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, March 16, 2021

OHV Helmets and Goggles



Perhaps the single most irreplacable piece of personal protective equipment for OHV riders are their helmets and goggles.  You can sometimes get away with wearing substitutes for other parts of your body armor, but there is nothing else that gives the protection your head needs.  Head injuries are often very serious and even fatal and, unfortunately, are among the most common injuries associated with motorcycle and other OHV accidents.

Helmets should  be properly rated to meet certain standards of protectionThere are four primary rating systems:  Snell, DOT, and ECE.   Each one identifies the organization that established, maintains, and certifies helmets to their standards.  Snell is the Snell Memorial Foundation.  Its ratings are required by certain racing organizations. DOTis the United States Department of Transportation.  ECE is the Economic Commission for Europe.  Helmets that do not have at least one of these certifications stickers are considered to be novelty helmets and should never be considered safe.  FIM is another rating system by a global motorcycle organization for helmets for track use.

Snell is perhaps the oldest and best recognized rating, even being sometimes considered to be the gold standard for helmets.

Any helmet used for off road activities or highway motorcyle riding should meet at least one of the accepted standards.   If you have a helmet that does not meet any of these standards you should replace it with one that does as soon as possible -- before you actually need it protect your head in an accident.  You don't want to put your head in a $10 helmet unless you only have a $10 head!

Helmets will not prevent all head injuries, but they will mitigate many of them.  No matter how strong or safe a helmet is, the impact in any specific accident might exceed its level of protection.  However, one thing is absolutely certain:  NOT wearing an approved helmet will significantly increase your chances of serious or fatal head injuries in an OHV accident.

Certified helmets are not cheap.   But it can be said you should only use a $10 helmet if you have a $10 head!  The medical cost of any head injury will quickly exceed the price of a good helmet, without even counting loss of work income or pain and suffering.

Helmets come in open-face and full-face versions.   Open face helmets are usually worn by riders on street bikes.  Most off-road riders wear full-face helmets.  Helmets are available with and without face shields.  Even when I have had face shields I wear goggles for better eye protection.  Street riders preference for open-face helmets may be due to a need for a greater range of vision in street traffic and off-road riders need the extra protection of the chin guard of full-face helmets.  All I had was an open-face street helmet for my first couple of dirt bike rides, but I soon switched to a full-face helmet and I have always been glad I did.  Many years ago I watched  rider air-lifted from a remote forest service campground after he caught a low hanging branch in the face wearing an open face helmet.  It nearly ripped is jaw off!  To his credit, he was back on the trails the very next day but it was a very painful and expensive incident.

Helmets are pretty much only good for one hard crash.  Once they have done their job they should be replaced.  Even if the helmet isn't cracked or doesn't appear damaged, the shock absorbing material inside is likely to have been crushed.  And while it has done its job absorbing the shock and protecting your head once, it won't be able to do it again.  It is designed to be crushed to absorb the impact.  It doesn't rebound.  Unfortunately there is no non-destructive way to test a helmet to determine if it has been compromised.  Better to replace it if you it has been hit hard.  When purchasing used helmets look for deep scratches or scuffing or dings that might indicate it has been hit.  Ask the seller about the helmet's history, but be cautious because they might tend to downplay any problems in order to try to sell it.  If possible, buy only from someone you know and can trust.

Goggles are next on the list.  Why?  Well, eyes are fairly fragile and you only have one pair of them.  If they get damaged you will likely be blind the rest of your life.  Some riders like the fashionable appearance of sunglasses over goggles but sunglasses, even safety glasses, do not provide the same level of protection as goggles.  Sunglasses allow air flow around the edges, which can deliver damaging bits of debris into your eyes/  Properly fitted goggles block that air flow.  When riding in bright sunlight it is helpful to wear sunglasses under your goggles if they will fit or wear tinted goggles.  Avoid wearing tinted goggles in late evening.  Auto-darkening lenses are available so you can wear the same goggles in bright sunlight, with darkened lenses, and after dark with clear lenses.

