We have been fulltime RVers for seventeen years and meander all over the USA and Canada. I have always been concerned about some of those crazy drivers out there and while we have never had a serious accident, we continue to be concerned and careful. As many of you know, there are many driver’s texting, eating, dancing, shaving, fixing their hair, and other distractions, and lots of those same drivers assume that we can instantly stop a 45,000 lb. motorhome or that it will “leap” sideways! Mine won’t!
A few years ago, I purchased a GoPro® camera (the Hero3 Silver model) with the primary purpose of capturing video in front of my motorhome while driving—I use it as a “Dash Camera.” I have it mounted inside, hanging from a cabinet close to my motorhome windshield, so it "looks" out the front. My joke is that if someone runs over me, I will at least be able to watch them do it —again and again.
Why the GoPro?
I researched a large number of “security” cameras over a two-year period—I wasn’t in a rush, had no deadline, and knew what I wanted to accomplish when I found one. I wasn’t just looking for a “deal” but something that would do the “job.” Much of that research focused on the typical security-camera systems found in commercial businesses—like your local convenience store. They work and do an adequate job, but all are expensive and large. You also have to buy both the camera and a receiver. Simply, these didn’t fit in my motorhome or were too expensive for a single-purpose camera.
I know that the GoPro is advertised as “the” sports camera and we have all seen some dramatic video taken with these. However, there were three major reasons for my purchasing the GoPro camera for use as my “Dashcam”...
First, the GoPro camera has an angle of view of 170° so it is like a super-wide-angle lens (almost a fisheye-lens view—a fisheye lens has a 180° view) and therefore I can capture shots completely across the front of my coach and down in the front including a large area within my front blind spot. (Lots of motorhome owners don’t know that their front blind “area” is huge in a big motorhome!) With the camera mounted high-up, looking out near the top of the windshield in that coach, I could capture an image showing the inside edge of BOTH my outside mirrors. This is equivalent to the full width of the windshield as shown in the following photos.
Second, GoPro sells two different "suction cup" mounts. One is dinky and nearly useless for this project. The other uses an industrial-quality suction cup and has a lever to draw down the suction. So there was no permanent installation needed and no new screw holes to drill in my coach. Also, on my coach, the suction cup is not in my line of sight through the windshield. It sits low enough so that it does not block any views.
With the unit mounted at the bottom of the windshield (as shown in the previous photo), it (luckily) sits between the windshield wiper arms and does not block anything from the driver.
I cleaned the windshield, applied the suction cup, and it held perfectly for about two weeks. A simple recleaning made it good for another two weeks. The camera attachment point is double-jointed so that you can adjust the camera to look at any angle when mounted using the suction. One interesting side note is that the camera contains a setting so you can mount the camera upside down, shoot normal video, and it will playback right-side up. You won't have to manipulate the video after you download it.
Third, and most important, is that these cameras now have "looping video" and this option is built-in the camera’s settings—there’s nothing extra to buy. The looping function will shoot video for a prescribed time, save this in a series of files, and then automatically record over the earliest saved video file when your selected “loop” time is up. For example, I can set my loop for various recording times (5, 20, 60 minutes, etc.). I used 5 minutes (for my initial test) because as it records the 5, one-minutes videos, it automatically saves these files. It starts the 6th file and when complete, this “newest” file is saved and automatically overwrites the original file thus erasing and replacing the oldest file with the newest video file. Using the 5-minute setting, I actually ended up with slightly more than 5 minutes of video but you always have the most recent 5 minutes saved as five sequentially numbered files (when using the 5-minute setting). This was my test.
Looping video is what many commercial security cameras use. Finally, having the camera set for looping and plugged in (charging) all the time, theoretically, it will run forever and you don't have to mess with any files, stop to recharge the battery, etc.
I chose to set my final loop at 120 minutes. If you set the looping for a shorter time and something does happen (a close call, accident, etc.) that you want to keep or review on video, logically and immediately after it happens you will be concentrating on the event—not on the camera. Therefore, for example, if your loop was set on 5 minutes and you captured some event such as an accident on video that caused you to stop, 6 minutes later that video is erased (remember how the loop works). It makes sense in my usage to set the loop time for nearly the maximum time. My 120-minute looping setting has worked perfectly. My files are saved in 15-minute segments so that makes 8 total segments.