Summer Roadtrip: Preparation

We completed our second preparatory camping trip out to Perry Lake last Saturday. It was just a one-nighter but allowed us to accomplish what we needed to as well as get home before an approaching storm hits.

We used the travel trailer in a form which is called “boondocking” were we are untethered to outside water or electrical lines. Water was not too much of an issue. When we pulled up on our campsite, I connected my hose and filled our fresh water tank. The travel trailer has a water pump that can be turned on/off and pumps water through the water system when a tap is turned on (kitchen sink, shower, or toilet).

When the travel trailer is not connected to electricity, the refrigerator runs off the propane tank. I had the refrigerator running off propane since Wednesday and its consumption of propane was minimal. I feel confident that we will not have any issues keeping the refrigerator going.

Not being connected to electricity also means the on-board batteries are being used. I have two 6-volt golf cart-style batteries that seem to be doing a good job. I initially wanted to use four but there was not enough room for a battery box to hold all four. The two seem to be pulling their weight. Now that I have switched to LED lights inside the trailer, lighting isn’t going to be my number one consumer of power. The water pump does pull quite a bit off juice.

To mitigate the power consumption that I will be dealing with I have a 180 watt solar panel. The travel trailer is pre-wired for a Zamp solar panel and that is what I went with. Setting up the panel is very straight forward. The panel folds in half for storage and comes with a slim, protective case. To set it up, the panel is unlatched, folded out, and has legs that can be set up to prop the panel up. Built in to the panel (on the back) is the charging device that gives a read out of the battery’s charge level and the where the panel is in the charging process.

Other items that I have they may draw on my battery power are the girls mini-laptops. The trailer has a 12v cigarette plug above the kitchen counter. I have a small DC to AC inverter that can plug in to this and be used to charge the laptops. However, I think I am going to limit charging these during daylight periods when I have the solar panel plugged in. This should help lessen the big drain the inverter puts on the battery.

The trailer has an awning that is attached to one side which offers nice shade as well as relief from rain. Part of what I wanted to test was having the awning open and setting up a small table with my Coleman stove on it, all under the awning. This capability would be good to have in case it is raining and I want to use the Coleman. Fortunately this all worked well. Another thing I wanted to test was the awning was to attach a weighted stabilizer to both extended ends of the awning. When there is any significant wind, the awning tends to shift around a bit. For a weight, I used a 5 gallon water bag and bungee cords connected to the top ends of either side of the awning. This worked and the awning moved very little despite a fair amount of wind.

Cooking – This continues to be a challenge with me. When the XYL is not with us, I am the head chef. I have had some success with aluminum foil meals. Specifically chicken and vegetables packed into and rolled in foil. I think the key is to turn them about every five minutes, checking the temperature with a meat thermometer after 20-25 minutes. When I am at a location that offers electrical hookups, I will be able to use the microwave.

Packing – I had each of the girls (and myself) use military duffel bags (that have zippers added to them down the center of the bag). That seemed to work well and generally kept everything inside the trailer tidy.

Prep before bed – Before I actually crawl into bed for the night, I need to have all my clothes for the next laid out and ready to go.