Changes to my Camping Gear
In my opinion, the Aliner sink is too small to really be useful in washing dishes. OK for brushing your teeth, I guess. Since I spend most of my time outdoors, it is easier to fill a water container directly at the faucet and I stopped using my water hose early in 2015. I stopped carrying it in 2016.
I use a small igloo water jug by the sink to get a drink of water. I carry extra water in Aqua-paks if I am boon docking or dry camping. I also use the melt water from the cooler. This has worked fine. My food is in water tight containers (like Lock and Lock) so food does not contaminate the cooler water.
Showers are available at most places unless you are off the grid. During the summer, swimming is also often available. I can skip a shower one night and if it is longer, I can always take a navy shower. This is definitely not enjoyable if it is cold, however.
For grey water from the sink, I use a 6 gallon tot n store which works fine. It will fill up more than half way after washing the dishes one time, however. On the 2017 trip, I never hooked it up since I don’t normally use the sink.
White gas Coleman stove and Coleman fuel (white gas) – has worked very well.
Coleman stove stand (only used if picnic table not available) – does the job.
Later I added a toaster oven, a traveling electric kettle, and a one burner electric plate. The kettle is great for heating some water for a cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate – very fast. I use these options if I have electricity, and I want to stay inside. Sometimes, if I am tired, it’s easy to just add hot water to a Mountain House meal or heat up an MRE (MRE’s are about equivalent to Chef Boyardee in a can if you haven’t tried them). There is no clean up. I find the Mountain House meals taste better than the MRE’s. I did not find the MRE heat pack to work very well even when it was warm.
I often stop for lunch on the way between parks or if I am away from camp exploring. On a long trip, I sometimes go out for dinner, especially if it’s raining.
In 2016, I replaced the toaster oven with a toaster to save space. I only used it for toast anyway.
The Aliner came with a refrigerator and it works fine but I consider it too small even for weekend trips – two quarts of milk and a few grapes and it is about full.
I started with a Coleman Extreme Cooler (52 quart) and this worked well. In 2014, I accidentally left it on a picnic table in Missouri and bought a 70 quart Coleman Extreme to replace it in Kentucky. The larger size is better because when you add ice you need a little room for the extra ice before it melts. It’s heavy when full, however. In September of 2014, I bought a Popup Gizmo solar cooler cover – it works well. I was only rarely using the refrigerator so I removed it in early 2015 before the Utah trip.
In 2016, I found that the 70 quart Coleman was somewhat heavy when full of food and ice and you have to lift it up 3 feet to put in a bear box (California). In 2017, I bought a slightly smaller size (58 quart Marine Extreme) which has better handles and better insulation. In early 1017, I also created partitions in the cooler to keep the ice separate from the food. I found it annoying to have to dig out the ice to put the food back in. The ice water in the bottom of the cooler kept the food cold.
Only a few Aliner choices have a toilet and they are more expensive. For 2013 and 2014, I used a Go Anywhere toilet which uses bags with powder to eliminate the smell. It folds up to briefcase size and since I only use it for number 1, I used plastic bags (trash compactor bags if you are worried about it leaking) with some kitty litter (Ever Clean works well). This worked well but I got tired of throwing out the bag every morning. For 2015, I switched to a Thetford 550P, which required some space in the Aliner. I took out the refrigerator and used that space; this also gave me enough room to put a drawer above it. I slide the Thetford out at night to use it. The Thetford flushes from a built in water tank and the 4 gallon tank lasts more than a month.
I googled the question about what is the best camping chair and came up with the Strongback chair, which is more comfortable than a regular bag chair if used for a long time, but is bulkier and heavier. I liked it but after a while one of the rivets came out and I replaced the chair with a Coleman Quad chair which has a small cushion for back support and is almost as good as the Strongback chair.
I started with a rectangular sleeping bag and a thick Thermarest pad over the cushions. Quite comfy but the pad was too slippery; I kept sliding around. I made the couch into a full time twin sized bed by removing the back cushion and adding a 4 inch foam mattress topper (2 inches of foam and 2 inches of memory foam). I use regular sheets (twin), a mattress cover and a comforter and it is very comfortable. This works well on long trips as it is much easier to launder sheets than a sleeping bag. I could have gone with a “queen” sized bed but it makes it difficult to get at the storage under the couch. The dinette can be converted into a bed if I am not traveling alone.
I started with a Coleman pillow and replaced it with a Thermarest pillow.
I use a small portable electric heater. I also have a Small Buddy heater that uses 1 pound propane bottles but I have yet to try it.
Some places don’t have picnic tables. I started with an REI Adjustable roll table but I found it had a design flaw so I replaced it with a Travel Chair Grand Canyon Table. It is very compact, adjusts to uneven ground, and is reasonably sturdy – I recommend it.
The LED lights in the Aliner work well but they are in the wrong place for reading in bed so I started with a Coleman LED CPX 6 lantern which is rechargeable. I replaced it with a Coleman mini lantern which takes up a lot less space. I also found that since I usually read books on a tablet on long trips, I didn’t really need a light to read by. A tablet can hold a ton of books.
Electronics – Phone
I started with a Sprint Cell phone and found it has great coverage in cities and very little coverage elsewhere. I replaced it in 2015 with a Verizon smart phone which also works as a hot spot (but only one gig). I got an AT&T hot spot (gives you WiFi using a phone connection – 5 gigs a month) and that allowed me to surf the internet at most camp sites. Many camp sites have WiFi but it is often weak.
Electronics – Tablet and Lap Top
For long trips I started with a Nook tablet. It is great as a reader but I replaced it with a Nexus 7 (7 inch screen) tablet which has better internet connectivity. In 2019 I replaced the Nexus 7 with a Samsung 8 inch screen because the Nexus 7 was having trouble figuring out whether it was vertical or horizontal. I added a battery storage device to recharge my phone and tablet if I was off the grid. It works well. Wifi is harder to find in Canada. I ended up going to McDonalds, Tim Hortons, or local libraries.
I also carry a HP lap top so I have a larger screen for cruising the internet. I use this for updating my web site while on a trip.
Most of the pictures in 2015 were from my Nexus 7 Tablet. After 2015, I used a video camera for most still shots (the zoom is more powerful (50X) and lighter than the lens I would need for an SLR). The Carlsbad Cavern pictures were from my cell phone.
I have a play list on my lap top and some side speakers. On the road, I have Satellite radio. For long trips I found Satellite radio to be worth the money, especially when you don’t have a co-driver.