When we purchased our new travel trailer, we didn’t own any products for the RV. What it came with, is exactly and only what we had on hand when we were planning our first camping trip. After some substantial research, and advise from some of my RVing friends, I felt like I would be prepared for our first camping trip. I’m on a first name basis now with the UPS and FedEX drivers serving my house. For the first part of this article, I’m focusing primarily on items that will make, or break your first camping experience in your new camper.
As one would expect, we had to purchase a number of required items to make our first RV experience a pleasant one. I think new RV’s should come with some of these items from the dealer, but ours didn’t and you should have these on hand before you make your first trip. This will be a multi-part article with Part 1 – this one – focusing on items that you really cannot live without. You will use all of them.
- Sewer Hose Kit
The hose that I purchased, and recommend is the RhinoFLEX 20′ Sewer hose kit. It comes with 2 hoses that can be connected together to create 1 long hose, or kept separate if you can get close enough to the dump station to get by with the 10 foot length. As you would expect, it comes with the elbow swivel fitting that connects to the hole at the dump station. Sewer hoses are known to break after a lot of use and with this kit, which was specifically recommended to us by the lead tech at our dealership, you have a ‘spare’ on hand already. The service departments at dealerships go through a lot of hoses. This was the one they recommended we buy. As expected, both hoses fit in the standard square bumper most of us have on our campers. We saw the same kit at Camping World, but you can save a lot of money buying this kind of stuff online.
2. Fresh Water Hose(s)
We ended up purchasing 2 fresh water hoses for our camper and a crate at one of the big box stores to store them in. At the campsite, you can generally get by with 1 hose that’s 25 feet long if you have hookups that are close. However, when I park my camper at home to prep it for camping, or am at a site where the water spigot is not right next to the other utilities, as I experienced at a state park in Rifle, Colorado last week, it’s nice to have the option to connect a longer fresh water hose. Our water spigot was far enough from the camper I ended up needed to connect both hoses together. If you only want one hose, get the longer one. Hoses take up a fair amount of space in your storage and the longer ones aren’t the lightest things around so I like the flexibility of just being able to take the smaller one if I know in advance I won’t need more than 25 feet.
Our camper has a black tank flush connector a few feet above the dump valve. If you have one of these too, any old hose you have lying around will work. I sacrificed an old garden house out of my back yard that is clearly *not* a potable water hose that is only used for the black tank flush. Most of the dump stations I’ve been to have a non-potable (or other) water source right there, but often there is no hose for you to use. I throw my hose in the back of my truck as I don’t have enough sewer related items to mandate their own storage box in the camper itself.
3. Water Pressure Regulator
The water pressure at some campgrounds is high enough to blow out your plumbing system in your camper. One of my biggest fears is coming back to the camper to discover that it is flooded, or to hear the sound of rushing water hitting my floor. The pressure regulator dramatically reduces the risk of that happening. They are so inexpensive, it is really a no brainer to buy one and keep it in the same crate you store your water hoses in. I bought the one that Camco makes – Camco 40055 Brass Water Pressure Regulator – Lead Free When I am connected to ‘city’ water, this is connected directly to the city water connector on our camper, the hose obviously then connects to the regulator. There is an arrow on the regulator so you don’t accidentally put it on backwards. Cheap insurance.
4. Water Filter
The water quality at your campground, or even your house for that matter can vary from excellent, to nasty. We’ve found that some of the water taps at the campgrounds we’ve visited so far can also contain small amounts of sediment which is harmful to the valves and overall plumping of your camper. The filter I purchased seems to be one of the most popular ones available. They say you should plan on replacing it once a year / camping season. You can also install a filter system that is more expensive, with replaceable cartridges. We may move to that kind of system in the future. We have zero complaints with this one – Camco 40043 TastePure Water Filter with Flexible Hose protector.
5. Power Plug Adapters
In America, and some other countries, your camper came from the factory designed to accept either a 30 amp, or 50 amp power source and may have come with a built in extension cord that allows you to plug into either 30 Amp or 50 Amp service. In my case, my camper is a 30 Amp system, but the same logic applies if you have a 50 Amp system. You will want the ability to plug your camper into other types of outlets. I prefer the ‘dog bone’ style because they are built better than the type where both connections are made on the same cheap plastic housing. You have to be careful here because regardless of what adapter you use on your camper, you are obviously not changing the Amps that are being made available to it from the pedestal, or power source. 2 examples of when I use adapters are as follows:
Most commonly, I want the ability to plug my 30 Amp rated camper into my 15 Amp receptacle here at home. This is the adapter that I bought from Amazon for that purpose – Camco 55165 15M/30F 12″ PowerGrip Dogbone Electrical Adapter with Handle. This is a case where you have to be a little careful. Your AC, Television, and Microwave draw a lot of current. When you are plugged into 15 Amp service, don’t use them if you aren’t 100% sure you aren’t overloading your 15 amp service. In my case, I can run my air conditioner on low, OR my television, but not both at the same time. The reason you want an adapter like this is so you can charge the battery(s) in your camper at home, get your fridge cold, and get your camper ready to go camping. It’s not for long term use, well that’s how I look at it anyway. I plan on having an electrician wire me up a dedicated 30 Amp circuit here at home, but that’s for later.
