Posts Tagged ‘buying gear’

Going to an RV Show

Back when the “Royal” family got re-started with RVing, we attended a TON of big RV shows. Why? Because RV shows gave us the chance to see many makes and models of RVs – at one time and at one place.

(Not familiar with types of RVs? Check out the article from 2 weeks ago!)

For that reason, I think that everybody who’s even remotely considering getting an RV should find a show near them and check it out! Plus, there’s an RV show every year, in every region of the country!

What do you want to look for at the show?
If you’re just beginning, take a look at ALL the types of RVs and imagine your family using them. If you know what type of RV you want, then look at all the different sizes and models. You need to actually THINK about what camping in them would be like.

For example, in our first hybrid, we knew that we didn’t want to climb over the table to get to a bed. It ruins the seat cushions of the table and who ever was sitting at the table would need to get up. We also knew, from experience, that an external shower was a must. We also wanted an internal bathroom with a shower, an oven for orange rolls, and a good freezer. Our unit came with a microwave that we took out for extra storage.

But, if he hadn’t spent all that time exploring our options we wouldn’t have known exactly what we were looking for.

RV salesmen, like all salesmen, will make you big deals at the show. But, it’s only a deal if you get a rig that fits your needs!

Oh, and be sure to check out the million dollar rigs — just to look at all the crazy things that are possible! A hot tub in a trailer, anybody?

Don’t Skimp on Sunglasses!

If you’ve read any magazines lately, you’ve probably seen article after article about sun protection. As an Arizona native, I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit nutsy about my sun protection.

And with summer just around the corner, I’ve been after ESP Boss to get new sunglasses (he did) and fussing at CodeWolf to either get contacts and sunglasses or a pair of prescription glasses. (Still working on that one!)

I always wear my hat, I use sunscreen like it’s going out of style, and my sunglasses are my best friends. (Yes, I’m working on a sunscreen article of my own!)

Kim in Sunglasses

But I know a lot of people who don’t wear sunglasses or who aren’t consistent in wearing them. And I’m here to tell you that you need to be!

What are some things to think about when choosing sunglasses for the family?

1. Will they wear them?
Protection does no good if it isn’t used. When you buy sunglasses, make sure the person who’s going to wear them is there to try them on. You’re going for fit first, not looks. So, make sure they don’t slip off the face, pinch the nose, or put pressure behind the ears.

2. Do they offer UV protection?
What’s the point of sun protection if it doesn’t protect? Read labels! If you can get some with broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection that’s the best bet for your money. But at the very least make sure that your sunglasses offer some UV protection.

3. How big are they?
Itty bitty sunglasses might look cute, but they don’t really protect the eyes. As anybody who’s fished can tell you, there’s a lot of reflected glare coming UP at you, so make sure they protect the eyes all the way around.

4. How dark are they?
You want sunglasses that are dark enough so you won’t be squinting, no matter how bright the reflections or glares are. Squinting creates wrinkles too, and who wants those?

If you can, walk outside on a sunny day before buying your sunglasses. If nothing else, look at a store’s florescent lighting to get some idea of how the glasses will work outside.

ESP Boss and The Outdoor Princess

Between the hats and the glasses you can hardly see our faces! Trust me, that's ESP Boss and The Outdoor Princess under there!

5. Don’t skimp on cost
I love my polarized sunglasses since they dramatically reduce glare and reflections. Of course, they’re prescription so they were expensive to begin with, but the added cost of polarization is well worth it. But, if your family won’t WEAR the sunglasses (see Tip #1) then cheap or expensive doesn’t make much difference.

I will tell you this, though, if you wear prescription glasses and spend a lot of time outdoors: spring for the extra pair of prescription sunglasses OR the glasses the darken in the sun.

If you wear contact lenses then YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE not to have a good pair of sunglasses!

You know I LOVE recommending people take a look at for shopping ideas so here’s a link to the page about sunglasses. (Affiliate link)

Readers Weigh In:

  • How often do you wear sunglasses?
  • Crows feet make you look younger: yes or no?
  • What is your favorite pair of sunglasses? (Style, brand, etc)

Buying An RV: 5 Tips

I wanted to introduce you to the newest member of the “Royal” Family:

Coleman Taos Tent Trailer

"Skippy" is covered in snow at the moment and I couldn't open him up to get a photo. A "portrait" is the best I could do.

My new (to me) Coleman tent trailer! (I think I’m going to call him Skippy.)

This is a 1998 Coleman Taos. That’s the smallest tent trailer that Coleman made. In the course of finding and then buying the trailer, I kept a mental list of tips to help keep you sane through the buying process.

This list is very different from the article I published a few months ago: Top 10 Tent Trailer Tips

1. Figure out how you want to use the RV

This is really important so don’t make the mistake of meeting with a salesman first! You’ll want to really think about what you’re looking for before you go to an RV dealership and have some well-meaning salesperson talk you into an RV that isn’t right for your family.

Some things to think about are:

  • Do I want to cook inside or outside?
  • How big of a stove do I want?
  • How many people will I need to sleep? (Keep kids, friends, and pets in mind!)
  • How big of a potable water tank do I want?
  • Do I want a shower?
  • Do I want a toilet? Could I get by with a removable canister toilet or does it need to be built in?
  • Oven? Fridge? Microwave? TV?

2. Decide how big of an RV that you want to handle

For me, little was better. I have a tiny truck and I’m not comfortable with the idea of pulling a big hard-side trailer. And when I was thinking of size, it wasn’t just the physical size of the trailer (although I did think about that) but it was also the towing capacity of my vehicle.

My folks missed this critical step when they bought their last RV! The Queen Mother found the PERFECT trailer, ESP Boss bought it for her, and then they realized that the truck couldn’t really pull the trailer! It was getting 6 miles to the gallon and the engine was laboring up even mild grades.

Since they’re in love with the trailer, they bought a new truck!

3. Visit an RV dealership or RV show

The bigger the better on this one! It’s not that you’re ready to buy, it’s that you’re ready to do some nitty gritty research. Go armed with the specs on your tow vehicle and your list of how you’ll use the RV.

Then, spend time getting the feel of the various sizes and models. Your vehicle might be able to PULL a monster trailer but do you want to CAMP in one? You might find a feature that you simply can’t live without.

One of the things I always look at is the arrangement of seating at the table versus getting into a bed. Especially in tent trailers, it’s common to have to step ONTO the bench at the dinette to climb into a bed. For me, I hate that since I don’t want to break down the bench’s padding with my foot and I don’t want to put my muddy boot where I’ll be sitting to eat later!

4. Decide the maximum amount you want to spend

Now that you’re armed with ideas, decide your budget. This one can be kind of tricky. You might have a number in mind and then start shopping and realize that you can’t get all the features you really want in your price range.

I ended up spending more than I originally wanted to, but the trailer turned out to be a SCREAMING deal so I was okay with it.

5. Start shopping!

Visit dealerships, used car lots, and bankruptcy trustee sales (that’s where I found mine.) Also keep an eye on your local newspaper’s classified ads, Craigslist, and eBay. Once you find a trailer you want, do some research to find out what it’s selling for.

I started by going to NADA Guides to take a look at the “blue book” offering for my trailer. Then I looked at the same MODEL of trailer (Coleman Taos) across a 4-year window (1994-1998). I used that to get an idea for the high and low asking prices for a comparable trailer.

It’s really important to keep in mind three things when you’re looking for comparable trailers:

  1. Size
  2. Year
  3. Condition

If you can’t find the perfect RV right away, don’t despair. Just keep looking. I also recommend talking to your friends and family about what you’re looking for; you never know when they might hear of the perfect RV for you.

The Story of “Skippy”

ESP Boss & I were heading to the store to buy more Christmas lights for the outside of his house when we passed a bankruptcy trustee sales lot that had a GREAT little tent trailer offered. We went back the following week and got to meet the trustee and take a look at the trailer. It was in GREAT condition.

The asking price was $2,000 which was more than I wanted to pay (Step 4). But, the trailer had all the features and amenities that I wanted (Step 1-3) so I put in an offer (Step 5). I offered him $700 which was above NADA but the trailer was in great condition. (And I REALLY wanted it!)

There was a counter offer so I had to raise my bid. At the date of the sale, I was the highest offer and the trailer was mine for $1,700. I think all parties were happy: I got a deal (comparable trailers had been selling from $2,200 to $2,500) and the trustee got $1,000 more than my original offer.

And I’ll be spending my Christmas money getting ready for my first spring camping trip!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Have you ever purchased an RV? How was the process?
  • Have you ever had to upgrade a vehicle to pull your new RV?
  • Or downgrade your RV to match the towing capacity of your vehicle?

When I announced on Facebook that I’d purchased a tent trailer I had a ton of friends comment about happy tent-trailer camping memories. Do you have any to share?

Sticker-Free Hiking

It’s next to impossible to go camping without also going hiking. Or at least walking in Nature! I nearly gave up walking anywhere other than on pavement because of how much I hated getting stickers, prickers, thorns, and other pokey-scratchy things in my socks.

(In fact, this was one of the reasons I didn’t want to go deer hunting with ESP Boss when I was in high school!)

Then, my ESP Boss gave me the best invention EVER: hiking gators! Gators (also spelled “gaiters”) are traditionally used to prevent snake bites. Snake gators cover the legs from boot laces to knee and are made of a hard material to prevent fang penetration. Snake gators are hot and stiff.

Hiking gators, on the other hand, are just enough to cover the boot top and your socks and can be worn either with pants or shorts. Mine were marketed through Cabellas (they’ve since stopped carrying them) and are of a heavy duty canvas with an elastic top that goes around my ankle.

I'm just wearing sneakers in the picture - NOT the boots I hike in!

I wear my gaiters every day when I’m out camping. I also wear them when I’m weeding my garden to keep stickers out of my socks and to keep bugs from crawling up my pant legs.

My camping tip for the week is to invest in some hiking gators. If you find a pair you really like, go out and buy a second pair. That way, you’re covered if you lose one or if your favorite gators aren’t being made anymore.

I did some research, and it seems like these Hiking Gaiters through are pretty close to what I’ve got.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What is your must-have item when you’re camping or hiking?

Product Review: Solar Showers

Most of the time, getting dirty while camping is half the fun. But on longer trips, or if it is really hot out, I’m always interested in cleaning up a bit. Trust me, having clean hair, face and hands goes a LONG way toward making me feel human again!

It holds 5 gallons of water and is made from heavy-duty plasic.

Whenever I drive through a campground, I see tons of those PVC camp showers laying on picnic tables and the hoods of cars. But my only experience with one was decidedly unpleasant so I’m never tempted to try it one out.

The Story

It was just before my 4th birthday. Standing on a picnic table, The Queen Mother decided to hose me down. Needless to say, the water was FREEZING and I was screaming that I was camping, there was no way I’d ever take a shower! Needless to say, Mom gave it up as a bad job and just dried me off! No solar showers for me!

According to the package, the solar shower should be able to heat 5 gallons of water from 60 degrees to 105 degrees in just three hours. And, according to various water/shower websites, most people shower in water between 102 and 107 degrees. So, the box promising water of 105 would be right in the comfortable range for most people.

I'm not sure how easy it would be to fill the shower without using a garden hose!

Of course, there’s a HUGE difference between a solar camp shower and your shower at home:

The Bathroom!

At home, you close the door and trap all the warm air around you. In camp, there aren’t really any doors to close!

The only thing left to do was to put the solar shower to the test!

The Test:

  • Initial Water Temperature: 78°
  • Gallons in shower: 5
  • Put in sun at: 1:07 pm
  • Outside Temperature: 94°

High-dollar weather station I "borrowed" from ESP Boss.

Mid-way through the 3 hours:

  • Time: 2:37 pm
  • Water Temperature: 92°
  • Outside Temperature: 97°

After 3 hours

  • Time: 4:08 pm
  • Water Temperature: 100°
  • Outside Temperature: 94°

The Verdict:

Well, at 100 degrees, maybe the water would be warm enough and maybe not. On a hot day, it would probably be okay to rinse hands and face. Even a quick scrub to my hair. Since I was at the office, couldn’t really test it!

My water, straight from the garden hose, started out at a balmy 78 degrees. I’m pretty sure that this is much warmer than water that comes out of the spigot at any campground I’VE ever been too!

I used an aquarium termometer to measure water temperatures.

The shower was a bit hard to fill with the hose. It seemed like it would go better as a two person job. To make matters worse, when I tried to pick up the bag, the clear plastic shower tube popped off and water went pouring over my foot. (This is a problem!)

It was actually quite difficult to carry the shower from where I filled it to where I was going to conduct the test. Of course, I couldn’t really wrap my arms around it and carry it like a baby since I was at the office and didn’t want to get all wet. In camp, this might not be as much of an issue since wet and dirty are part of the fun of camping.

I’m not sure at all how you would HANG 5 gallons of hot water so you could get UNDER the hose to wash anything. 1 gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds; 5 gallons weighs 42 pounds, give or take. That’s an awful lot of weight to haul up into a tree!

The full shower is heavy and awkward!

The box said that the hot water is also good for washing dishes. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in camp, I want to scrub dishes with BOILING water. Maybe use warm water (solar shower warm) as a rinse.

Now, there is one more part of the puzzle:

It was partly cloudy in the afternoon so the solar shower wasn’t in 100% full sun. I don’t know how much of a difference that makes to the over all water temperature. I’m planning on re-testing the shower with cold water and on a fully sunny day. I also am curious to know if air temperature makes that much of a difference. And, what happens if you DON’T put the bag in the sun, clear-side-up?

Readers Weigh In:

  • What have been your experiences with solar showers?
  • What is your favorite way to clean up while you’re in camp?

Here’s a link, in case you want to purchase a camp shower.