One of our first challenges to figuring out how to long term travel with kiddos was the rig. A RV seemed too big with poor fuel economy, not to mention room for more stuff than we need. A VW vanagon style camper seemed too small if anyone was going to get any personal time or work done. What would be just enough for a family of four to stay productive, eat, sleep, and learn?
Meet Polliwog, a tear dropped travel trailer by Forest River called an R-Pod. We ended up finding a year old model in Anchorage for a reasonable price. It’s the model 172, which is the smallest and least fancy of the units they build. With two bunks ( for the boys), a dinette that converts to a bed (for Ma ‘n Pa), cooktop, sink, and teeny tiny bathroom, it feels like the Taj Mahal to our earlier backpacking trips in other countries.
The R-Pod would be our ultimate weekend warrior machine as it came, but we aren’t going for the weekend. We’re going for months, sharing all 96 beautiful square feet, and need to make that work!
What to remove was the easy part. Yank out the microwave, TV, and TV signal booster. We haven’t had a microwave or TV for years now, no sense in changing that now! Plus, where the microwave was can now be another cupboard or pantry for us.
Energy was the next place to tackle. We know we want heat when it’s cold, to run lights and computers, and to keep a refrigerator cold, but we also know that we don’t want to spend a lot of time in an RV park where we can hook up to 110v electricity. We wanted to have a bit more adaptability to where we are. With help from the Renewable Energy Systems folks in Anchorage, we have installed a 95w solar panel and two 6v 250Ah batteries with a charge controler. This means we can charge the batteries while driving, from the sun, and have ample power for our needs in poor weather for days. The other fuel we will use in the camper is propane. This will do most of the work for refrigeration, hot water heating, and space heat. Although a standard tank seems to go a long way, I built a larger carriage to hold either two propane tanks, or one propane and one gas tank. We want to have options as we move further south and fuel options might be more challenging.
Connecting to our people and trying to do work on the road also presented a challenge. The thought of kid wrangling in starbucks while trying to answer emails on a free wi-fi connection sounds…stressful. The solution, the Wi-Fi Ranger. This cool little gadget will allow us to pick up wi-fi for up to two miles away from the comforts of our own Pod(home). It is basically a signal booster and antennae along with a modem that can pick up signals from around us or work with our phones to create our own hotspot. This technology won’t work everywhere or all the time, but will increase our range and connectivity!
Although we have added little things like pictures on the wall, a bike rack on the back and filled the silverware drawer, our big challenge between now and leaving will be organization and storage. More on that later!