Friday, January 17, 2020

Wisconsin Fall Camping, Leaves Falling on Snow

Kohler-Andrae State Park, Lake Michigan, November 2019 (Michael McFadzen, Google Maps)

There is a progression to fall camping, just as there is a progression when the trees begin to turn color, faint flashes of reds and golds among the green, then deeper umbers and finally snow and the monochrome of winter.

The deep woods and great lakes of Wisconsin are an apt setting for appreciating the turn of the busy camping season to the quieter and more sedate off-season of the fall months. School is on and children are at school. The weather begins to shift to temperatures for the more hardy. Deer hunters begin to stir in their camouflage or orange vests. Campgrounds clear out and the world settles down, nature does, anyway, not continually busy like towns with gray slush and the sound of snowplows.

Wisconsin camper Jim Grote has posted online photos of a sequence of expeditions that illustrate the change of seasons and camping styles, that illustrate the beauty that is contained within the changing of the seasons and the corresponding changes in camp routines. With four trips to the woods and lake, one in June, and then the later expeditions in September, October, and November, we can see how camping immerses us in the natural rhythms of the world, creating an opportunity to celebrate and appreciate the great circle of the year.

Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, August 2018

Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, June 2019

We begin in June with the photographs above, the trees green and the living (and camping) easy. Koehler-Andrae State Park is on the western shores of Lake Michigan. One Google Maps reviewer wrote, "Beautiful park, great vistas, very easy hikes. Dunes and the views of the lake gorgeous. Looks like a clean and rustic campground. The sites for RVs seem isolated and woodsy."

New Glarus Woods State Park prairie walk, September 2017 (Tori Neiheisel, Google Maps)

Next, Jim and his Little Guy teardrop and his Volvo show up in New Glarus Woods State Park, a Wisconsin state park around thirty miles southwest of Madison. The campground has a good playground and hiking "through the woods and the prairie," according to Google Maps reviewers, although the reviews were mixed about the quality of the facilities. Several reviewers made positive mentions of the brewery across the street.

A hint of fall tints the trees, and the prairie is mature, full of color and abundance. The campgrounds have usually quieted down by this time of year with children back in school. The Grotes camped at the state park and enjoyed the Oktoberfest in New Glarus, Wisconsin, so their primary camp this time was a "motel on wheels."

New Glarus State Park, Wisconsin, September 2019.

October in Wisconsin is a brighter spread of fall colors, trees flaring with yellow and orange colors. Peninsula State Park was the Grote destination for October, north of Green Bay on the large--you guessed it--peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan.

Fall colors, Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin. (Richard Remington, tover.com)

With 2,289 reviews, Peninsula State Park accumulated an average of 4.8 stars. "Huge state park," one Google Maps reviewer said. "Great for biking, hiking, camping and even golfing.  There is a 9.7 mile bike path that is clearly marked and bikes can be rented just outside the park gate.  Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is a great place to stop and rest.  Bike riding through the park was probably our favorite activity while exploring Door County. Highly recommend!"

"Enjoying some fall camping!" the Grotes wrote, all set up with their Coleman Dome shelter.
Peninsula State Park, Wisconsin. October 2019.

November fall camping found the Grotes at Point Beach State Forest, enjoying the arrival of snow. Their experience of a cold-weather campground was a common one: "Complete solitude!" Point Beach State Forest, about fifty miles southeast of Green Bay, is also on the west banks of Lake Michigan. Google Maps reviews of the area are strong. "Probably one of my favorite parks in Wisconsin. There's a bit of everything here, but the beaches and lakefront exploring areas are beautiful. I loved the lighthouse and just walking the sandy beaches. There's also camping and hiking trails here. So much to enjoy and explore!" One reviewer mentioned that the lighthouse is on private property--so enjoy from a distance. Several other reviewers mentioned biting insect issues.

Lake Michigan at Point Beach State Forest, November 2019

"Very cool in the winter (both senses of the word).
Wind cuts, but it also makes amazing ice sculptures from the waves' spray."