Goggles and face shields are prone to get scratched.   You will want to do all you can to prevent that.  Helmets usually come with a nice storage bag that can protect the face shield when you aren't wearing your helmet.  Be sure to use it!  Goggles often have cloth storage pouches too.  If you lose yours or don't have one, use an old (clean) sock.  Both goggles and face shields can be cleaned with plastic polish to remove light scratches and restore clarity.  I use a 3-step product from Novus.  One bottle is for heavy scratches and contains fairly coarse granules.  The second step has finer granules, and the final step has really fine granules to polish the surface.  Goggles and face shields can also fog up on cold, humid days.  Anti-fog preparations can help reduce fogging.  The best one I've seen is called Cat Crap and it comes in both spray and cream forms.  Sometimes, in a pinch out on the trail, you might try the old diver's trick of spitting on the inside of your googles to help reduce fogging.

If your OHV PPE budget is limited, focus first on a good helmet and goggle system.  Substituting ordinary work boots and gloves for riding boots and gloves increases your risk of injury in an accident and may not be comfortable,  But the risks of injry no where near as much as not having proper, certified head and eye protection.

Heads up!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Global Warming/Climate Change and Camping

 We are constantly hearing about the problems of global warming along with strong admonitions to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels to stop it.  As RVers, OHVers, boaters, or even campers, we may even feel pressure from environmentalists to abandon our favorite pastimes.  The famous Sierra Club at one time had a written manifesto that called for the total elimination of ALL off road activity by the year 2000.  Thankfully, that didn't happen.  One thing it did accomplish was to separate their own 4 wheel drive members into a completely separate club.

In recent years the common reference has been changed from "global warming"to "climate change".  Don't let that fool you.  One of the reasons was that there was a decided lack of verified scientific readings to support the idea of global warming.  In some cases it was proven that reported data had been falsified in an attempt to support the unsubstantiated agenda of certain groups.

There appears to be two camps when it comes to global warming/climate change:  believers and non-believers.  To be honest I have always been a bit of a skeptic, almost to the point of being grouped with the non-believers.  For one thing, I think it is quite arrogant of us as humans to believe we can overwhelm nature!  There is a certain amount of evidence that is repeatedly touted as proving we are at fault.  However,  actual historic evidence shows that periodic global warming is the result of cosmological changes in our solar system and earth's position in it, things we can absolutely do nothing about!  Yes, it appears that global warming is a fact.  And no, human beings are not the primary cause of it!

I recently discovered some very interesting independent research that clarifies a lot of things for me.  It acknowledges global warming as a fact.  But is also points out it is a natural phenomenon and shows graphs of regular repetitions of global warming for at least the last 400,000 years.  Perhaps the most revealing fact I learned was that in every occurrence, including this one, temperature increased BEFORE CO2 increased!   It would appear from the historical evidence that global warming causes an increase in CO2 and not the other way around as frequently and repeated claims in popular media, who wants us to believe we are increasing CO2 and that is causing global warming.  Since the temperature increase preceded the CO2 increase, that doesn't add up.   In fact, it kind of puts a grand slam on current "greenhouse gas" theories! 

Given that periodic global warming is historic fact, we might better spend our time and resources determining how we should respond to it, not flailing about with ineffective attempts to change it!  We can learn from geological records what to expect in sea level changes and from things like tree rings we can learn about weather patterns.  While we may not be able to alter what global warming does to the oceans and the weather we CAN take appropriate actions to protect ourselves as a civilization and a species (and as individuals), against the affects.   We should be looking into what happened in previous global warming periods and devising protocols to ensure our survival and continued safety and comfort.  That might mean abandoning ocean front properties and focusing on promoting crops that can survive temperature changes.

