Polaris RZR 900 XC – A New Ride and A New Chapter in our Travels!

January 2019 – For the last two years we’ve been pondering the idea of getting a side-by-side UTV. When we were visitng Custer, South Dakota, it seemed that everybody got around town in their UTV, and we had a blast at a SXS Jamboree in southern Utah where we test drove several models from a few different manufacturers.

Buzzing around in a little off-road buggy seemed like such a fun thing to do!

What luck that on Christmas this year Santa loaded a pretty one onto his sleigh for us and delivered it to our friend’s house where we were staying.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV with fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Wow! A fun new ride!

It is a 2017 Polaris 900 EPS XC edition, and it is as cute as a button.

Driving a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

Yippee!

Ever since we got inspired by the idea of exploring remote back country roads with a Polaris RZR (“razor”) 18 months ago, we’ve both been exhilarated by the idea of getting out into nature further and deeper than we can on foot or on our bikes.

At the same time, we’ve also been a bit daunted by the prospect of replacing our ordinary fifth wheel trailer with a toy hauler!

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition lakeside-min

The Polaris RZR 900 XC Edition is a small and sporty two-seater side-by-side.

For the last year and a half we have researched toy haulers endlessly, studying each and every brand in depth online, making spreadsheets comparing the features, and traipsing through dozens of units all across the country. (if you’re currently searching for a new rig, I know you are smiling and nodding at this. It’s quite a process!).

I even had the good fortune of being assigned the task of writing an article about toy haulers for Trailer Life Magazine in which I discussed some of the things to look for and reviewed a few of the current offerings in the market (this lengthy article will appear in the March issue of Trailer Life).

And when we were in the RV capital of the world around Elkhart, Indiana, last fall, we visited several toy hauler manufacturing plants.

Keystone Raptor manufacturing plant outdoor lot-min

Raptor and Carbon toy haulers lined up at the Keystone manufacturing plant in Goshen, Indiana.

But we hadn’t pulled the trigger to trade in our fiver for a toy hauler yet because, well, we didn’t have a RZR yet!

We kinda had a chicken-and-egg problem on our hands.

What do you get first, the toy hauler or the toy? If you live in an RV full-time, how can you haul a toy without a toy hauler? But if you go all in and get both at once, what happens if, after all that, you then find out you’re not really into the whole RZR thing?

What if — gasp — the DOG doesn’t like riding in an off-road buggy?

Cool Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition side by side UTV

All smiles now!

We were going through the familiar throes of simultaneously dreaming and doubting, an experience so many people go through as they plan a major change in their life — like taking the plunge to live and travel in an RV full-time.

There was a lot of expense involved in making such a change, and a lot of upheaval and a bit of risk too.

Off-road in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC-min

Mark looks pretty comfy and happy behind that wheel!

We dreamed of the fun times we’d have seeing scenery we just can’t reach any other way. Everywhere we’d traveled for the last 18 months we’d asked ourselves if we would have seen more with a side-by-side, and almost everywhere we went the answer was Yes.

In Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains we saw people driving off on dirt trails with their UTVs loaded down with gear, and they didn’t return for three days. Who knows what they saw out there, but the grins on their faces were ear to ear when they came back.

We dreamed that maybe a little backcountry buggy would take us to places in the hinterlands where we could pitch a tent and be set up in a fabulous spot to photograph the sunrise and sunset without having to trek in or out for a bunch of miles in the dark. It could be the gateway to little getaways!

Saguaro cacti in Arizona-min

The RZR takes us far into Arizona’s outback!

But we also worried about making the change to living in a toy hauler.

If we went to the trouble of setting up a new toy hauler the way we’d like it with solar power and vent-free propane heat and disc brakes, what would we do if after a year or so we we found we didn’t use the toy enough to warrant the big garage and smaller living space a toy hauler would squeeze us into?

On the other hand, a garage might open up some fabulous possibilities.

We might be able to get another porta-bote like we had with our sailboat and putt-putt across serene lakes and rivers. We’d be able to haul the bikes in the garage instead of hanging them precariously off the back of the trailer. And Mark might be able to have a small workbench rather than digging out his tools from the basement and laying them across the tailgate of the pickup for every project.

And we’d have a back porch and possibly a side patio deck too! How totally cool would that be?!

Road Warrior toy hauler with side patio deck-min

Some toy haulers, like this Road Warrior, have side patio decks. Cool!

And then the doubts would set in again.

What would it be like to tow a gargantuan 42′ or 44′ toy hauler like so many of them are these days? Gosh, we struggle at gas stations as it is with a 36′ fifth wheel. Would we ever be able to fuel the truck when we were hitched up if we were towing such a beast?

It certainly didn’t help that every time we went to an RV dealer to look at a particular brand of toy hauler, we’d eventually wander over to the luxury fifth wheels and fall in love with one of those instead!

Cactus in a cactus-min

Trying to see the woods for the trees…

Round and round our conversations would go, from optimism to pessimism and back again as we weighed the pros and cons of turning our lives upside down to accommodate a little off-road vehicle we weren’t sure about!

We contemplated renting a UTV to try it out, but few places rent out the Polaris models we were interested in, and most have been used and abused and aren’t outfitted beyond bare bones. The price of a rental was usually around $350 a day in the most scenic places, so it wouldn’t take many rental days to take a big chunk out of the price of buying one!

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV at the lake-min

Most of the rentals we found were pricey and not models we’d want to buy.

We felt immense empathy with our many readers who have contacted us over the years asking for input into their decisions related to going full-time.

I’ve always advised folks to tip-toe into the full-time RV lifestyle so they are confident and happy each step of the way: Get a cheap small rig, use it a lot, and talk to full-timers you meet while you’re out exploring in this little rig. And THEN take the plunge to commit to full-timing once you’ve gotten some real miles and adventures under your belt.

Truck Polaris RZR UTV and utility trailer-min

First trip to the trails.

And it was finally listening to this common sense advice that helped us begin to navigate our dilemma.

We realized that our first step was to figure out if a side-by-side would be fun or not and to find out how Buddy would react to it. He’d gone through a period of not wanting to get into the truck, and we didn’t want to make a huge investment of time, effort and money to move into a toy hauler if we couldn’t take him with us on our RZR outings.

So, with that in mind, we put the toy hauler decision on hold and focused on getting a RZR. We figured that even if we ended up selling it at a loss after a few months, it would be a far cheaper and better way to evaluate it than doing a series of rentals.

We found a barely used Polaris 900 XC on Craiglist that came with a small utility trailer, and we decided we’ll just triple tow it behind our current fifth wheel for a while and not travel long distances until we’ve made a final decision to get a toy hauler or stay with a regular fiver.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV being loaded onto a utility trailer-min

It’s a tight squeeze back onto the utility trailer but Mark handles it like a pro.

There’s a ton of fabulous sounding forest roads and trails to explore with a UTV in the southwest, and if we tow just a little and stay in each spot for a while, we can get some hands-on experience and make an informed long term decision about what our next rig will be.

Happy camper in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

What a cool ride!

Our first trips have been a total blast! We have run around in the Arizona desert out by Wickenburg and Lake Pleasant, and we have loved every minute of it. The scenery is classic, pristine Sonoran desert scenery, and with each bend in the road the views of saguaro cacti and mountains get better.

Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona-min

Desert scenery far from paved roads.

Saguaro Cactus starburst-min

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Lake Pleasant Sonoran Desert scenery-min

Desert meets water at Lake Pleasant.

Perhaps best of all, it turns out our little Buddy is a RZR Dog.

Puppy and Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV-min

Buddy has chased down the RZR a few times!

He seems to really enjoy being out on the trails despite the noise and the bumpiness of the ride. He has even chased the RZR at a full gallop a few times when Mark was driving it around, and then he hopped in for a ride.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV with puppy-min

He likes it!

Driving a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC UTV

It’s a two-seater, but two in one seat is okay too.

So, with the start of 2019 we’re starting a new chapter in our travels. Who knows where it will lead, but it has been a thrill so far.

Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV

Adventure beckons

With any luck we’ll be brining you lots of beautiful images from remote spots down some special trails. And someday we’ll be trading our Hitchhiker for a new rig, possibly a toy hauler!

Happy campers in a Polaris RZR 900 EPS XC Edition UTV

A happy trio in our new ride.

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Merry Christmas and Thank You for a Great Year!

As the final mad-dash sprint for the holidays begins, we want to take a moment to wish you the most wonderful and Merry Christmas, from our home to yours.

Merry Christmas from Our House to Yours

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And we want to thank you for joining us in our travels and on our many scenic drives and quiet walks through the woods this past year.

Path through the woods-min

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When we were lucky enough to walk right into a gorgeous sunset, we took an extra moment to enjoy it, knowing you’d appreciate our pics and would savor the moment with us.

Enjoying the sunset on a quiet road-min

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We hope our journey has given you some pause for reflection.

Reflection of mountain and fall colors in a river-min

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Sometimes it’s only when you step back a bit that you discover you’re living right next to a pot of gold!

Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow-min

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Or that the spark of the Divine is just behind you.

Sun breaking through clouds with fifth wheel RV-min

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At those times it’s good to step outside the box for a closer look.

The heavens open up with sunshine-min

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We hope that when storm clouds have gathered we’ve helped you see the light within.

Mountains shrouded in clouds-min

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And that you’ve soared to the peaks high above the clouds.

Soaring mountains above the clouds-min

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Afterall, every cloud has a silver lining, and on closer inspection sometimes that lining turns out to be pink.

Pink cloud over an RV fifth wheel at sunset-min

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In our travels we’re often blessed with chance encounters.

Surprise encounter between puppy and mountain bike-min

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For those who have recognized us on the trail or in the campground or at the dump station, thank you for taking the time to stop and chat. We treasure making new friends in unexpected places.

Puppy and cows meet-min

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We hope we’ve helped bring out the vibrant colors radiating from even the most drab landscapes.

colorful barrel cactus in the desert-min

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And that we’ve shown that life’s sweetest beauty often lies right at our feet in the sand.

Beautiful wildflowers in Arizona desert sand-min

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We hope that your innermost desires and dreams have been able to take root this year, no matter how impossible they might have seemed at the start.

gnarled tree roots in a desert wash

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And we hope you have the tenacity to hang onto those precious dreams and believe in yourself and them, no matter what.

Tenacious tree clings to river-min

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There’s a lot of beauty out there waiting to be seen and experienced by eager travelers.

Stormy mountains at sunset-min

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Thank you for joining us on our journey, and have a special and memorable Christmas. We hope your life is touched by magic in 2019.

Rays of sunsine in the clouds-min

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Honda EU2200i Generator Review + Oil Change and Maintenance Tips

We have been loving the heck out of our Honda EU2200i generator for the last seven months and have already put about 150 hours on it. We live in our RV off the grid on solar power 24/7, and we rely on the sun for 98% of our power needs. However, in the last few months we have experienced an extraordinary amount of wildfire smoke and rain in our RV travels, and that trusty old orb in the sky was nowhere to be seen for weeks on end.

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping

Honda EU2200i generator

Why A Honda EU2200i generator?

In the past we have used a generator only for a few days in mid-winter when the days are really short and storms blow in for a week at a time, limiting the amount of power our solar panels could produce, or for just a few days in mid-summer when the interior temp of our trailer shoots into the 90s and we run our air conditioner to cool down.

Honda EU2200i Generator back side-min

The back side of the Honda EU2200i generator.

When we decided to get one of Honda’s new and easily carried 2200 watt generators in early May, we didn’t think we’d put it to use right away. We were headed to the cool mountains for a month or so, and we doubted we’d need our air conditioner.

