The trailer hitch jack bottom was scraping on every dip, making a horrible screech. I stopped the truck and studied for a moment, feeling like a moron, until it hit me – the hitch on the truck was too low. Duh!
So I up and went to get a hitch that was a little higher, and attached it. When I got back to the Casita, I backed the truck, but heard a slight ‘thunk’ as I backed up too close. But as I shifted the stick to first gear, I didn’t account for the slope, and slipped backwards again before going forward. I heard a louder crunch, and in my panic I gunned the engine, and did this:
Done broke it!
The edge of the bumper snagged the trailer ball hitch lock, dragging Conchita la Casita a foot before the bumper gave way. Luckily the wheel chocks held, otherwise I might have seen the Casita roll down my brother’s steeply sloped street.
The Casita, except for a slight bent hitch latch, was none too much for wear, and while the trunk bumper will still work, I went online shopping for this unexpected “upgrade” on a truck I didn’t own.
C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.
In my early twenties, a $200+ repair may have been much more serious, a choice between repair or eating. I remember living in San Francisco’s Lower Haight pre-tech days, living with 5 roommates and their significant others, who my roommates swore didn’t actually live with them, even though I saw them slipping in every night.
I worked in an outdoor cafe in the Embarcadero, serving the financial serfs, who would tell me unironically that they had to budget their morning lattes. I wanted to tell them, oh darn, I got up at 4am today, will work again tonight at an art film house in order to make rent. I can barely keep my eyes open
What the truck did
But, now I know, we all go through phases like that in our lives. I’ve had my salad days, and now almost feel like I’m coming around, but hopefully not full circle. Hopefully, more like a spiral, with maybe a similar spirit of adventure, and less financial tightrope walking.
I think with age, though, comes a certain knowledge about what you can withstand, what you have withstood. We get to a comfortable place, a place we had to claw tooth and nail to get to, taking evening classes, doing self-learning, making things up as we go. And suddenly, we reach a place we never thought we’d reach – a place of relative comfort.
But, back in the far reaches of our minds we remember that, yes, we too suffered and bore our suffering. I remember getting to Alaska in my mid-twenties, and standing in a cold room with that sorta fake wood paneling with the lady foreman saying she couldn’t find my resume. I was 2,000 miles from home with $50 in my pocket and no job. The salmon factory foreman told me to go pitch a tent at Tent City, and apply at unemployment.
Sometimes what is born out of what we think might be the worst of experiences are tales of unimagined adventure.
I remember riding camp bicycles to a local salmon factory, pretending we were new workers to steal showers, and free saltine crckers. These factories often had hundreds of workers, with new ones coming in every day, so no one questioned us.
There was a weekly soup kitchen that rotated volunteers from different churches. I loved the Baptists with their huge spread of casseroles, desserts, and even rarer – salad! Salad takes on a new meaning in places where everything is shipped in, so much from cuisine born from cans. Seeing fresh salad was a curiosity, a delight, more so than even than the desserts – though we had seconds of those as well! Made me want to convert!
And then the Catholics came, with their watery soup, and bread with no butter. Frost, this guy from Norway, at a burly 5 foot 4, with the blondest hair and beard, looking like a pocket Thor, said under his breath, ‘Man, I’m gonna just return this! This is Bullshit!’ We told him to shush, and be grateful. I, having been baptized Catholic, was mortified.
But I also remember wrapping the sleeping bag closer around me as the wind tried to rip the sheet plastic off the makeshift PVC tent poles. I remember feigning sleep, as the owner of the Tent City came by in the morning to collect the $6/day rent. And one night, hearing something large sniffing around my tent.
But eventually I got a job at the local shrimp factory, and things became more routine.
I think back on those days as I hold the broken lock, which my brother and I laughed over. There are much worse things that can happen when owning a Casita, this among the least of them. A $200 dollar repair beats the Casita running wild downhill ’til it meets some other immovable object. And no kids on a 4pm partly sunny afternoon. Lucky.
This weekend we plan on making another climbing trip down south, as a last hurrah before I set sail for Chile.
I wouldn’t have installed the flooring if I hadn’t heard how easy it is to install them.
Like a idiot person who likes challenges, I decided to install them myself. Laminate wood floors, boxed at Home Depot – what could go wrong?
I got the cheapest ones I could find: TrafficMaster Oak at .68 cents a square foot. I made sure I got the ones made in Germany, not the el cheapo ones made in China, as reviewer on Amazon recommended.
After some frustration doing the first 2 rows, I watched some YouTube videos until a lightbulb lit over my head and I figured it out. After 3 days, the living room is nearly done. My dad said he was quoted $5,000 for a third of the size. I did it for a little over $400.
