For the past 20+ years I’ve had the same vision: to travel around the country for an entire year. The logistics alone stopped me dead in my thoughts, though. Not to mention the cost, the idea of not working to make money, and if I could even do it by myself.
Watching those YouTubers and vanlifers travel full time brought me to a true realization – anyone can do this. And you don’t need a million dollars to make it happen either. So about six months ago, I bought a teardrop trailer and took off. I’m only two months in with ten months to go, but I’m stopping in every state (including Alaska) for the next year. Here are my top ten essential items for living on the road in a teardrop trailer.
I can’t live without music. Plain and simple. I have it playing 24/7. When it came to picking out a Bluetooth speaker, I needed something small enough to travel with but also versatile enough to put up with all the elements the road can throw at you. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom speaker is completely waterproof and drop-proof. Don’t let its small size fool you either. This thing puts out some serious sound. Loud enough for a large room or large campsite. You can even pair it to other UE speakers and have serious surround sound. I love the small hook on it, which allows me to hang it inside the trailer or on a small branch.
Campsites all have one thing in common: they get dark when the sun goes down. When I started looking at lanterns I found the Luci String Lights from MPowerd instead. You can hang them on anything. You can use all 18 ft. of lights or just a few feet. It’s whatever you need. It has a built-in solar charger, so it’s good to go by nighttime. And if it’s cloudy, then use the built-in USB charger to charge them up. These lights have 3 settings: low, medium, or high. On low, I can leave them on all night to light up the campsite and they’ll still be on by daybreak. They come in colored versions or just plain white.
I’ll admit, I never saw the benefit of any of those $50 YETI or Hydro Flask thermoses before. But after I was given one a few years ago and started to use it on camping trips, I knew one thing – I needed another one and bigger this time. My 20 oz. is perfect for my hot coffee in the mornings. It will seriously keep my coffee hot all day. I got my 40 oz. thermos at Zion National Park after I was hiking in 106º weather and needed more water with me. I literally take these everywhere. I’m a firm believer in them now and this is hands down some of the best $50 you can spend for yourself.
Dual SIM on iPhone
Since I’m traveling solo across the entire country, I wanted to make sure I always have a good cell reception to contact the outside world. Fortunately, the latest phones support dual SIM which means I literally have two different cell phone carriers and twice as much coverage as before. By the way, this is not just an iPhone thing. Most modern-day smartphones have this benefit. What’s great about my iPhone is that it actually knows which one is getting the better data and uses that line for all my internet use. You can even program each number to be used with specific people, so you can use one as a work line and the other for personal use. It’s helped me so much. I recommend it to everyone.
There are a few things I really like about this water container. First, the large mouth makes it super easy to add more water to it. Second, the faucet is easy to operate one-handed and it’s adjustable to pour as much (or as little) water as you need. Lastly, it’s pretty durable! I’ve had this thing get knocked around quite a bit at camp and it’s always lasted. The reinforced handle makes it so easy to move around, too. It’s also never leaked on me, which is always great. I recommend it to anyone looking for a large water container.
This next one is so simple it’s almost like, “Duh, why didn’t I think of that!” (P.S. I didn’t either, I found this trick online.) Pick up this mesh laundry bag and use it to hang/drip dry dishes. It’s that simple. This particular bag has a large rope so I can hang it from a tree or the side of my trailer from the roof racks. It packs down to nothing, taking up zero space. #Campinghacks
I had zero knowledge when I started looking at coolers. Now, I feel like I could sell them full-time. When comparing coolers I, of course, went for the big names: YETI, Orca, Pelican, etc. And every single one of those is amazing. Every single one of those also costs hundreds of dollars. So, I checked around and found this IMX cooler by Igloo. I get 4 days of ice before I need to refill. YETI might get one more day, but at $300 vs. the IMX $100 price, I’m ok with buying ice again a day earlier. There is also a 70 qt. model of this same cooler. I did my own real-world ice test of this cooler and you can watch it on my YouTube channel.
If there’s one essential element that’s notorious with camping, it’s the campfire. It doesn’t matter if you’re a backpacker or a complete big rig RVer with a full kitchen inside and air conditioning, everyone builds a campfire at their campsite. And it certainly helps to have a pair of gloves to keep the fire going. That’s where these fire-resistant gloves from Grill Armor come in. I can literally put my hands in the fire and move the burning logs around. It’s also very helpful when grilling with charcoal. Just use these gloves to move the burning hot coals around.
Multifunctional Clamp-on Hanger (currently unavailable)
There are two things I reach for when I first get to camp. My fire gloves and these multifunctional clamp-on hangers. They’re just so versatile. I use them for everything. It clamps onto tree branches, tent poles, roof racks, picnic tables, pavilion coverings – you name it. I’ve used them to attach a rope to, hang my UE Bluetooth speaker from, hang dry a towel, hang a lantern, and drip-dry my dish brush. Lately, I’ve been using it to hang my portable shower hose from. I have two of these clamps since they’re so helpful.
Just like a house, travel trailers have things that break in them. Since I don’t always have the necessary tools or items needed to fix whatever just broke, I usually reach for duct tape. I used it to tape my solar panel wires down the back of my teardrop. Recently, I’ve used duct tape to hold shifting items in the galley or inside the trailer, patch a small hole, fix the legs on my cooking table – you name it. It seems like I reach for it every day (maybe that’s a bad thing). In any case, I’m glad I have it!
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