You’d think something called the “Desert Horned Lizard” would only be found in the lowland deserts, but apparently they also live at elevation. I came across this one — one of two that day — in the mountains above Flagstaff, around 9500 ft.
Thanks to a fortunate week of nonstop hi-speed internet, I’ve finally been able to work my way through a massive backlog of videos I needed to process and post. Some are recent, some are previous tutorial videos that I broke into parts, and some are DIY camping hacks from almost a year ago. It’s quite a relief to get through them — though I still have many more to go! 🙂
As this is a brand new channel, it’d really help me out if you’d click the link, watch what you like, ‘Like’ what you watch, and especially, Subscribe(!), so you’ll always know about new videos as I trickle them out.
Here are a few of the new video playlists available so far:
- How To Build A DIY Off-Grid Truck Camper
- Nature & Wildlife Videos From Various Camping / Boondocking Adventures
- DIY Solar Panels For An Off-Grid Camper
- How To Make A Portable DIY Workbench For Your Camper Or Tiny House (Or Apartment)
- Build A Tripod Camping Stool (To Use At Your Workbench Or Whatever!)
- DIY Off-Grid Cooking Devices And Edibles
Phase 1 is complete! And I’ve spent less than $100 total to get the basic shell together.
The next phase will be to install a real roof — it’s currently covered by tarp, which actually isn’t too bad and provides a lot of light, but I really need a solid roof — and later I’ll take on the challenge of constructing a pop-up mechanism to raise the camping headroom to 6-1/2 feet.
Meanwhile I’m contemplating a few of the other interior projects. Not “furniture” exactly, as most would expect, because I prefer a “workshop” feel. Instead the interior will have a number of experimental sustainability hacks built into the design, including sun ovens in the ceiling that not only cook and bake, but store heat overnight for warmth, morning showers, and pre-cooked breakfast… as well as electricity-free “solar” refrigeration, and conventional solar powered electricity for the laptop. With the huge exception of electricity generation, everything else should cost pennies, since it can all be done with ordinary materials like cardboard and tin cans.
Stay tuned for updates! I’ve meanwhile updated the DIY truck camper “How-To” post on my main blog. (just click the photo)
Campers: Do you know how much of your valuable energy reserves are being consumed by your refrigerator?
Even if you happen to have a very efficient refrigerator, chances are that you are draining tons more than you really need to be.
Consider these questions:
- Is your refrigerator running most of the day?
Especially if you’re in a hot climate, it’s probably running almost full time. Assuming you turn off the lights at night, and use the AC/Heating only when you need it, your refrigerator is the most energy consuming appliance in your RV, because it’s intermittently consuming energy 24/7.
- Is your refrigerator packed completely full most of the time or is it half empty most of the time?
If you’re like a lot campers, you fill your fridge with what you need when you leave and gradually empty it out until you’re back in civilization to restock, when you’ll find it either completely empty or half full of stuff you never touched. In other words, you’re probably cooling tons more air than is really necessary.
- Is your refrigerator front-opening or top-opening?
Duh. Of course your refrigerator is probably front opening like every other manufactured refrigerator. And like every other refrigerator, you dump out all that cold air every time you open the door. What a humongous waste!
What if you could make your own DIY custom RV refrigerator that fixes all of these problems? Sure it might not be among the easiest projects you’ve done, and may even be among the most difficult. But what if you could?
Let’s start with the most wasteful part — by stopping all the cold air from dumping out. The easiest way to keep the air inside — even when you open the door — is to create a refrigerator that operates “on it’s back,” like chest freezer. Since cold air is denser and wants to go down, a top-opening refrigerator can be opened up over and over without spilling out the air. This helps it stay cool for most of the day without needing to run the power.
It’s so obvious that you have to wonder why they don’t all do this already! It’s because the front-opening refrigerator/freezer is way more convenient in your everyday household for just grabbing what you need off the shelf instead of digging around for it like you do with an ice chest style freezer.
But how about for an RV? Even though you’re starved for space, a couple of things make a small top-loader really convenient. Think about this — Do you already use a camping cooler in your RV to store your drinks and stuff?
If you don’t find that inconvenient to use, then small top-loading refrigerator (or a few of them) should be just as convenient. For a permanent installation, a good place might be under the fold-down “sofa” seats. You could even make a sofa out of the refrigerator! While it may seem a hassle to tell your buddy to get off the couch so you can check the fridge… honestly, how many times do you have to tell someone to get off the cooler so you can get a drink. Same thing, right?
Maybe you’re wondering if a little fridge under the flip-down couch seats will give you enough fridge space. Well, how much space do you actually use? A good experiment might be to see how many coolers you need store all the food you need for the next trip. Maybe you’re camping with a family, and you find that a few coolers isn’t enough, no matter how well you pack it. But with some creativity maybe you can think up some kind of insulated “chest of drawers” design that keeps the cold in when you open it.
But consider this: There are actually great ways to keep your food cool that don’t require any non-renewable power at all. There’s even an evaporative cooling device called a Zeer Pot that can chill food down near normal refrigeration temperatures in dry climates using nothing but water. Or if you’re not living near the desert, maybe you can just use a modified camp cooler to handle the less critical stuff. Though making ice takes electricity, simply replacing a reusable blue ice pack in a super-insulated cooler every few days could really cut your energy costs.
So the question becomes…Is it possible that much of your fridge space is taken up foods that require only minimal cooling rather than full refrigeration?
While meats, dairy products, and cooked and processed foods will typically need full refrigeration below the FDA’s easy-to-remember upper limit of 40Â°F (4Â°C), many raw fruits and vegetables don’t require more than light refrigeration to stay crisp. (Just remember to wash them thoroughly as usual.) Many condiments, jam, salted butter, oils, and hard cheeses can also do fine with light “cooling.” Check out this article for inspiration: 7 Foods That Can Survive Outside The Fridge.
Once you’ve (hopefully) downsized your full-refrigeration needs and moved some of it to a simple cooler, you can think about designing a more efficient refrigerator.
(End of Part 1 – Click for Part 2: Make Your Own DIY Refrigerator To Save Tons Of Energy)
About the author:
“Boondocking vagabond” Mobile Rik is converting his Toyota Tacoma into a DIY RV Truck Camper stripped of unnecessary “modern conveniences” and outfitted with sustainable hacks for desert camping, including electricity-free refrigeration, waste composting, and ample sun-powered cookery and computing. Stay tuned for the full article!