Tag Archives: Conchita

Accidental Casita Owner

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

Broken lock

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.

 

 

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Soapstone – Can it heat your Casita?

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)

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

Sparq Soapstone Bacon Press

The wood handle keeps the soapstone cool to the touch

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.

soapstone04

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

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:

SPARQ Home Soapstone Flat Bread Pizza Stone, 12 by 16-Inch 

Soapstone Pizza Stone

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.

 

 

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Lasko MyHeat

 

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

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.

Get the Lasko 100 MyHeat Ceramic Heater

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Flexible Solar Panel Install – an additional 100 watts!

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.

solar-in-desert

The rigid solar panel will have a flexible solar panel buddy on the roof of my 13′ Casita!

 

Flexible Solar Panel

I had previously used the Renogy 100 Watt Solar Kit with Adventurer Charge Controller. The panel that came with the kit is the regular rigid kind that is within a metal frame. I decided that a flexible solar panel would suit the roof of my Casita better than the regular rigid version as the flexible solar panels are lighter. I decided on the HQST 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel:

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.

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:

Flexible solar panel wiring will enter through the roof with this cover.

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!

The tape can (with effort) also be removed.  You’ll need a 3M SMART Removal tool, as well as a 3M Stripe off wheel…but hopefully I won’t need to do that!

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.

Check out the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/ZKQqHoT0fDw

Products used:
HQST Flexible Solar Panel
Eternabond tape
Link Solar Cable Entry Gland
RENOGY 5 Pair MC4 Male/ Female Solar Panel Cable Connectors Double Seal Rings for Better Waterproof Effect
1″ hole saw

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Review: KingCamp COMPASS Outdoor Car Canopy Tent

KingCamp Car Canopy - can be used for your small camper trailer or RV. Perfect for the Casita!

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

KingCamp canopy bag

Unfurled, the canopy is quite a bit larger than what I thought it would be.

 

Canopy spread out

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!

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!

Shopping list:

Other items considered:

 

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Solar Prep

In October, I will be attending Steph Davis’ crack climbing clinic in Moab.

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:

  1. The Solar Panels collect the solar energy and uses it to generate an electric charge.
  2. 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
  3. The Batteries store the solar energy for use.
  4. 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:

  • 100 watts Solar Panel
  • Charge Controller
  • Inverter
  • All the necessary wiring

– was a Solar Panel Kit by Renogy:

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.

From the Reduction Revolution website, I found the following:

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:

iPhone wattage

iPhone wattage

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!

 

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Andersen RV Camper Leveler

Omigawd, if you don’t have an Andersen Camper Leveler, can you just do me a favor and go get one?

Instead of the backup-go forward-place a leveler block-backup-go forward dance, you set the big curved block behind the low end and just back up until level. Makes 1 person leveling easy, 2 person hardly any effort at all!

It lifts from 3/4″ up at least 4″, and if you have to lift higher than that – then may I suggest you should get a new camping spot!

When you’re done camping, just remove the front wheel chock and roll forward.

Simple, effective, totally worth the price – what are you waiting for, order it now!

I tried the block method while practicing hooking and unhooking in my driveway, and man, was the block method time consuming! Incrementally increasing the height of the blocks until level, while needing to back off, raise the blocks a level, then roll on just took waaay too much time. It was a revelation using the Andersen Camper Leveler when I went to Silverthorne on the Maiden Voyage of the Casita, backing up and nailing the level on the first try.

That’s right, first away trip and nailed it!

Get it, you won’t regret it!

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Maiden Voyage of the Conchita

Sept 21st, Thursday – Thursday I hooked up Conchita to the Suburu. I wished I had an easy breaking champagne bottle to christen Conchita. Had to settle for hitching the trailer without killing anyone:

Hook me up, yo!

Hook me up, yo!

A post on the Casita Owners FB page, asked “You’re little Suburu is going to tow it?” Which made me think: “Well, IS the Suburu going to tow it?”

