We have been fulltime RVers - as a family - for over six years. When we talk with other people about becoming fulltime RVers they often ask:
What stuff do you bring with you?
So we made a list. I wouldn’t say many of these items are “must-haves”, but they’ve made the cut for our life and if they are on this list we use them often if not daily.
Many items aren’t the cheapest solution out there. Our mindset was that if we were going to own less stuff, we wanted the stuff that we did own to be higher quality.
Disclosure: any Amazon link is an affiliate link. All babies must eat…
GPS are not infallible, but still danged handy for just plain getting us there. We enjoy having a dedicated Garmin GPS. We purchased an aftermarket Dash Vent Mount - it’s easily flipped between driver and navigator and is easier to reach. Our GPS has voice-response and we named it Mr. Ferguson after the local guide characters in Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad. Our travel days usually start by speaking “Mr Ferguson!” to the dash of the truck. Read more about why we prefer a dedicated GPS.
I honestly wonder if we could travel without a smart phone. I have scores of apps for finding campgrounds, points of interest, restaurants, etc. We use the camera for unexpected photos, and for all videos. We keep up with client email while on the move. We use it for music when parked. Plus - you can actually make phone calls on it!
- JawBone Jambox
Our cheapie trailer stereo/DVD/CD/TV/Weather Radio/Nuclear Fusion/Private Helicopter died, so I yanked it and reclaimed its nook in the entertainment area for storage. I bought a Jawbone Jambox that’s been great for sound when connected to my iPhone or the laptops. We use it outside at times, or even in the truck parked by a wi-fi source for our own drive-in theater experience. I’ve also used it as a speaker phone for client conference calls.
- Doxie Scanner
We like the Doxie Scanner because it’s small, rechargeable and doesn’t need to be connected to the computer for quick scanning of receipts or other important papers.
We bought two of the low-end Kindles so we could read them outdoors and not get distracted with apps. These plus the Kindle app installed on other devices means we can all be reading at once.
- Recharge Center
All these electronic devices means lots of cords and cables for charging. To keep my sanity I built a recharge center in one side of the entertainment center.
I’m an organizational nut, so these Grid-Its are in my backpack, truck arm rest, and electronics cabinet to organize all the cords/connectors/thumb drives etc.
I’ve a DSLR and a small Point and Shoot that both get used (along with my iPhone) for capturing memories.
- Internet Connection
We depend on the internet for income, so there is no way I’d depend on RV parks to provide it. Most times the signal they have is barely tolerable to check email with, much less run a business. Our setup for 4G is a Wilson Truckers Antenna connected to a Wilson Sleek Amplifier. That pushes a signal into a Wifi Ranger router. Also feeding into that router is a external wifi repeater. I have a full blog post describing how we get internet.
- Technology Locker
I’m going to be vague here for obvious reasons but with so much of our livelihood depending on our laptops I wanted a more secure place to store them when necessary. I found a padded lockbox sized large enough to fit what we wanted to store in it and mounted it in the most secure and unobtrusive spot I could find. We highly recommend the Tuffy Brand of Lockboxes - peruse their offering and find one that fits your application.
- Tom Bihn Ristretto Bags
I wanted laptop bags that were purpose-built for the laptops we bought. These Tom Bihn Ristretto bags are made in the US and are really well-made. We sprang for the padded shoulder strap and some extra interior pouches and they work really well. They slide under our chairs when we aren’t using the computers and stow under the bed while in transit.
- Digital Wall Clock/Thermometer
We need to know the time. But often we need to know the day of the week. And the date. Having the outside temp is handy as well. To know all of these we mounted an Atomic Digital Wall Clock / Thermometer above the bunkhouse door in the trailer. The outside temp sensor is mounted in the trailer kingpin.
- On-Board Air Compressor
Improper inflation causes most flats while traveling. Elevation and temperature change affects tire pressure. You can get fancy monitoring systems but a tire gauge works for that. On moving days, our investment into a decent 12v air compressor permanently mounted on the truck lets us maintain tire pressure without having to go look for a place to maneuver into. Handy for bikes too.
- Yakima Bike Rack
We didn’t have great luck with bikes mounted on the back of the trailer. Our Yakima roof rack with these Highrollers has been a great way to carry bikes - solid, secure, and with a lifetime warranty that Yakima has stood behind.
- Truck Toolbox
Brand isn’t important, just purchase some sort of crossbed truck toolbox. Having a secure place for tools, x-chocks, air compressor supplies, spare fluids, etc is worth it. There’s enough extra room in mine for a few groceries, coats, cameras etc on exploration days. It’s my mini-garage.
- Auxiliary Rear Truck Lights
I installed a set of auxillary driving lights on the rear bumper of our truck because our truck windows were tinted so dark that we could hardly see while backing up. A set of these lights are handy for lighting things up while hooking or unhooking in the dark, or unloading the truck to the trailer after dark. We use them all the time!
- Tool Rollups
I’ll include these here as they live in the truck - rather than hardsided toolboxes that let things rattle I went online and found some really nice high quality tool rollups for all handtools. With nice clips and handle I can easily grab it out of the toolbox and unroll it on the truck tailgate or a picnic table and see all my tools at once.
