Operating a camper, regardless of the type, size, cost, or brand can have some challenges when it comes to maintenance, and optimum performance while travelling. These challenges can be compounded by the remoteness of your location and the proximity to resources to find off-the-shelf solutions. When we are out in rural and remote locations, we always want to be environmentally friendly. So, using harsh, toxic chemicals to freshen up, deodorize, or sanitize the camper is naturally counter-intuitive to the setting. Likewise, the roadways can stress your equipment and damage the contents within the trailer or fifth wheel. But, how do you protect your personal possessions as they are shaken, rattled, and rolled down the Canadian highways? What do you do? How can you keep your recreational vehicle (RV) in tiptop shape and avoid harming the environment?
We are committed to being friendly to the environment. So, we have searched out simple, clever, and cost-effective solutions to living in nature while maintaining our RV. Here are a few of the tips and tricks that we have discovered, been taught, or learned about, during our two decades of boating and now after 14 years of camping in our Class A coach.
Smelly Refrigerator – When you open the fridge door on the RV, do you smell a waft of stale air, or worse yet – mould and mildew permeating out at you? Not nice, right? So, grab a smaller Tupperware box with the lid and pour in a box of baking soda. When the RV is parked or in storage, be sure to open the lid of the Tupperware and the baking soda goes to work absorbing the odors and smells. When on the road, just snap the lid tight to keep the baking soda from spilling.
Clogged Toilet – RV pumping is rarely ideal. Due to the constraints of building a camper, many design compromises must be made. So, clogged toilets are more common than you might realize. Once while camping at a wonderful campground in St. Jacobs Ontario, I mentioned to the host that I had a clogged toilet and inquired about the nearest hardware store. I was not keen to ride my bicycle into town. He instantly reached below and offered me a drain snake that was conveniently bagged and ready for use from behind the counter. It worked perfectly. Upon returning it, I asked why he had it there? He said that toilets in RVs get blocked up every day and it gets a lot of use. Good to know that some campground operators go the extra step to help us out. It is never fun to have a clogged toilet on a very hot summer day. I carry a small drain snake and a plunger on the motorhome now. You would be amazed how many times I have lent them to desperate campers over-stressed from a stopped-up toilet.
Forceps to the Rescue – A first aid kit is essential to have while camping since cuts, bruises, and other minor injuries may need prompt attention. But they may not warrant a trip to a nearby hospital. So, you can buy an expensive prepackaged first aid kit. However, we just went to our local pharmacy and asked for experts for help to make our own kit. It was about one-third the price and likely far better equipped than the commercially available first aid kits. We have several medical tools in our kit including forceps. The forceps get regular use in a camper. With several large dogs on-board who love to travel with us in the motorhome, they tend to eat sticks. Once or twice, a stick gets lodged in the dog’s jaw or throat. Forceps are the perfect tool to make a quick and perfect recovery procedure for dog stick removal. Do not leave home without them. We have a first aid book for humans and another specifically for dogs on-board too.
Clogged Drains – These forceps are handy for drain unclogging too. They are used to reach down into the drain and remove blockage. Next, the odor absorbing baking soda in the refrigerator can come to your rescue if you have a clogged drain. Just mix it with some white vinegar and you have instant anti-clog agent. Pour in half of cup of baking soda first, followed by a cup of white vinegar down the plugged drain. It will begin to bubble up, so it is working. Just wait five minutes, and then pour hot water down the drain. Most of the time, that will solve the problem without caustic commercial chemicals. A plunger is also useful to dislodge any hard obstructions after the first try with the baking soda and vinegar. Remember, the plunger is for a stronger pulling action and not just for the pushing thrust.
Noisy Plates – A simple trick to protect your plates and bowls is to place a sheet of paper towel between each plate. It softens the impacts from bumps in the road and eliminates the mashing of dinnerware. In a Class A or C, this can be critical to maintaining your sanity. Besides, you can reuse the paper towels to wipe counters and spills and replace them with newer sheets later. We line the cupboard shelves with rubberized no-slip liner material that is easily cut into the right size and shape. Rubber placemats work too.
