Thursday, February 9, 2017

Project Nomad III - Rebuilding the Camper

Have been car-camping on my road-trips for over 9 years now. In the first couple of years, just ripped out the rear seats and literally slept on the floor of the gypsy. The only creature comforts in the first iteration was a reading light and a charging point for the phone/tablet in the back cabin. The second iteration saw the addition of the hinged-plank idea which allowed for a proper bed for 2 and storage. Plus it allowed for regular front facing seats in rear cabin for city use. Takes just around 2 hours to prep the gypsy for a trip now.

My Ride:

With the Gypsy going in for a scheduled overhaul next week, I was thinking of upgrading the setup to allow for more creature comforts on longer trips.

Wish list:
1. Storage for tools, spares & misc items.
Storage is always at a premium when car camping. Want to provide ample storage space for tools & spares.

2. Better thermal insulation.
Another must have. The Gypsy Hard Top cabin theoretically has a sandwich molding which should help with insulation. However the 2 large windows are the weak spots. It can get freezing in there at nights. And not just in the Himalaya's. Once woke up freezing in the middle of the night in the middle of a Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Brrrr! Thinking some kind of Thermal Curtains fixed to the Windows with Velcro. Will help with privacy too.

3. Better circulation.
A major bugbear in current setup. To be honest, its fine if I am sleeping alone. But with 2 people it can get stuffy in there. Leaving a crack in the front windows helps but its not an option when travelling north of the Vindhya's in winter. There are solutions available in the US like the FAN-Tastic brand of vent fans which might be too big for this setup.

Someone suggested using a number of powerful 90CFM CPU fans used in high-end gaming rigs. Need to look at how this will actually fit in and whether it will work.

4. Better electricals.
It would be nice to have a charging point next to the bed. A little entertainment wouldnt hurt. My friend mounted a 12" dropdown LCD in his Mahindra Invader which he uses for camping and while not essential, it might be a nice-to-have item.

A nice LED light for the rear cabin is a must however. Wherever possible, I prefer to sit outside in the evenings before sleep. But in practice I often have to sit inside the rear cabin, because its too cold & windy outside. The stock light mounted on the b-pillar is just not enough.

An additional light at the rear tailgate area will be a useful addition too to help with the cooking.

5. Cooking fresh food.
This is the biggest item on the wishlist. So far I have carrying pre-prepped meals which can be quickly put together using my humble electric kettle. Its not bad, but its a compromise. The option to have real meals would be nice to have and would also make trips less expensive. Nothing too fancy - just Dal, +Rice, basic curries or Pasta and ofcourse Eggs for breakfast!


First thing to do is to build storage options. I was thinking of getting rid of the front facing rear seats I have there now and build 2 custom made boxes to cover the wheel wells which would cover the irregular shaped wheelwells and provide lockable storage. The top surface would be hinged to allow access. They could also have some basic padding on top to allow them to be used as side-facing seats. This will be the setup in use like 50% of the time when the car is being used as a regular run-about city car.


The 2-things that will convert this regular gypsy into a camper will be a CHUCK BOX and a foldable "bed".


A Chuck box, also called a patrol box or grub box is a device used by trekkers for storing & carrying many of the items used for setting up a camp kitchen. Basically a kitchen in a box. Very popularly used by car-campers across the world.

Planning to build one out of wood after studying existing ideas online. This chuck box will be sized to fit the area behind the side facing seats. Roughly sized (WxHxL) : 14"x18"x36". The basic idea here, is to keep the box at home and bring it down to the jeep when I think I might need to cook on a trip.

This is how the Gypsy layout looks in Day Time with the Chuck Box loaded.

The final piece of the puzzle will be a 12mm ply measuring 62"x42" (LxW) when opened out. It will be placed folded-in on top of the Chuck box in Day Time. For night use, we slide the front 2 seats all the way forward and fold out this "bed" and lay an air-mattress on top to get a bed like shown.

Other ideas being evaluated. Water storage. Garbage segregation & disposal. And so on.

EDIT: (Sep 24 2017)
Finally have some time next week. I think I might get the chuck box done.

1. Have been struggling to source a small propane stove for past 6 months. Want to avoid the small LPG cylinder stoves that some other Jeep campers have been using. Is it feasible to use a small induction stove instead with an inverter? I did see one camper use a small 900W induction stove on one trip and it worked wonderfully. Eggs come out best with an induction stove! :P Is this feasible?
2. Any ideas on a Dual Battery setup? There is place under the bonnet on the left side for an additional battery. How feasible is this option?

Invite your suggestions! :)

Chef ROY: Healthy Recipes for Road Trips

Food on road trips, especially if car-camping has always been a challenge. I like to avoid eating out or atleast restrict it to a minimum.

When I first started out, i used to carry MTR ready to eat meals and heat them up using my electric kettle. Still keep some as a backup option. But over the years, have adopted new homemade meal options that will last the trip. Will keep adding to this list.

Do suggest your own Recipes. Criteria - should store well for atleast 10 days and be ready to eat with basic cooking/warming.

