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I decided to make this post due to receiving questions about my vehicle setup and the gear I am using.
Be aware that there are a TON of links in this post. My idea was to give you the links to what I purchased. Having tried many different pieces of gear, I want to give you the best I have found to date.
As you may already know, I tend to go a bit overboard on things, so bear with me. I will organize this the best way I can, as well as keeping it updated. If you have any suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments below!
My Current Vehicle
Suppose you are new to Wilde Escape. Welcome! If you have been reading for a while, you probably already know that I love road trips and have a goal of traveling more.
My current vehicle is a 2013 Toyota Rav4.
I have done a ton of road trips with it. I have written about a few of them; click the links to read about them.
The trip I was on at the start of COVID
And my latest road trip (2021)
My Old Setup
For as long as I can remember, and what many others do is fold the rear seats down. This generally provides a flat(ish) surface where you can sleep.
This works better when I had a truck and would use a tarp to keep the rain off me.
As for the Rav4, well, the rear seats do not fold flat. You cannot see it from this photo, as the area is pretty cluttered, but you can see there isn’t a ton of room to move stuff around.
My goal became to be more comfortable.
The Rav Conversion
When deciding on converting a vehicle, there are many things that you can do and consider. Such as an outside fan, solar, rooftop box, and the list goes on.
My whole idea is that I have a Rav4, not one of those other amazing vans online. So I decided to use what I had.
A few other things that I was keeping in mind are that I did not want to drill anything or permanently mount anything to the vehicle. Due to the possibility of selling it in the future, I want to put it back in a regular vehicle (with the seat in the back and all).
Last, and maybe most important, was keeping stealth in mind. I want to be able to use this vehicle as a daily driver and be able to camp anywhere I happen to be.
Let’s get to the build…finally.
OUTSIDE THE RAV
- Thule Aeroblade Edge in black. These are nice because they don’t stick out and look similar to the factory crossbars.
- Thule Canyon basket. If you need or want some extra room, this is for you. I would love to have a box, but I don’t want to jeopardize a lot of gas mileage or deal with setting it up and taking it down. With this basket, I can do it all by myself! A great place where I can put anything needed, I have tie-downs and a net to secure everything. As you knew, a few months ago, I removed my rear seat, so the basket is perfect for my spare tire.
- Spare tire lock. Yes, I currently do not have a full-size spare (thank you to everyone who points that out), but it is on the list of things to get. With that said, I don’t want someone stealing it, so a lock that is simple to use, cheap, and a deterrent.
- Curt hitch, specifically made for my vehicle. I purchased it back in 2014, and it’s still holding up perfectly.
- Thule T2. When I’m taking my bike anywhere, I have a hitch mount T2 rack. This is a platform rack and is the BEST out there.
- I also have a hitch step called the Bully that I have on when the T2 isn’t. This allows for a good step, seat, and way to access the top roof area.
- I also have a hitch safe for when I hike and want to keep a spare key or another small item.
- Rain guards for your windows. It took me a while to get behind getting these, and I am so glad I did. These are amazing and can be used in the rain to crack your windows down and get fresh air in.
- Blindspot side mirror. I always have these on my vehicles and think everyone should have them.
- Hatchback tent, see photo below, which has been something I have wanted for over a year, and goes! It’s awesome and will be even better in the summertime (it’s currently winter, and I like my hatch closed to keep in the warm air)
- I also decide to purchase some skinny magnets to help keep the bugs out. I have found there are some small gaps that the tent does not cover on my specific vehicle.
- I also have mosquito netting that I cut to size for my windows. My Rav has metal around the sides, so I use magnets to keep them up. I have been in some bug-infested areas, and this netting has worked great.
THE FUTURE GEAR
As with everyone that is converting, we are always on the lookout for things to add. I have a pretty long list of things I want, but I will narrow it down to the few I think are most important.
- A light bar, which is currently something I’m looking into
- Solar, something I’ve wanted for a while. This is something I will look more into it. I’m using more power than my car can support. I have a few pieces for the solar setup, but the latest one I’ve watched on Amazon is a flexible panel. This would allow me to move it anywhere needed, even on the side of the car.
