I work from the road and my portable RV office gives Joan and I the freedom to enjoy travel and earn an income. I own a web design and Internet marketing company in addition to our support of the RV community with iLoveRVlife. Prior to starting my company in 2006 and then going full time in 2011, my corporate work took me from Canada, to both US coasts and locations in between, the Caribbean, and Central America. This required me to develop a system where I carried a small, light weight portable office that allowed me to serve my clients efficiently and maintain a high level of professionalism.
Fast forward to 2014, Joan and I start our RV travels spending more time on the road than our home base. It was easy for me to pick up where I left off from my corporate travels and create my portable RV office. Below and in the video, I share what I’ve created to maintain an RV work environment that is very efficient, removes obstacles for work from RV, and is comfortable to minimize work fatigue.
The Portable RV Office
My portable RV office is not our Montana 5th wheel, but all the items needed to conduct business that is stored in a rolling laptop bag. The bag is large enough to carry safely:
- Two laptops – one used for my web design, Photoshop, video editing, and all the tasked required to meet client demands.
- Project folder for current clients.
- Back up hard drives.
- Back up Verizon hot spot for Internet,
- Power bricks for the laptops, and
- Those important cables, chargers, thumb drives, ink pins, notebooks, glasses and other small miscellaneous items.
This laptop bag can be used anywhere to work. I’m completely self-contained and this bag can be used in the RV, at a client’s location, and when I return to my home office.
RV Office Work Space
My workspace has changed significantly since we bought our new Montana 5th wheel this year. Working for 7 years in our 2014 Gateway 5th wheel, we tried several methods of rearranging the dinning table to eventually removing it altogether and replacing with a custom desk with dual monitors and a custom built graphic PC. While it was a perfect for work, Joan and I missed the table for meals and occasional entertaining.
In February 2022, we took delivery of our new Keystone Montana 5th wheel. The dinning configuration was similar to our Gateway with an expandable dinning table, two dinning chairs and two fold out chairs for entertaining.
It was time to update my graphic PC and I made the decision to move to a high end graphics laptop. I also tried to work from one of the dinning chair for several months and found it to be very uncomfortable after a couple of hours. That was remedied with a trip to Office Depot and after trying every office chair in the store, I settle on one that would allow me to work 6 plus hours without a sore back and backside.
The upside with using the dinning table as my work space, I can set up in minutes to work for a day or two, the return all the items to rolling laptop bag in minutes, and the table is free for dinning.
My Computers and Data Storage
I share with everyone that working from the RV allows me to work a day, then play a day. While that may not always be the case, I’m able to schedule work in blocks that allows me to maintain an income, yet have plenty of time left over to enjoy the campground and the sites nearby.
There’s an old adage, “Time is money.” This is definitely the case when working from an RV. One of the biggest mistake that I find with those who work remotely is the use of low cost technology. This cheap tech is low cost for a reason. It’s slow, may lack important features, and worse, fails soon after purchase. I recommend when purchasing a desk top or laptop computer, to buy the best name brand, with the best rating as possible, and purchase 50% more processing power and storage than needed. This gives the best opportunity for the computer to last for a longer period of time, get service if needed, and grow as your business needs evolve.
Storage is critically important for my portable RV office. I hear of horror stories too often from those who’s computer failed or the hard drive crashed and all work and personal data was lost with no opportunity to recover. While personal data such as pictures and video can cause personal grief, the loss of months or even years of work related documents can be catastrophic. Bottom line s to back up you work PC daily to a high quality portable hard drive. Even better, if your work data is under a terabyte, there are a number of reasonably prices cloud base services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud and others, to store your data in the case of a computer failure.
For me I use Lacie portable hard drive. I’ve use Lacie for years and never had a drive fail. They are expensive, but my data is very important. I refer to this data as a digital asset. It is as important as the laptops and other physical items I need to conduct business. There was a cost to create this client data and most of my iLoveRVlife video files, pictures, and other items used to maintain various websites took hours, even days to create. To minimize loss, I back up to my Lacie hard drives at the end of the day, and at the end of the week, back up again to a large Western Digital Element portable hard drive that I store in a padded storage case. It may sound extreme, but I have confidence that any data needed can be quickly recovered in case of a technical emergency.
