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Gotta Have It: Fall 2019 Edition

Bill & Denise Semion

It’s necessary to put a limit on the non-essential “stuff” you want/need to bring along the next time you pull your LTV out of your driveway, but some things you just can’t live without, and the same is true for us in our LTV Unity Murphy Bed. So with that in mind, here’s another edition of “Gotta Have It,” my periodic postings of must-have – or “maybe we should have” – do-dads and gizmos you might want to carry along on your next adventure.

PARA’KITO

No, it’s not a mini tropical bird. PARA’KITO is the best plant-based natural mosquito repellant I’ve ever used, and since I’m an angler who’s on the river a lot, I’ve tried a lot of them. Not many stop the mosquitoes and black flies here in northern Michigan, but this does. I apply the repellent to my skin, my hat, wherever, and the skeeters are gone for at least two hours. The only place I still get bitten is anywhere where this stuff isn’t. If you’re concerned about what you’re spraying onto yourself to keep the critters at bay, consider this product.

What makes it work where others fail is that this French-made product is a mix of five oils: citronella, rosemary, geranium, clove, and peppermint. It actually smells good – but not to those biters! There are several application options available, but I like the roll-on, which is now permanently attached to my fishing vest.

Watch this video to learn a little more. And finally, a proviso: the real test of this stuff will come this winter, battling the no-see-ums and sand fleas in Florida.

Where to buy: PARA’KITO is offering 25% off plus free shipping for its products until January 1, 2020. Use coupon code CAMPING on their website.

Wander with Wandrd

If you’re like me and work from your Leisure Travel Van, then like me you may also want to protect your two most important items, your computer and your camera, from getting banged up or water-damaged. Wandrd makes several types of bags, including the new duo that is available with inflatable bladders to protect against damaging those expensive, delicate items.

Wandrd also makes inflatable containers for camera lenses, and their bags come with lots of extras like theft-resistant zippers, water bottle storage, adjustable straps, and more.

Where to buy:  Shop Wandrd bags on their website.

Wander With Motorola

If you’re planning a caravan trip with a friend or two, or want to keep in contact with your base if you’re heading to that favorite fishing spot, consider the Motorola Talkabout T605 two-way radios.

Motorola claims a maximum range of 35 miles for these, and I’m sure that may be true… if you’re on a mountaintop talking to someone in a valley.

We tried them in hilly northern Michigan and found that under normal conditions, range is about two miles, or up to six miles on open water – still good enough to keep your fellow RVers aware of your (or their) location.

The T605 combines several features. First is the flashlight, with either white or red LED light, included on the bottom of the radio. Second, tune in to one of 11 available NOAA weather channels and alerts. The radios are not only rechargeable but waterproof, even to the point of being submersible up to one meter for 30 minutes. They are also compatible with any other radio someone else is using as long as, of course, you’re on the same channel (the T605 has 23) and security code (it has 121). About the only thing it’s missing is a lanyard for easy carrying on a wrist or around your neck.

Where to buy:  The T605 is available through Motorola directly or on outlets such as Amazon for about $98 for two.

Light My Fire

PULL START FIRE fire starters claim to work even on wet wood and in any weather. Makers say the product is eco-friendly and, once activated, works for 30 minutes, which should get your fire burning well.  At three for $18, it’s a bit pricier than the sawdust and paraffin fire-starting squares from Meeco that I use all the time, but for those times when you need it, it may come in handy.

A homemade alternative draws on my Cub Scout days: gather dryer lint, put it in an empty toilet paper roll, and pour melted paraffin inside the roll onto the lint. Cut the filled roll into usable pieces, and light that fire.

Where to buy: You can purchase PULL START FIRE directly on their website, or find a retailer here.

Light Up Your ‘Yak

I like solar lights because they can be re-used over and over. Brite-Strike Technologies has several lighting products, including options for trail use, and their solar kayak lights may have many more uses than just marking your kayak when paddling at night.

These light boxes are recharged using built-in solar panels, come in two colors (red and green), and are great for using at night with up to eight hours of illumination.

Brite-Strike’s all-purpose adhesive light strips in red, green, and white also have solar-power versions.

Where to buy:  Shop on the Brite-Strike website!

Have A Seat

Yup, chairs for your RV are in the eye – or other body part – of the beholder. Everybody has a favorite, it seems, but our priorities were compactness and quality. We found both in the GCI Outdoor compact folding director’s chair.

I can fit three of these chairs in one of our LTV’s slide-out storage bins, although we normally just carry two. The chair folds to about the size of a large laptop, and is sturdy enough that I don’t have to worry about leaning back in it. A cup holder is also included. GCI also makes rockers, but they don’t store as compactly as this director’s chair.

Where to buy:  I found two at an end-of-season sale, and the third on Amazon.

