Low Impact Crashing
When, for whatever reasons, you are homeless or living on the Streets (some of us like to call it "Being Houseless" because Home, Baby, is where the Heart Is!), cleanliness can help in so many ways, and yet it is one of the first things to get blown off by some people due to the foul attitude that sometimes accompanies being Houseless against your will. Stay cool, and dedicate yourself to remaining clean and healthy, no matter how bad The Man wants you looking nasty to give fearful yuppies another reason to avoid confronting the nastier problems in our society. Tell yourself that staying clean and healthy is your way of saying "Fuck You" to stereotypes of homelessness and poverty. Maintaining a high standard of personal hygiene can both keep you healthy and turn around people who would normally be quite hostile to brothers and sisters who are either down on their luck, or simply unable or unwilling to tolerate abusive employment conditions.
You will often find yourself with access to an abandoned building, open unused room, and maybe even a bed in a house but for social, security, or other reasons no access to a normal kitchen, laundry, or bathroom. Many of your needs will be met using your regular camping gear like sleeping bag, ground mat, and stove but often you can take advantage of the utilities and environmental control offered, but beware security systems.
Check out Pack your bag for easy packable urban crash gear.
- 1 Kitchen
- 1.1 Portable Electrical Cooking
- 1.2 Pots and Containers
- 1.3 Refrigeration
- 1.4 Pot-in-Pot Refrigerator
- 1.5 Microwaves
- 1.6 Sterno
- 1.7 Other Stoves
- 1.8 BBQ Grille
- 1.9 Chimney Stoves
- 1.10 Hobo Stove
- 2 Washing Clothing
- 3 Drying Clothing
- 4 Clean Water
- 5 Bed
- 6 Humidity
- 7 Bath
- 8 Toilet
- 9 Electricity
- 10 Lighting
- 11 Heat
- 12 Staying warm
- 13 Cooling
- 14 Computer
- 15 A Word on Batteries, Solar, and "Wind-Up" Gadgets
- 16 Pest Control
Portable Electrical Cooking
You will likely have access to electricity once indoors. If that's the case, it is better to use this for cooking than risk fire and waste expensive fuel using your fuel stove. See Cheap Chow for some pocket immersion cooker (stinger) recipes and be sure that the whole coil stays underwater so you don't melt or burn out your water heater. If you are in a location where you will be staying for a while, a hot plate or coffee cup warmer and Sierra cup for minimalists might even be smarter to cook with than a stinger since there is no fear of gooping up your heater. A useful portable hotplate is a folding travel iron flipped over run at full power. Just be careful not to spill anything into the internals.
Pots and Containers
Camp pots and pans work great, as do cheap dollar store cookware, these latter may not have the strength or lifetime of high end kitchenware but you will probably transition to something better or different even when living a nomadic lifestyle.
We learned in rural India how big a treasure a Hawkins pressure cooker was. For a USA$10-20 investment a family could cut their kerosene cooking fuel bill in half. One of our teams used one while traveling in Asia and later found them to be sold in the US as well as other inexpensive brands. The Hawkins seemed to cook faster than some of the other brands, this is probably due to it having a higher operating pressure. One problem was if you don't pay attention and the cooker runs dry and overheats a special metal safety 'fuse" plug will melt and let off the pressure, we had to replace this plug twice due to careless visitors sharing the pot. Fortunately these fuses are cheap, in the meantime we found a small rubber plug to block the fuse hole. A spare rubber gasket is a good idea whatever cooker you are using, a web search will let you know what other if any spares to get. We have been told that nicer expensive pressure cookers are heavy but only require a new gasket every few years and cleaning the valves.
Acquire used plastic food buckets for washing and trash/compost/recycling, and plastic bags for storage. Large, empty and very clean cans can be used as cooking pots. Just remember that if the food inside is hot, so is the can. Use pot holders of some sort, or hold it carefully with a pair of pliers at the lip.
Keep your food in resealable containers like plastic bags or deli tubs. Food left out can either spoil or attract unwanted critters of all types. Remember to keep anything that touches your food (including your hands) as clean as you can. Also, zipper seal type bags can be washed out and reused. Turn them inside out to air dry.
If there is no refrigerator, get ice from the local convenience store or fast food joint and put it in a plastic bag with your food. If you buy a large bag of ice, keep it closed. When it melts, you will have clean drinking or washing water. If you can score a cheap Styrofoam cooler, do so and use it! Some of the pharmaceutical cartel cold transport boxes even come with an ice-gel pack that if you collect enough can be refrozen by sympathizers with freezers, water filled frozen soft drink bottles work good too and you can drink the thawed contents. Often just asking nicely will get the drug dealers (pharmacist) to save these cold boxes for you. Since it was free you won't be too sorry leaving it behind if the cops or security sweep and clear your squat.
The Pot-in-Pot refrigerator originated in Africa but has been proven worldwide to work to preserve food at about an average of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is that you take a large unglazed clay pot and place a smaller pot inside of it. Then you fill the space between the two pots with sand. The sand is soaked with water. The food is then placed inside the smaller pot and is stored. The device is then covered with a thick wet cloth. This will then use evaporative cooling to keep the food inside stored at a temperature of between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit higher in the hottest parts of summer. The only thing that is needed is that one adds water to the sand about 2 times a day and one keeps the thick cloth covering wet. Be sure to keep this cooler in the shade or it will still get hot. If you have a fan aim it at your pot-in-pot to cool not only your food but the whole room. Best results are obtained in arid climates, in very humid areas your results may vary. Below is a link to a picture of one of these devices, using two regular orange terracotta plant pots one large one small.
Make friends with the staff of a nearby convenience store, most have microwaves for heating up the junk they sell. If you ask nicely, you may be able to use these to heat food you've acquired elsewhere as well as the expired one day foods the employees let you "rescue".
If the electricity or gas is out, a Sterno-style camp stove that folds flat can be worth its weight in gold. While canned gel fuel burns for two hours on average, the metal "candle" types with liquid fuel used for buffet warming pans (often called "chafing fuel") can burn for as long as six. Just remember to burn them in a well-ventilated area. You can also use a taper candle cut into small sections and placed inside a tuna or pet food can. A variation of this, the old boy scout "buddy burner" discussed below. An upside down coffee can placed on top makes a good surface for cooking. Be sure to poke some holes in the top of the can to allow oxygen to the flame and a door at the bottom in order to access and control the flame. For baking, an improvised oven made of an aluminum foil tent over a pan or pot can serve well. One clever trick is to use a pair of aluminum pie pans and hold them together with binder clips.
