The Tool Kit Every RVer Needs

A tool kit is a must-have for every RV enthusiast

I come across numerous articles about what an RV tool kit should contain and they often include a whole lot of tools and other items that most folks will rarely if ever use.

As every RVer knows, space and weight are always considerations when we’re driving a little house on wheels and carrying more heavy tools that you’ll actually use doesn’t make sense for most RVers.

I’m not a big DIYer and we don’t carry a basement full of tools and maintenance supplies. I leave the major maintenance to more experience and trained RV technicians.

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I carry a basic supply of tools, some I brought with us when we first set out on the road and others I’ve accumulated during projects and maintenance along the way.

We’re not full-timers and we don’t spend a lot of time time boondocking in areas far off the grid and far from stores.

Like many RVers we pull into a campground or RV park, hook up the utilities, and enjoy our camping experience for a few days or a week and move on to our next camping destination.

My point is that there’s just no need to spend hundreds of dollars creating an RV tool kit full of items you’re unlikely to use. So in this post, I’ll detail the contents of a simple, basic RV tool kit with items most RVers will actually use. But first, do you really need to carry a tool kit in your RV?

Camping at Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why you need an RV tool kit

Driving an RV down the road is frequently compared to owning a home that goes through a continuous earthquake and hurricane at the same time. Because of this, things frequently go wrong and need to be repaired. Whether you are handy or not, you will find it helpful to have a set of tools for simple fixes or even major repairs. Often a problem can at least be patched up to prevent further damage until a proper fix can be made. If you don’t have the tools or supplies on hand, you might just be out of luck.  

What tools do you need to carry in my RV?

For the most part, a basic RV tool kit is what every RVer needs. And when I say basic I really do mean BASIC—the parts and tools you’ll most likely actually USE at some point. Again, since full-timers carry everything they own with them, they tend to be more limited by space and weight. And part-timers can keep additional tools for more extensive projects at their sticks and bricks house. No need to carry 50 pounds of tools and supplies on every road trip, camping trip, or adventure.

You also need to consider what type of work you’ll actually do on your RV. For example, I saw one list that included a gigantic, heavy wrench (and I mean GIGANTIC and HEAVY), “in case you need to work on your leaf springs.” Leaf springs?? Really? Is that what you intend to do on your next camping trip? Probably not!

>> Related article: 16 Must-Have RV Accessories

So let’s get to the basics—the stuff you’ll carry and use that can be packed into a small tool box and tossed into the basement of your rig (on the curb side). You’ll notice that only some of these items are actually tools. The other items are things we think you’ll appreciate having in your RV tool kit.

Camping at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 10 most important tools for your RV tool kit

If you want to be the least bit handy for some DIY projects and to avoid unnecessary service appointments, here are 10 tools I feel are necessary for your RV tool kit.

1. Assorted screwdrivers (flat blade, Phillips, and Robertson)

Many people have an assortment of screwdrivers at home which they can transfer to the RV as we did. Others may prefer a highly compact version of a multi-bit screwdriver.

2. Assorted pliers

Any good set of pliers will do but you’ll definitely need them in your RV tool kit. You’ll want different types of pliers including needle nose, diagonal cutters, and channellocks.

A pair of needle nose pliers is an extremely versatile tool. Great when you need to get into those tight spots in an RV. Add a small and large pair of adjustable channellocks for those times you need something larger with a flat nose.

Finally, consider a pair of vise-grips for your RV tool kit. These are a nice to have that come in very handy when you need to grip and hold something in place. As the name implies, you can use them as a mini-vise.

Camping at Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Adjustable wrench

When space and weight are at a premium in an RV, a few adjustable wrenches can replace a whole set of SAE and metric wrenches. A set of small, medium and large adjustable wrenches should cover most of your needs.

A good quality crescent wrench or two (we have both large and small ones) is also important to carry in your RV tool kit.

>> Related article: What’s in Your RV Emergency Kit?

Note: adjustable wrenches can slip on stubborn nuts/bolts or be unable to get to a bolt/nut you need to unscrew or tighten. That’s why the next tool is a must have for your RV tool kit.

4. Socket and ratchet set

A socket set is another necessary piece of your RV tool kit. Sockets are essential to reach things that you would never be able to get to with a wrench. An inexpensive socket set with reversible ratchet that has SAE and metric sockets is a good starting point. Of course, there are accessory sets that will increase the usability of your sockets.

Another note about sockets: You may eventually find yourself needing an unusual socket size. You’ll either need a deep socket for something or you’ll need a specific size for a specific job. A good example of this is when you’ll use a ratchet and a 1 1/16-inch socket for the anode rod of your Suburban water heater.

For those odd sizes that are both rarely needed and aren’t included in the average socket set, you can pick up individual sockets in most auto parts, hardware, or big box stores. Keep in mind that a large socket size like the 1 1/16 might be a ½-inch drive rather than the smaller/more common 3/8-inch drive. If your socket set doesn’t include a ½ to 3/8 adapter you’ll need one of those as well which avoids the need for a ½-inch drive socket wrench.

