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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Does A Vacuum Sealer Do Anything Worthwhile On An RV?

    I store a lot of items on board my RV. I always wish I had more space for lots of things. I also like to prepare gourmet (semi!) meals in my galley and have to keep lots of ingredients handy. When preparing my RV for my yearly Spring awakening (Next week!! Stay tuned for the newest list!)  I noticed some stuff I just keep in there year to year, were going bad. Like the garlic powder that was more like a garlic brick! Years ago, I had purchased a vacuum sealer and bags to be able to store meats in the freezer for longer time periods without the dreaded "freezer burn." That worked pretty well. I also used it to package first aid supplies and items that couldn't get wet for storing in the trunks of my vehicles. That worked pretty nicely. I also prepackaged some snacks for emergency use. You know, like trail-mix , beef jerky or something similar. What about actually taking one along onboard your RV? Is there a reason to do it? What about energy usage? Read on!

A Typical Model Vacuum Sealer
It's a pretty decent question. There are quite a few uses for vacuum sealers. Mostly food related, but there are a few other things I had already done. First aid kits are a great example. Keeps stuff fresh and dry. I've put film in vacuum sealed bags too...but who uses film anymore? The actual vacuum sealer device is both a generator of vacuum as well as a bag sealer. It sucks the air out of the bag or container (more on that later) and then heat seals the open end. It's pretty easy to do. The bag material comes in a few widths and long lengths so you can vary the length of the bag by heat sealing one end, rolling out the length of bag you want then cutting it. You now have a bag. Fill it with stuff and then put it in the sealer, open side in. Hit the button and it pulls the air out and then seals the bag. Done.

Bags of Any Length
I was toying with the idea of pre-preparing meal items like say, a chicken stew. Then vacuum sealing it in bags and freezing. That way, they take up way less space, last a long time and can be reheated either in the microwave or, if you want to save battery power or generator use, on the stove in a pot of boiling water. Lots of meals could be done this way. Snacks too! I mean, you can always figure out a way to boil water, right? I can even do it with 12 Volts DC. Yes, it takes a while, but works fine. OK, maybe you don't like the food idea. Anything that gets ruined when too much moisture gets in is a likely candidate. Flour? Sugar? How about vacuum sealing important papers? Water and paper don't mix! This way, you don't let them. They even make plastic containers (like Tupperware) that have a vacuum valve built in. You could take these along after they were sealed. Then re-use after.

Some Of The Variety Of Containers
If you don't want to mess around with the bag making, there are MANY sizes of containers with vacuum valves on the lids. There is even an adapter to use regular sized Mason jars. To use these, you just plug in the clear hose to the sealer's vacuum port (mine's on top) and the other end to the container and press the sealing" button. Once it's finished, it stops. Pretty simple really. I'm not sure I would use glass Mason jars very often (if at all,) but it's an option. The containers are pretty easy to use and the variety of sizes means you can usually find one to fit. They can also be used to quickly marinate meats. Put in your meat of choice, add the liquid marinade, vacuum the container and let sit...longer the better (up to overnight in the fridge). Great idea if you know what you'll want to eat during a trip. You can pre-do the marination beforehand. Amazing flavor!

So what about using the vacuum sealer on board? It uses a pretty good amount of power. Around 110 Watts at 120V so about 9.167 Amps at 12 Volts (maybe another 15% if using an inverter). Not terrible, but significant. Plus, you have to find space for the device to live. My opinion? Leave it at home and take the packages with you. As always, Y.M.M.V. (Your Mileage May Vary!)

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Can You Put A WiFi Camera In Your RV And Look Inside While You're Out? YES!

    When I am traveling, I like to feel that my RV is secure when I am out. Some folks install alarm systems, but typically they go off and no one does anything about it. Sure, you could get one that calls your cell phone and you could return in a hurry or call 911, but that usually ends in a "barn door closed after the horse has already left" result. What if you could SEE what was going on in real time and had a recording of the perpetrators to give to the police? Or, simply see that nothing is going on at all? What about monitoring your RV in storage for the off-season? Well, you can. There are a few glitches, but nothing insurmountable. Read on!

