A Cool Vehicle Laptop Rig

For those of you who saw my video post last Friday saw a video that I recorded on the road. The video was made using TC3633’s laptop, which is mounted in his vehicle. Well, I promised a report of the rig and here it is, complete with photos.TC3633 has been modifying his vehicle for the last few years.  A rack on the top for travel, a very solid front end unit to protect against deer (he had a close call once), floodlights, and a laptop rig.  Originally installed for use in storm chasing, he quickly discovered it’s value for geocaching too.

First, you need a RAM mount.  RAM Mounts consist of several different pieces which, when put together, mount to the rails that your front seats move forward and backward on without the need to drill any additional holes.  Here is what the mount looks like with the laptop sitting on the tray:

Ram Mount 1

You’ll notice there are some grips that help hold the laptop in place. These grips are not removable, so how do you place and remove the laptop? Well, one side of the mount’s tray is connected to a spring and is pulled open to slide the laptop into and out of place. When in place, these grips hold onto the laptop quite well. The rubber on the grips helps prevent it from sliding around, so no need to worry about taking turns.

There is one downside to the grips…they can get in the way of some of the ports. In TC3633’s case, it blocked the USB ports alongside the CD/DVD drive. He got around the USB ports by using a USB hub. The hub is mounted under the center of the dashboard, right next to the cigarette lighter. This allows him to attach several items when needed, included the very important internet adapter. For internet use, TC3633 went with a Wireless Cardbus Adapter. I don’t remember the exact brand however. Normally, this would be mounted into the laptop itself. In the above image, it would be in the corner closest to you. However, it doesn’t latch in place. This means that hitting a good bump will knock it out just enough to disconnect you. It was this very problem that led TC3633 to put a mount under the dashboard which more securely holds the adapter.

So you see the picture and it obviously works great for the passenger, but what if you are traveling alone? DISCLAIMER: DO NOT USE A LAPTOP WHILE DRIVING! For those occasions where you need to PULL OVER and use the laptop, the RAM mount can be adjusted using two knobs. One adjusts it’s rotation around the mount’s central pole. The other adjusts it’s tilt.
Ram mount 2
This next image is an image showing the whole setup after adjusting both. Take note of the cigarette lighters in the background (near bottom right) to see where the USB hub is usually mounted. I say usually because we discovered some ports aren’t working and TC removed it when we got home. You can see a few of the cords that hang from the laptop mount as well. One is a power cord, which plugs into an AC adapter that rests underneath the center arm rest. The armrest has a removable tray that exposes some storage underneath.

Next is a shot of the storage showing how the adapter sits inside. Cords from that run into the cigarette lighter.
IMG_6406a (420 x 600)
Surprisingly enough, the mount isn’t uncomfortable for the passenger, which I expected when I first sat in the vehicle. It does cut off a bit of leg room, but leaves enough that you don’t feel cramped. But, there is one fault with the system (which TC wants to fix). The signal. The cardbus adapter accesses cell phone towers to gain it’s signal. But unless you are in an area with good signal, your internet signal will not be great. To combat this, a signal repeater is needed to boost the signal. I don’t have the details on what he has planned for this.

I was quite impressed with the rig. Using the Geocaching WAP site, we were able to log caches on the road, as we found them. This definitely saves time from logging 60+ caches when you get home from a geocaching run. We were also able to access e-mail, Twitter, weather, maps, and even record the video in my last post.

There was an additional bonus. We weren’t using a NUVI, but while geocaching within Valentine, TC3633 had GREAT signal reception. This allowed him to sit in the back of the other vehicle with the laptop logged into the Geocaching site. He could then provide us with directions using the geocaching map. This definitely saved us time as we knew exactly when and where to turn as we drove from cache to cache.

If you have more questions just post a comment and I’ll help answer them. This rig isn’t cheap, but if you have a laptop, and you hate logging caches when you get home from a run, you might want to look into it.

Oh, and an update on my streak:
Total days in a row cached = 34 days
Total caches during streak = 224 caches


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