No Regrets Camping: How Not To Enjoy a Camping Trip

You don’t have to be the Born Survivor to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your preferences, here are 15 bad moves make while camping.

1. Ignore fire bans. As awesome as smores are, adhere to campground rules regarding fires. If the authorities in charge of the campground or national forest say no fires, they mean no fires. It is your responsibility to be fire safe when camping. Before you go, check to see if there are fire bans in place where you plan to visit, and act accordingly.

2. Gather wood without checking. Even when fires are allowed, gathering of wood may not be. Ask first, and then gather only down and dead wood in designated areas. Never cut live trees or branches from live trees.

3. Start a fire with gasoline. Assuming that there is no burn ban, you should be prepared to start your fire with appropriate fuel. If not, then we hope you remembered your first aid kit.

Camping at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Burn wood that does not fit in the fire pit. So you found an awesome log that will burn for hours, only it doesn’t fit in the designated fire ring. And you forgot your hatchet. Your plan is to just lay it across the fire or stick in one end. It will only burn the part in the fire, right?  Wrong! Keep your fire to a manageable size. Make sure children and pets are supervised when near the fire. Never leave your campfire unattended

5. Miss the stars. How you could you ignore this amazing view?! It’s easy when you live in the city to forget that stars even exist. Look up at night when you camp. It’s life-changing.

6. Feed the wildlife. As much as your social media page would be enhanced by photos of chipmunks eating potato chips, nothing about it is good for the animal. And then there are the campers that occupy your site next who will not be able to enjoy a sandwich without being harassed by begging critters.

Camping at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Leasburg Dam State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Play loud music. Camping is about enjoying the natural world. Try listening to the wind in the trees, the gurgling of the stream, or the chattering of the birds. Besides, your music is annoying to the neighbors.

8. Don’t give your kids camp chores to do. Camping is filled with life lessons for children. From setup to cleanup, there are confidence-building tasks that your kids should be doing.

9. Stay glued to your devices. And don’t let your kids do it either. Camping is the perfect time for a digital detox.

10. Watch TV. Stars > Netflix anyhow. Every moment of a camping trip that you spend watching TV is a moment when you could have been enjoying your companions, your surroundings, and the simple serenity of doing nothing.

11. Overestimate your vehicle. Don’t take a two-wheel drive SUV off-roading. Don’t take chances with bald tires or faulty gas gauges. Know what your vehicle can and cannot do and camp somewhere within that range of ability.

12. Overestimate your outdoor skills. Rock climbing on a cruise ship does not qualify you to climb the face of a mountain. Nor does watching two seasons of Naked and Afraid make you a survival expert. Be honest with yourself about your skills and plan accordingly.

Camping at Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Underestimate the wildlife. That ain’t no teddy! Bears, raccoons, and other wildlife can make your camping trip miserable if you underestimate their survival skills. They can unzip, unlock, and chew through things with astonishing efficiency. Learn how to critter proof your trip before you ever leave home.

14. Leave anything behind. “Leave no trace” is the campers’ creed, and it applies even in organized campgrounds. It means that when you pull out of your campsite, there should not be any sign that you and your group were ever there.

15. Disrespect the campground. Respecting the facility goes beyond simply cleaning up after yourself; it means not carving initials into picnic tables, parking only on designated hard surfaces, and finding a way to leave it better for the next guy, not worse.

Worth Pondering…

Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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15 Bad Camping Decisions

You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste.

Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground.

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…
You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.
—Yogi Berra

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Prep Your RV For Summer In 5 Easy Steps

The weather is getting warmer and summer will soon be here.

Ramblers Rest RV Resort, Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Ramblers Rest RV Resort, Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now is the time to start planning your summer vacation. But prior to booking a campsite, owners of recreational vehicles should perform some basic and routine maintenance to ensure that their road trip goes smoothly. Preventative measures and maintenance will reduce the risk of problems.

It is a much better to take care of any problems while at home rather than having to deal with costly repairs while on the road. Trouble-free camping makes for happy camping.

Plug it In – Turn it On

After taking the RV out of winter storage, plug it in to shore power, turn on the LP gas, and connect to city water to ensure that all electric and propane appliances function normally and there is no evidence of water leaks. Also run the air conditioning units and furnace, turn on the refrigerator and freezer, start the water heater, and power up the generator and run with a full load.

