Congratulations! You just purchased your first RV. That sense of accomplishment, excitement, and joy is mixed in with “What the heck did I just do?” Now it’s time to get those 15 things you have to buy after getting a new trailer or motorhome.
The call of the road is stronger than ever and you’re ready to hit the gas pedal. You bought a camper, now you need to prepare for the road.
Your wallet may feel like it’s smoking from the large amount of money you just spent on your RV, but now you have some essential gear you’ll need to purchase. The good part is the amount of money you need to complete your travel trailer supply checklist is like adding a few sticks to the fire, not another gas can.
To make this as painless as possible, I’ve put together an organized list for first-time RV owners on what you should keep in your recreational vehicle of choice. You don’t need to wait until you have your RV this is what you need to know before buying an RV concerning essential gear.
What comes with a new RV
If your sales representative was good at their job, they did a complete walkthrough of your new RV. We hope you came prepared with your own version of an RV checklist to make sure everything is in proper working order. You may be asking yourself, “Do new RVs come with sewer hoses?” or other questions about essential gear.
RV dealerships may have a “new owner’s kit” or some other goodies they give to their customers but there’s no such requirement. If they do offer basic hoses, they may be too short or poorly made.
You’ll either want to walk into their parts department, take a ride over to a camping supply store, or go home and jump on Amazon to find the best RV gadgets.
Essential supplies checklists
There are a few different hoses you’ll need. If you’ve seen that movie with Robin Williams, we promise the real versions are a lot more sanitary.
Sewer hose: A high-quality sewer hose is essential to avoid any unpleasant leaks or malfunctions. I prefer the Camco RhinoFLEX kit that includes a 15-foot hose, a fitting that connects to your RV sewer outlet, an adapter that fits any sewer connection, and storage caps for each end. The durable hose is reinforced with steel wire so you can shape it as needed. Also, carry a 10-foot extension—you’ll be glad you did.
Sewer hose attachments: There are various attachments that make the draining process easier. One type connects to the end of the hose to create a good seal to the dump station. Another is a clear plastic elbow that lets you monitor the flow.
Protective gloves: There are two schools of thought to keep your hands clean. Some like to use rubber gloves that can be washed while others prefer disposable latex gloves they can throw out after each use.
Water hose: RV potable water hoses are lead and BPA-free. I recommend traveling with two hoses since you never know how far your RV will be parked from a city water connection. This hose looks like a garden hose but it’s white in color instead of green. The interior of the hose is lined to keep it sanitary for drinking.
Heated water hose: A heated RV water hose is required for winter camping. This product will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost $100 or more depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes. A heated hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 40 degrees.
Water pressure guage: This brass attachment connects between the campground’s shore connection and your water hose. It protects your RV’s plumbing system from receiving too much water pressure. It only takes one situation for your water lines to blow.
Water filters: RV water filters probably aren’t the first thing to leap to mind when you’re contemplating everything you need before you hit the road in an RV. But water flavor and quality can be variable when you’re camping. The goal of an RV water filter is to remove sediment (like dirt and sand) and other unwanted contaminants from your RV’s water supply.
Campground water quality is all over the map and that goes double if you’re getting your water elsewhere like an unknown water tap at a truck stop. There are two main categories of RV water filters you can use. One is an exterior RV water filter that goes between the spigot and the RV’s fresh water tank. The other is an interior drinking water filter that goes between the fresh water tank and the faucet used for drinking water.
Most RVs come with electric cords that plug directly into shore power. There are additional things you’ll need to hook in correctly.
Electrical protectors: There are four electrical issues an RVer can encounter while traveling: surges, miswired pedestals, high/low voltage, and wiring issues inside the RV.
What exactly are you protecting your RV from when you use an electrical protection device? It’s much more than power surges which we typically associate surge protectors with. Surges are actually the least common problem with RV electricity. An RV typically has a lot of sensitive electronic circuitry in it and having steady power is crucial to keeping these components from having an early funeral. Failure of components like AC units, refrigerators, washer/dryer, and computers plugged into a wall outlet can be very expensive to replace. You can use one of the Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard portable or hardwired units.
Extention cord: Sometimes you may have to park your RV further away from the utility box than your cord can reach. You’ll want the same amp extension cord that your unit comes with (30 or 50 amp).
Power adapters: Every RVer needs to carry a few power adapters often referred to as dogbones to make sure that they can connect to whatever power is available to them. These power adapters will have a smaller, lower amperage plug (male blades) on one end and a larger/higher-amperage receptacle (female terminals). Look for UL-listed versions of these adapters preferably with rigid grab handles. They do not change the power output.
Recommended electric adapters include:
- 50-amp RV plugged into the 30-amp source
- 50-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source
- 30-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source
Fuse kit: Pickup a set of fuses that handle different amperages. Each color represents a different level of current. They’ll work for your automotive and coach systems.
3. RV jacks
Using your jacks on grass or dirt can be problematic. You may start out level but as you move around in your RV they may start to sink into the ground.
