The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

Things you should never set off in your RV without

Buying your first recreational vehicle can be overwhelming. Then there’s the towing, learning to park and back up, and setting up once you arrive at your campground or RV park. That first outing can feel pretty stressful but with the right gear, it doesn’t have to be. We’re not talking about frilly gadgets like fairy lights and portable pizza ovens (though those are important too). This list is an honest roundup of the essentials you really need to keep your RV safe and comfortable. These are the essentials every new RV owner should buy before their first camping trip.

Water pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Water Pressure Regulator

A water pressure regulator keeps the plumbing system of your recreational vehicle fully protected from high water pressures. The problem is that high water pressure can cause damage to the RV plumbing system. A water pressure regulator is a small device useful in maintaining a safe level of psi as far as the water that enters your vehicle is concerned. While some newer vehicles are capable of handling higher pressure it is recommended all RVs stick to around 60 psi. The proper use of the device involves attaching it to the water supply of the campground first.

Do not attach it to your vehicle as doing so might only result in the bursting of the connection hose in case of really high pressure. High flow water regulators come in two basic types: adjustable and fixed. Unless you plan to use varying pressures of water for a range of applications, a fixed water regulator will suffice for your needs and provide an excellent water flow while saving you money. The two major manufacturers of water pressure regulators are Camco and Valterra.

City utility connections including water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Water Hose

Especially in a new RV when the fresh water tanks are sanitary and prime for drinking water, it is important that your RV water hose is rated for human consumption. But aren’t all hoses safe? No! Despite the fact that most people have drunk from the garden hose at some point, all hoses are not created equal. Your run-of-the-mill garden hose is actually not safe to drink from; it is not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act and can contain toxic materials that are harmful to the human body such as lead, antimony, bromine, organotin, phthalates, and BPA (bisphenol A).

RV water hoses are NSF certified so you can be confident you will have quality drinking water available. Plus, there won’t be any chemical or plastic taste. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in mind that you will want a heated water hose if you’re camping during the winter.

Disposable Vinyl Gloves

RVing can be surprisingly dirty business. One of the best ways to keep clean and sterile on the road is with vinyl or latex gloves. Disposable gloves keep your hands clean when emptying your holding tanks. Gloves fit right or left hand. One size fits all; also available in small, medium, and large. Available at RV dealers, stores that sell RV supplies, pharmacies, and Walmart.

Progressive Emergency Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electrical Protection System

When looking at an electrical protection system for your RV, you want to make sure it is more than a surge protector and monitors high and low voltage. This is what the Progressive Emergency Management System does and what models like Surge Guard and other brands do as well. When looking at an electrical protection system, be certain to consider the protection levels. Here is what you need out of a great electrical protection system:

  • Surge Protection
  • High and Low Voltage
  • Pedestal Analysis
  • Load side protection

While there are different electrical protection brands on the market and the Progressive EMS is the unit that we trust with our RV. Others prefer Surge Guard brand. If you do not already have an electrical protection system for your RV, take it from me and other seasoned RVers—get an electrical protection system for your RV. You can’t go wrong with a model from Progressive or Surge Guard.

Sewer hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High-quality sewer hose

Some things you definitely don’t want to skimp on and your sewer hose is one of them. No one wants to be dealing with a ruptured sewer hose while on vacation. Invest in a high-end hose—your peace of mind and nasal passages will thank you.

First Aid Kit

first aid kit readily available in an emergency isn’t just a good idea—it’s a necessity for every RVer. A well-stocked first-aid kit and manual can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. You can purchase first aid kits and refills at the Red Cross store, most pharmacies, or assemble your own. Contents of a first-aid kit should include adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic solution or towelettes, bandages, calamine lotion, cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs, gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes, first aid manual, petroleum jelly or other lubricant, safety pins in assorted sizes, scissors and tweezers, and sterile eyewash. Familiarize yourself with the items in the first aid kit and know how to properly use them. Check your first-aid kits regularly, at least every three months, to replace supplies that have expired.

The Mayo Clinic is an excellent source for first aid information to help you during a medical emergency.

Traveling with a pet © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you travel with pets, pet first aid manuals are also available.

RV Toolbox

Just about anything in your RV that can snap, crack, rip loose, tear, bend, leak, spark, or fall off will do exactly that at the most inconvenient time. Something will need to be tightened, loosened, pounded flat, pried, or cut.

To help you deal with everyday problems and annoyances, maintain a well-equipped toolbox in the RV (always store on curbside).