Simple and quick to put in, these X-Chocks eliminate a lot of trailer shimmy. Not all of it, but noticeable when we don’t put them in.
- Lynx Levelers
I wish I were the guy who invented these Lynx Levelers - they’re nothing more than supersized Legos but are so handy for trailer leveling. I still carry a variety of chunks of lumber for other purposes but for the task of leveling the trailer the Lynx are unbeatable - and you see them everywhere. I just wish their storage bag held up better.
- Fifth Wheel Stabilizers
One of the options we had added to our Wildcat Fifth Wheel is a full set of these fifth wheel stabilizers. They make a huge difference in the amount of “youthquake” as people move about the trailer.
- Cushioned Kingpin Pinbox
Another option we paid for on our latest trailer was one of these MOR/ryde cushioned kingpin pinboxes. There are different options and different manufacturers of these type of kingpin setups. Get one. It greatly reduces the “chucking” - or feedback from the trailer to truck. If you are new to pulling fifth-wheel trailers you’ll be surprised at how much the trailer affects the truck without one. It’s exhausting when towing. Adding one of these units easily adds a couple hours to the amount of driving you can do on one day.
- Trailer-wide Surge Suppressor
We didn’t have one of these trailer-wide surge suppressors our first year on the road. They’re expensive, I know. But I never felt comfortable without it - you’ll be connecting your rig to hundreds of different power sources and the odds say that you’ll get a bad one eventually. This unit cuts power to the trailer in different situations to protect it and anything else you have plugged in. We’ve had mis-wired outlets (sparked when I connected), ant nests causing low voltage, and just periodic low power.
For doing windows, washing the RV, and as the occasional towel rack we carry a Werner 8-Foot Ladder. It hangs off the RV-attached ladder via one of these RV “Chair Racks”, secured with ball-bungees.
- Large Front Level
For leveling our RV we use one of these large RV levels. I can see it from the driver’s seat in the truck so can find the most level spot in a site without having to constantly get out.
- Sewer Hose Support
Poop doesn’t run uphill but many campgrounds don’t realize that. We use a sewer hose slinky to keep us from having to defy gravity.
- Good Sewer Hose
We went through a number of cheap sewer hoses before buying one of these Rhino sewer hoses. It’s lasted a couple of years now.
- Outdoor Rug
We didn’t have an outdoor RV rug during our first year, but it’s amazing how much we use it now. Throw the rug out, put out the awning and camp chairs and you have a nice little outdoor patio. It creates a buffer zone that helps keep dirt and tree junk from coming inside the RV. It’s porous so sand and water go through it. It’s lighter weight than the fake grass stuff we used in the past and came with a bag to pack it into.
- Step Rugs
Another way we keep dirt outdoors is by using these wraparound RV step rugs. I keep a small brush handy to clean them out every few days - it’s crazy how much crap they pick up.
- Zip Dee Camp Chairs
I hate the typical “bag” chairs most places are selling these days. They never seem comfortable to me - pushing my knees up too high to use comfortably with a laptop in my lap. They also don’t seem to last. My parents gave us a pair of these ZipDee chairs, and I’ve always thought them comfortable and well-designed camp chairs. That they fold up to less than 2” thick is a definite bonus. We liked them so well we bought two more and unbelievably they had the same fabric available (at least 35 years later!). They all stack nicely in the trailer storage area.
- Electric Cord Reel
I love how fast and neat I can roll out and roll up my auxiliary electric cord with one of these extension cord reels.
- Ball Bungees
For hoses and other things I want to stay coiled up I use these ball bungees. They’re also a good flea-market find.
- Collapsable Bucket
Regular buckets take up a lot of space and are awkward to use with a large brush. We use a collapsable rectangular bucket that fits the brush better and stows away when not in use.
- RV Pole & Brush
To wash our RV we use a Mr. Long Arm 6-12 Foot Pole with one of their soft blue brush heads. It’s been great for keeping the truck and trailer washed. We slide it into the back bumper of the RV to dry out.
- Electric Heater
Most of the time you are paying for electric at your site so there’s no sense in using your propane to heat your trailer with. Pick up an electric ceramic heater for around $50 and it will keep the trailer in the 60’s even when the outside temps are in the 30’s. Pays for itself the first 2 propane refills it saves.
- Vacuum Cleaner
True - RV’s have less to keep clean than a regular house. But between your RV and any tow vehicle you will still want a good vacuum cleaner. We recently bought a Oreck Commercial Canister Vacuum and have been quite happy with how well it works and how portable it is.
- Plastic Storage Containers
As much as possible everything stored in the belly of the beast is in a plastic storage container. We’ve already had a couple of water issues (overflowing toilet, leaking storage door, etc) and it’s nice knowing that our stuff isn’t going to get ruined in these cases.
- Small Fans
Having a couple small fans to move air around on warmer days is necessary. We’ve a 12” one that sits on the former TV-shelf in our bedroom that is indispensable.