- UPDATE: I ordered and have used it a few times, the RockPals SP003. So far, I really like how it’s easily moved, charges great, and comes with connectors (for my Jackery too). The downside that I can see is there is no “kickstand” like others come with, but for now, it hasn’t been a problem (I used the Jackery to prop it up when needed).
Inside The Rav4
As I started writing this section and adding links, I found it is super long. So I’m going to do my best to break it down into sections. Also, I tried to make all the links open in another window. That way, if you want to continue reading where you left off, you won’t lose this page (feel free to let me know if any of the links don’t work too).
- Road and vehicle safety stuff
- First aid kit, this should go without saying. As a side note, have one for your pet too.
- Jumper pack, I have used this many times, but only on other people’s vehicles. It’s so easy to use and is a nice piece of mind knowing I can always start my own vehicle. I make sure it’s charged every month or two, especially if I’m going on a road trip.
- I also have a backup pair of simple jumper cables too.
- A tire patch kit is not only needed but surprisingly easy to use
- Tire inflator, if you get a flat and are away from civilization, you will be glad to have this. There are better ones out there, but I got this on a good sale. I haven’t used it yet, besides filling up a basketball.
- Security is important, and I use two safes. One I really like is the Gunvault MicroVault, and the other smaller one is the Gunvault Nanovault.
- A phone mount, this one is really nice to have. I also purchased an Otterbox phone holder, cut a small hole in the back so the phone still lays flat (see image for better detail).
- Many bags for storage
- A reusable small trash bag, I keep this upfront, and it’s very convenient.
- Thule bags for miscellaneous items such as clothing
- 5.11 bag for medical supplies (just because I had it lying around)
- My favorite bag, Mountain Ridge Gear. I have all their duffel bags and many others (Cody backpack, map bag, and smaller bags that I have everywhere).
- Side of seat storage, I use one on both the driver and passenger seats.
- Passenger seat storage, which goes on my passenger seat. It’s easy to access and can easily be swung to the back if I ever have a passenger.
- On my passenger visor, I have a small bag for storage.
- I purchased two different types of hangers. This has helped me hang jackets and such and clip them onto part of the Rav for hats. The two types I got were folding hangers and hooks with clips.
- Center console organizer or shelf. Again, it’s all about using that vertical space. Make sure you choose the make and model of your vehicle.
- Headrest hooks for hanging things on the back of your seats.
- The PVC platform that I made see the latest photo.
- Curtains. I have done quite a few different curtains, and these curtains are the best I have found. I use them for the rear windows as they don’t totally fit the front (as they are larger and oddly shaped windows).
- On this same note, I got some Reflectix that has helped. The only thing I decided I didn’t like is that it’s difficult to roll your windows down when you need fresh air (aka, in the summer). But for colder nights, it’s nice to have. You can cut this roll to size (I used cardboard to get the dimensions I needed, then traced it on the Reflectix to get a good fit).
- Having a front window sunshade is a must. The one here has the two pieces connected with some extra fabric that helps keep all the sun out, like by your rearview mirror.
- For power, I use my Jackery
- I also have a few Anker portable batteries that have been amazing! They take a while to charge but last an incredibly long time, and they are small enough to put anywhere.
- Having extra long cords often help as well. I use a 6′ cigarette lighter extension that helps with this. Mainly used to power the Jackery while I’m driving.
- The best lighting I could find, The Luminoodle, has many cool features (magnetic, lantern mode, lots of light, and more).
Want more convincing on getting your own Jackery? Read my previous blog post, or better yet, watch the video below:
- Using facilities can be interesting. I recently found a small cheap chair (thanks to SUVRVing, if you didn't know a site I use All The Time!) and made a much more portable small toilet seat that has worked great! I pair this with bags and some other items to make it easier to manage.
- Check out my post for showering on the road (also, I am trying out a new product. So far, I really have enjoyed it, and a review is coming soon).