And, after reading more reviews, it looks like the Pecan TrafficMaster laminate is like 10x easier to install (and only .11 cents more per square foot), because of the way the overlapping joints are constructed. C’est la guerre.
La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 GTX Trail Running Shoe
It’s a waterproof (goretex) offroad trail running shoe. I decided I wanted something with a tad more support for hiking, with a sticky sole, but would also be appropriate for city sidewalks. An all-rounder. Since I was headed into the rainy season in Chile, I decided I needed something waterproof too, if I could find it. This version has Blue Frixion rubber, which has a good balance of stickiness vs durability, exactly what I was looking for! It fit the bill for a shoe I could use for approaches for climbing, but durable enough not to be immediately worn away on the sidewalks I would mostly use it for.
Death of Subie
After an epic 3 day weekend with my brother Rod, climbing the crags in New Mexico, my faithful Subie (2002 Subaru Impreza WRX) died. I was a block away from home when I heard a strange “pop”. I stopped the car, and looked underneath to see if I had ran over something.
Hook me up, yo!
Seeing nothing, I got back in and tried to start it – the engine was turning, but wouldn’t start.
After towing it to a mechanic, whose name was “Islam” (there’s a metaphor in there somewhere), I got my verdict: A pulley snapped, and a valve got damaged. I was looking at a $3,500 repair bill. I felt a sort of relief, actually – no more car, no more insurance. I was reminded of what someone said back in El Potrero Chico:
‘Don’t worry brah, ’cause where we’re going we’re not going to land on land!’
Don’t worry brah, ’cause where I’m going, I won’t need a car! I will travel as the nomads do – by hook or by crook. By camel, and by train, by plane, by boat, and my two strong legs will I make way.
A quick call to the Denver Rescue Mission and thirty minutes later I meet the tow driver at the repair place. I signed the donation papers, paid Islam for his work, and the deed was done.
Subie, my loyal steed for the past 8 years, alas, was no more.
Everyday, I work hard from morning to night. Flung in my wake are once precious things – material things given, or thrown away. I press the details, getting vaccines for the exotic things that may try to kill me, get my meds for a year abroad, take a course in teaching English, all the while playing tapes in Espanol to learn a new tongue. I am tired, yet I cannot yet sleep.
My mom reminds me that my great-great-great grandfather was from Chile. By the name of Liberato – “freed” in Italian. I may try to look up the distant relatives while I’m there, declaring:
‘Here before you is your native son, returned to claim my Chilean ancestral roots. The vine has travelled to far away Guam, a small yet mighty island in the Pacific. I am what has flowered in coral soil.’
I was on the Casita Owners Facebook Page awhile back, and I saw a post about using a small soapstone tortilla press to heat up a Casita. I was intrigued that a person could simply heat a small soapstone press and then use it as a radiant heater for small spaces.
Well, I have a small space! At 13′, I have the smallest Casita fiberglass camper trailer that is sold today!
After researching different soapstone presses, I found a Soapstone Bacon Grill Press through Amazon:
Soapstone Bacon Grill Press (Photo: Amazon.com)
Unfortunately, it is not currently available. But with a little searching I’m sure you could come up with something similar. Here’s what the packaging for mine looks like:
Sparq Soapstone Bacon Press
The wood handle keeps the soapstone cool to the touch
I wanted something with a handle, since with heating the soapstone would potentially get too hot to handle.
The dimensions are 6.5″ wide x 10.2″ tall, and 3.9″ on the handle side. It weighs 3.4 lbs.
I then proceeded to place the Soapstone press on my propane 2 burner stove to heat it up and test drive how effective it would be for heating up my 13′ Casita camper.
Soapstone on burner
Long story short…
While the soapstone gave off heat for a long time (felt warm to touch after an hour), it was not useful for heating a small space, such as my Casita. I think if you had the idea to use this as a furnace substitute, or even to just take the edge of cold off, you’d be sorely disappointed.
I think a more appropriate use of the soapstone grill would be to heat it to 105-110 degrees farenheit and use it as a foot warmer. This is what small soapstones were traditionally used in the past, and for this use it is totally appropriate!
So, this particular press is not available, but this pizza stone is still available, and if you only heat it to 105-110 degrees you should be able to handle it either barehanded, or with a small cloth:
In any case, testing this was useful for me so I could see what its appropriate use would be. Heating a Casita, at least at this size, is inappropriate. But as a bedtime foot warmer I could see it as very effective. It gives off a nice warmth for extended periods of time (at least an hour in my brief test). Enough to get to sleep, or for a night time read. But if you are looking for a furnace alternative, this soapstone would not work for that purpose.
