Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Driveway Winter Camping Is Prep-time for Me

Computer stand over stove, the day after the snowstorm

It's not so much the snow or even the cold that's keeping me from camping--most of the lows have been in the teens here in SE Iowa. It's the ice that's keeping my brand new Airstream Basecamp in the driveway. Yes, we had a big snow and freezing rain storm, and the temperatures have stayed low enough to keep that ice on the ground, and not only in my yard but also in the campgrounds. About half of the ice melted, but that has been on traveled highways. In the campgrounds, that ice has been staying. And now we're in the middle of another blizzard!

Just because I'm waiting at home, though, and keeping an eye on the weather, doesn't mean I can't have fun in my new camper. My wife and I are still playing with possibilities with the new nooks and crannies of our Basecamp. We're exploring just how we want to set up our bed, where we want to store our clothes and food, and we won't even begin to learn more about the water systems until spring when we de-winterize. Plenty to learn about prior to that, though. 

Here are the main considerations  we're pursuing while we driveway camp for two or three more weeks.
  • Efficiently changing the bed/dinette configurations and bedding storage
  • Storage and access for clothes, toiletries, and towels
  • Easy access to pots and pans, cooking appliances, and food
  • computer workstation set-up
Having moved from a tiny trailer (RTTC Polar Bear) to a little trailer (AS Basecamp), what's funny is that I have to keep reminding myself that the old way of doing things is now history. I have to adapt to the new possibilities of our new rig and use our new unit to best advantage. I can start packing less stuff in the SUV or in plastic storage bins. There's space in the trailer. I don't have to throw out all our old ways; however, I do have to to look for ways to determine what is the most efficient way to use our new living space. One consideration is that one person camping, two people camping, or three (think grandchild) each present different possibilities of organization. What fun to explore these possibilities!

Sleep Arrangements / Storage Possibilities 

My wife Sandy and I spent some time last weekend hanging out in the Basecamp and discussing different sleeping and storage arrangements for bedding and clothes, trying to figure out the best arrangement for our new space. We think we've come up with an arrangement that will work pretty well.

Sleeping bag for pad, pillows, and down bags hanging from cargo nets

For sleeping we want something that requires a minimal amount of bedding. Right now that means sleeping bags. We're using an old cotton flannel sleeping bag for our bottom sheet/topper pad and lightweight down sleeping bags for our top covers. We plan to also take our heavier down bags just in case we get cold--at least until we become more familiar with the Basecamp's temperature profile.

We are happy that the 2021 Basecamp comes with the split benches so that we can set up the back part of the bed and have a small table with bench seats set up in front of the bed. Sandy and I feel we can sleep on the smaller bed set up without making the entire bed. At least we're going to try that to see if it will work part of the time. The smaller bed with the small dinette will allow us to minimize the time it takes each day to move from table to bed and back. We recognize that longer stays with us both will probably require some time with the bed fully made so that we can really stretch out. Also, for longer stays, Sandy will be working online for her business, which might include a larger table space with both tables up.

Cargo hatch open with storage bags

Rear opening strut

Front opening strut

We plan to use the storage space beneath the curbside bench mostly for clothes. Mounting the struts on the hatch lids has really made a difference. To make the bench storage more useable, three things were required (for us, anyway):
  1. minimize bedding so moving the cushions was quick and easy
  2. mounting the struts so the hatch lids easily stay open
  3. removing the table leg storage mounts to streamline the interior space
Not using the Basecamp as a Toy Hauler allows us to keep the rear trailer space available for our minimal bedding. Having the smaller bed set-up as the normal configuration allows for easy travel preparations because some stuff can just be tossed on the bed when traveling. With the bench storage keeping most of our clothes, the overhead storage nets can be used for day/night clothes storage, which will lessen the need to access the hatch storage. Placing clothes needed soonest or most often in the front hatch storage will make access easier. We also plan to put cube storage bags on top of the canvas storage boxes. (By the way, we are re-purposing the four black canvas bags. They are pannier grocery bags for our bicycles.)

Table legs stored in cargo net zip pouch

The passenger-side overhead cargo rack has a zipper pouch in the bottom netting on our 2021 model. The particle boards used for the bed foundation at the back of the bed were stored there when we picked up the Basecamp. They are heavy, so we realized that this zippered storage area could also hold the tubular table legs. With the bed/table configuration we're working with now, one short table leg will almost always be in place in the back table area. Two legs (one long, one short) can be stored in the zippered cargo net area. The last long table leg we will either have up with the forward table, or we will just slip it beneath the bed area like we did with old old tiny trailer when the bed was made. We're hopping for this to be an easy set up for us but also realize that as we camp more with the trailer, things will probably change.

Typing at the front table; bed set up in back 

Kitchen Area Organization: Cooking/Computing

With a beginning organization and plan for the back area of the Basecamp, our driveway explorations will now focus on the front kitchen area. Our basic goals are to make the area as comfortable as home for cooking or for online computer work, recognizing that I do a lot of computer work sitting on the bed with a backjack for back support and a pillow on my lap for a desk. Having an alternative is good for my back, though, so a standing workstation is something I definitely want to explore as an alternative to sitting. 

Our cooking goals are really quite simple; we want to be able to cook and eat the same foods while camping that we eat at home. We feel keeping to our usual eating habits will be both less expensive and more healthy for us. One reason we invested in our little trailer--as opposed to the tiny trailer we owned before--is that we wanted our camping experience to simple but still homey, still comfortable. "We're not getting any younger, you know," I mutter in my best (or worst) geezer voice.

Last week and this week have been winter driveway camping prep-time for me, allowing me to get ready for my next trip. Tomorrow I have to drive to my Nissan dealership to have a warranty replacement for a faulty sensor for the Pathfinder. I received last week the Basecamp's registration and license plates. Next week I might head out for a 450-mile trek south to northern Arkansas. There's an Army Corps lake there, Greers Ferry Reservoir, that has open campgrounds yet is still far enough south of Iowa to be more pleasant in February. The temperatures will be around fifteen degrees warmer than here in SE Iowa, with no or little snow. What with us getting 8-12 inches of snow right now--on top of ice--well, temperatures in the 20-50 degree range sound great right now.

They key point is to enjoy the present moment, though, so today I'll be heading out to the camper to try out a few procedures such as the standing computer station. I plan to have fun today . . . and to have fun tomorrow. I'll be able to follow the fence to the driveway where the Basecamp is parked, so I probably won't get lost in the whiteout . . . 

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  1. Where did you source the struts for the storage compartments? Seems like very worthwhile investment.

    1. My apologies that I forgot to include a link in the original posting. I've updated the post to include a link. I bought the struts on Amazon. The product is labeled as follows: Apexstone 100N/22.5lb Gas Struts,Gas Springs,Gas Strut,Lift Support,Gas Shocks,Lid Stay,Lid Support,Set of 4.