Two Interesting New Products for SUV RVers, Vandwellers, and More

I occasionally check Kickstarter to see if there are any products that I think would be interesting or useful to those of us who spend time traveling and sleeping in our vehicles. For those unfamiliar with the site, Kickstarter is basically a way for people with ideas for products to raise money so that they can put those products into production. They do this by pre-selling the product before it’s been produced. If you back a project on Kickstarter, you pay the money and then can expect to get the product in 3 or 6 months or whenever it’s ready after being produced. (See the note at the end of this article.)

One of the products currently raising money on Kickstarter is called the Moki Doorstep. It’s a piece of metal that attaches to your car’s door frame to give you an extra step to make putting things on or taking things off of the roof of your car much easier. Here are some pics:

The Moki Doorstep
The Moki Doorstep
The Moki Doorstep
The Moki Doorstep

It costs $30. This product could be great for those of us who put cargo boxes, kayaks, skis, or solar panels on the roof of our vehicles. Check the Moki Doorstep out here on Kickstarter. There’s also a great video showing how it works, which I’m embedding below (though you may not be able to see it if you’re an email subscriber to the blog).

The second Kickstarter product I wanted to share is a bit silly but still, er… interesting. It’s called The Car Pool. It bills itself as “The world’s most portable toilet for men.” It’s basically a long tube. One end gets hooked up to an empty plastic bottle, and then the man pees into the other end. Here’s a pic:

The Car Pool
The Car Pool

To me, this product seems completely unnecessary for most people. If you’re a guy, it’s already not that hard to just pee into a wide-mouthed bottle. The one instance in which I could see it being useful is if you have limited mobility. Then maybe something like this could make a difference for you. But hey, if you think you’d like it, by all means get one and let me know how it goes. One Car Pool costs $19 to $25, depending on which tier you back the project at. There’s a dumb video that shows off the product, but I don’t want to embed it here. If you’re interested, go to the product’s page and watch it there.

What do you guys think of these products?

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Note: Backing a product on Kickstarter does not 100% guarantee that you’ll get it. You can learn more about risk and accountability on Kickstarter here.

A Storage Shelf Built Into a 1998 Toyota 4Runner

Last week I got an email from SUV RVing reader/viewer Galvain (Chasin’ Simplicity on YouTube) saying that he’d built a shelf in the back of his 1998 Toyota 4Runner. He then sent over some pictures and a video of his build and gave me permission to share them here. The shelf is based off of the one that I made in this video. Great job, Galvain! You can also check out his blog here.

Here are the pics:

Storage shelf build in the back of a 1998 Toyota 4Runner
Fitting the shelf in the back of the 1998 Toyota 4Runner
Storage shelf build in the back of a 1998 Toyota 4Runner
Adding bins and legs to the shelf
Storage shelf build in the back of a 1998 Toyota 4Runner
Adding a top to the shelf
Storage shelf build in the back of a 1998 Toyota 4Runner
Attaching the top of the shelf to the rest of the shelf with an adjustable cable tie
Storage shelf build in the back of a 1998 Toyota 4Runner
The shelf from inside the 4Runner
Storage shelf build in the back of a 1998 Toyota 4Runner
The plywood sleeping platform that goes over the gap where the head goes when laying down to sleep.

You can see Galvain talk about his builds (the plywood head platform and the shelf build) in his video here (click here if you can’t see it below). The shelf portion starts at 6 minutes 27 seconds.

An Amazing Sleeping and Camping Setup in a Chevy Suburban

I’m fairly active on Instagram (@suvrving). I go in every day and browse the hashtags for new photos relating to things I’m interested in: #vanlife, #overlanding, #homeonwheels, etc. The other day, while browsing new photos the #overland hashtag, I found the @SubOverland account. A family of 4 was traveling around the US in their 24-foot RV but then downsized to a Chevy Suburban to continue their adventures. This is not your typical soccer mom Suburban (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Here are some features and modifications of their adventure rig:

  • ​3-inch lift
  • Oversize tires
  • Complete solar setup
  • Off-road LED light bar
  • LED interior lights
  • Roof rack
  • Refrigerator/Freezer
  • Power inverter
  • Kitchen sink
  • Outdoor shower
  • Sleeps up to 4
  • Interior storage
  • Auto 4X4, 4X4, hi and lo transfer case
  • Limited slip differential

