A weekly podcast from the writers of rvfamilytravelatlas.com, focusing on topics that relate to RV family travel. We review campgrounds, discuss tips and tricks for traveling with kids, and answer our readers' most common questions. We also chat about food, gear, and those times when everything doesn't quite go as planned.
18 Holiday Gifts for Campers (Mostly!) Under $50
Holiday shopping season is upon us and it is time to pick out some awesome gifts for the campers on our lists. This year we focused on choosing gifts for campers that (for the most part) come in at under $50. Just because a gift is affordable doesn't mean that it can't be memorable and fun. We think that all of these gifts for campers pack a serious punch and most of them can be enjoyed year around. Also included are two "RV Atlas Classics" from previous gift guides. These gifts have stood the test of time and are perennial favorites in our family and among our podcast listeners.
Without further ado--here is this year's RV Atlas holiday gift guide. Let us know what gifts you pick out for your loved ones--and what gifts you might get for yourselves!
Gifts for Campers Under $50
2024 National Park Foundation Wall Calendar ($7.15)
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America's National Parks and they partner with our publisher, Sourcebooks, every year to put out an excellent National Parks Calendar. This year's calendar features stunning photos of Joshua Tree, Zion, Mount Rainier, and nine other national parks. Each month's photo will inspire you to plan your next great adventure to one of our magnificent National Parks.
A companion National Park Foundation day planner is also available from Sourcebooks.
Life is Better at the Campsite RV Sketch Mug ($8.99)
We love to give gifts that can be used year around and for years to come. This adorable "Life is Better at the Campsite" Sketch Mug will keep camping season alive all winter long with its cute drawings of just about every kind of RV. Camco makes an entire series of super cute LIBATC mugs--but this one is our clear favorite. It is a fairly large mug which is great for big cups of coffee on cold winter mornings!
Spot It! Camping Card Game RV Atlas Classic ($9.99)
Spot It! is probably our all-time favorite game to keep in the camper. It is compact and affordable--and most importantly--it is tons of fun for the whole family. The camping edition has camping-centric icons (think lanterns, tents, and campfires) that players have to match up to win sets of cards. Spot It! is fast paced and can be played again and again without your kids getting bored. This is a perfect game for rainy days in the RV or for after dinner on the picnic table.
Where Should We Camp Next? Books ($9 to $12 Each)
The Where Should We Camp Next? series makes a perfect trilogy of books for the campers on your list that love planning trips. Purchase them together or separately and give the gift of adventure all year long!
Where Should We Camp Next? is a captivating journey through 300+ of America's most breathtaking camping destinations! Whether you're a seasoned camper or new to the camping scene, this guide offers invaluable insights and inspiration to help you plan your next camping adventure with ease.
Packed with insider tips and expert recommendations, this comprehensive book is the perfect companion for campers, road trippers, and adventurers seeking unforgettable experiences in the great outdoors. From hiking scenic trails and spotting wildlife to fishing, kayaking, and stargazing, this book is your gateway to unforgettable experiences in the wilderness.
**USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice Award Winner**
Where Should We Camp Next? National Parks features 300+ of the best camping and glamping spots in and around national parks, seashores, monuments, and more! A delightful Christmas gift for National Park lovers, campers, and the outdoorsy people in your life!
The national parks of the United States have been called "America's best idea," and some of the best camping and glamping experiences our country has to offer can be found in and around National Park Servi...
Van Life Dreaming With Chris Shashaty from Sequoia+Salt
We have been following Sequoia+Salt on social media for several years. Their stunning custom camper van conversions have a unique look and vibe all their own. That look and vibe is inspired by surf trips to Baja, Mexico and road trips to Sequoia National Park in California--and life in and around the famous beaches of the Jersey Shore. The interiors are light, bright and airy, and the pride of craftsmanship is visibly apparent in every inch of these vans. Just looking through Sequoia+Salt's Instagram account fills us with wanderlust and a desire to escape into the great outdoors--whether that be to the beach--or to the mountains.
Our interest in Sequoia+Salt's journey as a company in the #vanlife and RV space has also been sparked by their proximity to us right here in the Garden State. Their headquarters in Manasquan, NJ is just a few miles away from us.
