Gearhound – Tools For Tiny Living

Sometimes I wonder if those of us who crave outdoor adventures also have yearnings for gear and gadgets. My quest typically centers on getting the job done with the greatest efficiency and least cost. Here are some of my favorites. I’d love to hear about yours too!

RV

nuCamp T@G XL Outback Teardrop Trailer and Dealer Rogers Motors, Burnet, TX (Ask for Scott or Shawn and tell them Cindy sent you).

In the world of light-weight, aluminum, off-road teardrops, nuCamp offers a well-equipped rig. National distribution through independently owned/operated local dealers means (in theory) units are readily available and serviceable across the country. Accessories from top-rated manufacturers translate to fewer glitches and repair hassles. I opted for the Outback XL package for its off-road and boondocking rugged capacity and ample creature comforts.

TIPS: The 2017 Outback model had a problem with axle size. Make sure the issue has been corrected on any model you consider. Look for one pre-wired for solar. The efficient use of every inch design makes aftermarket installation challenging. (See “Living Large in Tiny Teardrop”)

Power

Solar

Zamp Solar 160P Solar Portable Charge Kit $799 @ Amazon

This 35 pound, portable unit generates 160-Watts at 9.4 amps and includes an integrated 5 Stage 15 Amp waterproof solar charge controller to protect my 12v system. It powers all of the DC  – including the refrigerator. Since most of my power is DC only the microwave, AC, power converter and laptop require AC. This allows me to use a much smaller DC to AC power inverter.

TIP: Be sure to add the 15-foot extension cord so you can move panel with sun throughout the day.

Battery

Battle Born 100 Ah LITHIUM IRON PHOSPHATE (LIFEPO4) BATTERIES $949 @ AmAZON

Designed to be a “drop-in” replacement for lead-acid batteries one battery is only 12.75 x 6.8 x 9 inches and weighs only 30 pounds. In my startup phase, I’m using one 100 Ah and suspect I will add more. One battery provides 100 A with a surge to 200 A for 30 seconds. It has a Wh capacity rating of 1200 and will handle a DC voltage range of 10-14.6V.

TIP:

Be sure to purchase the battery box. Line the box with reflective material to insulate battery in cold weather since it stops output at 25° F.

Inverter

Zamp 300 watt DC to AC Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter, ZP-300PS

DC to AC Inverters converts the 12 volts DC RV battery energy to 120 volts for regular AC equipment. A pure sine wave inverter also protects sensitive electronics. This little inverter is only 7.4″ x 3.7“ x 2.2” and will power my laptop and DC plugs, lights, refrigerator in my small teardrop RV.

Generator

Ryobi Bluetooth 2,300-Watt Super Quiet Gasoline Powered Digital Inverter Generator $599

The Ryobi Bluetooth 2,300-Watt Inverter Generator has 1,800 running watts, powered by gas. It has the same noise rating as Honda’s generator at half the price. Use the GENControl app on your phone to monitor power consumption, fuel level, runtime remaining and remotely shut off the generator. It has rear wheels with an extending handle for easy transportation. You can link or parallel two together to double power. Has a three-year manufacturer warranty. While rated highly I can’t speak to how it works for me because I’ve never used it. Solar and an occasional power pole have handled my needs but I’m grateful for the back-up should I need it.

UPDATE 9/2018 I leave the generator at home. It’s a good generator but I’ve realized I’d rather go without than have the weight, noise, and smell. Saving my pennies for more solar panels.

Tech & Security

Surge Protector for RV

Progressive Industries SSP-30XL Surge Protector with Cover – 30 Amp $96 @ Amazon

Power pole hook-ups can create a nightmare if the power is “dirty.” This made in the US product not only provides surge protection but also monitors and helps protect you from open ground, high/low voltage, reverse polarity, open neutral, AC frequency, and accidental 240V. It also has a water-resistant cover and locking bracket to secure to pole. Lifetime warranty.

TIP: Plug this in to “check” quality of power BEFORE plugging in your shoreline. If the power is dirty don’t even think about plugging in.

Security/Alarm System –

Fortress Security Guardian: All-In-One Motion Activated Alarm Host- DIY Security Alarm or Doorbell with 2 Door & Window Contacts $29.99 @ Amazon

Knock on wood I’ve never needed this system but maybe that’s because I “accidentally” trip it almost daily if I’m in an on-grid campground. Or maybe it’s that vicious bark from Rocky. I love how easy this system is to install and operate. It has a stand-alone motion detector with a LOUD audible alarm. There’s also two window or door contacts and a key fob that works from 150’. The fun part is you can set the “alarm” to also sound like a doorbell.

