Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My new Traveling Office Solution

Many know that I’m usually working full-time whenever I’m on extended travels with the View.  It’s the perk I enjoy most about my job, and I’m very grateful for the flexibility to “change the view out my office window” as often as I want.

I’ve made a couple of enhancements over the years to make extended living in the View more comfortable, but it never has been as comfortable to work in as my home office with it’s nice big swivel, rocking office chair.  That is….until now!


I decided that I was fed up enough with working from the uncomfortable booth dinette and table that was too large and too high.  I started seriously considering removing the dinette entirely, but that posed it’s own set of challenges--- the furnace is located in the rear bench seat, so I’d need a new heating source; and if I removed the front bench seat, I’d need to find a way to close up the existing baggage door, find a new place to store my Lafuma outdoor lounge chair and the additional miscellaneous items currently stored beneath the seat.  Removing the dinette would also have eliminated an extra sleeping area (which still comes in handy when my mom or friends come camping with us).

So, I decided to do a “temporary” mod and just remove the dinette table.  It’s nicely stored in the garage now and can easily be re-installed later at resale time.  In it’s place, I now have a folding table and a small, rocking/swivel office chair.  For the life of me, I don’t know why I waited 3 years before doing this mod—my mobile office is now every bit as comfortable as my home office!!!


The table is a lightweight, but large folding “tv tray” called the Table Mate I.  It’s the big brother version of the Table Mate Classic I’ve been using for the past few years.  The unique thing about Table Mates is that the legs don’t criss-cross underneath the table (so you still have plenty of legroom).  Unfortunately, it looks like these larger-sized (and wood-colored) Table Mates are now on closeout, as the manufacturer only seems to be selling the much smaller white plastic version now.  So, if you’re wanting a solution like this, better jump fast on the ones TVTraysEtc is selling!

The chair is a Zeal II from OfficeMax (and wouldn’t you know, it’s now showing up $20 less than what I bought it for!)—very comfy and the brown leatherette goes nice with my interior colors.  It’s also small enough to fit thru the coach door (bigger office chairs can’t without disassembly).

Instead of a big, bulky “all-in-one” printer/scanner/copier, I have 2 small, lightweight gizmos that do the job quickly and then stow away nicely in one of the View’s overhead cabinets:


The silver Canon Pixma ip100 printer is about the same size as an iPad (but thicker of course).  It prints very quickly and does well for photo printing too. The ultra-tiny black stick ahead of it is the Fujitsu Scansnap S1100 high-speed scanner.  

I still dutifully bring the printer on longer trips, but rarely find the need to print anything anymore.  Mainly because I use a combination of the Fujitsu scanner, my iPad/iPhone, and cloud-based document storage solutions to capture and store any documents I need (see more details on that below).

When my workday is done, I can easily pack up my office gear and the Table Mate now serves nicely as a dining table


When mealtime is done and more floor space is needed, the table easily flips down.  This is also great for when we’re in driving mode and need to stow the chair, but still might want access to the table again at rest stops.


The final mod left to do is to create some wood bed slats to fit between the benches so that the dinette can be used as a bed.  I did a similar mod with my old T@B trailer and it really worked out well.

My Updated Paperless Workflow:

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “Paperless in Paradise”  and reviewing it today—it’s way overdue for an update!  So, here’s what I’m currently using to work without paper:

  • In place of a paper notepad and pen, I use my iPad with an app called Penultimate along with a rubber-tipped Targus stylus.  My notes stay backed up automatically in the cloud to my free Dropbox account so I never need to worry about losing them.  If I wish to search/read these notes later via my laptop or iPhone, I can easily export either a single page or an entire “notebook” as a PDF file.
  • For any incoming paper I’ll need to refer to later, I scan it into a PDF document using either my Fujitsu scanner or a nice little iOS app called Scanner Pro.
  • All of the solutions above have auto-exporting features to Evernote, which continues to be my primo electronic file-cabinet of various documents and web-page clippings.  Evernote has free and $45/yr Premium solutions, and allows easy document searching, viewing, and organization from a PC/Mac or web browser, a smart phone (iPhone/Android), or iPad.  Probably the coolest feature of Evernote is that it can search for text within images (such as my handwritten scrawl from my Penultimate notes or a photo taken from my iPhone while out shopping or exploring when I find something interesting  I want to remember for the future).
  • I used to use a Wacom tablet and PC software to annotate PDF files (e.g. to initial and date expense receipts or put my signature on documents), but iPad apps have improved tremendously in this area over the past year, so now, I just use my iPad and stylus to annotate.  My favorite app for this at the moment is Good Reader as it also has nice integration to Dropbox and Google Drive (Google Docs) if I happen to have a PDF stored there that needs annotation.

