This is a list of things I highly recommend. I paid for each item, and I don’t get any freebies, so if it is on this list, it means I really like it and I use it. My typical camping setup below shows a lot of them in one shot.
One thing you will notice I don’t recommend is the awning made by a SoCal company and sold by them and Safari Condo. It is impossible for a single person to put up easily (at least on the 1743 model) and when it’s windy, the fabric is incredibly noisy. I gave up, sold it to a couple, and am now using the new “old style” awning that Safari Condo is once again stocking.
Air Compressor: This little 12V package is useful for checking and topping up tires on my trailer, my car, and my bike. It’s not crazy powerful, but it’s not crazy big either, less than 10x10x4 inches, so it tucks into a corner of the storage area in the Alto. I don’t use it a lot, but when I need it, I have it.
Tire Pressure Gauge: I have a separate gauge so it’s easy for me to check my tires for pressure and also for tread before I start out on a drive. This is a “best practices” thing and I’m pretty firm about doing it because, after all, everything I own is riding on the six tires of my car and trailer.
Chair – Nemo Stargaze Recliner: This chair seems a bit ridiculous at first glance, or at least it did to me. But having sat in it for a while, I just love the rocking motion. It’s now my favorite chair to relax in, read in, and, yes, look at the night sky in. You can get it at REI if you live in the US.
Campstool (aka footstool): If you have a chair, you really can’t relax without a footstool! This one is small, folds up into its own carrying case, and it’s a good fit with the chair.
Clam shelter: I literally can put this up with one hand and take it down with one hand. And do either action in under 10 minutes.
The matching wind panels are really nice for privacy as well as keeping the wind out.
Get these Carabiners for setting up stakes outside the Clam (definitely do this in windy weather!):
And combine them with this reflective cord. Pre-cut into useful lengths and setup is super easy.
Streak-Free Cleaning Cloths: these things are fantastic for wiping glass and plexiglass windows clean without those annoying streaks. They also work well to wipe down the outside of my trailer when it’s so dusty or dirty I can’t stand it any more. To clean bugs off the car and trailer at the end of a long drive, get it sloppy wet and rub the bugs off, then rinse the cloth, wring it out as hard as you can, and wipe the area dry with broad strokes.
Aero Cosmetics Wash and Wax: This spray stuff is fantastic! Use it with dry microfiber cloths and your Alto (including the windows) will look clean and shiny all the time. And you can use it on your car, too. I love it.
Dashcam – There are a lot of models out there; this Halocam came recommended by other RVers. It’s small, the setup is pretty easy, and it just works. If I want to download video or snapshots of the road to my phone, it’s one step. It uses either a USB plug or your car’s OBD plug (which also records speed, GPS location, and other useful data). It’s tiny, too, so it fits right behind my rearview mirror and I don’t even notice it.
Fan Vent Cover by Fan-tastic Fan: I installed this after a year of full-timing because I wanted the fan to stay open in the rain in an effort to help with interior condenstion. It was an easy install, and the fun part was sitting on top of my trailer for the first time ever. My guide for installation was this excellent video by fellow full-timers We’re the Russos.
Grill – I will admit this is the third grill I’ve owned in 18 months, and I think I finally have the right one for me. I don’t grill a ton and it’s usually just me, so the size of this Safari Chef 2 is pretty perfect. It includes a pot ring, fat pan, BBQ grill, flat griddle, and pot/dome, and all fits into a carrying case that is about 16 inches square, so it tucks into my car’s back seat perfectly.
GPS Navigator: Sooner or later, you’ll lose cell phone connectivity while you’re in the middle of nowhere. And when you do, this is a great thing to have. You can specify how big your rig is, whether you want to avoid dirt roads, toll roads, and other things, and it always tells you the current speed limit, helping avoid small-town speeding tickets. I use this holder, which sits on the dashboard and never, ever moves.
Hitch Lock by Proven Industries (Model 2178): This is not only a nice-looking lock, it is sturdy and tough as well. It took me a bit of practice to work the keylock because it’s on the bottom of that blue circular piece, but then it does keep the water out so I get why it’s designed that way. It can hold the chain ends as well, adding even more difficulty for someone trying to steal the trailer. I use this lock every day.
Hose: I had a normal hose, one of those rubber ones that is safe for drinking water. But it needs to get stowed and that’s where the work comes in. It was hard and took up a lot of space. So I got this little baby. It’s flexible and fits into a 8x8x8 box with the top cut off. Way easier to use. I love it.
