10 DIY Tech Upgrades That Make Life at the Campsite Better
These Tech Gadgets are Easy to Install and Add Convenience and Functionality to Any RV
One of the easiest ways to improve life at home is by upgrading or adding new technologies to our daily routines. Smart home products like connected light bulbs, app-controlled HVAC systems, and voice-activated smart speakers bring new levels of fun and convenience to our lives. Those devices can even make our homes more efficient, adjusting temperature and lighting while improving safety and security too.
But those upgrades don’t have to be restricted just to our homes. Many of the same gadgets can be added to an RV, making life at the campsite better too. Best of all, most of these devices can be installed by the user, making it easier than ever to turn your motorhome or travel trailer into a rolling tech demo.
With that in mind, here are ten simple tech upgrades you can do yourself.
Add a Smart Lock
Smart locks are one of the easiest to install smart devices for your home. These gadgets replace the current lock on your door with a version that connects to your smartphone, allowing it to automatically lock and unlock as you come and go. This eliminates the need to fumble around with keys, providing quicker access to your home away from home.
The Bauer Bluetooth Keyless RV Lock brings that same functionality to your rig. The device replaces the lock installed on your vehicle with a high-tech version that offers more flexibility and security. The unit works with traditional keys but also has a numeric keyboard for typing in an access code. It can also pair with up to six smartphones or tablets, allowing it to unlock via an app or automatically when one of those gadgets is nearby.
Light Up Your RV
Smart lights are another innovative tech upgrade that are easy to add to your home or RV. These LED bulbs can be turned off and on using a smartphone app or voice assistant like Alexa or Siri. Some will even let you change their brightness and color or schedule them to turn on and off at certain times of the day. Depending on the smart light, they may even turn on automatically when you arrive home.
In the past, smart lights usually needed a Wi-Fi connection or a smart home hub to operate properly, which limited their usefulness in an RV. But newer models now include support for a tech protocol called Matter and a specialized chipset called Thread that eliminates those requirements. The result is easier setup and control, along with improved reliability. These advances make smart lights a better option for use in and around your RV.
Efficient Heating and Cooling
Many new RVs come with smart HVAC systems and digital control panels that give owners plenty of control over their heating and cooling systems. But if you own an older model, you can add a smart thermostat to your vehicle to provide similar functionality. Installation requires the ability to remove your current thermostat and handle a bit of simple wiring.
The Dometic Comfort Control Center is a significant upgrade over older HVAC monitors. It offers multi-zone support for use in larger motorhomes and trailers, providing independent control over heat pumps, air conditioners, and fans. The unit can be programmed to maintain different climate settings based on the time of day and has a modern, easy-to-understand LCD interface for interacting with the climate controls in your RV.
Upgrade Your Internet Speed
Fast internet with a strong connection is a game changer at home and on the road. That’s what you’ll get with Starlink satellite internet, even when you’re camping in a remote connection. The service offers speeds of up to 200 Mbps, which is fast enough for working remotely and watching streaming video services.
Starlink offers a plan specifically for RVs that costs $135/month. Service can be paused and activated as needed, meaning you only have to pay for it when you’re actually using it. Setup is quick and easy, even for non-techies. Just mount the satellite dish on its tripod, point it at the sky, and it will automatically align with the company’s constellation of orbiting transmitters. Before you know it, you’ll have a fast internet connection even when camping completely off the grid.
Visit the Starlink website for more information.
Boost Your Wi-Fi and Cellular Signal
Adding a Wi-Fi and cell network signal booster to your RV is another way to improve your internet speed and reliability. Winegard makes several antennas that mount to your RV’s roof, improving existing connections and making them stronger and faster. Installation is quick and easy, and many travel trailers and motorhomes come prewired for the upgrade.
