This year we celebrated 15 years of full-time RVing. During our time on the road, we have of course learned a lot about RV systems, repairs, maintenance, and operation. One of the most common questions we hear is about RV must-haves. What gear is a MUST?
Since we’ve only owned diesel pushers, our personal list of must-haves will likely differ somewhat for a travel trailer. But we have friends who own all classes of RV — from pop-up trailers and 5th wheels to Class B & C motorhomes. And, of course, we all have our personal tastes in the brand, price, and type of equipment.
So keep in mind this isn’t the definitive list of RV gear. There are too many different RVing styles and personal preferences for that to exist!
Our RV Must-Haves
Fresh Water Hose — A dedicated drinking-water-safe hose (they’re usually white) that you use for nothing else is something that every RVer absolutely has to have. 25′ is a pretty standard length. 1/2″ or 5/8″ is fine. Take your pick!
Water Pressure Regulator — Although most campgrounds and RV parks don’t have enough pressure to explode your plumbing, some definitely do. We never connect to city water without a pressure regulator. Although we use an adjustable model, the very simple fixed-pressure types are perfectly acceptable, too. The adjustable model is more expensive but allows higher flow.
Y-Valve — We always connect a good-quality brass Y-valve to the city water spigot at a campsite, and then we connect our water pressure regulator to the Y-valve. Most campsites only have one spigot. Because of this, you’ll need access to water without disconnecting the water line.
Backflow Preventer — While many RV park water hook-ups are already equipped with backflow preventers, we always connect our own when using the tank flush connection for dumping our black tank. It’s important to ensure that black water can never flow back into the park’s plumbing system. We never omit this step — even if there’s a built-in backflow preventer on the park’s spigot.
10-15′ Garden Hose — If you have a black tank flush system, you’ll need this to connect it to city water when dumping your tanks.
Rubber/Disposable Gloves — We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen people dumping their black tank and handling the sewer hose and connections (including the sewer opening at dump stations) barehanded. Can you say “Ewwww?”
Clear Sewer Elbow — Many RVers don’t realize they need this essential piece of gear… until they watch our tank dumping videos! They explain why it’s almost impossible to monitor the health of your black tank without actually seeing that’s it’s been properly flushed.
20′ Sewer Hose — We’ve been using the exact same 20′ sewer hoses for nearly 15 years, and they’re long enough for the vast majority of situations. If you camp in places with poorly placed hook-ups, you may need an additional hose and a connector to attach the two together. That’s one reason we always carry our next sewer hose as a back-up and a 3″ male-male sewer hose connector.
Sewer Adapter — A solid connection to the park’s sewer system is required by code in many areas, but it’s always a good idea even when not required. Just like sewer hoses, there are lots of acceptable brands. Just pick your favorite and make sure you have one on board!
Sewer Hose Support — While not as common as sewer adapter regulations, the local code in some areas requires keeping the hose up off the ground. Either way, this helps keep things flowing downhill. It usually prevents the sewer hose from being stretched to its full length.
Holding Tank Treatment — Whatever brand you use, make sure it doesn’t contain formaldehyde. This is increasingly prohibited in parks across the country due to environmental concerns.
Water Thief / Water Bandit — While we don’t use ours often, it’s so inexpensive that we keep one on board. Occasionally, it allows you to fill your RV’s fresh water tank from sources you normally can’t. This is due to non-threaded water spigots. That makes this simple device worth the small investment.
Whole House Water Filter — More and more rigs, especially higher-end models, are coming with these built in, but portable aftermarket models are readily available. A whole house filter prevents dirt and sediment from entering your plumbing system and/or water tank. Be sure to use sediment filters, not carbon-based filters! You DON’T want to remove any chlorine from the water going into your tank so that it stays protected. If you’re sensitive to chlorine, you can install a carbon-filter water dispenser at the kitchen sink and/or shower head.
