Lessons Learned by a Newbie - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-02-2021, 09:55 AM   #1
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Casita - 2019 SD17
Idaho
Posts: 134
Lessons Learned by a Newbie

I imagine that what I have to share here is "old hat" for most members on this forum. However, maybe I will share at least one gem that the "old timers" can appreciate. If nothing else, maybe give you a chuckle or two at the expense of a newbie.

While I have been out several times camping with my Casita, circumstances and other factors lead to this being the first "real" camping trip for me. Needless to say, I learned a lot!

My recent "dispersed" camping trip in the Boise National Forest, was extremely enjoyable with a few exceptions. One was nature and the other was caused by unthinking humans. I will only address the nature one here as I already posted the human point. In the afternoons, the temperature outside was usually about 100 degrees or more. Fortunately, the humidity was extremely low, ergo the Condition 1 fire restrictions and the very dry conditions. I say fortunately, because I have been to southern Texas where BOTH the temperature AND the humidity are the same.

The heat lasted from about 1:30 PM until dusk which was usually after 6:30 PM. The temperature in my trailer would reach 96 at times. I would have the exhaust fan on high during that time and it was still, to put it mildly, HOT!

So to the point of this post. Lessons Learned.

1. Carefully scope out the terrain before parking and setting up camp.

Two things happened here. I parked so that the Casita had both a somewhat severe fore and aft and port and starboard cant. I used leveling blocks for the port and starboard list. I however failed to put enough blocks under the wheel to fully eliminate the list. Lesson learned: check and address leveling BEFORE disconnecting the tow vehicle.

Secondly, I put the rear stabilizers down BEFORE adjusting fore and aft leveling. I was on a considerable slope and needed to raise the tongue of the trailer up a lot. The rear stabilizers worked against my attempt to raise the tongue of the trailer! When I realized my mistake, all of sudden, things were much easier. Put the stabilizers down last, not first!

There were areas at the campsite where I would not have endured such extreme leveling issues.

While I had my awning out, the angle of the sun made the awning useless in the late afternoons. Better position of the trailer would have eliminated that problem and I could have spent the afternoons outside the trailer instead of inside.

2. Regularly monitor battery voltage levels.

Because of the afternoon "warmish" temperatures, I was running the MaxxAir fan on high all afternoon and evening.

Normally, this would not have been a problem, but again because of my position in the camp site, my solar panels were probably only 50 percent efficient.

The problem did not show itself until the third day. I have 2 lithium 105 amp batteries, so I have a lot of power available ASSUMING that the solar is working at almost optimum efficiency.

In the middle of the afternoon, all of a sudden my power shut off. I had completely discharged the batteries to their minimum charge state and the BMS turned everything off.

Out came my Honda EU2200i. It experienced its "maiden" run.

I had purchased a 2-1/2 gallon "child proof" gas container which initially proved to also be "adult proof". After a vocabulary building struggle, I finally figured it all out and I was able to easily fill the Honda's tank.

Normally, I am one of those people who only read the manual if all else fails. However, I broke that rule and read Honda's complete owner's manual earlier in my camping adventure. So put the choke to "on", open the air vent on the gas tank, and . . . Well I pulled the start cord. No go. Tried again. No go. Finally after about 3 or 4 pulls, I decided something was wrong. Oh . . . you have to turn the fuel on also! After that, I had a pleasantly humming Honda providing the needed power to my Casita.

At this point, I plugged in the voltage monitor that came with the Casita. If I had plugged it in to begin with, I would have saved myself some grief.


I opted for the Coleman Air Conditioner and so many may wonder why I did not make use of it. I did use it for about 20 minutes at the end of the charging cycle for the batteries. It was heaven. The the Honda ran out of gas. I had gas and I could have headed into a nearby town for more, but I wanted to avoid as much as possible, the use of the Honda. I consider it a backup/emergency power source only.

3. Water conservation

Another upgrade to my Casita was the 25 gallon fresh water tank. My camping trip was 8 days long. During that time, I only used about 3/4's of my fresh water. I had collapsible 5 gallon water containers with me, but I felt they were a last resort. In my opinion, it is not camping if you are constantly running into town to resupply yourself.

I would say that the major use of my water, was drinking water. With the heat, I was drinking a lot of water. My Berkey water filter did an excellent job. A lesson learned here, do not allow the Berkey filters to dry out. So it was a couple of days before the filters were finally functioning at full capacity. After the fact, I discovered I had the attachment necessary to hydrate the filters in the trailer. So the filters were hydrated very slowly through gravity over a period of a couple of days. Still, I had plenty of drinking water.

