Sunday, January 13, 2019

Watt's the Problem? Tiny Trailer Electrical Issues

It was a hot summer weekend over fifteen years ago, and I was busy taking care of my disabled wife and catching up on the weekend chores. The air conditioner was running, as were the dishwasher, washer, and television. I had fresh bread baking in the oven. Heading down the stairs to the old basement of our eighty-year-old home, I smelled an electrical burning odor, and checking the fuse box, I saw the old style fuses glowing with heat. I had overloaded the circuits and was close to catching the house on fire.

Why hadn't I considered that the old wiring and fuse box were not set up for modern appliance loads? Why hadn't I asked myself how many watts that big window AC unit pulled? I switched off all the appliances except the oven. I had saved the house yet realized I had to contact an electrician to modernize our central electrical system. My attention had been on weekend chores, and I'd just never considered the realities of overloading the house's electrical system. Naive and dangerous.

We certainly don't want to overload our tiny trailers' systems when we are out for a fun weekend at a local campground. Doing some simple math (as in addition) can save us the misery and stress of putting out a fire in our trailer or on our cooking table.

My tiny trailer is an RTTC Polar Bear. The central connect from the trailer to anything plugged in is an Utilitech 4-junction box and cord, rated for 20 amps. The system has built-in overload protection. At 120 volts the 20 amp system equals 2,400 watts. You can only load up to 80% of the capacity, so we're talking not plugging in more than 1,920 watts. However, the top power strip is rated at 1,800 watts, of which 80% equals 1,440 watts.

Therefore, I don't plug in appliances that will pull more than 1,920 watts into the lower power strip. We also have to consider the extension cord that runs from the campground electrical mast to the camper. What is its capacity? My current cord is rated for 1875 watts. Finally, this winter I've unplugged the air conditioner at the Utilitech outlet box, giving me another plug-in to use at that primary interface, rather than using the outlet strip that is above the cabinet (and piggy-backed into the primary junction).

Here are the common appliances I use and the watts they pull:
  • Comfort Aire air conditioner 456 (thanks for the info, RTTC)
  • Pelonis space heater (oil) 600/900/1,500
  • Duxtop induction cooking burner 1,600
  • Cuisanart induction teapot 1,500
  • Mueller toaster oven 1,100
  • Instapot pressure cooker 700

Just a bit of simple math reveals how living in my tiny trailer entails, mostly, not running any two appliances at once. The numbers explain why I once tripped the camper's circuit breaker when I had the heater on the second setting (900 watts) and turned on the teapot. It also explains why when I was cooking outside once (using a second circuit from the campground mast), my extension cord got too hot when I had the induction burner and the toaster oven on at the same time (baking and steaming vegetables). The only variable wattage appliances are the space heater and the induction burner.

With my tiny trailer's system, the only two appliances I can really use at once are the oil heater on low and the Instapot, both adding up to 1,300 watts. I could use the toaster oven and induction burner if I were just simmering on a low temperature with the burner. I'd have to refer to the manual, though, to determine just what setting would deliver the lower wattage. The Instapot and mid-heat Duxtop would be okay. 

When camping, thinking about what is on the menu to be cooked has to include thinking and checking how much electricity I'll need to do the job. I have to plan sequencing my cooking. For instance, I can bake in the toaster oven, leave the food in the warm oven (now turned off), and then use the induction burner on a high setting to steam vegetables or boil pasta. In the mornings when heating tea water with the Cuisinart, we turn off the space heater for the few minutes it takes the induction teapot to boil water. Then after the teapot clicks off, we turn the heater back on. It's the camping dance of the electrons. One last possibility I use outside if it's not to windy is to use my 40-year-old Coleman propane gas stove--call it Old Reliable!

I believe now I've established the parameters for electrical use with the Green Goddess. I'm a slow learner, but I do learn and haven't torched my rig. My son-in-law tells me to just use my equipment, and if a breaker pops, then I know what the limits of the system are. I get what he's saying but personally prefer to proceed using caution and math.

I don't mind being branded as cautious. After all, I've been known to wear suspenders and a belt--the classic definition of a cautious man.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Always Leave It Better: Thoughts on National Parks during the Government Shutdown

Sputnik News photo
"When you leave your campsite, make sure it's always cleaner than when you came." That's what my dad always told me when I was growing up. It made sense then (although I probably didn't admit it), and it makes sense now. The world needs to be less polluted, not more, and everybody should help make that happen.

I've been thinking about what my dad said because there's been quite a bit of news about how the government shutdown has affected our national parks, which have furloughed employees due to lack of funds. I'm not going to add to the cacophony comments about the politics of the situation; rather, I'm going to focus on the topic of keeping camp clean.

The National Geographic Society says in an online article that the damage to national parks and monuments from this shutdown will take years to overcome, that it's not just about picking up the trash.
On Sunday, the Department of the Interior announced they would be dipping into funds collected from entrance fees to pay for trash clean up, restroom maintenance, and additional law enforcement. In a response to that announcement, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) cited fears that using entrance fees would divert badly needed funds from the park service’s massive $11 billion maintenance backlog.
Furloughing over 16,000 parks service employees and then diverting park collection fees to fund a minimal few employees may lessen some of the outrage of closing parks completely, but the true damage is low-level service now, falling even further behind in maintenance, and adverse effects on people and wildlife.

LA Times photo
The news is not all bad, though. Some individuals are volunteering to clean the parks. Most coverage is by local news, but Time magazine published an article about volunteers from various parks. Although admirable, timely, and necessary, the efforts of these fine individuals is superficial. Way to go, though. At least it's something. "Despite the shutdown most national parks grounds remain open. Visitors are entering without paying, and with no staff on hand, bathrooms are not being cleaned and trash cans are overflowing."

