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Category: RVing

In October 2019, we sold our house in Tucson and became full-time RVers. Since then, we’ve been exploring the American West as a family. Although we still feel like noobs, we’ve learned a lot! We hope our posts can help you on your journey, whether you’re full time, part time, or a weekend warrior on wheels.

Review: InsideTracker DNA Kit and Blood Test

In May 2016, my wife Kim (an ICU nurse) convinced me to get bloodwork done. I was 26-years-old and it seemed like the adult thing to do, so I booked an appointment at the Salt Lake InstaCare and went in.

When I got my results back, I was surprised to find that my cholesterol was high. I seem to remember the doctor saying, “you’re too young to have this problem” or something along those lines. He told me to go on statins.

To me, the thought of bowing to Big Pharma and taking a pill to fix the problem seemed like a cop-out. Couldn’t I make a lifestyle change in order to get this thing under control?

Queue epic training montage! I bought a Withings smart scale and blood pressure cuff. I took Yoga with Adriene’s 30-day challenge on YouTube. I cut my proportions and dropped 10 lbs. On days that I couldn’t get out for a hike, I hit the elliptical at the gym.

At some point, I plateaued. My stubborn body wouldn’t shed more fat! It was time to level up. I went on a keto diet and started Stronglifts 5×5. Thankfully, I shed another 15 lbs and felt the best I had since high school.

When my daughter Maia was born, I had bloodwork done again. By this point, I was trail-running and doing calisthenics to stay in shape. This time, my cholesterol came back normal. Hooray, my hard work had paid off!

Our Experience with InsideTracker

ExamOne Woes

Fast forward to November 2020… InsideTracker offered to give Kim and I the chance to try their product/service. They set us up with their top-tier plan, sent us a DNA kit, and got us in touch with their mobile blood draw partner, ExamOne.

I’ll be blunt, ExamOne completely dropped the ball. InsideTracker needs to find a new partner. We played phone tag for a few weeks and when I finally got a hold of them, the lady I talked to was incredulous when I explained that we lived in an RV.

I was simply trying to figure out how to get someone out to our campground to draw blood. She kept suggesting that I needed to talk to someone else about it and rudely hung up on me. I called back and was put on hold for 20 minutes. I gave up for the day, then called back 4-5 times in subsequent days. They never answered.

When I explained what happened to InsideTracker, their director of marketing set us up with a local lab where we ultimately had our blood drawn successfully.

How InsideTracker Works

It took about three weeks for our DNA + blood analysis to be ready. The real value of InsideTracker is the powerful software tool(s) it gives you to analyze your data and make informed decisions about your health.

When you log in, you can see your bloodwork broken down by biomarker (e.g. lipid group, vitamin D, sugar group, liver enzymes group, testosterone group, platelet group, etc.) Results are broken down into three categories: At Risk, Needs Improvement, and Optimized.

Your InnerAge seems to be calculated based on where you fall within these categories. I was happy to see mine at 26.5, even though my actual age was 31.2. To be honest, this feature seems kinda gimmicky but maybe you can use it to motivate yourself.

InsideTracker dashboard

Under the bloodwork tab, I noticed the option to add test results. I dug up the PDFs from my previous bloodwork labs and uploaded them. Within a few days, InsideTracker’s automated system had parsed the data and uploaded it to my profile.

This is huge for me, because it means I can continue to get bloodwork done on the road at various labs and track my results over time.

The great thing about seeing and tracking your data within InsideTracker is it gives you actionable feedback on how to improve next to each of your biomarkers.

For instance, my lipids are high again so InsideTracker recommends healthy foods that are known to reduce high LDL and increase low HDL. It also suggests blog posts and videos that I can use to educate myself on the subject.

InsideTracker biomarkers

InsideTracker even has recipes for snacks and meals that incorporate the nutrition you need to get healthier. One day, I made the Chia Seed Pudding and Almond Bran Bar. Not bad at all!

