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Outdoor Gear Reviews, Tips & Adventure Stories to Inspire an Outdoor Life

Month: January 2023

Renogy Battery Monitor Review

Renogy 500A Battery Monitor with ShuntOff-grid power systems can be complex. Off-grid power systems typically have multiple inputs to charge your batteries – including solar, 120V AC, or DC. Your power system also has various outputs – such as inverters, lighting, refrigeration, and more.  Away from home, you rely on your power system to keep you comfortable and safe.  But it’s often difficult to tell what’s really going on in our systems.  The Renogy 500A Battery Monitor is built to solve this problem.

The Renogy Battery Monitor is a small rectangular display that when installed with its included battery shunt, gives you precise readings on your battery usage and current capacity. Rated at 500 Amps, it’s a useful addition to battery-based power systems of all sizes.

Our Verdict:

We’ve really grown to love Renogy’s products.  They are well-designed, reliable, and affordable. The Renogy 500A Battery Monitor is no exception. This little screen lets you know exactly what’s going on in your power system for under $100. Add Renogy’s BT-1 Bluetooth adapter and you can view your power system’s status in real-time on your phone.

Specifications:

  • Accurate within 1%
  • High and Low capacity alarm functions
  • Compatible with Lead Acid, AGM, Gel, LiFePO4, Lithium-ion, and Nickel-metal hybrid batteries
  • Works with systems from 10V to 120V
  • Customizable battery size and voltage shut-off
  • Backlit display
  • Weight: 2.6 oz
  • Monitor Size: 3.9in x 2.4in x 0.7in

How it Works:

The Renogy better monitor comes with a shunt – a low-ohm resistor used to measure current.  You install this shunt between the negative terminal of your battery and the negative side of your power system.  Once the shunt is installed, a small wire is connected between the shunt and the battery monitor. As your power system’s current flows (both in and out) through this shunt, the display on the battery monitor shows you how much power is being consumed (going out of the batteries) vs how much power is being put back in your batteries through charging sources.  At a quick glance, the Renogy battery monitor displays your net power consumption.  For example, if you are generating 40 watts of power from a solar panel, but have 60 watts of lights on at the same time, you are using 20w of your battery’s capacity.

The battery monitor “monitors” your net power flow at all times and calculates your net power flow against your battery size.  Using this internal calculation, the battery monitor also displays your current battery percentage. Basically, the Renogy Battery Monitor shows you your net power flow at any given moment AND keeps track to let you know the current level of your battery.

Why It’s Awesome

Knowing how much power you’re really using is important to ensure your batteries last.  For example, if you have a 100 Amp Hour battery and use 50Ah of power per day, your system isn’t going to last through a 5-day RV trip.  Knowing how much each electric device in your van, RV, or boat allows you to be informed in your decisions of what devices to use and for how long.

As an example, we recently installed a Renogy Battery Monitor in a 46ft sailboat.  We were experiencing battery problems but struggled to diagnose the cause.  With the Renogy Battery Monitor, we discovered that the LED strip lighting in the boat that we thought was energy efficient actually uses 5x more power than the simple overhead lights we’d been avoiding.

Battery Monitors like the Renogy Battery Monitor have been around for a long time, but they have traditionally been in the $200 – $300 range.  At under $100, Renogy’s monitor lowers the barrier of entry to closely monitor smaller power systems and large systems alike.

Add the optional BT-1 Bluetooth adapter and you can see your real-time power usage right on your phone using Renogy’s DC Home app.  Curious to know how much solar you’re currently generating? It’s just a short tap away.

How We Use The Renogy Battery Monitor

Renogy 500A Battery Monitor with Shunt Review
Our Renogy Battery Monitor on the Outward Overland Trailer helps us know exactly how much battery capacity we have left during our trips.

We have one in our Outward Overland Trailer to monitor our 200Ah battery bank with 180 watts of solar panels.  In the trailer, we use the battery monitor to test the true power usage of any new devices we plug in, charge, or use as a part of our overland setup.  Measuring power usage is as simple as turning everything else off to get a zero power reading on the battery monitor.  We then plug in and turn on the device and the monitor lets us know how many watts it uses.

Our trailer batteries are of the traditional flooded lead-acid variety. To maintain their health they are not supposed to be discharged more than 50% of their total capacity.  The Renogy Battery Monitor lets us know when we’re reaching our batteries’ 50% discharge limit even when it is still powering devices. With the Renogy battery Monitor, we fell fully in control of our battery system while camping off-grid.

We also have a Renogy Battery Monitor in our 46ft Sailboat.  Our batteries were constantly setting off low-voltage alarms. We had no idea if the batteries were going bad or if we simply were using more power than our system was designed for. The truth is that until we were able to take the boat through a full power audit using the Renogy Battery Monitor, we had no idea how much power each light or accessory used.  We now know exactly how much each device uses and can plan our power usage accordingly.  Knowing our typical power usage also helped us choose the number of solar panels we needed.

