We have been RV-ing for over five years now but only full-time since April. There have been many accessories and gadgets we did without when weekends were all that we had to worry about\ but would greatly miss now. Some we even had on hand but seldom used until we hit the road permanently. There are dozens of these items, but here are the top 9.
Note, I didn't include items that come with or are usual for a 5th wheel, like TV's, new hitch, awning, battery-powered fans, etc.
9. WorkMate (by Black & Decker)- With all of the work I've done on the rig, including organizing and installing shelving in the basement, making a rear bumper rack, and several interior projects, life has been much simpler with my WorkMate adjustable workbench. It provides a unique vise and other support for cutting, sanding, drilling, filing and all sorts of other treatments of wood, plastic, tile, etc. With the floor project coming in the near future, this will continue to be an extremely important accessory.
8. Air Fryer (by Dash)- We have only had our air fryer for a few weeks and it has already become one of our go-to kitchen appliances. We experienced its use when we visited family and found one that was sized better for our use in the RV. It fries wings, hot dogs, pierogis, tater tots, french fries, and just about anything else that we could have oil fried, and then some. It's also very fast in cooking time and easy to keep clean.
7. Amazon Fire Stick- Satellite TV is rather expensive and has the unfortunate requirement of a mostly unobstructed southern sky. Instead, we opted for the Amazon Fire Stick (two of them, actually) and have subscriptions to Sling TV, Netflix and CBS Online. We were already members of Amazon Prime, so all of that content is also available to us. We do need Internet but our AT&T Mobley device has been mostly successful for us in that regard.
6. Exterior RV Steps (by MORryde)- We did have steps that worked before, but the new MORryde apparatus is a dozen times more steady, since its legs are firmly on the ground. Nadyne actually fell to the ground from the original RV steps and we have always been worried about the possibility of injury with the rickety set. As a side benefit, we installed a locking toolbox in the original steps' storage frame. Here's my product review for these steps.
5. Countertop Ice Maker (by RCA)- Our RV refrigerator does not have an ice maker built in and I am a huge fan of ice in my drinks. Before purchasing the ice maker, we were buying a bag of ice about every other day, when we could find it, and that has been all but eliminated. When we know we're going to be boondocking, we store some ice in freezer bags to get us by. The ice maker we bought makes a few cubes every 12 minutes and it recycles melted cubes so we can leave it on indefinitely, adding more water as needed.
4. Portable Air Conditioner (by newair)- Our single A/C rooftop unit takes a ton of power, so much in fact that anything lower than a 50 amp supply renders it unusable. Unfortunately, we were heading to the hot, humid northern midwest and then New England, moochdocking in a driveway and finding only 30-amp service available in more than a few campgrounds. Nadyne is not pleasant to be around when she's overheated and we decided we needed an alternative. After exhaustive research we chose a newair brand portable free-standing A/C unit that runs on a 110v circuit. While in the driveway, we ran a 2nd extension cord from the house to accommodate the A/C and otherwise it runs great whether we're hooked up to 30 amps, 20 amps or to the generator. Much unpleasantness has been averted.
3. Washing Machine (by Giantex)- Laundry facilities are a great unknown on the road, often difficult to find, and even more often in disrepair or ill-kept. That's not even counting the number of times the machines took quarters but didn't provide change machines. We don't have washer/dryer hookups, so that wasn't an option, and we didn't like the hand-crank style of machines that were available on the market. We came across the Giantex unit, which is a real 110v +washer that is slightly smaller for RV use. It has water intake, a spin cycle and a drain. We wanted to place the unit in the shower (see this article for my water solution) but found out that the weight of the machine would eventually crack the shower floor if we left it in there, so I re-purposed some bedroom wall cabinet space and made a support base there.
