To us, having our travel trailer is a must. Not only do we love to travel and camp, it just sort of “feels good” to know we pretty much will always have a roof over our heads and the taxes are cheap since it’s taxed as personal property rather than real estate.
We also believe it’s important to know the “how to” of off grid traveling/camping before you need to do it. We’ve seen a few travel trailers, 5th wheels etc., turned on their side because of rough terrain, winds, overloading, slick roads, and high speeds. We try to never pull in those conditions nor at night but nevertheless, it may be necessary if it’s a bug out situation and knowing how to do it as safely as you can just might make the difference in whether you’re on your side along a highway or road or safely tucked into your bug out location.
We’re hoping this article isn’t “information overload” but again… we just want to share what we do and why. Take what you need.
There’s sooooo much one can do to “live” outside very comfortably if needed. It’s called “boondocking” or “dry camping” for those who may not know the terminology :-)
Boondocking or dry camping simply means you’re not “plugged in” at a campground etc.
One important thing to remember is the weight capacity of your travel trailer as well as the towing capacity of your truck/SUV etc. Overloading can quickly wear out your tires and cause big problems with the transmission of your tow vehicle… not to mention your capability to STOP. Which brings up your need for a “sway bar and weight distribution hitch” for your trailer and tow vehicle.
You’ll also want to have wheel chocks and leveling squares (all can be purchased at most camping/rv stores… we love Camping World) that are lightweight and will keep your travel trailer from rocking & rolling while you’re camped, as well as keeping it level, so your refrigerator won’t be harmed by not being level. Nobody would want to watch their home on wheels rolling someplace it’s not supposed to go.
Make sure ALL the hoses that you intend to drink from are RV water safe white hoses! They’re manufactured for water. You might want to keep an extra one that you can fill with water, plug off the ends and drape it across the top of your trailer or truck, in the sun to create some warm, if not hot, water. You can also fill a “shower bag” water, lay them on the top of your vehicle or trailer, and create some pretty warm water. Keep the cheap garden hoses for flushing your black water tank.
Now… for those who may be new to holding tanks… the biggest tank is your “fresh water” tank. You fill it with your city water to be used for flushing your toilet, dishwashing and if you want for your drinking water. A preference for us is bottled water and our Berkey. Remember… everything you run through your faucets goes into your grey or black water tanks! The “grey” water tank is the tank that contains the water from your shower & sinks. The “black” water tank is where your toilet flushes to. We also have invested in a large capacity auxiliary black water tank with a tongue that can be hitched to our truck and pulled to either a dump station or “somewhere” to relieve our travel trailer’s black tank from being full. If you’re on your own land, you might want to tow it to a compost site.
MrWE2 also insulated our pass through compartment and put up peg board, custom cut, to hang tools and other necessary items within easy reach. We also keep a container of Clorox wipes to sanitize any faucets that we might hook up to as well as our fresh water hose connection when we disconnect it to be put back into it’s plastic zippy bag. If you’ve ever noticed, sometimes at a campground dogs like to “mark” water connections. We all know the importance of water and it’s safety; this doesn’t change just because you’re camping or having to bug out.
Having a small step ladder is also an item you’ll want to keep handy whether it’s in the back of your tow vehicle or somewhere in your travel trailer. Accidents can happen & a roof can spring a leak causing you to have to tarp over your roof or “gorilla” caulk for short term, and you’d need to have a way to get up there… and don’t forget an emergency tarp somewhere in your gear. If you are tucked away someplace safe, there is the possibility that a tree limb might come down on the top of your travel trailer and cause some damages that may not show up immediately, but they “will” show up. Keeping your travel trailer dry is just as important as keeping your stick home dry.
To some all these preparations may seem unnecessary, but it you’ve even been caught with your britches down you’ll learn really quick the importance of having what you need when you need it and being as comfortable as possible in your “home on wheels”.
We’ve added a lot of our own touches to our travel trailer to accommodate our needs both as a camping vehicle but also as a bugout vehicle.
Again, if we’re going to need it as a sanctuary, we need to have it functional for our needs when/if we need it. Every family will have their own needs.
