site  contact  subhomenews

DIY solar water distiller

June 16, 2019 — BarryK

Prototype #2 has been built, and setup for the first time. Every day is overcast, so I am waitng for a sunny day to continue testing.

I decided to document the build, so anyone can reproduce it:

Photo when first setup:


Showing condensation after only a short time running, on cold overcast day:


The materials cost is higher than I would have liked, but hey, I am hooked, and already planning #3. May have to pull #2 apart and re-use some components. Next time, aiming for lower-cost and lighter weight, and durability when exposed to inclement weather.

Got to say, this is fun! 

Tags: nomad

Scrubba clean clothes while camping

June 16, 2019 — BarryK

I am always on the lookout for something useful when camping. Clothes can be cleaned at a campsite, if water is available, just by agitating them in a bucket, with detergent, then rinse, then hang up.

So, is this a gimmick, or really useful?...


Here is a youtube video: be the judge! 

Tags: nomad

DreamPot thermal cooker

May 31, 2019 — BarryK

I am always on the lookout for new ideas for camping. came across this, recommended in a Facebook caravan & camping group: the DreamPot.


This webpage explains it:

And here is a short video:

Would need a heat source. On previous camping trips, I have used a burner screwed on top of a gas cylinder, so that would do the job. Saving 88% of the gas on each use, makes it an attractive proposition.

The 3litre size would suit me. Well, maybe, might consider buying it one day, not now. 

EDIT 2019-06-01:
Received an email from Derek, that this is a very old principle, that is very easy to do yourself. Just get a cardboard box, and insert a saucepan, with clothes or anything packed around it.

Yes, there is no need to spend $199! Some types cost a lot more.

There is another one named BillyBoil, much cheaper, AU$80. I also read that Aldi sometimes has a thermal cooker, as a special buy. Apparently, the Aldi one had a 36W 12V heater, to keep up the temperature, and it sold for AU$99.

While reading reports on thermal cookers, I came across mention of the temperature "danger zone", which is 5degC to 63degC. If using a thermal cooker, the temperature must not drop to 63degC or below, to avoid food poisoning. The Wikipedia has info on this:  

EDIT 2019-06-03:
Received an email from Jon, which included this:

We use to use an ordinary pressure-cooker and a straw filled box back in the '70's. The pressure cooker had the pressure-cap off while on the stove until boiling, cap was on then until time to open up, hot still after about 4hrs.

The idea of using a pressure cooker is very interesting. 

Tags: nomad

Silicone on silicone and silicone on pine

May 30, 2019 — BarryK

My education continues! One comment: a lot of information on the Internet is incorrect or misleading. I read yesterday, that silicone sealant will not stick to cured silicone sealant. Wrong.

I tested Selleys 401 silicone sealant, on top of the same sealant that has cured for several days. It bonds extremely well, and I was unable to pull it off. That information on the Internet may be for neutral-curing silicone, or just one type that the author tried, then made a sweeping statement.

Wood is the same story. Some web pages state that silicone sealant will not stick to wood, others say it will. My experience with selleys 401 is that it doesn't, or does so very poorly.

So, I tried Parfix "Roof, Gutter and Concrete" silicone sealant, which is neutral cure, on unpainted dressed pine, also on pine sandpapered with 60-grit sandpaper. In both cases, it suck extremely well, and again, I was unable to pull it off.

I haven't tried, but won't be at all surprised if the Parfix sealant bonds well to aluminium also (which Selleys 401 doesn't). Hmmm, should find out for sure, will do a little test today. Will also test Parfix on cured Parfix! 

Academic papers on tilted wick-type distillers

I have found some practical academic papers, with very useful experimental results:

"Solar Stills for Desalination of Water in Rural Households"

"Experimental study of an inclined flat plate-type solar water distillation system"

"An experimental study on an inclined solar water distillation system"
-- free download, but have to join

There is some very interesting information. For example, one researcher was reading just 60 - 65degC inside the still at high-noon, at external ambient of 25degC. This is still hot enough for evaporation to take place from the wicking cloth.

One researcher used a black bath towel. I had thought that would be too thick, but hey, if they can do that, so can I...

