Monday, February 25, 2008

useful items to have along for full-time
dry-camping in small rigs

Here’s a list of items mentioned in the previous entry that I find useful for full-timing in a small trailer.

  • Low Rider chair, either a Remington furniture chair from SLC, UT
  • OR a chair from Blue Ridge Chair Works in Asheville, NC
  • 7-gal Reliance water jug (I have 3 7-gal, 1 4-gal, and 1 2-gal jugs)
    (I’m no longer a fan of the 7-gallon jugs > read the October 2012 entry)
    I keep a 4’ hose handy for filling the Reliance water jugs
    when refilling the Reliance jugs from 5-gal buckets, a grain funnel purchased from a feed/ranch supply store works well. For a narrow neck, cut down an oil refill funnel
  • Coleman stove (I have the old fuel type stove)
    (May 2012 update – If one will be doing one-pot meals, get a single-burner stove. I have yet to use the second burner so I purchased a single-burner stove and will be dropping my two-burner Coleman off at a thrift store)
  • small one-piece European surplus shovel
  • steel feed pan for campfires—CAL Ranch store
  • $1 box of birthday candles for starting campfires
  • DeLorme road atlas for each state you will be spending time in—just about all I use to find desert and forest roads. Just as important, DeLorme shows clear boundaries for national forests and BLM and state land.
    If you will primarily be staying in campgrounds, the black covered ‘Road and Recreation Atlas’ for a state seem to have more campgrounds listed.
  • Don Wright’s Guide to Free Campgrounds—probably most helpful during your first year. Have not used mine the last few years.
  • headlamp—I like my Petzl
  • two cats
  • roof rack for tow vehicle
  • 5-gal portable waste tank
    (Oct 2012 – I only used this twice so I got rid of it.)
  • 2-gal gasoline jug for Honda 1000 generator
  • 6’x8’ blue tarp—Home Depot—and 4” nails with washers to hold it down for a patio area—have one or two additional 6’x8’ tarps to cover things up, such as, a bicycle, firewood, or stuff in general if it starts to rain or if you want it out of sight
  • a corn broom to keep the patio tarp clean and to sweep out your tracks when you break camp—leave-no-trace (be sure to store it flat or upright on the handle)
  • a shrub rake (around 8” wide on a 4’ handle) to aid leave-no-trace
  • Japanese Hori Hori weeder knife, maybe one from Garrett Wade
  • heavy 6’ locking cable
  • small vacuum—something like a Dirt Devil that you can run from a Honda 1000
  • tall, insulated mug with a lid and a stainless steel tea-ball
  • 5-gal solar shower bag
  • Absorber towel—I have one for drying off after a shower, another for drying the Jeep and Casita after washing, and a third one for wiping condensation off the windows in the morning
    A 3-square-foot microfiber ‘drying’ towel (found in an automotive section in Walmart) is also enough of a towel to use after a shower
  • microfiber towels—used for dish towels, wiping down pets, and cleaning blinds—fast drying
  • washcloths (not dishcloths)—old ones also work well for dish towels, especially for solo campers who don’t use a lot of dishware
  • 5-gal bucket for hand laundry—Home Depot or paint department in Walmart
  • paperback books
  • USB flash drive—I don’t use mine much but it’s handy for transferring files to a friend’s laptop
  • external drive for backing up your laptop
  • emergency road service

Okay, here’s the rest of it—miscellaneous useful items and some strange food staples. Keep in mind that this is all geared to extended dry camping and full-timing in small rigs. Remember I’m one of those with the camper mindset as opposed to the RVer mindset—apples and oranges. I’ve tried RVing in my fifth wheel and Holiday Rambler trailer—it’s not me.

  • black rubber bucket from a ranch supply store—these buckets can take a lot of abuse. A horse can even step on one and it won’t crack.
  • 6’ ladder—used to wax the roof of the trailer and check vent calking, etc
  • pack only enough silverware for two and 2 plates, 2 bowls, and 2 glasses, four at the most—one’s not out there to entertain, besides, if anyone else is out there, they’re camping so they can BYO—try mismatched items to add a little variety and color.
  • Tackytac or similar adhesive putty—two-sided tape generally does not hold up well in an RV—unless, of course, it is 3M VHB tape (it’s holding down my solar panel). One needs the putty to hold things in place or you have to pack them away whenever you hit the road
  • binoculars
  • 0˚ sleeping bag (even a good bag starts to lose its insulating factor over time) and a much lighter summer bag (NOT Wal-mart grade bags)
    be sure to always wash your sleeping bags in front-loaders. The bags have internal stitched panels/battens that keep the insulation in place. They can rip in top-loader washers, even on delicate cycle.
    get 2-3 silk or nylon bag liners (you’ll get tied up in cotton ones and won’t sleep as well if you are wearing cotton boxers and a T-shirt)
    replace your pillow every 18 months – studies have shown that older pillows are repositories of dust mites, dead skin, fungi, and drool, all of which can aggravate allergies, asthma, sinusitis and respiratory disease
  • small kitchen rugs (without backing) to place on seat cushions to save the upholstery, especially if you are traveling with pets—Wal-mart and Target have 19”x32” and 21”x34” woven rugs
  • 50’ of 3/16” or ¼” rope for many uses
  • 1/8” line for clotheslines—outside and inside the trailer—and clothespins
  • duct tape and WD-40: if something is loose and it shouldn’t be > duct tape it. If something is stuck and it should not be > spray on WD-40
  • rescue tape: self-fusing silicone tape, waterproof and airtight
  • runner rug down the length of your trailer (if you have carpeting)—easy to take out and clean with a stiff brush and a spray water bottle
  • door mat just inside the door (in addition to the one outside)—I always take off my shoes at the door—wearing shoes in the house is a major contributor to indoor air pollution—I also use the floor for exercising so I don’t want to be lying in outside dirt
  • 2 or 4 gallon Reliance water jug for using in the galley if not using the fresh water tank and water pump
  • one can line the head with a plastic bag (8 or 13 gal or 22” wide trash bags works well [Walmart bags have ‘odor control’]), turning it into a porta-potty—not a lot of dump stations out in the sticks, but I generally use the Japanese digging knife for a cat hole
  • floor jack for changing a trailer tire
  • pick up one or two cafeteria trays at a thrift shop—ones without the molded-in sections. They are priceless if you are going to be doing a lot of cooking outdoors or just need to carry a number of things outside.
  • flush-wand hose attachment—if you use the water heater, use this wand to flush out the heater from time to time. If you do not use the water heater, drain it, flush it out, and leave the drain plug out.
  • carbon monoxide detector—if you will be doing any cold weather dry camping, you might want to invest in one of these battery-powered units. They are under $20. Install it in the sleeping area. You might also want one in the living area. CO is pretty much the same weight or slightly lighter than air, so mount the detector at eye level or above.
  • a package of foam ear plugs if you will be staying in campgrounds
  • a bow saw can be handy if you have to cut some dead branches to get into a nice secluded spot or for cutting firewood if you are into the larger stuff
  • a Stanley 15” SharpTooth general purpose handsaw
  • covers for trailer tires, the sun eats rubber—I just have a pair for the Nash and use them on the side that gets the most exposure
    think about getting a pair for the tow vehicle
  • yoga/exercise mat for doing stretches and exercises

