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Extra Storage

We consider the space on the bed in our van to be almost sacred. Our goal is to keep it completely clear, while we travel, so that our naps are relaxing, refreshing, and uncluttered.

The under-bed storage bins hold our clothing, kitchen and general utility items, and a DAC Explorer 2 tailgate tent. 

The cooler sits on the floor at the foot of the bed.

The bag on our Hitch-Haul shelf holds kitty litter, bag chairs, an axe, maul, camp stove, potty bucket and tarps.

That still leaves a few items like a bow saw, the potty tent, Tail Veil, pump-up garden sprayer (for showering) and miscellaneous just-in-case items that need stowage.

Our solution is to repurpose our bike rack by using it to support an old rooftop storage bag we had laying around.

I had considered purchasing a small 4’ x 4’ utility trailer but didn’t want the headache of maintaining another axle and two more tires for our trips.

I did NOT consider rooftop storage because it cost us 5 mpg when we tried it on a previous trip, years ago.

Utilizing additional space behind our vehicle does not seem to impact our gas mileage at all, however.

We place only light, bulky items on the bike rack so that we can still open the hatch when needed.

We also use a stick of PVC pipe for additional support when the hatch is raised.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective easy way to store more gear, while you travel, this might work for you, too.

-packratchelle

Extra Storage

We consider the space on the bed in our van to be almost sacred. Our goal is to keep it completely clear, while we travel, so that our naps are relaxing, refreshing, and uncluttered.

The under-bed storage bins hold our clothing, kitchen and general utility items, and a DAC Explorer 2 tailgate tent.

The cooler sits on the floor at the foot of the bed.

The bag on our Hitch-Haul shelf holds kitty litter, bag chairs, an axe, maul, camp stove, potty bucket and tarps.

That still leaves a few items like a bow saw, the potty tent, Tail Veil, pump-up garden sprayer (for showering) and miscellaneous just-in-case items that need stowage.

Our solution is to repurpose our bike rack by using it to support an old rooftop storage bag we had laying around.

I had considered purchasing a small 4’ x 4’ utility trailer but didn’t want the headache of maintaining another axle and two more tires for our trips.

I did NOT consider rooftop storage because it cost us 5 mpg when we tried it on a previous trip, years ago.

Utilizing additional space behind our vehicle does not seem to impact our gas mileage at all, however.

We place only light, bulky items on the bike rack so that we can still open the hatch when needed.

We also use a stick of PVC pipe for additional support when the hatch is raised.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective easy way to store more gear, while you travel, this might work for you, too.

-packratchelle

The All-Important 12 Volt Clip-On Fan

We purchased this fan at a truck stop, a few years ago, and it has become an indispensable part of our camping kit.

It’s great for those times of year when it’s not warm enough to bother with an air conditioner but when a little breeze would make sleeping much more comfortable.

Since it only draws 10 watts it’ll use just 6.7 amp-hours in an eight hour time period— which won’t even come close to discharging most car batteries. We have an AGM battery in our van and it starts the engine effortlessly even after using our fan for several nights.

I also find that it’s the best way for me to dry my hair after a camp shower.

Sweating while you try to put on your face?  This little fan will fix you right up.

If you use it with a cigarette lighter extension cord you can even clip it to your folding chair on a hot day.

The clip allows us to attach it to head rests, ceiling-mounted grab handles or cup holders.

If you’re itching to buy a gizmo to add to your camping kit then I would suggest this $15 item, available at truck stops and Walmarts everywhere.

-coolandcomfychelle

The All-Important 12 Volt Clip-On Fan

We purchased this fan at a truck stop, a few years ago, and it has become an indispensable part of our camping kit.

It’s great for those times of year when it’s not warm enough to bother with an air conditioner but when a little breeze would make sleeping much more comfortable.

Since it only draws 10 watts it’ll use just 6.7 amp-hours in an eight hour time period— which won’t even come close to discharging most car batteries. We have an AGM battery in our van and it starts the engine effortlessly even after using our fan for several nights.

I also find that it’s the best way for me to dry my hair after a camp shower.

Sweating while you try to put on your face? This little fan will fix you right up.

