Denise and I have been camping together and separately for much of our lives, most recently in our Unity MB, which makes being on the road, including our latest eight-plus week adventure across the northern U.S and all Canadian provinces west of Toronto, easy. We’ll write about those adventures in a series of articles very soon.
Along the way, we’ve discovered some neat little things that we’ve not only heard about, but many of which we’ve also tried, and wanted to pass them along so you can not only plan to bring a few along next trip, but which would make great holiday gifts, or to put in your RV permanently.
Some items I’m sure will have you thinking, “now why would I need that?,” but others might just have you heading to Amazon or even your local dollar store. Either way, we hope you consider them. Here we go!
Racquet-style insect zapper—We’ve had one stored away in the back of our Unity for a while, but our visit to Banff National Park’s great campgrounds was the first time we’ve used it. Now we won’t let it out of our sight, and wished we’d remembered we had it aboard earlier. Powered with two AA batteries in the handle, just push the button and wave it towards a stinging wasp (I’m seriously allergic) or a pesky mosquito and seek revenge or a pre-emptive strike. They’re available at many dollar stores and other outlets and are inexpensive. We’re still on our first set of batteries, and will switch to rechargeables when these go.
Another mosquito wars weapon we won’t be without is our Thermacell Patio Shield. Screw in the butane cartridge, put in a repellent pad, and give it a click. Check the small window to make sure it’s lit and the butane will heat the pad to give off enough repellent to cover a 15-by-15-foot zone, depending of course on the wind (try putting it upwind if there’s a breeze).
The pad lasts about four hours and when it turns white, you know you need to replace. Thermacell also makes personal skeeter’ repellers you wear on your belt or elsewhere, as well as ones that are placed on a post that also acts as a lamp. Great products. In fact, I used a Patio Shield at Banff’s Johnston Creek Canyon campground. Since I fired it up, I’ve not had to use our electric swatter. The unit, new pads and butane are available in many big box, some hardware, and other stores.
Newest from Thermacell is a Lithium battery operated system, providing up to 40 hours of protection. No more butane cartridges. Cool!
Ready to spend some big bucks? How about an electric assist bike? There are a lot of makes out there these days and more will be joining the fleet. One e-bike version is called a cargo bike, and one type is the Electric Boda Boda by Yuba (around $3,000). This type of electric pedal assist bike is extremely useful as it can haul up to 220 lbs—hence the name—excluding the driver, for trips to the local market or brewpub, or to haul up to two young passengers.
One LTV owner reports that while boondocking in a Walmart recently, their electric bike was stolen right off their rear bike rack. Here’s one maker with a built-in anti-theft system: It’s the Vanmoof. The rear wheel locks using your phone, will sound a piercing built-in alarm, and the company will replace or find it if it is stolen. Lights are even integrated into the frame. Around $3,400.
Another compromise is the Copenhagen Wheel, developed by MIT, which retrofits an existing bike into an e-bike. The company also makes entire bikes. It also has some anti-theft capability.
Best advice, however, is like purchasing your Leisure Travel Van, do your research. Try several at e-bike stores, and read reviews of the various styles.
And of course, decide whether you need, or just want, an e-bike, and what you’ll use it for. After all, one of the biggest reasons for riding a clunky old-fashioned 27-speed carbon-framed mountain bike, or your 27-speed carbon frame road bike, that only cost $2,000 each rather than $3K and up is, E-X-E-R-C-I-S-E.
Our own human-powered bikes work just fine. They’re not flashy. My Trek 4500 is nearly 20 years old, therefore not thief-attracting! And only recently have I changed the tubes due to run-ins with goatheads, aka puncture vines, in Denver. They’re named that for good reason. Hope you never find out why. Especially with these expensive—and heavy, up to 50lbs—e-systems.
Along with that bike, also buy a big “U” lock and chain to secure your expensive rides to the rack. Then lock that bike rack to the hitch with a locking hitch pin, available at most hardware stores.
