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Monday, May 8, 2017

Keeping Bottles And Bladder Clean

I carry two of these Camelbak bottles (above) in my Prius for my travels.  One I usually have water in it and the other I often make herbal tea.  The color does hide the buildup from making my herbal tea, by just letting the tea to brew at car temperature.  The other is smoke gray and also not easy to see buildup inside.

I found this problem last year when I started making my own herbal tea, I noticed the nipple that you bite on the bottle to drink had black in it.  After a detailed investigation, I was making a face at what I was drinking though, and I went out and bought a straw brush shown below.  Once in awhile when I washed dishes I would disassemble the parts on the bottles and wash them.  The brush is long but did get into the nipple to clean by twisting it to get into the cracks inside.  Cleaning the bottle meant putting a wash cloth or sponge inside with soapy water and shaking the bottle.  Not the best results, but it was acceptable.

Note: the above bottles are the ones I use with the SteriPen to sterilize the water (see separate post).  They arte 750 ml size and the SteriPen only has two settings, 1 liter and 1/2 liter, so I set the SteriPen on 1 liter for sterilization.

I think I bought the straw brush (above) at Bed Bath and Beyond.

My 2 Liter CamelBak also needed cleaning, but since it was just water there was no grime. The straw brush worked well on the tube but the bag I just flushed out and shook with some soap in in the best I can.

This year, I again went to Bed Bath Beyond and I found a bottle cleaning kit with 3 brushes.  The long large brush worked great on the inside of the bottles and the CamelBak bladder bag. The short brush works great on the CamelBak bottle straws as they are short.  It also worked good, not great, on the nipples.  The nipples still require angling the brush tip into the inside cracks to get it clean.  The short handled circular brush works good in the inside of the cap on the CamelBak bottles and the threads on the bottle. 

The above are now items that I carry with me for cleaning my bottles and bladder bag.  The 3 bottle brushes fit in one of my cooking bags that fit under my sleeping area and the long straw brush gets slid under the plywood floor (void space) I built for the cooking bags to slide in on.

For small vehicle dwelling, like my Prius Campervan, these brushes have become important to me in keeping my drinking containers clean.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Prius Vandwelling Water Purification

In the past I have been asked about how I purify water in my Prius 6 gallon freshwater tank, that sits in the rear passenger side wheel well.  Above is the picture of my water tank (blue label on it) with white box on top for my clothing storage. 

I was also asked if I put chlorine drops in my 6 gallon water tank from time to time to purify the water, and I said no.  I start each year off with a clean tank and fresh water.  I also drain it with syphon tube when I visit my son in San Diego and put fresh water in and then drain it again before refilling it.  After that, I just add water from purified sources as it needs it until I get home.

During my travels I carry a 1 gallon jug of water that I use as fresh water to drink.  I keep the one gallon jug to fill and then refill the 6 gallon tank.  The 6 gallon tank is primarily used for heating hot water for cooking and washing.  I boil the water before it goes in my 24 hour thermos.  Therefore it is purified by boiling. 

There are times when I run out of water in my gallon jug and then I get drinking water from the 6 gallon tank.  Although I don't think I would have a problem with drinking the water from the 6 gallon tank, I do purify the water I drink from it with a SteriPen using my Nalgene bottle.

I bought my SteriPen at REI and I bought the best one that costs about $100.00.  When I hike in New England I carry the SteriPen so I can replenish water on trails from streams.

My SteriPen came in handy this year for my backcountry hike to Havasu Falls.  I would use water from the Havasu Creek and purify it for our drinking water.  I would do a Nalgene bottle at a time and refill our CamelBak bladders.

At the Havasu Fall Campground there is a spring and although it is reported to be tested once a month I purified the water with the SteriPen for our drinking water.  Water for cooking was boiled and I did not use the SteriPen.

The SteriPen I have comes with a Velcro closure case, USB charging cable and SteriPen.