Does any of this mean we should ignore "green"and "clean air"initiatives?  No of course not!  We still have a responsibility to be good stewards over and respect our beautiful planet.  It should however, give us a greater incentive to look beyond the commonly promoted theories and invest a little more time in digging deeper and exploring all the relevant facts.  Then we should do what we can to promote appropriate social and legal responses that are relevant to the true situation in which we find ourselves instead of blindly following the self-serving mandates of people with personal biases and agendas they want to impose on us.

 Am I going to get rid of my RV and OHVs or leave them idle because of global warming?  No, absolutely not!  Am I going to feel guilty about my campfire emitting CO2 into the atmosphere?  Don't think so.  Am I going to keep my RV and OHVs properly tuned and use the most environmentally friendly fuels I can?  You bet!  Am I going to use appropriately sized campfires instead of raging bonfires when I go camping?  Of course.  Am I going to support research, education, and legislation that properly addresses our appropriate response to global warming?  Every chance I get!

Just do it!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Getting Emergency Medical Services (EMS) When You Need It When Camping

We are so very fortunate to have highly qualified Emergency Medical Services readily available to us most of the time.  However, the further you go off grid in your recreational pursuits, the harder it will be contact them and the longer it will take for them to get to you -- if they can even find you!  One of the most frustrating things I experience as a volunteer firefighter is not having good information about the nature of an incident and where it is.  Our designated coverage area includes miles of forest, river, and lots of campgrounds.  Fortunately modern cell phones with GPS can sometimes be used to locate a caller and hopefully they are near where help is needed.  I've even seen them used to track lost hikers and guide rescuers right to them!  But I have also seen situations where the GPS we got was far from the site of an accident along the highway.  Callers often have to go some distance to get a signal.

Campers, RVers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts often find themselves a long way from towns that have Emergency Medical Services.  Unfortunately, the kinds of activities we are often involved in increase the chances that we will need EMS.  Riding OHVs, working around campfires, maneuvering RVs and trailers, operating boats, rock climbing, and even just hiking can expose us to injuries we would not encounter at home.  At home it is pretty easy to dial "911" and get a quick response to get the help we need.  When we are out and about we may not have ready access to cell towers to even make the "911"call and once we do it will probably take some time for EMS resources to reach us, even if we give them good directions to our location.  Thus it behooves us to make sure we know where to go to be able to make a call and how to help EMS find us.

Unfortunately, we face both higher chances of mishaps and slower EMS response times when we are camping or involved in other outdoor recreational pursuits.   Therefore we must be prepared so we can do our best to care for ill or injured companions and to expedite getting help for them when needed.  We can prepare ourselves to be able to care for sick or injured companions through basic and advanced first aid training, as frequently mentioned in this blog.  But we should also take steps to ensure we can expedite reaching EMS services and helping them to reach us.

There are a few things you can do to be better prepared if you do need to call EMS in a remote location.  First of all, I suggest you keep an eye on your cell phone reception as you approach your campground so you know where to go if you need to make an emergency call.  Sometimes emergency calls can be made in fringe areas with weak signals, but just to be sure, know where you can get cell coverage when you need it.  Getting up on a hill top can sometimes help as it may get you above obstacles that would block the line-of-sight radio signals from the cell tower but if that isn't enough you should know how far back down the road you need to go to get cell service so you don't waste time searching for a signal.

Next, be prepared to provide accurate and concise directions so the 911 operator/dispatcher can tell the EMS team how to find you.   If you are in a developed campground, the name of the campground and your site identification should be sufficient to locate you.  However,  if you are in a dispersed camping area without clear landmarks to aid the EMS teams to find you, give the "911" operator the very best directions and distances you can.  If possible send someone down to an identifiable road or intersection to flag down the EMS vehicles and guide them to your location.  Be sure to give them a good description of your vehicle, tent, or other distinguishing characteristics of your camp site.

