Posts Tagged ‘bug out shelter’
I have had a fiberglass camper top for the bed of my truck for about two years now and always wanted to make a camper out of it. Now with a survival trip into the mountains coming up and no shelter where I am staying the time has come. A couple friends and I made a fully loaded survival truck camper in just two days.
I started out with the camper top. I got this for free two years ago off the internet classifieds. I used it from time to time for hauling stuff in my truck on rainy days but its been sitting on blocks for the past year now. This camper shell has sliding glass windows and bug screens. It has access to the cab through another sliding glass window. There are many windows, a raised roof area so you can sit up and also skylights to allow more light to enter during the day.
The camper top has a standard RV light fixture on the ceiling and the wires were just hanging down from the side of the shell.
After mounting the camper top on the bed of my 1987 GMC High Sierra 2500 4×4 truck I sat inside and checked out the space I had to get an idea what I could fit inside my new camper. I wanted a bed and a shelf for sure. That was a given. So I got measuring and came up with the idea of a two piece bed that slides together and uses the wheel well for support on one side. A single screw holds the two pieces together during travel to prevent them from sliding all over. Big Joe gets most of the credit for building the bed.
Then I built a shelf that spans the whole front of the camper from one side to the other. This is a simple drop in shelf that I can move around or remove as needed.
So far the cost of the whole project was zero dollars. Absolutely nothing. I had the camper top for free and used wood I had received for free as well. There are often many things out there just for the asking. People are often happy to clean out their garage or yard.
After trying out the shelf and the bed I sat thinking about other ideas to deck out my new homemade survival truck camper. I came up with a composting toilet and a sink with running water. But I wanted a sink that I could use while sitting comfortably in a camp chair to prevent back breaking bending over all the time while working.
Big Joe and Joe Guiver helped me build the toilet and sink. We ended up with a sink from an old camper bolted to a homemade frame with a car windshield washer pump to provide water pressure. A silicone hose leads from a 5 gallon tank of water, through the water pump and up through the faucet. Water comes right out the faucet. A toggle switch on the side of the sink provides the on off control for the running water. A 5 gallon bucket catches water coming out of the drain which can be used for watering a garden.
But I did not stop there. I wanted to have my battery topped off at all times so I used an old solar charge controller I had laying around and connected it to the batteries with a 5 watt solar panel I also had left over from an old project. Now I have a solar charged water on demand camp sink. I love it.
So far the total cost of the survival truck camper equals two dollars for the silicone hose. The rest of the materials I got for free or had laying around.
The composting toilet uses the seat off my old camper toilet. I replaced the sink in the camper long ago with a composting toilet and this old RV toilet was sitting out back. I took off the seat and lid and the guys helped me build a frame for my new truck camper composting toilet. A 5 gallon bucket slides easily underneath to catch your business. The toilet slides into the back side of the truck bed underneath the shelf during transportation or stowage.
After sitting back and enjoying the progress of our labors I came up with the idea of a second bench on the other wheel well for a guest to sit at. Big Joe whipped that up while I worked on an electrical system for the survival bug out shelter. I wanted to have power on demand for running lights, cell phone or other devices while out in the woods. I am not a minimalist survivor and never claimed to be. I like my comforts. We live in the 21st century and I will not head back into the stone ages in a grid down or shtf situation.
I have two old truck batteries I used for the main source of power. After connecting them up in parallel I also connected a 20 amp solar charge controller I had extra. This is connected to a 40 watt solar panel I bought used for only $20. In the meantime Joe Guiver hooked up the overhead wiring so I would have light inside my new homemade camper.
Now, not counting the value of things I already had on hand, I spent about 22 dollars for some battery terminals and the silicone hoses. I will total up the value of everything later counting what I had spent for things I already had on hand. I will also compare with full retail price in case you do not have these items on hand.
To hold things all together neatly I used a piece of scrap wood for an electronic control panels. This holds my solar charge controller, fuse block, negative battery terminal strip and also I added a cigarette lighter socket to power any accessories. It was looking very good.
I was sitting in the new camper with Big Joe and we came up with the idea of a table. A folding table that sits in between the two benches and can fold away when not in use. To allow for leg room to get in and out of the camper the table only has tree legs. Two on the back side and one on the front. This allows us to easily slip into the bed of the truck and sit at the table. The table sits three men comfortably for playing a game of cards or a meal after a day in the woods.
