This week I would like to introduce a few gadgets and gizmos that may be of interest to the beginner and veteran RV travelers alike.
I have always been interested in technology, and I’m sure that had something to do with my becoming an engineer. Having said this, I am also acutely aware that not everybody has an interest in such things, so in this article, I will focus on relatively basic technology that I feel makes an RVer’s life easier. Although there are built-in electronics available in today’s RVs, I will be writing primarily about handheld devices.
Many people are aware of mapping software available for today’s smartphones. Apps such as “Google Maps” are becoming commonplace for people needing to navigate both near and far. When I am commuting locally in my car, I use my smartphone app (hands-free of course) to get me where I want to go. However, when I travel in my RV, I use a standalone GPS unit. I recommend such a unit for all RVers since they have much more functionality than the smartphone versions. My GPS is suction-mounted to my dashboard, partially because many jurisdictions do not allow anything to be affixed to the windshield. Because I am such an early adopter of technology, I generally purchase a new GPS every few years, and my current Magellan is WiFi and Bluetooth connected so it can automatically update itself through my smartphone network connection. It also acts as a hands-free phone device so I don’t need a separate one. A GPS screen is much more viewable while driving than a smartphone. Brands such as Magellan also offer RV-specific versions that account for vehicle height and length and other considerations. I opted not to get one of these since I felt the 7” screen was too large and it lacked some of the advanced features I like. However, these RV versions are great for those with larger rigs who don’t require extra features. Some people prefer to use their smartphones for navigation, but I highly recommend a standalone GPS unit, but be sure to have somebody else enter information while driving.
Some months ago I mentioned my experience with my tire pressure monitoring device (TPMS) regarding a blowout on my tow dolly. This device saved my family and me from an undoubtedly costly situation. Some newer coaches come with built-in TPMS systems, but if you don’t have one, I highly recommend purchasing one. This device comes with transducers that replace the valve stem caps on your tires. These constantly monitor tire pressure and temperature and communicate this information to the receiver mounted on the dash. Any sudden change to either parameter immediately alerts the driver so he/she can pull over before significant damage is done. The receiver has an easy-So wto-read display, and the transducers communicate information about each specific tire. You can generally add up to about 20 transducers, which is more than enough for any towing configuration.
Finally, if you enjoy staying connected on the road, I recommend purchasing a WiFi hotspot from your local carrier. Or you may choose to purchase one separately and add your own SIM card. Although a hotspot requires a little more technical knowledge, it does allow you and your family to stay connected to the internet with your computers and tablets as long as you have a data signal. There is no need to seek out public hotspots or pay money for park WiFi that is often throttled down in bandwidth and/or so crowded with connections as to make it virtually unusable. Most cell phone providers offer hotspot hardware that can be added to your plan, and it’s generally cheaper than connecting to hotspots on the road.
About the Author:
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.
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