Even the little things can make life more enjoyable. One such thing is a toaster. When I started eating less bread (carbs), I found my large toaster was just a waste of space on my counter so I gave it away. However, once in a while it would be nice to have a piece of toast or garlic bread. I know I can make both using a pan and that would work well off grid too. I wanted something better though.
I looked at a couple of camping toasters. The most popular one is the round one that folds up for use and down for storage. It is very compact for storage and does a decent job though it can be a bit flimsy depending on the maker. I decided to go with the flat box design of the Camp-A-Toaster CT1 instead. It feels solid, works quite well, and I can actually toast a sandwich on it since the surface is flat rather than angled. It is certainly not as compact as the other but it is still lightweight and I’m willing to give up some storage space for it.
This morning I made peanut butter toast on top of my stove. It toasted fairly fast and was delicious! Best of all it is not wasting my precious counter space nor does it need electricity. If storage space is also an issue, then by all means go with the folding toaster.
Yep, this is going in my van when I travel but staying inside my 5th wheel I live in for those rare days.
As the world struggles with Covid-19, many people who had never considered RVing before are running out and buying RVs for safer travel and social distancing. These new campers are stretching the limits of available camping spaces and driving up campground maintenance costs as well as prices thus causing me to consider doing more boondocking on public lands and other free sites than I have done before. This year I joined Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts while also checking out apps like The Dyrt, Campendium, and Allstays to find BLM Long Term Visitor Areas and dispersed camping areas. Not to worry. While my new to me camper van makes it easy for me to get to those areas and camp there, I have no intention of going far in on dirt roads to isolated sections. I didn’t even bother putting all-terrain tires on my van though I did kick them up to 10 ply load range E highway tires where most of my driving will be.
To support my new camping style, I am upgrading my van and adding items to provide more comfort off grid. I want more battery power, more DC outlets, change everything I can over to DC power or propane, install items that use less power, etc. More power! Aar! Aar! Aar!
This week I tested out a new CanCooker Companion 1.5qt. My van has a 2 burner propane stove and a microwave oven but no oven so I wanted something to cook roasts, etc. in that does not use electricity. While I do have a portable inverter generator that will be traveling with me, I want to use it as little as possible and can’t use it in some places I might stay.
The CanCooker can be used over any source of heat except induction. You can use it on a stovetop, a grill, on coals, or even a campfire. It works similar to though not the same as my favorite appliance, my Instant Pot. Liquid in the bottom is heated to a steam and then the design of the pot creates convection. There is a hole in the lid for steam to escape so it is not a pressure cooker. You can put all the food in directly on the bottom or you can buy an insert to keep food above the water so it is less mushy or to make a cake. NOTE: If you have an Instant Pot, the insert for that does fit through the mouth of the CanCooker to dual purpose it.
There are three different sizes of cookers. I chose the smallest to feed up to 4 people which is the 1.5 qt. It is about 10 x 7 inches and made of lightweight aluminum. Every part of it gets very hot while using so be sure to use pads when touching it. The inside is coated with a non-stick coating so be sure to use proper utensils so as not to scratch it. It does come with instructions and a bag made of a poor material that won’t last long. If you go to cancooker.com, there are numerous recipes available.
For my first experiment, I cooked a pork roast with potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. The vegetables go on the bottom while meat should be placed on top. I used a bit over a cup of beef broth for the liquid though plain water would have worked too. They stress that the heat should be kept to low or low-medium for cooking. I waited the required 15 minutes for steam to come out the top but nothing happened so I turned the stove up to medium and that got the ball rolling. 45 minutes later I had a fully cooked roast with flavorful potatoes and perfect texture carrots, celery, and onions. Of course, a little salt and pepper after dishing it out always helps too. I’m thinking ribs or perhaps a dessert for my next experiment.
Cleanup was a breeze! I let it cool down a bit then turned it over and dumped the remaining food out into a large storage bowl. Then I easily rinsed it out and done. I like that! One thing they mentioned that I never knew, if you rub soap all over the bottom before using over a campfire, the soot will come right off. Nice!
This is definitely going in my RoadTrek van to use on the road.