My Suburu is tow rated for 2,000 lbs, but a thing that has been niggling at my subconscious has been GVWR, or “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating”. It finally dawned on me that you shouldn’t exceed that total weight, even if your tow rating would put you over. For example, the GVWR for my 2002 Suburu is 4,190 lbs. But my car weighs around 3,045 lbs. Do the math: that only leaves 1,145 lbs that I can tow, and I am towing a camper trailer that is 1,200 lbs dripping wet(!!!)

This sunk into my reptilian brain as I was driving up the long hill on I-70, watching the heat gauge rise near the red point. I crested the hill, put the Subie in low gear and coasted as I watched relieved that the heat was slowly dropping down to normal.

Exceeding the tow rating bothered me. I mean, why didn’t they just say the tow rating is 1,145 lbs? Something I’m not understanding. I think I just relied on the tow rating, which was a result of my ignorance on how tow ratings are created, how towing works.

I’ve read on the internetz regarding people towing 1500-2000 lbs with their WRX as being a reasonable thing to do as long as you take it slow. Hmm. I’m thinking that I need more input in regards to what I can and can’t tow – may need to look at that used FJ Cruiser I’ve been drooling over!

Anyway, I was able to make it to the Blue River campground, a beautiful campground next to a, you guessed it: blue river. I tested my mad trailer backup skillz, going backward and forward on a likely campsite – until I noticed a tent deep within the brush. I moved forward, circulating around the campsite searching for a new one.

Finally I found a spot with a long entry next to a storage cabin. It’s on a hillside overlooking the other campsites and is the most remote and has the most distance from my neighbors. Perfect!

I remembered how to unhook!

I remembered how to unhook!

The sites by the river, while prime for that reason, are a little closer together. The fishermen can have it – I’m fine with my location.

Still life, with aspens...

Still life, with aspens…

I practice backing the trailer. What I’ve noticed is that it’s like steering a boat – small actions can have large consequences. When the trailer starts turning, sometimes it’s helpful to start straightening out as there is a lag time between the turn and the adjustment – the trailer will continue to turn in the turn direction prior to reversing to the opposite turn.

It went sorta like this for me:

Unlike going forward, where the trailer just “trails” in the direction of the TV, since the trailer is not powered, it backs with a sorta “hinge” effect – you turn one way, and the nose turns the opposite.

I wish I had the mystical “Backup Assist”:

Luckily, Shirley gave me a hint in backing up the trailer: grab the wheel from below, then move your hand in the direction where you want the rear of the trailer to point as you backup: swing right and up to make the trailer go right, left and up to make the trailer go left.

Backing a trailer can be a little discombobulating as you are going backwards, and basically have to steer in the opposite direction you want the trailer to go. Your body is also oriented forward, as you look at the mirrors as well as looking straight back, which gives very different perspectives on the direction of travel.

What helped me was Shirley’s hint of grabbing under the wheel to steer, and to correct early and often. After awhile I seemed to get a better hang of it.

The campground is pretty nice: $14/day, pit toilet, distance from neighbors, aspen turning gold.

Window view

Too bad the view sucks

The only issue I have with it is the road is somewhat close by, but the noise is just a quiet murmuring – if you’re closer to the river I imagine that the sound of the water would be louder.

All in all I’m pretty satisfied with my campsite selection. Tomorrow I am going to test leaving my trailer behind as I head out to Silverthorne to do some blogging, and tell my brother who is arriving tomorrow, and staying at a Ramada, where I’ll be at.

FIRE!

FIRE!

Camped for the night

Camped for the night

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Casita Drawer Table

Since I made the dining table area a permanent bed, I need some sort of table solution. Shirley, the previous owner, already had a solution: A drawer table!

Drawer table - couch view

Drawer table – couch view

Essentially, you use your drawer as the support for a board that forms the table top and is supported by the extended drawer.

The previous owner, Shirley Adler, had created a drawer table which worked well for her, but because the latch extended through the hole in the top of her table I couldn’t lay my laptop flat on it. I decided to make some modifications to her original design, and add another wood layer to rise above the latch, and to place a topper sheet so there were no holes for stuff to fall through..