These efforts do not address pollution of water, animals becoming accustomed once again to consuming garbage, and the even greater deficiency of maintenance and rebuilding funds than prior to the shutdown. In another online Time article, John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association said, “We’re afraid that we’re going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts. We’re concerned there’ll be impacts to visitors’ safety.”

The previous two national government shutdowns were for three days and then less than one day. The current shutdown has lasted so far for over two weeks.

I thank all the volunteers who are helping keep our land as beautiful as possible. I intend to ask our government officials why our legislators can't manage to do the same. We need to take care of our messes, and so do the people we elect to office.

Personally, I am inspired to be more environmentally friendly when I camp. It's just a shame, though, that I am inspired by such a negative example. This blog is based on tiny trailer camping, and camping small is a beginning for camping more ecologically--choosing less impact on the environment, not more. Bicycle camping produces even less negative impact, but I find I can't do that all the time.

Let all tiny trailer campers, let all who seek a light footfall upon our lovely planet, let us all when we have the chance say a word that inspires and guides those who need it about protecting our planet more. After all, when we climb inside our tiny trailers, how well aware we are of the fragility of our environment. Just one or two thoughtless actions, and suddenly our little trailer resembles that junk closet at home where everything is shoved to get it out of sight. We certainly don't want that to happen to our beautiful parks, waterways, and monuments. That isn't what we want to see as we travel "that ribbon of highway."

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Special Page for Tiny Trailer Owner Profiles

Owning a tiny camp trailer extends the camping season and provides a place to sleep out of the rain and bugs.
I've decided I enjoy writing tiny trailer profiles so much that I am going to dedicate a special blog page to list the profiles with a thumbnail portrait. That way interested readers can visit the page and see the profiles in an easy-to-choose format.

If you're reading this via an email follow, go to the online blog (by clicking the linked title) and below the header you'll see the blog permanent page titles. Click on "Owner Profiles." For all the rest of you who are on this pace and linked to this particular article, of course, also click the page title "Owner Profiles."

Since the formation of this blog, I've written one profile a month--five in total so far. I work to choose trailer owners from different age groups and geographic locations. I'm not doing great with differentiation, but I am doing okay. It's a matter of timing, and I'm getting better at it.

Another bit of information regarding my blog is that on the sidebar on the right, below Popular Posts, is the "Labels" gadget. I place an identifying label to each blog post so that all posts on a subject can be called up to look at. The link also mentions how many articles are linked to that label, such as "Gearing up (4)."

The label subjects are listed below:

  • Camp Routines
  • Gearing Up
  • Glamping
  • Holiday Themes
  • The First Expeditions
  • Tiny Trailer Owner Profiles
  • Why a Tiny Trailer?
As more and more articles are written and posted, these organizational formats will help you find an area you are interested in. Thanks!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Keeping Organized in a Tiny Trailer

Cooking while camping with a tiny trailer requires organization.

When fall weather advances toward winter, I find more occasion to do camp chores inside my tiny trailer. Not all, though, because I'm also finding that my tolerance to cold weather is greater than I had assumed (especially if I dress for the cold!) Whether inside or out, what I have found is that the colder weather has focused my mind to act in a manner that keeps the camp organized.

Here are some basic operational concepts that, when put into action, have helped me keep the chaos at bay while tiny trailer camping.
  1. Multiple uses My wife articulated this one, and I think it's fundamental common sense. The best means to utilized space well is to have less stuff. Therefore, if you can find a way to use one pillow or pot three ways, that's much more efficient use of space than bringing three pots or pillows. I'm not advocating, of course, hitting the road with only one pot and pillow, but perhaps it isn't necessary to have eight pots and pillows!
  2. Research thoroughly I try my best to research well and still find myself buying something and then discovering a different size or brand would have been better. It's part of the process, I guess. I'll provide two examples from our personal experience, one positive and one negative. The positive is choosing a heating source for the trailer for cold weather. I researched online but finally decided to try what we already had at home. My first heater was a small electric heater, which I found to be really noisy. The second choice was an oil heater, which we have found to be quiet and efficient. The heater also has three output settings, so we can choose to use the lower two (and mostly the lowest) to keep our wattage pull as low as possible. The negative example of research is our purchase of an ice cooler. Having researched, we decided to go with the Yeti brand, a 70-quart size. We have nothing negative to say about the ability of the Yeti to keep things cool; however, it is too heavy. My wife and I can manage it together, but she feels it would be more practicable to have two smaller coolers. I agree, especially when I am camping alone. I suppose a variation of the old carpenter's saying applies: Measure twice, cut once. Research thoroughly, buy once. I think this will be difficult to always be successful at, but it's a good idea to remember when standing in Cabela's and ogling all the equipment.
  3. A place for everything; everything in it's place We've found this to be true because every day we convert our bed into a table so my wife can have her mobile office. I've also found putting things away to be crucial in the cold and wet weather when I began cooking more inside. As an example, the other day I baked vegetables and feta cheese inside in the toaster oven. The process that worked best went something like this: Cut one vegetable and put it in the mixing bowl. Cut the second vegetable and put any extra away (and so forth). Mix the vegetables with Herbs de Provence and oil (having a paper towel on hand). Place vegetables in baking dish. Clean hands and take dirty dishes outside. Prepare feta and place in small dish for adding to veggies later. Clean the trailer and then get out the toaster oven. Bake. There just isn't room to leave vegetables and used dishes around inside the trailer, or to get the oven out early. Taking it once step at a time worked well, even though it took a little longer.
  4. Establish a camp routine This last point is more general but still applicable. Having good camp habits cuts down on the chaos. One day while cooking lunch outside, the wind was fiercely blowing. I had left the lid to the grocery box loose, and the wind swept it into a poison ivy patch. Putting unused items away and securing loose equipment is essential to maintaining camp order--at least for me.
When cooking inside a tiny camp trailer or teardrop, complete one stage and then put those materials away before beginning the next step.
It takes time to establish a routine that works. It's a process, and we should make sure we enjoy the process. Nobody's paying us to camp; it's not our job, for crying out loud. Establish what's good for you, whether that you is singular or plural. Having a camp routine that utilizes the best equipment for you, and having efficient storage organization is really helpful, I think. Having said that, someone else could camp using methods the opposite as mine as still be happy as a clam. My most important rule is to be at peace with myself and my camping partner--and, if possible, to stay out of the poison ivy!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Green Goddess 2019 New Year's Camping Resolutions