The SteriPen I have is rechargeable via USB and it was fully charged starting our hike into Havasu Falls.  I purified many bottles of water during our 3 day hike.  I would estimate about 6 gallons and I only used one bar on the battery indicator. 

The pen has a protective cover for the ultraviolet stem of the unit.  The UV light kills 99.9% of bacteria. 

There are two settings on the SteriPen.  The on button pushed once will give you a countdown for 1 liter purification and pushing the on button twice is for a 1/2 liter.

The display shows the setting of 1 liter and the battery strength of 4 bars, meaning full battery.

For purifying a 1/2 liter the screen changes.

Above the clear tube (UV Pen) are two metal prongs. These must be kept in contact with the water at all times of purification.

When purifying the SteriPen screen shows that you need to be swirling the SteriPen continuously as the clock counts down to 0.  Follow the directions that come with the SteriPen for complete explanation on purification rules.

If you do not keep the two metal pins in the water as you are purifying the water you will get an unhappy face and a ? indicating if the water is purified.  When this happens start at the beginning and purify again.  I always slosh water out of the container on the rim of the bottle to have clean water on the rim for direct drinking.

Obviously you can boil water to purify it.  I found the SteriPen a simple way of refilling my water supply when hiking and living in my Prius using my 6 gallon water tank.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Narrow Feet & Finding The Best Hiking Boot

Before I bought these $300+ Zamberlan Boots (above), I wore Merrell Moab 2 Boots to hike in.  I was reasonably  happy with the switch to Zamberlan until my 2016 southwest hiking they gave me problems.  Well, I thought my problem was a new issue but it wasn't.  What I found was that hiking the mountains around Tucson and Phoenix with the Zamberlan Boots the soles of the shoes did not bend and caused the heal of my foot to rise up out of the heal pocket and then back down, causing blisters.  This happened when I hiked over 2 miles of elevation. Around home I generally did not climb inclines over 2 miles continuously up. See the problem is that Zamberlan sells widths for wide or regular and not narrow width. 

The problem is with my feet being too narrow.  I wear a size 13 AAA and my foot is just too narrow to fill the heal void on boots.  I can pocket my heal and tie the boot nice and tight but my heal will still move up and down with a shoe sole that does not bend.  Narrow hiking boots are nearly non existent and the reason I went to the Italian boot company Zamberlan was they are generally narrower. 

Without a doubt I had found my problem and it was me.  Way too narrow of a foot for boots that are sold.

I decided to go to various hiking stores and ask questions and I was told the Merrell Moab Rover M (medium) was a bit narrower than the rest.  Above are my first pair of Merrell Moab Rover hikers size 13 M. They fit much better in the heal pocket than others and after I used them, I wasn't getting blisters.  I attribute this to the fact that the sole of the shoe bends and doesn't cause the heel to rise up out of the pocket nearly as much.  

When I was in San Diego this winter, after knowing I was going to Havasu Falls, I called in an order for a second pair of these boots as you can see they do not hold up as long as the heavier Zamberlan boots do. 

To make these Merrell Moab boots more comfortable, I replaced the innersole with the Dr. Scholl's massaging gel.  This improved comfort and absorbed some of the compression that exists descending.

When I tie these Merrill Moab Rover boots after they are broken in the laces eventually pull both sides of the shoe together.  This is because I have a narrow foot in a medium width boot.  I searched for an answer to this and found Osfit-Best Ankle Brace (above) for Arch and Ankle on Amazon.  They slide on over my sock and for me it helps in two ways.  First it helps fill any void in the heal area once tied and it allows me to get my boots tied tight when broken in so the laces don't pull the sides of the shoe together to touch.

Since I have found a this ankle brace that pockets my heal I can now try the Zamberlan boot again with it and see if it will protect from my heal rising out of the pocket and getting a blister.  If that works then I will have found a solution for my real good hikers.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Prius Vandwelling And Wilderness Backpacking

Living in a Prius for 4 months as a vandweller has its challenges and the biggest is you have to make serious choices of what you will bring with you and what you will leave behind, due to the obvious limitation of space.  Some people are amazed what I have in my Prius and what I can do in it. 