Oops! Almost disaster. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contents should include Phillips and Robertson head and flat-bladed screwdrivers (large, medium, small), standard and needle-nose pliers, channel-lock pliers (medium and large), 10-inch Crescent wrench, claw hammer, hobby knife with blade protector, wire cutters, tape measure, silicone sealant, Gorilla tape and glue, electrical tape, battery jumper cables, open and box-end wrenches, silicone spray, WD-40 lubricant, bungee cords, road flares/warning reflectors, fold-down shovel, stepladder, spare fuses, and heavy-duty tire pressure gauge.

Many RVers also carry a socket wrench set (standard and metric), small drill bit set and cordless drill with spare battery, and digital voltmeter.

Gorilla Tape is a brand of adhesive tape sold by the makers of Gorilla Glue, and available in several sizes and colors, including camouflage, white, and clear. Gorilla Tape can solve many problems while on the road—and you can do most anything with this stuff. RVers have used it to temporarily repair a sewer hose, keep a driver’s side window from continually falling, and even affix the coffee maker to the counter so that it doesn’t move during travel.

A camera to record a West Texas sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camera

In reality, if you have a smartphone you probably have a camera capable of capturing amazing memories wherever you go. In fact, I agree with professional photographer Chase Jarvis, who says that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” 

Other Considerations

Other considerations, supplies, and equipment include fire extinguishers (one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the RV in a basement compartment, plus one in the toad/tow vehicle), NOAA weather radio, LED flashlights, heavy-duty whistles, emergency waterproof matches, jumper cables, ice/snow window scrapers, work gloves, and blue tarp.

Camping in Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Not Least, Know where you’re going

Okay, okay. You likely have a destination in mind. But if you’re heading out for months on end, you might want to bring along a few suggestions.

Now hit the road already!

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

Before You Forget: 14 Absolutely Essential Items to Pack on Your Next Road Trip

There are certain essential products that are must-haves for RVers

Packing the right items is key to the perfect road trip. In addition to necessities like your wallet, phone, clothes, and keys, you’ll be glad you brought these 14 items along for the journey.

Full hookup camping showing power cord, water and sewer hoses, and cable TV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Basic toolkit

It’s always a good idea to buy and stock a basic toolkit, just in case. The toolbox in your RV should include screw drivers, sockets, claw hammer, pliers, utility knife, tape measure, cordless drill, and adjustable and combination wrenches. Also, consider extension cords and spare fuses.

Water hose connection showing pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadside Emergency Kit

An emergency roadside assistance kit won’t break the bank but it just might save the day in the event of a breakdown or accident. Pick one up from any big-box store and bring it along for long road trips. Reflective road triangles are so effective, they are used by the Amish as electricity-free tail lights.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Aid Kit

Like a roadside emergency kit, a first aid kit is a must for road trippers. This way you’ll have essential first-aid supplies to help treat most common injuries, including cuts, scrapes, swelling, sprains, and strains. Your first aid kit should include antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, antiseptic cleansing wipes, gauze dressing pads in varied sizes, tape roll, tweezers, adhesive bandages in varied sizes, scissors, disposable vinyl gloves, and Red Cross Emergency First Aid Guide.

Use extra care with snow and ice © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bug Spray

All kinds of annoying bugs come out in the summer so make sure you’re prepared to keep them at bay and avoid itchy bites by grabbing some bug spray with DEET. 

GPS Device

Having a portable one of these helps for adventures taken outside your car, too. There have to be at least 24 satellites in a “GPS constellation” of synchronized orbits in order for your GPS device to work. That’s a lot of rocket science and delicate mathematics, so take advantage of it.

Drive with care © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paper Atlas

An atlas you can hold in your hand is the ultimate back-up plan. If the technology seems old, that’s because it is—road maps go back as far as 5th century Rome.

USB Charger

Don’t let your gadgets die on you. Modern USB connections aren’t just faster than their predecessors—they consume less power, too.

Ambassador RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vacuum

You’re enjoying the great outdoors—which means you’re bringing the great outdoors back into your RV with you. Staying at campsites means mud, grass, and insects—all of which can dirty up your home-on-wheels quickly. A small, cordless powerful vacuum is a must-have.

Fort Camping at Brae Island, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folding steps

Folding steps are one of those useful tools you might not think about, but they’re handy to have around. As extra seating, an added step to get into your RV, and standing on to reach things when making repairs or finding the back of a high cupboard, it’s a useful tool.

Heavy duty sewer hose and secure connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High-quality sewer hose

Some things you definitely don’t want to skimp on, and your sewer hose is one of them. No one wants to be dealing with a ruptured sewer hose while on vacation. Invest in a high-end hose—your peace of mind and nasal passages will thank you.