When you call "911" do your best to remain calm.  Think about what you need to tell them:  the nature of the injury or illness, when it happened or started, the age and gender of of the patient, and precise instructions for where you are and how to find you.   You will probably we worried, frightened, excited, possibly somewhat flummoxed.  The hysterical reports 911 operators sometimes receive can be difficult to understand and can delay getting the response you need.   Try to be as calm and collected as possible so you can help them get you the help you need as quickly as possible.   Be prepared to listen to the instructions you are given by the 911 operator and carry them out.  They are trained to provide proper directions for how you can best assist your patient until help arrives and help the EMS team get there as quickly as possible.

In some cases it may be beneficial to provide a signal to aid incoming responders.  In the day time that might consists of a brightly colored flag raised to where it can be easily seen from nearby access roads.  Or you might build a signal fire and load it up with green branches or leaves to create a column of smoke.  At night a large signal fire or flashing vehicle lights can be helpful to responders who are trying to find you.  If you use a signal, be sure to let the "911" operator know what you are using so they can pass it along to the response team.  Just having someone stand where they can be seen from the road and jumping up and down and waving their arms can help rescuers find you.

Once you have called "911" stay with the patient at the location you gave the operator unless being there puts you and/or your patient in immediate danger.  If you must move, either notify the 911 operator, leave someone to tell EMS where you have gone, or keep your original location in sight.  It is usually best not to try to move an injured person before help arrives unless it is absolutely necessary.  Comply with all instructions you receive from the 911 operator to the best of your ability.

If you frequently visit places with little or no cell phone reception you might want to explore the options for boosting your cell signal.   Cell phone signal boosters are not cheap (several hundred dollars) but it still might be a good investment if you are often outside normal cell range.  If you or anyone in your regular group has been diagnosed with medical conditions that might make getting EMS help quickly a necessity, a cell phone booster may be well worth the cost.  Satellite phones are not dependent on cell towers and, since the transceivers for them are orbiting miles above the earth, they are usually not affected by mountains either.  Satellite phones are, however, still pretty darned expensive.  Phones start around $599 and can go up to thousands of dollars.  Plans start around $70 a month for 70 minutes of talk time.  You probably wouldn't want to use it for casual calls but it could be life saving to have those 70 minutes in a remote location.  Anyone with a high risk medical history or involved in high risk activities in remote locations should seriously consider getting a satellite phone for emergency use. 

Another option for high risk situations is to carry a personal locator beacon.  A personal locator beacon, or PLB for short, is a personal electronic transmitting device that is designed to alert potential rescuers to a life-threatening situation in the air, on water or in remote areas.  They typically start a little north of  $200.  Higher priced units have more features.  All PLBs must be registered (free of charge) in the NOAA SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking) database.  Once activated, the unit sends an SOS that alerts rescue teams to your exact location and tells them it is an emergency, likely life-threatening situation.  PLBs don't require a monthly subscription.  Since you only turn them on when you need to send an SOS the batteries last a long time, up to 5 years.  When batteries need to be replaced the unit must be returned to the manufacturer for replacement.  Batteries should also be replaced after a unit has been activated.  I have heard that most manufacturers will give you a new unit if you have to activate it for a life-saving rescue.

Of course another option is for you -- or someone in your group -- to get certified in Emergency Medical procedures.   Even if EMS can reach you fairly quickly, having proper training can be useful until they get there.  Being able to provide appropriate immediate assistance can significantly reduce suffering and minimize complications. Sometimes it is even life saving!  If EMS personnel are far distant or delayed it is even more important for you to have qualified help with you.  Throughout my off road career I have endeavored to maintain first aid and CPR certification and recently have obtained certification as an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR).  An EMR is the first level of EMS and historically has been called first responder.  If you are involved in any kind of outdoor activities where serious injuries may occur you should know how to recognize and treat life threatening bleeding and to be able to identify and splint broken bones.  Those skills could well be life saving!