But our longer range plans were to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and hang out along Lake Superior where we knew we’d be camping in shady spots under tall trees.

Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 1-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 2-min

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Honda EU2200i generator RV camping outlets side view-min

The “business end” of the Honda EU2200i generator

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping exhaust side view-min

The exhaust end

Ironically, within a few weeks of getting our new 2200 watt Honda generator, wildfire smoke filled the mountain air, obscuring the sun and preventing our solar panels from being as effective as usual.

The wildfire smoke was followed by weeks-long rain storms for the next few months as we traveled from the mountain states to Lake Superior. Oh my, were we happy it was so easy to set up our new little generator to keep our batteries nicely charged despite the dark skies.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer under stormy skies-min

Solar power is great until a storm like this sweeps in!

At one point we had to ask ourselves if we had inadvertently done a rain dance by getting this new generator!

Just like how one of us always get really sick whenever we put a new bottle of Nyquil in our medicine chest, we wondered if the deluge of smoke and rains came because we now had an easy access generator that could power our lives on a moment’s notice!

Fifth wheel RV camping with Honda EU2200i generator-min

When storms blew in we got the generator out — and it was easy!

The Honda EU2200i is light and easy to Carry!

The Honda EU2200i generator is a new and improved version of the much beloved Honda 2000i generator that has been powering the lives of RVers for many years. If you wander through the desert in Quartzsite, Arizona, in January, you’ll see the popular red generators outside of many RVs.

It weights just 46.5 lbs., holds just under a gallon of gas and delivers 2,200 watts of peak surge power and 1,800 watts of continuous power.

We have had a Yamaha 2400i generator with us since we started full-time RVing eleven years ago, and although it is a great generator, it is unwieldy to store, maneuver and set up. Too often we have looked at each other and said, “We really should get the generator out,” only to decide against it because neither of us felt like going through the hassle.

However, the light little Honda EU2200i generator has proven to be so darn easy to grab and set up that we often end up running it in circumstances where we wouldn’t have before.

For the moment, it is living in the back of our truck right next to the bigger generator. Either one of us can pick it up with one hand and lift it out of the truck, even while gingerly stepping around the fifth wheel hitch and the rest of the obstacle course in the bed of our truck. Not so with its big brother.

Starting the Honda EU2200i generator!

We like to start the Honda EU2200i generator without having it plugged into the RV so it can get a little warmed up before we put any loads on it. The shore power cord is plugged into the trailer, but we don’t plug the other end into the generator until the generator is actually humming along.

Since our trailer is a 50 amp trailer and the generator outlets are 15 amps, we use two adapters plus the shore power cord to get between the 15 amp female outlets on the generator and the male 50 amp outlet on our trailer:

We keep these two adapters on hand because it gives us the flexibility to connect the RV’s shorepower outlet to either a 15 amp power source or a 30 amp power source. However, you can also go directly from the 50 amp outlet on the RV to the 15 amp outlet on the generator and skip dragging out the heavy shore power cord by using a 15 amp Male to 50 amp Male adapter.

To start the Honda EU2200i generator there are three easy steps:

  • 1. Open the gas cap vent so a vacuum doesn’t build up inside the tank
  • 2. Close the choke (move the switch to the right)
  • 3. Set the generator switch to ON

Then pull the pull start cable and away you go.

Gas cap vent on Honda EU2200i generator-min

First point the gray dial to “On” to vent the gas cap.
Mark painted the “On” and “Off” labels to make them easier to see.

Honda EU2200i Generator front side-min

Then close the choke and set the generator switch to “On.” Now you’re ready to pull the start cord.

Starting the Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

Instant power!

Shortly after the generator roars to life, slowly open the choke (move the switch to the left).

We like to position the generator so the exhaust goes away from the trailer. If there are other people camped in the vicinity, we also like to place it somewhere in our campsite that it is as far from their campsite as possible so we don’t annoy them when we run it.

If it is raining out, we put it under one of the slide-outs so it doesn’t get wet.

Sometimes these locations are not optimal for pulling the start cord and getting the generator going (especially crawling under a slide-out!). But this little Honda generator is so light it is easy to maneuver it to wherever we want to place it, even after it is running.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer with Honda EU2200i generator-min

All set up and purring away.

RV camping with a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Buddy jumps for joy!

Using Eco Throttle for Greater Efficiency and Less Noise

One of the really nifty features on the Honda EU2200i generator is the Eco Throttle. This is located on the “business end” of the generator in the upper left corner.

Turning it on lowers the RPMs of the generator so it doesn’t use as much gas and runs more quietly.

If we are going to run the generator for a number of hours primarily to charge the batteries and do other things that put just a small load on the generator like using our laptops, running the lights at night, or watching a movie on TV, we keep the Eco throttle turned on.

We tested the generator to see how long it would run if we filled the 0.95 gallon gas tank before it ran out of gas. We had it in Eco mode and used our laptops and other small things while it was running.

It ran for 9.5 hours!

We don’t usually run the generator for nearly that long.

As I’ve described in our article about what happens when you run solar power and shore power simultaneously, the best time for solar powered RVs to run a generator is in the morning hours. This helps get the batteries sufficiently charged so they can easily reach their charging (Absorb) voltage under solar power alone once the generator is turned off. This gives them more daylight hours to complete the Absorb stage before the sun goes down.

Outlets and switches Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The Eco Throttle switch allows the generator to run more efficiently and quietly when loads are light.

Eco mode is our default with this generator, both to save gas and to hear the generator’s quiet purr instead of its louder roar. In Eco mode it is as quiet as our Yamaha 2400i generator, but when it is not in Eco mode it is a little louder.

If you suddenly place a big load on the generator when it is in Eco mode, it will temporarily go into higher RPMs to provide the required power.

If we turn on the toaster while in Eco mode (our toaster is an 800 watt model), we can hear the generator rev up while the toaster is making toast. As soon as the toast pops up, the generator idles back down. If we do the same thing in non-Eco mode, the generator is already humming along at a fast pace, and it doesn’t need much of a surge to operate the toaster.

Honda EU2200i Generator for RV battery charging-min

We camped under thick canopies of trees in the rain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

If the generator is in Eco mode and we use the microwave (ours is an 1100 watt model), the generator has a slight lag time as it first senses the heavy load and then revs up to provide the necessary power.

There is an audible drop in tone and dimming of the lights on the microwave for a second or two before the generator roars to meet the challenge. We’re not sure this momentary dip in power is good for the microwave, so if we plan to use it we prefer to have the generator running in non-Eco mode first.

Can it power an RV air conditioner?

We have a 15,000 BTU air conditioner on our 36′ fifth wheel trailer. With some coaxing (i.e., warming up the generator, then turning on the Coleman air conditioner’s fan and finally turning on the air conditioner itself), our Yamaha 2400i generator can handle the air conditioner’s initial power surge and run the it for hours on end without a hitch.

We were hoping the much lighter and smaller Honda EU2200i might be able to run it too. However, the generator’s 2200 watts max power is not quite enough to handle the surge when the air conditioner starts. It is likely it could power a 13,500 btu air conditioner (standard on smaller RVs) just fine.

The Honda EU2200i generator is designed to work in parallel with a twin generator and connector cables, giving you 4,400 watts of peak power, more than enough to run a 15k BTU air conditioner. You can probably run the microwave at the same time with that kind of juice! The wonderful thing about this setup is that the two generators are a lot smaller than one big 4.4kw generator would be.

Honda EU2200i and EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit-min

Honda EU2200i + EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit with covers for each.

Putting Gas in the Honda EU2200i Generator

The hardest part about putting gas in a generator is fiddling with the child-proof, spill-proof, idiot-proof gas can. Government regulators have obviously never used a gas can in their lives, and we’re quite sure a lot more gas has been spilled on our precious environment because of the newfangled user-unfriendly spouts than ever was spilled using the trusty old gas can spouts of days gone by.

Putting the spout on a plastic gas can-min

Good luck with the gas can spout!

Putting gas in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Easy access on the top of the generator for gassing it up.

We’ve been adding Seafoam Motor Treatment to the gas in the generator. This fuel stabilizer cleans the carburetor, keeps the engine clean, and we find it makes it easier to start.

When we cruised Mexico in our sailboat, we used it in the outboard motor for our dinghy and were very pleased with the results.

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Changing the Oil

Changing the oil on the Honda EU2200i generator is a snap. First find a pleasant place to do it. Mark likes to elevate the generator onto some kind of platform so it is easy to drain the old oil out of the bottom.

As always, Buddy likes to supervise.

Changing the oil in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Changing the oil doesn’t take long, but doing it in a pretty place makes it more fun.

You’ll need the following:

  • A flat head screwdriver
  • A sealable 14 oz. or larger container for the old oil
  • A quart of SAE 10W-30 oil
  • Rags to clean up drips and wipe your hands
  • Optional: Rubber gloves

The first step is to unscrew the single screw that holds the front panel on the front of the generator and remove the panel so you have full access to the heart of the machine.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Access the heart of the generator via the side panel on the front.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Once it’s unscrewed, the side panel lifts off easily.

To check or change the oil, simply unscrew the dipstick in the lower left corner.

If you are just checking the oil, make sure the oil level fills the spout and is clear. Honda recomments changing it every six months or 100 hours of use (keep track of the hours of use in a log book).

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The dipstick is in the lower left corner.

Check the oil with the dipstick on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Unscrew the dipstick to check the oil and/or to change it.

When changing the oil, hold a container of some kind below the spout.

Any container that can hold 14 ounces of liquid is fine. Or you can drain the oil into an oil drain pan and then, after the new oil has been put into the generator, pour the old oil into the container that held the new oil.

In the case pictured here, Mark used an old plastic peanut jar with a screw top lid.

Drain the oil from a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Drain the oil into an easily sealed container that holds at least 14 ounces.

To get all the oil out, tip the generator slightly towards you.

Drain all the oil from a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

Tip the generator towards you to get out every last drop.

The Honda EU2200i generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil.

Honda EU2200i Generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil-min

The generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil

Once the old oil is completely drained out, pour the new oil in.

Change the oil on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pour the new oil in

The oil reserve is properly filled when the oil comes right to the edge (with the generator sitting level). Once it’s full, screw the dipstick back in and tidy up any drips with the rags.

Oil change on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The oil is full when it is level with the spout

The generator takes 14 ounces of oil and, of course, oil is sold in 16 ounce bottles. You can save the last two ounces for other odd jobs around your RV in one of these classic oil cans. Grandpa will be proud!

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Cleaning / Replacing the Air Filters

Since the front panel of the generator is off, now is a good time to inspect the air filters. To access the air filters, unscrew the screw holding the access panel in place.

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The air filters are in the upper right area of the front of the generator

Open air filter compartment on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Remove the air filter cover

There are two small air filters inside. Each one is a small piece of foam. If they’re dusty and dirty you can clean and re-oil them. If they are brittle and have started to fall apart, you can replace them with Honda’s air filter replacement kit.

Air filter on a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

There are two air filters inside, one above and one below

Honda EU2200i Generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i portable generator Air filter-min

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Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Inspecting / Replacing the Spark Plug

Once the front panel on the generator is buttoned up again, this is a good time to check the spark plug.

The Honda EU2200i generator’s spark plug is located in a small compartment on the top next to the handle. The cover slides off easily.

Open spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

The spark plug has its own compartment on the top of the generator

Inside, the spark plug is covered by a spark plug cap. Simply pull the cap off to reveal the spark plug underneath.

Spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pull off the spark plug cap to reveal the spark plug underneath

To remove the spark plub, use a 5/8″ spark plug socket and ratchet plus 3/8″ drive extension. The spark plug is quite close to the generator handle, so a 5//8″ spark plug socket with an integral 3/8″ drive on a swivel extension could be very handy.

Remove spark plug from Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Use a 5/8″ socket and extension to remove the spark plug

The spark plug is the NGK CR5HSB.

Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

NGK CR5HSB spark plug

Inspect it with a spark plug gap tool. The gap should be 0.24 to 0.28 inches which is equivalent to 0.6 to 0.7 mm.

Check spark plug gap with feeler guage on Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

The spark plug gap should be between 0.24 and 0.28 inches (0.6 to 0.7 mm)

Before placing the spark plug back in the generator, spread a thin layer of high temperature anti-seize lubricant on the spark plug threads.

Apply anti-seize lubricant to spark plug for Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Apply a thin layer of high temp anti-seize lubricant to the threads

Anti-seize lubricant applied to Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

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And that’s it!

Honda EU2200i Generator charges batteries while RV camping-min

Happy campers!

If you are looking for a lightweight generator that can run for many hours on end and power all of the appliances in your RV that require less than 2200 watts to operate (in our case, this is everything except our 15k BTU air conditioner), the new Honda EU2200i generator is a great choice.

Hopefully if you buy one, you won’t inadvertently inspire the rain gods to dump weeks of rain on you like we did!!

Where to buy the Honda EU2200i generator and accessories:

RV Power Adapters and Dogbones:

Generator Maintenance Goodies:

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RV Roof Repair – Rubber Roof Patch + Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement!

We recently repaired some rips and tears in our RV’s rubber roof, and we also replaced the roof vent cap for our trailer’s black wastewater holding tank. These are easy projects for anyone to do. This article shows the steps we followed to complete these repairs.

RV Roof Repair patching a rubber roof and replacing a black water tank vent cap

RV Roof Repairs — Patching a rubber roof and replacing a black water tank vent cap

We were in a hurry as we tackled these jobs because a days-long rain storm threatened to begin at any moment. Also, our “ten year” RV rubber roof is now nearly twelve years old, so it is overdue for replacement. With these things in mind, our goals were speed of installation and watertightness that would hold for a few months.

In this article we’ll point out the few shortcuts we took just in case you ripped your RV roof or knocked a holding tank vent cap off when your rig was years out from needing a new roof!

RV Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement

We boondock all the time, and this kind of travel takes our trailer into some gnarly situations where it gets scraped by tree branches on the exterior walls and roof. The sidewalls of our rig bear the tell-tale pin-stripe scars from tree branches, and our RV roof, well, the tallest items have taken the brunt of the damage.

The black wastewater holding tank vent pipe has a cap on it to keep rain and creatures out, but ours got sheared right off when we accidentally dragged on an unforgiving tree branch.

The first task in the repair was to remove the screws holding the cap onto the roof. These were easy to locate because there was a dollop of Dicor Lap Sealant covering each one.

RV black tank roof vent broken-min

The black tank vent cap was knocked off by low hanging tree branches.
In this photo Mark has already removed a few screws that attach the cap flange to the roof.

The next task was to lift the entire vent cap flange off of the black tank vent pipe.

Remove the old vent cap flange

Remove the old vent cap flange

This revealed the black tank vent pipe. A small piece of the top of the black tank vent pipe had broken off, but the damage was merely cosmetic. The new black tank vent cap would cover it.

The next step was to clear away the old Dicor Lap Sealant that formed a ring around the old black tank vent cap so the roof was smooth instead of having a crusty ring of old sealant.

RV black tank roof vent removed and waiting for new replacement-min

Scrape away old Dicor Lap Sealant

The key to this RV roof repair is making sure the new black tank vent cap has a watertight seal with the roof so there won’t be any leaks. A generous spread of Dicor Lap Sealant does the trick. It comes in a tube and is applied with a caulk gun. Before placing it in the caulk gun, Mark clipped off the tip so the Lap Sealant could flow out.

Remove tip of Dicor Lap Sealant tube-min

Prepare new tube of Dicor Lap Sealant and then lay a thick layer around the vent pipe.

Then he spread a thick bead of Dicor Lap Sealant around the vent where the screws would attach the cap, and then screwed in the screws.

Screwing an RV black tank roof vent onto a fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Screw the new vent cap onto the roof.

A final screw went into the top of the cap. The old black tank vent cap may not have had this screw right from the factory, and that may be why it was knocked off so easily. We don’t know because we never looked at the old cap that closely!

RV black tank roof vent-min

Be sure to screw the cap itself onto the base.

Then Mark spread generous bead of Dicor Lap Sealant around the outside of the vent cap, leaving a nice dollop on each screw head, including the one on the top of the cap.

Sealing the RV black tank roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Put a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant around the base with a dollop on each screw head.

Here’s how it looked a few months after the job was completed. If you’ve been wondering about the wire next to the vent, it is the cable that connects our four solar panels together in series on our roof.

RV roof black tank vent repair completed-min

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Down on the ground far below us, our little project supervisor wondered how it was all going.

Project supervisor for RV rubber roof repair-min

The project supervisor asks how the vent cap replacement is going.

RV Rubber Roof Repair Patch

Our other RV roof repair was to fix a tear in the thin rubber sheet that covers our RV’s roof.

This job is so quick to do that the first time Mark did it in a location on the roof of one of our slide-outs, I didn’t even know he had started the job when he bounded in the door announcing he had just finished it.

“But I wanted to take pics!” I said.

“Ya gotta be faster next time!” He joked.

So, this time around, when I heard him mumble something about fixing a tear in the roof, I jumped up and ran for my camera and made sure I followed him up the ladder right away so I wouldn’t miss anything.

Tear in RV rubber roof needs repair-min

As rubber roofs age, they become more and more susceptible to rips and tears from low lying branches and other obstacles dragging as you drive underneath.

All that is needed to patch an RV rubber roof is a cleanser that can clean the crud off the roof around the tear, some scissors and some repair tape.

The preferred repair tape is EternaBond Tape. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a roll with us and there were no RV supply stores within 100 miles or so. But the local hardware store carried Flex Tape, and that worked just fine.

Tools needed for RV rubber roof repair-min

Applying a patch requires just a cleanser, some patch tape and scissors.

Mark cleaned the area throughly so the tape would stick well. He used a glass cleaner to cut any grease.

Clean the RV roof tear area before repairing-min

Clean the area thoroughly so the new patch tape will adhere well.

Wipe down RV roof tear before repair-min

Wipe off the cleanser.

Then he felt under the torn area to see if there was any lumpy debris in there. Sure enough, he pulled out a twig!

Check for debris under rip in RV roof_-min

Check to be sure nothing is lodged under the rubber roofing material.

Twig found under RV rubber roof tear-min

A twig was hiding under there!

This was a serious tear, but once he got the wound cleaned up it was ready to for a field dressing.

Rubber RV roof tear ready for a patch-min

The thin rubber roofing sheet is all that protects the underlying plywood from the elements.

RV roof tear ready for a patch-min

All cleaned up and ready for the patch.

He cut a piece of Flex Tape big enough to cover the tear. Then he pressed it in place, first with his hands and then with the back of his scissors.

Place patch on RV roof tear-min

Cut a piece of tape that is generously wider than the tear.

Press patch on tear in rubber RV roof-min

Press the patch into place.

Seal the Patch repair of RV rubber roof tear-min

Seal it and make sure there are no air bubbles by pressing something flat on it.

As an aside, Mark really likes these heavy duty Fiskar shears. They have a wire cutting notch on the back and they come with a sheath and a clip for hanging them from a belt loop.

Patch repair of RV rubber roof tear completed-min

Done! If we weren’t hurrying, the corners would be rounded and the tape wouldn’t rest on the old Dicor.

So, the job was done in just a few minutes.

A better way to cut the patch is to round the corners so they aren’t inclined to peel up. Also, sizing the patch so it is attached only to the rubber roofing material and not the lap sealant on the front cap would have been a better technique. But, as I said, rain was on its way in a few moments and a new roof was on its way in a few months.

Here is a pic from the other roof patch he did on the roof of one of the slide-outs several months ago.

RV roof repair for torn RV rubber roof-min

Another patch about 6 months after completion on the roof of one of our slide-outs.

Not long afterwards, the wild rain storm rolled in. Fortunately, the RV roof repairs were good and we were snug and dry in our trailer.

Puppy looks at a stunning sunset-min

The project supervisor was satisfied with the work, and we were warm and dry when the rains came.

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Tools and goodies needed for these repairs:

Holding Tank Vent Cap Replacement:

RV Rubber Roof Patch

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    101 MORE Great RV Gift Ideas for RVers, Campers & Outdoor Lovers!

    The other day when we were at a hardware store we heard Christmas music playing. Yikes! The holidays are on their way and it’s time to start finding meaningful gifts for our loved ones.

    The fun thing about buying for RVers is that there are so many super cute RV themed goodies out there!

    Last year I wrote the blog post “50 RV Gifts” which was chock full of wonderful suggestions for gifts. This year I’ve done a little more digging and put together a lineup of 101 more great RV gift ideas for you. Click on any image or text link to see more detailed info about each one.

    Many of these items are things we use in our day-to-day RV lifestyle and others are things that look enticing and have received great reviews and might end up in our RV sometime soon!

    The first one is special to us because it is a 2019 Arizona wall calendar that features a gorgeous photo Mark took in Canyon de Chelly. His photo appears both on the cover of the calendar and on the January page.

    We often choose the places we want to visit based on photos we have seen, so what better way to get inspired for next year’s RV travels than to flip through a book of beautiful photos from the National Parks. National Geographic’s National Parks Illustrated History is a good one, as is the book Treasured Lands – An Odyssey Through the National Parks.

    If you are looking for travel tips for visiting the National Parks, the Fodor’s Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West is a excellent.

    One of our favorite things in our RV travels is enjoying the many stunning scenic drives that zig-zag all over the country. To find out where the best scenic roads are, check out National Geographic’s Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways.

    There are 120 more spectacular road trips in the book The Most Scenic Drives in America.

    Gorgeous coffee table books are wonderful, but if you want to share the experience and get inspired over popcorn with your life partner, how about watching the Ken Burns video, “The National Parks – America’s Best Idea (download)” (DVD).

    As long as you and your sweetie are plopped down in front of the TV, you might get a kick out of some old westerns. After we’d been traveling the west for a while we began noticing that we recognized the locations where many westerns were filmed, and it’s great fun to guess and then check the credits or the internet after watching the movie to see if you got it right!

    We especially love the old John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns, and these two collections have many of our all-time favorites: the John Wayne Western Collection and the Clint Eastwood Collection and Double Feature combo.

    We love to have low lighting in the rig when we’re watching a movie at night or to give the rig a romantic and relaxing atmosphere. We’ve had a set of flameless LED wax candles for many years now, and we love them.

    A cute welcome mat at the door is a delightful way to welcome guests into your rolling home or to put a smile on your face when you come home from a day of errands.

    If you’re in your RV for the holidays, one lovely way to decorate for the season is with a small tabletop battery operated Christmas tree.

    If you don’t want to store a tree during the rest of the year, then a small vintage trailer that lights up and plays music might be a nice choice.

    For RVers who have a regular size tree, a sweet RV Christmas ornament will bring back memories of happy times on the road.

    A throw pillow or two on your couch or bed can make your rolling home even more homey. If you swap out just the pillowcase on a single pillow you can rotate the decorations so they don’t get old.

    Next time you take a shower, why not dry off with a Happy Camper towel??!!

    And when you’re ready for bed, you can slip into a soft set of “RV There Yet?” pajamas for women or camping PJs for men.

