You Can’t Think of Everything

When we made the decision to go on a year long RV trip, we had zero experience RVing.  We bought the RV on faith that we would enjoy traveling and living in it.  To learn how to use it, we spent a total of 4 days camping at Big Bone Lick State Park which was literally across the street from our house. That was the extent of our experience living in an RV before departing on our year long trip.   We hoped we could think of everything we needed to bring and what we forgot, we’d buy along the way.

As it turns out, we did pretty well imagining living in an RV.  To equip the RV, we brought many household items such as dishes, pans, utensils, toaster, clothes, sheets, towels, tools, outside table/chairs, etc.  However, there are a few things we brought that we often say, “Wow, I’m sure glad we brought that!”

Darby models her extra blanket that keeps her warm on cold nights.

1. The Dogs – Almost a year ago I wrote about our consternation on whether we should bring the dogs or leave them with a friend.  It turns out, we’re very glad we brought them.  With some patience and consistent training, the dogs became very good RV dogs.  We also ended up spending more time in parks that allow dogs on trails than we originally thought we would.  In fact, to date, the dogs have hiked 480 miles.  We have hiked 800 miles so the dogs have hiked with us 60% of the time.  We’ve never had to board them as they do fine in the RV while we hike in national parks that do not allow dogs on the trails.  It’s been a joy having them with us.  They are an integral part of what has made this trip enjoyable and we’d miss them terribly if they were not with us.


The down comforter keeps us cozy on cold nights.

2. Down Comforter – I debated bringing our down comforter in addition to our regular comforter, because bringing 2 of anything – especially such a bulky item – takes up valuable space.  It turns out, we really appreciate having the warmth of the down comforter on cold nights.  We don’t run the heater when we sleep so the temperature inside the RV drops to anywhere between 35 and 55 degrees.  Chilly!  Yet, we stay toasty warm all night under the down comforter and then crank the heat on when we get up in the morning. 

“But what about the dogs?” the Darby and Shadow fans ask?  Each dog has a fluffy bed, the kind that has sides on it (see the picture of Darby above).  On cold nights, we cover them with an extra warm blanket and tuck them in.  They stay under the blanket most of the night.  We check on them several times each night to make sure they’re still covered up and warm.

3. Cell Phone Booster – Timm wrote about the technology we use on the trip.  One item that has been especially helpful is the Wilson MobilePro 271220 Wireless Signal Booster.  In places with spotty cell signal, this device boosts the signal enough to let us use our cell phones and our wireless internet card.  We use the booster fairly often as we’re on the fringe of civilization a lot of the time.

Timm used the camping shovel to dig our RV out when it got stuck in the mud.

4. Camping Shovel – Prior to starting on this trip, I could not think of a use for a shovel.  It was in the camping supplies so I tossed it into the pile of things to go in the RV.  It turns out, we use this little shovel a lot.  It was invaluable when we got stuck in 4 inches of mud in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands and had to dig ourselves out.  Timm also uses it to balance the RV by digging a small hole under one or more tires.  We also use it for campfire safety, keeping it nearby so we can shovel sand on the fire in case of an emergency.

5. Shotgun – We debated whether we should bring our 20 gage shotgun on the trip.  We knew we’d have to pay $25 to bring it in and out of Canada and we’d have to register it with the Canadian border patrol.  However, a gun you never have to use is the best kind of protection.  We’re glad we have it as we often disperse camp and it gives us a little more security while out in the middle of nowhere.

Another dispersed camp site down a series of dirt roads.

6. Rav4 – We debated which tow car to bring.  The Rav4 is all wheel drive (AWD) and has high clearance but because it’s AWD, it requires a fairly expensive lube pump kit to be installed in order to be towed. We thought about bringing my standard shift Mini Cooper because it is towable as is.  However, bringing the Mini would have been a disaster.  Almost daily, we drive the Rav4 on dirt roads.  These roads are usually very bumpy with big rocks, ruts, deep sand and steep grades.  The Mini would never have made it and we’d have had to sell it and get an AWD vehicle pretty soon into the trip.

7. DVD’s – My brother David has an extensive DVD collection.  He let us borrow about 50 movies and 2 TV series.  We almost never have access to TV because we’re in such remote locations.  Instead, after a long day of hiking, we load one of the DVD’s into my laptop, climb in bed under the covers and watch a movie or an episode of the original Mission Impossible series.  We’ve enjoyed this relaxing end to many a wonderful day on this trip.

Despite trying to think of everything, there are a few of the things we didn’t think to bring that we should have.

Theresa splitting wood.  Notice the big pile of unsplit logs in the lower left.

1. Ax – On several occasions, we have found piles of firewood left behind by prior campers.  This is especially common when camping in the national forests, where collecting firewood is permitted.  Often, this wood is in big logs and needs to be split.  We did not bring an ax so we could not use the free wood and the alternative is to buy firewood at about $1 per small piece of wood.  Luckily, I found an ax left behind by a prior camper.  It’s a nice one and I really enjoy splitting wood.  Our campfires and marshmallow roasting have increased since we got the ax!

2. Garden Loppers – We regularly drive our RV down narrow dirt roads to a dispersed camp site.  Sometimes, the roads are crowded with trees and bushes and the wide RV can barely make it through without getting scratched.  We should have brought garden loppers to cut back the encroaching branches to make it easier to get the RV to our chosen campsites.  

3. Mini-Laptop – Timm wishes he brought his smaller laptop, an Acer Netbook, which has a 4 hour battery life.  Because we’re not connected to external electricity most of the time, we run our laptops off their batteries.  My Sony Vaio laptop battery lasts between 4 and 6 hours.  Timm’s Sony Vaio laptop is a battery hog due to his larger screen and faster processor.  His only lasts 1 to 2 hours.  He wishes he would have brought his small laptop to use when writing blogs and doing trip research as he’s always racing to try to finish his work before his battery runs out.

Finally, there were far more things we brought that we didn’t need.  We shipped these unneeded items home after the accident.  Recall that we moved from a larger to a smaller RV.  Having lived a month on the road prior to the crash, we had a pretty good idea of what was non-essential and unnecessary. We shipped home our Wii, backpacking and tent camping equipment, extra clothes, extra dishes, extra silverware, extension cords, lots of books, games, puzzles, etc.

In summary, we did pretty well thinking ahead and bringing the right things to equip our RV and live for a year on the road.  Yet, like many of us often do, if anything, we over packed.  As I write this, I look around me and realize how few items we actually need to live comfortably.

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