Laptops and tablets have become indispensable in caravans today. Not only are they employees on the go, they also sort through photos or email home in their spare time. But what's the best way to charge a laptop in a motorhome and how do you transport expensive electronics in a motorhome?
Unfortunately, we cannot provide precise instructions for every tablet or laptop model. Therefore, this article is primarily based on our experiences with our own laptops, tablets and cameras in the trailer.
Why laptops or tablets in the trailer?
Of course, not everyone needs a laptop or tablet on the go. Many people nowadays make a living with a smartphone, but there are many good reasons not to do without electronics in a motorhome:
Sort and organize photos in the trailer
Anyone who loves to take pictures and maybe even uses a good camera will collect lots of photos during the trip. With us, several thousand photos on each long caravan trip. Sifting, sorting and processing them at home is a lot of work out there.
Personally, I prefer to empty the camera's memory card at least every few days, transfer photos to a laptop or tablet, and at least do a default sort. This saves a lot of work when you get home.
Writing travel reports / blogging
You don't need to be a blogger, many RV travelers keep travel diaries just for fun or for stay-at-homes, and today this is often done electronically. A real keyboard and a bigger screen are nice.
Working on the go from the caravan;
Traveling doesn't have to be a vacation. I also work on client projects on the go. This is not a stressful necessity but intentional because traveling and being on the road are personally important to me, not vacationing at the same time. It's a pleasure to sit in the trailer with the lake view and work on your knees with your laptop. Much better than in the office.
And for many on-the-go activities, you need suitable work aids like tablets and laptops.
Correspondence / e-mails;
In connection with and independently of the mentioned activities, electronic communication has become indispensable. I often received an urgent email while on vacation. It is important to me not to have to answer often complex issues on the smartphone.
Frequent emailers will appreciate a convenient keyboard.
Surf the web for travel research
We are happy to research our next stage destination, routes and possible stops on the route online. Yes, of course you can also do this on a smartphone, but a laptop allows us to store information in the same structure (for example, in a OneNote file).
Laptop or tablet in the trailer?
Device categories are becoming increasingly blurred, thanks to ultrabooks and tablet keyboards. What is more suitable for use in a caravan, tablet or laptop?
I personally use both laptop and tablet in the trailer. A Macbook Pro for activities where a big screen is comfortable or where I just need computing power or special programs. And an iPad Pro for the things you love to sit back and do;
Tablets can now handle a variety of tasks well, but operating systems are still limited. You can't get every software for this, and certain workflows are cumbersome.
Laptops offer more power, but are more complex, heavier and larger. In terms of prices, there is a large overlap today, so this is not necessarily the deciding factor.
Internet with laptops and tablets
You are not used to offline use these days, hoping to be online as soon as you turn on your tablet or laptop. This is slightly less common in the caravan than at home WLAN. But there are ways and tools to get around it:
By allowing the phone to "Mobile Hotspots" process over the build wireless network traffic. There is a WiFi network available in the caravan that you can then use with a tablet or laptop. In the EU region, this has been a viable option since data roaming charges have ended. But be careful: not every smartphone allows multiple simultaneous connections. Also, your data quota is limited.
Cellular routers do the same thing as a mobile hotspot on a smartphone. A dedicated device can do this better than a smartphone. Disadvantage: You need your own SIM card for this.
Many tablets are available with a "cellular" option. Then you have your own SIM card and you can go directly to the Internet.
In addition, there are special solutions for internet in the mobile home, for example it provides an antenna on the roof of the mobile home to ensure ideal reception in the mobile home.
laptop in the trailer
Charge all computers and tablets
Laptops and tablets have large batteries and need little power. So a common problem is charging devices.
There are basically two approaches to this:
Use of normal chargers for 230V
Use of special 12V chargers
Laptops in a 230V charger
The first option to charge your laptop in the caravan is to use your regular charger for 230V.
This is only possible in the caravan,
or depending on the shore power,
or you have installed an inverter .
Shore power is only available at campgrounds and other RV sites (not everyone). No one who is independently dependent on a suitable power source on the go can accept this as the only solution.
An inverter allows the use of 230V chargers for tablets and the like in the caravan.
The disadvantage is that the inverter causes those losses. The inverter first converts the 12V battery voltage to 230V so that the laptop charger reverts to a much lower DC voltage. With self-contained camping you actually want to avoid that.
Additionally, of course, an inverter costs money and takes up space and weight.
The advantage is that you don't have to buy new chargers.
Charge laptops and tablets with 12V
If you want to do without inverter, you need special 12V chargers for your devices.
The advantage in this case is that you save on the losses, weight and space required by the inverter and still not depend on shore power.
Many devices (especially smartphones) are already charged using a USB cable and do not require a special charger. A standard USB adapter for 12V is sufficient in this case. But these often provide very little power, which means charging takes a long time or doesn't work at all. With USB-C, the situation is even more difficult.
Charging via USB-C
Many new devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops are equipped with USB-C. The advantage of USB-C is that the standard is very universal. You can not only transfer data, but also charge devices and even transfer audio / video signals.