Petrol(gasoline or Coleman fuel, white gas, Stoddard solvent, naptha, lighter fluid, some charcoal lighting fluid) and kerosene(jet fuel diesel, fuel, furnace oil) stoves can only safely be used in a fireplace hearth or out of doors on stone or mineral earth, that said some are able to generate amazing heat, designed to quickly melt and boil snow for mountaineering teams. In many places in the US and the world liquid fuel or oil heat tanks are found outside or have a fill pipe outside, just ask permission and use a fuel transfer pump to fill up your fuel bottles, often a removable strainer is found on the fill pipe.
Alcohol and solid fuel stoves are discussed in Backpacking
Keep a pail of water and a box of baking soda, mineral earth, or salt handy should a fire break out, a wet towel works too if it is a small fire. Baking soda and salt snuff out grease fires, while water causes them to spread. Dry mineral soil, such as sand or clay but not dry organic duff or mulch, works as a good extinguishing agent for all types of fire.
Both kettle type and "Pyromid" foldup charcoal grilles are good for very secluded squats and longer term camping, those cheap flat bottom grilles at the grocery store never seem to work very well for us. REMEMBER! Never use any charcoal burning devices or barbecue (BBQ) grills indoors in a well sealed room, since the carbon monoxide can kill you! Always make sure that you are in a burn resistant area like on strictly sand or concrete or in a fireplace with a working chimney. The smell and heat of your stove, charcoal, campfire smoke, or cooking food may alert security or the police to your squat or activate fire suppression systems.
You can bake in your covered grille, for things that you don't want to have a smoke smell like bread and cakes cover the pan with a lid or foil. A cooking thermometer can help you figure out temperatures, don't be surprised to find burn spots on your food but most of it should be edible once you get some practice in timing and setup.
If you don't have a nice BBQ grille you can always improvise. One of the ways the classical American grille does its job is by holding the heated gasses under the hood to cook from all sides. Get ahold of a charcoal pre-heater can, the kind with holes in the bottom and a handle on the side, it is reasonably portable and pretty cheap. Acquire a grill from wherever, disposable foil BBQ grilles are a good source. Get a fire going and down to good coals, now put the grille over the top and follow with a large coffee can or cookie tin, the can will retain the heated gasses just like a grille hood or lid, poke a hole in the top of the can to allow some gas to rise out instead of just around the bottom edge.
Auto maker Henry Ford was a prolific inventor and industrialist who is credited with pioneering the assembly line form of mass production. He was also a racist, xenophobic, Nazi loving, fascist, antisemitic fuck and the only American favorably mentioned in Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf (Ralph Manheim's translation). At his Rouge River plant he ordered the leftover charcoal used in making Model-T cars recycled to make some extra cash. Turns out that bastard invented the Kingsford briquette (named after his brother in-law, businessman E.G. Kingsford). Today Kingsford is part of the Clorox Company and there are other briquette makers but our experience is Kingsford is still usually the best. If kept in a cool, dry place in a sealed bag, the briquettes will have an almost indefinite shelf-life. In cheaper sheet metal grilles, stack the briquettes on edge so they get better airflow and cook hotter. You can use lighting fluid, or match light briquettes but they both cost extra. Sawdust mixed with wax can be purchased as sticks for an easy firestarter or you can DIY. To speed the warm up of your coals you can use a blower or hair dryer to move the air around. A piece of pipe works too but you might get a head rush from blowing too much.
You can hand roll newspaper into longer burning logs if there is no wood or other fuels to burn. These will burn leaving plenty of wasted ash and sparks. If you have the time in summer you can wet roll newspaper logs which burn much cleaner when dry. Just soak the newspaper overnight and carefully roll into "logs". Smooth out the wrinkles and bubbles as you go. Use a one inch thick smooth PVC pipe or wood dowel so there is a hole down the center, this will make them dry faster. Make the "logs" no thicker than two to four inches thick. Slide off of the pipe and than let dry in the sun for several days, standing them on end will speed drying.
You can get a much better ventilated fire using the chimney concept to accelerate the intake and output gas of a wood fire increasing the heat and greatly reducing smoke and smell. Find a piece of steel (other metals may melt) or clay pipe at least three or four inches wide. If all you have is a straight piece of pipe at least a eighteen inches tall cut or break a feed hole and light the fire, a cinder block or two can be broken into shape to make a stand to keep the chimney from falling over, cut several one inch wide half circle or v shaped holes around the top so the hot gas can escape around your pot. Even better is 18 inches of pipe for a chimney a 90 degree elbow and about a foot of horizontal feed pipe, this all increases the draft and makes for a hotter flame, you can partly block the intake side on the bottom to slow the flame, feed the fire with wood or charcoal pushed in with a stick. A covered ash hole at the back of the elbow will let you clean the stove while it is burning. Cement pipe and base will not last long unless you make a thick protective layer of clay mud and bake it hard, cement turns into lime at the temperatures of a chimney or rocket stove.
You can also build a great chimney stove with clay mud if you can find it where you are camped, dig out the fire area and just form a chimney, the heat will help fuse it into a usable long lasting stove, most cultures use a tapering cone shaped like a beehive.
Cardboard and newspaper balls in both the horizontal feed pipe and a few in the chimney section help get the draft jet started and blow the coals or wood to blazing life quickly. Be careful as this stove can make lots of sparks with some kinds of wood and almost always with paper and grass, some screen over the top of the chimney will stop almost all sparks.
During the Great Depression of the 1930's, many of the destitute cooked their meals with Hobo Stoves. These were made from large metal #10 cans (like one ones used for coffee), with holes cut along the sides near the top and bottom for ventilation, and a small covered opening at the bottom to put your fuel source (Cut a door, but leave enough for a hinge). Canned fuel works great for this, but put it on a heat-proof base like a cinder block, stone floor tile, or some bricks. If you use it outdoors, you can burn small scraps of wood, paper, or just about anything that will burn.
Often a buddy burner was used with the hobo stove, this was a tuna can with a strip of cardboard that is the same width as the height of the can, roll up tight like a snail shell to fit the can. Fueling with melted wax is best but food oil or kerosene can also be used although these are both a bit more dangerous and more difficult to carry, a powerful flame is produced. Be careful melting wax on anything but a double boiler, stove top melting can cause it to catch fire, liquid it is like a kerosene fire. The flame can get pretty big so you will need a way to control it, to regulate the flame use the can lid and cover part of the flaming surface to reduce heat, smother with a larger can or lid to kill the flames. To re-fuel the burner when cooking feed small chunks of wax onto the burning cardboard or spoonfulls of fuel. One fuel that is easy to find for free is used fryer oil, look behind restaraunts.
