16 RV Must-Haves That Are Absolutely Essential When You Travel October 18, 2019
Ensure that you own every RV essential to keep you safe and comfortable while you travel!
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Whether you plan to RV full-time or recreationally there are several key items that you absolutely must have on the road.
Unlike a lot of people out there telling you that you need anywhere between 25 to 50+ RV essentials before you hit the road, we’re giving you a list (and explanation) of the most important RV must-haves for practical reasons.
Then we’re telling you why they’re important and how we’ve used each one.
Plus we’re throwing in a few extras you might not have thought about needing.
Every RVer has his or her own reasons for promoting certain items.
We just want you to be safe, enjoy your journey and trust us to help you make the most of your experience on the road!
RV Must-Haves: The Basics
Starting with the basics. Every human must eat, drink and (excuse me) use the restroom.
As such we think you’re going to want to consider the following must-have RV items to handle your first and foremost priorities in life.
1) Water hose + Regulator + Filter
At the top of the list of RV must-haves is a hose dedicated to drinking water.
Freshwater is a commodity on the road. When you fill-up you want to make sure you have a hose isolated for freshwater.
Sure, you can use it to wash the dog. But you don’t want to mix it up with a hose used for cleaning your black water tanks or poop pipe!
We also recommend an in-line filter from the water source.
Sure you don’t have to filter your water. But it’s only a few bucks and a few extra minutes to hook up each time we fill up our holding tanks.
You’ll see a lot of neighbors in each campground using these.
Finally, you would be surprised at the varying water pressure in hookups across the North American continent!
We have no interest in sending water through our system at such high pressures that we cause damage to our camper.
So we hook this adapter up and it takes any worry away about how high the water pressure will be when filling our water tanks!
Practical Example: We have stayed at numerous campgrounds with well-water access that pumps water out at high rates.
We first hook up our water hose to the well. Then we attach the water filter.
Finally, we attach the regulator to the hose coming into the camper.
Sometimes it seems like the water is still coming in fast.
But we trust it to be filtered and slowed down to the point it will not damage our plumbing.
2) Poop Pipe
This item is an RV essential for obvious reasons: everybody poops!
If you have a grey and/or black water tank you’re going to need this to help you dump your tanks.
It’s always better to have too much rather than too little when it comes to pipe length. We carry the maximum length we can stow!
Practical Example: We have camped in places where the sewage hookup was on the other side of our campsite.
With the extra lengths of our poop pipe, we were able to stretch the distance needed to ensure we did not have spillage!
3) 5-Gal Fresh Water Containers
We travel with 10-gal of freshwater accessible through jerry cans dedicated just to drinking water.
We also have 2 additional water cans we keep outside our truck/camper that can be filled as needed if we were going to be off-grid for a substantial amount of time.
Or we could use them if we did not want to worry about finding a place to refill our holding tanks.
Water is essential. A few of these cans keep you alive.
Practical Example: Every morning we refill our 32 oz Nalgene bottles with fresh water from our 5-gal jerry cans.
Although we do flush out our holding tank with bleach on a routine basis, due to the age of our camper we do not trust the water to be entirely safe.
Between our 10 gallons of fresh water, we never worry about running out of the most basic necessity in life. We try to refill at grocery stores with filtered water.
But at the worst, we can always fill up with spring water at many campgrounds.
4) Leveling Blocks
You might wonder why leveling blocks are considered an RV must-have, but in reality, leveling blocks serve a variety of important purposes.
They not only keep you from sleeping nearly upright on steep inclines!
But also they keep key appliances (like your LP refrigerator) running longer and more efficiently.
One of our top priorities every time we park to camp is to ensure that we are as level as we reasonably can.
We’ve heard horror stories about people who have fried their fridges because they did not camp level!
We’d rather spend our money on the adventure, not on a replacement appliance!
Practical Example: Sometimes the generosity of friends (or strangers-turned-friends) has provided us with “moochdocking” campsites in slanted terrain.
