Epic Fails

I said I would follow up on some of the recent tent failures. I sure hope some of these manufacturers are paying attention.
First the ColemanOzark Trails tent…

Tony Tent
Coleman

This tent could not withstand the 30 mph winds. First thing that failed was the door zipper. The owner used safety pins to shut it. Then, in the middle of the night when the winds picked up again, the owner went to sleep in his car and this is what he found in the morning. Two busted poles and the entire rain fly had ripped in half horizontally right across one of the windows.

Tony Tent 3
Coleman

Luckily no one was hurt although many of his belongings were damaged.

Then to the brand we originally thought was better…
The Bushnell tent…

Jim Tent 2
Bushnell

A pole snapped and his rain fly shredded into little strips. (You can’t see the damage to the rainfly in this photo, its on the back side). We all know that poles can break. This tent was only two months old though and it had only been set up on this site…so it had not been taken down and put back up repeatedly. It should have held up better. When he inquired into getting a replacement rainfly, the cost was $45.oo which is half the price of the tent originally. He opted to go for a different model of the Bushnell series. We wish him well.

The model he upgraded too was the same one we had. During the same time period, our main door zipper failed. To be fair, our tent was already 5 months old. I bought a hand held sewing machine and my husband helped me sew a different zipper that we had salvaged from another tent enclosure right over the old one. It lasted another 6 weeks. The day that zipper failed, a friend purchased a Kodiak Canvas tent for us so we were not even impacted by that failure.

Now, we have had the Kodiak for a few weeks. So far we love it. I already tripped on the door and ripped the corner of the zipper loose but it is fixable.
We have had rain already and it appears the tent is seasoned well. We found one tiny drip, wouldn’t you know it, right over my computer key board. You can’t see where it comes from and its so infrequent that you can stare and stare but it won’t drip when your looking. I can live with that.

The Kodiak does have a design flaw of sorts. You have to hand tighten the thumb screws on the support poles when you put them up. Several days of wind will work them loose and the tent starts to sag. No huge deal, you just go out and lift them up again.

What we really like is that canvas is so much quieter than the other tents. The wind may whip it around but its a fabric sound so its easy to bear. The flooring is heavy duty too which most tents seem to not even worry about and therefore they end up with holes in them. We did get the enclosure addition but unfortunately, the site we are in is not level enough to use it. (The tent pad is raised above a patio area by a good foot). Soon we hope to move on and set the entire tent up and enjoy the extra space.

So here I am guarding our current mansion. Gotta run for today…More soon.

Guard Peggy

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February 6, 2018 Almost two years…

I started blogging on Feb 22, 2016. Its been almost two years and while lots of things have changed, the life style remains the same with all its ups and downs.
August of this year makes three years of campground living, most of them in our tents. I say tent”s” because we sure have had our experiences in many different brands with some success and some epic fails.

Since my last post, we have upgraded to our dream tent…Canvas! A Kodiak Canvas. The basic foot print is 9×12 but we also have a fantastic enclosed addition and a side awning that when fully set up makes our living space 18 x 18. While we had no plans to have something so big, our benefactor that purchased it for us wanted to make sure we had the options. The enclosed area can’t be used in the campground we are currently in but we have plans to move a little further south to a less expensive campground with a few less issues to be dealt with daily. A place that will allow us to fully use this wonderful gift we have been given.

The timing could not be better yet worse all at the same time. Our truck of 18 years has reached the end of it life and is no longer fixable. Our income does not allow us to replace our vehicle so we feel kind of stuck. So I came up with a plan to rent a vehicle to relocate and the cost savings might allow us to save a little more towards a different vehicle down the road somewhere. In the mean time, I started a go-fund-me page and hope someone out there has an understanding how difficult it can be to live in this situation.

Few people have any kind of understanding of what it means to live so far below the poverty line that you literally struggle to buy dish soap, let alone anything of any value. Don’t get me wrong, we knew when we started this life journey that there would be times when we would struggle and most of the time, its fine, we make it somehow. We don’t have much but we do have each other and that is what matters most of all. We feel God has provided some really nice things for us (first a mini fridge and now a new better tent) and we live by the faith that our needs will be met. Sometimes its hard to wait.