Before this year I had 2 years of travels in my Prius under my belt.  I had reworked so many things to meet my needs, and to be as effective as I could with space utilization.  Part of space utilization is being able to get something when you need it with limited difficulty.  So the things I use most often are most accessible.  I learned this the first year. Everything, and I do mean everything, has to have a home.  You would be surprised how you can forget where you put something.

It was last summer (2016) that I was following a blogger/artist in Boston who posted about Havasu Falls hike into the Havasupi Reservation for a backcountry hike.  I saw her beautiful pictures and wanted to experience it.  With a mind that is young and my body that is getting older my attraction to doing this hike was strong, but I knew I needed to overcome physical limitations, as the mental desire alone would not get me through this difficult hike.  I also knew I needed relatively light-weight hiking/camping equipment. 

Fast forward to packing my Prius in December 2016 and deciding what to bring, including what I may need for this wonderful backcountry hike.  I didn't have everything I needed for backcountry, but had my list, as I had taken a class about hiking the Appalachian Trail that gave me lots of information.  I brought what I could knowing that my square sleeping bag and square mattress pad that I sleep on for my Prius bed would not work for backpacking into the canyon.  I would have to go out and buy a number of light weight things.  Actually duplicates of items I already had.  I decided not to buy anything until I knew I had a permit and was assured I was going.  I started to worry about where all this extra stuff was going to go.

My only undersigned space was the front drivers seat.  I had in the past kept my extra shoes and a gallon jug of water and a bag of snacks and fruit there for easy access.  When I wanted to bring someone with me I could move it to the backseat.  It all conveniently fit in the floor well of the front passenger seat so I covered it with a dark item and when I stealthed it didn't draw attention that a seat piled high with stuff would.

Well, I met up/teamed up with Joanne at the RTR for this hiking endeavor, and it was game on, after Joanne secured the permit before I did.  I was then off to visit son and family in San Diego and you could find me most days in the San Diego REI researching what I wanted to buy without breaking the bank on spending.  As one of the sales reps said to me one day, "the lighter the equipment, the lighter the wallet".  How true is that!!!!  My friend Ming, who I met at the RTR was coaching me from afar on light weight principles.

I have mentioned my purchases for the trip in other blogs, but the first and foremost item that is needed was the backpack.  The sales rep that day was Heavenly.  Nice name and great personality.  She described the packs and I studied each in copious detail.  That engineering side of my brain to analyze everting from every aspect. I settled on a 50 ltr backpack, as I knew the size I wanted from talking to many people.  Heavenly fitted the pack to my torso and it felt great.  It turned out great during the hike too.

OK, back to space utilization.  Check the photo above and this is the foot area for the front passenger with the backpack side to side with the back of the pack under the dash.  There was still some space behind there for me to stash a couple pare of shoes.  In the front of the pack I had room for my snack bag and a gallon of water.  I was so happy with this arrangement.

Now the news gets better.  Another day I go back to the San Diego REI and find a discounted mummy sleeping bag that is just what I wanted for a great price.  It stuffed it inside the backpack.  As I did the light weight sleeping pad I got, and so on.  The pack nearly fully loaded was laying on its side on the front passenger floor of my Prius.  I still needed to get the dehydrated food that consumed space in a box and I dumped the box and found odd shaped spaces around the pack on the floor. 

When I wanted to take someone for a ride I had to move the backpack in total and just put it on my Prius bed. 

I was a happy vandweller from this experience as I expanded my abilities but not the car, and it shows you can do some amazing travels in the Prius and go backcountry camping too.


I will cover the question that normally comes up when I talk about living in a small space and not having sufficient room for things.  Why not put on a roof rack storage unit or a trailer hitch with rear storage?

