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Archive for October, 2011

PostHeaderIcon Converting My Survival Camper To Solar Power. Living Off The Grid.

Since my survival camper  already had half of its power hungry appliances stripped out, I decided to go all the way and remove the rest of the 120 volt junk. The camper had a huge circuit breaker box and a very heavy, large power inverter. The power inverter converted the 120 volt mains power to 12 volts to run the internal camper electronics and lights. All the lights in the camper are already 12 volt. The water pump for the sink and the toilet are also 12 volts. When you plug the camper in at a campsite, the voltage is converted to 12 volts inside the camper.

 

I will not be using this camper at a campsite. And if I ever do decide to visit a normal campsite, I plan to run purely off solar power anyway. The optimum bug out camper should be fully self sufficient. It should not rely on outside power sources.

 

In the photo below you can see the original power control box. It was behind a door, just inside the entry door of the camper. This area will be used for more storage space. You can see some wires attached to the power inverter. I have been experimenting with hooking up a solar panel into the original power box. But the inverter was such a power hungry device that I decided to remove it. Over a period of days it killed my small test battery that I was using. It was just a small 12 volt 7 AH battery I was using to test the lights and electronics in the camper. Even with a small 5 watt solar panel I had hooked up, the inverter killed the battery.

 

Original Electronics Box From My Survival Camper

 

I am using the original camper heater space for a battery compartment and new electronics box. The new battery box is large enough to hold 4 deep cycle batteries and all the necessary electronics. All of the original wiring ran below the sink and through the heater area anyway. It was not problem to simply pull the wires back out and into the new battery box compartment.

 

Below is the photo after I removed the original circuit breakers from the existing power control box.

 

Survival Camper with Circuit Breaker Box Removed

 

Then I removed the power inverter and freed up the rest of the space. You can see all the wires hanging out. These will now be routed back through the wall and into the original heater space, which is now the new battery box.

 

Bug Out Camper Electronics Removed

 

Next I hooked up a fuse box and started to hook up the solar power charge controller in the new battery box. In the photo below you can see the fuse box and the charge controller. The only thing hooked up at this point is the wire to the camper lighting.

 

New Electronics in My Survival Camper

 

Then I took my deep cycle battery and placed it into the new battery compartment. You can see in the photo below that there is plenty of space for 4 batteries and all the control electronics. I temporarily used aligator clips to mount the battery into the new fuse box and hooked up my little test 5 watt solar panel.

 

New Battery Box in My Survival Camper

 

Later I will be fixing up all the wiring to make it more permanent. I will also be hooking up the solar charge controller. The large 89 Watt solar panel will be removable for traveling. There will be a quick disconnect cable leading into the battery compartment. This way the solar panel can be mounted anywhere for better positioning in direct sunlight. I can park the survival camper in the shade, but put the solar panels out in the sun.

 

Anyway, it works for now. I have light.

 

PostHeaderIcon The Survival Camper Project – The Beginning


The idea of a survival camper came up when I was thinking about bugging out into the mountains. At first I thought I would just drive as far as my car would go on a tank of gas and then take off on foot or with a bike into the mountains. The idea was to go ultralight. The biggest concern was food. It is hard to pack enough food for more than a couple days in a backpack and still be able to travel with it. Another concern was defense and food procurement. I could not carry a gun and ammo with me. Even a bow and arrows adds too much weight for long term hiking.

 

So I started to consider a camper of some kind. The first idea was to get a small pop up camper to pull behind my little car. So I started to look for an affordable pop up camper. Of course, this is not comfortable in the winter, but sure beats a tent for long term living.

 

Then I ended up with a pickup truck. This changed things. Size and weight was no longer an issue with a truck. I started to look for any type of camper. The cheaper the better. I was on a budget, but wanted a camper. So I started looking around and found my free truck camper in the classifieds. It was not perfect. But hey, its free.

 

Truck Camper Mounted on 69 GMC Truck

The photo above shows my 1970s era truck camper sitting on my newly acquired 1969 GMC truck.