The DNA component of InsideTracker brings context to your blood test results by showing how they connect to your genetics. As a low-key data nerd, I find this information to be fascinating.

As an active, physically fit person I’m often frustrated by the fact that I struggle with high cholesterol. It’s oddly reassuring to know that I’m genetically predisposed to this condition. I will have to work harder than average people do to keep this in check.

I was also surprised to find that I had low Vitamin D levels. I spend a lot of time outdoors in the sunshine, how could this be possible? Again, my DNA test shows that I have an elevated genetic risk for lower levels. Ever since I found out, I’ve been taking a Vitamin D supplement daily.

InsideTracker DNA analysis

Our Next Steps

Going forward, I plan to retest my blood at a lab and upload it to InsideTracker with the goal of having zero biomarkers in the At Risk category.

Since my last blood test, Kim and I have taken up rock climbing! It’s been the funnest, most challenging fitness activity I’ve ever tried.

Kim’s first time climbing as an adult
Kim’s first time climbing as an adult

We also got Whoop bands and have been using them to not only train harder but smarter by measuring sleep and evaluating recovery to inform how we build strain.

I could be better about following InsideTracker’s food recommendations, but I have been intermittent fasting… intermittently, haha. There’s always room for improvement, right?

Overall, I’m glad I discovered InsideTracker, I’ll continue using it, and I think it’s worth the money if you’re serious about getting healthier.

DIY RV Office: How We Transformed a Sofa Nook Into Our Workspace

Why We Converted Our Sofa Nook Into an RV Office

While it is hard to believe, we have been a full-time RV family for more than a year now!

There are a lot of upgrades, modifications, and purchases we have made along the way to make ourselves feel more at home on the road.

That being said, our RV office is my favorite one.

I have been working remotely since 2014, and this workspace beats every other one I have tried. And believe me, I have tried my fair share!

These include noisy coffee shops, coworking spaces with beer on tap, seedy motel rooms, beachfront cabanas (not that productive), camp chairs in the forest, and even a home office with a roadrunner that used to look curiously through the window. Okay, that was pretty awesome.

Still, our RV office has everything I could ever want in a workspace, mobile or otherwise.

I have to give credit to my wife Kim for her impeccable vision and great sense of interior design.

From the moment we first walked into our fifth wheel (2020 Grand Design Reflection 290BH) on the sales lot, she knew the sofa nook had to go.

The fold out sofa was stiff and uncomfortable, and it was not adjacent to the TV, meaning we would have to crane our necks to watch movies.

This is the sofa that came with our fifth wheel
This is the sofa that came with our fifth wheel

I love having a peaceful sanctuary where I actually feel inspired to create stuff and I know Kim feels the same way.

Where we put the RV office in our Grand Design Reflection 290BH
Where we put the RV office in our Grand Design Reflection 290BH

How We Did It

We began our pursuit to make the perfect RV office by painting the overhead cabinets with Sherman Williams Alabaster paint.

We think the overhead cabinets look a lot better now
We think the overhead cabinets look a lot better now

Afterward, we sold the tri-fold sofa that came with our rig. That gave us $200 to put toward a custom desk with a turquoise epoxy river.

Our friends Christy and Brian Gorr of Epoxy Flow built us a beautiful desk at the unbelievably affordable price of $950.

Initially, they delivered a desk that turned out to be too small for the space. I was thoroughly impressed when Brian offered to redo a larger desk for a nominal fee.

Posing in front of the smaller desk. A few weeks later, Epoxy River replaced this with a larger one
Posing in front of the smaller desk. A few weeks later, Epoxy River replaced this with a larger one

Christy and Brian even drove 6 hours from Salt Lake City to the Grand Tetons to deliver our new, bigger desk and camp with us! We had a blast hanging out with such an awesome couple.

Our full RV office setup
Our full RV office setup!