Cable Locks – Master Lock – Python Adjustable Cable Locks $20 @ Amazon

Locking down gear is part of life on the road. I use several of these for things like securing a generator and solar panels. Comes with a set of 2 keys. Easy to use, works as advertised and 20’ length is no problem because of a tiedown option there’s no flapping of unused cable. Not 100% perfect but certainly helps deter theft and secure expensive gear.

Mobile Antenna

King Omni Go HDTV Antenna $105 @ Amazon

Receive free HDTV channels with King Omni Go portable omnidirectional (receives a signal from any direction so no pointing) HDTV antenna. The kit includes a tripod mount, magnetic vehicle mount with protective rubber base cover, coax cable, power injector, 110 VAC power supply, 12 VDC auxiliary power cord and carry bag. Don’t worry about rain it’s weather-resistant – and it’s usually during days of rain I try to use this setup. It is most effective in RV campgrounds.

Mold PREVENTION–

Eva-Dry E-333 Mini Renewable Dehumidifier $15 @ Amazon

Eva-Dry’s mini renewable dehumidifier is designed for RV’s, boats and small areas. It has a simple hanger hook, requires no batteries and has no on/off switch. Beads in small window turn from orange to green when the unit needs to be plugged in and dried – typically overnight.

Weather Protection

Retractable Awning – Offroading Gear™ 6.5’L x 6.5’W Roof Rack 4×4 Awning w/ FREE 6.5′ Front Extension, for Car/SUV/Truck $250 @ Amazon

One of my favorites – The Offroading Gear™ manual retractable roof rack owning far more effective for me than a series of tarps to provide shade and rain protection. I leave it secured to my RV in its heavy-duty PVC bag mounted on the side of a roof rack. It’s rugged, lightweight, and provides fast overhead protection from the elements. It comes with one sidewall. Made of heavy-duty 600D Ripstop Polyester it is waterproof and UV protected. The height adjusts with telescopic legs. The kit comes with pegs and guy ropes for securing legs, mounting L-bar, nuts and bolts, spanner and VERY obscure instructions. I didn’t want to tap into my roof rack or RV so a friend customized mine using flat steel bars spanning RV roof to secure and stabilize the system. The only downside is this doesn’t come with options for a mosquito net or more sidewalls.

Portable Awning – Hasika Awning Camper Trailer Roof Top $107 @ Amazon

Currently, there is no awning customized to fit the T@G Outback which is 3” taller than a regular T@G. However, this dome-shaped, lightweight, waterproof, polyester mesh, portable awning does a great job at a fraction of the cost of a customized teardrop awning. I attach it to the rear “clamshell” liftgate to shade/protect and extend kitchen area and/or attach to the side roof rails to provide extra patio area off of the teardrop cabin. It’s large, durable and has vents to keep it from “parachuting” in the wind. Part of the vertical poles can be removed to make it lower on one side in rain, further increasing protection. It, unfortunately, does not come with sidewall option. Kit includes a carrying case with poles, stakes and guide wires to secure the awning.

No Bugs Screen and Shade Room – ALVANTOR SCREEN ROOM $130 @ amazon

Pop up screen and shade room is 10’x10′ and only  8.4 lbs. Compact carry bag with only 25” diameter. Lightweight, pop up automatic, no assembly needed, stable and durable, easy folding and carry. I was surprised how quickly this truly pops into place. It comes with sandbags, guide wires, and stakes to assist with stability, if needed. Unfortunately, it does not have side panels.

Sanitation and Hygiene

Ozark Trail Instant 2-Room Shower/Changing Shelter $120 @ Amazon

This 7′ x 3.5′ Instant Shower/Bathroom Shelter has two rooms and a five-gallon solar shower bag that attaches at the roof. The walls are coated with a silver aluminum for complete privacy. I rarely use all of the water during showers.

TIPS: Turn the water off when sudsing/scrubbing to conserve. If there’s no sun you can heat water on a camp stove and pour into bag.

Toilet

Sanitation Equipment Visa Potty Model: 268 24 Liter with 2-level Indicators $175 @ Amazon

Easy, light-weight portable toilet handles the job with minimal effort – and smell. Has a lid, flushing handle and “feel” of a regular toilet. There are two compartments. The top has a seat and bowl while the bottom is a reservoir for waste. Easy to clean, includes a detachable spout in the bottom storage compartment to make dumping contents in a pit toilet fast and easy. Cleaning is also simple.

TIP: Use drop or two of bleach in top reservoir water to clean the bowl with every flush. Don’t go overboard so it won’t negatively impact composting pit toilets.

Towels

Youphoria Sport Microfiber Multi-purpose Travel Towel $20 @ Amazon

Space is a premium in a teardrop RV and this microfiber towel is a wiz at drying and saving space. I bought the 32”x72” to satisfy my inner princess large bath towel needs. It dries on a line in minutes and folds down to inches. It’s the only towel I need!

