prefer starting inside in case there is a light fixture or some other obstacle I might drill through from the outside.  Of coarse you need to make sure the entire space they will occupy on the outside is also clear.  You will want to put a durable finish on your new handrails before installing them.  I like spar varnish for its rich, deep finish and a long (hundreds of years) history of use on wooden boats.  You might want handrails inside the cabin for added stability when moving around when the boat is in motion.  Another common place to add hand holds is near any stairs or steps.  I added a single loop teak hand rail to the end of my companionway slide to make it easier to grab and pull it closed.  When installing the hardware make sure it is secure but don't over tighten it, which could risk stripping or damaging the wooden rail.  Always use correct sized washers and/or backing plates to prevent the screws from pulling through the mounting surface.  You might use finish washers with pad head or recessed head screws for a more finished look.  For added backing, use a fender washer sized to fit the screw.  Fender washers can be used alone or under finish washers.  If you plan to use fender washers without finish washers used round headed screws instead of recessed heads.

Large pieces of teak, such as hatchboards, sometimes swell or warp due to damp weather or high humidity.  Swelling can usually be corrected by letting the boards dry thoroughly.  You can sometimes correct the warping by laying the boards on a hard, flat surface, placing another flat straight panel on top and adding 50-100 lbs of weight.  Leave the weight in places for several days.  It might help if the boards are kept someplace with fairly high humidity at first.  If that isn't possible, try wrapping the boards in a damp towel before stacking the weights.  Take the boards out and check to see if there has been any improvement every day or so.  If using a towel and it has dried out,  re-dampen it when you re-stack the weights to further straighten the boards.  If you can't get them to straighten out you might be able to plane them to improve appearance and fit -- if you have the right equipment and skills to do the planing.  If you have to plane or sand them, be sure to refinish them for both aesthetics and to seal the wood against more moisture.

Hatchboards and sliding hatches often begin to stick after a few years of use.  Sometimes it is because the boards have warped or swollen.  Sometimes the sliding surfaces have become worn.  If the surface is worn you may be able to install some UHMW or HDPE tape over the damaged surface to restore smooth operation.  Swollen batch boards need to be dried.  If they still bind try sanding down the edges until they fit into the slot again.  Be sure to refinish them after sanding.  A proper waterproof finish will look good, reduce friction, and reduce water absorption to prevent further sticking.  Pay special attention to the edges where moisture is most likely to seep in and cause problems.

Teak hatchboards can be very expensive to replace if they are warped or damaged beyond repair.  A good modern alternative is make hatchboards out of marine grade starboard, an HDPE plastic material.  It looks good, needs no varnish and won't warp.  Teak hatchboards are usually notched to fit into the slides.  You can usually use starboard about the same thickness as the notch so you don't have to notch it.  If the starboard is too thick for the slides you may have to replace the slides with formed aluminum channels.  If your boat has 2 or 3 piece hatchboards you an either replace them a single piece of starboard or cut the starboard to match the original pieces.  A single piece might be too heavy or too awkward so you may have to cut it.  If you choose to cut it, I suggest cutting it at 45 degree angle with the high side inside and the low side outside so water running down it won't go inside.  Starboard usually doesn't need to be painted and in fact painting it might not even work.   Manufacturers discourage painting.  Try to choose a color that works for your boat when you buy the starboard.  There aren't a lot of colors to choose from so just pick the one you like best or best matches the color scheme on your boat.  White is usually a safe bet in almost any situation.

Don't freak out, teak out!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

First Aid for Campers and Outdoor Recreation

First aid is mentioned over and over in various articles in the blog.   It is a basic skill everyone who participates in outdoor recreation should have.  I would even go so far as to say no one should ever venture out into outdoor recreational activities without at least basic first aid knowledge, skills, and supplies.  If you participate in high-risk activities, such as dirt biking, mountain biking, or rock climbing, you should seek advanced first aid training to be prepared for the kinds of injuries you and your companions may encounter.  As a minimum that should include knowledge of how to control bleeding and how to splint broken bones.  Also when and how to move an injured patient.