Once you settle on your bike, get brimmed. With cancer from sun exposure an increasing concern for many, here’s one more way to mitigate your risk. Da Brim fits over your bike helmet to provide a wide area of shade while you ride. Recumbent users can add an accessory to keep the brim from riding up on your ride. Brims come in three different shapes and range from $35 to about $45.
Whether you’re an urban or forest hiker, you may be using hiking poles on your treks. These modified ski poles not only provide balance the way a stick does but on both sides of your body. They also provide an extra workout benefit as you swing your arms. The best we’ve found are made by a Michigan-based company, skiwalking.com. Available in models from aluminum to carbon, these poles are custom-fitted to your height. Unlike cheap import poles that often collapse when you don’t want them to–yup, we’ve got those too, the main reason we went with ski walkers–these are one piece. We use these instead.
When we travel to Florida for our mid-February break, we bring our bikes, and by the time we reach warmth, they’re covered in crude and have been bombarded by everything from slush to salt.
Here’s the ultimate in bicycle maintenance kits. Muc-Off comes in its own storage container and is just about the most complete kit I’ve seen. There are four crud-removing brushes including a specialized “claw” to reach every hard-to-reach spot on your bike after a day on the trail, or on the back of your rig. Also included is a one-liter spray bottle of biodegradable general cleaner, and a half-liter of protectant spray, for about $70.
A lot of folks have asked us about our Luci Light when they see it in action, so I’m also including it in this collection. It’s been around a few years but remains one of the coolest lighting products I’ve seen, and it has a bonus impact when you buy one. It’s a compact, inflatable solar-powered LED light that we use all the time. There are three light settings including a blinking mode, and now the makers have even included a charging station for your phone if you’re boondocking.
They offer up to 12 hours of light before needing recharging, which involves simply putting it on your dash. Now here’s the bonus: buy one Give a Luci Light at its website for $10 when you purchase yours, and its partners will send it to someone with no electricity access. Since the program began in 2012, the company has sent lights to more than 100 countries, positively affecting more than three million lives across the world.
Here’s another. The Button Lamp is a quick LED mini-light with an adhesive back that attaches anywhere and lights up those dark places in your LTV, such as the under-sink cabinet. These little guys are waterproof, about the size of a quarter, have a battery life of 17 hours, and cost $9.99 for a six-pack. They come off easily, too. Just gently pull it off, says the maker. They’re available at lots of stores including Walmart.
We’ve all got our favorite backpacks. One I’ve got is so well-used the straps are beginning to fray. Here’s one to consider if you’re in the same situation as me: the Xpedition by Bag Smart is modular so you can even build your own for whatever your needs, be it photography equipment, carrying electronics, or day hiker.
Here’s a great–albeit pretty expensive for a pair of pants–way to keep your valuables secure from pickpockets when you’re traveling. These “Pickpocket Proof” pants are lightweight and have multiple layers of protection, from button closers over zippers, to hidden zippered pockets within zippered pockets, so if you’re in close company in a city, you’re armored. Both mens and womens sizes are available.
You may have a favorite style of water bottle. Mine is a stainless Contigo, purchased at Costco. I’ve not seen this style anywhere else. These bottles usually appear in late winter or spring in our area, and aren’t around long. They’re stainless with a positive “click” seal. By pushing a button on the side, and it keeps my water cold all day, and inside the bottle regardless of position. But here’s another.
Rootblue’s bottles feature double-wall vacuum style and say it keeps cold items cold for 24 hours, and hot liquids hot for 12. The Nevada-based company sends 10 percent of its profits to the Tahoe Fund to help protect and preserve the Truckee River and Truckee meadows near its headquarters.
Don’t want to use the inside shower (ours is usually storage), or too shy to use your Leisure’s outside shower (I’m not)? Check out the new Geyser portable shower system.
Ok, you’ve just emptied your tanks, and although you’ve used your gloves, you still need to clean your hands. Clean Trek is what we use. It comes in a pump foaming dispenser that cleans without water and contains aloe and vitamin E.
