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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Insulation For My Prius Fridge

My Engle Compressor Fridge has now completed both 2014 & 2015 Travels with me totaling over 29,000 miles with it running for a total of 7 months.  Not including my usage at home.

This year the Prius created a challenge for me with the fridge over last year using it in the Class B Campervan.  Last year the height of my Class B inside was over 6 feet tall from the floor.  Even when I parked the Class B for an all day hike in the Arazona sun the floor was relatively cool with roof vent and sliders open compared to the Prius that would get 120 degrees inside with windows cracked.

I decided I would insulate the exterior of the fridge but since I had it under the security screen in the back of the Prius I did not have the space to add much insulation.

The decision was to use Reflectix that was cut to a packaging design that would fold up small when not in usage, but would give me some insulation.

When folded at right angles it would slide on top of the fridge leaving the controls and compressor ventilation open. 

The design used the handle on one side to slide the cut wings behind to hold it in place and still have the handle available to lift if needed.

This design worked very well and used very little space but did provide the ability for the fridge to run less.  As noted I would hike for up to 6 to 8 hours at a time and wanted to limit the fridge running.

I would leave the Prius in "ready mode" (on but not running) and manually lock the doors and the high voltage battery would feed the Prius 12 volt battery until the high voltage battery needed to be charged and the Prius would start all by itself for a minute or two every hour. The fridge would run fine this way for my whole trip during the day.  At night I ran the fridge off of my house batteries so the Prius would not have to run and this allowed me to also stealth while keeping my food fresh.

You may think that letting the Prius stay in Ready Mode and run when it needed to is highly inefficient.  It's not.  My 19,500 miles this year overall average mpg was 52.1.  It would have been higher if I didn't operate the Prius this way but it worked for me.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Comparing 2014 and 2015 Travels

             2014                     2015

The biggest difference between the two travels was the cost of gasoline shown in the pie as red.

Pleas also keep in mind that in 2014 I traveled 13,600 miles and in 2015 I traveled nearly 6,000 miles more at 19,450 miles, so if the travel was the same the distance the pie shape for 2014 gas costs would have been much more exaggerated.

In 2014 I drove my Class B Campervan 

In 2015 I drove my Prius I converted into a Campervan.

I specifically bought this Class B for my travels and although I knew the cost of gas was going to be significant after I got to Arazona the first time I knew I needed to watch every mile I drove.  Eventually I decided where I would go based on the value of the cost of fuel.  I missed out going places due to cost.  Everything out west is hundreds of miles apart and at 10 miles to the gallon if I drove 100 miles to see something it cost between $35 and $45 dollars depending if I was in AZ or CA.  Then the same price to get back to where I was staying.  I would weigh in my head, "Is it worth it?"

I started to feel bad about my carbon footprint as I headed home.  I became much more environmentally aware of what I was personally doing.

I liked the Campervan and it is extremely viable as a regional vehicle but not a cross country vehicle.

I knew my future travels would be cross country so I sold the Class B when I got home.

Yes gas was cheaper in 2015 vs 2014 and this could be adjusted in the numbers but what's the point.  

This 52.1 mpg average fuel consumption and my ending Milage (add 10K) says it all.

When I was headed home in my Class B I was already thinking about 2015 Travels and I had read about Suanne's Travels in her Prius and a man who now lives in VA who was also traveling in his Prius.

I set my sights on getting a Prius.  I lucked out finding a 2011 with 8,000 miles on it last July and I bought it for $16,000 also knowing that I travel all year and would save on fuel too.

Why did I wait so long?  I know there is an image about Prius drivers going slow and a political affiliation, but for me it was about cost and the environment.

I set out to modify my Prius into a Campervan and the rest is 2015 Travels History.

The biggest difference is the gas cost in comparison and I did/drove whatever/wherever I wanted, not once worrying about fuel costs.

The total cost difference is impressive.

I was thinking of traveling with a camper on my Tacoma truck next year getting I figure 19 mpg but I haven't been able justify the advantage for cost reasons as long as I am traveling by myself.

Below is the detailed spending for 2014 Travels

Below is the spending for the 2015 Travels.



Monday, May 18, 2015

2015 Prius Travel Costs

My 2015 Prius Travels is what is called "Living in and Out of the Prius".