To some extent it is assumed that most people have a pretty good idea of what "first aid" means.  However, individual perceptions seem to vary quite a bit.  There are at least two recognized levels of first aid:  basic and advanced.  As a volunteer firefighter and EMR I have had the chance to learn and use both basic and advanced first aid and have found the skills as useful in camp and out on the trails as they are on a fire department call.  I have splinted broken bones, dressed wounds and abrasions, and prepared patients for transport to the emergency room.  I even spent about an hour removing cactus spines from a rider's arm using the needle-nose pliers from my tool kit.

The basic definition of first aid is:   help given to a sick or injured person until full medical treatment is available.  Sometimes first aid is all that is needed and full medical help is not required, such as dealing with minor cuts and scrapes or a common cold.  More advanced first aid may be required to assist someone with more serious, even life threatening injuries or illnesses, pending full medical support.  In times like this first aid will almost always make the patient more comfortable and reduce the chance of additional complications.  In some cases first aid can be life saving, such as performing CPR, stemming arterial bleeding, warming a hypothermic (frozen) patient, or cooling a hyperthermic (heat stroke) patient.

Basic first aid skills are important for just about everybody.  You are likely to use them at home as well as during outdoor recreational activities.  Getting and maintaining good first aid skills is especially useful for outdoor enthusiasts who are likely to find themselves in remote locations where access to medical assistance is limited.  At home you can probably ask a neighbor for help if you encounter a problem you can't handle or, in more severe situations you can call "911".  Sometimes you can call "911" when you are camping, but often the remoteness of camping, boating, RV, and OHV activities is out of cell phone range.  Even if you can make the call, it will probably take some time before any Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel can reach you and you will be the only one who can help the patient(s) until they arrive.  What you do during that time can sometimes save their lives!

Advanced first aid skills may be needed to tend to severe injuries in remote areas while you wait for EMS folks to arrive.  Advanced skills can often reduce the suffering and prevent secondary injuries.  In some cases advanced first aid may even be lifesaving!  You should seriously consider getting advanced first aid training if you are involved in any kind of vigorous activities that can lead to serious injuries, such as rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking, riding OHVs, and riding horses.  Knowing how and when to perform CPR, how and when to control bleeding, and how to splint broken bones are among the fundamental advanced first aid skills that may be needed during outdoor recreational pursuits.  Whenever you are dealing with a victim of a serious impact always check for ABC.  That's Airway, Breathing, and Circulation.  Airway means making sure their throat is clear so they can breath.  Breathing means listening or feeling the breath from their nose and mouth and/or watching their chest rise and fall.  Circulation means looking for any obvious signs of bleeding and checking the extremities to make sure blood is reaching them.  To check circulation, pinch fingernails and toenails and watch for the color to return.  Color should return in 1-2 seconds.  If it doesn't, something is affecting blood flow.  It might be a severed or pinched blood vessel.

There are many good books that provide instructions for basic first aid.  There are even some for advanced first aid.  However, having a hands on course will make you much better prepared.  You can usually find local first aid classes offered by the Red Cross or by your local fire department.  They are usually inexpensive or often even free!  Many fire departments now offer Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) training that includes  emergency medical triage and light search and rescue in addition to first aid and fire suppression.  Reading a good first aid book is a good start and keeping them handy for future reference is a good idea.  Getting hands on training is critical to actually being able to perform the required duties in an emergency situation.

Basic first aid will usually take care of splinters and minor cuts and scrapes but you might need advanced first aid to handle life threatening injuries. Knowing how to control bleeding could save someone's life.  Being able to splint a broken bone will almost always make a patient more comfortable and reduce their suffering as well as preventing secondary injuries.

When looking for a first aid course or book, here are some of the primary treatments you should look for in any basic first aid instruction for the following issues:

  • Minor cuts and scrapes
  • Blisters
  • Insect bites
  • Heat cramps
  • Sprains 
  • Minor illnesses (e.g., colds etc)

 As you learn more or if you are regularly involved in high-risk outdoor adventures such as dirt biking, mountain biking, or rock climbing, you should look for advanced first aid training that covers these situations:

  • Controlling bleeding
  • Splinting broken bones
  • Recognizing strokes and symptoms of head injuries
  • Heat Stroke (Hyperthermia)
  • Hypothermia

It is always a good idea to maintain CPR certification.  You never know when someone is going to have a heart attack or suffer some injury that causes heart problems.   CPR certification is usually good for 2 years before it needs to be renewed.