Once our desk was in place and secured to the wall with brackets, we mounted a Samsung 28-inch 4k monitor, got a swivel office chair with armrests, attached a swivel lamp to the desk, screwed in towel bars to hang Kim’s art supplies (e.g. pens, markers, paintbrushes, scissors, etc.), and added particle board shelves to the overhead cabinet to optimize vertical storage space.

I also bought a well-reviewed Bluetooth wireless keyboard, mouse, and my dad gifted me a laptop stand to make computer work more comfortable.

Finally, Felix Gray sent us Nash computer glasses to help us combat the inevitable eye strain that comes from staring at a screen for long stretches of time.

Kim wears Felix Gray Nash computer glasses

Max wears Felix Gray Nash computer glasses

Everything We Bought for Our RV Office

Our Experience So Far

There are countless reasons we LOVE our new RV office but here are a few of the key highlights:

  1. It takes minimal effort to secure it when we tow. The desk, monitor, and towel bars are bolted in and don’t budge.
  2. The space itself has a cheery feel that makes us excited to work, craft, make art and always gets our creative juices flowing.
  3. We like having lots of functional space above the desk to store things like Kim’s sewing machine, Cricut, camera lenses, a printer, etc.

Kim drinks tea from her Contigo mug while working from the RV office

A few weeks ago, we wrapped up a 4-month stint where we were moving a lot and found ourselves in remote rural areas much of the time.

We travelled from Bear Lake, UT to Lava Hot Springs, ID (where we had solar installed by the Dry Campers), then continued to the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, North Cascades, Olympic Peninsula, Oregon Coast, Redwoods, Yosemite, Alabama Hills, and Zion.

On our road trip, we connected to the internet through Visible, which uses Verizon towers but is cheaper and does not limit your data usage. Occasionally, we used RV campground WiFi too.

There were a few times we could not get a connection where we parked. When this happened, I would drive to areas where I had service (Opensignal app is handy for this) or use the WiFi Map app to find places with free internet access.

I am not a fan of working out of our truck! I do not like to idle for long periods so inevitably I go without climate control and I hate not having a bathroom nearby.

I would much rather work from our RV office. The funny thing is, the only downside of our office is that I can’t work in it all the time.

Max (the author) jots down some notes in the RV office
Max (the author) jots down some notes in the RV office

For that reason, I decided to upgrade our internet! Last weekend, I installed Mobile Must Have’s full-time RV bundle. It includes a cellular router with two SIM card slots and a MIMO antenna that can run off DC power.

We now have an unlimited AT&T SIM and prepaid Verizon SIM in the router and are enjoying the WiFi speeds so far. Once we have done more in-depth testing of our new equipment, I will follow up with another post. Stay tuned!

The Ultimate Off Grid RV Solar System

Why We Decided to Install Solar

When we took the leap and became full-time RVers in October 2019, we knew there would be upgrades down the road. Our mindset was to get started and figure things out along the way.

One of the first hands-on lessons we learned was the difference between being connected to electric hookups in an RV park and running on a 12 volt battery while boondocking.

When we disconnected from shore power, we weren’t able to use the AC outlets, TV, microwave, electric kettle, and outdoor fridge. That’s only a mild inconvenience for us.

The bigger problem? Our 12 volt battery was always on the verge of dying from running the furnace at night (the blower fan uses a fair amount of electricity).

Instead of getting a generator to charge up our battery, we got a Renogy 100-watt solar suitcase to start with. I detailed our initial experience with this product in another post.

In hindsight, the solar suitcase worked well for us except for a 4-day stint in Big Sur when the sun decided to quit shining. That time, I had to use jumper cables to charge our 12 volt battery from the truck. Not ideal!

Our site at Kirk Creek Campground in Big Sur
Our site at Kirk Creek Campground in Big Sur

When COVID-19 shut the country down in March, we parked our rig at Kim’s parents in Utah and laid low for a couple months.