Check and Double Check

Top off the fluid levels in your batteries, check all hoses and belts for cracking, and all fluid levels on a motorized RV. Also check the converter and/or inverter for proper voltage. Check the headlights and turn signals. Take a look at all your hitch and towing equipment. Check fire extinguisherssmoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and propane sensor.

North Llano River RV Park, Junction, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at North Llano River RV Park, Junction, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kick the Tires

Check the age of the tires—RV tires usually age out before they wear out.

Check that all tires are properly inflated. Improperly inflated tires means more money for fuel. Under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 4 percent, according to International Energy Agency. Proper inflation also reduces the incidence of tire failure and blowout.

If you have a travel trailer or fifth wheel trailer you may need to pack wheel bearings.

Clean the tires and rims and inspect them for evidence of any splits or cracks in the sidewalls and weatherization damage.

Jack it Up

Regardless of your RV type, check the jacks and leveling systems, the awnings, crank and run the generator and service if required.

Open awnings and check for frayed or ripped material. Remove stains and mildew with special awning cleaner and allow awning to dry before rolling back up. Check hardware for functionality and replace as needed.

Tips For Cleaning Your RV Exterior
Products For Cleaning Your RV Exterior

Keep it Clean

Regular cleaning of a recreational vehicle is essential for its maintenance and to ensure the longevity of your RV especially after a long winter in storage. Cleaning starts with your RV roof, because whatever lands on your roof eventually ends up everywhere else on the RV. Always exercise extreme care when working on the roof of an RV, especially when wet.

When inspecting the roof look for tears or holes. Beware of small slices that can allow water intrusion. Get any holes or slices repaired immediately.

Look for peeling, cracking, or openings in the sealants and if found should be cleaned, dried, and resealed.

Next clean the front of the RV including side mirrors, the side walls, and back using a quality RV wash such as McGuire’s. The safest and easiest way to reach the upper part of the RV is with an extension pole system.

Pay special attention to the seams where the wall joints, storage bay doors, marker lights, and appliance outlets are found. Remove dirt, bugs, tar, and other road residue from the surface of your RV.

Inspect the side walls and around windows and doors for cracks or voids in the seams and seals. Scrape and reseal any affected areas with the appropriate sealant.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After a general clean with the soap and water it’s time to wax the beast with a quality product such as McGuire’s Wash and Wax.

Worth Pondering…

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

—Ben Stein

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6 RV Safety Accessories

In previous articles on Vogel Talks RVing, I’ve discussed safety tips and useful items and accessories to travel with on RV road trips.

Today’s post details six safety items and accessories to pack in your recreational vehicle.

Fire extinguishers

Fire-Ext-PASS-with-border-2-25All RVs and towed vehicles should be equipped with fire extinguishers. You should have three fire extinguishers for your RV—one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the RV in an unlocked basement compartment. Also, carry a fire extinguisher in your tow/toad.

Be aware that there are four classes of fire extinguishers: A, B, C, and D, and each one is for a specific type of fire.

Make sure family members know how to use the extinguishers and understand which extinguishers are effective on various fires.

Smoke Alarm

Install and maintain at least one smoke alarm in your RV near the sleeping area. Special 12v smoke alarms, designed specifically for RVs, are available from Camping World and specialized retailers. Test monthly and replace batteries annually.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

carbon-monoxide-detectors-mandatoryInstall and maintain at least one carbon monoxide detector in your RV near the sleeping area. Test monthly and replace batteries annually.

Propane (LP gas) Detector

Install and maintain a propane (LP gas) leak alarm at floor level in your RV, no more than six inches above the floor. Test monthly and replace batteries annually.

First Aid Kit & Manual

first aid kit readily available in an emergency isn’t just a good idea—it’s a necessity for every RVer. A well-stocked first-aid kit can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. You can purchase first-aid kits and refills at the Red Cross store, most drugstores, or assemble your own.

Contents of a first-aid kit should include adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic solution or towelettes, bandages, calamine lotion, cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs, gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes, first aid manual, petroleum jelly or other lubricant, safety pins in assorted sizes, scissors and tweezers, and sterile eyewash.

Familiarize yourself with the items in the first aid kit and know how to properly use them. Check your first-aid kits regularly, at least every three months, to replace supplies that have expired.

The Mayo Clinic is an excellent source for first aid information to help you during a medical emergency.

If you travel with pets, Pet First Aid manuals are even available.

