8 Revel Van Modifications & Gear for International Remote Travel
8 Revel Van Modifications & Gear for International Remote Travel
From water purification to security measures, and more!
By: Peter & Kathy Holcombe
Wow, it’s been a long two months of preparations getting our Revel ready to head south into Central and South America. All of our focus and energy has been centered on how to make this 18-month journey as safe and comfortable as possible. And there have been several changes and additions to our Revel that have made a huge difference in our day-to-day living.
Here are the top modifications that we did to improve our life in the Revel before we crossed the border into Mexico …
1. Water Purification
Water: the essence of life as we know it. Living in the Revel full-time, we deal with water in 24-gallon increments (the volume of our water tank). This means that every 5-7 days, we are on the hunt for high-quality water to fill our tanks (we have always drunk water straight from the faucet in our Revel). And depending on the season and our location, sometimes the search is effortless, while other times it can take hours to find a somewhat questionable water source.
As we began planning our route into tropical regions that often lack infrastructure with readily available drinking water, we decided that we needed an onboard purification system to ensure that we have a consistent and reliable supply of clean drinking water. After extensive research, we discovered the Guzzle H2O Stealth Flex Water Purification System that integrates perfectly into the existing Revel plumbing (with the Revel Install Kit).
We had our friends at Agile OffRoad install the kit for us, and the whole install took a couple of hours. If you’re handy, it is a fairly straightforward installation that you can likely do yourself. The system uses the water in your existing tank and then diverts the water, first through a carbon filter that reduces chemicals and any weird taste, and then through a UV filter that wipes out any bacteria, viruses, or other biological pathogens.
It delivers the clean drinking water through a secondary faucet next to the sink, so there is no confusion on which lever position delivers the purified water. Knowing that we will always have safe and good-tasting water is a huge relief as we venture into places in foreign lands with unknown water quality.
2. Health Kit
Health Insurance has always been a struggle throughout our decade of full-time RV travel. We have always had a catastrophic insurance policy (with a high deductible) through the state where we have set up our domicile. But it is expensive, and the coverage is limited to that state (except in the event of an emergency).
That has left us paying out of pocket for office visits for simple things such as strep throat or an ear infection. And if you are not an existing patient, that first office visit to a new practice is often double the price. That is why we were thrilled to discover Duration Health Kits.
Duration Health is an organization set up by travel doctors who understand the struggle of life on the road and have built a business to support travelers. The way it works is you choose a kit that works best for you (they range in price from $170 - $2,400), you meet with a doctor to discuss your travel plans and any medical history, and then they send you a kit with medication that you might need during your travels. The price includes the medication, a field guide, and online access to a doctor for a year.
We chose an adult kit for $299 and an overland kit for $469, and now when we have a sinus or ear infection, we can touch base with a doctor online to confirm the diagnosis, and then select one of the prescription drugs that we have already onboard and we are all set without ever stepping into a doctor’s office or pharmacy.
In the event that we need a prescription that is not included in our kit, the online physician can order that prescription for us at a local pharmacy. While this doesn’t replace our catastrophic insurance policy, or regular medical care, it is a really nice addition to take care of the small things that inevitably happen during travel.
3. Security Measures
Security on the road has always been at the forefront of our minds, whether domestically or abroad, and we always do what we can to minimize the temptation and opportunity for the ill-intentioned, particularly since we travel with everything that we own aboard. While there is certainly the possibility of violent crime anywhere, the primary risk along the PanAmerican Highway is theft.
We have added two new security features to the Revel to make theft more difficult while we are away from the van. First, we added Thunderbolt M2 deadbolts to all four doors of our van. These operate on a separate key fob from the factory system and cannot be opened from the inside (other than from a hidden emergency pull). So even if someone were to gain access to the inside of our van, they would have to crawl in and out of the window making theft that much more difficult.
To add another layer of hassle for potential thieves, we added a security film to the glass in the doors of the van that essentially tempers the glass making it difficult to shatter. We hope that the combination of tempered glass and deadbolts will prevent the likelihood of a smash-and-grab theft. It certainly gave us peace of mind while parked in Los Angeles.
And, of course, we always adhere to best safety practices anytime we are in the van:
- Always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right…leave.
- Always park so that you have an easy escape. We call it “race-ready” and it means that you either back into a parking spot or park in a way that you can quickly pull away if necessary.
- We check forums and talk to people about where to go and where to avoid.
Our daughter Abby wrote more about boondocking safety here.
4. Communication Devices & Data Plans
Going into this expedition, we are better connected than ever before and are comforted in the fact that we have numerous methods of communication to keep us in touch with our friends and family at home.