While quarantined, we got to talking and decided to upgrade from a travel trailer to a fifth wheel. We also bought a bigger, more capable truck to pull it.

Our 2014 F-350 Lariat and Grand Design Reflection 290BH in the Alabama Hills, California
Our 2014 F-350 Lariat and Grand Design Reflection 290BH in the Alabama Hills, California

By this point, we knew we loved the full-time RV lifestyle and wanted to set ourselves up to do it more comfortably for years to come.

We don’t like generators because they’re noisy, heavy, and need a fuel supply. They also require maintenance. Oh, and unless you have an onboard generator, you have to go outside and start up the dang thing every time you need to recharge.

What if we had a solar system that could run everything we needed? How much would something like that cost? Would it be possible to run A/C or is that a pipe dream?

How and Why We Hired the Dry Campers

I did some research online and found The Dry Campers, a full-time RV couple that travels around the country doing solar installs. On their website, I saw that they were coming through Utah. It seemed like it was meant to be. I loved the idea of working with someone in-person instead of leaving our house-on-wheels at a busy shop.

I gave Mike a call and he happily chatted with me for 1.5 hours, answering question after question. He explained to me that he had over 25 years experience as an electrician and reassured me that we could run A/C with the right system.

Ultimately, we decided on what Mike called “the minimum A/C system” which included 1300 watts of solar panels on the roof, 400 amp-hours of lithium batteries, a 3000 watt inverter, and a charge controller with a few extra goodies (see the full list here).

We ended up meeting Mike and Leanna in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for a weeklong install. They were able to reserve a spot for their Airstream a few sites down from ours at Lava Campground, a low key RV park with cute and colorful vintage campers for rent.

The Dry Campers installed our solar system at Lava Campground
The Dry Campers installed our solar system at Lava Campground

While Mike worked during the day, we played at The Olympic Swimming Complex which has an indoor pool that’s perfect for toddlers. We also soaked in the hot springs a few times and ran errands in Pocatello.

Selfie with the Dry Campers
An obligatory selfie after dinner. From left to right: Max (the author), Maia, Kim, Leanna, Mike

The Dry Camper’s Solar Install

Here’s what Mike did each day of the installation:

Day 1

Mike measured the roof, laid out all of the cables and connectors, and got the solar harness ready. He also disassembled the “basement” and got the solar lines pushed through.

Note: The solar panels shipped late and didn’t arrive until Day 4

We opted to put the batteries in storage under the bed rather than retrofit them under the stairs. That makes it easy for us to add two more in the future. Our decision saved Mike some time so he gave us a 20% discount!

Day 2

Mike completed prep work for the batteries and installed them under the bed. He also ran lines to the shutoffs and got the inverter wired in along with the surge protector.

Day 3

Mike got the inverter and charge controller bolted in place and brought the solar wire into the charge controller.

Day 4

Mike and Leanna drove to Pocatello to pick up the solar panels. Mike then secured them to the roof and wired them in.

Days 5 and 6

Mike built a finished wood wall to replace the carpet one we had in the “basement” before. He also created two doors to give us easy access to the inverter, charge controller, and plumbing.

He then gave us a final walkthrough and showed us how to use the VictronConnect App to monitor everything.

The Solar Equipment We Purchased

Our Experience So Far

We unplugged from shore power the day before we left Lava Campground and continued living off grid for 15 days.

Yes, you heard that right! We dry camped for two weeks without a generator and lived like electrified kings while boondocking outside of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

We put our new solar package to the test in the Grand Tetons
We put our new solar package to the test in the Grand Tetons

Notable hikes in the Grand Tetons:

At night, we microwaved frozen burritos, ran Maia’s sound machine, Kim used her personal fan and heating pad, and we set the heat to 68° F.

In the morning, Kim and I ran the electric kettle to boil water for coffee and tea and made toast.

During the afternoon, we ran A/C for several hours without any problems.

One night, we got back from Yellowstone and it was almost 90° F inside the rig! To make matters worse, we got infested by tiny insects that fit through the bug screens.