Cascade LED Lantern

Put one of these next to your new seat. Cascade Mountain Tech offers a three-pack of great LED lanterns that we like, each powered by three AA batteries (your first set comes with the lights).

Cascade lanterns put out a lot of light, including red light for night use.

We first bought them for our grandkids and now have a set of our own, including one for our LTV. They feature both white light and red, along with a blinking red setting. (Red light, if you don’t know, won’t reduce your night vision like white light will.) These lanterns collapse into a compact shape and include handles.

Where to buy: You can buy the three-pack on the company website for $35, or find ’em at Costco for $24.99 online, and less if your local store has them.

Bikes, E and Otherwise

In the last edition of Gotta Have It, I posted links to a number of electric-assist bicycles, or e-bikes. Bikes for us RV dwellers and city commuters are probably the fastest growing segment in cycling.

But for some, a recumbent bike is the only thing they can comfortably peddle due to injuries or pinch points. One such maker is Cruzbike, which offers four models from the entry level T50 to what’s claimed to be the world’s fastest recumbent, the V20.

Speaking of e-bikes, here are a few more to consider. If you’re looking for something to run to the store or the beach and back, you may want to consider the Xtracycle series. These cargo bikes range from the Swoop, made for family hauling, to one that would fit nicely on the rear of an LTV, the RFA Sport.

One of the most venerable names in bicycles, Schwinn, recently introduced two e-bikes, the Vantage FXe and RXe.

Schwinn’s electric-assist FXe bike, available only on Amazon. Photo source.

Both feature the Bosch electric system, which can crank you up to 28 mph. As with all e-bikes, these things are expensive when compared to most people-pedaled versions. Find them on Amazon starting at $3,499.

Another Bosch-powered e-bike is the Gazelle Arroyo, for about the same price. Surly’s Big Easy e-bike guarantees max cargo and passenger capacity, again driven by Bosch, this time with a 500-watt power pack cranking an 11-speed shifter.

If you’re a Costco member, they’re also selling e-bikes, with ranges of up to 30 miles depending on how much assist you use and wish to have available. With all e-bikes, check them out thoroughly before you invest. Some reviews of the Costco models aren’t too kind.

As you can imagine, the e-bike world is expanding nearly weekly. The best rule when shopping for one of these is to try ’em before you buy ’em. Read up on reviews, ask friends, and ask the LTV community on the Facebook page. One thing is for certain – e-bikes are here to stay, and those ubiquitous Bosch powerplants definitely will be around for a long time to come.

Once you’ve got your bike, you need to protect it from those who also want it. So, next up are a couple of lock systems that look like they’d do the job.

Where to buy: Various, depending on which bike you are interested in.

It’s a Light, It’s a Lock

BrightLoc is an innovative u-lock bike lock that has a built-in rechargeable front and rear light system. The waterproof light modules detach, and the system uses a keyed double deadbolt to attach the hardened steel lock, securing your ride.

Where to buy:  BrightLoc has a Kickstarter campaign running here.

Another option is BOLT Lock – BOLT stands for Breakthrough One-Key Lock Technology. Designed to lock the ball-mount receiver onto the hitch of your vehicle, the Receiver Lock is available in 1/2-inch (fits Class 1 and 2 hitches) and 5/8-inch (fits Class 3, 4, and 5 hitches) models.

BOLT Lock is unique in that it uses your vehicle ignition key. Insert your key and the lock will memorize the key’s internal anti-theft chip, reducing the creeping key clutter we all experience. Now, the somewhat bad news: the lock can currently only be synced to the Wonder chassis ignition key, not the Mercedes. Mercedes owners, you can, and should, buy an alternate hitch lock at any major retailer (like Walmart), or a good hardware store.

Where to buy:  Use the store finder on the BOLT Lock website or find it on Amazon.

Hobie Kayaks

Lots of people in the LTV community are kayakers. Some are also anglers. Why not combine the two?

Hobie’s newest fishing/sit-upon kayak with its new Mirage drive. Photo source.

Hobie began by revolutionizing small-craft sailing with their catamaran-style boats. Then they did it again with fishing kayaks featuring pedal-powered platforms. Now, they’ve improved those fishing kayaks with their newest model, featuring 360-degree MirageDrive® rotating paddles that retract if they hit a log or rock. While a regular kayak is probably better on shallower rivers, the Hobie fits the bill for exploring shorelines, and fishing them. Hobie makes 12-foot and 14-foot models featuring the new rotating paddles.

Where to buy: Use the store finder here.

Anchor It With Anker

Tired of computer/phone/watch charger cords everywhere? We were too. Then we saw an Anker charging cube at Denise’s son’s house. This cube-shaped model is our favorite; it’s extremely compact and can charge up to three USB items and three 120-volt items.