Unless you own an RV and/or understand the importance of leveling you may not be the best host for an RV.
In these cases, we sometimes spent the better part of an hour determining how to use our leveling blocks to bring our truck camper into a level position.
We carry wood blocks, in addition to these more common blocks, because we have needed additional leveling at times.
Essential RV Power Items
Next, consider the fact that, while unpleasant, it is possible to live for extended periods of time as long as you have enough water and food.
What makes this time unbearable would be also going without power.
Understanding your RV power and electrical system is hugely important when you live out of your RV for any amount of time.
5) Power Extension Cord
Sometimes your RV power cord will reach the power source on its own.
Other times you will need a power cord extension.
We always try to park as close to the power source as possible.
But when it is not possible, our 50 foot RV power extension cord more than does the trick.
Practical Example: We have had several cases where we “moochdocked” at friends’ or family member’s houses.
Sometimes we could not fit our truck camper close enough to the power source to only use our camper power cord.
Having the 50-foot extension gave us the ability to reach the 30 amp power outlet required to fully power our camper.
NOTE: The longer the distance between the power source and the appliance (camper) the more energy lost in the transfer.
So while you can buy hundreds of feet of power extension cords, it is best to try and use the shortest distance possible.
Not all power is created equal. Depending on your RV electrical setup and needs, you will want to have several power adapters on hand to step up or down the current that your RV requires.
You may find yourself in a campground where only one type of power source is available and you may need to step up or down to meet your RV power requirement.
We recommend that you have at least a 30/50 amp power adapter and a 20/30 amp power adapter.
This will ensure that you are flexible enough to use any power source provided.
Practical Example: Our truck camper requires 30 amp to power our 3500 watt Air Conditioner.
Otherwise, we know that we can run limited accessories on a standard 20-amp power source (regular house wall outlet).
With our generators (2 Honda 2000 connected in parallel) we can create more than enough wattage to power our AC, run high-wattage accessories (microwave, hairdryer, space heater, etc) or recharge our batteries.
But we have to use our power adapters to step up from the generator to the camper.
7) 5-Gal Fuel Jerry Can(s)
Most generators run on gasoline. The Honda 2000W generators we recommend run for approximately 8 hours on its 1 gal fuel reservoir.
For this reason, we carry a 5-gal Jerry can for gasoline to keep our generators powered up as needed.
Of course, if your vehicle runs on gasoline then having an extra jerry can or two serves a double purpose.
Practical Example: Our truck runs on diesel (which is why we carry this diesel jerry can as well). But we have been able to help others who have run out of gasoline in precarious places.
We have also never run out of generator power when we have boondocked or dry camped. This is because we always keep gasoline on hand.
If your RV comes already equipped with an onboard generator, great!
If not, you’re going to want to keep at least one generator on hand during your journey.
No RV overlander is complete without at least one Honda 2000W generator.
We have two specifically designed to be hooked up in parallel through plug-and-play wiring that allows us up to 4000W of energy (enough to crank on the AC if needed!).
Practical Example: Most US national park campsites are “dry camping” sites.
As such, there are no power, water or sewage hookups.
We use at least one generator on a very regular basis when camping in national parks.
And would not even consider boondocking without both of our Honda 2000 generators. They are able to provide as much energy as we might need for as long as we might need it.
Like solar panel systems, inverter options are limitless. Well, actually, there are limits to which inverter you should select.
We recommend this 600W inverter because it provides just enough juice to power pretty much anything we want to power. But it also is not so large that it requires a substantial battery bank.
Do mind the safety suggestions and installation advice concerning the distance, gauge and connections of the wire between the battery bank and the inverter.
Practical example: Every time we go “off-grid” we rely exclusively on our inverter to power the essentials.
Small appliances like cell phones to larger appliances like our computers and hot water kettle can be powered through our inverter.
Of course, keep in mind that all power comes from somewhere and will eventually run out.
