Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.
A Prepared RV Makes for a Happy Camping Trip
It really doesn’t exist, you know; a list of the items needed in a well functioning RV.
I’ve looked for such a document for years now and no one has actually put this very necessary information for new RV owners into a useable document.
But every Newbie who purchases their first motorhome or other type of RV really does need to have certain specific items and accessories in it.
Oh sure, most of the dealers will hand the new RV owner a box of free items that they say will allow you to “jump in your RV" and go camping immediately.
But you'll generally find that this box contains things like a cheap sewage hose, a short freshwater hose, a couple of baseball caps with the dealer's logo on them, and maybe a few cheap plastic kitchen items.
Three Kinds of Items That You Need in an RV
The reality is that to operate and maintain an RV properly, a newbie owner should buy and have ready three categories of items. They are listed below as "Essential, Important," and "Should Have." They are ranked in what should be their importance to you.
Essential Item 1: RV Sewage Hose
The NUMBER-1 essential item for any RV to have is a good quality sewage hose system.
It will take just one cheap leaking sewage hose, or one with a bad connector gasket, or one that is not long enough, to make you a believer in how important a good sewage how system is.
Any experienced RV owner will tell you that once you have experienced any kind of problem with your RV that forces you to deal personally with raw sewage, you will forever after always own only the very best sewage dumping equipment you can purchase.
About Your RV's Sewage System
RVs, especially larger ones, have a sewage holding tank system which includes a "black water" holding tank and a "gray water" holding tank.
The outputs of these tanks are connected together to a single outlet designed to connect with a standard 3-inch flexible sewage hose.
These hoses usually come in lengths of 10 feet. Most RV owners will have at least two of these 10-foot hoses that they tie together to allow enough length to reach a campsite's sewage dump connector when the RV is parked in a campsite.
Tip #1 - You should always keep a spare 10-foot length of sewage drain hose in case one of your existing hoses goes bad for some reason.
Tip #2 - You should dump your tank as often as makes you comfortable and don't always wait until it is almost overflowing. You never want to be caught with full sewage tanks and find you have no way to dump them.
Essential Item 2: Fresh Water Hoses
Campsites will normally have full hookups and that means it has a fresh water hookup for the campers use.
So, most RVs of any size will need enough water hose to reach from its external water connection to the campsite's water line.
That distance can be as short as 15 feet, or it can be as long as 25-35 feet. So most RV owners will keep enough freshwater hose to cover these distances, as a minimum.
Use Different-Colored Water Hoses
Most RV owners will use white water hoses for all of their fresh water lines so that they can easily tell of they are getting dirty and need to be cleaned.
These campers will also use other colored hoses for such things as their spray hoses, flush hoses and other hoses used for washing off the RV and especially the windshield of motorhomes.
Essential Item 3: Step Ladder
RV owners will at times need to get to the roof and to the edges of the roof, as well as the tops of windows and slides.
There is always the chance for water leaks, loose exterior trim, damaged awnings, and a myriad of other things on an RV that you will want to check and often repair while the RV is on the road.
Because most motorhomes and many fifth-wheelers and travel trailers are at least 12 feet tall, an RV owner will need a stepladder that allows them to easily reach the tops of everything, which for the average person should be at least a “seven-footer."
The problem with having a step ladder in your RV is: where do you store something this big. Many RV owners will use a couple of bungee straps and store their ladder by attaching it to the RVs outside ladder that is on the rear of almost all hard-body RVs.
Some will try to place it into their “basement” storage compartments if the compartments are long enough.
Others will simply purchase a specially designed 4-way folding stepladder that can be folded into something 7 feet long but only 5 inches by 5 inches square.
Essential Item 4: Multimeter
If you check around your campground, you will find that quite a few of the experienced RV owners will own a multimeter of some kind.
The great thing about owning a multimeter is that you can safely check for the cause of a lot of common electrical problems with one of these gadgets, and they are pretty cheap.
So I say, why not get one and have a fellow camper with experience show you how to use a multimeter and have them show you what you can check safely and what you should stay away from when checking out your RV’s electrical systems and equipment.
Here are just a few of the things you can check with your multimeter:
- Coach battery voltage
- Engine battery voltage
- Fuse panel voltages
- Breaker panel voltages
- GFCI receptacle voltage
- regular receptacle voltage
- campsite power box voltages
- Fuse continuity
- and much, much more.
Tip #3 - Perhaps you should look at the ownership and use of a multimeter as a financial issue; considering that if you find one bad fuse and replace it yourself, you will avoid a service call that typically runs $100/hour or more.
Important Item 1: In-Line Water Filter
In addition to good clean water hoses to use in hooking up your RV to a campsite's water source, you should always keep a cheap in-line water filter on hand for use at your campsites.
Even when a campsite's water source is claimed to be clean and pure, you may find problems such as sand and dirt in the water, or a bad odor.