More than once we’ve had to bail out tent campers when sudden thunderstorms rained their tents out. It’s been quite an experience to see wet soggy tent campers huddled in our warm, dry travel trailer with a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate and watch a DVD (if we’re plugged into shore power) until things could be dried out. Once we even moved our EZ UP (pic included and more explanation later) over the top of a family’s tent to keep them dry.
Telling a funny story… once we noticed a couple of “newbie” campers setting up and were horrified to see her climb on the back of her guy to reach up to grab an awning. We knew them, so immediately went back to our campsite and fetched a small wooden ladder we had, took it back to them and felt they’d be safer. Later, they shared with us that she was inside their camper and pulled open a cabinet door under their bed and noticed a ladder “just like WE2’s” in the cabinet. She proudly announced to her guy “We don’t need WE2’s ladder, we have our own!” When she pulled it out, he informed her that it was “WE2’s ladder”! Apparently their pass through also had an entry door from inside their camper! LOL
Now, onto some other stuff:
Under most travel trailer beds is a large platform (depending on size/type of bed) that you can put stock LOTS of canned foods. Canned, so you don’t worry about breaking etc.
One new modification we’ll be doing shortly is running a propane gas hose from our outside propane grill to the inside of our travel trailer, so we can hook up a Big Buddy Heater and use 30# tanks (or one of our larger 100# tanks) which will set outside the travel trailer, instead of the small propane canisters. It’s our plan to save our propane for heating and use other ways to cook…like our Solar Oven, Coleman Oven that can sit on top of an outside fire pit, charcoal and a single burner butane stove.
Under most dinette “benches” you’ll also find LOTS of storage for vacuum-sealed Mylar bags of foods which can be stashed in the plastic shoe boxes that we find at $Tree stores. They can easily be pulled out without having to dig around, and can also be labeled on the ends for quick identification. You can also have your fire safe bolted into the floor of your travel trailer to protect your valuables. Place it as far back into a cabinet as you can and then store your shoe boxes in front of it. Yes, it difficult to get to the safe but that’s the purpose of it.
We keep all our “gear” as lightweight as possible. Paper plates, paper bowls, paper cups etc. to spare the use of our water and as fodder for a fire if necessary. We do have graniteware plates, cups, coffee pot & cookware…just in case. It’s lightweight and can easily adapt to being used outside over a camp stove or fire pit.
There was a large space between the closet & the drawers on both sides of our queen sized bed. We found wire racks at Menards that fit perfectly under each of these closets and were able to turn that empty space into “drawers” that we just slide forward or backward to provide a lot of additional space. There was also a clothes hamper lid that opened up to the pass through compartment that MrWE2 insulated & sealed up to block cold as well as to provide additional space in the pass through compartment.
Another added touch was to build a small spice rack over the top of the frig. as well as a very nice “book shelf” at the head of the bed (no window by choice) that we keep our books, Big Ben clock & DVD’s etc. on. It’s got a “cleat” across the front so nothing falls off.
In our bath, we added a medicine chest on the wall to the side of the existing mirror, to clear up space in the cabinetry. We also found a small space (about 12″) from the floor to the ceiling, between the wall and walk-in shower that we converted to a place to tuck rolls of toilet paper & paper towels. If you squash the toilet paper rolls in half you can fit ALOT of them in a very small space. Then just squish them back when you put them on your roller.
MrWE2 removed all those dumb “valance” thingies that wifey hated, and hung regular dowel-type curtain rods & used large heavy duty bath towels (with edges folded down & clipped with curtain rings) for curtains…eliminating the flimsy plastic shades and giving wifey curtains that can be quickly & easily taken down for washing etc., as well as a quick slide to let sunlight in. Again, leaving us room over the top of the rods for a future small shelf to put condiments etc., on at our dinette.
Then MRWE2 built a nice “lift up” table/shelf at the end of a counter to give more workspace for toaster & coffee pot when needed. When not needed, down it goes, appliances cleaned and put away.
Over EVERY cabinet door we put the stainless steel “hooks” (Available at all RV stores… we love Camping World!) so paper towels are off the counter, hand towels are off the counter, night clothes etc., are out of the way & not taking up interior closet space, and swimwear etc., can be hung inside the shower to dry etc. We keep our clothes hamper in the shower until we need to use the shower.