You may have heard the tip to drain out your home water heater every so often from the bottom spigot to get rid of the crusty hard water scale deposits that often form, and reduce the life of your heater as a result. Well, the same could be said of your LTV water heater if you have the older tank style system. There’s a solution from Camco, the company with literally myriad solutions to issues from water hoses to sewer hose supports to lots more. It’s a water-pic-style hose attachment that reaches inside your heater to give it a high-pressure rinse. I just bought one. It makes sense.
Here’s a product to try for anyone affected by motion sickness. The Relief Band is a watch-like affair that delivers pulses to the median nerve on your wrist. It’s a mite pricey at $175, but if you’re constantly worrying about getting sick and aren’t able to enjoy the scenery going by outside your LTV, it may be for you.
The Instant Pot has become a go-to staple for many who now cook with the six-quart version at home, including us. However, try stuffing one into your LTV storage area. Fortunately, we’ve found that the three-quart version fits in our back closet and is very handy for cooking under pressure when plugged into shore power. Each pot comes with a recipe book, and there are more online, along with accessories.
Worried about your non-stick pans when they begin peeling? We are too. We’re now refitting with ceramic-lined pans that fit above and under the sink. We found ours at an outlet mall kitchen store, and they’re also available online and stores like Target.
One more item. Many at the LTV owner’s Facebook site have recommended various sleep sacks rather than normal sheets, which we still use. Here’s another alternative from braveera.com. Its silk sleep sack also features an attached pillow.
On our travels, many people love wearing flip-flops even while hiking. Well, I like my boots, but if you still like flips and can do without the slips, then FlipRocks could be for you. These flips have lug soles and grippers to help you stay on the trail instead of flipin’ and slippin’ off. They also could be the answer for your canoe/kayak needs.
Here are two ideas we picked up at our most recent Leisurely Great Lakers fall rally, from owner Willis Gray of Concord, North Carolina, who stopped by our event in Holland, MI.
He’s had one robin with nest and eggs found in his engine air cleaner and is taking no chances. Using large-mesh screens so it won’t impede airflow, and perhaps a bit of metal duct tape, he fashioned and installed a guard at the front of the engine air intake behind the driver side grill, and at the cabin air filter box to keep critters out. He also put one across the “intake” of his Truma hot water heater for wasps. Great idea!
That’s it for this edition of Gotta Have It. We’ll have more soon.
Note: The recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Leisure Travel Vans.
The Dixie Leisure Travelers were on the road again, this time headed to the fishing hotspot of North Alabama. During October 14-17, we gathered at Lake Guntersville State Park in Guntersville, Alabama. The lake was formed when the Guntersville Dam, one of the nine hydroelectric dams on the Tennessee River, was built by, and is still operated by, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as part of the New Deal of the 1930s. Lake Guntersville is the largest lake in Alabama and is known for its excellent fishing, hosting several major fishing tournaments – mainly bass – each year.
By Sunday, when the rally began, 10 couples had already arrived at the park in anticipation of another fun Dixie Leisure Travelers gathering. As those arriving Sunday got set up and settled in, the visiting began. How great it is to meet new people and catch up with old friends. We had 40 participants at this rally arriving in 20 coaches. It was quite a sight seeing this many LTV coaches in one place.
People talked in small and larger groups, and, on Sunday evening, we had a campfire chat.
While we had five new couples at Davis Bayou in May, we had nine new couples at Lake Guntersville. Our family is growing, and we are loving the new additions. What is so phenomenal about LTV chapter rallies is being able to introduce the new people to new friends with like interests, and also to experience beautiful sunsets, vistas, wildlife and just chillin’ out.
These are congenial, fun people, some are even a tad bit mischievous, who love sharing their RVing stories.
The seasoned RVers love helping the “newbies” by answering questions and providing tips and tricks for the wonderful LTV coaches. It’s also fun and interesting to “tour” each other’s coaches to see what’s changed in the newer models and what modifications some have made. In fact, it took some wrangling to get people together and stop visiting so we could make our group photo in the campground.
