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RVing Gear that keeps us Hot and Not Bothered


As cold temperatures descend upon us, we’ve been working on optimizing our options for heating things up in a variety of conditions.

We’re a mostly electric coach, and have spent the past several weeks doing a lot of chilly dry camping as we’ve headed down the Eastern Sierras. With our newly installed solar panels, we’ve been trying to maximize our quality of living while not needing to run the generator.

This gear review post will focus on some of the equipment in our RV that helps heat things up – whether the interior of our coach, food or beverages.

Cooking Gear

When we bought our bus conversion, which had been converted in 1989, it had a propane oven & stovetop and a small microwave oven built into a cabinet over the refrigerator.

One of the first modifications we made was pulling most of the propane appliances when we discovered how dangerous of a condition the propane systems were. We switched to an all electric kitchen setup instead, utilizing portable appliances stored in a new cabinet built where the oven once was.

Here’s some of the cooking appliances we’ve settled on:

Microwave Convection Oven

Evenly baked through gluten free pizza.

Evenly baked through gluten free pizza.

We ultimately wanted an all in one unit to replace our microwave oven, but had trouble finding a microwave convection oven small enough to fit in the cabinet space available.  For a long while we just kept the old school microwave oven, and added in a small toaster oven for baking that was stowed in the new cabinet.

This past spring while attending an RV Rally we spotted a Dometic (DCMC11B.F) unit on display at one of the vendors and priced at just $199. The vendor invited us to take the unit ‘home’ to see if it fit before purchasing, and indeed it did!

We’ve been mostly happy with the unit since – it bakes evenly (not that we bake that much) and has served its purpose of heating things up. We’re thrilled to have a unit that fits nicely in the space available too. We’re not foodie enough of folks to give it a more comprehensive evaluation than that, I’m afraid.


Prying the door open with a handle.

We do have some complaints on it however. The door tends to stick, especially if we’re not exactly level – sometimes requiring a silverware handle to pry it open.

And the internal clock seems to have no battery back-up, so when we turn off our inverter while dry camping it loses time.  For a unit made especially for mobile living, these are considerations we’d appreciate being addressed.

If you’re looking for a small microwave convection oven, this unit might do the trick.

Induction Cooktop

Right after we bought our bus, we were in Arizona. In the summer. It was ridiculously hot (120+ degrees on some days), so preparing a quick meal over a propane stovetop was utter misery. It just added even more heat into the bus, that we were struggling to keep below 100 degrees on a 30amp electric hook-up.

Our primary means of cooking - induction cooktop.

Our primary means of cooking – induction cooktop.

When Chris bought me an induction cooktop as my birthday gift during that heatwave – I just about snapped his head off. You just don’t buy this undomesticated chick a domestic device as a gift. He could have only done worse by buying me a vacuum cleaner.

But, we do use stovetop cooking as our primary cooking method – from curries, stir fries, eggplant parmesan, soups and more – I have become a whiz at one-pan meal prep.

Our induction hob has become one of my favorite kitchen gadgets ever, and has completely changed the way we prepare food.  It uses magnetic energy to excite the metal in the pan, which creates the heat. And it does it quickly, much quicker than propane or standard electric stovetops.  Water can boil in under 5 minutes flat, and the temperature is immediately responsive. And the heat loss is minimal – great for cooking when it’s already hot outside.

You do need to purchase magnetic cookware, but that’s easy enough to find. Generally avoid aluminum. When shopping for cookware, I just take my iPad’s case in the store with me – if it sticks to the bottom of the pan, it’s magnetic.

This allows us to cook all electrically even off solar and battery without blowing the power budget – especially since I find the 300-700w setting creates the perfect heat for my style of cooking.

The biggest bonus? Never before have I given more demonstrations of water boiling to folks touring our bus. And yes, I long ago forgave Chris for this thoughtful gift… 3+ years now, and this thing has performed great!

Hot Beverage Maker

Hot water.. a cup at a time!

Hot water.. a cup at a time!

I enjoy a hot beverage on a chilly night. Hot tea or maybe a cup of cocoa if I’m feeling indulgent. For us to make up a hot beverage, it involved heating a mug of water in the microwave or the induction cooktop. Not a big deal with hooked into prepaid electrical.

But when boondocking and drawing off the batteries? Not exactly the most efficient method.

Before we headed off on our first in a while boondocking adventure, I ordered in a Hot Shot Hot Water Dispenser. I had one of these before I hit the road, and loved it. While it uses a lot of power to heat up, it does it quickly – which overall is more efficient.

We took some rough measurements of how much energy it took to heat up a mug of water for brewing a cup of tea (obviously, had we taken temperature readings too this would be far more scientific).

