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Archive for May, 2012

PostHeaderIcon Inside The Survival Camper – SHTF Bug Out Vehicle

A slide in truck camper makes the ultimate survival vehicle. It can be mounted and deployed in minutes and can be removed as needed. You can have your truck free to get supplies when needed without breaking camp as you would with an RV or motorhome. With a larger camper trailer you may not be able to maneuver into rugged terrain as you can with a 4 wheel drive truck and a slide in camper. You can make sharper turns and have no problem backing up as you would with a normal trailer or pull behind camper.

A temporary campsite with the truck camper

A truck camper makes a perfect survival shelter

A truck camper also requires less space when you are in the field and can fit into tigher places than a huge motorhome or camper trailer. And you can jack it up to keep it higher off the ground to keep pests out better.

Regardless which type of bug out vehicle and shelter you choose, it should be fully stocked and ready to roll at a moment’s notice. It does you no good at all when you have prepared for years but miss the boat, so to say, when the time comes to roll out in an emergency. Getting out on the highway in a hurry is of utmost importance in order to beat the traffic and plugged up roads.

A truck camper has everything you need for comfort, such as sleeping space for 6 adults, kitchen, fridge, bathroom, closets, fresh water tanks with running water (if you have solar), and a lot of storage. Truck campers come in a couple different sizes. Some are about 12 x 8 feet and some are 16 x 8 feet (and some in between). The larger ones are the deluxe models with a huge queen or king sized bed in a large cab over bedroom area. The larger models usually come with hot water, flushing toilet and at least one shower, sometimes an outdoor shower as well. Mine had none of the above because someone had removed it before I got it.

The typical camper fridge can run off propane, 12 volts DC or 110 volts AC. They can run off solar, if you have enough panels. I am a firm believer in comforts in a survival situation. If you can take it with you without any great inconvenience, then take it.

But one of the most important facts about a smaller truck camper over a larger camper trailer is heat. It takes a lot less energy to heat up a smaller room. Eventually you will need to find a way to use wood for heat. Propane, kerosene or other fuels will run out eventually. With a truck camper it will run out later than with a larger space. But it will run out. It also takes a lot less wood to heat a smaller space. A small, homemade rocket stove (How To Make A Rocket Stove) will work fine.

Back to comfort in a survival situation. I am not one of those gung ho survivalists who will run out with nothing but the clothes on his back and a knife in his teeth. One thing the Army taught me is to take comforts with you when you can. I learned the hard way. Go off into the forest in a winter rain storm with no protective gear and you know what I mean.

Of course, in a survival situation all of our normal creature comforts will eventually run out. We will run out of gas for our vehicles, fuel for our heater and stoves, toilet paper and so on. On that note, take these things with you when you bug out. You will run out, yes. But you will make the transition that much less painful. A bug out situation is going to be uncomfortable and stressful. Make it less so at first. You will have enough to deal with adjusting to your new life.

Survival Shelter Contents

Your survival shelter or bug out vehicle should be packed with everything you need for life in the wilderness. You will need clothes, shoes, underwear, socks and in northern climates, coat, scarf and gloves. You need cooking utensils, pots and pans. Dishes and silverware. Also take laundry detergent, shampoo and dish soap or learn how to make it all yourself. Have a look around you and see what you use every day. Pack it in the survival shelter. If you need eye glasses to see, get an extra pair or two and pack them away.

I have my fishing gear, camping gear, hunting gear, survival gear and everything one needs for day to day living packed into my shtf truck camper. It is all ready to go an any time. All except for fresh water and food. Unless you are parked in a cool dry place, then food will spoil in the camper with time. I keep my food stored right by the camper, packed and sealed in a cool storage place. I will be digging a sort of root cellar this summer to keep food in, ready to load up. I am trying to have only self dried, vacuum sealed foods for light weight and space conservation. Some cans of food and bags of grain go along as well. As I preserve more food, I take other, heavier items out of storage and use it. For fresh water, I have iodone tablets packed away and a ton of coffee filters to filter out any larger debris from water. I will be making a solar distiller soon as well to purify water.

I use the survival camper as storage for all of my outdoor and survival gear. Instead of buying two of everything or having half of your survival gear in the house (useless for bugging out) because you use it all the time, I have it all in the survival shelter. When I want to use something, I take it out and put it back in the camper when I am done with it. Want to go on a hike, get the backpack out of the survival camper and go hiking. Put it back when you are done. Want to go fishing, get your fishing gear out of the camper and put it back when done. Bow hunting season, use it and put it back.

See The Survival Camper Packing List for details on what I suggest you take along.

When you use your survival shelter like this, you will also become familiar with where everything is. That way in an emergency you do not need to go searching around for stuff.

