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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 7 Things You Must Have to Live in Your Car (But Still Generally Useful)

There are certain things you just have to own if you want to live in your car. Heck, there are certain things that are still pretty nice to have around even if you're normal and live in a place with a bed and a roof over your head. At any rate, I looked back over my Amazon purchases from the last year or so and found the items that I ended up buying to solve particular problems that I'd encountered, and I think that many of you may find them to be useful suggestions. If you know anything about me, you might know that when I set out to buy something, I read reviews and compare products for literally hours before deciding to buy it (for example, once took three hours to land on the type of windshield wipers to buy). All that to say, I've done the comparing, and for me, these are the best of the best for the money.

Without further ado, here we go (in no particular order):

1. Quality Pillow

Let's face it - sleeping in your car isn't the most comfortable thing in the world. We've all done it. As children, we passed out on long road trips after exhausting ourselves by fighting with our siblings only to awaken with an imprint of a door handle on our cheek and drool soaking the seat belt. As adults, we've pulled over to "nap" for a few moments at a truck stop and either wondered why on earth car seats don't recline three inches more or why we thought curling up on "the hump" sounded like a good idea. You're supposed to be awake while in a car - encouraging drivers to sleep tends to jeopardize the interests of others. You know . . . interests like living.

I'll go into how I've managed to make my car pretty stoopid comfortable in another post, but straight from the start, I realized that I had to have a comfortable pillow. No more polyfill poufs with random stains on them that go flat quicker than a grilled cheese made with Wonder Bread. So, I looked high and low and finally found this:


I settled on the standard "brick" style because the contoured ones always seem to go flat right in the middle. Besides, isn't the point of memory foam to contour to your head or body by itself? I digress. This is "gel-infused" memory foam, so it's supposed to be able to dissipate heat better than the regular kind. Since I'd be using this in the summer, that was important. Even my girlfriend agrees that it's super-comfy (which is why I haven't had it with me for the past few months).

If you're gonna spend $50 on a pillow, you should probably protect your investment from years of slobber, dandruff, and mites, so this is probably worth your while:


Of all the brands, this had fewer complaints of making crinkling noises, feeling too thick, or holding in heat. Good buy.

2. Sleeping Bag Liner

I'll go quickly through this one before you get bored and stop reading - I promise that there are some cool things on this list! Anyway, in the summer, my 20° sleeping bag was just a little much. In the winter, I got sick of using an entire washer just on my sleeping bag. This works great for a summer bag on its own, and in the winter, I use it to line my sleeping bag so it's the only thing I have to wash. The reviews and price point made this brand the winner.


3. A Way to Make Coffee

I told you I'd get to the good stuff.

At the office, we can't have coffee machines due to fire codes, and the coffee in the break room is from concentrate. I looked inside the machine, and there's a circuit board bigger than the average motherboard in a desktop computer. If it takes that much circuitry just to brew coffee, there's something wrong.

Intro this - the French press commuter mug:



This doodad is amazing. It's made of stainless steel (instead of glass) and it fits in a car cup holder, but that's not the coolest thing about this mug. The bottom unscrews from the body of the mug to reveal a canister that fits into the tapered base section. This allows you to store extra grounds so you can make a second cup once you get to work. When you live in your car, access to convenient caffeine is a must.

4. Window Deflectors

No matter how cold it is, if you sleep in your car for anything longer than what would be considered a "nap," you MUST crack your windows. Why? Let's go back to 7th grade science, shall we? When humans breathe, they expel moisture into the air. This moisture tends to condense once the surrounding air becomes saturated. The saturation point of air decreases in direct relation to air temperature. Translation: if you don't crack your window, you will have moisture EVERYWHERE. I'm not talking about a little fog on the windows; no, you will have drops flowing down your windows onto your dashboard, and despite what Vince Shlomi tells you, there is no ShamWow big enough to mop it up.