  • Heating up in the microwave: 5AH (2m 2s at 1600w)
  • Heating up on the induction cooktop: 2.7AH (1m 35s at 1300w)
  • Heating up in the Hot Shot: 2.4AH (1m 1s at 1500w)

While not a huge energy savings over the induction, the Hot Shot does save us pulling out the hob and using a pan.

Chilly Climate Control

Again, we have no propane furnace on board. Our eventual goal is to install a diesel hydronic boiling system that will circulate heat around the coach, heat our water and heat our engine block. But that’s way down the line. In the meantime, the top heating method we use is – DRIVE SOUTH!

Even when following that plan, we can still end up with some chilly encounters.  Here’s what we use to keep warm:

Electric Space Heater

I love the Vornado line of space heaters. I had one in my home in Florida before hitting the road to take the chill off.  We carried the Vornado Vortex space heater in our prior travel trailer and moved it onboard to the bus. For nearly 5 years, that little rounded box kept us nice and warm on chilly nights while plugged in.

It’s super quiet, it circulates warm air very nicely around the coach and the unit itself never is warm to the touch – so very safe for pets and small spaces. And even if we were off grid, we could use it for a couple hours without draining our lithium ion  batteries. It can also run in fan-only mode if we just want air circulation.

While in Oregon, the power button on our unit started getting finicky.  We contacted Vornado’s online chat customer support, and they offered to send us a new one.  They didn’t require us sending the old one back or even proof of purchase, just a photo of us cutting the power cord.  Now that’s customer service!

As we would only have a shipping address for another couple days and they couldn’t guarantee a delivery time – we had them ship the replacement one to parents in Florida. They seem to have appreciated the gift of a little heat on chilly nights. We ordered a new and upgraded unit on Amazon Prime to meet up with us.

So far, we’re digging our new Vornado iControl model – same great technology, but with a remote so we can adjust the temperature without getting out of bed. Vornados are more expensive than cheaper models of space heaters you can pick up – but we’re very impressed with both the quality and customer service.

Propane Heat

Looking at the temperatures ahead on our Highway 395 adventure, we knew that running our electric space heater off of batteries was not going to be sustainable for several weeks. Earlier we reported that we ordered in a Mr. Heater Portable Buddy, which is safe to operate indoors with a little ventilation.

Our new cold weather buddy.

Our new cold weather buddy.

Overall, we were impressed with the unit, and it did keep us plenty warm enough on some very chilly nights that hovered around freezing point. Our buddies at WheelingIt carry the same unit to supplement their propane furnace which also uses electricity to run the fan.

We ended up not using the conversion kit to run the heater off our BBQ grill tank, as we found the unit doesn’t circulate the heat very well – so we had to move it around the living room and into the bedroom at night. That wouldn’t have worked with trying to plumb in a line to our larger tank, which was also keeping our hot water heater going.

The sun started disappearing behind the Eastern Sierras around 3:30pm making for extended periods of chilly time – we found we’d burn through about a 1 lb bottle a day. At about $2.75 – $3.00 a bottle, the cost wasn’t too bad. But we hate the lack of options for recycling or re-using the canisters (although there are refill kits available that require a bit of fuss).

We like having this option on board – it is super easy to use and effective. But we want to only consider this a back-up option. Until we come up with a longer term plan for heating while off-grid we’ll be continuing to follow the weather.


We hope this might give you some ideas for ways to keep warm inside and out as winter approaches… and hope wherever you are, you keep snuggly warm!

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32 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Hey guys!
    Just wanted to give you a tip on window treatments. I’ve read that people have used curtains, bubble wrap, etc. We have just started on our cold weather excursion (currently in northwestern Montana) and wanted to share what we did for sealing our windows. 3M makes clear window treatments that come in multiple sizes. Normally, they are for use in a residential home, but we found them to work equally well in our 5er. Using double sided tape around the frames of the windows, they make a tight, clear seal and both keeps the air leaks from coming in and forms an air pocket between the glass and plastic film that acts as an insulator. SInce air is a poor conductor of heat, it makes a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer in the winter while still allowing full light to enter. We’ll be putting a winter post up on our blog shortly. Granted, we are from Florida, so I’m not sure who’s going to take our advice, but we both did grow up in Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively! 🙂 Hope this helps!
    Eric and Jeanine Libby

  2. We love our Mr. Heater also! Great in tents, RVs and in garages in the winter. We also have a Dometic Conv/Micro combo and I’m still learning to “like” it. I guess the one thing I can say to anyone looking at this combo is don’t go in expecting an oven/micro combo because you’ll end up disappointed. The biggest issue is that much of what I cook does not “brown” so things look under cooked. I realize that’s it’s a small thing but I’m that person who loves pizza with bubbly browned cheese and toast. So for that reason we just take along our toaster oven. 🙂 It travels easily from home to RV.