Proper first aid training will also give you the ability to better access whether more advanced medical treatment is necessary and how urgent it might be.  You probably don't need to call "911"or rush a patient to the ER for a sprain but they might need advanced treatment urgently for a broken bone.  Being able to discern the difference between a suspected appendicitis and an ordinary tummy ache or indigestion would help you decide what to do to ensure your patient gets proper care without an unnecessary trip to the ER, which in itself can be traumatic and expensive.

Basic first aid courses usually don't take very long, typically just a few hours.  Expect to invest a little more time to gain advanced first aid skills.  You will find it to be a good investment.  Even if you never have to use it, knowing you could if you had to can give you a lot of peace of mind.  Your confidence in your skills will be a significant factor in calming down any person you may have the opportunity to assist.  Police and fireman usually are usually certified as Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) and that would be a good level to shoot for.  That may take 40 hours or so of training.  More advanced training is required for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics.  While having that level of training would never hurt, obtaining it can be time consuming and expensive and is probably more than you would need or ever use in normal outdoor recreational activities.  If you have the time, money, and inclination, by all means get as much training as you can!

If you venture into the wild or want to prepare for a long term disaster situation you might want to look into natural remedies.  My favorite is an easy one:  willow bark (or poplar or aspen bark) can be used as a substitute for aspirin.  It contains salicylic acid, which is similar to acetylsalicylic acid, which is the chemical name for aspirin.  Aspirin is actually a synthetic version of salicylic acid.  Other "back yard"or natural sources of medicine abound.  Seek out information about what grows where you live or play.

First aid training is not a one time thing.  You will learn that certifications have an expiration date.  There are two very good reasons for that.  First of all, you need to reaffirm your knowledge of many first aid skills on a regular basis.  Most people don't use their first aid skills frequently and will need regular refreshers to maintain proficiency.  Secondly, medical science continues to make advances and new or better techniques often become available.  Working with outdated protocols could significantly limit the level of help you could give and might even have liability issues.  Plan on scheduling yourself to get updated training at least every couple of years at the very least.  The more frequently, the better!

As you learn more about first aid you will also learn more about the equipment and supplies you need to provide appropriate treatment.   Training and supplies go hand in hand.  Neither is of much use without the other.  You could have a fully equipped mobile emergency room and it wouldn't do you any good unless you knew how to use the equipment and supplies.  You could be a fully qualified paramedic but your options for helping someone would be limited by the availability of proper equipment and supplies.  If you do reach EMT or higher training levels you will probably purchase your own personal emergency medical kit you can take with you where ever you go and that would ensure you could  always use your training to best advantage and provide the best possible care for your patients.  Minimum first aid supplies should include dressings, bandages, splints, and antiseptics.  I like to include some basic OTC pain relievers, but be aware that there are times you should NOT give pain relievers.  It is usually a good idea to give a person experiencing a heart attack about 325 mg of aspirin (4 children's tablets or two adult tablets) unless they have ulcers or are allergic to aspirin. 

In addition to the knowledge and the physical skills and equipment and supplies needed to perform first aid, you need to be psychologically prepared.  Fortunately, unless you work in an emergency room, you probably aren't exposed to a lot of injured persons.  Most of  us are not used to seeing injuries to human bodies and many people have strong negative reactions to the sight of blood or deformed body parts.  To be effective in providing first aid you must be prepared to accept the injuries and proceed to take the appropriate actions, regardless of how gruesome or frightening they may be.  You need to remain calm and present a confident and positive attitude in order to provide proper care for your patient(s).   I, for one, have never been particularly bothered by the sight of blood, but twice I have nearly passed out viewing close relatives being given injections of anti-pain meds to repair their injuries.  I don't mind getting shots myself, but for some reason watching the needles being poked into my sister and my son made me light headed!  Since becoming a volunteer firefighter I have forced myself to watch our EMTs introducing IVs and watching the techs draw my own blood for lab work to mitigate my reaction.

