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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Portable, Size Adjustable Bag Dispenser - With Bags!

A Clean Galley Is A Happy Galley!
    Onboard my RV I use a lot of plastic bags. Most of the time I end up with lots of those cheap shopping bags from large chain stores. They are OK, but not all that durable. Many times I wished I had a better quality bag in a bunch of sizes that could be used where a small garbage bag would be overkill. I stumbled across this nifty gadget. It's a self-contained dispenser that allows you choose the length of your bag and then simply cut it to fit. Seemed like a pretty good idea and might fit the bill nicely in my case. So I bought one. At only 5.00 for the loaded dispenser and one refill it was worth the experiment.

Each bag refill has 32.5 feet (10 M) worth of bag material. They open out to 2 Feet around. So not all that big, but great for small uses. How many bags you can get out of a roll of bag material is really based on the size (length) of bags you make. Did I mention that the name is really cute? "Knot-A-Bag" Get it? It's NOT a bag until you tie a knot at one end. To use it, you simply flip the cap open (it's attached so you don't lose it) pull out the amount of bag material you want, cut it using the attached to the dispenser lip cutting blade, tie a knot in one end and use. Sounds like MUCH more work than it actually is!

Note The Small, Angled Razor Cutter
Refills are available after the one that is included, but I found that just buying another set is actually cheaper. Refilling the dispenser is pretty easy. Unscrew the cap, drop in the refill, pull the loose end through the cap and screw it back on. Ready for use. So what's it good for? The bags aren't huge, but for leftover food, wet bathing suits, long skinny objects like wet umbrellas, pet waste, you see where this is going...if you can fit it in the width of the bag it works great. I wish they would make several versions in different widths. That would be great. The whole device is about the size of a larger pill bottle and has a plastic hook on the back side. Looks like it was designed to be used with a strap or clipped on to your belt. Mine clipped on nicely to my back-of-seat pocket, so it's out of the way.

I have been using it to toss out nasty stuff, like hair from the drains or squashed bugs in paper towels/tissues. It's nice to have a bag handy that isn't wasteful, like throwing out a larger bag just to get something out of the RV. Fish entrails? Smelly food garbage from dinner. You could use it to extend your regular garbage storage by only putting dry items in that one and wet/nasty ones in a smaller bag. After tying they do seem pretty water and air tight. Of course, you can double knot if you like and be sure to pull the knot snug. You can use a twist tie on the top, but I've just been tying another knot. I'm getting pretty good at it by now. Very little wasted bag material on both knots.

I will try this out for the RV trip season and see what develops.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Get Rid Of Some Wires! - Bluetooth Speakers For Your Video Needs

My Pico Projector
    A while back I wrote an article about some rechargeable speakers I had purchased. They sounded GREAT when coupled with my pico projection system and screen. The only issue was I had to run a wire from the speakers to the projector's audio output. Not really a big deal, but it's another wire that I have cluttering up the place. Bluetooth speakers are all over the place now and finding one that would support more than just stereo AND be rechargeable was my new goal. Better, Stronger, Faster...I bet a bunch of you are hearing the theme from THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN in your heads right about now. Hopefully this speaker will cost less than that!

Chialstar (Weird Name, But Great Speaker!)
I began, as I always do, by doing lots of online research. I look at the major sites (Amazon, Newegg, E-bay, Walmart, etc, etc) not only for the products themselves, but the number sold and positive reviews. After all, if three people tell you you're drunk, lie down! Lots of negative reviews never bodes well when you are talking about cheap electronics. Lots of (real) positive reviews speaks volumes. I wanted one that would fit in front of my cabinet, under the table I place the projection screen on, so it couldn't be as large as a full length (37inch) sound bar but still had to sound great. The old one I have is only 10 watts. Fine for casual use, but really needed more punch for epic space battles and action films. Double that would probably work fine and would still give me enough built-in battery time to watch more than one movie without having to plug it into my house batteries. Besides, I could take the whole entertainment system outside if I wanted to!

Included Accessories
After a lot of research I found a few that would work, but after even more research the best ones were over 100.00, a bit rich for me. I only use it once in a while to be honest and that's just too much. Back online to keep looking. After a while I was getting a bit discouraged, but then, I finally found the perfect one! It's a CHIALSTAR 21 inch sound bar with a passive subwoofer. It has a 5000mAh battery and will run about 8-10 hours at full volume. That's actually way too loud in my RV, so I'm at about 75% for watching movies. It will probably last longer. It charges with a mini USB port so lots of your existing chargers will work, especially if you have 12V cigarette light outlet to USB adapters. Not only can you use it for movies, but since it has a microphone, if you pair it with your cell phone or smart device, you can talk to it and answer calls as well! It's got a MicroSD card slot for playing music as well (MP3's) so that's a bonus. It comes with a wireless remote and a storage bag as well as sets of RCA jack cables and a USB cable for charging. All for 66.99.

With more than twice the power of my old one 24W max, it does an excellent job in my small RV. I sit about 5 feet away from the sound bar, but it's below my line of sight pointing slightly upwards so the extra power makes a BIG difference. Now you can have Movie Night, on the road!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Reclaim Your Storage Space! - Vacuum Storage Bags

    A few weeks ago I wrote an article about using a vacuum sealer in your RV. While it definitely has its uses, the size of the bags in width is limited. Vacuum sealing works really well on items with lots of air in them. I figured what about stuff like pillows, blankets and quilts? Currently, I jam them into whatever storage will fit them, but if they were vacuum sealed the size would be MUCH smaller. After some research, it turns out I didn't have a "million dollar idea" -- there are lots of choices for that kind of thing. So, I ordered a few different sizes and waited until they arrived. Do they work? Is it worth the extra hassle?? Read on!

SmartDesign Magic Bag
Once they arrived, I opened the package and took a look. Simple, large, thick plastic bags with a wide "zip-lock" opening and a large 2" diameter vacuum port. You fold up what you want, slide it into the bag, zip the end closed and suck out all the air with your home vacuum hose using the port. That's it. It's like magic watching a large comforter/quilt go from its regular folded size to essentially flat! From around 18" high to 3" high. Wow! I can now store them in the bottom drawers in my RV's under-bed storage or even upright in the closet -- they get pretty rigid without air in the mix.

Since they are air- and water-tight, you could put them in basement storage without fear of getting them wet or mildew/mold smelling. The trick is in the one-way valve that allows air out but not back in when a vacuum is applied to it. They are NOT all created equal. The ones WITHOUT the snap-open cover work far better and maintain the compression for a LONG time. Look at the SmartDesign Magicbag line for an example.

Simple To Use!
They aren't all that expensive. I got a 4-piece variety pack with 2 MEDIUM, 1 LARGE, and 1 JUMBO bag for only $9.97. Though if you want REALLY large ones it's more expensive (36"x48" 4 for $19.88). Since they are reusable it's not all that terrible, pricing-wise.

I tested these with several home, shop-vac and canister style vacuum cleaners. Pretty much anything with a hose will work. I was surprised (and happy) that my 12 Volt shop-vac would do so great a job with them. That means I can pack (and repack) items on the road! Fantastic. I am going to be looking for other items that will compress, that aren't used all the time, to increase my available storage. Should be fun to see how much space I can reclaim.

I will definitely have all the sizes on board this season. Who knows what I can use them for! Hmmm...bulky sweaters and the like come to mind right away. I mean you (hopefully) won't need them in the Summer! As a bonus, without air, they stay really fresh. I've even seen folks put a dryer sheet in the bag before it's vacuumed out. Good idea!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"