Smokiam RV Resort, Soap Lake, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folding tables

You can find a basic folding table in most stores—but you won’t find them in most campsites. They’re a great addition to your packing plans for meals, games, and hobbies. The benefit of a folding table is they take up a small amount of space and are generally water-resistant.

Cooler on sliding tray © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooler

The cooler, or portable ice chest, was invented in 1951, but things have gotten a little fancier in the 67 years since. Some modern coolers can plug into your RV’s electrical outlet and use a powered fan to draw away heat and keep things even cooler.

Cash for tolls

Keep some quarters and spare paper cash so you never have to go digging.

Mitchell Corn Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camera

This one is obvious, but don’t leave home without it. How else are you going to document your visit to the world’s only corn palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota?

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

RV Emergency Kit Essentials

Here are nine RV emergency kit essentials

While the optimists among us tend to imagine life through the lens of the best case scenario, the realists of this world know that things don’t always go according to plan. That’s why it’s important to think about disaster preparation and to have an emergency essentials kit packed and ready to go for whenever the need arises.

For peace of mind consider the following for your RV emergency kit.

Camping at Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Important Documents

Keep paper copies in your RV emergency kit of all important documents including: Identification (driver’s license, birth certificate, Passport), health care information, insurance documents, proof of ownership, banking information, and list of emergency and other important phone numbers.

Camping at Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Aid Kit

Your first aid kit should include: Bandages (different sizes), sterile gauze (different sizes), rolled bandages, triangular bandage, cleansing wipes, tape, safety pins, tweezers, scissors, skin rash cream, anti-itch cream, antiseptic cream, sunburn cream, painkillers, antihistamine, ice packs, emergency blanket, disposable sterile gloves, and first aid manual. You should also have any prescription medications on hand. 

Camping at River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flashlights

A flashlight is essential to help you get around in the dark. It can also be used as a signal. As a camper, it’s likely you have a few flashlights already in your RV. Make sure you keep at least one per person and have spare batteries. 

Camping at Creek Fire RV Park, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Non-Perishable Food

You already have food in your RV—the fridge and freezer found in most RVs make it easier to bring food. However, you also need non-perishable food. This includes: Canned food, fruit, granola bars, cereal, dry beans and peas, sauces and condiments, trail mix, chips, spices, flour, sugar, oils. Most of these food items are useful to have in your RV, emergency kit aside. Make sure you check expiry dates and store this food in a sealable, animal/rodent-proof container. Of course, you’ll need a can opener at the minimum.

Camping at Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Water

As most RVers don’t keep their water tanks filled (especially when traveling), you should always keep an emergency supply of water. The general recommendation is 4 gallons per person, per day. 

Camping at Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clothing

Be prepared for a variety of weather. Layers are always important, as many places can get quite cold or wet. Include the following for each member of your family: Socks, underwear, warm sweater, warm jacket, waterproof jacket, wide-brimmed hat, sturdy footwear.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cell Phone Charger

Cell phones are incredibly useful in emergency situations—you can communicate with loved ones, seek emergency help, figure out where you are, and get important information and updates. Always keep a phone charger in your RV emergency kit.

Camping at Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Personal Toiletries

Personal toiletries can provide comfort and be functional during an emergency. Here are some of the items you should keep in your RV emergency kit: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush or comb, shampoo and conditioner, hand sanitizer, toilet paper.

Camping at 7 Feathers Casino RV Park, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadside Maintenance Kit

Here are a few basic tools to keep in your RV emergency kit: High visibility cones, reflectors and/or vest, wheel chocks, tire pressure gauge, assorted wrenches and screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, duct/gorilla tape, work gloves. You should also keep jumper cables and extra fluids (windshield washer, oil, and coolant). If you’re driving in winter you should also keep an ice scraper, shovel, and traction aid (cat litter or sand).

Camping at New Green Acres RV Park, Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other Items for your RV Emergency Kit

There are a few other items that can be included in your RV emergency kit, too: Whistle, garbage bags, waterproof matches, paper and pen, extra blankets, tarps and ties, maps.

Camping at Dakota Campground, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pet RV Emergency Kit

If you have pets, you shouldn’t forget to include them in your RV emergency kit: Pet food, medications, toys, blanket, collapsible food/water bowls, cat litter and pan (if you have a cat), leash, collar/harness, and copy of your pet’s vaccination and medical records.

Camping at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Assembling Your RV Emergency Kit

You likely have many of these items in your RV already. Even if you do, it’s important to ensure you have all necessary items and have them organized. Start with making a list. Identify the items you have and what you’ll need to buy. Assemble and pack them in your RV. Regularly check on first aid, toiletries, and pet items to ensure they haven’t expired.