Hand Sanitizer Stove
This is easy, some businesses especially hospitals and clinics now offer a dispenser of hand sanitizer in the bathroom near the door. Clean out a small can like for tuna or even better dive for a cat food can as these sometimes come with a plastic lid. Pump out some of the sanitizer into a container with a good lid, pour into your can, light it. To extinguish cover with a can lid. The stuff burns like Sterno gel but sometimes leaves behind some goop, an added benefit is it doesn't splash. This will often goop and clog up Pepsi can stoves, just burn in an open top can.
Also, on many dispensers (at least Purell) you can reach under the bottom up against the wall, and press up. That's the button to open it. Now take the whole bag of hand sanitizer for later use if you can't find a better stove by then.
Advanced Hobo Ovens
The old buddy burner works well using charcoal, but an inside oven is useful in your squat. If you have a simple hot plate with a variable heat setting you can make a small oven.
You will need:
- a coffee can or larger sheet metal box
- the metal coffee can lid for a floor plate
- a tool to punch holes
- Steel electric fence wire for grate and to suspend the floor plate
- an oven thermometer
- a ceramic plate or pot lid
Both top and bottom of the can are removed and the can is placed onto the burner (an exposed coil type burner is better than a closed flat one). Three holes are punched about one cm. above the level of the burner. Wire is laced through these holes to suspend the loose can lid as a oven floor. Punch a ring of holes one cm. large about 2-3cm from the edge of this floor. 1/2 way up the can punch holes and lace wire to make a grate for food. A ceramic plate will sit on top to make the roof of your oven. Cut three or four small triangle vents in the top of the can to allow the heat to rise. A hole in the side near the grate can be punched so the thermometer probe can enter. Adjust the hotplate to set temperature, keep an eye on your thermometer for temperature drift.
If a hot plate is unavailable you can attempt to use a 100 watt incandescent light bulb. Leave the bottom of the can intact except for a hole that you can thread the light bulb bottom through, adjusting temperature by opening holes in the top under the plate. The "Easy Bake Ovens" sold in toy stores work this way.
Due to safety issues we mention this apart from the indoor ovens. A cardboard box can be used with a hotplate that has no overheat safety shutoff to cook or smoke food. You will often see these hotplates in thrift stores as the type with a large solid spiral coil and stainless steel reflector. Place the hotplate or a can with several hot charcoal briquettes at the bottom of the box. An optional can or cookie sheet with wood chips will add smoke flavor. A layer of foil above the cookie sheet will catch meat drippings. Meats can be suspended with clean wire clothing hangers carefully poked through the top of the box. It might be a good idea to double the box and be sure to remove all tape inside the box. A candy thermometer carefully pushed through a hole in the side of the box at the level of the food gives you an idea of temperature. ALWAYS USE THIS OVEN OUTSIDE!! Only use this box oven in an area where a burning cardboard box would be safe, always have a watcher seated nearby to unplug the hotplate and extinguish any fires. Aluminum foil can be used to cover the inside walls to lengthen the life of the box and for some extra safety.
If you have the change to spare sharing a washer and dryer at a laundromat you will get the best clean. Second best is a bathroom sink or bucket hand wash and laundromat dry, especially in cold damp weather. Since you likely are only carrying one or two changes of clothes, get some friends together and load up the machine to a full load. Pennies can be used to activate some washing machines that use quarters; Place the penny in the quarter return slot, press the coin return button and flick the penny up into the slot. Sometimes it will take a few tries but it will register as 25 cents. This trick works for some dryers too. Be wary that you are not caught using this trick, since it will become apparent to the manager if it is used too often in one place.
Regular laundry detergent powder works best but can stink up your pack and contaminate food and clothes. Some soaps claim to be concentrated, so look for the one that needs the least soap per load. Some places sell soap in the bulk section by weight. In some stores, you might find bars of washing soap. This can be used to pre-treat stains. Wet the soap, wet the stain, rub. Remember that some washing soaps like Fels-Naptha are strictly for clothing and not for personal use (although some swear by it for treatment for rashes caused by poison ivy and other skin-irritant plans). You can also grate up bars of ordinary bathroom soap although it takes much more bar soap flakes than normal laundry detergent for the same effect. Most health food stores sell Dr. Bronner's liquid soap in various size containers (from a 2 ounce tube to a gallon bottle). As an all-purpose soap that is also vegan and not tested on animals, it can be used to wash almost anything. It's concentrated, so you'll need to dilute it in another bottle to at least 1 part soap to 2-3 parts water. Look for the bottles with the text-filled labels (Note: They're all scented expect for the "Baby Mild" with light blue text).
A plastic bucket and laundry detergent or liquid dish soap (NOT dishwasher machine soap!) works great for washing clothing. There are metal agitators that can be bought through catalogs that specialize in non-electric households. Lacking that, you can use a rubber toilet plunger (preferably one that HASN'T been used in a toilet) and a large bucket or bath tub, using a long broom handle makes using the plunger/agitator easier as you don't have to bend over. A metal washboard can come in handy if you will be staying for awhile, but might be hard to find in some areas. Try a store that caters to migrant laborers. Remember to use your camp stove to boil some water to add if you need a warm water wash, or use your stinger immersion boiler directly in the bucket.
A public restroom is also good to wash your clothes, especially socks and underwear.
- Pre-treat any stains before you arrive with damp detergent paste, liquid dish detergent, stain spray, or stain stick
- Plug the drain, packing a flat universal drain plug with you is a good idea here
- Half fill sink with warm water and some detergent or the provided hand soap if you cant get real wash soap
- Soak for a few minutes and squeeze occasionally
- Drain dirty water and squeeze water from clothes
- Add clean water agitate and drain, repeat if dirt or soap remain in the clothes but one or two rinses is usually enough in a rush
- Dry small stuff with with the electrical hand dryer, wear the rest to dry it
A narrow bungie type cord makes a great dry line, but dont leave it outside when not drying clothes, sun and weather will make it rot. Make sure there is air circulation in the place you hang your clothes to dry or you might end up with a unhealthy mold problem in that room. If you need to wash and wear, you can carefully roll one or two pieces of clothing in a large dry cotton towel, then twist and hold for about a minute removing most of the moisture. Hold damp socks and thin gloves over the opening of a hand or hair dryer, be careful not to burn synthetics with a hair dryer. If you have no other option spend the money and go to the laundromat, this is often the safest and easiest way to dry a sleeping bag in winter.
see Free Clothing for ways to increase the insulating power of your clothing
Irrigation systems can be tapped for water. This may be your easiest source if you are camped under a bridge, although it may not be safe to drink. Double check on that water since some irrigation systems, especially those in desert areas, often use "greywater" or "sullage" that is treated waste water (Yuck!) and is not safe for washing or drinking. If the nearby fire hydrants or junction boxes are painted purple, then that is the most likely case. Irrigation systems usually run on a timer and flow during the late evening so you will have to store the water you need for the day.
