After six months in the Alto, here’s what I’ve changed up from my original configuration. Some big, some little, but it helps me to see what I’ve done and why as I plan for future mods.
(Full disclosure: if you click on pictures or links and they go to Amazon, it gives me pennies into my Amazon affiliate program if you buy from that link.)
What I’ve Added
Viking propane tanks – I switched out the one 20-pound metal tank for two 17-pound fiberglass tanks. Weight-wise, it wasn’t much more but it does give me more propane capacity, and that’s a very good thing because heat and hot water come from propane when I’m not hooked up to a power pole. You can find them at vikingcylinders.com
Propane-fueled generator – I found a West Virginia place online that installs a fuel intake system that converts a gas generator to gas/natural gas/propane fuels. So I can carry the generator in my car and hook it up to the propane tanks easily to recharge batteries if the solar panels don’t cut it (and with so many tree-filled campsites, sometimes the solar panels don’t get a full day of sun). And I’ve even figured out how to run it in light rain, with Bella’s tailgate sheltering it.
Cell phone booster – One of the most frustrating things so far has been the complete crap shoot that is cell phone coverage in campgrounds. After half a lifetime of fast internet provided by my high-tech employers combined with home cable internet, moving to a dependency on cell providers has been a rough experience.
Right now, I have a Verizon unlimited data plan, an AT&T voice plan with 6GB of monthly data, and a T-Mobile 6GB monthly data plan with binge-on streaming (so Netflix, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime don’t count against my data plan). But all of these are useless if there is no signal. Usually I’m lucky and at least one of them comes through, most often Verizon. When there is a signal, this cell phone booster works well to add 1-2 bars to the signal. That is the difference between barely being able to text message someone and being able to read Facebook and create blog posts. Yeah, it takes a little power, so I use it sparingly in dry camping situations, but I still use it.
For Verizon, I use a Jetpack hotspot that holds a charge almost all day and recharges pretty fast.
An adjustable height step – This has been amazingly useful. It mostly provides a second step for getting in and out of the trailer, but it’s been handy for sitting on while I put the wheels on the jack stand or clean the outside storage compartments. It wasn’t cheap, but I’m getting older so I appreciate the little things that make life easier and this is definitely one of those! The only downside is that I don’t have enough hand strength to change the leg lengths easily so I’m going to try some WD-40 and see if that helps the situation. And, yeah, I got it on Amazon.com.
Lumi solar lights – I love these things. They charge in sunlight and then give a warm glow to the trailer inside at night. One is clear and provides a lot of light, the other has different colors and is mood lighting.
Brahma wheel lock – This is basically a boot for the trailer, it locks one wheel up so that it’s harder to drag the trailer onto a flatbed or just try to hook it up and drive it away. When everything I own is in the car or the trailer (and it is), I want to give myself a bit of an edge. Nothing is guaranteed, but maybe trailer-stealing thieves will go for an easier target. The one tip is to keep the lock off the ground, as mine did get sand in it and got stuck till I WD-40’d the crap out of it.
In addition, I’ve added some smaller stuff to my arsenal over time:
- The Garmin GPS for RVs lets me put in how long my total rig is and tell it not to send me down dirt roads or circuitous routes (unlike Google Maps!).
- A Black and Decker portable drill with a boatload of drill bits, more than I will ever use, but it was an Amazon Deal of the Day so a good price.
- More 3M Command Strips than any one person might ever need. But, damn, these things are handy. They stick to almost any surface and come off without leaving a sticky mess behind. I love them.
- Happy Camper RV tank treatment. This organic stuff replaces the skull-and-crossbones blue liquid that came with the trailer. I like this stuff a lot better.
- Water filters that go between campground pipe and hose so I have a better shot of not putting crappy water into my fresh water tank.
- A Brita water filter pitcher for inside the trailer. Because two filters are always better than one. Mine is teal blue but they discontinued that color.
- A shade cloth that hangs on 3M Command hooks to keep sun off the windows. I can move it from window to window depending on where I’m camping in relation to the sun, so very useful.
What I’ve Subtracted
Magma cooking pot set – This was one of the first things I bought in the early flush of planning enthusiasm. And after two months in the Alto, I had to admit I wasn’t using them. They were cool and nesting and all that, but it was more than I needed and bigger than I needed. It’s just me most of the time, so my cooking tools are small and simple. I ended up gifting this to a couple at the Alto Rally in July and was relieved to see it go.
So what do I use to cook? The same three things I used in my house: a big fry pan with lid, a small sauce pan with lid, and a small stir fry pan. I’m not a big cook 🙂
Different grill – Again with the “it’s just me here” theme, the original Weber grill I bought was cool, but it was huge. It took up most of the wayback space in Bella and when I got the generator, it was clear something had to give. So I sold the Weber to a friend’s son and got a smaller O-Grill that slides into the floor area of the back seat quite nicely. (Mine is the 500 series Orange but it’s not available in that color now; the red is cooler but I’m not going to buy a new one just for that reason!)
I also got the O-grill carrying case because it makes it that much easier to move and store.
Lots of fancy storage containers – Before I got my Alto, I spent time buying a bunch of Container Store things. After actually using things for a while, I realized my friend Mary (a longer-term Alto owner) was right: Sterilite plastic containers are the best. They come in all sizes and are easy to find at Walmart and Target (two staples of the RV shopper because they are everywhere). I have mostly swapped out all my fancy stuff for Sterilite, and thrown away the lids. It’s just easier.
Over time, I have probably gone through my storage areas at least once a week, curating my possessions to what I use most, and mostly dumping what I haven’t used in the six months. The notable exceptions to that are a dressy outfit for the rare special occasion where such clothing is required, my kayak paddle and flotation vest (because I will kayak again at some point and I really love both those things), and a Billy Boil thermal pot. I’m still on the fence about that last thing, but since it is light, it’s still around, at least for now.