While you hopefully won’t need to use of the items you have assembled, it’s important in the event of an emergency situation.

Worth Pondering…

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Top 7 Tragic Rookie RV Mistakes To Avoid

Make sure to avoid the following rookie mistakes

You’re out on the road in your new recreation vehicle for the first time and you commit that huge mistake that tells the world you’re a newcomer to the world of RVing. It’s embarrassing and there may be a mess to clean up, but it wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t witnesses to see your mistake.

Before departure ensure all cords and hoses have been securely stored © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the first couple of years of RVing it seemed I learned something new every time I pulled into a campground. Sometimes, it was not the most enjoyable experience but a learning experience. 

Everyone makes rookie RV mistakes, but you can avoid the worst ones if you do your homework ahead of time. Here are the most common mistakes new RVers make—and how to avoid them.

Back-in campsites are more challenging than pull-through sites and require considerable practice © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive-off Disasters

The most horrifying mistake a new RVer can make is driving off while you’re still connected to water, sewer, and/or power. The damage is expensive, and it’s extremely embarrassing.

Forgetting to lower the TV antenna is common mistake of even much traveled RVers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also make sure you lower the satellite dish and TV antenna, retract the awnings and slides, and pick up and stow any jack pads, leveling boards, or wheel chocks prior to departure.

And don’t forget to check head lights, tail lights, and signal lights, front and rear.

Camping at White Tank Mountains, a Maricopa County Park in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using Your RV before Learning How

It’s Sunday morning and you’ve had your first awesome camping experience in your newly purchased RV. Before leaving the campground, you make a pit stop at the dump station only to realize you have no idea what to do. As you search through the manual, you realize you have a line of vehicles behind you waiting to dump. 

Ensure you know how to use a dump station correctly and have adequate heavy duty hoses © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many new procedures you need to learn—from simple things to more complex items. Before leaving home on your first camping trip, read through your operator’s manual and conduct a practice run of the major procedures, including hooking up utilities, leveling the RV, extending and retracting the slideouts, and dumping gray and black water. 

Driving a large Class A motorhome can be challenging especially on narrow roads with limited shoulder © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not Knowing the Size of Your RV

First time RVers often have a difficult time managing the large size of their RV. Usually, cornering and parking are the toughest tasks. Also, ensure know your height and width.

Know and post on dash height of you RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No Plan No Prep

Many new RVers make their first mistakes before they even hit the road. The key to success is in the planning. For a smooth, worry-free trip, make sure you consider all of these things:

  • Your budget. Set aside more money than you think you’ll need—especially for food, fuel, and camping fees. Also, be sure to set aside enough money specifically for an emergency.
  • Your route. Avoid narrow roads with sharp turns, and highways with low bridges or tunnels. There are apps for this.
  • Your reservations. Many an RVer has been denied entrance to a campground because they didn’t have a reservation. Popular camps fill up quickly and RV sites are limited.
  • Your necessities. RVs are tiny places, making it easy to overpack. Make sure you only bring what you need.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather…and an amazing sky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not Using a Checklist!

These newbie RV mistakes can be avoided by using a checklist before, during, and after your trip. Update your checklist with every trip—you’re bound to learn a lesson or two as time goes on.

We love pull-through RV sites © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not Doing a Walk Around?

There are many things that must be done when breaking camp with your RV. Often, a checklist is followed to assure that each item has been readied and checked before hitting the road.

The larger the RV the greater the challenge! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Generally, the last item to be completed is a full walk around. This involves the driver walking entirely around the vehicle and checking everything, verifying that all slides and awnings are fully retracted and locked, jacks are up, all appendages are disconnected from the services and stored, the hitch is secure, tires are fully inflated and not damaged, windows and vents are closed, antennas are down, and no kids, items, or other obstructions lie under the vehicle. The ground should be checked to make sure no fluids are leaking.

Now relax and enjoy the sunset… © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember—everyone’s an RV newbie at some point, and we’ve all made some of these newbie mistakes. You’re in good company, so keep your sense of humor, a toolbox, first aid kit, and consider yourself officially a veteran RVer.

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

6 Great Tips for RV Beginners

Here are six quick tips for every RV beginner to consider

Have you ever loaded up a camper and ventured into the wilderness? RVing might not be everyone’s idea of a great vacation but that hasn’t stopped it from growing in popularity over the last few years. With many favorite summer activities closed by COVID-19, more people are turning to RV trips to have a safe and exciting vacation this year. Even if you’ve never gone RVing before, now is the perfect chance to try.

