Pete's Blog

Just a niche in my ways

Category: fun

5×8 Cargo Camper

It’s like the little engine that could.  I originally purchased the trailer for either parking my motorcycle or hauling stuff around when needed.  I got the smaller sized 5×8 cargo trailer because at the time I had a smaller vehicle and needed something towable for lightweight stuff.  Nothing special at the time.. just a trailer.

One day my wife and I were planning our next camping trip, we have a 9 person tent that could accommodate a nice queen size inflatable mattress and had used a Mr Heater Buddy which works great for those chilly nights and mornings.  We had a couple of days off together and wanted to take that opportunity to schedule a short outing.  The weather started to get really cold that week and we were looking at 30 degrees and well, that’s pretty chilly!   We did experience some 40 degree cold nights and fall camping at this point but my wife wondered what the limit would be and feared that we would get frozen out.

Our Camping rig

Our Camping rig

So out of the blue I suggested we try camping out in our little trailer!  It couldn’t be worse than tent camping!  Well it wasn’t, it’s great!  Since the purchase of the trailer I had acquired a fullsize Ford Bronco and a Nissan Frontier pickup so towing is no longer a limited function!  I had a professional install a manual vent on the roof of the trailer and put together a makeshift locking setup for the inside of the trailer so I can secure the door while inside.  It’s wide enough to fit a queen sized mattress (we actually opted to put a full sized mattress inside) and had plenty of space to bring chairs, small fold up table, sleeping bag, lights, goodies, etc..

So this works fantastic for a fall camping!  We’ve camped in 20 degree snowy weather and have kept the inside a toasty 72 degrees during our nights.  I haven’t insulated the inside of the trailer or done any major modifications to it other than the roof vent which was kept open for oxygen.  The heater uses propane and needs some ventilation in the cabin space.  I did purchase a carbon monoxide detector for peace of mind. The detector remains at zero with the vent open and still toasty warm inside. :-)  So it really works out great.

Summer camping 2014

Summer camping 2014

Now that we have fall and winter camping figured out it takes care of that.  But now for summer.  I really don’t want to experiment cutting holes into my trailer incase I screw things up, so installing a window is a no go for me.  I played around with the idea of installing a portable AC unit but I have had bad experiences with them and I feel they’re expensive for the poor performance and in the long run, expensive to replace.  So with a couple of free days looming in the horizon we could spend at a campsite, I didn’t want to have a miserable night in the heat of June/July.  We did that once last year in our tent and it wasn’t so fun, it was really hot and the bugs were relentless as they usually are in the forest.  As a fall camper, I’m not a big fan of the summer camping, but I wanted this to work so we didn’t limit ourselves (like most people do) to just a couple seasons of the year for camping.

Outside of the trailer.

Outside of the trailer.

I don’t have pictures of the process of my build but I can show you the outcome of what I put together (with the help of my wife by my side).  I went to the local Home Depot and purchased a thick piece of plywood. I believe it was 3/4 inch.  Then I pulled out my new trusty friend, the circular saw and started measuring out the one side of the barn doors opening and cut out a portion to fit just right.  After some trimming, ok lots of trimming, I managed to get the fit pretty good.  Afterwards I cut smaller squares for the edges as shown in the image.  I put in a spacer on the 2 squares on the left side so that the main board sits flush on the edge of the doorway.  The top one keeps it from falling in and 2 squares on the inside of the trailer’s outer edge keeps it from falling out.  There is a lip along the inside of the door that is latched that also helps it from falling out.  I also created a spot for the door to latch to onto the main board that keeps it all together.  My explanation is terrible but hopefully the image shows it best.

The inside

The inside

Once I had the board secured and sorted out I measured out the freespace in the middle to get an idea of how much room I had for an AC unit.  At that moment I was hoping I had enough room for the unit I was doing all this work for. lol.
I looked up a couple of the cheapest 5000 btu units available and found one, the frigidaire 5000 BTU air conditioner unit seems to be the perfect fit!  It was small, lightweight and CHEAP!  We went and picked it up, pulled it out of the box and plopped it down on top of the board, penciled an outline and cut away the new space for this unit.

And for the final test installed it and plugged it in, BINGO!  Works great!  I also purchased a strip, because who knows what else I can plug in while we’re camping.  So the electric strip does add another dynamic we’re not used to while camping and an extension cord that can handle at least 15amps.  I found this one and really like the fact that it lights up when plugged in to show you got some juice.

