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RV Essentials: The RV Gear You Must Have

by Bonnie
RV Essentials

You bought an RV and you’re ready to hit the road! Or are you? You might think that buying the RV is the hard part, but really it is getting all the RV gear and getting it set up and ready to use. While there are hundreds of items you might want or need, there are really just a few RV essentials that you must have before hitting the road. 

So, before you head out to the campground and find yourself in a bind, check out our list of RV essentials to get you prepared for the adventure. This RV gear will have you on the road and enjoying your new RV in comfort.

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RV Utility Connections

If you went to the expense of buying an RV rather than a tent, you’re likely looking to finally have utility connections or hookups. We tent camped for years and loved it. That said, the comfort that comes with having air conditioning, heat, running water and a bathroom does make camping that much more enjoyable. Seriously, being able to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning without having to first find your pants is one of the best things about RVing. 

As such, when it comes to RV gear, the hookups are the first thing you need to think about. 

Our campsite at Straits State Park in St. Ignace.
Our campsite at Straits State Park in St. Ignace.

Power Management System

It’s likely that, at home, you plug your big electrical items into a surge protector. A power management system is basically a big surge protector for your RV. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to add that protection for your TV, which costs hundreds of dollars, why wouldn’t you add it for your RV that cost thousands of dollars?

We use a power management system from Progressive Industries. Basically, you first plug the box into the electrical pedestal at the campground and make sure everything is running smoothly. Errors could be low or high voltage or poorly wired connections. Once you’ve confirmed there are no errors, connect the RV power cord and you’re good to go.

Power management system
The power management system that we use from Progressive Industries.

If there are any voltage fluctuations or power surges, the power management system will do its thing. Ours has saved us a couple of times. The first time was during our first summer of RVing. At one campground in Vermont, we had some voltage fluctuations, which the management system caught. In the process, it did manage to partially damage the system. Thankfully, Progressive Industries sent us a new one, free of charge, within a week.

A second “save” was in Illinois on the way home in the summer of 2019. When we first plugged in, we got a ground error, indicating poor wiring at the campground. Thankfully, we were able to move to the next site over and had no errors.

Yes, the model we recommend (which is a newer version of what we currently have) is pricey. It’s a lot cheaper than having to redo the entire electrical system on your camper, though. 

Freshwater Hose

If you want to be able to go to the bathroom, take a shower or wash dishes, you’ll need a water connection. Be sure to pick up a drinking water hose, which is generally white or blue. I’d suggest getting at least 35 feet but, honestly, the longer, the better. You never know when the connections will be in a weird location.

Lincoln State Park
Indiana’s Lincoln State Park had some really awkward and lengthy water connections. It took a 50-foot hose to make this connection.

We also suggest getting a collapsible hose. Space and weight are always limited in an RV, so anything you can do to save in those areas is a good thing. The hose in the photo above was purchased at Walmart after we realized our 25-foot collapsible hose wasn’t going to reach. Which reminds me… I need to get the 50-foot collapsible hose before our next trip!

Pressure Regulator

Another simple item to “insure” your camper’s water system is a pressure regulator. Your camper generally only needs 40-50 psi of water pressure. Some connections could run in at well over 100 psi. The pressure regulator controls that, making sure your RV doesn’t get more water pressure than it can handle. This small item should cost less than $10, which is a great deal!

Our water connection consists of a brass pressure regulator, a water filter and a collapsable water hose, which we love.
Our water connection consists of a brass pressure regulator, a water filter and a collapsable water hose, which we love.

Pro Tip: We suggest connecting the pressure regulator to the campground’s water supply first, a water filter (if desired), then attach your hose. With this configuration, if the pressure builds up at the regulator, it’s not affecting your equipment at all.

Sewer Hose Kit

Once you’ve got water coming into your camper, you need a way to drain it from the holding tanks. No, you can NOT just open the valve and let it flow out! Not even the gray water (the stuff from the sinks and shower). A sewer hose lets you dump your holding tanks safely and hygienically.

Sewer Hose Connection
Sewer Hose Connection

We recommend this 20-foot sewer kit, which comes with the hose, a clear elbow, connection adapter and caps. All this makes dumping your tanks as easy as it can be. A hose support stand to hold the sewer hose is nice, but not essential.

