Friday, September 14, 2007

Camping tech

Most CA state camp grounds have free Wi-Fi access. It's a simple thing to do but made me think of an unrelated question: can we be modern nomads? For the rules, state parks usually have 1 or 2 week maximum stay per camp site, 1 month max stay per year within a county. It's not much but there are local sites that do not belong to the states, and there are federal sites. And there are 52 states!

But would you do that? Kids need to go to school, and that's that. Though home schooled kids aren't that rare, so moving every other week may not be too bad.

I love outdoors. Half a lifetime ago, space was so precious that I rather go camping when I could, even in tropically wet weather, walking for hours with all equipment on my shoulders. Tents weren't even draft and water proof.

I touched a tent again a couple of years ago. I saw one small and cheap on sale and picked it up for earthquake preparation. And forgot about it.

It turns out that Rangers looking after the camp sites have rather dangerous jobs. For popular beaches near urban centers, there's the drunks. Now for remote sites, they often go into heavy gun fights with the pot growers, with millions worth of pots at sake. Other than those, crimes usually aren't premeditated. You don't plan to rob somebody random in remote areas. Without premeditation, it's hard to get away with it, such as the Yosemite killings. For the good part, no where else in the world you get to live in a free gated community, with armed guards until 10 pm, then total lock down until dawn. Here I bet criminals can't run, they can only drive. I doubt if anyone will try to do the hard work when they can't get in or get away with a car.

Tasers are going to be very affordable, may be as popular as pepper sprays. You can also draw up visible and invisible boundaries with infrared, laser and lots of cams. But for the moment, camping is still a very much friendly family affair. The rangers will check you up at least twice a day. When the sites aren't too busy, they will remember you if your clean car looks out of place, thinking that you are newbies and needs extra attention. Sites owned by rich counties are even better.

The bad thing about camping in CA is that you are basically living on dirt. You don't have a lawn if you don't have sprinklers, unless you camp by the river. But most "rivers" dries up in summer, while winter is too cold. So you have to have tents for bed rooms, that you only get in for sleeping, when you are presumably clean. You need separate living spaces, sheltered from the sun, and preferably from insects. You also need changing rooms too. You don't want to walk in and out of bedrooms with feet full of dirt. You also don't want to kick everybody out of the living rooms just to change into some special gear, such as swim suit. And for the beaches, you need to bring a cabana to the water front.

Modern materials are amazing. My cheap made in China tents and canopies has very light flexible support poles, wafer thin fabric. But still I couldn't manage to make a hole in anything. All zippers are still working. The fine insect screen didn't break at all even after attacked all night by raccoons. I can carry all the "rooms" easily in my trunk, and I can erect huge canopies alone.

That's why I don't fancy RV's. It's two cramped in comparison.

As for creature comfort, you are spoiled for choice in chairs and beds, king size down to twin, high tech air bed, or self inflated. Satellite TV dish are portable. If you don't like the free WiFi access, there's the true satellite broadband service. Food is always great, briquettes are always better than gas grill back home. The match lighted ones are as convenient as butane gas.

Now the dreaded loo. Public showers aren't that bad. Typically hot showers are coin operated with a large gas boiler, giving decent pressure and volume. If you are fuzzy you can bring your own shower tent. With solar heating and battery pumps, a private shower room can be barely decent. Of course RV's all got these, and with electricity hookups, RV's can afford decent heaters and powerful pumps.

The public toilets are very clean, but only in the morning right after they cleaned it. At busy seasons it's terrible after an hour or two, even though most campers try to minimize their mess. Imagine McDonald only clean it's toilets once a day! Some more remote places are called environmental sites, where there are only so called chemical toilets. Terrible! terrible! I would rather die of blocking.

RV seems to be a lot better with it's own toilet. You still need to deal with the mess but it's your own toilet and your own mess.

But not anymore. It must be fairly new, because the majority of toilets for sale are till big buckets. You store your mess in it, may be put some fragrance in it after every use, and god knows how you empty that and clean that afterward.

Now there are high absorbency powder to turn liquid waste into jelly, and semi solid waste will become more solid with odor reduced. Instead of a bucket, you empty into a toilet seat with big plastic bags underneath. Whenever you want, you seal the plastic bag with another, throwing the whole thing into trash. I suppose the concept isn't that new. But now all the materials are biodegradable, the water tight plastic bags degenerates within 6 months. It was approved by everybody, endorsed by me. Now a toilet/shower tent is lighter than a typical camping chair. You can have your out house wherever you want, with a view if you want. The worst nightmare becomes a joy. RV's aren't that good. There's totally no mess to deal with. The plastic bags aren't cheap, but I'll still go for it if they sell it like crack.

Maybe someday dry toilets are the way to go back home. The flush toilet has been haled as a great invention, but may be a big mistake. Dry toilets do not waste water. A out house in the yard is no problem at all. You can have one for each in the family if you want. For apartments you can have ventilation rooms, which are easier to build than conventional toilets. Perhaps doing it in a slightly larger closet is good. Houses can be smaller without the toilets, and it's simpler without all the plumbings.

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