Mark Busha photo

Just having the thought at the beginning of the new year, "How can we make this year better?" is a powerful thing. Beginning a new season of camping on a positive, fun note is the best way to begin anything.

A new year of camping for tiny trailer owners sings its possibilities to us, sweet and full of sunlight. Even in January, spring seems just around the corner. What new roads will we choose? What new campgrounds or boondocking sites will we discover? What new toys and tools will we pack and use? What new friends will we make?

Posting on three Facebook tiny trailer groups, I've gathered the word on the streets (and trails) for what's the haps for 2019, and our camping dreams are much aligned like auspicious stars to the questions above: dreams of travel, beautiful landscapes, tools tried-and-true or cutting edge, and good company and conversation. Read on and see how your resolutions for the new year match with other tiny trailer campers.

Enough Stuff

For some of us, it was Enough stuff! and for others, it was Can't get enough! Are we surprised? One camping couple said, "Not to buy any more stuff. Don't need stuff because most monthly trips are short. Less is more." The idea of minimalism was a common theme, with some adding, "We want to start using what we pack!" A couple of campers were waiting to purchase a new camper, and one camper was resolved to remember that "just because I will soon have a hard-sided camper instead of a popup doesn’t mean I can put more in it." Do modifications to the trailer count? One couple was planning to begin the new year's camping with a new axle and tires for the trailer, and solar was a topic mentioned several times.

Cross Adventures

Adding bicycling or kayaking sweetened the trip for some, while another happy camper wanted to add some golf junkets to next year's season of camping. Although not a cross adventure but definitely a new experience, one camper wanted to learn how to cook with a dutch oven over the campfire, while another camper wants "to try more open fire cooking with my cast iron and use my stove less."

Place and Time

Kevin Ford photo
Many campers dreamed (and planned) for trips to new localities. Some folks are thinking of nearby places : "Lucky enough to live near some beautiful state parks, and I want to take advantage of them." Others are planning on packing in some miles and "spending about a month or so in Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Anza-Borrego, and the Mojave." Clear across the nation, Acadia National Park was mentioned several times. Canada and the Rockies, Newfoundland, California, Florida, and the Outer Banks were also mentioned. For RTTC Kodiak camper Rob Dickerson, he put it all together:
"2019 is going to be a 'acid camping test' for myself, my TV, and my Kodiak: I’m currently camping full time through the winter in Florida; come spring I head west to the California coast; north to the Canadian border; east to the Rockies; south through the Rockies in the fall; then back east to the [RTTC] reunion; after that I head north through New England, and then back south to Florida by next winter. Good Lord willing and 10,000 creeks don’t rise! By 2020 I’ll either trade the Kodiak (what’s left of it?) in on a pocket-cruiser boat and do the Great American Loop cruise, or just collapse for a year back on the farm in Missouri. If nothing else, its gonna be an interesting year!!"
Jeannie Petrinovich photo
New Year's resolutions for some centered more on time rather than geography. Camp "a lot more" was a common refrain, but some were very specific, such as "I'd like to try to have a camping trip somewhere at least once a month." Kevin Ford even said, "200+ nights in my teardrop." One teacher plans to fit camping to her schedule: "My goal is to explore some place new at least once each month. Plus, I want to do three Big Adventures this year. I'm a teacher, so that will mean spring break, Christmas break, and a Grand Adventure over the summer."

Getting off the grid and bookdocking was a goal shared by a number of campers. The first mention I read was a sort of Twilight Zone comment of "Boon-dock in a ghost town." Now that certainly sounds interesting. Cam Lindblade channels Star Trek camping for 2019 by saying, "To seek out and explore new and free campsites that are not part of campgrounds!" I hope he boldly goes where no one has gone before, because such exploring is not so easy all the time, as Michael Crosby explains: "Living here in the southeast most campgrounds fill up months or a year in advance for the more popular parks. Very few places to boondock anywhere. I'm so jealous of those who live out West with all the public lanes to just get out and go. I need to do a better job of planning far in advance to book sites; it's just difficult to plan in advance with my type of career and a young child. So my goals for 2019 is to make an effort to find some boondocking places, even if it means cancelling the trip if I can't find an open spot, and making an effort to book sites far in advance and cancelling at the last minute if plans change."

Good Times with Good People

Resolutions for some campers focused on people, rather than places or things. One grandmother wants "to get our 10 year old grandson to like camping." A mother explains her family goals: "I will be seven months pregnant in March when camping season begins for us. My husband and I have two other sons, and they will be almost four and just turned two. So my resolution is to just get my pregnant self (with husband) out there with two small children before baby is due in June and then to take all three before summer’s end." This is a brave and noble goal, especially with a tiny trailer, although I imagine there will also be a tent somewhere in the mix.

A people-oriented resolution that probably resonates with many campers was articulated by Jim Cook: "We have made some friends through our interest in camping with our teardrop. Our hope is to meet more teardrop campers, make more friends and get to enjoy camping with our friends more this coming year." Well said!

