So, you just bought your camper. Now you are in the isle at the camping store staring at all these strange products, wondering what on earth you ACTUALLY need. If this is you, our Bare Necessities Checklist is the list you are looking for! We will cover the items you NEED for a successful camping trip, and leave out all the rest. If you're looking to dive a bit deeper into outfitting your camper, check out our Must Haves Checklist for those luxury items that can take your RVing experience to the next level.
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When you are outfitting a new RV the overwhelming amount of RV accessories and the task of making sure you have everything you need can leave you feeling a bit lost. This list covers only the essentials--those items you cannot RV without. Obviously a few of these items depend on the type of RV you have and how you plan to use your camper. Be sure to check your owners manual for specific items your camper might need.
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This might be one of the harder areas to navigate as a new RVer. What do you NEED to have for your camper to be operational? Often times even RV dealers try to upsell you on what you actually need. If you're new to camping and don't want to invest in a lot of extra junk before you even know if you like camping, you're not interested in a million different accessories. Here are the items that you cannot RV without.
Drinking Water Hose: Yes, this is different than your garden hose at the house! Drinking water hoses for your RV are specifically made for potable water. Those sold at the hardware store down the street aren't rated for drinking water. You can get drinking water hoses in a variety of lengths and materials. If you want to fill your rig at home and know how much length you need, stick with that. If you are hoping to hook up to city water connections at RV parks, you may want to consider a hose that is at least 50 feet in length so you know you can reach the spigot. There are TONS of hoses out there, but for starters definitely stick with something like this basic hose. Or, if you know you'll be RVing a lot (such as full-time or for an entire season), consider something like this Zero-G Hose.
Sewer Hose: Some RVs don't have holding tanks, if this is the case for your camper, you can skip right over this item on the Bare Necessities checklist. But, if your rig has holding tanks you will need a good quality sewer hose. This is an area where quality definitely matters. You don't want to end up with a "poopsie", as the beloved RVers, Keep Your Day Dream call it. Your sewer hose should be durable and well maintained. We recommend replacing your sewer hose every year, or at the very least, every other year to prevent cracking and broken connections from causing a problem. We recommend a set with a clear elbow and a few connections so you are never without what you need at a dump station. This Camco Set is a good set with needed connections. You may be wondering about the clear elbow--we believe it is essential so you can see when your tanks are actually empty or if they are clogged and there maybe an issue. If you can't see what's coming out, you can't really know if your tanks are being emptied or not!
Leveling Blocks: Some people use boards for leveling, but these leveling blocks are handy for many different reasons when it comes to your RV. The most obvious reason is using them to level your camper from side to side on an uneven surface. The less know reasons are to place under the tongue jack and stabilize feet to prevent sinking into the ground and damage to your rig. They can also be used to raise the tongue jack higher if you are on uneven surface and need to raise the coupler higher off the ground than your jack will allow you to get off the hitch. We have also used them to get out of a soft camping spot, to level out the picnic table, among other reasons! Get a good set with a carrying case, like this set, so they're not flying all over your rig.
Now, you may hear about rocking levelers such as Anderson Levelers. So, why don't we recommend those on our Bare Necessities list? Because they're not multi-purpose. The rocking levelers do one job, level the camper. Leveling blocks can help you in a variety of ways, so if you can only have one or you are just starting out, choose the blocks!
Rubber Chocks: There are a lot of things you CAN use for chocks, but it doesn't mean you should. Heavy duty rubber chocks are the way to go. Plastic chocks can be rolled right over, crack under the weight of your camper, and slide on concrete. Rubber chocks stay in place, are super durable, and are much more sturdy under the tire of your rig.
Tank Treatment: Again, if your rig doesn't have holding tanks, no need to worry. But, if you have black and grey tanks, tank treatment is REALLY important. There are hundreds of kinds of tank treatment out there, some scented, some packets, and some liquids. Hands down, the best treatment out there is Happy Camper. It's easy to use, kills any smells in a few minutes, and does a good job at preventing clogs! You can use Happy Camper your black or grey tank. We suggest throwing some in as soon as you hit camp!
Power Adapter: Sometimes it is hard to know what kind of power hook ups you will have at a campground until you get there. Other times things may not be working the way they are supposed to and you may be forced to plug into a power outlet you weren't expecting. For a 50 amp rig, we suggest a 50 amp to 30 amp and a 50 amp to 15 amp. For a 30 amp rig we suggest a 30 amp to 50 amp and a 30 am to 15 amp. While you might not always need them, you will be mad you don't have them when you do!
The items in this category fall under important for their own reason. While not directly RV related, we think they are just as important to have on board as your RV accessories. These are some of the little details that you may not think about, but will be glad you have.