I pushed and poked at the unit installed to make sure there weren’t any major weaknesses as I didn’t want this thing falling on my head in the middle of the night, but it doesn’t budge at all, it’s pretty solid.  Another proud moment as both my wife and I looked at our creation and now excited to try and camp out with it!

We did camp out and it worked flawlessly, we went to another campground with electric hookups and didn’t have any problems keeping the little trailer nice and cool.  By the end of the night my wife complained that she was cold. I’ll make sure to bring a hoodie next time. :-)

Camping with Air Conditioning - 5x8 Cargo Camper

Camping with Air Conditioning – 5×8 Cargo Camper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY was not in my vocabulary.

It’s funny how once you reach certain milestones in your life (like hitting 40) you start seeing things differently.  Maybe because of age or maybe because so much has changed in our world since I was in my teens and twenties.

Anyway, I’ve changed careers a few times and I’ve got some new skills since then. A more recent skill is with the use of power tools. I was always the not DIY projects kinda guy, a computer guy with no use for power tools or building things that required them.  So being a noob now with power tools I’ve educated myself with the safety of using them, because I don’t want to lose any body parts while I play. :-)

As per my last post, we currently use a 5×8 cargo trailer to camp in.  I am not one to modify anything because of the lack of tools, so my options were to look for local services that may be able to.  I found out quickly that having someone installing something, such as a vent on the roof of the trailer, can be very expensive after completed.  That didn’t include possible other installations I wanted such as a window or 2, electric, rv style door w/screen. etc…etc..  It would cost me a fortune to take my trailer somewhere to get this done.  Mind you, I’m in NJ, not too many options in terms of cheap quality work around here in regards to trailers.  I can’t justify spending thousands for that, so I skipped on the rest of the upgrades for now.  I will share tomorrow what I did to make the trailer a little more usable for summer camping.

I’ve been looking at DIY projects now for at least a year and feeling like I can do that.  My wife (Renee`) and I have been wanting to go with a rustic looking coffee table for our living room.  Lots of expensive tables out there!  So I set out to build one, but I had no tools at the time so I got some.

My first attempt at the table (some before and after staining)

Pre stain

Pre stain

Another Pre-staining

Another Pre-staining

 

I’ve learned a few things during my first build, one of which was to make sure my boards are straight before purchasing them.

But it turns out, character really shines with it the way it is.

 

 

 

 

It took me about 2 full days to get it completed.  And it was completed just in time for our anniversary!  My wife is very happy with the results. :-)

Just stained

Just stained

And finally done!

And finally done!

 

I was a little discouraged when I finally completed it because of the wood not lining up “just right” and the cuts I made were a little off.  Once it was stained though, I have to say that’s when the character of the table really started to shine.  That rustic table I wanted to build was there, exactly how I wanted it.

So ladies and gents, introducing my first DIY coffee table (or anything ever) build at age 43.  I’m proud of these results. :-)  The actual build (minus the tools) cost a little less than $50 with the wood and stain.  The experience I got from this is priceless, and now with more projects on the horizon!

I am not a hands on guy, so this project was a challenge for me, luckily I had followed some great instructions and didn’t have to go back to buy more wood ;-).  When I purchased the tools I needed I went for the low cost and not the bigger name brands.  I’m a beginner at this, not an everyday user of this stuff so I didn’t need to buy these tools based on a professional level.  The reviews were good so I selected the tools that worked for my budget.

Tools I used included:

  •  Ryobi Circular Saw (I bought new) – http://amzn.to/1TdZkBN
  • Ryobi ZRJS651L 6.1 Amp Variable-Speed Orbital Jigsaw – http://amzn.to/1JOEIMa
  • Ryobi ZRRS290G 2.6 Amp 5 in. Random Orbit Sander – http://amzn.to/1evlDDG
  • Dewalt DWD112 8.0 Amp 3/8-Inch VSR Pistol-Grip Drill with Keyless All-Metal Chuck (the only power tool I already had)- http://amzn.to/1LMiahg
  • Square layout tool (so useful! yah, I’m a noob) – http://amzn.to/1RdCUmw
  • A couple of cheap sawhorses from Home Depot
  • 2 boxes of 2.5 inch wood screws. (got extra)
  • A small amount of stain in my wife’s choice of color.

