I am often asked what are the most important tech essentials I use while we are traveling. This is a very good question, as there are are a lot of “nice to have” items, but not all are necessarily required. So, I boiled my list down to what is absolutely required for my peace of mind.
I’m not talking about any old flashlight. I have a Fenix TK20R tactical rechargeable flashlight ($100) that sports a 1000 lumen output. This thing is so bright you have to be careful not to hurt yourself. Police use tactical lights to temporarily disable an attacker. It can damage eyes or cause great pain if looking directly at it at close range.
Why do I want something so bright? As it turns out, the sun is bright too, and it is really hard to see details on your truck or trailer in the shade of bright sunlight. At night, I use the lowest setting. However, it’s nice to have the 300+ yard throw when weird sounds are emanating from the tree line…it is like having the sun in your pocket. It’s all-aluminum design is drop resistant, meets IP68 waterproofing, and is good in 3m of water.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Number two on my tech essentials list is a TPMS. It is imperative that we get from one place to another without any major incidents, especially because the RV is our home. I am maniacal about tires, hubs, and brakes on the trailer. Tire pressure and temperature are the key indicators I keep track of when we are on the road. In addition to pre-trip cold tire pressure check, and a walk-around check at every stop, we use a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) on all four tires of the trailer for real-time monitoring.
Our rig came with the TPMS, but you can buy the equivalent Truck System Technologies TST507-series. Amazon has it listed as the TST507rv ($330). These are convenient flow-through sensors, so you don’t have to take them off to fill the tire. Also, I recommend you change your valve stems to short, metal stems to facilitate heat transfer to the sensor – and for greater sensor/stem stability.
These TPMS devices were invaluable in the two tire blowouts we had, which were caused by aging tires. Our trailer continued to pull perfectly with three tires… at least for a few 100 yards traveled after the alarm sounded. Without the TPMS system screaming at us, we would have never known we had a problem until a potentially second catastrophic failure. This system is worth every penny.
I pair it with a TST507REPEATER ($67) right behind the pin box because our rig is so long it sometimes loses connection to the very back TPMS sensor. I wired the repeater so it is only on when the trailer is connected and the lights are on.
Portable Air Compressor
My maniacal tendencies on tires extend to having the cold pressure set correctly on the trailer and the truck for all trips. Our trailer has commercial tires with a 125psi maximum cold pressure rating for total weight capacity. It takes a good compressor to get to 125psi without waiting forever to fill.
I recommend the Porter Cable CMB15 150psi Shrouded Compressor model ($103). It’s compact and sits right up front in the basement storage for easy access. I pair that with a gun-with-gauge-type tire inflator with a 10″ air chuck for easy inflation of the inside dually truck tires. It comes with an inflation accessory kit for things like air mattresses and water toys.
The RV is basically an uninterruptible power system. While connected to a power source, the battery charges, and the hookup provides AC power to the rig. While not hooked up, the battery discharges, but AC power continues normally through an inverter. (At least until the batteries run down…) Power outages or brownouts can be handled easily by the inverter and battery bank.
But what happens if there are significant surges in the input power while the RV is connected to power? Circuit breakers are great for over current protection, but are basically no good for voltage surges. The battery charger/inverter could be lost, which could render the whole rig electrically inoperable. Surges can cause problems in appliances, too. So as part of my tech essentials list I highly recommend an integrated surge protector like the Progressive EMS-HW50C. ($292) You can also use an external unit, but it is a potential theft target.
Water Pressure Regulator
Water pressure in RV parks can sometimes be a challenge, but mostly because it is low… say around 25-30PSI. A lot of people are lulled into complacency by this fact. However, if you get near a major metropolitan area you may be subjecting your rig to 100+PSI surges. The last thing you need is to come back to a rig where all of the conduit has come apart under pressure and the water has flooded everything. A water pressure regulator is a simple and inexpensive addition to RV tech essentials.
Don’t buy a cheap regulator or the water pressure in your shower head will still be a problem. Use a Renator M11 ($45), or an equivalent regulator, and set it to 60PSI max. Throw in a Y-output adapter so you can have house water and a second flush hose hookup simultaneously. This also helps to easily relieve hose pressure when disconnecting. Throw in some hose quick connects and you will be king of your connection with no worries.
WiFi Range Extender
We are early Gen-Xers and as such we are the early adopters of connectivity. Full-Time RVers know that across the US, WiFi at RV parks is generally pathetic. The internet service provider hardwire-feed to the park will be the ultimate limiting factor. This is especially true when the park is full on the weekends. Unfortunately, you have no control over this situation.
Another limiting factor is how far you are away from the park’s WiFi distribution towers, or what impedements (trees, park models, other rigs) are between you and the WiFi towers. That would include the walls of the rig. So it is imperative to have an external WiFi Antenna/Range Extender available for your rig to have any chance at a reasonable connection rate. For most of you out there the Ubiquity Nanostation M2 NSM2 ($85) will do a fantastic job at any park and take care of distribution in most setups.