Review of the Lasko 100 MyHeat Personal ceramic heater
Last night I slept in Conchita, my 13′ Fiberglass RV Casita. The temps nowadays went to a low of 30 degrees overnight (November 27, 2016). I thought that would give me a good opportunity to test drive the Lasko 100 MyHeat personal ceramic heater.
Sometimes I test drive…in my driveway
Reading the forums, and some of the fiberglass RV specific Facebook groups I heard of this product as a suitable heater to use when plugged in to shore power. Some even said it’s low voltage use is suitable for using on 12 Volt DC. It’s small size (The front is about the size of my hand) also lent itself well for tiny RV living, such as my 13′ Casita.
I knew I had to test drive this!
Well, it did blow out a warm stream, but at least in the 30 degree temps I experienced it didn’t really warm the place up. I did think it took the harsh edge of cold off, but as far as completely warming the Conchita I think I’ll have to look at a different product. I’ll keep it around for cool (but not cold) days.
I made a store on Amazon for stuff that I am considering getting. Many of the items on this list I now own – but not all of them! I always try to find reviews prior to buying, and then sometimes make video reviews based on personal use.
This list is just for items I had researched, and was thinking of buying at one time. I did my own filtering, but if you see similar items, it’s probably because I haven’t finalized my research.
I thought this might be useful for someone for ideas for essential and non-essential items to consider buying for their Casita, or similar Fiberglass RV. Leave a message below if you are wondering why a certain item is on my list, or if you have your own review of an item on this list.
After testing the solar power in Moab, Utah, and in my driveway, I came to the conclusion that while the hot sun of Utah kept the battery topped off I noticed that in my shadowed driveway that the battery would slowly drain. If I hope to boondock for longer periods than a couple days I think a second 100 watt flexible solar panel attached to the roof would serve me well in keeping the battery topped off.
The rigid solar panel will have a flexible solar panel buddy on the roof of my 13′ Casita!
It’s a quarter of the weight at 4 lbs vs 16.5 lbs.
3M VHB Tape
I’ve also decided to not use screws to attach the panel, but to use 3M VHB tape:
VHB stands for “Very High Bond,” and they have several videos of manufacturers using the tape in place of rivets and other mechanical attachments, saving both time and money:
3M video on VHB tape. Will use this to attach the 100 watt flexible solar panel.
That two of the testimonials are from RV manufacturers (Yetti and Showhauler ) which bodes well for a rooftop install!
My concerns with a mechanical attachment, such as screws, are additional holes in the roof. I’d like to avoid that, if possible.
I consulted a 3M representative who recommended 3M VHB version # 4945 (or #5952) after I described the surface materials (gel-coated fiberglass, and the flexible solar panel plastic). He did mention that the tape would only be as strong as the gel coat and paint, rather than the fiberglass, and recommended considering abrading the surface down to the fiberglass, cleaning the surface with a combination of isopropyl alcohol and water, and then using an adhesive primer on the back of the panel prior to applying the tape:
So, attaching with the 3M VHB tape and using a lap caulk around the edge seems reasonable: EDIT:
I decided instead to use Eternabond instead of VHB and Lap Caulk. Tape is just less messy than using lap caulk, and Eternabond seems to be sufficiently strong and waterproof for my application: Eternabond
What about the wires?
The only hole drilled will be for the wires to go into the trailer, protected by a cable entry gland:
Gland for the flexible solar panel wiring.
I’ll use the tape as well as the caulk for that as well. The panel wires will go through the “glands” sideways. It acts as a waterproof cover, and will be nicer than a caulk covered hole in the roof!
No looking back(?)
Here’s the thing: I can always add a mechanical attachment. The holes will still be available to add a screw, so the adhesive will just be an additional attachment method.
I’ve seen other people saying they used this method, with no remarks that it failed. I have heard of industrial hook and loop (velcro) attachments failing, with solar panels flying off onto the freeway!
Only time will tell if this method will work well. But, I figure that If this does work, then I won’t have additional holes for rain to seep through, and can offer this as an alternative to drilling more holes in your RV.
Rain seems to be the universal destructor of RVs, and I’d like to do what I can to eliminate water entry points.
Author, low on crack. Chris Kalous from Enormocast watches
Been eyeing the October Crack Clinic that Steph Davis runs in Indian Creek since July. Facebook helpfully put it in front of my eyeballs every few days or so, but I wasn’t sure if I could stomach the expense: $1,400 for 2 days of training? EarthTreks (ET) in Golden, my home gym, has a crack clinic that was free to members!
