A family on the road living fulltime in an RV.

Category: RV equipment

Great Gifts for RVers

Christmas is just around the corner and if you are like me a total procrastinator you still have some shopping to do or perhaps you have friends and loved ones…

Christmas is just around the corner and if you are like me a total procrastinator you still have some shopping to do or perhaps you have friends and loved ones asking what they can get you. If so this list of great gifts for RVers is for you!

Great Gifts for RVers

Instant Pot – A favorite among RVers, the Instant Pot was my Christmas gift from Brent in 2014 and we’ve used it nearly every day since. In fact, I just heard it beep signaling that our BBQ chicken is done. The multi-functional kitchen warrior is perfect for RVing as it serves many purposes: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, saute/browner, yogurt maker, and warmer. We have the 6qt IP-DUO60 7-in-1 and it’s plenty big enough for our family. Regularly, I double recipes and as of yet I haven’t had a problem fitting it all in the pot. We LOVE our Instant Pot.

Foldable Vases – Inexpensive and perfect for RVing, a foldable vase makes a great gift for your favorite RVer. Foldable vases allow you to bring the outdoors in without taking up space or adding weight. On top of that, they are unbreakable which is always good when your RV basically experiences a mini earthquake every time you move it. They come in multi-packs and as singles. The first time I saw one was when a friend brought me one as a hostess gift and I have been hooked since!

Nesting Mixing Bowl Set  – RVers are always looking for space saving solutions and these nesting bowls with a colander and measuring cups fit the great gifts for RVers criteria. They are super cute to boot. We love ours because they are well made, pretty, and, most importantly, 9 items take up the space of one. We have the colorful set in the picture above but they also come in blue and grey.

Portable Solar Panel – We loved having a full solar system but that’s quite an investment and if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of boondocking then a portable solar panel is a better option. Portable solar panels allow you to keep your devices charged and a battery topped off for short stints off the grid. Of course, check with your RVer first before investing in such a gift.

Stainless Steel Wine Glasses – When we hit the road in our RV, we brought along our wine glasses. It didn’t take long until they all broke and we were drinking wine out of mugs. We put these stainless steel glasses on our wish list but ended up just drinking from mugs because we are classy like that. These are the only things on the list that we don’t own but wish we did. (Ahem) We think these would make a great gift for RVers even part-time ones. 😉

Magnetic Car Phone Mount Holder – I’m always surprised when someone gets in my car or truck and says something about my cell phone holder. Maybe it’s because after living for four years on the road and still not knowing our new city very well, the first thing I do put the address of where I’m going into my phone. What do people do when they have to use the navigation apps on their phones and don’t have a holder? Hold it in their hands? Lay it on the center console?  When it comes to safety, I’m super uptight conscientious and this little contraption is wonderful. We put a magnet inside our phone cases and the phone effortlessly sticks to the mount that is in our truck’s cd player. We also have one that mounts in the air vent in our other car. Love these things. They are convenient and make using a navigational app safer.

Kindle – Most of my mentions of my Kindle are met with but “I love the feel of paper books.” I do too. More than the feel of paper books I the smell but when you live in an RV or travel a lot you need to make choices and finally getting a Kindle was one of the best purchases ever. In fact, we now own four Kindles, one for each person who can read. Two years ago, I got Brent the Paper White as a Christmas gift and since have confiscated it for myself. I love that I can take hundreds of books, a booklight, and a “highlighter” with me in one light device. Our Kindles include a Kindle Fire, a Kindle Touchscreen and an earlier generation of this one. Out of the three, the Paper White is my favorite. I really like the adjustable built-in light for night reading. Unlike my phone or a computer screen, the Paper White doesn’t give me a headache while reading at night. A Kindle is a perfect gift for RVers and travelers.

Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.

Digital Gifts – Music, movies, and e-books all make great gifts because they don’t take up physical space. The movie RV is one of our favorites.

Walkie Talkies – Walkie talkies are perfect for RVers with children. The kids can play games with them and/or you can keep in touch. Read about the time our boys got stuck in “quick sand” and you’ll know why we think walkie talkies are a must have and makes great gifts for RVers.

Induction Cook Top – Campground fees almost always include your electricity so it makes sense to use electric appliances when possible and conserve your propane. This is why we regularly use an induction cook top. Another benefit is that it frees up another burner if you are cooking multiple dishes. Our induction cook top has held up well but if you are looking for something a little fancier with a little more wattage there is this one. Note: You must use cookware (I’m eyeing this set.) made out of magnetic-based metal to work with induction cook tops. Induction cook tops make great gifts especially for the very utilitarian RVers.