For low power music, you might want to consider an iPod nano, external speaker, and an auxilary cable. The nano recharges from a USB port or plays from such a port. The auxilary cable (Radio Shack) plugged into the earphone jack and the other end into the auxilary port on the trailer’s radio will play the nano through the trailer’s speakers (remember to jack up the volumne to hear it). The photo is of a nano plugged into the house stereo and powered through a USB port. An external speaker such as this iHome speaker (Walmart) puts out plenty of sound if needed and can be used outside or in (also recharges through a USB port). Through iTunes, one can download various free podcasts as well as music singles and albums. My nano with ear buds, is what gets me through moving days; I hate driving but listening to Wait, Wait… podcasts make it bearable.

Consider a SiriusXM radio for your trailer. You might have one in your car but you will be spending much more time in your trailer. I have their $10/month plan and it provides more than enough channels. The Classic Radio channel is priceless.

If you are considering packing along a bicycle and using it mainly for tooling around campgrounds—reconsider. Those people pedal slowly (less than 60 rpm) and coast a good deal; not really exercise. There would be more health benefits from walking. Also, walking by other people’s sites would provide more opportunities to meet people. If you plan to use a bike to explore single and double tracks and old logging roads, get a good mountain bike from a bicycle shop.

Another stellar resource for finding places to disperse camp is BLM district maps. Stop at a BLM office and purchase any relevant ones for $4 each. One thing to keep in mind if camping on BLM land that is used as open range is don’t set up camp next to water troughs set out there for cattle. Ranchers who lease the land could, understandably, get upset with you. Your rig and movements so close to the water can easily scare the cows away from their water.

Disperse camping is going to have you on uneven surfaces. Pick up one of those blue square plastic bags of Lynx Levelers. Sometimes even three levels of these blocks is not high enough, so then I’ll also scoop out a shallow trench for the high-side wheels to drop down into.

For a lifestlye of mostly disperse camping, one definitely needs a heater that does not draw juice from the house battery. I presently use an Olympian Wave catalytic heater. Catalytic heaters should be kept covered when not in use. Air pollutants and dust can make real problems with the "cat bed," which is the most expensive part of the unit.
If I had more room, I might have chosen a ceramic brick heater. Blue flame is a third option. Do some research before making a choice. Be sure the model you choose will work at altitude. Some are not recommended above 4500’. Good grief, I’m rarely that low. Others require larger propane tanks than are on RVs. Be aware that these units are unvented so be sure to keep a vent or window open a bit. On cold mornings, teens and 20s, you might want to turn the furnace on to quickly bring the trailer up to a comfortable temperature. Then turn it off for the day and just use your other heater when you need it.

I have a tracfone to use for emergencies and to keep in touch with friends. Tracfone is supposed to use the towers of other providers so coverage is good. At some point I will probably go with Verizon. Most of the year I camp in areas where there is no coverage, however, so presently it won’t work for me and I’m not willing to pay for a satellite phone. For long calls and long distance calls I’ve used Snype. For $30 a year, it provides unlimited calls from a laptop. Just go where one can access free wi-fi.

If one is going to be doing a lot of dry camping, an etón radio is a good investment. They are solar powered and have a fold-out hand crank as a backup. Just keep the radio in a window or outside and you’re set. Besides AM and FM, the etón covers NOAA weather, all 7 channels, and has a cell phone charger and LED flashlight. It even has a spigot that provides a decent chardonnay. Well, maybe not the wine, but it has all the other features.

Get a handheld GPS—just a basic one for $100 or less. Go to and give geocaching a try. A GPS is also useful for marking the location of disperse sites in your road notebook. Sometimes you find a dirt road on a map that you want to take a look at but it can be hard to find; there are no street signs out in the sticks. Take the coordinates off the map and use the GPS to find the road.

One must have an outside fold-up table if disperse camping. I use a 6’ heavier one since it is used for tasks other than just meals. Acquire a wood stool to use at the table if you will be working there for hours at a time. Cut the legs until you get a perfect working height. I also use the stool inside at the end of the back table so I can look out the 3 back windows. Not quite like working outside, but close.
Purchase a short stool. I use one primarily for a table when I’m sitting in a low-rider. It’s also handy when working on a bicycle or anything low to the ground or when you need a bit more height. I use mine all the time. One of those fold-up RV type stepstools would not work for me since I need a higher, sturdier stool for some exercises. I have been pleased with dirtbike stands like the Ocelot Aluminum Stand II for $30

You’ll have a stool that doesn’t look like everyone else’s and the welded aluminum holds up to hard use.

Put some thought into what kind of window coverings you want. RVers tend to have day-shades since they are parked 12’ from the next rig and want some privacy. Many campers prefer drapes. They add color to the rig. If summer sun is shining in the window, one needs to close the drapes to keep the trailer cool. If you are camping, there’s probably a decent view out the window. It’s lost behind the drapes. Others prefer blinds. But many don’t know how to use them. Be aware the next time you are around rigs with blinds. If summer sun is shining in a window, most close the blinds. Why? One does not need to close the blinds to keep the sun from beating in and heating up the rig. Just adjust them so the sun is prevented from shining directly into the living space. Plenty of light still comes in, a good thing (especially in small rigs), and the view is not lost behind the blinds. I do this lifestyle so I can live out in nature. I sure don’t want my views blocked. Order blinds on the web. You can get good deals and there’s quite a selection of colors. Be sure to take them up on the free offer of sending color samples. The blues looked good to me on the web but when I got the samples, they looked pretty drab so I went with a shade of green.

A mountain bike is a given for me. I not only use it for keeping active but also to find new camping spots. When I go off for a ride, I occasionally come across other places to camp a few miles down dirt roads. So I find myself moving later in the day or the next morning. It sure beats just cruising around in the Jeep looking for new sites. Sometimes I’m not sure about a narrow dirt road that I might turn down so I’ll either pull off to the side and walk down it a few hundred yards or jump on the bike. Saved me from getting stuck a couple times.
One needs a bicycle pump but not only for the bike. I also use mine to top up the tires on the Cherokee and casita—cuts out the bulk of an air compressor. Works really well and it doesn’t take much effort or time. I also use the bicycle pump to blow out the water lines before winter if I had access to water hookups during the summer.
(October 2012 update) When I got a heavier tow vehicle, I needed a regular tire inflator. I purchased a 12V unit by Slime and it has been working quite well.