I do not eat much meat, but am fully capable of hunting if needed. Same with fishing. Even the most dedicated vegetarian will look at a squirrel and lick his lips in the dead of winter when all the vegetation is gone. Learn how to provide your own food if needed. Do not go out there unprepared. See the movie “Into The Wild” for a bit of an idea what happens if you go out unprepared.

I have multiple cans of propane for cooking on the stove. It will last me months. I have multiple cans of Coleman camping gas and alcohol as well as various types of camp stoves in the survival camper. If used sparingly, I have enough fuel for years of cooking. Added to a homemade solar oven, this will be extended even more. This will help ease into a survival situation with less stress. I have a bunch of different types of candles put away. Oil lamps and lamp oil. These are nice comforts that will make a lot of difference on moral. Use them sparingly and they can last years.

Sure, you can wipe with leaves and tree bark, but I have a stockpile of toilet paper on board. I can make a roll last two months, alone. Practice using your survival gear sparingly and when you get out there, it will be like an extended vacation.

Here is a video of the inside of my survival truck camper:

PostHeaderIcon Counting Amps & Watts In My Off Grid Solar Powered Home

Living off the grid – with no outside source of electricity – means that you may need to count amps and watts. When solar or wind energy is your only source of electricity then you must watch your energy consumption every day to ensure that you do not drain the battery bank.

Right now I only have two 65 watt solar panels and two 200 AH golf cart batteries. The solar panels are running my LED lights, a laptop, cell phone and some occasional fans. That is all. And the batteries never seem to get fully topped off. It has rained for the better part of three weeks now. That is a good test of a solar energy system’s limits. When the sun does not shine for days on end, you need to have enough reserve energy to get through.

Fortunately the batteries are not getting drained either. I am sort of hanging in there, replacing daily usage without topping off the batteries any higher. Another solar panel will help a lot. I have a Coleman thermoelectric cooler just waiting to be hooked up in the trailer when I have enough solar power to run it. But it takes a full 70 watts full time on its own. I will rig up a homemade thermostat inside it later when I start to use it.

For now, this means no cold food. No cool drinks, no fresh foods, no dairy products. I use powdered milk in my coffee instead of fresh.

I charge my laptop when the battery bank voltage is higher. Normally that means after a long day of sun shining. Actually, contrary to what many people say, solar panels do generate electricity on cloudy days as well. Just not as much.

Living off the grid with just a few small solar panels means watching energy usage closely. I count watts and amps in everything that gets used. For morning shaving a small inverter gets turned on, which powers all of the 120 volt outlets in the trailer. Then after shaving, the inverter gets turned off and unplugged from the power supply. The LED lights use about 1.7 watts each. I use no more than two at any time and shut them off when not needed. The laptop gets closed when I take a short break. The cell phone display gets blacked out. Every single watt counts at the end of the day.

Living fully off the grid is an experience that shows the real numbers in solar energy output. Solar panels are rated at a certain wattage, in full direct sunlight. But normally we only get a few short hours of full direct sunlight each day. That means that a solar panel is only putting out a small fraction of its full capacity most of the time. Tests have shown that, averaged out throughout the day, a solar panel puts out about 65 to 70 percent of its rated capacity.

So a 100 watt solar panel can safely be estimated as providing you with about 70 watts of total energy output during peak daylight hours. You still get some little bit of energy in the mornings and evenings, but not much.

Solar tracking modules and special solar charge controllers can help improve these numbers a little. But these devices are very expensive and not easy to make for the DIY-er.

So until I get that third solar panel up and running, its back to counting my watts and amps.

PostHeaderIcon Got running water in my off grid trailer

I finally got running water in my off grid camper. It may be something you never think about and take for granted on a daily basis, but go without it for a while and you really learn to appreciate the nice comforts of modern living.

The trailer has a 40 gallon fresh water storage tank and a 12 volt water pump. You can turn the pump on and off with a switch over the kitchen sink. Turning the pump on for one minute pressurizes the lines enough for for a while, if you are sparing with your water usage.

I have a spare camper water tank and tossed it on the back of a lawn mower trailer (I know, I cheated). It was too heavy to carry by hand. But anyway, being off the grid does not need to mean living like cave men. I will one day convert a gas engine to run on home brew alcohol.

Anyway, I filled up the spare tank and ran the water into my trailer tank. Turned on the pump and I have fresh, running water. Now that I know it works, I will start working on the rain water collection system. That will simply be two 55 gallon drums buried in the ground at the base of a hill. A lot of water runs down that hill when it rains and pools at the base of it. A screen will filter out any junk and then another fine filter will keep out the smaller particles. Another 12 volt pump will bring the water to the trailer storage tank.

To have running water is so nice after being so long without.

The next project will be to make a solar hot water heater. The original 120 volt hot water heater is still in the trailer. Useless for now with solar power. But I will use it for a solar hot water heating system for showers and washing.

See the video here: