What do you need to take with you in an RV? Here's some of what we carry with us.
When we got the idea to live in an RV, we knew nothing about RVs. We loved tent camping, but RVing is another animal entirely. Not only is there buying an RV, but there is also gear we needed (or at least wanted) to enhance our experience. I'm talking about practical stuff, stuff for safety, for fun, or - frankly - for dealing with your poop.
Dealing with your poop!
That's right, I said it. Oh I'm going to talk about poop in ways that would make your grandmother blush. Well, maybe not quite like that, but there is a sewer learning curve, and after bumps along the way I've learned what I need to have on hand to make our RV experience free from horrible sewage events.
So, below is our list of gear. Some we use all the time and some for just in case. This is far from an all inclusive list but will be the basis for a fully exhaustive future entry in our resources section. I named this blog entry "Best RV Gadgets" not to say that these things are the "best" - but it was a play on our last name being Best - gotta use it here and there right?
Most of these are from Amazon as they have great shipping options that are easy for people living on the road. Buy something for yourself, or send to your RVing family using these 4 great delivery options for people living on the road.
• Amazon Lockers. Amazon Lockers are pickup locations usually located inside or just outside of businesses and allow for pickup at odd hours. To use, find a locker (by zip code), ship to it at checkout and when your package arrives you get a pickup code. To send something from Amazon to an RVer, just find out what Locker is closest to them and give them the pickup code.
• Send a package via USPS by calling the local post office in a city and ask if they receive "General Delivery". If so, have packages sent there this way:
City, State, Zip
• Have things delivered to the campground. Many parks will receive packages for pickup at the office. Just ask the office (call ahead if you need) if they will receive a package for you.
Here's our gear list:
Who wants to store their poop hose in the same area as their water hose, camp chairs, and marshmallow roasters? NOT ME!! I don't care how "in their own container" they might be, I want to keep it all separated.
This hose carrier is great! It keeps all my poop hoses and most of my poop accessories in one location mounted to the bottom of the RV and right by the sewer connections. I liked it so much I bought two, one for my main hose and one for the extension hose and accessories. It even fits the right angle thing at the end of the Rhino Flex hose. I can't recommend these enough!
To install you just get some sheet metal self drilling screws and attach it to the frame. For mine, I had to get an inch of rubber for one side to clear a metal propane line. Any amount of time and headache to figure that out was WAY worth it!
The one thing that doesn't fit in my sewer hose carrier is the 4-in-1 funnel adapter thing - and it goes here - into the bumper! With the hose carrier and this I keep EVERYTHING poop related away from everything else. Worth every penny.
Clogged your RV toilet really bad? That plunger won't work. That snake …. probably not going to work. CRAP - WHAT WILL WORK?
This drain bladder was the ONLY thing I could use when things got REALLY bad and the toilet wouldn't flush into the black tank. The black tank would drain, but there was a clog between the tank and the toilet that meant things were just filling up. I tried several things including making my own wand. Nothing worked.
This blasts pressurized water at the iceberg of toilet paper (and poop) that is making a mountain out of what should be a mole hill down in your tank. Blast the crap out of it with this and you will be able to handle the mess with poop eating chemicals and enzymes at that point. This is the secret weapon to your emergency. It fits in my second Valtera Hose Carrier.
One word of caution, this will cover the drain hole in your toilet ... so you will need to shut off the main water (or rig up a shutoff valve at the toilet).
These look like a gimmick, but they come in pretty handy when you are dealing with trying to fix a black tank clog. I finally had to buy one when my bladder wouldn't fix some toilet burping. This worked well. I keep it in my second Valtera hose carrier.
When your tank is full of yuck but it's not clogged yet … use this stuff. It breaks down all the paper and waste so it will flush out easier. Great to have on hand.
No more overfilling your tanks when flushing! I have 2 of these, one for fresh water and one for flushing the black tank. People have horror stories of overfilling their black tank when flushing. Anything from a poop fountain shooting out the roof vent to overflows in the underbelly of the RV. This will help so you don't put too much water in.
Vacuum Breaker is another fancy word for water backflow preventer or anti-siphon. I use this when flushing my tanks to ensure that no water gets siphoned back to contaminate my fresh water. You will notice this is an expensive one - yeah, because I'm not going to cheap out on preventing poop from possibly getting into my drinking water.
We lucked out at first and didn't need an extension hose. But one day we needed one and that meant we had to go to Walmart and buy a brand I didn't like. That one got stolen out of the truck bed in Mesa, Arizona by an unscrupulous RV repair guy. So I bought this one ... the brand I really like.
This isn't necessary, but we are glad we have it when we need it. It is basically a liquid storage bin to dump your grey tank into and then drag it instead of your whole RV over to the dump station. It's very useful if you are in a sewer-less location longer than your grey tank can last. We stupidly bought the far inferior SmartTote2 (which was also more money) before we knew about this one. Get the Camco one, it's way better.
I love this hose! We had a couple other drinking water hoses that were heavy, would kink, and took up a lot of room. I bought these one day on a whim thinking I'd try them. I LOVE them!
You will need this. Every now and then you come across a campground water spigot that is so close to the ground you wonder what they were thinking when they installed it as it's too close to the ground for any pressure regulator, filter, or even hose. This is a must have!
A pressure reducer is a must have. You can get a cheap $6 one and that should work, but we opted for the one with the gauge that you can adjust with a screw driver. Been good to us.
Power anomalies or miswiring can damage your RV big time. We use this EMS (Energy Management System) to protect ourselves and it has helped us out twice, once for a power surge and once for reverse polarity wiring.
This is expensive, but there are many times when we need an extension cord and there aren't places to just go pick one up if you don't have one. It's even more important if you have a long RV as you have less options on how you can place your RV in the camp site. Sometimes power poles are at the back, and sometimes they are near the front. If you are planning to RV much, then this is an unfortunate expensive must-have. This is the one we bought, but search Amazon for deals under $100.
When you moochdock on a friend's property, often the best power they can offer is from a normal house outlet (so forget about 30 or 50 amp). In those cases, you will need a good long extension cord. We learned from experience that you want a heavy duty, low number gauge cord and not to coil it. Cords generate heat when plugged up to your RV so don't use a thin cord and don't keep them wound up or you will melt them ... and it's dangerous. We did that and learned our lesson.
This is great if you are mooch-docking and you blow a breaker. When plugged up to this, it blows the breaker at this unit and not down in your host's basement or locked outdoor shed … at 11PM when you were just trying to use your laptop and blow dry hair at the same time.
This wirelessly monitors your tire pressure and temperature on all your tires. I don't mess around with safety and we don't tow without this on. Could potentially save your life as accidents from blowouts can be deadly.
These are one of my favorite things. These help align the truck and trailer for easy hitching even at twisted angles.
What is so great about this particular pair is that they bend at the base and can therefore articulate and put the ball guides RIGHT exactly where the connection needs to be made. No more guessing, no more needing a spotter. These have saved so much time and frustration and are TOTALLY worth it.
Technology is good and all, but we pull out our truckers atlas frequently to either plan where we want to go, or to check what routes are good for semi trucks. And, if a road can fit a semi truck for weight or height restrictions, it will fit our RV.
This is an alternative 5th wheel hitch, and we really love it. It weighs under 40 lbs so moving it is a one man job (unlike every other 5th wheel hitch). I also like this because it makes you versatile for giving or receiving towing help. If I need to be towed in farm country and people only have a gooseneck ... no problem. If someone with a regular kingpin needs help ... I can put the converter on theirs and pull them.
Some states have laws where anything towing with a ball involved needs to have chains. If you have an Andersen you need this.
Also, consider giving an Audible Gift Memberships
Things We Use All The Time
If you aren't using a water filter, you are playing a game of risk. You never know the water quality you will encounter at campgrounds and the Berkey filters out the questionable stuff that you don't want to be drinking.
We use our Instant Pot at least once every day. It is such a game changer, especially living in an RV. Tabitha feels like she can cook almost anything in it. We use it as much as possible cooking things like spaghetti, beans, eggs, rice and even cakes. If you don’t have one it will change your life!
This dehumidifier is really good at taking the water out. It only works when you have AC power, but you'll be surprised by how much water had been in the air when you use it.
Humidity and RVs don't mix! Airflow and doing what you can to remove humidity is important.
You are going to want a good mattress. Having a great night sleep will make every aspect of your life better. We already had a Queen size Purple Mattress so we took it and it just barely fits in the 5th wheel.
With such limited space in an RV, back pillows can turn a floor and a wall into a comfortable place to work.
We use this to wash our clothes. It cleans very well and quickly. The spinner works well and spins the clothes fairly dry. When traveling or not in use we securee it to the back of the RV on flat bike racks I bought for it.
We have 14 of these towels and they are amazing for RV life! They fold up small but are bigger than normal towels. They dry quickly and can be used for more than drying off after a shower. They are so big you can really wrap yourself in it on a windy beach and the sand will just shake right out. We have also used them as blankets for picnics or nursing babies.
Space is a premium, and so is AC power. If you prefer not to figure life out without a vacuum, then one of these is a good idea. It's small, lightweight, and runs on battery.
Amazon Prime has so many benefits for the fulltime traveler. When your address is changing regularly it's great to have quick free shipping. One way to handle shipping to obscure addresses is to ship to an Amazon Locker.
