Thursday, January 19, 2006

Being Prepared

Ok, the other day I left a teaser about something Lisa and I had done, but then never had time and energy together to write more about it. So here goes:

Yep, it's a little bitty pop-up camper trailer. According to the title, made in 1967, and according to the decals, sold through Montgomery Wards.

Two full-size beds slide out to the sides, and it's tall enough for all six feet of me to stand up in. About a 4'x6' open area in the center when everything's open.

Canvas pieces all seem to be in good shape, although we plan on replacing the "mattress" pads and the shag carpet somebody put in the floor.

Clean title, good tires (and three spares!!), current tags, and everything (including the trailer lights) appeared to be in good working order upon my moderately-detailed inspection. Still need to examine the wheel bearings; those tiny tires spin WAY fast compared to the tires on my truck.

And it's light. How light? Well, I can pick it up and push/pull it around by hand pretty easily. So light, that if we decide to, I'm confident that Lisa's Mazda Millenia could tow it without a problem (although if we did that for whatever reason, I'd be stepping up the service interval on her transmission dramatically).

So, how does this relate to being prepared?

Well, Lisa and I enjoy camping. She didn't know this *grin* until our honeymoon, when we rented a (IIRC) 28-foot RV and spent most of a week on the Texas coast. In an RV, even getting lost can be fun - but that's another story.

We went tent-camping for our first anniversary last spring, at Lake Whitney State Park - and had lots of fun, except that the weekend of 1 May, a cold front came through that damn near froze us, and did its dead-level best to flatten the tent while we were in it.

We went tent-camping again the opening weekend of Dove season. At our lease, there's no electricity, no plumbing, no nothing. And here in Texas, it was still hot as Hell. We both still had fun, but we were both starting to think fondly back to that RV we took our honeymoon in...

We've also been working through SHTF scenarios, plans, and preparations. We don't yet have everything that we'd like all squared away, but we're probably 80% of the way there, with plans and materials for food, water, comms, first aid, and weapons. Also backup plans in case the SHTF scenario is a tornado that spreads all our primary preparations here at home over the next three zip codes, including comm channels, and agreed-upon courses of action if those comms are down and we're not together when trouble hits.

I think I need to talk to Rivrdog about this... the more I think of what we've done, the more I think it might be worth a post on Paratus.

Anyway, one of our "weak points", as we saw it, was ready-to-go supplies and shelter if something happened that made our preparations here at home unusable. (Most likely candidate: Tornado scrubs our home to a bare slab. Not inconceivable here in North Texas. And that would immediately render the vast majority of our prep work GONE.)

Enter the Preparation - Early stage.

One of Lisa's co-workers started talking several months ago about a small pop-up trailer he and his partner had bought, but that (due to ailing health) it didn't look like he'd ever be able to use. Lisa immediately asked him if he wanted to sell it - knowing that we'd like something a little sturdier than a tent, both for recreational camping, and for disaster prep. Hem, haw, hem, haw, partner still wants us to use it, hem haw, I really can't, hem haw... until about a week and a half ago, he made up his mind. Sell it for what he paid for it.


Now, during the hemming and hawing, Lisa and I had been squirreling away a little extra money at a time, hoping we might be able to get a decent trailer for a song. When the co-worker finally made his decision, we had the $400 ready to hand over. WE WERE PREPARED. Prepared to move immediately, not ask him to hold it 'till payday, not borrow any money, just take advantage of a deal when it was presented.

Now... honestly, we didn't get a steal. We got a fair deal. That trailer's not what I had hoped for, but considering the clean title, good condition, spare tires, current tags, and working lights, I figure $400 is a pretty fair price to both buyer and seller.

Now, we have sturdier shelter that we're storing off-premises. Highly unlikely our home and the trailer will get taken by tornados at the same time.

We also have a place to store backup food, water, first aid, weapons and ammo, IN A PORTABLE SHELTER, in a form that only requires backing one of our vehicles up to it, hitching on, and getting the hell out of Dodge, if that's what the situation calls for (and I've set Lisa's Millenia up to pull it).

Right now, it's not worth a WHOLE lot of capability. But that will change in the near future (as it's the subject of a few Spinnin' Wrenches posts), and will eventually be worth FAR more in capability to us, both as emergency equipment, and also as a recreational asset, than that $400 was worth.

But having the $400 set aside was key to our being able to acquire it in the first place.


Blogger og said...

1: Get yourself a couple cans of "extend" and fix any rust the frame may have.
2: repaint the frame with Rust-oleum.
3: check the canvas. I can point you to three or four places to get your canvas repaired or replaced.
4: wheel bearings, of course.
5: mattresses. You will want to replace the standard ones eventually. Mail me, mhardig-at-aol-dot-com and we'll talk. Been using pop-ups for many a year. Just traded in my Jayco Jaycardinal for a much newer Coleman.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Rivrdog said...

Yes, good idea. I've thought about one, but the little ones like you've gotten are hard to find here in OR, almost everybody has gone to the humungo size that need at least a small V-8 to tow.

Mine would be towed by a Mazda B2500, with a fourbanger ahead of a 5-speed. Now the fourholer puts out an impressive 135hp, but the torque is nothing to write home about, so with a load, I row a lot. Especially since both 4th and 5th are OVERDRIVE! If I was going to tow much, I would consider a closer-ratio 4-speed floorjammer.

The issue with the tent trailer is that they don't store much, so you have to carry your SHTF stuff in the towing vehicle, which may overgross the combination.

All these caveats aside, when I was on the Winter Search & Rescue Posse in Marquette County, MI (232" of snow there in the worst years), we used TENT TRAILERS for command posts and posse shelters. They could be dragged in by truck, and in a pinch, by a couple of snowmobiles. They were light enough to muscle around, as you've noted. Once you fired up a propane catalytic heater inside, you had all the warmth you needed.

If it wasn't for the problem of setting it up, I would recommend a large tent for SHTF, but the tent trailer has a certain amount of "grab-n-go" utility to it. You can grab your empty coolers off the shelves in the garage, stuff them full of food, shove them in the half-door of the trailer, shove your guns and ammo and clothes in the tow vbehicle, hook up and be out of Dodge in a few minutes. Most of the tent trailers have a small water tank that will hold all the potable water you need if you don't go overboard washing things with it.

A good choice, my friend.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neal said...

Like I said, this thing's tiny... Bringing it home after purchase, at one point Lisa and I got into a pretty serious discussion, and I FORGOT I WAS TOWING THE DAMN THING!! Literally, could not feel it from the driver's seat of my Silverado. Also, couldn't see it in the side mirrors, I could only see a sliver of the top of it over the tailgate in the rearview.

I've got some checking to do, as Og reccommended (done some, and so far, so good)... then I'll be looking to improve its capabilities. Even with the limited space, I can store enough food in it for Lisa and I for a good two weeks. Room for a Coleman stove and lots of propane bottles, too, so our food won't be cold.

Not much room for water.

One of the first things I think I want to do is reinforce the tongue, and mount a pickup-style toolbox on it. That'll give me LOTS more storage room. Install a 12v lighting system powered by a facility-grade battery (picture a car battery that weighs 106 pounds), with a small solar cell to keep it ready. Water jugs in the toolbox. Food and first aid inside, under the slid-in bedframes.

All in all, I think a fair deal for $400, and a lot more capability than $400 might otherwise be worth.

12:46 AM  

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