I use the top drawer for the table support:

Drawer closed

Drawer closed

Extended out, there’s still enough of the drawer in the wall to support the weight of the table top:

Drawer

Drawer

A cutout for the drawer latch has to be cut in the underside of the table top:

Opening to fit over the drawer handle

Opening to fit over the drawer handle

The table top is held by the clasp at the rear of the drawer and supported by drawer top edge:

Clasp

Clasp

Placing the table over the drawer

Placing the table over the drawer and tucked under the back latch thingy.

Et voilà!

Drawer table, bed view

Drawer table, bed view. Added signage to have a smoother surface area in case of hand writing (like that’s going to happen!)

Laptop parking

Laptop parking, tenant only!

Lessons learned:

  • Measure twice, buy once ! (you can quote me on that). As simple as this project is I nearly screwed up a few times because I didn’t take into account how far up the latch extended through the hole. Had to go back and get a different thickness of wood for the top.
  • It turned out a little heavier than I wanted. If I did it again I would have hollowed out as much of the underside as I could. But, all-in-all I like the solidity that the extra wood adds.
  • I used this sort of Rubber paint for the edges. I like it because it gives the surface a slight tacky feel, which should keep things from sliding off the edges. I think I’ll use the same treatment for the smaller table I am making for the convertible bed. Yep, maybe the bed will change from permanent to semi-permanent.

Materials

  • $77.95 – Jigsaw – If you’re anything like me, I have few tools, so now’s the time to stop sleeping and start buying (Don’t cheat yourself, treat yourself!)

  • $6.28 – Rubber Paint – Gives a slightly tacky, non-slip surface. I got white, but you can get this in different colors as well.

So, if you already have the jigsaw, the cost is around $80. You can save some money by buying fewer screws, or a smaller piece of wood.

I tend to make a few mistakes, as furniture projects are NOT my forte, so I tend to buy a little bit more than I need, just in case I mess the first one up.

Add another $74 (more or less depending on brand) in case you don’t have a jigsaw already, and you’ll now have a solid table for all your laptopping!

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13′ Casita – How-to Introduction

I pickup Conchita the 13′ Casita this Friday, September 16, 2016, but last Monday the seller, Shirley, agreed to give me a run down on the different systems comprising the Casita.  She was very thorough (as a former engineer would be ;-))

This is a long entry, and somewhat rambling, but I thought it might be useful for someone else in understanding their Casita, with some useful advice from Shirley, who had a ton of experience in RVing, both at RV campgrounds as well as boondocking on BLM land.

We started with a checklist of items for hooking up, as well as parking and disconnecting.

Before Hooking up:

  • Windows closed and locked
  • Stove off
  • Fan cover down
  • Refrigerator closed and secured
  • Propane off
  • Stabilizers up
  • Electric Unplugged
  • Any high items secured on floor
  • Cabinet drawers secured

 

Hookup:

  1. Wheel chocks in place
  2. Trailer tongue jack raised high enough to clear ball on TV
  3. Trailer ball latch released
  4. Back TV into position
  5. Slowly lower trailer onto ball
  6. Activate ball latch – if latch will not latch, move TV forward ~ ¼”. Latch ball latch.

    Double check:
  7. Look under & see if latch looks good.
  8. Lower tongue jack – it should raise car too. If so – good hitch – raise tongue jack back up after testing.
  9. Put hitch lock through hole and lock
  10. Attach safety chains – remember to cross.
  11. Attach brake safety cable
  12. Remove chocks

One more note on Hooking up:

  • Check brake and turn lights.
    • In order to check the trailer lights in one fell swoop,  you can just turn on your emergency blinkers. That way you can check all bulbs in one action (rather than use one turn signal, then the other…)

Method to level trailer –

  • Check level (there are bubble levels on the front and side of the Casita)
  • Add blocks to low areas, and roll on top
  • Recheck level
  • Add blocks if necessary to bring low sides up.
  • Add wheel chocks when level.