Gorilla Tape

gorilla tapeGorilla Tape is a brand of adhesive tape sold by the makers of Gorilla Glue, and available in several sizes and colors, including camouflage, white, and clear. The tape is a reinforced form of duct tape and is marketed as being for the “toughest jobs on planet earth”, and was featured in Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New 2006″.

Gorilla Tape can solve many problems while on the road—and you can do most anything with this stuff. RVers have used it to temporarily repair a sewer hose, keep a driver’s side window from continually falling, and even affix the coffee maker to the counter so that it doesn’t move during travel. It’s better and stronger than packing tape. Everyone should have Gorilla Tape and Glue in their toolbox — you do have a toolbox in your RV, right?

Toolbox

RV_Toolbox1594Just about anything in your RV that can snap, crack, rip loose, tear, bend, leak, spark, or fall off will do exactly that at the most inconvenient time. Something will need to be tightened, loosened, pounded flat, pried, or cut.

To help you deal with everyday problems and annoyances, maintain a well-equipped RV toolbox (store on curb side).

Contents should include Phillips and Robertson head and flat bladed screwdrivers (large, medium, small), standard and needle-nose pliers, channel-lock pliers (medium and large), 10-inch Crescent wrench, claw hammer, hobby knife with blade protector, wire cutters, tape measure, silicone sealant, Gorilla tape and glue, electrical tape, battery jumper cables, open and box-end wrenches, silicone spray, WD-40 lubricant, bungee cords, road flares/warning reflectors, fold-down shovel, stepladder, spare fuses, and heavy-duty tire pressure gauge.

Many RVers also carry a socket wrench set (standard and metric), small drill bit set and cordless drill with spare battery, and digital voltmeter.

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.

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RV Fire Safety

There is no shortage of news stories about devastating losses due to various weather conditions. Now that summer is here, the weather becomes ripe for wildfires and forest fires.

Don't let this happen to you.
Don’t let this happen to you. (Source: RV Alliance America)

I seems that the entire West is burning with reports of devastating fires in the Northwest Territories in northern Canada south to California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) on average, there are more than 106,000 wildfire forest fires each year in the US.

An equally staggering number is there are as many as 20,000 recreational vehicle fires reported each year. These numbers reflect the importance of fire safety and fire prevention to the RV lifestyle.

RV Fire Safety

The most common causes of fires in an RV include:

Transmission fluid leaking

12-volt electrical system/short circuit

Fuel leak

Open propane flames/unattended stove

Unattended space heater

Over 20,000 recreational vehicle fires reported each year.
Over 20,000 recreational vehicle fires reported each year. (Source: doityourselfrv.com)

An unnoticed flat on a towed vehicle

Spontaneous combustion from damp charcoal

Birds or critters in your flue

Batteries

Hot exhaust pipe

Use of an inadequate extension cord

What you need to know about fire extinguishers

The first rule of RV firefighting is SAVE LIVES FIRST and property second.

If you can’t put the fire out in the first 30 seconds, leave it to the fire department.

Remember that your life and the lives of those traveling with you are more important than anything, absolutely anything, in the recreational vehicle.

Don’t try to rescue belongings, they can always be replaced but lives can’t be. Never re-enter a burning RV to retrieve anything—GET OUT & STAY OUT!

All RVs and towed vehicles should be equipped with fire extinguishers.

Be aware that there are four classes of fire extinguishers: A, B, C, and D, and each one is for a specific type of fire.

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) requires that you keep one with a minimum rating of 5BC at each exit.

For additional protection, go with the ABC type, which can be used to put out all different types of fires. Check your extinguishers regularly to make sure they are operational. (Just because the needle shows in the green dot does not necessarily mean it’s working.)

Ensure you and everyone else traveling in the RV knows how to operate fire extinguishers. You can print the helpful acronym “PASS” (listed below) and put next to your extinguishers as a reminder.

Fire safety seminars conducted at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Fire safety seminars conducted at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher to release a locking mechanism.

Aim at the base of the fire, not the flames.

Squeeze the lever slowly to release the agent in the extinguisher.

Sweep from side to side, moving the fire extinguisher back and forth along the base until the fire is out.

Make a plan and prevent checklist

Driving with propane on can add to the danger if you are involved in an accident or have a fire. SHUT OFF THE PROPANE at the tank and turn off all propane-powered appliances while driving.

Smoke detectors are required. Get a UL217 to be in code with NFPA mandates.

Check all hoses, wires, and connections before every trip and during a monthly fire check.