You’ll need tools. I have mine packed into two canvas rigger bags (something like short, sturdy tote bags) since I’m always keeping weight in mind. When deciding what to pack, try to choose tools with multiple uses. For example, instead of a hammer, I packed a hatchet with a flat end that can double as a hammer. I know, not overly safe but what the hay. I also use the hatchet for splitting wood and digging (probably sacrilegious). Probably not a choice for most but I carry a Stanley Wonder Bar. From time to time I need a pry bar, like taking patio tarp stakes out of the ground, as well as, harder tasks and the Wonder Bar sure is tough. The only power tool (besides a Dremel used in my silverwork) is a 3/8” drill that I run off the Honda 1000. Remember to pack a volt meter.

Have not chosen to make many additions to the casita. It’s pretty livable as it is (except in winter). Items added: 12V oscillating fan, Fantastic fan, 12V CD player, a good deep charge battery (a Wal-Mart-type deep cycle will not hold the charge as well), LED lights for all inside lighting, a gooseneck spigot on the galley sink, and a Wave catalytic heater. I pulled the A/C unit off the roof since I wasn’t using it.

The Honda 1000 has been enough for my needs but I don’t run the microwave or ceramic heater while I am dry camping and I don’t live with a TV.
I installed a 50watt solar panel, and again, it’s enough for my needs. There’s enough power to run the 12V oscillating fan, the LED lights, the CD player, and to charge the iPod nano or Tracfone. A 200 watt pocket inverter gets plugged into a 12V outlet when I want to run the laptop or charge it, run a Dremel tool, my drill, or my camera charger.
If you need more power go with a larger solar panel, 2 new deep-charge batteries, a higher watt inverter, or a 2000 watt Honda generator.

You’ll need a laptop; mine, of course, is a Mac. I’ve never been much of a bandwagon type person so there is no way I would have a Windows machine. Apple has always had a good product. It’s where Gates got the look for Windows. Sure wish Apple had put more effort into their marketing program right from the get-go. OS X runs on a very stable UNIX base. Some of the arguments for using Windows over Macs are pretty lame if one only stops to question. The Apple site offers articles for those thinking about changing up to Mac.
Be sure to have a flash or firewire drive for periodic backups and DO NOT keep the drive and laptop in the same vehicle. If there is a fire or burglary—you’re screwed.

One will end up taking way more photos if they have a camera small enough to carry around in your pocket. I currently have a Sony Cybershot (2012 > started using a Nikon Coolpix). Take all kinds of shots and just delete the ones you are not pleased with. It’s not like you are paying for film and developing.

You’ll need a mail forwarding service. I’m not sure, but I think Good Sam Club and Escapees offer a service to their members. Others use a regular mail forwarding business. Some use a specific UPS store. Look into how your mailing address will read. You don’t want it to say, ‘box#’ or ‘PMB#’. Law enforcement, especially Homeland Security likes everyone to have a home location. You want your mailing address, license, registrations, whatever, to all have the same address.
If you are pulled over, you might get asked, “Well, this is a box number. Where do you live?” “Nowhere.” “Step out of the car please, and keep your hands insight.”
Mail forwarding businesses generally make you use something like ‘PMB.’ I think it stands for “personal mail box”. I use a UPS store and use something like “357 Maple St. #164.” It sounds like an apartment rather than a box and works fine.

It can be difficult to get packages if you live primarily off-the-grid. You’ll only be coming into a town every couple of weeks for laundry, supplies, etc. and then drive off to find another place to set up camp. Sometimes you can plan for a General Delivery pickup. If it’s a UPS or Fed Ex, they won’t deliver to a post office. If you will be stopping at friends, you can have packages delivered there that you can pick up when you see them. If you are going through a decent size town, check to see if there is store that handles mailing packages, like a Pac-N-Mail type store. You can have a package mailed there and pay a fee or if you will be getting a number of packages, some offer a ‘one month’ deal. If you like the area, go online, order your packages, go back out camping, and come back to town in two weeks to pick up your packages. I’ve done this a couple times and it worked out well. Once I paid $10 for a month and had 16 packages delivered. Not bad. If you do the standard RV lifestyle, this will probably never be much of a problem.

Get a good size safe deposit box in a bank where you have an account and store your valuables, papers, medals, handguns, priority keepsakes, and whatever. Have the box located in a town that you will be passing through each year. Set it up with the bank to automatically deduct the annual fee from your account so there is no chance of missing the payment.

Baby wipes are priceless. I don’t know how many of those 140-wipe tubs we go through in a year. I use them primarily to conserve water. M/O frequently come in absolutely filthy, so first thing I do is wipe them off with some baby wipes before using a wet microfiber towel. They are also handy for cleaning hands or feet and for wiping down prior to a washcloth bath. Whenever you use one and it’s still pretty clean, use to wipe down the galley area. My two dirtballs would use up half my water cleaning them up if I did not use baby wipes. I still find it hard to believe how dirty they get.

I rarely use my fresh water holding tank, preferring Reliance jugs. I installed a 6” deck plate ($12 at a marine supply store) on the tank. I soaked up all the standing water in there and cleaned out the inside with bleach. After the tank dried and aired out, I began using it for storage. I don’t come across natural food stores all that often in my back-road travels, so when I do, I hit the bulk bins and stock up with about 15 pounds of TVP, nutritional yeast, cous-cous,and other grains and legumes and place the plastic bags in the holding tank. Works well. I’m sure others won’t consider the storage aspect but anyone who regularly uses their water tank should consider installing a deck plate for periodic cleaning of the tank.

A duster (Kakadu is one good brand) is a great article of clothing to have (I’ve worn out two over the years and am on my third). In cold weather over a fleece jacket and a scarf, hat, and gloves, it’s like being in your own little shelter, impervious to the elements. If you like to sit out in the mornings and have a mug of something hot or sit around a campfire in the evenings, a duster makes this comfortable for more months of the year. They also work well in the rain with a wide brimmed hat. If one stays at state parks in the winter, just throw it on, step into Teva sandals and you can walk right over to the showers, take it off, and walk right in without having to do the one-legged-dance-with-the-pants. Keep an Absorber towel, soap, shampoo, and brush in a shoulder bag that can be hung up, like a musette bag, so you’re always set to go.