Camping at Lady Bird Johnson County Park, Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Cordless drill with drill bits and assorted drivers

If you were to only carry one power tool, the cordless drill would be my suggestion. It may be one of the most expensive tools you buy but you’ll love owning it and find it to be an excellent investment. You never know where on your RV you’ll need to use a cordless drill.

Remember that you’re driving your house-on-wheels over hill and dale and bumps and potholes. In addition to repairs and DIY projects, you’ll need to tend to things that loosen up. This is one of the most important tools you’ll carry in your RV tool kit.

6. A hammer… or two!

A claw hammer is always good tool to have in the RV. In addition to using it as a hammer, you can use it to bend things back into shape, knock something loose, or use the claw as a crow bar to pry something apart. Because with all that shaking, rattling, and rolling down the road, things are gonna pop out here and there!

7. Utility knife

A basic utility knife is a must have tool that you can use to cut through dense material or when breaking down boxes. Keep spare razor blades on hand for when the blade becomes dull and needs to be replaced. While you can use a pocket knife, I prefer to use the utility knife. Just be careful how you store it.

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Tire pressure gauge

Checking tire pressures before a trip is one of my RV checklist items. Not all tire pressure gauges are equal. If you have large RV tires, your tire pressure could be well over 100 psi.

If you have the room, consider buying an air compressor. These can be invaluable if you have tires with high PSI ratings that most gas station pumps won’t work on and for those who like to take their campers off-the-beaten path, the ability to air down and then air your tires backup can be a game changer.

>> Related article: 35 Little Things to Remember to Pack for Your RV Road Trip

9. Leather work gloves

A good pair of leather work gloves can save your hands. These are essential when picking up fire wood, removing thorny brush or poison oak/ivy from a campsite, or changing a tire. I also find that gloves offer better grip than bare hands.

10. Allen wrenches

A simple set of metric and SAE Allen wrenches is one of those tools that you will be glad to have in your RV tool kit when you need it.

Camping at Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 10 most important random items for your RV tool kit

In addition to the top 10 tools noted above, your RV tool kit should also contain a host of other items that are sure to be helpful to you on the road or during a repair or DIY project.

Here is my list of the 10 more items to toss into your RV tool kit.

1. Assorted screws, nuts, bolts, and small parts

We keep a good assortment of odds, ends, and miscellaneous parts on board so that when things need fixing, we seldom have to look for a hardware store.

2. Zip ties (sometimes called cable ties or zap straps)

Zip ties are among the best things ever invented for various repairs and upgrades. Keep a supply of various sizes on board.

3. Industrial strength Velcro

Strong Velcro is another indispensable item with multiple uses. Great for holding things in place and for many minor upgrade projects.

Camping at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. EternaBond tape

Seals just about anything and won’t come off… EVER!

5. Dicor self-leveling lap sealant

Every RV roof should be inspected at least a couple of times 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 the roof and maintaining the sealant. The sealant if compatical with vinyl, wood, aluminum, fiberglass, and metal. You may want to add a putty knife too for scraping off old Dicor. Make sure they’re plastic to avoid damaging rubber roofs.

6. Caulk gun

You’ll need a caulk gun to apply the self-leveling lap sealant on the roof. You’ll need one for other projects as well like re-caulking the shower.

7. Silicone spray lubricant

Silicone spray will stop squeaks without attracting dirt. This is a very handy item for RVers who are handy with a DIY or maintenance project.

8. LED flashlights

They come in handy especially for RV repairs.  I can honestly say I don’t know how we would manage without this must have tool. Many people like LED headlamps to keep their hands free to work. If you need to light a room or your campsite, an LED lantern is a good tool to have.

9. Tape measure

You never know when you will need to measure something in the RV. A 25-foot tape measure should be more than long enough for most RVs. Knowing if an item will fit before buying it can save you many dollars and headaches.

10. Duct tape

Duct tape, gorilla tape, Rhino tape, gaff tape…it doesn’t matter. Just have a strong tape onboard!

I’ve seen Duct tape used to fix just about everything. I also carry Rhino tape.

Camping at Irwins RV Park, Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2 Bonus items for your RV tool kit

A couple of other items you might like to have onboard your RV are a digital multimeter and a wire stripper.

>> Related article: 15 Things to Buy After Getting a New RV

1. Multimeter

RVs have complex electrical systems and a multimeter can make short work of tracking down an electrical problem. If you’re troubleshooting an electrical issue or even just need to check your battery health, a digital multimeter is both necessary and inexpensive.

2. Wire stripper

You may be surprised at the amount of electrical work you can do on your own on your RV. Whether you need to install a new propane detector or a more complex project, a wire stripper is a handy item to have in your RV tool kit.

Camping at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Whether you’re a weekend RVer or a full-timer, carrying an RV tool kit is important. But you don’t need to break the bank for the basics. Many of the tools and items noted in this article may be things you have on hand at home. If you keep them together in a versatile tool bag or tool box, you can just toss them in the RV whenever you travel. Or better yet—simply reach for your RV tool kit when you need to do a project at home!

Worth Pondering…

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

—Charlie Brown, from Peanuts