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.)
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.
There are a few SUV RVing-related news items that I’ve come across recently that I wanted to give my thoughts on:
1. A new hardshell rooftop tent on the market
I’m a big fan of hardshell rooftop tents (RTTs). They seem to be faster and easier to set up than the soft-sided ones, plus they’re more aerodynamic and therefore less likely to negatively impact your gas mileage. As reported over at GearJunkie, South African rooftop tent company Eezi-Awn has come out with its first hard-shell RTT, the Stealth:
Pretty, isn’t it?
Equipt is the sole US retailer of the tent. Retailing for $3,900, it is definitely extremely pricey, as most hardshell tents are, but it sure looks awesome. One other hardshell RTT that has come across my radar recently is the Roofnest Sparrow, which checks in at a more reasonable (but still spendy) $2,095.
2. New Toyota concept car is the ultimate SUV RVing vehicle
Toyota just released info on its latest concept car. It’s an SUV called the FT-4X, and Outside magazine called it “an REI store on wheels” and went on to explain:
“The door handles? They’re removable water bottles. The radio? It’s removable, too, and includes a battery so it can stream Spotify in camp. The center armrest is a North Face sleeping bag, the rearview-mirror-mounted camera is a removable GoPro Hero Session, and the dome light is a removable LED flashlight and lantern.”
The rear seats fold down perfectly flat, and the vehicle’s boxy interior looks very roomy and reminiscent of a Honda Element.
The SUV has a lot of other interesting little features, and you can read about them all over at Outside. Here’s a picture gallery (all photos from Toyota):
3. The Camperbox car bed
I’m not so sure about this one. It’s a current Kickstarter project and is basically a pre-made bed that you can insert into the back of your SUV, car, van, etc.:
First off, it’s relatively expensive at $157. Second, the vehicle in the GIF above shows a rear cargo area that’s already flat. You could just roll out your sleeping pad or mattress on the floor itself. I guess the real benefit of something like this would be that it gives you space for your gear to go underneath, but you could easily make something like this out of plywood and 2×4 lumber for $20. Third, if your vehicle does not have a sleeping surface that is already flat enough for something like this to work, then you’d have to prop it up by sticking pieces of wood or something underneath the ends. I dunno, I suppose this could be useful for some people in some situations, but I don’t think it’s the best solution. You’re better off building something that is customizes for your specific vehicle.
What are your thoughts on these three little news tidbits?
It’s 47 inches wide. The narrowest portion of the rear area of my SUV (the spot between the two wheel wells) is 44 inches, but I think the mattress would fit just fine with a little bit of bunching on the sides. Because I have what is probably one of the smallest SUVs out there (a RAV4), my guess is that this and other two-person mattresses would fit in most larger SUVs.
I was vaguely aware that 2-person sleeping pads or camp mattresses existed, but I decided to dive deeper into the realm and see what other offerings I could find on the market for those of you who do travel with a significant other. These pads/mattresses are listed from narrowest to widest.
Of course the other option here is to simply get two single camping mattresses and put them next to each other.
One other thing to keep in mind when buying any camping mattress or sleeping pad is the amount of insulation it will provide. A mattress that’s full of air and nothing else will not insulate as well as a foam mattress, for example. Some pads are hybrids that inflate but also have layers of closed cell foam in them. How well a pad can insulate is conveyed in its R-value, which is stated on the pages above for many of the mattresses. If you camp a lot in cooler temperatures, the R-value is definitely something to look at.
Note: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links.
I just saw via Gear Junkie that Goal Zero, the company that makes “solar generators” (i.e., portable battery banks) and solar panels is making a gas generator. The thing is, it’s not a traditional gas generator. You don’t plug things into it directly but plug your Goal Zero battery bank into it. The generator then charges the battery bank, and you run all of your electronics from the battery bank. According to the Gear Junkie article (go there for pics and more info), this setup is 20 (!) times more fuel efficient than a traditional generator.
The knock against Goal Zero stuff is always that it’s expensive compared to what you could make yourself, but for those of us who don’t have much interest in cobbling together our own battery banks and charging setups, I think they remain a good solution.
While we’re on the subject, I’ve been eyeing this enormous battery bank by Anker. I’ve used Anker battery pack products in the past and had good experiences with them. This particular battery bank can charge a laptop 15 times, and that’s exactly what I’d use it for. It’s also much smaller and lighter than the Goal Zero equivalents.
In other news, my trip down to the desert has been delayed by a couple of days because of the weather. It’s snowing outside right now as I type this (we’re getting an uncommonly high amount of snow this year in northern Utah), and I want to wait for the snow to stop and the roads to clear a bit before I make a run for it. And if you’re not already doing so, consider following my new @SUVRVing account in Instagram.
This is a basically a video version of this review about the lantern I use in my SUV when I’m sleeping in it. I use it instead of the vehicle’s built-in lights to make sure I never run down the car’s battery. I’ve had the lantern for a year and a half now and think it’s a really great thing to travel with. I never leave home without mine. (Click here if you can’t see the video below.)
This isn’t a sponsored review. No one is paying me to review this, and I bought the lantern with my own money.
In my day-to-day life, I use my laptop pretty much all day, every day for work, entertainment, and communication purposes, but I’ve found that it was less than ideal for using on the road. It’s getting longer in the tooth these days, and its battery isn’t what it used to be. On my extended SUV RVing trips, I had to be very selective about what I chose to do once I powered it on, and I had to start up the SUV whenever I wanted to charge the laptop back up. On top of that, it was too big and bulky to use it to watch a movie before bed. Laptops are machines that excel at being used on a desk or on a comfy couch, not in the confines of an SUV. Continue reading “Using a Laptop vs. Using a Tablet on Trips”