But I have been following Steph’s adventures, from her soloing a route on the Diamond in Colorado, to her BASE and wingsuit flying – for a few years now. To actually take a course from someone who has mastery of a subject is a rarity. I don’t see many of her calibre conducting courses. I considered some more…
Steph, on her FB profile, put out the word: “There is one spot left on my October Crack climbing clinic…” I emailed her, expecting not to get it, actually. I responded late, but to my surprise she said I got the last spot, and after sending a $900 Paypal deposit I would be good to go.
That’s when I got nervous.
Living in Wheat Ridge, I am right next to Golden, and 15-20 minutes from Clear Creek Canyon, my home crag. I also take expeditions to Eldorado Canyon, as well as Boulder Canyon, Devil’s Head and Shelf, but none of those places are really known for crack climbing. You might find an occasional crack on granite in Clear Creek, but for the most part a continuous crack is the exception, not the norm.
Crack climbing is what that old guy is doing on the seams in the rock gym, running laps in his taped up mitts, while all the youngsters climb the regular sport routes wondering what the hell he’s doing.
The straight and slippery crack climbs in the gym only have a fading resemblance to actual sandstone cracks that populate the crags in the desert Southwest of Utah and Arizona. Sandstone has the properties that generate these hundreds of feet long cracks soaring into the sky. The first time I saw a video of someone climbing one I knew that I wanted to try it. It just looked so beautiful: a person self-suspended using only a crack as the basis for applying tension to progress upwards. Seemed like the impossible made possible.
And the desert sandstone tower scenery could not be beat.
It looked like my love affair with climbing – all over again.
But, could lightning strike twice? Would I love crack climbing the way I loved sport climbing, and trad climbing? It seemed to have some elements of off-width climbing with compression and using not so much finger strength to progress, but major muscle groups.
I know that that famous off-width woman Pamela Shanti Pack did offwidth for that reason. She had some sort of physical condition that prevented the use of her hands, so she switched to off-widths. But crack climbing also had it’s own arcana of hand and foot compressions, things like ring locks and finger locks, crushed toes
– and pain.
That’s what one of my climbing partners told me, ‘Crack climbing is about enduring pain. And doing that same damn thing over and over.’
I chuckled with him at the time, thinking ‘Who the hell would think to do crack climbing?’
But then I started seeing photos on Imgur and Facebook, of my friends and acquaintances climbing in the middle of a soaring crack, hands sunk wrist deep, toes only an inch or two in the seam – seeming impossible, but yet enough to attach and progress upwards. The scenery combined with this kind of levitation seemed to suggest that there was something there there.
So, I took a preparatory crack climbing class offered at ET. I was the only one who signed up.
The instructor, though, was enthusiastic in showing me the magic of crack climbing. He showed me how to do finger jams and hand jams; toe jamming had their own character of excruciating pain, and I lost skin in the fist jams. It was painful, and I kept slipping and getting spit off, but I did, at the end, managed to get up half a climb in a go before popping off my stance.
I felt wrecked, my breathing ragged, and about to throw up. The instructor told me climbing inside cracks was harder.
“When you get onto sandstone, first of all sandstone is grippier. The cracks at indoor gyms are all straight and smooth, making it harder to find purchase for your feet and hands,’ he said. “And on real rock you can find edges and surface irregularities to grip, even inside cracks. Also, you’ll also find opportunities on the face to do some face climbing.”
I did learn some things from the ET teacher, but I soon found out that there’s a lot more subtleties to learn when you get on the actual sandstone cracks of Indian Creek.
Coincidentally, I also just bought a small (13′) Casita travel trailer I named “Conchita la Casita,” and this seemed like a good cross-the-border shakeout trip.
Conchita la Casita
I left for Shelf Road the Friday prior to the Monday that the crack clinic would start.
I mean, why not start the shakeout with a trip to Shelf – see how Conchita likes the dirt roads and ruts of Sand Gulch prior to the desert of Moab.
Rod czeching out the solar
With some backing up shenanigans, pine branches scraping the sides of both Conchita and my Subaru WRX I was finally able to get a (relatively) flat area for my Casita, and set up the solar, etc.
I think after running the ruts and dirt road, and attempting to get to the Bank campground up the steeps – that I need a new TV (Tow Vehicle).
While I was able to turn around from the Bank road and get a spot at Sand Gulch below it made me realize the limitations of my WRX as a tow vehicle.
One, the previous owner had lowered the Impreza, so clearance, especially when weighted, was an issue. Deep cavities and high bumps left me bottoming out. I could tell from inspection that the rear wheels scraped the inside of the wheel wells, and that my front bumper would shake loose if I kept this off-roading up.