    As the winter nights get cold, how nice to snuggle up with a unique camper-under-the-moon throw blanket (comes in various sizes).

    Or wrap the fuzzy side of a throw blanket close around you as you drift into dreams of hitting the road in a cool retro RV.

    If you spend winters in your RV, no matter where you are in the country there will be some chilly nights. Nothing beats a down comforter for staying toasty warm under the covers!

    We’ve got lots of tips for staying warm in an RV over the winter (check them out here, here and here).

    One of the simplest tips for RVs that don’t have a winterizing option on the screen door is to cover the door’s screens with a shrink-wrap film. This transforms the door from delivering icy blasts of cold air to bringing in the warm sunshine without a frosty bite, and it takes just an hour to install (step-by-step instructions with photos here).

    A vent-free propane heater can heat your rig in minutes. If you’re intimidated by the process of installing one, a portable Mr. Buddy heater will deliver just as much heat as one that’s permanently installed without being connected to the RV’s gas lines.

    Tips for how to install a vent-free propane heater here.

    Fortunately, we have our own very special Mr. Buddy to cuddle with under the blankets. He’s a great little portable heater!

    Puppy cuddles up in a blanket-min

    Our own little portable Mr. Buddy heater 🙂

    If you’re outfitting a new-to-you RV, you can transform the interior on a cold blustery night with a blue flame fireplace. Rather than an industrial looking blue flame in a metal box, this fireplace comes complete with logs, yellow flames that deliver a lot of heat, and a pretty wooden mantel.

    Friends of ours installed the arched propane fireplace insert without the wooden mantel in their 2005 Alpenlite fifth wheel and then trimmed it out with ceramic tile. This created a wonderfully cozy and inviting addition to their living space!

    We will definitely do this if we ever get another rig. One tip: install the fireplace insert so it sticks out about 3″ or so from anything above it like cabinets or a TV. Heat rises straight up, so just a few inches is enough to keep the blue flame heater from heating anything above it, but if you install the insert so the front of it is flush with the cabinetry above, the cabinets will get warm.

    More about vent-free propane heaters here.

    And, of course, the simplest way to add the romance of a fireplace to your RV is to play the Fireplace DVD on your TV. Whenever we do this, we find that the person sitting closest to the TV gets warm on that side. There’s something about those pretty flames and crackling log noises…

    No matter how you heat your RV or house in the winter, you’ll be reaching for sweaters and sweatshirts when Jack Frost comes around. Here’s a fun sweatshirt for your sweetie.

    She might want to peel off the sweatshirt sitting around a toasty campfire. But, of course, what happens at the campfire stays at the campfire!

    And if you’re out and about in sunny places and need a good cover, there’s a Happy Camper ballcap for you!

    A wonderful stocking stuffer for your best gal might be a pair of RV earrings or here’s another style here.

    Or a cell phone ring holder (just as long she’s not married to her phone!).

    Now, when you’re out RVing with the family, you can prevent any unexpected rainy days from dampening the experience if you bring along the National Parks edition of Monopoly.

    If the rain persists and you’re stuck in the RV for a long time, another game, Trekking the National Parks, would also be a welcome diversion.

    For kids (and kids at heart) who love coloring, a National Parks Coloring Book is a nice way to get to know a little about all the different Parks (there are others here and here).

    And for anyone doing the National Parks Junior Ranger program (kids or adults!), the Junior Ranger Activity Book could be a nice complement to the National Parks program.

    Parents who read aloud to their little ones or that are helping young readers learn to read will love the book “A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee.

    While the kids are busy playing games, coloring and reading, the baker in the family might pop some freshly made cookies out of the oven. How nice to have an oven mitt and pot holder specially made for RVers.

    And whoever gets dish washing duty will enjoy the job a lot more if there’s a cute RV dish drying mat to lay the dishes on!

    One kitchen goodie we LOVE and have had ever since we cruised Mexico on our sailboat is a set of Magma Nesting Cookware. These pots and pans fit neatly inside of each other and are heavy and durable. They are ideal in any kitchen where shelf space is at a premium, from vans to Class C’s to truck campers to teardrop trailers to popup tent trailers.

    Another kitchen gadget we use every day is our Melitta pour-over filter cone and paper filters. I’ve been making coffee this way for 45 years. Simply place the filter cone on top of your coffee mug, boil water in a kettle and pour the water over the grounds in the filter and let it dribble into the cup below.

    It makes a gourmet cup in minutes, the cleanup is a cinch, it takes up minimal storage space, and it doesn’t require electricity to operate.

    Once you hit the road again after the holidays are over, the navigator in the family will appreciate the 2019 Rand McNally Road Atlas (we have several of these from various years!).

    If you will be taking your RV over any mountain passes, both the navigator AND the driver will appreciate the Mountain Directories for RV and Truck Drivers. There are two volumes (for East and West), and we have turned to these books dozens of times before tackling a mountain pass.

    Every pass is described in detail for traversing it in both directions, so you’ll know ahead of time what the grades will be and for how many miles and also how sharp the hairpin turns will be as well (i.e., 15 mph curves, 25 mph curves, etc.). Once you “know” what an 8% grade for 3 miles feels like or how your RV (and you) react to navigating a 10 mph uphill turn, these books will be immensely helpful in route planning.

    Here are some tips for driving an RV in the mountains too.

    Another trip planning tool we use a lot are the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer map books. Each one lists the highlights and hot spots in every state in an easy summary form, and the various public land borders are clearly marked.

    We have one of these atlas books for every state we’ve visited. Another similar atlas series is by Benchmark and we have a few of those too!

    A nice combination of travel destination ideas and RV maintenance tips and new RV reviews can be found in Trailer Life Magazine and Motorhome Magazine. I’ve been fortunate to have had many articles appear in both magazines, and a subscription can make a nice gift (we’ve given several over the years!).

    Most full-time and seasonal RVers belong to Escapees RV Club, and a one-year membership makes a great gift.

    Membership includes an excellent bi-monthly magazine that is written by RVers for RVers. There are also a myriad of other terrific offerings, from discounts on camping to Bootcamps for new RVers to webinars and an online RV University to elder care for RVers who have hung up their keys to a division dedicated to Gen-X and Millenial RVers to mail forwarding services and many RV campsite ownership possibilities.

    We’ve been members since 2008. If you decide to join (here), please let them know “Roads Less Traveled” sent you!

    If you love to write, as I do, as soon as you start adventuring you will want to begin recording all you’ve seen and done. And even though typing is faster than handwriting for a lot of us, taking a moment at the end of each day to make a few notes with pen on paper is very rewarding.

    There are several excellent Camper’s Journals, Camping Log Books and RVing Journals available:

    Even if you’re not a writer, it’s nice to have a visual display of the places you’ve visited, and an RV state sticker map is a fun thing to put on the RV door or wall.

    While it’s fun to tick off where you’ve been and what you’ve seen, the essence of RVing to many is simply living in the moment and enjoying the blessings of life without responsibility or even accountability. Where better way to do that than in a hammock strung between two trees in your campsite?!

    We met a fellow a few weeks ago who has a hammock in the garage of his toy hauler. He loves to open the ramp door to a beautiful view somewhere and swing quietly til he falls asleep.

    Swinging in a hammock is also a great way to enjoy the wildlife that wanders in and out of a campsite, and hanging up a bird feeder or putting out a shallow tray of water is a good way to lure the critters in.

    We love hanging a hummingbird feeder on the RV window vy our dining table. It attaches to the window with suction cups and we can sit inside and watch the antics of the hummers as they come and go at the feeder.

    A simple solution of 1 part regular table sugar (no the fancy stuff) to 4 parts water makes a perfect nectar for these little acrobats.

    If the antics of the hummers isn’t entertaining enough, then a game of Corn Hole will keep the folks at your campsite and even the folks at the neighbor’s occupied.

    If you want to dress up your campsite, an RV themed tablecloth is a nice way to add some class to the picnic table.

    And a pretty patio mat extends your outdoor space a lot. This 8 x 20 mat is a neat dimension that runs much of the length of the RV.

    An outdoor grill is an absolute must for every RV, and there are dozens to choose from.

    We still use the modest little “Sidekick” grill that came with our popup tent trailer. It is designed to be hung on an RV wall if you install the hanging bracket, or to stand up off the ground. Mark has barbecued many an outstanding meal on this grill and it’s still going strong after 13 years of very frequent use!

    If you hang around outside a lot at night, it’s nice to have a lantern to hang in a tree or on the RV awning brackets. A battery operated Coleman LED lantern or solar powered lantern is a great way to go.

    When we first started boondocking, we used kerosene lamps rather than burn precious electricity with our RV’s interior lighting. Hanging one or two of these lanterns inside at night would have been a whole lot brighter!

    Many gadgets like this lantern are battery operated. Have you tried rechargeable batteries yet? In the last year or so we’ve switched to rechargeable batteries rather than buying new batteries each time the old ones run down, and we like them a lot.

    Getting out in an RV is all about enjoying the outdoors, and a fun and romantic way to savor the fresh air and great views in some remote spot is with a picnic. There are lots of fancy picnic baskets on the market, but how about a picnic basket that is built into a backpack so you can hike with it comfortably, hands free?!

    We use 100 oz. hydration packs when we do longer hikes, and we’ve like packs that hold a big camera, a tripod hung on the outside, and a light jacket and snacks. The Camelbak Fourteener series are great packs for this purpose.

    Good quality hiking shoes are also important and we get new ones every year. We’ve both been wearing Oboz hiking shoes for the last few years and Mark loves his waterproof Oboz boots. He found them especially handy when we were trudging around in the rain and mud in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula recently to photograph the fall colors.

    One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is kayaking on a lake or river. The Hobie inflatable kayaks are FABULOUS and they can be rolled up and put away in an RV storage compartment.

    Our Hobie inflatable tandem was a blast in both our RV and sailing lifestyles.

    The beauty of these kayaks is that if you find yourself up a creek without a paddle it doesn’t matter: the kayak is driven by foot pedals and a rudder at the back.

    This means you cruise along about twice as fast as an ordinary kayak totally hands free, and you can use your binoculars or camera as you go. (Read my full review here).

    We also found that ours was as stable as a rock. I could stand up in it and wax the hull of our sailboat!

    If your sweetie is a kayaker who dreams of the ideal ride, this is a gift he or she will love.

    A while ago we bought a kit of cordless power tools by Rigid that included an impact driver and power drill.

    Mark uses the impact driver for removing and replacing a wheel’s lug nuts on a flat tire (and we’ve had lots), and we both use the cordless drill to raise and lower our stabilizing jacks every time we set up or break down camp.

    Rigid makes a lot of other tools that are all operated on the same lithium-ion battery packs as these two drills, and we recently got their little portable cordless vacuum cleaner. What a fantastic little vacuum! Because we now live with a puppy who hasn’t yet learned to wipe his paws when he comes in the door, I use this vacuum in the main living area almost every day.

    The vacuum takes a bit more power than the drills, so we also bought an upgraded battery pack that has 5 amp-hours of capacity rather than the standard 1.5 ah. Even vaccuming as frequently as as I do, this big battery pack requires charging just once a month or so.

    We highly recommend the Rigid kit even though it is considered a second tier brand. Dewalt has a similar kit too.

    Another little “around the house” gadget we rely on a lot is our two-way radio set.

    We use these to back up the trailer and also to find each other when we go on photo shoots. It also helps us stay in touch when one of us goes on a hike or walks the dog without the other.

