Web Log

Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys


How it came:

The van came with a basic crank jack and a big X lug-wrench. Beyond that there were no tools to deal with the various issues that may arise on the road or trail. The jack was useless given the size of tires we are running, unless a lot of rocks or boards were stacked under it, and the lug-wrench was extremely bulky.

What we have selected:

General Tools:

To outfit the van with the tools we actually used took a number of years of trial and error to find the most useful and minimal set. This is a list of the current tools we carry and why:

Knipex 12-Inch Pliers Wrench : These work as a very versatile set of adjustable wrenches. The cam design, which tightens the jaws as more force is used to turn the fastener, keeps them from rounding tight fasteners like our old Crescent wrench did, and they come in 4 sizes (the small one is now carried in my motorcycle tool pouch, replacing all the wrenches and pliers in there). Knippex Pliers Wrench
Wera KK 7-In-1 Bitholding Screwdriver with Removable Bayonet : One of the big irritations in our trip was the large number of screwdrivers we found the need to carry. Philips, slotted, and Torx screws of all sizes abound throughout the van and the gear we carried. My hunt for a quality bit-driver that could handle all of these well, and still be compact and fit in tight places was finally satisfied by this Wera tool. For really tight screws it can even be turned with the above Knipex plier-wrench on its hex faces at the bottom of the handle. I picked up a handful of different bits at a hardware store to cover the various types we needed (Torx 15, 20, 50; Phillips 0, 1, 2, 3; Hex 4mm, 5mm; etc). I also picked up a second one recently to supplement my motorcycle toolkit. Wera Screwdriver
SK Universal Spline Socket Set, 45-Piece : Initially we carried a large Craftsman socket set, with 12 & 6 point sockets in deep, shallow, and medium for both SAE and metric. This was a very heavy bag, and required 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2" ratchets. The van has both 12point and 6point bolts, there are a few male torx on some of our gear, and the socket collection just kept growing. Finally I found this set, which uses spline drive that can handle 12point, 6point, torx, and even quite damaged rounded heads. The sockets are all 3/8 drive, and the range is good enough for most of the fasteners used in the van. Additionally, since spline drivers need not be exactly sized to the bolt they are working, we have redundancy between the metric and SAE sizes in the set. The main downside is that spline drivers can mar the face of the fasteners a bit, but we are willing to deal with that to reduce the bulk of gear we carry. SK Spline Socket Set
SK Metric Spline G-Pro Wrench Set : Similar to the above spline drive sockets, this is a set of ratchet wrenches chosen for the same reason. In this case we got the full set up to 24mm to handle the biggest bolts on the van. We only needed the metric set as the spline arrangement also works on the SAE fasteners of the van chassis, and the engine is largely metric. This replaced twice the number of regular wrenches in SAE and metric that we carried initially. SK Spline Ratchet Wrenches
DEWALT Heavy-Duty Cordless 18-Volt Compact Drill/Driver : There were a lot of screws to drive and holes to drill as we did all the work on the van. Initially we had a small Makita 7v drill/driver, but it proved too small for many of the jobs. Upgrading to this DeWalt was one of the best moves. With this we drilled holes in the frame for mounting the front tow-bar, and disassembled and reassembled the entire interior cabinetry. Dewalt Drill
MAX AX 7 in 1 Emergency Multi Purpose Tool: Often when out in the boonies, the need comes for a shovel, an axe, a mattock, a rake, or a pick. Hauling all of those around would add up to quite the load. This tool set combines all of these, while not taking up much more space than a single axe. We used this to dig fire-pits, wheel-holes for leveling the van when parking, digging snow out to put on chains, chopping up fallen trees over the roadway, etc. One of our early purchases on our trip, and one of the most-used. Max Ax
Ready Welder II Battery Powered MIG Welding System: This is one that we picked up after our front axle U-bolt mounting plate broke in half. At that point we realized that we might not always be near a place we could get packages delivered with new parts, and may have need to repair suspension components in the field. Of all the portable welders this seemed the most compact, universal, and economical. It can run on 2 batteries in series (24v) which the van provides in fairly easily accessible engine batteries on the passenger frame-rail. Ready Welder II
Safety Seal Truck Tire Repair Kit : We picked this up early on, and luckily so. So far we have had our tires pierced by nails, rocks, sharp-sticks, and unidentified metal shards. In all but the largest sidewall slice (6" from a piece of shale) a plug from this kit was sufficient and the tires are still happily holding air years later. Safety Seal