Overland trailer Electrical System
The Renogy 500A Battery Monitor installed in our overland trailer

Our Favorite Features:

  • The low cost. At $62 at the time of writing this should be a no-brainer addition to any van, boat, or RV that needs better battery management
  • The clear battery percentage. A lot of battery monitors show you the current voltage of the system. These types of monitors require you to guess or do complicated math to determine what level your batteries are currently at.  For the Renogy Battery Monitor, the current battery capacity is primary. It lets you know exactly where you stand including battery percentage, remaining Amp Hours, a visual battery icon, and the time remaining until a full charge or discharge.
  • It’s simple and easy to install. The installation of the shunt requires you to do a bit of homework to make sure the monitor is accurate.  Make sure that all of your batteries’ charging and discharging flow through the shunt. We recommend picking up a negative bus bar to make sure all of your negative wires are wired behind the shunt if you have a multiple battery bank.  With the bus bar, connecting the shunt between the battery and the bus bar ensures all charging and discharging of your system is ready by the battery monitor.

 

15 Camping Gear Buys to Camp Better in 2023

The right gear is important for a successful camping trip. Camping doesn’t require all the bells and whistles, but picking up the right outdoor gear can make all the difference on your next trip. Adding to your camping kit will help you camp better and enjoy the outdoors in comfort. We’ve handpicked 15 camping gear kits to help you add comfort to your camping trips in 2023.

Coleman 4-Person Tent with Instant Setup

At the core of any camping kit is a tent.  They come in all shapes, sizes, and costs. The trick is finding the tent that best fits how you’ll use it.  The Coleman 4-Person tent with Instant Setup is a great choice for most people.  It’s roomy and it sets up in minutes.


Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20 Degree Sleeping Bag

Camp better with your partner in 2023 with a sleeping bag for 2. Rated to 20°F, this super-sized sleeping bag makes camping more fun and more romantic. The best part of the Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide is its flexible layering.  It includes independent ventilation, a removable top layer, and two built-in blankets to make sure both you and your partner get comfortable rest.


Coleman Xtreme 50 Quart 5-Day Cooler

Keep your food and drinks cold for days with a Coleman Xtreme 5-day cooler. There’s nothing worse than trying to track down more ice to keep your cooler cold on a multi-day camping trip.  With an insulated lid and extra wall insulation, the Coleman Xtreme will keep your food and drinks cold throughout your trip.  The included wheels and telescoping handle also make it easy to move around your campsite.


Nomadix Towel 59 Parks Collection

You could bring towels from home when camping, or you can pick up one of Nomadix’s do-it-all-towel as a part of your camping kit.  Nomadix towels are “the only towel you’ll ever need” due to being super absorbent and quick drying.  Made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, you can get dry while helping to protect the environment.  We LOVE the 59 Parks Collection version featuring a US map of all US National Parks.


Solo Stove Ranger

We’ve been fans of Solo Stove’s products for years. They look fantastic and the airflow design of their firepits produces cleaner-burning and less-smoky fires. At 15 inches in diameter, the Ranger is the perfect size to bring along on your next camping trip and it can also pull double-duty as a firepit at home.

Read our full review of the similar Solo Stove Yukon 


Klymit Drift Camping Pillow

The item most often forgotten on camping trips is a good pillow. Most of us don’t have pillows dedicated only to our camping setup and bringing pillows from home can be risky. Solve the forgotten pillow problem with the Klymit Drift Camping Pillow. The Drift pillow is filled with shredded memory foam and has a durable reversible shell that easily morphs from a travel-friendly cover to a soft, clean sleep surface. It packs small and expands to full size when you need it.


Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Blanket

Even in summer, it can get chilly in the evenings when camping. Stay warm with the Wise Owl Camping Blanket. This 6.5ft by 4.5ft blanket packs down to 17″ by 6.5″ for easy packability. It looks awesome and can be easily machine-washed when it needs it. This is another piece of camping gear that can have a lot of other uses – bring in into the stadium, kids’ games, picnics, and more.


MPOWERD Luci Color Solar String Lights

Lighting makes a big difference at a campsite. Light up and control your campsite’s mood with these Colored String Lights by MPOWERD. Their battery is solar-powered during the day for use at night and with 6-color options, your campsite will never be dull.


Venustas Men’s Heated Vest

The product we most heard others talking about in 2022 was heated apparel. Venustas has been the leader in creating heated vests and jackets for both men and women. This year, treat yourself to the gift of outdoor comfort with a vest that heats up with the push of a button and lasts for hours on a single charge.

Read More about the Venustas Heated Vest at Outward Spaces.


UCO 3-In-1 Titanium Spork

When pressed for space, a spork can be a beautiful thing. It’s a single utensil that serves the purpose of a spoon, a fork, and a knife. If you’re outdoors a lot, you deserve your own spork to take with you. We love the look and design of the UCO sporks. They have cheaper plastic versions also available, but we like the durability of the titanium version.


