Web Log

Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys



Bedding was an issue for a bit. Sleeping bags are handy, but not terribly comfortable day in and out, and lack the ability to easily be washed or regulate temperature by pushing back layers, thus we desired a regular set of sheets & blankets. The penthouse bed is in 2 pieces however, with the rear folding up toward the back of the van, and the center being raised to the roof during the day. (I have seen a SMB with a single piece penthouse bed and this may be an option that just was not mentioned to us, the 2 piece bed was actually a surprise to us when we took delivery because we had only seen the 1 piece previously, no complaint though as it reduces the weight on the roof mechanism).

Our current solution, which seems to be working well, was to purchase a bed-liner/mattress pad, cut it to the size of the bed and lay that down first. Then we got some sheets (size: full I think?) and put the fitted sheet over the entire bed (lifting the corners of the bed as necessary). Regular sheet & couple of blankets then go on top. The key is that we then took a webbing-strap with a click together center, cut it in half, and screwed each half to the end of the larger half of the bed. In the morning we wrap these ends around the top of the bedding, snap it together, and fold the bedding from the smaller half of the bed up and over so that all the bedding is in order, held by the strap, folded in half on top of the large half which gets lifted out of the way. We also use a couple of sleeping bags on top of the bedding as a comforter for when its fairly cold, and since we do a fair bit of hiking/camping and any re-use is less stuff to carry in total.

For sleeping pillows we took the upholstered end-pillows that SMB supplies with the gaucho, removed the over-stuffed pillow inside them (zippered), and re-stuffed them with normal sleeping pillows which are a bit less puffy, but fit perfectly. During the day they are end pillows for the gaucho, and at night we just push them into pillow-covers and toss them into the bed. We tried a couple different pillows and ended up with Target brand budget basic pillows as the best fit and comfort for us.


All of our dishware is camping gear, so that when we go hiking, we just carry the same stuff with us and don't have to carry 2 sets of everything. MSR Blacklight aluminum non-stick camping pots, a few aluminum plates, plastic cups, and a couple sets of Lexan forks, spoons, and knives complete the set. We wash dishes immediately upon finishing any meal so that everything gets put away quickly. When using the aluminum pots for baking, where they can get extremely hot, we have found they tend to go round on the bottom and rock about. They also leave traces of aluminum on the cook-top that we have not been able to clean up very well as of yet. For future baking we will be looking for a solution with a steel bottom.

Steel camping pots proved useless. They are cheaper, and somewhat more compact, but go round almost immediately upon being even moderately heated, and are much slower than the flatter aluminum pots to absorb heat from the cook-top once this happens. They also tend to burn the contents much easier.

To conserve water we usually wipe out the dishes with paper-towel before washing. We have found this to save more water than it costs in increased paper-towel usage.


We have found that the water tank (we got the largest they offered at the time, 16 gal) is our limiting factor in how long we can stay somewhere, though we are getting better at conserving as we gain experience and get weaned from living in a house. There looks to be some room under the Gaucho for a larger tank, or secondary tank, but it would require some creative organization now that the heat-exchanger, pressure tank, and inverter have been placed in that area as well.

We fill the tank at friends' houses, camp-grounds, and some rest-areas. If we cannot easily hook-up a hose, we have 2 2.5 gallon MSR Dromedary water bags we can ferry water in and fill via the non-pressurized tank input under the gaucho.

We have started to carry a collapsible 5gal jug that we fill when water is available. It fits behind the driver's seat. We also carry 2 5.3 gal Scepter military jerry cans, and try to keep the 2 2.5 gal MSR dromidary water bladders full. This gives us about 10-15 days supply of water.

If we are near water (lake, stream, etc) we do dish-washing, baths, etc, using the locally available water so as not to use up our potable water supply unnecessarily.

For water purification we have a hand-pumped MSR filter and a Katadyn gravity filter. The gravity filter is much easier on the hands and is prefered, but is a bit bulkier for carying when hiking.

We use this solution when we have fairly clean water available, but of unknown purity (e.g. springs, high mountain creeks, etc.)

