Monday, September 22, 2014

Lessons Learned

Here are a few things we learned during our recent 4½ month trek from Southern California up through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and back into California:

In no particular order:

  • Amazingly people actually steal stuff from campsites!  That's how we lost a dog pen and a hosepipe!
  • Disposable plates and cutlery are more trouble than they are worth - they take up too much space
  • Avoid overstocking the pantry & refrigerator - most of the time you only need to buy the food you are sure to eat in the next day or two
  • Have a couple of plastic boxes to stow small gift purchases so they don't get banged up
  • Need a small flexible brush to clean sink drains
  • 'Free' camping at wineries courtesy of Harvest Host is in fact expensive - but it's great fun and we've enjoyed some amazing wine - typically we'd spend around $40 at a winery versus anywhere from $0 to $20 elsewhere
  • Even though at home we prefer the fresher taste that comes from grinding coffee beans immediately before brewing, it's easier when on the road to use the store's grinder to grind a whole pound in advance
  • Having a couple of ice packs in the freezer is really useful for minor sprains
  • Pack a couple of knee braces for the same reason
  • Leave the crock-pot and associated dry-goods (beans, lentils etc.) at home - in 133 days we probably only had a couple where we had electrical hookups
  • Don't take a full sized ice cube tray - small is better
  • Carbon fiber trekking poles rock!
  • A big solar array rocks!  Never needed to be an electric miser; never had to worry about running the furnace all night
  • Take waterproof cases for cameras and wallets - eliminates worry when kayaking or canoeing
  • Oregon State Parks rock - not only plentiful and well maintained but also they have the best positioned dump sites - most were located outside the park before you get to the gate so you can always use them when just passing through
  • A 5GB hot spot on my Samsung Galaxy and unlimited data on Jane's iPhone is barely enough
  • Being at a site with no internet service is a drag
  • For the above two reasons, on our next trip we'll sign up for Millenicom's 20GB MiFi, and also get a Wilson signal booster
  • We need to explore better external storage options - need to take a look at a Max Cargo box on a StowAway pivoting rear carrier  
  • An inflatable kayak (Sea Eagle FastTrack Pro) would be sweet and is going on my wishlist
  • Even though they take space, Jane would take her UGGs next time
  • Ditto her English hot water bottle!
  • Sometimes low tech is best!  I like having a small hard cover journal and a quality fountain pen (I took my old Parker 51 on this trip) for notes - much prefer it to the smart phone!


  1. Janet can help you with the last point. She is a teacher of journaling, both travel, and nature!

  2. Interesting to read your list, especially since I'm doing some longer term traveling in a Chinook. Most of your points resonated with me.

    I remember my indignation when I had six Lynx blocks and a door mat stolen from a state park campground in Washington (where they advised people who took their rigs out of the site - as we do - to leave something to mark our presence). Hmph!

    I have the Millenicom mi-fi plus Wilson booster - great combo.

    Have looked at the swing away cargo box (ooh, all that space!) but haven't committed due to having to swing it out just to use the main door. That's when my side-door envy really comes out :D

    What I always have trouble finding a home for are "bigger" things that I use regularly. Two examples being a backpack and gallon water jugs. They always seem to end up in the aisle (grrr).

    1. Yes - I'm also concerned about the SwingAway's impact on back door access - I want to see how it fits before making a decision - next time I'm in the Portland area I plan on 'swinging' by their location and checking it out first hand

      I keep my Osprey Talon 18 backpack in the cupboard next to the furnace under the dinette

      I keep 4 gallon water bottles under the sink, and when we will be isolated for a few days 2 or 3 more in the sink

  3. (Pardon any duplication - I'm having trouble getting the comment to post.)

    I'll be interested to hear what you think of the Swing Away in person. Another one I looked at (online) was the Velo Combo. I noticed that one of their example photos showed one on a Chinook Concourse. It looks like it swings the opposite way as the Swing Away, for better or worse (so it would swing opposite of the door, but also opposite of the way to blocking most campsites since they are usually oriented for side-door rigs).

    I wouldn't have thought I could fit water jugs under the sink (that would be the obvious place!). I'll have to double check -- or maybe you have a different setup there than I do. Hmm, it seems like they *do* fit there. Of course that means I'll have to remove the nifty drawer I got to fit there (heh, constant storage juggling as a way of life; if I ever get it all just right that will probably mean it is time for a new rig.. LOL). I'm glad I read your tip, as for some reason I never thought of putting water jugs there.

    I have a propane oven as part of the stove, and I really really like it, but I do have occasional thoughts of removing it when I think of all the good, low storage I could have in that space...

    1. When I was in Glacier National Park I saw a Canadian rig with a superb alternative to Stowaway - it was made by Komo Creations in Canada. Not sure how it would work on a 'nook but I'd love to check it out if we are ever close to their operation - but I'd need to brush up my school boy French before stopping by!

  4. You might enjoy the English version of the Velo Combo video - complete with charming French accent :D The Velo Combo is meant for putting bicycles on the top, so the doors are on the side (rear) not the top. it would make a nice camp table that way though! I really like the look of it and the way it hinges left. It's fiberglass. They have a couple of models - you can see a photo of a 401 on a Chinook if you scroll down (videos on another tab you'll see):