Full Time RV Living Must Haves – Camper Living Essentials
In essence, an RV is a compact home on wheels. But as anyone who lives in an RV can attest, logistically, living in a camper is a bit different from living in a stationary house or apartment.
As such, there are a few practical must-have items that will greatly improve your RV lifestyle, either by adding convenience, safety, or preparing you against potential problems.
The following items are full time RV living must haves – absolutely essential items for anyone whose RV is also their home.
Must Haves for RV Living
These items are all camper living essentials. Venture out without any of them at your own peril!
Water is one of your most essential resources. You need it to cook, clean dishes, clean yourself, drink, and more. Wherever you go, even if you find suitable water faucets to utilize, you’ll need a way to connect to them and transfer water from the spigot to your tank.
Naturally, a hose is the proper tool for this. However, you don’t want to use just a standard garden hose. These can often make your water taste and smell rather rubbery.
Instead, you’ll want to use a water hose that’s specifically meant for drinking water, like this one.
Using an appropriate water hose, you’ll be able to forgo those nasty smells and tastes in your water. Well, at least the ones introduced by your hose. For the rest you need to get a…
You’ll be refilling from many different water sources while living in an RV, and the more you travel, the greater the number of different sources you fill from. But you don’t know anything about the water quality at each of these places. You could be getting low-quality water and not even know it.
Unfortunately, this is one of the dangers of living in an RV, which we’ve covered in another article.
That’s why a water filter is one of the most essential full time RV living must haves. It will keep your water not just tasting and smelling better, but will also help to keep you healthier, which is something you can’t put a price on.
Any RV water filter will do, but the one I use is the Camco TastePURE RV water filter.
In any standard RV, a black tank holds your human waste. Periodically, you’ll need to empty that black tank into a suitable dump station. When that time comes, a sewer hose is an absolutely vital piece of gear. Without it, you won’t be transferring anything into the sewer!
Sometimes, when you purchase an RV secondhand, it will come with a sewer hose. In my opinion, you should throw this out immediately after washing the black tank and get a new one. After all, that hose has been used many times for someone else’s waste, and these hoses commonly develop holes and leaks. The last thing you want is a spraying sewer hose the first time you empty your camper’s black tank!
The longer your rig is, the more length you’re likely to need for your sewer hose, especially if you stay at RV parks often. If you only dump at RV dump stations where you can pull up pretty close to the hole, then a shorter hose should suffice.
You want to get a hose that will last a long time and isn’t likely to introduce you to any unfortunate surprises, so one like this with a ton of positive reviews and a long proven track record is probably the safest bet.
Sewer Hose Support
If you plan on staying in RV parks or campgrounds with hookups for long intervals, then a sewer hose support becomes a necessity.
This device will keep your sewer hose propped up at the right angle to ensure adequate flow and prevent backups due to poor drainage.
Most RV parks require support if you’re going to remain hooked up to the sewers, and you really don’t want to deal with a waste system that’s backing up and not draining!
Flush Attachment for Black Tank Drain
Smells easily buildup in RVs. These are small spaces with several holding tanks where bacteria and bad odors can fester.
As such, it’s a good idea to keep everything as clean as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to always rinse the black tank when you dump it.
Now, you can partially achieve this in most RVs by simply dumping the black tank before the gray tank, and the contents of the gray tank will rinse out the black tank.
While this is better than nothing, it’s ineffective.
But most dump stations have pressurized water available. With the right hose attachment, you can hook the pressurized water to your sewer hose connection and rinse your black tank much more thoroughly, really getting the nasty crap out of the corners and flushing everything out to start fresh.
This one from Valterra is a great option, and it’s a way to really reduce the smells in your RV and keep things sanitary in the long run.
No matter where you park, you’re practically guaranteed to find unlevel ground. Even in many RV parks, the spaces you’re provided with are slanted for drainage, and if you park off grid, then you know that level truly level ground is scarce in the backcountry!
If you’ve never experienced it before, it can be very disorienting to have your home on an angle. It can throw off your balance and becomes a nuisance very quickly.
But with a set of levelers like these, you can very simply fix the issue. Just decide the right height and slide them in front of or behind your tires. Pull up onto your levelers and voila! Your home is now level.