Then there’s the workspace. One cannot work efficiently or handle a multi-hour workday if your are cramped or in an uncomfortable space. Being uncomfortable for hours affects the quality of work product, how one deals with other, and is not healthy and can lead to long term neck and back problems. I mentioned using an office chair. This was a big comfort upgrade.
Having desktop space to work is key both for comfort and easy access to those items needed to do the job. I found that after several hours bending down to work from a laptop created fatigue in my neck and shoulders. This was easily remedied with a laptop stand that allowed me to raise the screen to eye level. I also like work with a full size keyboard and I’m much better at using a mouse to do my graphic work than using a laptop touch pad. A Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse was a perfect solution. These relatively inexpensive items – an office chair, laptop stand, and wireless keyboard and mouse greatly improves comfort and productivity.
Internet and Communications
For the weekend or occasional vacation RV traveler, voice and Internet communications can be served with a smart phone and a one of the data plans that provides a hotspot capability. Most of the “unlimited plans” have hot spot Internet data usage in the 25GB to 50Gb range. Using the phone as a hotspot for short periods keeps cost down and is perfect for checking email, sending small documents, and participating in an occasional video conference.
For the nomadic traveler and those who spend months working from their RV, using a phone for Internet is inconvenient and is limited in the amount of monthly data throughput. We’ve found the use of a dedicated hotspot and later upgraded to a cellular router that works best for our longer term mobile Internet needs.
If you need portable Internet for business, be prepared – it’s expensive. The cheap Internet plans are just that – cheap. The may state unlimited, but reading the fine print you’ll discover most slow throughput to a rate that’s virtually unusable after a set amount of “premium” data is consumed. Most major carriers offer standalone hotspot plans with premium data that extends into the 50GB to 100Gb range. There are a number of aggregators that purchase wholesale bandwidth from the major cellular carries and offered at various discounts.
If you need high quality cellular Internet that works in the widest range of camping locations, then consider a cellular router and external antenna. For the past two years, we moved from a standalone hotspot to a cellular router and our ability to obtain fast cellular Internet has increased. The reason is stronger, more advance cellular radios are found in these routers and an external antenna provides a gain in reception plus removes all the interference found inside the RV from wiring and metal structure that can reduce cellular reception. Our current cellular router still serves us well, but the technology is dated and advancement have be made that will greatly improve reception and Internet speeds. From the date of this blog, I’ll be migrating to a Cradlepoint cellular router and Husky high gain antenna from RV Mobile Connect. A video and blog will be coming soon sharing this upgrade.
One other point about RV Mobile Connect. If you are new to RV travel and you need high quality cellular Internet for work and/or home schooling, they offer a wide range of solutions from technical support to partners offer unlimited hotspot data plans.
One last note about portable Internet. The world is a buzz with videos and blogs about Starlink. I’ll admit, the technology is impressive and the reported bandwidth that can be achieved is one I envy. But, it’s not perfect. As a matter of fact, in over half of the locations we traveled to in 2022, Starlink work not have worked. Starlink is a satellite service and requires an open sky to work. Trees are the downfall. The signal will not pass though a tree canopy. There are other issues with service priority for the RV package, reliability have been reported, and satellite placement has been limited in some areas of the US during this early roll-out. See the video below where I discuss in more detail. For now, we find cellular based Internet gives us ample data throughput for our business and entertainment needs, with equipment and plans that are affordable.
I hope this information and this view into my portable RV office has been helpful. In the Helpful Links below, I provided additional information for the products and services discussed in this blog and the video.
Purchased use of Digital Juice BackTraxx 1 End User License Agreement for Travelin. The Music may be used, altered, or incorporated according to the guidelines described herein into any production (including but not limited to, broadcast, commercial, industrial, educational, and personal).
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