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.
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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.
Brahma Lock: I don’t put this on all the time, but when I do, I feel very sure my trailer isn’t going anywhere. Think of this as a boot for your trailer. The company is easy to work with, my first phone call was answered by the inventor and owner.
Cell phone booster: This WeBoost cell signal booster is amazingly effective. It consists of an outdoor antenna and an indoor antenna, both connected to a base station that runs on 12V power (so it even works when boondocking). If you have a faint signal, it will boost it up 1-2 bars, turning a frustrating lack of connectivity into pretty decent web surfing. (Of course, if you have zero signal, it can’t do magic and so it won’t work.) I have the base station stuck to the wall next to the upper kitchen cabinet, so it’s close to a 12V plug and out of the way (picture above).
The two antennas need to be 8 feet apart to avoid interference, so I have the indoor one right by the door (with the cable strung on top of the kitchen cabinet, making it pretty invisible. The hotspot or cell phone needs to be as close as possible to this antenna; best results are when they are touching, I’ve found.
The outdoor antenna is mounted on a collapsing flag pole I got at Ace Hardware, and then that is bolted to the bumper with two big U-bolts and metal plates (they come with the metal plates). I can collapse this down so that it fits neatly inside the back storage of the Alto, and I just pull it in and out of the back window when I want to set it up or stow it away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Luci Lights are solar-powered lights that really do light up the night (or the inside of your trailer). You can get small or big clear Luci lights or splurge and get the colored Luci light that can cycle through the colors or let you pick the color that matches your current mood. The image above shows all the colors you can choose to display in the colored light. So fun!
The only ding on them is you can’t charge them via USB, which would be nice (I have other solar lights that do work this way for times when the sun isn’t cooperating). But put them out on a sunny morning, and they will be fully charged by afternoon and that charge will last 3-4 evenings.
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.
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).
RV Holding Tank Treatment: This stuff is great. It’s non-toxic, organic, and it works. It is a powder, so no worry about liquid spilling. It does the job. I won’t use anything else in my black tank.
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.
Teapot: I love this collapsible little thing, because I don’t drink a lot of hot beverages, but when I want one, I can make it easily without lugging a big teakettle around all the time. It folds down to about 1.5 inches high and the handle unscrews to fold down along the base. Cool device, literally! Only the bottom gets hot because the rest is silicone!
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.
Travel Map (US States): This fun sticker map fits neatly onto the door of the Alto and it’s fun to add states as I camp in them. What’s not to like?!
Trimetric Battery Monitor (TM-2030-RV): Having data that shows how much battery I have left, as well as how many amps I’m using, and the charging rate has completely changed my understanding of my power usage and storage. I had friends install mine (I avoid as much electronic work as I can), and it took them under an hour to do.
Vacuum Cleaner (Black and Decker): This little thing works really well in an RV. It holds a charge well, gets into the tracks for doors and cupboards and will even suck up bugs if you’re invaded by an ill-timed evening door opening (this I know for sure…)
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.