Fifth wheel trailers at Canyon Vista RV Park, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVs are exciting and they come with some new challenges, ranging from finding the right RV to getting comfortable with driving your home-on-the-road. This is all part of a journey that will bring a sense of freedom and discovery to your life.

Here are six quick tips to consider before you pile in and head out.

Class A motorhomes at Hilltop RV Park, Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip 1: Choose the Right RV For You

There is no right or wrong choice. Each type of RV has features that are attractive to some RVers, and less attractive to others. It’s really not a matter of a towable is better than a motorized, or vice versa, rather, it’s a matter of what will fit best with your RVing lifestyle.

Fifth wheel trailers at Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Factors such as family size, whether you want to tow it, or need a bathroom play a role in your choice.

Class C motorhome rental from Cruise America at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip 2: Decide Whether to Buy or Rent

This isn’t always an easy decision, with pros and cons for both. However, when you consider a few key factors, the answer becomes clearer.

Buy: You plan to go RV camping often or full-time and you have storage for the times when you aren’t traveling.

Rent: You plan to go on a single trip, or want to test the waters before making a purchase.

Class C motorhome at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip 3: Get to Know Your RV

With little road experience, it’s especially important that RV beginners take time to learn how the RV works, even if it’s a rental. If something breaks, you should be able to assess the problem, and potentially fix it. This saves time and money spent on a mechanic.

Know how to hook up and use electric, water, and sewer servies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you get to know your RV, you’re less likely to make operational errors. For example, if you don’t know how many amps your main breaker can handle, there’s a good chance you’ll blow it. This is a potentially expensive error that can be avoided by getting to know your rig.

Class A motorhome traveling north to Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip 4: Take a Practice Drive

Many find driving an RV easier than they thought, but it’s important to practice. Get in the driver’s seat and adjust the mirrors, seat belt height, lumbar support, and armrests so you’re comfortable, and make sure you can easily turn your head to see in all directions. Become familiar with all switches and controls.

Class A motorhomes on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then take your RV for a drive around a big parking lot practicing backing up, turning, braking, and parking. It’s best to have a partner to assist with the backing up. Finally, take your it for a drive on the road over varied terrain, if possible.

Once you know the intricacies of driving an RV, you can make necessary adjustments. For example, if your drawers pop open you need to find a way to keep them shut.

Learn the correct way to use a dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip 5: Pack Tools and Spare Parts

Pack a well-stocked tool kit and store on the curb side of your RV. Include basic tools and items that may need to be replaced including LCD flashlights, spare fuses, LCD lights, jumper cables, nuts and bolts, WD-40, silicon spray, duct and gorilla tape, and cleaning supplies. Be sure to bring spare parts that are unique to your rig.

Know how before you go © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip 5: Don’t Wing It

The urge to be spontaneous is tempting when your home is on wheels. There’s a certain pleasure in going where you want, when you want. However, it does help to have a solid plan in place especially if it’s your first RV trip.

When planning your RV trip, consider:

Use a pressure regulator when hooking up to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip 6: Use a Campground Setup Checklist

Pulling into your RV campground is just the start. A set-up checklist will help you keep everything in order and make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Use an electric management system to protect against surges and high and low voltage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk your RV site before you pull in to ensure you have the adequate space and clearance for your vehicle checking for low hanging branches and obstacles on the ground. Locate the hookups, including electric, water, cable TV, and sewer. Level the RV if needed. Test that the hookups are working properly.

Worth Pondering…

Our wish to you is this: drive a little slower, take the backroads sometimes, and stay a little longer. Enjoy, learn, relax, and then…plan your next RV journey.

7 Tips for Newbies to Know BEFORE the First Trip

Vacationing by RV this summer? Here’s what you need to know.

When you first heard the words “black water” in conversation, you may have assumed the speaker was discussing an obscure movie, perhaps an Australian film created by 3D models or a 2017 Jean-Claude Van Damme flick.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, if you’re one of the many people who decides to take a summer road trip in an RV you would know that the first definition of black water is solid and liquid waste that must be dumped from your RV holding tank.

Here are seven helpful tips to know before embarking on your first RV road trip.

Sewer hose connected and ready to dump © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Don’t get poop on yourself

If there’s a toilet in your rig—and there most likely is—you’re going to need to dump the waste—the aforementioned black water—at some point (likely sooner rather than later). When you go to open the storage compartment on the side of the vehicle to remove the cap and connect the sewer hose in order to dump, remember this: Make sure the dump valves are closed! Trust me on this! Read the page in your RV owner’s manual about the holding tanks. Make sure you close those latches! Otherwise, you might gag while your sneakers become “poop shoes” you can never wear again.