I never thought of using hiking poles or a staff until a year or so ago. Thought they were kind of wussy. After a fall hike up on a ridge with some icy snow, I changed my mind. A friend had poles and she was having very little trouble. So, what to get? I did not want hiking poles because I wanted a free hand. I do like hiking poles as they were designed to be used, however. They’re not used that way in this country, though, people just tap along with them. The Norwegians are avid cross-country skiers. During the summer months, a skier can lose some of the upper body muscle developed over the winter. I’m not talkin’ about the weekend shuffle here, but true kick-and-glide—you’re bookin’! They started using poles while out hiking in the summer months and used them like ski poles—reaching forward, extending the arm back and pushing off, working the delts and arms. In this country hikers use the poles for balance, not for working on muscle tone—they just tap along with the poles. When one is hiking, the body is making all kinds of adjustments to keep in balance. Tendons, ligament, and muscles are all being used to maintain balance. Using poles and merely tapping along for balance will weaken the body’s natural system over time (you’re not using it). But there’s a lot of marketing to buck to get that simple point across.
So that left a hiking staff. But the standard wooden staff would not work for me; I need a point on one end. So, I made my own staff for $3 and have been very pleased with it. I bought 5’ of ¾” PVC at 40 cents a foot and a #4 rubber cork for 80 cents. The top of the staff was cut at an angle and using the pointed end of the staff is great in mud, crossing a slope with shale or sand, hard snow, ice, and poking the hiker in front of me. I also cut some lines in the top third of the staff to provide a grip. Works well. Put some paint in a bottle cap and used a toothpick to add some color to the cuts. I also drilled a hole for 1/8” line since, at times, the staff it is used for a support pole.
The staff is helpful on steep up-hills to give the quads a bit of a break, going down steep sections, crossing streams, and when climbing over deadfalls if I go off cross-country. It also stabilizes my binoculars if I am scanning for wildlife. Could not possibly be happier with my choice, and another plus for my way of thinking is that it does not look like everyone else’s.
As you can imagine, I don’t just tap along with it. If I’m out hiking for a couple hours, it seems a good opportunity to get in some upper body exercise. So I use the staff as a ski pole, extending my arm back and pushing off. By the end of the hike there is a good burn in the triceps.

If your used rig’s finish is looking kind of drab, use buffing compound on it. If it’s not too bad, polishing compound will do. Two things to remember when using these abrasives: do less than one square foot at a time and wipe it off immediately. The work is being done as you rub them on so use some umph. These compounds do not work like waxes. If you let them dry, you’ll have streaks and you will have to do that area over again. Apply with a back-and-forth motion rather than circular and use more compound than you would think, maybe a tablespoon for each small section (the stuff is real cheap). It’s a chore so I break it down so it takes me a week to do my small trailer. Use microfiber cloths to take the compound off. Wax the trailer twice a year to protect the surface.
If you like to clean your rig from time to time, Protect All’s Quick & Easy Wash is excellent for conserving water while dry-camping. Sponge it on and wipe it off with an Absorber towel. No rinsing is required. It takes less than two full buckets to do both my camper and Jeep.

Some staples I like to have in stock are: tofu; TVP; nutritional yeast (nice cheesy taste); tortillas (they keep longer than bread); canned legumes; couscous; quinoa; rice; different types of spaghetti; canned Mexican style tomatoes; canned jalapeños; salsa; dried tomatoes; hot sauces; soups and vegetable bouillon cubes; peanuts; peanut butter (only from fresh pressed peanuts); sunflower, sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds; almonds; pecans; oatmeal; milled bran; cereals; raisins; prunes; dried apricots; wasa crispbread; dry chili pods; tepines; spices (cayenne, ginger, turmeric, pepper flakes); whey protein powder; non-fat dry milk; coffee; decaf; yerba mate; tea; Ovaltine; and wine. There are a couple bags of vegetables, a loaf of bread, and cheese in the freezer. After a shopping trip, there will be fresh fruit, some vegetables, two gallons of non-fat milk and 3 quarts of non-fat yogurt in the fridge.

Originating in the Andes, quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wä’) was a staple food and, pretty much a miracle grain for the Incas. It grew in high altitudes where the temperature ranged from blistering hot in the sun to frosty cold at night, a climate in which few plants could survive. And it provided the tribes with superior protein. Quinoa looks like millet, yet it has more protein than millet, barley, corn, oats, rice or wheat—and more essential amino acids than soybeans. Good stuff. I eat pounds of it.

If water is available for twice/daily rinsing, there will be sprouts growing in a jar. If a grain is combined with a legume, one will have complete protein—like wheat berries and garbanzo beans or lentils. It’s also a much more filling taste than alfalfa sprouts. Combinations that germinate at the same time enables them to be mixed in the same jar—much easier.

Here's a quick list of rules for combining foods for complete protein:
Grains + Legumes (like rice and beans, corn and beans, bean burrito)
Seed or Nuts + Legumes (like in hummus, sesame with tempeh)
Grains + Dairy or Eggs (like bread and butter, rice and eggs, creamed corn)
Vegetables + Dairy or Eggs (like sliced eggs in salads, vegetable omelettes, eggplant parmesan)

Interestingly, most cultures of the world naturally established dietary staples that provided complete protein combinations long before the words amino acid was conceived. Beans and tortillas in Mexico and chick peas and rice in India are just a couple of examples.

Examples of complete protein combinations:

Peanut butter on whole wheat bread or crackers
Cheese and crackers
Cheese and bread (grilled cheese)
Lentil soup with bread
Milk and oatmeal
Rice and cheese
Meatless pizza (whole wheat crust and cheese)
Nachos (real cheese is better than processed)
Hummus and tahini sauce
Bean soup with muffins
Beans and rice
Tortillas and beans
Beans and cornbread
Eggs are complete protein in themselves.

It has been thirty-nine years since I’ve eaten meat (any animal, be it fish, birds, mammals, or whatever) so I know this all works. I used to compete in mountain ultras—running 100K (62 mi) in less than twelve hours. So one has plenty of strength and endurance with this way of eating.

I have not had any medical problems while out on the road and I know it doesn't cover everything, but I'm a firm believer in following the basics: no more than five pounds of excess weight, exercise everyday at a brisk pace, eat low on the food chain, and spend time working on one's spirit. I also like to hang out with other people who look at life like this. One does not then hear all the grousing about growing old. If I need prescriptions or dental work, I try to hold off until I'm down by the Sonora border.

If one has a dog or cat, she’ll need tags. The Boomerang Tag site is a good source. They have two sided tags. For my felines, on one side of the tag I have: her name, my name, email address, and mail service address. On the other side there’s: cell phone number, “on-the-road-home”, “Casita”, “17’ travel trailer”, and the license plate number including the state.

Meadow and Onyx have a tendency to stand up as they are peeing so the deep dishpan I was using for a litter box was not working. Especially since I had it right to the side as one walks in the door and they were doing a number on the floor and wall carpeting. I did not want the litter box in the bathroom nor did I want a standard covered litter box. I purchased a 10-gallon tub and it works great. Walls are WAY high but low enough that the closet door opens over it. Perfect.

