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Let’s face it: some things are a heck of a lot more enjoyable if you have the right gear. RVing is no exception, but how do you know which gear is the “right gear”? It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the RV camping accessories out there, especially after you’ve already spent a lot of money on the RV itself. How do you know what’s just nice to have, and what you actually need?
Here are the RV camping accessories we’ve found to be the most essential since we started full-time RV living in 2015. Whether you’re new to RVing or have been doing it for a while, you’ll probably find something on this list that will surprise you. We’ve even gotten input from our friends who tow trailers and fifth wheels to make this the most comprehensive resource we possibly could.
So, in no particular order (but organized by category), this is our complete list of must-have accessories for new RVers.
General RV Camping Accessories – Technology
When you’re in a motorhome or towing a trailer, you’re going to be much taller, longer and wider than the average vehicle on the road. That’s where an RV GPS comes in handy. You can input your specific RV’s dimensions, and the GPS will route you away from any roads that would be hazardous.
There are a lot of horror stories out there about Google Maps or other non-RV-specific software leading RVers on narrow, winding roads or under low bridges. This is because most mapping software assumes you’ll be driving a standard-sized vehicle like a car or truck.
When we traveled in a Class A motorhome, we wouldn’t have dreamed of going anywhere without our RV-specific GPS device. It was easy to use, convenient, and plugged right into the 12v cigarette lighter.
This handy combo of a WiFi booster (also called an extender) and repeater means that we can park further away from a WiFi tower and still pick up a signal. This is great at RV parks, where the best sites are often at the edges or the back of the park, far away from the WiFi tower. It’s also useful if you’re traveling through town and want to use the WiFi at the local cafe to do some work.
We always recommend supporting these businesses by buying something if you use their WiFi, but it’s often nicer (and quieter) to get your food to go and work inside your own rig.
This one probably sounds familiar. Similar to the WiFi booster, a cell booster will “boost” or amplify a signal – in this case, a cell signal. This can mean the difference between a signal so faint that it’s unusable, and the ability to run our online business while boondocking.
We use the WeBoost, which can amplify the signal from any carrier. It then broadcasts that signal inside your RV so you can use it as your source of internet. Since we work on the road, anything that provides connectivity is definitely on our list of must-have RV accessories. Read our post on Internet for RVers to learn more ways to stay connected on the road.
The electrical system in an RV isn’t made to withstand power drops and surges. That’s why an electrical management system (or EMS) is a must-have to protect your RV against damage.
You’ve probably heard about surge protectors, but those will do exactly what the name implies – nothing more. An EMS (like this one from Progressive Industries) protects against high and low voltage, accidentally plugging into a 220v outlet, reverse polarity, AC frequency and open neutral. Read our full review of the Progressive Industries Portable EMS.
An EMS will cost more up front than a surge protector, but trust me: they’re worth it. Your RV is a big investment and it’s probably your home, too. This is great insurance to have against campgrounds with overloaded or poorly installed electrical outlets.
If you boondock a lot, a portable solar panel or two can be very useful. Sure, you can install fixed solar panels on the roof of your rig, but portable panels have a lot of advantages. If it’s hot and you want to park in the shade, portable panels allow you to position just your solar panels in the direct sun while the shade keeps your RV nice and cool.
You can easily reposition them as the sun moves, so you’re always getting an optimal charge. Not to mention the fact that they are much easier to keep clean when they’re on the ground.
A TPMS will monitor the pressure and temperature of your tires, and will beep to alert you if there’s a sudden change. This is especially important for anyone towing, but can be useful regardless of what kind of RV you own. It sounds strange, but you might not know you’ve blown a tire, so these units can save your rims and your RV from extensive damage.
We talk about Allstays as one of our must-have RV gadgets a lot, because it really is that useful. No matter what kind of RV travel you do, this app is perfect for planning your trips. You can figure out where you’ll stay and also find things like propane, dump stations and fresh water when you’re on the road. We probably wouldn’t be nearly as good at staying flexible without Allstays.
Another item from the list of must-have mobile app for RVers is GasBuddy. This free mobile app displays real-time gas prices to help us find the least expensive fuel in the United States and Canada. We plan out where we will stop for fuel based on what we find in GasBuddy. You can see prices not only where you are but also in your destination or places you’ll pass along the way. This was a lesson we learned early on when tracking costs of RVing and it continues to saves us money.
A set of handheld radios are great for helping you and your traveling companions communicate while you’re backing the RV into a spot, or if you’re driving two separate vehicles in an area with patchy cell signal. We used these quite a bit when we were in a motorhome towing a vehicle. The radio we had came with NOAA weather channels built-in which was very useful during the tornado warning.