Too Many Forks, Knives, and Spoons – Normally, it is just the two of us when we travel. Sometimes we meet new friends while travelling and invite them over for dinner. And, then there are the times when you have a larger group drop by to your campsite for a BBQ. But, the drawers on the RV are often very small, and unable to hold lots of cutlery. So, we keep the basic complement of a few forks, knives, and spoons in the drawer. We hold a larger set of cutlery in reserve in a Tupperware bin stored in the overhead cabinet for special occasions when we entertain groups. The Tupperware bin also contains scissors, tongs, large salad spoons and forks as well as protects the BBQ lighter. It is easily accessible and keeps all these extra items collocated for easy access when needed.
Biodegradable Dog Bags – We travel with our dogs. Naturally they need to go on walks to do their business. Taking plastic bags to pick up after them is harmful to the environment, but what choices do you have? We use a bag made with similar properties to polyethylene from a biodegradable substance built with starch. They are more expensive compared to plastic bags, but they are fully biodegradable. These bags degrade at least 90% within 90 days or less at 140 degrees F. Be warned, never leave them outside in direct sunlight as they disintegrate into thousands of pieces of confetti in less then two days. But, if stored correctly, they are ideal for picking up after our fur-children.
Girdles on the Glassware – For many years, the LCBO offered these plastic wine bottle sleeves to protect wine bottles. We collected them and use them to encase our glassware in the cupboards. These mesh girdles protected the glass from shock absorbing impacts and eliminated the dreaded clinking noise while on the highway. Best of all, they were free with purchase.
Dryer Sheets in the Closets – You store linens and bedding as well as towels and other fabric-based items on board the RV, but if they are locked away in an air tight cupboard, they can smell odd after a time. Why not just toss in a dryer sheet to freshen up the closets on your RV? Dryer sheets can be used for many off-label purposes such as cleaning and keeping insects and rodents away too. If you must do washing of clothes why travelling, then you know exactly where to find a dryer sheet to freshen the laundry. A dual-purpose solution.
Leave to Door Open – This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but when you have your RV in storage, always leave the appliance doors open to air circulation. This includes refrigerators, freezers, microwave ovens, and conventional ovens too. Trapped air becomes stale air and it induces odors, mould, and mildew. So, promoting air circulation helps to eliminate this issue.
Shampoo Storage in the Shower – RV showers are very small and confined spaces. Normally, there is no place to hold your shampoo bottle or bar of soap. One trick that I use is a hanging shoe storage bag that attaches easily to the shower door. I can store my shampoo and conditioner bottles in it effortlessly. The shoe holder bag that I have is of a mesh design so when it gets wet, it drains and dries perfectly. Now, what to do about the bar of soap? Maybe it is better to use a bottle of body wash?
Pinning the Air Brakes – Since we have a diesel pusher motorhome, we drive inside our coach, unlike those with trailers or fifth wheels who travel in the tow vehicle. As a result, we have an air brake for the parking brake mounted beside the driver’s left side window. With dogs, I am always anxious that they will climb up on the driver’s seat and watch me wherever I am outside of the vehicle – they desperately want to be with us for every minute of a trip. Even if the engine is not running, this is a troubling idea for us. If they accidentally step on the air brake release, then the coach will simply roll away. With our Golden Retrievers, this is a serious concern. So, I use a clothes pin to attach to the air brake release to prevent it from being compressed if a dog inadvertently steps on it. It is Golden Retriever tested and it works well.
These camping hacks are smart, easy, and affordable ways to solve troublesome problems in the RV. You may know many more and it would be wonderful to share them and build a list that can be available to all as a future reference. If you share your RV hacks, then we will post them on our blog site and provide a link that we will be updated with your feedback. So, why not contribute some of your own clever hacks to share with others so we can all enjoy our vacations and be friendly to the environment?
About the Author:
Michael J Martin is a communication technology consultant, licenced pilot, sailor, and passionate amateur photographer. He lives in Toronto with his wife Candy and their dogs. They own a 36’ Holiday Rambler diesel pusher coach and the entire family loves time together in the motorhome.