While there are numerous lists out there that give you great ideas for what you may or may not want to consider for your RV, this is the most thorough list of true truck camper essentials – the things you want to have on hand when you need to get out of a bind.
And trust us, you’ll find yourself in a bind at some point in your truck camper adventures!
We have lived out of our flatbed truck camper for nearly three years traveling across North America. And in this time we have found that each of these recommendations has proven absolutely essential to truck camper living.
While many lists focus more on the “wish lists” of packing and preparing to live in your truck camper, we hope you’ll see why we consider these absolute must-haves for your truck camper.
(Note: We do recommend that you check out our list of perfect and practical gifts for RV owners to get an idea of what some of these wish list items can be!)
As we have traveled through the most remote parts of Alaska and Baja, Mexico we found that safety has always triumphed comfort.
So as you read through these items we hope that you too will consider what is truly essential for truck camper living and what you can do without.
Before we drove one mile of our 50,000-mile adventure across North America we made sure we had each of these items stashed away in our truck camper. And we think you’ll appreciate doing so too!
Affiliate Disclaimer: This post is full of affiliate links to products we stand 100% behind in our years of living in our truck camper. If you choose to make a purchase based on our recommendations we will receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Truck Camper Essentials For Every Occasion
We’re breaking our recommendations down into 4 categories: Power, Water, Safety and Around the Campsite.
While it’s nice to have pretty things inside your truck camper, with these essentials we can tell you with absolute certainty that we are prepared for every occasion.
Do note that we will indicate some items we would consider “optional.” These would be highly recommended. But you probably won’t lose sleep if you don’t have them… Unless you are like me, and you find yourself worrying about pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong!
Truck Camper Power Essentials
As we spend most of our time dry camping we have come to realize that the two most important things for any truck camper is an abundance of power and water (and food, of course!).
So we don’t consider dry camping anywhere (whether Wal Mart parking lot, National Park or a friend’s driveway) unless we have these power essentials for our truck camper.
Solar power system kit
We are firm believers in Renogy products. So our truck camper is equipped with 300 watts of solar panels that we direct into a 40 amp MPPT controller which then feeds our two 100 Ah AGM batteries.
You don’t need to have all of that power. But this is a reasonably-priced solar kit that will get you started in ensuring you have more power than you will ever need
We started our truck camper adventure with two 80 Ah flooded lead-acid batteries.
After two years of beating them up with off-road driving and failure to remember their maintenance we since upgraded to 2 Renogy 100Ah AGM batteries.
These are sealed and can be mounted sideways if you wanted, just to show how resilient they are to rugged truck camper experiences.
1000W Power Inverter
Now that you’ve captured the power of the sun you need to convert it to the power that you can use. We started with a 600W inverter not knowing how much power we would draw when living full-time in our truck camper.
As it turns out, 600W was a little too little for us. So we stepped up to this Renogy 1000W inverter and have been doing just fine.
We’ve even considered stepping up to 2000W or 3000W simply because the price point is not that much different once you hit 1000W.
Honda 2200 generator(s) + Parallel Cable
With solar power you’ll cover most of your energy re-capture needs. However, on cloudy/rainy days you may not recharge your batteries as fast or fully with solar power. For days like these we always carry 2 Honda 2200 generators.
Ok, so we started with the Honda 2000 models. But unless you find them used, your best best is to invest in the Honda 2200. One of these is enough to keep you charged. Two will power most air conditioning units, which is why we carried two.
Honda is by far the most reliable and quietest option if you do not have an onboard generator built into your truck camper.
30 Amp to 15 Amp RV Adapter
Having power adapters handy is always a good thing. This adapter will allow you to connect your generator to your shore power when solar just isn’t cutting it.
It will also allow you to plug into any standard 15 amp power outlet like you’d find in your friend’s garage. We carry two of these because we use them so often we don’t ever want to be without them.
It may sound strange to carry around a pack of extra fuses. But it is literally the little things in life that keep you powered up.
One blown fuse could be the difference between having lights or not. Or between having your furnace blower keep you warm in the middle of the night or not.
This is a simple truck camper essential that will keep the power on.
Outdoor Extension Cord (Optional)
We carry an outdoor extension cord because we like to be prepared for any occasion. And while most of the times we have dry camped at friend or family’s houses we have been provided with a power cord, sometimes those just weren’t long enough.
This is handy to have in the event you want or need to plug into any form of shore power, even if you can’t get the 30 amp hookup.
Just remember not to run any appliances that might pull more than 15 amps (such as air conditioners) as this could cause a fire hazard.
30 Amp Extension Cord (Optional)
Most RV truck campers come equipped with 15-20 feet of 30 amp “shore power” cord. But sometimes that is not enough to reach the power box wherever you might be camping.
While 30 amp power can be considered a luxury (especially if you’ve covered all of your bases above with solar and generator power) having the extra few feet can help recharge your life when you need it.
Truck Camper Water Essentials
While power is essential for any truck camper, water is essential for life and thus trumps even power in importance. We recommend the following items to ensure that you have ample water while you camp.