2. Cell Signal Booster (by weBoost)- A Godsend, the weBoost enhances cellular reception, both voice and data, by up to 40 times. In other words, a 1-bar signal can be boosted to 4 or 5 bars. We use an AT&T Mobley with an unlimited plan and a Verizon Mifi with a couple of dozen gigabytes of data. Between the two, and our WifiRanger wifi booster, we have only been in one spot with no Internet or cell service at all in over 4 months on the road, and that was on a cliff overlooking the Badlands in South Dakota. The weBoost won't boost 0 signal, but we've nearly always had some signal on which to perform its magic.
1. 2000W Inverter Generator (by Wen)- Evidently we're power hogs. During the night on almost every boondocking session, we woke up in the morning to zero battery power. We usually found out by needing to flush the toilet and had no water pump. Even after upgrading my lead-acid batteries to Lithium-Ion, our comfort level requires all the power we have. I purchased a very quiet 2000W inverter generator (the 56200i) and all our problems were solved. Last week we boondocked at Walmarts in back-to-back nights and were able to use the induction burners, air fryer, portable A/C, large-screen TV, cell booster and toaster oven (not all at the same time), as well as keep our batteries charged until we were ready for bed. I think we left it on for 4.5 hours at one stretch without it overheating or being distressed.
That's the Top 9 list. We probably could have a Top 30 list, but most people probably wouldn't read it. Additional Top and Bottom 9 lists will be coming out in the next few weeks as our full-time RV life becomes more and more normal for us. Please use the social media links to share this with all your camping and RV buds, or to anyone thinking about the RV lifestyle.
A major shift in residency has taken place in this country over the last few years. Like ourselves, many couples have taken to the road full-time, and not just retirees. More and more families are selling their houses and moving into RV's to embrace the nomadic lifestyle. Along with an outdoors lifestyle, fishing is of great interest to a good portion of these people. One big difficulty is the non-resident status for fishing licenses, wherever we may be.
This isn't as much a cost issue as inconvenience. Cost is certainly high, with three-day freshwater licenses upwards of $20 in many states ($23 in Maine plus $2 seller's fee, $23.50 in Massachusetts, $15.59 in Illinois, etc.) and more than half that for a single day. But actually purchasing the license within the time frame desired can be extremely difficult when you're on the road.
Here in Maine, where I'm currently camping, I'm about 11 miles to the nearest fishing store (actually a Walmart). I knew I wanted to fish but didn't know when the weather was going to be good enough during my 2-week stay, so I waited. When the weather finally cleared, I didn't have the license and I had to wait. Sure enough, rain returned. I ended up not fishing at all during my stay here, even though the campground I'm in is on Patton Pond, a great fishing lake. In fact, I haven't actually fished anywhere since I left Colorado four months ago.
A national license would be of great help to me and my fellow nomadic fishermen (and fisherwomen). I would easily pay $200 per year to be able to fish wherever I am on the road, especially when I am often in rural areas where licenses aren't readily available.. Fees collected could be split between all 50 states, so all those governments would get their share.
What say you, BASS (Bass Anglers Sportman Society) or Professional Catfishing Association? Are you on board, Good Sam? How about you, Escapees or Xcapers? Heck, even AARP should help pave the way. How can we make this happen?
I have a nice Wen 2000W inverter generator and since we bought a portable A/C unit that will run on generator power (the main A/C won't), we've been using the generator almost every time we've boondocked this summer. It has been amazingly helpful to be able to cool off the rig instead of suffering in the heat and humidity on the eastern seaboard.
However, retrieving, setting up and re-storing the 40-pound machine has been more than a small headache. We recently sold our motorized bicycles and still had the bike rack installed on the rear bumper and thought we might be able to purchase a generator box that would fit on one of the rack supports, but could find nothing under $400 that would work. Undaunted, I located a steel storage cabinet for garages and patios that locks and decided to make it work. This project cost me $85 for the cabinet and another $75 in wood, water seal and hardware.
