I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to make the most of their RV vacations.
Some RV owners assume that they don’t need ladders and other tools because they know little about RV maintenance and wouldn’t want to mess with it if they did!
This type of thinking may work well for people who never travel in their units or who have endless amounts of money to spend for maintenance and repairs, but for the majority of RVers, owning the right equipment is one of the most important things they can do in order to be able to care for their travel units.
Some RV Ladder History
In the past, many motor homes, trailers and campers came with external ladders built into the rear walls of their units. Some still do. If your coach does not have one, you can buy one as an after-market accessory.
However, you should be aware of the fact that some years ago an RV owner tried to climb up onto the roof of his RV using its attached ladder and was badly injured when it broke loose from the wall of his coach, causing him to take a bad spill.
He sued the manufacturer, won a nice settlement and after that, owners were advised not to use those rear ladders and many manufacturers stopped adding them to their coaches. Therefore, you should think carefully before using the one you have or purchasing one as an added accessory.
A ladder is one of the most important pieces of equipment an RVer can keep on board.
Standard styles allow people to
- access the roofs of their coaches,
- reach areas that need maintenance and
- do a more thorough job of washing their units
so they are very handy to keep on board when you travel.
Many of today’s recreational vehicles it quite high off the ground, so without the assistance of a ladder, giving them complete care would be impossible.
These come in a variety of sizes and styles, but the best one to purchase should be one that can be adjusted to different heights with the top being high enough to allow a worker to easily and safely reach the roof of the coach.
The one my husband uses for RVing is the multi-position ladder by Cosco because it is durable and has a large variety of uses, yet it folds to store easily. Because it is so sturdy, it is also safer for him to use. He has tried other types and brands, but for all round flexibility and strength, this particular style and brand is hands down the best.
In addition to standard use ladders like this one, there are others that serve other needs that RVers might want to consider keeping on board.
Emergency Evacuation Ladders
Many RV travelers make the faulty assumption that they will never have a fire or an accident which would make exiting their coach impossible. Unfortunately, thinking this way is a mistake that could one day lead to major injury or even death.
All coaches have special windows that people can use to get out of their unit in the event of an accident or fire. However, in many of today’s motor homes and fifth wheels, the drop from the windows to the ground is quite high. This can make escape, especially for older travelers, difficult as well as dangerous.
Some people keep a telescoping ladder in their coaches as a remedy for this problem that will allow them to
- open an exit window,
- prop it up with a dowel,
- throw a blanket over the windowsill,
- connect the top rung of the ladder to the side of the coach,
- let it unfold and then
- climb safely down.
If you watch the attached video, it discusses RV emergency escape methods and at the end shows you how this type of ladder works.
My husband and I always keep one of these ladders on board just in case because we know people who have used them successfully and were thankful that they bought them.
Using one to evacuate can be done quickly and effectively but only if people practice before they run into problems.
However, using this escape method will only work for those who
- are healthy, young, agile and thin,
- are able to keep escape equipment at the ready and
- will be able to evacuate within a very short period of time.
No matter which type of ladder you decide to use, always practice your exit method before every trip to make sure that the window opens easily and that you can fit through it and get onto the ladder easily.
Having two ladders may be a bit costly, but traveling with an extra one that can help you to evacuate in the event of an emergency could save your life or the life of someone you love, so it's worth the money.
Any item you can step up on in order to reach something falls into the ladder category. For this reason, I’m including step stools in this discussion.
Using a standard small, sturdy step stool will work OK, but they take up too much room in an RV. A better choice is one that I discovered years ago called an E-Z-FOLDZ. I like it because it is inexpensive, light, folds flat for easy storage and is incredibly strong and sturdy.
I have used one for years and have found it to be extremely handy.
- My husband and I use it to stand on outside of the RV to wash windows and to sit on when using basement storage areas.
- We also use it inside to stand on to reach items in our upper cabinets and as a foot stool.
It is the perfect size for any RVer and, in fact, is so good to have that we also bought to use at home! There are many types and sizes of step stools you can buy, but most are too big or bulky for RVs. However, no matter the style, keeping a small step stool on board when you RV is a smart move.
I would be remiss if I did not include a few words about ladder safety in this discussion.
Whenever you use any type of ladder, you should always
- stand with both feet firmly on the rungs or on the top of the stool,
- place it on a flat, level surface,
- have someone stand at the bottom to steady it and
- move it as needed rather than trying to lean over to reach areas.
A fall from any ladder can result in serious injury, so it’s important to protect yourself when using one.
Choose RV Ladders Carefully
Since RVs are constructed differently than houses, you should always choose ladders that are made to be used with them. They generally should be light, foldable, sturdy and easy to store.
Ladders are the only pieces of equipment that will allow an RVer to check, cover or repair his roof, wash his coach or, in the case of step stools, be able to reach items located in the rear of high cabinets.
For these reasons, no RV owner should ever travel without one.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where do I get the 5th wheel ladder for my RV?
Answer: Your best bet is to look on Amazon.com for them. You might also find them in RV Parts stores or search for them online.
© 2017 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 05, 2017:
Janda Raker: You really should read my article about RV fire safety if you haven't done so already. It provides more detailed info about how to protect yourself in the event of a fire or accident. Having a way to escape is a must for all RVers, and a ladder is totally necessary for that as well as other uses. I checked my own escape window yesterday and was happy to learn that the total window opens, not just half of it. Each window is different, so it pays to know which type you have.
Janda Raker from Amarillo, Texas on July 04, 2017:
Thanks, TimeTraveler2. This is very helpful, especially the video about escaping and the ladder! Good article!