The Winegard Connect 2.0 is one of the company’s top models. It can connect to the wireless internet provided by a campground, boosting the signal for use on multiple devices. It also comes with a built-in 4G sim card that allows access to the internet via a cellular network. A data plan from AT&T or Verizon is required, but it ensures a relatively fast connection anywhere in their coverage zones.
Kick the Tires
A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is one of those gadgets that are so easy to install yet provide so much functionality you’ll wonder why you didn’t add one sooner. As the name implies, these devices provide RV owners with an easy way to monitor the tires on their vehicles. A small screen in the cab displays real-time pressure levels on each individual tire and provides alerts if those numbers start to drop. It can even warn RV owners when tires start to overheat, helping to avoid a dangerous situation.
TPMS devices—like those made by TireMinder—come with a set of sensors that screw onto the valve stems of an RV’s tires. Those sensors wirelessly transmit data to the receiver, mounted in the cab. Installation takes just a few minutes to complete, making travel safer as a result.
Keep an Eye on the Road
Dash cams have been around for years and have proven themselves useful in a variety of situations. Not only do they capture video of an accident that you might be involved in, but the footage could also help authorities track down hit-and-run drivers. Best of all, installation of these cameras is straightforward, usually requiring just minutes to complete.
Garmin recently released a new gadget called the Dash Cam Live. This device does everything you expect from similar models but with a few key upgrades. For instance, this camera has a built-in 4G LTE cellular connection (subscription required), allowing users to watch a live video stream on a mobile device anytime. That connection also allows owners to track the location of their vehicle and allows the dash cam to send theft alerts. Other features include voice commands for hands-free operation, 1440p high-definition video, and forward collision and lane departure warnings.
Check Your Rear View Too!
A backup cam is another type of camera that you can add to your RV to improve safety and prevent accidents. When activated, these gadgets stream a video feed to a screen in the cab of your motorhome or tow vehicle. By providing a rearview image, it is easier for the driver to see parking spots and campsites they are backing into. They are also helpful for avoiding other campers, obstacles, or wandering animals.
The Rear View Safety Backup Camera System includes a rear-facing camera and two side cameras. This provides a wide-angle view of your surroundings, displayed on a vibrant 7″ LCD screen. The cameras offer an infrared view for use at night and are weatherproof to survive outdoors. Installation requires using a few tools, but it is otherwise fairly straightforward.
Listen to the Music
Multi-speaker wireless audio is a great way to enjoy music at home, but you can also get the same experience in your RV. Today’s Bluetooth speakers are small and powerful, with excellent sound quality and improved connectivity. These devices don’t require any installation; simply plug them into a power source or charge up their batteries, pair the device with a smartphone or tablet, and start listening to your favorite tunes.
Makita—yes, that Makita—makes durable portable Bluetooth speakers that are perfect for use while camping. These great-sounding devices are water and dust resistant and can play for hours on a single charge. The company’s CXT models can wirelessly connect two units for stereo output or add up to eight more speakers for a sound system that spans the entire length of your RV and outside to the campsite.
Stream Your Favorite Movies and TV Shows
If your RV doesn’t have a television or it’s an older model with limited features, adding a smart TV is an inexpensive and easy way to improve life on the road. Smart TVs come with built-in apps that stream content from Netflix, HBO Max, YouTube, ESPN, and other services. That means, provided you have an internet connection, you’ll also have far more entertainment options to choose from.
Jensen offers smart TVs made for RVs in a variety of sizes, ranging from 24″ to 40″. These models come with streaming apps pre-installed but also offer plenty of USB, ethernet, and HDMI ports to connect other devices, such as a DVD player. They also come with a built-in HDTV tuner for receiving over-the-air broadcasts. The TVs are easy to mount, offer full 1080p resolutions, and have great color reproduction without putting too much of a dent in your wallet.
These are some of the best tech upgrades you can add to an RV. You’ll be surprised at how adding just one or two of these items can impact your camping adventures. Best of all, you can install them yourself, making your motorhome or travel trailer an even better place to work and play.