Another camper explained how camping is a personal, growing experience:
"As I head out cross-country again in January, I will protect my healing process with lots of sleep and great nutrition, but I am determined to spend more time sitting outside with an inviting table and a couple of empty chairs, and try to learn habits of hospitality, becoming a listener, cherishing other travelers and their lives. These are logic goals right now; I long to sculpt them into heartfelt, soul-nurtured, soul-nurturing ways."
Tear Jerkers

Something new that I learned from researching this article is the existence of a tiny trailer social group called Tearjerkers. Below is information about this group from their online "About" page.
TEAR JERKERS was formed in late 1997 by Todd Brunengraber with assistance from Grant and Lisa Whipp of Tales & Trails/Teardrop Times. Our group encourages and supports membership in TEARDROP TIMES, the international fellowship of Teardrop Trailers. Our members include owners, home builders, manufacturers, restorers, parts suppliers and creative craftsmen that build their own from scratch. We enjoy not only our small vintage trailers but also, vintage vehicles to tow them with. TEAR JERKERS started out on the East Coast of the U.S. but, has expanded to include members from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Canada, and The Netherlands.
TEAR JERKERS is an informal group of people who share their love of Teardrop and small Travel Trailers through discussions & Gatherings. "If you enjoy the great outdoors and fellowship with others, our campsite will always be open." One does not have to be a member to attend our Gatherings.
Let us make no mistake, TearJerkers does "Group Camping". Our gatherings are Social Events with lots of interaction and activities.
Remember: ALL are Welcome.
If Camping in Solitude is what your looking for, Maybe a TearJerkers Gathering is not for you.
This informal group was mentioned by a couple of our own tiny trailer campers, with one person even being a gathering host. Although I tend to be a more "camping in solitude" camper, my experience online and in campgrounds is that tiny trailer campers are good folks to be around, so you might want to check these gatherings out, which happen all over the United States, and in fact are worldwide.

I'm impressed with all the wonderful resolutions of tiny trailer campers that I've interacted with online. They are inspiring! It seems only fair to now share my wife and my resolutions, which are very simple. We want to find campgrounds where we can "settle in," spending more time hiking, bicycling, cooking over the campfire, and playing with our grandkids. I suppose you can say that we want to feel more at home where we camp, spending longer times at one place and delving more deeply into the local geography and history: Indian mounds, fossils, nature trails, and campfire recipes and cast iron cookware.

Happy camping in 2019 to everyone, and thank you to all those who contributed to this article. Remember that the best way to consistently receive these posts is to subscribe to this blog by signing up at the spot on the sidebar to the right. Then you will receive blog posts as emails and can either read as email or follow a link to the blog. (I prefer the latter because it's more visually appealing.) However you choose, Green Goddess Glamping wishes you all a fun year of camping.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The RTTC Christmas Miracle

Green Goddess Glamping wishes everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year filled with great camping adventures!

Sung to the tune of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas, Don't Be Late)"

Camping, camping time is near
Time for fires (and time for beer)
We stay home while winter lasts
Hurry camping, hurry fast

No more ice and arctic blasts
Spring will come and winter pass
We can't wait to pack our gear
And find some camping cheer

Sechrist, Moser, build my Bear
Make it strong and make it square
Make it green or make it blue
Please make my dreams come true

Papa, Grizzly, trailers new
Kodiak and Polars, too
Hitch our Bears and pack our gear
And find some camping cheer

And some Christmas tiny trailer camping photos via FB's Teardrop Trailers Lovers group. Thank you, Charlie Knight!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tiny Trailer Owner Profile: Ruth and Greg Seubert

With seven years of tiny trailer camping behind them, Ruth and Greg Seubert are a reservoir of knowledge, experience, and great stories. Hailing from central Wisconsin, the Seuberts are in the process of fulfilling our shared camping dreams of good times in nature--specifically for them, to visit "as many national parks as we can. We’d also like to visit all the state parks in Wisconsin."

Pulling a 5x9 TC Teardrop with a Subaru Outback, their tiny trailer experience began with a TC Teardrop 5x8 in 2011. After that foundational experience, they moved on--or up. "After 4 years we decided to upgrade and purchased a new 5x9 model." Their original tow vehicle was a Honda minivan, but for the last five years they've had the Outback. "There have been no issues pulling the teardrop. You tend to forget it’s back there!"

Like many tiny trailer owners, the Seuberts were not new to camping when they entered the tiny trailer community. Ruth writes that she grew up with nine brothers and sisters, and they tent camped. Her husband camped with his family in a homemade trailer. "With our three kids we tent camped and had a short stint in a pop-up camper that we decided was too much work and went back to tent camping. We really like the simplicity of the teardrop. It’s a wonderful step up from a tent, yet is still minimalist."

Ruth and Greg's camping year tends to run around 35-40 nights a summer, "sometimes more if winter doesn't hit too quickly." State campgrounds are their favorite, although they camp at a county park every once in a while. "We haven’t really camped off the grid, but we don’t hook up to water or electricity regardless of location."

Favorite camping spots are "definitely the woods near lakes," which means Ruth and Greg must often be happy campers, since central Wisconsin has a lot of wooded waterways! "We have camped on the prairie in North Dakota and in Smokey Mountain and Grand Teton national parks. Bayfield, Wisconsin, on Lake Superior is one of our favorites, along with Copper Harbor, MI, on Lake Michigan, and Door County, Wisconsin. Our all time favorite is a state campground an hour away! The fall is definitely our favorite time to camp! No bugs, and far fewer people. We enjoy the cooler temperatures, beautiful colors and hiking. Nothing beats a warm fire on a chilly evening."