 

More on Levelling Trailer:

  1. Level side to side
  2. Level front to back
  3. After level: Lower tongue jack 7 turns
  4. Rear legs: Push bar in rear legs – falls down
  5. Rear legs: Push lever down – feet tight to surface
  6. Raise Tongue Jack 7 turns

=================

One thing I noticed is that I need to get a higher trailer hitch ball. Measuring from the ground to the top of the ball is approximately 18.5″. My ball was about an inch short, so I needed to get a ball with a 4″ rise

Hitch height no bueno.

Hitch height no bueno.

Something like this:

By the way, these are my affiliate links. Feel free to do a search on your own, but by clicking and purchasing you are supporting this blog. Hopefully the content is useful to you, and by clicking it doesn’t increase your cost at all – it’s the same whether it is an affiliate link or not. They are placed for your convenience.

Once parked, need to place wheel chucks. I got mine at Camping World, but you could also get one here:

Remember to get 2 sets: a set of 2 for the 2 wheels on the axle.

Shirley also went over securing my Casita. She recommended a lock for the hitch latch, and a lock for the trailer ball:

A secure ball hitch is a happy ball hitch

A secure ball hitch is a happy ball hitch

Ball lock:

I thought that the cover for the back window was to prevent light from coming in, and it can be used for that, but Shirley told me it’s actually a rock guard for the back window:

Guard against rock! Rock Guard! Yow!

Guard against rock! Rock Guard! Yow!

She suggested using a battery tender to keep the battery charged. Since I used to ride motorcycles, I was familiar with those, and I happen to have an extra one: 

I noticed that unlike the other RVs I looked at, this Casita had 2 Propane bottles. She had this set up with a switch to go from one tank to another when one was empty. She did say with her usage the tanks ran for quite a long time – she actually travelled through 5 or 6 states before having to switch tanks:

propane-tanks

 

There’s anther cover just behind the propane tanks. Undo latch to use AC in front:

If you need to vent, just uncover this would ya'?

If you need to vent, just uncover this would ya’?

 

Some other notes:

  • Hookup chains crossed underneath and hook. They’ll (hopefully) support the trailer if it becomes unhooked from the ball hitch.
  • There is an Emergency brake that is hooked to same loop as the chains. It has a red wire.
  • Level trailer. The trailer has to be level to run refrigerator.
  • Refrigerator runs on either propane or 12 volt dc. 

 

Some directions on using the Refrigerator:

  1. Turn propane on.
  2. Go inside and light stove – then you’ll  know that the gas is on.
  3. Turn stove off
  4. Press dial as you turn on, click red button (igniter) 10x and keep button held in. Thermocoupler is inside, so need to keep pressed in. 2 min. Pipe on right (silver pipe) will warmup.
  5. When ready to travel, shut gas off turn 12 volt – if on road. Some places have laws on using propane vs. 12v. (she always used propane)
  6. Don’t cover side vents.

Energy Panel
Here’s a look at the energy panel. This is where you select your main source of power. For example, this would apply to #4 above when running on propane:

Scotty, we need more power!

Scotty, we need more power!

There are also electric outlets on the side. These only work when plugged into shore power:

Captain, she's giving you all that she's got!

Captain, I’m givin’ ya all that she’s got!

 

Air Conditioner
Only works with shore power! Connect to shore power through this panel:

Con Air? No, Air conditioning panel

ConAir? No, Air conditioning panel!

A/C cord

A/C cord

When in use, put foam in the surrounding hole to keep animals out:

My A/C panel is foaming at the mouth

My A/C panel is foaming at the mouth

Remember, the Casita uses a 30 amp connector. 15 amps is household power. Shirley told me I could get an adaptor for home use.

Campgrounds also have 50amp, but that is for large RVs. She said I could probably get a 50 amp adaptor in addition to a 30 amp, but she never felt the need – was always able to get 30 amp.