It’s not that my WRX couldn’t tow the weight, it’s when I left the nice smooth freeways and highways and hit the dirt roads was where I was failing/flailing.
I needed to get a truck.
Except, this is what I think of when I think “truck”:
Gas hogs, road nuisance, waste-of-space-space grabber, blahblahblah.
But, the time has come.
Shelf it! Shelf, as always, was completely great.
The Gallery, Shelf Road, Canon City, CO
My brother and I explored the Gallery. I thought it might be mobbed by weekenders, but while there were about 3 groups we didn’t have trouble getting on our routes.
Rod, gettin’ it!
I love this climbing area, I love the limestone and the cheap camping – and that’s all you need, right?
This is what I see when I look over at Rod most times
Author, top of a Gallery route
But, after a second night it was Sunday, and time to head to Moab.
We were to meet at this Cafe in Moab. After camping at Mill Canyon Road 15 miles northwest of Moab off 191 I went to the cafe and waited.
Camping at Mill Canyon Road – free!
When Steph arrived, I recognized her instantly from the videos – dark hair, earnest eyes, big smile when she recognized someone. She was shorter than I thought her to be – for some reason I thought she’d be taller. Which is funny, because I thought Cedar Wright would be shorter than he was.
Famous climbers are not like other famous people. Like, they aren’t mobbed or anything. But climbers know. You could tell the climbers by the way their eyes tracked her movement through the crowd.
She seemed at first glance like an organized, but normally disorganized person, as she handed out information sheets and collected money. Like a person who is normally a tad disorganized, but has learned to be more organized. I think this was her 6th crack climbing clinic, so she had some under her belt. When we were about to leave, she received a text from the last person saying they would be 15 minutes late.
Oops,almost left a person!
Anyway, I decided to leave earlier since I had my camper and needed to see if I could navigate the turn into her land.
“My boyfriend Ian will be there. He’s clearing a flat place for your RV,” Steph said.
I thought, that was mighty nice of him!
I was the first person to arrive, and while I lost the hooks on the side of my Casita when it scraped the side of the entry gate, I was able to get to my spot and park.
Casita hooks scraped off on turn
Only got stuck a couple of times in the Moab sugar dust (see “need to buy a truck” above).
Why, hello neighbor!
My neighbor Cindy owned the rig parked next to mine. It was a large deisel 3500, which her bf was selling. “He arrives Friday, if you are interested,” she said.
Steph’s Octagonal yurt
This is where we would congregate in the mornings, get our meals and collect our lunch wraps. We were all camped, either in tents, or trucks, campers and cars. I think mine was the only camper trailer in the group.
The first day started with how to tape our hands
I should have learned how to tape BEFORE the clinic!
And we were soon climbing the cracks
The cracks looked impossibly tall and intimidating, but the settors Chris Kalous (of Enormocast fame), and Mary Harland, a Colorado climber I hadn’t heard of prior, but am learning more about her, set the routes in their approach shoes. They didn’t seem overly concerned with slipping, their technique perfect in what for them must have been easy crack climbs.
I can’t remember the names of the routes, but they said they were 5.10’s and 5.11’s.
“Take the grades in Indian Creek with a grain of salt,” Steph said. “The grades don’t mean as much here.”
So much depends on the size of hands and feet and the size of the cracks they are stuck into. A route easier for large man-hands might require double hands for the thinner woman-hands.
We got a quick tutorial in how to insert and expand our hands, and how to slide our feet in sideways and “cam” them by drawing the knee to the centerline.
Steph and Chris Kalous tutorial on crack climbing.
Crack climbing on sandstone I found easier than the gym cracks – but still very hard. I appreciated my time at the gym, though, as I seemed to have a better handle on how to climb it than a few of the others.
One girl, Gabby, while she climbed well came down and said “That was really hard!”
It was. And sort of terrifying – but in a good way. Like the first time I learned to climb – it was hard and painful, and I couldn’t wait to get back on it again!
After my second route I knew I would need to come back.
More Indian Creek
The second day was more of the same, except we went to the shadier side of the Creek.
Again, I was amazed at how the route settors climbed in their street shoes. This day we had the opportunity to do some fake leads – on top rope, but with a second rope to set cams and clip into.
I don’t get this opportunity – to fake lead with a belay, and a second rope. Although it was only optional – I wanted to do the fake lead.
I ascended the crack okay, setting the pro as I thought it should be set – squeeze the cams close, shove into crack, crank and yank to see if it was secure – move on.
But when Mary took a look at my placements, it was a litany of “This is bad,” “Too open”, “If I had to grade this you would have failed.”
Funny, my long term trad partner always just took a look, and said my placements were fine.