If you have a friend in the forest or fire service they can likely get you the flat nylon jacketed garden hose that is thrown away after forest fires, you can also get this flat hose on a reel in garden stores, this packs small and light and is useful if you need to get water to your squat from a hose faucet or to wash up behind nearby bushes. Don't forget to get a light hose nozzle and valve.
The knob on most public water faucets is removed so the homeless can't get a drink or wash, but most are standard square and are available at hardware stores. Most useful to us is the key shaped faucet turner or even better a "four-way lawn faucet key" made to be carried in your pocket or pack. If you have the choice, get a key or knob with wider wings or a larger knob diameter as this gives you leverage when trying to open stuck faucets. You might need a way to shim or break a padlock in some parks and golf courses where the "water pump" looking faucets are in use. see LockSmithing
For all but assured clean drinking water use your backpacker's water filter or boil. Allow the hose to run for a few minutes or be careful to drain after every use to eliminate the problems of stagnant water. The FDA has standards for drinking water hose, so look for certification on the package if buying a new hose (The ones certified for drinking water use are often made of white plastic).
If you need a water filter and can't afford a proper backpacking model maybe you want to make the terracotta/organic water filter which removes most harmful bacteria. This design is by a team in Manatuto in East Timor including ANU materials scientist Mr Tony Flynn.
You will need:
- straw and cow manure or wood for fuel
- terra cotta clay (high clay mud)
- used tea leaves or coffee grounds or rice hulls
- Take a handful of dry, crushed clay.
- Mix the clay with a handful of your organic material.
- Add enough water to make a stiff biscuit-like mixture.
- Form a cylindrical pot that has one end closed.
- Dry the pot in the sun.
- Surround them with straw.
- Place in a mound of cow manure or wood fuel.
- Light the straw and then top up the burning manure or wood as required.
In less than an hour the filters will be finished. Fill the filter and let the water slowly drip through the bottom into another container. As far as effectiveness against bacterial pathogens and larger Giardia this filter removes 96.4 to 99.8 of E-coli bacteria, well within safe levels.
When all that is available is questionable water but you do have a good fuel supply most parasites and other microscopic troublemakers can be eliminated with this method.
- Filter water with a coffee filter, paper towel, or several inches of cloth stuffed tightly into a cut off bottle.
- Bring water to a boil and shut down, it is pasteurized.
- Collect and store water in a clean container free of contamination.
Why just to a boil? And what is with the city always saying 20-30 min with additional instructions water temperatures? The reality is that above 160°F (70°C) all pathogens become inactive within 30 minutes and above 185°F (85°C) within a few minutes, so in the time to reach 212°F (100° C) all the bad microbes will become inactive. The first filtration is to remove larger microbes and cysts like Giardia which are a bit stronger.
Solar UV Sterilization (SODIS)
This technique uses the ultraviolet rays of the sun to kill or inactivate the bacteria and virus found in untreated water. However, it will not kill larger cyst organisms like giardia but these are not difficult to filter out. See the sand filter design on this page. This solar UV method was researched by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Sciences and Technology SODIS:
- Use a Polyethylene Terephthalate or "PET" plastic bottle (the ones with the "1" on the bottom), that is clean, unbroken, has no labels, no colored plastic (a bluish tinge is okay) and is 3 liters or smaller.
- Fill the bottle with water and tighten the lid (If the water is murky or cloudy, filter it).
- Place the bottle laying on its side exposed to the sun for at least six hours (a sheet of corrugated steel works perfectly as a base for multiple bottles). During this time, the UV radiation from the sun kills pathogens that would make you sick.
- If more than half the sky is covered by clouds, let the bottle sit in the sun for two consecutive days.
- The water is now ready to drink. To prevent contamination, the treated water should be stored in the bottle.
Download an English language flyer here.
Unscented bleach can be used to purify water it you can't get it straight from a known safe faucet. This is the cheap Clorox type without any additives to improve colors or smell. Try to filter your water .
- Filter water with a coffee filter, paper towel, or several inches of cloth stuffed tightly into a cut off bottle
- 2 drops of bleach per quart of water
- 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water
- 1/2 teaspoon bleach per five gallons of water
- If water is still cloudy, double the dose of bleach.
The treated water should be allowed to stand covered for 30 minutes, it should have a slight chlorine odor if it doesn't give it another dose and let the water to stand for another 15 minutes. If the treated water has too strong a chlorine taste let it stand exposed to the air for a few hours. Be careful the bleach will leave holes in your clothes if it spills or splashes, rinse out quickly. Warning: if you choose to use to use your leftover bleach to clean your floors, DO NOT, under any circumstances, mix it with ammonia. Bleach and ammonia create chlorine gas fumes that will give you an agonizing death. Ammonia is found in some products you might not expect, such as Windex. Watch out!
Fire Sprinklers (and Why You Shouldn't Use Them)
Don't try to tap a fire sprinkler system for water! You will set off the alarm and your squat will be discovered. Once you drain even a few PSI from the system it will fill with water and alarm, if it is an air pressurized system. Water filed systems are often filled with an antifreeze mix, these systems also alarm and call the fire department if any water flow is detected.
Several layers of corrugated cardboard on two or three wood freight pallets make a passable mattress getting you off of a cold or damp cement floor. A hammock suspended from pipes, ceiling supports, or eye-bolts anchored into a cement wall is a comfortable way to sleep dry. Of course your sleeping bag and pad will work almost everywhere.
If you are in an unheated room over winter moisture becomes your enemy. Moisture robs you of heat when you try to sleep in damp bedding, it also promotes the growth of mold which make most people sick when it gets concentrated in a badly ventilated room. Open or uncover a window every day and get fresh air into the room if possible. The condensation will saturate your sleeping bag or bedding and gear if you are not vigilant. Sleeping bag and bedding must be shaken out and hung to air out. If you don't air out after just a few cold nights you will have a damp bag, there is a risk of you trying to bed down and finding a frozen sleeping bag. Cook outside of your room, the steam will stick to the walls and condense on your stuff. Used properly a fan or electrical heater really helps keep stuff dry, just don't put everything so close to a heater that you burn or melt it. Kerosene heaters or safe wood burners can work well if they have a good chimney or ventilation, just be careful as they present a greater fire hazard. If possible 'cook' the room out for a few hours at least once a week, this will help you clean the crud out of your body and will help dry out the room, once you shut off the heat open the windows and let the hot moist air out.