At this time, until January 3 2021, Passport America is offering a $50 discount on their lifetime membership. If you are already a member, they will apply your remaining subscription payment to the upgrade.
Why should you do this? As their site says:
A Lifetime of 50% Savings at nearly 1,600 quality parks across North America
Discounts on Passport America Rallies and Caravans (over a $200.00+ Value)
(2) One Year Gift Memberships to give to Friends and Family from You ($88.00 Value)
One Time Transferable* Immeasurable SAVINGS!
GO Green, Eco Friendly! No More Renewal Notices or Price Increases
Plus, FREE Bonus Gifts & FREE U.S. Priority Shipping (3-5 business days)
For the free gifts, I got 2 quality denim ball caps with their insignia, a PA keychain, and a safety door puller to help avoid germs on door handles.
The 2 free memberships made some nice Christmas presents and when it is time for me to hang up the keys, I can transfer my lifetime membership to someone else. Heck of a deal!
Now some will argue that there are a lot of restrictions on using this and there are. Campgrounds are free to set whatever rules on using it they want. Many only offer 50% off for one night. There have been many times while traveling that I just needed one night. Many only allow it Monday-Thursday. OK but that is 4 days of savings! Most don’t allow it during holidays or special events in the area. Yeah, that sucks but I have personally stayed at several campgrounds for 2 weeks or more at the PA rate which saved me way more than it cost. Some do have an extra charge for 50 amp but that is normal among other non-PA campgrounds too. If you have a Passport America campground near you that you like, this can save you money easily. If you travel a lot, this is a good addition to your membership arsenal for those stops along the way.
The governor finally reopened some state parks to NM residents with reservations only. My favorite park close to me did not re-open so time to head to Bottomless Lakes State Park outside Roswell, NM 60 miles away. The drive up was lovely now that the front end on my Roadtrek van is fixed. Naturally, I stopped in town to pick up some Panda Express for dinner (and next day breakfast) since I can’t get it near home. Spent some time with my long lost cousins too.
Bottomless is another 10+ miles outside Roswell. I reserved the same spot I was supposed to have previously when I was unable to go there due to car trouble. It’s on the hill against the canyon wall across from the restrooms. Big mistake. That is where two very fat raccoons live. Every night they ransacked the trash cans nearby. I have heard of them eating vehicle wires and causing lots of problems. My magnetic motion activated lights seemed to help keep them from spending too much time close to my rig but didn’t totally keep them away. Don’t leave anything out there you don’t want them to get.
My fridge worked fine on propane which was a pleasant surprise since it failed to work mid-summer in 108 degree weather. I ended up clearing out the ice chest I brought just in case.
The park has WI-FI but the signal was weak where I was. Deploying a WI-FI booster antenna that plugs directly into my laptop through a long USB cord fixed that issue. It worked both outside on the windshield and inside on the dashboard. I got it on Wish dot com.
I was able to stream TV through my phone’s internet and Amazon Firestick. Good signal there. I also used my portable satellite dish for the first time. Roadtreks have a cable port in the side storage area so I connected to that to get the signal to the inside TV port.
I took my first bath in the van. The restroom showers are closed for Covid. Toilets are open though. Go figure. My van doesn’t have a water heater or shower. I haven’t finished building a shower curtain yet so I just took a bath using a 5 gallon solar water bag, a collapsible bucket, a folding dog pool that fits in the closet, and a battery powered USB portable water pump with shower attachment. It worked! I may just keep doing baths since it was so easy and I can sit in the narrow pool in my center aisle. I used Dr. Bronner’s eco-friendly soap though I read that my homemade glycerin soap is also eco-friendly. I had all the water I needed. When done, I used the water pump again to pump the water back into the bucket then tossed it outside.
Everything worked great and I was very comfortable.
I was camped at Lea Lake campground with water and electric for $4/night with my annual pass. There is a sewer dump on the way out. My space had a nice covered table and patio. The view was fantastic with red rock all around, the lake, an excellent well-done beach and picnic area, and a walking bridge trail through a marsh. I walked a LOT! That gave me a chance to try out my camcorder I bought some time ago and of course I took lots of pictures.
There are also numerous boondocking areas around the other lakes there. They also have covered tables and I wouldn’t mind camping at those either.