I modified my 2011 Prius by removing the rear seats and replacing them with a design I created out of 1/2" plywood to provide sleeping, storage, and seating are in the back seat.  This plywood, paint, and hardware didn't cost that much.

I never totaled all the items I purchased to make my Prius my home for 3.5 months.

The most expensive items I purchased were my sleeping bag, mattress pad, cooking items, true sine wave inverter, multi chemistry battery charger, high-tech folding table, high-tech folding chair and many miscellaneous items.  These items did cost hundreds of dollars.  They were all necessary to make my trip comfortable but are not included in this blog's travel costs.  Possibly I may try to resurrect this upfront costs in another blog.

Here is how the pie chart breaks down by percentage.

Here is the breakdown by cost.

I spent about $8,800 for my 2014 Travels in my Class B Campervan, so I I am just over half this year in my Prius Campervan than last year.  I will do a more detailed comparison in another blog posting.

The exceptional news was that it cost me less than $1,000 for gas to go 19,450 milestone my travels this year.

If I didn't hit the curb and had to buy 2 new tires and have a front end alignment I would have been below half of last year.

It does point out that wear on the vehicle is a cost as the two other tires that were not replaced in Tucson are ready to be replaced now.  I bought the 2011 Prius used last July with 8,000+ miles on it and it now has 36,000 miles.  

Dining at $721.00 also included me buying some meals when i was visiting my son's on the west and east coast but this made up for not buying groceries when I stayed with them.

Entertainment included going mostly to movies, parks and museums.

Lodging is high by the 4 days I stayed in a hotel in Salt Lake City when meeting son Clsyton and family while they were skiing at Park City Utah.  These 4 days was about $300.00 that I could have stealthed somewhere in the area.

Health and fitness was mostly going to truck stops for $12.00 showers. 

Gifts at $172.00 were for family.

With some work I could get my costs for this year's travels down about $1,000.00

As it stands at $4662.69 for 36 states and 19,450 miles traveling 105 days.  I spent less than my goal of $50 per day at $44.46 per day. This did include staying with my son's for about 3 weeks and my cousin for a couple days.

I never tracked the costs to the goal until I calculated my costs for the blog.  One of the popular questions asked on Vandweller blog's is what is your budget for traveling.

I am thrilled with the results.  It's hard to beat this and do as much as I did.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

What I Didn't Need To Bring On My Travels

I have previously mentioned the blue 7 gallon water jug as something I didn't need on my travels, but prefaced my comment by saying that if I had boondocked more than a couple days or I was traveling with another person I would have relied on it.

My planning included staying on BLM desert lands for up to 5 days.  After 2 days I was bored and moved on so the 7 gallons of water was good to have planned for but the way I traveled it wasn't necessary.

Along with the 7 gallon jug of water I also brought this water transfer device that pumps by squeezing the bulb.  It is designed for drinking water and fits in the hole of the water jug.

In the end it wasn't necessary for my travels but had I used the 7 gallon jug I would have used it to transfer water from the blue jug to other containers.

When I was planning my trip I bought this 12 volt powered sprayer.  You plug in the cord in the 12 volt outlet and drop in the end in the water and hold the sprayer and toggle the switch.

The theory was to heat hot water on the stove and use my small pail where I would mix hot and cold water and wash up with the water.  I never used it as I opted for the wash basin with face cloth to wash my hair and body and it only took about a quart of water.  This device is good for a larger water supply.  Since regularly washing my hair was important I found no problem with the way I did it and this pump/sprayer wasn't necessary.

I bought this heater for my Class B camper van for my 2014 Travels.  My plan with this heater was to simulate what I did last year.  When it was cold and I stayed in a campground and I was plugged in, I would turn it on before getting into bed and before getting out of bed in the am.  If real cold I would leave it on for the night.

During this year's travels I had designed the Prius to be able to plug in when in campgrounds with available power.  The shore power would run the refrigerator, charge the Prius 12 volt battery, and run the heater.

I tested this all out at my aunt's in Leesburg, Florida before heading off from there.  It worked well.  

Then on my trip when I stayed at campgrounds I would get a tent site and not pay or use shore power.  Even when I had 120 volt power and it was cold I decided not to use it as the my Prius was comfortable in the sleeping bag where I stayed warm.  