Dogbones (Electrical Adapters) — Make sure you carry the two correct sizes for your RV’s electrical cord/system. If you have a 50-amp system you’ll need a 50-amp female to 30-amp male to plug into a 30-amp outlet. Additionally, you’ll need another 30-amp female to 15-amp male to plug into a 15/20-amp outlet. A 30-amp RV needs to be able to dog-bone UP to a 50-amp outlet and DOWN to a 15/20-amp outlet. We made a comprehensive video called How To Plug in an RV (Dog Bones 101) that explains every detail about plugging in an RV, regardless of what service your rig is equipped with.
Extension Cord — At a bare minimum, a very heavy-duty 15-amp cord will provide minimal power for keeping batteries charged. Ideally, a cord carrying the same amperage that your RV is rated for is best. If your rig has a 30-amp service, carrying a 30-amp extension cord is highly advisable. As with all larger RVs, our rig has 50-amp service. We carry both 50-amp AND 30-amp extension cords, plus an extra-long heavy duty 15-amp cord. This allows us to hook-up and get some power, even when we’re staying at a friend’s home, but can’t park that close to the house.
Leveling Blocks / Jack Pads — Carry at least one set to be sure you can get your RV level on uneven or soft surfaces. We carry two sets! A friend of ours with a travel trailer demonstrated his very unique Anderson Camper Levelers. We were blown away by what a difference they make for towables, as compared to other types of levelers.
Wheel Chocks — Highly recommended for safe parking, especially when jacking or camping on sites sloped to the front or rear of the RV.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) — Get alerted to a potential tire problem before it becomes a catastrophe.
Tire Pressure Gauge — Even with a TMPS, a good-quality digital gauge is an inexpensive assurance of proper tire pressure.
Portable Air Compressor — Nothing is more crucial to safe driving than good tire health, which includes proper inflation. It’s important to carry a compressor that’s capable of inflating your RV’s tires to the required pressure. This is often far higher than a typical passenger car tire. An additional benefit is that our compressor allows us to blow out our RV’s water lines when winterizing.
Tools (At least if you want to be the least bit handy and avoid unnecessary service appointments)
- Assorted screwdrivers – both flat blade & Phillips
- A set of open-end wrenches & a crescent wrench
- Various pliers (slip-joint, needle nose, vice-grip)
- Socket Set (both metric & standard/SAE sizes)
- Cordless Drill / Screw Gun with drill bits and assorted drivers (Phillips, etc)
- Anything else you can think of, or already own (we brought lots of tools from our sticks & bricks house on the road with us)!
Assorted Screws, Nuts, Bolts & Small Parts — Things break often at inopportune times. We keep a good assortment of odds & ends and misc parts on board so that when things need fixing “out in the wild,” we seldom have to worry that there’s no hardware store around.
Zip Ties (“Zap Straps” for Canadians) — One of the best things ever invented for various repairs and upgrades. We keep a large supply of various sizes on board. They’ve come in handy far more times than we could ever count!
Industrial Strength Velcro — Another indispensable item for anyone who wants be able to fix most anything on their own RV.
Eternabond Tape — Seals just about anything and won’t come off ever!
Dicor Self-leveling Lap Sealant — Every RV roof should be inspected at least once or twice a year to ensure that any minor cracks in the sealant are touched up. We’ve never had a roof leak because we’re diligent about checking and maintaining the sealant.
Caulk Gun — Required for applying the self-leveling lap sealant on the roof. Handy for other projects as well, like re-caulking the shower every few years.
Silicone Spray Lubricant — Stops squeaks but doesn’t attract dirt. A very handy item for DIY RVers.
Plumbing / Leak Repair Tape — Get the good stuff. When you need it, you’ll really want it to work!
LED Flashlights — They come in handy, especially when you’re camping out in the boonies.
GPS — We don’t know how we got along without one for so many years. They make units specifically for RVs that take weight and height into account for bridges. If you’re planning to use your smartphone, get a GPS/Routing app that can also work offline, for those times you’re out of cell range (We use maps.me on our iPhone).
Roof Vent Covers — We do see people without these, but we’re not sure how they deal with rainy days. They allow you to get fresh air into your RV, even when it’s pouring outside. We couldn’t live without them.