Kim ran the A/C and vacuum at the same time and 120 volt power shut off. The battery monitor showed that our stage of charge was 61%, so we were confused.

I texted Leanna late at night, “You guys still up? We’re having problems…” To my surprise and delight, she answered! Like an angel, she troubleshooted with me and figured out that the charged voltage setting was set incorrectly to 13.2 volts. It was supposed to be 14.4 volts.

Basically, our battery charge was a lot lower than we thought! The next day, our batteries reached “float voltage” from our solar panels as we drove through Montana on the way to Glacier National Park.

Notable hikes in Glacier National Park:

As I’m writing this, we’re connected to shore power at North American RV Park. When I plugged in, the inverter automatically switched to the 50 amp connection.

Often, the only available connection is 30 amps. With our current setup, the solar system will “make up the difference” and provide 50 amp power in that scenario!

All things considered, we couldn’t be more pleased with our system. Like many, we love dry camping because it’s free and you get to stay closer to nature.

RV parks and campgrounds with full hookups can cost anywhere from $35 to $80 per night, especially near national parks. Weekly and monthly rates are usually discounted but still run $500 to $800 if you get a good deal.

Every night we spend boondocking is money saved. Based on how we travel, we estimate it will take us 1-2 years to pay ourselves back for what we spent on solar.

Perhaps more importantly though, we now have the convenience and peace of mind of being able to run all of our appliances without any hiccups. When it comes to life on the road, you really can’t put a price on that!

Review: Solo Stove Bonfire

Intro

This past New Year’s Eve, Kim and I experienced the Solo Stove for the first time. We spent the night hanging out on our friend’s back patio in SLC next to their Bonfire. It was cold outside, so we bundled up, lit a fire, and stayed warm (with the help of some beer and tequila).

The Solo Stove left a lasting impression. Aesthetically, there’s something about that austere stainless steel drum that can’t be ignored. It reminds me of an Apple product or an Airstream. Is it a stretch to call it downright sexy? I mean, at the end of the day it’s just a fire pit, right?

Its allure doesn’t stop at good looks though. The Solo Stove’s entire chassis is engineered to maximize efficiency and minimize smoke. That means no more smoke in your face, and you know that campfire smell your clothes soak up? That’s a thing of the past.

When Solo Stove asked us to review their best selling fire pit, the Bonfire, we jumped at the opportunity! Our campsite next to Bear Lake in Utah, was the perfect time to bust it out.

Solo Stove Bonfire

Shop Solo Stove

View on Amazon

Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

At 20 lbs, measuring 19.5 inches at the base and 14 inches tall, the Solo Stove is portable and perfect for our full-time RV lifestyle. Many RV campgrounds only allow fires if you bring a self-contained fire pit, so our Bonfire is a great way for us to continue enjoying campfires on the road.

I’m glad we went with Solo Stove’s medium-sized fire pit, the Bonfire. It makes it easier to fit larger logs which make the best coals for cooking brats, hot dogs, and roasting marshmallows.

Teaching my 2-year-old daughter Maia how to roast a hot dog
Teaching my 2-year-old daughter Maia how to roast a hot dog

I can’t believe how few ashes collect at the bottom of the Solo Stove after a burn. At Bear Lake, there was a fire pit at our campsite, so we were able to dump the ashes there, put the Bonfire in its drawstring bag (included free) and stow it in the truck bed for next time.

A top down view of the Solo Stove in action.
A top down view of the Solo Stove in action.

With the stand (sold separately), I worry a lot less about leaving marks on whatever surface I set the Solo Stove on.

As technologically advanced as Solo Stove is, it hasn’t defied the laws of physics to create a “smokeless” fire experience. However, it’s much less smokey than a normal fire.

