How to Tent Like an RVer

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After camping for more than 20 nights, we are slowly readjusting to living under a roof once again. During this last camping trip we were able to pitch our tent in some gorgeous parks. However, the majority of our nights were actually spent in a large RV campground. This was for the simple fact that we needed Internet access for work, and RV campgrounds usually offer some of the best WiFi signals. Of course this means that we have to forgo the beautiful vistas and sounds of nature, and we often find ourselves the only tent on the premises.

At first it can be a bit intimidating setting up a small tent while surrounded by huge RVs, many offering more space than our last rental house. However, we have found that being the lone tent in a sea of RVs has many advantages. For one, an RV campground is often super quite because all of your neighbors are inside in their private, soundproof, climate controlled accommodations. We also discovered while camping in the desert that RVs give off great shade and act as a wind break to their tenting neighbors. A final advantage of RV campgrounds is that in addition to offering WiFi they also have great amenities like laundromats and swimming pools.

 

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We do have to admit that it is hard not to become jealous of your fellow campers in their big, shiny RVs with running water, air-conditioning, and comfortable beds. However, after many weeks of being the odd tent out we have come up with our own list of tricks for camping in comfort without the RV.

* Bring an extension cord: This is a great way to easily plug in kitchen appliances and also to bring power into the tent for laptops. The possibilities for creature comforts are almost endless: watching DVDs, recharging electric toothbrushes, cooking up pancakes on an electric skillet, and much, much more.

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* Consider a 30 amp adapter plug: Occasionally in our travels we have come across sites that do not have a standard electrical plug. In this case, having a 30 amp adapter (the standard for smaller campers and RVs) can be the difference between having toasted English muffins for breakfast and having cold cereal.

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* Cook with an electric skillet: Eating real food is probably our top way to ensure camping goes smoothly. With our electric skillet we have made soup, pasta, popcorn, tortillas, pancakes, rice, stir fry, and toasted trail mix. As a bonus, it is a great way to heat up hot water for washing dishes once you are done.

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* Connect a hose with nozzle: This can turn your site’s faucet into a shower (for sandy children), a jet (for washing dishes), and everything in between. We still haven’t found a use for the “flat” setting yet, though. Any suggestions?

* Set up some shade: We have tried many different types of shade: E-Z ups, screen houses, and tarps like Kelty Noah’s Tarp. As a family of five with all of our possessions in our car, the E-Z up is no longer an option; however, we have found tarps to be pretty space friendly. These shelters have given us a dry place to cook and eat in the driving rain, and also a refuge from the baking sun.

What are your tips for making a campsite feel like home?

Our Love of Dry Bags

Our time visiting the Baja Peninsula is quickly coming to a close and today we spent the day loading up the Mazda5 for our return to the United States. As we rounded up everyone’s possessions and negotiated about unnecessary baggage (how many shells, rocks, and sticks do we really need to take back with us?) we were reminded of how much we love dry bags.

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Our love affair with these wonderfully adaptable, completely packable, waterproof bags started way back when Five of Hearts was a baby. We were looking for a bag to store dirty cloth diapers in when we went camping or traveling, and didn’t have immediate access to laundry facilities. Using a dry bag became the perfect solution as it kept both the wetness and odor completely sealed inside until we could run the diapers through a washing machine.

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When we starting traveling full time and were in need of extra space in our overcrowded minivan we turned to dry bags again to store items on the back of our hitch platform. The dry bags easily clip to the supports of the hitch platform and keep everything bone dry, even after driving miles in rainstorms. At about the same time we realized that a mini dry bag was the perfect solution to keeping our cooler from becoming a watery mess. We just put the ice right inside the dry bag and when it melts the water stays in the bag instead of drenching our food.

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Another one of our favorite uses for dry bags is as food storage containers. When camping and traveling we load all of our food into dry bags. They work great to protect food from wet conditions while camping. You can put the bags down on the soggy ground and not worry about ending up with damp or dirty bags. Dry bags also keep our food safe from insects, many of which we have encountered here in Mexico, but have never made it into our food thanks to the tight seal and impenetrable plastic of dry bags.

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We could honestly go on for paragraphs about all the ways that we use dry bags. They are great for transporting wet bathing suits and sand toys as well as cameras, tablets, and wallets while at the beach or out in a boat. The best part is that a decent dry bag doesn’t have to break the bank. There are some really fancy versions out there with straps and extra features. However, we usually pay no more than $20 for a large bag and they last a really long time, just be careful not to drag them over rough surfaces as it will puncture the material. You can find dry bags at almost any sporting gear store or large box store. So, if you are in need of a great waterproof storage bag for any reason the Fives definitely recommend checking out dry bags and hopefully you will fall in love just like we did.

Small Car Camping

We truly love traveling in our Mazda5. It has some great features and it has handled great in all types of conditions. However, it is definitely a compact minivan and space is becomes very tight when we pack in 5 people, 3 car seats, and all of our possessions. Our hitch platform can only hold so much so we have to be really smart about what we bring with us. After many hours of Internet research and trial and error we have finally come up with a list of products that help maximize our space in the Mazda5 and at the same time perform very well when we are out on the road.

