RV Essentials:
8 Must-Have Items to Start Camping

When you first start RV-ing, you'll need these 8(ish) accessories to get the most out of your camping experience. These things don't typically come with an RV unless you're buying from an individual who includes them. We use these items on our RV, and have cycled through a few duds before finding the best options to share with you. 

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Power Surge Protector

I cannot say this loud enough: A SURGE PROTECTOR IS A CRITICAL SAFETY DEVICE. It helps protect your RV's electrical system from power issues that are common at campgrounds and RV parks. Power fluctuations can include low power as well as surges or spikes, and either type can cause serious damage to electronic devices and appliances in your RV, or even start a fire. This leaves you facing very costly repairs, and can take your RV out of commission for a long time. With the right surge protection, you can have peace of mind knowing that your RV's electrical system is better protected against unexpected power fluctuations. 

When it comes to surge protection, not all devices offer the same level of protection and functionality. AT A MINIMUM, we recommend a basic surge protector that will sacrifice itself to save your RV. These are at the lower end of the cost scale, but you will have to replace it if it experiences a significant event. The Progressive Industries Surge Protector is a nice entry-level surge protector. It's available for both 50-amp and 30-amp RVs. We like this one because it has a cover to keep your connection dry, and it has indicator lights that warn you if there is an issue. We recommend plugging the surge protector in before you plug in the RV so you can tell if there is a fault.

If you want the maximum level of protection and additional features, consider a Power Watchdog by Hughes Autoformers. This model has advanced diagnostics, automatically powers down if a dangerous event occurs, powers back up once conditions are safe, and it has wireless connectivity that allows you to monitor power usage & get alerts to your phone if there's an incident. On top of all that, it allows you to replace the board for less than $40 if it had a catastrophic event. It's also available in both 50-amp and 30-amp options.

Water Hoses

Yes, that's plural. You'll want a separate hose for drinking water and for flushing your tanks.

A drinking water hose is a dedicated hose for carrying potable (safe to drink) water to your RV. Look for hoses labeled as "drinking water safe" or "potable water safe." These hoses are typically white or blue to distinguish them from regular garden hoses. If you're going to be schlepping that hose around, you'd be best to grab one that's LIGHT and FLEXIBLE. Many people opt for the Zero-G hose, which checks all the boxes. It's our favorite for drinking water.

You'll want a second hose that's dedicated to flushing your tanks. There are back-flow prevention mechanisms on the RV flush ports to prevent that contaminated water from flowing backward into the hose, but you can never exercise enough caution in my opinion. Go ahead and grab a second hose that's easily distinguishable from your FRESH water hose. We like this one because it takes up so little space and is exceptionally light.

Water Pressure Regulator

The truth of the matter is - water pressure fluctuates from one spigot to the next. RV plumbing is built to tolerate ~55 PSI of water pressure. The best way to ensure you have consistent pressure going into your RV is to get yourself a good water pressure regulator

Sewer Hose(s) and accessories

A sewer hose is a critical component for emptying your RV's holding tanks at an appropriate station. It is designed to be flexible, durable, and able to handle the sometimes messy task of emptying waste. Look for a hose with appropriate length, thickness, and quality connections to ensure a secure and leak-free connection to the RV and the dump station.

If you're planning to have long-term stays, utilizing full-hookup sites, you'll want a waste hose that can withstand some abuse such as being stepped on or ridden over with a bike or lawn tractor.  (It happens. Trust me.) You'll also need a ramp to support the waste hose and provide a gradual slope toward the drain. 

If you're not planning to stay hooked up during your stay, we like the RhinoFLEX hose because of how well it collapses for storage. Both of these kits come with the standard clear elbow and 4-in-1 adapter that will help you to fit to most sewer station openings.

You'll want to store these items carefully for obvious reasons. It's best to keep these sewer handling components stored away from anything you don't want contaminated. We recommend a Valterra Hose Carrier that mounts under the RV. This is the easiest way to contain the mess away from everything else.  IMPORTANT NOTE: the RhinoFLEX hose doesn't fit in the tube because of the permanently mounted elbow. This is one of the reasons we stopped using it. The other is that it got stepped on one too many times. :)

Electrical Adapters

There will be times when you want to camp at a site that doesn't have a power connection that matches your RV. In these cases, you'll need an adapter. Now, it's important to understand that the adapter will NEVER step up the amount of available power. So if the supply is smaller than your RV is wired for, you'll need to use fewer appliances while on the step-down adapter.

For example, your 50-amp rig is parked near a power post that only has a 30-amp plug available. You'll need a  30-amp male to 50-amp female Adapter. Or if you want to plug in your 30-amp RV at home, you'll need a 30-amp female to 15-amp male adapter.  Similarly, you could plug your 50-amp rig into a household outlet if you are preparing for a trip and ONLY want to run the refrigerator and keep the batteries charged. For this, you would need one of each of the adapters above, but again, I emphasize the safety issue of running too many things. You'll overload the circuit and create a potential fire hazard.

Leveling Blocks

First of all, we need to establish whether your RV has leveling jacks or stabilizing jacks at the corners. This is super important, because a stabilizer jack should NEVER be used for leveling. If this is the case for your rig, you'll first need to get level using just the wheels. You can carry around wood blocks, or your can get one of these nice leveler kits. Full disclosure - we haven't used these levelers ourselves. When we had an RV with stabilizers, we carried around pieces of wood! Another option is the interlocking blocks that can be configured as ramps. We still carry some, but we find that they don't hold up well under a lot of weight.

If you are blessed with leveling jacks, there are several configurations that you should consider to protect your leveler feet, and to maximize the stability. First of all, you'll always want those feet to land on a relatively level surface. When we first started traveling, we used wood blocks. We have since found Ox Blox, and we love them! We've also been using SnapPads since the beginning and love that they're always ready to go. But there are times when you want risers to help keep things more stable. Did you know that you'll get more stability if your jacks don't have to extend very far? It's true! So with our SnapPads in place, we prefer the Ox Blox Ultra, which accommodate our larger leveler feet. They are really well built, and you can even get a set of rubber pads to put under the blocks for gravel and loose dirt applications. 

Wheel Chocks

When it comes to safety and preventing accidents, wheel chocks are essential. Wheel chocks are placed in front of or behind the wheels of the trailer before it is unhitched to prevent unintended movement. The chocks keep the vehicle stationary, reducing the risk of it rolling and causing injury to those in or around it. Don't skip this important item in your gear bag! Our favorites are these SecurityMan Heavy Duty Chocks. They're very sturdy, but also light weight.

Tank Treatment

You may find out that RV holding tanks can be a stinky companion on your RV. We've tried SEVERAL methods of treating our tanks, including the geo-method, and other recipes using household detergents. Those did not work for us. After going to RV Tech school, we learned so much more about what goes on in RV holding tanks, and we only recommend the digestive enzyme type. Some examples are Unique RV Digest-It, Liquified, and our favorite - Camp Champ Odor Abate. It doesn't require a separate cup for measuring, and it's STABLE - you don't have to shake it vigorously to remix it each time you want to use it. We've used it for more than a year now, and we are SO happy. It's easy to use, smells great but not too powerful, and it just works to eliminate odors and keep our tanks free of clogs. And since there are no harmful chemicals, you can use it in all 50 states! We use it in both the black and gray tanks. We've also tried the Camp Champ Super Digest and we love how well it seems to clean our tanks. And as a nice bonus, our sensors even work again after a round of Super Digest! We use the Odor Abate after every dump, and we use the Super Digest about once a quarter. If you're only RV-ing part time, you'll probably only need to use the Super Digest once a year. We'll share more about these products in another post.