RV Toilet paper

Perhaps one of the most highly debated items among RV gear is toilet paper. At the very least, you will need some sort of toilet paper. Every RV manufacturer out there recommends to only use RV-specific toilet paper. That said, there are plenty of campers who say that it is unnecessary.

Whether it’s truly necessary or not, it’s what we use. I figure anything I can do to help extend the life of my camper is worth it. Scott Rapid Dissolve toilet paper for RVs and boats works just fine for us. As a bonus, it is generally available at Walmart and really doesn’t cost that much more than a good “normal” toilet paper.

Whether it’s RV specific or not, toilet paper is definitely one of the RV essentials that you don’t want to be without!

Leveling Blocks & Tire Chocks

Once you’ve arrived at the campground, you’ll need to get the camper level and make sure it doesn’t go anywhere. Sadly, most campsites are not perfectly level. Even the paved ones sometimes have a slight tilt to them. For this, we suggest carrying three sets of Lynx Levelers. These nifty little things are lightweight and fit together like Legos so they don’t slide around.

You can stack up as many as you need to get your camper level. Hopefully, you won’t need more than one or two on a side but you never know. They also are good for using under the hitch and stabilizer jacks. We’ve even used them as a jack to change a tire on the camper.

Lincoln State Park campsite
Bonnie relaxing in front of the camper. You can see from the number of levelers used how unlevel this site is.

We started with two sets of 10 Lynx Levelers. After a couple of very uneven campsites, we added a third set. 

You can use the levelers by themselves but we like having the caps so the tire sits on a smooth surface. The caps are also a tad bit thinner, which is nice when you only need a small amount of lift. 

You’ll also need chocks for the tires to make sure the RV doesn’t roll or slide. You can get Stop n’ Chocks that work with the Lynx Levelers. One set of two should be enough. You’ll also want a set of “normal” chocks for when you aren’t using levelers. We have four of these.

Other “Just in Case” RV Essentials

Let’s be honest, there are TONS of other items that you might need while RVing. We actually have a full guide on outfitting your new RV that you can check out for all of the big and small things we use. That said, there are a couple other very basic RV essentials that you’ll want before your first camping trip. 

Basic Tool Kit

As with everything in life, at some point when RVing something will go wrong. Hopefully, it won’t be anything major. Having a basic tool kit will get you through most of the small things, at the very least. 

Aa you get more experienced in dealing with your camper, small repairs become easy to handle.
Aa you get more experienced in dealing with your camper, small repairs become easy to handle, especially with a good tool kit.

Whether it is a screwdriver for tightening loose screws after a bumpy road or a tape measure to see just how long of an extension cord you really need, having some basic tools is always a good idea. You might already have something like this is your truck or car. If not, we recommend you grab one sooner rather than later.

Extra Fuses

Hopefully, you won’t need this for your first trip. But you never know when a fuse will blow, leaving you without that precious electricity. Yes, you can live for a day or two without your microwave, refrigerator or an outlet. Having some extra fuses will fix that quickly, though, with no major fuss.

Assorted fuses
Assorted fuses

Check your RV manual for any specific fuses your camper might need. We like this inexpensive set, which comes with a good variety of fuses.

You might also get a couple of extra brake light lamps just in case. 

Basic Living Items

Now that you’ve got the necessities of getting your RV hooked up and are prepared for basic emergencies, you’ve got to make sure you can actually live in it. That means you’ll need basic items such as bedding, kitchen gear and toiletries. 

Yes, your camper is a second home so set it up as such. Sure, you could use sleeping bags on your bed and a basic set of camping cookware. Chances are, though, that if you’ve bought a camper you’re looking for a little more luxury.

The interior of our camper.
The interior of our camper.

You might already have extra sheets or towels that you can move from the house to the RV. Or maybe you’ve got your eye on a new cookware set and want to move the old one into the RV. When it comes to these RV essentials, you’ll need to decide just how basic and inexpensive or complex and pricey you want to be.

I do suggest, though, that you get items that you can leave in the camper. Having to bring items to “restock” the RV every time you use it will get old quick. 

Dinner at the campground in Big South Fork NRRA.
The dinner plates from Zak Designs really complete a meal.