Adventure Medical Kit – Mountain Series

Safety is no joke in the outdoors. Having the right medical kit when injuries and emergencies arise is important. Adventure Medical Kit has done the hard work for you in assembling all the medical items you’ll need for your outdoor adventures. We like the Mountain Series best for camping, hiking, and other mountain activities.

No products found.


LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

In the case of an outdoor emergency, having access to safe, clean drinking water could save your life. The Lifestraw Personal Water Filter is a “must-have” part of your camping kit. At under $20, it’s inexpensive and worth every penny when it comes to peace of mind that the water you come across won’t make things worse. We recommend having a Lifestraw or two on hand any time you venture into the wild.


Stanley Classic Easy-Pour Growler

Beer just tastes better with friends around the campfire. Take your camping beer to another level with an insulated growler from Stanley. Its 64-ounce (4 pints) capacity will keep your beer cold for up to 24 hours without refrigeration. Made of durable stainless steel, the Stanley Classic Easy-Pour Growler is a great way to upgrade your camping trips in 2023.


COLETTI Bozeman Camping Coffee Pot

No matter how picky you are with your coffee back home, coffee is more about the process of making it when camping. There is something special and memorable about making coffee over a campfire or propane stove. You don’t need your $700 espresso machine for good camping coffee, you just need a Coletti Bozeman Camping Coffee Pot. It’s a simple percolator with a vintage look that makes up to 9 cups of coffee at a time.


Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Packable Backpack

You shouldn’t leave your campsite for the day without the essentials. Water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug repellent are non-negotiable for us. Depending on your activity, you may also need to bring along extra gear. A good daypack backpack makes lugging these items easy. The Venture Pal Lightweight Backpack has 40L of storage that packs away easily when not needed. With more than 30,000 4.5-star reviews on Amazon and at less than $30, this backpack is a huge value.


Have a favorite camping gear kit that we missed? Let us know in the comments.

The LGBTQ+ Community’s Complex Relationship with the Outdoors

LGBTQ+ Camping

This article is a part of our Outdoor Inclusivity Series – an exploration into the issues that keep some from more fully experiencing and enjoying the outdoors. Read part 1 of this series, “Why the Outdoors Should Be for Everyone”.

We recently ran across this article on Yahoo News about a couple who decided to sell everything, move into an RV, and hit the road. Their story is like so many currently found across blogs and social media – with one big difference – the article describes how, as a lesbian couple, they face judgment and often feel unsafe as they travel. While the article ends on an encouraging note as the couple found unexpected acceptance and community in a Texas bar, their experiences should be concerning to all who love and enjoy the outdoors.

As highlighted in part 1 of this series, the truth about the outdoor community is that it’s not nearly as accessible as it should be for some communities. No one should worry about facing judgment, feeling unsafe, or having to hide their true self when enjoying the outdoors.

Unfortunately, those in the LGBTQ+ community far too often face these challenges.

The Outdoors Stereotype

LGBTQ+ Outdoors
Breaking the “white, cisgender, and straight” stereotype to be inclusive of those in the LGBTQ+ community is important.

In her article about LGBT people taking on the great outdoors, writer Heather Dockray describes, “an enduring stereotype of ‘outdoorsy’ people: They’re white, cis, straight, and love granola and/or semi-automatic rifles.” If we’re honest, most of us would agree that when we think about outdoor activities like camping, we primarily imagine straight, white people gathered around the campfire.

For LGBTQ+ people, this stereotype creates barriers to enjoying all the outdoors have to offer. Outdoor stereotypes like the one above, serve as a subtle whisper of “this isn’t for you” and “you’re not welcome”.

According to the Momentus Institute, “Stereotypes are the idea that everyone within a certain group shares the same characteristics.” Stereotypes are ways in which we try to categorize others.  But stereotypes fail in their oversimplification.  While they may hold some elements of truth within them, they ignore the individuality and diversity of interests within a group. Stereotypes also ignore the outliers – those who defy traditional stereotypes.  In ignoring these outliers, stereotypes miss out on the full picture and exclude new and diverse voices and contributions.

Because stereotypes don’t include the whole story, they are often harmful to those who don’t neatly fit into them.  In his article, “What the outdoor rec industry doesn’t get about the LGBTQ community”, adventurer Mikah Meyer, writes, “Nature doesn’t care who you are, but people do.” Nature doesn’t care about the sexual orientation or the gender identity of those who trek through its lands.  So why do we?

Regardless of who we are, we all need to challenge the traditional outdoors stereotype.  The outdoors aren’t reserved only for certain types of people.  All people deserve to experience the beauty and benefits of outdoor spaces. Breaking the “white, cisgender, and straight” stereotype to be inclusive of those in the LGBTQ+ community is important.