  3. We have the AquaHot, works on diesel or electric, also heats the engine and hot water as well as house heat. Two small electric space heaters. We were told never leave electric heaters on or even plugged in at night. Aqua Hot heats the bus till morning when space heaters get plugged back in.

    • A diesel hydronics system is on the list for the future.. someday. In the meantime, we’re quite happy with what we have. Have never heard about not using a space heater overnight – have used our Vornados for many years that way.

  4. I love my Vornado heaters too! I also had a great experience with customer support when the thermostats acted up on one. Cut the cord and send a pic…new heater in one week.

  5. Hi guys don’t think sunny Fl it’s only 68 and rain today
    As for Mister buddy u could have mine it’s to small went to a 10000 btu blue flame my 30 lp tank last 30 days however one thing I did was install a west marine boat fan to move the air
    Caframo Ultimate 12v 2-speed 7″ Fan White Direct Wire 757DCWBX. this fan uses almost no power to run and it was on almost 24/7 on the trip the 5ers in my storage yard now and its on now th move air look,, it up and see
    And it moves a lot of air to boot
    Or dump the gen set for a hotshot setup like looking in to webasto or espar diesel truck and boat heaters (note one can look in to truck salvage yards and save big )
    They will do all your needs heat ac motor heat and give you power as well
    Almost all over the road truckers have one of some type we call a hotshot
    If I think back odyssey had a small webasto heater only in there neoplan bus and now on there boat as well
    As for the induction cooktop there the best thing to white on rice there’s been a duel cook top on the market now for a 3 or 4 years now,, and now its under 200$$
    Get a cast iron skillet set the cooktop temp at 360 best steaks ever
    Safeways food markets are useing than under there quartz counter tops $$$$
    Joy your day

    • For sure… getting a diesel hydronic system has been on our list from the beginning. One day 🙂 Good to hear from you Mister Ed. Stay out of trouble and keep warm down there in FL!

  6. X2 on the Mr. Heater. We boondock a lot and only need to run the furnace occassionally for basement heat when temps hoover in the low 20’s. It should be mentioned though of the importance of keeping the catalyst pad clean! Dust and hair reduce the combustion efficiency. We keep ours in the original packaging when stored. And, yes, we crack an adjacent window during use.

  7. We love our Big Buddy. We use it to keep our fifth wheel warm while dry camping. I’m still a little nervous about the fact that it’s ventless though. I haven’t been able to build up the nerve to use it through the night yet. BTW, I think I’ve read ever post you guys have written. We’re planning on hitting the road once the last kid leaves the nest. Two years and counting. Thank you for all the great information you guys share with us, I really appreciate it.

  8. I love sleeping in a cold room under lots of covers, but hate having to get up in that cold room and venture out to turn on the heat – so the remote operated Vortex is the perfect solution! Added it to our Wish List, and will be sure to order it through your link 🙂 Love all the other gizmos too. Looks like it’s going to be another Winter where south is going to be the best plan for warm.

  9. Great post! Fun to see how others survive the elements living in an RV. I’ve spent many winter nights in both Mammoth and Bishop. Brrrrrrrr! Never could have made it with out the Buddy heater. I’m sure you guys know this already, but there is a similar, but larger version called the Big Buddy. Same idea, just twice the heat. I have this plumbed with a 12ft quick-disconnect hose in the middle of the RV. This lets me get it to either end of the coach. The quick-disconnect makes it really quick to store it when not in use. The Big Buddy also has a built in fan, so that helps move the air too. One of the best upgrades I’ve done in 5 years.

    I know you’re going to laugh, but I also put in a fireplace!


    My expectations for this were pretty low, and it turned out to be way better than I could have ever guessed. Fair amount of heat, quiet, and I love the ambiance. Not much use for boondocking, but great when you have hookups!

    • Ah yes.. the WheelingIt folks actually do have the Big Buddy, but generally run it with just one side. We bought the quick disconnect hose, we just need to take the time to figure out the best installation route and probably bring a second tank on board so we can keep the propane hot water heater going too.

      Just more than we could get done pre-trip with the solar install 🙂

      A fireplace would be snazzy. But don’t think we have the interior space to give up for something seasonal like that.

  10. Great article! Right when we’ve been looking into portable heaters, too. About your statement: “I have become a whiz at one-pan meal prep.” <-does this article exist on this website already? If not, it should!

    • Hmm… hadn’t thought about an article on it. I’m pretty much a ‘toss stuff in the pan and see what comes out’ kinda cook 😀 But if I get inspired to write about it.. perhaps.

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