Alite Improvements

Step stool.  The outside step is a lightweight plastic stool with an artifical turf mat glued to the top.  I drilled holes in each corner so I can stake it in windy weather.  For travel, I turn it upside down just inside the door, and the Rubbermaid setup tub fits inside it. 

Insulated bubble.  The plexiglass bubble is great for headroom and light, but it sure collects heat, even when the camper is folded.  I bought a roll of Reflectix (insulating foil-covered bubble wrap) at Lowe’s and cut it with scissors to fit inside the bubble.  It helps tremendously, and I roll the piece for storage under the bed. 

Curtains.  While I liked the curtains, they were poorly made and the thin lining gave very little privacy at night.  I cut out the original lining and replaced it with thermal drapery lining.  I also adjusted the placement of the velcro tabs and tiebacks so that the curtains hang better.  With the bedside curtains pulled back, I still felt the need for just a little more privacy, so I made simple cafe curtains to fit across the lower window.  A dowel slips through the top hem and fits into the window frame at each side of the horizontal window bar.  The middle of the dowel tended to droop, so I put a piece of self-stick velcro (hook side) in the middle of the frame, and sewed loop-side velcro squares to the front and middle  of the top curtain hem.  Either pulled shut or open to the middle, the curtain's velcro sticks to the window frame and holds the dowel up in place. 

Neat Sheet.  Another Alite owner told me about the Neat Sheet - a washable, water repellent, paper-like material that makes a good lightweight outside rug.  With plastic curtain rings sewed to the corners, it can be staked down in windy weather. 

Fridge.  I needed a way to keep food cool, but didn't want to deal with a drippy, bulky ice chest.  The Koolatron 12v 18-quart cooler is a perfect size and works very well.  The fan runs continuously, but I don't find that it disturbs me at night.  The AC power accessory adapter is expensive, but I found a bargain on Ebay.  With it, I can pre-cool it and pack it in the house before a trip.  Cooling ability is limited to 40 degrees below outside temperature.  I use a remote thermometer to monitor the temperature of the cooler, keeping the sensor in the car.  On my first trip, it ranged between 28 and 45.  The warmest temperatures occurred while I was towing.  I filled a boating dry-bag with crushed ice and it helped.  The Koolatron isn't perfect, but it was a good choice for the Alite.

Shelter.  I was delighted to discover the REI Alcove shelter, which fits the Alite perfectly.  The Alcove has a sturdy steel frame with bungeed poles, weighs only about 18 pounds, and covers a picnic table.  The peak just barely cleared the camper door, so I opened the short seam at each peak drop and inserted zippers.  Now I can bungee the peak frame to the camper roof handle.  Wind walls are also available for the Alcove, so it can become almost an extra room, although it isn't screened.. 

Awning.  For short or overnight stays, when I don't want to erect the shelter, I made a small awning.  I removed the plastic end from the door side of the roof-rack tubing at the peak, and found that a Dollar Tree broom handle fits nicely inside it, making a pole for the peak of the awning. My awning is made of (2) 30" wide pieces of rip-stop nylon, one 59" long (finished length) for the front and one 64" long for the rear. These pieces are reinforced on the camper-side edges, sewn together to a separate nylon channel at the peak, and hemmed at the other ends. Before popping the roof, I pull the broom handle partway out of the roof rack and slide it into the peak channel of the awning (a bit of velcro on the end of the broom handle matches a small piece on the awning to hold the outer edge in place). I velcro the front half of the awning to the front roof edge, including a velcro tab at the peak, raise the roof, and secure the remaining velcro tabs to the rear roof. Finally, I clip a tent rope to each loose corner of the awning and stake it tight. The awning provides just enough cover for the door and my camping chair. If the wind becomes too strong for the awning, I lunfasten the rear-roof velcro and both ropes, use one of my hitching poles to shove the broom handle into the roof tube as far as it will go, and gather the loose rear awning material to the front, where I bungee it all together on the roof handle.  When the wind lets up, I undo the bungee, pull the broom handle out, reattach the rear-roof velcro, and refasten the ropes.  Simple!  The awning, ropes and stakes all fit in a zippered 12x14 lingerie bag from Dollar Tree (2 for $1!)

Note: Cutting the rip-stop nylon with a hot knife means that you don't have to finish the cut ends.  The nylon is manufactured to be water resistant and it dries quickly. It can also be sprayed or washed with waterproofing material as needed, 

Hanging water jug.  Since I won't always camp with a water hookup, I looked for an easy way to use a water jug at the sink.  The rectangular Expand-A-Jug is just the size and shape I needed.  I also found that I could hang it on a chain over the sink by using a peg-board hook in the roof barrel-bolt assembly, with an additional hole drilled in the aluminum edge of the A.  The hook can support a full jug, and I can position the spigot directly over the sink.  With the collapsible grey-water bucket outside, It's almost as good as a direct water and sewer hookup! 

Folding bike.  The Alite doesn't support a bike rack, but I can carry my folding bike in the Corolla.  I put it on a piece of carpet, pile side down, on the back seat of the car and fasten it with the seatbelt.  Works like a charm!

Inflatable kayak.  With a folding camper and a folding  bike, a folding kayak was bound to be next!  I'd been looking for something small and lightweight, and at 19 pounds, the Advanced Elements Dragonfly fits the bill.  The storage bag holds the kayak, foot pump, paddle and life vest.  It inflates quickly and is easy to paddle.  It's been fun! 

Propane campfire.  The "real thing" has lots of atmosphere, but isn't always convenient or practical.  The Little Red Portable Campfire is a pretty good imitation, and it's sure quick to set up and put out.  It's compact to carry (in the car) and puts out decent heat for its size.  It runs off the 5# propane tank I keep in the camper.  It's sure nice to be able to have a 30-minute campfire with no worries about extinguishing embers or wasting wood.  It runs off the 5-pound propane tank I carry in the camper.

Spare tire cover.  I ordered an Aliner Owners Club cover, specified for a 12" tire, only to discover that it was too big for my spare, which is very tightly mounted to the camper body.  I cut apart both the OEM and AOC covers, trimmed the AOC logo circle to fit, and stitched it to the elasticized edge of the OEM cover.  Even with a few wrinkles, the modified cover fits better and looks pretty good.

Radio antenna.  I enjoy listing to public radio, but often have trouble getting good reception inside the camper.  After much searching, I found a top/side-mount (adjustable "split ball") automotive antenna with a removable 14" rubber mast (the part that sticks up in the air).  It was designed for installation on a thin metal wall, so I had to adapt it for use on the 1" camper wall.  That meant using a longer bolt to hold the outside mount to the inside antenna cable.  Nothing's ever simple - the head of the new bolt was slightly larger than the original, so I had to grind it down to fit.  I also snipped off two plastic "wings" on the inside of the exterior mount so that all I needed to drill in the camper wall was a single bolt hole, not the 1" hole described in the instructions.  The bolt pulls the braces of the antenna wire up against a fender washer on the inside of the wall.  Since the antenna sticks into the storage area, I located it just below the bed framing, where it is out of the way.  Since my small radio doesn't have an antenna jack, I crimped an alligator clip to the end of the antenna wire and attach the clip to the radio antenna.  During travel, I keep the mast inside the camper, and use a screw protector to cover the threads of the exterior mount.

Tire blowout!  Click HERE for the story and photos of what happened when a tire on the Alite blew out.