We closely monitor our batteries and ensure that we are recharging them through solar or generators to keep up with our energy consumption.
RV Must-Haves: Tools and Safety
Finally, things break quite frequently when you RV.
So whether you can make it to an (overly priced) RV repair shop or have to make a few quick fixes on the road, these RV must-haves will keep you safe and allow you to get where you can make proper repairs as necessary.
10) Multi-head screwdriver
Almost everything these days is assembled using screws of some kind.
Having a screwdriver with multiple heads will allow you to manually remove/replace screws of all types.
This is easily our most-used tool and why we consider it an RV must-have in your tool kit.
11) Ratchet Set + Pliers
Aside from screws, nuts and bolts of various sizes hold your life together when you are on the road in your RV.
From this standpoint, having a good ratchet set and/or a few different pliers will come in handy.
Because we used bolts as we custom-built our flatbed truck camper ensuring that we could tighten/loosen them at times is imperative to the general operation of our truck and camper.
12) Various Fuses
Sometimes what seems to be the most difficult of electrical issues can turn out to be a simple fuse.
We nearly replaced our CD player in our camper because we thought the whole thing was broken from nearly 15 years of use.
As it turned out, a simple 1-amp fuse tucked into the back of the CD player was our culprit.
It’s good to have fuses of various sizes on hand.
You are not likely to end up in an emergency if a fuse does go out on you before you can find a place with spares.
But these are so affordable and small that it just makes sense to keep them handy.
13) Tapes (duct, electrical, propane, plumbers)
It has been said that duct tape can fix anything.
But these combinations of tape have become an absolute RV essential for us.
Duct tape is great for short term repairs and holding things together until you can make a more permanent fix.
But it’s not good for long term solutions – especially outside where the sun can cause it to stick to the paint/roof of the camper.
We have used duct tape to secure a tarp over our camper when hail destroyed our vent covers.
And we have attempted to use tape to cover our refrigerator vent when we lost ours on the highway.
Of course, we made permanent fixes on these things as soon as we could.
This is our most used must-have RV tape.
We are constantly finding that the more we move, the more things jiggle loose. Plus, with our custom electrical system, we have additional wiring that we are required to maintain.
We regularly check the connections of wires between our batteries, solar panels and inverter.
And on more than one occasion we have had to re-crimp wires.
Anytime we work with wires we tape the connections – just to be sure.
If electrical tape is our most used tape, propane tape is our most important.
Through the course of getting to know our camper, we have had to disconnect and reconnect every major propane appliance.
Not only is it unsound to simply screw in propane connections. But also it is incredibly dangerous.
Propane connections are typically metal and, as such, they do not fit perfectly together.
This means that it would be possible for propane to leak between the threads of each connection and cause a major issue.
Of course, you’re likely (required) to keep an LPG alarm in your camper.
But we prefer to prevent issues before they happen.
Wrapping 5-6 layers of propane tape around the connection before tightening them back together will not only make the appliance more efficient.
It will also reduce the risk that gas leaks from the connection.
We re-tape every connection any time we disconnect a propane appliance because we just don’t take any chances when it comes to propane.
It is not often that we will mess around with our plumbing system.
Those appliances have, for the most part, remained sound for us.
But we carry plumber’s tape for the one time we will need to disconnect the hot water heater or water pump.
Or we use it in the instances when our hose has a particularly terrible connection to the well water in a campsite.
It is better to have, and not use than to need and not have plumbers tape.
14) Flexseal (tape or spray)
Leaks happen, particularly in older RVs.
It’s good to have Flexseal around to stop almost any leak.
Whether it’s a window, a roof vent or the roof itself you can use Flexseal to stop further water damage.
We haven’t had to use ours. But we can rest easy knowing that we have it in the event that we need it.
15) Zip Ties
Zip ties belong on the list of RV must-haves because they are so simple and versatile (and affordable).
Most of the wiring in your RV is likely to already be zip-tied and neatly tucked into crevices.
