make char cloth tinder

Never worry about starting a campfire again!

If you've ever experimented with alternative "survival" fire-starting methods -- like rubbing sticks together, focusing a magnifying glass, flint and steel, etc. -- you know that no matter how "dependable" the method, it can still take a while to get a spark to catch your tinder and get it glowing enough to actually get a fire going. Heck, if it's wet and rainy, it can be difficult to get a fire going even if you're starting with a lighter!

The key is in your source of tinder. Out in the wild it can be really tough to scrounge up the perfect combination of thin and light and totally dry. That's why those with Bushcraft experience always carry an emergency kit (like the famous "Altoids Kit") and always include in their supplies a pack of dependable all-weather fire-starters. One of the favorites is Vaseline-soaked cotton balls. Another is Char Cloth.

What's Char Cloth?

It's a funny word, right? Char Cloth is just cloth that is turned into charcoal. Why? Because charcoal burns very hot, and compared to ordinary wood, paper, or cloth, it's a more pure concentration of volatile carbon. And the great thing about using cotton cloth for your charcoal source is that your charcoal will be made of very thin fibers which will catch a spark even faster!

You can easily prepare your own quick lighting emergency "char cloth" with just a tin can, a cotton T-shirt, and a large source of heat such as a barbecue grill, campfire, or if you want to be tricky, by using the sun and a big magnifying glass like he does in the video below. The idea is to place your cloth in the can, heat up the can enough to release and burn off all the cotton fibers' biogases, and then simply collect what's left -- ie. pure charcoal.

If you're already pretty schooled in Bushcraft, you might be thinking ahead... What if we substituted cotton balls for the T-shirt? Would that work even better? Watch the video to the end! (He has you covered.) 

Digging Deeper...

As cool as this is, I find it fascinating to think about what's "wasted" in this process.

What if you didn't just burn off the escaping gas and actually used it for something useful? Like, say, cooking?

Essentially the video above describes the same principles used to make a DIY wood gasification stove -- like the ones many backpacking survivalists use to cook food, and which I personally use when I'm out boondocking in my camper. But rather than use the gases to cook dinner, the focus of the char cloth project is simply to get at the valuable leftover charcoal. 

The process in each is the same, though. The idea of a wood gasifier is to separate the natural combustion process. Contrary to the common assumption, wood doesn't actually burn. When you make a campfire, what you're actually doing is heating up the wood to release the gases (a stage called "pyrolysis"), then burning the released wood-gas.

Pyrolysis (gas release) happens in the absence of oxygen. That's why he puts the cloth in a tin can, leaving only a small hole for the gases to escape. A gasifying cook stove (like the SoloStove) uses the same idea to separate the pyrolysis process from the combustion process, first heating up wood in the central chamber to release the hot gases, then introducing "secondary air" from side chambers to combust the gases at the top of the stove. The result is a very clean-burning wood-gas stove that can cook dinner very quickly using only easy-to-find twigs.

To circle back around to char cloth...

If you already have a charcoal-producing gasifying camp stove -- like the SoloStove or another homemade version -- then you can make your own emergency kit char cloth without even being wasteful! All you have to do is use a cotton T-shirt or cotton balls in your fuel chamber while you're heating up leftovers, and you'll be ready for your next out-of-lighter-fluid emergency. (Helpul note; To get the purest charcoal you need to make sure your gasifier stove restricts oxygen to the fuel chamber and lets in plenty of secondary air.)



build a truck camper cheap

Why spend thousands on an RV, when you can learn to Build Your Own Truck Bed Camper!

If you have some basic construction and carpentry skills, you'll be pleasantly surprised to learn just how easy and totally inexpensive it can be to slap together your own simple pickup truck camper from hardly more than a small bundle of 2x4s, some plywood, a bucket of screws, and some paint. Bolt it all onto your truck bed, and depending on your design choices, you could conceivably have an actual working "RV" for less than $200.

build a truck camper welcome

Seriously, it doesn't have to be difficult!

It naturally seems like there must be something special about building an RV, but if you really think about it, a "mobile home" is really nothing more than a very tiny house -- And in this case, it happens to be sitting in the bed of your truck. Constructing one is actually a lot like making a shed.

Depending on your design decisions, it may be even easier, or a lot more complicated -- And that's entirely your choice!

You'll probably want your little "truck bed shed" to be light-weight, and it should be built to withstand high winds and mild earthquakes... both depending on how you prefer your driving experience. 🙂 The best thing is.. It's entirely up to you.

For myself, the pop-up slide-in camper I'm aiming to build for my 2003 short-bed Tacoma Prerunner, is going to be doing a lot of off-roading to fossil digs and rockhounding sites. I'd like it to stay light on the tires, but $1000+ in aluminum framing is completely out of the question. Fortunately, since I don't intend to fill it with much in terms of built-in furniture and a humongous water tank, I can afford to use some heavier-than-typical construction. Hence, I'll be making mine from cheap and super-sturdy 2x4s. Like I said -- It's a truck bed shed!

 

Listen To My "Radio Show" Episode:
How To Build A Truck Camper For Dirt Cheap

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Find out how I built my own truck camper for my Tacoma Prerunner in just 2 days for under $250. (Click below to open the link in a new tab.)
Mobile Rik's DIY Truck Camper Plans.

camp sink from home depot buckets

Have a clean sink wherever you go!