If you use it with a cigarette lighter extension cord you can even clip it to your folding chair on a hot day.

The clip allows us to attach it to head rests, ceiling-mounted grab handles or cup holders.

If you’re itching to buy a gizmo to add to your camping kit then I would suggest this $15 item, available at truck stops and Walmarts everywhere.

-coolandcomfychelle

The Perfect Camping Shower

In the past I’ve recommended using a solar shower bag and a bathroom tent to create a camping shower. This idea has several disadvantages, however:

• It requires hoisting a heavy bag of water to a place higher than your head.

• Even though the shower tent has drains in the floor you still end up with soap buildup on the walls and floor which must be cleaned.

• You have to remove the potty bucket, kitty litter pail and paper products each time you shower.

I solved this by switching to a one gallon pump-up garden sprayer and a few tarps that are held up with bungee cords.

This method accomplishes the following:

• There’s no floor to clean.

• You can make the shower “room” large enough to keep the walls clean.

• The pump-up sprayer is easy to carry and sprays pressurized water— which makes for easier rinsing.

We always carry about three or four tarps with us as well as bungee cords and large utility clips, anyway. You’d be amazed at how handy those items can be, especially in bad weather. Since we have them with us it’s another opportunity to put them to use.

Once I use a few tarps to create the shower room I heat some water over the fire or on the camp stove. (Use the fire and save your fuel!)

With ONE GALLON of water I can take a leisurely shower, wash and condition my hair and shave my legs— with time left over to just stand in the warm spray at the end— and that’s with leaving the sprayer trigger in the “locked open” position for the entire time.

I pump up the sprayer before I start and usually have to pump it two more times (about 15 seconds, each time) while I shower.

While it will never be confused with a luxurious hotel shower I can honestly say that I’ve been a guest in people’s homes whose shower wasn’t any better than this one.

I’ve seen camping showers that used pumps and batteries and all kinds of gizmos but, in my opinion, this is the most shower for the minimum cost and effort.

Simply buy a pump-up sprayer, extend the hose on it, and pick up a few tarps and bungee cords to complete your kit.

For a perfect shower experience have your husband stand a few feet away with a glass of Champagne for you to sip from while you relax under the nice warm spray.

Ahhhh…

-cleancamperchelle

To see our  Table of Contents please click here.

The Perfect Camping Shower

In the past I’ve recommended using a solar shower bag and a bathroom tent to create a camping shower. This idea has several disadvantages, however:

• It requires hoisting a heavy bag of water to a place higher than your head.

• Even though the shower tent has drains in the floor you still end up with soap buildup on the walls and floor which must be cleaned.

• You have to remove the potty bucket, kitty litter pail and paper products each time you shower.

I solved this by switching to a one gallon pump-up garden sprayer and a few tarps that are held up with bungee cords.

This method accomplishes the following:

• There’s no floor to clean.

• You can make the shower “room” large enough to keep the walls clean.

• The pump-up sprayer is easy to carry and sprays pressurized water— which makes for easier rinsing.

We always carry about three or four tarps with us as well as bungee cords and large utility clips, anyway. You’d be amazed at how handy those items can be, especially in bad weather. Since we have them with us it’s another opportunity to put them to use.

Once I use a few tarps to create the shower room I heat some water over the fire or on the camp stove. (Use the fire and save your fuel!)

With ONE GALLON of water I can take a leisurely shower, wash and condition my hair and shave my legs— with time left over to just stand in the warm spray at the end— and that’s with leaving the sprayer trigger in the “locked open” position for the entire time.

I pump up the sprayer before I start and usually have to pump it two more times (about 15 seconds, each time) while I shower.

While it will never be confused with a luxurious hotel shower I can honestly say that I’ve been a guest in people’s homes whose shower wasn’t any better than this one.

I’ve seen camping showers that used pumps and batteries and all kinds of gizmos but, in my opinion, this is the most shower for the minimum cost and effort.

Simply buy a pump-up sprayer, extend the hose on it, and pick up a few tarps and bungee cords to complete your kit.

For a perfect shower experience have your husband stand a few feet away with a glass of Champagne for you to sip from while you relax under the nice warm spray.