I ordered a foldup cage and mount it outside one of the windows so M/O can at least lie outside if we’re in a spot where I won’t let them out. I got 4 brass curtain rod hangers, reshaped them and screwed them into the window frame with sheetmetal screws. Since both of them are frequently out there, I cut two pieces of ¾’ PVC to different lengths to use as supports. I also got a T fitting and cut 2 short pieces of PVC and use this T configuration to help support the cage. The 2 different lengths of pipe are useful if I have the casita up on leveling blocks; a longer length is needed.

If one is contemplating a lifestyle like this with a good deal of dry-camping out away from people, I highly recommend having a pet. They are not only entertaining and good companions, it also fills you with a good feeling taking care of an animal. Seeing to her needs and trying to be in tuned with her is very rewarding. Watching Meadow and Onyx while they are outside stalking and wrestling with each other has me chuckling all the time. I don’t sleep as well during the winters, however, with these two around. My bed is 25” wide which, ordinarily, works fine. In cold weather, though, M/O are up on the bed with me. Makes it tight. During the summer, they generally spend most of the night out in their window cage. Maybe I should start keeping some heat on during the winter nights so they will sleep in their own bed.
If you have a cat, get 100’ of hemp rope and wrap a table leg to use as a scratching post. 50’ won’t be enough; it takes about 80’. Guess how I know this. Or get ½” hemp and 50’ will be enough.

Also think about hanging a couple of birdfeeders off the back of your rig. Small screws can attach a plant hanger onto the window frame or use 3M VHB two-sided foam tape. One feeder for finches and one for hummingbirds.

One really needs an art, craft, hobby, sport, or whatever for this lifestyle—preferably a few. A sedentary person or one who needs others to entertain him, like those who spend way too many nights veggin’ in front of a TV, would probably go nuts living like this. A pet helps. So does truly enjoying Nature and being fit enough so you can get out there. True Nature is not what one can see from a window and you are certainly not experiencing it if you are looking through glass or merely standing on a paved path.

When we speak of tomorrow—the gods laugh.

RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the lifestyle - what it’s like to live like this

Different friends, acquaintances, and others who have come across my blog have asked for more details of the lifestyle of dry camping and living-on-wheels in a small rig with two felines. This entry talks about breaking and setting up camp, ideas on dry camping, meeting people, ongoing tasks, keeping in touch, staying active, and other things to give an idea of what it’s like day to day. When I first started thinking about doing this back in 2005, there was not really a whole lot of info on the web that I found to be useful. Even now, just about all of the full-timing sites are geared to large rigs and living in RV parks. Even the sites on boondocking and dry camping focused on all the gear one could pack into a much larger RV. I found them pretty worthless. Then again, I have a camper’s mindset, not an Rver’s mindset.
I want this to be informative and somewhat entertaining so I’m using some writer’s leeway here. Everything that I state does/has happened. I’m just putting it all in the frame of a couple of weeks. So—here goes.

It’s a Sunday so no traveling today. If I need road assistance, a mechanic, or some such thing, it’s easier to get it on weekdays so I don’t travel on Fridays and weekends. Meadow and Onyx go out when I get up. After rolling up the sleeping bag, it’s outside to practice Tai Chi. Since it was not too cold, breakfast will be prepared outside on the Coleman stove set up on a folding table, but first something hot to drink.
The sun comes up soon after sitting down in a Low Rider chair with a mug of yerba maté and a book. Meadow and Onyx come over from time to time and I throw some pinecones for Meadow to chase. Strange cat. Then I’ll do an hour or so of exercise. For breakfast I mixed up pancake mix with an egg, sunflower seeds, whey protein, bran flakes, a banana, and milk. Then I poured it into a cast iron pan to cook. Very filling.

A 7-gal Reliance water jug sits on the table. There’s also a soap dish, microfiber towel, bottle of dish soap, and scrubby always out. If one uses the freshwater holding tank, it’s also handy to use the outside drain spigot for washing and filling up bottles. Put a couple handfuls of pebbles on the ground under the spigot so the ground doesn’t get all muddy. The casita locker door can easily be propped open with a channel of aluminum angle just long enough to span the door width. LIGHT supplies can then be kept on top of the flat door (it’s like a tiny table).

The Coleman stove has not been cleaned in a while so I take care of that and check over my mountain bike. Around 9:00 or so, M/O are ready to go in for their morning nap. I lock them inside and go for a ride. No single tracks here but there are miles of little-used dirt roads. Came across a nice stream after a couple hours, rinsed off, had a snack, and headed back to camp.

When I got back I opened the locker door so M/O can go out if they want (cut a cat door in the rear bench inside). Heated up a light lunch and afterwards sat down with a book and a mug of coffee. I later spent time walking around in the woods with my longbow shooting at pinecones.

I gathered firewood. My fires are small so I only gather wood with limbs around an inch or so thick which can be broken to length by stepping on them or breaking over a knee. Larger branches are left as part of the natural system. Rather than put up a ring of stones one can scoop out a shallow pit with a one-piece surplus shovel. One can also make a low-impact fire in a steel oil-drain pan or go to a CAL ranch store and purchase one of those steel feed pans for $6. One can place the pan up on some flat rocks so the soil won’t even get scorched. The all too popular large campfires cover up the night sounds and limit what one can see in the dark. The old small Indian/trapper/cowboy-type fires enable one to have a fire and still not be cut off from the night. Also coals are quickly formed with the smaller wood and give off quite a bit of consistent heat. Before breaking camp, be sure the ashes are ABSOLUTELY cold and fill in the pit or bury the ashes from the feed pan. Without a ring of stones, it’s easier to ‘leave no trace’. It’s also a misconception that an encircling ring of rocks will keep a fire from spreading. Actually, the rocks can explode from intense heat sending embers out into the grass and up into the trees, as well as, sending rock shards into those sitting around the campfire. Way cool—nature’s shrapnel.
Keep a box of simple birthday candles around. One candle will easily get a fire started without paper. I cut them in half since that’s all it ever takes anyway.
If you will be disperse camping off forest roads, the ground is often slanted and you might be parked across a slope. The small shovel is also priceless for leveling the trailer. There have been times when I’ve had the downhill wheel up on three inches of blocks and the trailer is nowhere near being level. Just back up a yard, shovel out a trench for the uphill wheel, pull forward, the wheel drops in the rut and, as if by magic, the trailer is level! Remember to fill in the trench after you pull out. The old leave-no-trace.

M/O come out late afternoon to roam around. Planned next day’s route with DeLorme. Dinner is oriental noodles with brussels sprouts, an extra hot dried chili pod, Thai sauce, TVP, whey protein, and nutritional yeast thrown in. Afterwards I took a walk with M/O.

The evening was spent sitting on the Low Rider next to a low flame fire with a Petzl headlamp, paperback, and a glass of wine. At one point as I’m sitting there in the dark, a weight comes down on my shoulder—and stays there! Just as I’m about to launch up out of the seat, I realize it’s Onyx. He stood up behind me and put his front paws on my shoulder. Thank the gods I wasn’t reading Stephen King.