This Leveler by Anderson is very easy to use and works whether you’re using the car to position the trailer or using the Caravan Mover to get things set up. If the tire slips slightly sideways, try roughing up the top surface of the big piece (either scuffing it like crazy with rough sandpaper or attaching sandpaper to it are reported to work). I used to have the BAL Leveler, but it was heavy, hard to crank, and quickly rusted out under full-time usage. I moved to this Andersen device and I couldn’t be happier about it. Note that if you have the Caravan Mover (CM) installed, you need to put the big piece in front of the tire, otherwise, it might hit the CM.
Lights that hang outside and do nothing but sparkle in the dark are just plain fun and when they are solar-powered, even better! I put them up to outline the outside wall of my trailer (door side) and either front or back, depending on my mood. They have different flash and blink modes, as well as no-blink mode, and they are fun, primary colors. Rather than leave the porch light on when you’re out for the evening, leave these on and put a smile on your face when you arrive home! The solar charger works well, I’ve had the lights on for several hours and night and not run out of juice.
MagneShade: Another item worth the price, this looks very classy on the big front window of the Alto and definitely keeps things cooler inside the Alto.
You can order it from the MagneShade people directly. Pro tip: Use duct tape to position the shade when you’re installing it, then it’s way easier to place the magnets evenly around the window.
Propane tanks made by Viking Composite are lightweight, so they are easy to carry, and they will melt rather than explode in a fire (which I hope I never have to test in real life). You can also shake them gently to see exactly how much propane is in the tank, so no more guessing or dealing with bad gauges. I have two of the 17-pounders, mounted on my tongue with the Viking two-tank tray. I used industrial-strength Velcro to fasten the tray to tongue frame, and then used Velcro straps wrapped through the tray holes and tongue frame as an extra measure.
Note that I don’t have a bike rack or bikes on the tongue, so I have a bit of tongue weight to spare for a second tank. Even though these are lighter than steel tanks, that second tank does add weight. And if you have the bike rack, make sure you buy a tank that will fit under it (the 22 pound tanks might be too tall).
Rug (Outdoor): I had a big outdoor rug, the kind you buy at Camping World, and it was a massive time suck to roll up and to clean when the site got muddy in the rain. I traded it in for two of these in the 4 foot x 6 foot size and I am very happy with them. They are lightweight, roll up easily and have elastic bands to secure them, and best of all, they are easy to rinse off and dry quickly. Two minutes and both of them are stowed in the car. And they come in really pretty colors, too.
Shade Cloth (Aluminet): I have two sizes, the 7×6 feet one that fits front or back of my Alto, and the 7×10 foot size that can hang on either side. These things really block the heat of the sun on aluminum, and I can feel the difference putting my hand on the inside wall (when the wall is in direct sun in 80F weather, it’s too hot to put your hand on it for more than a few seconds; with the cloth, it just feels warm).
I hang the Aluminet cloths using these all-plastic Command Strips stuck to the outside of my Alto. All plastic means that the rain and damp won’t rust them out, and these particular hooks are long and narrow enough to work well with the cloth’s grommets. You can’t have enough command hooks inside your trailer, so go for it and get different sizes of hooks at the same time you buy these.
Step: This little step make it easier to get in and out of the Alto and it’s also handy for tasks outside the Alto. The adjustable legs help level a site that isn’t, although I do recommend spraying them with teflon or silicone lubricant if you’re in damp or rainy conditions.
Table: This is a side table that is plastic, so it’s light, it doesn’t rattle in the car while moving sites, and it doesn’t rust. All three are big features to me, you may have other requirements!
Towing Mirrors: I use these because they give me a better view of what is behind and beside me when I am towing. Some people use towing mirrors, some don’t. I like having them. These stay put and they have quality mirrors, so they are an essential part of my towing setup. They are easily removable, or you can fold your car mirrors in when parked. I tend to remove them if I’m staying put for a week, so I use a gold-colored Sharpie to mark where the installation positions are. (In 2018, I moved up to a larger size mirror because it’s easier for me to see and not notice the shaking so much.)
Water Filter: One of the great unknowns in camping is water quality. This filter helps a ton in making sure I put good quality water into my freshwater tank. Look around any campground and you’ll see a ton of these in use, because they work. You’ll need to change the filter, and timing depends on how much you use it; I change it every 3 months as a full-timer.
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