Now I have a fully decked out survival truck camper for shtf or just for fun.
The total cost I paid during the project was only about $22. The rest of the materials I had on hand.
Here is a list of materials used.
Truck camper top – free
Scrap lumber – free
Bamper sink from a water damaged camper – free
2 silicone hoses from the dollar store – $2
Used windshield water pump from a dead vehicle – free
Toggle switch I had laying around – free
Old truck batteries – free
4 battery terminals $5 each – $20
Scrap automotive wiring – free
Old jumper cables for battery connections – free
Misc screws I had on hand – free
20 amp solar charge controller – $29
1 amp solar charge controller – $5
Fuse block – $5
Copper tubing bus bar – free
Cigarette lighter socket – $7
40 watt solar panel, used – $20
5 watt solar panel – $15
two 5 gallon buckets – free
two 5 gallon water tanks, used $2 each – $4
Two recycled hinges – free
My total cost is just over $100 to build a fully loaded survival truck camper. Your price will vary depending on what you may already have on hand. You can often find scrap wood at the lumber yard at a huge discount. I had most of the items laying around already but they originally came from ebay. The automotive battery terminals are from the local auto parts store.
You can ask at the local junk yard if you can get the windshield washer pump and hoses to save on your own costs.
Today a bunch of friends came over for a vehicle maintenance day and to help on the off grid property. It finally stopped raining for a day, although the sun never did show itself. We got a lot done today though. In all there were 6 of us working on our vehicles and on the property.
To start the day off, we all had some auto work to do. One had to do an emergency repair on his broken brake lines, another some body repair and myself some electrical work. We had the cars mostly finished by lunch time and then we moved on to some projects on the property.
We worked in the garden a bit and put up better supports for the tomatoes. We also got some more seeds planted today.
But the most exciting thing is that the carpet and foam padding are mostly all torn out of the old motorhome. That was a whole day job in itself and we were not done with it until about 7pm this evening. The TV stand, couch and slide out drawer underneath had to be removed in order to get the carpeting out. There were some other things that had to be pulled out as well.
This old RV was built very well though. Everything is mounted in very strongly with 3 inch long screws. This makes taking it apart a very tough job. The sofa was held down by two 3 inch bolts and two 6 inch long bolts. There were 3 seat belts for the couch as well. That is sort of cool. This means that 5 passengers could safely ride in the motorhome with seat belts.
After working hard all day, we never did get all the carpeting removed, but got a lot of it done. Tearing apart a solidly built motorhome is quite a job. Most of the carpet is gone except for a little bit in the living room and a bit under the toilet in the bathroom. I will have to remove the toilet in order to get that piece of carpet out.
Backing up to Friday, I did not get much done at all. I offered to help a friend out on a “3 hour drive” to see a vehicle he wanted to purchase. This “3 hour drive” turned out to be almost 12 hours total round trip. What a nightmare. We hit traffic in New Jersey which made our trip down turn into over 4 hours one way. I could go on, but just know that driving through NYC and NJ can be quite an adventure.
This meant that all I got done on Friday was to put about 20 gallons of water into my old camper and another 10 gallons of water into the new RV tanks. I had filled the camper water tank in the morning before we left and when we got back, the rain had filled the water barrel back up again. Then my friend helped me get the ten gallons into the motorhome in the pouring rain at about 10pm at night. He sort of felt bad for the trip we had gone through. Anyway, by morning, this too had been replenished by the heavy rain.
The bad news is that when we tried to run the RV water pump, it ran and ran and ran until I shut it off and realized something was wrong. I discovered that I had pumped about 5 gallons of water into the floor of the RV between the water tank and the wall, under the bed. It ran outside though gaps in the motorhome but this means that a mouse must have eaten through a water line. This in turn means that I will have to repair it in order to get any water running in there.
Last night on the way home from our adventure, I hit the hardware store just as they were closing and found some mis-tint paints on deep discount. They had a gallon of dark green, a quart of light green and a quart of yellow. I got all three for only $5. When the lady rang it all up, it came up showing about $86 worth of paint, total. That is an incredible deal getting that much paint for only $5 total.
So, I guess my color scheme for the RV has been chosen for me. Who could pass that deal up?
I plan to paint the living room walls white and the cabinets and cupboards a light green. The bedroom will be painted with the dark green paint. Inside all the cabinets I will use a white color to brighten them up better. The yellow may be used to paint the accent trim flowers engraved into the doors of all the cabinets
I will show everyone the paints when I get a chance. I will also do a test paint on the old TV cabinet I removed from the motorhome.