Failure to properly wash hands, face, and food especially after going to the bathroom has been shown to be a larger cause and vector of Hepatitis, Giardiasis ("beaver fever"), E-coli Cholera, and Typhoid and other potentially deadly bacteria and viruses than even polluted water both in urban and wilderness environments. Wear sandals in any shower or communal bath area where foot fungus is possible; foot rot can ruin your best mode of transport.
Part of your hygiene regimen must be keeping your nails trimmed very short especially on your hands, this is a way insect and worm eggs or skin infection bacteria can easily be spread first by scratching your skin or hairy areas, then later these are transferred to the mouth or other body areas during a meal or scratching itches. Your toenails should be trimmed straight across to prevent ingrown nails which quickly become infected at least immobilizing you and possibly leading to a life threatening cellulitis or other deep infected abscess in your feet.
Going to a hotel in around noon and asking maids with their cleaning carts for a few bars of soap is one way to stock up. Asking a doorman at a nice hotel, just walk up as direct and nice as you can, and say, "I am homeless, may I please have one bar of soap?" will work more times than not. Bring a plastic grocery bag into a fast food restaurant and squirt out a good five or ten pumps of liquid hand soap. Store it wisely, or else the stuff in your pockets or backpack will be wet with sticky cleansing goop. A bottle of liquid soap with a neck cord is great for quick commando showers, and won't fall down to a disgusting bathroom floor.
You can buy a hose with either a standard faucet thread and rubber gasket or a stretch over connection that fits loosely over about half of the faucets you will find, both turning the faucet into a long-hose shower head. Both are available for a few bucks in the plumbing section of most of the big-box "Mart" stores, some pet stores, and hardware stores, it can turn a secluded public restroom with a floor drain into a private spa.
With the rubber universal shower adapters slowly turn on the water and keep the pressure down so the adapter doesn't pop off the faucet. These shower kits are reasonably lightweight as long as you get the all plastic ones. For adaptability you can remove the stretchy rubber faucet adapter and get a threaded plumbing adapter for your regular faucet, in addition try to get a garden hose thread. A warning for first time users of the universal adapter; it is known to spray water everywhere, sometimes even the screw down adapters will not fit quite right and can make a spray mess.
For more privacy while washing off you might use a door jamb lock available at luggage stores, or a door stop to lock the bathroom. Only use this option during off hours and at a location where there is another bathroom available for people to use. Leaving a hardware store lock hasp might work, but leaving that kind of obvious evidence of your activity might get a convenient bathroom closed by management.
Grab a milk jug cap and/or a soft drink bottle cap and either drill or melt with a hot nail a dozen or so 2mm holes. Since they are so light make one or two for different bottles in your area, they will be in your pack ready to screw onto what you find. A black plastic bag will let your bottle warm up in the sun even in late spring and early fall. Pre-mix heated water with cold, boiling water will deform most plastic drink bottles. Some bottle caps also match drinking system bladders which will also work for showering.
If you heat a large nail or bolt you can melt a hole to join two bottles so a cut off bottle can be used as a filler funnel (this also works for the cut off bottle sand filter) watch out for damage to the cap threads and seal edge.
If you are overloading a squat or house and need to conserve hot water, are at a public restroom with a very small water heater, or you are dipper bathing from a bucket of warmed water, here is a way to not waste your limited supply.
- 1-Wet yourself down with a washcloth
- 2-Turn off water
- 3-Soap up head, groin, armpits, and any places with tough dirt
If you are limited to a bucket, you should use a large cup to wet and rinse yourself, dumping the bucket over your head is a good way to accidentally run out of water while you still have soap on your body.
Even more frugal is to remain dressed and wet your hands or washcloth with water (warm if available) and wash first your hands, then your face, breasts(especially when nursing), armpits and abdomen, groin and butt crack, finally your feet. Be sure to then cleanse your hands and washcloth well so you do not contract or spread disease. This would be a good time to change and wash your socks, underwear, and washcloth. A large soft sponge with sudsy liquid bath soap is a helpful for situations with minimal water, especially for getting at those unsavory orifices.
Your electric stinger immersion water heater can be put into your wash bucket and used to warm around three or four gallons of water (20L), enough for a dipper shower or a washcloth bath.
In summer a dark colored garden hose laid out on the roof or pavement will collect solar heat and around noon you can take a quick hot shower by turning on the water.
If you have somewhere semi-permanent to stay and access to a garbage dump, a very good water heater can be easily made. Find a discarded refrigerator, even beat up you can sell the Freon to a recycler making some cash and protecting the ozone layer. Take the collector off the back of a fridge (that is, the coils on the back or bottom), run two high temp hoses into it and tighten down with hose clamps from the auto parts store, one input (cold) and the other output (hot). Now, mount the collector on something shiny, be it cardboard covered with aluminum foil or the back of some insulation. Make sure it's nice and secure. Build a frame around it with wood or PVC, or something else which won't get damaged by temperatures around 150C. A glass or plexiglass cover is nice too, but if you can't get one it will still work. Now, you'll have to prime the heater by sucking some water through it. Once this is done, simply raise the cold water input higher than the hot water output and the unit will gravity siphon. This unit can get water VERY hot, and it can do it fairly quickly on a sunny day even in winter, so be careful. Let it drain when it's not hooked up, otherwise it will be filled with superheated water that can cause serious burns for the unsuspecting user.
If you can find an insulated container, either an old water heater or a sports team barrel type drink cooler connect the cold water (lower input) to the lower part of the water container and seal with caulk. Now do the same with the hot attaching it to the high side. Be sure both tubes stay below the water line and it will convection pump the cold water to the bottom of the solar collector and also pump the hot water to the top of your hot water container, no electricity or pump required. The key for the convection pumping is your insulated water container must be above the whole collector to work properly. If your collector works well you will need a supply of cool water to mix in for safe showering.
One editor used to wash up in back of a church with a garden hose and a bar of hotel soap, drying himself off with his own shirt or pants, whichever was cleaner at the time. The clothes dry off in minutes, even faster if you first wipe the water off you with your hands and flick it away, and it's a great feeling knowing you can keep clean and healthy under your own power under nasty life conditions. A trick used by a number of hobos and rail-riders is to carry a large squirt bottle with diluted baby shampoo. The idea is to wet yourself down, squirt yourself with the diluted shampoo, lather yourself from head to toe, rinse yourself and then dry off. You'd be able to clean yourself in about 3 minutes.