Because of my menu, I needed very little water for cooking. I bathed and shaved daily using less than a gallon of water. I did not use the shower in the wet bath, because I am 6'8". Taking a shower in the 6' wet bath is not, in my opinion, an option. It is possible, I suppose to sit on the toilet, but showers, even if you are taking a "Navy shower", use a lot of water. So, I would heat up a sauce pan of water to boiling. In a small collapsible bucket I would add cold water enough to cool the boiling water down to the point, I could just manage it. First, I shaved with the fresh water. I have one of those plastic collapsing stools I sit on as I thoroughly bath myself with the cooling hot water. I did not throw the bath water out . . . yet. I used it during the day when my hands would get dirty. Followed by the use of a Clorox sanitizing wipe.

To the point of dirty dishes. I was only drinking water, so no need to clean up after coffee or other beverages.

I covered my plate with Glad wrap. The kind that is sticky on one side. The sticky side went to the plate. My food was on the Glad wrap and not the plate itself. When the meal was over, I simply removed the Glad wrap film from the plate and that went in the trash. The plate was still clean and did not need to be washed for next time. Spatulas, forks, knives and spoons were cleaned off with a paper towel. Then a damp Clorox sanitation wipe was used to fully clean and sanitize the utensil. So little or no water was required to wash dishes.

I would put a small amount of water in a sauce pan and heat canned vegetables in the open can. So the sauce pan remained clean. The water would later be used to wash up and clean.

Through conservation of water and other resources, my waste for the entire trip, including my "policing" the camp area was one 13-gallon trash bag.

4. Miscellaneous

I took a container of Costco muffins with me, which served as breakfast on several days. To heat them up, I would put about 3 or 4 tablespoons of water in my sauce pan. The bottom of the pan had crumpled aluminum foil which acted at a trivet/grate. I would then put the muffin in the sauce pan and covered the pan. The sauce pan was placed on the stove on very low heat for about 4 or 5 minutes. Voila, I would have a nice hot muffin for breakfast. My plan is to have a larger "pot" in the future with a real trivet on the bottom with a lid. I see this as a home made "oven" for camping. I see no reason why I could not bake corn bread or any other item that needed baking.

I just covered the highlights of what I learned. I assure you that I learned a great deal more. Much of it had me thinking outside of the box to solve other problems. I very much enjoyed my camping trip. I have more trips planned for the future. This trip was to break out of a shell where I was very concerned about solo camping. My concern had to do with my age, health, and strength. This trip put all of that to rest.

I know I am long winded. I just wanted to share my experiences, good and bad. Hopefully, it gave you something to laugh about and to cheer you up. Maybe you even were given a few ideas to explore yourself.
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Old 08-02-2021, 03:56 PM   #2
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Trailer: 1999 Casita 16' "Snufkin"
California
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Great read!

Thanks for a great read, Bob! Super thoughtful approach to camping.

I really liked the use of wrapper around the plate to avoid washing it later part!

Glad you made it happen and many more safe travels.
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Old 08-03-2021, 09:13 AM   #3
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Name: JAMES
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Not a good idea to cook food in cans

"I would put a small amount of water in a sauce pan and heat canned vegetables in the open can. So the sauce pan remained clean. The water would later be used to wash up and clean."

Not a good idea to heat food in cans as cans today are coated inside with a plastic and melting that plastic can be poisonous! Better to cook items in a plastic bag designed for boiling!

Good luck with that one!
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Old 08-03-2021, 09:20 AM   #4
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SW Virginia
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Like Alex said: a good read. And you gave this "old hand" some interesting things to think about.
Thanks Bob


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Old 08-03-2021, 09:51 AM   #5
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Casita - 2019 SD17
Idaho
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Thank you

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Originally Posted by polskasila View Post
Not a good idea to heat food in cans as cans today are coated inside with a plastic and melting that plastic can be poisonous! Better to cook items in a plastic bag designed for boiling!