Point Beach, December 2019. (Lue Pierson, Google Maps)

Biting insects, though, were not a problem for the Grotes as they cold-weather camped at Point Beach. Even with the snow, they were able to enjoy the beauty of the park. "Amazing sunrise and hike today. We are only 100 feet from Lake Michigan." Google Maps reviewers seconded their experience: "This place is simply amazing. The views are to die for. The campsites are private and beautiful. I can't recommend this place enough. Make sure to get up early and enjoy the sunrises!"

Winter camp, Point Beach State Forest, November 2919.

Comments on the hiking and bicycling opportunities were common, although access and enjoyment of the beaches are dependent on the lake level. Sometimes the water is too high, and then beach access is limited. One reviewer, who camped there during the summer, said, "Cool and shady on a hot and sunny day. Bring your bike and ride five miles of wide woodland trails (smooth crushed gravel surface)." One advantage of cold-weather camping is that hiking and enjoying the beaches is possible without the hundred mosquito bites one camper mentioned.

My wife and I once rented a little apartment for a week in Traverse City, Michigan. It was May, a few weeks before tourist season began. We were told by city residents several times that we were visiting at a "sweet spot" time--if we didn't mind some cooler weather. Yes, we were bicycling one day with a bit of snow, but no crowds, no bugs, and no sweaty, chafing bike rides! We dressed for the weather and had a great time.

Jim Grote and his wife, with their three tiny trailer fall camping forays to local Wisconsin destinations, perfectly illustrate how camping in the off-season can be a rich and memorable time. My wife and I plan to experience some of Wisconsin camping next year, and there's a good chance we'll take that trip when the leaves are turning!

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Monday, January 13, 2020

What Tiny Trailer Campers Can Learn from John Muir

My dad and mom and their 1944 honeymoon rig

What does it mean to camp with a tiny trailer, the classic model being a 4 x 8 foot teardrop? Mostly, it means that you're willing to do without, that you believe "less is more." Built-in toilet and bath? Nope. Built-in inside kitchen? Nope. Heating and air conditioning? Probably not in the smallest and most basic. You're beginning to get the idea as to why the most basic tiny trailers are sometimes endearingly called "a bed on wheels." And owning a bed on wheels, many would say, is the best RV to get you outside as much as possible yet still provide you with a comfy, secure place when the sun is going down.

Gearing Up

John Muir would appreciate that minimalist approach to camping, even if driving a car and pulling a bed on wheels were not possible in his time. Even in his times, though, Muir was a minimalist.

 Wikimedia Commons Map of Muir's Gulf hike.

In 1867, at the age of twenty-nine, John Muir set off on a hike of one thousand miles across the southern United States, just after the Civil War. When he set off from his family home in Indiana on his hike to the Gulf of Mexico, he later wrote, "I rolled up some bread and tea in a pair of blankets with some sugar and a tin cup and set off." As a naturalist he did take some scientific equipment with him, but he still was traveling light, camping out and also staying in the homes of both newly-freed slaves and plantation owners ("A Thousand Mile Hike to the Gulf"). Six years later, he was in California and setting out to explore the Hetch-Hetchy Valley in the Sierra Nevadas, and I describe his preparations in my article, "John Muir Goes A-Campin' at Hetch Hetchy":
"Muir decides to visit Hetch Hetchy during the first week of November, so there is some danger of snow. This, of course, is before satellite weather forecasting, so in his usual inimitable manner, Muir takes three loaves of bread for his food--one for the trip up, one for the trip back, and one for emergencies. He also has his blanket and a nice cup for his "complementary coffee"--Muir, the glamper! "Thus grandly allowanced, I was ready to enjoy my ten days' journey of any kind of calm or storm."  
I think Muir would appreciate, even if it isn't backpacking, a camping lifestyle in which discrimination decides what to not pack, rather than how much one can pack and still roll. A tiny trailer owner thinks in terms of what is essential and non-essential, what to pack that has multiple uses, and, for many, what can increase the connection with nature. Tiny trailer camping isn't as extreme as backpacking or bike camping, but it can provide a great basecamp for those pursuits. Furthermore, tiny trailer camping, even in its tamest forms, continually reminds us to cut the superfluous and to indulge ourselves with great vistas rather than gewgaws.

