Sunday, April 11, 2021

How Necessary Is a Thermometer for Camping?

Tiny trailer camping was simple, that's for sure. With an ice chest, the food was as cold as it was going to get. I usually tried to keep the chest out of direct sunlight; after that, managing the cooler just meant getting more ice when necessary. 

Now that I own a little trailer rather than a tiny trailer, the rig (an Airstream Basecamp 16-foot) comes with a Dometic 12-volt refrigerator--with a dial to adjust temperature level and everything. The trailer also has a Truma heating system that can work with electricity, propane, or both. And I shouldn't forget the air conditioning unit, although my tiny trailer (an RTTC Polar Bear standy) also had ac. With the acquisition of a more tricked-out trailer, my camping life has become a bit more complicated. I've found that purchasing a couple of thermometers has helped me make decisions about how to manage my more complicated trailer life.

I decided to purchase two tiny thermometers by the ThermoWorks company,  ThermoDrop Zipper-Pull brand thermometers. These small digital thermometers are so named, I suppose, because they are small enough to be attached to a coat zipper pull. I've placed the two thermometers in my trailer, one on an equipment rack at ceiling level, and one in the refrigerator. I've seen this type of thermometer made by other companies, so I'm not obsessing about the greatness of this one brand; however, I've found my ThermoDrops to be useful.

Ceiling cargo rack at rear of trailer

The Truma settings display is mounted on the Basecamp wall near the window and door. It usually reads a much lower temperature than that in the camper, especially as the ThermoDrop reads near the back ceiling. I have no problem just setting temperatures by feel, but it is good to know what the temperature actually is from a device that is hanging free and not attached to a metal wall. Since the thermometer has a touch light, I can also read the display easily at night if I wake up too cold or hot. It's good sometimes to get a little objective information, especially if I'm camping with my wife. Is it really hot in the camper, or is it just me?

Easy display for refrigerator

The second thermometer is placed in the refrigerator, and since I'm new to these tiny refrigerators, the objective information is really useful. I've been noticing, for instance, that the interior temperature might be 35 degrees in the morning and 48 degrees in the afternoon on one of our warmer spring days. I attribute this somewhat to the fact that the refrigerator is not loaded with food, and air changes temperature more quickly and radically than foods. It is good to know, though, what the temperature inside the refrigerator is and whether or not I need to adjust the setting. I'm sure setting the refrigerator temperature will be something I'll become more proficient at as time passes and I become more familiar with the system. 

When I first received the thermometers and turned them on, there was a ten-degree difference in temperature between my home wall furnace display and the displays on the ThermoDrops. I called the company's technical support and was told to set the tiny units on my furnace's wall display in the living room, if possible, and then to wait to see if the readings synchronized. The technician said the units should read to within 1.5 degrees of accuracy. Some time passed, and the units did synchronize with my home's wall unit. With some accuracy determined, I placed the thermometers outside in the trailer. 

How necessary is a thermometer for camping? The FDA states that the temperature in a refrigerator should be at or below 40 degrees. I feel having a thermometer in the refrigerator is important for safety issues; having a thermometer in the main trailer is more a convenience. 

I'm looking forward to other campers sharing their experiences with thermometers, especially with camper refrigerators. I'm certainly self-sufficient enough to decide whether to wear short or long pants without having to check a thermometer, but keeping my food at a safe and stable temperature is something I'm willing to use more objective data when deciding. How about you all?

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  1. I've never seen these little gems and I bought one. I now have a small refrigerator in my Winnebago HIKE and this little, easy to read temperature monitor will be super. I have a "weather" station on the wall to determine the inside temperature and outside temperature - love those things! Plus I have a "Waggle" pet monitor on the wall that seems to work also and I can check that temperature from my phone when I'm out of the camper. Thanks for providing the link to the Thermodrop Zipper Pull.

  2. I know I'll be checking my refrigerator regularly, since there seems to be temperature fluctuation.

  3. I use one in my fridge and also one in my 5 day cooler. As a former Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, I am probably a nerd about the food safety zone, but it really is that important.

    1. I think buying a trailer with a mini "frig" has been an eye-opener for me. I'm glad I bought my thermometers in order to objectively know how cold the refrigerator is. Thanks for your comment.