 

After getting this camper, I started to look around online at what other people have done with their truck campers. I also read about a lot of positive points of having a truck camper. The first point is that you do not need to pay any extra insurance or license plates. It is part of the truck. No extra costs. That leads to another nice point. You can stay virtually anywhere that you can park a vehicle. It is after all on a truck. It is part of the truck. You do not need to unload, park and adjust a camper. Just park the truck. Backing up and maneuvering is also no problem with a truck camper. Your turning radius is not affected as with a trailer camper. Finding parking space is also not a problem.

 

These truck campers may seem small at first glance. But inside these things have tons of space. They sleep 6 adults (according to the owners manual), but actually can sleep 4 – 5 comfortably. There is seating for 3 – 4 adults at the dining table. There is a bathroom with a toilet and closet space. There is another closet. There are many storage shelves, drawers and hidden spaces to store provisions and supplies. There is a fresh water tank. There is a kitchen sink with running water. There is a 3 burner cook stove with an exhaust hood. There was an air conditioner, fridge and a heater. Those were taken out before I got mine. There is a propane tank storage area. In the above cab bed there is a storage shelf above the bed and a storage box at the head of the bed. The master sleeping area is almost 4 foot by 8 foot. It is very comfy.

 

70s Era Coachmen Truck Camper

 

1975 Coachmen Truck Camper

 

In the above photos you can see that the camper was is pretty good shape for its age. From the owners manual I downloaded, it appears to be a 1975 – 78 Coachmen truck camper. The serial number is missing from the outside of the camper, so I had to guess a bit. Sort of looks like and alien from “War of the Worlds” on its three legs.

 

Fridge and Heater Compartments

Above you can see the closet, two drawers and the electrical compartment from top to bottom in the foreground. In the background you can see the missing fridge and heater compartments. This does not bother me because the original fridge was so huge and took so much space. This now opens up a huge storage compartment.

 

Dining Area And Second Bed

Above you can see the dining room table and sofa seating. The table can be dropped and the cushions arranged to make a bed for two adults. There are three more storage spaces under the sofa seats.

Kitchen Counter Area

In the photo above you can see the kitchen area. The stove hood is down because I was cleaning out the fan vent and also patching up a leak. You can see the old water damage on the back wall. Fortunately there was no structural damage yet. The sink has a wooden cover for traveling or to make more work space in the kitchen area when the sink is not needed. There is a 12 volt water pump and a large fresh water storage tank. This camper has fresh running water, but no hot water. There are more cabinets above the sink.

Storage Above Dining Area

The image above shows my survival camper storage space above the dining area. This also folds down to make a bed for another two people. I prefer to use it for storage though.

 

Main Bedroom Area

Above is the photo of the main bedroom area. This is the cab over bed. It fits a queen sized mattress. You can see my fishing pole reels above the window on the shelf up there. There is a seven foot long shelf along the whole back wall that is perfect to hold all my fishing poles.

 

I have been considering the possibility of buying a small fridge. I want to run pure solar power in the camper, so it will need to be very energy efficient. The heater will probably be replaced by some kind of waste veggie oil burner or a small wood stove.

 

Future projects for the camper will include installing solar panels and a battery bank. Installing a Bedini Radiant Energy Generator of some kind to extend the life of the batteries. Converting all the lights to LED. Adding more shelves above the master bed area. Addition of a car stereo system and DVD player. Expanding the above cab storage space a bit. The addition of some sort of heat source. Building shelves in the original refrigerator compartment and putting a door over the space. Moving the electronics control box and wiring to where the original heater used to be and putting a door over the hole. The battery bank will also fit inside the original heater compartment. Under the dining table is another storage space currently only reachable by removing the seat cushions and reaching way down into the compartment. A future change will be to make this accessible through a door instead. Addition of 12 volt 120 mm computer cooling fans to control air flow in the camper. These will each have a variable speed control. And the addition of a solar powered motion sensor security light above the doorway.

 

I will post updates ad the project advances.

PostHeaderIcon Survival Camper Check List – What you need for comfortable living in a survival situation

I decided to make this list as much for my self as for anyone else. I just figured that my own packing list may help someone else. I have been practicing survival and foraging since I was young and have a lot of hands on experience. Many people plan for survival but may not have much real experience. Some people may be in for a shock if that day comes and they head off for the mountains only to find that some very important necessities have been left out.

