Teardrop Trailer Holds its Own in the Outback

off road teardrop trailer

This Teardrop holds its own on technical trails | Photo Chris Cordes, Expedition Portal

One of the big questions about mechanized camping is whether the expense and trouble of a camper offsets the hassle of setting up and striking a tent. But when you’ve got a camping trailer as capable as the SoCal Teardrop the equation starts leaning in the direction of “camper.”

Chris Cordes takes an in-depth look at the performance of a fully outfitted SoCal teardrop and has a lot of good things to say. This rig was equipped with an ARB refrigerator powered by a couple of Goal Zero Boulder 30 solar panels which gives it some off-the-grid capability. The suspension was retrofitted and a fold-out side tent added.

But the best mod that was made to the trailer?

By the end of our first journey I had begun implementing a series of small changes aimed at making trailer more enjoyable and easier to live with. This began with swapping out the wheel on the tongue jack. As anyone who has pushed one of these things around can tell you, plastic wheels are awful for maneuvering. We picked up a pneumatic rubber model from AT Overland, and spent the rest of the year and a half thanking ourselves for such a smart decision. Seriously, it might be the best investment you’ll ever make.

If you have an inclination toward taking a trailer on one of your explorations, give this article a read.

Also: Tent Camping Vs. Trailer

We Designed the Best Roof Top Tent Ever. Sort of.

Car Camping in an 1967 Chevelle in the Arizona Desert

How to Remove a Fishhook and Other Extraction Tips

 

picture-2

Here’s some essential knowledge if you ever plan on fishing with me…via a tweet from Guy Kawasaki…Wired’s How-to Wiki explains how to remove a fishhook from a buddy.

But why stop there? Here are some other helpful extraction techniques you should know:

[Originally posted April 10, 2009]

How Robots Might Change Our Understanding of “Off the Beaten Path”

Concept for an Autonomous Exploration Vehicle | FastCo Design

Concept for an Autonomous Exploration Vehicle | FastCo Design

A road trip is the ultimate journey into the unexplored territory of one’s soul. FastCo Design asks the question “how will that change when cars drive themselves?”

Honda invited creative director Morihiro Harano to highlight the company’s autonomous driving tech by talking about his love for exploration:

“My inspiration for this project came from a few things,” Harano says. “My son’s and my love for motorhomes—we built one together from Legos—the tiny house movement—I love architecture—and a road trip in Iceland for a shoot on a very long and wild road. When I learned about Honda’s autonomous driving technology, those four things are came together for me. I thought if we could make a comfortable motorhome with autonomous driving technology, I would love to live my rest of life on the road, moving, traveling, enjoying a very long road trip on this planet, being a kind of new nomad.”

I wonder, though if one’s sense of being part of a bigger experience will get lost when we leave the driving to the bots. It might start feeling less like a road trip and more like a family vacation.

Two Dozen Free/Cheap Things to Do in Los Angeles – Plus a Few

Santa Monica pier

Santa Monica pier at night | Photo: ™ Pacheco via Matador network

Los Angeles is such a sprawling place that you have to plan carefully how to explore. Matador Network serves up nearly two dozen free or cheap things to do in the city of Angels that give you a real taste of the city – arguably much more so than a trip to Universal Studios.

You might not think of Los Angeles as a place to take in nature but Matador’s list even serves up a few waterfalls:

22. Go chasing waterfalls.
Cost: Free + gas + parking

There isn’t a ton of flowing fresh water in L.A., but if you know where to look there are trails that lead the adventurer to some small (hey, we take what we can get around here!) cascades. Wear sturdy shoes, sun protection, and bring plenty of water when doing any hiking.

Waterfalls to visit:

Monrovia Falls: An easy 1.7-mile hike from Monrovia Canyon Park entrance station (in Monrovia).
Eaton Canyon Falls: About 1.8 miles from the parking lot at the trailhead in Altadena and a very popular hike. If you have fantasies of having the waterfall to yourself, think again! Expect crowds.
Santa Ynez Falls: Perhaps easiest accessed from the trail system emanating from Topanga State Park. It’s about a 2.5-mile hike to the falls from the TSP parking lot.

To Matador’s list I’d add:

1) Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, everything you’ve ever seen in Core77 is on this street.(Check out the canals while you’re there.)
2) Central Library in Los Angeles – The Mother Lode of Art Deco
3) The Getty Museum – There are actually two Getty museums, Getty Center and Getty Villa. Both are free but you’ll need to pay for parking and at the Villa you need to make reservations.

The secret to enjoying Los Angeles is to visit neighborhoods that are close together – and avoid the 10 freeway if you can.