Kim gets her Solo Stove on after a fun day at Bear Lake
Kim gets her Solo Stove on after a fun day at Bear Lake

Features

Portable

The Bonfire weighs 20 lbs and comes with a black nylon portable drawstring bag. It’s 19.5″ wide x 14″ tall.

All Solo Stove fire pits come with a drawstring bag
All Solo Stove fire pits come with a drawstring bag

Log Friendly

We opted for the Bonfire instead of the Ranger because it’s 2.5″ taller and 4.5″ wider. This helps accommodate bigger logs which generate more heat.

Max (the author) chops wood for a fire
Max (the author) chops wood for a fire

Low Smoke

The Solo Stove’s top and bottom vent holes create air movement that results in a hotter, well-oxygenated fire that produces less smoke.

Solo Stove's air vents make for low smoke fires
Solo Stove’s air vents make for low smoke fires

Durable

Because it’s made from 304 stainless steel, the Solo Stove is highly heat-resistant and virtually indestructible.

Value

Solo Stoves aren’t cheap, but they’re worth the money. If you look at other portable wood fire pits, you’ll see why. I love how our Bonfire is fully enclosed, low smoke, and prevents embers from flying away. When you light a campfire, the last thing you want is to start a forest fire because hot ash is floating everywhere.

Kim and Maia enjoy an evening next to the fire
Kim and Maia enjoy an evening next to the fire

How to Make a DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder for your Trailer or Campsite

Intro

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder
DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder
One of the things I have been missing most since we moved into our trailer full time is watching birds sample from my backyard feeders. I especially missed my hummingbirds, who would sometimes gather in groups of eight or nine at the many nectar feeders I had hanging in our yard. I loved watching their antics as they zoomed around sparring and arguing with each other. On two occasions, I even had a chance to care for stunned hummers who had crashed. After some rest and nectar, they both made a fully recovery.
A female Anna's hummingbird
A female Anna’s hummingbird found on the ground in our backyard in Dec 2018. I moved her to a safe spot and gave her some nectar, and she flew off after an hour of rest
A male Anna's hummingbird
A male Anna’s hummingbird taking a breather after crashing in our backyard in December 2018
We move our trailer often enough that setting up and taking down feeders at every campsite seemed messy and inconvenient, but I wasn’t willing to give up my hummingbird hobby. The COVID-19 quarantine gave me some extra time for crafting, so I decided to try my hand at a homemade portable feeder that could be easily transported from site to site. I challenged myself to use only materials I had laying around the trailer so I wouldn’t have to go shopping.

These feeders are easy to make, use recycled materials, and close up so you can easily store them for your next adventure.

Materials

  • Plastic spice container with a red lid
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Duct tape
  • Wire or string for hanging
  • Large, flat piece of plastic – I used an old cutting mat. Get creative and try and repurpose something laying around like an old plastic school folder or the lid to a salad bin. If you can’t find anything that works, simply complete Steps 1, 5, and 6 and skip the others. The petals make it easier for the hummingbirds to spot the feeder, but they aren’t necessary

Step 1

Prepare Container

Choose a spice container that has a hinged lid and plenty of holes for the birds to stick their beaks through. Don’t use anything with a really tenacious odor like garlic or onion powder.

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder- Pick a bottle with a perforated, hinged lid
This type of seasoning bottle has holes that fit a hummingbird beak perfectly

Submerge your container in a tub of water with a few tablespoons of vinegar and a dash of dish soap. Let is soak for at least fifteen minutes to remove residual odors and loosen up the paper label. Remove the label once it has begun to lift off of the plastic and scrape off any glue residue.