Ahhhh…

-cleancamperchelle

To see our Table of Contents please click here.

New Life For Old Camp Stoves

Convert your liquid fuel stove to propane for $15.99!

This stove was given to me because the generator was broken.  Even though we have a perfectly functioning liquid fuel Coleman stove I took it, anyway, because I loved the jumbo size for when I need to have large pots on both burners.

Unfortunately, after installing a new generator, I discovered that the stove had other problems as well (leaky tank, etc.).  Since this stove was made in 1997 it’s considered obsolete and the parts are very expensive.

I stumbled across this StanSport propane converter at Bass Pro Shops, however, and couldn’t believe that it could be so simple and cheap to get our extra stove up and running.

But it was!

The valve/generator assembly works perfectly in both of our stoves and lets us run propane in either one.  It lights instantly with a blue flame and cooks just as quickly as our liquid fuel stove.  The little spring that’s shown in the photo holds the assembly firmly in place.

My favorite part is that I can carry the propane bottle inside the stove where the fuel tank used to get stored.  Most propane stoves are flat and don’t give you that option.  

Gotta love that!

Coleman makes a similar device but it has defined clicks for each flame level.  Conversely, the StanSport can be adjusted to any level you wish.

If you see an old camp stove at Goodwill or at a garage sale it could be the perfect candidate for a propane upgrade, so don’t pass it by!

-cookingwithgaschelle

To see our Table of Contents please click here!

New Life For Old Camp Stoves

Convert your liquid fuel stove to propane for $15.99!

This stove was given to me because the generator was broken. Even though we have a perfectly functioning liquid fuel Coleman stove I took it, anyway, because I loved the jumbo size for when I need to have large pots on both burners.

Unfortunately, after installing a new generator, I discovered that the stove had other problems as well (leaky tank, etc.). Since this stove was made in 1997 it’s considered obsolete and the parts are very expensive.

I stumbled across this StanSport propane converter at Bass Pro Shops, however, and couldn’t believe that it could be so simple and cheap to get our extra stove up and running.

But it was!

The valve/generator assembly works perfectly in both of our stoves and lets us run propane in either one. It lights instantly with a blue flame and cooks just as quickly as our liquid fuel stove. The little spring that’s shown in the photo holds the assembly firmly in place.

My favorite part is that I can carry the propane bottle inside the stove where the fuel tank used to get stored. Most propane stoves are flat and don’t give you that option.

Gotta love that!

Coleman makes a similar device but it has defined clicks for each flame level. Conversely, the StanSport can be adjusted to any level you wish.

If you see an old camp stove at Goodwill or at a garage sale it could be the perfect candidate for a propane upgrade, so don’t pass it by!

-cookingwithgaschelle

To see our Table of Contents please click here!

The Business Camping Trip

We own a hardware store in a small southern town and go to conventions, twice per year, to see the latest and greatest products and to purchase seasonal and sale items for the coming months.

This typically involves staying in overpriced hotels, sleeping in beds that have been used by thousands of strangers before us, standing in long lines at restaurants, dragging luggage in and out of elevators, and paying for high priced entertainment to occupy our offtime.

I find none of that particularly appealing.

We LOVE to go camping, however, and that means sleeping on a memory foam mattress that only we have ever slept on, staying in a reasonably priced campground, cooking delicious meals that we eat in the great outdoors, and riding bicycles, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and sitting around a campfire, for entertainment.

So why not combine the two?

Our next convention is in Chicago, in August, and we’ll be camping in a nearby state park instead of staying in a hotel.

It’ll be an hour drive from the campground but, if we use our time wisely, we can get our business done in two days and have free days on the front and back ends to enjoy all that the park has to offer.

That, my friends, is how to do a convention!

-queenofnutsandboltschelle

Putting A Tail Veil On A Prius

My friend, Laura, and I couldn’t be farther apart on politics, but when it comes to camping we’re definitely of one mind.

She loved the idea of the Tail Veil and wondered if she could use one to “add a room” to her Prius when she attends festivals.

So we tried it— and it worked great!

The only extra thing we had to do was place magnets on the roof to keep the Tail Veil from sliding toward the rear of the car. A few pot magnets from the hardware store worked perfectly.