There is a tremendous difference between wants and needs and we are very aware of the difference. So we have asked ourselves if a vehicle is a need. As far as I can tell, it most certainly is a need. We live in a desert environment that requires you to move to cooler states when the summer time temperatures hit the 120’s. In order to move, you have to have something that can carry your tent and the small amount of personal effects we still own. So far, we have been able to pack everything we own into the back of a Chevy S-10. Most people could not put everything from one room of thier homes into the back of a truck this size. Guess that means we have fully downsized to needs only items.

But I digress into the madness of daily living struggles. Truth is, we would still love to field test tents for the manufacturers that keep putting shoddy tents on the market. In my next post (hopefully in a day or two) I will upload some photos of the last great wind storm damage to us and our neighbors tents. Two tents were totally destroyed and two more took some serious damage (our old tent included). Tent failures are something long term tenters consider seriously. Sure, we know we have to replace the common tent every six months because we use them daily and not just for infrequent weekend camping trips. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with but $200 or less every six months tends to be far cheaper than property taxes so we don’t grumble too much. That is no excuse for shoddy workmanship though so I intend to highlight the stories of those involved.

Final thoughts…Never let fear stop you from living, always invite challenge into your life so you will learn your limits, and always embrace what life throws at you as it will give you stories to tell when you get older.

Happy Camping to my fellow tenters. To everyone else…What are you waiting for?

May 22, 2017 – Camping Issues-The Tent

I have been having a lot of discussions about camping lately all ahead of another possible change in lifestyle. The only constant in life is the fact that change will happen, sooner or later, even if we are not prepared for it. So seeing we plan on moving on again in the near future, its time to start the process that gets us back on the road. Parting with things that just will not fit in the back of our little Chevy S-10, planning on how to pack up what will go with us, and looking ahead to the things we might need to replace or acquire.

We started with replacing our current camping tent. So here are some of the thoughts that happened:
1. Coleman Instant Cabin Tents (which is what we had to replace)do not have ports for electrical cords. Running a cord through a zipper leaves an opening for snakes, spider, and scorpions.
2. The zipper on the “D” style doors of most tents do not hold up very long at all. No more “D” style doors for us because when that zipper fails, you no longer have a secure or private structure to retreat to. There is something about a curved zipper that seems to shorten its life.
3. Too many tent makers do not consider that the sun will warm up the interior to a temperature that can be deadly. When night time temperatures remain in the 90 degree range, any tent without adequate ventilation becomes a toaster oven. Off grid trips also complicate this by not having the ability to run a fan. At the same time, most tents are designed too cheaply to hold any kind of heat when the night time temperatures drop into the 30’s and 40’s.
4. The so called “Bath-tub” bottoms are cheaply made and wear out far too quickly if you spend any amount of time inside the tent. Tiny rocks, twigs, and any surface that is not completely flat and smooth will result in small holes in the flooring which opens up a way for bugs to enter. Sure, you can buy an area rug but who has the space to tote that around with them long term?
5. Height is always a problem in tents. At 6’1″ my husband needs to be able to stand up occasionally. Most tent manufacturers think 5’7″ is adequate. Many more are far smaller. We are okay with a 10′ x 10′ footprint but why should we have to stoop all of the time? That may be great for kids, but how many kids actually go tent camping all by themselves. And stop claiming you can fit 6 people in these tents when we all know that means you can fit two adults and maybe one child or dog. We live in this and do not walk through the door to drop into a bed because there is no room to walk or even change clothing with any form of comfort. Covering the floor with mummy bagged people means you can uncomfortably put 6 very small and underweight people inside one tent if you have room to put ALL of the rest of your camping supplies into a vehicle or a second tent.
6. To answer the height problem, we started buying cabin tents. The side walls are fairly straight and most of them are just over 6 foot high at least in the very middle. This style is right, however the design of the set up leaves a lot to be desired. With plastic hubs at the top of the Instant Cabin Tents, breakage happens. Pinched fingers are common, and the pressure needed to make the legs click into place to extend the tent upwards makes it a trial for the less than fully fit person. Its a struggle to set them up or tear then down in any kind of wind unless two to four people are assisting you. Odds are, its only going to be one or two people setting this monster up and there are four or more legs. The design is definitely flawed.
7. Weather proof? Really? I have yet to see one tent that will totally stop the rain from oozing in after the third set-up. The first few times are okay if they are for very short periods of time without exposure to real weather. We however set up a tent and expect it to last at least a year. Unfortunately, we are discovering that they tend to only last for about 6 months from set up to trash bin. When your living on a fixed income and a tent is your alternative housing arrangement, its hard to plan to drop half a months worth of income on a new tent every six months. Sure you can spray everything down with a silicone product to reduce leakage but even that can be short lived when your tent is set up in a region that has 100 degree days. The sun cooks it until it dies. So once a month we were budgeting $12.00 for two cans of spray, waiting for a low wind day, and saturating the entire tent down again. Which by the way means we had to sleep in the stink that those sprays create.

