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?

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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.

Welcome to alternative living

Tent camping has been looked at as a hobby and recreational activity for so long that many fail to see it as a real form of housing.  Six months ago when my husband and I decided to make the switch from traditional housing that we could no longer afford to maintain on a fixed income, many people were in disbelief that we would chose such a radical extreme by choosing a tent to live in.

After much modification to our life style and a few surprises along the way, we are adapting very well and enjoying the daily experiences that randomly occur.  Some experiences are funny, some are strange, and some even frightening.  Through it all we have grown closer as a couple and have learned a new respect for the weather and others that have chosen to live like us.

What we do find disturbing is the fact that in most typical campgrounds, we are considered part of the slum sites, the other side of the tracks, or one of those people.  For anyone who has ever tent camped, you know that you are never placed right next to one of those half million dollar RV rigs.  Where has this negative image arisen from?  We bathe regularly, we don’t play loud obnoxious music, we don’t use drugs, and we are very respectful of not only the people around us but also the environment around us.  And yet we continue to run into this attitude that somehow we are less than human and should be treated as such.  People from those big rigs will walk on by and shift their gaze away as if they are shamed by our presence in their vicinity.  Not all of them, but a large majority of them.

We have had the opportunity to settle into a modest RV park which will remain unnamed and have even been given the opportunity to work for the park.  It wasn’t until we became employees that people started to talk to us and find out we were here by choice.  Some of them probably still talk about us behind our back but at least now they have some facts not just useless assumptions.  Some people have told us that they just can not wrap their minds around giving everything they own up and living in a tent full time.  We try to explain that there is more freedom in this life style than most people could imagine.

We arise with the sunrise every morning without the need for alarm clocks.  We retire at night when the sun sets.  We have endured roasting hot day time temperatures and below freezing night time temperatures with a small amount of discomfort and adjustments that we had to make.  Over all, I would make the same choices again.