Dealing with the Elements

John Muir's less-is-more approach to camping thrust him into the elements, which he superbly described, whether it be spring sunshine or winter storm. He packed for adversity--more or less--and often met it. When hiking Hetch-Hetchy, he brought that third loaf of bread in case of storm, and needed it, for he was caught in a November snowstorm during his trek, not before finding time to build a tiny, makeshift shelter, though.
"Shortly after I had gained the summit of the divide between the main river and the middle fork, the sky, which had been growing dark and opaque all the forenoon, began to yield snowflakes. I at once hastened to a sheltered hollow which was groved with firs and watered by a tiny brook. I searched until I found a place where a number of large trees had fallen, which in case the storm should be severe would afford abundance of fire. At the stump of one of these trees, which had splintered in falling, I found plenty of laths from two to ten feet long, with which I could make a hut, but I had not sufficient time, as the snow began to fall fast. Beneath one of my fire logs I hastily burrowed a sort of bear’s nest, and lined it with branchlets of fir - that was home. Then I gathered up a large pile of dry limbs in my front yard, and made a fire before the door, and boiled a cup of coffee, and went into the house. The storm was earnest, and I most intensely enjoyed its growing magnificence."
The Hetch-Hetchy Valley, California, 1870s, oil on canvas by German-American artist Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), currently at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Spending the night admiring the beauty of the song of snowy wind among the 200-foot firs that surround him, the storm blew itself out during the night, depositing only a few inches of snow. With the stars came colder weather, and he was up during the night, adding wood to his fire.

Like Muir, tiny campers have to adapt themselves to the elements, learning to enjoy the cold twinkle of stars at night when they leave their trailers for a quick "call of nature." Tiny campers bundle up and cook outside and find that adapting to the cold is easier than expected. As the weather grows more intense, tiny campers look for the "growing magnificence" of the moment, as did Muir. I consider such moments opportunities to learn and experiment, to try new things, as I related in my article "Cold Weather Cooking in a Tall Teardrop." A little snow and some weather in the teens, and I had the chance to learn and grow. "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." Cooking outside doesn't have to all be about survival, though. I've written about tiny trailer campers who enjoy cooking outside with cast iron.
Sometimes, though, the camping experience, especially with tiny trailers, can be an experience of extremes, or at least what we modern folks call extremes. The little havens of our trailers, though, do provide havens for us to get to some degree out of the wind, rain, snow, bugs, and heat. Tiny trailers extend our range of comfort and, therefore, extend the number of days we can be camping. 
Muir's camp skills helped him experience comfort while camping, but his camping style also required those skills, to be quite honest, to keep him alive, as seen in his essay "Snow-Storm on Mt. Shasta." He and a colleague were engaged in meteorological data collection on California's Mt. Shasta. The article is an interesting blend of scientific observation and exciting description of the adventure. Not having a tiny trailer to hole up in when a snowstorm hit at the end of April in 1875, Muir had to deal with the elements in order to survive. He and his colleague Jerome had an intense discussion as to whether to make their way down the treacherous, icy slopes of the volcano or to hunker down, inadequately prepared for the storm--Muir was in shirt-sleeves. Muir's companion finally opted for an area of hot springs as refuge, and Muir followed.
"Our discussions ended, Jerome made a dash from behind the lava block, and began forcing his way back some twenty or thirty yards to the Hot Springs against the wind flood, wavering and struggling as if caught in a torrent of water; and after watching in vain for any flaw in the storm that might be urged as a new argument for attempting the descent, I was compelled to follow. "Here," said Jerome, as we stood shivering in the midst of the hissing, sputtering fumaroles, "we shall be safe from frost." "Yes," said I, "we can lie in this mud and gravel, hot at least on one side; but how shall we protect our lungs from the acid gases? and how, after our clothing is saturated with melting snow, shall we be able to reach camp without freezing, even after the storm is over? We shall have to await the sunshine; and when will it come?"
Muir was indeed a trailblazer, and I have to admit that I follow his path much more cautiously, safely, and comfortably.

