Shopping for Gifts For RVers

It can be hard to know what to give families or children who are RVing fulltime. Space is limited, and families have to take weight into consideration.  Heavy items like clothes and books may be quite unwelcome.  Even clothing can be an inappropriate gift when storage space is limited.  Here are a few suggestions

Give a practical gift:

Even those of us who use GPS often like to have a road atlas on hand as backup.  A new, updated one might make a nice Christmas gift.

Gift cards for fuel or grocery stores are always appreciated. Try to choose chains that are widely available.

Gift certificates to go to the movies are another idea. Again, nationwide chains are best unless you know where the travelers will be.

A camera to capture all those fun experiences and new places makes a great gift for all ages.

Travel guides can be useful if you know the new places the recipient plans to travel to. The “Off The Beaten Path” guide books are a favorite of ours. (I believe there’s one for each state)

A membership to a chain gym can be used both to stay in shape while traveling and to be able to take a long, hot shower from time to time without worrying about conserving water. Some examples are Anytime Fitness, SNAP Fitness, and Planet Fitness,

Rechargeable flashlights/portable lights are great. No need to carry around extra batteries!

The National Park Passport and State Capitols Passport books are a fun souvenir. These are small blue books that visitors stamp with the special stamp and the date when they visit.

For families who hike, like mine, there’s no such thing as too many wool socks. Yes, we get excited about new socks. Yes, the kids too!

A travelling family will get a lot of benefit out of a zoo or museum membership that offers free or discounted admission to other museums.  We love our Western North Carolina Nature Center membership, which gets us reciprocal admission to both zoos and science centers under the AZA reciprocal program and the ASTC Travel Passport program.

 

2019 Road atlas
An updated road atlas comes in very handy!

Give Consumable Gifts:

Consumable can refer to food, certainly, but also anything that gets used up.  Christmas cookies, fudge, or a box of gourmet chocolates are all consumable. So are things like crayons, for families with young children, or other art supplies, or paper plates.

These are just a few ideas of gifts for RVers that don’t take up a lot of space or add a lot of weight.

When we began to consider buying a newer RV, we came up with a list of must-haves.  We wanted a door to our bedroom instead of just a curtain.  We wanted a place for the two boys to sleep without having to convert the dinette to a bed every night. Most importantly, we wanted to be able to use the kitchen and sleeping spaces without having to put out slides.  As short as this list of “musts” was, we had a hard time finding a travel trailer that fit our needs.

Overview of the Octane 272

After months of looking, we decided to purchase a Jayco Octane Superlite 272. This is a toy hauler travel trailer, with a front queen bedroom, rear queen bunk over a dinette that converts to a queen, and a set of  single bunks between the bathroom and living area. The boys sleep in the single bunks and the girls share the two queen beds. 

Camper bunk beds
These bunks are approx. 5’6″ long. The fridge can be seen on the left

This particular model has a foldaway dinette as the doorside option, rather than a sofa or captains chairs, giving us maximum flexibility.

You see, that doorside dinette means we have a table to use  after the kids are in bed or in the morning before they’re up.  It converts to a comfortable bed, so we could take along a guest or two on a short trip.  It also folds up against the wall, giving us more space to stow gear and coincidentally, making it very easy to clean the floor under the table. The way the interior features of the RV can be reconfigured reminded us of a Transformer-from which we get the name, Octavius Prime.

The rearmost dinette seats all six kids comfortably.  We raised the stops for the upper bunk to a height that allows us to sit in the dinette underneath it. Now we don’t have to raise the top bunk by day to use the dinette.  It was a simple adjustment-if you can turn a screwdriver, you can reset the stops!

The upper bed stays in the position shown, while the lower part converts from a dinette to a bed.

 

Although some Octanes have a party deck option to use the rear door/ramp as a deck, this option was not available on the Superlites. No worries! When we want to sit outside, we can sit under our awning or around a campfire. We do love the fact that we can put the rear ramp down and pull down the rear screen to keep the bugs out while enjoying sunlight and fresh air.  

View of the rear dinette with the back ramp open.