Good luck with that one!
Thank you for your input. I will both research and take your advice. I believe that ZipLock bags fall in the category of "safe to cook". So I will still able to conserve water.
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Old 08-03-2021, 09:53 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex in LA View Post
I really liked the use of wrapper around the plate to avoid washing it later part!
The landfill doesn't need more plastic.
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Old 08-03-2021, 10:37 AM   #7
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Trailer: 1999 Casita 16' "Snufkin"
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Glenn - totally agree, but this is in a context of making the trip last longer with limited water supply. If anything, OM's post struck me as an example of thoughtful and considerate camping, only 13 gal of waste in several days?
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Old 08-03-2021, 10:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Penn View Post
...Secondly, I put the rear stabilizers down BEFORE adjusting fore and aft leveling. I was on a considerable slope and needed to raise the tongue of the trailer up a lot. The rear stabilizers worked against my attempt to raise the tongue of the trailer! When I realized my mistake, all of sudden, things were much easier. Put the stabilizers down last, not first!
I'd recommend the following slight modification to your process. The difference is the last three steps.
  1. Level side to side with blocks (or other leveling device) at the low wheel.
  2. Chock and unhitch.
  3. Level front to back with tongue jack.
  4. Dip the tongue 4-6 cranks.
  5. Deploy the rear stabilizers loosely.
  6. Raise the tongue jack back up to level.
Basically you're using the tongue jack to transfer weight onto the stabilizers. The more cranks, the more weight transfer. Using the tongue jack ensures an even weight transfer to both sides versus cranking each stabilizer separately.

Of course the leveling is done first, as you discovered. And I totally agree about scoping the site to find the most level spot you can. The less leveling the better!
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Old 08-03-2021, 10:52 AM   #9
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Casita - 2019 SD17
Idaho
Posts: 134
Plastic and Landfills

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Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
The landfill doesn't need more plastic.
Very true! Tons of plastic goes into the landfills from packaged foods, plastic wrap used in the kitchen, bottled water and other beverages. Very little comes in glass or paper any more. I suppose the alternative is paper plates/bowls which are not recyclable due to food contamination. Camp fires were not allowed. Paper waste could not be burned.

In the northwest, conservation of our water resources is extremely important. I know that Colorado and New Mexico are suffering from the impact the rapidly declining availability of water from the Colorado River.

We have recycle pickup where I live. However, the recycle is very limited. No plastic bags, no plastic wrap, no Styrofoam packing or containers, no glass, no aluminum foil. no plastic containers that were used for oil, insecticides, and other chemicals. As you say, ALL of that goes in our already over taxed land fill.

My understanding, at least for the northwest, is that all of our "recycle" waste is shipped to China where it is processed and reused. What does not make sense is how much fossil fuel is consumed shipping our recycle waste to China? Our carbon footprint is growing, not shrinking with our increasing population and technology.

What is even more alarming are the huge "plastic islands" floating in our oceans.

Plastic has made its way into the food chain. My understanding is that plastic residue and particles are now present in most foods we get commercially.

Even though this rant was not totally focused on FG's or camping, it is definitely an important subject which needs to be seriously addressed by all of us.

Thank you for your point.
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Old 08-03-2021, 11:04 AM   #10
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Casita - 2019 SD17
Idaho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
I'd recommend the following slight modification to your process. The difference is the last three steps.
  1. Level side to side with blocks (or other leveling device) at the low wheel.
  2. Chock and unhitch.
  3. Level front to back with tongue jack.
  4. Dip the tongue 4-6 cranks.
  5. Deploy the rear stabilizers loosely.
  6. Raise the tongue jack back up the 4-6 cranks.
Jon, thank you for your list. Each of your steps make absolute sense. I particularly liked that it was short and concise. I am terrible at concise! I appreciate your taking the time to share. As a NEWBIE, I still have a lot to learn! I am getting up in years. I am wondering how the adage "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" applies here?
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Old 08-03-2021, 12:16 PM   #11
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In the Lower Mainland we have containers for trash, recycling and composting. Food contaminated cardboard or paper containers go into compost.

I don't think China is accepting plastic waste any more.
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Old 08-03-2021, 12:23 PM   #12
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Name: Gordon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
.. Food contaminated cardboard or paper containers go into compost. ..
Ok then.. let me have your address and I will send all my dirty paper plates to you (joking)... Down here they go into the landfill. Only clean cardboard is recycled.

My local market drives me crazy because the sell unshucked corn on the cob in the back of the produce section. But they also sell shucked corn on the cob on those foam trays... four to a package, wrapped with plastic wrap. Those
packages are in the front on display. I don't buy those.

So however we do it, we should make choices to reduce waste.
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Old 08-03-2021, 01:04 PM   #13
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My plan is to have a larger "pot" in the future with a real trivet on the bottom with a lid. I see this as a home made "oven" for camping. I see no reason why I could not bake corn bread or any other item that needed baking.

You need an Ovenette! Search for one on Ebay. Totally handy for baking, warming, and cooking meals.
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Old 08-04-2021, 07:59 AM   #14
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Casita - 2019 SD17
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Ovenette for camping

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Originally Posted by herons View Post
You need an Ovenette! Search for one on Ebay. Totally handy for baking, warming, and cooking meals.
Thank you. I immediately checked out eBay per your suggestion. What I found was the West Bend Ovenette. I did not find any stove top units available for sale . . . yet. I will keep looking. My search revealed that apparently they are a vintage item only and not in current production by anyone.