I found out that the cams need to be (ideally) closed so that it looked like a heart shape. It’s like 75-90% closed. It allows optimum pressure, and also if it “walks” it can still open more to re-cam the sides of the cam.
Instead of moving to the other routes I decided to wait my turn and do it again, this time the right way.
Dave, the photographer took pics of us as we ascended the route.
I belayed and waited and belayed again.
Finally, it was my turn, and I made sure my cams were closed perfectly, placed perfectly.
Mary went up again, “This is good!” she said. “This is another good placement!”
I found her to be a stern teacher, but every time she said “Good!” I felt like I had accomplished something.
“You went from a “D” student to an “A” student,” Mary said.
“Thanks. I feel like a better leader now,” I told her.
I walked around to the other routes, but it was nearing 3pm, when Steph would go over anchors. I was only able to look at the beautiful cracks, wondering when I’d be back.
The anchoring lesson was everything I already knew, but it was good to have a refresher.
Steph, going over anchoring
There was some discussion about the safety of daisy chains. Apparently, Americans were buying so few that they were not any available in the U.S. for our clinic. The issue was that if used incorrectly, with the carabiner between loops the daisy chain would fail. Chris mentioned that some people had died supposedly.
“Who, who died?” Steph asked. “No, I really want to know!” Her thought is that it was an internet rumor thing, that no one had really died using it, and although it can fail in using it wrong, she would never use it that way.
The Metolius PAS was supposed to basically replace the daisy chain, and ensure this wouldn’t happen. But the one thing about Steph was that she went as light and fast as possible, and the PAS was both bulkier and heavier than her preferred daisy chain – and that made the difference.
Personally, I have the PAS, and while I understand that incorrect use of any piece of gear can make any gear fail, I thought the extra weight was worth the extra safety. Steph continued, and we then broke out into groups to practice.
And then the clinic drew to a close.
Taping up! Photo: David Clifford
It seemed to happen so fast, from start to finish. I felt worked, but more in tune with what crack climbing required. I thought about what it would take to get me back out here again – and I wanted to be out here again!
I found Steph to be as I imagined her: positive, earnest, straightforward. Present.
I overheard her at one of the dinners talking about “…everyone was there, everyone was present…” talking about authenticity.
And that’s mostly my impression of her: authentic, present.
When someone in the group mentioned her fame, she just didn’t respond, just smiled and continued on. I thought that she appreciated what her fame had brought her – sponsorships, free gear, ability to draw a group who paid $1,400 for the opportunity to learn and to spend a couple days with her. But, other than that she didn’t let it affect her.
It seemed to me like it was something outside her; she didn’t allow it to go to her head, nor did she assign it any importance outside of what it allowed her to do. It would interfere with being absolutely herself. At least, that was my impression.
Group gathered around for the anchor clinic.
I remember one of the girls looking up and saying, “She’s so beautiful!” as Steph climbed a long crack. I looked up and had to agree.
Steph seemed completely in her element climbing the desert crack. Fully acclimatized to the environment she found herself in. Hand, then foot…foot, then hand. Rising like the wild thing she is.
Skills/techniques taught: Crack climbing including hand and foot camming, body positioning, equipment use (shoe type/size, and hand taping), and trad leading for crack. Also includes going over anchor options.
Schwag (We each received the following for taking part in the seminar):
KingCamp Car Canopy – can be used for your small camper trailer or RV. Perfect for the Casita!
The thing about my Conchita – without an awning you’re either inside – or completely out. There’s no transitory area, like the covered porch of a house, an in-between area that has some shelter from the elements, but you still feel like you are outside.
And so, my search for something “awning-like”.
After looking at SUV tents, like Napiers SUV Tent as being too, I don’t know “tent-like”:
…I was searching for something more open, like an awning without the weight or cost – or even permanence. Something that shades, but is inviting to neighbors, that says, ‘Come, take rest beneath my shade.’
Which led me to KingCamp’s COMPASS Outdoor Car Canopy Tent:
I bought this off of Amazon, which from the description and images of the item, I felt I could make it work with my Casita.
It comes in a nice grey bag:
KingCamp canopy bag
Unfurled, the canopy is quite a bit larger than what I thought it would be.
Canopy spread out
From what I could see on the photos on Amazon, it is usually attached with the short side towards the SUV hatch back, and extends the full length outwards. What I wanted to do was have the long end against the side of Conchita la Casita, only extending outwards – like an awning, but more voluminous.
Bienvenidos a mi Casita!
One of the poles was actually damaged – the stretchy cord in the center of the pole was cut, so I had some segments that were loose, and not attached to the pole it was from.