For additional living space, we also purchased what is called an EZ-Up type canopy from WM, along with all the solid panels and the screened panels. We’re able to put it up over a picnic table or at the end our RV canopy to provide our “outdoor” living room. Screens for nice bug free weather & solid panels for cooler/wet weather. It’s also a terrific place to hang wet clothing etc. to dry.
We also have a Wonder Wash that will do our laundry and a rolling pin on a picnic table or ??? to squish out excess water so hanging them where the wind can blow makes drying quicker.
When we purchased our home on wheels we planned for it to be both a recreational vehicle and a full-time home, and fully self-contained, so we had two “house batteries” installed (deep cycle/marine type) so we’re able to “hold a lot of juice”. We also converted the lights to LED’s to save our battery-energy, and we’ve got a lot of “puck” lights (pic attached) that we can hang wherever we need them – LED’s last a lot longer than other bulbs. We have the solar-type rope lights that charge during the day and can lay on the ground around our front door for light or roped around under our canopy at night for us. We also have solar stick in lights, that charge during the day and we can take inside if we need to, or keep small batteries charging and ready for use. Wifey has a project for MrWE2 to use a 2×4 about a foot or so long, with holes cut out for the stick in solar lights (taking off the stems) to rest in so she can place it on a picnic table for evening “ambience” LOL
As a fact, the concept for the “aquarium heater” wifey had was to have her own little “fireplace” sitting on the work counter in the evening, to provide both a bit of light and a bit of heat… she’s a romantic After putting a DVD of a crackling fireplace into our TV on a chilly Thanksgiving camping trip, the idea surfaced.
For the past five years we’ve camped out for an extended Thanksgiving holiday. One year we actually ended up on the coast of Texas before we came on home to snow 10 days later! So… we always keep a gallon of RV anti-freeze in our pass though compartment. This is usually a storage area from one side of your travel trailer to the other and can be accessed by either side.
We’ve learned what types of clothing wear the best and longest if you’re out camping. Which often means spending a little more, but we’ve found lots of really good stuff at upper-end thrift stores, consignment clothing stores, REI sales, BassPro sales, Cabela sales and lots of other places. We’ve also learned that it takes a lot longer for cotton to dry.
We try to bug out several times during the warmer months, and will have our first taste of 2014 probably around April or so. If it’s very cold, we just keep our travel trailer winterized, take plenty of jugs of water that we put in our shower to keep them warm, and use it for sailor-baths, washing a few dishes (wifey stocks up on paper plates etc. to avoid using water & filling up our holding tanks anyway) etc. We heat the water with our “hot pot” IF we’re plugged in to electricity, but if not we use our large graniteware coffee pot on the stove using propane (or over a camp fire or fire pit).
For a quick face wash etc., we simply wet our facecloth, tuck it into the microwave for a few seconds to get warm and we have a refreshing face wash etc.! We also own two gas powered generators that we could use if we wanted to.
Our refrigerator and water heater run on electricity or propane, and the furnace is propane as is most newer models of travel trailers. However, your furnace will draw a lot of electricity so we have a “cube” ceramic heater that we place at the end of the hallway, and it heats our travel trailer perfectly… and if we’re paying for a campsite’s electricity why use our propane? Another idea Wifey has in mind for MrWE2 is to build a couple of 3×3 square wood panels covered with silver reflective material that can be laid outside to set items on that need to be warmed up.
We also installed what’s called a “fantastic” fan over our bed, so that if we don’t want to use our air conditioning (which requires 110) we can open the vent in our bathroom, turn on the fantastic fan (which runs off our house batteries) and have quite a nice “draft” from one end of the travel trailer to the other. Knowing that it’s running off our house batteries is important so we don’t drain them! We also intend to supplement our system with solar panels to enhance the capacities of our travel trailer.
We were blessed in that we were campers from day one (which is one of many things that drew us to one another as well as ballroom-type dancing) and were able to purchase our supplies while we were both employed part-time even though retired, and used that part-time money to prepare ourselves to live the life of RV’ers and to do it debt free. We did without a lot of things sometimes to get our BOV ready for a lovely camping trip if needed or a sanctuary in a crisis situation. The newer units are much better built, better insulated with heated “belly pans”, and are a lot easier to keep warm and comfy.