When exploring the backcountry or dispersed camping in the national forest, there’s a high likely hood that cell service is not available. Accidents can occur like the one I mentioned in the RV safety and preparedness article. A satellite communication device can be a life saver and one of the reasons we bought the Garmin inReach Explorer+ GPS and Satellite Communicator with the annual recreation plan.
Garmin also has the InReach Mini, which is a smaller more compact version of the Explorere+ that connects to your mobile device for maps and aerial imagery. This option is great for backpackers, hikers and mountain bikers.
For those of you traveling with pets and relying on your RV’s heating or cooling system to keep your them safe while you’re out exploring, a temperature monitor is great for peace of mind. These monitors run on a cellular network and will send alerts to your phone if the temperature gets too high or too low based on parameters you set.
General RV Camping Accessories – Outside the RV
11. Roof Vent Cover
This is one of those items that you just don’t know you need until you get one.
Vent covers allow you to leave your roof vents open even when it’s raining. You can run your fans in hot weather or while cooking without worrying about rain getting inside, and even get some extra protection from the sun and debris that tends to collect on vent screens. We ended up with the Fan-Tastic Ultra Breeze Vent Cover on our Class A RV, but there are other vent cover options available.
We went through three sets of Lynx plastic leveling blocks in a very short time as newbies. That was before we figured out a trick: use Hosspads. The plastic leveling blocks sit on top of the pads and are protected from gravel or anything else that can damage them. We also used the pads under our jacks when we were parked on gravel or dirt. This prevents the jacks from sinking into mud if it rains.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t need an air compressor. I’ll just use the one at the gas station,” think again! We learned early in our travels that the larger, load-bearing tires on RVs and trucks typically require a higher PSI than passenger vehicle tires. This means that most gas station air pumps aren’t able to fill them. We’ve even lost PSI by using one. That’s why we bought our VIAIR compressor and never looked back. Be sure that the one you get is rated for your tire size and PSI.
15. Camping Stove
Even though we live in a very small space, we consider our Coleman camp stove essential. It’s great to be able to cook outside on a nice day, and it keeps messy or strong-smelling foods like bacon or fish outside our tiny indoor kitchen. They also make an adapter, so we can connect our stove to our large propane tanks without having to carry those little green bottles around.
If you have more storage than we do, a Weber portable grill might be more up your alley. Either way, it’s good to have a way to cook outside.
Okay, so dicor isn’t technically a gadget. But it’s still extremely important to have on hand, so it’s on our list. Over time, the sealant on your roof will degrade and crack. Cracks in your roof can lead to leaks when it rains, and water damage is dangerous to an RV.
We’ve had leaks in multiple RVs, and a little lap sealant in the offending areas puts an end to them quickly. While it’s a good idea to have your roof resealed every few years, having some dicor on hand to stop a leak before it does major damage can be worth its weight in gold.
17. Sewer Valve
I did most of the dumping when we were in our Class A. I soon figured out that when I’d take the cap off our sewer line, I’d get splashed with a bit of sewer water that had shaken loose in transit. Some of it ended up running down into the compartment, too, which made for an extra cleaning experience I didn’t particularly want.
It sounds gross, but you want to be able to see what’s coming out of your tanks when you dump, and you’ll need a clear elbow to do this. For one thing, seeing what you’re dumping can help make sure you don’t have a backup or a blockage. You’ll also be able to see when you’ve flushed your tank sufficiently.
General RV Camping Accessories – Inside the RV
23. Handheld Vacuum
We’ve found that we track a lot of dirt and others things into the RV when we’re camping. Add dogs into that mix and there are times we’ve vacuumed daily and having a good handheld vacuum can make this process a snap. Unfortunately, they no longer make the model we use, but this one is rated for dirt and dog hair and costs less than what we paid for ours.
If you spent even a night or two without RV hookups, you understand how important it is to conserve water. Showers use a lot of water, so we landed on the solution of just never showering when we dry camped …. Kidding, of course!
The shower head in our motorhome came with a “pause” switch, but it was difficult to use with soapy hands. So we installed a shower shut-off valve, which worked like a charm. Conserving water by taking “Navy showers” allows us to stay off grid longer, which for us is a great thing. This little piece of RV gear also ensures that the water stays hot since we aren’t shutting it fully off at the tap, so we don’t have to find that sweet spot of temperature every time.