Filtering water


We bought a shower system with the Sportsmobile, and used it once, the concept is nice, the shower stall is clever, but the shower wand leaks profusely at both ends (where it attaches to the faucet, and from the wand head when the flow is turned off there to lather up). Since we are often "boondocking" with no ready supply of fresh water, this is a significant source of water loss (as well as a shower taking a fair bit in the first place). We have left it behind and revted to sponge/wash-cloth baths when on the road, and stop at truck-stops/Laundromats/RV parks for periodic full showers. We have also purchased a solar shower wand that fits our MSR Dromedary bags (used for hiking or water retrieval). The bags are 2.5 gallons (10 liters) and can be filled with hot water or set in the sun to heat. This will enforce a water budget on the shower, and so far the nozzle does not leak when it is off.

Gaucho bed extender:

We had the sofa ("gaucho") placed behind the driver's seat, and chose the optional bed extender for when we wish to sleep below (e.g. when its too cold to have the penthouse up). This is a big cushion with a board in it, and takes a lot of room when we don't use it. It fits in the penthouse rails when the top is down and driving, but when parked with the top up we have to find a place to stash it, and this is a bother. We may leave it and just use some clothing to prop up my feet if needed in winter (Amy is about 9" shorter than I, and I'm not very big in the first place). It can be fit behind the couch ("gaucho") back, but when here it interferes with easily slipping the window arctic-shades behind the sofa back, which is a fair pain. We usually store the bed extender in the driver's seat when parked, and lately have just left it behind as excess stuff we don't need. If sleeping below and needing the extra bed length I throw some coats on the shelf, and this has worked well.

The bed extender fits on a hinged shelf that extends toward the driver's seat back. We just leave it out all the time as an "end-table" for the sofa. A larger person might need to fold it down when driving to allow the driver's seat to move further back, but there is a few inch gap for Erik, and even more when Amy is driving. We use the space under the shelf for holding foot-wear as it is reachable from the front and the side door, and allows us to get grubby boots off and stowed without walking through the van.

Privacy curtains:

We got 3, one for the front windows, one for behind the drivers/passengers seat, and one that partitions the rear of the van for privacy on the porta-toilet. I believe the front 2 are standard equipment. We have made up reflective window shades for the front 3 windows (similar to the SMB "arctic shades", so this let us leave behind the 2 forward curtains. We just put the window shades in whenever we stop (so people can't see all our toys), and they provide better insulation and privacy anyway. The privacy curtains are bulky, and yet one more thing to stash. We have taken to putting the large ones in the bungee net we installed under the penthouse bed.


We have purchased lots of the non-slip traction mats that we cut to size for each shelf and drawer. This greatly reduces the rattling when driving, and things are more likely where one left them.

We hang hand-towel & dish rag from the wall with a couple self-stick pinch grabbers (not sure how to describe this, it basically has a V cut where you wedge a towel and it stays till you yank it up again). This keeps small towels out of the way without taking counter space or floating about the cabin, but handy to reach.

We obtained some 2" wide Industrial Strength Velcro. The hook-side is different from normal Velcro and does not snag everything, but grabs the complimentary fuzzy side very well. The adhesive is second to none. We put a strip of the hook side down the counter about 2" away from the wall. This lets us put Velcro (fuzzy side) on things that we wish to keep on the counter even when we drive (toiletries bag, tooth-brushes, etc) The Velcro doesn't get in the way and has proven quite handy. We also have some Velcro One-Wrap straps that we can then use to lash random objects to this permanently installed strip as necessary. Again a photo would probably be more descriptive and will show up when I remember where I put the camera.

We have a few bungee nets from our motorcycle traveling days, and obtained a number of nylon cleats from SMB (the ones they have a very nice and small, and I have found nothing similar anywhere else). We have been installing the cleats in various locations so we can use bungee nets to hold stuff on the gaucho, in the rear of the van, on the floor of the van, etc. We are still pondering where to put some of them, and the bottom of the bed is a very interesting idea. We have been thinking of putting a RC airplane (one of our hobbies) up there as it is a nice flat and out-of-the-way surface, but had not figured out how to hold it, but a bungee net is an elegant solution.