Category Archives: FYI

A Complete Guide to Summer Camping (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post if from Harsh Paul of the DeepBlueMountain website. In the post, he’ll tell you all about staying comfortable while camping in the summer.

Summer is everyone’s favorite time for camping. There’s not much chance of being uncomfortable due to cold weather, roads are clear, and nature is at her grandest. It’s no wonder that millions of people take to exploring the great outdoors in summer. 

National and state parks and private campgrounds are practically overflowing with visitors during this season. So while you’re out camping, here are a few suggestions that might come in handy. This guide will set you up with the essentials for camping in the summer and enjoying it to the fullest.

Essential Summer Camping Equipment

When you’re going camping, you must pay proper attention to gear. Though summer camping doesn’t usually require being overly thorough, you sure can add to your comfort. The favored form of camping for the modern camping enthusiast is car camping. 

In many cases, you might be able to take your car right to the campsite, or at least somewhere comfortably near the campground. This allows the luxury of carrying more gear and equipment than what a backpacker or hiker would take along. 

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Since your car is doing the heavy lifting, you can be a bit generous with the things you take to the trip. Of course, there’s still the element of being sensible and not overdoing things. You don’t want a cartoonishly over-packed car. You may also want to enjoy a backpacking or hiking trip on the trails near the campground. Here are some essentials for your camping trip.

1) A Tent

It’s always worthwhile to get a quality, waterproof tent. You never want to be caught unprepared in rain – and this is where the quality aspect is important. Check the waterproofing of the tent and also see if the tent needs additional waterproofing and seam sealing. Depending on the specific tent, even new ones may need user intervention before they’re considered waterproof. 

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

The most important aspect, however, is ventilation. Summer weather tends to be hot and stuffy. Tents with poor ventilation are going to be hell to spend time in. Most summer or three-season tents come with a mesh body or at least a mesh roof. This helps ventilation, but there’s a limit on how much mesh you can expose before privacy becomes a concern. 

Tents that have vents, preferably at the floor and the roof are better choices. Make sure the windows and/or the door have no-see-um mesh that keeps bugs out.

2) Boots And Socks

There’s a good chance your camping trip will involve a fair amount of walking. Good shoes are especially important if hiking and/or backpacking are in the cards. You’ll need good boots that are strong, sturdy, and capable of handling rough terrain. Some heel support is necessary and waterproofing is very helpful.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Socks are also important. People often wear quality boots, but ignore their socks. If you’re going to spend substantial time on your feet, ditch the cotton socks. Socks with at least 30% wool blend are great. Performance socks made with synthetic materials and designed to offer foot support are better!

3) Emergency And Communication Devices

If you’re headed to a campground with a spotty or non-existent cellular network, think of other communication devices. A simple walkie-talkie can be sufficient for communication among your group. 

However, more sophisticated communication devices are necessary if you’re headed to a remote campground or trail. Depending on your budget, your options could be a satellite phone (expensive) or personal locator beacon (inexpensive).

4) Food And Utensils

Food, water, and utensils are an absolute necessity. If you’re carrying perishables, use them up within a day or two. Better yet, bring a quality cooler along so the perishables can last longer. Another benefit of a cooler is that it can keep your beverages cold for a long time.

Special eating utensils for camping may not be necessary if you’re car camping. However, backpackers and hikers should get specialized lightweight utensils for their travels. Don’t forget to carry along some snacks to munch during the day and to enjoy by the bonfire with the group in the evening.

5) Sleeping Bag And Other Necessities

Carry a sleeping bag and clothing that can keep you comfortable at night. Sure, we expect summer nights to be hot. However, a lot of campgrounds do see cool (and even cold) nights. Know about the campground you’ll be staying at and expected temperature so you can stay warm at night. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Other things you should have are a flashlight and a lantern with extra batteries. Necessary gear also includes sleeping pad, multi-tool, and duct tape. A small knife can be useful, but is optional.

Summer Camping Hacks For A Better Experience

1) Cooling Your Tent

There’s always a chance of getting uncomfortably hot during summer camping, so it’s useful to know how to cool your tent without electricity. A few simple ideas like selecting a shaded tent location and creatively using the tarp can help keep the tent more comfortable.

Many campgrounds don’t have electric access, so some careful planning can go a long way in ensuring a comfortable adventure without an electric fan or air conditioning.

2) Always Have A Change Of Clothes

Consider changing into different clothes at night. Clothes you wore during the day could be sweaty and slightly wet, even if they don’t feel that way. This can end up making you uncomfortably chilly during the night. 

Let your day clothes dry by removing them and keeping them inside your tent and shift into new clothes for the night. None of your belongings should be left unattended in a campground .

3) A Mosquito Mesh Is Your Friend

A tent with no-see-um mesh is necessary for comfort. With no-see-um mesh, you can keep tent windows or doors open whenever you wish, without the threat of getting invaded by bugs. However, some areas can be particularly prone to mosquitoes. In such cases, having a mosquito net or mesh will ensure a comfortable sleep.

4) Make Reservations

Modern campgrounds are busy and overflowing with visitors. Many popular locations are booked up to for six months in advance. If you’re planning a trip, make reservations. This stands true even if you’re going to a relatively quieter campground. A reservation ensures you won’t be far from home with no place to stay.

Summer is the most popular and common camping season. It’s ideal for exploring the outdoors, and this guide is intended to prepare you for the best experience. A few simple ideas and adjustments can make a world of a difference. 

Harsh Paul is an avid hiker, backpacker, and camper. When not exploring the great outdoors, he uses his time time completing home improvement projects. Currently, he’s self-isolating for a better safety and health approach.

10 Essential Items For Kids On A Road Trip (Guest Post)

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While now is not really the time to take a recreational road trip with or without children, we can dream, plan, and scheme, right? If you will be traveling with children sometime in the future, today’s guest post from Cristin Howard of the Smart Parent Advice website will help you decide what items to pack to keep the little ones happy on the road. When the kids are happy, the parents are happy, and this blog post will help keep the entire family feeling good.

Planning a family road trip can be intimidating. As you prepare for your trip, your head will be swirling with packing suitcases and wondering how to keep your kids happy and comfortable for hours upon hours.

Let us help you get organized by assisting with your packing lists! Here are ten items to include in your arsenal to help make your road trip a pleasant experience for the whole family. 

Window Shade

One of the most essential road trip items for our family are window shades. Nothing makes children more upset than having the sun shining directly into their faces. Putting a shade on their window helps to dim the harsh rays of the sun while still allowing the sunlight to brighten up the car. 

Rest Stop Entertainment

Pack a drawstring bag with simple outdoor items, such as frisbees, bubbles, and a soccer ball. Any time you need to pull over to use the bathroom, encourage the kids to run around in the grass for ten minutes. This will allow them to use up some of their pent up energy.

Snacks

The day before you leave on your trip, pre-portion the snacks you want your kids to eat during the ride. This will save you from having to dig around in bags and pour and potentially spill goldfish all over your van floor. 

You can use plastic food storage containers for easily smashed snacks such as crackers or soft cookies. Plastic bags are a great choice for pretzels, veggies cut in thin strips, or their favorite dry cereal to munch on. 

Hydration

Make sure each child has a sippy cup within reach and that you encourage your child to drink regularly. You may be risking more bathroom breaks, but there is nothing worse than starting a family vacation with a constipated toddler. Staying hydrated will help their bodies to stay working efficiently despite the long hours of sitting. 