 

After often spending weeks at a time out in the field during military training in winter with no shelter over me, I discovered that comforts are very important in survival situations. Simple comforts such as a warm pair of socks or a hot cup of tea or coffee become huge. Many backpackers are “ultralight backpackers” and take only the bare minimum essentials for survival. They often trade off light weight for comfort. In the Army I found that comfort boosts moral greatly. The little things like a hot shower that we take for granted become very valuable treats. I love ultralight backpacking, but have traded off some of the weight/comfort ratio in order to have an enjoyable experience.

 

There are many survival packing lists out there. Many of them are quite good and complete. But again, this is my own packing list, made up as I go along. Some items listed will be a sort of wish list for things still to add to my own bug out camper. Keep the camper stocked and leave the items there. It will do you no good to bug out one day with an empty camper. The idea of a bug out vehicle is that you will not need to pack anything if you must leave in a hurry.

 

Maybe this article will help others one day. This will be an ongoing project, so if you are interested, please bookmark this page and check back often. And remember, this is a survival camper checklist. The idea is to have a fully loaded bug out shelter for a quick getaway in an emergency situation, so there are a lot of extras here.

 

Food and Water

Of course, food and water are at the top of the list. After shelter, which we now have in the form of a camper, comes this list. Now, in the northern areas it can get quite cold and often it is below freezing. This presents a problem for food and water storage. Canned foods will freeze and burst. Fresh water will do the same. So I have come up with some ideas that overcome this problem.

 

Another issue that I have found is that after preparing a nice lager of foods, a couple months later moths and rodents had destroyed half of my food storage. This can be a life and death matter if you suddenly bug out and find that you have no food left. Therefore I now vacuum seal my own home dried foods and then put them in air tight Tupperware containers and food grade storage buckets. This will help protect your packaging from punctures and pests as well as helping to prevent moisture and air from entering. Also choose whole grains instead of cracked or ground grain. Whole grain lasts longer.

 

Quantities will not be listed here. This will depend on how much storage space you have in your bug out shelter. More is better. Store as much as you can possibly fit in your survival camper. Below is just a small guideline. Pack as much variety and types of dry foods as possible. Variety will increase comfort and boost morale.

 

Tupperware containers and food grade buckets for storage

Freeze dried foods

Home dried foods such as fruit and vegetables, salted meat, herbs

Rice

Whole wheat

Whole oats

Whole corn

Sugar

Powdered milk. Vacuum seal it in smaller portions for longer storage.

Coffee beans. Grounds can be used, but do not last as long as whole beans. Vacuum seal them if they are not already. Coffee will probably be more valuable than gold for trading.

Coffee filters to filter water. This will take out the larger particles. Socks work as well. A reusable coffee filter can also help, but is not as fine as the paper filters. A paper filter can be used multiple times. (Boil water before drinking).

Iodine tablets for water purification

Cocoa powder

Spices. Get a bunch of different spices.

Salt. Get lots of salt. Good for flavoring and preserving food.

Seeds. Get various seeds for planting a garden. Vacuum seal them to make them last longer. Avoid hybrid seeds if possible. Rotate them out every couple years with fresh ones.

 

 

Cooking Utensils and Cookware

You will need the ability to cook and prepare attractive meals. Do not go out thinking that you will be GI Joe and eat cold dry meals for the rest of your life. In a survival situation people can actually starve to death surrounded by food. Eventually you will become bored with the same meals every day and loose interest in eating. Eating nice, wholesome and warm meals is also a moral booster. Take it from someone who has spent whole winters sleeping with no shelter and eating cold rations. A nice hot cup of coffee or cocoa is heaven on a cold winter day.

 

How you heat your food can vary depending on your situation. But remember that fuel will eventually run out. You cannot depend on that 20 lb tank of propane in your camper to heat your food forever. At best it may last a couple weeks or even a month if you are very sparing. Any fuel source will run out with time. That is why cast iron cookware is a must. Cast iron pots and pans can be placed directly over an open fire to cook your meals.

