Use a tea kettle to heat water for coffee in the morning, for doing dishes, etc. Using the kettle will save you a good deal of propane. But, be sure to test your tea kettle before you leave, our original kettle was 1,300 W, which should have worked with our 1,500 W inverter, but it didn’t; instead we got a 1,000 W kettle.
The four absolute essentials
No camper should be without WD40, duct tape, Leatherman, and wet wipes.
Check out the Resources and Links page, the website for generating maps from the OpenStreetMap project is amazing. You probably want to practice once or twice downloading the maps to your GPS and validating that the maps work.
Make some, actually a lot of, personal business cards with your blog address and email address. Very fun to be able to hand out.
Most hose connections in South America are identical to the US ones, ie 3/4 inch. Most, but not all. Bring adapters for 1/2 inch and 1 inch. Any semi-decent hardware store in the US will be able to help you. Alternatively, any decent Ferreteria in Paraguay will be able to help you as well…
Make sure you are able to clean your solar panels easily. The roads are dusty and the panels get dirty quickly; even a light coating of dust reduces the efficiency of the panels significantly. Some Windex and a squeeqee work wonders.
International driver’s license
We have actually been asked to produce an IDL at the Bolivia to Peru border crossing. Based on just this occurrence, I would say it’s worth getting one.
Reflectors and velocity stickers
They are required in Argentina (not sure why this isn’t high-lighted on more blogs…). Not having these on your vehicle is an open invitation to an Argentinian police office to try and squeeze you. Get them before you start your trip.
Fan above the bed
Although the man himself when it comes to designing overland vehicles cautions against any fans or vents above your bed, as they may develop leaks, we use the fan above our bed quite a bit. It helps to keep us cool, and more surprisingly, we use it as a “white noise” generator to help us sleep. The fan, on its lowest setting, drowns out a great deal of irritating ambient noise, e.g. barking dogs.
Cassette toilets rock! Not sure that there is a single dump station for an old-school black water tank in all of S America – we haven’t seen one yet (although to be fair, we haven’t looked that hard). But with a cassette toilet, who needs one? You would be crazy not to get one on any new camper.
Btw, cassette toilet chemicals rock as well, but you won’t find them in S America, at least we haven’t. Make sure to bring enough from home.
Propane, and propane tanks
In southern Patagonia we were struggling somewhat to find a place that would re-fill our propane tanks, but otherwise finding a “planta de gas” willing to “carga” our tanks has been easy. I would strongly suggest having propane tanks that are NOT built into the vehicle: not sure that any of the place where we have filled would have been able to, nor would have allowed to, fill up tanks fixed to the vehicle. We carry two fairly standard 20 lb propane tanks which are easy to remove from the Casa and carry into the propane facility. And if worst came to worst, and we couldn’t a facility to re-fill our tanks, we could buy a similar sized standard propane tank and use it – it is very easy to find places that operate propane tank exchanges.
And, fyi, we go through a 20 lb tank in 4 weeks, if the weather is cold and we use the heater in the mornings, or closer to 8 weeks, if we are not using the heater. But note that our refrigerator runs off electricity not propane.