It has been my goal from my first day not to cop out and go large with the Prius.  I'm an engineer and when I got my Prius it was my goal to put the functionality of my Class B Campervan into my Prius Vandwelling design, and I did.  My goal was to not go outside the confines of the Prius skin to store things, and I did.  I was challenged this year on how to store backcountry backpacking equipment, and I engineered a solution.  The key was to find a backpack that did not have a hard frame.  I needed the backpack to be comfortable on my back and 50 ltrs, but also I needed it to lay on the floor of the car side to side.  I could not do this with a hard frame pack.  Look at he picture above you can see how the waste belt encroaches on the door when it will close.  It is this attention to detail that allows me to design and utilize space effectively.   


Thursday, May 4, 2017

My 2017 Prius Travels Expenses

This year I chose not to keep track of my expenses in Quicken like I did in prior years.  Instead I have used the last couple of cloudy drizzly days here at home in New England to tally my Prius Travel Costs in .exl and use it to create my graphs.

My first year in my Class B Campervan was too expensive to travel the country and I spent more money that I could sustain on my yearly travel budget.  At close to $10K in expenses the first year I chocked it up the high costs to a learning curve.  I knew that as soon as I came home I would sell the Class B and get a Prius.

Each year I have reduced my expenses with last year being under my goal of spending $1000.00 per month.  I have done a better this year but its hard to equate year to year due to differences in spending.  I spent 1 week with CA son and family vs 2 in the past.  I spend 1 week with MD son as I have in the past. 

I needed to fly home for the funeral for my mother in-law.  These expenses of flying home and spending the long weekend with my son are not included in my total expense costs this year.  Every traveler should have an emergency fund to cover for such situations when they happening.  These  were not part of my Prius Travels, although I did include the $53.00 to part at the Las Vegas Airport.

Here are the expenses by the numbers;

2017 Travels Prius Expenses

Gas Expenses: 23% of Expenses

I fueled 53 times for a total cost of $723.43 covering 14,723 miles through 25 states.  I traveled about 20K miles last year for $850 or so.  I traveled less mileage this year as my CA son moved from Monterey to San Diego.

My calculated MPG is 46.2.  While I got better mileage in my first year this year, as I didn't run climate control, this year is nearly the same as last year.  I chose to run climate control and stay warm going to and getting up from bed, when it was cold outside. Also a few times I ran air conditioning when it was hot and/or muggy in the car. I also used my Prius in ready mode to charge my house battery when solar was not practical.  You loose about 4-5 mpg over the whole trip average doing this. 

What did the charging of my house battery and enjoying the climate control you ask?  Well, I calculated it as 24 gallons.  At $2.35 pre gallon it cost me about $56.00.  It was worth it to me but if you want to save money there is money there to save.

I was gone 117 days and I deducted the days I was not staying in my Prius so I figure I was in the Prius for 89 nights.  Therefore the cost to run my Prius this way calculates to $0.63/day

Groceries Expenses:  24% of Expenses

I like to cook, so I usually go to the store and buy what I need.  I keep at least 6 days of food with me but fresh meat or fish I cook within a couple days and then use the cooked product over a few more days in different dishes.  Vegetables will last for 5 days at least, and salad material lasts longer as I repackage in Ziploc bags and squeeze out all the air and save space and get more longevity with what I buy.

Groceries was the largest expense but I caution that groceries include food items as well as other things I needed from the store while I was there.  For example when in Walmart and needed butane fuel for my stove it went in the basket and I did not separate out the cost, so my $788.31 in grocery expenses is inclusive of many various small things that I bought when buying food supplies.  It is way too much work to try to separate out this detail.

My daily expense for the 89 nights in the Prius is $8.85 and this includes buying entre items that are packaged in a way that it is more than I can use so when I was with others I would often offer to cook the entre and they would cook the sides and we shared both.

My grocery expenses also included buying things I shared with the group such as the salad supplies and the dressings for Easter Dinner at the GTG.  I spent a lot more than I would have for myself but as you can see traveling over 89 days it doesn't show much.