Water

Camco 22484 Water Bandit $5 @ Amazon


I was tired of wasting water due to poor connection to source faucet. This gadget connects a hose to unthreaded faucets or those with stripped threads. One end connects to standard hose w brass male fitting and the other is a flexible, silicone-polymer sleeve that stretches to fit over the end of many standard water sources you’ll find on the road.

TIP: Keep the water pressure low or it will pop off.

Camco 40003 Water Tank Filler with Shutoff Valve $4 @ Amazon



Minimize line backflow while filling your water tank with this tool. Quarter-turn pressure valve to help control water flow and fill the tank in less time.

Camco 40043 TastePURE Water Filter with Flexible Hose Protector $25.52 @ Amazon


A carbon filter with a 100-micron fiber barrier reduces yucky taste, odor, chlorine, and sediment in potable water sources.  Attach between your hose and RV.   You can also use this on your garden hose if you don’t want chlorine on your plants. This is only intended for potable water. It does not treat/sanitize river, lake, stream water.

Camco 90 Degree Hose Elbow $4 @ Amazon


This brass elbow reduces stress on standard RV hose hookups.

Kitchen

Tables and Kitchen Gear – Camp Chef Sherpa Table $70 at Amazon

I only use the four padded, water resistant, heavy duty 600 denier fabric zippered storage bags when I’m traveling solo. One is insulated and can keep food warm or cool or used as a sink. The entire aluminum frame set up is great for group camping with shared cooking and only weighs six pounds. The frame has an aluminum roll-top table. Design is flexible for setting up the camp stove, sink, and storage.

Kitchen Bowls – Aladdin 3 Collapsible Bowl Set – 4oz , 16oz , 32oz $14 @ Amazon


What a space saver! The study, lightweight bowls collapse and are truly leak-proof. I added these to my existing collection of collapsing sink, dish drying rack, colander, assorted bowls, including dog bowls w attached carabiner.

Recreation



Inflatable Kayak – Sevylor Fiji 2-Person Kayak $118 @ Amazon & Sevylor Skeg $16 @ Amazon @ Intex Quick-Fill Electric Air Pump $17 @ Amazon

Weighing in at 22 pounds that fit in a backpack-sized bag the kayak is constructed of 22 gauge PVC and multiple air chambers so you afloat if one chamber is punctured by your overexcited dog. (Comes with two repair patches). The rear seat is fixed and the second, middle seat is removable. Spray covers help keep you dry. It comes with one portable paddle. You will need an electric pump to inflate and deflate. I like the Intex Quick-Fill.

This does not come with a skeg to help keep the kayak on track with less effort (without it you will spin in circles). Make sure you add the Sevylor Skag to your purchase. My favorite install TIP from Calvin A. Lenhart on Amazon reviews: 1) Untie the ropes at the back. 2) Deflate the Sevylor 3) The Skeg has a point that goes through the grommet at the back of the Sevylor. The hook of the Skeg goes over the top between the two main tanks. 4) Inflate the Sevylor. Watch that the Skeg is centered. 5) Retie the ropes in a manner that holds the Skeg in place.

Storage

Sterilite 26306P02 Decorative 3-Drawer Storage Weave Tower $28 for the set of 2 @ Amazon

Fairly durable plastic storage solution I use with drawers facing outward on rear car seat door since it’s slightly smaller than the width of my rear seat. Great place to store lighter items like medical and dog supplies, linens and storage bags/wraps.

TIP: Don’t put heavy things in it or the drawers will stick and drag.

Rooftop Cargo Basket Yakima LoadWarrior Rooftop Cargo Basket $350 @ Amazon


Free up space inside the car with a cargo basket. I prefer baskets over the molded plastic containers because I can customize the size/shape of items to store and am not limited by a container. Yakima is always quality, durability with a “love it till you leave it” warranty. Solid steel but only 25 pounds and the wind fairing does help reduce the noise somewhat. This fits most roof railings and you can buy additional accessories to hold bikes, kayaks, etc.

TIP: I can’t recommend the net accessory due to extreme tangling issues. I also use a waterproof cargo bag to protect items from rain.

Miscellaneous

Clothes Pins $7 @ Amazon


Slightly larger and sturdier than standard wooden clothespin this is somewhat of a princess buy but the assorted colors really pop and the 40 pins come in a case. They also hold more weight than the wooden versions.

EZ Travel Collection Telescopic Rake Folding Rake Garden Rake Heavy Duty Foldable Rake $24 @ Amazon


Compact, lightweight and strong this take does the trick when it’s time clear debris or smooth an area in camp.

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