5 Easy Tips to Stay Safe While Camping in Severe Weather

badweatherAccording to the The Outdoor Foundations 2015 American Camper Report. 40.5 million Americans (14% of our population)  took 572.4 million outings last year alone. That is a lot of camping and I am sure with warmer weather campers are finding their way out of winter hibernation and back to the great outdoors.

However, here in the Midwest, spring camping goes hand-in-hand with the potential for severe weather. Severe weather can come up on us at any time and often it can be very swift. A few years ago, we set out on a Mother’s Day camping weekend. The forecast for the area was for some storms but radar looked like it was going to miss us. Instead, the winds shifted and we found ourselves right in the line of the storms. That system ended up producing a tornado that hit a small town a few hours south of where we were camping. Having a plan in place, along with some weather tools  can really offer some peace of mind as well as some strategies for keeping one eye on the weather and one eye on the fun!

  1. Know the local weather

Before you head out to go camping, you should know the weather for the area you are visiting. Weather dot.com can help give you a weekend forecast or even a five day forecast as part of your pre-planning. Once at the camp site, maybe you will have television signal (assuming you travel with a TV)  or at a minimum I look for a local radio station to tune into while camping.  If I have neither of those things, the local campground host are a wealth of information and can advise you on the days forecast. One thing is certain, this is not a time to get caught looking the other way.  Do some advance research on the weather!

2. Ask the Campground host about emergency storm shelters

A few weeks ago we camped at a new place that was unfamiliar to us. Maybe it was because the wind was strong and rain was threatening as we set up, but the first question out of my mouth when the camp host stopped by to check on us was, “Where are the tornado shelters?” We immediately made a plan with the kids about what to do should sirens go off during our stay that included where we would go and how we would get there. we even went so far as to visually find the location and notice how far it was from our campsite.

Experts tell us that staying inside our tents, RV’s or campers is not what we should do in case of a severe storm. The designated storm shelters may not be fancy but they are there for a purpose.

3. . Buy and travel with a Weather Radio

Weather Radio’s receive reports directly from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, who by the way covers 93% of the US,  meaning you are not relaying on cell service to deliver emergency advisories for tornadoes, floods, severe thunderstorms, and even civil danger warnings. You can program your location into the radio so it will filter out information you don’t need and focus on those areas you do need. I also like that the weather radio has a battery back up so it keeps me informed even in a power outage.

4.  Smart Phone App’s

If you are camping in a location that you have cell service in, there are app’s for your smart phone that you will find very helpful. My favorite weather app is called STORM by Weather Underground and is available for free in the iTunes store. Using your phones location settings, this app provides high definition radar , advanced storm cell tracking, severe weather outlooks, and real time weather alerts.  It even provides you with lightening strike warnings when lightening strikes within a 10 mile radius of you.

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NOAA also has a app, NOAA Weather Radio, that allows you to rewind and replay all NOAA alerts. If you use the push notifications, it can also alert you when to important weather changes wherever you are.  This app cost $3.99

5.. Have an Emergency Bag Ready

Doomsday Preppers are always talking about their “bug-out” bags and I think we could learn a few lessons from them. Have a bag ready to go should you have to leave your camp and seek shelter. Think about items that you might need if you had to shelter down in a storm shelter: water, flashlights, batteries, chargers, jackets, snacks, money, identification, keys, your cell phone, ways to entertain children, or even your weather radio.

Spring time is wonderful camping time; the trees are budding, the grass is growing, and the animals are stirring. The temperatures are unpredictable and can change quickly, so it is important to keep an eye out on the ever changing weather system around you. With a little advanced planning and a system in place to monitor, you can be out there enjoying spring camping.

me

 

Why You Should Have An Electronic Management System For Your RV

Today’s RV’s come with a multitude of extras that often have electronic processors: Flat screen TV’s, DVD players, refrigerators, microwave ovens, or air conditioners to name a few. Taking care of your camper is more than just taking care of the body, with these extra gadgets you have to take care of them too.

When we upgraded to a travel trailer in May 2015, I started doing research on protecting those extra’s in our camper. I learned that the campgrounds we were anxiously wanting to visit could be the source of so many potential problems. The power supply in the campground can either spike sending too much voltage causing a surge or it can become taxed and dip with too little voltage, often called a “brownout.” Both brownouts and power surges can cause damage to the essential electronics in your camper. And here is the really bad news: often the warranties do not cover electronic processors damaged by surges or brownouts.