Stablilizer jack pads: Prevent hydraulic or electric jacks from sinking into the ground by using RV stabilizer jack pads. Available in sets of four they are solidly constructed of durable polypropylene with UV inhibitors.
Jack blocks: Jack blocks work like Lego to give your jacks a higher surface to sit on. They are useful if your jacks can’t reach the ground. Interlocking for convenient storage they are available with a handy strap.
Tire chocks: If you’re on an incline, tire chocks prevent your RV from rolling. Use these first, and of course make sure your brakes are set. Always use with travel and fifth-wheel trailers.
Bubble levels: Putting bubble levels on your trailer will help you with the leveling process. Higher-end travel trailers and motorhomes use auto-leveling systems that won’t require the use of bubble levels.
Your RV’s bathroom doesn’t need to smell like a state fair’s port-a-john. Using the proper tools can keep your RV bathroom smelling fresh and toilet clog-free. Preventive maintenance isn’t that difficult but you do want to keep up with it.
Black tank chemical: This chemical comes in your choice of liquid, powder, and packets. A weekly treatment poured down your toilet is all you need to prevent odors and proper breakdown of waste. An an alternative to commercial products you can use Dawn dish soap.
RV toilet paper: Toilet paper designed for RVs are designed to breakdown in black holding tanks. Most residential toilet papers are too thick and will create clogs.
5. Emergency kit
Nobody wants to think about it, but emergency kits are one of those items you want stocked and ready to go. There are still places take hours or days for emergency services to reach. Making sure you’re safe if a disaster strikes is essential.
Road Side Kit: A good quality kit will have hazard signs, flares, jumper cables, and tow cables. You may not find an all-in-one kit with everything you need, so you’ll probably have to piece it together yourself.
First Aid and Survival Kit: You’ll want more than just band-aids and gauze. Good quality first aid kits have everything you need for almost any situation. You’ll also want survival items like matches (waterproof matches if possible) and freeze-dried food for a couple of days. Your freshwater tank will be your source of water, so use it sparingly.
6. Tool kit
Every RVer should have a basic knowledge of D.I.Y. repair. A couple of quick YouTube videos will show you travel trailer dos and don’ts in basic RV repair. Your tool kit should have the following items:
- Set of screwdrivers with flat and Phillips heads
- Set of Allen wrenches
- Adjustable wrench
- Drill (if it’s cordless, have at least two batteries where one is fully charged)
- Drill bits, screwdriver bits, and bits that fit your jacks
- Heavy duty tire gauge
- Two (or more) flashlights (preferably one wearable one to keep your hands free)
- Small tube of silicone caulk
- Work gloves
- Rhino, duct, electrical, and masking tape (If you don’t know why, watch a couple of episodes of the Original Macgyver)
If your RV doesn’t have a factory-installed generator, it’s always a good idea to invest in a good one. There are many affordable options that are relatively quiet. This way you’ll have a power source when you’re dry camping or in a power outage.
8. Pet supplies
If you’re one of the over 65 percent of RVers that bring your pet with you having separate pet supplies just for the RV is a great way to avoid forgetting something. Outside safety equipment like leashes, latching devices, and outside toys will make their RV adventure a fun time. If your coach doesn’t have a built-in dog station I recommend a dog dish with a collar to prevent messes.
9. Back up camera
If you have a motorhome, you’ll already have a backup camera. Most towables now come prepped and wired with backup camera brackets. This camera makes traveling and parking easier.
10. Kitchen supplies
RV kitchen must-haves are essential. Having cookware, dishware, cutlery, and other kitchen items separate from your home make it less complicated when you’re getting ready to leave for your camping trip. Camping accessory manufacturers make these items specifically for camping to hold up to the conditions of camping.
RV mattress sizes can be different than residential sizes. Queen mattresses come in short, three-quarters, and other near residential measurements. Sheets, towels, and a portable laundry basket designated for your RV will keep your home linens from degrading too quickly.
12. Outdoor furniture
Picnic tables are good to use but they aren’t that relaxing. Having a mat at your entry will help you keep the dirt outside. Folding tables, folding lounge chairs, and other outdoor furniture will help you make the most of the outdoor camping experience.
13. Cleaning supplies
Camping and dirt go hand-in-hand. Vacuums, laundry detergent, and cleaning wipes should always be in a cabinet. Many veteran RVers like to use Dawn dish soap because of its many uses to clean other items besides dishes.
14. Internet service
Pretty much everything we do these days, we do online—so if you’re going to be spending significant time in an RV, internet is an essential. The bad news is, there’s no one easy answer to this question. Staying connected will depend on where and how you camp and what kind of surfer you are. But that bad news is also good news because it means there are plenty of ways to secure internet for your RV, which means you’re bound to find an option that will work for you. Here are the basic options for RV internet:
- Public WiFi
- DSL or Cable
- Cellular data
15. RV insurance
The last and most important thing is RV Insurance. RV insurance is different than car insurance. That’s why motorhomes, travel trailers, and campers need custom coverage. RV insurance gives you many of the same benefits you get with car insurance coverage but includes more protection based on the unique risks that RVs face.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.
—Charlie Brown, from Peanuts