Get help!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Preparing a Boat for Spring Launch

 If you are like many boat owners, you took your boat out of the water during the winter months.  Sometimes storage fees are less than moorage fees and a boat can usually be better protected from winter weather "on the hard" than if it is left in the water.  If your boat is left in the water many but not all of the steps below will be applicable.  Boats left in the water may also need to have the hull inspected and perhaps cleaned of unwanted hitchhikers and algae which will require some diving under the boat unless it is hauled out.

The first step is usually unwrapping or uncovering the boat.  Many boats hauled out are shrink wrapped for the winter.  Others may simply be covered with a tarp.  In either case the first step in getting them ready to use it to uncover them  Once the covering is removed inspect the surface for any damage or moisture that may have gotten through or accumulated underneath the covering.  Boats covered with a tarp will sometimes get damaged by the tarp rubbing against projecting surfaces.  Mark and note any damages so you can repair them before putting your boat in the water.  If you used a tarp to cover your boat, inspect it for wear and tear and make any needed repairs before putting it in storage so it will be ready to use again next year.

Next up is a thorough cleaning.  Even though your boat has been protected from most environmental elements it will still need to be cleaned, inside and out, before you use it.  A good washing is all that is usually needed for the exterior.   A good coat of wax on the clean boat will help keep it looking nicer longer and provide some protection for the gelcoat or paint.  The interior will benefit from sweeping floors, vacuuming cushions, wiping down all hard surfaces, and cleaning cabinets, counters, appliances and plumbing fixtures.  If you see streaks or other signs of leakage on the ceiling or inside of the hull, make note of them so you can mediate the problem before it causes any more damage.  Spring cleaning is sometimes a good opportunity to repaint any areas that need it or you want to change for cosmetic or decorative reasons.  And don't forget the bottom!  Hopefully you cleaned the bottom while it was still damp when you took it out of the water last fall.  Now is a good time to make sure it is clean and check to see if it needs to be repainted.  A clean hull is a significant factor in performance, letting the boat to slip through the water uninhibited by junk stuck to the hull and allowing it to respond as best it can to the helmsman.

Any motor on a boat will need to be serviced according to the manufacturer's schedule and recommendations.  Typical pre-launch maintenance includes an oil change , checking air and fuel filters. and inspecting, lubricating and adjusting control cables and levers.   Old fuel should be drained and properly disposed of and the tanks filled with new fuel.  If you have trouble starting the engine after storage it will probably require the carburetor to be cleaned.  Old fuel, especially modern fuels with methanol added, deteriorate in just a few months leaving behind nasty deposits that can clog the jets and even gum up the float and foul fuel lines.

Anchors and rodes should be inventoried and inspected.  Both should be clean and have no visible signs of damage or excessive wear.  Both should be properly stowed where they can be easily accsessed when needed.

Tools, supplies, and provisions need to inventoried.  Worn. damaged, or missing tools should be replaced.  Used up, clogged, expired or missing supplies also need to be replaced.  Provisions (basic food and hygiene supplies and medications and first aid supplies) also need be brought up to date.  Make sure your bilge pumps (electric and/or manual) are working properly.  This is also a good time to make sure everything is stowed properly where you know where it is and can get it when you need it.

If yours is a sailboat you will need to inspect the standing rigging.  Adjust as necessary and replace any frayed or damaged components.  Also unfold and inspect the sails and check all the lines (sheets on the sails, halyards, docking lines, etc).  Check the winches and make sure all the cleats are secure to the deck.  Repair or replace any damaged or missing items.  Don't forget to check things like sail and tiller covers.  Inventory and inspect sail ties.

All safety items should be inventoried and inspected.  That would include navigation lights, life vests, throwable floation devices, and signaling devices (lights, flares, horns, flags, whistles and "day shapes").  Larger boats may have a dingy or life raft that needs to be inspected to be sure it is serviceable and correctly stocked.

If you have removed any components for winter storage (sails, rudder, dingy, etc) put them back onboard where they need to be.   Check the berths to make sure the mattresses and cushions aren't damp or moldy and make sure you have clean, correct bedding on board.

