A Host of Gadgets for Easing Entry/Exit of a Pickup Bed, Enjoying Beverages Campside and Making Short Work of a Dirty Job


A Host of Gadgets for Easing Entry/Exit of a Pickup Bed, Enjoying Beverages Campside and Making Short Work of a Dirty Job
By Bob Livingston / Photos by author
Stake Hand Handle
Stake Hand provides a secure handle to grab when climbing in and out of a pickup bed. Mounted in the rear stake pocket, the handle provides plenty of support.

here’s a world of difference between a gadget and a gimmick. Both attract attention, but a gimmick is more of a ruse — it grabs your attention (and maybe your wallet) but proves to be of little real value. Gadgets, on the other hand, tend to be inventions with a purpose, designed to help make something you do either quicker, faster or easier. There is an abundance of both in the RV industry — but here are three products that definitely fit within the “gadget” parameters. We tried each of them out and found each enhanced a certain aspect of the RV lifestyle.

Hold On: Hatchlift’s Stake Hand offers a good grip when climbing into/out of a pickup bed.
Climbing into a pickup truck bed can be less than graceful. Major truck manufacturers, like GMC/Chevrolet and Ford, finally figured this out and now offer unique tailgates that unfold, and/or have bumper cut-outs for better footing when stepping into and out of the bed. There are even add-on steps available in the aftermarket that facilitate safe boarding. But what about all the millions of owners who don’t have pickups with such features?

Hatchlift Products, a Colorado-based company which specializes in high-quality struts for compartment doors and mattress platforms, has developed a gizmo called the Stake Hand that lends a helping “hand” when climbing into and out of the pickup bed. It’s simplicity personified — and is one of those “why didn’t I think of that” products.

The device is a 13 ½-inch, straight metal handle that slips into a special-designed receiver mounted in the stake pocket at the rear of the bed rail. It provides a stable handle to hold on to while stepping on the bumper and over the tailgate to reach the bed. Without such an aid, users must grip the tailgate, which can be awkward and unsafe, lower the tailgate and climb on butt first — or use a step stool.

The large capture plate

The large capture plate was used for this installation. Usually the first step entails assembling the receiver, gasket and capture plate, working it into the stake pocket and positioning under the bed rail. Here, because of the bed rail cap, the capture plate is worked into the stake pocket first and held in place through a nearby hole in the bed.

The Stake Hand is designed to fit most trucks with rectangle stake pockets (holes) in the bed rails — you know, those holes that most people never use. Compatible stake pocket openings will have dimensions of either 1-3/4 x 2-5/8 inches or 1-3/8 x 2 inches. There is one slight caveat: Many trucks now have bed rail covers, generally made of plastic, which means the receiver portion of the kit will not be able to snug tightly against the metal bed rail. It’s best to trim the bed rail cover to allow the receiver to seat against the metal, but we installed it on top of the bed rail cover. Doing so presented some play when pulling on the handle. Although this feels somewhat disconcerting the first time out, the receiver is still attached to metal and offers plenty of support. We were somewhat hesitant to trim the bed rail cover until checking out whether this handle will work as advertised; since it met expectations, we will now trim the plastic using a Dremel tool and cutting wheel.
The receiver and gasket
Screwing in the gasket
The receiver and gasket are carefully lined up and one bolt is threaded into the capture plate. With the holes lined up, the other bolts are then threaded into the capture plate. All four bolts are tightened and the job is done.
Closeup of the handle

The handle is inserted into the receiver when needed and provides 8-1/4 inches of grip. Since it was installed without trimming the rail cap, it has some play, but since the capture plate is against the metal under the bed rail, there’s plenty of support. Later, the rail cap will be trimmed to allow the receiver to seat against metal. Trucks without rail caps will not have to deal with this step.

Installing the Stake Hand is very easy, but it takes a little finesse to manipulate the parts. For the 2016 Ram dually we used to test the product, we needed to employ the large capture plate. For trucks without a rail cover, the first step entails loose assembly of the receiver, gasket and capture plate. A long bolt is threaded into the plate using only a few turns. While holding on to the bolt, one corner of the capture plate is pulled up while pushing the opposite side under the lip of the stake pocket. A tie-down strap hole in the receiver must face the inside of the bed. The hole is used to attach the S-hook of a tie-down strap through the receiver, offering a convenient attachment point when strapping down cargo. This is an add-on benefit that has no bearing on the use of the handle and is only designed for light-duty use.