How We Roll

When I bought my tiny trailer, the Green Goddess, I had never before towed a trailer of any kind. In fact, my vehicle hadn't even had a hitch when I bought my "standy" teardrop. My son-in-law drove me the two-plus hours to Des Moines, hitched up the trailer, and we came back home, me a spectator the whole trip. I got my vehicle fixed up, though, and practiced and learned the basics. I know my limitations, though, even if I am much better at towing now, after two seasons of camping. I'm much more confident but still am cautious. My closest call of being in a tight spot was when I traveled to Backbone State Park in NE Iowa. Following GPS directions, I approached the park, only to find the the secondary entrance was gated and locked shut. The narrow road had a deep ditch on each side. Luckily, at the gate even with a couple of cars parked, there was still room for my tiny trailer to flip a U-turn; otherwise, I would have had a very long experience of practicing backing up.

On another trip, this one in South Carolina, I was (again) following GPS directions for entering Huntington Beach State Park. Directions turned me left into a narrow-streeted residential area. I learned later that the park had changed its entrances. I knew I just had to turn around and head back the direction I had come from. The road was divided, and I could catch the new entrance by heading back to the main highway. Where to turn around, even with my tiny trailer? Traffic was not heavy, though, and I found a crossroads and a home with a triple-wide driveway (to match the 3-car garage), and there managed to turn around without damaging my tow rig or residential property . . . or excessively bruising my pride.

Although he traveled by shank's mare, Muir still had to often think through the safest path. During his Hetch-Hetchy tramp, Muir decided on trying a shortcut, following a grizzly's path, thinking that since there were no return tracks, the bear had found a way through the cliffs. After all, he thought, he could go anywhere a bear could.
"This made me more hopeful than before of being able to creep along the wall to the main traveled road, but the track appeared fresh, and the possibility of meeting long claws upon so conquer-or-die a place made me uneasy. I moved forward with great caution until I came to a recess where a few trees were anchored. Here I found that my pioneer had climbed to a sloping place on the wall above, by a dead pine that leaned against it like a ladder. Had I been empty handed like him I would have followed by the same way, but my blankets encumbered my limbs and kept them out of balance. A little farther on I was positively halted by a sheer wall, and my hour’s scramble in this direction, so far as getting to the bottom was concerned, was worse than useless."
Muir also found that traveling had its challenges on his second Alaskan glacier adventure, taking this trip with a canine companion in 1880. In "Stickeen: the Story of a Dog," he described the challenge of a wide crevasse which blocked his and Stickeen's progress on Brady Glacier. He finally found a sliver of an ice bridge down below surface level that crossed the crevasse, and believe me, I would rather back my tiny trailer up a narrow road any day than negotiate that ice bridge!
"After the end of the bridge was reached I chipped it down until I had made a level platform six or eight inches wide, and it was a trying thing to poise on this little slippery platform while bending over to get safely astride of the sliver. Crossing was then comparatively easy by chipping off the sharp edge with short, careful strokes, and hitching forward an inch or two at a time, keeping my balance with my knees pressed against the sides. The tremendous abyss on either hand I studiously ignored. To me the edge of that blue sliver was then all the world. But the most trying part of the adventure, after working my way across inch by inch and chipping another small platform, was to rise from the safe position astride and to cut a step-ladder in the nearly vertical face of the wall,--chipping, climbing, holding on with feet and fingers in mere notches."
This was the easy part, believe it or not. Then Muir had to bring the dog down to the bridge, cross the bridge, and then encourage the dog to follow! Anybody with pets reading this will realize by now that two- or four-footed, if you were a traveling companion of John Muir, you had to be fearless. "Strange so small an animal should be capable of such big, wise fears. I called again and again in a reassuring tone to come on and fear nothing; that he could come if he would only try. He would hush for a moment, look down again at the bridge, and shout his unshakable conviction that he could never, never come that way; then lie back in despair, as if howling, 'O-o-oh! what a place! No-o-o, I can never go-o-o down there!'" Muir was asking no more or less of his canine companion than he would have asked of a human companion. To assuage your fears, Muir does vividly describe Stickeen working up his courage and then rushing across. I'm reminded of that travelogue TV show about the most dangerous roads in the world to drive.

Communion with Nature

To Muir's credit, the reason he traveled and camped in nature was spiritual. The wilderness was his cathedral, his place of worship. Tiny trailer campers do spend more time outside. We do interact with the elements, pleasant and challenging, more than the RVs that inhabit pull-throughs like dry-docked Titanics. Muir's prose is filled with moments of rapture, moments of remembrance when at some vista, surrounded by nature's beauty and power, he experienced the divine beauty of the world.

Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, Yosemite, 1903

In his book My First Summer in the Sierra, Muir followed a steam until he found a spot of especial solitude and beauty.
"When I climbed on top of it to-day and lay down to rest, it seemed the most romantic spot I had yet found, -- the one big stone with its mossy level top and smooth sides standing square and firm and solitary, like an altar, the fall in front of it bathing it lightly with the finest of the spray, just enough to keep its moss cover fresh; the clear green pool beneath, with its foam-bells and its half circle of lilies leaning forward like a band of admirers, and flowering dogwood and alder trees leaning over all in sun-sifted arches.
How soothingly, restfully cool it is beneath that leafy, translucent ceiling, and how delightful the water music--the deep bass tones of the fall, the clashing, ringing spray, and infinite variety of small low tones of the current gliding past the side of the boulder-island, and glinting against a thousand smaller stones down the ferny channel! All this shut in; every one of these influences acting at short range as if in a quiet room. The place seemed holy, where one might hope to see God."
 Muir managed with words to accomplish what most of us hope to achieve with our phone-cameras: to capture to some degree the greater dignity and grandeur that we intuitively recognize as being kin to some inner green valley within ourselves. He reminds us that what is inside us and outside is connected by the common link of our consciousness. I believe that John Muir would applaud the lighter footprint of tiny trailer camping, and the conscious decision on tiny trailer owners to adopt a camping lifestyle that emphasizes more time outdoors. Considering how easy it is to spend time indoors in our modern era, choosing sun and moon, snow and heat, a clean breeze and a blue sky--Muir would readily agree with the reasons why so many campers are choosing to camp in tiny trailers.

I summarized the motivations of tiny trailer camping in my article "Why Such a Tiny Trailer? Teardrop Owners Speak Out." I think Muir articulates it best in his (for me) humorous essay titled "Wild Wool," where he logically goes on and on about how the wool of wild sheep is better than that of domestic sheep--and I mean on and on! He finally arrives at his main abstract concept of the essay, that Nature does not exist solely for the convenience of human beings. Rather, humans are a part of nature and that all of existence has significance and value. He celebrates the qualities of the individual as essential components of the whole. "I have never yet happened upon a trace of evidence that seemed to show that any one animal was ever made for another as much as it was made for itself." Muir discovered in Nature that he was most himself when he was a part of the greater whole. May we find such epiphanies in campfire and woodsmoke, in owl song and moonlight, as did Muir. The greater realities exist, if we will only look, listen, and learn.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Stocking Your Tiny Trailer (or Otherwise)

A well-stocked homemade teardrop, from "The Tear Droppin' Ladies at the Dutch Oven Cookoff"

How ready to roll do you keep your trailer? Do you empty it out after each trip, or do you keep it ready to go at a moment's notice?

I've found that emptying my camper at the end of each trip and then taking a day to fill it back up before heading out can be exhaustive. I'm trying to learn how to keep as much as possible in my trailer so I don't have to keep loading it up over and over; however, I also want to keep my camper neat and clean. Recently I read a post thread in a tiny trailer group about this very subject.
"I have a question on how stocked with everything is your teardrop? What do you always bring along that is not kept or stored on your teardrop? I am trying to have everything except my ice chest loaded and ready. Is this realistic?"
When experienced campers begin to talk about the procedures they've developed over time, it quickly becomes clear that what works for one camper can be different than what works for another. However, analysis has provided a few concepts to consider regarding camping readiness.