Another important psychological aspect to giving first aid is to be confident in your own abilities.  Patients can see and/or sense if you are apprehensive and that is NOT a good thing!  Your patients need to feel secure in what you are doing and that means YOU must be secure in what you are doing.  That is one of the reasons keeping your first aid training up to date is critical.  When you are faced with an emergency, let your training guide you and accept your role as provider and your patients will accept you -- and benefit from your treatment.

If your patient in conscious you should get their permission to treat them before you start any treatment beyond a visual inspection.  In our C.E.R.T. classes we were taught to say something like, Ï am (your name), and I am medically trained.  Is it OK if I treat your injuries?"  Of course you should only say you are medically trained if you have in fact been trained.  The training we got in C.E.R.T. and most basic and advanced first aid certifications would allow you to say you are medically trained.  If you are working on a family member or someone you know well you probably don't need to mention your medical training, but it is a comfort and will be of value to strangers to know that you know what you are doing.  Most people who have been injured are going to grateful for assistance and will agree to treatment.  If they do no agree, you should not touch them.  However, if you observe life threatening situations (arterial bleeding or they are in a situation that places them in danger of life-threatening injuries) you should attempt to convince them to accept your help.  If they continue to refuse you may eventually be able to treat them under the concept of "implied consent" after they have passed out.  The law recognizes implied consent for an unconscious person since most normal people would consent to treatment for life-threatening injuries if they were able to do so.

What are your risks in providing first aid?  Some people are reluctant to get involved in helping an injured person for fear of legal repercussions.  Pretty much all states have "Good Samaritan" laws that protect people who come to the aid of injured parties.  That being said, you do have an obligation to act appropriately within the scope of your training.  If you attempt something you have not been trained to do you could be held liable but you should be OK, for example, performing CPR if you have been trained in CPR and your certification is current.  Personally I would not hesitate to assist to the best of my ability.  I would rather have to justify my actions than live with my inactions if my help might have saved a life!  Of course you can be held liable if you attempt to provide treatment for a patient who has refused treatment and is still conscious

Be first in first aid!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Fixing Tent Leaks

 Tent leaks are more obvious and usually more immediately problematic than RV leaks.  If there is any problem with the integrity of your tent, it will leak when it starts to rain and you will know it right away.

Tent fabric is easily damaged by embers blown from a fire, by debris falling from trees and by accidents as well as ordinary wear and tear.  It is best to make repairs as soon as possible, both to protect the contents/occupants and avoid further damage.   Bird droppings that aren't cleaned off can damage fabric, weakening it or damaging the water proofing so it fails when it rains.

As always, prevention is preferable to repair.  Inspect your tent and address any problems regularly, especially before you start on an outing.   Things to look for include loose stitches or visible needle holes in the seams, frayed or otherwise damaged fabric, and broken or missing ties and zippers to close windows and doors.  Loose stitching should be re-stitched to maintain the integrity of the seam.  Visible needle holes can often be sealed using a wax sealer or a waterproofing liquid or spray to cover the holes.  Broken or missing ties or zippers should be replaced.  Things like bird droppings and sap should be carefully removed before they can introduce damage or attract insects that will cause damage.

Some temporary emergency repairs can be done using waterproof tape, like Eternabond.  Waterproof tape is sometimes hard to find and kind of expensive.  In a pinch you might be able to make temporary repairs using duct tape.  The tape will stick best if applied to dry surfaces but sometimes you can make it stick to wet ones.  Mythbusters once used duct tape to repair underwater leaks on a leaky boat in the water but I have never had very good luck using it on wet surfaces.  Waterproof tape is designed to stick on wet surfaces.  Tape can be used to cover leaking seams and thin spots and tears in the tent fabric.