If you have onboard plumbing, inspect all the tanks and visible lines and devices for leaks.  If necessary, sanitize and fill your fresh water tank and make sure waste holding tanks have the proper chemicals.  This applies to porta-pottis as well as permanent facilities.

If your boat is on a trailer, you will want to check the tires and service the wheel bearings.  You will also want to check the wiring and lights and inspect the hitch and safety chains.  Then make sure the boat is properly secured to the trailer before attempting to move it.

Ready for launch!

Monday, March 1, 2021

Fiberglass Repairs for RVs and Boats

Many of our RVs and boats have a lot of fiberglass components.  Fiberglass is quite durable, fairly resilient, and not to difficult to repair.  Interestingly enough, fiberglass will often resist impacts that would leave dents in metal components, sparing us some of what could be costly cosmetic repairs.  When fiberglass is damaged though, it takes special treatment to effect proper repairs.  You can get it done a professional body shops but if you are fairly handy you may be able to make many repairs yourself, unless you have an expensive vehicle that warrants the cost of professional repair.  Some big components (like front or rear caps on RVs) are sometimes damaged beyond repair and may have to be completely replaced but cracks holes in the fiberglass paneling of RVs or fiberglass decks of boats and often lend themselves to DIY repairs. 

The plastic components of many OHVs don't lend themselves well to being repaired.  Mostly they should be replaced and are usually fairly easy to replace and not TOO expensive.  Side-by-sides however often have larger, more expensive components you might want to try to repair.

Fiberglass resin is also used to repair damage to metal body panels on cars and trucks.  It is used about the same way as you would use it on fiberglass.  Before Bondo and similar fiberglass repair materials, body repairmen used lead to fill and smooth welded repairs.  Lead makes a good fairly permanent repair but it requires a lot more time and skill than fiberglass resin so it has fallen out of normal use today.

Bondo is probably the best know of the fiberglass repair products.  It is used to repair dents in metal body parts on vehicles as well as on fiberglass.  Bondo is reasonably priced and fairly easy to work with.  It an be used by itself to fill small holes or with fiberglass cloth for larger repairs.  Ambient temperatures need to be above 40F for it to work properly.  When you buy Bondo it usually comes in a can with  plastic top that covers a tube of hardener.  Pay close attention to the instructions for how much hardener to use and how to mix it.  As I recall a general rule is to use about a 1" strip of hardener squeezed from the tube for about a golf-ball sized glob of filler.   Don't mix up more material than you can use in just a few minutes or it will harden before you can use it.

Repairs on RVs and above water repairs on boats can usually be done in situ, where ever the unit is normally kept.  Repairs below the waterline will usually required hauling the boat out of the water before repairs can be attempted.  

Doing fiberglass repairs is fairly safe but there are some requirements for personal protective equipment and procedures.   You should always wear a face mask or respirator when working with fiberglass resin and when sanding cure repairs.  Latex or rubber gloves are advised when using resin to avoid contaminating and injuring you skin.

As with most tasks, preparation is a large part of making successful repairs.  When repairing fiberglass you may need to cut away damaged portions so they don't weaken the repair.   Broken, cracked, or otherwise damage material should be removed so it doesn't weaken the repair.  It is also essential to thoroughly clean the surfaces around the repair where the Bondo will be applied to blend the patch into the surrounding surface.  Sometimes you may need a backing plate inside the component to be repaired to give a solid base upon which to construct the repair.  For large holes spread a layer of mixed filler, then cover it with a piece of fiberglass cloth cut to fit over the hole.  Then cover the fiberglass with more filler,  tapering it toward the edges. For deep holes or dents you may have to apply mutiple layer of patching. Repeat as necessary to make it level with the surrounding area.  Eventually you will sand the cured repair until it blends smoothly into the surrounding surface.  If you are working with a deep dent it may take several layers of resin and fiberglass to build it back up to where it needs to be.  Be sure the let each layer dry according to the manufacturer's instructions but don't let them over-dry.  You want multiple layers to bond seamlessly with each other.  While it might be tempting to just fill up the hole all at one time that can prevent the bottom part from curing properly, leaving it somewhat soft and weakening the repair.