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It has cooled off again recently after three very hot and humid days last week. This week we have had highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. I am happy that I still have my fireplace hooked up. I have spent most of my free time cleaning out the new RV and removing junk. I am also lubricating all moving parts on the windows, door and locks, trying to get all the old access panels opened and cleaned out.
Nights have been better for sleeping with lows in the 40s and waking up to 50 degree mornings inside the off grid camper. The days have been cooler as well and more tolerable.
I am working on a demolition job this week so the cooler temperatures are a very welcome change.
The garden is growing very nicely. After all the rain we have had, the plants are all growing fast. Especially the potatoes are growing faster then I can keep the plants covered. I have only pulled a total of three weeds out of my raised bed gardens so far. That is an advantage of using pure compost. There are no weed seeds and the only thing that grows in it is what you plant yourself.
I cleaned out the glove box and storage compartments above the drivers area in the cab looking for an owners manual for the RV. No luck, but I did find a GM manual for the motor and chassis. That is a bonus at least.
I finally got the large outside storage compartment opened up right outside the main door of the RV. Inside I found a lot of propane hoses and connectors. I also found a nice antique Coleman propane camp stove that will probably still work.
A package arrived from fellow youtuber “darfirst”. Inside was a special hand washer for laundry. This is a professional hand laundry washer with vacuum action. This thing is supposed to clean laundry even better than a washing machine if used correctly. He also sent me a propane gauge to tell me how much propane is left in my fridge. And a nice package of chocolate almonds. I love both chocolate and almonds, so that is a very nice treat. Thank you “darfirst”.
Since I am working in demolition this week, I am not getting very much done on the off grid homestead, but I will keep plugging away at it.
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After nearly a week off with my church for the holiday, I am back to the off grid solar camper. The projects will continue through the season. There will be daily updates on the progress as the off grid camper gets more comfortable.
The time with my church went well with the exception of one detail. I am now left with no car. On the way to pick up a pastor from my church on Tuesday night, I was driving behind a slower car. I dropped my car into a lower gear and passed him. This was in New Jersey, just before getting on the highway for the long trip home. I took the entrance to the highway and suddenly bright flashing lights showed up behind me. It was the cops. Actually I had two cop cars behind me.
I thought, oh no, this does not look good for my pastor, just new in the country for the first time ever. The cop who came over to my car was very nervous and thought that my ice scraper was a gun. He had his hand on his gun as he nervously shouted instructions to me and searched my car. He also thought the air freshener under my seat was drugs. Finally I had my vehicle paperwork in my hand and gave it to him. I did not have my insurance paperwork due to the fact that I just switched companies on the phone and my office is in boxes. I dont even have the electricity to run my printer if I wanted to. The insurance papers are in the mail. I explained that to him and he left me sitting there a while.
He came back with three tickets for $54 each. One for a loud exhaust, one for a crack in my passenger side mirror and one for – get this – driving a car with no insurance!!!
After he left I sat there talking to my pastor asking myself why this happened. I normally drive very carefully and do not rev the engine up or do any wild stunts. After a few minutes, I started the car and put it into gear. There was a loud bang. It was very loud. We got out and looked around. Under the front driver wheel the control arm was sitting on the ground. The lower ball joint had sheered in half and the control arm snapped onto the road. The wheel flopped loosely and turned outside to the left.
I called AAA to tow me off the highway. As we sat there waiting, I kept asking myself why such a thing would happen when I was picking up my pastor.
Finally the tow truck arrived and looked at my car. He said we were very lucky. If we had been driving at highway speeds, it would have been very messy. He said that normally when this happens the car flips over.
My pastor and I realized that the ball joint breaking suddenly while parked was a miracle intended to save us. The cops stopping us was a miracle meant to stop me from getting on the highway and getting up to speed. It would have broken at high speed and could have killed us.
After that, the holiday went well with no unhappy surprises. I enjoyed warmth and hot showers each day. It was nice to stay in a large bed and a heated room. But it did mess with my sinuses a bit. I am getting used to the healthy, fresh air. I do believe that, although running water and electricity are nice, I can easily live without if needed.
I told everyone in my church that I will never go back on the grid again after I get my camper back in shape and fully set up. I may get a cottage somewhere next year, but I will not go on the grid.