Bath towel wicking cloth

I bought a black cotton bath towel from Kmoart, for just AU$6. BigW also has them, same price, but they have embossing, whereas the Kmart one is just a plain surface.

Tested it this morning, very positive result. Capillary action was observed to be better than the felt, though I haven't quantified that. Just an observation, that the water tended to get absorbed more readily.

The three 1mm holes are working OK. The water is spreading out, and only a few dry spots after 15 minutes, and very little water has made it out the bottom drainage pipe. Excellent, dry spots are one of the problems with this type of still, and it is a matter of correct angle and water flow rate. 

Tags: nomad

Testing wicking properties of felt

May 28, 2019 — BarryK

Various tests are underway. This includes further tests on bonding of silicone sealant to various substances, and I am appending to this earlier post as those tests are completed:

Today I setup a water feed to the solar panel, to test wicking properties of the cloth, and the rate of water flow:

img1 can see the wet area. This was just after starting the flow, and the water was tending toward one side, so used a spirit-level to get the flow to go straight down -- just a small wedge under one corner made the panel level.

The tube at the top has two 2mm diameter holes, and I observed that wetting spread out, but leaving dry patches at the top. So, I think next will try with three holes, and smaller, maybe 1mm diameter -- any smaller than that, I won't be able to drill.

For the record, this is the felt that I am currently using:

The clear PVC pipe was purchased from Bunnings, but it is not UV-stabilized. The manufacturer is Pope, and it is 13mm diameter, matching that of 13mm trickle pipe. I chose this diameter, as can then use trickle-pipe fittings, such as an inline filter -- a filter will be essential in the final product. The "13mm" pipe also matches the tap nozzle at the top, and inlet into the panel.

The final product will require UV-stabilized flexible pipe, so I have ordered this from eBay:

...the size that I ordered is "12x14-5m", which is 12mm inside diameter, with 1mm wall thickness, and 5m long. There is also "12x15-5m" available, which has 1.5mm wall thickness. Perhaps the thinner walled pipe will be more likely to kink.

Glass cut-to-size

Another item of news. Today I picked up the glass, two pieces, 3mm transparent window glass, cut to my required dimensions. Casey, the guy who cut the glass for me, also bevelled the edges slightly, to make the glass safer for me to handle. Total cost AU$90. The business is "Glass Perth" and they will give an online quote: 

EDIT 2019-05-30: Bath towel cloth
I have tested a black cotton bath towel, it has superior wicking properties, see report: 

Tags: nomad

Starting on solar distiller prototype 2

May 27, 2019 — BarryK

The design of prototype #2 is looking so good, that starting on it even before #1 is finished -- and might not finish #1. The problem is, glass is not cheap, and the dimensions of #2 are different from #1, so cannot reuse the glass.

Here is a photo of #1:

img1 can see the aluminium sheet, that will have the black trickle-cloth on top of it.

On the right side is the inlet tube, which has two holes in it. This is something that still needs to be fine-tuned, so #1 will serve that purpose. The top tube can be turned, and even removed, to experiment with the number of holes.

Prototype #2 will have glass instead of aluminium, a plus for health concerns, also glass is an insulator, will help to trap the heat in the cloth.

So, #2 will have two pieces of glass, and I have been quoted AU$88, 3mm window glass.

On the left of the above photo, you can see the "dirty" and distiller water runoffs. #2 has simplified this considerably.

Next step is to experiment with the trickle cloth on #1. I have a black felt, but not yet certain that it is the best material, as it is a bit slow to "wet". 

Note, the final product will have fold-out legs on the bottom. 

Tags: nomad

Coleman UP 4P Gold series Dark Room tent

May 25, 2019 — BarryK

The tag "nomad" in these blog posts is to document outfitting, experiments and general preparedness for future as a "grey nomad", if not permanently, then at least for periodic camping trips. There is actually a section of this website for "nomad",, which will mostly document the final experience.

An essential component of the experience is shelter. Most nomads are to be seen in motorhomes, campervans, caravans, or camper-trailers. However, I have opted to stay with a tent, as long as it can address some issues that I had on previous excursions.

