Dry camping the Cowboy Way... tips and hints - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-25-2015, 08:33 AM   #1
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Dry camping in your trailer the Cowboy Way... tips and hints

Many 13' to 16' trailers don't have bathrooms... and many folks boondock or use rest stops or parking lots without facilities to overnight. Many trailer owners currently were raised in our era of built-in showers and a power grid accessibility, but performing daily tasks requires a little more thought when you don't have the modern conveniences. As a young child fifty-five years ago on the farm in western Iowa (while the electrification of rural areas was still under way,) I remember taking baths in a copper tub in the dining room with well water heated in buckets, the well-water pump in the yard, a cistern water pump at the kitchen sink, and of course the outhouse. Things were different then but have changed rapidly and many of those off-the-grid, daily way of life things have become forgotten with modern plumbing and electricity.

Twenty years ago a friend of mine bought an old Airstream and took it to the beach for the weekend. On Monday morning he told me that the'd had a really great time, but that they couldn't make coffee because they didn't have electricity... and he asked "how DO you make coffee?" I told him that the cowboys used to throw a handful of grounds in the pot and boil it... but that I use a stove-top percolator... and his answer was "DUH! of course!" They were so used to having electricity at the plug that they just hadn't thought about alternatives at the time.

I see another thread recently started about showering in a Trillium 4500... and of course there's really no need for a shower. You can wash up in a basin heated to a comfortable temperature with water on the stove, including washing your hair if needed. Built-in showers are fairly recent invention... most homes didn't have one until sometime during the 1970s, but they seem like they've always been available.

I dry camp in my B-van (and in fiberglass trailers for years) off the grid when I travel... especially in winter after winterizing the trailer or moho. Despite BEING self-contained, to avoid using the winterized plumbing I take a small cassette-style porta-potty and I don't put fresh water in the top tank, I just pour in fresh water from a bottle after each use. I use a wash basin as a sink and use bottled water for drinking, cooking and washing.

There are many other tricks and tips I know that you folks use when dry camping or boondocking off the grid in trailers that aren't self-contained and where you don't have campground facilities.

Share your Cowboy Way tips and hints on dry camping here!
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Old 11-25-2015, 09:20 AM   #2
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Built-in showers are fairly recent invention... most homes didn't have one until sometime during the 1970s, but they seem like they've always been available.

Share your Cowboy Way tips and hints on dry camping here!
Roger, I'd completely forgot about that experience when my dad installed our shower at home in the basement right around 1970! It was right next to my room, made from 2X2's and sheets of aluminum that rang as the sound of water bouncing off the metal sounding like a thunderstorm. You couldn't take a shower without everyone in the house knowing that someone was cleaning up. My dad constructed a floor grate from 1X2's to stand on while letting the water through to the floor drain outside the shower stall. It was crude and reminded me of what we found in the camp grounds when we went on vacation in the Ro-lite camper.

It occurs to me that prior to my interest in the fairer sex, bath time was in the tub and something I avoided when possible. The installation of the shower coincided with my becoming a "hormone enraged teenager." Being clean became an obsession and I thought the shower was for my exclusive use because I was housed in the basement that was mostly unfinished and the girls didn't seem to want to use it.

Heeeey, maybe there was a secret agenda to keep me clean and smelling better...
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Old 11-25-2015, 09:44 AM   #3
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Quote: "I see another thread recently started about showering in a Trillium 4500... and of course there's really no need for a shower. You can wash up in a basin heated to a comfortable temperature with water on the stove, including washing your hair if needed. Built-in showers are fairly recent invention... most homes didn't have one until sometime during the 1970s, but they seem like they've always been available."


Hmmmm.... I don't know much about Iowa but, if forever is as long as anyone on this site has ben around, showers have been around forever.


My 1939 tract home in San Carlos, CA had a separate shower stall and tub stall and my 1913 home in Chelan, WA, still had it's original wall mounted shower in place over a clawfoot tub with a circular shower curtain track.


Showers are good for more than basic washing, they are also said to provide a positive feeling, apparently due to the multiple impact of water on sensory receptors..... (works for moi).


After a week of backpacking, about the first thing peeps want to do is... take a nice hot shower.


But the last cowboy I saw on the telly had an I-Pad and two cup holders on his saddle and was offering his riding pal a hot Mocha as an expense account item..... LOL .... Shades of Brokeback Mountain?
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Old 11-25-2015, 10:11 AM   #4
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Quote: "I see another thread recently started about showering in a Trillium 4500... and of course there's really no need for a shower. You can wash up in a basin heated to a comfortable temperature with water on the stove, including washing your hair if needed. Built-in showers are fairly recent invention... most homes didn't have one until sometime during the 1970s, but they seem like they've always been available."


