First Time Working from the Camper

This is a long one. many things have been happening I really need to get us caught up.  There’s a hodge-podge of stuff in the beginning, but I promise to get to the experience of working in the camper by the end 🙂

As you may know, our daughter Kay graduated from high school a few weeks ago, and is heading to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training  August 12th.  Before she leaves, my mom is taking her on a grandmother/granddaughter vacation.   It’s a really neat thing mom has done with all of her kids (when they graduated from college) and the grand kids when they graduate from high school.  The vacations vary depending on the interests of the kid and mom’s financial situation at the time.  I went to Hawaii and it was amazing, my sister Wendy wanted a shorter flight and went on a Caribbean cruise, and my brother Eddie went to Europe.  Kyrston (my oldest) went on a cruise to Key West and Mexico, Katy (my middle daughter) went to NYC and they saw 5 Broadway plays, and now it’s Kay’s turn. Of all of the grandchildren Mom has spent the least amount of time with Kay.  She was only 5 when we moved from Ohio to New Hampshire and I knew Mom wanted to do something very special for her.  Because Kay is fluent in Spanish (she was accepted to the crypto-linguistic program in the Air Force because of her talent with learning languages), they decided on a trip to Barcelona and then a cruise along the coast of Spain and Italy.  Very very cool trip and on an international boat which means because Kay is 18 she gets to do all the adult things European kids get to do such as drink and gamble lol.  Needless to say she is super excited. (And who can blame her? I’d love to gamble and drink my way around Spain and Italy!  – Lee)

So what’s all that have to do with camping?  Well for the first time in 25 years we will be without a child in the house.  Lee and I were married very young and had our kids right away, so our lives have revolved around kids.  As of August 12th we will be empty-nesters and we are expecting camping to be a huge part of our life in this new kid-less future.   So Kay is gone for the next two weeks with Mom and we are going to take this opportunity to try living out of the camper for two weeks.  Well Lee is…I have to travel for work Weds and Thursday of this week and all next week, but he wants to see what it is like.  Partially because the house is so empty while we wait for it to sell, and partially I think to ease into the kid-less state.  I have been traveling a lot of the last several years and Lee (who works 5 minutes from the house) has been the primary caregiver.  He is an amazing parent, but this is definitely likely to hit him harder than me because he has spent so much more time with the girls in the last few years.

He also has numerous camper projects that have been put on hold because when we were just coming out for the weekends and we’ve had lot of visitors it was tough to find time to get things done.  One of the first things he is working on is cleaning the outside of the camper.  We had tons of rain and various detritus from the trees is on top of the slideouts. He bought a product while we were in Tennessee called the Bon-Aire Ultimate Water Blaster.  It is this really cool expandable attachment that goes on a hose with a rotating head that can go straight up or down or side to side.  It was great to spray specific parts of the camper.  I think it’s incredibly neat and Lee says it works very well.  Here’s some pictures to show how he used it.

Spraying the awning

Spraying the awning

Spraying top of slide out

Spraying top of slide out


He also took some advice from Howard of RV-Dreams and bought a metal water manifold to hook up his separate hoses for (from left to right) hose to rinse off stuff outside, hose to flush sewer lines, fresh water hose.   Much better than the crappy plastic one he had previously bought. (I can’t say enough about this! It’s such a pain to have to attach and remove hoses. The manifold is awesome. Be sure to get a four port manifold, so you’ll always have an extra one, just in case. Also, invest in as many brass quick-connects as you need for every hose end and attachment. No more trying to loosen and tighten hose ends with slippery wet hands. They just pop on and off like magic. – Lee)

Water manifold

Water manifold


We also have been struggling a bit with smells in the camper.  Lee is not comfortable leaving the windows open when we are not in it, so little smells can quickly become big smells.  Some of the things we have done (which have all helped) are:

  • Used grey water tank chemicals to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waster is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping (don’t laugh, everybody poops! – Lee) turn the fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on your way out
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us. (Why would anyone PREFER to be in a small space a few feet away while someone else is pooping??? – Lee)

In particular I could smell something under the sink that was unpleasant.  Lee did some online research and discovered that the anti-siphon valve was probably bad.  The way it works is a P trap is under the sink (that’s the S curve part of the pipe) is supposed to be full of water to stop noxious gasses from coming back up.  The problem with a sealed system (like a camper) is the water pushes but the air can stop the water from moving.  Anti-siphon valves allow air to go down the pipe but NOT come back up, but they are plastic and cheaply made, and sometimes they can get stuck in the open position.  Lee bought a new one at Home Depot ($5) and replaced it. Smell gone.  See below for some pics.


Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

P trap

P trap


Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out...he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out…he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

We also did some mini purging…well mainly Lee did.  It’s amazing how many things we picked up a year ago that are no longer relevant.  And Lee wired up the computer to the TV so now we can watch downloaded movies that are on our computer on the TV screen.  He also took this mat we bought and cut off the outside because it interfered with his chair being pulled back.  See below for the before and after.  It’s great being married to a handy guy. Seriously, it’s like living with MacGyver. (I have a much better haircut than MacGyver. – Lee)


Computer wires to TV

Computer wires to TV











Mat down on the ground ...we still have

Mat down on the ground …we still have

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away


Just in case you think I am a total slacker..I did put my books away.  I went from 450 books down to 30 and was really worried that my favorites wouldn’t fit in the camper, but I have to hand it to the designers of the open range; two cupboards are paperback height and two are hardback height!  I am so pleased with my Open Range.  Every time I turn around there is some little feature that makes being in the camper easier.  Really a great product so far.  Other than that and watching an excellent Wimbledon men’s final…I didn’t do much this weekend.  I’ve been traveling so much I really needed some chill time.  I loved cuddling up on my couch with the fake fireplace going this morning watching some Wimbledon.  Really relaxing.

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Hardback size

Hardback size



So while I was relaxing Lee was puttering.  It has taken years for us to get to the point where I can sit and he can putter.  But if you’re going to spend any amount of time in a camper…you need to learn how to do that.  It’s tough having two people work in the same small space, so one generally is sitting.  Plus with small square footage, really how much is there to do?  You can only clean and reorganize so much.  So here’s some more pictures of things Lee did.  Needless to say I am happy because his puttering makes my life easier 🙂

Hanging my clothesline

Hanging my clothesline

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes :)

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes 🙂



Basement space left untouched

Basement door…no space left untouched

Lee's tool side of the basement

Lee’s tool side of the basement



The non tool side...will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck

The non tool side…will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck











A couple more random things and then I think I am all caught up!  Seasonal sites are great on a holiday weekend.  No worrying about where you’ll stay or losing a day of a three-day weekend setting up and then tearing down right away again. The campground was packed, but people were well-behaved and we just stayed around our site to avoid the crowds.  Also, and completely unrelated,   I tested the “make a fire with chips” theory.  Fritos did NOT work but Tortilla chips worked great…see below

Did not stay lit

Fritos did not stay lit.  I heard later the scoops don’t work but regular ones do??  Not sure haven’t tested that

Ta Da ..much cheaper than a $1 fire starte

Tortilla chips stayed burning for much longer and a handful is much cheaper than a $1 fire starter


So finally to the working in the camper.  I work from home occasionally so it’s not a complete stretch to work from the camper but I was nervous about it.  Not sure why…Lee built me a great desk space and we have Time Warner internet at this campground so wifi is very fast and unlimited.  I just had some very important assignments due and wanted to make sure my work space was perfect for the next couple of days so I could focus.

Here's my desk

Here’s my desk










The morning started a little rough.  I got up took a shower and was online by 7:30 so that was good, but a couple of neighbors were staying for the holiday week and they were a bit noisy.   It’s ironic because Lee was raving about how quiet it is here during the week, so the first time I stay there was noise.  The birdsong and trees rustling in the wind were great.  Kind of like having a forest sounds CD playing in the background but for real, but then the older couple across the way started talking.  They must be hard of hearing because their voices were really loud…and I could kind of ignore that but she kept spontaneously singing.  I like music, but it was a bit off-key and very distracting.  I was about ready to turn the fan on for some whit noise when they left the site.  Things were very nice after that.   There was some light campground noise, but nothing to loud and I quickly got focused on my work.  I managed to accomplish quit a bit in the morning and at 11:30 took a half hour for a light lunch.  That was nice, I sat outside in a patch of sun and decompressed a bit from a couple of stressful morning conference calls.  I also saw a toad when I walked out my front door, which was pretty cute and not something you get to see in your average work environment 🙂

The quiet did get to me about 1pm.  There was less bird noise so I turned on the overhead fan to get some air flow and white noise.  I also discovered sitting at the desk that a few ants have snuck into the camper so Lee will be getting some Bug Stop on the way home.  Nothing more distracting than an ant crawling up your leg 🙂  It sounds like I was distracted a lot but not really.  Certainly less than an office environment when people walk up to your desk all the time.  I got quite a bit accomplished.