Aeropress and Coffee Mill – The Aeropress is another well-loved and often used item in our RV kitchen. In fact, Brent takes this with us whenever we travel because good coffee is a must. We’ve owned ours for three years (it too was a Christmas gift) and it’s still going strong. Being whole been coffee people, this hand coffee grinder is our Aeropress’s faithful companion. Where one goes the other goes and it doesn’t matter if we are 100 miles from an electrical outlet. With the Aeropress and coffee mill, all you need is water boiled over a campfire,, to make an amazing cup of coffee. These two together make great gifts for coffee loving RVers.

Hydration Pack – If your favorite RVers are outdoor enthusiasts gifts like backpack hydration packs will be appreciated.  In our experience, hydration packs are a must for hiking with kids. Our boys have Dakine hydration packs similiar to this one. Brent and I both have Camelbaks with insulated drink tubes (similiar to this one) that along with hiking in all temperatures, we wear when snowboarding.

Gift Considerations for the Full Time RVer

While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!

Is your Christmas shopping done? Any great gifts for RVers you would add to the list?

Love and laugher,

Contains affiliate links. If you purchase something using one of these links we get a small percentage at no additional cost to you!

Share this:
No Comments on Great Gifts for RVers

Heart or Head – Searching for the Best Family Travel Trailer

Finding a new RV We began our search for a new RV the moment we decided to sell our old one. My heart bleeds gypsy blood and to not have…

Finding a new RV

We began our search for a new RV the moment we decided to sell our old one. My heart bleeds gypsy blood and to not have an RV would make the next few years feel even more like a prison than it already does. Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic but we love having an RV for many reasons. It makes traveling affordable. RVing allows us to be remote or as urban as we want to be. It’s one of the ways our family connects and creates forever memories. RVing allows for more comfortable and extended visits with family. I love my family but I also love my space.

Jayco pop-up trailer

When we first started RVing many years ago we had a pop-up trailer that we loved. We would park it under the shade of the Sequoia trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountains or along the California Coast. It was perfect for that time of our lives. Since then we’ve discovered we love winter RVing so a pop-up isn’t going to work. We’ve also grown a bit and were spoiled by our 41’ Gateway fifth wheel.

cedar-creek silverback 5th wheel camper

In between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.

Last but certainly not least, we no longer have the diesel 3500 Chevy dually to pull the RV. After some discussion we decided that we didn’t want to continue paying those expensive truck payments for a truck that our entire family couldn’t fit in. In hindsight, we should have bought a less expensive truck that seated six. Or maybe not. Six of us in a truck would have been tight especially with two car seats. So after a lot of research we decided to buy a diesel Ford Excursion. I’ll do another post on buying the new SUV because a lot of  research went into it but the short of it is that it can seat six people comfortably and it can haul a heavy load giving us more options for travel trailers, the point of this post.

So without any more rambling let’s talk travel trailers. It seems to us there aren’t as many bunkhouse floorplan variations for travel trailers as there are for fifth wheels. Also there aren’t as many slideouts presumably to keep the weight down since slideouts are heavy. So we have been trying to prioritize and figure out our needs for RVing. While we aren’t full time RVing we do plan on taking a 2 month trip every year and want to be comfortable. So here is what we are considering so far.

Weight – A trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds unloaded (UVW). The lighter the better but we can go up to 10,000 as long as we make some modifications to the Excursion. Again another post.

New or Used – Our first two trailers were used and they held up great. Normally, we buy everything used so it was a big deal for us to buy a new trailer when we bought the Gateway. We had looked at probably over a hundred floorpans and it was the only one we loved everything about and it was new that year. Of course. We decided it was worth it to purchase the Gateway even though we rarely purchase new. We are facing the same problem again, a few of the floor plans we love are new this year. Obviously, we would prefer to keep cost down and purchase used. However, we don’t regret our purchasing the Gateway new at all. Surprisingly, it held its value very well and we sold it quickly. Since we had such a great experience with a new rig (the warranty is nice) we are considering new.

Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.

Bedroom Layout – At first it seems like the only travel trailer floor plan option was a back bunkhouse and a front queen bed with the head of the bed situated at the front of the trailer. But then I found the front bunkhouse models. These typically have more room around the master bed and since the littles sleep in our room with us (they do in our house too) this would be much more comfortable and give Brent a good space to work for extended trips. The tradeoff is a smaller bunk room but the teenagers they don’t need as much space as they once did since we aren’t full time. Even in our Gateway they spend a lot of time lounging in their beds so we are leaning towards a larger master bedroom.