Comfort Items

I highly recommend having your child’s favorite stuffed animal and blanket handy so that when they start to whine and become uncomfortable, you can hand them their comfort items and offer to sing to them. Let them know that it’s okay to miss their beds and you’ll be there to keep them safe.

Books

While your little one isn’t likely to know how to read much yet, books can still offer hours of entertainment while they’re sitting in a car seat. In a sturdy tote bag, pack picture books for your child to look through as well as activity books.  

Some examples of activity books geared for young toddlers are: lift the flap books or any book with buttons to press (as long as they aren’t exceptionally loud for the driver). For kids preschool or kindergarten age, some great choices would be “spot the difference” or “look and find” books. 

Toys

Having a large bag full of entertaining toys is a must when traveling with a crew of little ones. I have found great success with letting my young kids offer ideas of what to pack so they can start to gain excitement for their road trip activities!

Here are a few ideas of what to include in your travel toy bag: magna doodles, puzzles, reusable sticker books, magnetic playsets, interactive steering wheels, or a variety of their favorite cars and realistic plastic animals so they can engage their imaginations.  

Gallon-Sized Zip-top Bags

You may be wondering why gallon-sized zip-top bags are a necessity on road trips. Many kids end up feeling car sick during their travels. When you suspect they are starting to feel unwell, assist them in holding an open zip-top bag and let them use it to throw up into. You can then toss the bag away at the next gas station. 

Media

If your vehicle has a built-in DVD player, you are set up for success. Kids love to watch their favorite shows, and it will make the time pass quickly for them.

If your car does not have a DVD player, you don’t need to worry. Grab some CDs full of well-known kids’ songs, and your family can sing your hearts out as the miles pass by. 

Podcasts are another great option for your kids. Sesame Street, Paw Patrol, and Story Time are entertaining, age-appropriate podcasts for your kids to listen to.

Backpack

Even though you will have bags full of car entertainment for the kids, it will make your life easier if each child also has their own toddler-sized backpack within reach. 

In the front compartment have tissues and napkins so they can help clean up their messes as they snack in the car.

In the large back section, have them choose a favorite book, a special toy, and their most loved stuffed animal. Having these items close by will allow them to have some independence during the road trip.

Don’t Stress The Little Things

Your family has been looking forward to this well-needed vacation. Don’t let the stress of having children in the car keep you from enjoying the road trip. Keep them fed, entertained, and above all, love on them as best as you can in those cramped quarters.

Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.

Physical Distancing Is Still Important

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Are you still practicing physical distancing? Although many states are beginning to “open up,” physical distancing is still important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the New York Times, the Trump

administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks. The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, a 70 percent increase from the current number of about 1,750.

The projections, based on government modeling pulled together by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases a day currently.

The numbers underscore a sobering reality: The United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks to try slowing the spread of the virus, but reopening the economy will make matters worse.

So yeah, it looks to me like things may go from bad to worse in the next few weeks unless folks continue to practice physical distancing.

You may wonder what exactly “physical distancing” (also know as “social distancing”) means. According to the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Physical distancing means staying home, avoiding crowds and staying at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible…

The less time that we spend within 6 feet of each other, and the fewer people we interact with, the more likely we are to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The aforementioned website gives the following advice for practicing physical distancing:

* Avoid any places where a lot of people are together such as gatherings, parties, worship services, and crowded parks.

* Work or study from home, if possible.

* Do not have visitors over or let your children have playdates.

* Avoid health care settings – unless you need services.

* Cancel non-essential health care appointments.

* Avoid non-essential travel.

* Avoid public transport, if you can.

* Avoid close contact with people – instead of shaking hands, come up with other ways to greet people that don’t involve any touching.

I know some of these recommendations are difficult for nomads to follow, especially working from home if we typically pick up odd jobs, seasonal jobs, or house and pet sitting jobs. Avoiding non-essential travel is difficult for us too, as non-essential travel is what we live for!

According to the CNN report “This Is Where All 50 States Stand on Reopening” by Alaa Elassar,

Stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders around country are being lifted in some states.

However, please don’t take this as an indication that it is safe to go out in public and carry on with life as it once was. As Colorado governor Jared Polis warned people during a press conference the day the state’s “safer at home” order was modified (as reported on the aforementioned CNN webpage),

It’s not going to be life as normal.

Many states that are opening up still require nonfamily members to stay at least 6 feet apart. In many places, retail establishments must limit the number of people inside. Please, if you are going back out into the world, follow these requirements, and be cheerful with the employees who have to enforce these regulations.

If you are in a group that is more vulnerable to COVID-19, please consider staying home (whether your home is a sticks-n-bricks, a van, an RV, or some other rig) even if the state you are in lifts its stay-at-home or safer at home order. You are safer at home, even if the state doesn’t mandate that you stay there.

(If you’re wondering what groups are more vulnerable to COVID-19, William Kimbrough on the One Medical website lists the following groups as most susceptible to SARS-CoV-2:

* People aged 60 and older

*People with weakened immune systems due to chronic illness or medications, including people with autoimmune disease or transplants who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, people with AIDS

*People with serious long-term health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and lung disease such as emphysema and moderate asthma)

If you do decide to practice social distancing by staying away from people, what can you do to keep yourself entertained? Isolation is getting more difficult to deal with as we spend more time in one place, get less stimulation, and miss our friends and family. Here are a ten activities you can do alone to stimulate your mind and body and ward off cabin fever until it really is safe to be out in public again.

#1 Write a letter or a postcard. May 3-9 is National Postcard Month, so it’s the perfect time to write a card to a friend or other loved one. If you have more to say, go ahead and write a letter.

#2 Communicate by phone. If you don’t like to write, communicate with your friends and family by phone. You can call, text, or send photos on most mobile phones available today. Use video calls to take your communications up a notch; get recommendations from Dan Grabham‘s article “Best Free Video Calling Apps 2020: Keep in Touch with Friends or Colleagues” on the Pocket-lint website. Marco Polo lets you make videos and send them to the people you want to be in touch with, but you don’t have to engage in a live conversation.

#3 Learn something new or enhance your skills. In April I shared a huge list of “Free Things to Do While You Are Hunkered Down.” From learning a new language to learning to play guitar, this list is sure to give you some ideas of activities you can engage in to keep your mind sharp even if you you’re sitting home alone.

#4 Read up on life on the road. I put together “A List of Posts about Vandwelling, Camping, Boondocking, and Living Nomadically from the Rubber Tramp Artist Archives.” It’s a good place to find links to past articles that tell you everything I know about life on the road. You can also see what other people know about life on the road by reading their blogs. I give you some suggestions about blogs to read in my post “10 Blogs by Vandwellers, Nomads, Vagabonds, RVers, Travelers, and Drifters.”

#5 Keep a journal. You might feel as if nothing is happening in your life right now, but you might be fascinated to remember your thoughts and activities during this time of global pandemic one, five, ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. Also, the Positive Psychology article “83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress” by Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc. says,

Journaling can be effective for many different reasons and help you reach a wide range of goals. It can help you clear your head, make important connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and even buffer or reduce the effects of mental illness!

Certainly we could all use those benefits in these trying times!

#6 Practice gratitude. According to the Psychology Today article “Gratitude in a Time of Pandemic” by Zachary Alti LCSW,

Gratitude practice is not only important for making you feel better psychologically during this crisis, it can also help your physical health in response to respiratory infection and in general (especially in older adults who are in a higher risk category for COVID-19).

