Journal

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Article

What is a LightTrip?

Nov. 30, 2022

By Amanda Winther

20 minutes read

What is a LightTrip?

An employee perk that pays you to take road trips? Yep – it’s our LightTrip program

Our goal at Lightship is to make RVing easy, accessible and more sustainable for everyone; to invite more people into the pastime while also making it electric. As we began to build the company and hire talented people to join the team, we quickly realized that not all of them have had the time or money to buy or rent an RV.

We began wondering: how well positioned were we to challenge the status quo of RVing and enhance people’s enjoyment of the outdoors if some of our team had never experienced that status quo?

This led us to create the LightTrip program: a $2,000 yearly stipend for full-time Lightship employees to spend on RV road trips with their family and friends. We want our employees to get out into nature and participate in the RV experience. Equally, we want our team members to stay balanced and focus on their personal lives. This is incredibly important to us, as we believe that this makes for better team members, products, and, ultimately, better experiences for our customers.

  • Yearly stipend for RV road trips
    $2,000

Over the past year, we’ve chronicled the LightTrips of some of our team members to gain a firsthand look at the types of problems their work is helping to solve. These are the stories - through all of the ups and downs - of three of those LightTrips.

Nick’s RV trip from Northern CA to Flagstaff, AZ took him to remote places with the ones he loves

Nick Herron, Lightship’s Head of Power Systems Engineering, set his sights on road-tripping from Northern California to Flagstaff, Arizona, and back, with his son, Liam, and wife, Maryrose. An avid camper, he was no stranger to towing. But Nick still found himself caught off guard by how large his 2021 Rockwood Geo Pro 19BH travel trailer felt once he got behind the wheel.

Still, he felt confident that this LightTrip would be relatively worry-free. At least until he saw the coolant temperatures on his rugged Jeep Rubicon spike whenever he started ascending even a mildly steep grade. He’d never seen the temperature gauge even budge before. What wasn’t surprising was the visible reduction in his gas mileage – his standard 29-30 MPG dropped by 50% when towing (to 14 MPG).

As an engineer, Nick saw no shortage of areas to improve the interior of his rented trailer. Almost immediately, he discovered that the water pump had to be connected to a municipal source to start working. Whatever - easy enough to fix. Soon after, he noticed his camper’s inverter was using a ton of electricity to power their onboard appliances.  Annoying, but manageable; he’d brought a generator.

Nick, Lightship’s Head of Power Systems Engineering, towed a rented travel trailer with a Jeep Rubicon

Nick, Lightship’s Head of Power Systems Engineering, towed a rented travel trailer with a Jeep Rubicon

Nick and his son exploring Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park
Then he realized his water pump continually dripped into the toilet, causing his black water tank to fill more quickly and flood.

Nick brings these insights to his daily work at Lightship. During his stay at Kaibab Lake Campground outside of Flagstaff, he noticed how difficult it was for the solar to charge thanks to the large trees, which provided plentiful shade. When selecting the right solar panels for our first Lightship, he’s definitely thinking hard about how to build tolerance for partially shaded conditions.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t all work and no play on this LightTrip. The beauty and diversity of natural landscapes were more than enough to captivate Nick and his family. Nothing could prepare them for what they experienced at the Eureka Dunes Campground in Death Valley National Park. There, the only things to see were wooden picnic tables and otherworldly dunes that towered 700 feet above them. Naturally, Nick and his family did what anyone else would do in the face of such an epic landscape: they made sand angels. After all, who would see them if they messed up? (Besides the pilots of the F-22 fighter jets that buzzed by periodically).

Nick and his son exploring Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park

Nick and his son exploring Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park

Rachel and her brother experienced vanlife complete with hikes to alpine lakes and desert towers

Rachel Tierney, a software engineer at Lightship, felt a bit intimidated by the prospect of towing. So she opted to rent an upfitted Dodge Ram ProMaster campervan for a LightTrip with her brother, Jack, to Southwestern, Colorado, and Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.

For the most part, the van was great; it drove like a large truck and was easy enough to get in and out of tight spaces. However, its suspension wasn’t calibrated to the extra weight of the camper’s interior so every drive down rural, dirt roads rattled her to the bone.