She recommended getting a surge guard to use when on shore power if I was running a laptop or other sensitive electrical appliances. She’s heard stories of electrical surges at RV campgrounds, although she’d never experienced that herself. There’s a special one for 30 amps, and I got something like this:


On the opposite side of the A/C panel is the grey water spigot:

grey water spigot. I got nuthin'

Grey water spigot…Yeah, I got nuthin’

The sink just empties out here. Shirley just used a bucket, or otherwise just didn’t use the sink. She said she typically just cooked and cleaned her dishes outside.

Some more notes on the Refrigerator

  • Runs on propane.
  • 2 Days before leaving on your trip, turn on and leave the refrigerator on in order to get cold.
  • While it can use 120V electric, Shirley only uses Propane since it works so well.

Gas Range

  • Gas Only
  • Need lighter
  • Make sure propane is selected at the energy control panel, turn on and light.

Thermostat

  • Controls both the A/C, as well as the furnace.
  • When set at low the furnace is not completely off when dialed all the way – need to remove fuse in order to not drain the battery. It’s not sufficient to just crank the dial. So:
    • Take fuse out of furnace, but:
    • Fuse is necessary in order to function, so put it in when in use, but take it out if you are not using it.  

Shirley told me she never used the furnace – too loud. Just used either a propane or an electric ceramic heater. I asked her why she had both a propane and an electric heater, and she said it was useful if she only had access to one kind of power source. Things to think about…

Small appliances that Shirley keeps:

  • Rice cooker
  • Crockpot
  • Little Buddy Heater – propane (In case no shore power for electric heat)
  • Electric ceramic heater (In case the other heater fails)

MaxxAir Fan at top of trailer:

  • Knob for top fan – you should keep open when parked or even stored. Keeps the air flowing, and will not leak.
  • Can bring fresh air in, or vent inside air out. Useful when cooking inside, although she never cooked inside.

She also had silver window covers for the inside of the windows. I thought it was to block out interior light, say when parking at night at a WalMart. She told me it can be used that way, but it’s main purpose was for insulation.

Dining area...or bedroom? You decide!

Dining area…or bedroom? You decide!

Bench seating, a.k.a "living room".

Bench seating, a.k.a “living room”.

My iPhone ran out of power at this point, so no more pics, but will add them at a later date.

Shirley told me she actually just kept the dining area as a full time bed. She included a thick tempurpedic style mattress she had cut to fit the space. I laid on top of it, and could have sworn it was more comfortable than my bed at home. 

Porta-Potty
Her porta-potty had a container at top that could be filled for flushing, but Shirley only used a jug on an as-needed basis.

The reason was that if she didn’t need to use the potty then she would have all this extra water in the top of the potty that was never used, and just added unnecessary weight. More things only experience tells you about…

I asked her about composting toilets, and she said a chemical toilet was easy – just carry the bottom container to a toilet and dump. Composting toilets also need a tube to dry and vent the contents out. Another thing to consider…

She showed me an extra front wheel that attached to the bottom of the trailer hitch. She explained that you could then maneuver the trailer by hand, say if it was in your garage on a hard and level surface.

Some other recommendations:

Allstays – app for phone for finding campgrounds.

Hitchin’ Poles for backing car to trailer. These poles have a magnetic bottom that you place on top of the hitch and one on the trailer ball. You just line the poles up, and the hitch will make the poles fall once bumped. I was confused – won’t that dent the hitch? Then I realized that the hitch will be cranked higher than the ball so that they wouldn’t touch, but the hitch would hit the pole and it would fall over. Get one here:

Some other items to get:

Levelling blocks:

  • Get a pack of 10
  • They stack together – if not level, back off, add a level to the low side, back onto it and check level again.

The body of the Casita is a fiberglass hull which is connected with rivets. Shirley recommended getting a selection of rivets with a rivet gun:

 

About rivets:

  • Get Aluminum rivets. Aluminum bends. Need metal that “gives” since trailer moves.
  • Use Silicone sealant for rivets.
  • Use a #2 Robertson drive (bit) to screw in rivets.