Spare Water Container
Although we frequently clean our holding tank, we don’t drink water from it. Instead we carry spare water containers in which we keep purified water we refill from Wal Mart and most other grocery stores.
We also carry an extra 5-10 gallons worth of empty water containers in the event we plan to boondock. One of these will serve as our outdoor wash station (and dog refill). The other will be reserve for our holding tank if we need to add a little more to it. We are NEVER without drinking water.
So even if our holding tank is dry, we have drinking water readily available in these drinking containers.
Water Jiggler (Optional)
The water jiggler is a suped-up syfon. But it is incredibly helpful in transferring water inside our truck camper. We use our water jiggler to move water from our spare containers to our Nalgene water bottles, the tea kettle or to cook.
This is considered optional because you are more than welcome to spill water all over your camper without it!
Just know that water damage is more expensive to repair than this nifty device!
Water Regulator (Optional)
Water at RV parks and in wells out of the ground is usually pressurized to the point of taking paint off.
To mitigate any damage that may be caused by forcing this water into your truck camper we recommend this simple water regulator that will drop the pressure from the water source down to reasonable levels for filling up your holding tank or connecting your city water.
Again, it is considered optional. But for a few bucks, you can save yourself the worry about flooding your truck camper when the tank hose or water pump bursts!
Water Filter (Optional)
If you take a walk around the first campground in which you stay you are sure to see these blue bad boys connected between the water source and the RV at any number of campsites.
They are vastly popular and are considered optional to us only because we cannot confirm their scientific ability to actually filter impurities from the water. Plus, with our flatbed truck camper setup we never connect to city water and we never drink water out of our holding tank.
So the filter is a little redundant. But again, they are wildly popular among campers and for a few bucks it couldn’t hurt to reassure yourself that you’re getting the best tap water you can.
Collapsible Wash Bin (Optional)
This nifty invention made it to the water list simply because ours is almost always full of water when we use it.
Whether we’re using it to tote dirty dishes to a sink, washing dishes (or clothes) in the wash bin or are using it as a foot (and paw) wash station before getting back in the truck camper, our lives will never be the same without a collapsible wash bin.
But for you, it may not be necessary and thus the optional connotation. You’ll probably want one though so add it to the cart. 😉
Truck Camper Safety Essentials
We struggled whether to list power and water essentials first or safety essentials as each is obviously important. Safety always comes first when we’re moving.
And we don’t usually think about power and water when we’re moving. So if you’re planning to stay put you probably don’t need the following truck camper essentials.
But since you bought your truck camper to go on amazing adventures, it’s likely your’re going to be on the move.
And to stay on the move (at least without the nagging feeling in the back of your mind that something will go wrong) we recommend the following safety essentials.
Viair Air Compressor
When we first started traveling in our truck camper we carried a massive 6-gallon pancake compressor. No doubt it was a great idea to have this.
Between keeping our truck tires safely inflated at their maximum psi, the airbag suspension properly inflated and adding a little air to our bicycle tires from time to time, this pancake compressor was amazing… until we invested in the Viair Air Compressor.
This thing blew us away (not literally though). It is powered by your truck battery via alligator cables, has a simple on/off switch and no tank to drain after each use.
It also has a long hose and a pretty accurate built-in pressure gauge. It’s also incredibly compact (especially compared to our former pancake compressor). We don’t drive anywhere, truck camper or not, without this keeping us company.
Oversized bottle jack
We say “oversized” but the idea is that it supports more weight than you think you will carry. If you’ve ever used a bottle jack, cranking them to the weight they say they support can be incredibly difficult.
We recommend this 20-ton bottle jack because for any truck camper not resting on a tank this should be sufficient to raise an axle in the event of a flat.
Go as big as you see fit for your rig. Just don’t plan on using the factory-issued jack from the truck manufacturer.
Farm Jack (for a flatbed truck camper in particular)
If you want to save time over a bottle jack, or you have a flatbed truck camper like us, you may want to invest in this farm jack. We didn’t call it optional because I used the parenthesis to point out the flatbed camper above. But it is considered optional.
Once we got a flat on the Dalton Highway in Alaska and tried changing our tire with our factory-issued bottle jack we decided we’d never leave home without a reliable farm jack. And we haven’t.
But if you don’t have a flatbed, using a farm jack might prove difficult as you likely won’t have many places to make contact beneath your truck.
Ever been stuck in the sand with two dozen Baja surfers watching you, wondering what made you think you could drive through the only place on the beach where there were no previous vehicle tracks?
We have! It is not pleasant – both from the gut-wrenching feeling of being helpless and from the standpoint of having to ask for help. But whether you have a handful of awesome Baja surfers to help dig you out of the sand or only these traction tracks to get you unstuck, you’ll be glad you had them.
It may prove even more helpful if you’re stranded on your own in the middle of nowhere. We don’t drive anywhere with these – even if we don’t plan to go off-road.
12,000+ lb winch + accessories (Optional?)
So again we’ve added a number that may or may not make sense to your particular setup. And, as you recall, we like redundancies when it comes to power, water and safety.
So we consider our 13,000-pound winch the most expensive insurance policy we have yet to use. You might consider it a toy.
