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Wisdom comes at a price...

 

Lessons Learned

  • If your threaded ball on your hitch doesn't have a cotter pin to prevent the nut from falling off, add one.  Drill a hole through the last few threads and install the cotter pin.  I witnessed a County truck lose a trailer while heading down the backside of a bridge because the nut backed off the ball.  They didn't even realize the trailer came off, ran into the guardrail, and skidded to a stop.  They hadn't bothered with safety chains either.   During routine maintenance, I found that mine too had loosened.  It hadn't backed off enough to contact the cotter pin but it could have if I didn't catch it.

  • When closing the camper, be very careful.  I was sliding the beds inward when I noticed a little resistance.  I pushed a little harder, then I heard a RIP.  Oops, there went a curtain.  Torn in two places.  My mother-in-law, a fellow camper, is a seamstress.  She took care of it in no time.  Luckily, it wasn't the tent material.  If the beds don't slide easily, STOP!  Find out why.

  • When storing the Popup, keep the grass cut under the camper.  A colony of carpenter ants decided to take up residence inside my camper.  There were thousands of eggs, angry ants, and urine saturated building material (stinks!).  I found them while preparing the camper for an upcoming trip.  A quick shot of Raid did the trick.  Took a while to clean up the mess.  No damage.  Carpenter ants like stepping from tall grass directly to the camper frame.  Keep the grass short, and spray under the camper with a Dursban type product.  This will also keep the roaches out.

  • If you put a bike rack on the back of your camper, as I've done, don't try to raise the roof  while the bikes are still in place.  I was going to raise the roof a little to open the side door while packing.  I bent down, cranked the handle a few turns... CRUNCH!  As the roof was raised, it contacted the handlebar of the bike.  Put a small dent in the aluminum roof.  

  • I place my camper under a canopy.  Keeps the sun, rain, tree sap, and bird poo off the camper.  Works great.  During a hurricane, I remove the tarp from the frame so it doesn't blow away.  The tarp, and its many bungees, are what keep the framework together.  Once these are removed, the frame becomes a series of loosely fitting tubes.  I hadn't given this much thought at the time.  The wind shook the frame apart.  One of the pieces over the top of the camper, fell, punching a small dime sized hole in the aluminum roof.  I cleaned it with alcohol and filled it with marine grade 100% silicone caulk.  I now tie two ropes onto the frame, in an "X" fashion, from corner to corner when removing the tarp.  This keeps the frame held together.

  • My previous camper didn't have stabilizers in all 4 corners.  Instead, it relied on two stabilizers in the back of the camper, and used the jack in the front to level & stabilize the camper.  Rockwood didn't use a swing jack.  It was fixed in the vertical position and the wheel was removable.  Consequently, the wheel could come off.  I setup camp at a friends property (30 acres in a remote area).  The ground was very soft and spongy.  I didn't place the jack on a large piece of wood... first mistake.  This area also had no shore power, so I used a gas lantern inside the camper... second mistake.  It was getting late, I went into the camper with the lantern.  I set the lantern on the table, then sat on the bed over jack stand.  The jack sunk into the soft soil, the wheel suddenly popped off the jack (as it was being forced under at an angle), and the jack sunk all the way into the ground.  The coupler on the camper actually contacted the ground.  You can imagine the angle this put the camper at.  Meanwhile, I flew across the bed, the lantern hit the floor and shattered the globe and mantles.  Luckily, the lantern went out.  I was now up against the far wall of the camper, everything was uphill, it was pitch black, and I could hear/smell propane!  I calmly found the lantern and shut it off, without stepping in the broken glass.  I went outside, to my now laughing friends who came out to see what all the commotion was.  We lifted the camper, re-installed the jack wheel, and set it on a board.  I now always place jack stands and leveling jacks, on blocks of wood.  I also never use a propane lantern inside a camper anymore.  That could have been much worse.