Sewer hose connection up-close © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Remember your toolkit

It’s hard to anticipate something like having your side view mirror get so loose that it no longer provides any help with attempting lane changes. But these things happen, and you should prepare for them, instead of relying on your copilot to turn or finding a man on the road who has a wrench you can borrow to tighten said mirror.

Sewer dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring a toolkit. And store it on the curb side. Again, trust me on this. Bring Allen wrenches or Hex Key set. Bring duct tape and Rhino tape. Bring variety of screwdrivers including Phillips and Robertson. Bring hammer. Bring scissors. Bring a variety of wrenches. Bring plenty of rags. Be ready to fix the unanticipated.

Read carefully before pulling lever © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Pack sufficient cookware

If you’re renting an RV that comes stocked with kitchen tools, check that it also has pots and pans, cutting boards, and silverware. And if it has knives, make sure they’re sharp enough to cut effectively. Will the rental company reimburse you for replacing any missing or faulty cookware? It may be wise to take complete inventory of your cookware at time of rental.

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

4. Use leveling blocks

Like Legos? Stackable leveling blocks can be placed under your vehicle’s wheels in order to level out your parking spot. If you arrive at your camping site when it is dark or too tired to use leveling blocks, be prepared to face the consequences.  The fridge may stop running (because it relies on gravity to cool properly and only works when the vehicle is level). That brings us to the next tip.

Camping at Monahans Sands State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Arrive at your campground before dark

Plan your trip so that you get to your overnight parking spot before dark. Whether you’re driving into a campground, an RV park, or—especially—a place in the desert or woods where you’ll be boondocking (RV-speak for spending the night somewhere for free, without electric or water hookups), it’s important to be able to see your surroundings.

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

It’s very challenging to see camping site numbers and even harder to determine whether you’ve parked safely (and level) in the dark. Also: You want to wake up the next morning and be able to recognize your surroundings. Not knowing where you are can have a rather disturbing feel!

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

6. Use RV toilet essentials

Sorry to bring up the poop thing again, but it’s important. Without it, traveling during a pandemic would be more dangerous. And if you don’t pack certain RV bathroom essentials, you’ll find yourself up a certain creek without a paddle.

Camping at Poches RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Knowing what your black water tank holds, the next logical question to ask is: how the heck do you keep it clean and odor-free? Fortunately, the availability of commercial chemicals and deodorizers makes it pretty simple to maintain your black tank on a regular basis.

Camping in Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the start of your camping trip, add a dose of RV black water tank treatment, which may come in liquid form or in Tide-Pod-like packets. Be sure to add in about a gallon of water, as well, which helps the chemicals do their job. Along with keeping tank odors down, these chemicals also have the ability to break down solid waste and toilet paper. That makes for a much smoother process when it comes time to dump your tanks.

Even if you use those things properly, there is a rare possibility you might end up with a clog in your toilet—and that is not a pretty picture.

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

7. Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise

Driving your bathroom and kitchen around with you makes life super convenient. You can eat, nap, and relieve yourself whenever you’d like! With that in mind, here are several suggestions on structuring your days when you visit national or state parks: Wake up early. Make coffee. Drive inside the park to a place with a gorgeous view. Enjoy the sunrise and wildlife with few other humans around. Go on a hike

Enjoying camping on Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you return to your camping site, take some time to appreciate the RV lifestyle. Bask in the nature around you before retiring to your big sleeping box. And promise yourself you’ll go on another road trip real soon!

Worth Pondering…

Wherever we go, we’re always at home.

6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

There are many people out there who love to commune with nature and take every opportunity to grab their camping gear and head out into the great outdoors. Then, there are those people who decide to take camping to the next level and become RV campers instead. 

Touring Wild Turkey Bourbon Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, whether you’re headed across the country to tour a Kentucky bourbon distillery or to the mountains to take a hike, there are a few tips you need to follow as a beginning RVer

Heading to the mountains for a hike at Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Thorough 

Even seasoned RVers leave things behind when it’s time to move on, so as a beginner it’s important to be thorough when packing up to move to the next location. You have to pack up your RV and make sure that its road ready when it’s time to move on. Develop a checklist to follow so you don’t forget to secure a latch or close a drawer. 

Slow down and enjoy nature at Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Your Time on the Road 

This tip applies to how much time you plan to spend on the road each day and even how long you intend to stay in one spot. It’s important not to try and cover too many miles in a day. Not only is that dangerous, but you’re failing to enjoy the beauty of the area you’re in at the same time.