Basically, the Prius worked for me without the need for the 120 volt heater.  When I got up I usually got going early and I would turn on the Prius heat to clear the windshield and warm the car.

Even in Bryce Canyon when it went down to 19 degrees the Prius was above freezing inside the curtain areas. I just kept my clothing in the sleeping bag with me so I could dress in the bag and get up and put warmer layers on.

If I was in colder weather where daytime temperatures were below freezing I would want it and I would need to be camping where there was shore power.

I brought WD40 with me and never needed it.  It was one of those things that if I needed it I could have bought it on the road.

I brought my lithium powered mini drill and bit set just incase I needed to modify my plywood design that I made for the rear seats.

In reality I thought of making a couple of extra holes to support my wastewater container handle but I found a way around this and never drilled a hole.  Even if I had needed a hole drilled I had my son's house in California I visited a couple of times where I could have done this.  I just didn't need to bring it.

I brought two lightweight cord rope and I used only part of one.  The thought here was to have rope to hang things and to hold a tarp as canopy when sitting in the desert to get out of the sun.

In the end this is another thing that I could have bought on the road if needed rather than bringing extra.

I had bought this TV extension cable and flat cable connection for fitting in a door crack.  I used the flat cable last year when I used my flat antenna on the back of the Class B Campervan.  The extension cable I bought last year after I was offered cable TV at one campground.  I never used it after I bought it.  When I used my flat TV antenna on the top of my Prius I didn't need the flat cable and I didn't stay at a csmogrounmd that offered cable TV.  I just didn't need to bring these two cables.

I brought my clamp-on ice grippers and gaters for hiking.  I didn't need the ice grippers on any trail I was on.  I didn't  anticipate that I would need them but brought them anyway.  They just took up space I could have used in other ways.

As for the gaters I did see some people hiking with them with shorts on.  I didn't ask but gathered they were walking where there were no trails and worried about cactus or they saw them as some protection against rattle snakes.

The ones I have are for snow not snakes and the ones I saw people wearing appeared to be heavier.  Here is a link to snake gaters.

 If I was to bring gaters again I would think of snake gaters as the most hiking I do is in rattle snake country.  Although I have not seen a rattle snake yet it is a matter of time as people on trails ahead of me and after me have seen them. 

As you can see I could have saved a significant amount of space by not bringing all these things.  Every square inch counts in a small space like living in and out of a Prius.


Monday, May 11, 2015


(Web photo)

I've been busy since I got back from my 2015 Prius Travels, but my traveling doesn't stop.  This past weekend I spent in Vermont at a camp I have there opening it up for the season.  Thus my Prius travels summaries, that I still have to post, had to stop to fit other things in.

The camp is 3 hours away and tucked away in a small town with one Road that is asphalted and the rest are dirt.  

It was a tough winter with no January thaw.  

The property suffered a lot of tree damage that I needed to clear off the driveway to get to the camp.

Here is a left over hunk of tree that the power company left on the secondary line going through the property.  The line and tree are alive.  The new neighbors I met told me they were without power for a week in part due to the number of trees on the lines on my property.  

The power company had come through the 1500 foot easement and dropped many trees that were on the wires leaving the ground underneath with all kinds of tree parts.

Many evergreens lost the top 10 to 15 feet from what I am told a wet snow that froze and never melted causing them to snap.

4 hours Friday and another 5 hours Sunday cleared the road for my Tacoma Truck to get through and cleaned up a good section under the power lines.

More high work is needed so I can open up to be able to get trucks up the driveway if ever needed.

This week I will get back to posting some more summary of my 2015 Prius Travels.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Safety & Security In/Out Of A Prius As A Campervan

(Web photo)

To be expected woman are the ones that most ask me about safety and security during my travels.  I understand why they may feel more vulnerable than men.

I don't advocate carrying a gun on the road to anyone due to the gun laws that are different in each state.  I believe that someone with a gun that plans on carrying it must be prepared to use it and if your not then don't bring it.  

I don't mind people with guns as I have them myself but if you plan to use it for defense then you better know the gun as well as your own hands.  You better know when and under what circumstances you will use it and if you do use it you have to be prepared for the consequences of your actions.

