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RV Mission Control for Travel Days

What we use to keep connected to stay safe on driving days — 2 “Must-Haves” and 1 “Meh” Addition to our Truck.

mission-control
Mission Control Center for Driving Days: (Left To Right): Rear Camera, RV GPS , Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Not shown: Snacks. (Vital part of Mission Control)

When I decided to go full-time in an RV, I had never towed anything before in my life. I was familiar with the ignition, the gear shifter, the A/C, and the radio…. that was the extent of my vehicular knowledge. Since I was now towing thousands of pounds behind me with limited visibility, I had to learn a few things.

We developed a “Mission Control Center” for the truck dashboard to keep us connected to what was going on back there behind us. Your setup might be different, but here’s what works for us.

1.TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) (5 Stars out of 5) Sensors are installed in the stems of each tire of our trailer so we can actively monitor the air pressure and temperature from inside the truck. There is an alarm that sounds if there is an anomaly that requires our attention. Chances are, the car you drive now automatically does this as part of your integrated dashboard notifications to let you know if one if your tires is under-inflated. We love knowing that this monitoring happens for our trailer, too. There are lots of brands and options available, but here is the system we chose. It comes with four sensors with more available to expand if you’re running more tires on your rig.

DID YOU KNOW? Tire blowouts cause thousands of accidents every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reports that over 78,000 accidents are caused each year from tire blowouts and flat tires. These resulted in over 10,000 serious injuries and over 400 deaths. Monitoring your tire pressure with a TPMS will help you avoid a blowout. It’s worth it.

 
tire-minder
The monitor goes inside the cab of the truck, and the sensors go on each tire.

2.Backup Camera- (2 Stars out of 5) I didn’t know much when we started towing, but I knew for absolute positively certain that I needed a backup camera for backing into those notoriously tight spots in campgrounds. Turns out… I was really wrong. This might be controversial, but hear me out. We had this feature installed from the dealership, which we now know made our mistake much bigger. (Dealerships charge you an absolutely insane premium to install things you could easily take care of yourself. To make matters worse, our trailer had been pre-wired for a backup camera, so it involved literally plugging a wire into a port using a step ladder, which came with a $400 price tag at the dealership. Whoops.) We have used the camera three times in 12 months.

We talk to many RVers who love their backup cameras and rely on them for not only parking, but for actively monitoring blind spots behind them while driving. I have found, however, the camera is singularly distracting and not at all helpful. Unlike a backup camera in your car, there is a lag and a strange aspect ratio, as the camera points down and can not show you what is directly behind you. I’d never trust it when backing into a spot the way I do with the camera in our truck, so after the first month, this feature does not get plugged into the dashboard Mission Control anymore.

 
camera-mount
The camera gets mounted to the back of your rig, with the monitor inside to display audio and video.

On a related note…. anyone need a camera?

3.RV GPS System- (4.5 stars out of 5) There’s nothing new about having a GPS system in your vehicle. Garmin systems have been telling us collectively to “Please. Make. A. U. Turn” for years. This gadget in our Mission Control Center, however, is specifically designed for RVers to stay on routes that are safe for the specifications of their individual vehicles. Once you set up your RV GPS system with the height, width, weight, and length of your rig, it will only route you to areas that are vetted as safe for you to travel. There are occasionally low bridges or clearance issues with tree growth, or steep grades we shouldn’t be attempting, and our system will pop up an alert to re-route us if that’s the case.

 
garmin
Added layer of protection so we don’t make a bone-head move which lands us on the news.

The first bridge I ever drove under on I-4 in Florida while hauling a trailer was a moment I’ll never forget. I held my breath and sucked in my gut….as if that would be remotely helpful… and that was for a standard freeway overpass bridge. Without experience or concept of how high/long the trailer was while attached to the truck, I was picturing our brand new truck and trailer on the 6pm news after taking out a busy bridge. The top of RVs are dotted with A/C units, vents, fans, and other tech gadgets, so it’s still a nebulous idea of how tall I really am while driving, even after an entire year. It’s a sigh of relief knowing I won’t be led into an unsafe situation. There are many RV GPS units available, but here’s the one we chose. Admittedly, sometimes the directions are a little outdated if we don’t take the time to process the online updates to our system, but overall, it’s worth almost five stars.

There are other things you need while driving, of course. Snacks. Great towing mirrors. Snacks. The website for Atlas Obscura in case you happen to be passing one of the lesser-appreciated wonders of the USA, such as the Yayoi Kusama Firefly Infinity Mirror Room in Phoenix, AZ. Snacks.

Let us know what other gadgets or items you consider must-have while piloting your rig. If you have questions, add those, too! We’re here to help or to laugh with you, (not directly at you, in front of your face….) for your blunders as you venture into #RVLife. Safe travels!


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