You can use your bucket and portable shower hose to make a siphon shower. Submerge the whole shower hose set into the bucket and let the bubbles go out. Hang the bucket from a tree branch, pipe, or other hanger, now quickly bring the shower head down to a level below the bucket allowing the siphon to begin sucking water from the bucket (it might help to tie the other end of the hose to the bucket handle). Be sure the adapter end is as close to the bottom of the bucket as possible, if you have two feet of hose drop below the bucket it produces a nice spray. If you break the siphon just suck on the shower head (for wide shower heads use the side of your mouth to suck and your cheek to seal most of the spray holes) until it starts flowing again. If this is too complicated you can hang a flower sprinkler and tip it with a rope to shower.
If you are camped out or can't find a bucket use your sleeping bag stuff sack and a plastic shopping or garbage bag liner to hold the shower water. Don't use the draw string on the sack as this will likely rip out when you hang it up. Instead insert your hose and make several wraps of cord around the neck of the bag now hang up the bag, to start a siphon shower squeeze the sack. Try to find a large flat stone or cement pedestal to stand on, clean it off as best as you can and place below your hang shower. In forested areas look for trees that drip pine sap which is very tough to get off your feet. If you just can't find a stone wear your sandals to keep your feet clean.
If you can't use your electrical immersion water boiler you can heat some water in a cook pot and add it to your bucket or bag of cold water to warm it up.
It is a good idea to hang up a privacy sheet using your hostel sack and clothing line or at least wear a light swimsuit while you wash down since straight neighbors might call the police for public nudity, that and the pervs who might get the wrong idea.
Showers for Sailors
If you want a good old fashioned hotel like bath and are in a coastal area here's a tip that usually works to find a good bath. Go to a boat marina during business hours with your pack in tow. Tell someone if they ask that you've just come in from a night out fishing and you want to clean up. They'll then usually leave you alone. If no questions are asked go to the restroom which usually has a shower in it and take your shower. Often the marina bathrooms will have little rooms that you can lock yourself into for a long awesome hot shower with no one bothering you for at least a half hour or so.
Baby wipes give you a refreshing clean feeling when you are away from normal bathrooms, especially if you are on the road, the downside is they are expensive, heavy, and wasteful. If the package is left open the wipes will dry out lightening your load, just add a small squirt from your water bottle to a balled up dry wipe in order to rehydrate them.
The good news is it is easy to make your own wipes. Flannel, terry cloth and plain cotton t-shirts can be cut into squares and make great cheap washcloths. Put a few drops of diluted soap in a plastic baggie and you can get clean wherever you are. If they dry out for some reason, just add a little more water.
A chamber pot or pee bottle is a good idea if you want your trips into and out of your toiletless urban squat minimal to avoid detection. Women need to find bottles with a large opening or a urine stream funnel which can be bought or made from a diagonally-cut 1 liter bottle. If there is no toilet, or it doesn't work, use a 5 gallon bucket (check the dumpsters outside the local fast food joints) and improvise a toilet seat (Anything flat that can hold your weight and with a hole big enough will do). Get some dry earth, sawdust, or cat litter to pour into the bucket after each use to kill the smell. If you can get the lid to the bucket, keep it and use it. Also, line the bucket with disposable garbage bags. Double bag it because you do NOT want it to leak when you're taking it out.
WARNING: DO NOT MIX CHLORINE BLEACH WITH URINE! It will produce chlorine fumes and in a closed room can cause lasting lung injuries or chemical pneumonia. It might also melt your bottle or bucket from the heat of the chemical reaction between the bleach and the ammonia in the urine.
If the toilet in your squat is not clogged but doesn't flush when you push the lever or you have no water pressure to refill the flush tank, a bucket of water dumped into the toilet will cause a flush cycle.
Toilet paper can be expensive or hard on the sewer or pipe system in some parts of the world. While it may seem disgusting to some readers here is the post toilet cleaning method we saw while in Jordan. The left hand is wet with the bathroom sink or a bottle of water if outside, now the wet hand is used to wipe your butt repeat until clean, then wash your hands really well.
A large soft sponge with soapy warm water and plenty of rinse water is a better alternative to getting your feces all over you hand.
Electricity is a big part of the magic of the modern world. Ask anyone who has had to hand wash laundry for a whole family, charge batteries with a stationary bicycle generator, or hand crank a wheat grinder. With electrical power we can heat our squats and tents, charge batteries, and run full size computers. Without electricity we are back in the 19th century either freezing our asses off or burning expensive, sooty, and often unsafe fuels.
You can check to see if you have electricity by switching the breakers off and on; if you have a power meter on the back of your building, you may be able to activate it yourself, but this should only be attempted with extreme caution. Pirating electricity may be as simple as running an extension cord out to an outlet at the foot of a streetlight, but if it's not, don't attempt it unless you are a trained expert, the same goes for messing with damaged wiring.
Working with electricity is a very useful skill to our movement but if you are not taking proper precautions can also easily be deadly. If possible find a free vocational electricians course or even take a electrical apprentice position for a few months.
Power jacks are found in almost every room around the First World. If the jacks are turned off there are in-line light fixture adapters that screw in and still allow the light bulb.
If there is only fluorescent fixtures a few wire nuts and a chopped off extension cord or heavy speaker wire with a power receptacle on the end will let you tap into the power. Be sure that the power or breaker is off when you are doing your work. Tape over the switches so nobody surprises you with a ZOT of electricity when they enter the room. Sometimes there will be a blank panel of the right size where you might expect a switch or wall jack. Open it up and test the wires to see if they are live. Many institutions use a weird screw head pattern to open up electrical panels; a few minutes of work with an old screwdriver and a file should make the right tool.
Pop open the meter
If you're careful about how you remove the tamper indicator, you might be able to concealably open the meter, allowing you to short past it, preventing the power company from noticing your usage. A power line going to a building has two opposite phase 120v lines and a neutral line, all of which you will find within the box, running through the meter. Stealing the meter from an active institution will cut power. Also, apparently one of the means the power company uses to shut off power is to cover the contacts on the meter with plastic caps, which you can remove. Since you can't shut power off in here, wear rubber gloves and exercise extreme caution.
Think about 110/220v flexible gadgets when buying travel items - you never know where you will be globe hopping.
If you can score a fully charged vehicle or (even better) a deep cycle battery, consider investing in a DC to AC power converter/charger with battery clips. Be sure not to let the battery drop below 10 volts or it will cause wear on the battery plates. Some highway signs have a big 12 volt solar panel that will charge car batteries. Small 12v to 110 or 220 converters are now cheaply found especially in truck stops and gas stations. see Cars
If you can find a working car alternator it is possible to charge storage batteries using homemade windmills, exercise bicycles, water wheels or whatever creative way you can get some mechanical energy. This is much easier to find or build than solar panels. The batteries must have some charge for the alternator to create a charging field.
