KEYWORDS: truck, camper, campers, motor, trailer

Have Trailer--Will Travel--Part 3: Gas Fires & Campers

David Berg

DFO812-313 July 1979

1. ANY KIND OF FIRE or flammables or burnables or explosives, such as gas-oil or gasoline or kerosene or diesel or any flammable fluid‚ can be very dangerous, & you are closer to it when you are in a trailer than you would be in a house. So it pays to have somebody who knows how to handle them, if you don't!

2. BE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR GAS APPLIANCES, how to shut your gas bottle on & off or change them‚ or how to light your fire or your stove or your heater or your fridge. If you don't know which way the valve goes on or off, or you are not familiar with just how these things operate‚ it pays to ask somebody who is, & not just experiment around!

3. EXPERIMENTING WITH UNFAMILIAR FIRES & FLAMMABLE GASES, YOU MAY LEARN HOW, BUT YOU MAY LEARN THE HARD WAY!—Like I did when that gas water heater blew up in my face & blinded me! You may learn your lesson, but if you don't know what you're doing, it may be your last lesson!—So it pays to "ask the man who owns one" & who knows! Ask some nearby camper if he knows anything about it‚ somebody who has a trailer or a camper who probably has the same type of equipment. Ask him to please show you how—"How does this work?" or "How do you do this?" or "How do you do that?"

4. CAMPERS ARE QUITE A CLUB, QUITE A FRATERNITY! They have a lot in common, therefore develop a lot of helpful camaraderie. They are usually very helpful‚ & are almost too friendly sometimes, usually always glad to give you a hand on anything you need help with. So, don't be afraid to ask, if you don't understand your stove or your heater or your fridge. Please ask somebody who knows!

5. YOU SHOULD BE SURE TO GET THE PRINTED INSTRUCTIONS WITH YOUR EQUIPMENT & STUDY THEM PRAYERFULLY! But maybe they're not very plain, maybe you had to get your instructions from the man you bought it from, but you forgot them! If you forgot just how it was that he lit the stove or the fridge or heater, & then you try experimenting with it yourself‚ & you don't know how, you are apt to have trouble! I suggest you find somebody who knows how, & let them help you until you learn how, because it can be dangerous!

6. A LOT OF THIS INFORMATION IS ON SAFETY & THE DANGERS OF CAMPING, but that is very important! Because if you don't live through it‚ there's not going to be much point in your camping out, if you put yourself out of the picture through some accident, or you destroy all your equipment through some fire! It's far better to be safe than sorry!—Don't make an ash of yourself!

7. THIS PARTICULAR SERIES IS SUPPOSED TO BE ON CAMPERS & TRAILERS, or caravans, & I've already spent a couple chapters of it on safety with fires! But that's time well spent, because that is one of the greatest dangers in camping—fire! So, have a fire extinguisher handy, understand your fires, & know what to do in case one gets out of hand! Best of all, constantly watch & control your fires & always have them under close observation to make sure that things are working properly, so you won't have an uncontrolled fire that gets out of hand!

8. I'M A BIT LEARY OF THESE GAS HEATERS IN CLOSETS or in the bottom of closet doors or wooden cupboards! Nevertheless, we did have a big gas wall-type heater in our camper, & it was quite hot—& right next to our clothes closet! It was a house-size gas heater, the same size as is used in a house, only it was operated by bottled propane‚ & was thermostatically controlled. But it was right next to this flimsy plywood closet, & I used to worry about it.

9. BUT FOR TEN YEARS IT BURNED nearly all Winters sometimes, & it never caught the closet on fire! Thank You, Lord! So, if it's well protected & well–made, & the flame is well-enclosed & vented in well-spaced metal casings, you'll probably be alright—especially if you pray & trust the Lord & operate it wisely!

10. HOME FIRES CAN BE JUST AS DANGEROUS & catch a house on fire as well, & that could make you a camper for sure! But houses don't burn quite as easily as trailers!—Because you're in cramped quarters in a trailer, & everything is close together, & it's flimsy wooden construction, & you're apt to be careless & unfamiliar with it. So you could have a problem if you are not very cautious!

11. SO IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE A PERMANENT CAMPER & not just occasionally camp out, but live in your camping equipment year-around, rain or shine, cold & snow, & maybe bitter cold, then I suggest you'd better get yourself a camper, trailer or a caravan. These can be kept quite comfortably & safely warm, & you can live in them year round very comfortably, as I did for 20 years!

12. I LIVED 20 YEARS IN EVERYTHING FROM A SMALL 10-FOOT (THREE METER) TRAILER TO A HUGE 35-FOOT (11-METER) ONE, & towed'm with everything from a small car to a 20-foot five-ton (5000-kilo) truck! My last rig was 50 feet (16-meters) long & weighed 10 tons (10‚000 kilos)!—And my theme song was the old truckers' favourite: "Give me 40 Acres & I'll Turn This Rig Around!"