I was able to figure out I could just attach them, and extend the poles the full length. The stretchy cord was really just to keep the poles together, not really interfering with the functionality other than being a nuisance to figure out where the segments go.
I almost sent this item back, but seeing the canopy go up, and with an upcoming trip to Moab, I thought that it’s just a little more trouble to set up. I was annoyed that the quality seemed diminished by the cord being cut, but I thought that the fit and finish of the canopy material, the pockets where the pole ends go, and the bungie cord were of high quality.
I can live with the poles not being attached by the center cording, I thought. And dealing with another return (I was sending something else back to Amazon that arrived broken) was something I preferred not to deal with.
There’s something about tent canopies – how the soar upwards like the roof of a church, billowing with a breeze. And while the poles held the ends up fine in my garage, I could see how they might collapse from something other than a completely windless day. But since I planned on boondocking for most of Conchita’s journeys, I could add some extra cording to steady the poles with ends staked to the ground for support.
The long side is just about perfect for a 13′ Casita, fitting nearly exactly to the side, and the ridge above the Casita door makes for an edge to rest the corresponding edge of the canopy. Secure the bungie on my rear trailer hitch structure, and the other side on the trailer tongue secures the side next to the Casita.
The rubber ending poles basically just stand one end on the ground – supporting the ends that extend out.
I bought some 12′ tie downs that I could ratchet down to add additional support to the poles:
I think with these the canopy could actually take a bit of wind, but really I think you’d want to remove the canopy in anything too windy.
Tonight it rained on my house in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, but standing under the canopy next to Conchita la Casita it was nice and dry.
This, in my opinion, is a great addition to a 13′ Casita, and probably the larger ones as well. Recommended!
This will be my second trip with Conchita, and my first out of the state of Colorado.
I’ve been thinking more and more about boondocking, and what it takes to go off grid. I’ve spent a week as a tent camper at an RV resort, and I think I’d like to avoid those places unless necessary. I’m a long-term tent camper at BLM and National Forest campgrounds, and find the numerous amenities like showers and stores do not outweigh the sound of HUGE RV generators and loud neighbors – at least for me. While I do plan on using those RV campsites on occasion (and am open to having my views changed), most likely I will go the boondocking route.
I’ve discounted having a generator, for aforementioned reasons – I’d like a quiet, no-gas solution for my energy needs. And while I’ve been given suggestions as far ranging as wind-power, and even water and fire powered, the solution that keeps returning is, you guessed it: Solar.
The cost of solar has dropped over the years, and now seems like a great time for exploring solar as a way to get off-grid.
I’ve looked into it for my house, and the price I was quoted for my small 1200 square feet house was around $13,000. But, my 13′ Casita seems like a perfect opportunity for me to learn how to do it myself for a complete off the grid solution.
After researching solar systems for RVs, I kept coming across a company called Renogy. Many other fiberglass RV owners, as well as other types of RV owners seemed to gravitate towards using Renogy products. Both their products and their customer service seemed to get high marks, as well as the ease of installation for the average user.
In my research, in order to build a complete solar system what I’ve found are the following necessary components: Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Battery, and a Power Inverter. The components worked like this:
The Solar Panels collect the solar energy and uses it to generate an electric charge.
The Charge Controller, both controls the charge coming from the solar panels, as well as tests the battery energy levels and coordinates so that the appropriate amount of energy from the panels go to the batteries. If the batteries are topped off it will shut down the energy stream from the panels
The Batteries store the solar energy for use.
The Power Inverter “inverts” the power coming from the battery from 12 volt DC to ordinary household power: Alternating Current or AC.
After pricing different systems, and frankly not knowing much about solar, I was looking for an all-in-one solution. The only one I could find that had:
This kit has everything except the battery: 100 watt Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Power Inverter. I feel more reassured using a kit since presumably all components have been tested to be compatible with each other. Reading further, it looks like you can add up to 4 100 watt panels, so it is even set for expansion.
I already had the battery, but am thinking of adding a second. I planned on using the single marine deep cycle battery that came with my Casita (Interstate SRM-27) until I feel I need a second (probably).
Many websites recommended figuring out my energy needs beforehand, and you know, basically it’s my iPhone and 13″ MacBook Pro.
Most of the time I find that my MacBook Pro uses around 12 watts. It uses 16-18 watts when crunching something (eg. opening a program, saving a file, etc). It’s power consumption peaks up to around 30 watts (eg. when starting up).
From the discussion form on Apple, I found that the iPhone charger uses:
So, fairly low power consumption, especially compared to a lot of folks I’ve ran into who power their Satellite TV, X-Box, refrigerators and air conditioning!