The RV Atlas Meets Sequoia+Salt at Hershey
We were thrilled to get to meet Chris Shashaty at the Hershey RV Show this past fall. Chris and his wife Sara are the co-owners and co-founders of Sequoia+Salt. We looked up from our table in the Giant Center where we were selling our Where Should We Camp Next? books and Chris was there to say hello. Since then we have visited their headquarters and checked out a bunch of their vans in person. They are even more impressive when you step inside of them. Looking at pictures can only get you so far. Photographs show you how beautiful they are. But when you step inside you can feel the quality of the build and the sturdiness of the craftsmanship.
To say that we are impressed with Sequoia+Salt would be a massive understatement. We are in love with what they are doing and can't wait to see them grow into a true next generation RV manufacturer right here at the Jersey Shore. We love to see independent RV companies building quality products that they stand behind with integrity and passion--and this is one of those companies. One of the few.
To be quite frank--it gives us hope for the future of the entire industry.
To listen to Jeremy interview Chris and go into detail about Sequoia+Salt's product offerings--please click on the media player above. Or subscribe to the The RV Atlas wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
Sequoia+Salt's Origin Story
The visionaries (and co-owners and co-founders) behind Sequoia+Salt are Jersey Shore natives Chris and Sara Shashaty who met here in the Garden State--but found themselves living and working in Southern California in the years leading up to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. After Sandy hit the Jersey Shore Sara found herself heading back home because her family home had been destroyed. Chris stayed behind in California where he was working as a photographer and filmaker.
He soon found himself becoming burnt out from all of the moving around for his work. So he started looking into buying a used van to live in while he worked on film projects around the state. He purchased a (very) used Toyota Chinook and moved around the state following his work wherever it led him. After about 8 months Sara (who was back home in New Jersey) questioned whether they were still dating. Chris told her that he would be "home the next day." It was a bit more complicated than that--but he did end up back home at the Jersey Shore very soon after.
Chris and Sara soon bought a Ram ProMaster and started a Photo Booth business out of the van. They also started renting the van on Outdoorsy. During the pandemic their Photo Booth business slowed down and he also ended up working as a salesperson at Colonial Airstream in New Jersey. All of these experiences led Chris and Sara to take a huge leap of faith and open Sequoia+Salt--a van conversion company that is making waves in Manasquan, New Jersey. The company recently earned RVIA certification for all of their vans--so they are officiall...
13 National Parks You Can’t Reach by RV
You may dream of visiting all 63 national parks with your RV, but that task is actually impossible---or nearly impossible---for a number of national parks. In fact, you'll find 13 national parks you can't reach by RV, spanning Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, and the mainland. If you want to hit all 63 national parks, plan to park your RV and take other modes of transportation, but the efforts will pay off with big adventure.
RV Winterization Gear Guide With Scott and Noah from Camco Outdoors
Winterization is not always a fun topic for RV owners–because it can mean that camping season is coming to an end. But learning the ins and outs of winterizing your rig is very important. Here at the RV Atlas we think it is essential for each RV owner to learn how to winterize their rigs and have the right winterization gear to get the job done correctly. Why do we think that RV owners should be able to winterize their own rigs? Because cold weather can sneak up on us and getting an appointment for winterization at your RV dealer can sometimes be a bit harder than you think.
During our first three years of RV ownership we had our dealer winterize our rig. But during that third year it got cold faster than we anticipated and we ended up running our RV's heat for several nights before the appointment date at our dealer. We did this to protect our rig from the cold weather. At that point we decided that it was time to learn how to winterize our rig so that we could take care of it ourselves anytime the weather got unexpectedly cold.
During those next few years when we started winterizing our own rig we quickly discovered that Camco made just about all of the products that we used to get the job done. We liked the fact that these products were readily available, easy to use, and quite affordable.
Winterization Gear Guide
This RV winterization gear guide features great products from Camco for bypassing your water heater, for blowing out your lines, and for protecting your rig from bad weather, bad odors, moisture, flying insects, and much more. You might not need all of the products on this list (because winterization is a very personalized process) but all of the products that you do decide you need are probably here.
Camco products are widely available at big box stores, hardware stores, Camping World Stores, RV dealers, and more. You can also buy many of them directly from Camco at camcooutdoors.com. If you do purchase them directly from Camco please use coupon code RVATLAS10 to get 10 percent off your entire order.