The best security are your common senses.  Most people on the road don't post where they are but where they were.
I will not be trying to cover this topic as others have written comprehensive blog's on the subject.  I will only be addressing how I addressed safety and security on the road while living in and out of my Prius. 

To me sleeping in my Prius by myself with the doors locked is more secure than sleeping in a tent, but I don't feel insecure in a tent.  In bear country I am more worried about them than people.

We all have different experiences in life that form what we think on everything.  If you know something bad that happened to a friend of yours on travels you will form your opinions with this bias, as anyone would do.

I have traveled the world for many years and have always been a minor to moderate risk taker. This is my baseline for my experiences and I don't have any bad experiences with regard to traveling other than being sick.  Most of my overseas travel was by myself.

I don't believe in the boogie man so for me everything comes down to facts and figures and then something random could happen to me but it doesn't have to happen on the road. 

Heck many years ago a coworker went to a local strip mall and 2 guys followed him and kidnaped him in his own car. By hey took him in the woods about 10 miles away and argued over shooting him as he was on his knees with anckles tied and wrists tied behind his back.  They left him there tied up.  He had a pocket knofe and was eventually able to get it out and cut the ropes and go for help.  The two villains were later caught.

Random acts of violence like this example near home can happen anywhere, including on the road, so it is my belief that there is no greater risk on the road unless you creat it.

For safety I often take risk with my very long hikes.  I may not see anyone for 4-6 hours and many places I go do not have cell service.  

Signs say watch out for long horn sheep, rattle snakes, mountain lions, and bears. Yup I'm all by myself and no cell phone service.  I carry bear spray and at least 3 knives, one very big and all are extremely sharp.  In reality would I be wrestling a mountain lion wheeling a knife.  I guess if its what I had to do but I don't put too much belief I would be ok after it was all over.  When asked I just tell people I'm doing what I love to do and if that random act happened, oh well.  I am contemplating getting snake bite gaters.  Snake bites seem to be the most probable thing that would happen and I should consider this fact in the future.

I nearly stepped on a snake twice last year but luckily I didn't even though they turned out to be a form of garder snake.

I learned to use my hiking stick to put it over the step down first where I could not see to deal with the snakes that like to rest on the crack of the rocks.

(Web photo)

Because I stealth on streets and parking lots and I don't always want to be detected I can get to and from the drivers seat to the back of my Prius with only a little effort.  All I have to do is lay the drivers seat back and slide to and from the back seat.  I've done this for stealth reasons but never because I felt a threat outside the car that would need me to do it. 

The Prius is a keyless car so before I left on this year's travels I bought some extra key blanks on Amazon and had a locksmith cut them for me.  One I wore on a necklace for the entire trip.  I kept my spare keyless fob in the car without the battery installed as you can't power lock the car if it senses a keyless fob.

So if I lost my keyless fob I carried I would have my mechanical key to get in and assemble the battery to the spare and I'm on my way.

I kept the keyless fob in my pant pocket and it was with me all the time, so if I was in danger I could push the red button and activate the security alarm.

Carrying a fire extinguisher is always a good thing for fires but isn't bad for spraying at someone or something if needed.

My modus operandi is to be settled where I want to be for the night while it is still light.  I'm not out in places or bars that may present risk.  There were only a few times I was out late at night for entertainment reasons and I planned where I was going to park in advance.

What I am covering is just things to reduce my risk.

Did I camp in dispersed places with no one else around, well yes I did.  I don't see being alone in the dark as a high risk.  I don't advertise being there in advance and I usually only spend one or two nights and then move on.  When I was near Quartzite, AZ there were many others around me so there was no issue.  Most Vandwellers will help one another as they would want the same.  

National Parks and Monuments have handouts at the toll booths or visitors center with safety information like this one from Pipe Organ Cactus National Monument.  It pays to read them and understand your risks.

It recommends hiking with others.  Although this is good practice, I would not get to do very much on my trip having to find someone to hike with.  I did meet people on trails and some were also by themselves.  

I did do a hike in the Tucson area and it went well, but my need for regular hikes and moving so much prevented this as a regular method of hiking.

I recommend for hiking with others as it is a good way to meet other like minded people.

It also recommends that you share your location with others.

I use's app to send my location to my son Brent 24/7.

He called me once and asked about my experience in a Mcdonalds in Iowa while I was doing downloads.