Outdoor Power Taps
!!DANGER!! High skill required!! DANGER!! A person with appropriate skill can remove a bulb or splice into wiring from public light displays or streetlights, appropriate safety and training must be used as there is no way to shut off power for this work, serious life hazard is involved. Remember power in light poles is live even during daytime or off hours, and can carry as much as 40 Amps of power and be over 480 volts (1/8th Amp is enough to kill you).!!DANGER!!
Know the voltage of the line you're tapping.
While using proper insulating safety equipment (gloves, etc. on a case by case basis), expose the leads you wish to tap into. Then connect the appropriate number of transformers. For example, when tapping a 480 volt streetlamp, you'll want a pair of euro-us device transformers in series to give you a nice approximately 120 volt output. Add more in parallel if you're pulling more power. Of course, if you can score a higher power transformer somewhere, USE IT. Some 120 to 35 volt toroids rated around 600 watts can be found for ~$30 online, and can be used on some street fixtures to step down the voltage to usable 100-120 volt AC that US appliances will accept.
Have we mentioned the !!DANGER!! yet?
A very small glow bulb AC power tester can be purchased in most hardware stores, these are safe, easy to use, and don't burn out. Use this tester to determine if there is power in the wiring of a building and if the grounds are connected on a plug. You can also use this to test where the electrical company has cut off power (sometimes it is right at the meter). On 220 volt systems both "hot" wires will give you a glow when connected to ground, on 110 only one "hot" wire will give a glow when connected to ground. The ground is the bottom round pin in Amerikan 110 volt plugs, the ground diverts power away from you if an appliance short out inside, this is important in metal cased appliances and tools especially when using them on wet concrete.
If you need to transmit electricity for a very long run 110 volts is often too low and resistance losses in the line will quickly reduce available electricity on long extension cord runs. The easiest way to get better distance out of narrow wire is to use a transformer and boost the voltage. High voltages require narrower wire and incur less losses for the same wattage but High Voltages are More Dangerous!
Use extreme caution using surplus military communication, network wire, or other other wires when stringing out to your destination, people will not expect a non-official power line to be running high voltage. Split the wires and run them parallel at least a foot or so apart, use electrical fence insulators where you hang wires in trees and buildings, inspect regularly for damage. A three or four amp rated four to one ratio transformer will convert 110 volt to 440 volt which is much better at transiting long stretches of line. You will need another four to one to step back down to 110v, be careful to install the second transformer to step down or you will be boosting to about 2000 volts! Consider installing a sensitive circuit breaker at your electrical source transformer box, on of a lower value at your destination power box should help you avoid a long hike to flip the breaker. You might get one USA to EU power converter and one EU to USA converter to boost up to 220 and back to 110 at the destination, this will require some additional adapter tips which often come with the travel converters.
Contact your electrical company and relief agencies to see if there is a fund or discount for the indigent, some programs are for the elderly or homes with children. These programs are often part of the contract that the power company has with the community public utilities commission. Power to the People!!
A small, cheap desk lamp shining upwards can illuminate a whole room. A compact florescent lamp that screws into a regular light bulb socket will give lots of light (and very little heat) and be a very minor electrical drain; this is good if you are tapping the light socket power for other uses.
Small oil lamps and the oil used to burn in them can be had at the big box stores and hardware stores. Just remember that those things get VERY HOT after a while. If you use candles, never leave them burning unattended. You can increase the light by putting a mirror or aluminum foil behind the candle and reflect the flame. You can also make an improvised oil lamp using a glass jar and any vegetable oil (NEVER use motor oil or other petro-chemical lubricants!). Heat up the bottom of the candle until it's soft, press it into the bottom of the inside of the jar, and when it cools, pour vegetable oil up to where the wick is exposed, then light the wick. The oil will burn with the candle. Some oils will be sooty and will smoke, so keep a window open. Keep it away from foot traffic, because if it spills, the spilled oil will spread flame VERY quickly! These type of open flames cause most of the deaths and property damage attributed to squatting.
For a DIY oil lamp, just make a clay bowl and use a cotton shoelace as a wick.
Many grocery stores sell a seven day candle often with religious images on it. Look in the Mexican foods section. These are great for night lights and the tall walls and splashing wax usually put the fire out if there is a tip over. If possible choose white wax and clear glass so you will get maximum usable light compared to colored candle residue and containers.
If you are in an underground squat, something like an old abandoned subway or utility tunnel a Coleman type lantern using pressurized liquid fuel which gives the best large area coverage might be a good idea, the propane type lantern might also be considered if you can get a big propane tank like is used for a barbecue grill, look at camping shops or online for a long adapter hose. Above all be careful with fire safety.
If you plan to spend hours or days exploring underground tunnels a carbide type lamp which is fueled with water and calcium carbide. The cheapest way to find a carbide lamp is in an antique shop but be sure that it is in good shape and the drip valves still work. Carry a backup LED light if you plan on using a carbide lamp. If you accidentally drop it or otherwise have the carbide lamp go out, you may need some lighting to see enough to reignite it
If you are concerned with being noticed in your squat as you fumble about at night you should not use a full power flashlight or even a standard white LED light. Some flashlights, like the one used by the army, come with color filters: red to preserve night vision, and sometimes blue which is harder to notice on a dark night. In any case, if you really want stealth it might be smart to go a step further and poke a pinhole in some foil and blue filter the light too. Avoid swinging the light it is better that it not move as this attracts less attention. Blinking the light on and off as needed is what distress beacons do to get attention, bad idea for stealthy squatters. Do a light survey with a partner outside and assess the visibility, consider paper or cardboard over the lower windows to stealth your squat if they are too visible.
If you are lucky you will have access to electricity or find a heated room. There are ways to get the most out of heat even if you are paying for the electricity. Even in a large house move all appliances especially the oven, if possible the hot water heater, and refrigerator into your sleeping room and be sure to seal the window with plastic if needed and have a rolled rug or blanket to block the gap under your door, many interior doors would be helped with weatherstripping to further reduce drafts especially in windy areas. If the central heating is not in use be sure to block up the vent which might be drafting cold air into your room. A candle flame, smoke from an incense stick, or lit cigarette are all good tools if used carefully to survey your room for drafts. You may be surprised to see that we mention keeping the refrigerator in your room but in reality a fridge generates lots of heat as it works to cool the food inside so instead of keeping all of you food frozen outside why not let the fridge do double duty heating your studio. You will develop an eye for heat sources to keep in you room, a hair dryer is a great way to warm up your sleeping bag, a cheap air popper popcorn machine makes a snack as you warm your room, but be careful when cooking since just living in a cold room causes condensation which leads to mold related health problems so much more so with pots of boiling water. Running a fan in your squat while you are gone sometimes helps with condensation problems. If you just cant find a small room in the building you inhabit consider setting up a tent to live in or making a canopy bed (see Free Furniture) these are both small spaces you can cheaply heat if you have an electrical heater. Kerosene and propane heaters are available at most hardware stores and they produce great heat as long as you can afford the fuel although these also have a greater risk of fires if something flammable is placed too close. Do not fall into the temptation to bring in a charcoal stove for heat unless you have the gasses vented out a chimney, carbon monoxide is a known killer of squatters.
