Cooking, Heating and a hot shower
To fully enjoy the adventures in the outdoors, food, warmth and a shower make all the difference
We always found a way to cook and keep warm. Our trailer is small and there is very little space to cook and prepare food inside. Sometimes, the weather doesn't leave us many options . The picture is a poor attempt to sell the 'outdoors in style'. It was back then after driving for two days in torrential rain, arriving at a rest area in the dark and waking up in the morning without rain. Preparing breakfast on the Kuradori Induction Plate is 'Style'. And this is exactly what this page is about; a list of appliances that have proven to work 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 endured several days of rain and a daily high below 10 Celsius. We camped when we had no access to a shower or they were closed due to COVID. We camped when it was hot and humid, wet and cold, smokey from forest fires and the site was dominated by mosquitoes, horseflies & blackflies.
We pick products that work in all these conditions and serve more than one purpose. So, here we go.
We bought the Honda Generator in 2018 when we had battery problems. Based on the camping trailer's power consumption, the battery should have lasted several days, but it was drained after 40 hours. We had it checked and it tested OK. We were in the Maritimes and needed a system that worked. So we got this generator. As it turned out, the battery was faulty. We bought an 80 Amp deep cycle lead battery that lasts for over a week. We wrote about our battery problems in the Masterplan to our Jeep Upgrades.
We got the smallest model, the Honda Generator EU1000i. It runs quietly 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. Our essential appliances use less than 900 Watt and we'll talk about them here. This generator has a 12 volt output to charge the car battery. That may come in handy.
Important, always use the highest octane gasoline for small engines. Add a fuel stabilizer when keeping gasoline in a tank for more than 30 days. A generator requires maintenance and a quarterly test run. Other than that, it is very reliable.
Our thoughts about portable power stations. They work great for a weekend. Solar panels will extend time, but they require the sun. We are on the road during the day and we travel early and late in the year when solar power is drastically reduced or the heavy clouds shield most of the solar energy. The Honda Generator was about $1.200. Compared to a power station with solar panels, it is a good deal.
When we bought the camping trailer in 2017, a two-burner propane stove was included. The unit is portable and can be attached to the outside of the trailer beside the door. At first we thought that this was a great idea. It turned out that we used this feature only once. There was no additional surface to place the cooking utensils.
We have already upgraded the trailer with two propane tanks. One we leave permanently attached to the trailer to run the fridge, the built-in heater and the stove when needed. The other is for the stove on the campsite table. Being able to move the stove outside keeps the smell of the freshly caught fish out
We have a screen tent that fits over a table to keep the bugs out, but we rarely use it.
We spent August of 2019 in the Whistler RV Park. The bugs were gone and it can get windy at times. We had no need for the screen tent and a simple tarp covering the table was all we needed. The wind was still an issue. The propane stove doesn't like the wind. The Whistler RV Park has an electrical hookup and plumbing and we made upgrades for next year.
From an evolutionary point of view, we were in the stone age, "Cooking with fire".
In December of 2019, we bought a Kuradory Induction Plate. The decision process was actually very simple. First, we book campsites with electricity whenever possible and second, the Kuradory set included three easy-clean pots. The conclusion, for about $100 we advanced to the "Nuclear Age". We can run the Kuradori on our Honda generator. It uses less than 900 watt.
The cooking takes place just beside the door, on a shelf attached to the outside wall. We used the hangers from the stove that came with the trailer. Turns out that the shelf has many more uses. It is the place for the toaster and kettle when preparing breakfast. The JetBoil fits there, including the wind guard (see Fire Reflector in Updates). It is also our entertainment center.
Reflecting on the 2020 season, the toaster and the kettle were the two most often used appliances. Friends gave us this kettle. They no longer needed it. So was the toaster, a gift from friends. A big thanks to our friends
We were looking for a propane stove replacement. One that runs on a 20lb tank as well as a 1lb propane cylinder. We got the Genesis Basecamp Stove from Jetboil. We use it when the Kuradori Induction Plate is not enough and when we go on overnight trips. After all, we built the Sleeping Platform to go for shorter trips. The stove folds and uses very little space.
Travelling is now much easier. The big stove was awkward and big. To protect the JetBoil from the wind, we built Campfire Heat Reflector It works very well, it is big and sturdy.
So let's think about the water supply. Our trailer came with an outside water connection and a manual pump on the sink that could control the water from the external connection or pump it from the built-in water tank. It did not serve our needs and we removed the fresh water tank. It took up too much space under the rear seat. Then we replaced the faucet with a real single tap faucet, household quality. This tap connects directly to the outside hose connection.
For the gray water, we use the Barker 10893 10 Gallon Tote Tank (45 litres) and a 20 litre tank for the fresh water. Simple to remember, every other time we have to empty the grey water tank.
