Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We Have SOLAR POWER!

We are SO excited! We took the plunge and spent a LOT of money (to us) and invested in a solar system for our camper! WOW are we excited. Solar has come a long way in the last few years, and it has now reached the point that it is extremely worth-while for us. While we haven't had a chance to really put it to the test, we are certain it is going to be a dream-come-true for boondocking, which is our favorite style of RVing.

This is our new controller panel. It gives us several digital display options in order to understand the current state of our new (again, very expensive) batteries and how many amps our panels are shooting into them at any given time, and more.  Like most people familiar with solar power will tell you, you can load up your rooftop with great big solar panels, but your system will be limited by the strength and capacity of your batteries, and they are a major upgrade from what your RV will come from the factory with.

Our Lance Camper came pre-wired for solar, but they had to do some wiring anyway because the location that the wires terminated was not desirable (in the bedroom).  Otherwise, the camper was quite happy to become solar powered.  We added two, 100 watt panels to our roof, that fit perfectly on each side of our large sunroof in the cab-over area (bedroom). That part of the camper is slightly canted and if we would like to increase our charging ability in the winter, we can simply park the truck facing south to receive the most direct hit of winter sun.

So far, the camper has remained fully charged since we got the system. We have done very little traveling though, so we haven't really had a chance to put a big load on it.  But not for long!!  In just two weeks we are leaving for our biggest adventure yet: a whole MONTH of travelling! We have never had the chance to do this before, and we are beyond excited.  It's still summer-time and we are going to see how many nights we can actually boondock and not use a paid campsite. As I have described before, what we do is not so much "camping" as it is "travelling".  We spend our days parked at attractions, in parking lots at businesses and restaurants and parks and cool places... we don't care so much where we "sleep".

The Lance Camper is ideally set up for solar because they come standard with nearly everything in the camper being DC powered.  The ONLY things that aren't battery-powered are the air conditioner and the microwave and the AC outlets. Literally everything else runs off of the battery, even the TV and stereo. It's quite awesome.  

So stay tuned for our next big adventure, I will be posting the details about that soon! And... YAY SOLAR!!

This Is How You Hang Pictures, Keys, Phones, Wet Clothes And Other Things Up!

I used to HATE trying to figure out how to customize the inside of the RV. One great thing to do is to hang a key-holder rack just inside the RV door, down low, so you can reach it while standing outside. This is something we use countless times per day to open the storage doors, the outdoor shower, hang the truck keys, etc... But drilling holes in the paper-thin walls of an RV is not only scary (who KNOWS what's behind the wall?) but greatly depreciates the value of your rig and it's aesthetics. You are also putting yourself at great risk of doing damage you will very much wish you hadn't, like creating a hole through to the OUTSIDE!!

This is the solution:
3M Adhesive Accessories


We hang our keys up near the door, reachable from the ground OUTSIDE the RV. Very handy:


We use this charging station by 3M to hang our mobile phone for charging, conveniently next to our DC outlet.  It's a little hard to see, because it's clear. It's directly above the AC outlet on the wall. We love this little thing. It has strategic cut-outs in the plastic that keep the cord where it is supposed to be.
Then we have another favorite little helper that we use all the time. They are suction hooks that you can buy most anywhere. Today's RV's are usually clad in shiny fiberglass, it's the perfect surface for these handy little guys. We use them to hang wet towels and bathingsuits up outside to dry in the summer, and do the same thing in cool wet weather when we have dripping coats. When the awning is out, it's the perfect place to get them hung up to dry, and get them OUT of the camper. PERFECT!

Keeping An RV Journal-Such A Good Idea


Back in 1998, when I first convinced my husband to give RV camping a try, good fortune smiled on us and caused me to start a small journal from day 1. I don't remember what inspired me to do such a thing, but we are eternally grateful that we did.  It wasn't anything fancy, just one of those small, cheezy books you can buy at Wal-Mart for a couple bucks with blank pages inside. We had very young children then, so maybe I was in some sort of home-body, broody mode.

In the early years, we faithfully recorded each and every stop with the trip number, date, time, place and the site number. Unfortunately, we did not record any thoughts or observations, and we deeply regret that.  We do now though.  Usually not much, just a page or two, takes only 5 minutes, but I can't tell you the pleasure it gives us to look back.