Yesterday was sort of warm and partly sunny. It was 50 in my camper when I got home in the afternoon. My friend dropped off my outdoor storage tent and shelves and left.
This morning I got the tent poles sorted out and started to put my tent together. It was a very long project due to the wind kicking up later as I was putting the plastic canvas on the frame.
I finally got the tent put together and put my shelves up. I used baling wire to tie the shelves to the side of the tent to keep it from blowing away. The wind kept trying to push the tent sideways. Then I unloaded my truck finally. It has been sitting at my old address since January full of my work shop tools. I had a broken rib and my friends had helped me empty my storage unit into my truck. There it sat until now.
I got all my tools out of the truck and set up on the shelves of the tent. The weight of the tools and the shelves tied to the tent frame helps keep the tent in place so far. We have pretty strong winds today. It is shaking my camper sideways when it blasts through.
I plan to set up my work shop with solar power later this spring. When I get enough solar power, I want to run my drill press, radial arm saw and other power tools off the grid.
Keep watching for more.
Here is today’s video:
Today was a long, hard day of work at the new off grid solar camper location. It snowed last night – a lot. My car is snowed in and I am deep in the woods, far from any main roads. I am stuck here until the snow melts. The main goals today were getting the fireplace back together, getting the windows sealed to keep it warm inside and improving solar power output.
This morning I stepped out into deep snow. And it kept snowing on and off all day. It dumped a few more inches on top of last night’s snow throughout the day. But it was melting a little as it came down.
The first thing I did this morning was to sweep off the solar panels so I could get some power into the batteries. There was only about 1/4 amp of charge this morning because it was dark and cloudy, but its better than nothing. I had to charge my laptop because its battery went dead last night. My cell phone was next. As long as there is some charge coming from the solar panels I can charge my electronic devices one at a time.
The next project was to straighten up a bit more inside the camper. It is still a mess from the move and will take some time to get back in shape.
Then I started to seal off the windows with some window sealer kits I found left over from an old project. The main goal was to seal the living room area, where I sleep on the sofa and where the most of the air leaks in. There are more windows in the living room than anywhere else in the camper and they leak badly.
I also sealed off the kitchen window and then took out some dollar store car sun shades to put in the windows for more insulation. These are foam on one side and foil on the other. I put the foil side facing into the camper to help reflect some of the heat back into the camper. I hope it helps.
I only sealed off the top half of the two large windows by the sofa with the reflective foil. I wanted to allow some light into the camper and also I need to see outside if something, or someone approaches the camper.
I also got the fireplace put back together today. That involved digging the chimney pipes out of the deep snow and then rigging up some boards to hold the roof back in place. The heavy snow had pushed the roof in a bit from the weight. The ceiling is weak where the chimney goes through due to old water damage. The chimney helps hold it all in place nicely.
After all the hardware was in place I was able to get a fire going again. That was a great relief because the propane always gives me a headache. The propane heater also struggles to keep it warm in the camper but the fireplace has no problem. I slowly got the whole camper warmed up to a comfy 65 degrees.
When the fireplace was going nicely I was able to melt some snow in a pot on top of the fireplace to use for drinking. Snow is clean, pure water. All you need to do is melt it and then run it through a funnel with a coffee filter inside to get out any tree particles. You can drink it as is or boil it if you do not feel safe. You can also use it for bathing and washing dishes.
But snow melt or rain water makes the best tasting water you can find. It also makes an awesome tea.
I also put some cups and a container of snow inside the fridge. I have no power to run the fridge, but snow will hopefully help keep it cold inside to save my meat, cheese and veggies I just bought before the snow buried me in.
The sun came out for a short time this afternoon and the solar panels were putting out about 9 amps of power!! That is the most I have seen with this setup. I know that solar panels are more efficient in the cold. And snow helps reflect more light onto the solar panels. This was a good time for me because I then topped off my laptop and my cell phone with all the extra solar energy.
Yesterday, actually the day I was moving in, a package arrived for me. I got a brand new 30 Amp solar charge controller with help from a friend. I installed this new charge controller today. My homemade controller was very basic and not perfect, but it did the job. I think I may have damaged it while experimenting one day because it was no longer shutting off the solar panels. I was manually controlling the charge. Not good for my brand new batteries.
The new solar charge controller seems to be working well.
I hope tomorrow brings more sun or I will be riding my old bike generator for power.
Here is today’s video: