Zamp Solar Install

It has been hard to peel away from parenting duties to work on the Sportsmobile.  Parts have piled up over the past few weeks, but we are slowly making our way to getting them onto the camper.

Sportsmobile, Dodge, Pop Top, Zamp Solar

After looking through our existing solar set up, we realized we had a cheap generic solar charge controller and a heavy aging panel (about 40 lbs for the panel).  While it works, we were looking at upgrading our solar set up to a higher quality set up that will protect our house battery (proper charge profiles, temperature shut off).  Our goals were to: 1) add a panel to the roof of the van using our existing square bars, 2) make the set up light enough so the penthouse top would not be difficult to lift, 3) make it easily removable (so we can carry our paddle boards), and 4) make it expandable. Continue reading


MYOG: Building Your Emergency Bag

Quick and Dirty
Cost: Varies based on you and your family’s needs
Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty (1-10): 1

Disasters happen everywhere and unfortunately most people are never prepared for them. Because we live in California, lots of people have a misguided sense of trust that no major disasters are going to happen. Here are some tips to preparing a short-range lightweight bag to carry in your car in case of an emergency.  Everyone has different needs, you know your own family the best- pack what you think is best for you and your family.  Keep in mind what we pack in the bags in this post are simply to get you home.


A basic get home bag we keep in our vehicles. Repurposed old backpacks make great emergency bags.

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MYOG: Back Country “Sound System”

Quick and Dirty
Cost: none
Difficulty (1-10): 1

What You Need
Cooking pot
Phone with a speaker with your favorite podcast downloaded

I love listening to podcasts and audio books. It was something I picked up during graduate school when I walked 2-3 miles to campus everyday.  This was a great way for me to catch up on current events and books when I wouldn’t have had the time otherwise.

As I graduated school, I continued to listen to my podcasts during our backpacking trips. It’s a way we spend some of our downtime after a long day of hiking. While we were backpacking the Lost Coast trail, we found it hard to hear the audio on my phone since we were camping right on the beach. Louis came up with this brilliant idea of using our 4qt cooking pot as an amplifier. It worked brilliantly on and brought us great entertainment on the trip!

To have your own speaker’s amplifier the next time you are outdoors, all you need is a cooking pot or an enclosed container and your cell phone with a working speaker. Insert the phone into the pot with the speakers facing up and enjoy your favorite podcast without having to carry the extra weight of an external speaker!

sound system.jpg

Back country sound system. Suntactics sCharger -5 and Iphone 5C with a 4 qt pot amplifier.



MYOG: Simple DIY Ultra-light Sleep Pad

Quick and Dirty
Cost: $20
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty (1-10): 1

What You Need
1/8 or 1/4 inch Closed Cell Foam (CCF) EVA Grade Foam Pad
Utility Knife / Exacto-Knife
Ruler / Measuring Tape

DIY Sleep Pad, Ultralight, CCF

Usually when we head out to back country in the winter, we take insulated inflatable pads. Often times, the ground is so cold that the air passes through the pad.  Over time we learned that inflatable pads typically don’t provide a strong barrier against the cold ground in the winter.

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MYOG: Sawyer Squeeze Modification – Making the Bags Last Longer

Quick and Dirty
Cost: $35 (including filter)
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty (1-10): 1

Sawyer Squeeze filter


The Sawyer Squeeze is an excellent ultralight filter.  At 3 ozs, it adds very little to any pack and had endless options.  When we first switched to the Squeeze filter for our 3 season trips, we noticed the lamination separating from the bags and the bags began to fail.

To mitigate the problem, we modified our largest bag to be used as a gravity filter.  While the Squeeze is slower as a gravity filter, the weight savings and reliability more than make up for the wait time.

There are much simpler ways to do this, such as using tape, but we wanted to make the modification as reliable and clean as possible.

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