“Character” – Before we went on the road we looked at a vintage bus and I loved it. It had so much character and personality. However practically outweighed personality for full time RVing. Since this one is for part time only, we are considering something more “fun” like a vintage camper. We love remodeling/renovation projects and think it would be fun to renovate and older trailer and make it something that “fits us”. However, vintage trailers sacrifice modern comforts and we just aren’t sure we want to sacrifice modern comforts.

Best Family Travel Trailers

It’s hard to say what “best family travel trailers” really are because each family has different needs. After months of research these are the travel trailers that we think would be best for our family.

Cougar X-Lite 32FBS


The Cougar X-Lite 32 FBS was the first travel trailer floor plan we came across with a rear master bedroom. When we went to Indiana over spring break, we saw it in person and loved it. There is a ton of space in the back bedroom and there is more floorspace in the Cougar front bunkhouse than some other travel trailers due to the slide out closet and two as opposed to three or four bunks.


The downsides to the Cougar are: it’s only available new and it only has one slide in the main area. However, since there isn’t an island the the floor space is about the same. It’s really just sacrificing counter space.

Highland Ridge Open Range Light LT308 BHS or Roamer RT310BHS

While at the dealership looking at the Cougar, we saw the Highland Ridge Open Range Light LT308BHS. I was impressed with all the space the moment we walked in. Although the master is in the front, there is still more room in the master than other travel trailers of the same layout because Highland Ridge adds 4 inches in width over the standard width of most travel trailers. When you are talking space in RVs a few inches can make a HUGE difference. Highland Ridge also comes with a 2 year warranty and is known for its quality build.


The Roamer RT310BHS is basically the same floorpan but with an extra slide out closet in the front bedroom for a total of FOUR slides! 


We absolutely LOVE these Highland Ridge floor plans and if they were in our budget we would buy one of these in a heartbeat.

Puma 32FBIS


We haven’t seen the Puma 32FBIS in person but while I was searching for front bunkhouse travel trailer floorpans I came across this one. I love the layout with the master bedroom in the back and the double slides in the living area.


We are concerned about how this one would do in colder climates though so we will be doing some more research. Also the front bunkhouse is a little tight if there is an outdoor kitchen but it’s fine without the outdoor kitchen. A few more with this great floor plan are the Prime Time Lacrosse 336BHT and the Prime Time Avenger 32 FBI. We aren’t familiar with the Prime Time brand but we love the layouts.

Grand Design Reflection 308BHTS


Grand Design is a newer brand. We toured a Grand Design fifth wheel when we filmed the reality show, Going RV, last year. They seem to be of very high quality. Then we went through one of their travel trailers at the RV show in Denver a few months ago.


We really liked the finishes. Although the trailer has a front master bedroom, it felt a little more spacious that some of the others we’ve toured.

Cross Roads Zinger ZT29DB



Thanks to my OCD, I’ve been checking Craigslist multiple times day and came across the Crossroads Zinger 29DB. We really like the back bedroom and how the bunks lie horizontally in the front cutting down on the length and weight of the trailer. While we don’t LOVE this RV, it’s affordable and would be comfortable for our family without adding debt. Since it’s used I wouldn’t have emotional hang ups about painting brand new cabinets and walls. It would be so much fun to do another RV makeover!

 Vintage Airstream

For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus.  In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.

We’ve been researching and really love the 1980’s Excella models, particularly the 34 footer with the double beds in the back. We have all sorts ideas to customize it to fit our family and personality. The downside, besides the lack of slide outs, are the prices of older Airstreams are all over the map and good deals sell really fast. Seriously, we saw the exact trailer we wanted for $7200 but it sold the night before we called. The same models are ranging from 9K t0 20K and upwards! The upside is Airstreams are well built and hold their value.

There are so many choices and each one has their pros and cons. Do you have experience with any of these brands or models? Should we go with our heart and buy a vintage Airstream or use our head and buy a newer RV? What would you do? We would like to make a decision soon!

Love and Laughter,
Jenn and Brent

If you enjoyed this post consider connecting with us! 1. Sign up to have posts emailed to your inbox. 2. Subscribe to the RSS Feed or 3. “like” Newschool Nomads on Facebook  Simple dimple!

Like food and fitness? Follow along as I film a workout in every state and explore finding a healthy balance on the road at Girl Heroes!

