Question Of The Week

30 Ways To Keep the Critters Out

Readers repel gas line-chewing porcupines, HVAC eating chipmunks, attack rats, marauding mice, a masked Floridian bandit named Willie, and many more truck camper biting creatures.  Hint: If all else fails, Charlie says bomb it!

This week’s Question of the Week was, “What do you do to keep critters out of your truck camper?”  You can see more suggestions in the article, “6 Pest Control Pointers for Truck Campers”.

“I stopped earwigs from climbing up the power cord by using vaseline along a 4-inch length that I simply wipe off when it’s time to leave.” – Mario P.

“The only problem we’ve ever had was a few mice when the camper was stored.  They were worse in the stored pickup than the truck camper.

Our best solution has been an herbal product called Fresh Cab.  This isn’t potpourri!  Its odor is so strong that my eyes water when I open the pickup and camper doors the following spring.  Both need to be aired out for a couple days.

I toss a bag of Fresh Cab into each truck camper storage compartment, on the bed, and dinette cushions.  The pickup gets the stinky stuff on the seat, in the glove box, and under the hood.

An RV dealer told us years ago that the only effective dryer sheets were the original scent Snuggles brand, the ones with the teddy bear on a blue box.  Use at least one whole box.  They are still good in the dryer when the scent has weakened.

Look for small openings (a half-inch is a doorway for a mouse) anywhere in the truck camper wall, especially under counters.  Fill the gaps with steel wool or the previously mentioned pads.  Our current camper doesn’t have any gaps, but an earlier one did.

I’ve seen the addition of metal screens over furnace, refrigerator, and water heater vents before, but it was being used primarily to keep pilot lights from blowing out when on the road.  Two benefits from one modification is a good thing.” – Philip Tron, 2009 Chevy 3500, 2012 Lance 1050

“The ant-ics of those pests can be so annoying!  One winter, mice found their way into the cab of my pickup.  Mamma made her nest under the driver’s seat.  Worse, she made a snack out the custom leather trim on my seat cover.  Since then I’ve placed glue traps and a sonic rodent repeller under the truck.

The only safe assumption is that critters will move into your camper if given the chance.  Unless you take preventative measures while your camper is in storage, you’ll probably feel ant-sy all winter.  It’s also important to know how big is a ratchet.  Answer: a little bigger than the mouse kind.” – Mark J., 1971 Chevy C20, nothing more than a fiberglass topper

Pack Rat in truck camper

“For the most part on our journeys, it has been ants and mosquitoes.  The usual bug spray and boric acids (powder) will take care of them.

During our 2015 summer journey we stayed overnight at Deadwood RV Park in South Dakota and got an uninvited guest; a pack rat that hid in the cavity spaces of our camper.  We were able to keep the rat out of the inside of the camper by closing different openings and spaces around vent pipes.
Now this pack rat was with us from the RV park to my oldest daughter’s home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where one of our rat traps finally nailed it.  We never thought we would get invaded by a pack rat.  Since then steps have been taken to keep the rats out of the camper.” – Alex Blasingame, 2007 Ford F250, 2002 Lance 815

“In the warmer months I have a bee and hornet problem in the California desert.  If you leave that screen door open they get in pretty quickly.

Now I hang two hornet traps on my awning.  It seems to have worked so far.  If I can only keep those camel spiders away at night.  They crawl up your legs when you’re sitting at the campfire.” – Winston Gotte, 2003 GMC Sierra 1500HD, 2016 Four Wheel Camper Hawk

“Why don’t the camper makers put screens on the vents?  Many of these campers cost in excess of $20K and yet there are gaping holes for pests to enter.

We had to completely remove (and replace) our vents to screen them, which took hours of work.  This could have been done at the factory in minutes instead of hours and would have cost essentially nothing.” – Vince Kurpan, Dodge Promaster custom, formerly a Panther Sierra

“Use Bounce dryer sheets to keep mice out of your camper.  They do not like the smell.  It also makes your camper smell great.” – Bill Londry, Adventurer 86FB

“When putting the camper up for the winter, I remove all food items and soft goods, spread around lots of Bounce dryer sheets, and put some good old fashioned mouse traps on the floor and in the cabinets.  I haven’t had a problem.” – David Wilcox

“One thing I have been doing for nearly thirty years is to always keep all water hoses closed.  That is done by coiling the hose and screwing both ends of the hoses together.

