Those of you that read my blog will remember that Mary Anne and I like to go camping from time to time. We got another chance to go a few weeks ago and decided to trek to Allegheny in Pennsylvania again to take in some of the Fall color. We took the dogs and had a great time, sightseeing, hiking and, of course, cooking our breakfasts and dinners outside. Cooking while you are camping can be a challenge, and I’m always trying to think of ways to make it go a little smoother, and that is what this is story is about.
Our camper has a pretty good cooking setup, it has a small two burner propane stove to cook on. The neat part is that it can be hooked up either inside or outside the camper. Inside can be nice if it’s raining, but, on the whole, we prefer to cook outside. The stove just hangs on the outside of the camper by the door and it is at a good height and location to cook on right there. The only real drawback is that the counter tops are all inside, meaning that there isn’t anywhere to set things down. I thought about this since the last time we went and I came up with an idea for an improvement.
All I needed was to mount a small board beside the stove to provide a temporary counter and we would be all set. First I needed a board the right size. I asked Paul and as he does a little woodworking for fun, he brought a couple nice boards to the store for me to choose from. I got a good one that measures about 10 inches by 18. Under the keep it simple theory, I didn’t sand or finish it or anything, just natural would be fine.
The tricky thing would be figuring how to mount it the right way. It would have to be sturdy to support possibly a couple of loaded cast iron pans, but it had also to be easily removable, like the stove, to stow in the camper during travel. Luckily I have a hardware store to choose from and after thinking about it for a few days, I came up with a good solution. I screwed a couple of fairly stout angle braces to the bottom of the shelf. Then I found a couple of “footman” loops (usually used to secure strapping) that the braces would slide through easily. These I mounted to the camper at the right height and location so the shelf, when mounted, sat right to the left of the stove.
There would be a lot of force trying to pull these screws out of the side of the camper when it was loaded, so they would have to be sturdy. Camper sides are pretty thin, usually just a thin sheet of aluminum, covering a quarter inch or so of chip board. I was planning on using through screws with large fender washers and nuts on the inside. I lucked out though and it just so happened that the holes I drilled happened to go right into the solid wood brace that held up the top of the cabinets on the inside of the trailer. It was the most solid thing in the camper that I could attach to, so I just needed a few beefy wood screws and I was done.
When we got to the woods, I set set up the stove and then slipped the shelf into its loops. It worked a treat, and we used it all weekend to great effect. Then when it was time to go home, I just lifted it out and it packed away neatly, under one of the seats, where the stove lives when it isn’t being used. It worked out great, I can’t wait to be able to use it again, but for now, it’s back to the Old Hardware Store…