For our group visiting is the most popular activity, but eating comes in as a close second. Monday afternoon, we had lunch at the Park Lodge. While a few people ordered off the menu, the majority elected to go to the buffet. With a great selection of Southern favorites, fried chicken, fried catfish, baked fish, meatloaf, with all the trimmings, everyone seemed pleased with their choices.
When we were finished with our lunch we kept our seats and enjoyed a very interesting program given by the Park Naturalist. It was an informative presentation on the Alabama State Park system and the amazing natural diversity within Alabama.
He then offered, for those interested, a short hike to identify native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. The hike was about 3/4 of a mile, and it was amazing how many different plants we saw. One interesting thing that we learned on this hike is that by splitting the pit of the persimmon, you will be able to predict the type of winter coming. If the seed core is knife shaped, it will be a cutting cold winter, if it is spoon shaped you will be shoveling a lot of snow, and if it is fork shaped a mild winter can be expected. Since the pit has an extremely hard covering that is difficult to remove we learned to be sure to use a tool to hold it, mainly if you are interested in keeping all of your fingers. Get my point?
After the lunch and the program, but before we hiked, we gathered for another group picture on the lodge deck overlooking the Tennessee River and the campground. Such a gorgeous view.
Between lunch and dinner, as we were visiting and talking, someone looked up and saw a storm coming across the lake in our direction. It was all hands on deck to get the picnic tables organized and under canopies. Luckily the rain did not last long and by dinnertime, it was gone. That evening instead of dinner, because we had a really large meal at noontime, we had potluck heavy hors d’oeuvres and desserts prepared by our members. What a spread we had. We gathered in our circle enjoying delicious food and interesting conversations. We all went back to our coaches very happy and full. It can be said this group knows how to cook, and from what was served, they like to cook.
Tuesday saw light rain off and on most of the day, but it takes more than a little water to keep us from having fun, and it brought up the question, “Just how many people will fit under an LTV awning?” P.S. that is not plastic surrounding the awning, it is rainwater.
Five couples decided to go into Guntersville for lunch, in between the rain showers, at the Rock House Eatery, a hidden jewel, serving gourmet southern food. No one was disappointed. Also, it was thought that a little shopping in the downtown area might be enjoyable. One group headed to Fant’s, (an old-old store that’s been around forever, now in transition from a general merchandise store dating back to the early 1800s, to a more up-scale home decorating and clothing store. Over that time span, the store has seen a series of name changes, but there has been a small-town, general merchandise store in that location for the whole time. Here again, you have a small town main street, maintaining its history with older storefronts housing updated merchandise. It is always enjoyable to leisurely browse and see what stores have to offer.
That evening we took another trip up the mountain to the Park Lodge for the dinner buffet. Another fine meal with lively conversations.
On Wednesday, while two or three couples were spending another day or two in the park, most were packing up to get on the road. Hard to believe three days had passed so quickly. Knowing we would be meeting in May at Harrison Bay State Park in Tennessee made saying goodbye a little easier this trip.
As a side note, because we focused so much on visiting, eating, and chillin’ we did not have time to fish. Maybe next time.
Our SLT Fall Rally location and dates have been decided. It will be at Lake Guntersville State Park, Guntersville, AL (N.E. Alabama) October 14-17, 2018. A block of campsites has been reserved in the name of Southern Leisure Travelers, Loop E, Sites 4 -38. You will need to call to reserve your site since this is a block.
DO NOT MAKE RESERVATIONS ONLINE.
Please call 256-571-5455 to reserve your site.
There will be a $35.33 deposit to reserve your site when you book. When the remainder of your reservation is paid at the Country Store upon arrival, there will be a 10% discount group rate at $30.83 a day.
There is a full refund if cancelled within 72 hours of arrival date. There are 14 sites in Loop E already booked by members, so you will need to call to see which ones are now available. http://alapark.com/sites/alapark.com/files/styles/large/public/2014%20Campground%20Map_0.jpg?itok=ecpVuf7Q