Making Progress!!

Things are coming along very well!

The Trailer is Home

Amish buggy – rear view

I picked up the trailer this weekend (couldn’t get it the previous weekend as planned because the good folks at the local car shop took six hours to install the hitch and wiring).  It seems very well made and the car pulled it great.  It took about two hours to get home.  I got to test varying conditions; I had it up to highway speeds (over 70 mph) and went down some windy roads in PA dodging Amish buggies  (as well as the “road apples” that the horses leave).  I could barely notice that the trailer was there, except it is so light that it would bounce off the ground when hitting bumps.  If putting more weight in doesn’t solve that, I’ll have to make sure to pad everything inside pretty well or my equipment will get shaken to pieces.

The car still got over 40 mpg pulling the trailer home, so the wind resistance of the base trailer appears to be minimal.  The trailer was so low that I could see over the tailgate through the rear-view mirror.  The tent testing has been going so well that I am discounting the need to sleep / work in the trailer, and may just use it as a utility trailer.  It will all depend on how much differently it pulls with walls up.  Test construction on the trailer will start this week.

More Tent Cold-Weather Testing

GFI Outlet

Electric Ceramic Space Heater

Electric Ceramic Space Heater

I got an outdoor GFI outlet, which will hopefully prevent me from being electrocuted when it is wet.  I ran an outdoor extension cord from the house and hooked up a small ceramic space heater.  Test conditions were great — it was 20 F and no wind.

This is what I learned:

  • It felt great a couple of feet away from the heater, directly in front of the warm air.  I was able to hang out in a T-shirt and be comfortable.  Also, getting nice and toasty before tucking into the sleeping bag meant that I started off nice and warm in the bag, even though the bag was essentially at 20 F.
  • After one hour of running wide open, the average temperature in the tent was around 50 F.  I think that is pretty good that such a small heater could raise the entire temperature of an uninsulated space by 30 F.  I wonder how long the heater would last running constantly like that though – they are not really made for that.
  • The temperature in different areas of the tent varied dramatically.  It was nearly 80 F directly in front of the heater, and about 30 F in the corners and near the floor (the heater was set on top of a small table).  Much of the hot air collected near the top of the tent, where it was a comfortable (to me) 65 F.
  • My overall conclusions include:
    • A small space heater could raise the air temperature to a comfortable level when it is not too cold.
    • A small space heater is only useful for spot heat when it is really cold (say below 45 F).
    • I could combine camping and skiing (something I had always wondered about)!  This KOA campground is near several ski areas in the Poconos that I frequent and is during the winter.  I bet they don’t normally get tent campers during ski season (but then I’ve never really been “normal”; why should I start now?)

These results are different than some reports I read on the internet.  One person claimed that a similar heater raised the temperature in a similar tent from 26 F to 74 F in five minutes.  I could never figure out how that was possible, as it takes twenty  minutes for an electric space heater to raise the temperature in my small inside bathroom (which is insulated) by 15 to 20 degrees.  Perhaps they were talking about the temperature directly in front of the heater; that would be consistent with my findings.

Doggie Outdoor Electric Heater

Doggie Outdoor Electric Heater

As a result of this test, I revised my heating plans somewhat.  I now think that when it is really cold, using a space heater for quick heat (such as before going to bed or when first waking up) is fine but I think that electric blankets are the way to go for sleeping.  Rather than trying to warm the air, a losing battle with no insulation, they warm you directly.  I ordered a typical electric blanket for me and an outdoor waterproof dog igloo heater for Roxy-dog.  Combined, they will draw under 200 Watts on maximum power (compared to 1,500 Watts for the ceramic space heater).  The doggie heater only pulls about 60 Watts at maximum, which means that I could run it in the car off of a deep-cycle battery long enough to cover a typical day in the office.  These should be in this week, and I will test before it warms up (the lows are supposed to be in the twenties later this week).

Electric Parabolic Heater

Electric Parabolic Heater

I will also check out one of these parabolic heaters.  They warm you directly rather than warming the air, and they typically draw around 400 to 1000 Watts.  I should be able to run both of the blankets and one of these on a low setting at the same time, which may turn out to be the best option when it is really cold.  Have to make sure that this is set up in a way that it can’t tip over — this would be somewhat like a toaster in the middle of a tent — I want to end up warmed but not charred!

Upcoming Plans

I’m hoping that I will be able to go on a real test soon, hopefully in a couple of weeks.  I hope to spend an entire week in Georgia near my family, working remotely while camping.  I already know that I can get a reliable phone and internet connection through my cell phone where I plan to camp; all I have have to do to is to get some sort of top on the trailer (it already has a floor and sides).  It doesn’t even have to be waterproof at this point; I could wrap everything up in a tarp and then fasten a piece of plywood on top to cut out the wind.  Hopefully I’ll have something better than that, but that would be a start.  Plus, I figure that I will learn more by getting started as soon as I can rather than trying to plan everything out too much in advance.

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