Driving with Donna: Full-Time RV Living Must-Haves
Posted: October 21, 2022
Categories: Travel & Lifestyle
Driving with Donna: Full-Time RV Living Must-Haves
When we get asked about living and traveling full-time in such cramped quarters or being right on top of each other all the time, we both just sort of laugh. Maybe the newness of our relationship helped, or maybe it’s that we spent the first year of our relationship in a global pandemic, rarely encountering another soul. Or, perhaps, we are just that perfect couple?
Ha. No. We are a typical couple, we get annoyed, we have moods and we each came into this togetherness with decades of set ways and fully formed opinions of how things are done. Maturity and life experience have certainly been driving factors in our success.
But, because everyone can use a little help, here are a few full-time RV living must-have gadgets and tips that we’ve adopted along the way.
Yeah, we know. Camping is for leaving the digital world behind, blah blah blah. But we aren’t always camping. We are living our lives. It just so happens we are living it in a 220 square foot mobile box, occasionally extending into the outdoors if campsites and weather permit. But we enjoy being connected. We like to binge watch television shows. We’ve also come to really appreciate how technology can allow us to be right next to each other having two totally different experiences.
Picture this: Both of us in the living room. I’m watching Jeopardy on television and he’s watching RV maintenance YouTube videos on his laptop. We are mere feet apart, both fully enjoying our chosen audiovisual experience, and we aren’t competing for audio space.
Using wireless earbuds with your phone or laptop isn’t a new idea. But I was delighted when Vic found a Bluetooth transmitter receiver that transmits television audio to personal earbuds. He can watch “High Plains Drifter” as loud and as late as he’d like, and I can read or sleep blissfully unaware. As a bonus, we can connect the TV audio to an external speaker for better overall sound when we are watching a movie together and need to run the RV air conditioner. If you know, you know.
Other techy gadgets that help us out as full-timers:
1. An OTA antenna booster
2. HDMI splitters and extenders so we don’t have to always fidget behind the television to connect whichever streaming device is in use
3. A cell signal booster
4. A WiFi hotspot device on a different carrier than our phones. There may be a simpler solution, but we haven’t landed on any ONE device or streaming platform that suits us. So having the ability to easily switch between android, apple, T-Mobile, Verizon, streaming, OTA television and the old-fashioned DVD player works well for us.
Practical, Special-Purpose Gadgets
Being full time means we take our creature comforts with us wherever we go. But there is only so much space and neither of us likes clutter. We also move a lot, so not having to spend hours setting up or packing up is a bonus. We don’t have decorative knick-knacks that have to be packed away or fancy dishes that get wrapped every time we move. Anything we bring in must serve more than one purpose or be so uniquely special in function that we just can’t possibly be comfortable without it. Among the items in this category are:
A countertop ice maker that never sits atop a counter
Its home is under the sink and when it’s in use, it’s either outside or on the floor in the little nook by the kitchen cabinet. A small basket in the freezer holds several Vodka Tonic’s worth of ice and it helps that we use double-walled stainless-steel tumblers, so we don’t need to replenish the ice as frequently.
A soda maker
Sometimes you just want a fizzy refreshment. We lugged around cases of soda and seltzer for months before buying the slim cordless version of the SodaStream. Just add a dash of lime or other fruit juice and you have a nice mock-tail.
An electric pressure cooker
Mine happens to be a Crockpot Express (CPE) and doubles as a slow cooker – so it really does pull double duty, I guess. Cooking is a joy of mine, and I was disheartened when I realized that even my smallest casserole dish was too large for the easy-bake-size RV oven. Also, making stews or soups on a propane stove just takes forever.
I use the CPE several times a week, cooking batches of rice or beans for meals throughout the week, precooking the spareribs before they are finished on the grill, making chili and even brownies. Just this week, we enjoyed a delicious pressure cooker pot roast – a perfect dinner for a dreary and rainy Pacific Northwest evening!
Creative storage space
The real trick is having a place for everything and putting everything in its place, always. Our kitchen storage isn’t ideal, so we’ve had to get creative with where things go. Flatware and plates under the sink, the crockpot over the stove and chips wherever they fit and won’t be crushed! We removed the panel below the under-sink shelf and use that space for the ice maker and vacuum attachments, being mindful of the plumbing lines and airflow for the furnace. A repurposed desktop file drawer stores hot cocoa, tea and fresh produce with room for the toaster and kettle on top.