    Obviously, cell phones do this too, but these radios work everywhere we go regardless of cell tower proximity. We have the “36 mile” GMRS two-way radios which usually have excellent reception up to about 3 miles.

    There are lots of great stocking stuffers for RVers, and one is a Leatherman tool that has a million tools neatly folded into a small pocket-sized package. Mark has the Leatherman Surge tool here:

    Mark always carries a pocket knife too, and he has a collection of Gerber knives in drawers throughout our trailer as well as in his pocket! These are two of his favorites: Gerber Freeman Guide Drop Point and the tiny Gerber Ultralight.

    He recently picked up another pocket knife made by Leatherman that is his latest favorite, the Leatherman Crater C33LX. It has a serrated edge and a caribiner that can attach the knife to a beltloop or keychain. The caribiner can also serve as an all important bottle opener come Beer Time!

    Mark’s pockets are always brimming with goodies, and besides a pocket knife he usually carries a flashlight too. He likes the Lumintop brand and now has five different Lumintop LED flashlights and loves them all.

    We’ve written detailed reviews of some of their models (the 4000 lumen tactical light here and two pocket flashlights here).

    Here are two more, the Lumintop ODF30C 3500 lumen flashlight and the Lumintop AA 2.0 pocket flashlight.

    Getting our heads out of the tool box and back out into nature, another outstanding gift that says “I love you” in a most heartfelt way is a brand new DSLR camera.

    Nikons are the best rated DLSRs these days and the Nikon D3500 is an outstanding camera to start with. The Nikon D3500 kit that comes with two lenses is a great value.

    If your sweetie already has a great camera, a fabulous gift that he or she will LOVE is the Hoodman Loupe.

    This little device shrouds the image on the back of the camera so you can see the picture well in any light, and the optics are adjustable so no matter how good or poor your vision is, you can adjust it so the image is tack sharp.

    We rely on our Hoodman Loupes to ensure that our images are in focus, our composition is what we want, and the exposure is correct.

    Another wonderful gift for someone who loves photography is a high quality tripod. The Benro Travel Angel II tripod is light and easy to set up and has worked well for me, especially hiking, for several years. An easy-to-use tripod makes it possible to blur waterfalls and to take photos of the Milky Way and is also a wonderful tool for taking selfies.

    The photographer in your life might also really enjoy some books that explain the nitty gritty about how to take beautiful photos.

    Three books that have taught us a lot are Brenda Tharpe’s Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography, Tim Fitzharris’ Landscape Photography and Steve Perry’s Secrets to Stunning Wildlife Photography.

    We’ve got loads more tips for learning how to take great photos here.

    Sometimes the best way to get really beautiful photos of nature is to camp right out in it for long periods of time.

    If your spouse has been pressing you to upgrade your RV with solar power so you can boondock for a while but you’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by the complexity or the cost of installing a system, a folding solar power suitcase can provide a lot of charging capacity and give you some excellent hands-on experience without requiring a scary big financial commitment or a search for an installer. And you can always sell the solar power suitcase at a later date. Other models are here and here.

    If you’re ready to invest in a “full-time” solar power solution, the major components will be these four things:

    This is essentially what has powered our lives every day for 11 years, and we have loads of articles on this website about solar power (here) and batteries (here)).

    Getting up on the roof to do things like install solar panels is fine with the built-in RV roof ladder. However, we also use a secondary lightweight telescoping aluminum ladder so we can reach the highest parts of the exterior walls and the front cap since those spots are all out of reach of the built-in ladder.

    This ladder can be set up in a jiffy, is stable, and can be folded up to fit in a small storage space!

    Our puppy Buddy just came over to see what I was up to on my laptop here, and he wanted me to add a few things for our furry readers. One is a Happy Camper dog shirt with a vintage RV on it. The RV window is a heart!

    Another is his favorite dog food. He loves the Orijen and Acana brands, and Regional Red is his all-time favorite.

    Put a paw over your eyes so you don’t see the price, but do read the ingredients. I honestly think this stuff should be served under glass on a linen tablecloth…

    Last is a set of rubber whistler balls. These rugged, flexible balls can withstand any amount of chewing and have small holes in the sides that make them whistle as they fly.

    We hope these pics and links have given you some fresh new ideas of special things to give your loved ones.

    Anything you put in your shopping cart right after clicking a link here (even if you end up doing some searching to find something else) results in a small commission to us at no cost to you, a win-win all around. Thank you!!

    If you’re still searching for that ideal gift for someone special, check out these 50 Great RV Gifts here!

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    RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE and PRODUCT REVIEWS
    • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
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    RV Awning Installation and Repair

    Our RV awning is 11 years old now, and the canvas fabric recently tore at the top and bottom. RV awnings are a pain in every respect (except for the wonderful shade they offer), and we knew we were in for a challenging DIY repair if we tried to do it ourselves.

    Fixing an RV awning is a job for at least two people, preferably three or four for certain parts of the job, and it’s easiest if someone in the group has done it before because it can be a little tricky.

    Ripped RV awning torn before replacement-min

    Oh no! Time for new RV awning fabric!

    We were traveling through Rapid City, South Dakota, and recent hail storms had made a mess of many RVs and RV dealerships all around the area. Only one of the local RV dealerships and repair shops could get us in within the week, so we were thrilled when we backed into a bay at Jack’s Campers.

    Fortunately, they had the fabric for a 17′ Dometic Sunchaser awning in stock, an old manual model that is not installed on new RVs any more. Luckily, there must be enough oldies-but-goodies on the road these days that Jack’s Campers stocks them.

    We back our fifth wheel trailer into a bay at Jack's Campers in Rapid City South Dakota-min

    We got into position at Jack’s Campers in Rapid City, South Dakota.

    We called our RV Extended Warranty folks, Wholesale Warranties, to find out if this awning failure would qualify for reimbursement under our warranty plan.

    We have had so much good luck with our extended warranty on major repairs like our refrigerator, trailer axle, suspension, toilet and window leaks and plumbing, that we were hopeful this repair would be covered too. However, only the mechanical aspects of the awning were covered, not the fabric.

    In the end, the whole RV awning repair job ended up costing $444 out of pocket, most of that being for the new fabric, and it took the guys at Jack’s Campers just 45 minutes to do it.

    The first step was to remove the awning arms and roller from the sidewall of our fifth wheel. They unrolled the fabric about a foot and unscrewed the mounting brackets that attached the awning arms to the side of the trailer.

    Remove the bolts attaching RV awning to the side of the fifth wheel trailer-min

    First, remove the awning arms from the sidewalls of the trailer.

    There was putty in the awning fabric track where the mounting bracket had been, so this had to be removed with a flathead screwdriver.

    Use flathead screwdriver to remove putty from RV awning track on fifth wheel trailer-min

    There was some putty in the awning track, so it was removed with a flathead screwdriver.

    Next, two guys slid the awning fabric off of the awning track on the RV wall and marched the whole thing into the workshop and rested it on some saw horses.

    Two people slide the RV awning off the track on a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    Two mechanics walked the awning out of the track on the trailer.

    Rest the RV awning on saw horses to remove the fabric-min

    Once in the shop the awning was laid across some saw horses.

    Manually operated RV awnings have a spring inside the roller mechanism (a “torsion assembly“) for rolling up the fabric. At one end of the roller there is a locking mechanism to keep the spring inside the roller tight so the fabric doesn’t unroll. This locking mechanism became important when the new fabric was installed to get the spring tensioned correctly inside the roller.

    Locking end of RV awning-min

    The right arm of the awning has a locking mechanism which keeps the fabric from rolling off the roller.

    At the opposite end of the roller there was no locking mechanism. The bolt holding the awning arm to the roller at the non-locking end was removed and the arm was pulled off. The arm at the locking end of the roller remained attached throughout the job.

    Remove bolt holding RV awning arm to the roller-min

    Remove the awning arm from the non-locking end of the roller.

    RV awning endcap and spring-min

    Awning arm removed.

    Then the rivets on the endcap were drilled out and the torsion assembly was pulled out.

    Drill out rivets from endcap on RV awning-min

    Drill out the rivets on the endcap.

    Remove spring and endcap from RV awning to replace fabric-min

    The endcap and spring (torsion assembly) are removed from the roller.

    RV awning spring and endcap-min

    The torsion assembly is out of the roller.
    Spraying it with silicone spray will help the awning roll more easily.

    Then the awning fabric was slid our of the roller.

    Two mechanics hold the RV awning to slide the torn fabric off the track-min

    Two mechanics slid the old awning fabric out of the track.

    The new fabric was unfolded and laid out in the workshop, and then it was slid into the track on the roller until the fabric stretched the whole length of the roller.

    Open up and spread out the new RV awning fabric-min

    The new awning fabric was unfolded and laid out.

    Opened up RV awning endcap-min

    The new awning fabric will be slid into the track on the roller.

    Install new RV awning fabric by sliding it along the track-min

    The new awning fabric was started in the track on the roller.

    Spraying the track with a heavy duty silicone spray helped the fabric slide along the track smoothly.

    Spray heavy duty silicone on the RV awning track before sliding the fabric onto it-min

    Spraying the track with silicone helps the fabric slide more smoothly.

    Slide new RV awning fabric onto the roller along the track-min

    Two mechanics slid the new awning fabric along the roller track.

    Then the torsion assembly was placed inside the roller and new endcap rivets were installed.

    Reinstall RV awning endcap and spring-min

    The endcap and spring were reinserted inside the roller.

    Install new rivets on RV awning cap-min

    Put new rivets on the endcap.

    New rivet installed on RV awning endcap-min

    New rivet in place.

    The fabric was positioned so it went all the way to the locking end of the awning. At the opposite end a set screw was screwed in to prevent the fabric from sliding off the track.

    New RV awning fabric at endcap on locking end of roller-min

    Make sure the awning fabric has been slid all the way to the locking end of the roller.

    Screw in set screw to keep RV awning fabric from falling off the track-min

    Put a set screw at the non-locking end of the fabric so it doesn’t slide off the track.

    The new fabric was laid out so it could be rolled onto the roller. Then a vice grip was used to turn the spring between 15 and 18 times to get the right spring tension.

    New RV awning fabric installed-min

    New awning fabric is in place.

    Use vice grips to wind up the new RV awning fabric-min

    Use vice grips to rotate the spring 15 to 18 times to ge the right spring tension.

    Then the awning arm was reattached to the roller with a bolt.

    Bolt on the RV awning arms to the roller-min

    Bolt on the awning arm.

    New RV awning fabric with set screw and awning arm attached-min

    Awning arm (non-locking end) is reattached.

    Back at the trailer, the awning track was sprayed with heavy duty silicone.

    Use heavy duty silicone spray to lubricate the RV awning track-min

    Out at the trailer spray the awning track with silicone.

    Then the new awning fabric was loosely wrapped around the roller and the whole thing was marched outside to the trailer.

    Wrap the new RV awning fabric around the roller-min

    Four guys assisted in wrapping the new awning fabric around the roller a few times.

    Carry the RV awning out to the fifth wheel trailer-min

    The awning is taken out to the trailer.

    Our little project supervisor, Buddy, had been watching all the goings on through open big shop door from a safe distance out by the trailer. When the awning and its new fabric were brought out to the trailer, he backed up as far as he could into the parking lot to give the guys room to work!

    Supervising puppy keeps his distance from the RV awning project-min

    Stand back!

    Using ladders and reaching overhead, four guys maneuvered the awning fabric into the track on the trailer and slid it all the way to the front end of the track. This is where having lots of hands can help.

    Slide the RV awning fabric along the track on the wall of the fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    The awning fabric is slid along the track on the side of the trailer.