To listen to Jeremy interview Scott and Noah from Camco please click on the media player above or subscribe to the RV Atlas wherever you get your favorite shows. Click on the video player below to get a fun intro to Scott and Noah and all of the fun stuff that Camco makes--and make sure that you check out their complete library of user-friendly videos on Camco's YouTube channel which you can find right here.
Now that you have met Scott and Noah, let's take a look at the wide variety of products that Camco makes for winterization and winter storage.
Before adding antifreeze into your RVs plumbing systems you want to make sure that you bypass your water heater (by using a by-pass kit) so you don’t waste 6-10 gallons of antifreeze. Getting a good by-pass kit to avoid dumping antifreeze into your water heater is an absolute must. Thankfully, Camco has got us covered here with a few different options. We use the Permanent Quick Turn By-Pass Kit and it has worked incredibly well. See below for other options.
Permanent Quick Turn By-Pass Kit (#35983)
Camco Supreme Permanent RV Water Heater By-Pass Kit With Brass Valves (#35953)
Bypass Kit for 10 Gallon Tanks (#35963)
Blow Out Plugs
Some RV owners like to blow out their lines with compressed air before adding antifreeze—and some RV owners in milder climates may only blow out their lines with compressed air and skip the antifreeze entirely. That’s a personal decision for each RV owner. We like to do both here at the RV Atlas. Thankfully, when it comes to blow out plugs, Camco has the winterization gear that we need. We use Camco's "Quick Connect Brass Blow Out Plug" but are considering upgrading to the "Blow Out Hose Kit with Ball Valve" to have a little bit more control a...
Campground Review: Van Buren State Park in South Haven, MI
We have long believed that Michigan is one of the most underrated camping states in America. It rarely pops to the top of bucket lists among tent campers and RV owners--but it should. To read more about why we think Michigan is an underrated state for camping please click here.
Michigan's state park system, and the campgrounds within that system, are often excellent--and that is certainly one of the main reasons why we think the state is so great for campers of all kinds. Van Buren State Park is a gem among gems--and it is certainly one of the most popular state parks in the system. The park is located on the shores of Lake Michigan and is just a short drive or bike ride away from the charming waterfront town of South Haven. Thankfully the campground is also very good and can accommodate tent campers and larger RVs.
To listen to Jeremy interview Anna Michels about Van Buren State Park and the best things to do in nearby South Haven and St. Joseph, please click on the media player above, or subscribe to the The RV Atlas wherever you get your favorite shows. Anna is the Editorial Director of Sourcebooks and Poisoned Pen Press and she is Jeremy and Stephanie's lead editor for all of the Where Should We Camp Next? books. She is also an avid backpacker and tent camper.
All photos by Anna Michels. Blog post adapted from her notes.
Location of Van Buren State Park
Van Buren State Park is located on the lovely and windswept shores of Lake Michigan near the southwestern corner of the state not too far from the Indiana border. This park is incredibly popular because of its beauty but also because it is a short drive away from two major American cities. Chicago is just two hours away, and Detroit is only three hours away. The entire South Haven area is definitely a a terrific option for a quick getaway (or a week's vacation) for the citizens of those two great cities.
Overview of Van Buren State Park
The major feature of Van Buren State Park is its mile long sandy beach that is rimmed by sandy dunes. Visitors love swimming, kayaking, and sunbathing here. There are also woodland trails for hiking and biking, and plenty of opportunities for bird watching. South Haven is only three miles and visitors can hop on the Van Buren Trail and ride their bikes directly into the city on a paved, scenic path. Bike rentals are available in a variety of locations around the park.
Van Buren State Park is located just north of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. This may not sound appealing but it does not keep this park from being incredibly beautiful and well-worth a visit.
The Campground at Van Buren State Park
The campground at Van Buren State Park has five loops with over 200 total sites. Campsites cost approximately $35 dollars per night and they all have either 30 or 50amp electrical hookups. Most of the sites here are gravel--though some, like the one pictured above, are paved. Van Buren is more big rig friendly than many other state parks. The roads here are easy to navigate and most of the sites are easy to back into. Some sites here offer privacy and shade--while others are out in the open. Choose wisely when you pick your site.
