Adapting to a Teardrop Without a Toilet

A bathroom was on our list of “must haves” for a camper. We ultimately purchased the NuCamp T@G for many good reasons, but the lack of a toilet required a major adaptation on my part.

I am a newly-retired, former accounting professional, newbie camper who has never been particularly outdoorsy.   We wanted to give camping a try, but did not initially consider campers without toilets.  I felt that giving up an indoor toilet was just too much.  However, we settled on our T@G because it fits in our basement and is easily pulled by our tow vehicle.

For some readers, this post may be TMI, but I would have liked to have read something like this when we first considered our camper and in the early days of our camping.

The biggest challenge for me would be to adapt to very uncertain and varied bathroom options.  I was not worried about showering at campsites, but I was worried about how I would handle getting up in the middle of the night, which happens often.

We have been on nine camping trips to ten different campsites and I can honestly say that I am far more comfortable with camping in our T@G, but it has been a process.

Worst Nightime Experience 

This occurred on our first camping trip.  On the first night, I had a flashlight handy and had checked out the bathhouse location in the daylight, so felt I was as ready as I could be for my nocturnal trip.  The bathhouse was down a trail with a couple of turns. It was well-lit, so I had no trouble finding it.  Coming back, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a different area.  I could have wandered around for quite awhile, but recognized one of our friend’s campers, which helped me navigate to ours.

The next night I used a five-gallon bucket filled with kitty litter and topped with a toilet lid.  (This was our very low-tech solution.)  It was in a tent on our campsite and was far better than hiking in the woods.  Despite the convenience,  I did not like the cleanup.

New Strategy—Camp Near a Restroom

This strategy actually worked very well!  Compared to hiking through the woods, walking a short distance to a bathhouse you could see from your campsite was easy.   I stayed with this strategy through several camping trips and will use it again whenever it is a good option.

It was not a good option on a trip with a group of our friends.  We booked our sites early and they had prime spots.  I chose not to stay in their area because it was not near a restroom.  Our area was not as shady as theirs, had far more bugs, and we were not able to be where the action was with them.  This got me to thinking another option was needed.

Next Strategy—A Porta Potty

A friend had been suggesting that I get a porta potty since we began camping, but I had been resisting.  I was afraid that dealing with cleanup would be gross.  I was ready to give it a try though and I bought one on line.  I also bought a privacy tent because we had discovered that we did not always have the option to set up a tent.

I was also a little bit intimidated about how they worked.  I will go into some detail here for those who may be unfamiliar with them.  The one we purchased seems pretty standard.  There is a top section where water is stored for flushing and a bottom section for waste.  We also use holding tank deodorant and it works very well; there is no unpleasant smell.

Disassembled Porta Potty

The photo above shows the potty disassembled.   Upon arrival at campsite you just fill the section on the right with water and the attach it to the section on the left.  Then toss in one of the deodorant packs into the bottom section.  When utilizing it, you pull out the lever on the bottom and when finished, you press the waffle valve on the top to flush.  You then close the lever on the bottom.

Cleanup was not bad at all.  My husband volunteered to handle it, but as I am the primary user, I felt I should do it. It was far easier to use and clean than I feared.  The assembled product is below.

Assembled Porta Potty

This gave me such flexibility!  I no longer worried about being near the restrooms.  We always brought the new equipment when we were uncertain about the closeness of campsite facilities, though sometimes we did not take it out of the box.  We could camp at the best sites with our friends.  Our little privacy tent goes up and down very easily and we were set.

Privacy tent/toilet

You would think that with our new equipment and my adaptation to using them that no indoor toilet would be a non-issue.  However, we have encountered one other situation that is not resolved.

The No Tents Dilemma 

We recently camped with friends at a beautiful RV Resort.  Upon arrival, we learned that no tents were allowed, not even a privacy tent. I raised it a couple of times with management and they were not budging.  We were not near a restroom, but we were only there a couple of nights.  We were with friends and I decided to just make the best of it.  It was a pretty far hike for the middle of the night, but it was well-lit and easy to navigate.  Fortunately, my previous trips trekking to restrooms has made me flexible about nightime walks.

Summary

The fact that our camper does not have an indoor toilet is no longer a big deal. I could not have said this at the beginning of this journey.   We love our T@G and the economy it brings to our camping trips.  For those who are first considering camping without an indoor toilet, I offer the following recommendations:

  • Be open to new experiences.  If you want to adapt, I believe you can.  Also, this is camping, not luxury travel.  It has its own kind of special beauty, but it is not primarily about the comfort.
  • Remember that you are getting a lot on the plus side with a teardrop.  Light, easy towing and the ability to conveniently store in your garage.  That was worth a lot to us.
  • Always look for the close restroom option when it works for you.  No bathroom to clean at all; how cool is that?
  • Don’t wait to get a porta potty.  They are easy to set up, use, and break down.
  • When booking campsites, always get a clear understanding of any restrictions related to tents.  I suspect this would be primarily related to RV resorts.  You may want to go anyway, but it is a good idea to know what to expect.
  • Enjoy your camper and embrace new adventures!