Whether you write down the things for which you are thankful in a special gratitude journal, jot down gratitudes on your calendar, note everything you appreciate in your regular journal, or simply count your blessings in the morning or at night, being thankful will make it easier to get through these difficult times.

#7 Meditate. The Psychology Today article “Meditation and Mental Health” by Samoon Ahmad M.D. states,

There are physical benefits [of meditation] that appear to be backed up by clinical evidence. According to these studies, meditation can help individuals sleep better, cope with some symptoms associated with mental disorders like depression and anxiety, reduce some of the psychological difficulties associated with chronic pain, and even improve some cognitive and behavioral functions.

If you’re not sure how to start your medication practice, see the extensive list from The Awake Network, “Free Online Meditation Resources for Times of Social Distancing / COVID-19.” Many of these teachings, practices, and other resources are being shared at no cost.

#8 Practice yoga, which is beneficial to both the body and mind. The Thrive Global article “Yoga Poses for Stress Relief During COVID-19” by Lindsay McClelland says,

As COVID-19 continues to spread we’ve all experienced change and stress in our lives…there are things we CAN do when confined to our homes, and luckily yoga is one of those things. In addition to being a form of exercise that doesn’t take up much space or equipment, there are specific poses that can help reduce stress in the mind and the body.

If you find videos more helpful to learn how to move your body, try Daily Yoga Practice for Stay at Home Covid-19 Quarantine | Yoga with Melissa on YouTube.

#9 Spend some time in the sunshine. Even if you practice yoga or do other exercise inside your house, it’s important to get outside and get some sunshine too. In the article “Get Sunshine and Fresh Air While Sheltering in Place” on The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website, author Whitney Christian, MD points out

Direct sunlight is our bodies’ main source of Vitamin D, which has been known to help fight off osteoporosis, cancer and depression. Even just a few minutes of sun exposure each day can help increase your levels of Vitamin D…Taking advantage of sunlight can help ease muscle aches and cramps, strengthen our bones and improve our moods…Spending time in the sun also can help you recover faster from an illness or injury. Studies show that those exposed to more natural light have quicker recoveries and experience less pain than those exposed to artificial light.

#10 Take a hike. If you can safely go outside, seize the opportunity. In the American Hiking Society article “Hiking Responsibly: Frequently Asked Questions for Hiking During the Covid-19 Pandemic” explains,

spending some time outdoors every day (we recommend at least 10 minutes) is an excellent way to take care of your mental and physical health always, especially now. 

If you live in a rural area, you might have abundant access to open space and trails. In that case, if the park or trail you want to use is open, not crowded, and within a quick drive of your home (so that you don’t have to stop for gas, restroom breaks, supplies, etc.), then, yes, visiting such places for a day hike is fine as long as you practice strict social distancing and are following the guidelines of your local government and the federal, state, or local land manager. However, right now, we can’t risk diverting emergency medical care to wilderness injuries, so we urge that you only take an easy day hike in the front country.

Avoid parks or trails that have become crowded, even if the area is officially open.  If the parking lot is crowded, there are already too many people there. Turn around and find another location or go home.  Not only does crowding make it impossible to follow social distancing, but it puts extra wear and tear on trails and other park infrastructure at a time when volunteer crews cannot be operating. 

I hope these suggestion help you continue to practice physical distancing as long as it may be necessary for you. Please keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Stay home until the danger has passed.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the toolbar to the right or go to Patreon to become my patron.

National Postcard Week 2020

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I created this postcard to celebrate National Postcard Week 2020. How are you going to celebrate this week?

National Postcard Week started yesterday and continues through Saturday. Never heard of this “holiday”? Don’t worry. I’ll tell you all about it.

I created this postcard too.

According to Wikipedia,

National Postcard Week is an annual event to promote the use of postcards, held in the first full week of May since 1984.[1][2] Started in the US, it is also celebrated by deltiologists in other countries.[3] Special commemorative postcards have been printed for Postcard week by various organizations, especially postcard clubs,[4][5] since as early as 1985.[6]

A 2018 article about National Postcard Week on the Modern Postcard blog offers information about the history of postcards. Postcards in the United States got their start in the 1800s.

…on February 27, 1861, the US Congress passed an act that allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or under, to be sent in the mail. During that same year, John P. Charlton copyrighted the first postcard in America.

I created these cool postcards as well and sent them out in time for Valentine’s Day.

Author Jessica Biondo goes on to say that over time postcards

became colorful, collectible and more complex, and they were even used as prizes and travel souvenirs!

I didn’t create these postcards. I bought them at the supermarket. They have proven quite popular for trading.

Postcard styles changed and developed over time. Here are the three eras of postcards as laid out by Biondo:

The Early Modern Era of postcards was 1916-1930, known as the white border period. American printing technology had advanced, creating higher quality postcards with white borders around the featured picture.

The Linen Card Era of postcards was 1930-1945, enabling publishers to print postcards on linen paper stock with brilliant colors…

The Photochrom Era of postcards is 1939-present, remaining as the most popular era of postcards today when it comes to quality print reproduction.

I designed this postcard featuring a photo I took of the New Mexico state insect, the tarantual hawk wasp.

I couldn’t find much about National Postcard Week 2020 online. A seller on eBay has a couple of National Postcard Week 2020 postcards for sell, and there is a National Postcard Week swap on Swap-bot. Maybe the COVID-19 global pandemic is overshadowing postcards this year.

I did find out a little more history of National Postcard Week from the aformentioned swap on Swap-bot.

National Postcard Week was the brain child of: John H. McClintock; DeeDee Parker; Roy Cox and Richard Novick and others. It began in 1984 as a way to promote our hobby.

Cool! It’s nice to be able to link some fellow deltiologists to the origins of the celebration.

I won these lovely ParcelTonguePaperCo postcards in a giveaway.

Wait! What’s a deltiologist? I’m glad you asked.

According to Wikipedia,

Deltiology (from Greek δελτίον, deltion, diminutive of δέλτος, deltos, “writing tablet, letter”; and -λογία, -logia) is the study and collection of postcards. Professor Randall Rhoades of Ashland, Ohio, coined a word in 1945 that became the accepted description of the study of picture postcards.[1][2]

So if deltiology is the study and collection of postcards, a deltiologist is a person who studies and collects postcards. I don’t actually study or collect postcards, so I guess I’m not actually a deltiologist. I am a postcard enthusiast, but I don’t have a formal collection, and I don’t study the cards I receive or send. I enjoy the social aspects of postcards. I like sending and receiving mail. I like brightening people’s day with postcards, and I like having my day brightened too, but nothing about postcards is serious or academic to me.

I first heard about National Postcard Week last year on Instagram. I swapped postcards with a couple of people who had created special cards for National Postcard Week. I was impressed by folks who went to so much trouble to celebrate the week.

I receive this postcard last year during National Postcard week. It came from @mailboxmayhem in sunny central Texas.

I decided last year that I wanted to create my own postcards for the 2020 National Postcard Week. In February I started the process. I went to Vistaprint and figured out how to upload my photos to my account. Once I picked out the right template for my card, I added my photos and appropriate text. It was all really easy.

I ordered 100 copies of my postcard. I ended up sending out about 65 of them. The rest I gave to people I suspected would otherwise not send out postcards during the special week. It was fun to send my cards out into the world one way or another.