I had a lot of options for securing the cabinet and decided to build a shelf across the bike rack supports (pic A). I bought three 2x6x8 boards and cut them to 78" long, which is the distance from the left edge of the rig to just off the left edge of the ladder. I drilled holes in the board closest to the rig so that I could easily place it over the nuts and bolts holding the bike rack to the bumper.
I purchased some water seal and applied approximately five coats on the wood boards (pic B), then let them sit overnight. I wanted to attach the boards using 1/4" x 3" lag bolts but the hardened steel rack presented a little difficulty in lining up the bit to go through the wood and into the 1" steel rails. Instead, I drilled the holes in the rack first, the drilled upwards through the holes and into the wood from the bottom. That worked very well. Pics C and D show the first board placed and the 1/4" holes drilled for the second board.
To attach the second board, I used mechanical pencils as spacers (pic E) similar to building a picnic table, then clamped them to facilitate the drilling from beneath the rack (pic F). The second plank was bolted in (pic G) and the process was repeated for the third board (pic H). The bumper shelf was complete.
I selected the cabinet while considering several factors: price (under $100), steel construction, lockable, adequate inside space, modifiable for venting and height (I didn't want the top of the unit to block any portion of our rear picture window). The Homak SE Series (pic I) seemed to fit the bill at 27"x27"x12", however when I built it, the inside depth turned out to be only 10.75". The generator is 11" deep. But my solution of adding 1" spacers between the sides and the back (pic J) actually killed two birds with one stone -- making enough interior room for the generator to fit and providing airflow all around the generator so that it could run while locked in the cabinet.
I used four 5/16" x 4" lag bolts, washers and nuts to secure the cabinet floor to the shelf, then added some wood board to give a better support for the generator's base (pic K). I used a wide bit to drill out the spots on the wood base that cover the lag bolt heads so it would sit flat on the cabinet floor.
The final result was a storage cabinet that locks and allows the generator to be easily connected and run without dragging it out from basement storage. There is also more space on the bumper shelf for future storage (cooler?) or other use. Since the cabinet is not waterproof, my wife will be making a cover that can be tied down over it for the road.
A Thousand Trails Resort
Address: 310 Old Chatham Rd., South Dennis, MA 02660
Phone: (508) 385-3616
# of sites: 251
Full hookup price: From $80/night
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Warnings: mosquitos, no laundry services
The first and foremost benefit of this resort is its proximity to Cape Cod. We had only visited the Cape once before, a half-day visit several years ago, and we took advantage of our two weeks here this time around. This park is well-maintained and they have daily trash pickup (just set your trash bag out before 11am). The sites have some space between them and most are well-shaded by mature trees.
We explored the Cape in all directions, including driving all the way to the tip at Provincetown to the north and the southmost roads in Falmouth. Besides the Cape itself, So. Dennis is in proximity to ferries to both Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. After a short half-hour ride to the island, we did a 2.5-hour bus tour on the Vineyard and it was enlightening.
The sites are pretty tight to back into in this resort, and even though they say there are a lot of amenities here, we didn't really see that. There is a swimming pool but it was only open until 5 or 6 pm and did not have a hot tub or jacuzzi. It also shows that it has Wifi, but it was an extra charge and we passed on the service. There was only gravel in the campsites -- no grass.
As with other parks we stayed in this summer, mosquitos were vicious. Walking the dog was always an adventure, and we ended up not spending much time at the picnic table, nor did many other RV'ers there.
Like many other Thousand Trails resorts, this park had many seasonal or permanent residents. What was odd about this one was the sheer age of the mobile homes and park models people were living in here -- many were circa 1960's or older. They did have several new or nearly new park models as well, but most were very old. What we don't particularly care for in these resorts with semi-permanent residents is that they don't tend to socialize with us vagabonds that come and go. That's really unfortunate since the social aspect of camping was something we had been looking forward to.
We would definitely recommend Old Chatham as a clean, comfortable park with proximity to many sights and attractions. But if you don't care for sightseeing in Cape Cod, there are better options elsewhere.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 6 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.