Happy Camping!

 

October 2017

 

 

 

First Year Summary and T@G MAX XL Modifications

Year one of camping is under our belts! We bought a new T@G MAX XL and it was pretty much good to go. However, we have made a few modifications.

We purchased our teardrop in September 2016, so it has been a year now since we became teardroppers. Being new to camping in general and never previously having owned any type of camper, we learned a lot in this first year.  This past year, our camper has been towed 3,430 miles on eight camping trips to five different states (AL, GA, FL, TN, & AR).

There were not any exceptionally long trips this first year for two reasons:  1) we had to figure out what we were doing and 2) we are actively working toward a knee replacement for my husband and it precludes long trips planned well in advance.  Our longest trip lasted a week.  We expect much longer trips next year.

Our T@G is really well-designed and is comfortable and functional, despite its size, but we did make a few minor changes.

1) Removal of the Headboard:  

We had our dealer remove the headboard at the time of purchase.  My husband is 6’3″ and he really needs the extra space.  The headboard was nice, but comfort trumped utility in this instance.  He is able to sleep very comfortably with this modification.

T@G without headboard

2)   DVD Light-Blocking Panel

My big guy cannot stand any light while sleeping and the light on the DVD player is quite bright.  One of the first things he did was to make a panel to block the light.  It attaches with Velcro and works very well.

Light-blocking panel

3)  Head Protection, Cabin and Galley

My husband’s height has caused pain on a couple of occasions. The open shelving over the head of the bed had some hard edges and bumping his head motivated him to look for a solution.  He installed foam padding attached with glue strips.   There have been no injuries since this was done.

Padding on the Shelf

He also shortened the length of the hex studs on the galley door.  They were longer than necessary and he had scraped his head on them before the mod.

Modified studs

4) Greywater Drain Access

Having to crawl around on the ground to attach the hose to drain water from the sink was not one of my favorite things.   A lady on one of the teardrop Facebook groups posted that she has a solution to provide easy access and I immediately requested the modification for our camper.  Her solution was lower to the ground.  We raised ours upon the recommendation of a plumber so it would be less likely to get caught on a curb or on uneven terrain.

Greywater Drain Access

5) License Plate Holder

The original way the holder was mounted was flimsy and hung low to the ground.  One of the first things we did was to purchase a black plastic tag holder and mount it appropriately 1 1/2″ higher to the lower frame using the existing screws.

6) Naming the teardrop 

We had no idea how camping would be for us and did not have a name for the trailer initially.  After a little experience, we named it Endeavor and had the name installed on the back.  There is an older post that describes the naming process and installation.

7) Inexpensive and easy air antenna

We purchased an air antenna at the time we got our camper and tried to use it several times.  It did not do a great job, but we were often not in high reception areas.  I saw a post on a Facebook teardrop group a where a gentleman was using a co-axel cable about 6″long to attach to the cable receptacle with the outer insulation stripped off by about 2.5″.  It worked fairly well the one time we tried it and is more compact than the one we purchased.  I am not sure how useful it will be as reception is not usually strong at campsites, but I like its simplicity.

Inexpensive TV Antenna

8) Memory Foam Cover

As many campers have suggested, we installed a memory foam cover over the mattresses  Ours is a 2″ cover and we also use a mattress pad for comfort and an added layer of separation from the memory foam itself for allergy reasons.  It has made our bed quite comfortable.  I don’t think the mattresses alone would have been adequate.

Modification Reversal

We had a diffuser over the air conditioner because the constant blowing of air directly on us was annoying.  It was a plastic traylike apparatus that was rather flimsy and stuck out quite a bit.  We seemed to have more issues with condensation using it and it was an obstacle to be avoided. I managed to knock it down and break it the second trip it was used and we decided to not replace it.

Under Consideration

My tall husband has to stoop when under the galley.  We checked with our dealer about the possibility of adding the Outback wheels to raise the overall height.  This would get us electric brakes as well.   It is a little pricey, but the bigger issue was a concern about the width and getting it into our garage.  We still may do this at a later date.

Summary

Our first year in Endeavor was wonderful and we have not make a lot of  changes.  Looking forward to year two!