Eyeball your tires at each stop when you’re on a road trip.

Ensure everyone knows what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it.

Educate all passengers on using a fire extinguisher.

Ensure all passengers know how to use the exits; not all doors open the same.

Review “stop, drop, and roll” technique with passengers.

Worth Pondering…

How a Fire Burns
In order for fire to occur, four elements must be present:
Fuel (wood, paper, cloth, gas, oils, fiberglass)
Oxygen (air at between 17% and 19%)
Heat (brakes, engine compartment, exhaust system, transmission)
Chemical Chain Reaction (batteries, refrigerator)
If any one of these four components are missing, a fire cannot burn.

—Mac the Fire Guy

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Maintaining a Safe Campfire

Every summer, many RVers and tent campers escape the hustle and bustle of city life by relaxing in the great outdoors.

campfire-safety-hdr-imgCampfires add ambience to a campsite but should be used with caution. It takes only one spark!

Following are several basic campfire safety rules to ensure the preservation of our natural resources for generations to come.

A campfire built without safe clearance or carelessly abandoned can turn a small fire into a dangerous and fast-moving blaze. Be sure to build your campfire in a way that does not endanger other campers or the surrounding forest.

Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and fire bans in the area.

Building the Campfire

ALWAYS build your campfire downwind from your RV or tent in an area that is clear of vegetation.

Build the campfire in a level, open location where it will not spread. Make certain that the campfire is well away from logs, brush, dry grass, leaves, needles, overhanging tree branches, or any other combustible material.

Campfire Safety Infographic FinalClear an area at least 10 feet in diameter. Scrape away grass, leaves, or needles down to soil or rock. Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area in which to build the fire and put a ring of rocks around it.

NEVER build a campfire on a windy day—sparks or embers from the fire could travel quite a distance setting an unintentional fire.

While the Campfire is Burning

NEVER leave a campfire unattended—ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times. Supervise children around the campfire at all times and NEVER allow horseplay near or involving the campfire, such as jumping over the fire.

Keep campfires to a small, manageable size no more than 3 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter.

Keep all combustible materials, including flammable liquids, propane cylinders, and lighting fluid away from the campfire.

Watch the wind direction to ensure sparks aren’t approaching any flammable materials. Stack extra wood upwind and away from the campfire so that sparks from the campfire cannot ignite your woodpile.

ALWAYS keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby.

Extinguished the fire completely before going to bed or leaving the camping area.

Teach children how to STOP, DROP, and ROLL should their clothing catch on fire. Teach children to cool a burn with cool running water for 3 to 5 minutes.

CampfireSafetySecure all lighters and matches and keep out of children’s reach.

Be aware that as little as one second contact with a 158-degree F campfire can cause third degree, full thickness burns. The average campfire can get as hot as 932 degrees F in as little as three hours.

The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers.

A campfire left to burn itself out or put out with sand only can still be 212 degrees F eight hours later. The buried coals and embers retain their heat underground like an oven. There is also a risk that the fire may spontaneously re-ignite. A child may mistake the pile of sand or dirt as a sand castle and attempt to play in it.

The temperature, less than four inches below the surface of the sand or dirt can be as high as 572 degrees F.

Completely Extinguish the Campfire

Fully extinguish the fire by pouring lots of water on the fire. Drown all embers, not just the red ones, continue to pour water until hissing sound stops.

After carefully putting the campfire out using water, stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shove and douse again with water.

As an added precaution, shovel sand or dirt to cover the dampened coals to smother any remaining embers.

Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended!  Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.
Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended! Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.

Use the “drown, stir, and feel” method: drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it.

And one last thing, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!

Worth Pondering…

Only you can prevent wildfires.

—Smoky the Bear

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Tips for RV Safety: How to Avoid Common Accidents

Driving an RV is like driving a small house around the country—down highways, through back roads, and up and over mountain passes.

Did you know the height of your RV? Pictured above one of several covered bridges on Ohio's Covered Bridges Scenic Byway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Do you know the height of your RV? Pictured above one of several covered bridges on Ohio’s Covered Bridges Scenic Byway. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And as more people join the RV lifestyle, it becomes increasingly important that RVers have a basic understanding of common RV accidents and how best to avoid them.

Before you hit the road, ensure your recreational vehicle is roadworthy, and that you’re prepared in case of emergency.

The proper maintenance of your recreational vehicle is a key to keeping you on the road to safety. An RV that’s mechanically sound will be less apt to break down.