Years of camping must provide many great camping stories because when asked to tell a favorite, Ruth's response was "Just one? Yikes!" One of the funniest she remembers was when they were camping in Copper Harbor. "At one point we had three other campers in our site asking questions about the teardrop. A young man said his wife was so embarrassed by him coming over to talk to us! But eventually she showed up, too!" She also remembers when "in the Grand Tetons we had two bears walk right through our site the first day we were there! And camping on the shore of Lake Michigan in the UP was amazing." Michigan sounds like a destination to add to the camping list!

The Seuberts are pleased with their current trailer. "We have actually made no major modifications to the TC Teardrop itself, but we’ve added a few options over the years. A Rhinorack Foxwing awning was an investment that we love, along with the Rhinorack Sunseeker Awning and Base Tent. The tent attaches to one of the side doors, and is all enclosed with a floor and zipped screening. It’s perfect for getting in out of the rain, away from mosquitoes, changing; and it houses our clothes, a couple chairs, and port-a-potty. We also added 4 Rotopax water containers, which eliminates the trips to the water pumps in campgrounds, and a RoadShower.

Based on their years of camping experience, the best advice the Seuberts can give is this: "Embrace the outdoors!" Living in in human-made boxes is just too limiting. "When we decided to upgrade from tent camping, we went to a dealership to look at small pull-behind, hard-side campers. We stepped inside the first one, saw the stove, refrigerator and microwave, and knew that was not what we wanted. So often we see people with the large RV’s, and they are inside! Get outside! Cook over a campfire! Hike the trails! We climb into the teardrop after a long day, and head back out in the morning."

Ruth and her husband like the minimalist nature of tiny trailer camping, and not only are teardrops "minimalist" but also require a certain less-is-more attitude toward gear. Ruth advises to "pack minimally. It reduces the weight you’re pulling and makes it easier to find something when you need it. The only things we need to pack/unpack for each trip are food and clothes. Otherwise, everything stays in the galley and lockbox at all times."

Ruth and Greg hope that retirement is just around the corner. Their teardrop has already provided them with a wealth of memories, and they hope it will last a long time and provide more great memories. We thank the Seuberts for sharing their tiny trailer camping experiences and providing us with future hopes and possibilities.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

How Does Vogue Magazine View Glamping?

Dunton River Camp Luxury Tents

We all know of Vogue magazine, the fashion magazine, the one with beautiful, glossy photographs of beautiful people wearing beautiful, expensive clothes. If Vogue publishes an article about glamping, then that will really be the genuine article Glamping with a capital G.

I read the article (Is Glamping Camping? Wild's Cheryl Stray Tackles the Question--In Style) and then bookmarked it and set it aside. Yes, glamping for Vogue is a luxury resort in a northern Colorado that includes massages, lessons on fly fishing, gourmet meals--and for author Cheryl Strayed, lots of time alone, which was what she was looking for.

Stray, 1995, PCT
It wasn't until my second look at the article and a little research that I learned that author Cheryl Strayed was the author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a New York Times bestseller in 2012. Here's a web pitch for the book, which was the first selection for Oprah's Book Club:
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
Cheyrl Strayed's 1,100-mile trek from Southern California to the Oregon-Washington border was a kind of rebirthing experience for her to start her life anew, to find her own steel and strength in a trying time. I'm putting the book on my to-read list for this winter. In the prologue of the memoir, she finds herself on the PCT after a month . . . with no shoes. During a rest break, her backpack tips and pushes one shoe off the steep trail and down, down, down into a canyon, irretrievable. She gasps, realizes the one hiking boot she is now clutching to her chest is useless, and pitches it into the sky where it falls into the lush trees below. "I was alone. I was barefoot. I was twenty-six years old and an orphan too. An actual stray . . ."

This is the woman, twenty-three years later, who goes glamping for Vogue. What does she have to say? Well, she states that her main feeling about glamping was that she felt a bit snobbish about the whole idea.
It’s to challenge oneself by going outside one’s comfort zone—and getting comfortable there. It’s to scare oneself and make oneself brave. It’s to experience the deepest silence, out of which rise the most insightful thoughts. And perhaps most important, it’s to give oneself the opportunity to tap directly into the profound understanding that under these vast stars we—humans, plants, and animals—are all connected.
Glamping, she says, is a bit more of bringing civilization to the wild, rather than stripping ourselves bare to our spiritual roots. For Vogue, she puts herself to the glamping regimen: stretching, yoga exercises, which she hasn't done for years; catch-and-release fishing for rainbow trout; hiking with the owner's hunting poodle, Toby, where she begins to connect with the land, sensing its "history, imagining the cowboys, miners, and homesteaders who lived here long ago, and the native Ute people before them."

She does have a good experience as she ends her last evening at the glamping resort. "As I gazed up at the stars I realized I felt slightly altered from the version of me who’d stood here a couple of days before." It's an experience, she realizes, that can't be captured with her iPhone camera, but can "only be felt." In the end, it is not how austere the camping experience is, as when she hiking the PCT, or how luxurious the camping experience is, as when glamping at a mountain resort. It's about taking our lives into nature, whether it be forest, prairie, ocean, or desert. It is about reminding ourselves about rhythms more complex and grand than our usual daily routines.

So my tiny trailer, the Green Goddess, and my humble blog, Green Goddess Glamping, seem to be my comfortable, thoughtful means, as author Cheryl Strayed has done, to "connect with the land" and feel "a slightly altered" version of me, a simpler and more uncluttered self. "Glamping" may be different for everyone, but we should find a way to be comfortable and at home in nature, for ultimately that means being comfortable and at home with ourselves, for we are as much a part of nature as that Douglas fir or that Stellar jay or that cloud billowing in the sky. That is the ultimate "glamping," I think, to in some way remember the dignity of our true selves, to remember our place in the universe, to be comfortable with the silence that lies beneath the water sounds of a mountain stream as it sings its way down the mountain.