In the event of rainy weather she could place the optional rain fly over the Tail Veil and drape a small tarp over the roof of her car to prevent water from entering between the surface of the roof and the tent. (Only a small amount would get by, without the tarp.)

Most minivans channel that water to an area behind the bumper, but the Prius’ bumper is molded to the car— which forces the water to travel over the bumper and onto the floor of the Tail Veil. 

Laura already owns a Habitent, which is a tailgate tent specifically designed for the Prius. It functions very much like the DAC Explorer 2 does on a minivan or SUV.

As it turns out, the Prius Hybrid is a great vehicle to camp in— especially in hot weather. With a Habitent attached you can turn on the car’s air conditioner and the Prius will automatically turn itself on and off, as needed, to keep the batteries charged.

Since the Prius engine is so quiet most people wouldn’t even notice it starting and stopping through the night.

You would NOT want to run a car with the Tail Veil attached, however, since it would trap exhaust gases in and around the vehicle.

If you wanted to keep your Tail Veil (with rain fly attached) cool you’d have to set a window unit air conditioner on the ground— in the doorway— and find a place to plug it in.

For flow-through ventilation you might consider putting a  screen over the side windows of the car.

If I didn’t camp in a minivan I would probably opt for a Prius Hybrid, as my next choice. It’s not nearly as roomy, of course, but you can’t beat its ability to keep things cool without running the engine all night.

That’s tough to beat.

-priusenvychelle

To see our Table of Contents please click here!

Putting A Tail Veil On A Prius

My friend, Laura, and I couldn’t be farther apart on politics, but when it comes to camping we’re definitely of one mind.

She loved the idea of the Tail Veil and wondered if she could use one to “add a room” to her Prius when she attends festivals.

So we tried it— and it worked great!

The only extra thing we had to do was place magnets on the roof to keep the Tail Veil from sliding toward the rear of the car. A few pot magnets from the hardware store worked perfectly.

In the event of rainy weather she could place the optional rain fly over the Tail Veil and drape a small tarp over the roof of her car to prevent water from entering between the surface of the roof and the tent. (Only a small amount would get by, without the tarp.)

Most minivans channel that water to an area behind the bumper, but the Prius’ bumper is molded to the car— which forces the water to travel over the bumper and onto the floor of the Tail Veil.

Laura already owns a Habitent, which is a tailgate tent specifically designed for the Prius. It functions very much like the DAC Explorer 2 does on a minivan or SUV.

As it turns out, the Prius Hybrid is a great vehicle to camp in— especially in hot weather. With a Habitent attached you can turn on the car’s air conditioner and the Prius will automatically turn itself on and off, as needed, to keep the batteries charged.

Since the Prius engine is so quiet most people wouldn’t even notice it starting and stopping through the night.

You would NOT want to run a car with the Tail Veil attached, however, since it would trap exhaust gases in and around the vehicle.

If you wanted to keep your Tail Veil (with rain fly attached) cool you’d have to set a window unit air conditioner on the ground— in the doorway— and find a place to plug it in.

For flow-through ventilation you might consider putting a screen over the side windows of the car.

If I didn’t camp in a minivan I would probably opt for a Prius Hybrid, as my next choice. It’s not nearly as roomy, of course, but you can’t beat its ability to keep things cool without running the engine all night.

That’s tough to beat.

-priusenvychelle

To see our Table of Contents please click here!

Plan A Fishing Trip!

If you’re a Georgia resident you should plan a fishing trip for this Saturday or next Saturday.

Why?

Because it’s free— no license required! Not even for trout, which normally requires a separate stamp!

Plan a family trip— or a date with your sweetie. Just don’t miss out on these great opportunities.

-anglingchelle

Plan A Fishing Trip!

If you’re a Georgia resident you should plan a fishing trip for this Saturday or next Saturday.

Why?

Because it’s free— no license required! Not even for trout, which normally requires a separate stamp!

Plan a family trip— or a date with your sweetie. Just don’t miss out on these great opportunities.

-anglingchelle

Simple, Cheap, Nondestructive A/C Installation In A Pop-up Camper

When my daughter and her teenage friends camp with us, in the summer, we need more air conditioned space than our minivan can provide.