We ended up buying a Bushnell Instant Cabin Tent for the next leg on our journey. They have come up with some nice features that we are hoping will make the experience a little more enjoyable. They have developed a rain fly that has a reflective barrier that they claim keeps the interior cooler. This new tent also has an air conditioner port as well as an electrical cord port. Would be nice to try out that feature however we do not have room to tote an air conditioner with us and we are not always in places that have electricity. The rain fly also extends beyond the straight zippered door (remember, no more “D” doors for us) which allows you to step outside the tent without being exposed to the weather beyond. It also has some outside netted storage pockets on the front of the tent (protected by the rain fly). While that will free up some space inside, I cant see it as very practical when everyone and every critter can have free range with your personal property. Time will tell if they get used or not. Because it is a cabin tent, the height is good. The new size dimension of 11′ x 9′ will be interesting to see if it actually feels like its any bigger than the traditional 10′ x 10′. We set it up for a brief trial run and had a heck of a time getting it back into the skin tight bag they provide but that seems normal too of most manufacturers. They forget they have machines to put those tents into those bags prior to shipping. Out in the field, all you have is common sense and your own two hands.

As our daughter says, “Common sense is not common anymore”. I believe even as young as she is (25)that she is on to some old school ways of thinking. Makes me think we did something right with her. How I would love to set down with some of these tent manufacturers that never seem to field test their products before thrusting them unto unsuspecting families and explain what is truly important for long term camping in various regions of the country. What we need is a company that customs makes tents to individuals needs. Of course that would be expensive I’m sure. But one can dream, right?

So many more topics to cover, so little time. Air mattresses, water storage and shower bag needs, food storage, clothing needs and limited space…and the list goes on and on. Until next time, happy traveling and camping.

Catch up time

Have you ever noticed that  just when you think everything is going smoothly, all of a sudden everything changes.  That’s part of why there has been such a gap in these blog postings.  Just when we thought that we had it all figured out and were getting very comfortable in our tent living situation, along came a change.

My husband and me were given an offer to work more hours in the campground we are at in exchange for a travel trailer to live in rent free.  Of course, living in a desert environment requires a person to think ahead about the “dry heat” and how that will affect your health in the long run.  Since we have had continuous high heat warning on and off over the last two months, I think it is safe to say we made a wise decision to accept that offer.  Of course instead of working one day a week, I now work five and my husband works three.  That means a lot of other changes had to happen.

As a ghost writer for “Upwork.com” I had to cut back on my writing schedule.  That in turn cut back on our income which means shopping even smarter to make it through the month. I also have come to realize that this new schedule affects my ability to work on my jewelry hobby which was another source of income.  If I do not have time to create new pieces of jewelry, it means that soon I may have to consider closing my Etsy shop because I am slowly selling off all of my inventory.  Of course if I can not find the time to write that means I am also not publishing any more children’s’ books on Amazon.com.  What a mess a good thing has become.

So when do I let my soul catch up?  This hectic work schedule makes it hard to find the energy for most things.  I heard it told that white man created time and money and now he is a slave to both.  So very true.  Of course some chaos in our lives is good because it keeps us motivated.  Too much chaos leads to stress and then to other health conditions.  I have found that if I do not spend time in the great outdoors, even if it is 112 degrees, I would probably lose focus on why we started this journey in the first place.  Even though I attend a church service, I find there is no greater connection to my higher power (creator or God, which ever works for you) than to step outside and marvel at the amazing world we are surrounded by.  I star gaze every night and watch little creatures every day that have adapted to this desert environment.  Those brief moments allow me the time to catch my breath and let my soul find some solitude and peace.  There is just something about being surrounded by a universe that is far bigger than any of us will ever be and feeling like a part of something huge, even when we don’t know the role we play in the grand scheme of things.

And through it all, we survive and thrive.  We continue to grow and find happiness in the little things that life has to offer.  My wish, hope, and prayer is that we eventually get to go back to our tent and have a lot more free time for ourselves.  Then I can really catch up. At least until the next change comes along.