An alternative sometimes used instead of repairing leaks in the field is to cover the tent with a tarp.   That is one way to get immediate relief from water dripping on you and your belongings and may allow the damaged area to dry enough for you to make temporary repairs with duct tape.  Installing a tarp takes a bit of time and skill and you will want to leave an easy way to get in and out of your tent with the tarp in place.  If you know or suspect you have leaks you may want to set up the tarp BEFORE it starts to rain.  Polytarps are small, light weight, and inexpensive so it would be a good idea to get one big enough to cover your entire tent and tuck in in one of your camping bins.  Be sure to inspect the tarp from time to time.  It would be really disappointing to pull it out when needed and discover a kitchen knife in your camping bin had made holes it in or holes had been worn in it by heavy items in the bin or perhaps even by its own weight over time.

Leaks in the tent floor can be more difficult to find and more difficult to repair.   Once again, prevention is better than repair so always clear the ground of rough debris and use a sturdy, waterproof ground cloth.  If you get water coming up through the floor you not only need to patch the holes but you need to find out how and why the water is getting under the tent and take proper measures to stop it.  A tent that is properly set up should not have water underneath it in the first place.  Make sure the ground cloth doesn't extend beyond the walls of the tent.  If possible, trench around the tent, digging a little ditch to catch and redirect water from running under the tent.

Stay dry!

Fixing RV Leaks

Nothing short of a fire or major accident will destroy the structural integrity of your RV faster than a water leak.  You my get leaks from plumbing, roof damage, cracked seams, old caulk, and around windows, doors, and other openings.  If you see signs of leaks or water damage, the first step is to locate the source of the problem.  Signs may include drips, puddles, wet spots on the floor, ceiling, or walls, soft spots in floors, ceilings, and walls, and discoloration of upholstery, carpet, ceilings or wall coverings.  Water damage can be sneaky.  Water can seep into ceilings, walls, and floors and they my get rotted out to where major structural repair is required before you even notice it if you aren't paying attention.  Odd, musty smells, soft spots, and discoloration are some of the clues that point to water damage in progress.  One of the problems with water damage is that it often goes unnoticed until things are almost beyond repair.  Keep an eye open for possible signs and seek rapid remediation.

It may take quite a bit of investigation to locate the source of a leak.   Even what appears to be rather obvious, like a drip around a roof vent, is frequently traced to a problem some distance away.  A hole in the roof or spot where caulking has failed far from the vent may be where the water is coming from.  Water will sneak around inside the ceiling until it finds the easiest way out, like around the interior trim on a roof vent.  Then it appears that the vent itself is leaking.  Of course, the vent could be leaking, but if further investigation proves the caulking around the vent is in tact, you may have to look elsewhere.  Similarly, the real source of just about any leak might be several yards away from where the symptoms show up.  We once discovered damp carpet next to the outside wall in the bedroom of our Class A motorhome.  At first we suspected a problem with the screw strip on the outside at about the same height as the interior floor.  Eventually we discovered the wetness only showed up after using the shower and we tracked it down to a problem with the plumbing in the shower, more than 10' away an the far side of the bathroom!

Many RV leaks can be traced to places caulking or other sealing materials have eventually failed.  RV roofs normally need to be re-caulked every couple of years.  I solved that problem on one Class A by having a commercial roofing company seal the entire roof including all the seams.  The white sealer they used is also used for commercial buildings and they gave a 10-year guarantee against leaks.  The roof actually has an expected lifetime of more like 20 years.  RV roofs always have seams around the edges where the roof meets the walls and often have cross seams where different pieces of the roof were joined.  There is also caulking around vents, air conditioners, and any other accessories mounted to the roof.  Over time caulking dries out and begins to crack or pull away from  roof or the accessories it is meant to seal.  When this happens you must completely remove the old caulk and re-caulk.  Of course, it is best to do this before the old caulk fails, hence a common suggestion of re-caulking every couple of years.  By doing so not only will you avoid the damage that failed caulk would allow, removing the old caulk will be easier before it becomes too brittle.  A waterproof tape like Eternabond can often be used to tape over leaking seams for in the field repairs.