Here’s a great resource of that I followed when I built this table.  If I did this you can too!

 

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Camping and how fun it is!

A couple of years ago my wife and I struck up a conversation about how we never went camping before. Neither of us have ever experienced going camping or what it was like to hang out by a fire in the woods with a tent roasting marshmallows or making s’mores in our 40 or so years on this planet.

So after a few moments of silence, I said “Let’s go camping!“. She looked at me like I had 3 heads and I said “Yeah!“, “Let’s get some camping stuff and figure it out and go.” We talked about it a little bit, but I wanted to make sure if we were going to camp, I wanted to do it right! A primitive campground was on the horizon with no car access, toilets, water, electric, etc..

Dante 5+ months

Dante 5+ months, now 2.5 yrs old

After a little bit of research and a trip to our local sporting goods store to pickup our 3 man tent and some supplies that included a double person sleeping bag rated at 35 degrees, a water filter incase we needed it, lots of extra clothing for layers (was mid to late October), at least a couple of good knives I had for wood and of course 2 of the swiss army knife (my all time favorite!), some dog food and doggy stuff for our german shepherd Dante, and lots of other stuff we didn’t need for the trip but didn’t know at the time.

The night before we packed a couple backpacks filled 80% of what we didn’t need and 20% of what we actually used.

We made reservations at Wharton State Forest at the Lower Forge Campground deep in the forest.

On our way into the forest

On our way into the forest

The day of the camping trip drove out there and in my Hyundai Sonata somehow managed to get out there as far as we were allowed to drive near the trail that lead to the camp.  Sandy road that only got worse the deeper we went into the woods.  We hiked out a little ways and set up camp.

We had the entire campground to ourselves due to the colder weather and setup camp.  I didn’t bring any firewood so I set off to find some once we got there, I found some fallen branches and another site had a big pile I took a little from which was a nice find.

 

 

Soon after setting up with Dante running around.

Soon after setting up with Dante running around.

We struggled to get settled in and with it being our first camping experience but I think we did just fine.  The night was cold and the fire was pitiful and we heard some wilderness sounds were weren’t used to (like owls and coyotes howling) that kinda scared the crap out of us when we heard it, lol.  When the first signs of light came in the morning we both (already awake) looked at each other and I said, “It’ll be daylight in about 45 mins, let’s pack up.” She agreed and we started packing up. haha

Overall I don’t regret the trip at all and I figured anything after that experience is a piece of

Our Camping rig

Our Camping rig

cake.  Since that day we camped (car campsites) quite a few more times and continue to grow more and more fond of it!  We LOVE camping now and have since upgraded our 3 man tent to a 9 person tent to a semi converted 5×8 cargo trailer. The trailer is small but it’s better than a tent and fits a queen size mattress pretty good.

For the last couple of years we stuck with Fall/Winter camping excursions and this year we gave the little trailer an air conditioning upgrade that I’ll talk about in another post that enabled us to go and do a trip this summer.

Some of the gear I picked up for the first trip and still have today:
* my ka-bar bushcrafting blade
* Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Pocket Knife x2, also bought one for my wife!
* Decent water filtration
Estwing Sportsman Hatchet

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GSD puppy – New family member.

A new family member in my life, say hello to Dante.
At 16 weeks he’s a handful and I love him.  For those that want a little more detail, I feed him Solid Gold Wolf cub dog food and he loves it. It rates as a 4 star premium dog food, and after reading about the horrendous crap dog food they sell in most supermarkets (this and this), I decided to feed him based on quality and not price.

Anyhow, Dante already knows sit, lay down, paw, come, stay, walks on a leash and a bunch of other tricks I’ve taught him so far.  He’s smart and is really eager to learn each time I bring out the clicker.  Looking forward to getting out of the “Landshark” phase!

Below we have 15 weeks, 12  weeks, and 8 weeks.

 

 

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The Oatmeal and it’s genius

I was reading through Digg’s stuff today when I ran into a link that ran into another then another and well, you know how that goes.
Anyway, I laughed my ass off on “The Oatmeal” comics for a the last hour or so.
I suggest you look around on the site, lots of funny stuff!

This is soo true in more than one way!

He’s got a book coming out soon.

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