I encourage you to send out postcards this week too. They don’t have to be specially designed cards that you paid to have printed. Just use any postcards you have or can buy. (I sometimes buy touristy postcards at larger supermarkets and even Wal-Mart.) Heck, you can even make your own postcards from food packages you have around the house.

I made these postcards from a Boca burger box.

(If you want to make your own postcards, keep the postcard requirements from the United States Postal Service in mind. According to Mailing.com, to qualify for the postcard rate of 35 cents,

a mail piece must be rectangular and meet these dimensions:

At least 3-1/2” high X 5” long X 0.007” thick

No more than 4-1/4” high X 6” long X 0.016” thick

Meet those requirements, and you’re got yourself a postcard!)

Whatever postcard you end up with, write “National Postcard Week 2020” on it somewhere, and you’re good to go.

Is it strange to be celebrating postcards in a time of global pandemic? I think not. Sharing postcards makes total sense in these difficult times. Now more than ever I think people want tangible proof of their connections with others. They want to hold on to something that says, “I love you”; they want to be able to sleep with some small token of affection under their pillows.

I had this postcard made to promote my blog.

Happy National Postcard Week from the Rubber Tramp Artist.

A List of Posts about Vandwelling, Camping, Boondocking, and Living Nomadically from the Rubber Tramp Artist Archives

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It’s a tough time to be a nomad because we’re all grounded right about now.

Where are you hunkered down during the COVID-19 pandemic?

If we’re not hunkered down at our home base, we may be staying with friends or family members. Some of us may be self-isolating in a still-open campground or while boondocking on public land. In any case, we’re not out and about as much, not able to see new things or visit new places.

Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast

If you want to be productive while you practicing social distancing, I’ve compiled this list of Rubber Tramp Artist blog posts of particular interest to nomads, vandwellers, vagabonds, rubber tramps, RVers, drifters, and travelers of all kinds. You can use these posts to learn about everything from safety on the road and how to prepare for disasters to how to deal when the weather is bad and how to train your canine companion for life on the road. Especially if you are just beginning your nomadic journey, these posts can help you prepare for a nomadic life.

So here we go. Browse this list to find posts you missed and posts you want to revisit so you’ll be ready when it’s time to get back on the road. (I’ll also include some photos from my travels for your viewing pleasure.)

Mountain, southern New Mexico

If you don’t understand what all the fuss is about with this coronovirus and COVID-19, check out the post Living Nomadically in the Time of COVID-19 for information about what the pandemic we are currently experiencing means to individuals and to all of us.

Red flowers, location unknown

Before you hit the road, familiarize yourself with the basics of living nomadically. From lingo to budgets and all the preparation in between, these posts will help you get ready to go.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

If you don’t already have a rig, these posts may help you choose the rig that’s right for you.

Lake Isabella, California

Many nomads are going to have to work, at least part time. These posts will offer you tips on getting a variety of jobs, from camp host to house sitter to human guinea pig.

Adobe at sunset, New Mexico

Staying safe is important to everyone, especially when driving a large, powerful rig or living alone. Check out these posts for tips on staying safe while living on the road.

Arizona beetle

Maintaining mental health is extremely important too. These posts will offer advice for staying mentally healthy while you travel.

Gate and Ute Mountain, New Mexico

Unfortunately sometimes disasters happen. Here are some precautions you can take to help you avoid disasters.

Pine tree on Dome Rock, California

It’s important to know what to take with you when you hit the road. Here are some of the things I recommend.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

It’s also important to know what to leave behind before you move into your rig and how to organize the things you decide to keep. These posts can help you purge and organize.

Waterfall, Oregon coast

When you’re living on the road, you’ll find yourself dealing with the impact of the weather. These posts will help you stay comfortable when the weather is less than pleasant.

Tule River, California

Need help staying busy and connected while traveling? These posts will help you find things to see and do while you’re on the road, as well as help you stay connected to other people.

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado

If you’re traveling with a companion animal (or more than one!) or if you’re considering getting one to join your nomadic life, these posts may be helpful

Goose on the water

If you’re traveling in a travel trailer, these posts might be of special interest of you.

Giant sequoia, California

So you want to go camping…Whether you’ll be sleeping in a tent or boondocking in your van, travel trailer, fifth wheel, or motorhome these posts will help you have an enjoyable experience.

Mesa Arch, Canyolands National Park, Utah

Now that you know how to camp, I’ll tell you where to camp. These are campsites I’ve actually been to, most of which I have spent at least one night at. Many of these campsites are free.

Joshua Trees, California

If you want to learn from other nomads, check out these interviews, as well as the post all about blogs written by other vagabonds, nomads rubber tramps, and van dwellers.

Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

I hope this post helps you pass the time and sends you on your way to so much good information. If you read all of the posts listed here, by the time you come out of self-isolation you will be totally ready to hit the road.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the toolbar to the right or go to Patreon to become my patron.

I took the photos in this post.

Free Things to Do While You Are Hunkered Down (Blog Post Bonus)

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Some people get bored when they have to stay home. If you find yourself in this situation, today I will share with you things you can do for FREE if you have internet access.

The idea for this post came from my friend Laura-Marie who writes the blog dangerous compassions. (Go ahead and add that blog to your list of things to read now that you have some time on your hands. It’s good!) Laurie-Marie offered to share a list of free learning resources she knew about. I’m using her list and adding free things I’ve heard about too. I hope you find some activities to enjoy here. (Also, I’ll include some more beautiful photos from my collection for your viewing pleasure.)

Cholla

The first six resources and commentary were provided by Laura-Marie.

Clozemaster is a free language learning website offering sentences with one word missing, and you fill in the world multiple choice style. You’re informed whether you entered the right word, then hear someone speak the sentence. I enjoy that it’s a different approach from usual–I like variety in my language learning attempts.

Duolingo is a free language learning website that offers a ton of languages and is fun and easy to use. Like any way of learning a language, different people’s minds are helped by different methods. I don’t do well learning verbs through this website, but otherwise, I find it helpful for my study.

Sea creature

Librivox is a website for free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. The audiobooks are available for download. You can listen, read aloud, or both.

Project Gutenberg is a library of free public domain ebooks–great for if you suddenly need to read Paradise Lost and got rid of your copy from college countless moves ago.

Bee and flower

Open Culture lists “the best free cultural & educational media on the web.” Laura-Marie says, “This list of free online courses is long.” The website says it lists “1,500 online courses from universities like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Oxford and more.” You can also find 1,150 free movies, 700 free audiobooks, 800 free ebooks, and 300 free language lessons.

The #freepermaculture website offers “free online permaculture courses [to] help you create ecological gardens and homesteads and connect with a global community of co-learners, innovating hands-on solutions and envisioning a sustainable future, together.” Laura-Marie says, “I’ve been enrolled in this free online year-long permaculture [course] for about six months. I love how it’s packed with information [and] well-organized. Also, it’s special because it’s taught by women instructors. I enjoy the lady-friendliness. Each lesson has bonus material at the end, with plenty of essays to read, diagrams to see, videos to watch.

Carrots grown without chemicals in a home garden

The rest of the resources and commentary are by Blaize.

Another source for free courses is the Saylor Academy. The website says you can “Build new skills or work toward a degree at your own pace with free Saylor Academy courses.”

A third source for online learning is Courses.com. This website offers a collection of free online courses from top educational institutions for anyone to take.