    After installing the awning on the trailer, the mechanics noticed that the two feet that held the bottoms of the two awning arms had each developed hairline cracks. So, they replaced each foot.

    Replace the cracked RV awning foot-min

    The feet of both awning arms had developed small cracks, so they were replaced.

    The last step was to test the awning by rolling it all the way out and then all the way in again.

    New RV awning installed on our fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    Test the awning to make sure it rolls all the way out and all the way in again.

    Completed installation of the new RV awning fabric on a fifth wheel trailer-min

    Done!

    Ta Da!! A job well done. The whole project took 45 minutes from start to finish.

    Now that we’ve seen how a manual RV awning gets installed, Mark is confident he could do it without going to an RV repair shop as long as he had some extra hands for sliding the awning fabric on/off the trailer awning track and on/off the roller track.

    Side note: If you have a manual awning, it is really important that you use some kind of velcro straps or bungee cords wrapped around the awning arms as extra security to keep the awning from accidentally opening while you are traveling.

    Our photo above doesn’t show them, but we have used these awning straps ever since we bought the trailer.

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    Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

    August 2018 – We absolutely love our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually truck, and we recently installed an Amp’d Throttle Booster on it. This small electronic unit decreases the occasional throttle lag you feel when you depress the accelerator pedal by increasing the throttle sensitivity and responsiveness.

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster Installation and Review

    Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

    On older vehicles the accelerator was connected to the carburetor with a cable, providing a physical connection between the action of your foot depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine to make the vehicle go faster. On newer vehicles electronic signals do the job instead, and occasionally there is a slight lag between depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine. This is sometimes referred to as a “dead pedal” kind of sensation, and it can be a little frustrating to hit the gas and not have the vehicle jump in response right away.

    The Amp’d Throttle Booster allows you to increase the throttle sensitivity by slightly raising the voltage. There are three sensitivity settings along with a Stock setting that doesn’t increase the voltage at all.

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster in the box-min

    Edge Amp’d Throttle Booster

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster core unit-min

    The Amp’d Throttle Booster core unit

    The Amp’d Throttle Booster is a small product that comes in two parts: the booster unit itself and a wiring harness.

    The harness assembly has three ends:

    • One end that connects to a selector switch that gets mounted on the dashboard (labeled “A” in the photo).
    • One end that connects to the booster (“B”).
    • One end that has a Y connection that connects to two points under the dashboard (“C”).

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster cable harness assembly-min

    The wiring harness has three ends.
    A = Dashboard mounted selector switch
    B = Connects to the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit
    C = Both connectors connect under the dashboard.

    The installation took 17 minutes, but allow a little bit more for reading the manual, etc!

    The first step was to connect the pair of connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness to the corresponding connectors under the dashboard. These two connectors are keyed, so you can’t connect them backwards or accidentally plug them into the wrong spots.

    Working under the dashboard was a tight fit, so I have a link to the Amp’d Throttle Booster manual at the end of this article to give you the nitty gritty about each connector and where it is positioned under the dashboard both for the Ram trucks and for other brands and model years.

    Installing the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster_-min

    First connect one of the two ends of the Y on the wiring harness to the corresponding connector under the dashboard.

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

    Connect the second of the two connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness under the dashboard.

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

    Both connectors are in place (only one is visible).

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness assembly-min

    It’s tight under there but the connectors are keyed to make it easier.

    We got the kit that includes the dashboard mounted selector switch. If you don’t buy this external switch there is a switch right on the circuit board inside the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit that has two sensitivity settings, Low and High.

    Regardless of whether you get the dashboard mounted selector switch or rely on the circuit board switch instead, the next step is to set up the Amp’d Throttle Booster so it can learn the throttle response of your truck’s accelerator.

    To begin this learning sequence (and to access the circuit board’s selector switch), simply unscrew the outer casing.

    Opening up the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

    Access the Amp’d Throttle Booster circuit board and go through the Learn sequence by removing the outer casing.

    Circuit board inside the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min-min

    The red arrow shows the location of the circuit board selector switch. It is set to Stock (Off).

    Then attach the wiring assembly to the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit and follow the sequence of steps given in the manual to enable the throttle booster to learn the throttle response of the truck’s accelerator (this involves depressing the accelerator pedal a few times and monitoring some LED flashing lights on the circuit board).

    Plug the wiring harness into the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

    Plug the wiring harness into the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit.

    Then mount the selector switch on the dashboard. One handy location is on the plastic tab at the bottom of the dashboard that holds the dashboard in place. Simply remove the existing screw, position the mounting bracket and screw it back in.

    Use tiewrap to mount Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster on dashboard-min

    Mount the selector switch on the dashboard and tidy up the wiring harness with tie wraps before tucking it under the dashboard.

    Once it’s mounted, tuck the harness assembly and the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit up under the dashboard and secure them in place with zip-ties.

    Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster installed on Dodge Ram 3500 diesel truck dashboard-min

    Finished. The selector switch is easy for the driver to reach.

    After the installation of the Amp’d Throttle Booster, Mark tested it with the truck in Park. He put the selector switch to Stock (Off) and revved the engine. The he did the same thing at each of the three settings: Low (50% sensitivity increase), Medium (75% increase) and High (100% increase). At each increased setting the engine responded faster to his foot depressing the accelerator pedal — as expected.

    Mark has been driving with the Amp’d Throttle Booster installed on the truck for the last 5,000 miles, and he’s found he likes it best at the High setting (100% increase) which is where he keeps it set all the time.

    He finds he notices the improvement a lot when passing people and also when driving in the mountains as well as when he’s in stop-and-go traffic.

    Without the booster he sometimes finds that on a steep incline or when “gassing it” for whatever reason, he’ll depress the accelerator and then have a moment or two of no response from the engine before it kicks in. With the booster on High, the truck reacts and accelerates much more quickly.

    We also have an Edge Juice with Attitude engine tuner on the truck, and Mark finds that the two work together well. He puts the engine tuner in Level 2 (Towing) and leaves it there most of the time. This improves the engine’s power when it’s towing our trailer.

    Whenever we’re going to be driving the truck without the trailer attached for a long drive or for a few days of in-town driving, then he puts the tuner in Level 1 (Economy). This improves the fuel economy significantly.

    Our truck has about 35,000 miles on it now, and we’ve owned it for two and a half years . For anyone wondering how many miles they might drive in the full-time RV lifestyle, there you have it — we’ve averaged 14,000 miles a year since January 2016, about half of that towing our trailer and half of that driving without our trailer hitched up.

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    Repairing and Replacing RV Roof Vents After a Hail Storm!

    July 2018 – We have been floating around northern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota for the past few weeks, an area that is prone to wild hail storms. The other day, while we were away from the trailer in town, a horrific hail storm came through our campsite and wreaked havoc on our RV roof.

    A hail storm damaged a RV roof vents on a fifth wheel trailer-min

    Will these gathering storm clouds dump hail on us?

    We didn’t know this was happening while we were gallivanting around town, sipping lattes, running errands and chatting with the locals. It was nice there!

    But we got a hint about what had happened (that we didn’t understand at first) as we drove back to our campsite when we saw a fifth wheel trailer going by us on the highway with a wildly flapping tarp strapped down over its roof.

    When we got back to our trailer we noticed some large clumps of ice in the grass and began to wonder.

    Large hail fell and broke RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

    At least half an hour or more after the storm ended, big chunks of hail were still on the ground.

    We’ve been through hail storms before, most notably at Bryce Canyon and at Cedar Breaks National Monument, but the hail has always been about the size of a pea. Even at that, the thunderous sound on the trailer roof is astonishing.

    But this time, considering the storm must have ended at least 30 minutes or even an hour or more before we got back to the trailer (the ground wasn’t very wet), these ice chunks were still pretty big despite melting fast. Suddenly it hit us, “Uh oh. Are the solar panels okay?” Mark quickly climbed up on the roof to find out.

    As he yelled, “Oh, WOW!” from the rooftop I noticed that another storm was darkening the sky and was on its way.

    Checking RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer after hail storm-min

    Mark surveys the hail damage on our roof while another storm threatens…

    Luckily, there was no damage to our solar panels. However, the hail storm had smashed two of our RV roof vents!

    These were basic RV roof vents with small 12 volt fans, one located in the toilet room and one in the shower stall, and the damage to each one was severe.

    Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

    Yikes!

    Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

    And more yikes!

    Not only were the RV roof vent dome lids broken in multiple places but the fan blades above the screens had been broken off too!

    Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer inside view-min

    Not only did the lid get broken but some 12 volt fan blades broke too!

    Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer view from inside-min

    The other vent fared no better!

    Interestingly, our two Fantastic Fan RV roof vents were still 100% intact and sustained no damage. That’s an especially good thing because they are over our bed and over our recliners which would have all gotten soaked.

    We had little time to puzzle over it all because another storm was on its way and would be dumping either rain or hail or both on us again momentarily. If we didn’t fix the vents in the next 10 minutes or so, our shower and toilet room would get drenched inside once again. That wouldn’t be a disaster, but who would want to sop up the mess twice?

    Mark surveyed the damage and decided the best way to fix the RV roof vents for the short term — until we could get some replacement RV roof vents — was to tape them up with Gorilla tape.

    Gorilla tape temporarily repairs RV roof vent-min

    A quickie repair job with Gorilla Tape was enough to withstand a few more violent storms!

    The storm arrived with a vengeance and we were pelted with rain. Then another two storms passed over us in the next 12 hours. Not much hail fell, but one storm pounded us with a deluge of rain for over two hours.

    Lightning strikes during a storm-min

    As I clicked the shutter on this eerie landscape I saw a flash of lightning through the view finder. What luck!

    Gorilla tape is amazing stuff, and not one drop of water leaked through the broken roof vents in all that rain. So, if you’re ever in a bind like this, it doesn’t hurt to have a roll of Gorilla Tape on hand!

    Insurance? Warranty??

    We debated whether to file an insurance claim, but the cost of this repair would barely meet our deductible. We also debated whether to try using our RV extended warranty since it had worked so well for us in the past when we needed some truly major equipment replacements (axle, fridge, suspension, toilet and plumbing). But warranties cover system failures, not accidents or acts of God (like hail).

    So, this would be a DIY job without any outside financial assistance.

    The next day we picked up two replacement RV roof vents (Ventline V2094 units by Dexter) at a local RV dealership and parts store. We didn’t get there until the afternoon, and we were amazed to find that there had been a run on RV roof vents that morning. They had just one left. The other had to be brought in from a partner store in the next town!

    We also picked up a bunch of tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant, and then Mark got out the tools needed for the job and went to work.

    Tools used to install new RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

    Tools for the job: Screwdrivers, drill, wire cutters and a knee pad. Not shown: a caulk gun.

    First, he used a flathead screwdriver to get the old Dicor Lap Sealant off of all the screw heads holding the damaged roof vent to the roof of the trailer.

    Remove caulking from screw head on RV roof vent-min

    First, scrape off the old Dicor Lap Sealant to reveal the screw heads.

    Screw head revealed so RV roof vent can be removed-min

    All the screws are #2 square heads.

    Unscrew screws attaching RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

    Unscrew the screws using a #2 square drill bit in a cordless drill.

    Then he used a #2 square bit in our Rigid cordless drill to unscrew all the screws.

    All the screws on the old RV roof vent are removed-min

    All the screws have been removed.

    Then he used the flathead screwdriver to remove the Dicor Lap Sealant from the top of the RV roof vent flange.

    Remove Dicor Lap Sealant from RV roof vent before removing the vent-min

    Scrape the Dicor Lap Sealant off the flange so the RV roof vent can be removed.