Nearly every small RV has storage space and cargo capacity limitations, so not hauling heavy paper files around (or bulky all-in-one printer/scanners) really helps!


  1. Nice mod. I still prefer a full-size desk, so we ripped out the second sofa in the living area and installed my desk there. The chair fits into the leg area nicely, and a couple of bungy cords keep everything in place when we're on the road.

  2. Is there enough room to sit in the chair when the slide is in?

  3. Lynne. Brilliant, simple, and elegant. I am so stealing that idea!


    1. Thanks Kim! Just remember to look for an RV where the dinette is not in a slide-out (won't be able to roll your chair around) and that there's about 29-30" of space between the seats so you can scoot the chair in-between. Happy shopping!

    2. Thanks again - I don't think that critical point would have occurred to me (until it was too late).

  4. Great ideas! I like my dinette table, but it IS a little too high. I put some styrofoam sheets under the dinette seats to bring me up a little, and so far it's working.

    I have a printer, scanner, copier, fax that isn't too big, but I'd rather have a smaller size. You've given me a good idea, two machines would work, and might each fit into my upper cabinets, where the larger one won't. I don't need a fax, but the printer, copier scanner, although I don't use them much, are must-haves when I need them. I might start looking to see what's out there now. Smaller would be better! :)

    Thanks! Love to see photos of interiors, yours is very nice!

    1. Yeah, I store the scanner and printer (with it's assorted cables, paper, and spare ink cartridges) along w/my Wilson cell signal booster in a little plastic tub container that fits in one of my overhead cabinets-- keeps the gadgets clean and from bouncing around too much when I'm driving down a bumpy road somewhere :-)

  5. I enjoyed this post very much. I have a free standing dinette but it is not comfortable to work on the laptop.
    The folding table you are using look likes a nice set up. Does the lip around the top -especially on the front- bother you to type on the keyboard and/or use the mouse?
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Not at all because the lip of the table is rounded and smooth-- actually nicer than my office desk at home that has blunt edges.

      I recently went ahead and ordered the smaller version of the Table-Mate (the Table Mate II) and can now use it as a keyboard/mouse drawer beneath the larger tray by just setting it's legs a bit shorter. It'a also nice to have a smaller extra table to use for dining or as a side table at the sofa or passenger seat swivel recliner. Just love these table mates!

    2. thanks, Lynne!! I am going to order a couple of these. I could definitely use them

    3. My office equipment is basically the same as yours, but the dinette has been so uncomfortable I work on my lap on the couch. I immediately tried to purchase one of these Tablemates, but unfortunately they do not ship to Alaska. I guess I will have to order one sent to me when I take my View outside. Great idea.

    4. Hey Sally,
      You might try Amazon. A couple sellers there have the Table-Mate II and Classic. These are each a little bit smaller than the original, but they'd still work fine. In fact, I'm finding that I tend to use my smaller Table-Mate more often than the larger one when I'm camping solo-- Allows the chair to slide into the dinette space a bit more.

  6. Great idea for something I have been thinking about for when I buy my RV.

  7. Looks great! Looks like you have more options which is always nice. Much like you, we also removed our Corian dining table and replaced it with a small table with two leaves. Great post!

  8. Lucky you, to be able to make a living on the road!!!
    Box Canyon Mark

    1. True, but I sure envy your location too! Absolutely love Ouray and the San Juans


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