Hammock Roof Stands, Budget Cargo Carriers, a Deluxe Awning, and More!

This is a collection of SUV camping- and vandwelling-related gear and articles that I’ve come across recently that I wanted to share.

Hammock Hanging Options

I’ve really gotten into hammocking lately. If you’ve never taken a hammock on an SUV RVing adventure, get one! (Here’s one on Amazon that’s inexpensive, gets good reviews, and comes with the tree straps.) It’s a cheap and oh-so-relaxing camp activity. While exploring deeper into the world of hammocking, I’ve come across a couple of items that are of specific interest to SUV campers:

The TrailNest Roof-Top Hammock Stand ($349) – You’ve seen roof-top tents, right? Well how would you like to have a roof-top hammock? That’s what the TrailNest stand allows.

The RoofNest roof top hammock stand. Photo by RoofNest.
Above: The RoofNest roof-top hammock stand. Photo by RoofNest.

I know it’s a bit silly, but I really, really want this thing. As shown in the image above, you can hammock even when there are no trees or other objects to attach your hammock to. You can sleep in the hammock overnight (thus freeing up the inside of your vehicle for storage) or just whip it out whenever you’re feeling like you’ve earned a bit of a rest.

The Hitchhiker hitch-mounted hammock stand ($290) – Perhaps slightly more practical than the roof-top hammock stand is this hitch-mounted hammock stand from Blue Ridge Overland Gear.

Above: The Hitchhiker hitch-mounted hammock stand
Above: The Hitchhiker hitch-mounted hammock stand. Photo by Blue Ridge Overland Gear.

It’s made out of lightweight aluminum, attaches to a vehicle’s hitch receiver, and folds down to a relatively compact bundle when not being used. The only issue I have with this is that the setup angles down slightly. This is done so that the hammock stand arms extend out and away from the vehicle. But it’s not uncommon for me to bump the hitch receiver on my RAV4 when I go into and out of dips, dry washes, or even steep driveways—I just don’t have enough clearance back there. I’d have to strap the hammock stand to the top of my car when not using it and then move it down to the hitch when I get to camp. That’s not terrible, but it’s not quite as convenient as the roof-top hammock stand. On the other hand, you also don’t need to (get to?) climb up on top of your vehicle to access this hitch-mounted hammock stand.

2-in-1 Hitch Rack and Roof-Top Cargo Carrier

Speaking of hitch receivers and strapping things to the top of my SUV, I saw this bad boy at Walmart the other day:

Above: The CargoLoc 2-in-1 Cargo Carrier
Above: The CargoLoc 2-in-1 Cargo Carrier

It’s a hitch-mounted cargo rack/basket that also doubles as a roof-mounted cargo rack/basket. Neat, huh? While it retails for $69.88 at Walmart, I found it for on sale for $45 on the Pep Boys website. (And in case you were wondering, it’s on Amazon for nearly $100.) The thing I like about it as a roof basket is that it’s narrow; it doesn’t take up the full width of the top of the vehicle. That means that you could also mount a bike, kayak, or skinny cargo box up there. I’ve been eyeing roof baskets lately because it would be a great way to store firewood, among other things, and this particular rack is currently at the top of my list. There aren’t a ton of reviews of it out there, however, so who knows if it generates wind noise, if it will rust with exposure to the elements, or if it will last.

The Best SUV Video Ever?

A guy wants to sell his 1996 Suzuki Vitara. He made a video of it, and it’s awesome. (Click here if you can’t see the video below.)

The Ultimate Awning… Thing

Check out the sheltaPod ($345 or £265). It bills itself as “The coolest, most versatile campervan awning EVER!” I don’t think I can argue with that.

The sheltaPod awning/tent.
The sheltaPod awning/tent.

Pretty neat, huh? You can read a lot more about it on the sheltaPod’s website and see about a trillion videos and images of it on the IndieGoGo page.

Everything Else

Here are a few more items of interest:

  • Deadman: the world’s most versatile off-road recovery anchor – This is currently on Kickstarter. The idea is that if your vehicle gets stuck while you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you dig a hole, bury the Deadman, and use that as an anchor to help you winch (or strap) your way out of trouble. I’m familiar with using a deadman as an anchor when mountaineering, but this is the first time I’ve seen one used for getting a vehicle unstuck.
  • Want to try out a roof-top tent but don’t want to buy one? Consider renting one. I know that for me here in northern Utah, the closest rental options are from Off the Grid Rentals in St. George (southern Utah) or Teton Backcountry Rentals in Jackson, Wyoming. Maybe there’s a rental place near you?
  • While we’re on the subject of roof-top tents, here’s a review from Expedition Portal about the iKamper, which was a mega-popular Kickstarter campaign.
  • We’ve already mentioned here hitch-mounted hammock stands and cargo baskets, but what about a hitch-mounted table? Could be useful for camping, right?

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Do any of these things appeal to you? Got something SUV-related that you want to share? Leave a comment or shoot me an email. Thanks for reading!

Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Ode to an Ancient Jeep: Sleeping and Camping in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee

[Tristan’s Note: I had the pleasure of meeting up with SUV RVing reader and viewer Robert DeNike when I was in California in January. We had a great time chatting about adventures past and future, and we’ve kept in touch since then. He recently sent me a ton of fantastic photos and info about his sleeping/camping setup in his 1995 Jeep Cherokee Country. All of the photos and words below are his, but I will occasionally add my own thoughts, which will be in brackets. Thanks for sharing your adventure rig, Robert!]

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It came off the assembly line in 1995, before some of you were born. But 22 years later it still runs like a Swiss watch, taking me over rutted, boulder-strewn roads far from the maddening crowd.

I’m a backpacker, so the Jeep’s purpose in life is to get me to trailheads at the edges of North America’s great wilderness areas. After 10 days out there, I am thinking fondly of the Jeep and the little luxuries within. It’s always with great joy and relief that I catch sight of it as I emerge from the wilds, waiting there patiently like a loyal dog.

One-Man Show

The first modification I made was to remove the rear seat bench. Permanently. The seat back now folds down flat, creating a sizable cargo space. This left the seat belts hanging uselessly in the way, so I unscrewed and cut out all except mine. Finally, I detached the front passenger seat back so I can stretch out fully when lying down, which also opened up the cargo area even more.

The Jeep now accommodates exactly one rider: me. So if your wife or kids want to go camping with you, or even just shopping at the local Costco, forget it. But my wife would rather go to the dentist than go camping. That’s OK; I love her anyway. The point being: these modifications are for the committed solo SUVer only.

Photo Tour

Base layer: I start with a ThermaRest Z-Lite as padding for the mattress.
Base layer: I start with a Thermarest Z-Lite as padding for the mattress.
Plenty of leg-room on this flight: removing the front passenger seat allows me to stretch out with impunity.
Plenty of leg-room on this flight: removing the front passenger seat allows me to stretch out with impunity. The Thermarest LuxuryMap Mattress goes on top of the foam pad.
Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).
Bridging the gap: the space between the front and rear seats is covered with a simple plank and strip of carpet (a scavenged scrap from a local flooring outlet).

Continue reading “Ode to an Ancient Jeep: Sleeping and Camping in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee”

How to Hang a Hammock from Your Car, SUV, Van, or Truck

Warmer weather equals hammock weather! In this video I go over several ways to hang a hammock from your SUV, van, truck, or other vehicle. One side has to be attached to a stationary object (a tree, pole, another vehicle, etc.), and the other side attaches to your car. (Click here if you can’t see the video below.)

DIY PVC Rooftop Solar Shower for a Car, Van, SUV, or Truck

A month or so ago I went to the Utah Toyota Off-Road Expo. It was much smaller than the Salt Lake Off-Road Expo that I went to a week later (and both pale in comparison to Overland Expo West, which is going on right now). Still, there were some great rigs there, mostly 4Runners and Tacomas (no RAV4s, sadly). I noticed on one of the rigs (a Toyota Tacoma with camper shell, roof top tent, bike rack, and more) what looked like a DIY version of the Road Shower, so I went up to talk to the rig’s owner and ask about how he made the shower. Here are some pictures and info:

A look at the whole setup. Not an SUV, but undoubtedly a great rig.
A look at the whole setup. Not an SUV, but undoubtedly a great adventure rig.
The homemade PVC roof top shower. It's made out of 4-inch PVC that's been painted black. If I recall correctly, it holds 4 or 5 gallons of water.
The homemade PVC roof rack shower. It’s made out of 4-inch PVC that’s been painted black.  If I recall correctly, it holds 4 or 5 gallons of water. It’s pressurized by an air compressor (you can see the compressor’s yellow coil hose on the left side of the photo).
A garden hose is attached to a water faucet spigot thing that has been inserted into the PVC end cap.
A garden hose is attached to a water faucet spigot thing that has been inserted into the PVC end cap. You can also see the red air compressor here.
The yellow thing with the wingnut is the fill valve. A stack of a few rubber washers is between the yellow plastic part and the top of the PVC pipe. The rubber washers create an airtight seal.
The yellow thing with the wingnut is the fill valve (i.e., where you put the water in). A stack of a few rubber washers is between the yellow plastic part and the top of the PVC pipe. The rubber washers create an airtight seal. When I was there, the guy had the shower pressurized to only about 20 PSI, and he was able to spray water about 10–15 feet. A metal tire valve (similar to this and visible coming out of the white PVC end cap) is used in conjunction with the air compressor to pressurize the shower. The end of the hose connects with a quick-connect adapter to the brass hose valve also coming out of the end cap.
Another look
Another look at the setup. You can’t really see it, but a spray nozzle (something like this) is at the business end of the hose. The shower was simply lashed to the roof rack crossbar with paracord. I was a bit doubtful of how secure this was, but the guy assured me that it was rock solid. It is definitely not an attachment system that will stand up well to prolonged exposure to the elements.
The back end of the Tacoma camping setup.
The back end of the Tacoma camping setup. The owner travels and camps with his wife and 14-year-old son. The guy and his wife sleep in the roof top tent, and the son sleeps diagonally in the bed of the truck.
A closer look at the back of the Tacoma camping setup.
A closer look at the back of the Tacoma camping setup.