Aside from gadgets, we also made some practical upgrades and additions that make full-timing in our RV more comfortable. One of the first upgrades was a real mattress. Fortunately, we have a toy hauler, so getting the queen size residential mattress into the RV wasn’t a problem.
Along the lines of comfy furniture, after a year of complaining about the European recliners that I found horribly uncomfortable for my short legs, we upgraded to Thomas Payne swivel pushback recliners. Our open floor plan provides the flexibility to set up our living space in whatever configuration suits us. Our dining table is also our desk and frequently is a card table for those cutthroat games of Rummy. We have two collapsible footstools that function as storage and end tables.
The Practical RV Living Must-Haves
Other tips for full-time RVing are the more mundane and practical:
Routine maintenance and a plan for getting it all done
Whether this is a scheduled stop along the route for spring-cleaning and deferred maintenance, having the tools and supplies on hand for when the opportunity presents itself, or even just the knowledge of what needs to be done when – keeping your home fully functional is key to this lifestyle.
Keeping it simple – not needing a bunch of stuff to be entertained or fulfilled
We still have fun hobbies and when we add something to our cargo, we shop thoughtfully for not only quality and price, but also how it will transport, where it will live when we are at a campsite, etc.
The new kayak Vic just got is an inflatable paddle-board style that can be configured for one or two paddlers. It shrinks down to a duffle bag and doesn’t take up living space. The eBikes fold into wheeled cargo boxes and fit in the garage during transit. His golf clubs fit under the bed. My hobbies range from the more virtual – genealogy, writing and researching places to visit and things to do, to the more practical – cooking and organizing.
Our “home” address is with family back east who collect and forward our mail and if we are specifically looking for something that we couldn’t reroute. As for the gadgets and other mail order necessities, Amazon lockers have been a huge help in our travels. Planning a pickup at a locker three states away sounds risky, but typically if you don’t pick up the items – maybe your travels got disrupted – they will return automatically for a full refund. This beats missing a delayed delivery and having to inconvenience park staff or having your item sit unclaimed.
Intangible Must-Haves for Full-Time RV Life
It's hard for me to really recognize what else might be a full-time living must-have for the RV since we’ve never used an RV for just weekend camping trips. I mean, I couldn’t function in the kitchen without the step ladder that brings the top shelf close to me, but that’s not a full-time thing, it’s a short person in a 5th wheel thing.
I guess the other must-haves are more intangible and not only applicable to RV life:
The flexibility and ability to change plans and just go with the flow when things go wrong
If you aren’t the handy type, or are new to your RV, knowing a good mobile RV tech or having a group of experts to call upon is helpful. How many times have I queried the Lippert Scouts group for everything from wonky tire sensors to cracked equalizers?
Respect for space and boundaries
Having a partner who is tidy, mindful and kind is a huge bonus in tight quarters. Keeping dishes clean and put away keeps the visual clutter at bay, as does putting away the project of the moment once the project passes. Admittedly, it’s usually my clothes that aren’t always put away, but if they are left out, it’s on my side of the bed.
On a more personal level, recognizing when one of us just needs space is monumental. When you are in a tiny space and always together, you have to sometimes work at allowing the other one to feel like they are alone with their thoughts and emotions, or even just alone, if that’s what they want. It isn’t personal, you aren’t being ignored, you didn’t do anything “wrong.” Maybe you think they should take a walk, but it is just as possible for you to leave and allow them their time at home alone, or maybe that’s the perfect opportunity to run for groceries or find a golf course.
A spirit of adventure
Without this, Vic and I wouldn’t even be here. I mean, who meets someone, ditches everything they’ve known and pitches a bag into a car for a cross-country trip within three months and upgrades to an RV by their first anniversary?
Lippert Scouts Donna Weathers and Vic Mulieri are retired veterans who have been traveling the U.S. full-time for the past two years. They alternate their time between months-long volunteer gigs at state and national parks and road tripping in between those opportunities. Unencumbered by deadlines, pets or kids, they often have no idea what day it is and have forgotten how to set alarms. Their home on wheels is a 5th wheel toy hauler and they love exploring the outdoors, historic places and great restaurants wherever they visit. To follow Donna and Vic’s RV adventures, be sure to subscribe to Donna’s blog at wheretonowus.travel.blog.