Share this:
4 Comments on Heart or Head – Searching for the Best Family Travel Trailer

Our RV Solar Power Setup and Giveaway

What’s not to love about solar power? Harvesting the power of the sun to provide electricity to run your RV appliances and electronics, without waste or pollution? Yes please! When we upgraded…

What’s not to love about solar power? Harvesting the power of the sun to provide electricity to run your RV appliances and electronics, without waste or pollution? Yes please!


RV Solar Power by Solarland USA

When we upgraded our RV one of the features we were most excited about was the residential refrigerator.  While current models have gotten quite efficient, a full-size refrigerator will suck your RV battery dry pretty quickly. This may not be much of an issue when you are moving from park to park where electrical hookups are available to run your refrigerator and charge your batteries, but when we decided to set out on an epic road trip from Key West, FL to Anchorage, AK we realized we may not have that luxury at many points along the way. We got in touch with the good people at Solarland USA to see about trying out their Sun Wanderer RV solar kit and they were happy to oblige. They are an international company who have up until recently focused on the wholesale distribution of their products. Fortunately for us they are ramping up their retail marketing and they agreed to send us four 150W high efficiency panels, a portable 90W solar kit, two Blue Sky Solar Boost 3000i charge controllers, an IPN Pro Remote (which lets us monitor the current charge coming in, battery level as well as current being used), cables, and a cool solar lantern.

RV Solar Installation - DIY

RV Solar Installation – DIY

On our way to Alaska, we stopped in Indiana to visit family where I set to work installing them with the help of my super handy brother-in-law Jeff. The panels are high quality and light-weight. We had the trailer wired pretty quickly, running the two sets of cables through the (unused) washing machine vent, down through a chase, into the underbelly storage area, and finally into the utility bay where we built a panel to mount the charge controllers next to the batteries. Wiring the charge controllers to the batteries was a little tricky as our battery bank is still a work-in-progress. We have two gell cell 12W batteries and two Trojan T-105 flooded acid 6V batteries. Since we had two charge controllers we were able to run the battery banks independently with the inverter running off the Trojans and our 12V house system running off the gel cells. Since this initial configuration, I have taken to running both charge controllers to the Trojans since out 12V demand is very low (most of our 12v lights are LED and the refrigerator runs off the inverter). The 90W portable solar charger has a built-in charge controller which allows us to Connect it directly to our gell cell batteries to keep them charged. With this setup, weather permitting. we can operate all our electrical systems, residential refrigerator, charge our laptops and mobile devices as well as our oldest son’s keyboard.

Solar panels in the Wild: Denali National Park, Alaska

Solar panels in the Wild: Denali National Park, Alaska

The panels and charge controllers have held up great since our journey to Alaska. We are now looking forward to optimizing the system further so we can enjoy more ‘wild camping’ throughout the western United States. Future upgrades to the system will be to replace the two gell cell batteries with two more Trojan T-105’s so that we can run it as a single bank. Replace our 1000w inverter with a 3000w “whole house” model. Add 400w more PV panels to better accommodate my large screen iMac.

RV Solar - Homer Alaska

RV Solar Power – Homer Alaska

DIY Solar Installation Video

Give Away!!

What Do I Win?

The winner gets one 90 watt portable solar charge kit.

Who is eligible?
Anyone 18 years of age or older within the 50 United States of America

How Can I Win?
Entering to win using the widget above:

Mandatory: ‘Like’ Newschool Nomads and Solarland USA on Facebook (yes, you must like both to win)
Want a better chance at winning? Expand your interaction and receive additional entries

  • Leave a comment below and tell us how you’ll use your new portable solar charger (counts as 2 entries)
  • Tweet this Giveaway
  • Pin this Giveaway on Pinterest

So that’s 6 chances you have to win, plus an extra credit by leaving a comment below!

This contest runs from Wednesday 11/05/2014 to Wednesday 11/12/2014 at 11:59 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time). The winner will be announced on 11/13/2014 via private email, and shared with our friends on Newschool Nomads’ Facebook page.

The Fine (legal) Print:

You must be a human age 18 or older
You must be a Facebook fan of Newschool Nomads and Solarland USA to win.
Mandatory entry must be done first before additional entries are accepted.
The Winner will be contacted through Facebook and has 72 hours to respond before another applicant is selected.
You must enter the giveaway using the widget above (if you simply like NSN, SLUSA, etc on facebook you will NOT be entered)
Giveaway is NOT endorsed by Facebook or Twitter
All entries are verified.

Disclaimer: The products reviewed in this post were provided to us free of charge by Solarland USA.  No other form of compensation was offered or accepted. All expressed opinions are our own.

Share this:
65 Comments on Our RV Solar Power Setup and Giveaway

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search