Check out our gear vault!
We’ve been meeting a lot of RV/Airstream owners this year as we have traveled back and forth to the Mothership – Airstream Factory Service Center – in Jackson Center, Ohio. We have enjoyed swapping stories with other travelers and in particular have been sharing information about the gear we use. Up until now it has been quite a manual process.
Almost everything listed is gear that we currently use and are happy to recommend to others. There are a few exceptions for items that we plan to acquire once the tool that it is replacing has stopped working. Where possible, each item includes a link to where you can purchase it for yourself.
Enjoy and if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please let us know!
Trailer Aid Plus
In advance of our return to Alaska, we invested in a Trailer Aid Plus. This is nothing more than a durable plastic ramp that you drive onto and which lifts the other trailer axle high enough off the ground for you to change the tire. Trying to raise a 30′ tandem axle trailer with a jack is already tricky in controlled environments, let alone on the side of a semi-improved goat trail, or in an abandoned hotel parking lot. Last year we borrowed 13roads‘ twice in Alaska. Less Junk More Journey also put theirs to good use last year, for easier access to their freshwater tank. Whenever doing any kind of work under the trailer, always remember to secure it from moving. A combination of wheel stops and wheel chocks do a really good job. Safety first!
USB and 12V
As a family of four and my day job in cybersecurity, to say that we have many devices is an understatement. With so much time last year off-grid in Alaska, it quickly became apparent that running the inverter to charge our devices was not sustainable and highly inefficient.
We recently took the opportunity to build ourselves a power wall. We installed three dual-port USB sockets and a 12V socket on our TV/fridge wall. As the power center is below the fridge, it was a pretty quick process to drill the holes with a hole saw, crimp the spade connectors and run the wires for a new circuit.
Last year in Alaska we first swapped a factory USB socket for a 12V socket and found a suitable HP laptop charger. Once we had proven that the setup worked, we put the factory USB plug back in its place and spliced the 12V socket into the same circuit but on the other side of the radio. A simple 12V to USB adapter provides additional USB charging capacity in a convenient location.
Monitoring Shore Power and Interior Temperature
Shore power is necessary in order to run the AC and keep Bubbles cool. With Hobbes staying in the Airstream while we were out, we wanted the piece of mind of knowing that we had shore power and that the internal temperature was suitable.
We settled upon an iSocket-3G device with short temperature sensor. You interact with the socket over SMS/text messages and so it requires a GSM SIM and service. As we were only using it for text messages, we opted for an entry-level, pay-as-you-go plan from Consumer Cellular. The socket is programmed via test message and can be setup for temperature and power alerts. We can also remotely control its plug, which has allowed us to turn on a light if we realized that we are returning home after dark.
Power Woes in the Desert
For the last two years, we have been able to travel to Alaska during the summer and avoid really hot temperatures. This year, COVID-19 has kept us stationary in New Mexico and has introduced us to a new challenge – low power.
Our campground only has 30amp power, which limits us to running a single AC unit. Despite our elevation, the daytime temperatures have recently been in the 90s. It does get a little warm inside, particularly for Hobbes, but temperatures in the mid-80s are manageable. The problem is that when it is consistently hot, the cumulative load on the local power grid causes the voltage to drop perilously low. We learned of the voltage drops from our friends that have a fancy, hard-wired Progressive Dynamics EMS. We had considered one of these when we launch but had opted for a basic surge protector. That said while assessing the power situation I remembered having the Kill-a-Watt meter. Although intended to measure the power consumption of a device, it has doubled as our low tech, voltage meter. As low voltage can damage electrical equipment as well as high voltage, the situation definitely caused concern. We reported the issue to the campground but given the current situation, we’re not expecting changes anytime soon.
For now, we’re doing everything we can to keep the interior cool, minimize our shore power usage and reduce the risk of damaging any of our equipment. We have placed our Alaska Reflectix in most of the windows and deploy the awnings whenever the winds permit. We over cool at night to give us a head start on daytime temperatures. As for power, we have disconnected our chargers and run all our DC systems from battery and solar. Our water heater and fridge are now run on propane. And using the Kill-a-Watt as a guide, we ration when we run our larger electrical appliances e.g. washer and dryer. As soon as we complete some leftover wiring work from our battery upgrades, we can run the washer and dryer from our inverter whenever convenient.
Up until now, we have always relied upon hookups to supply power to Bubbles. In fact, we’ve only spent one night without power. That was earlier this year in Florida when we ran away from a severe weather system and ended up in a Cracker Barrel parking lot for the night.
Leading up to SolarFest last month, we knew we were going to need an external power source. Oregon was going to be really hot, and we wanted to be able to run the AC to keep Hobbes cool. Solar, while nice, would not have enabled us to run the AC. We eyed Honda inverter/generators which we have used many times in Cayman following hurricanes. However, between their cost (not discounting the quality at all) and then having a diesel truck, a Honda gasoline unit did not appeal to us. So, we ended up ordering a Champion Dual-Fuel 3400 Watt Inverter/Generator.
The Champion unit, although a little on the large size, features a drag handle and wheels for easier movement. The dual-fuel aspect means that it can run on unleaded fuel as well as propane – which we have plenty of with two 30-lb tanks on Bubbles. The unit also features a 30-amp RV connection which meant that we could use our existing shore power cable. And the 3400-watt capacity meant that we could use it to run one AC unit with impunity. We did have to dismount a propane tank and place it near the generator, both secured with security cable locks.
We unboxed it at SolarFest and were able to use it as planned to power Bubbles and run the AC. At full power, it was definitely louder than a comparable Honda unit but the among the hundreds of other generators running at SolarFest, it was not really an issue. It has since served us well to provide power while boondocking in South Dakota.
Stay tuned for more!