For more free options for learning a language online, read Larry Kim‘s article “9 Places to Learn a New Language Online for Free.” (Kim also mentions Duolingo and Open Culture.) Also check out FluentU‘s article “49 Free Language Learning Websites That Are Almost Too Good to Be True” by Jakob Gibbons. (You can also get a free 14 day trial to FluentU, which brings you “real world video content that’s entertaining, timely, and ideal for language learners.”)

Arizona palm tree

Want to build, craft, or create something but you’re not sure how? Want to learn how to prepare food? Instructables offers step-by-step instructions to help you complete a wide range of projects. I used instructions from Instructables to learn how to make infinity scarves on my round knitting loom.

Skillshare offers thousands of free online classes on topics including design, business, photography, drawing, cooking, and more.

Another place to learn for free is at wikiHow. I often use the wikiHow website as a source when researching for blog posts. The wikiHow website says,

Since 2005, wikiHow has helped billions of people to learn how to solve problems large and small. We work with credentialed experts, a team of trained researchers, and a devoted community to create the most reliable, comprehensive and delightful how-to content on the Internet.

Tulips

Many museums around the world–including Detroit Institute of Arts; the Galleria dell’Academia in Florence, Italy; The Dalí Theatre-Museum; and the National Museum of African American History and Culture–offer virtual tours. To find out how to view collections from the privacy of your own home, see the Upgraded Points article “The 75 Best Virtual Museum Tours Around the World [Art, History, Science, and Technology]” by Jarrod West.

You can also take a virtual tour of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, one of my favorite places.

Cacti

If you’d rather look at animals than art, check out the extensive variety of animal cams available on the EarthCam website. Here you can find cams to let you view everything from bison to giraffes, pandas to tigers. Here you can even find the Michigan Snowman Cam! (Is a snowman an animal?)

The EarthCam Webcam Network also offers you peeks into places aross the United States and around the world. Missing Lake Michigan? Check out the Lake Michigan Beach Cam. Wish you were at the beach? Check out the Hawaii Surf Cam.

Waves from the Oregon Coast

Many aquariums also have cams to check out. Some aquarium cams you can watch are available from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (with ten live cams to choose from including the aviary cam, the coral reef cam and the moon jelly cam); the Aquarium of the Pacific ( including Shark Lagoon and penguin habitats above and below water); and the Seattle Aquarium (harbor seals! sea otters!) Other aquariums offer cams too. Simply search “aquarium cams” and see what pops up.

If you’d rather watch opera than animals, many opera companies are offering free streaming of performances right now. David Salazar has compiled “A Comprehensive List of All Opera Companies Offering Free Streaming Services Right Now” for the OperaWire website.

Garlic growing

If you want learn more about music including songwriting, music theory, playing guitar, music history, and so much more, see Class Central‘s list of 200+ free online music classes. (According to the website, “Class Central is a search engine and reviews site for free online courses popularly known as MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.”)

If you want to narrow down your search for music classes, check out Springboard blog’s post “The 30 Best Free Online Music Courses” by Rajit Dasgupta. The post ends with a list of five other free resources for musicians.

Fender (as in guitars) is currently offering three months of free guitar lessons. (No credit card needed.) If you want to sample what Fender has to offer before you commit to three months of lessons, you can try out the three levels of online lessons the company offers for free via video.

Other places to check out free guitar lessons include Justin Guitar, Guitar Compass, and Guitar Lessons.

Blue

Writers who want to hone their abilities should check out Class Central’s guide to free online courses to improve writing skills.

Folks of any age who like to color can find hundreds of free coloring pages online. Download free coloring pages from over 100 museums and libraries; see this BookRiot article for all the details. Just Color offers “1,500+ Free Adult Coloring pages to download in PDF or to print : various themes, artists, difficulty levels and styles.” The Spruce Crafts provides free printable coloring pages for adults from a variety of sources. Even Crayola has gotten into the act with free coloring pages for grown ups.

For people who want to try painting, Kelly Allen of House Beautiful reports “You Can Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’s “The Joy of Painting” for Free Right Now.

Not only are Ross’s videos a great way to pass the time when you’ve run out of options on Netflix, but you could, in theory, create 403 paintings right along with him…

Not to mention, listening to Bob Ross as he paints a picture is extremely therapeutic. If you’re highly anxious or just overall exhausted, his videos can offer you a calming effect that’s as reliable as a weighted blanket.

If you’d like to learn about shooting photos or videos, Nikon (as in cameras) is offering all of their courses for free during April 2020.

The Bluprint crafting website is offering free unlimited access to online classes and projects until April 16, 2020.

Window

If you want to move your body but need some inspiration, you might want to check out one or more fitness apps. Amy Marturana Winderl, C.P.T. runs down “11 Free Fitness Apps That Will Help You Work Out When Your Living Room Is Your Gym” for the Self website. You can also try a free live-stream workout; Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN shares “25+ Fitness Studios and Gyms Offering Live-Stream Workouts During the Coronavirus Outbreak” on the Good Housekeeping website. (Note: Some of these apps and classes typically cost money but currently are offering free trials.) You can find a free 38 minute gentle yoga flow video on the YogiApproved website or check out TCK Publishing’s list of “15 Free Online Yoga Classes.”

Pink flowers on tree

Before I wrap this up, I want to encourage you to also check out TED Talks, the Stuff You Should Know podcast (and everything else in the How Stuff Works family), and YouTube as other great places to learn about a variety of topis. There are also lots of good suggestions on the Business Insider post “The 43 Best Websites for Learning Something New,” a “list of great knowledge sources, inspiring blogs, tools, communities and course platforms that will help you discover fresh ideas or master new skills.”

If all of these suggestions aren’t enough for you, check out the extensive list of free things to do while practicing social distancing provided by a librarian from Tennessee State University.

I hope some of these ideas prove helpful in keeping you busy during this time of social isolation. If you know of other resources, please feel free to share them in the comments.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the toolbar to the right or go to Patreon to become my patron.

Yellow

I took the photos in this post.

Happy Blog Posts for Your Reading Pleasure

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In my recent post Update, COVID-19 Edition, I asked if I should “go all COVID-19 all the time.” Reader Janice responded, “Please continue on as nothing is amiss in this world. I love your blog! We get enough COVID-19 info from everywhere!”

With that in mind, today I’ll share happy blog posts from the Rubber Tramp Artist archives. This way you can get lost in reading stories that are cheerful, funny, and uplifting without having to wade through the sad or grouchy ones. (I’ll also include some lovely photographs too, for your viewing pleasure.) This is a gift from me to you to help you survive this difficult time.

Happy Work Stories

Here are some stories about actually having a good day and being helpful on the job.

Uplifting Tales about Hitchhikers

Yep, I pick up hitchhikers. Here are some stories about helping people who just needed a ride.

Places I’ve Been

Here are some posts about interesting places I’ve been, cool things I’ve seen, and fun activities I’ve participated in.

Happy Days and Positive Stories

Here are some stories that are funny and/or upbeat, from times when I was having a good day, from times when I noticed the kindness of humanity. I know we’re all hoping for more happy days ahead.

I took all the photos in this post.

Living Nomadically in the Time of COVID-19

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Photo by Zane Līsmane on Unsplash

Unless you’ve been boondocking deep in the woods for the last month, you’ve probably heard about the coronavirus, Covid-19, social distancing, and the stockpiling of toilet paper. If you’re feeling a little confused about what this all means for you as a nomad, today I will try to help you sort out fact from fiction and truth from fake news.

What is the novel coronavirus everyone is talking about? What is COVID-19?