We had some items from our tent camping days that we moved into the camper, we brought a few extra linens from the house and then made runs to Ikea and Walmart for other stuff. The more time you plan to spend in your camper, the nicer you’ll probably want to go with these items.

Bedroom

For the bedroom, I suggest all the basics that you keep on your bed at home: mattress cover, sheets, comforter and pillows. If your mattress is anything like our first RV mattress, you may want a mattress topper or even a new mattress. Those upgrades can come later, though. 

To start with, just make sure you have the basics of what you need. And don’t forget extra blankets when the weather gets colder!

We have pillows that we keep in the camper for short weekend trips. When we go on longer trips over the summer, though, we bring our nice Tempurpedic pillows from home. 

Bathroom

At a bare minimum, you’ll need towels and all the basic toiletries. Sure, basic cotton towels will be just fine. We like quick-drying towels, though, since the ventilation in the camper isn’t quite as good as at home.

We really like our new towels. They dry very quickly.
We really like our new towels. They dry very quickly.

You’ll probably also want a floor mat and you might need a shower curtain. After a couple of years, we even upgraded our shower head.

We have some toiletries that we leave in the camper – shower gel, shampoo, soap, toothbrush. Other stuff I bring from home each time. Since our camper sits in a storage space without any sort of hookups, I’ve found the extreme temperature changes affect some items more than others. Let’s be honest, melted deodorant isn’t doing anyone any good.

Kitchen

The kitchen is, perhaps, the most difficult part of the RV to prepare. You’ll need some basic cookware, dinnerware and towels at the very least. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll want a coffee pot. You’ll also probably want some mixing bowls, cutting board, etc. if you plan to cook dinner. Yes, the RV essentials can get complicated when it comes to the kitchen.

RV Gadgets
We love how little space these nesting bowls and measuring cups take up.

I’ll never forget the time we bought bagels for breakfast and then realized that we didn’t have a toaster. Yep, we hit Walmart that afternoon to buy an inexpensive toaster to leave in the camper.

If you want to keep it basic, though, that is doable. And the supplies are things that you can add over time as you’re ready to. Just be sure your plates and cups are lightweight and won’t break easily. 

Other RV Gear

As you can tell, there are a few items that you absolutely must have before you head out in your new RV. There are MANY more items that you might want or need to make your camping experience more comfortable. Truly, the more we camp in the RV, the more “things” we decide we need. Or the more we want to upgrade the items that we have.

Grant and Bonnie relaxing by the camper in our zero-gravity chairs.
Enjoying our new chairs at our campground at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Sometimes it’s little things to get us better organized. Other times its items we truly didn’t realize we needed. There are even things that we didn’t realize existed until we saw it at a campground or heard about it from a neighbor.

Final Thoughts on the RV Essentials

When buying an RV, there are a lot of things to consider. I’m not going to lie, if you’re new to RVing, it can be a little overwhelming. There will likely be more runs to Walmart for items you didn’t know you needed (or wanted) than you care to think about. Don’t let that frustrate you. It’s all part of the process. I promise every time you take the camper out it will get easier.

Yet another trip to Walmart, this time for a power cable extension and longer water hose.
Yet another trip to Walmart, this time for a power cable extension and longer water hose.

Stock up on the RV essentials and let the rest of the gear work itself out over time. 

If you’ve got the basic items and are looking for more in-depth suggestions, check out our full RV gear guide. For those things that truly make RVing comfortable, take a look at the list of our favorite RV gadgets.

Finally, if you’re looking for RV tips, check out the following articles:

If you’re a seasoned RVer and have suggestions on essential RV gear we forgot, drop us a comment and let us know! 

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2 comments

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Kerney Amy March 16, 2020 - 5:53 am

Love your tips im a long time camper and have also done backpacking wilderness trips. Moving up to an Rv means you need more gear. Love your tips. . I still enjoy camping in a tent for short trips. I bought storage boxes and keep them packed for the hurricane season. 1 is bedding, 2 cook wear box 3 tent and rain gear. 4-fire and cooking supplies 5 non perishable food. I also keep a travel bag ready to go if we need to leave quickly. Thanks for your tips

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Grant
Grant March 16, 2020 - 11:50 am

Thanks so much Amy! The RV lifestyle is great and you will really enjoy it! Plus it means no longer getting up off the ground when camping… As we got older, that made all the difference in the world!

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