RV Windows are normally sealed with butyl tape (sometimes called "dum-dum tape").  Like any other sealant, it eventually dries out and begins to leak.  Replacing it means removing the window frames, scraping off the old sealant, applying a new strip of sealant all around the window, and reinstalling the frame.  When reinstalling the frame take care not to over-tighten the screws as this will dent the frame.  Sometimes you can effect a pretty good temporary seal around leaking doors and windows using a good clear silicone sealer like DAP.  Lay a bead of about 3/16" along the edge of the frame, making sure there are no gaps along the frame or the wall.   This will probably control the leaks for an extra season or two until you can remove the windows and re-seal them properly.  DAP is best installed on a dry surface so you might have to wait out a storm before you can use it to re-seal your windows.

RV roofs are subject to damage from falling debris, like tree branches, hail or even wind.  If a large branch falls on your RV it may crush part of the roof.  When that happens about your only option is to rebuild the damaged section, and that may very well require professional help.  If a branch pokes a hole in your roof you might be able to repair it yourself.  A small hole, say less than 1", can usually be sealed with a sealant that is appropriate for the roof material.  Typical RV roofs may be fiberglass, aluminum, or rubber.   Rubber roofs require special sealants that are compatible with the specific type of rubber.  Holes in fiberglass and aluminum can usually be sealed with any good exterior sealant.  You might need a little patch of fiberglass cloth to reinforce holes larger than the width of a pencil.  If you get an even bigger hole, say a few inches across, you can sometimes reinforce them with a drywall patch and then cover the whole are with appropriate sealer.  On holes up to a couple of inches or so I've even used an old tin can lid.  One downside to using tin is that it may rust, so the plastic or aluminum drywall patches are preferable.  In a pinch you might be able to cut a patch from a plastic lid or even a milk carton.

Waterproof tape is a handy way to at least temporarily seal leaking seams and small holes.  You might be tempted to try it with ordinary duct tape, but unless you can dry the surface before applying the tape, it probably won't stick very well or for very long.  Waterproof tape will stick to wet surfaces and prevent any further intrusion, giving you time to get home and make proper permanent repairs.

Plumbing leaks can be difficult to locate.   As mentioned before the source may be far away from where the water is detected.   Sometimes you can get a clue about where the leak is coming from based on the color or smell of the leaks.  Foul smelling, blue, green, orange, or brown liquid is probably coming from the black water tank.  Gray, soapy, or greasy liquids are usually from the sinks, showers, or gray water tank.  Clean water is usually from the fresh water supply system.  While these may be good clues as to what is going on, they can not always be counted on.  Sometimes clean water leaching through building materials may pick up colors or odors.  Likewise, contaminate from gray or even black water tanks might be caught and filtered on their way to where they finally show up.  One way to help diagnose the source of a plumbing leak is to turn off the water pump or disconnect the city water.  If you immediately see a decrease in the flow or have a hissing sound that goes away, you know it is related to the water supply.  If you can't see the decrease or change in sound it may take some time to determine if the leak is in the supply side or in one of the drain systems.  Leaks inside walls or under floors can be VERY difficult to locate.  Always check the accessible plumbing inside cabinets and behind furniture first.  That is the place things usually get jostled around and start to leak.  Another fairly common source of damage to RV plumbing is unintentional penetration of plumbing by screws used to install accessories.  If a leak shows up soon after installing a new accessory and especially if it is anywhere the new installation, that could be the cause.  Damage like this usually involves opening up the wall or floor and replacing the damaged section of pipe.  Violent twisting of an RV on rough roads (or off road!) can sometimes cause plumping fittings to separate or leak.  If you suspect an event like this try to trace all the pluming lines where ever they are visible:  under sinks, inside cabinets, etc. to look for leaks.  If you are lucky you may be able to tighten the fitting.  If that doesn't work you will need to replace it.  Many RVs use a type of pipe called PEX for fresh water lines.  They usually have crimp fittings that require special tools for installation but there are some replacement fittings, like Flair-It brand fittings, that usually don't require special tools.

Anytime you have a leak there is a good chance there will be residual water under the surface that may cause future problems.  Sealing out any additional water may also seal in the water that is already there, allowing it to continue to stimulate further rot.  If have access, do whatever you can to dry it out.  Sometimes a heat gun or even just a hair dryer can be used to speed drying.  