Most of the common RV accidents can be avoided by preventative maintenance and proactive attentiveness.

While the hazards are numerous, taking simple steps to avoid them is much easier than finding yourself facing the consequences of an RV accident or mishap.

Knowing the most common mistakes and having the knowledge to prevent them will keep RV drivers safe and their trip enjoyable.

Awnings are the number one repair for RV maintenance and repair companies. Drivers that forget to retract and lock their awning in the evenings, or sometimes before they start driving away, will quickly discover that awnings aren’t designed to withstand high winds.

When entering or departing a camping site check your surroundings for low branches, obstacles sticking out of the ground, and other hazards. Pictured above Sesquicentennial State Park, affectionately known to locals as "Sesqui", is a spacious, green getaway in the heart of the South Carolina Sandhills region near Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
When entering or departing a camping site check your surroundings for low branches, obstacles sticking out of the ground, and other hazards. Pictured above Sesquicentennial State Park, affectionately known to locals as “Sesqui”, is a spacious, green getaway in the heart of the South Carolina Sandhills region near Columbia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accidents such as fires or lack of clearance can cost more than just the expense of the RV repair—such disasters can harm the traveling family as well.

Know Your Height

Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many people forget the extra height of an RV while driving.

Hitting bridges and overhangs or misjudging the amount of clearance beneath an overpass or inside a tunnel can put an immediate stopper on your road trip.

In order to keep your RV in one piece and avoid getting hung up—literally— consider the following guidelines:

  • Pay close attention to posted clearance measurements
  • Know the height of your RV and place a sticky note on the dashboard with your exact height (remember to include A/C)
  • “We’ll probably fit” does not cut it—don’t take the risk

Also be aware that the typical width of an RV is 8.5 feet and the typical highway lane is 10 feet in width. This gives you about a foot-and-a-half to work with.

Tighten Up: Conduct a Pre-Drive Safety Check

Many accidents are caused by simple forgetfulness: leaving doors unlatched, awnings up or steps extended. Create a step-by-step checklist, and like a pilot on a jet, conduct a final walk-around visual inspection before driving away.

A pre-departure checklist should include the following:

Pack and secure all outside items, e.g. store mats, chairs, grills, and bikes

Ensure bay doors are closed, latched, and locked

Slide out rooms fully retracted and secured

Secure all loose items, e.g. toaster, toaster oven, coffee maker, dishes

Kitchen cabinet drawers, closet doors, and refrigerator closed and securely latched

Ensure stove, oven, heater burners, and refrigerator are in off position

Turn off water pump and water heater

Power cord, cable or satellite TV cable, water and sewer hoses disconnected and stowed securely

Lower roof vents

TV antenna, jacks, steps, and awnings fully retracted

Check oil, transmission, and coolant levels

Turn propane off at the tank

Check tire inflation pressure and adjust as required; inspect tires checking for cracks and uneven tread wear

Some road are best explored in the toad after parking the RV. Pictured above Mokee Dugway (elevation 6,426 feet) looking south to the Valley of the Gods (Utah), an 1,100 feet drop in 3 miles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Some road are best explored in the toad after parking the RV. Pictured above Mokee Dugway (elevation 6,426 feet) looking south to the Valley of the Gods (Utah), an 1,100 feet drop in 3 miles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tow bar and safety cables in place

Ensure all signal, four-way hazard, brake, running, and fog lights are operational

Check under the rig for signs of fluid leaks

Checking your surroundings for hazards before departure, e.g. weather, low branches, and obstacles sticking out of the ground

Check campsite to ensure it’s clean and no items are left behind

Final 360-degree walk-around the RV before getting in the driver’s seat and leaving for your next destination

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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Fireworks Safety

The traditions of parades, cookouts, and fireworks help us celebrate the summer season and are synonymous with the celebration of Independence Day. But before your family celebrates, make sure everyone knows about fireworks safety.

Fireworks safety
Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries.

Fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a painful memory when children and adults are injured or killed while using fireworks. Although legal consumer fireworks can be relatively safe when used responsibly, all fireworks, by their nature, are hazardous and can cause injuries.

Some fireworks, such as illegal firecracker-type devices (M-80s, quarter sticks) and professional display fireworks should never be handled by non-professionals, due to the risk of serious injury and death.

The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSA) reports 200 people on average go the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday.