Notice The USB Power Supply
The cost of WiFi cameras has been steadily dropping for a long time now. A model with Remote controlled Pan, Tilt, and Zoom (PTZ) can be had for $21.00 or so. They are pretty easy to set up and can run on your cell phone's data connection or a hotspot. If you set it up to only use your data when it "sees" something, you won't waste too much data at all. You'll be able to connect to it remotely and look at what's going on inside your RV. If you place it in the right place, you'll be able to see out the windows as well. Remember the PTZ will allow you to MOVE the camera's view around at will. There is no reason why you couldn't have more than one camera on this connection. They do not require much power at all, so that's not of major concern. You could even run them wired into your RV's 12V system. Some of the cameras even take 12V input via USB. But, to be sure, check the AC adapters voltage output...some are much lower!
Old Mobile Router And Dongle
Now, the issues to setting this up. First, you need to have an internet connection that is always on. Not much bandwidth nor data will be flowing when nothing is happening, but you need to be able to reach the cameras via the internet. If you have a cell phone, you could use it as a hotspot, but obviously you wouldn't be able to take it with you. So then you wouldn't be able to check the cameras! Catch-22! A second cell phone or stand-alone hotspot from a provider would work, but would likely cost extra each month (maybe even plus data). If you have two people with cell phones, one can leave the phone while the other takes over the monitoring portion. Of course, if you are in a location with WiFi already, you could set up a small (and cheap!) Mobile router to connect each time. Then you are all set.

I've got a few spare cameras that I purchased for home use, and have set up one in the RV. Since it's parked inside the fabric hangar and there is WiFi right inside the house, I have 24/7 access for storage. I can also see inside the fabric building through the windows when I Pan the camera around. Works really nicely! I've tried it through my cell phone hotspot and it's fine. If 720P movies will stream through it (They do!) this was a piece of cake. The cameras have SD Card slots, so they record internally AND when set up to be triggered by motion, you can have the cell phone application open automatically and record the video as well. Some of the cameras even include Audio! A permanent record of what happened to trigger it. Of course, it may have just have been a critter...but why take the chance?!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Clothes Pins - Not Just For Clothes Any More!

Wishful Thinking!
    Have you ever noticed that sometimes the most mundane items take on an almost mythical reverence? Like Duck Tape for instance. While I am not saying clothes pins should be raised to that level, I am saying there are far more uses for them than just hanging clothes on a line to dry. Who even DOES that anymore? I even have a drying rack that attaches to my roof ladder to dry clothes. No pins needed. So what's so good about them? Well, first off, they are really inexpensive. No, let's say it like it is. They are CHEAP. 36 of them for 1 dollar! Yes, but what can you DO with them? Read on!

Cheap And Effective!
It all started when the plastic snack bag clip broke. You've seen them, a 6-inch or so plastic clip with a metal spring designed to keep bags of snacks closed and (allegedly) fresh. It's pretty flimsy plastic, not to mention awkward to use. They break on me all the time. Probably why they come in sets of three. To add insult to injury, they don't fit in my silverware drawer. Terrible, I know. Well, when the last one broke, I decided to try something different. Yup, you guessed it, the lowly wooden clothes pin. I had a bunch at home and figured they would be useful for other things too so I had brought a few with me. Turns out, if you fold the bag down one corner at a time, then straight, it makes a perfect seal that a clothes pin will maintain. The bag is smaller and easier to store AND it won't open. Seems to be more airtight as well. Though I usually don't have a bag of snacks last long enough to know for sure.

Crossover And Fold Down, Then Clip
What else can you use them for? Well I use them for adding "gels" to lights, you know the colored transparent plastic that allows you to change light colors. Same goes for diffusion paper. Lots of other photographic uses too...Once in a while I still develop my own photos, you couldn't hang the prints to dry without the good old clothes pin. Holding things down or at an edge comes to mind. Like a table cloth on a thin table (like the one I have you can roll up to store). It works perfectly to keep those cheap plastic tablecloths on the table! How about holding your nose to prevent a bad smell from getting in? I'm kidding! But felt it needed to be in here as I've seen it so many times in cartoons! How about adding a tiny Velcro strip to one side of a few of them and using them to hang small bags of spices (or whatever) to your wall or even the ceiling. Sounds a bit crazy, but my ceiling and walls are carpeted.

You can come up with lots of other uses...just try, imagination is king. Come on, send me a few!

Be Seeing You... Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"