Step 2

Create a Petal Stencil

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder - This is what your finished stencil will look like
This is what your finished stencil will look like
  1. In the middle of a piece of paper, trace a circle around your lid. We’ll call this Circle A.
  2. Freehand a larger circle about 3-4 mm outside of A. We’ll call this Ring B.
  3. Freehand another larger circle about 2-3 mm around B. We’ll call this Ring C.
  4. Use your lid to trace circles all the way around C, leaving one gap. We’ll call these D. These will be your petals, and you need an opening for your spice lid to act as a petal when it is open. DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder - Create a pencil stencil
  5. Using a pencil, freehand the inside of the D circles into a petal shape, with a stalk that cuts through Ring C and connects to B.
  6. Cut out your new stencil around your petals and Ring B. Use the black dashed line from this image as a guide:
    DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder - Cut out around the dashed black marker
    Cut out the paper around the dashed black marker

Step 3

Cut Your Plastic

Trace around your stencil onto the plastic with a permanent marker. Cut out your plastic along the marker lines.

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder

Working with your new plastic piece, make a single cut through Ring B and then make small cuts through Circle A as if you are cutting a pizza. Stop the cuts when you hit B, do not cut through it. You should be left with little wedges, which we will bend backward along Ring B.

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder

Cut the tips off of the wedges.

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder

Step 4

Attach Petals to Container

Turn your petals upside down, so your wedges are pointing up. Set your lid in the middle with the petal gap aligned where the lid will open and the wedges are wrapped around the sides of the lid.

Bend each wedge backward, add a bead of got glue, and then press it into the lid for 5-10 seconds. Continue until all the wedges are glued securely to the lid.

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder- Gluing the petals to the lid
Gluing the petals to the lid

Cut a small strip of duct tape out and wrap it around the wedges to further secure them. Your flower lid is now finished.

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder - Duct tape to add extra security to the petals
Duct tape to add extra security to the petals

I decided to give my feeder a little extra pizazz but cutting out some flower decals with my Cricut and decorating the sides, and covering the black duct tape with yellow tape to match.

DIY Portable Hummingbird Feeder - The finished feeder
The finished feeder

Step 5

Brew Nectar

Combine 4 cups of freshly boiled water with 1 cup of white sugar and stir until totally dissolved. Nectar can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Step 6

Hang It

Once the nectar has cooled down, fill the feeder to the very top and add your hanger.

I dismantled a wire fly swatter for my first feeder and coiled it around it to form a makeshift hanger, but I realized twine works just as well. Simply knot it around the barrel of the container and then use the ends to form another loop.

Our camper windows are tinted so you can’t see inside, which makes them perfect for hummingbird viewing. I put adhesive hooks on the outside of the windows and hung my new feeders on them. Within a few days, we were watching hummingbirds from a few inches away while we ate breakfast. Magic! You could also hang your feeders on a tree branch or shepherd’s hook staked into the ground.

When it’s time to move on, I take them down, close the lids, and store them upright in the fridge so I can hang them up at the next campsite. Who says you have to give up little luxuries to camp? Enjoy your new feathered friends and please share your experiences crafting this feeder!

Renogy 100 Watt Solar Suitcase with Voyager Review

Introduction

In September 2019, we did a crazy thing (or was it sane)? Kim and I bought an RV to live in full time with our toddler and cattle dog. We traded in 2,223 square feet, 3.42 acres, and a pool for 400 square feet on wheels.

We downsized from 2,223 sq ft to about 400
We downsized from 2,223 sq ft to about 400

For our maiden voyage, we drove to Utah to do a shakedown and learn what we needed to live our dream. Along the way, we did some incredible hikes:

We pulled our trailer nearly 2,000 miles and learned a lot by trial and error along the way. One of our biggest unforeseen headaches was the RV battery.

When we bought our RV, our dealer emphasized that its battery was the single most important thing to maintain. I remember him saying, “If this battery’s bad, it’s going to lessen the life of everything that has a circuit board.”

One night, we dry camped on some BLM land outside of Page, AZ and it got cold, maybe freezing or a few degrees below that. We set the thermostat to 67° F and the heat kicked on a lot throughout the night.

As total noobs, we knew the heater used propane but didn’t realize it used 12-volt electricity from the battery to run a blower fan. By morning, we had almost drained our battery. Yikes!