CPSC report eight nonoccupational fireworks-related deaths occurring in six incidents during 2013. Fireworks were involved in an estimated 11,400 injuries treated in U.S. hospital

emergency departments during calendar year 2013. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for approximately 40 percent of the estimated 2013 injuries. More than half of the estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries were to individuals younger than 20 years of age.

There were an estimated 2,300 emergency department-treated injuries associated with sparklers and 300 with bottle rockets. There were an estimated 800 emergency department-treated injuries associated with firecrackers. Of these, an estimated 28 percent were associated with small firecrackers, an estimated 19 percent with illegal firecrackers, and an estimated 53 percent with firecrackers for which there was no specific information.

Fireworks safety
Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries.

The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 36 percent); head, face, and ears (an estimated 22 percent); eyes (an estimated 16 percent); and legs (an estimated 14 percent).

Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries.

For a safe and enjoyable summer season follow these firework safety tips:

NEVER allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks under any circumstances.

Older children should be permitted to use fireworks only under close adult supervision. DO NOT allow any running or horseplay.

ALWAYS have an adult supervise fireworks activities.

Sparklers, a firework often considered by many to be the ideal “safe” device for the young, burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees—hot enough to melt some metals—and should be NEVER be handled by young children.

Fireworks should only be used outdoors in a clear area, away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and other flammable materials.

fireworks safety
Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries.

Know your fireworks. Read the caution label before igniting.

Alcohol and fireworks DO NOT mix.

NEVER place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

NEVER try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully. Soak them with water and throw them away.

NEVER point or throw fireworks at another person.

Keep a fully stocked basic first aid kit nearby in case of emergency.

Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby for emergencies and in case of fire.

Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

fireworks safety
Remember, fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries.

NEVER carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

Observe all local laws. Make sure fireworks are legal in your state or local area before buying or using them. Fireworks are prohibited on most local, state, and national recreation lands including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campsites and day use facilities.

Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

Worth Pondering…

Just a reminder that fireworks look even more amazing when you’re not constantly checking your iPhone.

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Talking Points: Practice RV Fire Safety

More than 12,500 recreation vehicle fires are reported annually with 50 percent resulting in total loss.

Arizona: Mechanical Failure Cause of Motorhome Fire That Kills Owner (Source: Phoenix Fire Department)
Arizona: Mechanical Failure Cause of Motorhome Fire That Kills Owner (Source: Phoenix Fire Department)

The number of RV fires expands to more than 20,000 when estimates of unreported fires are included with motorhomes accounting for 80 percent of all fires, according to a Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association (RVAA) report.

Arizona: Mechanical Failure Cause of Motorhome Fire That Kills Owner

KPHO-TV reports that a man was trapped and killed in a recreational vehicle fire. He was unable to escape the burning RV parked in front of his home.

The victim’s nephew was seriously burned but managed to escape, said Capt. Scott Walker of the Phoenix Fire Department. He suffered second- and third-degree burns to his upper body.

The nephew said they had been working on the RV outside their home and while moving it out of the driveway, heard a loud boom, which led to the fire, according to Phoenix fire investigators.

“Our first unit was on scene in about three minutes, and when they arrived they had a large motorhome well involved,” Walker said.

“About half the unit was actually fully involved in fire and smoke.”

Walker said it appeared a mechanical failure sparked the fire.

Washington: Refrigerator Sparks Camper Fire

Washington: Refrigerator Sparks Camper Fire (Credit: Joe Smillie/peninsuladailynews.com)
Washington: Refrigerator Sparks Camper Fire (Credit: Joe Smillie/peninsuladailynews.com)

The Peninsula Daily News reports a fire ripped through an unoccupied truck camper and endangered a large garage in Port Angeles.

Clallam County Fire District No. 3 spokesman Patrick Young said the fire began in the camper’s refrigerator but was unsure whether faulty wiring was to blame for the fire.

Crews from the Sequim and Port Angeles fire districts put the fire out in about 10 minutes.

The blaze ripped a hole through the center of the camper near its refrigerator, destroying the structure, Young said. The fire did not affect propane tanks on the camper.

Colorado: Motorhome Fire Burns in Front of Potential Buyer

KDVR-TV reports a motorhome caught fire when the owner started the ignition to show it to a potential buyer. According to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, the entire 34-foot motorhome was eventually engulfed in flames.

Investigators said they found nothing suspicious and believe the fire may have started due to rodent nests or already existing damage — the vehicle had not been turned on in over two years.