We are not just work horses or riding ponies. We are more than what we do and what we own. We are not just clothes horses. Even Vogue magazine recognizes that! Beneath all our busy routines lies the silence of nature, the green goddess. We yearn to be comfortable in that, with that. Glamorous camping--yes, let the snow fall as I stand beside my tiny trailer, awash in the silence of the moment, comfortable and secure, and more than anything, at home so that wherever I camp, everything is exactly according to its nature, including me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Cold Weather Cooking in a Tall Teardrop

RTTC Polar Bear. No back galley.
My Rustic Trails Polar Bear tiny trailer is a unique style of teardrop--if I don't offend teardrop purists by even applying the term teardrop.

  • It is tall, tall enough to stand up in (even if you are six feet tall).
  • There is no galley in the back of the trailer. That space is utilized for standing area inside the front of the living space.
  • For teardrop purists, the floor area is not 4x8 but 5x10.
These fundamental characteristics allow for me to cook inside my RTTC Polar Bear tiny trailer; they also apply to the shorter RTTC models (Papa Bear, Grizzly, Kodiak), although some sitting and hunching over would be involved.

I prefer cooking outside; indeed, I prefer moving as much of my camping experience outside as possible. However, a main reason for buying a tiny trailer was to extend the camping season and to not cancel or shorten camping trips because of heat, cold, humidity, precipitation, bugs, wind, or other factors. We have portable camp tables for setting up our outdoor kitchen, and the outdoor experience is quite enjoyable.

Front counter and table.

The extremes of weather are providing learning opportunities for us, though. My last camping trip involved a couple of days of wind, temperatures in the teens, and blowing snow, which provided a perfect chance to try cooking indoors. I found that cooking in my tiny trailer is manageable, even though not as much fun as cooking outside, where I have more elbow room.

Our  outside table from REI

The Joy of Boiling Water

We bought a Cuisinart Tea Maker as our first electric appliance purchase for the Green Goddess, which allows us to, of course, heat water for tea but also allows us to boil water for instant oatmeal for breakfast. It can be also used for muesli or creamed cereals. Sometimes for dinner I boil water for an instant cup of noodles, to which I usually add some couscous, nuts, and raisins.

Toaster Oven: Heat While You Cook

Camping in a snow storm allowed me to use our toaster oven inside to bake vegetables with feta cheese. The basic recipe is chop veggies; mix with olive oil, Herbs de Provence, and feta; and bake. Usually I add the feta toward the end of the baking so it doesn't overcook.

I also used the toaster oven inside to--you got it!--toast bagels. Bagels, cream cheese, and jam with tea make a great meal without a lot of rigamarole.

Induction Burner: a Solid Addition

Other RTTC owners endorsed an induction burner, so my wife and I decided to add that to our camping appliances. I've found the unit to be useful both inside and outside. Outside, since the magnetism heats the metal pot, wind doesn't blow the heat away like it can with an electric heating coil or with a propane flame. It works quite well, sending out a plume of steam into the cold air. Inside, I've found the unit heats quickly and cools quickly, which allows me to minimize the time the unit has to be out and taking up space.

Instapot for Insta Meals

I've only used our Instapot pressure cooker a couple of times to make a dish called kitcherie, a stew composed of split mung beans and a grain, such as rice or millet, and curry. This computerized pressure cooker is really great for a one-pot meal. There is very little steam that is put into the air, and the clean up is just the one interior stainless steel container. Pressure cooking not only takes less time, but the Instapot allow for programming when the cooking will begin and for warming mode after the cooking is completed.

One Thing at a Time

I've found that the most important thing in cooking inside that tiny little trailer is to keep organized, and by that I mean to do one thing, clean up, and then go on to the next step. There is just too little space for setting pots aside to clean later or for leaving vegetables out while moving to the next stage of cooking. For instance, when steaming vegetables, I prep and then put all the prepping materials away before getting the induction burner out of the storage area beneath the camper seat.

Dealing with Moisture

I was concerned, especially when steaming vegetables, that the moisture would collect inside of the trailer and become a problem. To minimize this, I cooked on the table beneath the overhead vent, instead of cooking on the front counter. I opened the vent quite a bit and turned up the fan speed. The side windows were cracked about an inch, but I found that was not enough and ended up opening each window about four inches. When I did this, the rpms on the fan actually increased, indicating greater air flow. I also monitored the movement of the rising steam and saw that with windows open wider, the steam moved more directly up to the vent rather than circulating through the trailer.

Dirty Dishes? Paper, Please

Knowing I was going to have some inclement weather on my last trip, I made sure I had paper plates, bowls, and paper towels. I didn't bother with disposable flatware or cups, feeling those would be easy to wash. This worked out well. I cut vegetables on the paper plate I'd be using to eat on. I used paper bowls or a single large insulated stainless steel bowl for holding prepped items. The bowl is about the size of two regular meal bowls, so it works well for single pot meals, even though it adds one item to wash.

Electricity Safety: Don't Overload the System

I sure hope everyone reads enough of this article to read this warning. It's easy with these appliances to pull more wattage than your system can take. My cord from the campground hookup to the trailer is rated for 1850 watts. I can't find what the hookup from the trailer is rated for, nor for the power strip that leads from off that. Basically, I just use one appliance at a time. My oil heater and tea pot both pull up to 1,500 watts. The induction burner pulls a maximum of 1,600 watts. The toaster oven pulls 1,100 watts. I cannot, therefore, use the heater and teapot at the same time or the induction burner and the toaster oven at the same time. When cooking outside, I use separate power cords and campground hookup plugins, which helps. When I bake vegetables and feta and also steam greens, I first bake the vegetables, as they will stay warm in the oven for a while. Then I turn off the oven and then turn on the induction burner and steam the vegetables. In the cold weather, I've unplugged the air conditioner and utilize the plugs on the main cord and plug-in system beneath the front counter; that way I can cut out the final strip plug mounted above the counter. These appliance pull quite a bit of electricity, so do the math.