No-Skid Shelf Liner — These sheets of rubbery material keep everything where you put it, even when you’re driving. Plus, you can cut it into squares to put between things that rattle when driving. This will save your sanity AND your nice dinner plates. We traded the Corelle for stoneware years ago, but they do require no-skid to avoid rattling. We were happy with the trade-off.
Warning Triangles — When things don’t go as planned, make sure you’re as safe as possible while you wait for roadside assistance.
If you’re towing a car behind a motorhome — You’ll need either a tow dolly OR (preferably) a towbar & towed car braking system.
Portable Propane Grill — Make sure you can make dinner just about anywhere, any time, without heating up the RV.
Windshield Squeegee / Sponge — Keep your windshield clean and bug-free for good visibility and safer driving.
Shower Squeegee — Minimizes how often you need to clean the shower, plus reduces moisture/condensation inside the RV by cutting down on evaporation.
Cellular Booster — Stay online and make calls, even from remote locations.
360 Siphon Vents — These should be the standard plumbing vents on the roof of every RV. They create positive airflow out of the holding tanks, preventing odor inside the RV. Installation required.
Surge Protector — While many might consider this as a must-have item, we’ve had one for nearly 15 years and have never experienced a surge, so we consider this an optional piece of gear. We would likely always have one, just in case. But we do understand why many people don’t feel the need.
Autoformer — Boosts low park power to make sure sensitive equipment isn’t damaged by low voltage. We’ve had one for many years, and we find it almost indispensable in parks with low voltage. This is especially common in parks that are older or in remote locations.
Walkie Talkies — They often come in handy when backing into a site or traveling together for short trips with the car disconnected from the RV. This particular item is obviously not necessary for solo travelers!
Pop Rivet Tool & Rivets — Another one of those tools that we’ve been so grateful to have on board for projects where we never expected to need it.
Heavy-Duty Step Rugs / Covers — Most of these are really flimsy and don’t do much, but the heavy-duty brand we’ve used for years help to keep the interior of our RV cleaner, and they last a really long time, too.
Collapsible Ladder — If you don’t already have a ladder built onto your RV, a collapsible ladder takes up less space than a regular stepladder. Roof access is important for so many things, not the least of which is checking the Dicor to prevent leaks.
Microfiber Cleaning Cloths — Amazingly handy for lots of cleaning tasks around the RV. They allow us to clean and dry every window and mirror inside our RV in no time, using water only. Just use a wet one, followed by a dry one, on each window or mirror — no chemical cleaners needed!
Liquid Soap/Shampoo Dispensers — In your RV shower, bars of soap and bottles of shampoo will end up falling to the floor or falling over as you drive. Liquid soap/shampoo dispensers are the only way to go!
Infrared Temperature Gun — One of our favorite safety checks at rest stops is pointing our infrared thermometer at all of our tires on both the RV and the toad. Any tire that’s out of range with the others gets a more detailed inspection. A high temperature is the first sign that pressure may be low.
Many of our videos feature us demonstrating how we use the gear listed above. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for a complete listing of more than 200 videos we’ve created, showing how we handle a wide range of RV tasks.
You can also find our personal choices for nearly all of the items listed above on the Favorite Gear page of our website.
We feature special discounts that we’ve arranged for our viewers on many of our favorite pieces of RV gear. Plus our popular RVgeeks Giveaways provide the opportunity to win valuable prizes. Visit our website and be sure to subscribe to be notified when videos are released, and new giveaways are announced.
With 130,000 subscribers and over 32 million views, Peter & John, C13548 , better known as The RVgeeks, host one of YouTube’s most popular channels about RVing. Their DIY and how-to videos focus on RV systems, maintenance, driving, repairs, upgrades, destinations, and more. As full-timers for more than 15 years, they’re eager to share what they’ve learned along the way.
While they aren’t RV technicians, they’re very mechanically inclined, creative problem solvers, and excellent teachers. Their goal is to help fellow RVers go DIY, saving time & money while experiencing the satisfaction of a job well done. With their professional presentation and attention to detail, Peter & John set the benchmark for the proper care and feeding of an RV!
In an exciting update, Peter & John have been signed as hosts on a new TV show all about RVing: The RVers. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting new project, coming to a PBS station near you in 2019!