An RTTC teardrop . . . and Zoey

  • Climate: High humidity, mold beneath cushions, and food spoilage are all possibilities that have to be considered, especially if you live in a moist, hot climate. During times of high humidity and between trips, I use a small dehumidifier (Pro Breeze Electric Mini Dehumidifier) that removes some humidity from the trailer. Honestly, it doesn't remove much humidity, but I use it in the summer when the trailer is closed up and stored in the yard. One teardrop owner commented as follows: "I like to remove my covered three part foam cushion, as I don’t want mold growing. The floor is not carpeted for this reason, too." Another camper responded by saying, "I would say it depends on how often you use the trailer, and your humidity and temperature situation while in storage."
  • Pests: I remove any food that I think might attract pests, even if the camper will be parked for just a short while at home. Almost all food is in a plastic bin and one or two cloth shopping bags, anyway, which I bring back into the house when I get home from a trip. I have some small covered plastic boxes I keep in my overhead cabinet up front that hold spices and tea bags. That's it, for any edibles that are kept permanently in the camper. I have no desire to attract rodents or roaches. If I'm shutting down for two or three months over the winter, I'll even bring in the teas and spices. One seasoned traveled said, "I don’t keep anything remotely scented in the tear (no soap, toothpaste, nothing) to avoid rodents."
  • Perishable/Non-perishable: The simplest common thread to comments as to what is left in the camper all the time deals with shelf life. If items are frequently used when camping, and they are not perishable, then campers try to keep those items permanently in the camper. Examples of this could include a boxed cooking/dish set, sleeping bags and pillows, and perhaps a portable toilet. One lady camper described her organization: "My roll-on suitcase, pillow and blanket, and 12v cooler go in SUV. Everything else stays in the teardrop: mattress, toiletries bag, first aid kit, sleeping bag, ez up canopy, chair, fan/heater. No galley, so a large flat tote stays in the teardrop, always packed with essentials, until I travel, then lives in back of the SUV. Makes get away quick!" These are tiny trailer owners talking. I wonder if folks with the bigger rigs keep them stocked with separate items--like camping clothes that stay in the RV.
  • Camping Frequency: Most trailer owners indicated that longer storage times resulted in a more thorough clean-out of the campers. Many campers who store their teardrops in the garage have convenient storage shelves right next to the camper. The nearby storage allows for loading flexibility, due to time of year and the nature of the trip. I use this system, except my storage area is in our house. An infrequent camper wrote: "We keep baskets stocked with things like creamer, condiment packs, sugar, dry cereal, sunscreen, shampoos, batteries and the like and just load them up when we get ready. We only camp a few times a year and are in Texas (high heat and humidity). Everything else stays year round." Another camper wrote: "I have a shelf next to the teardrop (in our garage) with items that I might take on certain trips. I don’t always need my Dutch oven so only take it when my menu dictates (as an example). Otherwise the tear is loaded and ready to go other than stuff from the fridge and clothes."
  • Ready to Sleep: A couple of campers indicated that they keep the teardrop set up for sleeping and pack everything else in their SUV or pickup so that when the arrive at a campground, no unloading or setting up is required in order to go to bed. "I try to keep as little as possible in the teardrop besides bedding, so it is ready to tumble in to sleep wherever we pull over. All camping gear is stored in stacking drawers and tote that are stored in the tear when not in use, but ride in the back of tow vehicle on a trip. Have an empty set of drawers to fill with groceries and clothes/toiletries. My gear drawers are labeled with what is kept in them, so I can re-stock when I use or return from a trip, makes it easy to find anything while traveling. Kitchen necessities are also in smaller stacking drawers in the galley."
In general, experienced campers try to keep their "core camping items" stored and ready to go. After that, weather- and trip-appropriate clothing and food are the most common items that need to be packed each trip. "We only have to pack clothes and food. (And clean bed linens if they've come home to be washed.) Everything else is in our T@b or next to it in the storage unit." One couple who are "87 plus" years old keep their teardrop packed except for food, which they stop and buy on the way out of town. Most folks try to find that happy spot where the camper is safe from the elements and rodents, yet is as ready to roll as possible, making getting down the road as easy as possible.

How my tiny trailer looks inside when parked in the driveway.

Geared up in the campground, although I usually set the table up for the day.

I remember my mom spending time on a Thursday and Friday getting food ready and her and my dad's clothes packed. Then she'd tell my brother and me to pack our clothes. We'd get our fishing gear ready, and off we'd go that evening or at dawn on Saturday morning. Good memories. I just hope someday to be as organized as my mom. Luckily, practice makes perfect, so all I have to do is keep camping as much as possible!

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Friday, January 3, 2020

What Do You Put Away When You Walk Away from Camp?

A question was recently posted on a tiny trailer group regarding camp routines and security. "When you are set up in a campsite and want to go exploring in your vehicle, do you pack up and lock down everything? Rugs, tarps, tables, chairs?"