If you have no heat of electricity, insulate the walls with carpet or similar material, and use thick plastic to make tents for sleeping. You can use candles and kerosene heaters and lanterns, but don't store kerosene near them or leave them burning while you are asleep or absent. Steal a fire extinguisher or two, or leave around buckets of sand or water, and put up smoke detectors.
Watch for heating vents on buildings and sidewalks, hand-dryers in bathrooms, and other public sources of air that can be used to expand inflatables, which can be custom-made to fit these sites. One folk scientist made a series of inflatable tents that could be attached to the outtake ducts of building ventilation systems to provide housing and warmth for their homeless occupants
You can make a hand-warmer out of a used Polaroid film canister once you're done with it break the cartridge open, take out the battery to use for something else, and connect the wires - it'll be quite hot for a few minutes.
You can keep a little warmer on those cold, cold nights by eating foods high in fats an hour before you go to sleep. It may also help to switch the layers of your clothing, so the one beside your skin si not damp with perspiration. No matter how cold it is, don't sleep in more than two pairs of socks - this will constrict your circulation, without which no amount of clothing can keep your feet warm.
You can make a pocket hand-warmer by filling a cloth bag with dry beans plus rice or corn and microwaving it; it should retain heat for a couple of hours and if you get hungry, you can always cook and eat your hand warmer.
You can keep warm in winter by lining the inside of your clothes with plastic; this will work best if you place the layer of plastic riht next to your skin, although it will make you sweat a lot.
If you can get a fan, all the better. We like the small cheap clamp-on models. You can make an improvised "swamp cooler" by putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan, and let the air blow across the ice. If you can find a rack to hang a towel or damp clothes in front of the fan (but not over it), wet the towel with water. As the water evaporates, it will cool the air. If you can get a hold of a small sprayer or ultrasonic fogger that generates a constant mist, you can spray the air in front of the fan. Just remember to keep the water away from the fan itself. Water and electricity don't mix.
During the real dog days of summer a cool bucket of water for your feet can really make a difference, add a well ventilated chaise lounge and you are ready for a nice siesta.
The heat of the day is the ideal time to bathe and wash your clothes and wear them wet, you will feel clean and your damp clothes should keep you cool for a while. This works best in dry areas, but even in a humid place sitting in front of a fan with damp clothes will cool you down.
If you have made a squat inside a building with HVAC there might be a thermostat for you to manipulate. Most won't allow you to set desired temperature but a hot pack in summer or ice pack or snowball in winter should get you closer to that desired temperature.
A PDA or small laptop gives you access to the net, if you are willing to pay CorpGov for their cellular service you can get on almost anywhere but it is traceable to location and expensive. Better to hunt out a a free WiFi hot spot, an open home network (a cantenna works great for these two), go to a local college / school computer lab or the nearest public library.
Either find a program or write a script to download all of the websites you frequent at an open WiFi zone, that way you can quickly grab all of your daily news and reading in a minute or two and sit and enjoy it in your squat. A laptop, embedded device, or PDA with a DIY cantenna, yaggi, or patch antenna can often use WiFi from a great distance if there is a line of sight
A good WiFi hacking tutorial can be found in the Internet Communications chapter.
Free internet can also be accessed in a library (sometimes you need a card, sometimes for a limited time). You can also go into your local Apple store and 'try' one of their laptops. They all have unlimited Internet access.
A Knoppix or Damn Small Linux disk lets you take over a Windows-owned machine and run your free unlimited system on it bypassing most blockages. A USB keychain drive lets you carry your files and photos as you document the fight and get your information out to the people.
A Word on Batteries, Solar, and "Wind-Up" Gadgets
You might see ads for various electrical devices (radios, flashlights, etc.) that generate their own power by wind-up motors. Many of the expensive ones often use a small rubber belt in the pulley drive that gets stretched out and slips after a few years. They are a bother to replace, if they can be replaced at all.
Others require LOTS of winding, since the hand crank is connected directly to the dynamo. It's best to wind these things up to charge the on-board batteries when you have nothing else to do, since you want the power when you need it. Gadgets with a small solar panel are best.
If you can score rechargeable batteries and a charger, great. Just remember that plug-in chargers need constant voltage (the town library usually has a few unattended outlets), and some cheaper solar powered chargers need about two days of steady sunshine to charge the batteries. Also, rechargeable batteries lose their power in storage, so check the charge and try to keep them refreshed. If you can find a larger solar panel like is used by the road department on signs or the little ones from car lots for keeping car batteries charged, these will work more quickly than the little solar clamshell chargers.
- Keep your squat very clean, you might even consider eating and storing food in a different location than you sleep. Leaving your food in your pack is an invitation to have a mouse or rat chew a hole.
- Shake out and wash if possible all clothing and sleeping bags as bedbugs like to collect here.
- Vinegar can sometimes get rid of ants and roaches, if this fails try boric acid from the pharmacist/chemist or the hardware store. Remember, these insects don't create or spread filth (in fact, they prefer to eat it or take it home), so instead of wearing yourself out smashing them individually, try to track down what's attracting them and clean it up.
- Bay leaves, mint, and other aromatic herbs will help keep insects out of your gear.
- Citronella candles are expensive; try to find pure citronella oil sold for cleaning, this is the extracts of the oils from the citronella plant, it can be burned with a wick to drive off flying insects but also gives away your position from its strong citrus-like smell.
- A buzz haircut helps avoid lice but if you have long hair a drop or two of olive oil on you comb every the morning is healthy for you hair and skin but also prevents the lice from finding a dry spot for gluing their eggs to your hair near the root.
- Eating raw garlic will repel many insects including mosquitoes, it is no substitute for a net in areas infested with malaria or other flying insect carried illnesses.
- In malaria country remember to tuck the mosquito net edges under your mattress at night after you have inspected for holes and mosquitoes, fold up and store during the day.
- Don't forget to take your malaria prevention meds every day in an afflicted area.
Hobos used to "boil up" every chance they got. What this meant was they would put their clothes and bedding into a tub of boiling water and hard boil any bugs or their eggs living in there. Frequently boiling up your clothes and bedding combined with buzzing your hair, pits, and pubes leaves very little place for the bugs to hang on.