    The old RV roof vent was now ready to be pulled off of the roof all together. However, the wires for its 12 volt fan were still attached, so he clipped those off with diagonal cutting pliers.

    Remove old RV roof vent from roof of fifth wheel trailer-min

    The old RV roof vent is ready to be removed except for the 12 volt fan wires.

    Wires for 12 volt fan still attached to old RV roof vent before it is removed-min

    .

    Cut the wires on the old RV roof vent before removing it from fifth wheel trailer-min

    Cut the wires leaving plenty of wire remaining for the new RV roof installation.

    At last the old RV roof vent was completely removed leaving just the gaping hole into our shower stall below.

    Hole in fifth wheel trailer roof after removing RV roof vent-min

    Ready for the new RV roof vent.

    The next step was to prep the new RV roof vent for installation. Mark unrolled some putty tape, which is sticky on both sides, and pressed it onto the bottom side of the flange of the new RV roof vent. Then he cut it to the proper length and peeled off the protective strip to expose the sticky part.

    Place butyl putty tape along edges of RV roof vent before installing it on fifth wheel trailer-min

    Place strips of putty tape on the bottom side of the flanges on the roof vent. This is double sided sticky tape.

    cut double-sided putty tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

    Cut the tape.

    Remove protection from double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

    Remove the protective strip to expose the sticky side of the putty tape.

    At the end there was a tiny gap in one corner. He rolled a small bit of the putty tape into a ball and pressed it into the gap.

    Double sided sticky tape ball-min

    If you end up with a gap, ball up a little putty tape and press it in the gap.

    Fill gap in double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

    .

    One of the interesting things about these RV roof vents is that the lids are flexible. Our old ones were heavily scraped from going under low hanging branches (as you can see in the first pictures of the broken vents near the top of this article), and they are designed to flex when something presses on them.

    We didn’t want to demonstrate this with the new RV roof vents, but Mark pushed his shoe into the old vent so you could see. Obviously, the lid is weakened by the taped up holes, but it still has huge amount of flex to it.

    RV roof vent has flexible dome-min

    The dome lids on these RV roof vents are very flexible which helps when you hit low hanging branches.

    The next task was to get the RV roof vent installed on our trailer roof. We often pass things up to and down from the roof via the slide-out next to our front steps. This is much easier than climbing the ladder with one hand while holding something in the other.

    Put the new RV roof vent on the slide-out of the fifth wheel trailer-min

    The new RV roof vent goes up on the roof.

    The Ventline RV roof vents had embossed labels showing how to orient them on the roof. The idea is to install the RV roof vent so it opens to the rear of the RV. That way, if you accidentally leave it open and drive off, the hinges won’t be fighting 65 mph winds on the highway that could rip the lid off.

    New RV roof vent orientation towards the front of the trailer-min

    Be sure to orient the RV roof vent so it opens towards the back of the rig.

    Vehicle Front lettering on RV roof vent-min

    It says “Vehicle Front” with an arrow. You may need to feel around to find the lettering!

    New RV roof vent is in place and screwed onto fifth wheel trailer roof-min

    The new RV roof vent is in position.

    Before securing the RV roof vent in place, Mark wired up the 12 volt fan. First he made a note of which color pairs had been wired together before and then cut off the crimp-on barrel connectors from each pair of wires. Then he used wire strippers to strip off a little bit of the outer casing of each wire to reveal the copper strands inside. Some errant strands were sticking out of the group so he he twisted all the copper strands together.

    Strip wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

    Note how the fan is wired, remove the existing barrel connectors and strip the casing from the wires.

    Prep wires for 12 volt fan for RV roof vent installation-min

    Twist all the strands so no stray ones stick out.

    After doing this to all four wires he twisted the two pairs of wires together and screwed on new wire nuts.

    Prep wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

    Twist the pairs of wires together and screw on the wire nut.

    Completed wire nut for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

    The last squeeze.

    At this point he turned on the 12 volt fan just to be sure that it not only was wired correctly but also rotated in the right direction to exhaust air out of the RV. If he’d reversed the pairs of wires by accident, the fan would have run backwards, forcing air into the RV instead of exhausting it out.

    12 volt wires for 12v fan on RV roof vent installation-min

    Test the fan to be sure it turns on and spins in the right direction.

    Then he tucked the wires in and closed the lid so he could screw it onto the RV roof.

    Place new RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer roof-min

    Then tuck the wires in and position the RV roof vent so the screw holes line up.

    Using the #2 square bit on his cordless drill, he screwed down the four corner screws first.

    Screw in corner screws on new RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

    Screw in the four corners first.

    Then, to ensure the RV roof vent would seal evenly on all sides, he placed all the screws in their positions around the edges of the vent and screwed them in using a star pattern in the same way that lug nuts get tightened when changing a tire.

    Use a cordless drill and #2 square bit to screw in new RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

    After placing all the screws in the holes, use a star pattern to screw them in evenly.

    New RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

    Done.

    The next task was to cover all the screws with a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant. Mark had tackled this project in the early morning so he wouldn’t have to sweat it out on the RV roof at midday, but this meant the Lap Sealant was still quite cold and wouldn’t flow well. So, he took a break and left the tubes of Lap Sealant out in the sun to warm up for a while.

    Dicor Lap Sealant for RV roof vent installation-min

    Dicor Lap Sealant has to flow, so make sure it is warm enough that it will flow smoothly.

    When the Lap Sealant was finally warm enough to flow, he clipped off the end of a Dicor Lap Sealant tube and set it in his caulk gun. He wryly joked with me that if you don’t invest in a quality caulk gun at the outset, you’ll keep throwing them out until you do!

    Cut the end off the tube of Dicor Lap Sealant-min

    Cut the end off the Lap Sealant tube and place it in the caulk gun.

    Then he flowed the Lap Sealant along the edges of the RV roof vent flange, flowing a little over each screw head as he went. It took almost two tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant per RV roof vent.

    Sealing the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

    Flow the Lap Sealant along the flange and over each screw head.

    And Ta Da — he was finished!

    This installation project took about 45 minutes per roof vent.

    Seal the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

    Done.

    Our old RV roof vents had been installed at the NuWa factory in 2007 when our trailer was built, and they had worked flawlessly right up until this hail storm in 2018.

    We were intrigued to discover that the old RV roof vents had been tinted a dark shade. The new ones were pure white, and what a difference that made inside! The first time I used the toilet room I opened the door and wondered why the light was on because it was so bright!

    These lighter colored RV roof vents may let in a lot more heat, but vent insulators can help with that on the hottest days.

    RV roof vent installed on fifth wheel trailer-min

    One RV roof vent finished and one to go. After that, time for a beer!

    Mark did some other RV roof repairs while he was up there, but I’ll save those projects for a future article!

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    Lessons Learned in the Full-time RV Lifestyle – Tips & Ideas!

    May 2018 – We have been traveling full-time for eleven years now. I don’t know where those years have gone, but every single day has been a blessing, and every year has brought us many incredible moments of discovery. And we don’t see an end in sight!

    The May/June 2018 issue of Escapees Magazine features an article I wrote about some of the lessons we’ve learned in all our years on the road and at sea. Following our hearts into a life of travel has expanded our horizons and deepened our souls in ways that never would have been possible if we’d stayed home.

    Lessons Learned in the Full-time RV life Escapees Magazine March-April 2018-min

    “Reflections on 11 Years of Full-time RVing – Lessons Learned!”
    Escapees Magazine, May/June 2018, by Emily Fagan

    Launching a full-time traveling lifestyle brings a lot of self-discovery right from the get go. Downsizing a lifetime of stuff to fit into an RV is an overwhelming yet liberating purge. You take a few important possessions with you and head on down the road.

    Walking down a country road in the RV life-min

    With a stick in his mouth (one of his most important possessions) Buddy trots on down a country road.

    Then you drive off into the great beyond and marvel that you did it, that you’re free, that you’re on the road to a fabulous new life of adventure.

    RV fifth wheel trailer driving in Utah red rocks-min

    Towing our trailer through Utah’s red rock country to some great adventures.

    After the thrill of the Big Escape, you might pause for a moment and look around a little and double check that you did the right thing.

    Puppy looks at fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    That’s it? My house and all my worldly possessions are in there?! Wow!!

    But absolutely every aspect of life is suddenly a total thrill. Just making a meal, whether you barbecue it on the cool little grill or bake it in the nifty Easy Bake RV Oven or fry it up on the tiny three burner stove, cooking and eating at home are suddenly very exotic. Playing House takes on a wonderful new meaning. And you play and play and play.

    Barbecuing burgers in the full-time RV lifestyle-min

    Grilling burgers in a beautiful brand new backyard is very cool.

    Suddenly, the distractions of the old conventional life are gone and you fill your time with simple pursuits that work well in a mobile lifestyle. You can’t go to the same gym everyday, and sometimes you get lost trying to find the grocery store in a new town, but the quiet pleasures of life at home take on a special new meaning.

    Hobbies you never had time for in the past become treasured parts of the day-to-day routine.

    Living in a fifth wheel trailer RV full-time-min

    Mark has learned to play dozens of his favorite songs since we started traveling full-time.

    While zipping from place to place, you take in all you can manage to absorb. You discover how little history you actually learned in school and you find small towns you’ve never heard of in states you know only by name that suddenly take on a fabulous familiarity and vitality.

    You meet the locals, learn a little of their past and the history of their area, and you ponder what it would have been like to grow up in that community or to live there now.

    Mural painting of Antlers Hotel in historic Newcastle Wyoming-min

    A mural on a building in Newcastle, Wyoming, shows what the main street looked like a century or more ago.

    Antlers Hotel in Newcastle Wyoming-min

    Here is the same Antler’s Hotel and neighboring buildings today.

    After a while you realize that you’ve got to stop and smell the flowers every so often. You’ve been rushing through your travels with such an excited zeal that you realize you’re missing stuff.

    You slow down and begin to soak it all in. You realize you’re living a life, not just a lifestyle, and you begin to savor the in between moments.

    Early spring flowers in South Dakota-min

    Signs of Spring!

    We found just such a moment while driving on the Interstate near Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is known for many marvelous things, a world class mansion on a billionaire family’s estate to name just one, but we will forever remember the field of thigh high flowers we saw on the side of the highway. It was a photographer’s paradise.

    How exciting to have one of our many photos from that afternoon appear on the cover of the March/April 2018 issue of Escapees Magazine.

    Escapees Magazine Cover Mar-Apr 2018-min

    Escapees Magazine, March/April 2018
    Cover photo by Emily Fagan

    One of the great things we’ve learned in our travels that I didn’t mention in my Reflections & Lessons Learned article in the May issue of Escapees Magazine is what this lifestyle has taught us about nature and the heavens.

    We have stood in awe and photographed hundreds of stunning sunrises and sunsets and dozens of single and double rainbows during our traveling years. And we’ve gotten up in the wee hours to photograph the Milky Way or get a timelapse video of it marching across the sky. We now know a lot about these celestial events, when and how they occur and how best to observe and capture them with a camera.

    Fifth wheel trailer RV camping next to a rainbow-min

    We noticed the light getting really eerie while camped in Wyoming, and then we saw a rainbow!

    Rainbow and puppy with fifth wheel RV trailer at sunset-min

    A slight change in perspective made for a whole different look.

    We’ve also learned that Nature doesn’t rush things and you have to be patient and let its wonders reveal themselves at their own pace. And sometimes the transformation in the sky is really worth the wait.

    Gorgeous sunset over fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    An hour after the rainbow faded, the sky looked like this!

    Pink sunset over fifth wheel trailer RV-min

    Twenty minutes later it looked like this!

    As Robert Frost described it 102 years ago, we’ve “taken the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” We’ve found that, for us, the back roads and byways always offer a fresh perspective, and sometimes the road itself is unusual.

    Red asphalt highway in Wyoming-min

    In Wyoming some roads have red asphalt, giving drivers a fantastic mix of blue sky, green grass and red roads.

    Perhaps the most valuable thing about embarking on an unusual lifestyle like RVing full-time is the opportunity it offers for reflection. After the excitement of making dinner in a mini-kitchen on a three burner stove has worn off, it is natural to ponder just why you are living this way and whether you are really “living the dream” you anticipated.

    Puppy catches his reflection in a pond-min

    Full-time RVing offers a chance for self-reflection.

    It is common, after a few years, for full-time RVers to find themselves at a turning point. After seeing the major National Parks and visiting a bunch of states and meeting lots of other cool RVers along the way, it is only natural to grind to a halt and ask, “What now?”

    Some people find this troubling — it’s scary that their dream lifestyle might need tweaking — but I think it should be celebrated as a graduation. The first round of dreams has been fulfilled. What could be more satisfying than that? Now the next round of dreams can be conjured up and chased down!

    Several very popular RV bloggers who have been at this full-time RV lifestyle business for a long time have transitioned recently to new modes of travel or to living in distant and far flung locations.

    For excited future full-time RVers, reading and watching these transitions taking place may be unsettling because their mentors are leaving the lifestyle they are about to begin. Years ago, when we had been on our boat in Mexico for about 8 months, I received a plaintive one-line email from a reader: “When are you going back to your RV?”

    But part of the joy of transforming your life by giving up a solid foundation to live in a home on wheels is that it opens your heart to opportunities for even bigger transformations down the road.

    For full-time RVers who feel like they are living under stormy skies or are feeling a little boxed in by repetitious patterns or feel a little lost between the woods and the trees, there’s no harm and no shame in admitting their dreams have changed and possibly gotten bigger and more ambitious.

    Using the full-time RVing lifestyle as a stepping stone to other wonderful and exotic lifestyles is almost to be expected and is one of the great reasons to give it a try.

    Storm clouds ofver fifth wheel RV in South Dakota-min

    Storm clouds form over our trailer in South Dakota.

    However, it can be hard when you’ve committed yourself with all your heart to RVing full-time to step back and say, “Wait! This isn’t exactly what I want.” And it’s especially difficult with the intense personal comparisons and voyeurism provoked by social media and blogging. A weird kind of peer pressure creeps in.

    When it comes to pursuing your dreams, it really doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks or how your life compares to theirs because it’s not about them. It’s about you.

    A photographer who lives an extraordinary traveling life, David Morrow, has posted two videos that are quite profound. The first is the impact on his life of quitting social media (he had followers in the tens of thousands on many platforms). The second is his daily morning ritual for exploring and reaffirming his life’s dreams.

    These videos spoke to me because they parallel my own experiences. Perhaps they will speak to you too (links for them are in the reference section at the end of the page).

    RV fifth wheel trailer boondocking in Utah-min

    Feeling boxed in? We tucked our trailer into an alcove of red rock columns in Utah.

    I’ve been reading Open Your Mind to Prosperity by Catherine Ponder, and she talks about how to set yourself up for success, whether for prosperity in terms of money or prosperity in terms of having exhilarating life experiences. One point she drives home with vigor is the importance of making room in your life for your future riches by letting go of and releasing anything from your past that isn’t fundamental to the future you desire.

    It’s easy to see how this advice can help future full-time RVers, since part of the transition into full-time RVing is the Enormous Downsizing Project that has to be completed (yikes!). However, full-timing is not a static activity, and as full-timers flow through the lifestyle, tweaking and perfecting it and making it their own, the same idea applies: Achieving your dreams depends on releasing aspects of the past that aren’t propelling you forward to the future you want.

    While online communications tend to compress deep emotional experiences to a few words here and there, getting together in person with kindred spriits, and talking at length around the campfire or over a morning coffee can really help get the creative juices flowing, whether you are pondering where to travel next or are curious about workamping opportunities or wonder if others have been through similar experiences in the full-time RV lifestyle as you have.

    RV boondocking in the woods in a fifth wheel trailer-min

    Can’t see the woods for the trees?

    Ever since its founding by Joe and Kay Peterson, Escapees RV Club has specialized in bringing people together who have like interests. All Escapees are RVers, either current, past or future, and the Club encourages get togethers. From going to an RV gathering at a National Rally (Escapade #58 is this week in Sedalia, Missouri) to attending one of the many lively Xscapers Convergences for RVers (South Dakota, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and Georgia are all on the schedule) to seeing the Best of Ireland (June 13-19, no RVs involved) Escapees offers well organized traveling adventures of all kinds to bring members together.

    There are also regional chapters of Escapees across the country, and these groups hold their own local gatherings.

    Escapees also has Birds of a Feather groups (BOFs) that bring together people that share all kinds of unusual hobbies and interests. These groups are where you can find fellow RVers interested in Geology, Computers, Line or Square Dancing, providing assistance at natural disasters like hurricanes and floods, Photography, Prospecting, Quilting, Woodcarving or Worldwide Travel.

    There is even a Birds of a Feather group for RVers who love to camp in the nude and another for Friends of Bill. And, of course, if the BOF for your particular interest doesn’t exist, you can always start one.

    It is no surprise that Escapees RV Club has an affinity for rainbows. Occasionally clouds of not-total-happiness end up forming for some folks who jump into the RV lifestyle, and the Escapees RV Club offers a gazillion ways for RVers to connect with each other and share their common experiences.

    Double rainbow over fifth wheel RV trailer-min

    A double rainbow formed over our fifth wheel after a terrific afternoon rain storm.

    If you are interested in RVing and haven’t yet joined Escapees, it is a very intriguing club with a million sticks in the campfire. Everything described here is just a fraction of what Escapees RV Club is all about. They do incredible advocacy work for RVers, are the biggest mail forwarding company out there, have discounts on RV parks and even have a sub-group that maintains the biggest boondocking database around.

    You can join (or ask questions) by calling 888-757-2582. Or you can click here: Join Escapees RV Club

    If you mention our blog, Roads Less Traveled, when you join, Escapees puts a little something in our tip jar. This is not why we do it — we recommended the club long before they started doing this — but we sure appreciate it!

    Double rainbow over fifth wheel RV trailer-min

    Happy campers after 11 years on the road and at sea.
    Here we’re perched on a train car in a city park in Custer, SD

    Spending what is now a significant chunk of our lives not knowing where we’ll be sleeping next has been a fabulous and life altering experience for us. Not only did we love the early days when simply living in an RV was an exotic thrill, but we have loved the exploration of the world around us and the journey we’ve taken within.

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    SunwayFoto Gimbal Head Review – Catching Birds in Flight!

    One of the coolest tools in our arsenal of photography gear is the Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head for our tripod.

    SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head Tamron 150-600 mm lens Nikon D500 camera-min

    SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head with Tamron 150-600 mm lens mounted on the gimbal and Nikon D810 camera affixed to the lens.

    We first saw a gimbal head in action last year on the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park, South Dakota, when we were photographing prairie dogs alongside professional wildlife photographer Steve Perry. As Mark and I both struggled to get our tripods positioned properly so we could follow these little guys scampering in and out of their burrows, Steve effortlessly swung his mammoth lens all around, while keeping it under perfect control, and he captured great shots.

    We decided then and there that if we were going to use long telephoto lenses to capture images of distant birds and four legged critters, then we had to get gimbal heads for our tripods.

    Photography with the Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600 lens-min

    The Sunwayfoto gimbal head makes it easy to maneuver a long lens.

    With an ordinary ballhead, the camera can rotate in every direction, but the part that pivots is just a small ball. A big ungainly lens is hard to control on a small ball, and it is a bit like having the tail wagging the dog.

    With a gimbal head, the lens is held very securely in place on the tripod and the movement of the camera and lens in every direction is smooth and easily controlled via three different knobs.

    We decided to go with the gimbal head from Sunwayfoto because we have been extremely happy with our other Sunwayfoto camera gear. We use the SunwayFoto TC240 C tripod and both the Sunwayfoto XB-52 ballhead and Sunwayfoto XB-44 ballhead. And we use their L-brackets on every camera (an L-bracket allows you to switch the camera between portrait and landscape orientation on a tripod).

    As with the Sunwayfoto ballheads, L-brackets and tripod legs we use, the machining is very high quality on the Sunwayfoto GH-01 gimbal head. One of the things that sets it apart from more expensive but better known gimbal heads is that it is made of carbon fiber rather than aluminum.

    Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

    The Arca Swiss foot on the collar of a long telephoto lens fits into the plate on the gimbal head.

    Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head review-min

    There are three knobs to control the movement in three dimensions.

    Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

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    Another thing that sets the Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head apart from more expensive units is that it comes with a canvas suitcase with foam cutouts inside to protect the two components. It is really nice to have a good place to store the gimbal head when it’s not in use.

    Suitcase for Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

    The SunwayFoto GH-01 gimbal head comes in a convenient suitcase.

    Suitcase layout Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

    The two components of the gimbal head are protected by foam.

    The Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head is made up of two parts that fit together.

    Two parts Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

    There are two parts to the SunwayFoto GH-01 gimbal head.

    Assembly Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

    The plate supporting the lens slides up and down.

    In addition to being able to swing the gimbal around in any direction smoothly and easily, one of the best things about using a gimbal head rather than a conventional ballhead is that you can set it up so the camera and lens are perfectly balanced, even in an odd position.

    For instance, the camera can be aimed at a branch in a tree where a bird is sitting, and even without tightening everything down super hard, you can take your hands off the camera and it will stay in that position.

    Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head with Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600 lens-min

    The beauty of the SunwayFoto gimbal head is that the camera and lens move freely, and if there is slight tension on each knob, the camera will stay in place.

    Likewise, if the camera is pointed at some baby big horn sheep cavorting at the bottom of the hill, the camera can be aimed in that direction and left that way.

    Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head with Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600-min

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    When the Arca Swiss foot on the lens collar is attached to the gimbal head, the collar can be loosened slightly to add another degree of flexibility. Simply rotate the camera within the loosened lens collar to switch between landscape and portrait images. Everything else stays put.

    Portrait Orientation Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head Nikon D500 Tamron 150-600 lens-min

    By loosening the collar on the long lens, it is easy to switch between portrait and landscape orientations simply by rotating the camera.

    The most enjoyable way to use a gimbal head is to find a quiet spot where there is some wildlife roaming around and just sit and wait. When something interesting happens, swing the camera to follow the action and click away.

    We had a lot of fun with our gimbal heads recently while we were camping lakeside in Utah. We watched loons and cormorants, ducks and seagulls doing their thing out on the water.

    Photography fun Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head Nikon D500 Tamron 150-600 lens-min

    Mark waits for the action on the lake.

    One afternoon the water was like glass, and Mark got some fabulous photos of a seagull coming in for a landing and then taking off. The gimbal head made it easy to follow the gull’s movements and capture the reflections with great clarity.

    Reflection of seagull on water photographed with SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

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    Seagull reflection photography with SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

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    Water landing seagull photography with SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

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    Takeoff from mirror water seagull photography with SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head-min

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    There are several brands of gimbal heads on the market, some for nearly $600 and others for as little as $200. The Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head delivers top quality engineering and construction at a reasonable price and is available at Amazon for about $390.

    SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head Tamron 150-600 mm lens Nikon D810 camera closeup-min

    The SunwayFoto gimbal head has been a fabulous addition to our arsenal of camera gear!

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