1. Poha/Upma.

Poha/Rava - 750g
Cooking oil - 4 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 sp
Urad dal - 1 sp
Chana dal - 2 sp
Jeera – 1 sp
Roasted Peanuts - fistful
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Hing – 1 pinch
Dry Red chilly - 4-5 (broken)
Haldi – 1 sp
Pepper - 1 sp
Salt - as needed
Sugar – 1 sp
Dessicated Coconut - Optional

Heat oil in a deep pan, put in mustard seeds & curry leaves and wait for them to splutter. Put in chillies, reduce flame and add rest of dry spices - Coconut(optional), Urad, Chana Dal, Jeera, Hing, Haldi, salt & sugar. Roast peanuts separately and add to mix.

Put in the Poha flakes and mix well and set aside to cool (very important). Once cooled down, pack into an airtight container.

For use, just take a cup of this mixture and pour in around 1/2 cup of boiling water from our friend the electric kettle. Mix well, cover and set aside for a minute. Voila! You have excellent poha. I like to garnish with some nylon sev i carry separately.

Note: The dry mixture can last for a month easily if stored in an airtight container. But if you are making a larger quantity and are not going to finish it within 10 days, then avoid desicated coconut. Have learnt from experience that while coconut/onion adds incredible taste & flavor, it also hastens the "spoiling process". Avoid if planning on storing for longer.

For UPMA - make the same recipe (minus coconut) by substituting Rava with Poha. Dry Roast the Rava separately before adding to the spice mix.

Car Camping - Why not!

"Camping in the car? Are you nuts?"

People have been asking me this ever since I first started doing this in 2007. Hey! Why not? Its a lot of fun once you get into the zone and its a lot cheaper too! I did a 22-day Ladakh circuit solo for under 10K (minus fuel). The only place I actually used a hotel was in Leh town.

Listing down the iten from my last such car-camping trip - an  8-day trip in late-2015 to Spiti. Hope this helps you plan your own!
September 2015 Spiti

Modus-operandi on this trip was similar to the previous, longer (28-days) solo-Ladakh circuit earlier that year but with some key changes.

The rear 2 seats are removed prior to a trip leaving the frame behind. The seat frame doubles up as a support for the hinged wooden plank that goes on top to act as the bed for sleeping. Boxes containing supplies fit snugly under the frame.

Carried Groceries from Delhi, but this time used stock Tropicool iceboxes to carry them. On my first car-camping trip to Ladakh trip 2 years prior, had carried a a carton of 12x1L bottles and the grocery items were also in cardboard cartons. The boxes disintegrated completely by Day 4 and created a mighty mess for me to clean up in Leh.

6 of these boxes fit perfectly into the rear bay and were more than enough for supplies for 2 of us for 10 odd-days.

Instead of buying a carton of 1L water-bottles, carried 2x5L cans with a cheap dispenser purchased off ebay. Worked perfectly. Replenished locally enroute.

Breakfast was either cornflakes with cold milk (carried in tetrapaks) or poha (Recipe). Lunch was procured locally from dhaba's enroute. Dinner was always barbequed meat, usually chicken. Meat procured locally, cut and marinated at butchers place and cooked later on the home-made BBQ in the evening. Went wonderfully with my evening Rum! Kerala style dried beef jerky was a wonderful high-protein snack and usually the first thing on a trip to get over! Mainly because it gets used for everything - snacking between meals, accompaniment to drinks or even as a substitute for papad/achar when having regular meals. A bit of a challenge to make in the cities though. Fruit's were procured locally as available and they served as a useful backup snack to have on the go.

Electric Kettle onboard did yeoman duty throughout all trips. Heating water for poha, morning & evening tea/coffee and so on. Seriously: most useful tool for car-camping. Getting a good electric kettle should be the first step in preparing for car-camping! :)

I did not have an air mattress then. Carried two rajai's from Delhi - one of which was laid out to serve as a mattress, the other to pull over. Comfortable for one, cozy for 2! ;)

Note: borrowed a friends air-mattress to test-drive that idea. Very limited headroom. Also, it can get pretty dusty inside during the days drive. So its a good idea to keep all your groceries covered well. The razai's were carried in the zip-bags they came in and were put back every morning so they stayed dust-free. Its a good idea to air the razai's in the sun every 3 days or so. On most road-trips, i do this once in 3 days - I have a 3 day ride+1 day halt/buffer day concept while touring.

A Gypsy can typically carry enough supplies for an 8 day trip for 2 people. Which is not too bad, since we can always replenish in small towns enroute. Typical circuit: Delhi-Leh. restock. 6/8 day great lakes circuit, back to Leh to restock and head to Hundar, restock at Kargil 4 days, and then zip to Delhi!

Car camping can be a lot of fun. I have friends who have come under my evil influence and attempted car camping only to fall in love with it! One friend did this with his wife in his Ertiga.

I hope this post encourages you to try it out! Happy camping! :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Project Sim172

I have been using FSX on my laptop for years now mainly to brush up on instrument flying. Saw a couple of basic home cockpit setups in Delhi & Bangalore and was like "I am doing this all wrong!" :D

Inspired enough now to try building a small one!

