By Greg Illes
One of our recent campsites had a campground “quiet time” ending at 8:00 a.m. We could hear folks moving about the camp starting at around 5:30 — doors opening and shutting, muffled instructions to teenagers (sometimes not so muffled), engines starting and RVs departing. But the campers were obedient and not one generator was to be heard.
How in the world did those folks have their morning toast and coffee? Those two American standbys (European, too) are wonderful ways to start the day but they’re RV power hogs. In a stick house, or on shore power, you just plug in the coffee maker and toaster. But what about no hookups, or out-and-out dry-camping? Fortunately, there are some minimal-compromise solutions.
This worldwide favorite can be prepared so many ways but many of them only with AC power. Unless you have a massive battery bank and solar array to match it, forget your espresso machine or K-cup brewer. A typical unit will draw more than 120 amps from a 12V system for 10-20 minutes, and not many coaches can sustain such a Herculean load. Here are some alternatives:
• Percolating — Stove-top percolators are easy to operate. Some folks don’t like the super-hot (burned) flavor, but some love it.
• Drip or press — You can get a really decent cup of coffee if you pick the right filters or pressing tools.
• Instant coffees — Long eschewed by anybody who really cares about their coffee, the new instants (Starbuck’s Via is one) are far better, and worth a try.
None of these requires anything but a bit of propane out of your kitchen stove, leaving your generator peacefully sleeping.
For some of us (me included), a buttery slice of hot toast, nicely browned, maybe with a dab of jam on it — okay, a big dab of jam — is a purely divine start to any day. But how to do it without AC? Some ideas:
• Pan-fry — It pre-butters the toast. You don’t get the bone-dry toast that you would from a toaster, but it’s still pretty good.
• Camper toaster — There are a variety of toasters that sit above a stove burner. These will do the job, perhaps a bit unevenly, but better with some practice.
• Toaster via inverter — Since a toaster only runs for a couple of minutes, you actually can drive one with a heavy-duty inverter. Two slices of toast will absorb only about 1-2 percent of a typical battery bank’s capacity — not so bad.
As you can see, all is not lost, and you don’t have to have your morning eggs without any accouterments. Just be a little creative and adaptable and you can be well-prepared for those “silent times.”