Meadow and Onyx are always brought in for the night.

I generally start to break camp the evening before I plan to move out. Roll awning in (& tie the front end, just in case), take wheel covers off, fold up ground tarp if one is staked out, pack mountain bike and just about everything else that is out. I check tires, oil, coolant, windshield wash, and clean the windshield. Back the Cherokee to within a couple inches of hitch and hook up chains and break-away cable so in the morning it’s a real quick hookup with just jacking up the trailer and backing the final few inches.

Up at 5:00 a.m., M/O go out and it’s yerba maté and a paperback for me. Later it’s granola with a banana for breakfast. After I snag M/O and put them in the trailer, I’ll start to get ready to leave. If I don’t snag them, they’ll take off when they see me packing up. I switch the fridge from propane to 12V, wash fruit for the road, fill a couple of Nalgenes, distributed items for travel, close windows and blinds. Hook up trailer, perform pre-trip checks, move litter box to Jeep, transfer M/O to the Cherokee, and do a final walk-around.

When dry-camping, especially in pristine places, I pull the rig out a ways when all set to go and walk back to naturalize the area by replacing rocks and scattering leaves and twigs around the site, maybe sweeping out tracks with a straw broom and scrub rake—leave no trace. I know, it’s a bit much, but I think of what I would like to see if I pulled into the spot.

A custom roof rack was made for the Cherokee which carries: mountain bike, 6-ft ladder, folding table, folding cat cage, a medium size tub containing supplies, Reliance water jugs, 2-gal gasoline jug, and a 5-gal bucket.

Drove on two lane roads for just about a hundred miles while charging Tracfone and iPod nano. Filled up water jugs in a town we passed through. Turned onto a national forest road. An older, narrower road went off from this one. Pulled over and walked down a few hundred yards to see if it was passable and if there might be a place to camp. Yep, a small meadow, and wonder of wonders—a small stream. I don’t seem to come across all that many streams while camping with the trailer.

Backed in where I wanted to be and let M/O out. Chocked wheels and leveled the trailer. Propped open locker door in case M/O wanted to go inside. Staked down one of those 6’x8’ blue tarps for a patio rug since the ground was more dirt than grass. They pack up small and sure keep a lot of dirt out of the rig. Home Depot’s brown tarps are twice as thick but the blue looks good and one $5 tarp lasts for over a year (I rarely camp on gravel). Also put out a doormat. Hung the pet cage outside the emergency window with a T-section of PVC pipe to support it. Dug a hole for the post with a Japanese digging knife—a very useful tool.
Turned on propane in casita, started refrigerator, redistributed items from travel mode to living mode, and took down the mountain bike. Set up folding table, stove, Reliance, and accessories. M/O are out checking our new ‘yard.’

If I’m going to be in a camping spot for a couple weeks or so and will not be making a water-run, I won’t even unhitch the trailer if it is near level. Just jack it up enough to take the weight off the back of the Cherokee. If I have to lower the trailer to get it level, I’ll pull the Jeep forward a few inches so I can drop the trailer tongue and clear the ball. I’ll leave the chains and break-away cable hooked up. This makes it way easy to hookup when it’s time to leave, especially if traveling solo.

Gray water. Car campers, tenters, and people in tent trailers dump their gray water on the ground. I do the same thing. The only sink that gets used in my trailer is the galley sink. I pour a little Pine-Sol (the ‘outdoors’ scent, definitely not the original scent) down the drain and when the water is dumped, there is not much of a smell (if you added the right amount of blue Pine Sol). (2014 update: Now I generally use scented bleach. [cheaper and just as effective]) Every two days, I drain the gray water into a bucket and carry it away from camp to pour in some inconspicuous spot, like into a stump. It’s only about a half a bucket of water for two days, not much, and it’s only gray water.

I set up what I call a ‘rim-rope’ to get some exercise. The lip around the center of fiberglass trailers is a half-inch thick and plenty strong. In the middle of this lip across the back of the casita, I drilled two holes about three inches apart. I thread 12’ of ¼” rope through the holes, make a loop at each end through which is threaded a five inch piece of PVC for handles. One grabs the handles, leans back, and does various bodyweight exercises to work the deltoids, pectorals, lower back, neck, trapezius, triceps, biceps, forearms, and legs. I’ve been using this set-up for quite some time and there are no stress cracks in the fiberglass. Not that there would be. You can see the simple setup in the photo on the ‘index page’ entry.

Spent the next few days: hiking, biking, practicing zazen and Tai Chi, working with silver, reading, shooting the longbow, slinging, trying to master the atlatyl, playing solitaire Mexican Train (I know, doesn’t quite work), put together a jigsaw and some tangram puzzles, playing with M/O, working on the MacBook, going for mug walks, taking care of a few chores, plinking at pinecones with a pellet pistol, and chuckling about how much I’m enjoying myself. Started up the Honda 1000 after four days to charge the house battery (pre-solar panel), MacBook, and iPod nano. Also vacuumed the trailer. Reminds me of the joke: I hate housework—make the bed, do the dishes, vacuum, wash the windows. And six months later—you have to do it all over again.

The inside rear table is always left up and used for meals, working, and whatever. The side table is always left down and the four cushions are laid out as a long sofa and for sleeping. The standard cushions are fine for sleeping if one is not overweight and is in decent shape. A sleeping bag with a liner is used, rather than have the bother of sheets and blankets, and can easily be stuffed in a sack in the morning. The stuffed bag makes a comfortable cushion in the evenings.

I average two gallons of water use a day. That’s what generally limits my dry camping to 2-week periods. If I am by a stream where I can gather cleaning water, I can stay out 3 weeks. I used to use both a French press and a SS Cabelas percolator for making coffee but they both take extra water to clean them. Now I just put a scoop of coffee (medium ground) in my mug, pour in hot water and let it steep. Cowboy coffee, except the scoop goes in the mug rather than the pot. Be sure to use a tall, insulated mug with a lid or you might have a problem with the grounds (I hate warm coffee) and remember not to take the last couple of sips. The coffee tastes great and cleanup uses much less water. For yerba maté, I use a stainless steel teaball.

I put a couple gallons of water in a 5-gal solar shower bag whenever I am going to be dry-camping for more than a few days and throw it up on the roof rack so I’ll have hot water. I clean up with a washcloth each night and use the solar shower a couple times a week mostly for shampooing. If one doesn’t overeat and eats low on the food chain their body does not tend to stink so daily showers are not necessary. A washcloth rinse is enough. Concerning the solar bag, the hose connection will start to leak. Sealing it with Goop brand adhesive/sealant works great. Also, don’t fill up the whole bag. Five gallons of water takes a long time to get hot. One gallon of water should be enough for a shampoo and washcloth bath. Have the bag partially supported when in use, draped over something. Just hanging it from a branch puts too much tension on the handle and it will eventually rip.
Making like a bear also cuts way down on water use in the camper. The ‘cat hole method’ is environmentally sound if the holes are deep enough (use the Japanese digging knife [a plastic trowel is popular but half the time, the soil requires a steel tool]) and be sure to burn the TP (keep a Bic lighter with the TP). Some say that one can not call themselves a true camper unless they can say, “Yep, I’ve sh*t in the woods.”

