In this video I head up into the mountains of northern Utah and find the most beautiful campsite I’ve ever stayed at. I talk about some changes I’ve made to my camping setup and show off some new gear, including what may be the world’s most compact camp toilet! (Click here if you can’t see the video below.)
This video is part 1 of the adventure. Part 2 will be up on Thursday or Friday.
I’m always on the lookout for tools to help me find free campsites. Websites I currently consult before going on a trip include FreeCampsites.net, Campendium, and Hipcamp. I recently found a new one to add to the rotation, and it’s called iOverlander. (There are Android and iOS apps too.)
I live in Utah and have extensive camping experience in the state, so whenever I come across one of these new websites or apps, I immediately go to Utah and see if there are any camping areas I don’t already know about. It turns out that iOverlander had several. I then looked down into Arizona and southern California (other areas I’m pretty familiar with) and found still more campsites I wasn’t aware of. In my opinion, iOverlander is the second best of the above mentioned campsite websites after FreeCampsites.net. (I’ve found that the other two websites, Campendium and Hipcamp, have campsites that are usually covered on FreeCampsites.net.)
You can filter the camps by type of camping (I usually turn all of them off except for “wild camping” and “informal campsites”) and by amenities you’re looking for (being able to find a paid campground with a shower, for example, could mean that you won’t need to pay for a shower at a recreation center or truck stop).
Head on over to iOverlander and take a look at the camping areas near you or that you’re familiar with. Did you find any campsites you didn’t already know about?
One of the problems I’ve had with my little solar camp shower bag is that I’m not always near a tree to hang it up. Plopping it on top of my SUV doesn’t work well because it’s not tall enough. This video covers two solutions that I’ve come up with. (Click here if you can’t see the video.)
Here’s the shower I have (affiliate link), and here’s the link to the “poor man’s drone” video mentioned.
I know that not everyone is into hammocking when they’re out traveling and camping in their SUVs, but I highly recommend it. I think it provides an unparalleled relaxation experience. One thing I’ve been fascinated with lately is the idea of being able to hang a hammock without trees, and one way to do that is to get a hitch-mounted hammock stand for the back of your SUV, truck, car, etc.
I’ve linked to the Blue Ridge Overland Gear Hitchhiker ($290 plus $33 shipping) hammock stand before, but I’ve recently come across a few more hitch-mounted hammock stands and wanted to share them in case anyone else is as weirdly interested in these things as I am:
This one is brand new on the market. As you can see, it’s a much different design from the others. The good news is that it’s cheaper than all the rest. The bad news is that you’re really high off the ground when you’re in the hammock. Not good if you’re injury-prone. As for the $70 shipping price, that’s how much I was quoted for shipping to Utah from Michigan, where the Hammock-King is made. It may be more or less depending on where you are. Here’s a video showing the Hammock-King in action.
What is the best shower option for SUV RVers and car campers? A video viewer asked me that question in an email a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve turned my reply into this blog post.
It’s something I don’t have a very good answer for, and that’s for a few reasons. First, I haven’t tried every camp shower out there, so I can’t really give a definitive answer in that regard. And second, the best one for you really depends on what you value most in your shower. And third, I myself haven’t made up my mind as to which I prefer. That said, here are some brief thoughts on different kinds of camp showers.
Do you want simplicity? Then a spray bottle and bag of wet wipes is a great solution. This is what I used on most of my early trips. It won’t get you as clean as a traditional shower, but it’s more compact and less of a hassle, in my opinion, than the other options below. It doesn’t get much simpler than this.
Do you want more of a traditional shower experience but don’t want it to take up too much space when it’s not being used? A solar camp shower (the kind that is essentially a bag that you fill with water and then leave out in the sun; this is the one I have) may be right for you. I used one of these showers on a couple of my early trips but never really liked it for two reasons:
1. I was never at a campsite long enough or during the hotter/sunnier parts of the day, so the water was never as hot as I would like.
2. I often camp in the desert or some other area that doesn’t have trees nearby. With no trees to hang the shower from, I had to resort to plopping the shower down on the roof of my car, but my car isn’t very tall. This meant that I’d have to hunch over to get the water flowing. Not ideal.
I’m currently giving the solar camp shower a second chance. I’ve gone a long way toward solving the first problem by doing this. And I’ve also solved the second problem, which will be covered in a video in the next week or two. The downside of this kind of shower is that, depending on environmental circumstances (cloud cover, temperature, elevation, etc.), the water still may not be as hot as you’d like.
A sprayer-style shower (like this) is great if you have a bit more room and don’t want to have to mess with finding a place to hang up the camping-style shower. I made a shower similar to the one in that video and liked it whenever I was using it, but found that it took up more space than I wanted when I wasn’t using it. Because my SUV (a RAV4) is so small and space is at a premium, I gave it up in favor of the more compact solar camp shower.
If you want ultimate comfort (i.e., a pressurized, heated shower) and are willing to give up some space for it, the Zodi heated camp showers are supposed to be great. Ted from this article has the Extreme SC and speaks highly of it.
(Note: This article contains Amazon affiliate links.)
There were also several things I saw and did on this trip that did not make it into the video. This is for two reasons: 1) The video would have been about 45 minutes long, but more importantly, 2) I felt that the video footage I had of these places wasn’t very interesting. But for reference, here they are:
Casper’s Ice Cream Factory Store (Richmond, UT) – This company makes the supposedly famous “FatBoy” ice cream sandwiches, and the store has factory seconds and other cheap ice cream. I got an ice cream sandwich for $0.84, including tax. More info about the company on its Wikipedia page.
Franklin, ID Historic District (Franklin, ID) – Franklin is the oldest town in Idaho and has a nice little historic district.
Oneida Stake Academy (Preston, ID) – A neat old Romanesque building that used to be a Mormon school. Get an overview of it here on Wikipedia. If you want even more info, here’s a website dedicated to it.
Napoleon Dynamite House (Preston, ID) – Napoleon Dynamite (Amazon affiliate link) is a weird cult classic comedy movie. Much of it was filmed in and around Preston, so I drove out to where Napoleon’s house is.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
I decided I wanted to make better use of the shelf space in the back of my Toyota RAV4. I was originally going to build slide-out drawers to put on top of the shelf, but I instead ended up simplifying the concept by just attaching bins to the top of the shelf to create “drawers.” (Click here if you can’t see the video below.)