All of these discoveries proved to be a stark reminder: staying in most RVs or travel trailers tends to be an exercise in learning to accept what can’t be changed. Like broken latches. If she didn’t close the cabinets in a certain way, she’d be met with a chorus of rattling doors whenever she drove. Even worse, the latch on her pull-out fridge had broken and it wanted to fly off its rails with every sharp turn.

Overall, Rachel and Jack loved their setup, and especially appreciated having a comfortable bed and climate-controlled shelter from the elements. “I tend to get cold easily, so I got much better sleep than if I was in a tent,” Rachel shared.

Rachel, a software engineer at Lightship, poses in front of Ice Lake in the San Juan National Park

Rachel, a software engineer at Lightship, poses in front of Ice Lake in the San Juan National Park

But one thing did stand out as lacking – their van didn’t have a shower, which was pretty brutal considering she and her brother had to share the small space after hours of hiking each day.

Rachel will definitely be reflecting back on this trip as she works on the water sensors and other key systems we’re building into our first product – an electric travel trailer. One of her goals is to make sure future Lightshippers know just how much water (and how many showers!) they have left in their tanks before they need to dump or refill.

Like the other LightTrippers, Rachel and her brother took every moment to enjoy their surroundings. After a late first night, they slept hard in preparation for the day ahead. The next morning, they ventured deep into the San Juan National Forest on a challenging 8.5 miles hike around the bright, shimmering waters of the Icy Lake Basin. The day after, still riding the high from their hike, they excitedly hurried to Arches National Park. It wasn’t long after seeing the striking pylons and mind-bending arches of the Grandstaff Trail and Devil’s Garden that they both agreed: they would be back.

Rachel and her brother enjoyed hiking through sandstone passages in Arches National Park and the greater Moab area

Rachel and her brother enjoyed hiking through sandstone passages in Arches National Park and the greater Moab area

Rob and his family unplugged from their “normal,” creating memories together on the California coast

Lightship’s Head of Creative, Rob Williams, was a little nervous as he departed from his home in Bend, Oregon on his way to Santa Cruz, California. Sitting behind the wheel of his rented F-150, he looked back at the 27-foot Airstream International travel trailer he had in tow; it was definitely the biggest thing he’d ever towed. Thankfully, a pair of stabilizer bars kept him calm and in control while he bobbed and weaved through tight, twisty mountain spines that separated inland California from the coast.

Rob and his family unwound and unplugged the moment they took the key out of the ignition. The amenities of the KOA where they stayed provided a bevy of activities including a pool, hot tub, and play areas. Couple that with the natural wonder of the Redwood Forest and California coast, as well as fun activities nearby like go-karting, and it’s no wonder why Rob’s kids barely looked at their phones until evening each day.

Rob, Lightship’s Head of Creative, and his family marvel at the incredible California coastal Redwoods

Rob, Lightship’s Head of Creative, and his family marvel at the incredible California coastal Redwoods

Despite all the fun they had outside of their trailer, the experience inside had some hitches. You might expect a 27-foot trailer to have plenty of room for a family of five. The Airstream says it sleeps up to six. But, in reality, Rob and his family had trouble comfortably hanging out, cooking, or even sleeping in their travel trailer.

“Our twin daughters were the most uncomfortable as they were forced to sleep together in the dinette conversion. It wasn’t long enough for either of them so they couldn’t fully stretch out and they had to basically spoon all night to fit within the width of the bed” Rob recalled.

Rob also found himself wishing there was more space for the entire family to gather inside the trailer, an insight that he’s brought into the Lightship design, which will have expansive lounge areas for friends and family to gather.

Even with some bumps in the road, the joy of being with loved ones in the great outdoors was the experience that played the loudest for these LightTrippers. Rob and his family loved trying a new way to explore together and unplug from “normal” life.

LightTrips give the Lightship team a North Star to look to in their work

These are the kinds of moments we created LightTrips for. It’s our hope that by bringing more of our team members into the RV experience that they can develop a more intimate understanding of how a better-designed RV will enhance our customers’ outdoor travel experiences. And importantly, we hope these experiences, and time away from the office can help our team think about their work for what it is: a chance to help future generations make memories in the same beautiful settings they got to enjoy.

So, if you’re someone who’s looking to cultivate a more sustainable future and radically improve the RVing experience for everyone, this is our way of saying: we want you to come work for us. To learn more about our open roles at Lightship, click here.

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