The next step is to wiggle the capture plate until it is completely under the lip of the stake pocket. After loosely inserting the other bolts, the receiver is tightened against the rail. For the test installation with the rail cover, the capture plate was inserted first and the receiver bolted in after lining up the two parts, which took a little more patience.

To use, simply insert the handle in the receiver and hold on while climbing aboard. A word of caution: The handle protrudes 8 1/4 inches above the bed rail, so you must remove it before attempting to hitch up a fifth-wheel trailer or your day will be ruined.

As with other Hatchlift products, the Stake Hand exudes high quality workmanship. Two snap-in brackets are provided with the kit for those who wish to mount the handle in a convenient location on the bed wall. The only maintenance is to apply a coating of linseed oil inside the tubes to prevent rusting.

Once you rely on the Stake Hand handle to get in and out of the truck bed, you’ll wonder how you lived without this device.

Liquid Refreshments: This Zarcor Universal Drink Holder really works

Sitting on a camp chair, relaxing with a cold drink in your hand, presents the age-old problem of what to do what that glass between sips. Cup holders are everywhere — including in a tow vehicle, motorhome and even in couch arm rests — but I’ve found that those on camp chairs are usually for show only. Most of the time these flimsy fabric or thin plastic cup holders end up toppling the drink and have limited versatility when it comes to cup size. Zarcor, an accessory company out of Addison, Texas, offers a Universal Drink Holder that solves all the inherent issues associated with a chair-mounted apparatus. It’s stout, can handle just about any type of bottle, can, cup or even wine glass, and it’s attached to a gimbal that prevents accidental spilling.
Handled stored
The kit comes with two clips to store the handle that can be attached to the side of the bed in a convenient location
Mounting the Universal Drink Holder is a no-brainer: No tools required. A hanger pad is simply attached to a convenient spot on the chair using the integrated wing nut clamp similar to those used on automotive hoses. The clamp is opened and wrapped around a suitable rail/tube — typically one that’s part of the folding operation of the chair — and the wing nut is tightened. It’s best to leave the clamp somewhat loose, attach the cup holder and make adjustments while sitting in the chair and holstering your favorite cup. Once a comfortable location (one that is easy to reach without adverse calisthenics) is set, the wing nut is tightened to prevent most movement. That’s it — you’re done.

The cup holder is made of strong plastic and slides on the extruded round fitting attached to the hanger pad, which means it can be easily removed before storing folding chairs in a bag. When seated, the holder is able to rock back and forth, but cannot be dislodged from the hanger without a purposeful upward movement. The gimbal arrangement compensates for any unlevel mounting position of the hanger, keeping the drink vessel in a vertical attitude and preventing spills.

The Zarcor Universal Drink Holder In Use
The Zarcor Universal Drink Holder can accept just about any can, cup or bottle; it can even cradle wine glasses with long stems.
A round extrusion
A round extrusion, mounted to the hanger pad, provides the mechanism for attaching the cup holder.
The hanger pad
The hanger pad is attached to a convenient location on the chair using a hose clamp with a plastic wing nut, eliminating the need for tools.
A unique design, using upper and lower slotted round arms, provides a universal platform for the cans, bottles or cups while also allowing wine glasses to slip in and be stabilized. It’s a clever design and maybe the best such device on the planet. After years of service on folding chairs, the Zarcor Universal Drink Holder has proven to be extremely durable. It’s been tossed around and squashed among other heavy items in the storage compartment and only one time was the hanger pad damaged — when an overly frisky dog crashed into the chair. Replacement pads are available for $4.95. Cup holders, with the hanger, are available in white or black and sell for $24.95 — and are made in the USA.

The word, “universal” seems to be thrown around too much these days, and in many cases is just advertising hype, but this description rings true with the Zarcor drink holder. It’s easy to hang out under the awning with a cup of coffee by your side, change to a soda can later in the day and slide in a wine glass in the evening, without making any adjustments. Outside couch potatoes rejoice.