Feeling Safe While Outdoors

Outdoor spaces inherently possess a certain amount of danger. When we venture into nature, we leave the safety net of paved roads, permanent shelters, and emergency services.  Nature can be ruthless. Severe weather can surprise us. Rugged terrain can punish us. At some level, the risk of the outdoors is what draws us to it.  It forces us to be more self-aware, self-reliant, and thoughtful of our surroundings. A healthy amount of fear of nature helps to keep us safe while we’re outdoors.  But when outdoors, no one should have to fear other people.

Kim Kelley Stamp and her wife fear stirring up “an angry reaction from people who disagree with their ‘lifestyle'” while RVing across the United States. Mikah Meyer faced discriminatory comments upon return from his world-record journey to all 419 National Park Service sites. Elyse Rylander, the Executive Director of Out There Adventures, explains some of the questions the LGBTQ+ community has about going outdoors, “What am I going to experience out there in the backcountry?.. I’d much rather encounter a black or brown bear than somebody whose motives I don’t know.”

Members of the LGBTQ+ community often feel weary of their safety when in outdoor spaces.  While tragic, this truth isn’t surprising when you consider that 15 US states still don’t have laws against hate crimes that expressly address either sexual orientation or gender identity.  Many of these states, including Alaska, Idaho, & Montana, are known for their outdoor offerings. In addition, many RV parks, campgrounds, and managed parks are in rural areas – which can be less accepting of those in the LGBTQ+ community.

No one should have to be fearful when venturing into outdoor spaces. LGBTQ+ people deserve to feel welcome while out on the trail or at RV parks. We all need to be aware of discrimination outdoors –  confronting it when we witness it and working hard to ensure we are welcoming to all.

LGBT+ Safety Outdoors
Members of the LGBTQ+ community often feel weary of their safety when in outdoor spaces.

The Lack of LGBTQ+ Representation in the Outdoor Industry

Browse through the websites of most outdoor-oriented companies and you’ll discover a lot of male-centric images of predominantly white, cisgender, heterosexual people. What you won’t see are members of the LGBTQ+ community being represented.

When adventurer Mikah Meyer began to plan his epic journey to visit all 419 U.S. National Park Service sites he struggled to find sponsors. Meyer recognized that potential sponsors would back out at the critical moment they found out he is gay. One sponsor terminated his contract after working with him for 11 months because he was “doing too much LGBT outreach”.  REI eventually partnered with Meyer to market its OPT outside campaign marking. According to Meyer, “It was the first time in the history of the industry that an openly gay man was ever featured in any outdoor recreation campaign.”

Civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman once said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” For members of the LGBTQ+ community, the lack of representation in the outdoor industry can leave them struggling to find their place in the outdoors. Thankfully, through social media LGBTQ people are beginning to change the narrative.

“We’re creating our own outdoor narrative,” author and podcaster Jenny Bruso told The Advocate. “One that fits all of us. Through social media communities and hashtags, we’re able to find each other and have our social media feeds represent the broad spectrum of who’s truly recreating outdoors while the traditional platforms and brands represent the same narrow image we’ve grown accustomed to.”

LGBTQ+ Organizations Are Working to Make the Outdoors More Inclusive

LGBTQ+ Outdoors
LGBT Outdoors is building a network of LGBTQ+ outdoors enthusiasts to encourage in-person connections
Photo credit: LGBT Outdoors

Over the past few years, some great LGBTQ+ organizations have taken the lead in breaking stereotypes, creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people, and increasing LGBTQ+ representation in the outdoor industry.  Here’s a list of some of the organizations, websites, and social media accounts we love:

Know of other amazing LGBT+ organizations, websites, or social media accounts we missed?  Let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to our list!

View more articles from our Outdoor Inclusivity Series:

Part 1: The Outdoors Should be for Everyone

 

 

Coleman Classic Propane Stove Review

Our Coleman Classic Propane Stove review looks at a classic camping staple countless families have lugged into the wilderness. This stove is the standard upon which all other propane stoves have been built. Its a simple and inexpensive 2-burner stove that’s the perfect purchase for beginner campers.

Coleman Classic Propane Stove review
The Coleman Classic Stove is an iconic part of American campsites.

Our Verdict:

Coleman Classic Propane Stove review
Our Coleman Classic Stove has been heating up our morning coffee & tea for more than 30 years.

The Colemen Classic Propane Stove is a no-frills 2-burner camping stove that gets the job done. The simple green clamshell design hints at the military use that Coleman was founded on.  Our stove was passed down from our parents, proving its ability to stand the test of time. As our oldest piece of camping kit, it has a nostalgic feel that we love each time we cook with it.  It’s portable enough to be taken on both short and long trips and its simple setup and tear-down keep us using it on every trip.

Despite having both a larger, 3-burner Camp Chef stove as well as a smaller, isobutane portable stove, our Coleman Classic gets the vast majority of use when we are outdoors.  The combination of its size, portability, and ability to handle entire meals make it our primary camping stove and the center of our camping kitchen.