Saitek has some amazing modular stuff that is great to start off with. But I want to keep the use of Saitek goodies to the bare minimum because it will put the project way out of budget. I realise it will be faster and easier and without any jugaad involved, but wheres the fun in that?

Going to do this in stages.
Phase 1: Basic cockpit with minimal switches.
Will build a basic cockpit box 48"x24"x8" (WxHxD) with 8mm ply except for the front fascia - no rounded edges to keep it simple. The front fascia will made out of 2mm ply with holes cutout for the basic instrument set and notches cut out for the radio/AP kit. something like this.

2 old ACER 21" monitors will be mounted behind the instrument cutouts. These 2 screens will run just the basic instrument layout on the C172 from behind the fascia. The rotary switches for the various bugs etc will be inop in this phase. The terrain & scenery will be rendered on a 42" Sony TV mounted behind the cockpit box.

For the Yoke i intend to get a Saitek Cessna Yoke with TPM unit as shown. This will be fixed below the cockpit panel.

For the Computer, I initially intend to use the Motherboard & processor of an old i5 box I have lying around. it runs FSX quite ok with Terrain settings set to medium which is fine to start off with. I will need 2 graphics cards though: one to run the 2 dashboard LCD's in 800x600 mode each and one more powerful card to run the Terrain & scenery. Think the i5 can handle the load? Power Supply will be 750W SMPS unit.

The Motherboard/SMPS will be fastened to the rear of the cockpit box and will be fully enclosed without the need for a separate cabinet. Upto 8 90cfm CPU gaming fans may be attached on the sides/rear of the unit for airflow/cooling.

With Phase 1: i should have a basic sim setup up and running. I will still be using the keyboard & mouse for radio & other fine tuning but otherwise a decent start.

Phase 2: Add switch box
Will add standard switch box beneath the cockpit fascia with the usual switches.
Need to figure out a way to get the switches to interact with the PC - need to make a circuit board that will be detected by the PC as an input device. Once that is done, can use FSUIPC to program FSX to assign these switches to various functions. The LED's for the Landing Lights are going to be trickier. Need to build surplus switch points on the board to support functions that will be added later (like Radio/GPS).

Phase 3: Radio Stack.
This is going to be fun to build! :) Once we have got the basic input board figured out in phase 1, this should be easy. Except here we need to drive 18 6x9segment displays as well.

Phase 4: GPS (Garmin 500).
This should be an interesting last phase - Building a GPS Garmin 500 module, again using the original INPUT board used in phase 1.

My friend uses a cheap Chinese tablet confiugured to run the GPS - not quite realstic but hey works very well! Not sure how the tablet interacts with FSX running on the PC. Need to figure it out. Streaming the GPS panel display to a 7" LCD is easy. Pragramming the buttons to interact with FSX is a questionmark.

Overall I think I should be able to execute Phase 1 in under INR50k considering I already have a i5 box and the 3 monitors. All i need is the Saitek Yoke+Rudder+TPM kit, double memory from 8 to 16 and some 8mm ply apart form incidentals.

2nd phase will be technical challenge. Have to figure out how to cract the input codes. Will Arduino help?

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Let's make Hindustan great again!

These faux-debates on Modiji's degrees make me sick! Seriously: the roads in my locality are not getting fixed and people are screaming about the Prime Minister's fake degrees? I mean who cares if PM Modiji lied once or twice? I just want the garbage to be picked up, roads in my locality to be repaired and trains/flights to run on time!

All this hoo-halla on a non-issue like Modiji lying just goes to prove that democracy is not the right system for a great country like Hindustan. It was made for people following the Abrahmic faiths and is totally unsuited to our great Aryan culture! All that democracy has done in Hindustan is allow the inferior races to dominate the discourse! This westminster style democracy bought in by the Congress has put the levers of power in the hands of Untermenschen!  And no nation can become great when that happens! Isn't that what we have seen in the past 65 years? What use is this democracy if it allows lowly people to rule?  Hindustan can never become great as long as that remains! What Hindustan needs is not लोकशाही but ठोक्शाहि! 

What Hindustan needs right now is TOTAL DICTATORSHIP led by the superior Savarna races that will lead the fatherland to superpowerdom! Something like Hitlerji did in Germany.

Manu states that the ruler is god's own avatar on earth. Questioning the ruler therefore is like  questioning God himself! How can that be allowed? Democracy which places people on par with the rulers goes against the grain of our great Aryan culture - Sooner we do away with it the better!

So I hope Modiji acts immediately to finish these pesky democratic structures that the British left behind and move Hindustan to a more Satvik form of governance as prescribed by Manu which demands our unquestioning obedience towards the rulers. Hindustan needs a strong ruler for the Savarna's not democracy for the Mlecchas!

This controversy over Modiji lying is the perfect opportunity to realise this dream! Impose emergency immediately, dismiss Parliament and rule by decree! No need to conduct elections every 5 years! Local shakhas can easily nominate a person qualified in the Shastra's to rule! The 1000's of crores saved can be used to build भव्य mandirs all over Hindustan!

Hindus of the world unite! Let's destroy this faux-democracy and unite behind our Satwik govt!

Let's make Hindustan great again!

Vande Mataram! Namo Namah!

- Signed