We secure these bags to the wall and hang our fruits and vegetables in them. They keep the produce off the counter and work fine when traveling.
This dish drainer collapses flat and can fit below our sink.
I love that I can easily move the paper towels to wherever they are needed. The kids can easily grab it when they need to clean up an art project or I can take it to the table outside when eating a meal.
These work great in the RV oven. We like how these are reusable, easy to clean, and did I mention that they work well in an RV oven?
It was really hard for Tabitha to downsize cookbooks when we hit the road. She loves new cookbooks and looking through them just for fun and trying new recipes. We did bring this cookbook. I bought it for her for Christmas years ago and it’s her go-to for many basic recipes. With this cookbook she can make just about anything.
We like this brush so much we wanted to give it a spot on our list. It helps with long hair tangles like nothing else we've ever used ... and we get our share of tangles.
A bulky baby carrier takes up too much room. This one is much better.
Important · Though Not Exciting
This will stop leaks and is great to have on hand! You can put it on in rain or shine and if you have a big problem that you need to fix RIGHT NOW, this is great to have on hand. It's VERY sticky (but in a rubbery kind of way) so be careful with it.
This kills flys and mosquitos and we like it a lot.
We hang up laundry on this, but we also often have wet swimsuits and towels that we hang on it too.
We replaced every bulb in the RV with LED bulbs. They don't last forever unfortunately, but we love that we can boondock longer with them as they don't drain the battery nearly as much.
This is a safety thing that hopefully you never need. One great thing about these fire extinguishers is that they are easy for kids to operate.
Lock up important things and keep them safe from fire.
When you boondock and are being careful with your power, a solar lantern like this that colapses is a good idea.
I have heard of people parking their RV in the desert and having the whole thing get stolen. If you are using the Andersen hitch, this is something to think about. We use it when boondocking far away from others. Hopefully it deters a non determined passive thief (as nothing will probably deter a determined one).
This is not necessary, but it's great! It's an electric lock that you can open with a number code, a keyfob, or a key. This makes life easier, especially when the truck is started to go somewhere and someone wants to run back into the RV to grab something.
RVing and camp fires often go together and so a hatchet will come in handy.
This is a bumper mount for bikes, but I use it to mount our washer spinner to it. It's sturdy and easy to install.
We really like how comfortable these chairs are, how small they fold up, and how very light weight they are.
If you plan to visit the National Parks more than a couple times, this will save you money on entrance fees. To maximize your year, don't buy it online, but buy this AT the Visitor's Center at the first National Park that you visit.
We love the Kindle. You get your books and you take up almost no space.
If you read as much as our daughter does, you are going to want a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
This is a great book about learning the basics of living in an RV by someone who actually lives in an RV.
We don’t use this enough! We got this for Gavin for Christmas last year and it was such a hit! All you need is a little bit of water. You paint on the board with water and then the water will slowly fade allowing you to start a new painting. No leftover art projects that parents have to feel guilty for throwing away!
Good shoes are important and we find that Keens are great at giving you a good balance of being able to be hiked in, walk around town in, and most importantly, able to get wet in (because we always seem to be walking into a body of water).
This book will tell you of best things to see at the proper time of year. Good resource for a traveler.
We use a Roku express for our TV streaming, though I do think there might be better Roku options.
We use this to give the kids white noise to help them sleep. It is AC powered so we don't use it when we boondock … which I think is good because it helps sometimes, but it doesn't become a crutch.
Is That All?
Typing it all up like this feels like a lot, but the reality is this is just some of it and maybe a little overkill at some times. The reality is you don't "need" a lot. Just like with life, some things will distract from your experience and some things will enhance it.
One comment about the cost of all these things. Listing it all out like this looks expensive and therefore might lead someone thinking about RVing to be totally overwhelmed. We accumulated many of these things piece by piece over a couple years in preparation to leave.
If I were to do it all again (especially if on an accelerated timeline and stricter budget than spreading it out over years) I would:
- Look for second hand stuff as much as possible. Check the Classifieds, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Kijiji, Ebay, Mercari, KSL, everywhere for local people selling their RV privately. If they are selling an RV you might get a great deal (maybe even free) on used gear. Stuff like sewer hoses, water filters & regulators, power cords, dehumidifiers, hitches, etc. Who knows what you will find.
- Price check regularly.
- Scale your purchases to what YOU need. If your RV is only 25 feet long, you might not need an extra long extension cord. Just park closer to the power post.
- Be skeptical online of pitches telling you what you "must" have before you go. If you believe all that you'll spend thousands of dollars on things you won't even need.
Just remember this. At the end of the day, you ought to focus on an acceptable amount of safety. Everything beyond that is optional.