Organizing Our Octane 272

Because the interior is designed to be reconfigured during travel to hold ATVs, motorcycles, a golf cart, or other equipment, there is much less built-in storage than in a bunkhouse model.  We hit up Target, the Container Store, Dollar Tree, and Aldi to find items to use in organizing our new space.

First, the kitchen…

Command hooks hold our measuring cups and spoons, pot holders, and trusty Almanac. The paper plate holder we had for the old RV mounted to the underside of the overhead cabinet.

A magnetic bar holds our knives and scissors, and the bamboo covering prevents the edges from being damaged.

Bamboo surfaced magnetic knife bar
This keeps knives out of little hands

 

Two rows of magnetic spice tins hold all the spices and herbs we need.

Two rows of magnetic spice tins
I bought one of these magnetic spice racks at Aldi a few years ago for the old RV. I found a second one at the Container Store, seemingly identical.

 

There was no place to hang a dish towel, so we added this bar that hooks over a cabinet door.  We were able to find one that matched the finish of the other hardware.

Green towel on cabinet door rackOverall we are very happy with our Jayco Octane 272 and have found it easy to add storage and organization.  If we cross paths during our travels, we’d be happy to give you an in-person tour!

Exploring Ice Beds Trail

Since this was our third summer camping at Hapgood Pond, the nature trail around the pond, though still pleasant, was getting to be a little boring and easy. We decided to explore more of the Green Mountain National Forest this visit. A stop at the ranger station gave us a lot of information on trails within the GMNF, and we settled on Ice Beds Trail.  This is a short, intermediate out-and-back trail, with an unusual payoff at the end.

In the winter, ice forms in the spaces within a huge pile of rocks. Sheltered by the pile, the ice lasts well into the summer, melting slowly and allowing visitors to enjoy a cold draft coming from the pile.  Once I stepped into the low point in front of the pile, I felt as though I were standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open!  

The hike had some minor ups and downs and at times the trail was hard to follow. The trail is marked with blazes but the footbed was not eroded enough to make the trail apparent.  The lack of damage to the land is a very good thing, it just means hikers have to pay attention and look for the blazes. We packed a lunch to eat at the turn-around point and spent plenty of time enjoying the cool air while eating. Then we climbed the rocks to explore. No ice was visible near the surface of the rock pile, but the cold air was evidence of ice buried deep within.

A boy with a backpack
Spike resting at the end of the trail

  This is a popular trail and we encountered several other parties along the trail. I would recommend trying to do this hike on a weekday like we did. I imagine on a weekend it can get rather crowded.

Overall this was a great hike for beginners or younger children. There are enough elevation changes that it feels like a “real hike” rather than simply a walk in the woods, but neither the distance nor the elevation was too much for our four-year-old.  

 

Family Fun at Hapgood Pond

One of the first National Forest Service Campgrounds we discovered when we started traveling was in the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont.  Hapgood Pond features a small camping loop, with picnic tables, fire rings, and vault toilets, as well as a day-use area with a swimming beach, flush toilets, and showers.  There is also a one-mile nature trail. The first 8 campsites are first-come, first-served, and we have always been able to get one of these spots, saving us the time, trouble, and extra expense of reserving a site ahead of time.  If you’re the sort of traveler who likes having reservations, then you can reserve sites 9-28 on recreation.gov.

 

Pond surrounded by evergreen forest
Hapgood Pond, formerly a mill pond, provides a place for wading and swimming, fishing, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding

This year we were a little disappointed when we arrived and found the camping fee had increased  to $20 per night.  We still camped there, and plan to in the future, because we find it to be a good value even at the increased rate.  The older children enjoy fishing in the pond, and we all have a lot of fun at the swimming area!

Things to Do Nearby

The nearby town of Manchester has outlet stores, a charming new-and-used bookshop, and a park with a variety of playground equipment and fitness stations.  We can get a workout in using the walking path and the various stations found along it, such as pull-up bars, while being able to see our children on the playground. There is a grocery store in Manchester as well, but we prefer driving further into Bennington to go to Aldi (and grab an iced coffee at Cumby’s) There are multiple places to get ice cream, including Stewart’s and a Ben & Jerry’s stand.  If you stop in at the Ranger Station, you can pick up lots of information about local hiking trails and other outdoor recreation as well.