Misc: 6% of Expenses

I don't care for the category name but I did spend money on some things that don't fit elsewhere.  My biggest single expense was parking at the Las Vegas Airport when I flew to Seattle to meet MD son for the weekend at $53.00.  The next expenses were US postage to send things home that I bought for people or to declutter my vehicle of items I no longer wished to carry. My total Miscellaneous costs were $182.38.

You should plan for things in this category and although you may not have a $53 expense to park your car at the airport you will have other expenses such as tolls that you pay cash for.  In full disclosure, I did pay tolls for my trip home through IL and from MD to MA that got charged to my EZ pass account that do not show up in my expenses.  I am guessing this was another $100 in tolls not accounted here.  Tolls add up very fast on the east coast via I95 and similar routes.. 

Accommodations: 3% of Expenses

My biggest single accommodation expense was the Casino in Laughlin, NV at $16.21.  Heck, a shower at a truck stop is $12, so the mid-week deals at the Casinos in Laughlin are a good bargain, provided there is nothing going on in town.

The next biggest expense for overnight stays was at Lone Rock National Campground in UT just over the boarder from Page, AZ.  It costs $14 a night for pit toilets and rubbish, but you get a great view of Lone Rock and Lake Powell.  With my Senior Pass I pay half price.  I stayed there 3 different times.  One was my first attempt to win the lottery for The Wave,  when I won The Wave, and coming and going to Escalante, UT.  Overall for 89 days I spent $1.21 a night.  Not bad at all.

Vehicle Costs: 9% of Expenses

I run synthetic oil in my Prius and I change it at 5,000 mile intervals.  I may go over a little, and I could wait until 10,000 but since I run the Prius in Ready Mode often for charging, heat, or A/C I stick to the 5,000 mile oil change and tire rotation. 

Of course my Prius gets looks from the service staff as I bring it in for routine service and I have to tell them please do not check the Prius battery and cabin filter as there is too much going on in my car to mess with.  I take my Prius to dealers for service as all Toyota service centers are electronically tied and I have an extended warrantee that requires that I maintain service to the conditions in the Prius service manual and I then don't need to keep records. 

I did have some lights burn out that I fixed myself at Autozone, but these costs are small.  My main costs are primarily 3 Toyota Dealer services for a total of $293.78.  I didn't have to buy any tires while on the road this year like the last two years, but will need to replace the tires before future major travels.  I plan for $100.00 for every 5K miles for service and miscellaneous items I may buy, but the Prius is so reliable that I mostly have to worry about tires as I have had flats in the past.  I expect to have to buy 1 or 2 tires when I travel each year at $140 each.

Entertainment Expenses: 16% of Expenses

My entertainment expenses went through the roof this year.  I usually go to the movies a few times during my travels, which I did. I also may visit a fair or festival and museums, but I didn't have these costs this year.

My main costs revolve around 3 major expenses as follows;

1. Joanne and I shared the cost of the Havasupi Reservation expenses for our hike in and stay at Havasu Falls.  It was $240, so I paid $120 for the 3 days.

2. I have been to Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River just south of Page, AZ a number of times and seen the rafts on the river.  I decided I wanted to take this flat water trip from below the Lake Powell Dam to just before the white water starts on the Colorado River around Horseshoe Bend.  It cost $115 for the day trip.

3. My biggest expense was $220 for the rental of the 4x4 Jeep to get to The Wave Trailhead.  This was an executive decision to get a 4x4 vehicle.  It was raining when I got the permit to go.  The rain was going to stop overnight.  The ranger said to be safe we recommend having a 4x4 due to the slick clay spots on the road.  Although I had been on the road a couple weeks before with my Prius and I was successful getting there, the road had just been graded and it hadn't rained. 