Unfortunately our 1991 Coleman Destiny Roanoke didn’t come with a/c— and we don’t use the camper often enough to justify spending $1,300 to have it installed.

So we use a window unit, instead.

I didn’t want to make any cuts or other permanent modifications to our camper which severely limited our options.

This installation method is not my original idea.  I found several others, on the internet, doing the same thing and it looked like the best option for us.

I considered using this install on the BACKside of the camper so that it wouldn’t be such an eyesore but it would have blocked the big picture window over the table.  Also, if we had installed the unit, there, we would have had to hang a piece of canvas around the a/c unit to keep cool air from escaping through the surrounding screen.

If you can get past the unsightly look of having the a/c unit in the front of the camper it has several advantages:
1) The window is almost exactly the same size as the unit.  Once we zipped the plastic interior window up to the bottom of the air conditioner there were virtually no leakage points for the cooled, interior air.

2) It puts the a/c unit under the awning and that extra bit of shade should greatly improve its ability to provide cool air.

3) The stove provides an extra measure of security by preventing one of the 2x4s from accidentally sliding out.  (I used a Velcro strap to provide extra safety for the other.)

The unit we used is the same 5,000 BTU air conditioner we use with our DAC Explorer 2 tailgate tent.  While it doesn’t have the cooling power that a 13,000 BTU factory rooftop model would, it’s still more than sufficient to keep things cool, at night.  

Others who’ve done similar installations have said that the camper still gets warm, in the heat of the day, but even then it’s appreciably cooler than the ambient temperatures, outside.

If our 5,000 BTU unit ever fails it would be simple to modify this setup to accommodate a more powerful air conditioner.
Since I already owned the a/c unit this installation only cost me $15 (for pressure treated lumber, bolts, washers and wing nuts).  The lumber yard cut the wood to size, for me, so all I had to do was drill two holes, to attach the air conditioner to the top support, and four holes to hold the frame together.  Total project time:  30 minutes.

When we break camp the a/c unit pops out after the removal of two wing nuts and bolts.  Once the air conditioner is removed the rest of the frame collapses with the four remaining bolts still in place.

Note:  I had to notch out the bottom of one 2x4 so that it would fit into the space behind the stove.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to air conditioning the pop-up is that the teenagers are more likely to sleep in— which means more quiet coffee time for my honey and me!

-triestothinkofeverythingchelle

To see our Table of Contents please click here!

Simple, Cheap, Nondestructive A/C Installation In A Pop-up Camper

When my daughter and her teenage friends camp with us, in the summer, we need more air conditioned space than our minivan can provide.

Unfortunately our 1991 Coleman Destiny Roanoke didn’t come with a/c— and we don’t use the camper often enough to justify spending $1,300 to have it installed.

So we use a window unit, instead.

I didn’t want to make any cuts or other permanent modifications to our camper which severely limited our options.

This installation method is not my original idea. I found several others, on the internet, doing the same thing and it looked like the best option for us.

I considered using this install on the BACKside of the camper so that it wouldn’t be such an eyesore but it would have blocked the big picture window over the table. Also, if we had installed the unit, there, we would have had to hang a piece of canvas around the a/c unit to keep cool air from escaping through the surrounding screen.

If you can get past the unsightly look of having the a/c unit in the front of the camper it has several advantages:

1) The window is almost exactly the same size as the unit. Once we zipped the plastic interior window up to the bottom of the air conditioner there were virtually no leakage points for the cooled, interior air.

2) It puts the a/c unit under the awning and that extra bit of shade should greatly improve its ability to provide cool air.

3) The stove provides an extra measure of security by preventing one of the 2x4s from accidentally sliding out. (I used a Velcro strap to provide extra safety for the other.)

The unit we used is the same 5,000 BTU air conditioner we use with our DAC Explorer 2 tailgate tent. While it doesn’t have the cooling power that a 13,000 BTU factory rooftop model would, it’s still more than sufficient to keep things cool, at night.

Others who’ve done similar installations have said that the camper still gets warm, in the heat of the day, but even then it’s appreciably cooler than the ambient temperatures, outside.