Features:

  • 2 adjustable burners
  • up to 20K total BTUs
  • Fits a 12″ and 10″ pan simultaneously
  • wind-blocking panels
  • Dimensions: 13.7″L x 4.1″W x 21.9″H

Design:

Overall, the design of the Colman Classic is simple.  There’s nothing fancy about this stove.  It has a green textured enamel surface that holds up against scratches. Designed to utilize the smaller 1lb propane bottles, this stove is designed to set up and pack away in seconds. The clamshell design keeps the burners protected when closed and the wind out when opened. When packed away, the Coleman Classic is thin enough to not take up a huge amount of real estate.

The size is large enough to hold both a 10in pan and a 12in pan at the same time, making it great for cooking an entire meal for 2 or more.  The adjustable burners can be difficult to dial to the desired heat.  The blue propane flames can be difficult to see to gauge the size and temperature.  We often use the sound of the burner to determine what setting we’re on.  The louder the “jet engine” sound of the burner, the higher the flame.  The 20K BTUs are plenty to cook with.  We’ve cooked just about every kind of meal – from fish to steak – with this stove with great success.

Durability:

We’re not sure exactly how old our Coleman Classic is, but our parents used this stove when they camped and passed it on to us when we began venturing outdoors.  Our stove is at least 30 years old, has been used heavily, and is still going strong.  The simple components of this stove have all held up over the years and our stove works as well as it did fresh out of the box.

The rugged exterior of the Coleman Classic allows the stove to be thrown around when you’re packing for your trip.  Built well with solid materials, this stove doesn’t need to be delicately handled.  You can beat it up and it will just keep doing its job.

Features We Love:

  • The burner sizing and spacing allows for 2 larger pans to be used at the same time.  Many smaller stoves only allow smaller (8″ to 10″ pans at the same time.  We like having the extra space for cooking meals.
  • Durability – there are not a lot of items in our camping kit that we expect to last 30 years or more.  Our Coleman Classic has already lasted 30 years and we’re confident it will last another 30.

Do you have a Coleman Classic Propane Stove?  Has yours been as durability as ours?  Let us know in the comments.

Best Selling Camping Stoves on Amazon:

 

Review: OVS Nomadic Car Side Shower Room

Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic Car Side Shower Room
The Nomadic Side Shower Room provides important privacy when showering, changing, or using the bathroom outdoors.

Being able to take a shower and use the toilet comfortably while camping shouldn’t be considered a luxury. Getting clean while in the wild can help extend trips.  Having a toilet with privacy allows everyone at camp to take care of business without the anxiety. The Overland Vehicle Systems‘ Nomadic Car Side Shower Room is a roof-mounted, fold-out shower room that adds the comfort of privacy to your camping setup.

The Verdict:

The OVS Nomadic Shower Room stores away conveniently on your roof rack much like a traditional awning, such as the OVS Nomadic Awning. When unfolded, it’s smart, spacious, and thoughtful.  It’s smart due to its adjustable straps to accommodate various vehicle heights and weighted bottoms to help keep its shape.  With 3.5ft by 3.5 ft of interior space, it’s spacious enough to not crowd your shower or toilet activity. Its double interior pouches, velcro showerhead strap, and double-sided entry zipper will have you wondering how the designers thought of it all.  The build and materials of the OVS shower room are outstanding, it’s effortless to set up and take down, and the price makes it a no-brainer addition to any overlanding configuration.

Sale

Design:

The design of the OVS Shower Room is very similar to the OVS 270 Awning, featuring a thick, black, zippered cover for protection when stowed. The four walls of the shower room are made of 420D Oxford Rip Stop fabric and are grey in color.  The support arms are made of aluminum, create a strong foundation for the shower room to hang from, and are easily extended and locked in place for use. The zippers feel solid and a double-sided entry zipper on the back of the shower room makes it easy to get in and out. The pouches and the velcro showerhead strap are nice touches.

Privacy:

OVS NOMADIC CAR SIDE SHOWER ROOM
The OVS Nomadic Shower Room fits perfectly on our overland trailer’s roof rack.

The OVS Shower Room helps to keep your shower or toilet time discreet.  The walls are fully opaque to ensure that the angle of the sun doesn’t create embarrassing silhouettes. The shower room adjusts to a maximum of 76″.  If mounted on the roof of a lifted vehicle, you may need every inch, but if your vehicle isn’t as high, the adjustable straps can be shortened.

Each wall of the OVS shower room contains a weighted structural rod in its bottom horizontal.  This added weight prevents the square room from easily collapsing.  In our testing, the shower room held its shape well in moderate wind.  If the winds pick up, the corners can be staked down to stay in place.  Four stakes along with a carrying bag are included with the OVS Shower Room.