Bottomline: Is Cooking in a Tiny Trailer a Viable Option?

Cooking outside is the best option.
The short answer to the above question is "yes." The longer answer is that yes, cooking in a tiny trailer is possible and even preferable to cooking out in extreme weather. However, it turns out that cooking in cold weather--in the temperatures in the teens--isn't all that bad if one is dressed properly and approaches the whole camping thing with the right attitude. This is why, of course, the traditional teardrop trailer has the galley in the back. Raise the hatch, which also functions as a roof, and the kitchen is open. Driving rain or snow or sand quickly lessens the joy, based on my small outside camp-cooking experience. My Polar Bear provides me one extra option, not one I plan to use as the routine cooking experience, but one that is available on a now and then basis when I just don't feel like getting soaked with rain or frozen with sleet or sandblasted.

I'm interested in the experiences and solutions of other tiny trailer campers. I know I'm able to rough it because bicycle camping and cooking is a pretty minimal experience. I don't mind that. However, something less intense is nice to. I don't have to choose one or the other. Please share your experiences, all you other tiny trailer owners. (Note: it would also be good to add comments not just to social media pages where I post these but also to the actual blog, where they are easily accessible to readers and not lost within all the many posts to a FB group page.)

A main goal that my wife and I have is to eat while camping much as we eat at home. We feel this will be healthier for us in the long term. We've found, for instance, that making a large macaroni salad and then eating it in two days tends to lessen our desire to hike and to increase our desire to nap! Having the writing cooking equipment makes it much easier to cook while camping. Probably the easiest meal I've "cooked" was one snowy morning when I drank tea and ate bagels toasted over our campfire, slathering them with cream cheese and jam. Yum!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fall Snow at Indian Lake

On November 3, I was at Bentonsport, November 7 at Indian Lake. In between, I came home to caulk a leak in the trailer and to take my wife to the airport for a trip to the West Coast. By 3:30 in the afternoon, I was sitting by the campfire, dodging smoke blown by a west wind and enjoying the warmth of the fire as the day slowly slipped to dusk. Sitting by the campfire and enjoying the warmth was a regular activity during my stay that extended to four nights.

The high for the day had been 46 degrees, and the low for the next morning was forecast to be 26. The Indian Lake campground was winter ready, with the showers and flush toilets closed and chemical toilets made available. Water and electricity still flowed, and I was parked at the far end of the campground, where I'd never camped before when tent camping. Leaves covered the gravel, and the leaf fall opened up the view to the lake. The spot was really quite nice--privacy because of the time of year, leaves beautifying the gravel-beneath-the-trees sites, and the chemical toilet very clean and odorless (thanks to the cold weather). The only inconvenience was that I had to walk about two hundred yards to fill the water bucket. Paper plates lessened this inconvenience, though, since I had brought my drinking and cooking water. I dumped whatever water was left in the wash bucket at the end of the day so that it wouldn't freeze.

Drinking water and dry food were stored in the trailer, along with yams and potatoes so that they wouldn't freeze. Two coolers were kept in the car, one for items such as milk and cheese, and the other smaller (and cheaper) icebox holding vegetables: asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. This arrangement was fine at twenty-six degrees, but when the temperature dropped to fourteen degrees, the asparagus and zucchini had to be thrown out because it had frozen. All the brassicas were okay, though. After the fifteen-degree night, though, I kept the remaining fresh vegetables in the cooler and inside the trailer during the nights, stashed in the space below the bed. Or, to use alliteration, I did this to keep fresh food from freezing.

On the coldest night I was a little nervous since I was still exploring and testing the capabilities of the trailer. That night I spread an opened a Coleman cotton sleeping bag over my down bag, and this really added to the warmth. I also had researched the Pelonis oil space heater that was the trailer's heat source. It has three Watt settings: 600, 900, and 1,500. For most of the night I used the 900 setting, which provided enough heat radiance to keep up with the cold; at one point I lowered the setting to 600 Watts. The roof vent was cracked open a bit, and one window. I wondered what I'd do if the electricity went off, then realized that I could always get in the car, start the engine, and enjoy the heater. I'm also going to research a small propane heater for emergencies. Although I'm not crazy about the quality of the air that would probably produce, for getting through a night without freezing, it seems like a good fallback possibility. Let me explain my reluctance to use a propane heater in my tiny trailer. Although there are standards for air quality and also units have an automatic shutoff to stop asphyxiation, I still question such units as being the healthiest option.

Writing in my daybook was a pleasant task each day, although writing in gloves was somewhat challenging. The cold wind, though, was sufficient motivation for me to adapt. I was able to write, enjoy the fire, and look beyond the fire to the muted panorama of the leafless trees and the gray, wind-rippled waters of the lake. The pale blue sky and the steel gray water, the dark silhouettes of the trees still holding a few rust-red leaves were contrasted by bright green grass that fringed the south cove of the lake that was fronted by a wide meadow. Many of the ideas for this blog post were first written into my daybook, sitting by the fire, a cup of tea nearby.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and stayed until  Sunday afternoon. Originally, I had planned to return home on Monday but family plans shortened my stay by one night. Two inches of snow arrived on Friday, flurries with winds. Yes, fall camping all right, and many new experiences! I enjoyed experimenting more with cooking inside the Green Goddess, or cooking outside with the induction burner, which is not bothered by a wind. My favorite dish this trip was baked vegetables and feta cheese, cooked with olive oil and a Herbs de Provence seasoning mixture. I cooked this three out of the four days (and one of those three days inside the trailer).

