Category Archives: Tips

Upgrading Solar on the Vome

So the time has come to show some more of the VOME build out.  SO, here’s another “how did” video and a little introduction.

I wanted to increase the ability to charge my house batteries in lower light levels, without unpacking the folding  panel and just the overall redundancy the extra panel would provide.  Spending time in all kind of places presents challenges for using solar.  Out west in the desert areas it’s a sure thing you can find the sunshine you need.  The shade of a forest is a different story, no different book.

I mounted the panel from my old van on top of the VOME near the rear since the rooftop real estate was a bit crowded.  My plan was to leave room for expansion, and now we expand.  Let’s look at what I did and “how did” when it came to mounting these on a fiberglass roof.  But first consider the roof is actually two “skins” an outer one and an inner one.  The problem this presents is I can’t get to the outer skin from inside to install a backing plate.  That’s why I’ll be using a fastener called a well nut.IMG_20160813_100404.jpgHere’s a video that explains how these fasteners work… Kayak Fishing – Hardware Installation Options, Rivets and Well Nuts.  Now that you’ve seen how they work let me also point out they work to provide a certain amount on isolation from vibration.  IMG_20160813_100415.jpgThe one I’m using here is for a 1/4″-20 bolt and required a hole that was 1/2″ in diameter to allow it to be inserted.IMG_20160813_100512.jpgUsing stainless steel bolts and washers to anchor the brackets on the panel to the roof.IMG_20160813_113348.jpgNotice how as you tighten the bolt it not only expands in the hole to grip it also seals against the roof.  Because there is only rubber in contact with the fiberglass it will not try to wear it’s way out.IMG_20160813_113457.jpgThe outcome???

Well I’m satisfied.  The electrical outcome???

Well turning on everything I could and with the sun playing hide and seek behind clouds the buss voltage bounced happily between 13.1 and 14.2 volts.

This allows us to be more independent in our travels and adventures.

“Get out, Be safe, Go adventure.”


Flip the ‘Fridge

This is an experiment to turn a small dorm refrigerator into a chest-type cooler/freezer.  My reasons for this are quite simple.  With a chest-type you don’t lose the “cold bubble” every time you open the door and so the compressor runs less.  And less is good when your running your fridge off of batteries and an inverter.

This is the standard dorm style fridge purchased from a big box store.  This particular one is the Haier mini refrigerator that Walmart sells.  The cost of these range from $60-$110 depending on the size.  I’m working with the smallest size since space is a premium in the van, and since I bought this one from good friend for this  experiment.

******** S A F E T Y   N O T  E *********

WEAR GLOVES WHEN HANDLING BRACKETS AND WORKING AROUND THE RAW EDGES OF THE SIDES AND BACK.  These parts are stamped from sheet metal and may have sharp edges.


So, on with it.

Remove the mounting screws that hold the bottom to the sides
Remove the mounting screws that hold the bottom to the sides

I removed the mounting screws from the bottom plate and then began to move it to the new bottom.  Work slowly and deliberately when moving the plate to the new side, er bottom.  The tubing coming from the inside of the fridge is copper and is pretty strong.   Bend it in an arc along it’s length being careful not to kink it.  This is the hardest and most nerve racking part, so take your time. Protect yourself from cuts by covering the edges with a rag.

The edges my be sharp, so cover them.
The edges my be sharp, so cover them.

As you can see the copper tubing will have to be gently bent down, in the picture above, as the compressor and mounting plate are moved.  I used the same screws I took out to secure the plate in this new position.  Notice that the mounting plate has a raised portion in the middle.  So this new bottom would not allow it set level.

Add a spacer to level up the new bottom.
Add a spacer to level up the new bottom.

Add a spacer of some sort to level up the bottom.  In my case I used a scrape piece of wood flooring.  And the project is basically finished at this point.

Back view of completed unit.
Back view of completed unit.

So  how well does it work?  I set the thermostat above half-scale and in about thirty minutes it was 35 degs.  The best part is the compressor was not running for most of that time.  It was actually cycling on and off.  Now the real test.   I turned the thermostat all the way to super cold.  When I checked it later it was 28 degs inside and again the compressor was not running.

I can’t wait to see how it works in real use.  The current draw is around 1.4  amp.  Should be able to run off a 500 watt inverter.  I can scarcely wait to get it in the new van for a trial run.

+++ Added footnote +++

As someone pointed out, I failed to mention that my fridge was left in it’s new orientation until the next morning BEFORE powering on.  This wait period allows the lubricant in the Freon to drain back into the compressor before starting it.  It’s a good practice anytime you turn a compressor from it’s upright position to allow a little time to redistribute the oils.

Thanks for pointing that out.

As always…

Get out, Be safe, and go adventure.

Installing a Vent Visor for ventilation

This is another post describing the build out of the new van and the installation of some of the goodies.

Today while camped at Tumbling Creek in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee I installed the vent visors on the new van.  And here’s a step by step to explain the process.

This is the brand that I installed.   I chose the “in track” style to make the installation quick and easy.

This is the brand that I used but the installation of all of the "in track" models is basically the same.
This is the brand that I used but the installation of all of the “in track” models is basically the same.
The contents were the two visors, a scotchbrite  pad, and alcohol wipes
The contents were the two visors, a scotchbrite pad, and alcohol wipes

Following the instructions begin by “scuffing” the window track with the provided ScotchBrite pad.

