December 01, 2019

Be Camper Prepared

userBy Steve Dildine user0 Comment

We would like to echo the Scout motto and suggest that being prepared is a wise investment of time and money. With the purchase of our camper, a few accessories were included in the sale. The dealer offered a few coupons to use in the parts and accessories department. We opted for a sewer hose, 30 amp to 115 v electrical adapter, and a fresh water fill adapter.

Accessory selection is highly dependent on the type of camping, dry versus full hookup. After a lot of blog reading and video watching, I made a list of the things that I thought would be good for us to have.

In addition to the extras included with our camper, we purchased a 50 amp to 30 amp electrical adapter, a surge protector, a drinking water hose, water pressure regulator, exterior water filter, leveling blocks, and a clear sewer elbow. To date, aside from the sewer elbow, we have only used these extras twice.

Photo Credit: Gwen Dildine

This adventure took us up Tiger Canyon. We thought we could do a loop from Walla Walla, along Kendal Skyline Drive, and finish in Dayton camping at Lewis and Clark Trail State Park. Snow stopped us. A thunderstorm rolled in and created some slick roads for a bit. We were lucky weather stopped us as that trip would have been disastrous in a camper.

Ill-Prepared: It will cost your hand!

We prefer to dry camp, but, in the name of preparation, are ready for the rare moments of luxury camping with hot water on tap and the opportunity to use the microwave, which we haven’t actually done yet. Kind of falls under the mantra of “I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” Dispersed camping, however, means being ready for other challenges.

When you travel the backroads, it is not uncommon to have an obstacle or two. If it isn’t a narrow, snow-covered, sloppy muddy road, or down tree making the journey back to the highway challenging, it is a dead battery or flat tire. Traveling off the beaten path often means no cell service and no one nearby to ask for a hand. We have experienced many of these situations. Some we were prepared for and some not so much.

I once had to hand dig our truck out of a snow pocket near the base of Mt. St. Helens about 50 miles away from the nearest town using nothing but a very small hand shovel, about the equivalent of a serving spoon in size. It took me several hours to get us free, and I lost much of the skin on my fingers chipping away the frozen snow.

With no cell service and nobody to ask for help, I had no choice but to dig us out anyway I could. Trying to plow through the 30 foot section of snow was the first mistake, but not having the right tools to get us out of the situation left my hands in bandages for weeks. After that trip we sat down and made a list of tools and accessories that we felt we should have if we were to have another incident in an isolated area.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

In a quest to scout Field Springs State Park, the only other Washington State Park in our area, we drove to Lewiston and headed south. We spent a day on the Grande Ronde River cooling off. That drive is steep, at no point straight, and makes one question whether or not their RV is overloaded. Ours is not. As part of being prepared, knowing your vehicles capacity and limits is integral to staying safe.

Light Bulb Moment

The first thing we knew we needed was more common sense: no more trying to push through road conditions that could possibly leave us stranded in the middle of nowhere without the ability to call for help.

It is also wise to have a physical map. There are maps available for offline use on phones, but I prefer a paper copy just in case the phone malfunctions. Tell somebody where you are going and when you plan to return. It can be hard to tell where you will and won’t have cell service.

Remember to keep your vehicle well maintained also. Have your battery and charging system checked, make sure your tires are in good condition, and check that the spare tire is full of air and you have the tools needed to change a tire if needed.

A portable jumper pack is a great addition to keep in the vehicle as they are small, light weight, and provide a lot of power. We have a Micro-Start XP-10 unit that is capable of jump starting our truck 45 times before needing recharged. It also serves as a flashlight and USB charging station for phones and laptops.

Photo Credit: Gwen Dildine

It is obvious that Gwen took this picture as she was warm, safe from extremely high wind, and likely listening to the Foo Fighters with the kids. I’m glad we had a saw, although it was a bit small for the job. There was no way to get around the tree as the bank was too steep. Expect obstacles both on the road and on the trail. Plan ahead and it won’t spoil the adventure.

A Saw, Pair of Gloves, and a Plan

We also carry a folding hand saw that is convenient for cutting up dead wood for a campfire, but it has also been used to cut a fallen pine tree to clear our path to the highway. Another smart thing to have is a first aid kit for those unexpected falls, cuts, and scrapes. We also carry some smaller miscellaneous items such as leather and rubber gloves, small hand tools, and extra fuses.

What it all boils down to is that you have to have a plan. That doesn’t mean you plot every turn; it just means that you go prepared to handle multiple scenarios. Don’t be afraid to venture to the backcountry, but know your limits and when to turn around. Remember you are out to explore, not test your survival skills.

Any adventure will have its ups and downs. Whether it is a tired kiddo or sprained ankle, the second you reach the guard station at Oregon Butte or get past a strainer on the Wallowa River (that is a story for Gwen to tell) every down fades into the forest shadows. Get out there, but be prepared!