 

 

Packing for Teardrop Camping-Our Process

The smaller the camper, the more important it is to be organized and have needed items in a place that is predictable and easily accessible. We have now been on several camping trips and have a process that works for us.

Approximately once a month, we take a camping trip.  To simplify the process, we try to keep as much camping-related equipment as we can packed in some manner so it is always ready to go.  For example:

  • Under the Bed-Extension cords, co-axiel cable, television antenna, awning, a few long tools that will not fit in our toolbox, charcoal, umbrella, 30/50 amp converter, nylon cord, and extra flashlight are kept under the bed in the camper and are always ready to go.
  • Inside the Cabin-Hanging shoe bags are attached to the wall on each side of the bed.  A laundry bag and manuals are in a cabinet.  A flashlight for getting up in the middle of the night is in the space between the bed and wall.  These items are always there and ready to go.
  • In the Galley-The galley always has some basic items:  dish cloths and towels, salt and pepper, basic spices, olive oil, a small coffee pot, toaster, small garbage can and trash liners, small flashlight, lighter, wet wipes, Saran Wrap, aluminum foil, bug spray, dish drainer mat, scrubber,  tire gauge, wet wipes and hand sanitizer.  We also keep our 30/15 converter on a shelf in the galley because we always hook our camper up to our home power before trips.
  • In a Footlocker- All the dishes that we might use for cooking are stored in a large plastic footlocker. This includes plates, utensils, glasses, bowls, skillet, pan, etc.  The only extra we sometimes bring is a crockpot or small grill, but that is only if there is a specific plan to use it.

Galley Photos

Overall View of Galley
Galley Shelf
Under the Sink

When leaving for a trip, we use the galley area to store items needed to hook up.  We put the electrical cord and water hoses there, plus the hand tool for the camper stabilizers.   We also strap gallon containers of water to the cabinet and store a foam rubber that rug we always use behind the galley.  Those items are readily available when we arrive at our campsite.

Cords and hoses transported in galley

The footlocker, rectangular table, small blower bucket,  and small folding table are always transported in the cabin of the camper.

 

Items Transported in Cabin

We use the back of our SUV to store food, chairs, a rug and whatever optional equipment we are taking.  We have a 10×10 screen room, EZ tent, porta potty, and privacy tent.  If the trip is more geared to sightseeing or we are at a site for less than 2-3 days, we do not set up a tent or screen room.  If we are very near a restroom, we leave the porta potty at home.

With most camping items pre-packed, most of my trip preparation is spent on what food to bring and what clothes to pack.  Food that does not require refrigeration is stored in three covered bins. One bin is always prepacked with dishwashing liquid, a small bottle of laundry detergent, tablecloths/clips, and coffee filters and the other two have specific food for the trip.  There is also a bin for tools–my husband likes to be prepared.

We each pack a small suitcase and take a pre-packed bath bag with toiletries.  We have found that it works better to use the backseat of our SUV for personal items.  They are always in the same spot, therefore, it is easier to locate needed items.   My husband’s items are on one side of the backseat and mine the other.  We each use the floorboard for extra shoes, hats, etc.  Also, we generally transport a small ice chest in the middle and a couple of lanterns in the floorboard.

Back Seat of SUV

Length of Trip:   Our longest trip so far has been a week.  We have discussed much longer trips and the plan for those is not very different for what we pack today.  For those longer trips, we would just do laundry and buy groceries while traveling.   I can’t wait to try out this theory!

Camping takes effort, but for me,  prepacking and organization makes it easier.  I am sure that most seasoned campers have methods that work for them and may be quite different from what I have described, but this is what works for us.

HAPPY PACKING!

 

 

Tongue Weight–A Cautionary Tale

Our T@G is very lightweight and we pull it with mid-sized SUV, so we did not anticipate any towing issues. Our solution for hauling bikes created an issue related to tongue weight. Our earlier post, Bikes and Teardrop Camping–Our Solution, has been modified to include this new information. While what we originally had did not work, changing to a different receiver has been confirmed by E-Trailer to do the job!

We have hauled bikes with our teardrop by using a dual receiver, which enabled us to put a bike rack on the back of our SUV.

Bikes Towed with our Teardrop

When we ordered the bike rack, a customer service rep at E-Trailer explained that our dual hitch was splitting the towing capacity of the dual hitch into two amounts, each component one half of the capacity of the hitch.

Our dual hitch has a capacity of 400 lbs, so each component would have a capacity of 200 lbs.  Our trailer’s tongue weight is 160 lbs with LP and battery (less than 200 lbs) and our bike rack plus bikes weighed 100 lbs (again less than 200 lbs).

