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Thursday, June 26, 2014

How long can you keep water "safe" in your RV tank?

Stix and brix home owners are encouraged to have a "go bag" ready in case some kind of evacuation is called for. Grab and go. How about your RV? While we try to keep our rig ready to go at a moment's notice, sometimes that "evacuation" isn't due to flooding, wildfire, or earthquake. Sometimes the desire to bug-out just means we want to get away from the every day pressures.

Having your RV sitting in the driveway, "ready to roll" on a spur-of-the-moment trip is one of the gifts of our lifestyle. Got propane and gas in the tanks? Holding tanks empty? If you keep a few clothes in the rig, some non-perishable food items, and grab whatever else from your house 'fridge, your RV is up to an "instant getaway." Ah, but what about the fresh water tank? How long can I safely keep water in it before worrying about "bugs"?

Our "germ free" society seems to be bent on scaring us to death. If you believe the TV commercials, if you don't wash with "antibacterial soap," you're sure enough going to drop over dead. It's no wonder that many RVers worry about how long it's safe to keep water on board. Some even think they should drain their water heater between outings.

We checked with Uncle Sam's water storage safety experts on the subject storing "home prepared" drinking water, and here's the thinking of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Much depends on the quality of your water source. If you're filling up your RV tanks with water from a "known" good source (a municipal water supply as an example) then stop worrying about the water. Before you fill, make sure your tanks are properly sanitized. Not sure how? Check out our post on this subject.

Using a drinking water-safe hose, fill your tank from your safe supply. Make sure the tank is securely capped to keep out unwelcome pests and road dust. Now settle back and relax. According to FEMA, "Replace the water every six months," is all that's required. What about water in your water heater tank? Remember, when you fire up the heater, a lot of bugs are likely to be cooked to death. And if the water supply you originally filled up with is good, then the same "six month" recommendation applies.

If you're really worried about water quality, FEMA suggests you purchase commercially produced drinking water, and keep it closed until you need it. It should be good until the "use by" expiration date printed on the bottle.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

RVing at high altitude

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Getting out and away from civilization sometimes means getting to new heights. Think Colorado, New Mexico, all those Rocky Mountain states. It's an adjustment for an RVer to climb to new heights – and it can be a challenge for your RV appliances. Some RVers swear that when they hit the "high country," they basically have to live without propane-fired appliances.

Traveling in high places with your rig can mean a few changes, but the drama of "no shower, no cold beer" may be a bit overblown. Both from personal experience of our own, and "as told by" RVers around the country, heading for the hills in the RV isn't a huge problem.

Water heaters seem to be the appliance that has some of the greatest trouble in the high county. They sometimes balk when attempting to light, but here's a trick that can help: Open the outside door, allowing more of air to get inside to the burner. That often is enough to stop problems in itself.

We've only found one instance of an RVer who said they had problems with their refrigerator not wanting to work at high altitude. At first they though something had physically gone wrong with the unit, but once they came down below 7,000 feet, the fridge worked fine. No others reported any problems. If you do take your rig high up and can't get the cooler to stay cool, then switch away from gas to shore power.

Other gas appliances at altitude? Seems like stoves and ovens work just fine; you will have to make the adjustments called for in cooking time, since water boils at a lower temperature, and leavening tends to gas more – causing baked stuff to expand quicker. Read your recipe and food prep details closely.

If you use a "blue flame" or catalytic heater, you may find that they won't work right – or won't work at all. This is because many of these "non-vented" appliances include an oxygen depletion sensor to protect occupants, lest the heater burn up all the oxygen, and leaving the "air breathing carbon units" without air. Get much above five or six thousand feet, the oxygen depletion sensor "thinks" the thin air has too little oxygen and simply shuts down the heater. Not much to be done about that, short of trying to defeat the sensor, which would NOT be a bright thing to do.

One common complaint about high level travel: Electrical generators often don't run as they should, if they run at all. Happily, most RVers reported that such wasn't a big problem, as it seems many use the generator largely for running air conditioners, and at higher elevations they generally didn't need the cooling units.

Happy high trails.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Conserving water? Clean up with these alternative shower suggestions

When you're on the road and water is tight, where can you get a shower? RVers come up with the most interesting suggestions. Here's a few places you may have thought about – but from a different slant. On the other hand, there's a few here you may have never considered.

Truck stops: Some truck stops give away a "free shower," with a fuel purchase. Some RVers have interesting approaches to how to use that free shower. One suggested if the shower stalls aren't "roped off," that is, they aren't in gender-specific areas, you might consider a "communal shower," with your better half. Another said they've simply asked for an extra towel and one used the stall right after the other.

Truck stops that offer commercial driver "reward cards," here's a tip from a retired trucking couple: Get two cards, one for hubby, one for wife. Then have the attendant link them as "team driver" cards. Often what happens is that you'll get a free shower on each card for a fuel-up.

One wag suggests if the outfit offers a free shower with a fuel purchase and your rig has dual tanks, fill up one tank, pay and get your "credit." Then drive around again, fill the other tank, and repeat.

Commercial RV parks: Even if you aren't staying on, some RV parks will let you plunk down a few bucks and use their shower houses.

Got a gym membership? Bring your membership card and drop in to an affiliate club.

Elk's Club facilities – open to members.

Laundromats: Here's a way to get the clothes and the bod cleaned at roughly the same time. We don't recommend jumping in the big drier afterwards, though.

City facilities: Some towns have parks with showers, or you might check in at a city operated swimming pool.

State parks: Often have "coin-op" shower facilities. You may wind up paying an entrance fee, in addition to the quarters you'll run out for hot water.

Sun-showers: Oh, yeah. If you have a suitable place to shower without the company of the neighbors peepers, a solar shower will help you conserve water and propane. One RVing couple recommends a fair-sized spray bottle – hose yourself off with one of these a couple times a week, then save up for a once-a-week "real" shower. Get elaborate, fill one spray bottle with warm, soapy water, and two with warm water for rinsing off.

Or you could try one of the latest offerings in the "personal shower" line. The "Simple Shower," to borrow from their advertising, "attaches to just about any one or two liter bottle to convert them into a shower. No longer will you have to lift a solar shower filled with 20 or 40 pounds of water above your head to take a shower while camping - simply fill a plastic 1 or 2 liter bottle with warm water, or leave the bottle in the sun to heat up, and attach the Simple Shower for a quick and easy shower." Grab one at amazon.com.

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