Camping Technology

Here are some unique home made gadgetry used during a recent camping trip. This is not a few backpacking explorers with minimal gear. Its a large group at a California State run camp ground, with lots of gear trucked in, including the “kitchen sink”. And the “kitchen” being a “car canopy”, 20 feet long by 10 feet wide. Any kitchen needs very good lighting, else a cook may end up a finger or two short. Here is the camp kitchen, at night:


Note, how brightly its lit. It really is that bright. That’s not from cranking up the brightness in Photoshop. Its relatively new technology. 8 3ft long LED panels that consume roughly 90W of power, total. Below is one of those panels, in daylight:


Homemade, is not quite accurate. One of the group, runs a machine shop, which includes a laser cutter, and a “brake”. That was used to make the reflector. Its made of mirror finish 20 gauge aluminum. Glued to reflector, is a strip of LEDs. These can be bought in rolls. These strips are made flexible copper clad mylar that has the LEDs soldered to it, as well as resistors chosen so 12V (nominally) is to be used for proper function. These strips can be cut in three LED groups with just a pair of house hold scissors. Copper pads are available to solder on wires for making connections.

Below is whats was used to power these lights:


Two 35 A-Hr 12V sealed lead acid batteries. They can easily power the lights all night long. Field charging is done using a 45W solar panel, that comes with its own charging control box. To get maximum charge, those panels had to be moved around several times during the day,to catch the most sunlight.

Cooking for the most part was done on propane heated grills. The most unique thing, is that they usually are found restaurant kitchens, not at a camp site. But this year, to save on propane, we used something else to cook the slow cooking beans. Its known as a “stump stove”:


That “stump” is a log that has been drying for about a year. It was roughly 2 feet tall, and ~16″ in diameter. Normally two holes roughly of 2″ diameter, are drilled, one vertical, and one horizontal, forming an “L”. In this case the bottom , horizontal hole, was only 1.5″ in diameter, and the vertical only 3/4″.

To get  it started, we ended up getting a hot coal from the camp fire and shove it thru the side, to the bend in the “L”. Then we got the hand powered air pump, used for inflating our air mattresses, to turn that coal into a mini torch, which got the center of that stove going, in only a few minutes. Here’s the stove, after about three hours. We just got done with the beans:


We continued using it to grill a few whole chickens, for another couple of hours, before the walls got dangerously thin, when we just chucked it into the camp fire pit. There we still used it to cook a few more items, before it lost stability.