Toys and Gadgets
I love decking out the EVC with gadgets. Obviously, I'm not a camping purist. I want solar panels for extended comfortable cruising, but I guess they'll have to wait. I also want hot water, and I'm not positive which way yet I'm going to do that; There are a couple of options.
Essential. And the screen for the roof vent is, also. By the way, if your hatch screen is like mine, attach it at the bottom FIRST, then work your way up and around the snaps, otherwise you'll look like a candidate for idiocy while you chase it around and around. They no longer give the screens to you when you buy an EVC, like they did with the Vanagons. If you're buying one, MAKE THEM.
I usually travel with my Apple Powerbook, so I went the cheap GPS route: Automap and a Tripmate. It works fine, but the Tripmate eats batteries, so I need an adapter. It's kind of fun to have one. Sometimes you just plain want to know whether you're sitting at 8700 feet or 8800 feet. I did use it once kind of like a homing device to help me figure out where I was.
Backup find-my-way-home toy. Much better than leaving bread crumbs.
It's an 166mhz Apple 1400. On long trips, I carry a small portable Stylewriter printer, an internal Zip drive, and a modem. The modem hooks up to my cell phone (an OLD Motorola digital). Unless I'm way way out in the boonies, I can usually access email; Airtime's too expensive for casual browsing.
NOTE: I just found out that there is finally a modem card and cables available for use with ATandT's One Rate. That's next on the must-have list; my cell phone bills are serious.
I also carry an Olympus digital camera. One of the old ones; I can't remember the model number, but I think it's a DL-200, or something like that. It works perfectly, but when I replace it, I'll get something with a Zoom. Probably another Olympus; this one has survived intensive abuse. And you need power adapters for these babies; 30 HQ pictures and the batteries are toast.
I use KISS solar panels for the laptop. The Mercury model. I can run the computer all day long off of the solar panels, as long as I'm not doing processor-intensive stuff. The cord's long enough that I can sit inside at the table and run the panels outside on the overhead luggage shelf. I can also recharge batteries with it. Well, I can when I remember to bring the charger.
Statpower ProWatt. 250 watts. It does just about anything that I want it to do, and it has an alarm whistle that blows when the battery's getting low. I drained the battery on my Suburban before I knew what the whistle was for. Mostly I use it for the camera when I'm downloading pictures. The Prowatt does not run a boom box; it's too noisy/dirty.
Solar Lantern and Flashlight
More toys from Jade Mountain.
Ooooooooo! New bike!
Yakima. Fits into a 2" receiver. I had an old one (not a Yakima) that I used on my Suburban and it rattled all over the place. We used to stop and shim it with wooden matchsticks. The Yakima is very well made and fits tight. You can lower it to access the back hatch, and it has built-in locks. The rubber stuff in the cradle is very easy on the bike frame.
I couldn't find a 2" for the EVC, so I had one made. It's rated for 150 pounds on the tongue and 1500 pounds total.
JVC cassette receiver and a 12 disc cd changer. It could use a subwoofer for depth, but the sound is fairly clean. I love having the remote.
Great for caravanning (especially when you're with a local who can point out points of interest), but I ended up using them for other things, too. They give you some peace of mind if you have kids who want to wander by themselves. I made Jord take one when she wandered to use the cell phone or when she went to shower. And she had peace of mind when I went hiking by myself.
I had Sports Rack in Seattle install the racks, and I also got a Rocket Box. I 'm careful to only carry bulk, and not weight, on top, but I still worry about cracking the plastic top. I can pop the top with the box on top, even loaded, but it won't stay up by itself. I got a pair of those expandable shower curtain rods at Home Depot, and they're the perfect length to stick up in the corners to hold the top up when the box is up there. I wouldn't want to sleep on the top bunk with this arrangement, but it allows me to open everything up and not feel claustrophobic. When they installed the rack, I had them pull the lock cores on the bike rack and key everything the same.
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 C's.
I's the Casa Royale model, and I bought it from AOL Steve. It does its job perfectly. It's built well and has little curtains on one of the windows. I can get it up in about 15 minutes; the shock corded poles help a lot. I permanently numbered each piece because the ID stickers were getting pretty battered. I ended up attaching the tent to the van with 2 bungee cords. In the front, I ran one from the loop under the tent bar to the opposite side tie-down in the luggage rack. In the back, I ran one from the loop under the tent bar to the opposite side hinge on the rear hatch. It worked fine. I had some fairly extreme weather in Wyoming (torrential rain and strong enough winds that the park superintendent was considering evacuating the park), and I didn't have a leak anywhere. And the tent didn't flap around. After each storm, everyone else was doing cleanup detail on their tents but me.
I seem to use it mainly as a garage/bathhouse. I folded a groundcloth and laid it across the front side. That's where I kept things that I wanted easy access to, but didn't want to get wet/damp. The rest of the floor was uncovered. In that part, I kept the port-a-potti, a folding chair, and the console from the car (it's easier to live in the van without it, but I love it for driving. And it makes a great end table for the chair. :-)). I also hung a clothesline on that end from one corner of the tent frame to the other. And I kept a couple of water jugs in there. It ended up that I washed my hair at the back of the EVC with the spray hose, then I went into the tent, and did my bathing (so to speak). I could sit in the chair and shave my legs or whatever, and I had total privacy.
It is really nice leaving the side door open on the EVC at night and not feeling exposed to the world, but I think that this is a woman kind of thang.
Not a toy, but it sure makes life more comfortable. I went to Home Depot and got 2 lengths of commercial runner (see the walkie-talkie picture above) and trimmed them to fit, then used carpet tape to connect them. When it gets dirty, I just pull it out and shake it or vacuum. No more grit underfoot.
I stopped at a fabric store and bought 6 metres of navy blue polarfleece. (Color-co-ordination is OH so important, you know. :-) )I cut it into 2 pieces and have been using it as sheets. My down bags are sometimes too hot and were damp in B.C. Plain old sheets are not warm enough and they get dirty and wrinkled too fast. The polarfleece has worked out great. When I stop somewhere to camp, I usually put down the bed right away (so I can ... lounge ...) I put the pf sheets over the bed and it keeps the upholstery nice and clean. I tuck it all in and it doesn't slide around and get wrinkled. And it's tres cozy. I keep the sleeping bags stuffed into pillow protectors, with pillow cases on them, and use them as backrests. Then when it's time for bed, I just climb between the sheets and open a sleeping bag on top of it all. A la Princess and the Pea. The pf launders and dries beautifully, and stores on the top bunk when I'm driving.
Actually, just too cool a gadget to pass up. A Russian flashlight with a trigger grip that you squeeze for light. A stocking stuffer from Renovation Hardware.
And the always appreciated Porta-Potty.