If our 5,000 BTU unit ever fails it would be simple to modify this setup to accommodate a more powerful air conditioner.

Since I already owned the a/c unit this installation only cost me $15 (for pressure treated lumber, bolts, washers and wing nuts). The lumber yard cut the wood to size, for me, so all I had to do was drill two holes, to attach the air conditioner to the top support, and four holes to hold the frame together. Total project time: 30 minutes.

When we break camp the a/c unit pops out after the removal of two wing nuts and bolts. Once the air conditioner is removed the rest of the frame collapses with the four remaining bolts still in place.

Note: I had to notch out the bottom of one 2x4 so that it would fit into the space behind the stove.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to air conditioning the pop-up is that the teenagers are more likely to sleep in— which means more quiet coffee time for my honey and me!

-triestothinkofeverythingchelle

To see our Table of Contents please click here!

An Inexpensive Minivan Awning

When inclement weather rolls in we prefer not to have to close up all the windows and doors. Not only would we miss out on the smells and sounds of the storm but we’d lose flow-through ventilation from whichever tailgate tent we happened to be using.

A 9x12 tarp provides the perfect solution.

By bungee cording two corners to stakes driven into the ground and bungee cording the other two corners to the roof rack we can protect the interior of our van while leaving the sliding door open.

We actually prefer to use two of these tarps and connect them together with carabiners at the grommets. Our symmetrical two tarp arrangement provides an awning for each side and doesn’t even need to be fastened to the van. We simply drape it across the roof and stake the four corners.

If you prefer not to have the tarp angled so steeply toward the ground you could purchase adjustable tent poles to raise up the ends or you could tie the corners off to nearby trees.

Our tarps are silver on one side and green on the other which gives us the option of reflecting away heat or making our minivan camper blend into the wilderness a little better.

There are a number of awning options for camper vans but, in my opinion, this setup provides the most bang for the buck.

-undercoverchelle

An Inexpensive Minivan Awning

When inclement weather rolls in we prefer not to have to close up all the windows and doors. Not only would we miss out on the smells and sounds of the storm but we’d lose flow-through ventilation from whichever tailgate tent we happened to be using.

A 9x12 tarp provides the perfect solution.

By bungee cording two corners to stakes driven into the ground and bungee cording the other two corners to the roof rack we can protect the interior of our van while leaving the sliding door open.

We actually prefer to use two of these tarps and connect them together with carabiners at the grommets. Our symmetrical two tarp arrangement provides an awning for each side and doesn’t even need to be fastened to the van. We simply drape it across the roof and stake the four corners.

If you prefer not to have the tarp angled so steeply toward the ground you could purchase adjustable tent poles to raise up the ends or you could tie the corners off to nearby trees.

Our tarps are silver on one side and green on the other which gives us the option of reflecting away heat or making our minivan camper blend into the wilderness a little better.

There are a number of awning options for camper vans but, in my opinion, this setup provides the most bang for the buck.

-undercoverchelle

Riff-Raff, Druggies and Crazies

I’m a frugal camper.

Some might even call me cheap.

I hate paying campground fees, I don’t like paying for firewood, and I even loathe buying ice.

We typically minimize our camping expenditures by staying on federal lands; a bow saw and an axe keep us flush with firewood; and a highly insulated cooler keeps our ice around for nearly a week.

That said, sometimes circumstances dictate that we stay in a high-priced campground.

(For the record, anything that costs more than $10/night is a high priced campground, in my book.)

Over time I’ve come to realize that when we stay at high priced campgrounds there tends to be far less drama from our fellow campers. If we stay someplace cheap or free there seems to be a much higher probability of running into riff-raff, open drug use and crazy people.

(For the record, my definition of a crazy person is anyone of normal intelligence who shares their entire life story with you within the first five minutes of meeting and who then becomes your new best friend in the five minutes that follow.)

This isn’t always the case, of course, and I don’t have any empirical data to support my claim— but there does seem to be a strong correlation between price-per-night paid and the apparent wholesomeness and saneness of one’s camping neighbors.

If your experiences indicate otherwise I’d love to hear about it. Until then— that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

-onlyslightlycrazychelle