There are two bathhouse here with restrooms and showers and both of them are very new and very clean. The dump station has potable water and two lanes so it does not get too backed up around checkout time. There are two very basic sand playgrounds here and very few other amenities. Most campers are here to enjoy the beach and head into South Haven for food, shopping, and family fun.
When Anna was camping at Van Buren there was a very nice mix of RV's including pop-ups, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and larger motorhomes.
Anna's group was "very tent-focused" and felt that they were surrounded by more RVs than than they would have liked.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Wilderness Road Campground
“Stand at Cumberland Gap and watch the procession of civilization, marching single file–the buffalo following the trail to the salt springs, the Indian, the fur-trader and hunter, the cattleraiser, the pioneer farmer–and the frontier has passed by”
(Frederick Jackson Turner, 1893).
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (24,000 acres) is located where the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia meet. This park and the area around it is packed with history, culture, great food and drink--and lots of options for outdoor adventure. This historical park also contains a very good campground called Wilderness Road Campground. Overall, this historical park and the region around it are excellent for an RV vacation and it is something of an under-the-radar gem.
Our guide to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Wilderness Road Campground is our longtime correspondent, Casita Dean May. To listen to Jeremy interview Dean click on the media player above, or subscribe to The RV Atlas wherever you get your shows. Or read right here and dive into Casita Dean May's extensive show notes.
Location of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
If flying the closest airports would be Knoxville (85 miles away) and Lexington (130 miles away) along the I-75 corridor. By car, take Exit 25 East to Corbin and the park is about 50 miles southeast. The park is adjacent to Middlesboro, KY. Interestingly, the campground is actually located in Ewing, Virginia!
Wilderness Road Campground
Wilderness Road Campground is a public campground located inside a national historical park. Cumberland Gap is one of 424 National Park Service units and one of 63 national historical parks. Wilderness Road Campground contains 154 sites, including 41 sites that have 20, 30, & 50 amp electricity. Loops B & C contain the 41 sites with electric while Loops A, D, E, F, & G have no hookups.
Most Wilderness Road Campground sites are wooded with partial to full shade. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, the park and the campground are within the surrounding hills and mountains and much of the campground is located on a gentle slope with many of the sites having a gentle to moderate slope.
Reservations can be made on-line via reservation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Non-electric sites are $18 per night. Electric sites are $24 per night. Finding open campsites at Wilderness Road Campground is fairly easy--especially if you have a bit of flexibility.
Other site details include:
Most sites will accommodate rigs up to 32’.
There are few sites large enough for big rigs.
However, some sites are small enough to accommodate only smaller RVs.
Sites are back-in.
There is no WiFi service but cell service was fine (AT&T). The park rangers and staff were pleasant inside the campground. The staff and rangers at the Visitors Center were amazing!!! There are recreational and educational activities, particularly at the visitor center. Highlights include guided interpretive walks, interpretive programs, and hiking, biking, photography, birding, caving, scenic drives, etc. Cumberland Gap National Historic Park truly has a wonderful visitor center.
There are three bath houses located throughout the park with potable water access at each bath house as well. There is also a dump station with potable water at the entrance to the campground.
A Few Insider Insider Details About Wilderness Road Campground
C-4 is a pull-through site.
Recommend Loops B & C with electric hookups.
Many of the non-electric sites were a bit too primitive (personal preference).
Regional Highlights and Activities
There are many things to see and do in the greater Cumberland Gap National Hi...
Another to my list!
I have just added this podcast to my subscription list for auto download. I found them a couple months ago and have listened to a few of the latest episodes. After listening to Cumberland gap national historical park (we happen to be 3hrs west at mammoth cave! So I was intrigued, will definitely be adding that to my places to see list!) it was a great episode. The interview was so interesting and informative. Overall I have found it to be a great podcast show. First and foremost the sound quality. So many, even the “big dogs” sound quality can Be so bad a lot of times. That makes me skip it. The content is great. Lots of facts which I look for. I am usually looking for information mainly with some entertainment but not just story telling. This podcast hits the mark for me. Also the description is great! In this episode they even put the site number they mentioned for big rigs at the park! Super helpful! I’m sure I’ll find more helpful information as I continue to listen. Thanks for a great podcast!
Excellent RV and national park podcast
I love the interviews and questions that Jeremy asks. I get a lot of great information from this podcast. Thank you.
I am a national park lover and this was very informative.