So the Golden Rule of Camping (and Van Life) is ‘Leave No Trace,’ meaning don’t be a shitstick litterbug, and leave places better than you find them. I might be making this up, but I’m going to say the Silver Rule, as told to me by my cousin Stevie (although he didn’t give it a metallic level, he just meant it as good advice) is ‘Whenever you have the option to plug in, plug in.’
Now being that I have a pretty decent solar setup, I don’t always go with that (and in reality, I forget all the damn time), because I feel like it’s wasteful to use electricity when the sun and/or vehicle driving is providing me with the same thing, but the bottom line is, I’ve been properly coached, I just don’t always have the best execution.
When I arrived in Indianapolis on Wednesday morning to visit my aunt and uncle, it was bright, sunny, and a balmy 63°, so I extra didn’t think about any of it, since the absolute only thing pulling power was my Dometic fridge, which can range from about 3-20W/hour, so it could be fine for 24-28 hours untended to.
Fast forward to Friday, when there was some inclement weather forecast to be arriving overnight, to include freezing temps and snow, so, thinking of my water tank and concerned about freezing pipes and whatnot, I went out once the margarita the size of my head had dissipated slightly after Uncle Larry took me out for lunch, to fill up on gas, since my little Webasto heater runs off gas from the van’s fuel tank. Although it pulls very minimally from the gas tank, I am a worrywart (no surprise there, hey (OMG, I’m a total Yooper – I just said ‘hey’)?), so I like there to be at least a half a tank to feel comfortable with the situation. So I filled halfway up (gas is $4.19 here, which is better than the $5.47 that it was in Chicago, but still hurts my feelings. And wallet.) I set the Webasto to 50° and put myself to bed.
Waking up today, there were indeed many flakes a’falling, and the temp was down to 26°. I took the puppy out to the bathroom and stopped at Hecate to grab some workout clothes, but to my chagrin, the lights wouldn’t come on, and the climate inside was no different than outside. That’s actually a falsehood. It wasn’t snowing in the van.
My immediate impulse was that of panic, as I tend to do when I have no power in the van, and then to raise the question of why. Well, it was a really simple answer. I’m dumb. Regardless of the bright, sunny days, I’m parked in an area that’s not getting much solar input, and the only driving I’ve done in the last 72 hours has been the 8 miles there and back to the gas station, which probably garnered me about 3% battery charge. It was probably that 3% that acted as a fluffer to get the heater to kick on at all yesterday.
So I dug in the gearage to find my orange cord and plug in, all the while Stevie’s advice ringing in my ears. Of course the cord was in the back, and with the white stuff that was coming down with gusto, I had my first glimpse of what winter camping would be like, and I have to say, it’s not for me. At least, not when I don't expect it. That snow should really stick to a firm schedule. The back doors were wide open, getting everything wet while I dug around, Gatsby was waiting at the porch window with the longing of a war bride waiting for mail, and I kept tracking mud and muck in every time I went in to see if I had actually switched the cables correctly and that power was indeed being pumped to the battery.
Don’t worry, I did finally get things in action and the Goal Zero is happily (I might be assigning emotion here, but that’s how it seems to me. Or maybe I’ve seen too much Bob Ross in my lifetime, who knows?) charging, and we’ve gone from a 26° interior to 55°. It’s like I overcompensated for my foible by turning the temp up unnecessarily. Please excuse me while I go decrease my carbon footprint, ever so slightly.