All water that feeds into the trailer goes through a filter. Canadian Tire carries them for about $40 and last for the whole season. It is a charcoal filter to neutralise the taste and filters some Bacteria, Chlorine, Heavy Metals, Iron, Lead, Odour, Scale and Silt. It does not filter viruses, they are smaller than bacteria.
We do not always have a fresh water connection. That's when the pump comes into play. A switch under the sink turns the power on and off, but the pump will sense the water flow and stops. This is the second pump and it works without a problem, as long as the supply line does not have an air leak. It is the PENTAIR SHURFLO model 4008-101-E65. The black tank is a Flow Control Internal Bladder. The SHURFLOW Accumulator model 182-200. It protects the pump from rapid on-off cycles with low water flow. According to the manufacturer of the new pump, this is not required.
When you have running water in the trailer, you need a grey tank to catch the water. In the Whistler RV Park, we had a water tap that fed into the trailer. Therefore, we have a lot of grey water. We bought some ABS pipes for maybe $30 and all the water issues were resolved. These pipes will travel with us when we know in advance that the site has a sewer connector.
The camping trailer has a built-in heater, Atwood model 7916-II. The unit is too powerful for the small space and very loud. It uses propane and runs on the 12 volt battery. This is the perfect system when no 110 volt power is available. It is not without issues. When we travelled the Trans-Labrador-Highway in May, we needed a heater. The Atwood didn't ignite anymore and we had to start the generator for the 110 volt heaters. With the propane connection and the complex operation of the system, we asked an RV dealer to look at it. They said the igniter is broken but they had no replacement. We couldn't use the unit for the whole 2 month trip.
After disassembling the unit back home, the problem was caused by dirt that likely contaminated the gas burner. A basic maintenance with a vacuume cleaner and the unit was operational again. An RV dealer would charge at least one hour, plus parts if needed or available. The igniter was perfectly fine, actually it was not even tarnished by heat since it was rarely used.
To prevent any further contamination, I created a quick cover for the air-in vent and a plug for the exhaust. This will keep any spiders or insects out of the burn chamber and dust or rain when we are driving. Did you know that spiders are attracted to the smell of gas?
It is obvious that we prefer our campsite with an electrical hookup. We like our heaters quiet and small. Our first heater was a really cheap ceramic heater that stopped working when it was really cold. We upgraded to 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 and sort-of quiet. The heater has two settings and works with the generator when on the low setting. The ceramic heaters are great to dry towels and shoes in the trailer.
We were looking for a small oil-filled radiator for a long time. They are truly quiet. We found some models that were small, but none of them were available in Canada. We don't buy from Amazon, we prefer a reputable supplier that has the know-how and support. We documented our concerns in We Need Stuff.
In February 2022, BestBuy had one for $110 in the size we were looking for. The Costway 700 Watt oil filled radiator performed as we expected. It is quiet and keeps the small trailer at a comfortable temperature even when it drops to the freezing point outside. We turn down the thermostat at night to keep the inside cooler. The perfect solution for our needs, it even runs on the generator if needed.
During the night, we place the heater in front of the door. There is no insulation and the frame is not sealed at all. When we sit at the table, the heater is in front and some of the heat radiates to our feet and legs.
One word of caution, the small unit gets very hot. We can still move the heater by holding on to the stand on one side and the plastic power and thermostat side. We kicked it over by mistake and it kept on working. It was running constantly during our 2 week vacation at Fushimi Lake Provincial Park. The few warm afternoons didn't start the heater, so the thermostat did it's job. With the small size, it fits in the storage under the seat when we're driving. This heater is now a permanent utility in the trailer.
Before we had the oil filled radiator, we bought a heated rubber floor mat from Cozy Products and ordered it online from a local store. We paid $94 for pickup at the store. 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 is uncomfortable, the feet will eventually get cold. We had an insulation pad and carpet that helped. After some research, we found the heated rubber mat. It plugs into a standard outlet and uses 120 watts. It gets very comfortably warm. The rubber mat is waterproof and rugged, designed for garage and warehouse use. The mat remains under the table and we plug it in when needed.
Staying warm in our camping trailer is not a challenge anymore. The Prolite Mini was not built for winter use, although the walls and roof have an unexpected insulation factor. Unlike the windows that have an aluminium frame and the moisture causes dripping. This is a common problem with trailers or small spaces in the winter. We made some simple fixes to cut the moisture buildup on the windows. A plastic over the frame eliminates the dripping. From our travels from May to October, we know that we can keep the camping trailer comfortable and warm with either hydro power or propane and 12 volts.
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. 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 C-cell 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 hose long enough, so you better have 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.
Search for Pump Lake Water and RV and you find many different solutions to the problem.
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.
|First published on October 15, 2020 |
Last revised on September 22, 2022
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