 

Stainless steel plates and bowls. I choose stainless because it will not break when dropped and is easy to clean up. The down side is that it sucks the heat out of your food rapidly. But how horrible would it be to have china plates and eventually have nothing left due to breakage over time. Plastic scratches with time and gets harder to clean.

Stainless steel silverware. Plastic wears out and is harder to clean.

Insulated stainless steel drinking cups. The ones with a lid on them. These are easy to clean, durable and keep drinks hot or cold.

Cast iron frying pans

Cast iron Dutch Oven. This is a huge cast iron pot with a cast iron lid and legs on the bottom. It can be buried in coals to cook virtually any meal. You can even bake bread and cake in a Dutch Oven.

Stainless steel utensils such as spatula and tongs.

Nut cracker. Funny addition you think. But there are many nut trees in the wild and these provide valuable nutrition for free.

Knives. Get various types of knives. Bread knife, butter knife and steak knife. A large survival knife is good to keep strapped to your leg all the time for defense and cleaning wild game.

Aluminum foil. Lots of it. This stuff is so useful and versatile. You can use it for mirrors, signaling, cooking and more. You can use it to build a solar oven as well.

A french press for coffee and tea. Or single cup plastic filter set. Just add coffee or tea leaves, hot water and you have a nice, hot drink. No messy, wasteful paper filters. Keep it in the original box for transportation.

A large, high quality thermos or two. These will be used to keep hot water all day. This saves on valuable fuel; when you are already heating up water, put extra away for later.

Hand crank grain mill. Make your own flour with whole grains. The grocery stores will be closed. You need to make your own.

 

Heat and Light

Again, your fuel source will eventually run out. It will be nice to have that propane stove or camping stove while the fuel lasts, but the fuel will run out. Some people get an expensive multi fuel camp stove thinking that they can always forage for fuel somewhere. You will find gas, kerosene or alcohol to use. Forget it. Unless you can produce your own fuel, this will run out as well. You will not be the only one with this idea and others will be scavenging around for the ever reducing supply of fuel.

 

An alcohol stove is actually the best idea if you choose a stove. You can always make your own alcohol if needed.

 

No matter what you choose, get plenty of fuel for your stove to last until you are settled into your new living space. It will provide comfort until you get your campsite prepared.

 

Waste vegetable oil lamp. This can be homemade (see our article http://www.thediyworld.com/The_DIY_Vegetable_Oil_Lamp.html ) and burns any veggie oil. You can get tons if it at restaurants for free. And you can produce your own oil later by pressing nuts. Beech nuts were used in war times for their high oil content.

Hurricane oil lamp. These provide both heat and light.

Lamp oil

Camp stove of choice.

Fuel for your camp stove. Get lots of it. As much as you can store. I choose Coleman camp stoves and fuel. They are very efficient and the fuel is cheap. The gallon cans cost under $10. The single burner portable Coleman camp stove burns a very long time on a single fill up. And you can take it hiking if needed on a hunting expedition.

Disposable lighters. Lots of them. Set these to low flame, use sparingly and these things can last a very long time. Forget waterproof matches. They are bulky and single use only.

Emergency fire starter. These are magnesium strips with a striker. You scrape some off, strike a spark and you have a fire. Good for hunting and exploration trips.

Magnifying glass for starting fires.

Solar emergency flash light with hand crank generator. These little things are great for long term use and can also charge a cell phone, radio or other small electronic devices.

Solar oven if you can afford it. If not, make one with aluminum foil. Can be used to cook and purify water for drinking.

Addition to above: dollar store reflective car sun screens make simple solar oven.

Metal grill rack for cooking. These are good for cooking over your camp fire.

 

Clothing and Bedding

Do not forget to take clothing and bedding with you. Clothes wear out. Shoes wear out. You will need extras. In cold climates you will need warm clothes as well. This list takes that into consideration. Get the highest quality clothing that you can afford. Some people buy the top survival clothing from expensive stores. Do so if you can. If not, just take extra because they will wear out. The items listed here stay permanently in my survival camper.

 

Spare socks and underwear

Jacket and sweaters

Sweatshirt

Extra jeans

Shirts, both long and short sleeved

Blankets and pillows.

