How to keep the critters, creepy crawlers, and other uninvited creatures from invading your truck camper. Are those spiders climbing into your propane lines?
While staying at a Florida campground this past winter, our camper was invaded by pesky house ants. Camping a few sites away, truck camping friends had already warned us about the tiny attackers, and we sprayed our tires and jack legs accordingly. Undeterred, the ant army ascended our shore power cord, and advanced into our camper basement and main living area.
Detecting the siege, we immediately put every food-related item into sealed plastic bags and wiped down the countertops and cabinet interiors. Then we sprayed our shore power cord, and suspended it from a rear jack to the power source. After a few days of these anti-ant defense maneuvers, victory was ours.
We had heard horror stories of spiders in propane lines, flea infestations, ant invasions, and uninvited mice move-ins, but never once in over a decade of truck camping had our camper been breached. Obviously our lucky streak had run out.
A few days later, we observed some clever critter prevention modifications on Joe and Nina MacDonald’s Arctic Fox 990 and Jessie Black’s Lance 1055. Joe, Nina, and Jessie shared with us what they do to prevent spiders, bees, ants, mice, lizards, and basically anything else from crawling or buzzing into their camper. Having just rid ourselves of ants, we took detailed notes.
What follows are their suggestions on how to go truck camping critter free.
Tip 1: Put Screens on Exterior Vents
Over the years we have seen many readers with screens on the exterior of their campers. We have not done this ourselves, but asked Joe and Nina if it really helps and what vents they actually cover.
Above: A protective screen on a water heater vent
Joe explained that he has put screens over his refrigerator vent, furnace vent, and water heater vent to keep insects and critters out of those appliances.
This highly effective preventative measure keeps insects and critters out of the appliances where they would eat away at electrical cords and/or build nests. The small screens that he used have much smaller holes than the screens that sometimes come with those appliances.
Above: Look closely to see the screens on the refrigerator vents
As Bill Ward, owner of Hallmark RV, shared in his “Propane Systems and Maintenance” article, bees and spiders like to build nests in propane areas. The bees and spiders love the smell of the additive in propane and will build nests in the exhaust vents. After de-winterizing, it’s not usual for thick black smoke to come from a propane heater vent, or to discover that your water heater won’t light. Often the culprit is the nest of a spider or bee.
Tip 2: Treat Your Camper Jacks
Joe said that he will put Borax (sodium borate), Ajax, or ant spray on the feet of his camper’s jacks when camping. This keeps the ants from crawling up the jack legs and into the camper. If your camper is on your truck, you may also want to spray your tires with ant spray. Talcum powder also helps with ants.
There are other solutions that are more environmentally friendly. For example, diluted peppermint oil, white vinegar, cinnamon, and black pepper are all highly regarded non-toxic ant deterrents.
Tip 3: Lift Your Power Cord and Water Hose
Loop the electrical cord and water hose around the back driver’s side jack to keep the hose and cord from touching the ground.
Above: The power cord and water hose are suspended off the ground
This helps to prevent ants from climbing from the ground up the cord or hose into the basement of the camper. It’s a simple solution that works well.
Tip 4: Copper Mesh Scourers and Plungers
Jessie Black, a Lance 1055 owner, told us that he wraps a copper mesh scourer around his shore power cord to keep lizards out of his basement while camping in Southern Florida. He shared a copper mesh scourer with us which was easy to install and kept our power cord critter free.
Above: Copper mesh can be wrapped around cords and hoses to thwart critters
Joe said that another solution is to place small rubber plunger bell around the electrical cord. The plunger’s rubber bell can be cut, placed around the cord, and crazy glued back together and in place. When you are camping, the plunger will block anything from climbing up the cord and into the compartment. With most campers, the plunger will fit in the compartment along with the cord when stored.
Tip 5: Moth Balls and Dryer Sheets
In every exterior compartment of their Arctic Fox 990, Joe has placed a small bag of mothballs. Mothballs are highly effective for repelling insects and help to keep mice and other critters out.
Above: Bags of mothballs can be used in non-food areas inaccessible by kids or pets
In the interior compartments, Nina has added dryer sheets for the same reason. They put dryer sheets in the compartments when they leave the camper stored for long periods of time. They have found that it keeps critters out of those cabinets.
Both mothballs and dryer sheets contain toxic chemicals and should be avoided in compartments with food or areas that are accessible by children and/or pets.
Tip 6: Ziplock Bags and Sealed Containers for Food
Joe and Nina’s camper is immaculate and very well organized. However, even with their camper being spotless, Nina still puts all dry foods in ziplock bags and air tight containers.
Above: Ant invasions can be avoided by keeping dry food in sealed bags and containers
Nina explained that this practice keeps ants out of their food. Everything from rice to cookies to cereal is sealed in Joe and Nina’s camper. As a bonus, the Ziplock bags keep the food neatly stowed and fresh for as long as possible.
Joe’s advice was to do all these preventative things right when you get your camper; put screens on the vents, mothball exterior compartments, Ziplock foods, etc. By putting all of this into place and practice from the start, you are not inviting the critters in from day one.
Now, what do we do about those pesky mosquitoes?
Our Question of the Week this week centers around this very topic. What do you do to keep those pesky critters out of your camper?