We also considered the capacity of our towing vehicle, which is 350 lbs.  One half of 350 is 175 lbs and as this is under the weight of our trailer for one component and the bikes for the other, we thought we were okay.

What we did not initially understand is that by using a dual hitch, the overall capacity of our towing vehicle was reduced.  My husband ordered the hitch on-line and was not aware of the impact of the hitch on tongue weight.   This left our towing vehicle with a capacity of 175 lbs and the tongue weight of our towing was 240 lbs.

Fortunately, we received feedback from members of camping groups on Facebook who are more knowledgeable than we and they alerted us to this problem.  However, because of the multiple things to consider, we were quite confused.

As I understand it now, if using a dual hitch, you have to compare the tongue weight of what you are hauling against two separate limitations.

1) The tongue weight capacity of the tow vehicle, reduced by 50% because the dual hitch is used.  In our case, this was 175 lbs.  Our total tongue weight was 240 lbs, and we had a real problem here.

2) The tongue weight of the dual hitch.  Our hitch has a tongue weight capacity of 400 lbs, with 200 lbs for each half.  At 160 for the trailer and 100 for the bikes, we did not have an issue with the hitch.

Because our SUV has a lower tongue weight capacity, it is the capacity that  must be used when determining our hauling weight.

We hauled our bikes on two camping trips that were relatively close to home.  The car handled well and there did not appear to be problems with the towing.  However, we had difficulty getting the leveling wheel off and on.   Also, the back tires on our SUV developed cupping. We had to replace our tires on the back sooner than we needed to replace the front tires.  We do not know that the excess tongue weight caused the tire issue, but we think it is the likely reason.

Now the good news!  I was communicating earlier with James Phipps, who is in a couple of teardrop groups on Facebook.  James and I communicated quite extensively about his concerns and he posed a question to E-Trailer to confirm his theory.  They confirmed that he was correct regarding the tongue weight issue but also offered two solutions that should be viable.  The response E-Trailer sent to James is below.

We could haul our bikes in much the same manner as we have in the past without exceeding tongue weight capacity if we just use a multipurpose ball mount instead of the dual hitch extender.

I would never have guessed that such a simple change could make such a difference.  If we were to use option 1 below, we would have a tongue weight of approximately 260 lbs and a capacity of our original 350 lbs. and will be well within our capacity.  Thank  you James for this information!

Options for hauling bikes

 

Bikes and Teardrop Camping–Our Solution

We implemented this process for towing our bikes with our camper, but have since learned that we were exceeding the tongue weight limits of our tow vehicle because of the dual hitch. This could work for those whose tow vehicle has a high tongue weight capacity, but does not work for us. See my follow-up post, Tongue Weight–A Cautionary Tale. A change to a different receiver will eliminate the tongue weight issue.

Soon after we began camping, we saw how nice it would be to have bikes with us on our trips.  We camp with friends who have much larger equipment and they routinely carry bikes, but it seemed a stretch for us.  We rented bikes on a couple of occasions and I was resigned to that option, but my husband kept searching for a solution.

He considered mounting them on the back of the camper, but we read that it is not a good idea to put a bike on the back.  We never saw any great options for an installation on top.  He had an idea of a dual receiver and was considering having a machinist make one but found a dual hitch on-line.  Below is the hitch that we used.  We have since learned that it reduces the overall tongue weight capacity of our vehicle by 50% and another hitch should be used.  See E-Trailer response below.

Our receiver caused a tongue weight issue, but according to E-Trailer, a change to a different receiver will enable us to carry our bikes.  We would choose Option 1.

Tongue weight limitations should be considered before any additional towing options are implemented.  See my post, Tongue Weight–A Cautionary Tale for additional information.

Options for hauling bikes
We exceeded our tongue weight capacity with this receiver

Next, we needed a bike rack that would work with both the camper and the hitch.  We discussed it in depth with a Customer Service Rep at E-Trailer and she helped us select a rack to carry our two bikes.

We purchased a Thule Vertex 2, 1 1/4-2 model bike rack.  Our bikes weigh about 30 pounds and the rack weighs 70 pounds.   The rack does a good job of carrying our bikes, but it does add extra steps in our hitching and unhitching process.

Bike Rack in Open Position

When we first set it up, the bikes moved around too much, which made me quite nervous.  However, they can be secured very well with two short bungee cords (purchased separately) and the adjustable strap that came with the bike rack.

Bike Rack and Securing Accessories

We had to add extenders to our safety chains because the dual hitch is longer than the standard.  We purchased the chain extenders and 3/8″ threaded connectors at Lowes.  We only use the dual hitch and extended chains if we are hauling our bikes.