Swivel Head Rivet Tool : One of the handiest and easiest ways to put things together on the road is to just drill a few holes and rivet the pieces together. We picked up the swivel-head rivet gun when installing our large solar panels, and have found it to be of great use a number of times. The swivel head has been quite useful to get into places a normal riveter cannot reach. We carry a few sizes of rivets in aluminum and stainless steel. The aluminum ones are not as strong, and require a larger hole, but are easier to drill out later for temporary repairs. Swive Head Rivit Gun
Hi-Lift Jack 60 inch : The van is a bit heavy to jack with this, although it is possible (I tried to make sure). The main reason we carry the jack is that it is an all-around useful tool for manual winching, bending, lifting, and making the van look like a real off-road rig. HiLift
JackMate HiLift Jack Accessory : The JackMake goes on the shaft of the Hi-Lift and greatly increases its utility. With this, the off-road-kit below, and a chain or some winch-rope, it becomes a simple (if work-intensive) task to setup many different pulling tasks.JackMate
Hi-Lift Jack Off Road Kit : This kit contains the necessary components (other than a long chain or winch-extension rope) to use the Hi-Lift jack as a manually operated winch.ORK
Torin 3 Ton Aluminum Jack Stands : These aluminum jack stands collapse into two flat plates for the bases, and the tubes for the vertical part for easy storage. The (red) tubes are just aluminum tubing, and can be easily replicated at different lengths to match the height to the van axle. We carry a set of these in the van itself, with a couple different lengths of extra tubing. Collapsible Jack Stands
Mini Multimeter : A multimeter was a very useful tool for tracking down electrical gremlins in the wiring, finding blown fuses, verifying battery voltage (how we found our initial charge-controller was reporting incorrect voltages), etc. Multimeter
Non-Contact Thermometer Gun with Laser Sighting : We used this extensively to find areas in the van that were poorly insulated in the winter or summer, to track drafts, and to monitor the temperature of food while cooking. Raytek Temp Gun
AutoEnginuity OBDII Diagnostic Scantool : This OBDII code reader interfaces with a computer via the USB port, allowing for the actual diagnostic and test software to run on the computer for easy update. We purchased this along with a Ford code to allow reading of Ford specific diagnostics. This lets us read codes, clear codes, run diagnostic tests, and read various vehicle sensors in real-time, even graphing them as we drive if we care to. With the amount of computer control involved in modern vehicles this is a necessary tool to determine what is going on when engine or transmission problems present themselves. Combine this with the Ford diagnostics manual for a very powerful package. Autoenginuity OBDII Scantool
Edge Insight Multi-Gauge Display : This is our add-on gauge package for reading temperatures and various other engine and transmission parameters. We picked up the exhaust-gas temperature probe as well to keep an eye on our exhaust temperatures to prevent damage when hauling up steep hills. We have ours configured to display: Engine Coolant Temp, Engine Oil Temp, Transmission Temp, Exhaust Gas Temp, and to beep an alarm when EGT gets over 1250 degrees. Edge Insight
DeLorme Earthmate GPS LT-40 2010 : We used a USB GPS to plug into our laptop for navigation. With this coupled with the Topo USA software, we were able to easily navigate the van on 4x4 trails, roads, and interstate highways. USB GPS
Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer Clock : We wanted both a visible clock and a good way to determine outdoor temperature. Wireless units seemed overly complicated and had a lot more features than we could use (anything with barometric pressure would be useless as our elevation was always changing). This unit was cheap, simple, with a wired probe, and is still running well 4 years later on the original batteries. Thermometer clock
RAM mounts: We used a number of RAM mount components to build up our laptop mount for the dash area (like the image to the right), to hold our main-computer-monitor in the cabin (similar configuration, but larger), and to build a camera mount for suction-mounting to the windshield. The ball-and-socket system is available in a number of sizes with all sorts of different components to hold nearly anything you might desire. RAM mount
Super Siphon w/ 6' Siphon Hose: This nifty gadget is a simple one-way ball valve on the end of a hose. This allows you to put the valve into a container of fluid, shake the hose up and down a few times, and it will start to siphon the fluid out of the hose. We carry two, one for petroleum products (fuel, oil, etc), and one for potable water transfer. Super Siphon
Velcro Industrial Strength : We ran strips of the hook side along the back of our counter, and horizontally inside cabinet doors. Things we wished not to have flying around inside the cabin received a patch of the complimentary fuzzy side and were placed on the hook strips when we were driving. This was sufficient to keep our laptops, air driers, and other gadgets in place even in the most bumpy dirt tracks. Industrial Strength Velcro