Ours is a 24′ AeroLite, which is plenty big enough for us, especially with our “outside living room” , so we’re able to pull it very easily and very quickly, and go where those “big guys” only dream of going.
We camp at a lot of the Corps of Engineer campgrounds, because if you’re 62 or over you can get a lifetime “pass” from the national park service (about $10?), and it only costs $10 a night to camp with electricity, pretty much throughout the USA plus you get free passes to many national parks & national museums etc.
Nearly all Wal-Mart stores will let you spend a night in their parking lot if you just ask, and don’t “camp” by putting out all your gear outside etc., as well as Camping World, Cabelas, BassPro, and even some city parks etc. For Moose members, there’s free or reduced camping also, if they have a parking lot big enough. The Moose club here even has a pedestal for it’s visitors who may need or want electricity. We also keep our membership with Good Sam Club active by keeping our Camping World President’s Club active (it comes free with CWP) as well as Passport America (which gives you 50% off) for campgrounds that participate… which are many.
We believe it’s important to KNOW YOUR DESTINATION as well as how to safely get there. We plan to locate a parcel of land away from the Roost and build a cabin there. But until then, we have a location picked out to drag to … “guerilla camping” one might say? We’ve entertained the idea of a common location that could be established as a destination point for other like-minded campers to meet at, and establish a “sanctuary” of campers.
Other possible places you might find sanctuary are not only Corps of Engineer campgrounds, national forest and state parks, but BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and if you aren’t afraid of the population and it’s an only choice… beaches. But, the best place of all… will be your own private land.
We all know that during a crisis situation when we have to bug out for our own safety, we want to “disappear”. That’s why another of our “future” purchases will be spray paints of various camouflage colors that we could (if need be) quickly camouflage paint our vehicles. We also plan to browse around Army surplus stores for camouflage nets etc.
We’ve also invested in three, 20 gallon blue water barrels that we’re going to “adapt” (including pressure relief mechanisms) so we can put them in the back of our tow vehicle, fill with gas, and go-go-go-go for a long ways, stopping only to put the “siphon” into our tow vehicle and never visit a gas station to refuel. We’ve been able to save back a valuable stash of both gasoline and propane for this reason. We’ll fill red gasoline tanks, add stabilizer and then put them into the big blue tanks since stations won’t let you fill them there. Plan, plan, plan!
Even if you don’t have to bug out, camping is a wonderful way to just get out of dodge and enjoy the world. It’s also a great way to meet some great people and see some of God’s wonderful earth… and not spend tons of money on over-priced motel/hotel rooms that wifey won’t sleep in unless she “previews” the room & inspects the bedding (which always pleases the motel clerks). MrWE2 finally figured out that a travel trailer was best. When Wifey’s happy MrWE2’s happy. Now, the WE2’s “know who’s been sleeping in our bed” Camping isn’t always for everyone, but if you’re wanting to have “a place to shelter” away from a dangerous home… a travel trailer is (in our opinion) the way to go.
We chose the travel trailer because it’s a “two piece unit” and if the tow vehicle has to be repaired etc., you’re not “stuck” without place to shelter etc. We also believe that if we’d have to leave even our travel trailer, we’d need a separate vehicle. It’s also less expensive to purchase a smaller travel trailer than the “mega units” with all the bells and whistles. We also did not choose a 5th wheel type because we didn’t want to be climbing up to the bedroom area, even though it offers a lot of additional space. We also chose a travel trailer “without” a slide out because we didn’t want to have to rely on our house batteries etc., to slide them in and out if we’re boondocking etc., as well as we didn’t want to have to hand crank them in or out if the mechanism should fail. We’re lazy too; we didn’t want to worry about clearing leaves etc., off the top before we had to haul them in
Just thought we’d share our love of the outdoors, how we do it, and some of the reasons why we use our travel trailer for pleasure, but also as a possible sanctuary in a bug out situation.
The WE2’s and their lab-brat.
Yes, there’s room for her too in a 24′ travel trailer. She’s learned to “live little” too.