Our Steps to Tow Bikes With Teardrop

  • Insert hitch into tow vehicle receiver using locking pins (one to tow vehicle and other to bike rack).
  • Attach camper to bottom receiver using appropriate-sized ball (not included with receiver).
  • Attach bike rack to top and insert locking pin (not included with receiver).
  • Attach largest bike to rack first and stabilize front and back wheel using a short bungee cord.
  • Attach second bike to bike rack and stabilize front and back wheel using second short bungee cord.  You may have to move the pedals a bit so they can fit snugly.
  • Wrap adjustable strap around both bikes and tighten the straps snugly while pulling bike frames toward the tow vehicle.
  • Hitching or unhitching with the bike rack adds approximately ten minutes to the process.

The process is reversed for the unhitch process.  We have taken our bikes on a couple camping trips and was not aware of issues with this method of transport.  We later learned about our tongue weight issue, but a change to a different receiver should solve the problem.

There are, no doubt, other ways to haul bikes with teardrops, but this has worked very well for us.  We hope it will help others who are interested in taking their bikes on camping trips.

Happy Camping!

 

Naming the Teardrop

With a few camping trips under our belt and an idea of how camping will be for us, we were ready to name our teardrop. The approach was the same as I used for naming my children, start with a group you like and negotiate to something that works for both parties. We started with a dozen or so synonyms for “adventure” because it is what we are seeking.

We especially liked three or four names, but settled on “Endeavor.”   It seemed to fit our journey.   Webster’s meaning for the word is “to strive to achieve or reach.”  From the Thesaurus, “an effort to do or accomplish something.”  Related words are striving, struggle, throes, undertaking, trial and error.

The name certainly describes the challenge and effort that goes with teardrop camping, at least for us being new campers at our age.  It’s not like sitting comfortably in a spacious motorhome.   Ours is a much more hands-on, outside with nature form of RV camping that requires us to work together and compromise far more than we must do when at home.  It has gotten easier over time, but as we travel to more far away places and on longer trips, we will still need to endeavor.

My husband also liked the name because it sounds like a Trekkie name for a starship.  When you think of how our little cabin is our means to visit so many far away places, it fits.

A friend of ours owns  Stripe King, a local company that does graphics for police and fire vehicles, RVs, and boats.   We purchased our graphic from him and really like how it turned out.

You may have noticed that we do not have the @ in our teardrop’s name like you see on most T@Gs.  I wanted it, but my husband wanted just the regular letters.  As he has compromised so much for me, I had to let him have that one.

We are looking forward to a trip to Lake Catherine in Arkansas next month with Endeavor.

Happy camping!

 

 

Camping Checklist

As new campers, we have found a checklist to be vital. We also use a checklist for food on each trip. This is our camping checklist.

Camping Gear:

  • Tent/shelter with poles and stakes
  • Binder clips if attaching tent to Trailer
  • Ground cover/rug
  • Fuel for stove
  • Lighter
  • Chairs
  • Table
  • Water hoses (2)
  • Power cable with adapter
  • Privacy tent
  • Porta-potty/tissue
  • Co-axial cable
  • Leveling blocks
  • Hitch locks
  • Flashlights
  • Extension cord
  • Duct tape
  • Heater (if cold)
  • Electric blanket (if cold)
  • Bucket if no sewer for dishwashing
  • Box of assorted tools
  • Outdoor fan (if hot)
  • Awning

Cooking Gear

Most of the following is in a large footlocker that is always packed:

  • Frying pan
  • Cooking pot
  • Plates, bowls, cups, glasses, cutlery
  • Paring knife, spatula, cooking spoon
  • Coffee maker
  • Toaster
  • Corkscrew
  • Tablecloths (2)
  • Salt/pepper/spices
  • Plastic storage bags for leftovers
  • Foil
  • Paper towels
  • Cooking spray
  • Sponge, dishcloth, scrubber
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Cooler
  • Water for drinking and cooking
  • Trash bags
  • Food

Clothing

  • Daytime clothing
  • Sleepwear
  • Rainwear, if applicable
  • Extra layers for warmth
  • Swimwear, if applicable
  • Shoes: hiking,  flip!flops
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses

Personal Items

  • Sunscreen
  • Towels & washcloths
  • Soap
  • Insect repellent
  • First Aid kit
  • Medications
  • Toothbrush & toiletries in shower bag for each person
  • Hair dryer/flat iron
  • Makeup
  • Bikes, locks & helmets
  • Laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent

Other Items

  • Camera
  • Campsite reservation
  • Games
  • Tablet
  • Electronics chargers