Scruffing the felt in the window track
Scuffing the felt in the window track

Next wipe the track with the provided alcohol wipe to remain any dust left by the scuffing.

Now wipe the inside of the track with one of the wipes
Now wipe the inside of the track with one of the wipes

Peel back the tape to expose the adhesive on each end leaving the rest of the tape in place until the visor is in place.

Peel back the tape on each end leaving it in place in the middle
Peel back the tape on each end leaving it in place in the middle

Once you are satisfied with the positioning, then remove the rest of the tape and roll up the window.

Slide the visor into the window track being sure to get it completely in place.
Slide the visor into the window track being sure to get it completely in place.

Leave the window rolled up holding the visor in place for 24hrs to allow the adhesive to set up completely.  This will give you a very nice looking install and allow you to leave the windows cracked even in the rain.

The final shot
The final shot

That’s how you do it.  Now I can drive or camp with the window cracked in the rain.

I hope this helps someone with their efforts to make their van more comfortable.


As always…

Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure.


Reuse an old candle…

Today I’m gonna show you how to get a little extra mileage out of a couple of things you may already have on hand.

An old Scented candle in a can that has been burnt up.

Can be used to create a larger and refillable source of light and heat.


Cut a scrap of corrugated cardboard a little less wide than the can

is tall.  Then roll it up and put in like this.  It works ok

if you have to use more than one piece.

Carefully melt and pour wax from from other old candles into

this cardboard wick.

DISCLAIMER:  If I have to explain the dangers of heating and working with hot wax/paraffin then please go get some “adult” supervision.

There you go.  The cardboard will wick up the wax and eventually the
flame will spread to the entire surface.  This creates much more heat/light than a single candle.  I’ll let you use your’ own imagination to find uses for this.
I have cooked over this, used it as reading light in camp, and yes
even as a heat source. The lid is used to snuff it out.


Refilling is simply drop chunks of other old candles into the burning
can, being careful not to add more than will melt without
overflowing the can. 

Yes, the can does get hot so be careful ! ! !

While this is an easy project, it is very useful.
It meets my multi-use requirement of things to be carried and
takes very little space.
If you consider it in your design you can even put a small
“BIC” lighter in the can.
Please leave a comment or share so I know you stopped by.

AS ALWAYS… “Get out, go adventure, and be safe.”

Cookin’ is in the bag !

I decided to share another little trick I use to save time, fuel and energy (mine) among other things.
Using a cheap, Dollar Store, car solar shade build a double thermal bag.

This is the same concept as some of the MRE meals sold with “built-in cooking bag”.  But, why pay for a bag you’re gonna throw away?  Why not just pay for food and keep a reusable bag handy?  Here’s how I do just that…

1)  Go get a really cheap “car solar shield” from somewhere.  Mine I think came from the Dollar Tree or Dollar General,

2)  Now cut it down to the size of whatever size Zipl@k bags you will be using.  I use quart size bags and they seem to work out for a cup or two of cooked food.
Remember since this is basically a re-hydration method you’ll start with more fluid than final cooked food.

3)  To make the “cooking bag” make a bag within a bag the size you need.  If you look closely I folded some of the inner bag top bag down on itself so there is no raw edge. 

When you make your outer bag make it extend above the top 
of the inner bag by about 6 inches.  Notice I am not measuring
or marking anything, I have to Keep It Simple for Stupid.
Leaving a long outer top allows you to make the “fold lock top”.
Just like GL@D sandwich bags…
“Fold one flap in, the other flap over”, don’t you remember?
(Sorry for you kiddos that grew up in the Zip-L@k generation.)
4)  In this case I wanted some beef flavored brown rice.  So I measured a cup of rice. (It pays to know the volume of the utensils you cook with) and put that with two bouillon cubes in the Zipl@k bag.
Don’t forget any salt or other seasoning you add.
5)   Now add about a cup of water that just started to boil.
      Now’s a good time to talk about saving fuel, just start the water 
      boiling and then pour it in the bag.  No need to boil for 5 minutes.
      Seal the bag, slide it in the thermal bag, fold lock the top
      and in about 15min you have beef flavored brown rice.
Since this is a re-hydration cooking method use “instant” or pre-cooked
base foods to build on.
 Here’s your’ time savings, no sitting and stirring.
Just put it in the bag and go take care of some other camp chore. Or NOT!
6) Last important step…
             Since there are no cooking utensils involved, please dispose of the
             Zipl@k bag correctly or pack it out.
Hope you enjoyed this little trick.  I’ll try and video some eggs in the orange shell the next time I’m out just to show off that neat little bit of cooking.
       Get outside, go adventure, and be safe!

Another product review (no sales pitch)

I had some folks ask me about the small solar charger I used while hiking and even at the RTR in Quartzite, AZ.

So to stay true to my word here’s a video I made actually while I was in Mississippi on the Natchez Trace.

I hope this answers some questions and helps with buying decision .
As I promised no sales pitch, they are available at Harbour Freight and probably other “outlet” type stores.

As always…  “Get out, be safe and go adventure”