If you connect a disposable water filter between your water hose and the campsite water connection, it will block most debris that might be in the campgrounds water systems, such as sand and dirt.
There are other water filters that can help with odors and even with certain pollutants in campground water, but these are somewhat costly. Most RV owners will use a simple in-line water filter that only costs around $10-$12 or so, and is well worth their cost to protect your camper’s water tank and water lines.
Important Item 2: Fresh Water Regulator
When you hook up your RV at a campground, one of your first connections will be the fresh water line from the campsite to your RV.
Campgrounds are notorious for having fresh water supplied at pressure levels that vary from day to day, and often from hour to hour. They have to have enough pressure to supply all of their campsites, and when the campground is half empty, the overall campground water pressure can be too high for your RV's interior water lines. And when all the campers are cooking and showering at close to the sme times of day, the water pressure at your campsite can go way down.
The accessory you will need that can save you from getting damage to your RV water system during a period when your water pressure is too high is called a water regulator. It’s usually just a simple brass regulator that’s placed between your water hose and the campsites water connector.
These regulators are usually preset for a specific pressure. Typically 45 PSI is standard. And the best thing about them is they are relatively cheap, $5 to $10 each.
Having a regulator in your water line is a lot cheaper than getting a leaking water line inside your RV repaired.
Important Item 3: Black Water Flush Hose
The black water tanks in most RVs today will have a built-in “shower” to be used to wash down the interior of the tank and aid in flushing any loose debris, like paper, from the black water tank.
This shower will be connected to a standard water connection in the service area of the RV.
It is important that you handle the hose you use for this “flushing” process differently from your other water hoses. This connector does not have any backflow protection, and you can easily get sewage into the hose you use if you are not watching what you are doing.
Because of this, you should use a different colored hose from the ones you use for fresh water, and you should store this hose separately, to avoid contaminating anything else it might touch.
Important Item 4: Dump Site Sewage Cleanout Plug Wrench
Dump sites, wherever they may be, are always capped off. This cap is a standard threaded plug, and often it is too tight to be removed easily.
Most hardware and plumbing stores sell a plastic cleanout plug wrench for under $5. Because some of these caps will have the square recessed into the cap, these store-bought wrenches will have both types of connection.
Alternatively, most well-prepared RV owners will keep a large pair of channel locks in their RV that can open far enough to grip that large (2-inch?) square on top of the cap plug. You should have one of these just for removing this cap from Dump Stations so you can then connect your RVs sewage hose there.
Important Item 5: RV Tool Bag
Every RV should have a simple tool bag with at least these few tools in it. You can go to a wholesale or other low-priced store that sells tools and fill a cheap bag with these tools you may need one time or another.
- Crescent wrench (one large and one small)
- Wire cutters
- Screwdrivers: one flat-blade and one Phillips, with an assortment of changeable tips.
- Wrenches: one set, open end and closed end
- Socket set, combination of metric and English sockets
- Cutting knife with replaceable blades
- Hammer (carpenter's type)
- Hatchet or short-handled ax,
- Power drill, rechargeable, with at least a 3/8-inch chuck, and a set of drill bits.
Miscellaneous "Should Have" Items for Your RV
Of course, there are numerous other items that you, the RV owner will accumulate which you will find over time, makes your camping lifestyle a better one, and here are just a few of such items for your consideration;
- Sewage tank chemical. Antibacterial, helps break down solids and reduces fumes.
- Disposable gloves. For dumping sewage and handling the hose. (for sewage dumping and handling the hose)
- Sewage hose storage container. Do all you can to prevent cross-pollution in your RV storage areas.
- Spare water hose gaskets. Campgrounds do not like loose hoses that leak.
- Washable entrance rug to stop tracking dirt into your RV.
- Outdoor and indoor brooms. The outdoor broom should be rougher.
- Scrub brush on extendable arm for removing bugs on your windshield and front end.
- Distilled water. Keep one gallon for your RV batteries in case they need it.
- Antifreeze. Keep one gallon in case your engine is running hot),
- Engine oil. Keep 1-2 quarts just in case your engine is running low.
- Duct tape. The universal patch tool.
- Flashlights (several, for indoor and outdoor use)
- Bug Spray or bug candles. You will want some kind of repellant for outdoor protection).
Of course, you will end up, over time, filling your RV with the items you personally prefer, and that’s the way it should be, as you enjoy your personal camping lifestyle.
Dumping and Cleaning Your RV Black and Gray Tanks
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on March 25, 2020:
Ed - A lot of the small electrical problems an RV owner will have are best discovered and eliminate by just having a multimeter on hand to check if the power is where it's supposed to be.
Good luck to you,
Ed Palumbo from Tualatin, OR on March 25, 2020:
Thank you for your advice. I don't currently own a multimeter and haven't used one in years, but that makes perfect sense to me