13. FROM NOW ON, WHEN I SAY CAMPER‚ I MEAN THESE TRUCK OR VAN-TYPE MOTOR HOMES‚ MOTORISED CARAVANS, with a truck or van chassis & motor but a caravan or camper body, all in one unit, like a truck or bus housecar. Incidentally‚ you can build pretty nice house-cars (or motor-homes, as they're called in the States) out of some trucks & busses, old busses, second-hand busses & vans, for campers.

14. SOME LARGE-SIZE VANS OR TRUCKS OR BUSSES YOU CAN MAKE YOURSELF INTO VERY COMFORTABLE MOTOR-HOMES, or motor-caravans. These are not towed like a trailer, but are motorised & self-propelled on their truck chassis by their truck motor, which is usually much better equipt to handle such a load & strain than your car!

15. SO MUCH WEIGHT IS MORE EASILY HANDLED BY A MOTOR-CAMPER THAN BY A CAR TOWING A TRAILER. A truck chassis is built strong enough to carry such a load, its motor is powerful enough to pull it, & it's gears are tough enough to stand the strain. Trucks are built to handle such loads‚ but cars were not! Truck chassis‚ frames, engines, wheels & bodies are built for heavy-duty use, whereas cars were not built to pull trailers! Our Dodge Motor Home, or the Ark, was 26-feet (eight meters) long & eight feet (two-&-a-half meters) wide & about nine feet (three meters) high, with a very powerful eight–cylinder truck engine with automatic transmission‚ & easy to drive.

16. THEN THERE ARE WHAT THE AMERICANS CALL PICK-UP-TRUCK-CAMPERS. They are very popular in the States, because you can just back your pick-up truck underneath the camper body & lower it right onto the bed of the pick-up truck, fasten it securely, & off you go!—You have turned your pick-up truck into a camper!—So it doubles both as truck & camper. This pick-up-truck-type camper is the commonest, cheapest & most popular in the States.—Nearly everyone has one, & they're beginning to outnumber the camp trailers because of versatility, maneuverability & price.

17. THEN THERE ARE THE BIG, HUGE MOTOR-HOMES‚ which are built permanently as motor homes only, with all one body, like the Dodge Motor Homes‚ Winnebagos etc. These are permanently campers with chassis & body built permanently together as one unit, & not to come apart like the pick–up truck campers.

18. THEY ARE USUALLY LARGER‚ with a door or opening directly from the driving compartment right into the living quarters, & not built to separate. They are usually more luxurious, fancier, bigger, roomier, sleep more, & cost more—much, much more—than a mere trailer! You could buy about four trailers or a couple pickup campers for the price of one motor-home!

19. WHEN I FIRST BOUGHT THE ARK IN 1962‚ THE MAN I BOUGHT IT FROM HAD PAID $10‚000 FOR IT!—That's about $30,000 today!—But he hadn't paid the $10,000 for it, & that's why I had to buy it from him, because he'd missed three payments & was about to lose it! But he had paid half of it, poor fellow! So he let me have it for just picking up the rest of the payments so he wouldn't lose it & ruin his credit—& lose the camper too!

20. SO IT ONLY COST ME ABOUT $5,000! Well, you can hardly buy yourself a four-passenger auto or a tiny trailer nowadays for $5,000! That same Dodge Motor Home would probably cost $30,000 or $40,000 today! So there is quite a range of prices in motor campers, depending on the size, the motor, the accommodations, how many they sleep & how much equipment they have etc.

21. THE SMALLEST MOTOR-CAMPER (OR MOTOR-CARAVAN, AS THEY'RE CALLED IN EUROPE) IS THE VAN TYPE. This is just a normal side-door van, like the Volkswagen van‚ simply fitted out inside as a camper, & usually only able to sleep two or three, although there are some that will sleep four or five or six! With some of them, the roof raises up & you can put in extra stretcher–type cots or bunks for the extras.

22. THE VAN-TYPE CAMPER IS THE SMALLEST, CHEAPEST & EASIEST TO HANDLE, takes up the least space in parking, & you can park it almost anywhere. It's excellent for travel for only two to four people. The larger campers are like driving a big truck or bus, & unless you are a good truck or bus driver—like I am—I wouldn't advise it! Unless you've already learned how to handle a big truck or bus & that much weight on the road, it can be dangerous, unless you really know what you're doing!

23. THE VAN-SIZED CAMPERS ARE NOT MUCH BIGGER NOR HEAVIER THAN AN AUTOMOBILE, but much roomier, sleep two to four comfortably, & are very compactly equipt with stoves, refrigerators, beds, tables, a place to eat & everything you need—all in that very, very small cramped space! They have everything except space. Most of them don't even have room enough to stand up in! Some you can barely stand up in‚ if you're not too tall, but they certainly don't have room enough to walk around in! You just sort of crawl from place to place.

24. OTHER VAN-CAMPERS HAVE ROOFS THAT RAISE with a canvas enclosure like an accordion or the bellows of a camera.