Where to buy: This charger is about $25 on Amazon.

myCharge Chargers x 2

If you’re boondocking a lot, running out of power for your devices becomes a worry. One solution is myCharge‘s latest wireless portable charger.

If your device is so-equipped, simply lay it on top of the Unplugged 10K to charge wirelessly. Or, connect with the USB cord and charge your device.

Where to buy: You can find it on Amazon.

Another, possibly even better, option from the same makers is the Solar Charger PowerFold.

I use my phone a lot on my boat to find saved fishing spots, and I worry about running out of power. Now, I won’t. Unfold this, and it will charge either directly or from the battery in the charger. This is a great system that I will definitely use, and a great accessory for boondockers.

Where to buy: Find it for about $60 on Amazon.

Your Last Straw?

Old enough to remember when straws were made of paper? Me too. Well, The Final Straw might be the last straw you ever use. While pricey, it might just stop the deluge of the estimated 500 million single-use, non-recyclable plastic straws that Americans use and throw out every day. Yup, every day.

The patented Final Straw may be the solution. You own it, and you re-use it. They’re guaranteed against defects forever, aside from general wear and special cases like dog chewing or other such mishaps. Order the kit and it includes a telescopic cleaning brush and case.

Where to buy:  Pick up you Final Straw on the company website.

Wax On, Wax Off

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen other makes of RVs, especially Class A models, that have never seen an open bottle of wax. The chalky exterior makes the things look old, faded, and tired.

I’m not letting our 2015.5 Unity MB get that way. At least once a year, I go over the exterior, including the roof, with either Nu Finish or with a product that I think is superior even to that inexpensive brand, IBIZ.

Where to buy: I get IBIZ kits at Costco that are available only when an IBIZ rep is in the store, but the product is available separately on their website or on Amazon, too. The Costco kit comes with the wax as well as the Everything Wash and Everything Waterless wax, plus special silver polish-like cloths for your rims or wheels. The kit is worth it at about $30 or so and the single product is less when you buy it separately on Amazon. IBIZ costs more than Nu Finish, but I feel it is a tad better and longer-lasting. I also use Nu Finish, however, when I can’t score that IBIZ deal.

This n’ That

Body Glide is now making an anti-chafe formula glide-on stick for preventing blisters and chafing. The main packaging says “foot,” but the info says you can use it just about anywhere.

Where to buy: Purchase on the company website here.

From your feet to your hands: CleanWell makes a range of hand cleaners, from foaming hand wash in four scents, to sanitizing wipes. Products are made with ingredients like aloe, lime oil, and oregano. This is good stuff to use, especially just after you make that holding tank dump.

Where to buy: You can find CleanWell products on Amazon, including a foaming hand cleaner three-pack for about $22 on Amazon.

The great grill debate also continues amongst LTV owners. Well, here’s a crisp alternative. For about $15, you can buy an all-natural compostable CasusGrill charcoal grill that heats to about 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and stays hot for about an hour.

The charcoal is made from 100% bamboo dust and produces up to 50% less pollution, and it’s basically flame-free, so that means fewer carcinogens in your grilled food.

Where to buy: Purchase directly through the company website.

If you’re driving or exercising, or if like me you spend time going over waves in a boat and still want access to your phone, you might want to look at the wireless earbuds from iLive electronics.

These earbuds come in a case that, when charged itself, charges the buds as they rest. The buds fit snugly, and unlike other buds that simply hang in your ear, these wrap around your ears for a more secure fit. They produce a clear signal and are simple to connect to Bluetooth. Having these handy might also resolve late-night TV volume spats if you have a smart TV in your LTV, and it may be worth the approximately $42 cost just for that. These buds will take about 300 charges and unfortunately, batteries aren’t replaceable. To recharge, make sure they’re snugly in the case.

Where to buy: Buy on the company website here.

And finally, if you’re in a survivalist mood in your six-figure RV or fancy yourself a MacGyver, check out two new tools from Outdoor Edge.

The ParaSpark bracelet has a 1.3-inch blade, a compass, a whistle, and a built-in fire-starter rod. The bracelet itself is wax-coated to help that rod start a fire, and also includes some mono fishing line.

The Ignitro knife, also from Outdoor Edge, features a  2.3-inch blade, a whistle, and that same fire-starter rod. A special compartment also contains a fire-starting cord.

Pick up one of these and you’re ready for your next “betcha can’t top this” game around the campfire.

Where to buy: Both items can be purchased through the company website.

That’s It For Now!

We’ll have more things you’ve just gotta have soon. Even if you only find a few of these suggestions usable, we hope they’ll help you make life in your LTV as enjoyable as ours is.

Our Unity Murphy Bed at California’s Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

Please note: The recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Leisure Travel Vans.

Bill & Denise Semion

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