Durability:

Because the OVS Shower Room will only be deployed while out at the campsite, the 1000G PVC Travel Cover will take the majority of the abuse.  The cover and its zipper seem up to the task.  They look good on your vehicle and look to be strong.

The shower room walls are thick (primarily to prevent the aforementioned silhouetting) and should last longer than you’ll have your vehicle.  The aluminum folding arms are more than up to the task of holding up the shower room, while also remaining lightweight.  My only concern about the build of this unit would be the nylon straps.  Straps like these have a history of breaking down when exposing the sun for too long.  Even if this is the case, the straps should only see the sun in limited doses when in service.  The vast majority of the time, the travel cover will be blocking sunlight to all other components.

Setup & Pack Away:

OVS NOMADIC CAR SIDE SHOWER ROOM
The zippered front section, double interior pouches, and the velcro showerhead strap are thoughtful touches.

The OVS Shower Room is a breeze to set up – taking only seconds.  Unzip the travel cover to expose the folding arms and fabric walls.  As unzipped, the walls easily “unroll” to the ground.  Fold the aluminum arms outward to lock them into place.  The only hiccup we had in our experiences with setting this up is that the bottom of the walls can be a little awkward to get into a square shape.  The bottom weighted rods don’t always allow for the walls to unfold naturally and they need a bit of manual coaxing.  That’s it. With the shower room set up, the room is ready to be used for showering, using the toilet, changing, or whatever other private activity you choose.

Packing the OVS Shower Room away is equally easy.  Unlock the aluminum arms and folded them back into place. Next, fold the four bottoms of the walls flat into each other. Folding the bottom of the walls is important as this serves as the beginning of your roll of the walls back into the case.  Finally, roll up and secure the walls zipping the travel cover around them.

The OVS Nomadic Car Side Shower Room (that’s a mouthful) is easy to deploy and easy to store.  It’s a product with a simple purpose and it has a simple design as a result.

Best Features:

  • We love the weighted bottoms of the walls which help keep the shower room structurally.
  • The front (carside) of the shower room has a zippered section that can lower the front wall to gain easy access to items stored on your vehicle.)
  • The 2 interior pouches are great for storing toiletries or toilet paper.
  • We are really fond of the look.  The black, grey, and aluminum color scheme looks great on our trailer.
Sale

Have an OVS Nomadic Car Side Shower Tent?  Do you love it?  We’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.

Review: OVS Nomadic 270 LT Awning

OVS Nomadic 270 LT Awning

This past summer, we purchased and installed the OVS Nomadic 270 LT Awning on our overland trailer. What follows is our OVS Nomadic 270 Awning review, detailing our thoughts, opinions, and experiences with the awning.

As we were building our overland trailer, it quickly became clear that we’d need some protection from the elements.  Our kitchen pulls out from the side of the trailer and in times when we deal with rain or snow while out in the wild, it’s important that we can continue to prepare food, cook, and do dishes. Based in Arizona, it was also important to us to ensure we had some space to escape the sun on hot desert days.

We needed an awning that could be attached to our roof rack and extended when we needed protection from the elements. The Overland Vehicle Systems Nomadic 270 LT Awning fits the bill perfectly for our needs.

The Verdict:

We LOVE the OVS Nomadic 270 LT Awning. It wraps around 2 sides of our trailer providing 80 square feet of coverage for our side kitchen and rear storage areas. It’s extremely well-built and made of strong materials that look like they will hold up over time. It’s aluminum construction makes it lightweight and the included extendable support poles provide extra points of stability in severe weather. Rooftop awnings can be expensive, but the OVS Nomadic awning is affordably priced.  We highly recommend it for anyone looking to add some shade or weather protection to their overland vehicle or trailer.

Design:

OVS Nomadic 270 LT Awning Review
Our OVS Nomadic 270 LT Awning installed and opened up on our overland trailer.

“Batwing” awnings are brilliant – multiple supports, each with a triangle of fabric attached, unfurl creating a surprising amount of overhead coverage.  The Nomadic 270 LT awning is built with boxed aluminum rafters giving it strength while also looking really clean.  The five rafters feel solid and each rafter is connected to the canopy fabric with heavyweight hook and loop wraps. The aluminum design choice gives the awning robust strength while keeping its overall weight down.

The Nomadic 270 LT is strong enough to not need the included telescoping support poles under normal weather conditions.  If the weather picks up beyond a slight breeze, the support poles can be easily deployed to provide extra piece of mind and support to the rafters. In serious weather conditions, the awning can be further secured by utilizing its multiple tie-down attachment points, 8 included shock cord tie-downs, and ground stakes. In our testing, we didn’t need the tie-downs.  We really didn’t need the support poles most of the time, but when the rain rolled in, the poles were handy to ensure the weight of the rain didn’t cause extra stress on the aluminum rafters.