My wife and I have a routine we follow, although we have never actually sat down and discussed how we secure our camp when we're leaving, whether in our car or for a long hike. Sometimes when camping locally, we have even left our tiny trailer unattended for the night when we've gone home for some reason, planning on returning the next day. This article gives me the chance to concretize for myself those procedures we've followed. Perhaps they will be useful for you.
  1. Have a few basic steps to take--and then follow them, noting that it's "nothing personal" in regards to neighbors or campground. My wife and I put away camp chairs, electric cookery (such as our induction burner), and at the very least if we don't put our Yeti cooler in the trailer, we store it in an inconspicuous space at the campsite.
  2. Don't obsess; be willing to modify procedures according to different camping environments. This might sound contradictory to the first concept, but the basic idea is that security procedures should increase the joy of camping, not overwhelm the fun. We might leave the Yeti next to the trailer at one campground and place it inside in another. Find a balance that is comfortable between trust and security.
  3. Consider the difference between boondocking and camping in established campgrounds with hosts. There will probably be a difference of opinion between these two as to which kind of camping has the most security risk. Some campers will say, "If nobody's around, where's the security risk?" Others will say the opposite. I feel that in either case, having a few basic security procedures and following them is all that one can do.
One of the ironies of tiny trailer ownership is that our tiny trailers attract attention! One owner wrote, "We've awakened to people outside our teardrop wanting a tour! They didn't mean any harm, but it made us want to lock up when we left. We have loved our camping experiences so far!" The fact that our tiny trailers don't look like their larger huge, square, camping box-trailer rigs is something to consider. They're "cute." Another camper adds, "I tend to trust fellow campers, but I do close the galley and lock the doors of our teardrop. I only do this because our teardrop has drawn attention!"

What to put away, and what to leave out?

Some folks are very trusting. "I would never camp anywhere I didn’t feel safe keeping my stuff out while away." This flies in the face of the "it just takes one person" philosophy, but quite a few campers echoed the sentiment. "I tend to agree with you, just hope they don't disappoint," and "I clean up some, and lock the camper. It’s always been just fine."

Other campers are a bit more cautious. "Oh, we always lock it if we leave for an extended amount of time. We just don’t put everything away," is one camping family's method. One camper guy added some specifics: "I don’t worry about much about the basic stuff, but I wouldn’t leave a generator, expensive bicycle, or Yeti cooler without securing them. A professional thief can defeat just about any kind of security device, but it will keep honest people honest. I always lock the doors and galley hatch, and do have tire and hitch locks."

This article doesn't address trailer theft security, such as the above individual's mention of tire and hitch locks, which is covered in these articles:
All your extra stuff, though? As one camper put it, "If you notice what other people are doing in campgrounds, it's all over the place. Some leave everything hanging out, others get super tidy." She finishes by saying, "I might be somewhere in between. Whatever feels right to you is right for you."

My security solution for camping equipment is that I put away the more expensive items automatically when leaving camp. The word "automatically" is key for me; if I just do it as a matter of course, then I don't put much "new" attention on security and can enjoy the day. It works for me--what about you?

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Monday, December 30, 2019

Camp Repair: Doing It with Duct Tape

"The handyman's secret weapon--duct tape," said the TV show character Red Green.

How many campers out there are disciples of the fix-it TV legend? Here are a few other maxims about the power and glory of duct tape.
  • Be generous with the duct tape; spare the duct tape, spoil the job.
  • It doesn't matter if it's duct tape or zip ties--fixed is fixed.
  • I don't always fix stuff, but when I do, I use the handyman's secret weapon--duct tape.
I realized that I must have been listening and learning from Red because I've fixed at least three things with duct tape while tiny trailer camping--and have the photos to prove it.

My trailer bashed by a tree limb

Utilitent, the bottom abraded by strong winds and cement

Down jacket, snagged by firewood

It's never a dull moment out on the road and in the camp. Is there anything you can't fix with duct tape--that's worth fixin'? I've even read about getting rid of warts with duct tape. Fortunately, I currently don't have to consider duct tape for health problems! It's a crazy world, but not all hope is lost. We have a solution that will stick with us (and to us) through thick and thin.

What are your duct tape stories?

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