Laundry is the other factor that drives me into a town after two or three weeks. Another plus for eating low on the food chain is that one’s shirts don’t start to stink after a day so one can wear them longer. Use an Absorber towel or a 3 square foot microfiber ‘drying’ towel (found in the automotive section at Wal-mart) after a shower followed by a hand towel to fully dry hair. One gets just as dry without the bulk that bath towels take up. Have enough boxers and socks for all three weeks (washing them out uses too much water when dry camping). Use microfiber towels for dish towels. If one does need washing, it takes less water. If you use them as cushioning between plates and bowls, and to wrap glasses when on the road, you’ll always have plenty around. If water is available, one of those 5-gallon buckets that you can pick up at someplace like Home Depot works really well for washing clothes. Do a handful of clothes every other day, an item or two at a time. You can get a pretty strong cleansing action going. If there is access to water, one can stay out of laundromats during the summer months. I really do not like having to use laundromats.

One can conserve propane by not lighting the stove pilot and just use a striker to light the burners. Also, if you use the water heater, leave it on PILOT—it heats up the water just fine. Don’t bother moving it to the ON position. Of course, if one has the newer electronic ignitions—you’re out of luck.

Time to get a social fix. Broke camp and had lunch at a small café and talked with the waitress and a couple of other customers, walked around town making an effort to start conversations. Went into the library, accessed my accounts and checked billing, emailed friends, and emailed my UPS store to let them know where to forward my next bunch of mail. Sometimes I’ll check to see if there are any caches near where I plan to camp next. Humor is always helpful in life so I check joke sites from time to time, to get a chuckle and pick up new jokes. It feels good to give others a laugh. I also checked to see if there were any upcoming local events that I might be interested in and would want to stick around for.
I don’t like driving over a hundred miles before looking for a forest road to turn off onto. Many choose to stay at primitive campground for more social interaction. One can meet other campers by walking over with some paperbacks to see if they want to exchange books; by going for mug walks in the mornings; or taking their pet for walks in the afternoons. There might be campers in a different type of rig that would give you an opening for a conversation. There might even be a bicycle touring group staying the night with some good stories to share.
For breakfast I sautéed some garlic and chilies in a cast iron skillet, added about 1 ½ cups of frozen vegetables and continued cooking until they are almost defrosted, added two eggs, mixed well, and finished cooking. Omelet ingredients but it sure won’t look like an omelet. It tastes great.

In a few days I planned to move to another camping spot. It was going to be a short drive so I drove back into town and volunteered at the library shelving a cart of books. It’s also a good way to find out about new books and authors that I’m not familiar with, as well as, learn about community events and things to do in the area.

Some helpful sites to find free wi-fi as one travels around are: - - -

Avoid any network that calls itself ‘Free Public WiFi’ with no sponsor named; hackers could be seeking your data.
Other locations to check for wi-fi are visitor centers, libraries, coffee shops, and, if you have the misfortune to be by an interstate, check out truck stops. Also, more and more laundromats, pubs, bookstores, and restaurants offer wi-fi. A few times I’ve made a town run only to find the library was closed or their wi-fi was down. I then walked into a motel with my Mac and asked if I could sit in their lobby and access their wi-fi. I’ve never had a refusal.

There are different ways to look at the safety/security issue while one is off dry-camping with no other rigs around. First off, stay alert and aware of your surroundings (just something one should be doing all the time anyway). If possible, try to find a spot out of sight of the dirt road you drove in on. If no one sees you—no one knows you are there (unless you make noise or have a campfire). One can also wipe out your tire tracks with a broom and shrub rake. Chances are that if someone sees you, there still won’t be a problem. Make your site look like there are more people there than there is. Have two or three chairs out if you are camping alone, along with coffee mugs. Maybe solo women could pick up two pairs of men’s boots at a thrift shop to leave outside the rig. A large dog bowl with water by the steps might be a deterrent (even if you only have a cat). When someone drives by either smile and wave or stay out of sight so they won’t know what you look like (unless you look like a football lineman). If there are other campers nearby, some campers keep a hand-held marine air horn handy to signal a disturbance. A Stanley Wonder Bar or other pry bar can easily pop a camper’s door in seconds so you might want to have some stuff just inside the door, like a stool or some folded chairs, during the night. You can also drill a hole in the door handle and tie an 1/8” cord between the handle and a stool/chair/whatever. If an intruder pops the door and pulls it open, the stool will come flying out at him. It won’t stop him, but it might startle him and give you a second to grab your handgun. Some people think everyone is of sound mind, basically nonviolent, and bad things only happen to others, so there is no need to have any means to defend oneself while out in the sticks. I say these delusional people should open their eyes and get a handgun. And, most assuredly, get instruction and put in a lot of practice. In a class you will learn when it is justifiable to shoot.

One hears of a gun being taken away from someone and used against him by the criminal. This can easily happen if one hesitates or is of a mind that they will only use the handgun to threaten someone who is breaking in. That’s not going to work. You’ll lose. One needs the mindset of ‘shoot to live.’ You’re a good person; you’re doing nothing wrong; if someone is breaking into your rig in the middle of the night, shoot to live.

As to handguns, automatics are the most popular with good reason. They are reliable and carry more rounds than revolvers. If someone is breaking in, you have to remember if you have a round in the chamber or not and if so, where’s the safety. Or do you have to jack in a round? All while the bad guy is rushing you. You could get a Glock and keep a round chambered. The safety is in the trigger. Automatics jam from time to time, especially if you have a weak grip (letting the pistol move backwards as the slide is working can easily lead to a jam). Then you’re screwed. One could get a revolver. They don’t jam but they only hold six cartridges. There’s no safety; you just point (hopefully aim) and pull the trigger. A .38 with ‘defense loads’ is quite a potent weapon and easier to handle than the heavier loads. Many gun guys will tell you that you need more stopping power. Others will say a .38 with proper loads is enough. Remember you will be doing a double-tap (firing 2 quick rounds). That’s quite a punch.

“It’s better to have a handgun and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

If you are going off hiking for a few hours or off for a town-run, consider wrapping a heavy motorcycle cable through a trailer wheel and around the axle. People steal small trailers (even with hitch locks), tow them a few miles away, and then break into them. Not good.