I have used the attractive clip-on water heater vent screen cover, but they are difficult to steal, so some clever person just took the whole water heater door.  I now install my own screen on the inside.  All exterior wall vents except the heater vent (currently) have the screen inside, including the slits that are often overlooked in the water heater door.

We have had serious problems with wasp nests.  One time they have built so many that the stove vent was totally plugged.  I had no idea they would cram so tightly together.

One thing wasp entomologists say is that wasps will never build nests in the same place.  Oddly enough, that seems to be true.  I have completely cleaned the nests out of various places that seemed neat to wasps, such as the electric boxes I have installed outside the shop for fifty and thirty amp RV service, and several years later, they have never come back.  Go figure.

Twenty five years ago, I watched a seemingly paranoid older single woman hook up in a RV park.  She ran the electric cord out the usual way, locked the door around the cord, then got out tape and sealed the space around the cord air tight.  At the time, I thought that a bit extreme, but these days I respect her methods.

As for mice, the old trick of installing steel wool any place they might sneak in still works.  They can chew through a lot of things, but trying to bite steel wool sends them to the dentist every time.  In all honesty, we have never had a mouse problem in a truck camper, but boy have they figured out obscure ways into our fifth-wheel rig.

Now if someone could tell us how to control winter gnats in southern Arizona…” – Michael Turner, 2007 Dodge 3500, 2017 Madison

“I use an electronic pest repeller and cotton balls with drops of peppermint oil in all compartments.” – Nancy Meiners, 1996 Ford F350, 2014 Lance 1050S

“For ants, I chalk their track on the inside of the camper.  For mice, I grease the support legs of the camper.” – John Stevenson, 2003 GMC 2500HD, 2000 Alpenlite 850

“Good topic.  I was just starting to look around for information on this.  I haven’t had the creepy-crawler bugs yet other than little gnats.

Moths get in around the window screens and fly around the interior lights.  Now, I just close the window and privacy curtain which lessens the crowd.

I was using wet paper towels, molding them into the window/screen open space, and then spraying mosquito repellent.  The cutters get on the screens.  This was not much help so I’m looking for better solutions.  I saw one person had a bug zapper inside, but I can’t find a good place to put it on the wall.

So, it’s been bugging me on what good solutions there are and I ‘ant’-icipate some good ideas (he-heh sorry, couldn’t resist).” – Frank Poole, 2016 Ram 5500 HD, 2016 Arctic Fox 990

“We do the usual things to keep bugs out of our truck camper like suspend our power cord off the ground and use ant treatment around the sewer hose, tires, and jack legs.

However, sometimes you still can’t win and it requires a bomb!  Despite our best efforts, ants have invaded our camper twice and we have to bomb.

We remove all food, open all cabinet doors, and put an ant bomb inside our camper as well as another one in the lower compartment with the tanks.  In both instances it has resolved our eight-legged problem!” – Charles Coushaine, 2001 Ford F350, 2012 Chalet DS116RB

“I live very rural in southern Utah.  There are lots of critters around.  It’s generally not a problem except for chipmunks.  They love to nest in our vehicles and it can be a real problem.  It can be a very expensive fix for the HVAC if they nest in there, and a potential fire hazard if the nesting material is located in the wrong spots under the hood.

We have tried everything from dryer fabric, to mothballs, to cayenne pepper.  I have two live traps set at all times, but usually they can get in, eat, and escape without being trapped.

It has been a running battle for a decade.  Any suggestions are welcome.” – Curtis Oberhansly, 2010 Tundra, researching and buying a camper this year

“In our area (Texas) our worst offenders are dirt robbers.  They look like wasps but don’t sting.  What they do is build rock hard mud nests that can be the size of a softball or larger.  You can imagine how this can stop things up and keep fans from turning.

Screens are a must.  My husband also puts a tarp over the air conditioner unit on the roof and ties it down snugly around the base with bungees.  We haven’t had trouble since.