I have a Coleman collapsible oven I carry with me. For heating a muffin, the Coleman is a bit of overkill in my estimation and would use a lot more propane to achieve the same result.

My solution of using a pot serves a double purpose. I can use as it for its designed purpose, or by adding a trivet in the bottom, it can also be used as an small oven on top of my trailer gas stove or my camp stove. The pot I would use hopefully will have a thick stainless steel bottom to both hold and disperse the heat evenly.

I added an image of of my Coleman oven as well as one of the Ovenettes I found.
Attached Thumbnails
Coleman Camp Oven 61FklYeiQ-S._AC_SL1000_.jpg   fd089f6d37569c6dfaa6280513bbf63f.jpg  

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Old 08-04-2021, 11:15 AM   #15
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Ovenettes are totally vintage! Check out the Ladies Ovenette Society page on Facebook.
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Old 08-07-2021, 10:42 AM   #16
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Name: Brian
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I have an Omnia oven that is quite similar to an Ovenette. Itís a slick gadget that Iíve heated things up in, and Iíve baked breads, brownies, and egg bakes in it. I love mine!
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Old 08-07-2021, 11:32 AM   #17
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Name: skip
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A small pressure cooker cuts down on cooking time (less fuel) especially at altitude, with a steamer tray cuts down on water, and with a trivet can re-heat things quickly. Brown rice in a regular pot takes about 40 - 45 minutes, in a pressure cooker 20 minutes. Vegetables in a pot to steam about 10 minutes. In a pressure cooker with a tray I just bring it to pressure and stop.
I still carry a small pressure cooker on longer back packing trips and kayaking and rafting trips.
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Old 08-09-2021, 10:01 AM   #18
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Loved your post, surprised by how much energy the Maxx fan used. Even connected to solar. Figured the energy draw would be minimal on the maxx fan and solar would compensate.
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Old 08-09-2021, 04:28 PM   #19
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MaxxAir and Solar

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Originally Posted by Ervin in Portland View Post
Loved your post, surprised by how much energy the Maxx fan used. Even connected to solar. Figured the energy draw would be minimal on the maxx fan and solar would compensate.
Several things lead to my power failure.

Since I used shore power to charge the batteries at home before I left to go camping, the lithium batteries were not fully charged because the controller in the trailer only charges them to 13.60 VDc. Full charge for my lithium batteries is over 14 VDc. I am not sure, but I think that it is supposed to be 14.5 VDc, maybe even higher.

The second thing was that my solar panels were probably only about 50 percent efficient in my particular camping location. The constantly shifting sun/shade definitely impacted my use of solar. The cable that connects the solar panels to the trailer is probably only about 12 feet long. This seriously limits the location of the panels.

I did not bother to monitor my battery voltage until AFTER the power loss. If I had been regularly monitoring battery power, I probably would have made more effort to be frugal with battery power. AND, I would probably made a bigger effort to make sure the solar panels were positioned so they were performing as close to maximum efficiency as possible.

Several have commented that I should read my manual for the controller. Generally speaking, I operate on the principle that you only read the manual when all else fails.

A few days ago, I finally decided to read the controller manual. I discovered that I was never given one for the controller. All I have, is an electrical diagram for the power distribution box. On my "to-do" list, is to call Casita and ask them for a manual and the make/model of the controller. The question being, for me, is there a setting to change to controller to charge lithium batteries instead of lead acid or AGM batteries. I may be forced to replace my controller with a more intelligent and newer model.
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Old 08-09-2021, 04:41 PM   #20
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Casita - 2019 SD17
Idaho
Posts: 134
The Omnia Oven

Quote:
Originally Posted by dch View Post
I have an Omnia oven that is quite similar to an Ovenette. Itís a slick gadget that Iíve heated things up in, and Iíve baked breads, brownies, and egg bakes in it. I love mine!
I am well acquainted with the Omnia oven. I became aware of it when I was researching ovens for camping.

I think the main reason I did not opt for the Omnia, is that from what I could see, the Omnia oven is much like a Bundt pan with a lid. I did not like the center opening for a couple of reasons. It limits the space and the size of what you are baking/etc.

That is why I went with the Coleman collapsing/folding oven.

When I saw the post by herons, I was excited, as I felt the West Bend Ovenette was just what I was looking for. It appears to be well designed and quite flexible in its use. Then I was hit with the fact they are no longer manufactured and are "vintage". Now you are paying antique prices for something that seems like it should still be quite popular and therefore still on the market.
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