March 3, 2016 -Plan for the travel bug

No matter how far you travel from your original starting point, most people discover that there is never enough time to see everything and do everything that you want to do.  No matter how often you talk about wanting to visit a new place, it seems like something always gets in the way of your plans.  Travelers learn that no matter how well thought out your travel plans are, there is always going to be something that you missed or forgot about somewhere along the way.

During our journey to arrive at this destination, we saw many things that were interesting, informative, and even some things that were scary (like many rattle snake and falling rock warning signs).  And along the way, we made stops where we learned of even more places we would have loved to have had the opportunity, time, and money to have explored.  It doesn’t matter where you end up, there will always be another place you would like to be.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t found joy where we are at, it simply means we realize that the opportunities to learn and see more are limitless.  Once you start on the road to traveling, you soon find that you want to see and do more than you ever imagined.  Inevitably, someone will ask if we stopped at this spot or that spot and when our reply is “no”, then we end up listening to all the reasons why we should have went there along the way.  That would be great if you had an endless amount of time and money but most of us don’t.  What is great though is meeting people who have been to all these other places that can give you a good run down of what you might find so that you can make an informed decision as to whether it is something to add to your future travel plans.

Sometimes, we hear of places that sound intriguing only to find out that they are total tourist traps and not all the worthwhile to put a lot of effort into getting to.  It doesn’t mean we have totally crossed them off our future to-do list, it just means they drop in priority.  The best advice I can offer is to really research your travel paths and make sure you plan on stopping at the really major sites along the way and hopefully you will find out about some of the minor places that are truly worth spending time to find and visit.  Don’t be afraid to ask the locals about the history of the areas you travel through because you will learn things that are never taught in any schools.

Also be aware that you have to plan for the unexpected when you travel.  You can have the best laid out travel plans but if you’re not flexible, you will create a huge amount of stress for yourself unnecessarily.  Life is really short, take advantage of opportunities as they arise and you will live a much fuller life and most likely find happiness along the way.

So if the travel bug is nipping at your heels, do not wait until your too old to enjoy what this world has to offer.  Look closely at your life, decide what is truly important to you, then make your travel plans and go enjoy the trip.  After all, if you’re not enjoying your life, chances are, your spending your life energy so that someone else can enjoy their life at your expense.  That was what set our journey into motion and caused us to be living in a tent in a campground thousands of miles away from the former life we felt we had been trapped in.  I know it sounds very radical, but hasn’t freedom always been a radical thought?

 

March 01, 2016 – Travel and Campground Hygiene

When you think of hygiene the first thing most people think of is personal body hygiene. And while that is extremely important if you don’t wish to become offensive and smell like a goat, it is also important to consider hygiene of your vehicle, tent, camp site, and any area you may spend any amount of time at.

Personal hygiene can be attended to any time you have access to water. But remember it is more important to have water to drink than it is to bathe with. If water is hard to come by, plan on picking up unscented baby wipes which are reasonably priced at most major grocery stores and do a great job of a quick freshen up in any restroom stall. Its amazing what you can do with one gallon of water if you carefully use it for bathing, tooth brushing, and hair washing. Of course if your lucky enough to have a shower available, by all means make use of it.

Vehicle hygiene is about keeping your vehicle free of debris that can get underfoot when your driving (bottles are the worst), food wrappers and half eaten food items that can attract wildlife to your vehicle in rural areas, dirty clothing that makes your vehicle smell like the dead goat, or even worse, those loose pieces of paper that end up flying out the window as you drive down the road and which end up on the road side (if your lucky) or on someone else’s windshield (if you’re not so lucky) which could cause an accident. Use trash cans when you stop to take a break to make sure your vehicle is safe and clean.

Campground hygiene is also more than just personal hygiene. Whether you are sleeping under the stars, inside a tent, or using an RV of some sort, the area you are spending time in needs to be kept reasonably clean for your own health and safety. Food that is left lying around can encourage a lot of unwanted visitors from the animal kingdom. Food containers, wrappers, and half eaten foods can not only cause health issues but it can look very unsightly. Clothing and towels draped all over the place looks just plain trashy and most campgrounds have a policy against it. It’s not just what is outside your sleeping area either. Having clutter inside of a tent causes stress and the possibility of trip and fall problems. Leaving clothing laying on the floor or ground makes it hard to move around in the darkness of night even with a flashlight. Most tents have little net pockets which are great for all those little things that you would struggle and stress about if you had to spend your time searching for them every single day.