The two main support poles come attached to the bottom of two of the main rafters. They have a swivel at the top to allow the pole to pivot and are adjustable in length. They are easily stored overhead via hook and look wraps, but can quickly be unfolded in seconds when the weather surprises you.  Two additional support poles are also included with the Nomadic awning in a convenient carry bag that can be stored away for when the weather gets really hairy.  With various support options, we’re confident that this awning can stand up to all different types of weather.  OVS markets this awning as “four-season ready” and we don’t doubt this claim.  It’s a well-engineered and well-built awning.

The Nomadic 270 LT comes with 2 heavy-duty mounting brackets and all the necessary hardware to attach to various types of roof racks. You shouldn’t need to pick up any additional hardware to install this awning.

Weather Resistance:

OVS Nomadic 270 LT Awning Up Close
The Nomadic 270 LT’s aluminum rafters attach to the canopy fabric with multiple heavy-duty hook and loop straps.

The outer protective case/bag has held up well without any fading or damage even when stored outside through the brutal Arizona summer.  In the multiple rain storms we’ve used the awning in, it has kept us dry.  With 80 sq ft of coverage, we were able to prepare and cook full meals under the awning without having to adjust any of our routines.  It really does provide a surprising amount of space to be protected from the sun, rain, or snow.  We didn’t experience any leaks in the Nomadic 270 LT’s 600D Poly Cotton Rip-Stop Cover or at any of the seams.

Without any support poles or tie-downs, the awning stood on its own quite well with little to no sag.  As storms rolled in, we set up the two attached support poles to give the awning extra strength.  With just the two support poles, the awning easily handled the heavy rain and increased wind.  In 95% of cases, we really don’t think the additional support poles or tie-downs are necessary, but the extra support is awesome to have on hand when and if needed.

Overall, this awning does what it’s meant to do – keep you out of the elements.  It does it well in our opinion. What it doesn’t do is protect you from the sides. To protect you from sideways rain, OVS offers walls that can be attached via zipper to the top of the awning.  If it makes sense for you, these walls can turn your awning into a fully surrounded tent.

Durability:

The Nomadic 270 LT is built with quality materials.  The 600D rip-stop fabric combined with the all-aluminum construction leads us to believe that these awnings will last a long, long time.  The design of the various elements work really well and we couldn’t find one element we would improve on.  The outer cover is holding up well and keeps the awning well protected during storage. The mountain brackets have stayed rock solid in our use and our awning still looks brand new.

Setup & Pack Away:

Set up and take down is a breeze and can be done in a few short minutes.  After unzipping the protective bag, you’ll find the rafters secured in place with 2 straps.  Once these straps are released, the rafters can be easily unfolded like a “batwing” to realize its full size. The awning is held open by an included adjustable strap that attaches to the first rafter and to a forward point on your vehicle. To keep the awning fully open and taught, you’ll want to try a few attachment points to see what works best for you.

To pack it away, you’ll take off the holding strap, fold the rafters back into the protective case, and roll up the triangles of the canopy that hang down.  Once rolled, this fabric is secured along with the rafters with the 2 straps.  Zip the case back up and you’re ready to go.

Best Features:

  • This awning looks awesome. The black case is simple and understated when stored. We love the grey and aluminum design of the awning when deployed.
  • The size. The coverage of this awning (80 sq ft) is remarkable considering it’s just 83″ long when stored on your roof.
  • The aluminum rafters. These feel beefy, clean-looking, and lightweight. What more could you ask for?
  • The support options. We love that the awning has built-in support that can be deployed in seconds. Extra support can be added as needed.
  • The price.  We appreciate that OVS produces great outdoor products at more affordable prices. We hope they keep it up.

Looking for a roof rack-mounted shower/toilet solution for your overlanding rig? Check out our review of the OVS Nomadic Car Side Shower Room.

Have an OVS Nomadic Awning?  What do you think about yours?  Let us know in the comments.

Why the Outdoors Should Be for Everyone

Black Women Hiking
People of color often feel uncomfortable and “out-of-place” in outdoor spaces.

Take a walk through a forest and you’ll find yourself in awe of the sheer beauty of the green trees whistling gently in the wind. Camp among hundred-foot-tall red rock faces and you’ll be overwhelmed with the awareness of the smallness of your existence. Listen to the waves crash on a rocky cliff leaving behind a foamy aftermath and you’ll become keenly aware of the power of nature.

Time spent outdoors is full of exhilarating and spiritual experiences that often leave us changed somehow. They are special encounters that can’t seem to be duplicated in the city or in our everyday lives. The outdoors are life-giving – providing both rest and inspiration in a single moment. As I reflect on the love I feel for the outdoors, I consistently return to a single question, “Why don’t more people regularly venture into the outdoors?”.

For many people, the answer to this question is about access. For various reasons, not everyone has access to nature. For those with disabilities, pathways and trails aren’t often designed with them in mind. Members of the LBGTQ+ community have expressed feeling fearful and unwelcome by others in outdoor spaces. People of color often feel uncomfortable and “out-of-place” in outdoor spaces. Those with limited finances can struggle to find reliable transportation and the ability to purchase outdoor gear.