However, if it rains, snows, sleets, or mother nature otherwise decides to pitch a fit, it's going to get inside your car. On the flipside, if it's the middle of August and you hop inside your car, there's no chance that you'll get your air conditioner blowing cold before you sweat through your shirt. So, I got some window deflectors.

 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00332GPOC

This brand was the best reviewed for the price. Also, I wanted the "in-channel" style for two reasons. First, if they ever break, they're easier to remove without risking pulling off chunks of paint. Also, they just look more seamless and part of the car. When you're homeless, presentation is everything.

5. Fogless Shower Mirror

Men - listen to me. There's a reason why women have silky-smooth legs after a shave, and it's because they have a secret. This secret is that there's nothing better on this planet than shaving in the shower. Well . . . perhaps there are a few things, but this is up there with bacon and Nutella. At any rate, shaving in the shower is more comfortable and way easier than shaving over a sink. This mirror has a reservoir behind the mirror that you fill with hot water to keep it from fogging up. It's portable, so if you go to the gym in the morning, you're set. When I wasn't a hobo, I found a permanent model at Walmart that screwed in-line with the shower head. It's the simple luxuries that get me excited these days, I suppose . . .


6. Dead Battery Protector

There's not much worse than waking up in your car with your hair matted on one side, sticking up on the other, and buzzard breath pouring from your lips only to realize that you left something turned on in your car and you need to approach a stranger in your present state of appearance to ask for a jump. The example I provided is based on (many) a real-life scenario(s).

Sure, you could get one of those battery jump-starter packs, but they take up a ton of weight, they go dead, and they also only last a few years before the battery in them doesn't hold a charge. This thing has saved me from being stranded on more than one occasion:


This thing goes between your positive terminal and your battery and monitors the voltage. If it drops too far, it cuts the power. To restore power, simply do something that would cause a large power draw such as stomping on the breaks or flicking on the high beams (followed by immediately starting your car, of course). Seriously, though - get one of these. Get one for your girlfriend/wife/less-than-significant other. Get one for your kids. Get one for your grandparents. Get one for your dog's shock collar. You'll be glad you did.

7. Portable Alarm Clock

I used to live in a small town that only existed because of the railroad, and 100 years ago, it was a stop. It's still on the railroad and it's still a small town, so that means that most houses are within 500-1000 feet of what is now a freight line. Every train that went through caused the glass in the windows to rattle and pictures on the wall to shake, and no one was fool enough to display prized China on the wall. As a result, I'm a VERY heavy sleeper. I slept through a tornado that passed through town the next road over from my house, once. Throw in some sleep apnea, and I'm a sleep-machine. 

I tried everything to wake myself up. I tried an alarm clock for deaf people that is 120 dB and has a bed-shaker module. I had to zip-tie the power plug to the wall so I couldn't unplug it, but it was too easy to turn off. So, I locked it in a box and put the keys somewhere that I'd have to get up to fetch them. Problem: after returning with the keys, I'm right next to my bed. So, I landed on one of these:


This, dear friends, is pure evil. It will make your neighbors hate you. Your dog will find a new best friend. It is a battery-powered trucker alarm clock, and you can find it at any truck stop. To turn it off, you have to use two hands to hit the cryptic combination of buttons. Since I sleep extra hard, I had to make it even more challenging. When I lived in an apartment, not only did I have it locked in a box, but I also chained the key inside a cabinet downstairs. In order to mute this wretched beast, I had to run across my apartment to fetch the key, taking me far away from my bed. In my car, I have my car keys tethered to the headrest joint of my seat, and the alarm is locked in my glove box. The rope tied to my keys is just long enough to unlock the glove box if the seat is as far forward and as far erect as possible. Not only does this get me out of bed - it basically destroys my bed.

To make sure that your supply of unearthly shrieking never ceases, throw in some Li-ion 9V batteries:


I just can't WAIT to crawl into bed with this next to me tonight . . .

Anyway, that's all for now. This is FAR longer than usual, but I hope some of the products are useful to you in real life (or are at least entertaining). As always, I value your comments, and please like/follow/+1/re-share/re-Tweet me!

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