- Ikea Poang Chairs
Our trailer came with an awful-uncomfortable dinette and couch setup, so we yanked them to reclaim the space. We went with a pair of Ikea Poang chairs which make great RV chairs as they are comfy, light, and have replaceable pads.
- Replacement Mattresses
We replaced all the trailer mattresses with high-density foam from Buis Mattress in Holland who cut them to fit. They’re light enough to lift for storage access but still sleep very well.
- Electric Mattress Pad Heaters
We have electric mattress pads on all the beds and between them and the electric heater we can stay warm and comfy with very low temps outside. The only downside is the lack of them keeps us from boondocking - we’re spoiled!.
- Command Hooks
Coats, dishtowels, bath towels, hats, sunglasses and more hang from Command Hooks.
- Simplified Wardrobes
Clothes storage is limited, so it works better to not have clothes that can’t be worn together. We’ve simplfied down to a limited color range, gotten rid of 95% of our whites (hard to keep them white in public laundromats), so everything coordinates.
- Keen Sandals
We love our Keen close-toed sandals. For me the KEEN Men’s Arroyo II Hiking Sandal are about the most perfectly-designed pair of shoes ever. Wear on bare feet when warm, wear them with socks when cold. We’ve had some quality issues but Keen has stood behind them - even replacing a pair that had already been replaced under warranty.
- Quality Coats
We wanted just two coats per person - spring and winter. We choose higher-end brands that had a lifetime warranty (The NorthFace for spring coats and LandsEnd for winter coats).
- Tilley Hat
Spending a lot of time in the AZ sun I wanted a good full-brim hat. This proved to be a good excuse to finally buy the Tilley Hat I’ve wanted for so long but was too cheap to buy. Tilleys are washable, they float, and they are apparently indestructible. I found a deal on Amazon for one that is supposedly insect-repellent as well, but so far there’ve been plenty of bugs that don’t seem to mind whatever treatment it received. I literally unpacked this hat, put it on my head (while working in the entrance booth at the campground) and immediately had a complete stranger ask me what kind of hat it was and where I had purchased it.
- Swiss Army Knife
My first knife was a Swiss Army Knife and I’ve been a fan of these things ever since. I’ve the Victorinox Swiss Army CyberTool 41 - handy especially for its screwdriver setup. The pliers has been handy for removing Cholla balls.
Food and Food Preparation
- Electric Fry Pan
Cooking inside the trailer can really heat it up - great when it’s cold out but not when it’s hot out. Being able to cook outdoors is handy, so an extension cord and the electric fry pan comes out in those cases.
The best exploration days end with returning to the trailer with the smells of a hot crockpot meal awaiting.
- Propane Single Burner Stove
We started out eating lots of cold sandwiches on exploration days. Tiring of that, we bought a simple Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove. It just screws in to one of the small propane canisters. We use it a lot for its intended purpose (brew a hot coffee in the middle of a National Park!) but also for another way to cook outdoors at the campsite & keep the heat out of the trailer. We bought a soft-sided six-pack cooler big enough for the stove, the base, and a bottle of propane.
- Starbucks Via
Speaking of coffee, I do love coffee but I’m by no means a “Starbuckie” who needs their specific blend all the time. I was skeptical of their Via Instant Coffees but they’re actually pretty good - and light years better than the alternative “dunkers” from other brands. I keep a pack of Vias in the pocket of the cooler that holds the truck stove for that fix while out in areas that don’t have any other options.
- Large Soft-sided Cooler
A softsided cooler is great for daytrips or when there are large distances between grocery stores and the campground. We fold it up and cram it behind the truck rear seat.
- Blendtec Blender
We bought a Blendtec Blender after getting on the road and wanting to make more smoothies, etc. We chose it over the VitaMix due to its shorter stature. It’s proven handy for smoothies and more (think margaritas…)
- Mason Jars
We’ve gone to Mason Jars as drink glasses. So far they haven’t broken in transit and the screw-on lids are handy for mixing up single-serving drink mixes to cover the taste of some of the poor water we run into. Of course when we drink just water people think we are drinking moonshine.;)
- Camp Towels
These quick-dry camp towels are the bomb - they pack very tightly for shower trips and dry in minutes (especially in the Arizona desert). We put up hooks for them in the shower.
- Toiletry Kits
We each have a kit with our bathroom supplies (deodorant, hair products, shaving supplies, cotton swabs), etc.
- Diaper Bags
We’ve found diaper bags work well as shower bags - so long as you can find some that aren’t too baby-ish. They have lots of pockets (baby bottles are roughly the same size and shape as body wash bottles) and are big enough to put our toiletry kits, towels, and a fresh change of clothes in for a trip to the campground shower.
Fun and Adventure
Nothing fancy here. We generally shop for used bikes on Craigslist and use them until they are too rusty. Rinse/repeat.
- Inflatable Kayaks
We carry two Sea Eagle Inflatable Kayaks as we travel. The boats ride in the fifth wheel belly and all the other gear rides in the truck. We love being able get out on the water but not have to juggle hard-sided kayaks on top of the truck or trailer.