When I lived in southern California and even in Utah, leaks were an inconvenience.   Now that I live in Oregon where it rains a LOT, leaks are a major concern.  If YOU live in a wet climate, finding and fixing leaks as soon as possible will save you a lot of frustration and money.

 Don't take a leak, take care of it!

Friday, January 8, 2021

Wranglerstar on Youtube -- A Good Resource For Campers

 I have found an excellent source of woodsman information on the Youtube videos by  Wranglerstar.  You might not find him under camping or RVing.  His focus is on modern homesteading and he covers a wide range of useful subjects, from how to sharpen tools, to felling trees, and construction techniques and he frequently reviews and tests tools, often at the request of his viewers.  Many of the skills and much of the information he provides can be directly applied to camping and RVing.  Just go to Youtube and search for Wranglerstar.  I have found his videos to be entertaining as well as educational and many of the skills he presents can be directly applied to camping.  He has over 2000 videos online and is constantly adding new videos so be sure to check back regularly.

Wranlgerstar rocks!

How To Build A Campfire Safely

 Oh yeah!  What'so hard about building a campfire?  Just throw some wood in the fireplace, stove, or fire pit and light it!  Right?  WRONG!  There are better ways, ways that make it easier and safer to light your fire.

Most techniques for building fires can be used for campfires, fireplaces, and wood stoves.  Getting a fire going quickly and easily usually depends on proper preparation.  When building a campfire, always make sure your site is properly prepared.  When lighting fires in fireplaces and stoves check the dampers and flues and ensure there are no combustible materials on or near the device before igniting your fire.

The first step for building a campfire is to prepare your fire pit.  One of the most common and iconic fire pits is the rock ring.  Another useful option for use in the wilderness is Dakota fire pit.  Always clear the ground around any fire pit for a radius of 5' to make sure your campfire stays where you want it.  When using fireplaces and stoves it is always best to start with a clean space.  Take care removing old ashes as they can sometimes contain hot spots!

To build a rock ring, gather enough rocks to make a circle about 3'in diameter, larger if you have a large group and need a bigger fire.  Rocks about 8" or so in diameter are usually large enough to do the job but small enough to move without straining your back.  Scrape the ground inside the rig to remove ALL combustible material and build up a berm along the inside of the ring to fill the gaps between the odd shaped rocks.

If there are no rocks around, dig down a little bit and build a berm to make a fire pit.  You need something to define the fire area and contain and control the spread of hot ashes once the fire gets going.   A rock ring or berm also helps mitigate ground-level breezes that might have an adverse affect on your fire.

To build a Dakota fire pit, dig a hole about 1' in diameter and about 1'deep.  Then make a smaller hole, 3-4" in diameter about 1' away and dig a tunnel from the top of the small hole the bottom of the larger hole at about a 45 degree angle.  The smaller hole and tunnel will provide a draft down to the bottom of the fire pit.  A Dakota fire pit make a good cooking fire and will not be very visible.  If you need to warm several people or need a signal fire, use a regular rock ring fire pit.  A Dakota fire pit lets you conserve your energy because it usually takes less work than building  rock fire ring and it will conserve fuel since it is quite efficient as a cooking fire.

The traditional way to build a fire is from the bottom up. Start with your tinder, then small kindling, then larger kindling, etc and finally add your big logs on top.  The two most common ways to this are the log cabin and tipi structures.  In both of these methods you build a sort of cage of firewood around  your tinder.  For a log cabin structure, the cage is a square shape with alternating pieces of wood stacked  perpendicular to each other around the perimeter, all built around your tinder and kindling.  For the tipi form, the "cage" is built in tipi shape, leaning the tops of pieces of wood against each other to form a cone above your tinder pile.  Then light the tinder and your fire should slowly grow as it consumes larger pieces of fuel.  As it burns, keep adding fuel until  it is a big as you want it.