My Thoughts

Let’s face it, these DIY PVC showers are all kind of ugly. Definitely not as sleek as the Road Shower. But this setup only cost about $50 or $60 versus the Road Shower’s $300. There are lots of videos and other information out there about how to make a PVC shower like this (here are the results for “PVC car shower” on YouTube, and this is probably the best build video I’ve seen), but there are a few things I like about this particular shower. I like that the water fill valve is low-profile and not too much of an eyesore. I’m intrigued by—if still a bit skeptical of—the simple lashing attachment system. And I like the super long hose, though if I were to make a shower like this, it wouldn’t be quite this long.

What are your thoughts?

I don’t know if I’ll ever actually make something like this, but I was excited to see it and figure out the details of how it was made. It works great for him, and I wanted to share some details of the build with you guys.

Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Sleeping and Camping in a 2015 Ford Escape

SUV RVing reader/watcher Ted was kind of enough to send me pictures of his camping setup in a 2015 Ford Escape and give me permission to post them here. Thanks Ted!

In the captions of the images below, you’ll see some of Ted’s comments in quotes and my (Tristan’s) comments not in quotes.

Here’s a rough overhead view of his layout:

A rough overview of Ted's layout in his 2015 Ford Escape.
A rough overview of Ted’s layout in his 2015 Ford Escape. He’s also made use of the floor space in front of the front passenger seat and in front of the rear seats.

Continue reading “Sleeping and Camping in a 2015 Ford Escape”

Checking Out Roof Top Tents (and More!) for SUV Camping, Vandwelling, etc.

In this video I head to an off-road expo (Salt Lake Off-Road Expo) to see if I can find anything interesting. I do manage to check out a few roof top tents from Freespirit Recreation, Tepui Tents, and Cascadia Vehicle Tents. (Click here if you can’t see the video below.)

Links to some of the things from the video:

 

How to Wash Your Clothes By Hand While on the Road or Camping

Last week I published reader Mike’s fantastic set of tips for doing laundry while on the road. Soon after that, I got another great email from Mike that started off with this:

“I realized I did not provide a how-to on laundering items by hand. (Forgot that people might not have a clue as to how to do it.)”

He then proceeded to outline his method of washing clothes by hand. It’s much more systematized—and probably much more effective—than my “throw everything into a bucket of water and knead it for a bit” method. Without further ado, here are Mike’s tips.

What You’ll Need

What you need for washing clothes by hand

  • A gallon or so of warm to hot water (~98 degrees F, skin temperature) for washing the clothes. The exact amount of water you’ll need will depend on how much clothing you have and how dirty the clothing is.
  • An additional gallon or so of water for rinsing the clothes. (Warm water is nice but is not necessary.) Again, the exact amount will depend on volume of dirty clothes and how dirty the clothes are.
  • One bucket or tub. A collapsible tub like this is great for traveling. (Use the bathroom sink if you’re staying in a hotel room.)
  • Clothesline or suitable drying surfaces. A braided clothesline like this is effective and takes up little space.
  • Soap (For hand laundry it is best to use a true soap, not a modern detergent. Soap is a little easier on your hands and will leave fabric feeling softer than detergent as residue if any will lubricate fabric fibers rather than stiffen them. Also a gentle soap is easier on your skin if some residue remains in the fabric.)
  • Dry, clean surface that you can set your washed items on. [Tristan’s Note: This could be as simple as a clean trash bag on the ground.]

Preparation

Assuming you have only one bucket or tub, you will need to use it for both washing and for rinsing, so you will need to stage your washed items before rinsing. Sort items you wish to launder from cleanest to dirtiest and start washing the cleanest item first. Be prepared to set the washed items aside on a clean surface while still soapy.

Washing Instructions

In a bucket or tub, use about 1 gallon of warm to hot water, adding enough soap to ensure the water feels slippery. Suds are good, but you do not need many. Swish the water around to mix.

One item at a time, work fabric into the soapy mixture. Move it around, squeeze it and so on. Do you best to get the item clean. Usually about 20 seconds to one minute per item is all you need. Gently squeeze out the excess water and set the item aside on a clean dry surface and start washing your next item. If you see the wash water becoming too dirty, you’ll need to either dump it and add new wash water or add some fresh rinse water.

When all your laundry has been washed, it is time to begin rinsing. Dump your wash water and fill your bucket or tub with clean water. Warm water is nice but is not necessary.

Rinsing and Drying

Start rinsing the cleanest items first, the same order as when you were washing the items. This keeps the wash and rinse water the cleanest for the longest amount of time. Again, if you see the water becoming too dirty, add some clean water to the mix or dump it all out and fill the bucket up again with clean water.

Always rinse well. Rinse one item at at time. Squeeze out, but do not wring out, the water from the fabric. After the initial squeeze out, you can wrap the fabric inside a dry bath towel and squeeze or pat dry to absorb more moisture which will help speed drying.

Ease item back into shape and let dry flat, away from direct heat or bright light, or hang the item on your clothesline to dry.

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Read the rest of Mike’s laundry tips here.