Lightweight Cardboard House Can Be Installed in One Day – Designed to Be Permanent

modular cardboard house

Modular cardboard Wikklehouse finished with wood panels | Photo © Wikkelhouse / Yvonne Witte

Cardboard has long been the stuff of dreams – the joke is that at Christmas children spend less time playing with a toy than with the box it came in. And few things are more exciting than the arrival of a new appliance and a box that can become an instant fortress or playhouse.

Now it’s cardboard’s chance to come of age with Wikkelhouse, a project for building modular housing developed by the Netherlands design firm Fiction Factory.

The houses are framed and then spun from rolls of cardboard on an armature in a factory. The cardboard is waterproofed, the modules are paneled inside and then shipped to their final location.

This is by no means the first time cardboard has been used as a permanent building material. But it might be one of the most energy efficient ways to build small scale dwellings.

[Via Contemporist]

Gut Check – Is Your Intestinal Biome Making You Crazy?

Bifidobacterium

Bifidobacterium longum | Image: Wikimedia Commons via Motherboard

You might want to skip the hand sanitizer after you read this…a new study from New York City’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai cited in the Huffington Post reveals that an imbalance in your intestinal flora could be making you mentally ill. Or worse.

In particular the study shows that intestinal bacteria may override genetics when it comes to illnesses like depression, anxiety and even neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Therapy for some of these disorders may be accomplished by getting one’s intestinal flora back in balance. But this…of course…will require more research.

In the mean time what can you do to get your gut in balance? You might think that ingesting “healthy” bacteria (think yogurt) is the way to go. But maybe not so fast. Mark Hyman, MD is big on the “oil change” – replacing polyunsaturated vegetable oils with healthy Omega 3 oils. Also fermented foods, in other words don’t hold the pickle.

Liam Springer also cautions to go easy on the probiotics. His contrarian idea is to add more dairy even…and maybe especially if…you are lactose intolerant Read the link, he explains it better than I can. And carrots.

All in all though, it seems like we need to spend more time listening to our gut.

5 Firefighting Tools that Belong in Your Tool Shed

fire crew photo by FEMA

Northern California fire crew working hot line in San Diego 2007 | Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA

I worked one summer on a blue card fire crew, one of the best jobs ever. A ten-person crew can clear a trail five feet wide down to mineral soil almost as fast as you can walk it. The tools we used were so useful that I’m surprised at how rarely I see them in people’s sheds. Here is a round up of the tools we used and why they are so great.

Stihl Chain Saw 

stihl_chainsaw

A Stihl 76cc chainsaw with a 28 inch bar and a full skip chain handles limbs, trunks and logs up to 50 inches diameter or thereabouts. Michael Smith shares a firefighter’s perspective on chainsaws, noting that Husky is equally popular to the Stihl out on the fireline, but mainly because parts for both brands are likely to be stocked and readily available. Available at Stihl USA

Brush Hook

Hand crew sawyers are followed by two or three workers with brush hooks. The razor sharp curved blade can be used to pull branches and chop them. The curve of the blade makes it less likely to glance to the side or fall short on a stroke than a traditional axe when you’re clearing brush and shrubs. Wranglestar has a Youtube video explaining more about brush axes. Available on Amazon.

Pulaski Axe

A Pulaski is a hybrid axe and digging mattock – and next the chainsaw one of the most dangerous tools on the fire line. The point of the Pulaski is to dig up shallow roots and chop them so that a fire won’t cross the line underground (yes it happens). Check out the US Forest Service instructions for improving your Grubbing Technique. Available at Amazon.

Razorback Shovel

Just about everybody has a shovel of some kind. I always liked the Razorback because the tempered steel blade keeps a sharp edge all day long. The function of the shovel on a fire line is to cut turf and sweep it off the trail. The technique is to grasp the neck or socket of the shovel with your dominant hand, brace that arm against your knee which acts as a fulcrum. You use your other hand to pull back on the shovel’s handle like a lever which moves the blade across the ground with quite a bit of force. Razorback shovels are available on Amazon.

Mcleod

Last but not least is the Mcleod (pronounced “McCloud”) which is a hoe with an attitude. The purpose of the Mcleod is to clear the trail down to mineral soil with no clumps of organic matter in the mix. This is done primarily with the hoe blade but sometimes you come across sticks and debris and you simply turn the tool 180 and you’ve got a heavy duty rake. This thing isn’t for raking leaves but it’s dandy for chopping up a garden patch that’s gone fallow. Available through Amazon.