In the category of "things most people haven't thought much about"... One problem with faucet sinks -- and I mean virtually *any* sink, whether in your home, at work, in your RV, or in your camp -- is that the need to trigger the faucet valve makes for a very unsanitary operation. 

  • You go to the sink to wash your hands.
  • You put your dirty hands on the faucet to turn it on.
  • You wash your hands.
  • Then you put your clean hands back on the dirty faucet to turn it off!

Seriously, why do we do that?

Of course one of situations in which you're most likely to have frequently soiled hands (and other body parts) is when you're camping. Especially for some of us who prefer a less "glamping" and more "close to nature" experience, at some point every day, you're going to go dig a hole, deposit a mound of decomposed gut rot and E Coli directly into said hole, then attempt to wipe with some excuse for toilet paper, and then in attempt to be "sanitary," go stick your hands on a faucet or even directly on the clean water end of a water jug. 

Wouldn't it'd be nice to have a more sanitary option?

One solution you might have come across is to use a foot-pump to pump water so that you never have to touch anything to get your hands clean.

    In the video below, Travis from 2brothersadventures shows how he turned a few ordinary Home Depot buckets into a clever and sanitary foot-pump-activated camp sink that even saves your greywater.

Note: It was inspired by this brilliant Instructables design.

Hey, can I put one of these in my camper?

I was so impressed by this simple idea that I've been intending to put a version of this in my camper. My idea has been to add on the functionality of a biosand filter under the sink basin to recycle the greywater. There are a few complications to figure out, but mostly I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

make a composting toilet

Ever wonder if it's possible for you to Make A Composting Toilet?

It's actually really easy!

And once you build one, you'll...

  • Cut down on your water consumption by several gallons or more a day.
  • Have a neverending source of good organic fertilizer.

Essentially, as you'll see in the video, a composting toilet needn't be more complicated than a wooden box with a hole in it, with a 5 gallon bucket underneath. You cover it with dirt or some other organic matter -- like sawdust or grass clippings -- and it does not stink!!

In the video below, StormCloudsGathering shares a simple and proven system to create your own fertilizer and use less water, along with other great reasons to consider composting your own "humanure" sooner than later. ..

 

"Wait -- Isn't that kinda gross / unsanitary / unsafe?"

While that's a common reaction -- especially from people who have never even bothered to learn even regular kitchen composting -- it's mostly unfounded. As long as you do it right, it won't stink and is no more hazardous than using a regular toilet. "Wash your hands thoroughly" still applies.

"Don't you have to turn the compost?

Turning compost is largely a myth. Not only is it not necessary, but it can be harmful to the growing bacteria cultures. It's sufficient to clear a hole in the center with a stick and then after your "deposit", cover it back up.

"Oh come on -- It's poop! How do you keep it from stinking?

The same way you do with regular compost -- by covering with sawdust, leaves, newspaper, etc. It not only blocks the fumes from rising, but will absorb the smell. Of course keeping the lid shut helps, too, but the sawdust works well enough without the lid.

If you want to learn more about Humanure Composting...

Make sure to read the ultimate authority guide, which goes through every aspect of making a humanure toilet, managing the composting process, using it in your garden, and understanding your way around a million and one concerns you may have! It's now in its Third Edition and you can buy it on Amazon now by clicking the button below.

Humanure Handbook Review

 

diy camper electricity

Doing your own electrical systems for your homemade camper isn't as difficult as it might sound -- especially if you commit to keeping it extremely simple!

You can think of an RV or camper electrical system as made up of just three components:

  1. The Battery (a.k.a. the "House Battery", as distinguished from your "starting battery"
  2. The DC Circuits (direct current)
  3. The AC Circuits (alternating current)

Keeping things simple...

I'm sure you know what a lead-acid car battery is, right? OK! You'll need one of those. (There are matters of the best battery type for a camper, but that can wait...)

The DC circuits are those wired to run 12V devices that can run off a car battery, i.e. from your car's cigarette lighter. These circuits are connected directly to the battery, just as your cigarette lighter is wired directly to the battery.

inverterThe AC circuits are those wired to run standard household plug-in devices. If it has a standard plug, then it is an AC device, and it requires an "Inverter" to be placed between it and the battery. The inverter turns standard "flat" direct current into the special"rippling" AC current that household appliances require.

Camper electricity revolves around Battery Powered DC Wiring. While it's in many ways easier for a beginner to implement, it's different enough from standard household wiring that it can be very confusing at first, even for electrical engineers! To help wrap your head around it, a crucial point to "get" is that...

An Inverter Is A DC Device!

(That is used to run AC Devices)


It might be easiest to think of camper wiring as implemented in layers:

First you have DC layer, which at it's simplest is a lot like wiring your speaker system together, or more accurately, like wiring a high-end car audio system. 

  • You first connect a set of cables from the battery to a hub, i.e. set of "distribution blocks." 
  • From there you branch off wires to DC devices like DC fans, LED lights, cigarette lighter outlets for plugging in your phone, AND... an Inverter.

Once you have an inverter connected (to a branch of the DC circuit), you can then plug your AC household appliances (portable fan, clock, heater, coffee maker, mini-refrigerator, etc.) into the inverter. Simple right?

That's really as complicated as it gets, ie. not very complicated at all!