Friday, September 14, 2012

Sand-Free / Dirt-Free Multimat for Camping, Beach, and Picnic

We bought a CGear Sand-free Multimat (Amazon link: CGear Sand-Free Multimat) about a year ago and really loved it. I got the small 6 x 6 foot orange mat, the top side is a bright orange color and the bottom side is a lighter orange with gray color binding. It came with a carrying bag, which is made by same material. The mat has a dual layer weave which is tough and resilient. The material used could be a little rough for someone with sensitive skin like a small child, but for most people, it's not going to be a problem. If you prefer a softer top layer, you can opt for the CGear Sand-free Rug (Amazon link: CGear Sand-free Rug).

We used it on the beach, campgrounds, and picnics. But most of the time I just lay it outside the RV as a doormat to minimize transfer of dirt and sand from outside to inside the rig. Small dirt particles, dust and sand just falls through the mats top layer to the ground beneath, but not back up therefore creating a sand free outside area. If a big lump of sand falls onto the mat, simply wipe your hand over it once and the sand will go straight through. The only gripe is it does not work well when sand and dirt is wet, it sticks to the mat...well they stick everywhere anyway.

Online seller promotional image

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Elk Prairie Campground (Orick, CA.)

Elk Prairie Campground @ Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Elk Prairie campground is one of the 4 developed campgrounds operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation in Redwoods Forest Northern California. Enjoy the ancient coast redwoods, grazing Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer in Elk Prairie, easy access to over 70 miles of hiking and biking trails, and seasonal campfire programs.
  • Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, 6 miles north of Orick, Calif. on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway.
  • GPS Coordinates: 41.361875,-124.025439 (Opens Google map in new window)
  • Open: Year-round.
  • Sites: 75 tent or RV (no hook-ups, no dump station); hiker/biker sites available.
  • Facilities: Hot showers, ADA accessible restrooms, picnic tables, firepits and barbeques, food lockers and trash receptacles, visitor center, campfire center.
  • Vehicle Length Limit: 27-foot RV or 24-foot trailer.
  • Fees: $35 per vehicle, $5 per hiker/biker, $8 for day-use only.
  • Reservations: January–September, ReserveAmerica or call 1-800-444-7275.
Elk Prairie Campground Map: Click here.

Video tour of Elk Prairie Campground (HD available):

DIY Solar Powered Holding Tank Vent Fan / Cap

There are times that the RV black holding tank creates a source of undesirable odor within the coach, especially during hot summer months. I needed something to help with the holding tank venting, so I searched the net for possible solution. I've heard good things about the Lil' Stanker vent fan device, but unfortunately it's no longer available anywhere. The Cyclone Sewer Vent device also has good online reviews, but it's not going to work with the Agile holding tank vent because of its location. The vent is located close to the awning housing preventing the Cyclone to freely rotate 360 degrees. Then I tried the solar powered vent fan made by Ultra-Fab available at CW, but found it to be noisy, big, and expensive. The Ultra-Fab fan motor makes clicking noise as it spins, which is really annoying.

So I decided to DIY a solar powered vent fan. Here are the materials you need for this project.

Using a Dremel rotary tool, I started working on the PC case fan by carefully cutting the 4 supporting legs from its square casing. I then mounted the fan facing down on one side of the 2" PVC coupling using PVC cement to glue the fan support legs on top (see picture below).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Suburban Propane Furnace Digital Thermostat Upgrade

My original plan was to upgrade both the AC and Furnace thermostats to digital controls, but after several camping trips, I realized that we barely touch or adjust the AC temperature knob. We usually set it on maximum coldness at all times, especially during summer it's not worth upgrading it in my opinion, at least for now. In contrary, the furnace analog thermostat control needs constant temperature adjustment to make you comfortable inside your rig. It is very inconsistent in regulating the temperature inside the RT, you either get too hot or too cold in-between/during cycling.

I opted for the ICM SC1600L Heat Only battery operated digital thermostat with backlit (Amazon link: ICM SC1600L Heat Only Thermostat). It has a simple slide-on switch and big backlit LCD display, plus it's made in the USA. The stat measures 4.6 inch (W) x 3.75 inch (L) x 1.12 inch (H), it fits perfectly to the analog stat original location. The battery (x2 AA) should last for about a year as per owners manual, which isn't bad. It's a simple upgrade, all you need to do is connect the red and white wires from the furnace to the new stat.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Upgrading Dometic Fridge External Cooling Fans with Bypass Switch Installed

The 3-way fridge upper exhaust vent on Agile's and RS's is mounted lower than the top of condenser coil, making it not very effective in venting heat, an external fan(s) is really needed to assist with cooling. Our Dometic Fridge came with 2 (92-mm) external cooling fans forcing air to the condenser cooling fins, it runs rather noisy and draws too much power at around 0.36 amps each. The fans are controlled by a thermostat switch mounted to the condenser coil. The fans automatically turns on when it reaches a preset temp in the condenser coil , then turns itself off when condenser coil cools down.