Trail Notes: Ballinger Canyon and Deer Park Jeep Trails

Shrubby Brushweed in Bloom Along Trail 24

Despite drought conditions this year, the Shrubby Brushweed plants are covered with yellow flowers in Ballinger Canyon. Other flowers blooming in the canyon are Hareweed, Phacelia, and Bush Lupine. It’s a different story in Quatal Canyon to the south where hardly any wildflowers are blooming at all.

On this trip to the Ballinger OHV park I was hoping to enter Deer Park Canyon from Highway 33, using Trail 23W31 marked as a through 4WD route on the Ballinger Canyon route map. It appears that Trail 23W31 is on private property. Trails 40 and 46 are both gated at approximately the place where the vertical black line intersects them on the map below.

Trail 23W31 Deer Park Canyon

I wound up scouting a number of trails, outline in lime green on the map below. (Click on the picture for a larger view.)

Ballinger Routes 24, 36, 40, 46

Trail 24 is an easy trail through high desert territory. The road is sandy, rocky and heavily “moguled,” making for a bumpy ride in places. The easternmost part of the trail includes a slight climb among scrub oak and pinyon pines. The trail is narrower here and more interesting. In wet weather it can be challenging, with deep ruts that could leave you high centered if you slipped off the trail.

Trail 40 includes some sections of moderate difficulty, with a steep climb up the ridge overlooking Deer Park Canyon. I’m assuming the moderate rating comes from a couple of pretty steep scrambles. I imagine some of the hillclimbs (and descents) could get pretty hairy following a big rain. In dry conditions these hills aren’t anything a little 4WD Low can’t handle. The trail is quite narrow in places, giving excellent views of the canyons on both sides.

Trail 40 travels a narrow ridge with no shoulder on either side.

Trail 46 follows a gentle grade to the floor of Deer Park Canyon. More moguls here and a few narrow places.

Trail 36 follows a wash along the floor of Deer Park Canyon. It’s a fun ride between steep walls in places. There was quite a bit of Bush Lupine in flower along this trail.

Bush Lupine in Bloom in Deer Park Canyon

As I said above, Trail 40 and 46 are gated, meaning that you can’t use them to exit to Highway 33 as maps indicate. But they are good for some nice out-and-back exploring. There were a handful of bikers and ATV riders in the park on this beautiful Saturday in Spring, but most of the time I felt I had the trails to myself.

Originally posted April 9, 2007.

Close to 100 Uses for Paracord – and Growing

nylon paracord

Paracord | Photo courtesy of More than Just Surviving

You’ve got one of those nifty paracord bracelets and you know that it must be good for something more than Macgyver-esque style. More than Just Surviving lines out 93 ways to use that paracord bracelet for more than drying laundry.

Here are just a few of the ways you can use paracord:

Belt or replacement belt,
Bolo tie,
Pet leash,
Knife handle wrap,
Support for a lean-to shelter.

Unravel the paracord and you’ve got high-strength inner threads that you can use for:

Fishing line,
Bowstring for a fire drill,
Dental floss,
Suture thread.

One thing you might not actually be able to use your paracord for? You guessed it – parachutes*.

* Check to be sure your paracord is certified 550 mil spec before using it to jump out of a plane.

[Via More than Just Surviving]

Get Your Point Across in Any Language with this Clever Shirt

iconspeak multilingual shirt

ICONSPEAK shirt has universal symbols for travelers | Photo by ICONSPEAK

It’s a good idea to learn the language of a country when you travel. Little things like bus signs, menus and movie marquees make more sense. But if you don’t have the 3 months it takes to learn a language, or even if you know the language and simply can’t get your point across, then this shirt from Iconspeak can help you out. With 39 universal symbols covering transportation, dining, and services you can easily get your point across for most basic needs. And if your shirt is ready for the wash they even have a tote bag.

Also of interest, The 18 Universal Symbols that Make it Easier to Travel in Japan and The Wordless Travel Book.

[Via My ModernMet]

How to Relieve the Sting of a Texas Bull Nettle

Texas Bull Nettle

Texas Bull Nettle | Photo by Neil Sperry

A brush with a nettle of any species is something to avoid but the Texas bull nettle (Cnidoscolus texanus) is particularly nasty. My East Texas offers some tips for dealing with with bull nettle if you ever get stung.

While there are several theories for relief floating around, most folks will recommend urinating on it! Urine contains something that reacts chemically and soothes the pain instantly on contact. Urinating on yourself, or perhaps your buddy, might seem a bit unorthodox and disgusting, but when you wade off into a bull nettle, you’ll be ready to try just about anything.