Velcro One-Wrap : We bundled all our wires, cables and hoses with various sizes of this. Its essentially a double-sided velcro with fuzz on one side and the industrial type hook on the other. With the cables wrapped in this they can easily be stuck to the above mentioned strips of industrial hook we placed througout the van.

We did try a few other brands of similar cable wraps, but all of those have all degraded and broken by now, while the Velcro ones are still going strong.

Velcro One Wrap
  • 6 Ton hydraulic jack
  • 5 gallon diesel MFC
  • 1/2" breaker bar with 6Point socket for lug-nuts (much more compact than the original)
  • Drill bits
  • Assortment of sheet-metal screws
  • Files (flat, round)
  • RTV silicone rubber
  • Oil Funnel : For adding fluids with minimal spillage
  • 2.5 gal bucket : Used as a trash can most of the time under the sink, in the case of an oil-pan hole, fuel leak, etc, it can be used to catch leaking fluid while the hole is stopped up.
  • 4" 30' snatch strap
  • 25' 3/8" grade 70 tow chain w hooks
  • 4 7/8" screw D shackles
  • Can of penetrating oil (for removing stuck bolts, lubricating chains, water-protection, etc.
  • Tape Measure
  • 2" Hole Saw
  • Utility knife
  • 30w Soldering Iron for the small stuff
  • Wire crimping kit (with terminals, crimper, splices, etc)
  • Zip-ties in all sizes. Black ones are UV resistant and last a LOT longer outside.
  • Epoxy putty (incase I hole a fuel tank, oil pan, or need to fix something else temporarily)
  • 2 2" c-clamps, 1 6" c-clamp, and a normal vice-grip. With these I can clamp most everything I have needed to, and create make-shift vices.
  • Hack-saw (cuts metal, wood, plastic, bone, and most everything else)
  • Pneumatic die-grinder with cut-off wheels. (what the hack-saw can't cut, this can... Like butter)

Camp Setup:

Folding Bow Saw: This is one of our more useful tools for clearing broken branches in the road, cutting up wood for fires, and generally any time you need to cut some wood. When collapsed it is very small, and easy to stash in a handy place. Saw
Kukri Machete: We have used these a few times in areas with dense foliage to get down to a stream for water. Plus they look cool. Machete



RV Ceramic Cartridge Water Filter : We only ever put water into our potable water tank that has been filtered so that we know it is safe. When we get water from an RV park or other hose hookup we ALWAYS have this inline to keep the bacteria, crud, and other nasties at bay. We picked the cartridge version since we can disassemble it when we are not using it to let it dry out and not build up bacteria/algae (much as is done with the smaller hand-powered camping filters).

RV filter
Katadyn Base Camp Water Filter : We started out with a nice MSR hand pump water filter for getting potable water from natural sources. Unfortunately we are lazy, and the amount of hand pumping was very discouraging. Then we discovered this nifty filter which lets gravity do the work. It takes a bit longer, but leaves you free to do other things while the water filters. The same functionality could be rigged with a bare filter cartridge, a waterproof bag/tarp, and some hose, but this comes pre-packaged, self primes, and everything fits nicely. Filter
MSR Duralite Cook Set : We tried a number of different camping cook-sets over our years of travel. The painted ones eventually had the paint peel (even the MSR), and the steel sets would warp significantly on our glass diesel cook-top causing very slow cooking. This set combined the good heat-transfer of aluminum with hard-anodizing for durability and internal non-stick that survived our forgetful nature. We added to the kit with a matching pan, and were able to store all the pots, pan, and bowls together in a single bundle for significant space savings. MSR Duralite
10L MSR Dromedary Bags: We carried a couple of these 2.5gal water bags with us as they provided a convenient way to gather water and bring it back to the van if a hose was not available. A few times I rode the motorcycle to a water supply location, filled the bags, and rode back to the van with them strapped to the seat. They also provide a great resevoir to filter into with an MSR filter or the above Katadyn filter. Dromedary Water Bags
Xantrex Battery Monitor: One of the first additions we did to the electrical system of the van was a battery monitor to keep track of how much power we had available. This is a wonderful tool to know when batteries are starting to need replacement, when there is something left on that is drawing down power, etc.Xantrex Battery Monitor
Safety 1st Go Hybrid Convertible Car Seat: As our girls have grown, we needed to move out of infant car seats. Unfortunately most car seats are extremely bulky, and finding a place to stash them when at camp usually resulted in throwing them under the van or on the hood in a large garbage bag, hoping no critters moved in overnight. Eventually we found this portable seat which, while rather spendy, is light and folds up to take much less room than a standard car-seat. Additionally it has a fabric bag that keeps the critters off if it still needs to spend the night outside. This seat DOES require a top teather anchor, which our van lacked. This was solved by taking a 5$ Toyota retrofit anchor and anchoring it into the back of the gaucho seats. The anchor is Toyota part # 73709-12010 (can be found here) and comes with the anchor and integrated M8 bolt. Collapsible Car Seat
Nature's Head Dry Composting Toilet - After 5 years of use, our Thetford porta-potty was showing its age by cracks in the lid and seat, coupled with a bit of unpleasant odor that just would not go away. This unit we chose as a replacement should require much more rare dumping, less-to-no odor, is much sturdier, and has nearly identical footprint. It is a couple inches taller, so required a slight storage cabinet change to raise the height of the cabinet 'ceiling'. Nature's Head Composting Toilet
  • Lexan utensils (GSI), Lexan cups
  • 10" Aluminum plates
  • 5" Aluminum bowls