In the HuffPost article “Here’s the Difference Between Coronavirus And COVID-19,” author Lindsay Holmes explains that the term “coronavirus”

refers to a group of viruses that are known to cause respiratory issues. So even though many are referring to the illness circling around right now as “coronavirus,” that’s not actually the name of the disease…

COVID-19 is what experts are calling this particular disease.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

According to a Standford Health Care FAQ,

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

The same FAQ says,

the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses…named the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, shortened to SARS-CoV-2.

As the name indicates, the virus is related to the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) that caused an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, however it is not the same virus.

Am I at risk for catching COVID-19?

According to the University of Chicago Medicine article “COVID-19: What We Know So Far about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus” by Emily Landon, MD, an infectious disease specialist and hospital epidemiologist, the short answer is yes.

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

It doesn’t appear anyone is naturally immune to this particular virus, and there’s no reason to believe anybody has antibodies that would normally protect them.

Can my pet catch COVID-19 and transmit it to me?

According to the Healthline article “Don’t Fall for These 3 Myths About the New Coronavirus” written by Joni Sweet and fact-checked by Dana K. Cassell,

“You’re not going to get a dangerous human coronavirus from Fido,” said [Dr. Gregory] Poland [a virus expert and head of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic]. “It’s true that dogs, cats, and most species carry their own kinds of coronavirus, but those are not human pathogens.”

Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19? Is there a treatment for the disease?

The aforementioned Stanford Health Care FAQ says no.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Currently there is no vaccine or specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. However, there are vaccines and drugs currently under investigation. The National Institutes of Health has estimated that a large clinical trial for a vaccine may be available in 12-15 months.

How do I protect myself from COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers the following measures to protect yourself from COVID-19:

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Photo by Curology on Unsplash

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Having trouble avoiding touching your face? Check out the Healthline article “You Probably Touch Your Face 16 Times an Hour: Here’s How to Stop” by George Citroner and fact-checked by Michael Crescione.

What is social distancing?

In the humorous yet informative Forbes article “What Is Social Distancing? Here Are 10 Ways To Keep The Coronavirus Away” author Bruce Y. Lee explains

Social distancing is a public health strategy attempting to prevent or slow the spread of an infectious pathogen like a virus. It includes any method to keep people as physically separate from each other because physical proximity is how many pathogens go from one body to another. This includes isolating people who are infected, quarantining people who may have been infected, and keeping people separate from each other in general.

Who is at greatest risk for contracting COVID-19?

In The Guardian article “Coronavirus: Who’s Most at Risk, What We Can Do and Will We See a Vaccine Soon?” Dr. Tom Wingfield of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine says

heart disease, followed by diabetes, hypertension – high blood pressure – chronic lung disease and finally some cancers were the main risk factors [for contracting COVID-19).

The more of these conditions you have, the greater the likelihood of severe disease that you face.

In addition, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services states

Older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease and those with weakened immune systems seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.

Early data suggest older people [over 65 years of age] are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website lists the following symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

The website says the symptoms can appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

The Healthline article “Everything You Should Know About the 2019 Coronavirus and COVID-19” (written by Tim Jewell and medically reviewed by Meredith Goodwin, MD, FAAFP) elaborates that the cough gets more severe over time and the fever begins as low-grade and =gradually increases in temperature.

What should I do if I contract COVID-19?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The University of Chicago Medicine webpage “What Are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?” by Allison H. Bartlett, MD, MS gives the following suggestions for folks who are experiencing mild-to-medium symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, muscle and body aches, cough, and a sore throat:

…stay at home, self-isolate and rest.

Monitor your temperature and drink plenty of fluids. Continue to wash your hands frequently, disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home and stay away from other people as much as possible.

The hospital and emergency room should be used only by people who are concerned about life-threatening symptoms… If you’re just a little bit sick, the best thing you can do is self-isolate and try to keep the virus from spreading to others.

What should I do if my COVID-19 symptoms get worse?

On the “What Are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?” webpage mentioned above, the author says,

If your condition worsens after 5 days, reach out to your doctor — ideally through a remote way, such as calling or messaging— for advice.

Contact a doctor if you’re experiencing the following symptoms:

Shorness of breath

Trouble breathing

Chest pain

Wheezing

Constant or sever abdominal pain

Confusion

Unable to keep food or liquids down

If any of these symptoms are severe, you should go to an emergency room. If you are over 60 and have other chronic medical problems, consider contacting an emergency room for less-severe symptoms.

Thanks for all the great information, but what particular challenges do nomads face in regards to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Right now, healthy people are being told to self-isolate and stay home as much as possible to help flatten the curve and help slow down the rate of the epidemic. People experiencing mild-to-medium symptoms of COVID-19 are being told to stay at home and rest. What’s a nomad without a permanent home base to do?

I suggest you find a place to hunker down and sit still for a while.

Perhaps you can find a free camping spot in a national forest to spend 14 days away from the rest of civilization. Of course, you will have to weigh the pros of being away from people with the cons of being away from medical attention should you get sick with COVID-19 or some other illness. If you’re generally in good health, you may feel more comfortable taking the risk of going deep into the woods. Maybe you can find a free camping spot not terribly far from a hospital or urgent care clinic. Perhaps hunkering down with a partner, traveling buddy, or members of a small caravan would be a good idea so folks can take care of each other and someone healthy could drive a sick person into civilization if necessary.

This may be a good time to splurge on a campground near a town if you can afford such a luxury. Just remember, you’re at the campground to isolate, so stay out of common areas and away from group activities as much as possible. Campendium has posted a list called “COVID-19 State by State Campground Closures & Responses” to help you decide where to go and what places to avoid.

If you can’t afford to stay at a campground and can’t or don’t want to trek out to the woods, continue blacktop boondocking, but stay away from other people as much as possible. Many hangout spots like libraries, museums, and senior centers have been closed across the country, but you can still hang out in your rig in parks and parking lots. I’ve heard of a Panera that was open but had removed half of its seating so people weren’t forced to sit so close together Maybe you can find a coffee shop with a similar setup where you are. (For maximum stealth, spend your days in a parking lot different from the one you will sleep in at night.)

Another problem a nomad might face is hand washing. Hand washing is all over the news. UNICEF, in the article “Everything You Need to Know about Washing Your Hands to Protect against Coronavirus (COVID-19)” says,

In the context of COVID-19 prevention, you should make sure to wash your hands at the following times:

After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing

After visiting a public space, including public transportation, markets and places of worship

After touching surfaces outside of the home including money

Before, during and after caring for a sick person

Before and after eating

That’s a lot of scrubbing up! What are you supposed to do if live in a rig without running water and a sink?

When I was a vandweller, I kept hand wash water in a Nalgeene bottle or a empty Dr. Bronners soap bottle. I found both of these bottles easier to use and less wasteful than pouring from a gallon jug. I often washed my hands outside, either in my camping spot or in parking lots, and just let the excess water hit the ground.

Worried because you don’t have hot water to use for washing? The aforementioned UNICEF article says,

you can use any temperature of water to wash your hands. Cold water and warm water are equally effective at killing germs and viruses – as long as you use soap!

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

If you don’t have soap, UNICEF says you can use hand sanitizer.

…alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills the coronavirus, but it does not kill all kinds of bacteria and viruses. For example, it is relatively ineffective against the norovirus and rotavirus.