I was impressed with the pics I saw on Instagram and sent a private message to the account to see if I could repost the pictures here to the blog. Grady, owner of the account and the Suburban, messaged me back and gave me the go-ahead. So here are pics of a 4WD 2000 Chevrolet Suburban that’s been kitted out to comfortably sleep and house a mom, a dad, and two young kids. I can definitely see me getting a rig like this once I have kids. Add a roof top tent once the kids get a bit older and you’ve got separate “rooms” for the parents and kids. If you want a similar rig for yourself, Grady and the gang do beefed up Suburban and Subaru builds. Head on over to SubOverland.com to learn more and get in touch with Grady if you’re interested.

The modified 2000 Chevy Suburban from the outside
Another look at the exterior
Another look at the exterior
The sleeping area with storage on the sides.
The sleeping area with storage cubbies on the sides
Grady demoing the sleeping area
Grady demoing the sleeping area
Look at all of that under-bed storage!
Look at all of that under-bed storage!
Wood ceiling and lights
Wood ceiling and lights
Sink
Sink
The desk/table surface
The kitchen/desk/table surface
The solar charge controller and 12v outlets
The solar charge controller and a couple of  12-volt outlets
Sexy outside shot at night
Sexy outside shot at night

Thanks for sharing your Suburban build, Grady!

Adding a Toilet to a Subaru Forester for SUV Camping

A very common question from people who want to camp or live in their SUV is how/where they are supposed to go to the bathroom. There are a number of different ways to address this problem, and ny personal toilet solution has 3 components:

  1. I use public toilets whenever possible. This includes toilets at Walmarts, gas stations, grocery stores, fast food restaurants, libraries, visitor centers, trailheads, etc.
  2. I have a pee bottle for when I need to pee inside of my vehicle and don’t want to leave. This can be due to privacy concerns (e.g., there are other people camped nearby) or weather concerns (e.g., it’s cold or rainy outside). I use a green Nalgene bottle.
  3. I have a small, portable camp toilet that I made. I use it in conjunction with a privacy tent when I need to poop and there are no public restrooms around.

Excuse me while I get a bit graphic here, but I’ve never pooped while inside my SUV. I’ve never really needed to, and the idea of pooping and creating unpleasant odors in such a small space has never appealed to me. That said, different people have different priorities. For some, the best solution is to rig up a toilet inside of their vehicle so they can use it discretely without having to leave the vehicle. A few months back, SUV RVing reader/viewer Rainwood sent me a couple of photos of the toilet she built into the sleeping platform of her Subaru Forester:

A toilet installed in a Subaru Forester.
A toilet installed in a Subaru Forester.
Looking at the toilet from the other side. Note the "drawer" that makes the most of the space under the flatform.
Looking at the toilet from the other side. Note the “drawer” (a basket/bin) that makes the most of the space under the platform.

First, Rainwood removed the rear seats. And then here’s what she had to say about the toilet and how she made it:

“Since I want to be able to sit on my toilet, I found an old crock from a crock pot at a second-hand store. It is just the right height and fit where the back seat was. I found an RV toilet seat on line and built it in. Like I said, I’ll use plastic bags (they fit well) and kitty litter. I got the back windows tinted and am going to put curtains in for privacy.”

If being able to go to the bathroom while inside your SUV is important to you, Rainwood’s design looks like a great one to emulate.

She also had this to say about removing the seats:

“When I took out the back seats I had to add some foam to fill the space below the first wooden frame. Before placing the foam, there was a lot of noise from gasoline splashing around as I drove.”

And here are some pics of the seats removed and foam she added:

The rear seats removed
The rear seats removed
"Seat backs off, foam padding in deeper contours"
The seats and seat backs removed with foam padding placed in the deeper contours
The second layer of foam padding
The second layer of foam padding

Thanks for sharing, Rainwood!

Another option for adding a toilet to your SUV is to simply put a bucket toilet on the floor behind the front seats. I show that in this picture here (this is the toilet seat I bought):

A bucket toilet inside of an SUV
A bucket toilet inside of an SUV

Pictured is a 5-gallon bucket, but you could certainly get a smaller one if you wanted more headroom.