Once the application has cured (Bondo is usually dry in 10-15 minutes) you will need to file or sand it to remove any imperfections and blend the repair smoothly into the surrounding surfaces.  For best results you should then apply a finishing paste.  It is similar to the material used to build up the patch but is made of finer material to produce a smoother final surface.  Allow the finishing paste to dry and cure according the manufacturer's instructions, then sand it again until everything is really smooth.  Initial rough sanding may be done with coarse (#60 or #80) sandpaper.  Then used increasingly fine sandpaper (#100, #120, # 150 etc) until it is completely smooth.  Final sanding is often done with #400 wet and dry paper.  If you are working with a long stand fiber repair product like Evercoat Kitty Hair and even for heavy Bondo repairs, you might need to initially shape the repair with a body file or wood rasps and files to knock down the high spots before sanding.

Next apply a good coat of primer over the repaired area.  This is a step that is often ignored by amateurs, usually yielding poor results.  Primer is designed to bond tightly to the surface and to bond tightly to the finish layer of paint.  Top coats are designed to give a good final appearance and seal the surface but they aren't designed to bond tightly to bare surfaces.  Let the primer dry as needed.  To achieve the smoothest, shiniest results you should sand the primer with #400 wet and dry sandpaper before applying the top coat.  Read the directions on the primer can to see if you need more than one coat.  For best results, sand between each coat.

Apply the topcoat according to the manufacturer's instructions.  You may want to apply multiple coats for maximum beauty and performance, possibly sanding with #400 wet and dry sandpaper between coats.

I recently came across another product that claims to be stronger and more waterproof than Bondo.  It also contains long strands of fiberglass within the resin so it doesn't require fiberglass cloth for some of the smaller applications.  It is called Evercoat Kitty Hair.  It is a little more expensive than Bondo but not needing fiberglass cloth for smaller repairs and the additional strength and waterproofing may make it well worth the extra investment.

 I have had a chance to try out Kitty Hair and it did a wonderful job of filling an egg-sized dent in the bow of my fiberglass sailboat.  I did discover that it is a little harder to smooth out than ordinary Bondo and I ended up using Bondo as the final coat before primer and paint.  It certainly worked well to build up a sturdy filler, much easier than repeatedly cutting graduated pieces of fiberglass cloth to fill in the hole.  I will still used ordinary Bondo for shallow scratches where the long strand fibers in Kitty Hair would be overkill and would be difficult to smooth out.  As mentioned about, I used rasps and files for the initial shaping followed by #60, #80, #100, #150, and #220 sanding before applying the primer.

 There are a lot of good videos on Youtube for both vehicle and vessel fiberglass repairs.  It would be well worth your time to view a few of these before embarking on your first attempt.   With a little patience and practice you can make a lot of repairs yourself, saving both time and money.

Many fiberglass boats (and RVs) have a gelcoat finish.  Repairing the gelcoat takes special gelcoat along with rather tedious preparation and application.  Sometimes you can use Topside paint to cover the repair if  you can match the color closely to the gelcoat.  It is difficult if not impossible to blend the paint into gelcoat.  It might be best to mask off an appropriate section do be repainted.  If you still don't like the way it looks you might try applying some kind of decorative design to disguise the repair rather than trying to blend it it.  The design might involve vinyl decals or paint.  I used the masking technique when I had to repair a ding in the bow of our sailboat.  The painted area is detectable up close but does not stand out and is WAY better than the original damage!