A good idea is to find ways to keep items organized into boxes or totes for easy access. The less time you spend searching for things, the more time you have to enjoy your day. We all know that we need to do this and yet it seems to be the biggest struggle for most people to make it a habit and to stick with it. I found it best to go a step further and use different colored totes so I didn’t need to spend time opening a half-dozen totes of the same color. It did not take long for me to remember which items were in which colored totes. Of course clear totes are a bonus as you get a sneak peek of what’s inside.

The interesting thing about giving hygiene consideration in advance is that it also provides a sort of mental hygiene as well. When you have an organizational plan, your mind has less clutter and you will feel better. It’s a form of having less stress in your life. Less stress leads to greater peace of mind, gives you more energy to focus on other more pleasant activities, and can actually make you feel younger. Sounds like a great game plan to me! Alternative living in a tent in a campground can have enough stress of its own, anything I can do to reduce or remove stress is worth thinking twice about.

Feb. 26, 2016 – Strange things we’ve learned

We have run into many interesting people and situations both on our travels and now that we have settled down into a campground. People always like to give advice and not all of it is usable or advisable. But I am sure they mean well when they give it. Some advice has been very useful and we wish we had known the information a lot sooner.

Our first day in this campground, we were setting up our tent in blistering sun. No one told us that it only takes a half hour to get seriously burned. I spent the next week with huge water blisters on my shoulders and arms. Because I have a strong belief in not putting chemicals on my skin, and have never had too many problems with mild sunburns, I never thought about the difference in the suns abilities in different regions of the world. Everyone kept telling us we needed to drink lots of water but no one warned us about the intensity of the suns rays. I learned quickly to keep my skin covered or to limit the time I am exposed during the middle of the day.

I also have a fascination with photographing wild life. I’ve taken pictures of a Colorado River Bull Frog (which have poison glands all over them), Tarantulas (no one told me they could jump), and Scorpions (which can move very quickly when they want to). Contrary to what most people think, scorpions are normally really tiny, about two inches fully grown, and here in the United States they are not deadly unless you are allergic. If you get stung, it hurts like a bee sting, you take Benadryl, go lay down for a few hours and the pain goes away.
Anyways, my fascination has let me get right up on top of these little critters and snap all kinds of pictures without a second thought. Then one day I’m walking around in sandals and this little scorpion runs over my foot and I about have a heart attack on the spot. I never thought about the types of shoes I was wearing and no one bothered to point it out to me either. I now wear moccasins almost all the time. Of course I should be wearing hiking boots because I have yet to see the elusive diamond back rattle snake and the Gila monster that lives somewhere close to the campground.

Some of the better advice we have been given has been about our tent and our air mattress. I never thought about it but an air mattress on the ground draws the temperature of the ground straight up to your body when you sleep. A new friend of ours was nice enough to give us a large piece of foam to put over the air mattress which made a huge difference when the nights were really cold. We were also warned about how fast the sun would break down the cheaper tents. Sure enough, a month after the warning, our tent started to shred around the zippers. We ended up upgrading to a better brand of tent with a different zippered door design. We were told canvas would hold up a lot longer but our research has proven it is too far out of our price range at this time.

Before we left for this journey, we spoke with our doctor who gave us some very useful information as well. Always make time to get out and stretch your legs so you don’t develop blood clots and other circulation issues in your legs from setting too long. If your going to sleep in your vehicle, make sure you can lay flat (again its a circulation issue). Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Junk foods will not sustain you very well and after a very short amount of time, it can actually impair your judgement. And make sure you do not drive when you are tired no matter how pressed for time you are. You can’t get to your destination if you died in the process. We discovered that it is okay to grab cat naps in rest areas during the day but not a wise idea for overnight stays. If you really must travel and need to sleep somewhere at night, find a truck stop and get permission; its much safer and people will watch out for you.

And last of all, never judge a person by how they look. We have met some very kind and friendly people that are certainly not main stream people. Just because they looked a little different did not stop us from offering a helping hand or a cup of coffee. The rewards of meeting new people from different walks of life can be very rewarding. Yes, use care, just don’t over judge people just because they are not exactly like you. We live in a society where the media already slants things so that you only hear and see what someone else wants you to see. When you chose this type of alternative living, you have to learn to see with you own eyes, hear with your own ears, and feel with your own heart without someone else bias opinion shaping your thoughts and actions.