We keep our journal in a cupboard in the camper. We pull it out usually after dinner after having arrived somewhere and we take turns updating it. We include interesting things we did or saw, along with any particular markers in our life that will help us remember where we were in our "life's journey" at the time.  We started including more information because we found ourselves wondering about these things when we looked back over our minimal entries from years past.  Ideally, we would have pictures too, but we don't. We can, though, locate our digital photos easily by date to include if I ever get so ambitions in the future. I can't imagine how much work that would be because of the sheer number of trips we have been on, but it's fun to think about!

A New Water Filter In The Camper!

After trying a couple of different solutions, I think we have finally settled on the RIGHT one. I am talking about fresh drinking water filtration in the RV. 

One thing that we have learned from past mistakes, is to make good use of the freshwater tank on board. Keep it clean, use it all the time for drinking water and maintain it properly. The benefit is that we no longer have to buy and haul those expensive and cumbersome cases of bottled water for drinking. I won't even start on the subject about what they are doing to the environment, or how much clutter they create. Being able to pull water out of the tap for making coffee or drinking or cooking is a major convenience and there is no reason why it can't be done.

Besides maintaining proper cleanliness of your freshwater tank, it is usually a good idea to filter water you are going to drink. This is especially true if you are travelling and filling your tank in various places. While most water you take from standard locations will be safe to drink, it often won't taste all that great. It will really mess up your morning coffee too! We get used to a certain taste for our water, and water filtration goes a long way to preserving that expectation.

After losing our RV sink faucet in a freeze incident we needed to replace it. We replaced it with a low-priced domestic model from the local Home Depot. It has the popular pull-out faucet that is extremely handy when you're trying to maneuver in a tiny RV kitchen.  This fix-it job left us with a much nicer faucet than we had before, and it also left us with TWO new vacant holes in our counter top where the old one used to be. I was DELIGHTED! I knew exactly what I was going to put in them; a water filter tap and a soap dispenser.  The soap bottle would be one less thing on the tiny counter top, something I had in my house, and wanted in my RV. Now I do, and it's awesome.

We mounted the filters for the water filter under the sink easily. They are compact and don't take up a lot of space. We are headed out on our big annual trip with 18 other families this weekend and I be putting it to the big test on it's first use... the place we are going has HORRIBLE tasting water. It even smells bad!!

UPDATE:  We are happy to report that the water filter is EXCEEDING our expectations! After an extended stay at a park with really poor tasting (and SMELLING) water, we can now say for sure that we are VERY thrilled with our new water filter! ONE LESS THING to remember to pack: Bottled water!!! Yay!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stealth Camping

Travelling, or "Camping" in a truck camper is different from any other RV in a very important, fundamental way. Let me explain: When we go on trips, we almost always have destinations in mind, and most of them are not "Camping" per se.  For example, we are currently planning an extended trip through Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and California. Now, we are only going to be gone about a month, so obviously that's a lot of territory to cover. We have destinations in mind though, and because we have an awesome truck camper, we don't focus so much on where we will sleep as much as where we will spend our days. Make sense? Sure, we go "Camping" sometimes too, usually with our children along (they are grown) and the destination becomes communing together in one spot, like at the beach or in the mountains or on the river.  But when we are in "travel" mode, just the two of us, we think very little about where we will sleep.  We know it will be in our camper, and that's really all we worry about.

How do we do this? We affectionately call it "stealth camping".

Our truck and camper fit easily in most standard parking spaces. Because of this, that is often where we "sleep". We may have played all day in parks (again, parking easily in standard parking lots) and then we keep moving in one direction, stopping to sleep at the appropriate time.  We don't really care so much about where we are while we are sleeping, because the inside of the camper pretty much looks the same whether we are sleeping next to Giant Redwoods, or in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  In the morning, we prepare a nice breakfast in our comfortable, familiar surroundings, and then we take off on the next leg of our adventure. There is never any back tracking to our "campsite" or to our hotel. We move always FORWARD and this style of travel allows us to see a LOT more country than if we were going back and forth all the time. Obviously, there is one more benefit: It's cheap. And I won't even go into the bliss of not making reservations and being on a tight schedule that is expensive and inconvenient to change!!

This style of travel pretty much sums up why we love truck camping so much. It may not be for everyone, but it is most definitely for us.