make a self-contained micro cook kit

Want fresh ideas for simpler more economical ways to cook when you're living off the grid?

Look into the cheap and powerful homemade backpacking stoves used by inventive campers like this guy. They're made to be easy to assemble from common items in your recycling bin for just a few bucks at most, and they run off alcohol or free wooden twigs you find lying around. All in all, much quicker and more efficient than setting up a whole campfire just to boil some water!

But what if you live in a camper like me?

As a matter of fact, my truck camper's cooking system is designed around backpacking principles exactly like the ones you see in the video!

When building a small camper, you want to keep things small and light. There's so little space inside that you'll do yourself a huge favor if you can find ways to eliminate unnecessarily bulky items. And when you apply backpacking principles to your cooking, you can really boost the overall efficiency of your operation.

For instance...

  • Small lightweight cook pots will heat up much faster than your standard household pots, saving you lots of fuel. I personally use an anodized aluminum backpacking cook set that fits inside a 1 lb. coffee can sized ditty bag (about the same size as in the video). While I often use "bowls" (that are actually just those little plastic "Twist n' Loc" food storage containers), I'll just as often eat straight out of the pots.
  • While I do have a small homemade "range" made out of a portable propane burner for when I need to cook inside, I'll more often cook outside on my mobile workbench using a wood gasifying version of the Hobo Stove from the video. And likewise, it's made to compactly nest together into a 1 lb. coffee can sized ditty bag for storage.
  • You might not think you have any use for a "wind screen" when you're cooking inside your camper, but you'd be wrong! A metal "wind screen" serves double-duty as a heat-reflector, containing the heat close to the pot so as to dramatically improve your fuel efficiency, allowing you to get considerably more usage out of every ounce of fuel, whether it be propane, butane, alcohol, white gas, or wood.
  • Use a lid! Even a simple lid made from a tin can or cut of aluminum foil will improve your cooking time and conserve more fuel.
  • Little alcohol burning stoves like the DIY Pop Can Stove in the video are really handy to have around as clean-burning backups that can be used indoors (with proper ventilation of course). Backpackers love them because they pack light and tiny along with a few ounces of fuel (denatured alcohol from the paint section), so you can easily use them for day-hikes.
  • There are even great lessons in backpackers' food choices. When prepping for long trips, ultralight hikers focus on foods that are lightweight, easy to prepare, and don't require any special storage arrangements like refrigeration to stay edible. So they'll typically pack 1) dry foods that can be eaten as is, like trail mix and crackers, 2) dry foods that can be cooked or reconstituted with water, like noodles or freeze dried foods, 3) heat-and-serve meals like MRE's -- which are basically the same as canned meals but in a pouch rather than difficult-to-pack tin cans. The lesson is that by focusing on these types of foods, along with vegetables and other foods that don't require refrigeration, you can dramatically reduce your energy requirements. (ex. Vegans have it easiest, because animal products almost always require full refrigeration, whereas uncooked plant-based foods generally do not.)
  • The pot cozy in the video isn't just for keeping your coffee warm. You can also use a good cozy instead of "simmering", saving a lot of fuel. (Not shown: You can use a thermal food jar stuffed into a sleeping bag when you need to simmer for a really long time. I do this all the time to cook rice. It's called "thermal cooking." Instead of boiling and then simmering for a half-hour, I just spend four minutes boiling, then stuff it all into the center of the roll and pull it out a few hours later completely done and still steaming.

The Takeaway Lesson (Big Hint!):

If you're a vehicle camper and want to reduce your boondocking expenses, look into what backpackers do. Not necessarily the ones who spend thousands on equipment (though you can get ideas from them too), but specifically research "DIY backpacking gear". What I've learned has been invaluable.

P.S. That chair he's sitting on, the one he calls the "Amazing Wilderness Camp Chair", is also part of it! It's a clever piece of fabric that takes up zero space in his pack, but is designed so that he can use it to quickly construct a tripod hammock chair out of four branches wherever he goes. Gotta love it!


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

Looking To Make Your Own Truck Camper?

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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!