So, you’ve just purchased your new RV — congrats! You’re about to embark on an endless adventure, be it a few miles from your home or all the way across the country. There are National Parks to hike, oceans waves to frolic, and lots of stories to be told around the campfire.
But a new RV is daunting, and overwhelming. If you’re like us, you probably watched a million YouTube videos, read a ton of blog posts, and received advice (some good, some bad) from family and friends about what you should or need to do… and still you’re not quite sure what you actually should or need to do.
We were the same way when we first purchased our R-Pod 192. Now that we’ve been living in it for over a year, and have visited over 57 campsites (plus some driveways, parking lots, and farms), we have a good idea of what gadgets we actually need and use, and what gadgets just take up space. And we’d love to share it with you — and help you save money by not purchasing items you actually don’t need.
If you’re just starting out — there are items you absolutely need. You have to dump your tanks, chock your wheels, and level your camper, for example. We’ve put together this list of essentials that will get you started on your RV journey.
Again, this is a list of items you basically need to make your RV or travel trailer useable. This is the absolute basic of starter lists (as in, you shouldn’t leave home without these items).
RV Starter Essentials
1. Wheel Chocks
Chocks are the first thing you do when pulling into a spot, and the last thing you do when leaving your spot. Chocking your wheels is essentially so your RV doesn’t move, roll, which could damage it or damage you. Chocks come in different sizes, colors, materials, etc. Each side of the tire should be chocked, so you’ll need at least four for your RV. And chocks have different weight ratings, so make sure the chock you choose is rated for your gross vehicle weight rating.
Our advice: skip the plastic chocks and go right for the heavy-duty rubber. If you have a double axel, you could also consider X-chocks. Lastly, you could go for a leveling chock (which we have two, and rarely use them).
A level RV ensures that everything is working correctly by not adding unnecessary stress to the frame, makes sure the pipes flow correctly, and the refridgerator cools properly. Some sites are just not level. Additionally, the RV jack foot will most likely need blocks every time you park. We carry 20 blocks — and have had times where we’ve used all twenty. For our little single-axel trailer, we like to put the blocks under stabalizers and a few under the jack’s foot.
We love the Valterra blocks because they have a little extra balance, and are easy to pull apart. Though we also have the Tri-Lynx and they work well, too. Both are compact, easy to put away, and come with a carrying case. And don’t forget the level.
Dumping your black or grey tank is never fun, but it can be a lot less easier if you have the right tools. Ideally, you want two ten foot long hoses that connect to make a twenty foot, if necessary. This is especially important when you have campsites with sewer far from your rig. You also need an elbow to screw into the dump drain. I also like the clear elbow (we refer to it as the shitty elbow) so you can see when the water runs clear. Our 192 has a storage tube in the bumper, so that’s where the hose lives. The elbow goes in a few bags in the underpass.
Full disclosure: we’ve only used our sewer support a few time. Having said that it’s still on my list because we’ve been to two parks that required it (including a long-term stay). It is admittedly easier to drain if you do have it, but it’s just one more thing to set up and take down (which is why we’ve only used it when required). However, if you plan on going to fancy RV resorts — many do require a hose support. It’s likely the resort sells the supports in their store, however, so you could wait and find out.
I’ve seen so many people lugging around huge and heavy green vinyl garden hoses – and I think why are you torturing yourself? The no-kink Zero G hose is where it’s at. It’s safe for drinking water, it’s easy to put away (we’ve literally never had it kink or leak), and it’s so lightweight. We have a 50 foot hose and oddly enough, there are times when we’ve had to use every foot (looking at you Lake Fanny Hooe Campground). But seriously – get this hose. It will make your RV life so much better.
Campsite water is often well water, and sometimes it tastes like iron and other minerals. RV water filters will help that a bit, and make the water taste better – and make your skin happier. Just don’t forget to change them every few months. The filter is simple to install – we tend to connect it to our regulator (which is attached to the spout) but you can get an adapter so it filters the water right before it enters your RV.
We’ve encoutered RV parks that have a water connect so low to the ground that our hose would kink if directly hooked up to it. The hose saver comes in 45 and 90 degree angles and allows more room to hook up your regulator and water filter. We’ve had to use the angled hose saver countless times.
Campgrounds are notorious for water pressure issues, and are often not regulated. Excessive water pressure can damage your plumbing, your pipes, your seals, etc. A regulator is a must. The ideal PSI is about 45-65 (though most RVs can handle 80-100). A simple small gadget can save you thousands in damages.
Our advice: skip the cheap plastic as the threads can wear quickly. Go for the brass. And when you’re setting up, the regulator should attach to the water connection or the angled hose saver (if you’re using it). If you want to get super fancy, you can pick up an adjustable regulator with a guage.
Voltage surges and drops a real concern at campgrounds. Sometimes the electrical pedestal set up is older and outdated, or not wired correctly, or get a jolt of electricity from lightning, etc. Not only does the surge protector protect your RV, it protects everything pluged into your RV. No joke, an electic surge can even start a fire in the RV. When choosing an RV surge protector, make sure you get the right one for your amperage.
We have the 30 amp, 120v from Surge Guard and like it. It has easy to read lights that tells us how the pedestal is doing, and a grip for when it’s time to unplug. It also has a space for a lock (which isn’t that hard to break, but the idea is to make it more of a hassel). If you need a 50 amp, here is the equivilant.
You most likely have a 30amp or 50 amp RV – and yet campsite power pedestals sometimes only offer one or the other. If you want more choice on where to hook up, a dog bone electrical adapter allows for that. If you have a 30amp RV, you’ll need a 50amp male to 30amp female adapter. If you have a 50amp, you’ll need a 30amp M to 50amp F adapter. Tip: Plug the adapter into the pedestal, then surge protector into the adapter.
While you’re looking for adapters, you may want to pick up a 15amp male to 30amp female (or 15amp male to 50 amp female) in case you need to plug in to a standard outlet (but know you can’t run your A/C or a lot of outlets at once).
11. Bungee Cords
We use bungee cords for so many purposes. The main one is to keep our cabinents secure while driving. But we’ve also used them as clothes lines, to package firewood (or carry it), tarp our campsite, and more. I highly recommend adding bungees to your essentials kit.
12. Long Lighters
One can never have enough flame starters. Because the indoor and outdoor burners do not have a spark, you need a long lighter to light. Plus, you’ll probably be lighting campfires, grills, citronella candles and more. We like the Aim n’ Flame lighters, but also we have a few of the rechargable lighters around to cut down on plastic.
13. Duct Tape
Duct tape (or is it duck tape?) fixes everything. Seriously, we have three or four different rolls in different colors. We even used it as a makeshift fridge handle until we could get a replacement shipped to us. Grab a few rolls, you’ll need it.
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Looking for other RV and camping recommendations? Check out other gift lists, RV essentials lists, and even RV dog recommendations in my storefront.