It’s been a different year for everyone as a result of the global pandemic. But it’s especially been a different year for us as we transitioned from living in an 1,800-square-foot house to a 400-square-foot fifth wheel RV. At no time have we felt the change more than during the holidays.
For many years, we hosted family gatherings at our house since we had one of the largest homes and families. At Thanksgiving, the pleasant aroma of roasting turkey would waft through the air while elegant creations and massive balloons floated by the TV as part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Our kids would help clean and prepare the tables with tablecloths and place settings before occupying themselves with games and looking through the sales ads for gifts they might like. Extended family would start arriving in the afternoon carrying large pies, cans of whipped cream, rolls, drinks, and anything else to make the meal complete.
After setting the food on the tables, we’d gather together to give thanks to God for each other and for our many blessings. Then we’d sit and dig in. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly we could devour what took hours to create. After the main meal, we’d transition to coffee and dessert, followed by a competitive card game of Big Boss, Little Boss.
When our extended family members grew tired of games or felt ready for a change of scenery, they’d head home, and we’d settle in for a relaxing evening, which usually involved a Christmas movie.
No Room in the Trailer
This Thanksgiving, our 400 square feet didn’t allow much space for a family gathering. Nor did our little 19-inch oven offer much room for a family-size turkey. So, we had to scramble to come up with an alternate plan to enjoy Thanksgiving with our family. Bob’s mom graciously offered to host the event, and he and I spent most of the day there preparing.
We made turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, cooked carrots, butternut squash, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, pie, and whipped cream. Our three kids in the area and their spouses joined us, and we ate on the deck, enjoying a beautiful warm day and thankful to be together.
New Christmas Tradition
This Christmas has presented its own challenges. When downsizing, we knew we wouldn’t have room for a 7-foot Christmas tree and all that went with it in our new living quarters. So, we gave away all our Christmas decorations except our two stockings. Traditionally for the past nearly 30 years, we’ve decorated for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. We wanted to do that this year too, but we wanted to do more than just hang Christmas stockings.
Venturing to our local Goodwill, we found a 2-foot Christmas tree, some Christmas balls, and a string of Christmas lights — all for only $6. The lights would have been too heavy for the little Charlie Brown Christmas tree, so we put them around a window.
Setting up the lights and tree inside our tiny home gave me a sense of joy and brought a smile to my face. We also bought a string of colored LED lights to adorn the outside of the trailer. We’re only lacking a little nativity scene to make our decorations complete.
But we encountered a new problem. There’s no room to put gifts under our Lilliputian tree (See what I did there?), and finding spaces to hide said gifts — especially for each other — has been challenging. We’ve had to get pretty creative.
New Appreciation for the Tiny Stable
In Christmases past, we hosted a Christmas Eve gathering where my parents would provide a smorgasbord of food and we’d engage in meaningful conversations with family members before a lively gift exchange. Everybody would part ways, and we’d have our own family celebration and gift exchange the next morning.
This Christmas, we faced the same lack-of-space predicament for a family gathering that we met at Thanksgiving. Thankfully, Bob’s mom has once again agreed to let us gather at her place to celebrate. We’re thankful for her hospitality, for the ability to spend time with family at the holidays, for our health, and for each other.
But most importantly, we’re thankful that, even though there was no room in the inn in Bethlehem, God sent his son to Earth to be our Savior.
Equipping a rig to be a permanent or even part-time home takes some doing. You want to get the things you’ll need and use while avoiding luxury items that will just take up space and not get used. We’ve made our fair share of both types of purchases. And, in the process, we’ve learned some key items make life on the road that much better.
In addition to these six must-have RV gadgets, here’s a countdown of our top 12 RV-related purchases. Please note: As an Amazon associate, we may earn from qualifying purchases.
12. Long-Handled Cleaning Brush
Since our trailer stands 13 feet, 3 inches tall, cleaning bugs off the front can be a challenging endeavor. But the DocaPole 5-12 Foot Scrub Brush Extension Pole simplifies the job. Just as the title describes, the pole can span any distance between 5 and 12 feet to make it easy to reach the lower and higher portions of the trailer.
We also bought the pruning saw attachment, for those instances when we need to move low-hanging branches out of our way, and the squeegee attachment to help us clean the windows.
11. Kitchen Sink Strainers
We didn’t know we needed these, but we quickly learned to appreciate their importance. The Fengbao 2-piece Kitchen Sink Strainer saves our gray tank from filling with food particles that cause odors. The tight stainless steel mesh even keeps coffee grounds from going down the drain.
10. Dish Organizer
The Camco Stack-a-Plate has come in quite handy. The two sizes keep our dinner and dessert plates safe and secure during travel. And, our bowls fit right on top of the dessert plates and stay just as safe. We never have to worry about our dishes breaking between destinations.
9. Fridge Fan
The battery-powered Camco Fridge Airator keeps air circulating in our RV fridge to keep food cool. This is especially helpful when we find ourselves in warm weather. As long as we remember to check the battery power, we’re in good shape.
8. Cabinet Shelves
Our pantry cabinet includes three levels of 23-inch deep storage area. Rather than wasting a lot of space, we purchased some mDesign metal storage shelves that allow us to better organize our canned and dry goods. We put one shelf in the back of each level and two shelves on the bottom level. Then we added mDesign plastic storage bins on the lowest level to store our spices.
7. Cellphone Booster
Since we need reliable internet everywhere we go in order for me to work, we purchased a weBoost Drive X RV Cell Phone Signal Booster and have been very pleased with it. When we find internet service is a bit spotty, Bob climbs the ladder at the rear of our trailer and attaches the directional antenna to it, and that usually fixes the issue.
6. Cast Iron Skillet
We use our Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with a heat-resistant holder every day and love it. And, because we employ the Alton Brown cast iron cleaning method with oil and salt, we save water in the process.
5. Electric Bikes
Our Ancheer Folding Electric Bikes are one of our favorite purchases. We got them with the intent of having a vehicle to explore tough-to-get-into spots before getting our rig stuck in a precarious situation. They’re great for zipping around a campground or RV park, and they fold up nice and compact to fit in the back of the cab of our truck for transport.
4. Solar Panels
For those times when we don’t have electric hookups, our four Renogy 160-watt solar panels come in quite handy to charge our batteries and provide the electricity we need for everyday living. This includes running our TV, computers, lights, chargers, etc. — but not our microwave.
3. Portable, Rechargeable Fan
This little OPOLAR 8-inch, four-speed fan is a powerhouse and has made a huge difference in the trailer, especially on warm nights with no hookups. Its compact size makes it extremely portable, and its clamp makes it adaptable to almost any situation. When it runs out of power, we just plug it in to charge it. Depending on the speed used, a full charge can last all night.
2. RV Backup Camera
We’ve come to rely on our Furrion Vision Wireless RV Backup Camera maybe more than we should. Because our truck/trailer combo stretches roughly 65 feet, we mainly use this camera to tell when it’s safe to move in front of another vehicle when changing lanes. It’s helpful for backing up the trailer too. We also purchased two side cameras, but we hardly use those at all.
1. Lithium Iron Batteries
Our two Renogy 12-volt lithium iron batteries were by far our best buy. Most RVs come with lead acid batteries, which need to be charged after expending 50% of the stored energy. Lithium iron batteries, on the other hand, can be run down empty before needing to be recharged, giving you much more energy at half the size and weight of lead acid batteries.
This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.