A tent, either kept inside the car, or on the roof-rack, has some advantages. One of those is the sheer convenience of not lugging around a great big thing behind you -- which, apart from the awkwardness when you want to park, turn or reverse, is also more difficult to "hide" discretely somewhere off the road. My ultimate plan is to have a 4wd, and be able to go down rough tracks and camp at hidden-away little campsites.

Back in 2012, when I camped at Windy Harbour on the south coast of Western Australia, I had a very cheap tent purchased from BigW. Windy harbour lives up to it's name, and the thin material tore in one place.

Another issue with the Windy Harbour experience, I recall, was as a senior citizen, I like to have an afternoon snooze. However, it was very light, and hot, inside the tent -- I could feel the heat of the sun on me, right through the tent material.

Fast forward to 2017, I purchased another very cheap tent, from BCF, a simple dome tent, that I think only cost AU$49. It is high enough to stand up in. Let's see, there is a photo on one trip:


...quite a nice little tent. It does of course have the brightness and heat issues of the previous one.

Fast forward to early 2019, want something more "serious", for extended camping trips, strong material, cool inside. Tentworld, here in Perth WA, had a sale, and there was a Coleman 4P Instant-Up Gold-Series with vestibule, Dark Room, erected outside the store, and I fell in love with it.

Yeah, that's a long title:
"Instant Up" means that it erects very fast. Not instantly, but delightfully fast.
"Gold Series" means that it is constructed from heavier material than the regular Coleman tents,
"Dark Room" means that the fly (outer liner) blocks nearly all sunlight, making the inside really dark.

It comes with and without vestibule. The vestibule requires an extra step to erect, with some separate poles, but I reckon well worth it, as I can back the car up to it, and even into it -- for planned easy access to storage shelves accessed via the vehicle rear.

have to pay more for all this goodness of course, and it was AU$359. Here is the web page:

The inner part goes up in mere seconds:


Then, throw the fly over the top, and insert the vestibule poles and anchor with pegs:


There is a video on YouTube that shows erection and dismantling (made by Snowys, based in Brisbane):

Packing a tent away can be a challenge. The one that I used at Windy Harbour, no way could I wrap it up to fit into the original carry-bag. This Coleman tent, though, on the second attempt, with careful folding, I did manage to put it back into the carry-bag.

I am looking forward to reporting on using this tent. 

Tags: nomad

Tecsun PL-310ET world-band radio

May 24, 2019 — BarryK

Continuing with the "grey nomad" outfitting. When I go camping, with car and tent, I like to listen to the radio. problem is, the only one I own is in the car, and the ignition has to be turned on (in the first position), and it only has AM and FM, no shortwave.

These days, listening to the radio, AM/FM/SW, is less popular. It is all Internet and streaming media. However, an "old fashioned" world-band radio is pleasant entertainment in the tent at night. Besides, many campsites do not have wi-fi signal. So, what to buy...

Curiously, I couldn't find much choice in the local shops. I would like to run it off 5V USB, and direct frequency entry at the keypad would be nice. Must have a socket for external antenna. Narrows it down.

Narrows it down too much, couldn't find anything local. So, look online, but it must be a reputable brand. There are some discussion threads on world-band radios at the Whirlpool forum, and I came to the conclusion that the Tecsun brand will be a good buy. Here is a forum thread discussing Tecsun radios:

Narrowed it down to the PL-310ET. There is an Australian business that sells these:


However, I ordered it from Hong Kong, along with an external antenna:

Price for radio was AU$63.92, antenna AU$12.60, adding 10% GST (sales tax in Australia, automatically deducted by eBay) was AU$7.67, total cost AU$84.19.  Superb price.

Note, the eBay vendor that I bought from sells the English version. Some other vendors sell a version that has mixed Chinese and English. Finally, if you would like to see a video review: 

EDIT 2019-05-31:
The radio arrived today, in my letterbox. It had a tracking number, but no signature was required. I suppose, the more expensive postage option would have the sign-on-delivery. Surprised how fast it got here. Quick test, it works, and works well.

Tags: nomad