Cooking, Heating and a hot shower
To fully enjoy the adventures in the outdoors, food, warmth and a shower make all the difference for us.
We always found a way to cook and keep warm. We evolved, now we venture the outdoors with style. Our trailer is small and there is very little space to cook and prepare food inside the trailer. Sometimes, the weather didn't leave us many options . The picture is a poor attempt to sell the 'outdoors in style'. When you consider driving for two days in torrential rain, arriving at a Rest Area at dawn and waking up without rain. Making a breakfast on the Kuradori Induction Plate is 'Style'. And this is exactly what this page is about, simple conveniences that worked in our favour. Don't worry, we also include the ones that didn't work out.
We camped at temperatures around freezing and in the snow. We had several days of rain and below 10 celsius. We camped when there were no showers or they were closed due to COVID. We camped when it was hot and humid, mosquitoes, horseflies and blackflies were buzzing and the air was smokey from forest fires. We pick products that work in all these conditions and serve more than one purpose.
When we bought the camping trailer, a two burner propane stove was included. The unit is portable and can attach to the outside of the trailer beside the door. We thought that this is a great idea. It turned out that we used this feature once. Almost all campsites have tables and this is where the cooking takes place.
We already upgraded the trailer with two propane tanks. One we leave permanently attached to the trailer to run the fridge when travelling (or cooking inside). The other can be pulled out for the stove on the campsite table. We have a screen tent where these tables fit comfortably.
The screen tent works well to keep the bugs out and when there is little or no wind. Our screen tent was not built to keep all the rain out, the structural integrity barely keeps the walls and roof up. A big tarp solves the water problem.
There is one flaw with this setup, there were trees all around us. The solar panel didn't really do anything. We had the panel, so up it went anyway. As a bonus, the site had an electrical hookup.
We spent August of 2019 in the Whistler RV Park. The bugs were gone and it can get windy at times. A simple tarp covering the table was all we needed. We still had the occasional problem with the wind, it turns out that the propane stove doesn't like the wind. We were fully exposed to the sun, ideal for the solar panel that is permanently installed on the roof. But then again, the RV Park has an electrical hookup and plumbing.
From an evolutionary point of view, we were still in the stone age, "Cooking with fire". This changed in December of 2019, we bought a Kuradory Induction Stove. The decision process was actually very simple. We had a seasonal campsite for 2020 and the Kuradory set included three easy-clean pots. Friends gave us a kettle they no longer needed. The conclusion, for about $100 we advanced to the "Nuclear Age". We didn't need the big propane stove anymore.
Should we need to cook where there is no electricity, well, we have the Honda Generator. There was one glitch. Running the trailer (inverter) and the toaster and the kettle at the same time blows the fuse in the generator. Now we know. Yes we have a toaster, a gift from friends as well. Reflecting on the 2020 season, the toaster and the kettle were the two most often used appliances. A big thanks to our friends
We needed a propane stove, one that runs on the 20lb tank as well as on the 1lb propane cylinders. We got the Genesis Basecamp Stove from Jetboil. We use it when one plate is not enough and when we go for overnight trips. After all, we built the Sleeping Platform to go for shorter trips. The stove folds and uses very little space.
In 2020, we left the original stove at home. Travelling was much easier, the big appliance was awkward to store. We did however get a heavy cast iron pan and a pot to boil water on the campfire. The cast iron pan is spectacular. In 2020 we spent eight weeks on the road and it worked very well. This is how we cook in style.
The camping trailer has a built-in propane heater. It is too powerful for the small space and too loud. It works very well, but running the heater on the trailer battery will not last for many hours. All the appliances in the trailer work with 12 volt and propane, but one battery charge will not keep it running for a prolonged time.
This was the reason we bought the Honda Generator in 2018. We got the smallest model, the Honda Generator EU1000i. It runs quiet and produces 7.5 Amps or 900 Watts. Not enough for an A/C unit, but we don't have one. Not enough for the toaster or the kettle that draw 1500 Watts, but that's ok. The Kuradori Induction Plate uses 800 Watt and works fine. This generator has a 12 volt output to charge the car battery, that may come in handy. It can power the electrical chain saw if we decide to bring it with us. And it is our power backup should we ever lose Hydro for an extended time at home. This model will charge the battery UPS systems at home as well. These UPS systems are very finicky when it comes to the input-power quality.
A generator requires some maintenance and a quarterly test run. Other than that, it is very reliable. Important, always use the highest octane gasoline for small engines and add a Fuel Stabilizer. Always add a fuel stabilizer when keeping gasoline in a tank for more than 30 days.