Hmmmm.... I don't know much about Iowa but, if forever is as long as anyone on this site has ben around, showers have been around forever.
Apparently, Bob, you don't know much about the 1950s Midwest. Knob and tube wiring was still in use in many farm houses that had electricity early on, and many farmhouses didn't have modern indoor plumbing until the late 1960s. I don't believe I lived in accommodations that were built with a shower until I was in the Navy, and that was in CA as well. The mid-'50s house I lived in during my high-school years didn't have a shower installed after we moved into it, much as described in "The Wanderer's" post. It was not atypical of most houses of the period.

So, I started this thread just for folks like you who have never had the pleasure (misfortune?) of living under more primitive conditions and who may find themselves there at one time or another while traveling or camping... and still need to cope.

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Showers are good for more than basic washing, they are also said to provide a positive feeling, apparently due to the multiple impact of water on sensory receptors..... (works for moi).

After a week of backpacking, about the first thing peeps want to do is... take a nice hot shower.
Certainly no argument on either point here, but the fact remains that folks do travel without showers (I just did it for four days...) and folks did without them entirely until very recently in geologic time... so if you're doing without one today, there are very do-able alternatives... and that and other tips about living off the grid comfortably are what we're discussing here.
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Old 11-25-2015, 10:29 AM   #5
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The men in "deer camp" had an old percolator that didn't have a basket so they'd boil the water, throw the grounds into the pot, and strain the results through a hand held strainer. I didn't drink coffee then but I remember hearing my dad and his friends joke that if the spoon didn't stand at attention when you put it in the cup, it wasn't ready yet. That creates an image...cowboys fur shur.
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Old 11-25-2015, 10:58 AM   #6
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Yep, just as I said up front, I wasn't familiar with the mid-west (Iowa) and I don't expect mid-westerners to be familiar with the west coast where, apparently, home showers appeared much earlier.


But both of the houses mentioned were wired with knob & tube, so that I know about. The 1939 house had but a single wall heater for the entire house, but the 1913 house still had central heat to 3 floors from a wood burning monster furnace that had been modernized (?) with a wood-pellet feeder. It's water heating loop has long before been disconnected in favor of an electric water heater however.

And, following our oft mentioned trip earlier this month to Yosemite, where often being below 20 degrees, and seldom above 35 degrees, precluded outside showers for 5 days, the 2nd or 3rd thing we did upon returning home was to take a nice hot shower.

BTW: When out in our Hunter we seldom have hook-ups, maybe 1 in 10 nights, and that's usually by accident.
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Old 11-25-2015, 11:11 AM   #7
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My 1939 tract home in San Carlos, CA had a separate shower stall and tub stall and my 1913 home in Chelan, WA, still had it's original wall mounted shower in place over a clawfoot tub with a circular shower curtain track.
That's interesting, Bob... a little OT here, but your post got me to thinking about some of the houses I grew up in and when they had "conveniences" installed. About 1960 we moved from the country into a small town and a Craftsman bungalow that was built in the early 1920s. It had a full indoor bath, but IIRC the fixtures were all post-war, and may have been installed post-construction in a walk-through closet as neither bedroom had a built-in closet. That was the house that had the cistern pump on the kitchen counter. I don't recall for sure, but I think Dad actually installed the hot and cold faucets and the fresh water plumbing to the kitchen sink and removed the cistern pump. That house (and the house in the country) both had coal-fired furnaces, but the house in town was converted to oil shortly after we moved in. I don't know when the municipal water system was installed in that town, but it may have come in some time after the house was built.

From there we moved into a larger city about 50 miles away, and another Craftsman bungalow; this one also built in 1939, but it was built with the bath designed into the floorplan. It had clearly been added to a municipal water and sewer system. Both of the Craftsmans had in-wall wiring and the two-push button switches with brass switch plates.

I thought nothing of it at the time as it was just how we lived, but it's interesting the see the progression of technology in home building during that period. And neither of those houses ever had showers, at least up until we left them. The first shower I had in a house was in the '50's vintage house that Dad retro-fitted with one in the basement laundry room. And it didn't have walls or a stall. It was a shower head attached to wall-mounted plumbing.
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Old 11-25-2015, 11:16 AM   #8
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Yep, just as I said up front, I wasn't familiar with the mid-west (Iowa) and I don't expect mid-westerners to be familiar with the west coast where, apparently, home showers appeared much earlier.
And I confess that I was quite shocked by how flimsy California construction seemed in comparison to the midwest where winters are fierce when I first moved to the Bay Area in '74 or so. Yes, things varied considerably by age, region, and climate it seems.

