One of my consistent criticisms of RV manufacturers is that they seem constrained by what they know. Changes are evolutionary, revolutions are rare. We get stuck with rubber roofs that leak, cheap carpeting, brown furniture and campers that are way too heavy and too complicated. We should probably be grateful they finally caught on to LED lighting. Manufacturers would argue they build what sells. I’d argue that they sell what’s profitable, which may be different than what customers really want.
In the process of doing my research for the cargo trailer to camper conversion…yeah, that’s going to happen…I discovered some awesome new gadgets that make RV living easier. Some of these will be useful even if you live in a posh 40 foot diesel pusher but most are aimed at vandwellers and full timers in smaller rigs.
Portable Ice Maker
Your tiny RV freezer will never be able to make ice fast enough to keep up with the demand, even from two people. A portable ice maker is a cheap solution that produces mountains of ice all day long. About the size of an automatic bread maker, many RVers have theirs on a table outside to preserve counter space.
Small Clothes Washing Machines
The one aspect of RV living that I didn’t really like was going to the laundromat. Our big 5th wheel was plumbed for an RV combo unit but those are big, expensive and the early ones didn’t work all that well. Anyone going to a public laundromat regularly will one day have the experience of putting a new, nice shirt in the washer and having it come out permanently stained. The newer, small batch washing machines are less automatic than their large home cousins, but they get your clothes clean and cost right around $200. There are people living in vans using these units to do laundry. You no longer need to have a 10,000 pound camper to get a clothes washer.
Portable Hot Water Heater
This is more for the vandwellers and highly mobile set but, even living in a van, you can still have a hot shower almost anywhere. With the combination of a portable hot water heater and pop-up screen room, you can literally shower anywhere. Most vandwellers are solving
the shower problem at the gym or office and that’s fine until you’re out in the boonies somewhere. It just amazing to me to see some of these solutions. Some involve modified garden sprayers, small electric pumps and there are units that look like fire extinguishers. The bottom line is there are a wealth of portable solutions out there that don’t involve any particular expertise in plumbing.
Chemical and Composting Toilets
You really don’t want to think of them as “porta-potties” though they are portable. They are portable but they’re really chemical toilets. A chemical toilet has a small three to five gallon removable tank and small freshwater reservoir for flushing. The reason I insist on calling them “chemical toilets” is because if you forget to put chemical in them, you’re going have a bad time when it comes time to empty them. Raw sewage is one of the most offensive odors there is to the human nose. The smell is so bad, watch this video to see what happens when people try emptying a tank one without adding chemical. Be prepared to see people vomiting. That smell will contaminate anything it touches, including clothing. The same thing can happen in your camper’s black water tank, that’s why you add a chemical deodorizer.
Portable chemical toilets have gotten a bad reputation specifically because people don’t know you have put a chemical deodorizer in them. This video shows how to properly setup and maintain your chemical toilet and, when done right, you can use them in your house. The best part is that most of them are really inexpensive. For two people you can solve the bathroom problem for under $100. A five gallon tank should last two people between three and five days.
And here’s the link to the chemical.
Composting toilets are another option and they’re getting better all the time. Those eliminate the need for black water tanks altogether. If you’ve got the money, you can even spring for the home size units with an internal heater that evaporates the liquid. For most campers you’re looking at the type that separate liquid and solid waste to control the moisture content. For one or two people those work well, with the slight disadvantage of emptying that urine tank periodically and the compost bin occasionally.
Another thing that was vexing on the road was doing dishes. I know that sounds like a minor complaint but, with no counter space, you’re constantly doing dishes. I would have traded some cabinet storage space for a countertop dishwasher. With one of these, a stack of paper plates and a Costco size bag of those red
cups you could keep the dish chore at a minimum. I actually like the counter top version better than coaches with installed dishwashers. A portable unit you can carry away. An installed dishwasher is just another coach system to break down.