i am a geeky girl. i love tools that make life simpler, easier and more fun.
K2 Swamp Cooler
The temperatures are rising again, even though it is the end of October! I bought this wonderful little “swamp cooler” for Arion, to use in the trailer to cool it off on hot days and when I have to leave the dogs inside. It works on 12v with a cigarette lighter plug, or with an additional AC cord when I have electricity. You just fill it with a quart of water and it cools the temperatures down 15-20 degrees, right away. The fan does the rest. Uses very little battery juice, so you can leave it running all day! Great aid for boondocking or dry camping days! Super light and a bargain at $299!
The fires this season have made me realize that camping in the Fall in the West is probably going to mean smoke in the future. This Fall was particularly bad with the worst fires inNorthern California history. In the Airstream, I am lucky to be able to move around to avoid the worst of the fires, but smoke is pretty much unavoidable. I found this fabulous little ionizer which runs on my 12volt house batteries, or cigarette lighter in the car, as well as regular electric current when hook ups are available. It gets rid of smoke and other odors in a 10 meter square area, which covers most small trailers. Has done a pretty good job so far! $49.99 from Jaco Superior Products:
Tiny heater keeps you warm and toasty in your trailer or RV. I use it on the floor or on top of my dinette table. For the times when you have electric hookups. 1250 watts but works fine with my 20amp fuses. Can be used with or without the flame. Creates a nice ambiance for those chilly mornings and evenings when it is too cool to sit outside. $59.99 in red, black or white from Amazon:
I drive up to Winters to pick up my Airstream, and Vince has this HUGE ball mount for me to put onto my car! So big I could barely lift it! At least 50 pounds because it had to have an extra mount for the sway bar. You need a sway bar for a 16’ Bambi? YES, you need a sway bar for a 16’ Bambi… You WILL be passed by semi trucks that will rock your trailer. Or 40 MPH winds that gust to 60mph that come out of NOWHERE! Yes, this WILL happen to you sooner or later. And you DON’T want that trailer to start wagging the dog, which is YOU, becauseit will knock you right off the road.
The VW Touareg has equalizers and weight distribution built in, but NO sway control. But a girl needs a hitch that she can EASILY lift on and off and stow neatly into the small back hatch of the trailer. Otherwise, you stay hitched for your whole life. And who wants that?
So I ditched the hitch… and called the experts at etrailer.com! and this is what I found. It was NOT easy as the Airstream needs a 2 5/16 inch ball which is standard with a 1 1/4 inch shank. And the sway plate ONLY accepts a ONE INCH shank! But we found this combination that gcomes in under $150 and weighs about 12 pounds altogether. And pulls 10,000 lb. Pulling more than 10,000 lb.? Why are you reading this blog?
2 and 5/16" ball with smaller ball for sway bar - 12 lb. total
pro series sway bar
sway bar engaged
Heated Fleece Blanket to Warm the Bed
This 12 volt travel blanket heats the bed before you climb in at night. will work on 12 volt socket right by the bed, even when you are boondocking. Turns off automatically after 30-45 minutes. Just put it under the bottom sheet of your bed and start the night already toasty!
You can run your trailer battery down by running the built in heater on those long winter evenings. The Mr. Buddy Portable Heater uses no electricity at all and can be used with portable propane canisters or connected to your big tanks in front (you have to run the hose through an opening, or crack open the front door.) Portable canisters usually last me 2 -3 days for short camping trips. You must have the vent or a window opening to prevent condensation and for proper aeration.
Rain, rain, rain is what winter camping means. And wet dogs can quickly muck up a small trailer. I buy sets of four cheap kitchen towels from Target that I keep on the floor at the entry way and another hanging by the door, so that the dogs get a good rub down before they walk in the door. Then just toss them in the wash once a week. Helps a lot to keep mama happy!
AcuRite Refrigerator / Freezer Digital Thermometer
Winter can bring low temperatures that freeze your veggies fast if like me, you don't have a thermostat to control the temperature in your fridge. AcuRite makes a digital wireless reader (shown above) that reads the two digital thermometers that come with it, which go in your fridge or your freezer. Instead of the freezer, I use the second thermometer, on the inside wall of the trailer to measure the interior temperature to make sure that my water pipes don't freeze!