One of the things I also found interesting about the Bay Area was that there wasn't much older than about 1907... so it, in general, seemed MUCH more modern than the midwest I grew up in, in a lot of ways.
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Old 11-25-2015, 12:04 PM   #9
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okay, this thread is getting a bit off-subject but I have to get my two cents worth in anyway. In San Francisco, at least, records were destroyed in 1906 so they show all of the houses being built at a later date. We moved into our house which we know was built prior to 1906, in 1953 and it had a rather jury-rigged wall shower over the clawfoot tub. As the house was originally built with no plumbing, I have no idea when that was installed but it wasn't new then, in fact the house had set empty for at least several years before my folks bought it. So say, at least the forties.
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Old 11-25-2015, 12:21 PM   #10
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okay, this thread is getting a bit off-subject but I have to get my two cents worth in anyway. In San Francisco, at least, records were destroyed in 1906 ...
Thanks! Actually, upon reflection, I don't think that this discussion as it's been shaping up really IS OT. What is shaping up is that we have at least two and maybe three generations now who have never lived without indoor plumbing... and I may be among the few Boomers who remember living with that now-"alternate" lifestyle. When I grew up, not having a shower was "just another Tuesday." Having the power out for three or four days after a blizzard was expected, and if it didn't happen you were thrilled. What that meant was we lived our daily lives under circumstances that most of us now only encounter WHILE camping... and we seek that out.

So, that said, many of those daily living skills have been lost or long-forgotten (how many of us have shoveled coal to keep the furnace hot at home, for example?)

That's really what I intended the thread to be about... gathering those old-way tips and hints for living for a more-extended period off the grid where those every-day luxuries (like a shower, or even having running water) that we take for granted are missing.
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Old 11-25-2015, 12:41 PM   #11
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Roger, I didn't intend to hijack your conversation and apologize if that's what seems like happened. I commented that I too experienced the change of having a shower but didn't even notice it until today when you started the thread. Upon reflection, I agree with your premise; there are lots of things we take for granted and could learn to appreciate through shared experiences. The "sought after" camping experiences of "roughing it" are some of those lessons and I for one am ready to listen and learn at the feet of those whom have gone before to forge the way.
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Old 11-25-2015, 01:14 PM   #12
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And I confess that I was quite shocked by how flimsy California construction seemed in comparison to the midwest where winters are fierce when I first moved to the Bay Area in '74 or so. Yes, things varied considerably by age, region, and climate it seems.

One of the things I also found interesting about the Bay Area was that there wasn't much older than about 1907... so it, in general, seemed MUCH more modern than the midwest I grew up in, in a lot of ways.
"Flimsy" construction adds up to houses and buildings that survive earthquakes.. There is a place called the "Murphy Tract" in San Carlos that is all cinderblock and every one of them is a spider web of cracks and broken blocks from earthquakes over the years. And I don't recall ever seeing much brick or brick façade residential constriction as I saw when living on the east coast.

It's mostly San Francisco that is dated from the earthquake & fire. A lot of towns like Burlingame, Palo Alto (Stanford University) and places south that didn't have a fire to wipe out everything following the initial earthquake. as did SF.
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Old 11-25-2015, 01:28 PM   #13
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"Flimsy" construction adds up to houses and buildings that survive earthquakes.. There is a place called the "Murphy Tract" in San Carlos that is all cinderblock and every one of them is a spider web of cracks and broken blocks from earthquakes over the years. And I don't recall ever seeing much brick or brick façade residential constriction as I saw when living on the east coast.

It's mostly San Francisco that is dated from the earthquake & fire. A lot of towns like Burlingame, Palo Alto (Stanford University) and places south that didn't have a fire to wipe out everything following the initial earthquake. as did SF.
Bob, I lived in San Diego for the Loma Prieta 'quake in '89 and had moved to Lake County, CA in '90 just in time for the Northridge 'quake to hit the LA basin. I saw the destruction from both, including the Bay Bridge segment collapse. I'm intimately familiar with earthquake construction building codes.

Interestingly, the largest 'quake ever to hit the North American continent was the New Madrid 'quake of 1811 in Missouri that made the Mississippi run backwards for three days. What I was referring to, though, were the small tract houses that were thrown up in San Jose and surroundings in the '60s... that were truly flimsy construction. I lived in one for a couple of years.

Along those lines of thought, though, if (or when) the New Madrid fault gives way as strongly as it did in 1811, the dry-camping skills we're talking about here will come in really handy for a LOT of folks in the midwest.

I always enjoyed the 1880s Victorian architecture in Oakland and Burlingame. I enjoy the architecture of St. Louis and Memphis as well, but it won't be there long if the New Madrid fault gives way again.
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Old 11-25-2015, 01:59 PM   #14
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Roger, you are talking country. We were on the east coast in the fifties and there were showers in the houses. Places out in the country were behind on such modern conveniences. I am pretty sure that showers in houses were common then, since we had one, as there was nothing special about our house.
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