Rebates and invoice prices are only two legs of the stool. Without paying to know secret-holdback amounts, you're dealing in the dark my friends. Learn what the dealer cost is so you can save some money for fuel!
Beside not burning through the data plan on the smart phone, another advantage of our Nuvi 3597 LMTHD is it updates traffic like 30X per minute, so I can see backups and get alternate route suggestions in real-time vs. the old units like our 1450. And you have to love the magnetic mount, just stick it right on there and you're good to go, no cord to fumble with. Everybody loves it!
For the past 30 years or so I have simply disconnected the battery. If the battery was fully charged when I did so, it always had juice when I reconnected six months later. It may low, but still had enough juice to power everything. I'd just plug in shore power a couple days before leaving and all was fine. Why keep it plugged in if you don't need to? You are wasting electricity and unnecessarily using the electronics.
Because your battery is cannibalizing itself to maintain the charge - meaning YOU'RE WASTING ELECTRICITY. A converter or float-charger will stop that for just pennies a month vs. the high cost of batteries.
Unless your poodle's a standard, a 4-person will give enough room for two 25X77 pads, gear, and some room to spare. a 6-man tent from a quality company will be a bit large and not as easily erected by 1 person on a regular long-trip basis. The wind and rain integrity a good tent will provide, among many other benefits, will long be appreciated after the cost is forgotton.
Why pay for gear you can't use outside of the heat of summer? ThermaRest self-inflating sleeping pads roll up into small packages, are comfortable and last a lifetime. A quality 4-man tent from EMS, REI, Sierra Designs, Mountain HardWear, Marmot, Big Agnes, or NorthFace goes up quickly, fits about any campsite space, and is 10X better than the bottom-line tents you are mentioning. That quality is good for a few weekends for novices, but on a longer trip, you'll quickly discover that without quality fabric, anodized aluminum poles and a full rainfly, you should have done some more research and study.
Cots and air mattresses are designed for heated enclosures, and use below 50-degrees F can present a safety hazard. They are heat-sinks that suck the warmth right out of you, having 0.75 R-values. Follow everyone who does serious cold weather camping and buy a self-inflating sleeping pad, and a quality goose down sleeping bag. If nothing else, don't use a cot or air mattress unless the seller can show you a 5.0 R-value or better. If they can't, walk out of their store, they're ripping you off.
As a researcher by trade, I tend to over-research my purchases, but rarely pay more than I need to, nor get burned because of that habit. OPTIMA has great press because of so many satisfied users. They offer more batteries than just the smallest Blue-Top, and depending on application a Red- or Yellow- version may work better. Go to any SoCal car show and tell me what you see under so many hoods! They work well and are priced accordingly. There are several quality AGM manufacturers out there with varying prices, AH ratings, and applications. We have a 2008 OPTIMA that has done great service and is still working like new, kept charged with a $25 Schumacher float charger, just like on the $40K Harley and (SOLD) $45K BMW.
We erected a Channelmaster Ultra and a Winegard Yagi on a 10-foot RadioShack mast. For OTA availability, use the US Gov't site or TVfool.com. This will tell you what you can receive by antenna before you take the plunge. A device like Matricom Kodi Android Box is an UNRESTRICTED alternative to companies like Roku that want to sell you their programming. Sportsdevil and Channel1 will get you sports and movies at a much broader set of choices. Currently we're NetFlix subscribers for what it's worth. We are considering it (the Kodi box) or a ChannelMaster DVR as an upgrade in the near future. Don't miss those cable or satellite bills at all.
A $30 trickle charger from WalMart will maintain your batteries as well as a $300 everything-but-makes-coffee charger. A stored battery is slowly eating itself alive, that's just how batteries work if not kept charged. An AGM battery doesn't even need water to be added and can be installed inside, unvented, upside down, in an airplane, and under your dinette...But I digress.