The article goes on to suggest a paste made of baking soda as an effective and more pleasant neutralizer for the bull nettle’s sting. Baking soda works by neutralizing the high pH of the folic acid in the bull nettle’s sting. Baking soda is also a great treatment for insect stings so it makes sense to keep a small amount in your first aid kit.

You might also look for jewelweed, said to grow in the vicinity of many nettles. Jewelweed is popular folk remedy for bullnettle, poison oak, poison ivy and stinging nettle (urtica dioica) which delivers histamine into the skin of its victim.

[Via My East Texas]

How to Survive the Coming Global Recession Like Your Great-grandparents

female worker in WPA lunch room

Worker in WPA Lunch Room – Public Domain

We’re not saying that a global recession is right around the corner. Then again the history of the United States has been peppered by depressions and recessions – one about every five years or so – so never say never.

Whether you’re facing hard times or just want to get back to basics the Survival Life blog (via Pioneer Settler) shares 13 Survival Tips From the Great Depression.

The Depression-era ethic behind these tips (reuse, repurpose, do it yourself) make perfect sense in any economy. Frugality is good for the planet and good for the soul.

For other sensible tips check out Wise Bread, Frugal Village and Eco Thrifty Living.

Bonus: The Tightwad Gazette

Jeep Trail to Big Caliente

Santa Ynez Crossing

The drive to Big Caliente isn’t challenging enough to be a good Jeep trail, and it isn’t smooth enough to be pleasant. But when you finally make it to the floor of Blue Canyon, you feel like the time was worth it. The canyon is a large meadow area with sycamore and oak with the Santa Ynez river meandering down the middle.

The road is passable by almost any vehicle (I saw more than one Camry making the trip). Several concrete water crossings might pose some difficulty after a big rain, but it isn’t until you get to the last water crossing on 5N16 that you really need some clearance. Here the water was over a foot high, well over the sills of some passenger cars.

The attraction of this drive is the hot springs at the end of 5N16. There you’ll find a cement tub about the size of a home spa, some cinder block changing rooms that have seen better days and a pit toilet. The water in the springs is a good 170 degrees and the setting is nice, although perhaps too much traffic on a weekend. Google maps show a 4WD road near 5N16, but I didn’t see it on this trip. Most of the roads, such as the continuation of Murieta Canyon Road were gated. The Los Padres rangers keep these closed so that they don’t get churned to oblivion during the rainy season.

Blue Canyon has a number of hiking trails and campsites that would be worth further exloration.
Big Caliente hot spring

Here’s a Google Pedometer map of the route.

Originally published February 24, 2007

Allman Brothers – Deeper Cuts

If your knowledge of the Allman Brothers (like mine) is limited to southern rock toppers like Midnight Rider, Ramblin’ Man or even the straight-up blues of One Way Out then you really haven’t experienced the Allman Brothers. And that’s a little like saying you haven’t experienced the color blue or the fragrance of wisteria on a summer evening or lightning across the desert.

As expressive and transcendent as these hit songs are the band takes things to an entirely different level when they open up and start jamming. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, a song that takes its name from a headstone in a cemetery the band used to visit, lets band members open up their full box of colors. Wikipedia has a stirring review of the Fillmore East live sessions that have been mixed (or unmixed) to create a masterful jazz fusion tour de force that owes more to Miles Davis than to Southern Comfort.

This may be music for sitting and sipping but I’ve added it to my “go for a run” playlist because the Allman Brother’s relentless go-forward rhythms are perfect for the last mile when I’m dogging it.

A Master List of Skills for Modern Homesteaders

Milking a Goat | photo via PioneerSettler

Milking a Goat | photo via PioneerSettler

Do you know how to set up a greenhouse, grow herbs, pluck a chicken, and properly train an animal? PioneerSettler serves of a list of 133 Homesteading Skills for the Modern Day Homesteader along with links to information and resources that will help you master these skills.

Some of these skills are ones that you’d obviously want to try at home, like making candles. Others are maybe not so obvious, like how to build a geodesic dome:

What is a Geodesic Dome?

Geodesic domes are one of the strongest, lightest structures you can build. Due to their unique design, they are wind, hurricane and tornado resistant. Geodesic domes can be used as extra storage, a greenhouse, or as a living space. It takes about 3 hours to put one together and about 15 minutes to take it apart. The parts are readily available at local hardware stores, and it the cost for this 19 ft x 9.5, 278 sq. ft dome is about $300.

These tips are amazing – like the Whole Earth Catalog for a new millennium.

One skill that is inexplicably missing from the list, considering all the advice about backyard poultry, how to dig a grave.