Extra pillow cases

Sewing kit. You will need to repair those clothes.

Camouflage hunting clothes.

Hat

Scarf

Gloves

Extra walking shoes or boots

Cold weather boots, if in a colder climate

 

Personal Hygeine

Keep all paper products, medicine and vitamins in rigid plastic containers with lids to prevent damage from mice.

 

Toothbrushes

Toothpaste

Soap

Laundry detergent

Dish soap. Works for cleaning surfaces as well in a pinch.

Toilet paper. Get a lot of it. This will be a good trade item for future times.

Paper towels

Deoderant

Washcloths

Bath towels

Hand towels

Dish towels

Dish cleaning rags. Get re-usable ones to save on space and money.

First aid kit. Make it big. Remember the local doctor, if any, may be many miles away.

Bug spray. Catnip works better than the chemical in most bug sprays. Take catnip seeds with you and grow your own organic bug repellent.

Medicine. If you take any medication, stock up on it. Keep it rotated.

Vitamins. Keep it rotated. Use the old, put fresh in storage.

Shaving kit. Extra razor blades and shaving cream. If you use an electric razor, then get extras.

 

Tools

Many people forget this list in their inventory. If you have a camper, then you have the convenience of storage space. Use it. What happens if your vehicle breaks down on the way to your bug out place and you do not have tools? What if a tree branch falls on your camper and causes a leak?

 

Socket set, good quality. Get the best one you can afford. Forget the cheap single use ones that break the first time you pull it out.

Good quality wrench set.

Hammer

Nails and screws. Get a mixture of nails, bolts and screws of various sizes for repair and building.

Screw driver set

Ax for chopping wood

Saw for wood cutting (Make that multiple. They will get dull)

Snow shovel for cold climates

Garden tools. Shovel, rake, hoe and hand tools.

Twine

Rope

Duct tape. Lots of uses for this stuff.

RV repair tape. Your camper will eventually leak. Get a couple rolls of this stuff. I have some with black tar on one side and silver aluminum foil on the other. It sticks to anything and works well.

Plastic tarps. Get a few of them. Many uses. Make temporary repairs to leaks. Lay out food on them for drying. Place under trees and shake them to gather fruit and nuts. Use under your sleeping mat on hiking trips to protect it from holes and punctures. I keep one in my backpack at all times.

Plastic drop cloths. Good for repairs, make a water evaporator and patching windows.

Clear scotch tape. Use for repairs, crafts and to make your solar oven.

Antique clothes washing board. This is a glass or metal ridged board for washing clothes in a creek or stream.

Clothes line

Fold up ladder. For roof repairs on the camper.

Machete for hacking, cutting, defense.

Knives. Get a bunch of them. Fillet knife, folding knife, hunting knife, utility knife. Remember, the stores will be closed and you will wear them out.

Knife sharpening kit or stone. Your preference. Get both if you can.

 

Hunting and Protection

You will need meat and protection from invaders. Animals or other people may smell your nicely cooked meals and decide that they need it more than you do. Fishing is a very good skill to have for survival. Guns are helpful for defense and providing food. Get what you can afford. A .22 caliber rifle is a long lasting, trustworthy and affordable gun. Ammo for them is very cheap. A pellet gun can also work well for small game. Pellets cost a mere $3 per 250 rounds. Do not get a pump pellet gun. They take way too long to pump up ten times. An attacker will think twice with any sort of gun aimed at them. Even animals seem to sense the danger of a gun. Pellets are not deadly for larger game, but may help to deter an attack. Do NOT try to shoot a bear!

 

In a total social break down people will be running in droves for the hunting section of the local stores and taking all the big ammo. It will be gone in no time. The .22 ammo is often overlooked for survival and may be easier to find later on.

 

This list is a suggestion only. Get what you can afford. Again, more is better.

 

Fishing pole. Get a couple just in case you break one. My favorite is a collapsible fishing pole that extends to 5 feet long but closes to a mere foot for backpacking.

Extra fishing reel. Get a good quality reel. Get a couple.

Fishing reel grease. Fishing reels will need maintenance with time.