However you look at it, we advise you strongly consider having one for that one time when you (or your soon-to-be-new-best-friend) need it. You may not need 13,000 pounds or more, especially when you consider that you should have the block and tackle that will allow you to double or triple the load capacity of the winch.
But if you’re going to install a winch, don’t skimp on it. If you’re not, be sure you have traction tracks, a decent shovel and a good friend nearby with a winch on their truck!
Portable battery jumper
We considered mentioning this as optional except for that one time we were stranded on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska after intentionally driving the opposite way from everyone else.
Dead batteries happen. Not frequently, if you keep up with your maintenance. But if your alternator is cranky, you have other subtle power draws on your battery over time or you were just too cheap to replace the vehicle battery when you needed to, having this portable battery jumper is going to be a lifesaver – kind of like those portable defibrillator machines you see in TV shows.
It is compact, affordable and packs a punch when you need it (hope you don’t but we glad you have it). Just to make you feel good, this battery jumper also allows you to charge your phone so you can call a friend if you’ve wasted all of its battery-starting power charging your phone.
Fuel jerry cans (diesel + gasoline as necessary)
If you have a diesel truck, carry extra diesel. If you have a gasoline truck, carry gasoline. If you have a generator that runs on gasoline, carry gasoline. These are three principles that will help you down the road.
Although we never ran out of fuel ourselves, we were able to help a handful of people over the years by offering the fuel we had to help them get to the closest gas station. These are especially important in keeping your generators fueled up if you, like us, find yourself using your generator(s) frequently.
Remember not to put diesel into gasoline cans and vice-versa or else you’re going to be dealing with a whole other issue.
Camping Shovel (Optional)
Camping shovels are optional. But we list them here because it’s a whole lot easier to move sand or mud around your tires using a shovel instead of your hands. But hey, that’s up to you.
A foldable shovel fits in plenty of spaces and if you revert to your inner child when you reach the ocean you can even use it to build massive sandcastles.
It’s useful in scooping poop or preparing holes in which to drop poop if you’re into either of those kinds of things.
WeBoost Cell Booster (Optional)
This fantastic, albeit pricey, truck camper essential made the list because it is incredibly convenient to remain on-grid even when you want to be off-grid.
We list it as a safety essential, even though we use it more in running our own business from the road, because the one time we needed it we really needed it, and not to watch the latest Netflix episode on the fringe of civilization.
We were stranded in Glacier National Park after season with an approaching winter storm that would later drop 4 feet of snow on the campsite. When our cell phones failed to work of their own accord our WeBoost powered up and got us the 1 bar we needed to start making panicked calls to anyone we thought could possibly help us.
Of course, you can use this cellular signal booster to crank up enough juice to binge on Netflix. We leave that up to you. We just haven’t driven a mile without our WeBoost cell booster mounted to the ladder of our truck camper.
Happijac Quikload Turnbuckles (Optional)
While it is optional whether you want to go with the Happijac Quikload Turnbuckles or the Torklift Fastgun Turnbuckles, it is not optional to secure your camper to your truck using some sort of turnbuckle and tie-down system.
We have used the Happijac Quickload Turnbuckles for every mile we’ve been on the road and love the quick release we have in releasing the tension that holds the camper firm to the truck.
Pull the safety pin and lift the handle and you’re done. Then do this in reverse to secure the camper. With these, we cut loading and unloading time tremendously.
“Around the Camp” Truck Camper Essentials
Items in this brief list are simple truck camper essentials that you must have because, well, everybody else has them and you certainly don’t want to be left out.
Also, you can’t really function in setting up camp without them (in most cases).
Of course, you can always prove us wrong. But we’d rather you just fall in line with the rest of us and make these buys!
Yellow is the standard color for those of us who have fallen in line. The rebels choose orange, black or shades of grey. It doesn’t really matter what color leveling blocks you get as long as you keep a set handy.
Well, it does matter if you’re trying to color coordinate your campsite. But in all seriousness, you don’t want to lose your ammonia refrigerator (most common in truck campers) because you parked overnight at too steep of an incline.
Use these blocks to help you park as level as you can. You can also use these to help gain traction in the sand/mud if you didn’t invest in the traction tracks we told you to buy earlier!
We affectionately refer to this as our “poop pipe.” Again, everybody has one so you don’t have to be a rebel. And, again, you can pick whichever color suits your palette.
But do make sure you have an extra-long portion of poop pipe from which to draw upon when the time comes to empty your tanks. Most poop pipes get stashed in the rear bumper compartment where you can store upwards of 20 feet of sewer hose.
Be sure to keep track of all of the adapters that come in the set as they will help keep poop from splattering all over you and ruining your day.
Trust me, it will ruin your day. But if anyone is around watching, it will probably make theirs.
Whether you’ve been living full-time in your truck camper for a decade or are anxious to spend your first night in the cabover we hope that this list of truck camper essentials has helped you make decisions about the most important things you want to carry with you as you travel.
There will always be room for your favorite stuffed animal and a secret bag of Oreos. But don’t skimp on the room in your truck camper for these power, water and safety essentials.
Have other items you recommend? Let us know and we’ll be sure to add it to our fine collection of all things essential to truck camper living!