Wanting more than just a surge protector, I started researching ways to protect against both surges and brownouts. My research lead me to Progressive Industries Electronic Management Systems (EMS). The consumer product reviews for this company are outstanding and that appeals to me. I appreciate companies that stand by their product and fix any problems that do come up quickly and to the customers satisfaction. I also liked that this company offers a lifetime warranty on their products and they are made in the USA.

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I liked the product enough to buy a system for our camper and then recommended it to the Taylor’s when they purchased their new camper. We each purchased an Electrical Management System from Progressive Industries for our campers. However, I purchased the hardwired system and Wayne purchased the portable system. Both systems continuously scan and provide protection for:

  • High/Low Voltage Protection ( Low <104, High 132>)
  • Lost/Open Neutral Protection
  • Frequency Protection (Low <51Hz, High 69Hz>)
  • Open Ground Protection
  • Polarity Protection
  • Previous Error Indicator
  • Surge Fault Indicator and Amperage Meter
  • Thermally Protected

The Hardwired System (The Todd’s)

I purchased the EMS-HW50C. The upfront cost is a little high (between $300-$500 unless you can find it on sale) but I can tell you this system has already saved me once. Angie and I took a couples trip to Branson,  Missouri in the heat of the summer. In the campground, with so many units running air conditioners, the power dipped and my EMS shut down all power to the camper until the power was at a level sufficient to safely power the camper.

I installed this model in my camper in a power access panel. It did require some splicing of wires to get it properly installed. The EMS-HW50C also came with a digital display that I installed on the inside of my camper that continuously scrolls through the power source information. If the EMS detects any problems (high or low) it shuts down the entire system. As soon as it detects the right levels, it allows the power back to the camper.  I like the fact that if something is wrong, I can check the display and see exactly what is wrong all from the inside of my camper. Besides the convenience of reading the display from inside the camper, I also liked the added protection against theft by having the EMS become a part of the campers electrical wiring system.

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Everyone who owns a camper would probably agree with us that setting up can be a hectic time. We all have mental checklist but occasionally we forget a step. I know before hooking my camper up to the campground electricity I should make sure that the power is off. My EMS provides some peace of mind that if I should forget and skip this step, I am still protected. The EMS delays power to the camper until it has done an initial check for power source and determines it is safe to proceed.

The Portable System (The Taylor’s)

We purchased Model EMS-PT30C. The major difference between my system and Allen’s is how it is installed. Allen has already described that his is hardwired on the inside of his camper, mine is a portable system that plugs into the campground power supply first and then the camper plugs into it. The continuous scrolling display is done at the power site and not inside my camper.  The upfront cost is slightly less (between $200-$400 depending on sales you might find). The portable system does all the same things as the hardwired system except it has a locking devise and is weather resistant as it is outside.

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In our perfect world, Electronic Management Systems would come standard on all trailers but until that happens we do highly recommend adding one to your camper aftermarket. We have both been pleased with Progressive Industries Electronic Management Systems, and think either system, the hardwired or the portable, will provide power protection for all of your electronic gadgets.

allentodd wayne

 

Camper Signage

When we started this blog, Roam With Friends, I secretively wanted to put signage on the camper. I never mentioned it out-loud to Wayne because I was positive he would stomp that hope out faster than Jimmy Johns delivers sandwiches.

Instead of talking to him, I did some secret research. A friend of ours has started a vinyl graphics business. His work is impressive. So one night we sat having a drink and I waited until Wayne left the table and started asking my questions. Is it permanent? Will it damage the material it is placed on? Is it possible to get the design I wanted? How big can we go?

Armed with information, I then decided to approach Wayne about putting signage on the camper. In typical Wayne fashion, he shocked me with his response. There was no quick turn down. There was no selling. He simply said, yes, I love it.  WHAT!!

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Gumshoe Graphics worked with us on the dimensions and the colors. Then they delivered new signage for the camper. As I watched him put it up, I just could not stop smiling! I am very happy with the end results!

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If you are interested in adding graphics to your camper, or car, or life, I suggest you give Joe at Gumshoe Graphics a shout out on Facebook. As far as we go, let us know if you see us driving down the road!

 

me Pamela

Dutch Oven Cooking: Tater Tot Casserole

There are many reasons why I love camping but camp cooking ranks up there as one of my top reasons and one of my favorite things to do when camping. We do a lot of cooking in our dutch ovens. Anything you can make in the oven can be made in a dutch oven.

Today, I am sharing with you our YouTube video on how to make Tater Tot Casserole in a dutch oven. Tater Tot Casserole is not a new casserole, I am sure we have all grown up on a variety. When Wayne and I got married we had to find a way of blending of the tater tot casserole he grew up having with the one I grew up having. Of course, neither of those are the tater tot casserole Allen grew up with.