Around 2:30 things started to get uncomfortable again.  I have only sat on this chair for short periods of time and it’s really not comfortable…my butt is hurting not comfortable and my neck is hurting from not being at the right level with the table for typing.  So good to know.  It also got to 82 degrees in the camper right before it started raining and cooled down.  I had the fan on high but it was definitely a bit to hot for comfort.  Air flow was not that great.  So new chair and next time turn on the AC earlier 🙂

Around 3:45 we got a pretty serious thunderstorm…I am getting all the weather today.  I made sure my files were backed up i case we lost power, but nothing..not even a flicker which was nice.  We have really good surge protection on the camper and another surge protector on the computers, so I wasn’t worried but it was loud.  Plus the temperature dropped from 81 to 73 outside so that was good 🙂  One of the best things was I had a 6 pm conference call and instead of needing to leave late or take it from the car I was where I needed to be.  so I didn’t lose my whole night.  So overall it was a mixed bag.  I definitely need to gt the chair problem solved and the temperature controlled.  But it was quiet and I got a lot of work done.  Have to try it again and see.


Lessons Learned

  • Buy a Bon-Aire water blaster 
  • Use grey water tank smell product to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waste is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping turn the FanTastic Fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us


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7 thoughts on “First Time Working from the Camper

  1. Good to hear from you! I forgot about the chip-fire-starter thingy. I also like the water manifold tip too! Steve working from the 5er is working out well. We did pick up a booster which helped too. So far, so good. We’ve been fulltime 2 weeks today. LOVE IT! Have to head back home unfortunately to finish up some things then we’ll continue on! We’ll probably have to skip MT but hope to make it back up to SD on the way to the fall rally.

  2. Hello Trace and Lee,
    My name is Doris and my husband’s name is Bob and we are preparing to purchase a fifth wheel within about 10 months when he retires. We have been reading your blogs which we found through (Howard and Linda’s website). We are wondering how you like your Open Range? This is one of the fifth wheels we are considering and have been looking at these at our local dealer here in NC. They appear to be pretty nice but wanted some feedback from people who own them. Have you had any major problems with yours, and if so, how has the company been about taking care of it? We are also wondering about the cable mechanisms for the slides and if you have had any problems with these? The model we are interested in is the 388RK which is a rear kitchen. We are planning to do some full-timing while we are still young enough to do so. LOL!
    I apologize if this wasn’t the correct place to post this, but I couldn’t seem to find another way to contact you.
    Thank you for any info you can give us.
    Doris and Bob Whitegiver
    Btw, we used to live in NH and I actually used to live in Keene so it’s nice to read about some of the places you reference. I enjoy reading your blog.

    • Hi Doris thanks for reaching out. We love love our open range. The rear kitchen model was amazing and one of my top picks, but we ended up going with the 386FLR. I still remember that kitchen though :). So far the Open Range has been great. It was designed by RV enthusiasts and I am constantly finding little touched that make my life easier. The interiors are done by the Amish so each one has it’s own uniqueness. I love the wood because it gives the RV a warm feel and the floors are really great. Easy to clean and they look wonderful. The only issues I have had have been from after market items (ie dishwasher and. Fantastic fan ) and those were minor and solved by the dealer. For me it feels like a home and all of our rally friends agreed. The slide have been totally fine. Lee actually feels the slides and pully system are a benefit as you can access them from inside the RV so if there ever was a problem he feels confident he could manually get the slides in. Now all that being said we have been using it primarily in a sitting position, so I can’t comment on how it will hold up over time with lots of travel. But I feel the value was exceptional for the price we paid and highly recommend them.

  3. Trace, thanks so much for your quick and helpful response. I’m glad to hear that you like your Open Range. It is definitely up at the top of our list. We are so excited about getting an RV and “hitting the road” and can hardly wait. Hopefully we will be able to get one sooner and try it out some before leaving, like you two are doing. We have been researching and researching…my brain is fried lol. Cant wait for the RV shows to start back up.
    Thanks again for getting back to us and we hope to meet you both someday, possibly at one of the rally’s or somewhere in our travels. If you are ever down in the western part of NC let us know, you are welcome to come for a visit.

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