Using…hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol [is] the best second option if you do not have soap and running water

If you are going to be stationary for a while and don’t have hand washing facilities inside your rig, you can set up a hand wash station outside. Put your soap and water in a location where it’s easily accessible and wash up throughout the day. Clip a clean cloth or paper towels nearby. UNICEF says drying your hands is important too.

Germs spread more easily from wet skin than from dry skin, so drying your hands completely is an important step. Paper towels or clean cloths are the most effective way to remove germs without spreading them to other surfaces.

My final advice for you is about what to do with yourself while you are practicing social isolation. For nomads who are introverts, this won’t be such a problem, because we prefer to be away from crowds. However, the extroverts among us thrive off interacting with others and will have to figure out how to amuse themselves until the pandemic passes.

Several of the suggestions in my post “What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?” are suitable for doing alone. If you have internet access, you can watch movies or television shows, often for free. Check out the following articles to help you get free entertainment: “The 9 Best Free Movie Apps to Watch Movies Online,” “How to Watch Movies Online for Free–Legally,”and “19 Best Free Movie Websites.” If you’re able to stream you can attend the Metropolitan Opera for free without leaving your rig. You can also take virtual tours of museums around the world via the internet. Finally, if you like to color and an access a printer, you can download free coloring books from 113 museums.

These are trying times, friends. I hope this information and my suggestions can help you stay healthy, keep others healthy, and maintain your sanity for the duration.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.

Blaize Sun is not a medical professional. She did her best to insure the information in this article was accurate at the time of publication. Things are changing fast right now, and it’s possible this information will be outdated by the time you read it. As always, please look at this blog post as a starting point for your own research. Also, please seek medical attention if you need it. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.

In Praise of LED Lights

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As a van dweller, I used my Luci lights and loved them. The sun recharged them, so as long as I kept them in the sunshine for several hours during the day, I had light at night. I liked that I could inflate the Luci lights and hang them like lanterns or collapse them flat and prop them somewhere close for reading after dark. Each one cost under $20 and served me for a long time.

One of the perks of giving up van life to live in a travel trailer is having built-in overhead lights that come on at the flip of a switch.When we first moved into the trailer, before we hauled it out to our land, we plugged into shore power or used our generator for electricity to run our lights. Once we moved onto our land, The Man installed our solar power system, and the sun provided our light, even at night.

When we moved into the travel trailer, all of the light fixtures were outfitted with small incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are the kind that most of us of middle age and older grew up with. In the article “5 Different Types of Light Bulbs” written for the Omega Pacific Electrical Supply website, Eileen Garcia explains how these bulbs work.

In an incandescent bulb, a tungsten filament glows when the current passes through it, illuminating the bulb. The tungsten filament is surrounded by a vacuum or nitrogen gas… the sudden flow of current causes the filament to heat and burn out. Incandescent bulbs only work for 700–1000 hours and…cause energy waste.

If you’ve ever put your hand next to an burning incandescent bulb (or tried to take one that’s been turned on for a while out of its socket before it’s had a chance to cool down), you know that these things can be HOT! Even the very small incandescent bulbs in our travel trailer light fixtures became very hot when turned on. When I put my hand near one of our burning incandescent bulbs, I could feel the heat even through the light fixture’s plastic cover. It was obvious that it took a lot of energy to produce so much heat.

The Man mentioned getting LED bulbs to replace all of our incandescent bulbs, but I didn’t prioritize this improvement. I thought LED light were outrageously expensive. I thought LED lights for RVs had to come from RV suppliers or at shows aimed at RVers like the Big Tent in Quartzsite, AZ. Guess what? I was wrong!

As we lived through autumn and winter drew near, we found that the sun was no longer charging our three batteries to the level we had enjoyed in the summer. Some nights we had to turn off our lights before we were ready in order to prevent our batteries from discharging to a damagingly low level. The Man thought seriously about how to solve this problem.

The first thing he did was adjust the angle at which the solar panels were placed. According to the article “Optimum Tilt of Solar Panels” by Charles R. Landau,

It is simplest to mount your solar panels at a fixed tilt and just leave them there. But because the sun is higher in the summer and lower in the winter, you can capture more energy during the whole year by adjusting the tilt of the panels according to the season.

The Man did a heck of a lot of work to calculate the optimum tilt of our panels to maximize the amount of energy they could captured during the winter. The optimum angle for our panels was based on our location. Once The Man decided on the correct angle, we moved and tilted the wooden frame our panels are mounted to. (As of now, we have not mounted our solar panels on the roof of our travel trailer. I think that will be a project for the upcoming summer.) When we positioned the frame where he wanted it, The Man fastened supports to the frame to hold it in place. It is certainly nice to have a builder for a partner. An added bonus is his ability to calculate angles.

The second thing The Man did to increase our energy capacity was to move our solar batteries to a warmer spot. According to the Solar Power World article “How to Prepare Your Solar Battery Bank for Winter” by John Connell, vice president of Crown Battery Manufacturing’s SLI Products Group,

Most batteries are rated at 77°F, and their ideal operating temperature is between 50°F and 85°F. Batteries lose about 10% of their capacity for every 15°F to 20°F below 80°F. Their internal chemistries slow down, resistance increases and capacity and charge acceptance drop. This reduced capacity is temporary. However, it can present a problem because most renewable energy systems have the shortest days (i.e. lowest solar production) and highest loads during the winter, when capacity is lower.

When The Man set up our solar power system in the summer, he put the batteries in the storage compartment at the front of the trailer and ran the necessary wires into bedroom where he located the inverter and charge controller. With temperatures dropping and winter on its way, he realized the placement of the batteries was not so good because the storage compartment did not provide much insulation for the batteries. Our batteries were getting too cold (and would get colder as winter progressed); we were suffering the effects of reduced capacity. He moved the batteries to the enclosed storage area under our bed. He built a box for the batteries, sealed it, and vented the battery box into the adjacent storage compartment. When he set up that storage compartment to house the solar batteries, he had vented it to the outside so any dangerous gases that made their way from the battery box to the compartment would escape.

Once The Man adjusted the angle of our solar panels and moved the batteries into a warmer environment, our batteries began holding their charge longer. Success! However, The Man wasn’t finished with his solar power system home improvements just yet. He had one more trick up his sleeve.

The Man started talking about LED lights again. They would really help conserve our energy, he said. I asked him to figure out what lights we needed, where to buy them, and how much they would cost. I figured once we had that information, we could make an informed decision about whether any savings would be worth the cost.

He got on eBay first. He found a listing for 20 “cool white” 12 volt LED light bulbs. The price? $10.50, including shipping. Even a tightwad like me couldn’t argue with that price. We ordered the LED bulbs.

We were excited the day we picked up the bulbs at our mailbox. When we got home, The Man installed them in the two fixtures above our sofa. The lights weren’t very bright, but we decided they would do. They would help us save energy, so we were on board. However, when The Man tried to install the lights in the rest of the fixtures in the house, he ran into a big problem. Our new bulbs did not fit in the other fixtures. Yep, our one travel trailer had two different types of fixtures that took bulbs with two different types of connectors. Frustration! It was back to the drawing board for The Man.

(We discovered later that the first LED bulbs we bought also fit in the reading lights installed above our bed. We were very glad to exchange the very bright lights we had dubbed “interrogation lights” for the more subdued lights from eBay. In other good news, we were able to use a local Facebook group to sell the remaining 16 bulbs we couldn’t use for $8.)