Wheelchair National Park
National Parks are making changes to help make trails and pathways more accessible to disabled visitors

Outdoor spaces are available to all, but are not always accessible to all.

The reality of the outdoors and of the outdoor recreation industry is that it’s typically been dominated by wealthy, able, straight, white people. For those defined in other terms, accessibility to the outdoors is a major barrier that will only be conquered by all of us thinking differently about outdoor spaces. All people deserve the privilege of access to nature. They deserve the therapeutic benefits of feeling a fresh mountain breeze across their face, observing the rhythmic crashing of waves against the shore, and taking in a dark sky filled with stars. The outdoors deserve all people as well. As the threat of urban growth and global warming threaten public lands and wild spaces, outdoors spaces depend on a diversity of voices to defend and protect them.

We need to do better. Here’s why:

Public lands are “owned” by us all

The federal government oversees 640 million acres of land in the US. These federally-managed public lands make up just under 30% of all land area in the United States. In addition, countless non-federal public lands including state parks, forests, wildlife areas, parks, forests, greenways, and other units are managed at county and municipal levels. In the US, we have a LOT of outdoor spaces to explore.  The best part about these public lands is that they are provide access to nature by all.

These lands aren’t owned by only specific groups, but by all people.  They are lands reserved and protected for all of our use.  They are the property of those in the disabled, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC communities equally. It’s time that we get better at inviting these groups to enjoy their own lands.

Outdoor spaces are good for us all

More and more research is telling us that time spent outdoors is good for us.  Most people would agree that spending time outdoors is good for our physical health, but research shows that time spent outdoors has a positive effect on our mental health as well. According to the American Psychological Association, time spent in blue and green spaces has cognitive benefits and can lead to increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions, a sense of meaning, and purpose in life.

Those who spend a lot of time outdoors already know this anecdotally – the time spent outdoors is good for our bodies, minds, and souls.  These important benefits of outdoor experiences should be available (and accessible) to all.  Regardless of a person’s ability, skin color, sexual preference, gender identity, or bank balance, all people deserve the therapeutic advantages of time spent outdoors.  In a world filled with devices, relentless schedules, and unforgiving expectations, we ALL need the outdoors more than ever. Let’s be better at creating equal and equitable spaces for ALL to enjoy the benefits of outdoor spaces.

Lesbian couple camping
While enjoying the outdoors, some members of the LGBTQ+ community have experienced angry reactions from others who disagree with their “lifestyle.”
The outdoors community is better with a diversity of voices

A diversity of voices and perspectives make us smarter and stronger. As we imagine new technology, ways to manage public lands, and ways to be more inclusive, it’s vital that we ensure that many different voices and perspectives are heard.

How can National Parks be more friendly to those who are disabled?  What can we do at campgrounds and state parks to prevent expressions of hate toward those in the LGBTQ+ community? What steps can we take to reverse decades of racial discrimination that people of color have experienced in the outdoors community?  What outdoor gear can be reimagined at lower price points to lower the financial barrier of entry?  How can we make outdoor spaces more accessible for all?  These are all questions that are best answered from within the communities they affect.  Each of us knows our experiences and each of our experiences is different.  Adding in folks who have had different experiences and have different perspectives can only make the outdoors community smart and stronger. It’s time we elevate a diversity of voices in the outdoors community.

The outdoors need us all

When we spend time in outdoor spaces, we become more connected with nature. This connection leads to increased awareness of the environmental challenges we face. With climate change threatening our beloved outdoor spaces (along with the rest of the planet), we need as many people as possible to join the fight.  The outdoors need ALL of us to protect and preserve our public lands. Let’s encourage ALL people to join us in protecting outdoor spaces.

At Outward Spaces, we’re committed to promoting the accessibility of the outdoors for all

As we further explore the challenge of equal access to nature, we’re compiling lists of resources of articles, organizations, and companies that are already tackling this issue head-on. There are so many awesome folks working every day to help those who lack access to outdoor spaces. Their efforts both inspire us and challenge us to be more aware of the experiences of inaccessibility some face.

This article is the first of our “Outdoors Inclusivity Series” we’ll be posting in the coming weeks.  Our hope is to help bring attention to the challenges keeping some from more fully experiencing and enjoying the outdoors.  In this series, we’ll focus on how different communities face accessibility and inclusivity issues in outdoor spaces, suggest ways in which others can help, and point to organizations working with these communities. We’d love your thoughts and feedback throughout this series.  If you have stories to share or know of great organizations we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments.

Remember, the outdoors should be for EVERYONE and access to nature should be available equally for all.

 

View more articles from our Outdoor Inclusivity Series:

Part 2: The LGBTQ+ Community’s Complex Relationship With The Outdoors

 

Looking to get started exploring the outdoors? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Camping.