Kait has been perfecting the art of using the Instant Pot multi-cooker for years, and now it’s such a staple of our RV kitchen that it’s hard to imagine how we’d eat without it. The great thing about a multi-cooker is that you can save space by having one cooking gadget with multiple features. It’s a rice cooker, slow cooker and so much more all in one.
The Travel Berkey is another one of those gadgets that we can’t really imagine living without. With this water purifier, we can travel just about anywhere and be comfortable knowing that we can filter water for safe drinking.
We recommend using an inline water filter in addition to the Berkey, though. A RV water filter is one of the most iconic pieces of RV camping gear out there, and for good reason. While most of these don’t actually remove chemicals, bacteria and viruses the way the Berkey does, they do improve the taste of the water coming into your tap.
The Scrubba is a fantastic RV accessory to have when you need some fresh clothes, but don’t have access to a washing machine (or a pocket full of quarters). We’ve taken ours around the world and used it in RVs and hotel rooms alike.
While it doesn’t have the capacity to wash large loads, you can get a day’s worth of clothes in there at a time. This can help you avoid spending time at a laundromat while you’re traveling.
When we had a traditional RV black tank in the Class A RV, we used Happy Camper holding tank treatment. The product has no chemical smell and eliminated black tank odor. There are many RV holding tank treatment options out there and you may want to test out a few to find one that works best for you.
General RV Camping Accessories – Miscellaneous
For us, a huge part of RV travel is visiting National Parks and spending time in the wilderness. When we visited Yellowstone we learned how important it is to carry a good pair of binoculars with you, and added them to our list of the best gadgets for RV camping. We have the Vortex Viper HDs and love them. You never know what wildlife you may encounter when RVing.
30. Bear Spray
If you’re venturing into bear territory, it’s not just a good idea to carry bear spray with you. It can be a requirement! We have carried Counter Assault for years and thankfully haven’t needed to use it.
At the time of writing, you’re allowed to cross into Canada with Bear Spray, so long as it’s clearly labeled as such. Don’t try taking pepper spray or other self-defense sprays into Canada; they don’t allow them.
Motorhome-Specific RV Accessories
Whether you have a Class A, B, or C, you may need some items specific to motorhomes. Here’s our list.
Most Class A motorhomes don’t come with a spare tire or a mount for one. We thought about getting a roof rack for the Jeep Wrangler to carry a spare, but didn’t love the idea of having to get a heavy RV tire from above head height if we needed to use it. Then we discovered the Roadmaster spare tire carrier. This hitch-mounted carrier works on almost every type of RV, with tire sizes ranging from 16” to 24.5”.
Towable-Specific RV Accessories
We’ve never had to tow an RV, so we got input from some friends who live full-time in travel trailers and fifth wheels to round out our list of RVing gadgets.
A weight distribution hitch can make all the difference when it comes to stability while towing. It takes the tongue weight of the trailer, which would normally rest on the very rear of the tow vehicle on one single point (the ball hitch) and distributes it more evenly onto both axles. This makes the tow vehicle and trailer more stable and helps prevent sway. The Equal-i-zer hitch comes highly recommended.
34. LevelMatePRO and Anderson Levelers
The Camco leveler we recommended is best suited for motorhomes, since you are in the vehicle with the device and can see the lights while you position your RV to use them as a guide. The LevelMatePRO does the same thing but with a mobile app. You can be sitting in the cab of your truck rather than back in your trailer, but still have eyes on when you’ve gotten level. Used with Anderson levelers, the whole process is much faster than if you do it all manually.
35. Backup Camera
Newer motorhomes will come pre-equipped with a backup camera, but for most towables, this is an extra. Having a good backup camera with a wide-angle view is useful not only for backing into a campsite, but also for changing lanes on the highway, since it allows you to see what’s happening near the bumper of your trailer or fifth wheel.
36. Electric Drill and Scissor Jack Adaptor
You’ll only bring your scissor jacks down by hand one time before, with raw and sweaty palms, you’ll look for a better way. Save yourself the trouble and start off with an adaptor for your electric drill. This inexpensive must-have RV gadget will make raising and lowering your manual jacks a breeze.
These can be both an added safety feature and a theft deterrent, if you get the kind that lock. X-Chocks sit between the wheels of trailers with a double axle, and help prevent any movement of the tires while you’re parked. They also help increase stability as you’re moving around in your trailer, or during high wind.
There you have it – our list of the best RV gadgets for RV living. If we missed anything that you consider essential, let us know in the comments. We’re always interested in the latest and greatest gear and would love to know what you think are the best RV gadgets for newbies, or even just the best RV gadgets in 2020.