The Man’s next stop was Amazon.com. There he found the appropriate LED bulbs for the rest of our light fixtures. This time we bought ten “super bright” 12 volt “soft white” LED bulbs for $15.49. (I’m not sure if that price includes shipping, if we paid a shipping fee, or if we were using a free trial of Amazon Prime when we placed that order.)

Again, we waited for our bulbs to arrive in our mailbox. Again, we were excited to install the bulbs in our light fixtures. This time: Success! The bulbs not only fit in the fixtures, but they were in fact, “super bright.” They were so bright that in fixtures where we before had two incandescent bulbs, we now only needed one of our new LED bulbs. (I can’t find any information on how many lumens the first bulbs were, but the bulbs in the second batch are 600 lumens each. If you need help calculating how many lumens you need to light up your life, check out the Language of Light article “How to Determine How Many LED Lumens You’ll Need to Properly Light Your Space” by David P Hakimi. Of course, this article is about lighting a conventional home, not a travel trailer since I couldn’t find any articles about how many lumens one might need in an RV.)

The rooms in our travel trailer are so much brighter at night since we put in the new bulbs. The Man can do his detailed artwork now even after the sun goes down. I like having the place well lit too. The quality of the light is better as well. I can best describe the new light as “crisp.” Only in retrospect did I realize that the incandescent lights in the travel trailer when we bought it were yellow and dull, even somewhat hazy. The new lighting seems to be better for my mental health.

The new LED lights also solved our original problem: they don’t use as much energy. I can tell this is true because when I put my hand next to them, I feel no heat. The Trailer Life article “Making the LED Swap” by Kristopher Bunker explains why this is the case.

“Typical halogen lights that are used in the RV industry are either 10 or 20 watts,” said Mike Camarota, president of ITC RV, a company that offers interior lighting products for the RV industry. “In contrast, the LED equivalent lights are 4 or 6 watts. This reduction on energy consumption of 70 percent means less draw on the power circuit of the RV…In dry-camping situations the battery will last longer.”

But the benefits of LED technology go beyond power consumption. Ever notice how hot the interior of your trailer gets when all the lights are on? “Lights produce heat,” said Camarota. “The process of converting energy into light involves two byproducts, heat and light. The difference between LED lights and non-LED lights is not that LED lights produce no heat but instead that they use less energy to produce light. In that conversion process, a greater percentage of energy goes into light emission than heat emission.”

Do I recommend you replace the incandescent lights in your RV with LED lights? Absolutely! If you have $10 to $15 to spare (or even $30, if your RV is larger than ours and you need double the number of bulbs), get yourself some LED bulbs. They will make your solar power last longer, keep your rig cooler during hot times of the year, and require replacement less frequently. Just be sure you check all of your fixtures so you will know if you need bulbs with different types of connectors and determine if you are getting the number of lumens you need to keep your living space as bright (or dim) as you desire. I think you’ll thank me for this advice once your new LED bulbs are in place.

Winter Emergency Kit (Guest Post)

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Winter isn’t over yet! That’s why when Gabrielle Gardiner approached me about sharing her article on preparing a winter emergency kit, I jumped at the chance. Below, Gabrielle tells you what you should have on hand to prepare for the worst should you get stranded in a winter wonderland.

Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

Life on the road is liberating and exciting, but it’s not always easy. There are countless unpredictable challenges you can face, especially in the winter. Road conditions tend to be more hazardous. Frigid temperatures can interfere with the battery and mechanics of your vehicle. You need to prepare for the worst to mitigate your anxiety about potential emergencies while traveling alone in freezing temps.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prepare for being stranded roadside in the winter. The first thing you can do is read The Survival Mom‘s article “How to Survive a Blizzard in your Vehicle.” Secondly, it’s wise to pack an emergency kit to protect yourself, if only to put your mind at ease. When you learn survival skills and feel ready for anything, even the most inconvenient or dismal scenarios won’t seem so bad. Naturally, you should still opt out of traveling during severe winter weather conditions to avoid low visibility, icy or impassable roads, and an increased risk of accidents.

Don’t know where to begin to pack your kit? Make it easy for yourself and use a checklist so you don’t forget any essentials. Try this awesome winter car emergency checklist that you can download and print here.

Photo provided by the author

Just like taking care of your mental wellbeing while living a nomadic lifestyle is important, it’s crucial to empower ourselves through preparedness. In the following sections, let’s outline some of the most important tips to keep in mind as you prepare yourself for a safe and enjoyable winter season on the road. Pack the items into a big duffel bag or storage container and leave it in your vehicle all winter long. 

Food & Water Essentials

Packing a hefty supply of non-perishable snacks can be a lifesaver. Your emergency kit could include favorites like jerky, granola bars, and trail mix. When you’re stuck roadside in a pretty isolated area, the last thing you want to deal with is feeling miserably hungry. Keep in mind that whichever snacks you choose, be sure they don’t freeze easily. You won’t be happy trying to consume something that’s rock solid frozen with little chances of defrosting. Of course, water is another essential item to keep in your car kit. Again, to prevent it from freezing and being undrinkable, keep the water in a soft-sided insulated container and wrap that container in an emergency thermal blanket.

Snow Tools & Safety Items

If you don’t already have an arsenal of snow tools, you’ll want to invest in some for your kit. Buy a collapsible snow shovel so you’re always ready to dig your tires out of the snow, or in more serious circumstances, uncover your snow-engulfed car so it is visible to rescuers. Reflective triangles could help you become more visible, too. Plus, you’ll need ice scrapers to keep your windshield clear. A supply of basic tools in a toolbox could also come in handy.

Photo by amir shamsipur on Unsplash

When it comes to safety and staying warm, include an emergency thermal blanket as well as plenty of extra socks, gloves, and winter clothing layers in your kit. If your battery dies and you have to go without heat, you’ll be thankful you have the attire and protection to stay alive. You also can’t forget a flashlight, batteries, and matches for situations when you don’t have light or heat. Be prepared to treat your own minor injuries if necessary, and keep a first aid kit on hand as well.

Miscellaneous

One of the best ways to feel self-sufficient and empowered is to know how to jump your own vehicle. Otherwise, you have to rely on the kindness of strangers helping you out, or you’ll have to get a tow truck involved. If you’ve never jumped a car, you can learn how to do it. It’s not nearly as intimidating or complicated as it might seem. Take a look at the steps on how to do it here. Also, be sure to invest in some jumper cables before you hit the road.

Other key additions to your winter emergency kit: portable cell phone power banks, an emergency contact sheet (because no one memorizes phone numbers anymore), and kitty litter (even if you don’t have a cat.) Kitty litter might seem surprising, but it’s great for tires trying to gain traction in the snow. Or, you could also use sand, road salt, or snow mats to get unstuck.

To Recap:

Don’t forget to include the following in your winter emergency kit:

  • Water 
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Snow shovel & ice scraper
  • Flashlight & batteries
  • Matches
  • Emergency thermal blanket
  • First aid kit
  • Toolbox
  • Reflective triangles
  • Phone charger
  • Jumper cables
  • Kitty litter

Living nomadically is incredible, but it can be a nerve-racking and unpredictable experience sometimes. You owe it to yourself to be prepared for anything. Hopefully, this guide to putting together a winter emergency kit can help you out this season.

Gabrielle Gardiner is a digital content creator who is passionate about developing helpful and compelling stories. She calls Manhattan home but loves escaping the big city to experience nature as often as possible.