Greg, head out to REI and get a 2-man quality tent. The tent pictured above is really a screen room, leaks like a seive and won't stand high winds, IMHO. I'm a long-time backpacker, car-camper, Harley Biker Rally camper and live an hour from Borrego's desert and 3 hours from Glamis. You don't want a tarp and net setup where you're at the mercy of dirt, bugs, wind, moisture, and rodents. I use a nice 2-man Sierra Designs Electron bought 60% off for about $90 out the door. A small tarp will protect the floor, whose inside is waterproof, and the full-coverage rainfly will get you another 10-degrees of warmth while protecting from wind and rain. A good tent has: full-coverage rainfly, bath-tub floor design, anodized aluminum poles, continuous zippers, a polyester/nylon construction, and a name like: Sierra Designs, NorthFace, Mountain HardWear, EMS, REI, A16, or Marmot. They carry lifetime warranties and can be bought right off Ebay auctions new-with-tags. Start with a big-box knockoff if you don't have the money or patience to buy online, and go from there. And good camping!
A hitch-mounted gear rack is an invitation for loss, theft, water damage, and simply worry...besides the $60 cost for a California fixit ticket. This is my solution, with plate bracket, light, brake and turn signal lighting:
Never, ever use a waterproofing spray on a tent! Nylon is waterproof: it's only the exposed threaded seams that can leak. Use a Seam-Sealer and a small paintbrush. Daub the exposed threads from the inside of the tent, then repeat with a second coat. Using a spray on a tent results in a small snowstorm of de-lamination of the spray from the nylon, which looks hideous. Tents have waterproof coatings bonded-in at the factory, where they are permanent and resist delamination.
The longer a battery sits, the more sulfur comes out of solution and coats the plates. The thicker they get coated, the closer the battery gets to failure. Extend the life of your battery (only 30% of batteries live to their life expectancy because of improper care) by keeping a float charger connected 24/7 if it's in storage for more than a few weeks. They're not expensive and last for many years.
Unfortunately, there is a lot more to state parks than just maintaining a campground. In California, the Department of Parks and Recreation is not only in charge of outdoor recreation (e.g., camping), but also in the protection of our natural and cultural resources. It costs a lot of money to keep the buildings at Bodie from further deterioration. It costs a lot of money to keep our cultural museums operating (not to mention restoring archaeological and other historical artifacts for viewing). It costs a lot to repair damage caused by flooding, fires, vandalism, etc. The costs spent to camp helps the department do all those other things.
So while it may be that a $2 increase to camping fees is enough to support the campground, it's not enough to support the rest of the work being done.
Now, some state parks departments ONLY manage campgrounds and day use areas. In those states, a slight fee raise may be sufficient to support the functions of the department in full. But in other states, there is so much more being done by the department on those fees and taxes that no one else wants to pay.
And it took a lot of employees working overtime to keep that $20 million hidden for 13 years. You have to decide between your own perks and the public good:
Parks Officials Kept $20M Hidden
It's just wind and rain. We had 10 inches from Friday to Sunday last July in Estero, Florida, with 5 inches on Saturday alone. Got the house ready for renters, did yardwork and planted a tree. Kids Go-Pro'd the flooding and thought it was a hoot. Here in SoCal the crazy tree-hugging media freaks out when a tenth of an inch is forecast! Seriously...
Get a low-amp charger for under $20 at WalMart, set up the quick-disconnects, elevate the charger to keep it dry, and "faagettaboutit". A battery slowly consumes its guts when left without a charge as noted by Dazuki above. Keeping it fully charged means a longer battery life, every time, for every battery.
From a SoCal perspective, DiscountTire always beats Costco by a small margin, and their customer service is second to none. Costco is about even with TireRack, although tirerack has a better selection. ConsumerReports is your friend!
Yes, a SuperGlide or Dynaglide. Nice bar hopper, but it's no Road King. Personally, I'd be thinking more BMW dual-purpose on the back of an RV, but that's the off-roader in me...