This is a very kid friendly recipe. The Short Chic started requesting this meal a few days before our first camping trip of 2016.  We saved it for our Saturday evening meal knowing it would be perfect to cook in the dutch oven.

Our version of Tater Tot Casserole includes one can of soup per pound of ground beef. I prefer Cream of Mushroom Soup but Wayne prefers Cheddar Cheese Soup. We have compromised and added a can of each using two pounds of ground beef. We like to add a can of drained corn to the ground beef. You certainly do not have to. Or you could add something else. How about a can or two of green chilies? We like put a layer of cheese down before we line our casserole with the tater tots. Some folks just throw them on the top in a pile but we prefer them to get even amounts of heat and all brown nicely. But hey, you can check out our video

Making memories for my children is so important to me and memories have many components. Sometimes a sound can trigger a memory, or a smell, or a place, or even a taste. With every meal prepared at the camp site, I am hoping that we are creating memories my children will remember for decades to come.

I look forward to sharing more recipes with you over the summer.

mePamela

 

Roaming: Where Shall We Go Part 4

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Hello everyone! My name is Allen, I am the last one of us to introduce myself.   I started camping as a young kid with my grandparents and then through Scouts.  I much prefer the RV lifestyle to the days of tent camping but I still love being out in the fresh air and being away from our hectic lives. This is the fourth and final part of this series on Where Shall We Roam. I hope you have enjoyed our other posts, many of you have left us some great feedback and we really appreciate it! If you missed any part you can go back and see them here:
1.  Gettysburg Pennsylvania. I really enjoy learning about the internal conflict our country endured.  In researching I have noticed there are a ton of campgrounds. If you have any insight  to the best campgrounds, please let me know!
2. UP of Michigan. None of us have ever been here, but I hear it is beautiful in the fall and there is a lot to see.I have heard you take the camper on a ferry boat to a campground. Now that would be kind of cool.
3.The Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I am interested in the Cape Hatteras area. I must be ready to relax along the coast line.
4. Rocky Mountain National Park. Time for a little Rocky Mountain High, but not that kind newly legal kind of high.  I would like to visit the highest paved road in a national park, Trail Ridge Road and fly fish in the park.
5. Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida. I have seen lots of comments on the Forrest River Forums talking about this place. For me, I would like to relax along the shoreline, maybe try surfing, do some ocean fishing.
6. Harpers Ferry West Virginia. Have read good things about it and all of the history that took place there. This whole area of the country is rich in early american history, which I really enjoy.
7. Glacier National Park in Montana. I guess if Global Warming is happening, we should head here soon.
8. FROG “Forest River Owners Group” Rally in Goshen, Indiana. I have read this is a great opportunity to meet other avid camping enthusiast, get to meet a lot of the vendors that supply the parts that go into making our RV’s. We can do plant tours and see how things are put together. Seems interesting to me. Has anyone ever attended an owner’s rally? I would be interested in hearing your experiences.
9. Fort Wilderness at Disney World. This seems like a rite of passage for all  RV Owners and I absolutely loved our prior vacation there.
10. Myrtle Beach South Carolina. Besides visiting the ocean, I would like to play some of the golf courses that are there.
There you have my wish list of top destinations. If you have been to any of these places, please drop me a note and let me know if you have suggestions for campgrounds, things to do, or places to eat.
Thank you for being a part of our series and meeting each of us.
allentodd Allen

Kansas City’s Best Little Secret

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We kicked off our camping season last weekend. I have been itching to go out since the beginning of March but the weather has remained unpredictable and uncooperative. Just accepting the fact that we are not likely to be handed perfect camping weather we just made a decision to go.

We were booked to travel to Tuttle Creek State Park in Manhattan, Kansas to see our son for his fraternities “Mom’s Weekend.”  However, he had to cancel so he could attend a life guarding course. With a heavy heart, we made the decision to cancel those reservations and just made a last minute decision to stay local and try out a new (new to us) campground very close to our camper storage.

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We booked ourselves at the Blue Springs Campground near Blue Springs Lake. This is a Jackson County Parks and Rec park. The campground has 39 electric sites, 13 sites with water and electricity, and 30 full hook up sites (some 30 amp and some 50 amp). The camping fees are very reasonable: $23 a night for electric only, $26 for water and electricity, and $30 a night for full hook ups.  The campground has several “family sites” throughout the park. All of the sites are gravel pads and come with a picnic table and a fire pit.

We booked ourselves into space #30 as it was close to the playground that we knew our daughter would want to spend her time at. When we arrived, we learned that spots #28 and #30 were a “family site.” Family sites are great if you are indeed camping with family or even close friends, but we were not. The very polite and kind campground host offered to move us to a new site (#32) to give all of us some space. Since the park was not nearly full, we all appreciated his efforts. Next time, I will make sure to exercise care when reading the map, although I will say, it was not marked as a family site.