The second case is when I’m at a campground site that either only offers 50 Amp service, OR the 30 Amp receptacle is messed up. You don’t have to worry about messing up your camper with this arrangement because it is only going to draw as much current as it was designed to draw. If you have a 30 Amp system and it pulls more than 30 Amps when plugged into a 50 Amp pedistal, your problem is not with the power source, you are running too much gear or have a major problem with one of your appliances. To use a 50 Amp power source with my 30 Amp camper, I bought this Camco 55165 15, also on Amazon – 50 Amp Male / 30 Amp Female Dog Bone Adapter.
You may also want to pick up an adapter that allows you to plug a 120 volt power tester, like the one I mention in number 7 below, into a 30 or 50 amp receptacle.
6. DC fuses rated for your power panel.
Sooner or later you are going to blow some fuses in your camper. Hopefully that isn’t on your first trip out, but if there were any wiring problems from the factory, you could run into them at any time and hopefully the worst thing that will happen is you will blow a fuse. For this reason I strongly recommend that you pick up a pack of assorted fuses that are rated for the circuits in your camper or RV. In my camper the most common size fuse is 15 Amp. These kits are handy because they come with several different Amp ratings, and include a tool for testing the fuses already installed in your power panel. This makes it easy to determine if a specific fuse is blown without having to remove it from the panel. You can pick this kit up on Amazon here or find the fuses you want at your local auto parts store.
7. Power Tester
Plugging your camper into a power source of unknown quality is risky business. You don’t know if it’s going to work until you’ve made the connection and if something is wrong, by then it is too late. Damage to your campers electrical system is something you should spend a few dollars to avoid. I consider a power tester to be a must have item, and like most of the items above, they don’t cost much at all. Used in combination with the adapters you already know you need to buy, you can test the power at your camping spot safely before you plug your expensive investment into it. This is the GFCI outlet tester that I purchased. InstallerParts AC GFCI Outlet Circuit Tester
A true power management system is going to cost you a lot more money. The gold standard based on every RV’er I’ve discussed this with both online, and at the camp fire is the
Progressive Industries EMS RV Surge Protector.
They are available in 30 and 50 amp versions, pedestal mounted and hard wired versions. Please review this product on Amazon and make your own decision, but take my word for it – if you are concerned about the the quality of the power that is running everything inside your expensive camper, it’s hard to argue against buying a top notch product that will pay for itself time and time again, every time it detects, and protects your camper from the numerous faults that happen in some of our camp grounds. While I don’t consider the Progressive Industries EMS to be a top 10 must have – it’s close. If you are going to be plugging your camper into ‘borderline’ power sources where you don’t have a lot of confidence in the power running into your rig, I do recommend them. Lightening can hit the pedestal in your campground, and fry every camper in the area, you should be safe. Life time warranty, no questions asked.
8. Wheel Chocks and Levelers
Another must have item gives you the ability to make your camper level. I’m assuming that you have scissor jacks or another on board mechanism for stabilizing your camper already. What I’m talking about here is the ability to level your camper. In some of the sites I’ve been to, the tongue jack on my trailer doesn’t provide enough elevation on its own to allow me to even unhook, or rehook the camper. I bring about 3 feet in total height of various blocks just for that. Most of them are made from pressure treated lumber. Non pressure treated wood easily cracks and splits under the weight of my tongue jack.
I swear by the Lynx levelers for under my scissor jacks and wheels. I need to buy another pack now that I’m thinking about it. I also have a pair of xchocks but because I consider that to be optional, they aren’t a part of the must have items in this list.
9. Can you inflate the tires on your truck and camper??
After spending a beautiful weekend at the lake, you wake up to discover a flat tire on your camper! Thankfully, I haven’t experienced this yet as my camper is basically brand new but I have had to add air to them because apparently the dealer thought 50 lbs of pressure in a tire rated for 65 lbs was acceptable. I want to accommodate the inevitable and be able to air my tires up easily, so I bought the Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor. This model goes up to 100 PSI which is more than enough for me, but if your rig is a Class A motor home, or you have wheels and tires that require more than that, they have heavier duty models. The 100 PSI unit should handle any travel trailer currently on the market . This piece of gear is permanently stored in my pass through storage compartment, along with the safety triangles below.
10. Be Visible if you break down!
Last but certainly not least, you want the ability to make yourself highly visible should you ever need to pull over to change a tire or otherwise break down on the road. Especially at night. A 3 pack of the Blazer Triple Warning Triangles are a great start. They are heavier than you might expect and will not blow over on the road unlike some of the other products I’ve used. I put one of them behind my slide-out when I’m parked in front of my house just for added visibility when we are pre-packing at night.
In closing, owning a camper is one of the most worthwhile purchases I think I’ve ever made. It is a lot like buying a new home and when we towed our travel trailer home the first time, the list of items that we knew we had to have to make our trips possible started to grow. These items are by no means everything you will want to take along with you on your trips, but I would not leave home without them. Please leave me comments with any products you’ve found to be critical in your experience, or questions about any of the products above. I own and use all of them and would love to hear your experiences.