Rainy days?  Can't work outside?  Might still be able to get some things done.  A lot of fine sanding, like between coats of paint, are done using #400 wet-and-dry sandpaper and sanding wet.  So even it the surface is wet you can sand it.  You probably don't want to be standing out in a pouring rain.  That would be uncomfortable and it might be too much water even for wet sanding, but you might still be able to make some progress on a project without having to wait for another sunny day.  I did indeed take advantage of a couple of rainy days to do the wet sanding between top coats when I repaired the bow of my sailboat.

Patch it up!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Weather Watches, Advisories, and Warnings for Campers

 The US Weather Service issues several levels of alerts.   They may include watches, advisories, and warnings.  Watches mean conditions are right for the stated event to occur so keep watch.  A watch may be upgraded to an advisory when the probability of the event happening reaches or exceeds 80%.  A warning means the event is imminent or is happening.  For example, a tornado watch says conditions are right for tornadoes to form.  A warning means a tornado has actually been spotted.

 The mission of the National Weather Service is "Provide weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy."  Although the mission does not specifically address the needs of campers and other outdoor enthusiasts (but hopefully we do count under "life and property"), their forecasts can be of great use to us -- if we understand and pay attention to the alerts!

Campers and other outdoor enthusiasts should know the meaning of these weather terms so they can take appropriate actions to ensure their safety.  Each type of alert has a specific meaning that you can use to prioritize your response.  All of them mean keep an eye on the weather!  Read more to see how close an eye you need to keep depending on the type of alert.

Weather Watch.  If you hear of a weather watch in the region near where you are camping, keep an eye on the sky, check radio forecasts regularly, and begin to make preparations in case you must evacuate.  A watch means conditions are right for the forecast to happen.  Start making plans and preparations for what to do it if/when it happens.

Weather Advisory.  If you get an advisory, you should immediately start preparing to evacuate or secure your camp site against impending weather problems.   An advisory means the probability of the event happening has reached about 80% or more.  At this point you want to be prepared to take shelter or get the heck out of there on a moment's notice.

 Weather Warning.  If you hear a warning you should take immediate steps to either evacuate or secure your camp site.  A warning means the predicted event is imminent or has actually been seen.  This is when folks in tornado country head to their storm cellars.  Be ready to take action NOW!

You may get weather alerts on your phone or other personal electronic device, via radio (local stations or NOAA weather stations). be informed by a ranger, other law enforcement, or other local residents, or read about it in the newspaper or on your computer.  It is always a good idea to check weather for your destination and your route before leaving home.  Then, monitor radio stations en route and in camp and periodically check your cell phone if you have cell coverage in camp.  The more warning you have of an impending weather problem the better prepared you can be.   Good preparation can prevent damage in injuries while lack of preparation or poor preparation often leads to severe personal injuries and expensive damage to property.

It would not be prudent to go camping if severe weather is expected where you are going.  Almost all trips can be rescheduled to a safer time.  Severe weather problems can quickly take the fun out of any outing and could turn one into a medical or financial disaster.  We once took a dirt biking trip to the Mojave Desert over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Weather was normal when we left home and in several years of our annual "Turkey In The Dirt" outings we had never encountered any unacceptable weather.  However, by the time we reached the dirt road turn off to our destination (about 150 miles from home) it had begun to snow and there was already 6-8 inches of snow on the dirt road.  Knowing the difficult, hilly terrain and rough condition of the dirt road to the camp site we wisely decided to reroute to a different venue that didn't involve such extensive off road travel.  By the time we reached our alternate destination the snow had slowed down and there was only 2-3 inches on the ground -- and our camp site was only a few yards off the main road on solid, hard-packed sand.  This was before we had weather on our cell phones and even before I bought a NOAA weather radio.  In fact, that trip was a contributing factor in acquired a NOAA radio.

I subscribe to an emergency email service that delivers National Weather Service Alerts for my county.   It is a good way to stay up to date on potential weather problems that might affect us.  However, it is county-wide and our county extends from the mountains to the sea so we get storm warnings for surf advisories even though we are about 1300 feet above sea level.  You can sign up at emergencyemail.org.

Watch out!

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!