But if you ever have to work on any part of your electrical system (which is likely, if not inevitable) you will likely want to bind the wires together again using zip ties.
You can also make handy items from zip ties, such as key chains. Or you can connect loose items together, such as tools and kitchen utensils.
They are handy, and thus must-haves for any RV.
You don’t need to be an electrician to own an RV. But having a voltmeter provides you a quick, easy and safe way to stay on top of your RV electrical system.
Whether it is testing the voltage in your batteries or monitoring the amp draw of various devices, a voltmeter will come in handy to monitor your energy system in your RV.
9 RV Must-Haves That May Or May Not Make Your List
The following items are things that we consider to be RV essentials but to which you may or may not agree.
Depending on your RV set up, budget and knowledge and ability you might find these items to be useful.
We recommend each of these because we have and use them on a regular basis.
But we also live full-time in our truck camper RV and are dependent on our tools and resources to fix problems as they arise.
As such, we recommend the following items as “convenience factors” to make your RV adventure safer and/or more comfortable.
You don’t need gloves when dumping your tanks. But they are nice to have.
At worst keep some hand sanitizer close.
Obviously your poop pipes are going to be crawling in grotesque microbes.
And you never know how sanitary the person at the dump station was in front of you.
So a combination of gloves, hand sanitizer and/or a trip to the sink will keep you healthy.
Note: it is important for you to clean your poop pipe and store it in a dedicated space to limit the spread of unsanitary conditions.
2) Short Water Hose
Nearly every dump station and/or campground will have water that is not potable next to the hole in the ground that stores your poo.
You aren’t supposed to use this water to fill up your holding tanks to drink or brush your teeth!
You’re supposed to use this water to clean up after any spillage (yes, crap happens!) and to clean your own poop pipes before storing them.
Practical Example: We carry a shorter 5-foot hose dedicated to this purpose when a separate non-potable source is not provided.
We do not want to mix our freshwater hose with our poop pipe, so this shorter hose is a convenient and safe way for us to remain hygienic.
3) Sewer Hose Support
Unless you camp on the International Space Station, gravity pushes all liquids downhill.
As such, you will find that not all dump stations (and campsites) are positioned to accommodate your specific RV.
Having this sewer hose support becomes convenient because then you can do a better job of helping your poo flow downhill from your RV to the sewer.
4) Water Jiggler
Having a water jiggler is not an RV essential. But it does make transferring water much more convenient.
If you do not use your holding tank for drinking water (we don’t), then you are likely going to have a series of water storage containers from which you will need to transfer water.
This item is a simple, yet brilliant, way to transfer water in your RV.
Practical Example: We carry a traditional refillable 5-gal container. When we reach a grocery store we will refill this container.
But we have 2 dedicated drinking water jerry cans inside the camper that stow away and can be secured easily.
We use the water jiggler to transfer from the 5-gal container to these jerry cans.
Then each day we will refill our Nalgene bottles from the jerry cans by using the water jiggler.
5) Solar Panels
Although we placed solar panels as a convenience, we believe that no RV should hit the road without them!
At this point in time, they are so reasonably priced, efficient and easy to install that there is really no reason to go without.
We’ve never gone a day worrying about power.
This is because we have 2 x 100W Renogy solar panels connected in our system.
We LOVE Renogy and have had several times we’ve needed to call and talk to someone just to learn a new tip or trick about our panels.
These are simple “plug and play” and can be installed within an hour. 100% recommended!
Practical Example: While traveling up the Dalton Highway we noticed that lights on our solar controller were blinking abnormally.
We assumed that because we were north of the Arctic Circle where the sun was shining 24 hours a day that maybe our solar panels had malfunctioned.
When we had cellular service in Deadhorse (at the very top of Alaska!) we called Renogy technical support who walked us through various checks and determined that the panels were functioning 100% as designed.
We could not have asked for better customer service in a more remote place than that!