We needed to find a way to keep our battery charged while RV’ing without hookups. The most obvious solution was to buy a fuel generator, but they are noisy, take up a lot of space, and require maintenance.

Our next thought was to get rooftop solar panels, but professional installations can be outlandishly expensive and we know zilch about electric. Buying panels and doing it ourselves would be difficult, time consuming, and potentially hazardous.

One day, I was farting around on the internet and stumbled on a portable suitcase solar panel made by Renogy. It had a built-in charge controller and came with alligator clips, so I wouldn’t need to get anything extra to connect it and charge our battery.

In theory, I could unzip the suitcase, fold out the panel’s arms, position it toward the sun, and we’d have power! I emailed Renogy and asked them if they’d send us one to review. They kindly obliged and provided excellent support along the way.

So far, the Renogy 100W Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase has worked great for us. For the winter months, we’ve been bouncing around the southwest and have had enough sunshine to stay charged while boondocking.

View at Renogy
Use coupon code backobeyond for a 5% discount on your order at Renogy.com!

View on Amazon

Overall

Rating: 10/10

There are a lot of portable and suitcase-style solar panels on the market, but the one Renogy makes is the most affordable I could find. It’s sturdy, well-constructed, and easy to set up.

It doesn’t come with a paper manual in the box, but you can view or download it online.

At 27 lbs, it’s close to the same weight as my 2-year-old daughter. I can’t say she’s lightweight but we manage 😂

Max (the author) sets up the Renogy Solar Suitcase
Max (the author) sets up the Renogy Solar Suitcase

Methods

Every couple of weeks we like to dry camp with our RV. We’ve been using the Renogy panel to recharge our battery during the day.

RV camping at Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park
RV camping at Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

The first time I set up the panel, I was a bit intimidated and I didn’t want to mess anything up. We were camped close to Canyon Lake in Arizona. Surprisingly, I had service so I called Renogy Support.

I seriously couldn’t believe how easy it was. I unzipped the cover, pulled the panel out, set up its legs, and pointed it toward the late afternoon sun.

Our RV has a Furrion solar port on it, so I used an adapter I found on Amazon to connect the panel to our battery. Later, I ditched this in favor of the included alligator clips because they seem to charge faster.

The technician walked me through the settings on the Voyager Charge Controller. All I had to do is select “wet” to tell the battery what kind of battery it was connected to and voila, the LCD panel showed the amperage. I was told this was a measurement of the current flowing into the battery 👍

RV camping on BLM land in Southern Utah
RV camping on BLM land in Southern Utah

Features

Rating: 10/10

Portable

For us, the best feature of the panel is its portability. It folds into a nice carrying case that protects it from the other gear in our RV’s pass-through storage.

Renogy Solar Suitcase carrying case
Renogy Solar Suitcase

Easy to Set Up

The aluminum stand is easy to set up and adjustable so you can position it to catch more sun rays. One thing I learned is that you want to match the tilt angle to your latitude +15° in the winter and -15° in the summer.

The Renogy Solar Suitcase is easy to set up
The Renogy Solar Suitcase is easy to set up

Waterproof

You don’t have to worry about damaging the panel or controller if it rains because it’s waterproof. When I found this out, I was on cloud nine.

Compatible

At some point we’ll want to upgrade to a lithium battery. Luckily, we won’t have to get a new unit because it’s compatible with almost every type of battery.

Safe

Living in an RV has made us extra cautious about fires. I’m glad that Renogy uses a low-voltage system with overcharge protection and a negative-ground system to lower that risk.

A view of the included 20A Voyager Charge Controller
A view of the included 20A Voyager Charge Controller

Value

Rating: 10/10

As far as I can tell, Renogy makes the most affordable, flexible, and efficient solar panels around. Admittedly, we’re new to this so you have to give credit to Renogy for making a beginner-friendly package that works GREAT. This has enabled us to stay disconnected from hookups for longer and explore more!