Basically, I don’t want to be forced into town in order to charge my (minimal) electric devices. (Wifi is another story…) But since my income is dependent on using my laptop, and my cell phone is my connection to the rest of the world, these 2 items are a must for me. A semi-reliable source of power is a must.
So, I’ll update y’all once the Renogy Solar Kit arrives, and how I install them for my Casita!
Finally, I think I’ve figured out how to calculate towing rates. On the side of the opening of the driver’s side door of my 2003 Subaru WRX is something called a GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which for my WRX Wagon is 4,190. This is the maximum weight that the WRX should not exceed.
What was confusing me was how the tow weight of 2,000 can be justified given that the weight of the WRX is 3,220 lbs? If I towed at capacity, I would be at 5,220 lbs, exceeding the GVWR by 1,030 lbs (!!!)
I am towing a 13′ Casita Patriot, which I’ve been told by the previous owner, an engineer, that it only weighs 1,200 lbs. My car (3,220 lbs) + Casita empty (1,200 lbs) = 4420 lbs. With the GCWR of 5,195 lbs, I have a margin of 775 lbs.
Hook me up, yo!
Now, while I did feel a tad “pushed” by my Casita, especially going downhill, I never felt out of control, especially when staying below 60 mph. I just placed my car in a lower gear and coasted down the Colorado passes. And, with my Turbo, I could easily go uphill at 60 mph.
So, to the question: is it possible to tow a 13′ Casita with a Subaru WRX Wagon? My answer is: “yes”. I’ve done it, over a Colorado Pass on Interstate 70 (I-70) both up and down.
But is it advisable?
There’s a lot of forum posts of people saying: get a bigger Tow Vehicle (TV).
And I get it. It increases the margin of safety, and when it’s your own, or other lives that matter you want to get as thick of a margin as possible.
But, here’s the thing: The GCWR is not an imaginary figure. It was calculated by the good engineers at Subaru. The tow hitch is factory installed, and rated at 2,000 lbs. Also, ALL vehicles can experience sway when towing, it’s not isolated to smaller vehicles.
Some extra features to bolster the argument that my Subaru WRX wagon is suitable for towing:
Turbo – plenty of power to accelerate to speed
Electric brakes – installed on my Casita with a controller installed in my WRX.
Tow rated for 2,000 lbs.
Never towed at the limit – I think I may have 200 lbs, at most, of additional cargo, not the 775 lbs limit.
No freshwater tank
No greywater tank
Freshwater tank never used
The most water I would bring is 8 gallons, and at 8lbs/gallon, that’s only 64 lbs.
The Twin memory foam mattress should be 60 lbs (at most)
The 2nd heaviest item is what is in the refrigerator. A large reusable bag of groceries averages at 38 lbs. I can’t fit anything more than that in my frig!
The 3rd heaviest item is my bike, which weighs on 26 lbs.
Let’s just say there are 200 misc lbs of “other stuff”: Clothing, cooking gear, etc.
Total of 388 lbs extra. Casita weight is 1,200 + 388 = 1,588 lbs
Add the WRX weight of 3,220 + 1,588 = 4,808 lbs
GCWR = 5,195. So, by my calculations, maxed out I am still 387 under the GCWR.
Bike rack = 38 lbs
2 Propane tanks = 40 lbs total
Marine Battery = 25 lbs
= An additional 103 lbs. 4808+ 103 =4,911 lbs.
Still 284 lbs under the GCVW.
Now, the next logical thing for me to do is to actually weigh the filled trailer and the tongue weight, which I plan on doing, but for now I feel I may need to search for a more suitable tow vehicle.
It’s math, people!
But: I’m not an engineer, and this is just back of the napkin calculations.
And some say with electric brakes on your trailer you can tack on an additional 1,000 lbs.
Anywho, those are my calculations to date. Sure, getting an FJ Cruiser would increase my margin of safety, but would also cost around 15k or more used.
I think the answer to the question, is it possible to trail a 13’Casita with a 2003 Subaru WRX wagon? I believe the answer is “yes”. I think you can be careful in driving (which you should be anyway), and it can be safe.
Is it advisable? I think going bigger, all things being equal like safe driving habits – but towing with a WRX is fine and within safety margins. When I see Big trucks towing trailers the size of houses I ask myself: which is more dangerous – that thing? Or my 13′ Casita being towed by my Subaru always below 60mph, and often much below that limit. Which is more dangerous – me driving like a granny, or that guy with that monstrosity at over the speed limit? I’ll take my “rig” anytime as a safer alternative.
Anyway, I am looking at a larger TV, but for now I am reassured by my calculations that I can trail my camper safely, and even reliably.