Bedding – In the past sleeping bags and air mattresses for our entire family could single-handedly fill up the available cargo space in our van. So, before hitting the road this time we invested in lightweight and compact models that have proven to be worth every penny.

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Therm-a-Rest® Tech Blanket –
We exclusively used these amazing blankets on our Route 1 trip. They work great in warmer temperatures and can also be added to a sleeping bag for a little bit more warmth on chilly nights. We love that they stuff into their own zippered pouch which makes them great pillows.

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Mountain Hardware Sleeping Bags –
We were looking for light weight and compact sleeping bags and finally found them in Mountain Hardware’s Mountain Goat Adjustable and UltraLamina 32. Both of these bags pack small enough to fit inside our suitcases.

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NeoAir Trekker – 
The NeoAir Trekker is by far the best camping mattresses that we have ever used! It packs down to about the size of a water bottle but provides so much comfort that we often prefer sleeping on them over regular beds when staying in rentals or hotels.


Towels –
Have you ever looked at the amount of space that a stack of bath and beach towels takes up? Instead of finding room for standard towels we purchased a PackTowl for each of us. They practically fit in your pocket and they dry super quick so we don’t have to deal with wet, soggy towels when camping.

Colemman Stove
Camping Stove
– Before we had kids we tried out a few different camping stoves. However, once we started camping with the kids we knew we needed a compact stove that we didn’t have to worry about tipping over onto one of our active little guys. We were super excited to discover the Coleman Powerpack 1-Burner Stove. It is super sturdy, it packs down small, and it cleans up in a breeze.


Electric Stove
– We never know how the kitchens of our rentals will be equipped. Some have every pot and pan imaginable while in others we can barely find a pot to boil water in. Therefore, we did our research and settled on the Presto 16 inch Electric Skillet with Removable Handles. This appliance is truly a wonder. We’ve cooked pasta, fried rice, stewed soups and made pancakes on its non-stick surface.The removable handles mean it packs tightly into our storage bin, and it makes cooking while camping a breeze if we are at a site with electric.


Packable Sink- 
Washing dishes can be quite a chore while camping. Unless we are at a campground with a dish sink (the hallmark of a quality establishment, in our opinion), lugging clean water in and the dish water out is a pain. The LL Bean Packable Sink makes things a little easier and folds up to take almost no space at all. It also works great for totting around wet items, and can even be used to bathe a small child in a pinch 🙂


Dromedary Bags
– Like its cousin the dish sink, our 10 Liter Dromedary Bag makes those extra trips to the campground tap unnecessary. We fill it when we arrive at a campsite and the large capacity meets our water needs for washing and filling water bottles for a day or so. We upgraded to the Spigot Cap which allows the kids to easily fill their own water bottles and wash their hands.

Outfitted for Newfoundland

So far the weather in Newfoundland has been unpredictable. Sunny days can quickly give way to gray skies and vice versa. We have found the local saying “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes” to be spot on. With so much to do in Newfoundland we can’t afford to waste time waiting for the perfect weather conditions. Instead before heading out each day we put on our “Island Gear”.

Rubber Boots

Rubber Boots

Fleece Jacket

Fleece Jackets

Rain Pants

Rain Pants

Warm Hats

Warm Hats

Rain Coat with Hood

Rain Coats with Hoods

These outfits keep us warm, dry and windproof. And when the sun comes out all we have to do is peel off a layer or two allowing us to stay comfortable no matter where we are or what the conditions are. Most importantly we don’t have to miss out on any of the great activities that Newfoundland offers.

Ready to Go!

Ready to Go!

Do You Baggu?

With just under 2 weeks left until we head out on the road again we are using every space saving trick that we have up our sleeves to cram everything that we own into the Mazda 5. Luckily a few years back we won a set of Baggu Bags through an online giveaway. These amazing Ripstop Nylon bags make packing items without the added bulk super easy.

Before we discovered Baggu we used LL Bean canvas tote bags to store our groceries, library books, beach toys, and other random gear. However, the LL Bean totes were bulky to pack and they didn’t wash or dry easily. Once we tried a reusable Baggu bag we were hooked. These bags can hold up to 50 lbs. yet they pack down into a 5″ x 5″ pouch. This allows for keeping several Baggus right in your purse or coat pocket and never again having to run out to the car to retrieve your forgotten reusable bags. The best part is that if the Baggu gets dirty it is easily washable and it dries in a flash.

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While the reusable Baggu is a must for grocery shopping we are especially in love with their sets of 3 zipper bags, which we have in almost every size and color combination. The zipper bags are perfect for storing everything under the sun from electronics to kids toys. The heavy duty Ripstop Nylon contains all of our odds and ends without taking up valuable space in the car that we don’t have. We have switched over to Baggu zipper bags to hold the kid’s piggy banks, our important documents, and our cosmetics.

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One of the best features of the Baggu line is the numerous and stylish color and pattern options that they offer. We were each able to pick out our own distinct bags helping to avoid any future ownership issues. A must with three kids 🙂 Plus they have so many more cute patterns that we all have a bag on our wishlist for the future.

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So, if your old reusable bags are getting dingy or you need a new storage solution we definitely recommend checking out Baggu bags. Just be prepared to encourage the bagger at the grocery store to keep on filling it. These things can hold 3 plastic grocery bags worth of goods!