Weather Radio: We did not realize a weather radio was essential when we first started RVing. We thought we had our phones, there wasn't a need for one. Then, we were stuck in a Tornado Watch with a nasty storm coming our way in an area with no cell phone service and spotty radio stations. It was nerve-wrecking! We headed out the next morning to get ourselves a weather radio and now we don't leave home without it. If you know you will always be camping in a location with cell service, it may not be as essential to you. If you plan to do some exploring and may get outside cell coverage, we highly recommend them!
Sanitation Gloves: When you are dealing with your holding tanks, especially your black tank having gloves to protect you from the bacteria and dirt is a top priority. Some people do prefer reusable sanitation gloves, but we prefer disposable. Disposable gloves can go right in the trash at the dump station, or you can take them off inside out and contain the germs inside the gloves until you can dispose of them. With reusable gloves you're putting the bacteria and yuck right back in your camper when you store the gloves.
Broom: This one is pretty self explanatory. And even more essential if you have kids or dogs. Many campsites are dirt or gravel, so the dust, dirt, and mud make their way into your camper. You'll want to be sure you have a good broom to get rid of it!
Cleaning Supplies: I'm sorry, we had to tell you. You will have to clean up while you're in your rig! Just a few essential items is all you will need. Paper towels and some multipurpose cleaner will do just fine. Or a set of microfiber cleaning clothes are also an excellent choice. You can also choose to have a mop incase of spills or muddy messes, but that is your preference!
You don't need much to be comfortable outdoors when you have your camper with you! But, there are a few items that make your adventures much more enjoyable if you have them with you. There are A LOT more items we do recommend over on our Next Steps Essentials Checklist, so if you're looking to add comfort and are ready to move beyond the basics, be sure to check that list out.
Camp Chairs: Not only might you find yourself at a campsite without a picnic table, you are going to want a comfortable place to sit while you chat around the campfire, watch the bobber in the pond, or chat with friends. With limited space indoors, having a comfortable chair to enjoy the outdoors is the number one thing you can do to improve your comfort. You can get basic camp chairs, rocking camp chairs, reclining camp chairs, padded camp chairs, the list goes on and on! Head to your local sporting goods store and check some out to find which is the most comfortable for you!
Table Cloth: This was another item I didn't know it was essential until I needed it. That time that the table is covered in mud, or bird poop, or whatever it is...that's when you know you need to have one with you all the time. It doesn't take up much space and can be the difference between an enjoyable trip and a frustrating one. Grab a reusable table cloth and after a quick wipe down, it's ready to store in the camper until next time.
Flashlight: This may not be as essential if you don't have kids, but there have been too many times to count when our phone lights and the lights on the rig didn't cut it while we were at the campsite. Maybe the kids wanted a light, and we din't want to loose our phones, or we were looking for the stuffy that got taken outside and left at the playground and we didn't notice until 10pm. Having a good flashlight can help in those situations that you may not expect to run into.
What we have found after years of camping is that it's easiest to stock your rig with all of the kitchen essentials and not have to navigate bringing cookware, utensils, and all those kitchen basics every time you hit the road. You already have enough items that have to be packed up each time you head out, so why add to the list!
Unbreakable Dishes: Find a set of cups, bowls, and dishes made of break-resistant material for the camper. There are lots of inexpensive plastic, melamine, and silicone options out there that are great for your home on the road.
Knives: Don't cheap out on your knives for the camper! You'll be upset with yourself every time you cook in the camper. You don't need a large set, just make sure you have a few good knives with covers that can tackle any job you will need them to do while you're camping. Think about your typical camp cooking recipes, you may not be dicing steak into cubes, but may be chopping some veggies for burgers!
Pots & Pans: Give some thought to the kind of cooking you want to do while you're in your rig. Do you want to cook over the campfire, or will you be sticking to your RV kitchen? Depending on the type of cooking you will be doing you will need a cast iron or non-stick cookware set. I will be honest: since we are beyond having only the essentials in our rig, we have both. But, one or the other is a good place to start. Always be sure you consider size, will the pans you pick be large enough to cook the meals you want to prepare?
Cooking Utensils: Just give a quick thought to what you might need for cooking in the camper. A spatula, spoon, pasta spoon, wisk, can opener, tongs, bottle opener, measuring cups & spoons, silicone, metal, or wooden utensils for campfire cooking, and a pot holder are just a few items we suggest. You can buy a kit or start in your own kitchen and use anything you might have double of in your camper! If you bring a Blackstone or similar grill, consider the items you will need for it as well. Oh, and don't forget the roasting sticks for marshmallows! 😉
Coffee Maker: If you are a coffee drinker, you know you will be lost if you leave the coffee pot at home. They make very inexpensive 5 cup coffee makers that work really well, and don't take up too much space in the rig. Be sure leave some filters and coffee mugs in the camper as well!
