Today marks our 68th day on the road! After a little more than two months of traveling, living and working in approximately 184 square feet we’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the things we couldn’t live without (and a few things that we could). We thought it would be fun to compile and share our top ten must-have list. After making the list we realized that everything fits neatly into 3 categories: cooking, technology & around the house.
1. Weber Baby Q 100 grill/ griddle/ 20ft. propane hose
This is actually 3 items but since they’re always used together I’ve listed them as one. The baby Weber is by far the best grill I’ve ever owned. The heavy-duty cast iron grates heat evenly across the entire 189 sq. inch surface meaning you can fill it without having to move things around as they cook. The griddle is a must-have accessory. It lays across the top of grates leaving ~4″ exposed so you can grill & griddle at the same time. I’ve used the griddle for everything from breakfast goodies like sausage, french toast & eggs, to all kinds of veggies and even a mini cherry pie and fresh corn & jalapeno bread. I’m convinced there’s nothing you can’t cook on this thing. Finally, the 20ft. propane hose with quick connects on either end make grilling a breeze. Instead of carrying around additional bottles of propane we simply plug the hose into our two 40lb propane tanks that ride on the front of the airstream. I wasn’t entirely convinced at first that we needed this hose, especially after we had some issues finding the correct fittings for the quick connects, but Tim persisted and now I can’t imagine grilling any other way. A little write-up on the quick connect project
2. Melamine Dishware
Melamine is an extremely durable product that’s been used for decades to make colorful and long-lasting dinnerware. We love our melamine dishes because they’re lightweight, scratch & crack resistant and come in a variety of oh so fun colors and patterns. The only issue with these dishes is that they are a plastic product, which in my opinion means not safe for the dishwasher or microwave. No big deal though since we don’t have either of those appliances.
3. Tervis Tumblers – or if you like “grown-up sippy cups”
We use these cups every day, all day, mostly for water consumption. The large 24 oz size helps us stay hydrated and the snap on lids prevent spills in our small living space. These cups also fit perfectly in the cup holders in the truck so they move seamlessly from house to truck and back to the house again.
Back when we lived in a house I had shelves and shelves full of books. So many books that when we emptied the house and brought them to Goodwill (don’t worry, I saved a box of my favorites) it took multiple trips because of the sheer number. Now instead of tall bookcases filled with heavy books, we have 2 kindles each the size of a single paperback. There are some people who refuse to get on the electronic book bandwagon and insist that paper books will always be superior. I’m not one of those people. As someone who’s been an avid reader my entire life, I like books in all forms, after all, it’s really more about the words than how you consume them. That said, I LOVE my kindle for its small size, portability, ease of use, and crazy long battery life. There’s no doubt in my mind that someday I will once again have shelves full of books, but for now, the Kindle is all I need. We started with just one, thinking we could share or maybe one of us could read on the iPad, but it quickly became apparent that this arrangement wasn’t going to work. Now we each have our own and couldn’t be happier.
5. Altec Mini Speaker
This small, portable speaker is probably the simplest piece of technology we own. In this case simple equals good- very good. The airstream has built-in speakers, but they’re above the couch and when you’re sitting under them (as we often are) the sounds blast down on you and it’s incredibly annoying. After a few weeks of trying to make it work, we stopped using the speakers except for occasional NPR news, and now solely use this mini speaker for listening to music and podcasts. Most often it’s plugged into the iPad or a computer. In addition to its small size & portability, this thing has an amazing battery life. We got it back in March and I used it almost every day in the kitchen at the house for my obsessive podcast consumption. Six months later and it’s still going on the same 2 AAA batteries.
6. 13″ MacBook Air
Another piece of technology that we have two of. The one pictured above is about a year and a half old and the other one we just got a month ago. We tried to make a go of it with just the one Mac and older 17″ laptop, but the big one used so much battery and took up so much space that it was ridiculously unpractical. If you live in a small space and often run without an electric hook up as we do a small computer with a long-lasting battery is the only way to go. The small size means that it can easily be stored anywhere (I slip mine in the magazine rack) and the lightweight factor means it can comfortably sit on your lap when you want to compute outside (as we often do). We have an external hard drive for storing things like music, movies, and photos so the laptops don’t get too full. Tim would probably add something about its stellar performance and other technical things, but for me, I just like that it works and I don’t ever have to yell at it for freezing up or doing other stupid things that computers do. Thanks Apple.
7. Cradlepoint Wireless router/ signal amplifier/ wifi bullet
This is another three in one listing, but since they are often used together it seemed appropriate. The above photo is the router mounted in our media cabinet. The signal amplifier is not pictured because it’s just a little grey box under the counter along with an antenna on the airstream roof. The wifi bullet is also on our roof mounted to the TV antenna. The signal amplifier and wifi bullet both help us get an internet signal when under normal circumstances we might not. The signal amplifier connects to our Verizon data card and extends the strength of the signal. This little box and mini antenna can work wonders. Sometimes it means the difference between an unusable and usable signal. The wifi bullet also helps us get internet when we otherwise might not. Basically, it strengthens any wifi signal that might be near. The final part of the equation is the wireless router. It works just like any household wireless router, sharing a connection among multiple devices. It accepts our data card and the ethernet cable from the wifi bullet. Meaning we never need to reconfigure a computer, iPad or phone when we switch between wifi networks or between wifi and the data card.
Around the House
8. Maxxair Fans
We have two of these fans, one in the front and one in the back bedroom. They both replaced what we thought of as completely useless roof vents. We use these fans all the time. Our AC needs 30 amp power to run so if we’re not plugged into a power source we can’t use it. Since we enjoy camping away from it all where there often isn’t a power source, these fans are lifesavers on hot days. We can run them both at a pretty high speed all day and still have enough battery power left for things like internet, computers, and lights. Even on days when it’s not hot, the fans provide much-needed air circulation in our tiny home. Often we put one on air and one on air out so even if it’s raining and the windows are closed it doesn’t feel stuffy in here. Oh yay, that’s the other awesome thing about them- they have a bubble cover so even if it is raining you can leave them open. Pretty cool huh? The other nifty feature is that they both have remote controls. This comes in handy particularly in the bedroom when the temperature drops in the middle of the night (as is has been lately) and you want to turn off the fan but don’t want to get out of bed.
9. LED Puck lights from Ikea
The problem with owning an airstream circa 1999 is that the interior finishes are not so pretty. We have renovated practically everything in here to match our taste and update the look, (check out our Airstream Page to see the complete renovation ) but the one thing we couldn’t change was the ceiling lights. We replaced all the bulbs with LEDs for maximum energy efficiency, but the plastic light covers remain- except in the kitchen. After Tim installed a custom aluminum under cabinet covering we couldn’t bear to put back the ugly plastic lights. Enter two puck lights from Ikea. These lights are bright enough to light the entire kitchen and they move around so you can aim them where you need the light most. Plus they look cool. Sometimes at night, these two tiny lights are our sole light source.
10. Bal 28010 X Chock Tire Locking Chock
This might seem like a silly little thing to put on the top ten list, but when your house is on wheels this kind of stuff is important! These metal expanding wheel chocks are used in place of the plastic wheel chocks or blocks of wood that many people carry around. All you do is slip the chock between the wheels and tighten the nut on top. When you want to move, you loosen the nut and slip the chock out. Simple, simple, simple and they take up very little space in our rear hatch + they weigh far less than then a good ole’ chunk of wood.
That’s it, our top ten list 2 months in. Will this list change over time? Will some of these things seem not so useful after a year, or will new items step in to take their place? Only time will tell.