It is obvious that we prefer our campsite with an electrical hookup. Heating options are almost endless. We like our heaters quiet and small. We got the Mastercraft Ceramic Barrel Heater from Canadian Tire. It is powerful enough to heat the trailer with outdoor temperatures close to freezing. It can run all night on a low setting, it is safe, it is sort-of quiet.
We were looking for a small oil-filled radiator. They are truly quiet. We found some models that are small, but none of them were available in Canada. We don't do Amazon, we prefer a reputable supplier that has the knowhow and support. We found out that we actually get most merchandise for a better price from a local vendor. The items where we saved money were photo accessories. The products from Amazon have the shipping cost included, that's why there is 'free shipping'. You can get the same product from a local vendors website and have it shipped to the store. Just make sure there is no 'fulfillment' small print on the product order. But this is a story for another day.
We bought a heated rubber floor mat from Cozy Products and ordered it online from a local store and paid $94 with pickup at the store. The same product is $122.41 from Amazon with free shipping. And that's why we don't do Amazon.
We have to give you more background information on this item. The floor in the camping trailer is a sheet of wood with water proofing on the outside and vinyl flooring on the inside. If the outside temperature is 8 degrees, so is the floor. Eating or working at the table is uncomfortable, the feet will eventually get cold. We have an insulation pad and carpet that helps to some extend. After some research, we found the heated rubber mat. It plugs into a standard outlet and uses 120 watts. It gets very comfortably warm, can't wait to actually use it in the trailer. The rubber mat is waterproof and rugged, designed for garage and warehouse use.
Heating a camping trailer is a challenge. The Prolite Mini was not built for winter use, although the walls and roof have an amazing insulation factor. The windows are in an aluminium frame and the moisture causes dripping. This is a common problem with trailers or small spaces in the winter. We accept that fact and made some simple fixes to cut the moisture buildup on the windows. A plastic over the frame eliminates the dripping. From our late September to early October travels, we know that we are comfortable.
Imagine a life without a hot shower in our northern climate. It is ok during the summer months. After all, Canada has an abundance of lakes. But please, do not use any soap when you hop into a lake to get clean. Not for the body and not for the dishes. There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly soap. Please follow the guidelines from Leave No Trace.
We had to come up with a solution for the 2020 summer. The Ontario Provincial Park had all shower facilities closed due to COVID. The provincial parks are our preferred campsites.Taking a shower outdoors poses logistical problems, starting with where to set up, how to dispose the runoff water, where to get the water from and how do we get the water from cold to warm. It turned out that the equipment was the lesser problem.
We bought the Marey Portable 5L Tankless Water Heater. It runs on propane and the only power source are two batteries. The unit is less than $200, plus shipping and taxes. We were sceptical about the 5 liter per minute water flow. When you have 5 liters coming out, you have to supply 5 liters as well. That is by far a more elaborate exercise. But we get to that in a minute.
The Leave No Trace guidelines state that you have to be 200 feet away from water, trails and camp. Not many people carry a 200 feet hose, so you better have enough canisters to take a shower. In our case, we used the hot water for washing hair. We eventually managed to wash and rinse with 10 liters, we had 30 liters available. A shower should be possible with 30 liters, the water flow is good.
So let's think about the water supply. You need a pump and hoses, one going into the water heater, one going to the water supply. The hose into the water heater is under pressure, that's what the pump does. Make sure you have the hose secured with clamps. The water supply is simple, just stick a hose in a canister. We got a pump with auto-shutoff when there is no water flow. This is a standard RV pump and costs around $100.
To fill the 10 liter canisters, you go to a tap and fill them. We designed a system where we can fill the canisters with water from a lake or river. The end of the hose you throw into the lake has a filter to keep the water free of particles. Our solution filters particles, it does not filter bacteria or very fine silt. The pump and the water heater can handle both. A very simple and cost-effective method are ABS pipes, shower scrubber and coffee filter. The shower scrubber are the coloured mesh balls you use for the soap in the shower.
We tested the setup and it is a conceptually solid assembly. There we were at the beach. Connect the pump to the 20 foot hose. Connect the filter to the end and throw it into the lake. It floats. We placed a rock on top of the ABS contraption. We could watch it slide from under the rock and float again. We eventually succeeded. Turn on the pump and fill the canisters. The water looked clean, no debris or particles. Yeah, we have clean water and many parts that are wet and have to get cleaned and dried. The one thing we learned from this - find a tap.
We didn't use the water heater for showers yet. As long as there is a clean lake around, that's where we go. During our two week stay at the Kap-Kig-Iwan camp site, we went for an evening trip to the Clear Lake about 15 minutes away. We usualy had the whole lake to us, nobody else went for a swim watching the sun go down behind the trees. What a great time we had.