- Most importantly, you have got to have water. Both to use for cleaning and to drink. For drinking, I use the Grayl water purifier.
FURNITURE AND COMFORT
- Furniture, yeah, you read that right. I like to be comfortable and have a few options that I can use. I am not sure it's really furniture, but my steering wheel tray is AMAZING! I have been asked many times about it and highly recommend it.
- Seat covers that I actually really like. I have one for both driver and passenger seats.
- Then there are the comfortable things, like a hammock.
- ENO DL lounger, one of the best chairs I have ever used!
- Staying warm in the winter is important. I have a few different blankets. Recently I purchased a 12V blanket that I cannot wait to try out.
- Keeping air circulating, especially when it's hot outside, is extremely important. I have a few USB-powered fans, but the one fan I recommend is this one. It has the ability to run on USB or just run it on its own power once charged. It has three different speeds and has an excellent clip.
Other Odds and Ends
If you live or camp in your car, there are a few things that you start to realize. One thing is odors. If you don't have dry bags (you can put your stinky laundry and even shoes in), the small space can get funky.
You also quickly notice how much space you wish you had. As a chronic over-packer, yes, I am one of those people that plan for everything under the sun. You find clever ways of storing stuff, having possessions that have multiple uses, and that this process is always evolving.
My latest is using the Command Strips you can find at any store. They are convenient and work really well. Here are some other odds and ends I've been using.
- Clean air. There have been a few things that I have tried, but I have really liked using these charcoal bags. I keep one under each seat and have a few in the back areas (two hanging behind my seats). This has helped control the air quality inside my car. When living in the car for two weeks, not going to lie, it was getting a little ripe. I have found charcoal is a great way to remove odors.
- With that said, having a carbon monoxide detector is very important. Especially if you are going to cook inside your vehicle, something I don't recommend. It's smarter to cook outside or with the tailgate open.
- There have been two road trips I have taken that involve the snow. I decided having a thermometer would be important (it's also nice to know the summer's temperature). I wanted one that was easy to read, had something I could put outside and had a light for when I am sleeping and need to look around. That's when I found this indoor/outdoor thermometer.
- Remember one thing: it's all about vertical space. If you have a van or a large vehicle, you have room to put stuff. If you are in a car or small SUV, you soon realize your space is limited.
- I have small nets all over my Rav. They help with the smaller things that I tend to misplace and even are perfect for putting keys and my cell phone in when I'm sleeping. That way, I know where everything is. I also noticed that I also need to use glue to make sure they don't fall off. My favorite is the Gorilla Glue.
- You would be amazed at what you can find for vehicle storage. I found a tailgate cargo net that has been awesome to have.
- I also have a ceiling storage net that serves many purposes. It can hold bulky items and holds my phone when I want to watch something while lying down.
- Small hooks that I use to hold up my curtains and other odd things. Like on the rear hatchback, I also used a few to glue onto my Rav to clip the curtains. As I have said, I have tried a few things, and these have worked the best.
- Window glare patch. This has helped a lot with the sun or reflections when parked. I have been using these for the last six months, and one is not sticking as well as it used to. When that happens, I just run it underwater, dry it off, and it's good to go.
- A much-needed sleep mask for those days you want to sleep, and the sun keeps you up.
- Something not totally needed, but I decided to buy license plate security screws. These are similar to the lugnuts I have for my tires. I purchased them originally because where I lived, there were many thefts of license plates. This was the time CA decided to go away with dealer plates. I could go into it more, but this was a cheaper alternative than going to the DMV.
Did I Miss Anything?
WOW, this was a lot of stuff. As you can see, there is quite a lot of gear that I have. I also have been working on my latest conversion over the last few years. So, that means I did not buy everything all at once. It has been spread out, or better yet, when I'm on the road, I think of something that I could use.
That is followed up with research and then price checking. I don't always jump into anything. For example, the curtains that I listed above are the third ones I have tried. The first two attempts were when I tried making my own.
If you have any questions or want to know where I'm headed next, leave me a comment below.
If you have converted your own vehicle, I would love to hear about it. And, if you have pictures, share them!