Mixing Bowls, Colander, & Cutting Board: These items are the two things that you will more than likely need on your trip, but will more than likely forget them if you don't have them already in the rig. We have a set of 3 mixing bowls, collapsable colanders, and thin, easy to clean cutting boards. It's just another item to keep in the camper so you don't have to worry about it while you're getting ready to leave!
Just like the kitchen, having a few essential items for your camper's bathroom can make packing a lot easier--and cause you less worry about forgetting something. While many of these items will need to be washed at home and returned to the camper, you can find a home for them so they are ready to grab when it's time to leave.
Towels: Have at least one bath towel, a few wash cloths & a beach towel (and a few old towels for pets!) for everyone who comes camping with you. I suggest towels of a certain color, so you know they belong in the camper. Then have a tub to toss them in when they are clean so you always remember to grab them before your next trip. We have also heard Turkish Towels are a great choice because they dry quickly.
Hand Towels: Have a good supply of hand towels in the camper so you can supply the Kitchen and the bathroom with enough hand towels to last you through your trip!
Rug: Water can take a long time to evaporate in a camper, so having a good light weight rug to soak up the water after a shower or visit to the pool can help cut down on slippery spots when you least expect them! Because moisture can get trapped in the rig, be sure to hang your rug to dry when you're done camping!
RV Safe Toilet Paper: Your toilet paper doesn't need to be RV specific, but it does need to be RV safe. Stick with 1-2 ply toilet paper and avoid toilet paper that is quilted, etc. While it's nice on your tush, it's hard on your tanks. Thick and quilted toilet paper may not be able to make it out of your tank, down your sewer hose, and out of your rig. The brand we like the most is Scott's. They make RV specific toilet paper, but their other works well, too!
Finally, let's talk tools. Being prepared for what you might need, while not over packing is key. Tools can get heavy fast, so when you're packing your tool box you'll want to consider what is necessary. Also consider what you would be likely to find easily--a quick run to Walmart and $10 later and you could have that item. If that's the case, is it worth carrying it with you all the time?
Level: Since your comfort depends on your camper being level, a level is one of the most important items in your rig. That is, unless you're lucky enough to have one of those fancy self-leveling set ups. Or a LevelMate Pro. But, for most RVers it's a key item.
Screw Driver: There are a lot of things that can shake loose during your drive. Having a screw driver with multiple heads, can fix a lot of what gets bounced loose. We keep one inside the camper and in the outdoor storage. After a long drive, a screw driver can be a highly used item!
Duct Tape: It fixes everything, need we say more? In all seriousness, duct tape is multipurpose, so it can help with a variety of issues. Leaks, loose trim, doors that won't shut properly, the list could go on forever. We have used duct tape more times than I care to count, so we can attest to the fact that having it on board comes in handy.
Hand Saw / Axe: Aside from campfires a saw can trim back limbs and branches that may damage your rig or puncture your roof. Please be sure to follow the rules of the campground you are visiting when trimming branches or bush, but having a saw or axe able to trim back an overgrown bush can be the difference between being able to make it into a spot or not!
Slide Out Lube: Check your owners manual to determine the type of lubricant you need, but keep a jar of slide out lubricant in your camper for any trouble you may run into with your slides. When they are popping, clicking, and sticking a quick spray of lubricant can prevent major issues.
Rubber Seal Conditioner: If you spot a leak or even a few drips of water around your slides or vents, seal conditioner may be all you need to fix your problem.
WD-40: From stabilizers to doors, when something is squeaky on the rig it can get old, fast. Especially with little ones or pets that a squeaky door can disturb. A can of WD-40 can save a lot of annoyance!
Fuses: You took all the effort to get your rig out to the campsite, so never leave home without fuses! If a fuse gets blown, half of the luxuries in your camper might not work. Don't be caught unprepared!
Tire Pressure Gage: Under or over inflated trailer or truck tires can be extremely dangerous, especially when towing. Always have a tire pressure gage to make sure your tires are properly inflated, for your safety, and the safety of everyone on the road.
Hitch Lubricant: Hitches take a beating when they're doing their job. Check the owners manual for your hitch to be sure you have the appropriate type of lubricant to ensure your hitch continues to work properly.
What you you feel is essential for your rig? What do you think every new (and experienced) RVer should have with them at all times? Let us know in the comments below!
Our Suggested Gear
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