She also recommended to not use wax, but to use Poli Glow sealant – it’s a fiberglass sealant that last a year. This is better than having to wax with a wax every 2 weeks.

More on Security
The rear of the Casita had a 2″ trailer hitch and a spare tire carrier.. She used the hitch for a cargo carrier, so it was something I could use for either that, or a bike hitch. Some thoughts on securing that:

  • Spare tire  carrier locks to guard against tire theft.
  • If getting a Cargo carrier – need a hitch lock for that as well!
  • She recommended either a cargo carrier or bike rack – not both! This is due to weighting considerations. 

I was thinking of having both, actually. The weight of the trailer was only 1,200 lbs, and my hitch limit was 2,000 lbs. And while I don’t plan on overweighting my trailer hitch it might be nice to have the option of both a bike hitch and use the rear trailer hitch for a cargo carrier. Curt Manufacturing makes a bike hitch that clamps on top of the trailer hitch, leaving the opening for the cargo carrier:


Maintenance:

Window Weep holes

  • 1x per year – use weed eater plastic wire to clean holes out – prevents leaks. Allows windows to drain. She told me that’s the reason other Casita owners possibly had leakage problems – because they didn’t clean out the windows once per year.

Check spare tire

  • 55psi
  • 65psi is max rating – only would fill to this when trailer was completely weighted
  • Wheels need bearing grease 1x/year 

 

Stove usage:

  • Open vent first on the outside
    • Push latches up to open – fan will keep fluttering it open

Metal domes on side:

  • Vent for furnace – domes keep wasps and insects out.

Winterizing

  • Fresh water tank – empty out
    • Shirley never used it – 12 gallons, so need to clean out if I intended to use it.
  • Back left spigot underneath trailer is drain for fresh water.

Water runs by electric. The switch inside is taped over so as not to drain battery.

==========

I asked her if she were in my place, where would she  suggest I go as a 1st time RVer?

Kelly Dahl in Nederland:

  • Nederland, CO
  • 20 reservable spots
  • 1st come first serve
  • Friday after lunch it will probably be filled, so:
    • Get a spot Wednesday or Thursday
  • $18/day
  • Nearby grocery and hardware store
  • Drive around and pick a spot & park.
  • Walk back and pay.

That, or:

The RV season is when there is good weather – May to September. Of course you could also travel south during Winter.

=======

 

Useful Websites:

 

Tool list:

  • Rivets: Aluminum
  • #2 Robertson
  • Rivet caps
  • Polyglo sealant

Misc:

  • Wheel chocks
  • Levelling blocks
  • Ball lock
  • Hitch lock
  • Spare tire carrier lock
  • Cargo carrier lock
  • Hitch buddies “hitchin rods”
  • Bungy Cords – always useful

Anyway – whew, that’s it! One of the reasons I wrote this is to remind me what I need to do, and also a place I can look up information. While ‘trial and error’ is a valid way to learn, there’s no replacement for experience. Some of the most useful advice were things you might not think about at first, like having two types types of heaters – electric and propane, in case you were not at an RV campground then you wouldn’t be able to use the electric one, right? I hadn’t thought of that. Also, just hearing her perspective on what she used, and didn’t use.

For example, she never used the freshwater tank – always brought jugs. Never used the furnace. Always used propane for the refrigerator – very efficient. Never filled the top of the porta-potty, just poured water from a jug when necessary – stuff like that. Makes sense after you hear it.

I’m sure I’ll do some things differently. For example, I’m thinking of adding 120 watt solar panels – sufficient to cover all appliances (except for A/C), and I’m thinking of actually using the freshwater – but also get a rollable tank for the greywater.

Anyway, talking with her was really useful, and this blog basically outlines the way we discussed the trailer – sort of rambling, and I apologize for that, but we would go over a system, then move to something else – but then I’d have a question regarding a system she had went over.

Anyway, hopefully you find this useful. Let me know if the comment section below.

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