Our first line of communication is our cell phones. Our AT&T Unlimited Premium Plan now includes an unlimited talk, text, and data plan that spans all of the Americas for $51/month per line. So, our phones should work as usual throughout our entire journey to the bottom of South America without having the hassle of buying a new SIM card at each border crossing.
We also have a Starlink mounted on the roof of our van (with a Starmount that attaches the dishy to our roof rack) that provides unlimited, high-speed internet for $150/month when we are in more remote areas without cell service. We have used Starlink for almost two years now from the bottom of Baja to the top of North America and have been completely satisfied with it in every way.
When we are away from the van, we carry a Garmin InReach Explorer device that provides two-way satellite messaging that keeps us connected in the event of an emergency.
5. Custom Seats for Added Driving Comfort
We spend a lot of time behind the wheel and have often found ourselves creaky and achy after a long day on the road. We installed Scheel Mann custom, heated seats almost two years ago and have noticed a HUGE improvement to our energy levels and aches and pains after a long drive.
The heat and adjustability of the seats allow us to stay on the road longer and feel great when we arrive at our new destination. This is probably the biggest improvement to our quality of life that we have made to our Revel because we spend so much time driving.
6. Small-Space Kitchen Gear
We have also added two new items to the kitchen that I absolutely love. I finally broke down and bought an air fryer and have used it extensively. It seems to use less power than the induction stove and cooks food more quickly. And we have the ability to bake things now, which for Peter, is well worth the space that it takes up. We chose the Beelicious Pro because of its small size and yet decent capacity. Time will tell if it lives up to the demands of life on the road.
The second addition is a new set of pots and pans. I really like to cook and appreciate high-quality cookware but have incredibly limited storage space. So, everything has to be compact and multi-functional. I tried the Magma stacking pots in the past, but I had trouble with food sticking to the bottom of the pans. I tried a set of inexpensive, non-stick pans with a removable handle, but in less than a year the non-stick surface began to flake off.
I have just purchased the Sensarte Removable Handle cook kit and absolutely love it. It has the feel of cast iron in that it cooks evenly but is not as heavy. The nonstick works really well and half of the kit stacks compactly and fits perfectly in the cabinet over the sink (I chose the four items I thought I would use the most and left the rest of the kit behind).
It also comes with felt pads that fit between each of the pans to prevent rattling and protect the nonstick finish while driving on bumpy dirt roads. I’ve been using them for a month, and they are hands down the best compact cookware I’ve ever used.
7. Bathroom Shelving to Use Shower for Extra Storage
We have lived in an RV for ten years and have yet to use the inside shower in any of our vehicles. While the toilet is an absolutely critical piece of equipment that we use every single day, we find the space that the shower takes up is best used as additional storage. (Don’t worry, we still shower regularly, we just use the outside shower instead.) We have been brainstorming ways to improve the storage capacity of the bathroom without compromising the functionality of the toilet.
We found a great ready-to-go solution at the Container Store that maximizes storage space, but still allows for comfortable use of the toilet. We used a combination of the “like-it Closet System Modular Drawers.”
We used the small one (without the drawer inserted) as the base of the system because it raised the entire system above the lip of the shower pan while still allowing us to use that space for storage. We used a large drawer as the second layer. This brought the height of the first two pieces to just below the lip of the toilet.
From there, we stacked two of the narrow “like-it” drawers, and one narrow “like-it” tray. We added one bin that we recycled from a previous design that snugs the entire system up against the top shelf. We zip-tied the entire system together and it has held up well and stayed in place even through some pretty intense 4x4 travel.
We like this system, because we still have a good bit of elbow and head room while using the toilet, and it maximizes a good bit of the shower area for storage. The best part is it only took about an hour to attach all of the pieces together and install them.
8. Skidplate for Added Off-Road Capability
The last modification that we added is a rear skid plate from Agile OffRoad. We spend a great deal of time exploring rough dirt roads and, on more than one occasion, have drug the back of our van as we dropped off of a ledge. Adding the rear skid plate helps protect the hitch and the trailer wiring.
As a bonus, the skidplate doubles as a back step to access the garage area of the Revel. Even better, it has some really bright backup lights that are amazing for backing up at night. Win, win, win!!!
And we’re off …
We have tested out our modifications over the past two weeks as we explore Baja, and so far everything is working flawlessly. We love the additional added comforts and have walked away from our van with confidence knowing that we have done everything we can to secure our possessions.
Beyond that, we are running on faith that people are good, all is well, and there are great places to explore just over the horizon. Onward …
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