He would get realtime updates  on my location where there was cell service.  I didn't need to check in as many trailhead are in cell service range.

I also used the AllTrails app that provided me information on available trails and difficulty, but I would turn it on to track my location.

I have an exceptional sense of direction and do not have much need for maps and compass, but I bring them anyway.  My ability is to visualuze the trail and put it to memory.  The problem is that there are intersecting trails that are not on the maps that make it confusing.

This app lets me know exactly where I am in different modes and I can always walk towards where I started if I get off trail.

For where to stay I use the AllStays app as it is map driven and I just click on what I want and it opens up my map software and I am on my way.

Although none of these apps are perfect they are helpful to know if a Walnart parking lot is an ask to stay location or no stays are allowed.  It a good tool to plan your safe stays. 

It also gives you Plan B or C if your first choice doesn't pan out.  I would go for the free stay first but AllStsys would show the closest paid campgrounds as well.  Getting to your location before dark means you still have daylight to find a second choice if needed.

Remember I don't have s copilot to do this for me so the app is a great substitute.

Do you need a separate GPS if you have a smart phone with GPS?

You do if you travel like me.  There were many miles of roads where there was no cell service or on Indian Nation Land where the agreement with the cell company only gives you voice and text.

Remember I drove many back country dirt roads to find my dispersed camping spots and my phone was good but I needed a GPS that would work regardless of cell. 

(Web photo)

Toilet calls and safety.  Although my potty was smaller and not as elaborate than this Lyggable Loo, the point is that I didn't need to get out of the Prius at night in the dark unless I decided it was ok to.

It is one less risk that I covered by being totally self contained in my Prius Campervan.

(Web photo)

I don't carry large somes of money with me and I don't use ATM's at night or use ATM's that are not located at a major bank location.

(Wiki web photo)

As I mentioned I do not go to bars while I travel by myself.  If I wanted a beer I would buy a six pack and that would last me some time.  I didn't have much space for keeping extras around.

There is risk in everything we do but we can control one risks and still have adventures.  I do have a tendency to offer help to others and this can be a risk but I believe most people are good and I would not my fear of some random act of violance stopping me from helping others.  Of course I am parked when it's dark out so my helping others is limited to daylight.

Keeping your vehicle in good working order is important.  I also always fill up the gas tank when I am down to a 1/4 of a tank, giving me the ability to move at night if I have to without needing gas.  Also I fill up when I am Boondocking off road.

Weather is a big issue when traveling so I used apps for weather radar like this image and future forecast weather maps from Intellicast.

I would never want to get stuck out Boondocking in rain as I don have the clearance on the Prius to deal with water and mud.

I also stayed away from falling snow.  On the way home I planned my travels to be after a weather front had moved through not to be in the front where the danger from severe storms were.



National Parks & Monuments

There were many highlights to my 2015 Prius Travels and visiting National Parks & Monuments, along with some of the Navajo Nation wonders made this a spectacular trip to see many of the country's beautiful and places.

Of course I went to many more State Parks, like Big Sur, and County Parks like the one in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and some Federal Lands like The Valley of the Gods that didn't have color brochures.

I was just amazed by Arches National Park.

I fell in love with the colors and textures of Lower Antelope Canyon.

When looking at the southwest for your vacation don't forget what the Navajo Nation has to offer.

Antelope Canyon is a wonder if you don't have time for both the lower and the upper canyons go for the lower it gets more light and the colors are more brilliant.  It is also the cheaper of the two.

Monument valley is next for beauty.  It's a bit out of the way but so is Arches National Park that is north of Monument Valley in Utah.

The last of the 3 of the 7 Navajo Nation Wonders that I went to was 4-Corners.  This is more of a tourist trap and a special place of interest.  

With the 19475 miles I put on my Prius I still have a lot to see and I wouldn't mind going back to some places to see more and do more hiking.

I enjoyed hiking Yosemite Nationsl Park's Yosemite Falls to the top for the past two years and I would go back to do it again and possibly stay longer and hike other trails.

If you have children Sand Dunes National Park is an adventure they will never forget.

The United States has so much to offer take the opportunity to see it some day.  My Prius Travels is an economical way of touring the country, at just over 4 cents per mile, if you don't mind the variety of travel experiences.