I replaced both fans with a bigger (120-mm) and more efficient fans. I found one at our local Fry's Electronic store, it's made by Silenx (Amazon link: Silenx Effizio 120mm) . Current draw is only listed as 0.09 amp, very quiet at  12 dBA, and moves a decent amount of air at 44 CFM airflow (more specs. pictured below). I also added a bypass switch wired in parallel with the thermostat switch, this way I can run both fans continuously if I wanted.

Before starting, make sure to disconnect the fridge from 120-volt and 12-volt power supply. Measure if a bigger fan(s) will fit the back of your fridge, the 120mm fan is a perfect fit on mine. Remove the stock fans. Install a bypass switch and a 12-volt inline fuse (optional). Install the new fans using L-brackets (see pictures of install below).

Parts lists that you might need:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Folding Mattress for Sprinter Front Seats

The mattress fits across the 2 front seats. A 1/2 inch plywood is used for the mattress support with a 2-inch high density foam topping for comfort. The bed is 61-inches long and 24-inches wide unfolded. When folded, it measures about 30.5-inches long x 24-inches wide. It's perfect for a child or short adult. I store it behind the driver seat when not in use. If you need a longer bed, try this DIY aisle bed: Click here

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Aisle Bed in Roadtrek Agile

RT Agile rear convertible seat/king size bed can comfortably sleep 2 adults. With our two small kids, there is no way we all fit on the rear bed. The bed can fit three the most, 2 adults and a small child should be fine. When camping, I always ended up sleeping on the floor using a camping self- inflatable mattress. It's okay, but the floor gets really cold during winter or cold season camping, not to mention cleaning the floor thoroughly before laying your mattress or you end up with a dirty blanket and pillow in the morning.

The only available space you can put a 2nd bed/mattress is on the galley floor or on top of the 2 front seats. I believe Sportsmobile does make a foldaway mattress accross the sprinter 2 front seats. I did make one myself, try this link Click here. The problem with the front seats bed is the limited 62 inches length, this is okay for a child. To sleep an adult, a longer bed is needed. The galley floor has limited space, so off-the-shelf cot/ camping bed obviously will not fit.

I used our old folding table frame as a bed support. The frame is made of high strength steel and can hold an adult weight without a problem. The bed can be folded when not in use and can be stored behind the drivers seat.

The finished bed.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Most Compact and Lightweight Portable Camp Chair

I've been looking for a compact camp chair that we can use during camping trips. The old full-sized folding chairs we have were bulky, heavy and took up a lot of space in the RV. After doing some extensive research online, I finally found this...the "Alite Mantis " chair. I have tried many compact chairs at our local stores, but none of them is more compact, comfortable, and lightweight as the "Alite Mantis". This chair is so small when folded and tucked inside it's carrying pouch; it is just a little taller but less in diameter than a 2 liter soda bottle. Chair sets up easily using a strong aluminum hub and pole system similar to the design found in many lightweight tents. The seat and poles seem to be very well constructed and very durable. Needless to say, this chair rocks!

Some things to consider: Chair sits low to the ground and might be a problem to some people getting out of the chair especially to someone with back problems, but I find it to be very comfortable with a relaxed position. Price point, it is more expensive than other compact chairs on the market, but you pay for the quality, construction, and design of this chair.

Here are the specs:
Unfolded:     (H x W x D) 29 x 21 x 22 inches
Folded:        (Diameter x L) 5 x 17.5 inches
Seat height:   8 inches
Weight capacity: 250 lbs.
Seat material: Ripstop nylon
Frame construction: Aluminum
Weight: 2 lbs.

It's a lot cheaper if you get it from Amazon. Here is the link: Alite Mantis Chair

Click on pictures to enlarge.
Image from Alite website.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crystal Cove State Park Lower Moro Campground

It's California's newest State Park campground, it's set on a terraced hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Below the campground is a day use area with beach access, just a short, but steep, walk from your campsite. Only free-standing tents are allowed, ground stakes use is prohibited. Campfires are not allowed. Another big drawback of the campsite is the traffic noise from PCH.

Campsite reservation through reserveamerica website.
GPS coordinates:33.564432,-117.822254 (opens google maps)

Activities: camping, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, surfing, swimming, scuba diving, surf fishing (not sure if it's allowed here but I've seen a lot of people doing it).
FEES: RV sites with hook-ups= $75/night, drycamps=$50/night plus $8 reservation fee

Campground Map