PAGE UPDATED: 08.02.2023
The world relies on technology these days and van life is no different: we all need gadgets in our vans – and ways to keep them charged.
In this section of our van life shop, we’ll look at RV and motorhome gadgets – the types of things that some of us can’t do without.
We’ll look at satnavs, solar panels, leisure batteries, power inverters, dashcams and lots more.
- Motorhome satnavs
- How to charge motorhome gadgets
- Solar panels for motorhomes and campervans
- Motorhome leisure batteries
- Dashcams and reversing cameras
- Action cameras to capture your epic road trips!
- A gadget to help park your van level
- Motorhome tracking device
- Motorhome damp meter
- Pop grip for your phone
- Universal phone holder mount
- Snowflake multi tool
Although we’ve put off ever using one of these – preferring our trusty old road atlas – this Aonerex touchscreen satnav has 4 star reviews and it costs less than £80 – a fraction of the price compared to most motorhome satnavs.
The thing is that with a motorhome, you want a satnav where you can program in the dimensions of your van so you can avoid routes with low and/or narrow bridges and the like. Not all satnavs have this option and most that do are far more expensive.
How to charge motorhome gadgets
We’ll often write our blog and newsletters whilst on the road, which means we need some way of charging our computers and phones.
We use this Bestek Power Inverter which works off either the 12V battery, the EHU, or the solar panel. It has two 3-pin plug sockets and USB ports.
Whilst on the go (plugging into the cigarette lighter) we’ll use this to charge up our phones, laptops and anything else that needs a booster.
At a campsite on Electric Hook Up we’ll plug it in so we can charge several things at once and when off-grid we connect the inverter to the solar control panel and use the energy of the sun!
Solar panels for motorhomes and campervans
If you’re in two minds about fitting a solar panel to your van’s roof, we say ‘don’t hesitate’! If you use tech a lot it means you can charge things up without having to plug into the grid at campsites all the time.
Here is the set-up we use…
We have a 160W Photonic Universe solar panel.
This is connected to a solar charge controller which regulates the power coming from the solar panel. (Without a controller you could overcharge your leisure battery and kill it!)
And we used this solar panel mounting bracket to secure the panel to the roof. (It took our friend, Dom, just a couple of hours to set it all up for us).
Motorhome leisure batteries
Motorhomes need a leisure battery to power things like interior lighting, the fridge, the water pump and all your gadgets. Some motorhomes have two or even more leisure batteries, some of which cost over £1000!
Our old VW Cree uses just the one leisure battery (which is charged when we’re driving, on EHU at a campsite, and via the solar panel on the roof).
We bought this Numax motorhome leisure battery back in 2019 and it’s been money well spent!
IMPORTANT! Your leisure battery won’t be able to power too many electrical gadgets without a means to charge it. If you’re not using an electric hook up (EHU) you’ll drain the battery if you’re using too many things at once. And a leisure battery that drains too low could easily be damaged beyond repair. This is why we recommend getting a solar panel (or two) so you can keep the leisure battery topped up. And it’s eco-friendly too!
Dashcams and reversing cameras
Dashcams are becoming increasingly popular as insurance evidence. Or they make great video recordings of your epic road trips so you can relive those fabulous drives.
The technology has developed even further, making parking a motorhome easier by providing us now with reversing cameras. If you’re not confident about driving backwards into parking spaces or along narrow country lanes, these dash cams and reversing cameras can make all the difference.
Action cameras to capture your epic road trips!
On epic road trips you’ll want to capture memorable moments on camera. We have our dashcam facing forward and now Hobo Trudi uses an ‘action’ camera out the side window.
We had researched Go-Pros but were put off by the price; even older models cost up to £200. This Akaso action camera has nearly 3000 reviews, many of which state that it’s a great little camera for a fraction of the cost of the latest Go-Pro.
A gadget to help park your van level
Many modern motorhomes (especially the more expensive ones) have hydraulic systems that can level your van at the press of a button.
But if you’re like us and don’t have such luxuries, you’ll rely on good old-school levelling chocks and a spirit level to help park your van if you’re on uneven ground. (So long as we don’t roll out of bed when we’re parked up, we don’t worry too much if we’re not 100% flat).
However, if you’re into your electronic gadgets, this Digi-Pas Smart Level Cube has 4 star reviews. It links up to your smartphone so you can keep manoeuvring the van back and forth until you’re parked just right.
Motorhome tracking device
We’ve been researching tracking devices for the last couple of years and it looks like we’ve finally found the one to go for…
The reviews for this TruTrak GPS Tracker give it top marks. It’s easy to install, customer support is first class, and at less than £35 it’s a snip! Just connect it to the battery (we suggest the leisure battery) download the app and you’re done.
If the reviews are anything to go by, this is probably the best cheap tracking device for RVs on the market.
Motorhome damp meter
And here’s an item that is indispensable if you’re viewing a used motorhome.
No matter their age, these vehicles are prone to D.A.M.P. Ours was certainly no exception and the repair bill came in at £1500!
This damp meter will save you the guesswork. Simply prod the offending area and you’ll see whether or not water ingress is eating away at your van’s habitation skeleton. You can fix the issue before it becomes too costly an exercise.
RELATED CONTENT: 13 things you must check when viewing an older motorhome
Pop grip for your phone
Hobo Gav’s son, Isaac, introduced us to ‘pop grips’ – a really handy little gadget that sticks on the back of your phone, making it far less likely to drop.
This one has the classic slogan, ‘Never underestimate an old man with a motorhome’. Love it!
Universal phone holder mount
If having a satnav and dashcam isn’t enough, you can stick your phone on the windscreen as well!
Seriously though, we don’t actually use a satnav but we will use Google maps on Trudi’s phone sometimes. And this holder mount makes it handsfree and secure.
Snowflake multi tool
Gadgets are not just about electronics you know! This ‘snowflake multi tool’ is simply brilliant.
Not only is it versatile for a variety of jobs around the van, but it means you won’t have to carry a heavy toolbox filled with different screwdrivers and the like, keeping your motorhome’s payload down.
We hope you’ve found this page helpful and that it fulfils your love of gadgets!
Remember to check out the other sections of our Motorhome Gifts and Accessories shop, including kitchenware, clothing, motorhome cleaning products, hab area items, and our RV extras.
And if you’ve just started out in van life, see what we always take with us in our road trip essentials page.