  • Don't assume a new camper has been prepared by the factory's finest.  We took our new Coleman on a 75 mile maiden campout.  When we arrived, grease was dripping out from the axle caps.  The hubs were too hot to touch.  After camping for a couple of days, we headed home, taking the back roads at a much slower pace.  We stopped frequently to minimize the heat buildup.  The camper was also supposed to be modified to accept a screen room.  The dealer said bring it back when you return and we'll take care of it, along with anything else you notice.  I took it back and told them of the bearing issue.  I asked that they be checked, and at the minimum, repacked.  A week later, the camper was returned.  I was assured everything was taken care of, even the bearing problem (I specifically asked).  Another week passed and I was preparing for another campout.  I noticed grease on the wheels again.  Uh oh.  I jacked up the camper and tried spinning a wheel.  It turned very tightly and wouldn't spin.  The axle nuts had been over tightened and no repairs had been accomplished.  Same on the other side.  The problem hadn't been fixed.  Being short on time, and long on frustration, I took the hub apart myself.  The grease was black, smelled burnt, and was laden with metal particles.  The bearings where heat scorched (turned blue).  I replaced the bearings and races with a new set from Timken (commercial grade bearings).  I called the camper dealership and expressed my displeasure of their service.  They told me the service manager would call me back.  A little while later, he did.  He was very apologetic and understood how dangerous this could have been.  He said they would gladly reimburse me for the parts.  I said that's fine, but the bearings didn't install by themselves.  He asked what would be fair, so I asked how much labor he'd charge to replace two sets of bearings.  He replied 1 hr, or $50.00.  I said that's fair.  So I was sent a check for the parts, plus $50 labor.  Glad I wasn't headed out on a long trip without checking their repair.

  • A screen room is a big, clumsy device that takes a bit of effort to setup.  Our camper included one as part of a package deal.  If you are thinking about buying one, think twice.  Space is always a premium and this thing is a hog.  Ours stays at home.

  • Electronic mosquito repellers DO NOT WORK!  Save your money.  Reviews are posted all over the web that confirm what I found out first hand.  If I ever find the guy who invented it, I'll take him camping with me and make HIM wear it.

  • Bug zappers are also a waste.  They will actually attract bugs to your campsite.  Testing by an entomology group in Florida showed one killed about 10,000 bugs in a single night.  Less than 10 of the bugs were mosquitoes.

  • If you come to Florida, plan on using a bug spray or cream with DEET.  Nothing is as effective, many alternatives don't work at all.  Rather than using a high concentration, stick with a 10% or less spray.  Apply a very light mist, reapply as necessary.  The FDA also says DEET is safe for kids when applied in this fashion.  Don't soak yourself or kids in the strong stuff.  It doesn't provide any more protection, only a longer duration.  Reapplication every couple of hours can produce the same protection without the increased risk of skin irritation.  Skin-So-Soft is about as effective as wearing a shirt that says "don't bite me".  It's been tested... lasted all of 31 seconds before the mosquitoes started biting.

  • Make sure when you unzip your screens at night, that no body part can come in direct contact with the screen.  I awoke one night with severe cramps in my foot.  It had been resting up against the screen.  Mosquitoes had bitten me so many times on the bottom of my big toe, that it was saturated with blood on the bottom.  I could see hundreds of mosquitoes lined up on the outside of the screen waiting their turn.  I sprayed the screen with a bug repellent to let them know the restaurant was closed!  My toe hurt for 3 days.

  • Being a flat-lander, camping in the mountains can bring a whole new set of experiences.  Bisquick makes a pancake batter in a plastic container.  Just open, add water, shake, and pour.  At altitude, the container looks a little swollen.  Once the lid is unscrewed, pierce the seal with the tip of a knife or pin.  If not, the inside of your camper will be covered with a fine layer of flour, as mine was when the container explodes!  A Porta-Potti is a wonderful invention.  The air tight seal on the blade valve ensures no odors creep out of the black water storage container.  This means it can hold pressure too.  I had recently cleaned mine, so there was a thin layer of water on top of the blade valve.  I raised the lid, and opened the valve.  Phsst!  A face full of water spray!  Thank God I had just cleaned it.  Here's a tip, leave the lid SHUT when sliding the blade valve open.  The final mountain experience was when I was hauling a utility trailer with my ATV, generator, water cans, and a gas can.  As I headed up the mountain, I noticed something dripping out of the back of the trailer.  I pulled over and was hit with a very strong smell of gasoline.  The floor of the utility trailer was saturated.  I use plastic (Gott Brand) gas cans.  The filler nozzle is stored inside the gas can.  As the gas can pressurizes, the gas is forced up the filler nozzle, and out the gas cap.  It will almost empty a gas can in this manner.  The solution is to loosen the vent cap a couple of turns.

 

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Last updated June 20th, 2001