The Zarcor Universal Drink Holder installation
When installing, it’s best to leave the hanger pad loose enough to be moved, allowing perfect positioning of the cup holder while siting in the chair. Once set, the hose clamp can be tightened.
Poop Goes the Weasel: Black tank pyramids are no match for the Camco Swivel Stik
Dumping a black holding tank is not rocket science, but it does conjure up fears of getting that nasty stuff on your hands or ground — which plays right into the best campfire stories. There are a number of techniques on how to clean these tanks circulating on the Internet, but one thing is for sure: preventing the dreaded “poo pyramid” inside the tank is crucial to a free-flowing system and odor control. Camco’s RV Flexible Swivel Stik a must have accessory to carry in your tool arsenal that will help keep black tanks clean.

Many black holding tanks these days are fitted with a built-in flushers, which should be used every time the tank is emptied. These systems use a spray nozzle, usually mounted to the side of the tank, and are connected to a hose that forces water through a rotating nozzle inside the tank. But while the tank flusher gets much of the contents to flow out the dump hose, there are times when it’s just not enough to thoroughly clean the tank — and owners of RVs built without this feature can find themselves in an even more precarious situation.

Gimbal features means the holder will remain vertical and keep cups from being thrown out if accidentally bumped. It can handle large coffee cups with aplomb.
The Swivel Stik is available with a solid or flexible shaft, depending on how the toilet is connected to the tank. If the toilet is mounted directly over the holding tank, the solid version is needed; when the tank uses a curved connector pipe, the 55 ½-inch flexible model does the trick. For this evaluation, the Flexible Swivel Stik was needed.

There’s nothing fancy about this product. It’s connected to a water hose and routed into the tank through the toilet valve. (Always dedicate a hose for this purpose; it’s not safe to use a drinking water hose that will also be used to hook up the RV to an outside source.) On one end of the Swivel Stik is the threaded hose fitting with an on/off valve and on the other is a nozzle that provides a strong rotary spray of water necessary to dislodge solids in the tank.

To clean the tank, the contents are first dumped in the normal manner. If you have a tank flusher, use before the Swivel Stik. Once the tank is empty, leave the discharge valve open and insert the Swivel Stick through the toilet valve as far as possible. You’ll need to keep the toilet valve open (turn off water source), engaging the flushing lever by hand or foot, depending on the toilet model. Allowing the toilet valve to snap shut on the Swivel Stick tube may damage the valve. Move the lever to the “On” position and let the rotary spray nozzle do its thing.

Swivel Stik
Swivel Stik folds in half for easier storage. Keep in mind that this wand must be cleaned and sanitized before storing. We discovered that it fit perfectly inside the dump hoses stored in the bumper. When opened, the wand is 55 ½ inches long. This flexible version is designed for cleaning holding tanks that are not directly under the toilet.
While it may seem redundant to use the built-in tank flusher and the Swivel Stik, our testing revealed that the latter will remove leftover solids that did not make it out during the initial tank rinsing. This was verified by having a helper watch the flow of contents through a clear fitting while the other person managed the Swivel Stik in the bathroom.
A brass rotary fitting
A hose
A brass rotary fitting at the end of the wand throws a strong spray pattern of water, specifically designed to clean black water holding tanks. A hose is attached to the end of the wand with the on/off valve. This valve makes it easy for one person to control the water. Never use a hose that provides city water service to the RV; it’s best to dedicate a hose for cleaning the tank.
The Swivel Stik
The Swivel Stik is routed through the toilet valve (turn off city water source) into the holding tank via the connecting pipe. Holding open the flushing mechanism during the cleaning process will prevent damaging the toilet valve.
Those RVers who are on the road and only stop for a few days to a couple of weeks may only have to use the Swivel Stik just before storing the rig. Using plenty of water when flushing and agitation on the road usually will keep the tank flowing without clogging. Final rinsing with the Swivel Stik will ensure the tank is clean and ready for use during the next outing.

Owners who stay put for long periods of time may find that the lack of agitation inside the tank may create an unwanted build-up of waste, which will impact the flow during dumping and lead to a noxious odor. Full timers should consider using the Swivel Stik once a month and have the tank professionally pressure washed annually.

Although the Swivel Stik folds up for easy storage, keep in mind that it’s used in a very unsanitary environment, so use disposable gloves and clean it thoroughly with a throw-away rag or paper towel with a disinfecting solution before placing in any compartment.

The Camco RV Flexible Swivel Stik is available at Amazon for around $25, or from most RV supply stores.

(800) 877-4797

Camco Manufacturing
(800) 334-2004

Hatchlift Products