If you’d like to share some pics of your SUV camping setup with the SUV RVing community, get in touch using the form here.

[Note: This article contains Amazon affiliate links for products that I use and have paid for myself.]

Bill’s Setup for Sleeping/Camping in a Jeep Patriot

SUV RVing reader/viewer Bill sent me some photos and details about his great SUV camping/sleeping setup. He’s got a 2016 Jeep Patriot Latitude. He bought it this year as certified pre-owned rental. From Bill:

“When I originally starting looking at cars I was thinking of getting something large like a Ford Expedition, I had one before and like it. Ultimately, I chose the Jeep Patriot for pricing and gas mileage considerations. I haven’t  done much or spent any money beyond buying screen and some dollar store items.”

And here are the pics of Bill’s setup. All text in quotes is directly from Bill:

Bill's camping gear stored in the back of his Patriot before the sleeping platform is set up.
Bill’s camping gear stored in the back of his Patriot before the sleeping setup is set up.
Another look at Bill's gear. The green bin is the pantry and holds kitchen supplies.
Another look at Bill’s gear. The green bin is the pantry and holds kitchen supplies. Regarding dealing with his stuff when it’s time for bed: “I usually leave the stuff outside of the jeep next to it or on the roof. I can put everything in the jeep and still sleep in there but it is a little cramped and messy. I’ve done it a couple of times, once when it was raining and I slept at a rest stop one night on the way to the beach.”
The bed and platform.
The bed and platform. “I had a piece of pressboard in the garage so I have been using that [as a sleeping platform]. I push the passenger seat all the way forward and put the pressboard on the armrest. There is a bit of a slope but not too bad. I generally sleep slightly elevated at home for snoring issues. You can’t see it, but there is a self inflating backing mattress under the sleeping bag. I have a warmer (winter) bag as well. The lows were in the 70s on my last trip.”
A side look at the sleeping platform.
A side look at the sleeping platform.
"I bought screen for less than $10 at Walmart and cut them to fit my four windows. I sealed the edges with black duct tape. I am currently using painters tape to put them on the windows but will probably get some magnates eventually."
“I bought screen for less than $10 at Walmart and cut them to fit my four windows. I sealed the edges with black duct tape. I am currently using painters tape to put them on the windows but will probably get some magnets eventually. I haven’t had any problems with the tape sticking to the jeep but I didn’t try to put them on when it was raining. I imagine it wouldn’t stick them. I don’t like the tape because of the bright blue color. I would prefer not to attract to much attention.”
“Behind the passenger seat I stow a Coleman stove (my parents bought it around the time I was born), fuel, charcoal (I buy aluminum pans from the dollar store for a makeshift barbeque), and a propane canister (I have a backpacking type burner in the green tub).”
"My kitchen setup and my dollar store makeshift barbeque. I am on the lookout for a cheep non messy portable barbeque."
“My dollar store makeshift barbeque. I am on the lookout for a cheap non messy portable barbeque.”
Bill's stove
Bill’s stove
Home sweet home
Home sweet home

And Bill added one more thing:

“I have found the bottom part of the back seat removes easily. I may do this for longer trips. I allows for a lot more storage. I believe I could put my ice chest or green tub in the space.”

Thanks for sharing your setup with everyone, Bill!

I Found a New Website and App for Free Campsites

iOverlander free campsites map

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?

More Hitch-Mounted Hammock Hanging!

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:

The Hitch Hammock ($389 with free shipping)

Hitch Hammock
Photo apparently by Diadra Eddy (who watermarks product photos??) courtesy of Hitch Hammock

This one is unique in that it also functions as a hitch-mounted cargo basket. If you’re into that, this looks like a great option.

McLean Metalworks Hammock Mount ($399 with free shipping)

Photo courtesy McLean Metalworks
Photo courtesy McLean Metalworks

If I had $400 burning a hole in a my pocket, this is the hitch-mounted hammock stand I’d get. With the arms collapsed and folded down, the thing is just 26 inches wide. Very cool design.

The Hammock-King ($210 plus ~$70 shipping)

Photo courtesy Hammock-King.
Photo courtesy Hammock-King

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.

Which Kind of Portable Camp Shower Is Best?

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.

My DIY sprayer shower
My DIY sprayer shower

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.)

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.