Taking time to relax and enjoy your camping site along the Mississippi River at Tom Sawyer RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the best parts of becoming an RVer is taking the time to enjoy the views you would have easily passed by without seeing before. A good rule of thumb to follow is 300 miles or 3 pm as your cut-off point for traveling each day. If you reach either, it’s time to call it a day, set up camp, and just enjoy the area. 

Take time to enjoy the journey along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once you reach your destination, don’t just head back out the next morning. Spend a few days relaxing and getting to know and appreciate the area. In this way, you’ll be fresh to get back on the road and have a relaxing time as well. There are many places to see when you’re an RV camper, take your time and enjoy them all. 

Enjoying the sunset at Sea Breeze RV Park near Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a Ton of Questions 

One of the best things about being an RVer is that the community is so big you can easily get answers to the questions you have, and you should have a ton when you are first starting out. Talk to RVers along your route and ask questions. You can pretty much guarantee that if they don’t know the answer, they will find someone that does. 

Colorado River Thousand Trails Preserve at Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack Tools and Spare Parts

Pack a well-stocked tool kit and store on the curb side of your RV. Include basic tools and items that may need to be replaced including LCD flashlights, spare fuses, LED lights, jumper cables, nuts and bolts, WD-40, silicon spray, duct and gorilla tape, rags, and cleaning supplies. Be sure to bring spare parts that are unique to your rig.

Camping amid the beauty of Badlands National Park in South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Flexible 

RVing is about taking it easy and enjoying the experience. A lot of things can happen on the road, from bad weather to someone getting sick. You need to be flexible with your plans. If weather or sickness puts you behind a day so be it! Enjoy where you’re at and then ride towards a sunnier spot when everyone is on the mend. 

Castle Valley Gourd Festival was a pleasant surprise on a day trip from Moab, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Becoming an RVer is all about the journey and the adventure that awaits you from town to town and state to state. Plan your trip, pack well, ask questions, and get to know your fellow RV community members. RV camping is fun and relaxing and you shouldn’t make it anything but that for you and your family. 

Settling into Harvest Moon RV Park in Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Wing It

The urge to be spontaneous is tempting when your home is on wheels. There’s a certain pleasure in going where you want, when you want. However, it does help to have a solid plan in place especially if it’s your first RV trip. When planning your RV trip, consider:

  • Your budget
  • Your food supplies
  • Your travel route
  • Attractions to see along the way
  • Fuel stops
  • Campgrounds/RV parks
Enjoying the beauty at Columbia River RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Our wish to you is this: drive a little slower, take the backroads sometimes, and stay a little longer. Enjoy, learn, relax, and then…plan your next RV journey.

The 9 Things You Should Never Travel Without

Things you should never set off in your RV without

Every RV traveler has their go-to gadgets and comforts. These are the nine items that should always go with you when you travel.

Needed RV supplies include water and sewer hoses. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First aid kit

You can buy a first aid kit at your local pharmacy before setting off or you can make your own if your family has special medical needs that are not accommodated by the store-bought ones. Be sure to pack ample allergy medications in case you find that the local plant life triggers your allergies wherever you go.

Sewer hose and connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV essentials

These are the things your systems need like oil, coolant, windshield washer fluid, and spare batteries. Think outside of the RV as well such as road flares in case you break down, raincoats, rags, and anything else you may need to get back on the road again.

Water hose and city water connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camera

In reality, if you have a smartphone you probably have a camera capable of capturing amazing memories wherever you go. In fact, I agree with professional photographer Chase Jarvis, who says that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” 

Be prepared for varied weather conditions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Notebook and pen

Sometimes the best gadget is low-tech and simple. Always travel with a notebook and pen. Actually, for a guy who writes an RV blog my brain thinks surprisingly in analog, and pen on paper helps me organize my thoughts. And the best part is notebooks never run out of batteries.

Don’t forget supplies to ensure the safety and comfort of your pet. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electrical Protection System

When looking at an electrical protection system for your RV, you want to make sure it is more than a surge protector and monitors high and low voltage. This is what the Progressive Emergency Management System does and what models like Surge Guard and other brands do as well. When looking at an electrical protection system, be certain to consider the protection levels. Here is what you need out of a great electrical protection system:

  • Surge Protection
  • High and Low Voltage
  • Pedestal Analysis
  • Load side protection
Progressive Energy Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are different electrical protection brands on the market and the Progressive EMS is the unit that we trust with our RV. Others prefer Surge Guard brand. If you do not already have an electrical protection system for your RV, take it from me and other seasoned RVers—get an electrical protection system for your RV. You can’t go wrong with a model from Progressive or Surge Guard.