When charging, USB-C isn't entirely trouble-free. A USB-C plug is no guarantee that your own device can also be charged with it. The charger and the smartphone / tablet / laptop must communicate and agree on a protocol about the charging process. This doesn't always work. There are also USB-C cables that do not support "Power Delivery".
Charge a Macbook Pro in the trailer
My first USB-C device was a Macbook Pro 13″ from 2017. At that time, the USB-C standard was still quite new and the number of suitable devices was very few. When the question arose of how to charge the laptop in the trailer, some research was done. Finally bought a laptop charger for 12 volts from HP. This can provide 45 watts and was able to charge the Macbook Pro 13 without any problems.
Before upgrading to the Macbook Pro 16, I was worried that charging in the trailer would no longer work, but luckily it will work with the new device as well.
The Macbook Pro can consume up to 100 watts, far exceeding the 45 watts of the charger. Then theoretically the laptop battery will discharge even though it is charging. However, the laptop rarely runs at this maximum power, for example, when exporting images or editing video. There is no activity you do all the time.
iPad Pro 2018 can also be charged with this charger without any problems.
We installed a 12V outlet above the dining table where you can plug in the charger to work at the table. Since the charger is not light, it will unplug itself in a few minutes. For this reason, we do it with a trick and fix it on the lamp next to it with Velcro. This works perfectly.
Use a standard USB charger;
There are numerous USB adapters for 12 volts available at car accessories and electronics retailers. These usually provide very little power and take a correspondingly long time to charge. For smartphones overnight, this is still sufficient in most cases. These sticks are not very expensive and are widely available.
With a small USB adapter offered by RAVPower, both Macbook Pro 16″ and iPad Pro can be charged with a USB-C cable. The advantage of USB-C is fully carried over here, so you have plenty of backup options in case the powerful charger gives up. Due to the low power output of the normal 12V adapter, however, a very long charging time can be expected. At the same time, those who want to work are not served well.
There are now more powerful USB adapters that can produce up to 50 watts for 12V (but mostly distributed over several ports).
These can be used for all possible ports. For example, older iPads and iPhones with a Lightning port can also be charged.
Charge laptop (and cameras) via other ports
If you have a device that cannot be charged via USB, you will need to purchase a special 12V charger.
This is for many laptops.
semi-effects also affect chargers for camera batteries.
For example, Olyas Macbook Air from 2015 needs its own 12V charger for Magsafe.
The product was not found.
We have to use our own chargers for the batteries of our Fuji and Olympus cameras.
Use laptops and tablets in the trailer
Anyone who works hard in the mobile home may have trouble with the details. An ergonomic workplace can only be reached by a detour. You can find more information on this in the on-the-go study article.
Protect laptop and other electronic devices
Do you carry such expensive electronics with you in your trailer? Isn't that strange? You hear a lot about theft and theft, is it even possible to properly fix laptops and tablets in the trailer?
Eh: What else is left? If you need electronics on the go, they won't help at home.
For me devices are working tools, so I have to take them with me. Therefore, laptops and cameras are also insured. Not all equipment is always included - if I go to unsafe areas, I'm wondering if I can manage with the tablet and leave the laptop at home. Also, when I get out of the trailer, I usually carry everything in my backpack and I don't really trust the parking lot. Still, it's important to me that all items are insured. Insurance coverage also applies to the mobile home. Also, take other precautions to ensure safety in the trailer.
Cases and protective covers for on the go
It is highly recommended not to let expensive laptops and tablets fly freely around. There's movement in the trailer and that's not good for devices.
I am very happy with my fabric bag for the 16” MBP. You get good protection for the price and hide the laptop relatively inconspicuously. In addition, the device lays flat and fits easily in a box. The case also fits most 15″ devices.
Such cases are of course also available for tablets. I use a really tough hard case from Tomtoc for the sensitive iPad Pro. iPad Pro 11″ fits in there, including keyboard case and pen.
Take laptops and tablets with you
I like to take my devices with me when we visit a city. Not only does this protect against theft, we can sit comfortably for two hours with an occasional coffee and be productive.
You can also put your tablet and laptop in the cases you take with you. This provides protection against bumps and other mishaps.
I also find laptop backpacks with their own pockets for thickly padded, comfortable laptops and the like. These are available in all variants and designs.
Hide laptops and tablets
In addition, of course, it is advisable not to ignore the well-known safety rules in the caravan:
Do not openly display valuables
In particular, do not leave anything visible from the outside in the cabin when you are not in the vehicle.
Do not leave devices lying around with windows open so that they can be easily stolen from the outside.
If possible, store devices in boxes or similar.
Other useful accessories for me on the go include:
Keyboards for tablets that turn them into almost full-fledged laptops. Here are some options for the ipad, there are similar options for other tablets.
SSD storage media that is insensitive to shocks and offers a lot of storage space. Ideal for backing up photos on the go and you can hide them easily.
We don't want to be without an Apple Pencil to edit photos on the go.
Card reader if your laptop doesn't have it.
Anyone whose memory card is stolen towards the end of a journey will receive a backup of their photos in the future. Because financial loss is one thing - but not having a souvenir photo from an entire trip is even more serious. That was the case for us in Italy in 2015. Since then I've regularly backed up my photos to an SSD that can be easily hidden (and has so little value in itself that it shouldn't be of interest to thieves).