My favorite activity on this trip was the lake trail that goes around the lake. On Thursday, I rode the trail on my bike, walking those portions where trail steepness and slick leaves prompted caution. The next three days I walked the trail, taking photos and just enjoying the quiet of the lake and the trees.

One interesting insight from this trip was how I became more used to the colder temperatures. Of course I dressed warmly, but I found myself outside in temperatures in the 20's and perfectly comfortable, just enjoying the wind in the trees and the falling snow, just enjoying how the morning after the snow the blue sky and was such a wonderful contrast to the snow quilting the land. Usually I enjoy riding my bicycle, but this trip I especially enjoyed walking. The movement felt good, and although it's hard to imagine, walking was even more in-the-moment in terms of interacting with the environment. It's easy with biking to become absorbed with the physical act of riding the bike--spinning, pumping up a hill, shifting the gears. Walking requires much less attention--I just had to make sure I didn't slip on the snow-covered leaves on the steep portions of the trail!

I think the last few camping experiences I've had validate my opinion that weekday and off-season camping allow for more interaction with nature because there are fewer campers sharing the campground with you. The other side of that coin is that if you enjoy social interaction and meeting other campers, then camp on the weekends and during the summer vacation season! Neither quiet nor community is more right than the other; they just fulfill different needs and expectations. For me, right now, I enjoy finding a way to let nature be more to the forefront.

I am home now from my trip, enjoying some time with my wife. We'll see if schedule and weather allow us to get out any more this season. I have a couple of other leaks to fix in the trailer, which my carpenter son-in-law will help with. I will also buy a tarp for covering the trailer. Whether it remains covered for days, weeks, or a few months is a wonderful source of speculation for my wife and me.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Tiny Trailer Owner Profile: Rob Dickerson

Tiny trailer owner Rob Dickerson is from SE Missouri and considers himself a retired Ozarkian, his career with Bass Pro Shops. Last June he bought his tiny trailer, a Rustic Trail Kodiak from Rustic Trail Teardrop Campers, a small, family-owned business in North Carolina.

Rob has camped "in everything from tents to pickup campers to a Class C," but at this time in his life feels he's "getting too old for sleeping on the ground" and wants a trailer easy to haul so that he can drop it off and explore an area with his towing vehicle, which is currently a Jeep Renegade. However, he can see a mid-sized pickup in his future. The Jeep has plenty of power, but he can feel the strain, which is verified by the fact that his MPG dropped from 24 down to 16.

Right now Rob is heading south for the winter, Florida, where he will driveway camp at his daughter's place. He's enjoying Harvest Hosts as he makes his way. Next spring he's "heading for California, then up the coast, along the Canadian border, then down the Rockies by fall." He plans to do a lot more boondocking at that time. He does own a few river-front acres "on a clear Ozark river" where he plans on building a storage barn/home, using his trailer for one of his bedrooms. "Spring and fall in the Ozarks can't be beat ANYWHERE," and that will be his homebase for exploring the country.

The Ozark Lady at one of the Harvest Host stops, near Hawthorne, FL.

"Definitely more a rivers/forest/mountain person," being retired allows Rob to travel in comfort--as in his "favorite season is wherever it's 74 degrees LOL!" Being semi-retired allows him to be footloose: five months in Florida and then spending the spring traveling across the Southwest as the first leg of his exploration of the West and the Rockies.

One of the most interesting aspects of Rob's camper life is how he tricked out his tiny trailer. Having bought his RTTC Kodiak a little less than six months ago, he traveled with his trailer to get to know it. Then he had the Kodiak beautified with vinyl wrap. The change is a real head-turner!

His son created the graphics on a computer, "massaged the image and colors to one I liked, then sent the file to a vinyl wrap company locally."

As he's lived for a while in the trailer, Rob finally built up the nerve to screw some holes in the interior walls to mount his custom curtain rods. Good choice, Rob!

Rob's tiny trailer includes an ARB awning, it is interior-wired for 12 volts, has a TV, microwave, undertable storage, and a solar set up. He loves his ARB awning, which he can put up or down by himself in about ten minutes. He has also bought the Deluxe Room from ARB that attaches to the awning. Considering that he is going to be living in his trailer for about two years, he has bought all kinds of gizmos.

These gizmos should make it so that Rob can be comfortable yet still have a compact tow package. He related one experience that emphasizes how towing a tiny trailer is much easier than a larger rig. "Once having a Class C and while pulling a boat, I found myself at a locked gate on a mountain road with no shoulders and about a thirty-foot drop off on either side. It took about two hundred 3-point turns of six inches each, but I managed to get about. Lesson learned: when in doubt, drop off the trailer or explore on foot."

Even with all those toys, Rob still advises moderation. "When packing, keep in mind that there are Walmarts EVERYWHERE! Go camping! If you need to buy something on the road, then at least you know you need it!"

In June, prior to buying his Kodiak, Rob posted on FB his camper dream:
Scenario: brand new RTTC Kodiak with optional single battery and AC; 7-pin hookup; Full time travel; south in the winter, north in the summer; probably 50/50 shore power/boondocks; laptop and photography equipment a must + DC refrig + charging station + typical lighting/fan use; if I feel the need for AC I’ll find shore power. Where my current thinking/learning leads: 100w solar suitcase; two 6v flooded cell batteries; 2000w (or less?) gas gen mostly for solar backup; 2-3k pure sine wave; usual HD shore power w/ surge and converters.
Looks like he's come pretty close to his original vision. Happy camping, Rob, and get used to people complaining about getting whiplash when they turn to gawk at your beautiful camper as it cruises by.