Fishing pole repair kit. Extra tips, string and glue

Fish line. Get a few rolls to last a while. Get the best you can afford. Quality does make a difference. And you can use it for sewing clothing or patching up a wound.

Fishing tackle. Sinkers, lots of hooks and bobbers. Get lots of hooks. Get lures and a good panfish kit. Get extra. You often loose them on snags or a big fish.

Bow and arrow. Get extra arrows and an extra string for your bow. I also have extra broadheads and arrow making supplies. You can make arrows with a straight branch or twig.

Guns and ammo. I prefer a nice heavy gun with knock down power and a lighter weight such as a .22 due to its affordability. Military surplus guns and matching ammo are the best. Get as much as you can afford. Again, the .22 is the cheapest of them all and will take out most predators. A 500 round brick of these costs under 20 bucks.

Shotgun with pistol grip for close range defense. Also good for small game. Just point and shoot. No aiming needed here. I have often taken small game with a fast hip shot. These are also good close quarters combat tools.

Gun cleaning kit and a lot of gun oil and cleaning solution. Get a ton of cleaning pads for  your caliber as well. If you can afford it, get a couple cleaning kits. One may break.

 

Note: For safety and to avoid theft, do not keep the above items in the camper when not in use. These items should be locked away in your home or a storage unit until ready to bug out.

 

Entertainment

This is probably one of the most overlooked categories. But now imagine that you have the perfect survival camper. You have left for the mountains. You have everything you need for survival with relative comfort. Soon boredom sets in. Moral sinks. You start to think sadly of the “good old days”. You will start to remember your favorite music, movies, playing cards with a friend.

 

These items are optional, but will help boost moral and comfort in a long term survival situation. Get 12 volt plug in adapters for any electronics. You can always charge them off your solar battery bank.

 

Board games

Cards

MP3 player

Radio

DVD player. Get a 12 volt player that runs off a car battery.

Movies

Car stereo system in your camper.

Books and magazines. Take your favorites with you. Dont forget the recipe books. I also have a couple books on foraging for wild edible plants. The good old Readers Digest “Back to Basics” is an awesome tool. Take a field medicine book. Get a book on trapping and hunting.

The Bible. One of the most sold and heavily used books of all time. Provides comfort and spiritual guidance in all times.

 

Extras

These items are optional, but helpful to increase comfort of living in the field.

 

Wood burning stove. Eventually I will set up an external wood stove in a shed a few feet away from the camper. Pipes will provide heat to the camper while keeping dangerous flames out. Later a shower area will be added to the inside of the heater shed.

Solar hot water system for bathing, cooking and heating.

Portable sewing machine. Hand operated or 12 volt powered.

Solar panels and battery bank for light and entertainment.

Solar powered security light with motion detector. Placed above the entry door to provide light for entry or to deter thieves.

Camper awning. To give a nice outdoor area for cooking or relaxing in the rainy weather.

Large family sized tent. Can be used as a sort of storage shed or for extra guests and sleeping space.

Fold up outdoor shower stall. Found in many camping supply stores.

Trash bags, sandwich bags, grocery bags, zip lock storage bags. Thousands of uses. Imagine life without them. Get the idea.

Dont forget a trash can.

Toilet paper. Already mentioned, but get tons. This stuff will be trade material. Keep it stored in closed rigid plastic containers to prevent damage from mice.

Bleach. This stuff is great for cleaning and sterilizing stuff. Also for purifying water, if needed.

Mouse bait and mouse traps. Get a huge supply of bait if you choose to use it.

A cat to catch mice. Great organic mouse trap. Also provides companionship and a bit of warmth in the winter.

 

 

End notes

Use your survival camper. Take it out for a few days each year. Go out in winter if you live in the cold. Practice using the items you have with you. Often in a real life situation we realize that there is something that we forgot. I will be spending winter nights in the camper right next to the house to get a feel for living out there in extreme situations. Practice now while you can and learn while you have time. I would rather suffer a cold, miserable night in my own back yard than years of suffering later in the field.

 

Again, this list will be growing with time and experience. Check back often.

 

Please feel free to share your comments and suggestions. Good ones will be added to the list.