If you will be making a town-run, turn off the fridge and propane tanks.
I also: set two chairs up with a paperback on each (w/bookmarks); lay the solar bag out in a place where it will be in the sun the whole time (so one doesn’t question whether you are actually close by); place food & water out for M&M; blinds down (but open); close windows; leave one small window open (one someone couldn’t climb through) with a towel under it to soak up water in case it rains; crank down roof vents most of the way (in case it rains); roll awning in; and clothespin a note to the door. My present note reads:

Hi Zach
Jason is off hiking and I’m checking out two other spots to camp.
We’re both planning to be back by the time you said you should be here.
Say hello to M&M.
If you are reading this, you’re early.
Don’t even THINK of using the shower bag.

Make the site look like there is more than one person there and if you are going away, make it sound as if you are in the area, will be back soon, and have friends coming. Might work, might not. I feel it is worth a try.

One drawback to living in a small space is that everything has to always be put away. In small spaces, every dirty dish left on the counter, every pile of mail you set on the table, every item of clothing laid on the sofa, becomes, proportionally, a big mess. They might be taking up your only work space or eating area. Find a place for everything and put everything in its place as soon as you’re done with it. Banish clutter and get rid of any items that you find yourself not using. Leave your shoes on the entry mat every time you enter the camper so you don’t track in dirt and wipe your pet down if she comes in filthy from rolling in the dirt.

When it’s time to follow the geese south, it’s down to Arizona and New Mexico. If you drop down low in elevation, under 1,000’, you don’t have to go as far south. Pick sunny sites to camp and if a cold wind picks up, try to get behind some protection. Reflectix insulation, cut to fit the windows helps on cold nights but with the moisture from heating with propane, there will be ice on the inside of the windows in the mornings even with adequate ventilation when it gets cold enough. An Absorber towel works well wiping off the windows in the morning so water doesn’t run down the walls. Keep the overhead locker doors cracked open for circulation or the moisture will rust any metal items stored up there. Bags of DampRid will help.

My present trailer is not designed for cold temperatures. It was designed as a 3-season rig so it is poorly insulated. If one dry camps and uses the water lines and pump in the winter when night temperatures can be down in the teens and 20’s, consider taking off lower panels that cover the lines and leaving cabinet doors open a bit so warmer air can circulate to the lines. I drain the lines, blow them out with a bicycle tire pump, and just use a Reliance water jug set up on the stove cover.

The Wave 3 catalytic heater works okay down into the twenties but when it gets into the teens or lower, it needs some backup. Some mornings I’ll kick on the furnace for one cycle to warm things up. It’s rarely used since it draws too much juice from the house battery. A 3000 BTU Coleman catalytic heater with the Wave makes the rig pretty comfortable when it gets into the teens unless it is really windy outside. Just have to make sure the Coleman canister has been kept warm during the night so it will light. I usually wedge the stove vent open with a clothespin so I’m assured of fresh air at all times.
Also in cold weather, I like to position the casita with the large back window facing the rising sun so the rays help warm up the camper. Keep track of the sun’s changing latitude as the months get colder. When you get to a new spot, take a compass bearing and position the rig for the rising sun. You’ll be glad the next morning when the sun comes up. Also try to find a spot where sun will remain on your rig throughout the day.

I don’t generally leave any heat on at night. If I think the temperature is going to drop into the single digits during the night, I might leave the Wave on low with a window and stove vent cracked open.

A fleece vest is worn just about constantly while inside during the winter. Drink plenty of hot fluids, even just water. Wearing socks to bed helps a whole lot if temps are low. First thing in the morning, do some squats to get the blood flowing. Makes those mornings in the single digits and low teens bearable. Luckily there are very few of them this far south.

Remember I’m usually out in the desert without hookups so it’s a little different from having full hookups in a park. If I have shore power, I’ll use a small ceramic heater. They are priceless in small campers.

I don’t miss having a ‘home’ in the conventional sense. I truly enjoy solitude. And being out in the desert or up in the mountains is just too fulfilling for me, at this point, to be tied to one view/spot. At some point, I'll probably purchase a few acres out in the boonies, either up north or down south, to have as a place to stay a few months a year.

As I was preparing to get into this lifestyle, downsizing and selling/giving away SO much, I experienced doubts—like what am I doing?! But none since I’ve settled into it. Life is an hourglass, with a limited amount of sand, and it only runs one way. As we get older it gets more important to get in shape (to avoid most medical problems) and go out and do what one wants to do rather than what one has to do.

Sometimes the idea of going fulltime seems to get blown out of proportion. It definitely takes planning, research, and a few months to put everything in order. It is not something to be rushed. Go to RV and state parks, campgrounds, and talk to full-timers. Check out such websites as:

frugal rv travel
cheap rv living
urban van dweller
fulltiming america

If what you learn is the route you want to go—you’re set. If your goal is to get a bit off the grid, you’re not going to learn much about it. Remember most of the websites geared to ‘boondocking’ lean towards those who have full size rigs, large generators and high wattage solar panels, large capacity holding tanks, satellite, etc. And they are not talking about true boondocking, getting out in the boonies, they’re just talking about dry-camping off graded roads. Pretty lame. If one is going into the boonies, you will need a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle—no ifs, ands, or buts. There are no graded roads out in the boondocks and a good deal of it is double tracks. Nevertheless, a sampling of decent websites are:

pseudo boondocking
pseudo boondocking II
the wandering hobo
pseudo RV boondocking news
pseudo RV boondocking, the good life

If one stays in parks with full hookups it’s not a big deal. It’s like having a small studio apartment that just happens to be on wheels. In a full hookup park there is generally someone around to answer questions; you are packed in tight with your neighbors for some semblance of security; and you have all the comforts of home. If one is contemplating going fulltime, this might be the way to start off. It will provide a good opportunity to learn the basics and most full-timers are quite content to live like this all the time. It’s not like it’s some big adventure. As you can probably imagine, for me, this would be like hell on earth. If you have a sense of adventure, like being independent, self reliant and resourceful, and love being in the outdoors, get a 4-wheel drive tow vehicle and try some dry camping out in the sticks for extended periods.
I happen to like small RVs. They are more human in scale, unpretentious, and many have an honest charm. They are living spaces, not showcases of social status. These attributes feel right to me.

Get a notebook and make entries on the days you move from one camping spot to another. Mark down the mileage, route, how steep the roads were, mile markers for turns onto forest roads, what the dirt roads at the end of the drive were like, GPS coordinates, the camping spot, your thoughts on the drive, and whatever. Make notes on roads, trails, and other things to check out in the area and anything that might be helpful to look back on if you come through that way again or if you want to provide someone with specifics. One can also devote a section to keep track of expenses if you are moving towards reducing what you spend.
Keep a clipboard next to you while driving to jot down things you want to remember to write in the notebook.

Yearly expenses are about $10,000 if you spend most of the year off the grid. One can actually do more and spend less with a healthy, active lifestyle.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative and creation. There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself the Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe