Forced to prepare
Part 1 – Prepping of course
We pulled into New Orleans after spending the night in Tallahassee. It’s my wife’s first time in the historic city. It’s her first time in any major city for that matter. We stopped for some Gumbo and got down to the business of the day, Where to live. That’s right were moving near hear so I can attend one of 2 colleges in the U.S. that offer a Commercial Diving program. This portion of my training will last around 7 months, and we really don’t like the area of Florida we are in so we’ve decided to move.
We had 3 appointments to see rentals in the area. We also had a list of around 4 more maybes we could call if we needed to so we were confident we would find something that fit most of our needs. After viewing 2 of our three appointments, calling our back up list, and calling through the classifieds we were about ready to give up. But after some advice from a guy at a gas station… I decided to check one more place. We drove up a local highway and found the sign we were told to look for. As soon as we pulled in we were surprised for a few reasons. First was that the area was great, somewhat remote but still close enough to a metropolitan area. This was exactly what we were looking for. It also had a great pool, weekly activities; a Put Put golf course, fishing ponds, and CRAWFISH PONDS!!! The only thing that was missing was the house. This was an RV park.
An RV park or Trailer park isn’t exactly living off the grid. Just to put it in perspective ONE of our pools is heated. That being said there are a lot more challenges than you might think. The switch from a house or apartment to an RV has a dramatic effect on the amount of personal and household stuff you can store. Fact is unless you’re trying to get on hoarders you’re going to have to get rid of about 80% of your stuff. RV’s and campers in our budget just can’t store all of our things. This has left me with a unique opportunity to prep. I have decided to make our Camper as self reliant as possible. The goal is to make it so we can leave with our camper and want for nothing. Since we do not have the storage space necessary to do this in a conventional sense we will be overcoming these challenges in new and creative ways I look forward to sharing with you.
The first step in any survival situation is to survey the area for useful items. In this situation our apartment is that area. Just like a survival situation we will need to determine what is worth our energy to carry and what isn’t. Now before we get carried away with what’s “worth” carrying remembering we still want to finish school and take care of our 1 year old and our huge dog. So fishing for our food and starting fires to cook so we can get rid of our fridge and grill isn’t gonna happen. It is important that you learn these skills should you need them but we prep so that we can live, we don’t live to prep. No matter how much fun it is. We started by deciding what we needed as a house hold.
As far as family or community items go the kitchen is a great place to start. It’s an easy place to cut down quickly. If there are 3 of you, you would want 3 plates ditch the rest. Seems simple enough right? Even though this is possibly the easiest room in the house to clean out, you will still run into what I call item separation anxiety. Or maybe you won’t but I did. I have buddies that are “hardcore” and I applaud their enthusiasm. This part of the process is where the prepping comes into it for the rest of us. I have started trying to live off my bailout bag. I book a campsite grab the bag and see what happens. I can watch all the YouTube videos I want and I will still have major problems that could have been avoided because I didn’t practice my prep. Moving into a camper 32 feet long by myself would be fairly easy but I plan on keeping my family safe and with me in the event of an emergency. So let’s give each person 10 feet on our 30 foot (rounded down) camper and that’s like having a pop-up for 1 person. Living out of a pop-up by yourself would keep you reasonably comfortable but you would have to leave your long range small plated game thermal scoped hunting rifle and the other half dozen special weapons at home and just keep the AR you know? So you might be asking yourself “what would I have trouble living without?” How long could I live without having it (thank god for storage units or caches)? Moving into a camper forces you to make these decisions. And in my humble opinion they are questions we all should have experience answering. This is one way to practice your prep.
We sold or gave away the juicer the toaster the coffee maker, all but 1 of the cutting boards, all kinds of things. We got the entire kitchen (except for the food) down to 2 medium sized box’s .Dish’s went down to 4 of everything with a set of small stuff for the baby. Easy enough I thought. Maybe this isn’t going to be that painful. The entire time I am avoiding the fridge. Scared to death of which flavored mayo I was gonna have to pick. I like the fridge a lot. I eat a lot and I enjoy it. I go to the butcher and buy meat in bulk. The only frozen meals I eat are lasagnas. I make my own gravy and sauces from scratch. I like food a lot is the basic message I’m trying to get across here. So this was my first real taste of item separation anxiety.
If you’ve never seen the size of a fridge on a camper you know what I’m talking about. It’s basically a larger mini fridge. A gallon of milk takes up about a 1/3 of it. Dry goods are not a real big problem cause I have room underneath for tough box’s that can safely hold pasta and rice and my year of back up food to sustain our 1500-2000 calorie diets. But living without cold storage, or in this case extremely limited cold storage, is something that we all might run into at some point in time. How do we deal with this? Well the gallon of milk could be replaced with dehydrated or condensed milk. But what is in our fridge that we couldn’t live without? Here’s what we came up with. One with power one list without:
3. Lunch meat
9. Dairy based salad dressing
1. Water Storage
Obviously we would not be able to maintain any refrigerated items without a power source. We will be outfitting our camper to use solar power. I plan on using a renewable energy source to run a refrigeration unit which we will go into further in Part 2. On a renewable energy source changes will be made to accommodate the same exact list as With Power. We took our ketchup, mustard, drinks, vegetables, salad dressings, etc out of the fridge. Not really sure why they were in there to begin with. Maintaining cold storage for food on a renewable energy source, this has become a huge part of my prep and for what it cost’s I believe it will end up being priceless.
Many of our larger items in the living area have been accommodated for by the camper manufacturer. Our couch is there our table our Television and stereo so on. Selling these higher ticket Items has left us with a surplus of 1500.00 dollars. We decided that whatever we needed for the camper lifestyle we are transitioning into would come from these funds. However almost all of these items are luxury’s and can be lived without. Before I get into the list I wanted to make light of the fact that most of these luxuries are purchased for function. While the same effects of these luxuries can be accomplished though good prepping and training.
1. Deep Freezer – The purpose of the deep freezer is 2 fold. First it saves us money on food second it reduces trips to the grocery store. I would like to run a more efficient freezing system off solar but I haven’t researched it well enough yet. Both of these luxuries can be replaced by preserving meat through smoking or dehydration. Skills easily taught just Google it. I’ve found dehydrators made out of the craziest stuff. Saw one made out of a Van one time. You just have to learn how to create the right conditions.
2. Outdoor space heater – This is a power sucker I know and I don’t really care. It allows my family to utilize the concrete slab on the side of our camper comfortably. That’s makes a world of difference in the morale department. Morale can make or break you no matter the conditions. But this luxury can be replaced the easiest. Better fires and quality clothing. I say better cause inefficient fires that keep you warm can exhaust resources.
3. Organization – Why do I consider this a luxury? Because I could have accomplished the same effects cheaper than the way I did. The piece of mind and ease of access to semi readily used items can reduce mental fatigue. Ever get aggravated when you can’t find something? Or when you grab a box or bag and it rips or tears spilling stuff everywhere? I don’t need to have my summer clothing closed inside of space bags vacuum sealed, labeled and closed in a water resistant high density plastic containers. I do, because it makes me feel better. These items can easily be condensed into a large zip lock and rolled up with a duct tape wrapped around it and over the seal. Luxury number 3.
I’m hoping to get rid of the first two through design and technology. I have this idea to design my outside area to maximize the use of a smaller heating source. I also have it in my head that I can run that freezer on solar as well. Who knows, what I do know is that I can achieve the same results these technologies provide with more time. In an emergency situation you do gain time.
Bedroom, nursery, bathroom, study
All of these spaces are replaced by the camper/camp design. Spend a fair amount of time researching safe comfortable sleeping areas and sanitary facilities for waste, as well as how to construct them and where to do so most importantly. The rules you will learn could save you from yourself. But for the sake of this article we need to address how the lack of space forces us to decide what’s really important. My wife likes to dress up. I convinced a woman who has 2 bathrooms full of stuff and uses around 200 square feet of closet space to move into a camper. If you’ve ever seen the closet space on a camper you would understand how impressive that is. It makes it easier when you have a goal you need to accomplish. And in an emergency situation your goal might be to become self sufficient.
The bathroom was fairly easy. Tackle box is a great way to take care of this kind of stuff. Makes life easy if you need to evacuate as well, just grab and go. Studying is done on the camper table. Meals are eaten outside if studying has the table tied up. Bedroom has your cloths. Nursery has the baby stuff. These are a little more difficult.
Our daughter plays with around 5 or 6 toys actively. Besides that there are a few larger outside things. We are lucky enough to have 2 rooms on our camper. Top bunk has been outfitted to make her escape impossible. More on this in Part 2, the lower bunk has been removed to accommodate her stuff. This and the living area is where she spends half her time. The other half is outside in the safe section of our concrete slab with her dog. All in all she has roughly 2/3 the walking space she had in our 2 bedroom townhouse.
Clothing is the toughest of the 4 rooms. The bedroom has a nightstand and drawers for your personal items. We have a storage unit for larger things we feel the need to keep. This area might be looted in an emergency I guess. I can obviously do fine without the items. But all in all the clothing was the problem we had in the bedroom. This is what I decided to keep with me. Haven’t been in the camper long so we will see how it works out.
Pants x 4
Jacket x 1
Shirts x 5
Socks x 5
Work Clothes x 4
Boots x 1
Tennis Shoes x 1
I have a cold weather bag and a warm weather bag I swap out. They each have 4 items. Swim trunks, sweaters so on.
I don’t miss any of our home furnishings. In fact I still feel way to dependant on the grid until I get the solar panels setup. That’s not what’s important though. What’s important is that we were presented with the first set of problems that come along with being self sufficient and we have started to overcome them. I hope you take some time out of your schedule to do the same. It might save you or someone else in an emergency. I would also love to hear your suggestions. Maybe there’s something I can do better or an idea you have for camper modifications, any solar campers out there? Stay safe and stay aware.