In about a month, we will be moving all of our camping equipment and supplies into our new Class A motorhome, which is still under construction. Until then, all that gear is stacked in our guest bedroom, and it’s almost shocking to see that room nearly filled with all the stuff we’ve been carrying across the country. One of the advantages of the Free Spirit SS (our Class B van conversion) is its relatively large cargo carrying capacity for a small motorhome: in addition to the weight of two people as well as full fuel and water tanks, we can add about 1100 pounds before we reach the limit of what the Sprinter chassis can safely accommodate.
The Allegro 32SA that we have ordered is built on a Ford truck chassis that is able to carry an additional ton of cargo compared to the Free Spirit. It’s not surprising that the roomier interior is designed with many more drawers and cabinets, but the biggest difference is on the outside. While the Free Spirit has only 19 cubic feet of exterior storage, the Allegro has 140 cubic feet in “basement” compartments.
This immediately answered our most difficult motorhome vacation question: Do we load the bicycles or the tandem kayak? It was never possible to take everything, since the hitch receiver could only accommodate our bike rack or our Stowaway cargo carrier that stored the inflatable kayak and its gear. It has always been a tough choice, since our travel destinations have typically been suitable for both activities. Most of the time, we have ended up taking the bikes since they are sized for us and are much more lightweight than typical road bike rentals. The kayak gear will fill one of the Allegro's basement storage compartments, but there are more.
The larger space has prompted us to re-think what we would really like to have with us as we travel. We don’t have a bunch of recreational toys but we do have a wishlist of items that we were not able to carry in the Free Spirit. Here are the favorites from our holiday shopping for things we can now fit into the Class A:
Gas grill. I confess that I have been lusting after this ever since I first thought about camping with a motorhome, but I’ve never had enough space to carry this sort of grill. Up until now, I’ve been using a portable charcoal grill that collapses completely flat. The Solaire Anywhere grill needs more storage space but is still compact (21” X 13” X 12”) for a gas grill, and it has the added benefit of an infrared burner. This allows it to heat up quickly and cook foods without flare-ups in half the usual grilling time, saving on propane. I also bought a cook station that is sturdy enough to support the 20-pound grill but folds down for storage.
Small kitchen appliances. In the past, we’ve tried to limit our kitchen equipment to items that were energy-efficient and multi-purpose, primarily because of power and space restrictions in our Free Spirit (see this blog post). The Allegro not only has more kitchen countertop and storage space, but it is designed to give us more electrical independence: a 2000-watt pure sine wave inverter allow us to use higher wattage appliances while powered only by the four 6-volt coach batteries. Now our specialized kitchen gadgets include a small espresso machine, a toaster, a blender, and a small food processor – any of which can be run without turning on the generator or plugging into external power.
Tire inflator. Under-inflated or over-inflated tires can affect any vehicle’s ride, handling, traction, and fuel economy. Under-inflation is particularly dangerous because of the potential for overheating and tire failure. The Allegro is not equipped with a spare tire or run-flat tires, making preventive tire maintenance an even higher priority. Even while traveling in the Free Spirit (which did have a spare tire), I always wanted to carry my own air compressor but did not have the room. The Viair 400P-RV tire inflator is powerful enough for RV tires and portable enough for RV storage. It is powered by hooking up to a motorhome battery, and it comes with long hoses, an air tire gun with pressure gauge, an angled dual head chuck, and a carrying case.
Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). No, this did not require any extra storage space, but all that attention to tires got me thinking that this would be a great addition and provide more peace-of-mind during trips. A TPMS wirelessly transmits tire pressure and temperature data to a remote display that allows real-time monitoring. There are a variety of these made for RV and truck use, typically using sensors that are mounted in place of caps on the tire valve stems. I bought the TST 507 kit from Truck System Technologies along with two extra sensors to monitor all 6 tires.
Vacuum cleaner. We had space for a small hand vac in our Free Spirit, but it’s hard to do much more than spot cleaning with that. Our daughter loves her Dyson cordless vacuum for her Brooklyn apartment, and this is also the perfect size for our motorhome. We’ll store it in one of the basement compartments that has an electrical outlet so that the vacuum gets recharged after each use. Its hot pink color, for some reason, is growing on me.
Printer/scanner/copier. Our vacations are still working vacations, and no matter how “paperless” I try to become, I can’t seem to escape the need for a printer, especially for more complex writing or reviewing tasks. There are also times when documents need to be printed, signed, and scanned for transmission. In addition to work, there are many times when I would like to carry a map for hiking/biking/kayaking, a printout from a travel website, or a copy from the pages of a tour book. For all of these reasons, we decided to buy a Hewlett Packard inkjet printer/scanner/copier that is a more compact version of the HP multifunction printers that we have at home and in our offices.
That’s enough for now – these were the top items that we thought would make traveling, cooking, and motorhome maintenance a little easier in the larger Class A. The list was mostly based on anticipated need and space, and some of these items have yet to be tested. That will have to wait until our “shakedown cruise” sometime after the Allegro is delivered in mid-January. In the meantime, Happy Holidays, and maybe we’ll see you on the road in 2017!