 I saw an interesting alternate way to start a fire in a wood stove on a Youtube by Wranglerstar It is a top down method.  You start by laying your larger pieces of firewood on the bottom, then lay a second layer of medium sized pieces perpendicular to the first, leaving about a 1" air gap between each piece.  Note each layer is laid all the way across the fire, not just around the outside like  you would with the log cabin method.  Then add your kindling, nestle in some fire starters, and top it off with more kindling.  Then light  the fire starters and you're ready to go.  An advantage to this method is that it doesn't need the frequent attention bottom up fires need to add fuel.  It is pretty much self feeding as the fire works its way down.  Once you set one up like this and light it, you won't need to add fuel for probably at least an hour, depending on how much fuel you start with and how fast it burns.  That can be a particularly nice feature if you have other things to attend to, giving you time to take care of them before your fire goes out.

 I suggest you give the top down method a try one of these days.  It takes a little longer to set up, but not much.  And it frees you up from constantly tending the fire to get it going.  That can be really handy if you have other tasks around camp or are just firing up the wood stove out in the shop and have other things to do while it warms up.

No matter how you chose to build your fire you will need tinder and kindling and a source of ignition to get it going.  Tinder is very small, dry combustible material like dry grass or cotton balls.  Kindling is small twigs or sticks, usually smaller than the diameter of your little finger. See my post on log splitting for more information about making kindling. Matches and lighters are the most common and convenient sources of ignition, but in a survival situation you may need to know How To Start a Fire Without Matches.  

If you are new to building fires you might want to practice in your backyard before setting out on a camping trip where your skills could be put the test and consequences of failure very inconvenient and unpleasant and maybe embarrassing.

Burn to learn!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Risk Management

 Just about every part of our lives involves some kind of risk management.  Whether it has to do with health, traffic, crime, or weather, there is always some risk associated with everything we do.  Some risks are acceptable, some are not.  Some people manage risks effectively, others seem overwhelmed by them.

Have you ever seen the 4-quadrant risk management chart?  That may seem like a trick question because there are more than 1 4-quadrant risk management charts around, with different charts designed to focus on different aspects of your life.  The one I've found most useful is not related to any particular business or endeavor.  It applies to evaluating ANY kind of risk.  The four quadrants are:  1) High risk/low frequency, 2) High risk/high frequency, 3) Low risk/high frequency. and 4) Low risk/low frequency, in order of decreasing risk

High risk/low frequency are those activities which we seldom do but have a high cost if something goes wrong,  This is where we are most likely to encounter problems because we don't face the situations often enough to develop good skills or procedures for handling them.

High risk/high frequency are those activities which do have a high cost of failure but we encounter them often enough to develop effective procedures and skills for dealing with them.  For that reason, they represent a lower risk than high risk/low frequency problems.

Low risk/high frequency activities are next in line.  Because they are low risk we don't have much to lose, even if they are high frequency.

Low risk/low frequency activities are the lowest priority, simply because there isn't very much as stake and it isn't very likely to happen.

And, yes, there is a sort of a conflict between the ratings of high and low risk versus high and low frequency.  High risk/low frequency is more likely to cause us grief because the cost is high and our lack of familiarity with the situation significantly reduces our ability to handle things successfully.    While you might think the same logic should be applied to low risk/low frequency events, the combination of minmal cost and minimal exposure combine to give make this category of little concern.

I have a personal standard for risk measurement.  When evaluating any decision I ask myself if either the cost or probability of failure is high.  If either the cost of failure or the likelihood of failure high for a given choice, that choice should be discarded.  I figure that if the cost is high enough it doesn't matter how low the probability is, I don't want to take that chance  Likewise, if the likelihood of an unacceptable outcome is high, not matter how low the cost, it is not a good choice.

Outdoor recreational activities, such as RVing, OHVing, and camping,  like everything else we do, have some risk associated with them.  A lot of the risk of RVing and OHVing is associated with driving or operating our vehicles.  Risks of camping usually involve weather, accidents, or illness.  Regardless of what the risks are, there are always ways to mitigate the risks to minimize our chances of being injured or suffering a loss.  For example, vehicle risks can be mitigated by proper maintenance, appropriate and legal use, and using proper personal protective equipment.  Camping risks can be avoided by careful planning, keeping eye on the weather, and through safe camping and campfire practices.

For anything you chose to do, examine the potential risks and determine if they are acceptable, or if there is anything you can do to make them acceptable, before proceeding.

Stay safe!