When I am off grid, whether boondocking on National Forest, BLM land, or just dry camping in a campground without electric or water hookups, I try to conserve my house batteries for running the trailer, especially on cloudy days. My main auxiliary battery for recharging my iPad, phone, Bose speaker and my Book Light, is the GOAL ZERO 150 watt battery which has an inverter so that I can plug my laptop and camera battery chargers into it. It will recharge with the solar panels the next day as long as it is a sunny day. And recharge in a few hours when I have electricity hookups. When I know I will get sun, I can use it to run my flat screen and watch a film at night, too!
I have two of these 100 watt portable Sherpa batteries, which can tether together to make 200watts altogether. This is my backup if the 150 watt is running low and the weather is cloudy. Much quieter than a generator! I also have a couple of their portable 20 watt panels which I can hang on the side of the trailer or on my backpack while hiking on sunny days to pick up a bit of extra power. They are expensive, but often have good sales during the holiday seasons.
I always wondered what people use the magazine racks that seem to be in all the older Airstreams now that no one reads magazines anymore.. Then I realized it was the PERFECT spot for my Goal Zero Sherpa battery and my Apple Watch to plug into at night. The cut out holds the watch and I just have to tap it in the middle of the night for it to light up and tell me what time it is. Already 8:17? Not ready to get out of my warm bed...
My glasses and iPad fit nicely into the frame, too...
I try to use as much solar powered things as I can. There are so many cool solar run tools now. This lantern recharges easily just hanging by the window on my front door.
My Solar System
I have two of these CTI-100 watt Go Power Solar panels on the roof of my trailer. They feed into a Go Power Charge Controller which controls the input and output to my 2 AGM 6 volt batteries wired in sequence to give me 225 amps of 12 volt battery power. this is enough for me to run my basic needs most of the time. I can run anything in the trailer except the airconditioner and the TV which I never use anyway. I do not have a generator. If it is raining and dark winter, I usually try to find someplace to camp with electric hookups at least for a day or two to refresh my batteries. If I have to park in the shade, I have a Renogy 60 watt folding solar suitcase, which I fits neatly into the rear hatch of my trailer. I can pull it out and position it to get the best sunlight using the cable extension cords. My multiple solar options have always provided me ample power. Another advantage of traveling in a small tin can...
I am on the road for long periods of time. Not always is it in beautiful state parks, sitting around the campfire. Sometimes I am simply en route overnighting in a parking lot. But I don't mind at all, because I have wifi to connect me to internet with films to watch, books to download, and emails with friends to catch up on. Wifi along the road is notoriously bad. So it was a priority to me to get the best wifi booster I could. The Wifi Ranger Elite Pack with the Flex antenna has served me well. Typically it will take me from 15% reception to 60-75%. It would be in the upper 90's with a trucker antenna, but I no longer have the TV antenna to mount it on! This serves me well.
They run from $359-$749 depending upon your setup.
Sometimes there is no wifi at all. Then a cell booster comes in handy. This is the best I have found for my setup. It typically takes me from 1 bar to 3 or 4 bars of signal. I only have the small antenna that comes with it. It is mounted on my roof and feeds down through the vent into the front area of the trailer. It will give me enough signal to do email and use the internet for basic needs unless there is NO signal. Then even the most powerful boosters won't help. But in that case, you assume that you are in someplace really beautiful and the campfire is calling! Forget the cell booster!
$445 from Amazon. Trucker's antenna is only $16 more, but you need a TV antenna or ladder to mount it.
When boondocking, saving water is your prime concern. Every day you don't have to dump the tanks, or go get more fresh water, is another day of hiking and adventuring out in nature! It all comes down to gallons per minute. Aeration is key to getting good water pressure without using a lot of water. This adjustable spray and stream faucet replaced my Airstream faucet aerator to use half the amount of water with better pressure.
I do not use Campground water for drinking. I have several 3 gallon containers that I fill with enough drinking water to last me for my trip. And I refill my gallon jugs for the kitchen with this water. I have spent a lot of time in East Africa and Asia. Clean water is the first line of defense in keeping healthy on the road.
This seems like a big expense. But it is nothing compared to replacing blown out water lines from high pressure campground water sources. The pressure can vary so much. This regulator will save you thousands of dollars in repairs.
Have you ever been in a campground and noticed that the water faucets are not threaded? It is quite common, especially in State Parks and Public areas. Not to worry. This little Water Thief, aptly named, will clamp right onto any source and you can screw your clean water hose into the other end. Voila! Running water!
If you are looking to travel light, under 20 feet, then chances are, your bathroom will be a WET BATH! Meaning that toilet and shower are in the same tiny space. But not to worry! Help is on the way in the form of a TEAK BATH MAT! I use a squeegee after showering to get the water off the surface of the toilet, the walls and the teak floor bath mat. Then finish up with a chamois cloth. Takes five minutes. SO worth it! For all the hassle it saves pulling a much lighter rig, the Wet Bath is a great choice for the solo traveler! This teak mat is 16" square. I had to cut off one strip (The hardware store did it for me at no charge. Advantage of being a girl..) and I have a perfectly fitting, quick drying teak floor for my bathroom. My socks never get wet when I enter the bathroom ten minutes after my shower!
On the continuing theme of the Wet Bath.... The squeegee I picked up at the Container Store and the Chamois Cloth at O"Reilly's Automotive.
And for the times with little water?
Boondocking, in other words... My 16' trailer holds only 21 gallons grey and black combined! So if I want to dry camp, I really have to watch the water I use. Each shower fills my holding tank by about 1/8. So if I want to hang out for a few days without emptying the tanks, I take washcloth baths. I keep a ready supply of several washcloths on the bathroom shelf to use for a sponge bath a day. Still a LOT better than when I was backpacking! At least the water is HOT!
Dog food lid?
Ok, this is random... but who thought up the idea in an Airstream bathroom to put these little trays where the water just puddles and stands all day? I cut a dog food lid in half and it makes a perfectly sized "mini squeegee" to get all the water out of these tight, hard to reach spots in the "trays" as well as in the back corners of the bathroom. Mama likes a dry bathroom...
When I was in Peru, I learned a very useful tip. If you have a sensitive septic tank, don't flush the paper down the loo! It saves HUGE hassles later on. I keep a little red bin next to the toilet for this solution. Most of the "black water issues" with rving come from toilet paper backups.. Nuff said...
Happy Camper.. indeed...
This "organic" holding tank cleanser is aptly named. When I bought my trailer, I realized I could not add more solar panels AND put the 360" tank aerator on the roof. Solar panels won out. So I tried this highly recommended product for my combo black/grey tank. I just add a tablespoon after I dump the tank each time. I have never had a whiff of odor. And none of that horrid perfumed cover up that the standard products use. Love this stuff!
Marine toilets need a bit of water in order to keep clean. But they also tend to get leaky after the years go by. I find that an occasional daub of water proof grease, either from my bike grease as pictured here, or Rectorseal plumber's grease as seen below, will do the trick. Also, a quick snap when flushing (instead of a gentle girl's touch) will usually do the trick too!
I love my ladder. I use it almost every day. It gets me up on the roof to clean off the solar panels, check for leaks, pull out the awning and just look at the view. Vince from A to Z Motors was concerned about my leaning a ladder against the very dentable aluminum shell of the trailer, but two window cleaning mitts from O'Reilly's Auto took care of that. It folds up to 27"and is girl liftable.
I saw this on the RV Geeks You Tube Channel. (Thanks guys!) What a great invention! With the app on my phone, and the receiver mounted inside the trailer, I can find the exact edge of the parking area where the trailer is perfectly level, while I am still in the car backing it up!
If you have more than one axle, you are better off with Andersen levelers. These are drive on levelers that go evenly up to four inches. Just don't go over the edge, or it will NOT be good for your tires! They tend to slip on smooth surfaces, so I covered mine with 6 inch wide friction tape. A smaller curved chock goes behind the wheel to stabilize it.