The RV was considered a total loss, said deputies, but no other property was damaged and no injuries were reported.

Virginia: Electrical Fire Destroys Diesel Pusher

Virginia: Electrical Fire Destroys Diesel Pusher (Credit: Erica Yoon/roanoke.com)
Virginia: Electrical Fire Destroys Diesel Pusher (Credit: Erica Yoon/roanoke.com)

The Roanoke Times reports a Monaco Diplomat Class A motorhome caught fire in the parking lot of the Roanoke Civic Center as families were heading inside to see the Kazim Temple Shrine Circus.

When Roanoke Fire-EMS arrived at the fire the motorhome was fully engulfed in flames. The fire damaged three RVs in the parking lot full of other trucks and circus equipment, but only one RV had severe damage. Two adults and two children were displaced from the fire, according to fire department spokeswoman Tiffany Bradbury. There were no injuries.

Bradbury said the cause of the was ruled as electrical. Damage estimates are approximately $200,000.

California: Cooking Sparks Motorhome Fire in Parking Lot

KTVU-TV reports a motorhome was destroyed in a fire outside of a Walgreens in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood.

California: Cooking Sparks Motorhome Fire in Parking Lot (Source: ktvu.com)
California: Cooking Sparks Motorhome Fire in Parking Lot (Source: ktvu.com)

The fire appears to have started while the man was cooking inside the vehicle, according to a fire official. A man who was in the motorhome was able to get out of the burning vehicle on his own.

Crews were able to quickly extinguish the flames, which had engulfed the motorhome.

Be sure to keep combustibles away from the stove. Stay in the area while cooking; food or items such paper towels and curtains may be ignited by the stove.

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

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Campfire Safety

All it takes is one spark!

Campfire Safety Infographic FinalA campfire built without safe clearance or carelessly abandoned can turn a small fire into a dangerous and fast-moving blaze. Be sure to build your campfire in a way that does not endanger other campers or the surrounding forest.

Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and fire bans in the area.

NEVER leave a campfire unattended. Extinguished the fire completely before leaving the camping area.

How to Build an Open Campfire

Build the campfire in a level, open location where it will not spread. Make certain that the campfire is well away from tents, RVs, logs, brush, dry grass, leaves, needles, overhanging tree branches, or any other combustible material.

Clear an area at least 10 feet in diameter (local regulations may vary). Scrape away grass, leaves, or needles down to soil or rock. Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area in which to build the fire and put a ring of rocks around it.

Crumple newspaper and pile split kindling in cleared area and light the fire. NEVER use gasoline or other flammable liquids as an aid to starting a campfire.

NEVER build a campfire on a windy day—sparks or embers from the fire could travel quite a distance setting an unintentional fire.

While the Campfire is Burning

NEVER leave a campfire unattended—ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times. Supervise children around the campfire at all times and NEVER allow horseplay near or involving the campfire, such as jumping over the fire.

CampfireSafetyKeep campfires to a small, manageable size no more than 3 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter.

Keep all combustible materials, including flammable liquids, propane cylinders, and lighting fluid away from the campfire.

Watch the wind direction to ensure sparks aren’t approaching any flammable materials. Stack extra wood upwind and away from the campfire so that sparks from the campfire cannot ignite your woodpile.

ALWAYS keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby.

Teach children how to STOP, DROP, and ROLL should their clothing catch on fire. Teach children to cool a burn with cool running water for 3 to 5 minutes.

Secure all lighters and matches and keep out of children’s reach.

Be aware that as little as one second contact with a 158-degree F campfire can cause third degree, full thickness burns. The average campfire can get as hot as 932 degrees F in as little as three hours.

The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers.

A campfire left to burn itself out or put out with sand only can still be 212 degrees F eight hours later. The buried coals and embers retain their heat underground like an oven. There is also a risk that the fire may spontaneously re-ignite. A child may mistake the pile of sand or dirt as a sand castle and attempt to play in it.

The temperature, less than four inches below the surface of the sand or dirt can be as high as 572 degrees F.

How to Completely Extinguish an Open Campfire

After carefully putting the campfire out using water, stir the dampened coals and douse again with water.

Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended!  Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.
Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended! Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.

As an added precaution, shovel sand or dirt to cover the dampened coals to smother any remaining embers.

Use the “drown, stir, and feel” method: drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it.

And finally, feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is still smoldering.

Worth Pondering…

Only you can prevent wildfires.

—Smoky the Bear

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