6) Solar Charge Controller
Solar charge controllers reduce the energy captured by the solar panels to levels that your batteries can handle.
You have various options for these. Depending on whether you purchase a solar panel package or buy components piecemeal, you may end up with a “good-better-best” controller.
We recommend this controller to go with the Renogy panels.
Again, everything is easy to understand and mostly plug-and-play.
Practical Example: When we thought our solar panels were on the fritz as we drove up the Dalton Highway we were able to speak with a Renogy technical support person who helped us reset the charge controller and bring everything back into balance.
Because our entire solar energy system was Renogy, not only was it easy to install with the plug-and-play components.
But also the technology was streamlined for troubleshooting purposes.
7) Wire crimpers + Wire Connectors
Wire crimpers and wire connectors make the convenience list instead of the RV essential list because there are ways around needing to use them.
For instance, in the event that you need to splice and/or reconnect wires, you can use a knife or straight edge blade to expose the wire.
Then you can twist the wire together and use electrical tape to hold them together.
This is a short-term fix. And you’re going to either need to have your own wire crimpers and connectors or find someone to fix your issue for you.
But these will be very convenient for you to have.
We have had to connect all sorts of wires in our camper – from installing a new CD player to wiring our inverter to our batteries.
So for us, wire crimpers and an assortment of wire connectors are an RV must-have.
8) Air Compressor + Tire Gauges
You don’t need an air compressor and tire gauges.
But because your life, in the form of everything you have placed in your RV, literally rests on the 4 (or more) tires making contact with the ground, keeping up with your air pressure is important.
If you do any offroading where you might air down your tires, you will also need to air back up.
Additionally, with truck campers like ours it is not uncommon to have airbag suspension.
We constantly monitor the air pressure in our airbag suspension and can easily inflate as necessary.
Of course, having an air compressor also comes in handy as a safety device if/when you have a flat tire and your spare tire is not fully inflated.
Keeping up with the condition of your spare each time you rotate and balance your tires will help with this.
As will checking your tire air pressure periodically when you stop for fuel.
But we feel 100% confident that we are safer and thus more confident because we have our air compressor on hand at all times.
9) Propane Sniffer
A propane sniffer is another one of those devices that could easily end up on any RV must-have list.
Because we have had to disconnect each of our propane devices to troubleshoot and repair them, we invested in this device from a safety standpoint.
Every time we reconnected the propane devices we would first use the propane sniffer prior to turning on the device.
Although we had a great LPS alarm to tell us if we were leaking propane, we didn’t want to wait to hear that alarm to know that something was wrong!
Additionally, sometimes the propane sniffer would help us identify an issue.
For example, we discovered that our propane hot water heater was not igniting. Using the sniffer we were able to identify that propane was not coming out of the valve, even though we were holding the valve open.
This allowed us to identify that we needed to take the valve off and remove obstructions to the propane flow.
Sure enough, we solved the problem with the help of the propane sniffer.
IMPORTANT NOTE: RV Jack And Spare Tire
Of course, along the lines of safety, you should ensure that you have and know how to use your jack and spare tire.
Because every RV is different, we can’t recommend one size to fit all.
However, we keep a full-size mounted spare tire in good condition at all times (We rotate it when we have our tires rotated and balanced).
In addition to our standard-issue bottle jack, we also carry a farm jack capable of doing its own heavy lifting.
Both of these came in handy when we had a flat tire on the Dalton Highway at the very top of Alaska!
You should never travel without a mounted spare tire (that you inspect from time to time) or a jack.
So even if you do not know, or are unable, to change a tire – it is likely someone will stop to assist you.
The Bottom Line About RV Must-Haves
Every person who lives out of an RV for any amount of time will have his or her own list of RV essentials.
But what they often fail to keep in mind is that not every RV is created equal.
The items you pick and choose to keep as your RV must-haves must fit your circumstance – not ours our anyone else’s.
That said, we wish you safe and happy travels as you head out on your RV adventure!