A spider once built a nest in the vent of our fresh water tank.  This kept the tank from being able to fill.  Once we got that cleaned out, I whittled a cork down small enough to fit in the vent hole.  I just pull it out while filling and put it back in.” – Connie Westbrook, 2003 Chevy 3500, 1997 Lance Squire 5000

“We do dispersed camping in DCNR forest mostly in north central Pennsylvania.  If you are leaving your vehicle for any length of time, it is a good idea to put a open can of mothballs under your truck.  Porcupines love to chew brake hoses, gas lines, and fan belts.  They get a salt taste from these items.  Please remember to take the can and contents with you when you leave.” – Terry Mechler, 2002 Dodge 2500, 1988 Sunline C1150

Mosquitoes out of camper with foam pipe insulation

“What bugs us in our camper are mosquitoes.  We had stopped to camp alongside a lake one breezy afternoon and the next morning the breeze had stopped.  We were inside having breakfast when we started noticing mosquitoes had invited themselves.  Not one or two, but dozens.  Upon inspection of our rig, we noticed gaps in the rubber trim around our slide room, specifically along the slide tracks.  We cut some foam pipe insulation and wedged them in the track area and solved that problem.  To make sure we remove foam before we bring the slide in, we put a post-it on the slide room button.” – C&J Ramsey, 2012 Chevy 3500, 2014 Adventurer 116DS

“I spread insecticide granules around the camper and supports when stowed.  It seems to do the job!” – Tony Polvino, 2016 Ford F150, Travel Lite 770SLR

“We spend a lot of time in Florida camping and we have solved the sugar ants problem as they call them.  First, of all most people try to solve the problem after they get infested, but I figured why not stop them before they enter?

We mix two cups of Borax 20 Mule Team fine granular detergent to one cup of white sugar and mix thoroughly.  Then we sprinkle it all around the outside of our rig.  The sugar will draw the ants.  They will eat the Borax and bingo, they’re dead on arrival.  We have even sprinkled the mixture outside after we got them inside and it drew them back out of camper.

Like most, we use dryer sheets and moth balls, but the squirrels on our roof is a puzzler for sure.  For sugar ants, try my mixture.  It really works and you can add more sugar if necessary.” – Bob Robinson, 2002 Chevy 2500, 2010 Travel Lite 960 RX

“We try and park without any branches or other vegetation touching the camper.  We will dust the area around jacks with some brand of ant repellent product.  We have been told to spread Comet like one would ant repellent.

We do not leave food out on counters and keep all sweets in zippered pouches or sealed containers.  Also, we protect the area around hoses, electric lines, and anchor straps because critters walk the tight rope right into the camper.

Keep screens secured and the screen door closed if you’re not around your camper.  Watch out for the Willie, the masked bandit, who has gained access to our rig a few times at Fort De Soto in Florida.  If the ‘coon can smell food, he will tell his friends and they will return as a raiding party!

Finally, do not feed any animals, birds, etc., and don’t let them perch or roost over or near your rig.  What they leave behind attracts many pests!” – Steve English, 2014 Ram 3500, 2013 Lance 1172

“If we’re not using our camper for a few weeks, we put a bar of Irish Spring soap on each tire.  It will keep pack rats and other vermin from entering.  Also we put moth balls in the engine compartment and dryer sheets inside the cabinets.  That works well.” – Ronald Meredith, 1994 Ford F350, 1991 Lance 835

“I must live in a great area as we’ve never had any problems with anything trying to take up residence in our camper.  Yeah for high desert living!” – Phil Rodacy, 2012 GMC 3500, 2006 Okanagan 90W

“I place dog flea collars in all outside vents.  Inside, I place time release air fresheners (cone type) in all possible corners where the critters can squeeze in, like slide-outs, under sinks, under drawers in closet, entry ways, etc.

In the seven years of using my rig in the boonies and campgrounds in all areas of our great country, I have had no critters invade my home on wheels.  Try it!” – Doug Hallden, 2011 Chevy 2500HD, 2009 Travel Lite 690W

“We encounter mice in our desert camp sites.  They like the truck’s engine compartment at night, so we leave the hood up at night, about half way, secured against a gust of wind.  After my brother had a $2,000 repair when mice ate into his wiring, the service manager told us about this trick and it really seems to work.  There is no sign of them coming in at night anymore.” – Bill Close, 2014 Ram 3500, 2012 Lance 850

“Thanks for posting this article.  We are new to truck camping and I will definitely be using these tips and tricks.  Happy boondocking y’all!” – John Palmieri, 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500HD, 2015 Palomino SS-1251


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