Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

13 (14) Truck Camper Hacks

Lurch, doing his thing at Toroweap, Grand Canyon

Four years and 170 nights into this truck camper adventure, it occurred to me that I’ve learned a whole lot about making life easier boondocking.  Some of these things I learned the hard way.

So, for your reading pleasure, the hacks;

    1.       Mobile phone booster.  I know, I’m supposed to be glad to be off the grid, blah blah    blah.  If that’s your thing, that’s great, but I often want to communicate for safety and follow radar for approaching storms.  I use a Wilson Model. Speaking of communication,

     2.       Get a satellite communication device.  I use the InReach (now a Garmin brand).  I was convinced after breaking down in Death Valley in 2014.  Though I’ve not had another emergency, I use it to let someone know where I’m camping, rather like dropping breadcrumbs along the way. 

     3.      A Coconino National Forest Ranger clued me in to the free Avenza Maps app.  Yes, they’re trying to sell you maps, but several of the National Forest Units in Arizona (Coconino, Prescott, part of the Kaibab) have free downloadable maps that geolocate me even without a phone signal.  They also include information about where it’s legal to camp, because we’d never camp anywhere else, would we?

Beer and the pooch, Coconino Forest AZ
4.       I never thought I wanted a hammock, until I got one from Cairn, the outdoor product-of-the-month outfit out of Bend Oregon.  I was wrong.  My Serac hammock sets up in about 45 seconds and it makes me smile.  Bonus points for the way it encourages me to take in the up-view.

      5.       If you, like me, have a stovetop but no oven, buy this little collapsible stovetop oven by Coleman.  Now imagine yourself in your hammock eating fresh-baked cookies.

Lurch in the Kaibab Forest.  Aluminess Bumper & Box

6   6.       Two thoughts about trash-management; One, I love my little collapsible trash bag holder.  Before I met this little gem, I had a trash bag on the kitchen counter which caused some low-level irritation.  This is $9 well-spent. Two, you need somewhere to put the stinky trash on multi-day trips other than your camper or your truck’s cab.  This is one of many uses for my Aluminess back bumper with the storage box.  It also holds other dirty stuff like recovery gear and my sometimes-wet door mat (You need a good door mat.)

7    7.       Fill a container with miscellaneous stuff like duct tape, safety pins, a tarp, extra shoelaces, bug repellant, a water purification device, batteries, sunscreen, a sewing kit, gaffer tape.  You get the point.

8    8.       Take out the back seat, if you can.  For a dedicated overlanding vehicle, you’ll want the space more than the option to carry passengers.  Admittedly this one is a matter of personal preference, but worth considering.

9    9.     Ditch the hard-to-clean rugs and try these thin, dense foam floor mats from Target.  I clean them buy dipping them in the pool after a trip. Easy, peasy.

     10.   Tools.  At the very least, a good multi-tool.  I use this Gerber Multi-tool, also from Cairn. The thing about overlanding is that everything shakes loose eventually.  If you haven’t found a screw on the floor and wondered what was about to fall apart, you will soon enough.

1   11.   A remote-reading thermometer.  Not only is this good for bragging rights (“You won’t believe how cold it was last night”) but it’s really nice to know how to dress in the morning without opening the door while wearing PJs and uttering expletives about the cold.

1    12.   Adventures often include frustration, including bad weather and mechanical challenges.  Plan for your inner toddler with emergency treats or good book.

1    13.   Don’t forget your toothbrush.  They’re hard to improvise and really icky to do without.

Happy camping; see you out there.

 Essential Wipes Travel Tubes  ~ 3 Tubes  30 Essential Oil Dry Wipes

14.  Oh my gosh; I forgot perhaps the most important hack when I posted this yesterday!  Essential Wipes.  I don't think I could camp without wipes, but I had trouble with artificial scents and icky residue in most wipes.  I got my first package of these from Cairn, and I was in love.  They're scented with essential oils, made of bamboo and wipe clea.

Addendum; if you're dying for more, here's the second installment in June 2018, "16 More Four Wheel Camper Hacks."


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  2. Love your hacks Rebecca-thanks for sharing! I cannot live without my Sun Oven- this Solar Cooker folds up nicely, and if you put your pot o' dinner in the morning sun, stew is ready when you get back from your hike without heating up the camper. I like your little stove-top unit, but can't live without my solar cooker<3 Verizon hot spot has been helpful when craving some wi-fi time, too....!

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  4. excellent suggestions...thank you

  5. Great article! Thanks for sharing I added some thoughts on Dry wipes sometime ago