Enjoy camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack Tools and Spare Parts

Pack a well-stocked tool kit and store on the curb side of your RV. Include basic tools and items that may need to be replaced including LCD flashlights, spare fuses, LCD lights, jumper cables, nuts and bolts, WD-40, silicon spray, duct and gorilla tape, and cleaning supplies. Be sure to bring spare parts that are unique to your rig.

Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High-quality sewer hose

Some things you definitely don’t want to skimp on and your sewer hose is one of them. No one wants to be dealing with a ruptured sewer hose while on vacation. Invest in a high-end hose—your peace of mind and nasal passages will thank you.

Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sunglasses Are a Must

When hitting the road in your RV, you’ll a good pair of sunglasses regardless of whether you’re heading to the beaches or to the mountains. No one wants to stare into the sun for hours on end not to mention that driving without sunglasses can be dangerous. Do yourself (and your eyes!) a favor and remember your shades.

The Peachoid, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Last But Not Least, Know where you’re going

Okay, okay. You likely have a destination in mind. But if you’re heading out for months on end, you might want to bring along a few suggestions.

Now hit the road already!

Corpus Chrisiti, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

What’s in Your RV Emergency Kit?

Preparing for an emergency is something all RVers need to think about

We all know about car emergency kits. But an RV is much different than a car. A car, for instance doesn’t travel with a tank of fresh water. And a car is also less likely to be stranded at an alpine lake due to a freak snow storm. Most people also wouldn’t drive their car 30 miles into BLM-managed public lands with the intention of living out of it for a week or more.

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

When considering your RV emergency kit, keep in mind the kinds of emergency situations you might face during your RV travels. We’ll discuss safety items and accessories to pack in your recreational vehicle’s first aid kit and tool box.

Utah Scenic Byway 279 near Moab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV First Aid Kit

A first aid kit readily available in an emergency isn’t just a good idea—it’s a necessity for every RVer. A well-stocked first-aid kit and manual can help you respond effectively to common injuries and emergencies. You can purchase first aid kits and refills at the Red Cross store, most drugstores, or assemble your own.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contents of a first-aid kit should include adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic solution or towelettes, bandages, calamine lotion, cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs, gauze pads and roller gauze in assorted sizes, first aid manual, petroleum jelly or other lubricant, safety pins in assorted sizes, scissors and tweezers, and sterile eyewash.

Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Familiarize yourself with the items in the first aid kit and know how to properly use them. Check your first-aid kits regularly, at least every three months, to replace supplies that have expired.

The Mayo Clinic is an excellent source for first aid information to help you during a medical emergency.

If you travel with pets, pet first aid manuals are also available.

Traveling with pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Tool Box

Just about anything in your RV that can snap, crack, rip loose, tear, bend, leak, spark, or fall off will do exactly that at the most inconvenient time. Something will need to be tightened, loosened, pounded flat, pried, or cut.

To help you deal with everyday problems and annoyances, maintain a well-equipped tool box in the RV (always store on curb side).

Camping on Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contents should include Phillips and Robertson head and flat bladed screwdrivers (large, medium, small), standard and needle-nose pliers, channel-lock pliers (medium and large), 10-inch Crescent wrench, claw hammer, hobby knife with blade protector, wire cutters, tape measure, silicone sealant, Gorilla tape and glue, electrical tape, battery jumper cables, open and box-end wrenches, silicone spray, WD-40 lubricant, bungee cords, road flares/warning reflectors, fold-down shovel, stepladder, spare fuses, and heavy-duty tire pressure gauge.

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

Many RVers also carry a socket wrench set (standard and metric), small drill bit set and cordless drill with spare battery, and digital voltmeter.

Gorilla Tape is a brand of adhesive tape sold by the makers of Gorilla Glue, and available in several sizes and colors, including camouflage, white, and clear. Gorilla Tape can solve many problems while on the road—and you can do most anything with this stuff. RVers have used it to temporarily repair a sewer hose, keep a driver’s side window from continually falling, and even affix the coffee maker to the counter so that it doesn’t move during travel.

Other Considerations

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other considerations, supplies, and equipment include fire extinguishers (one in the galley, one in the bedroom, and one outside of the RV in a basement compartment, plus one in the toad/tow vehicle), NOAA weather radio, LED flashlights, heavy-duty whistles, emergency waterproof matches, jumper cables, ice/snow window scrapers, work gloves, and blue tarp.

McKinney Falls State Park near Austin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.