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Our weekend at Blue Springs Campground was very low key. Our goals for the weekend consisted of organizing for the year, un-winterizing the camper, and generally just cleaning. We spent a lot of time indoors watching movies and actually just relaxing. Saturday we had several friends come to the campsite and we were able to enjoy a dutch oven meal and a campfire.

In talking to the campground host they described this campground as a hidden gem in Kansas City. The campground is so close to many Kansas City area attractions:

  • 10 miles to Harry S. Truman’s Library and Museum
  • 11 miles to Kauffman Stadium (home to the World Champions Kansas City Royals)
  • 17 miles to Union Station, Liberty Memorial, National World War I Museum, Crown Center, Hallmark’s Kaleidoscope or LegoLand.
  • 19 miles to Westport, the Plaza, Nelson Adkins Museum of Art, or Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • 26 miles to IKEA

You kinda get the idea. The park is in a good location, a few miles south of Interstate 70, right off of 291 Highway making it very accessible. We decided even if the girls had sporting events we could go camping and still make the games.  We even learned that the campground has a “frequent camper” reward program (which by now you might know I am a sucker for! If you buy six bundles of firewood and four bags of ice you earn yourself a free night of camping. I should note here that this is the first campground we have visited that does not allow any outside wood to be brought in.

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We made a few observations worthy of noting so if you plan to visit here you go into it ahead of the game. While we had cell service the entire weekend we did not have any access to WiFi. Each site was allowed two vehicles per site and all other guest had to pay a $5.00 fee to enter and have to leave by 10 p.m.  I also mention that their website did not have family sites clearly marked. this could be such an easy fix. The only other criticism is just how unlevel the sites were. It appears the sites were designed to accommodate rain runoff and over time water and wind has exaggerated the crown making the sites  unlevel.

Overall, we enjoyed our weekend and will be returning. We are excited to have officially kicked off our 2016 camping season!

 

 

“Pretty Dishes” or Convenience: Stocking The Camper

Recently I was out of town on a business trip and found myself needing to stretch my legs. I chose a local box store to roam around in and found a display of summer tableware.  I love the patterns, the bold colors, and the fact that they are all plastic. Which makes them perfect for the camper.

IMG_7504Stocking the inside of your camper is a necessity. How you approach this task is personal preference. I feel as if I have been on a developmental process for the past six years trying to figure out the best way to stock our camper.

For our first two campers I found myself raiding my home for items to reallocate to our camper. Bath towels with holes in them no longer acceptable for inside the house, went to the camper. Unsightly pots and pans I had wanted to replace forever went to the camper. No need for sheets or blankets, we had sleeping bags. I raided relative’s homes or scoured garage sales for things I did not have but needed.  My philosophy was we were camping and there was no need for anything nice. Camping was about roughing it, right?

Over the years our campers have changed as well as my philosophy on stocking the inside of the camper. While we upgraded from sleeping bags to old bedding, it was still old bedding. We still used old pots and pans but I did splurge and purchased some of those pretty seasonal plates, bowls, flatware, and glasses. I even added a few decorative pieces used for entertaining.

IMG_7505The new camper, purchased in July 2015, brought me the extra space I lacked in our pop-up camper. Space I used to add a few things my ever changing philosophy decided I needed. I found myself stocking the camper with the same comforts I have at home; nice sheets, fluffy absorbent towels, firm pillows, new pots and pans, and yes we still have those pretty dishes. However, I never use the pretty dishes or the pretty flatware, or even the pretty glasses.

I have found that using the pretty dishes requires that I have to do dishes after each meal. On many levels that resonates with me: it is aesthetically pleasing, it is also fiscally as well as environmentally responsible. But, I am a complex creature and sometimes I just don’t want to listen to those parts of me. I can be a sucker for convenience. I have found that we than often skip over pretty plates and flatware for plastic silverware and paper plates. I think I have morphed into my own version of a hybrid camper; some luxuries of home and some conveniences of life in the fast lane.

As I stood in the aisle of the box store, staring at all the pretty plastic dishes this is what I find myself contemplating. It is obvious how perfect they are for a camper and I wonder if I should add to my collection. However, I can’t justify more pretty dishes when I hardly use the ones I already have.

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So, I walk away from the box store empty handed but wondering, how many of you use pretty dishes ? Or do you use disposable products because of the convenience?  My inquiring mind would like to know. What do you do? Here is a little poll:

 

mePamela