So, when I got out of the BLM office with my lottery permit in hand I called Page to rent a 4x4 to get to the trailhead.  As it turned out the road was bad with ruts, but wasn't slippery as it had time to dry.  I called my purchase insurance as I would have been very upset to have won the lottery to go and not be able to get to the trailhead.

Hygiene Expenses: 3% of Expenses

I wash each day in my Prius as I have written about in the past.  I wash my hair daily or at least every other day in my Prius and use the soapy water for washing the rest of me.  I use about a quart of water a day to do this.  Washing everyday therefore doesn't require taking showers everyday too, so I got down to buying 6 showers over the course of my trip.  One important one was when I came out of the 3 day hike to Havasu Falls.  Others were random decisions usually based on how I felt. 

Truck stop showers are great and a good value to me at $12, but the costs adds up as it did for me last year.  This is an expense line item that can grow quickly and become a major expense if you can't become accustomed to washing in your vehicle.  Most camping locations that I stay at do not have showers and therefore why they don't cost anything or very little.  If you need a shower a day to make this travel work for you, that would be 89 nights at $12 is a whopping $1068. 

Out To Eat Expenses:  17% of Expenses

My out to eat expenses range from going in and getting an unsweetened ice tea to snack bar, to full meals.  In this category is anything you buy to eat immediately.  My expense of $560 comprises of mostly me eating by myself but there are some expenses here that I paid for others too to eat with me.  I mostly reserve the eating out when I travel long days and park at 8 pm and don't want to cook  I could cut back on this number to some degree to save some money.  My McDonalds reload card is an expense that is applied here.

Total 2017 Expenses/Conclusions:

My total expenses for my travels this year was $3260.38.  This is $36.63 per day cost.  Which is and expense of $836 per month as I was gone 4 months. 

I don't keep track of the day to day expenses this year as I have a handle on my spending and that I can stay under $1K per month.  if I removed the high cost of entertainment I spend this year the number gets better.  I don't want to do this as it is my desire to enjoy my travels and the fact that I save so much on fuel, I can afford to enjoy myself from time to time.

For example if I still had my Class B that got 10 mpg my costs would have been 14723 miles / 10 mpg = 1472.3 gallons of gas used x $2.35 per gallon = $3,460 in fuel costs.

Since my Prius only costs $788 compared to my Class B of $3460 I figured I saved $2672 in fuel costs.  This is a great return on investment.  I have traveled for 3 years with my Prius $2672 x 3 years = $8016 in savings using the Prius over the Class B.

The Prius cost me $16K to purchase used with 8,000 miles on it.  In 3 years of Prius travels I have saved half of the price I paid for the Prius.

So, if you are comparing my costs for travels you must calculate the miles you plan on traveling, your MPG, and the going rate for gas/diesel and insert your number here. 

If I use the Prius for 6 years of travel at these savings I will have saved the total purchase price of my Prius over operating the Class B.

As usual, if you have questions or comments please click below.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Days 109 - 117 5/20 - 28/17 A Week With The Family

I have a bit of catching up to do with my blog.  

As I mentioned in my Day 108 blog post, I received a phone call from my MD son asking if I could arrive one day early at his house to watch the granddaughters so he and my daughter in-law could go to a concert in Baltimore. 

I was about 9 hours away in NC and said sure I would go early.

Above, shows my early rise from The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, as I approached Asheville, NC.

It was a fun filled week with the family and getting quality time with my granddaughters.

I got to go to little league games, Red Sox Game, playground, play games in the house and outside, tour Fort McHenry, visit the National Indian Museum, go out to eat with family and 1-1 time with son.

The above photo is of the nearby neighborhood we walk through to get to the playground where cherry blossoms have made a beautiful carpet on the ground.

I even got a round of disc golf in before heading home on Friday, 5/28.

 My return home was 117 days after leaving in January, although I did fly home this year for my mother in-law's funeral.

I am working on a recap of my trip, blog stats and some Prius living posts over the next week before I take a break from my blogging until 2018 Travels.

 Questions / comments are always welcomed.