These are the ones that I use personally. They’re quick, simple, and I’ve never had an issue with them.
Leveling blocks are great for motorhomes and camper vans, but if you’ve got a travel trailer or a fifth wheel, then you’ll have a much easier time with scissor jacks instead.
Jacks make it super easy to level your trailer once it’s parked. Just extend one jack under each corner of your trailer and continue raising as needed until it’s level.
These WEIZE jacks come in a set of four and they’re specifically meant for RVs, so they’re a great option.
Condensation is a very regular problems for RVs, particularly in the cold winters when you’re trying to keep the interior warm. You’ll often wake up with foggy windows dripping water throughout the entire RV.
A small dehumidifier can help to keep the condensation down, which can reduce the instances of water damage due to the constant moisture, or worse, mold that can have some potentially negative health effects. That’s another one of the dangers of living in an RV, but you can easily mitigate it by simply plugging in your dehumidifier at night.
This small dehumidifier doesn’t need batteries and is completely wireless. It uses silica beads, which you simply recharge about once each month. It’s a great way to keep the humidity down in your RV without taking up any space or wasting electricity.
Legally, you must keep a fire extinguisher in your RV. Even if there weren’t regulations demanding it, I’d still insist that a fire extinguisher is one of the most vital tools you can carry in your RV.
Hopefully, you never need your fire extinguisher. But this is definitely one of those times where it’s much better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
As mentioned in my article about the dangers of living in an RV, fire is a very real possibility. In such a small space, a fire can quickly get out of control.
Keeping a fire extinguisher in your RV offers a very quick solution and can prevent the loss of your home in the case of a fire.
For those living in RV parks and campgrounds with electrical hookups, roof fans won’t be an utter necessity. But if you ever boondock in your RV, especially in warmer climates, then you’ll realize very quickly that roof vans are an absolute necessity.
There are several different models of RV roof fans on the market, but all of them provide the same general function of sucking air into or out of your RV.
I have personally used the MAXXAIR 4500K as well as the MAXXFAN DELUXE. Both have some worthwhile features, but there’s a glaring weakness to these fans that makes them an awful choice. They have a very narrow voltage range that won’t allow them to work when your solar panels are giving your system full juice!
Because of this glaring flaw, I would instead recommend this fan from RVLOVENT that offers all of the same features you’ll find on the Max Fans, but at a fraction of the price.
In warmer weather, those roof vans are essential. When winter’s colder temperatures arrive though, those same fans become weak links in your fight to keep your living space warm. With no insulation there, the cold permeates through, even though it’s airtight.
The solution is a simple one: vent covers.
These are thick, insulated, and fit right into place. Simply stuff it in and walk away. Your whole RV will be warmer, and they’ll even block out any light that comes in through your ceiling vents, helping you to get a better night’s sleep as well.
I’ve previously mentioned this tip, and you can find lots more similarly useful hacks to make RV living easier in my article on the 20 indispensable tips for RV living.
Black Tank Treatment
If RVs didn’t have toilets, we wouldn’t be able to live in them very comfortably. Obviously, waste needs to be taken care of differently than in a home, and that means a giant holding tank referred to as a black tank.
Ok, let’s get gross for a minute. That’s a big tank of poo-poo, and you’re just carrying it around with you wherever you go.
Naturally, that leaves a lot of opportunity for some ripe odors, and this is one of the problems that RV lifers have to deal with.
Luckily, the solution is quite simple in this case, as there are several products made to combat this specific problem.
Just add in a black tank treatment whenever you empty your tank and the smells should never become a major issue, at least so long as you rinse the tank well each time you dump it.
I use the liquid tank treatment, and this is the one that I’ve been using for a long time. You can also get it in a powder if you prefer.
Your RV is your house, and like any house, it’s going to accumulate mess. Since you’ll have a roof fan that’s pulling air into or out of your RV, the dirt problem might even be more persistent than in a house.
Sure, you can try to keep up with a dustpan, but that won’t help with the dust and dirt on the upholstery.
Just grab a vacuum like this one and you’ll be able to keep the dirt and mess at bay. It’s great for cleaning around the whole RV thanks to the attachments. Since it’s so compact, you can also use it to spot clean when the need arises, and it will be easy to store when you’re not using it.
Unless you plan on parking your RV exclusively in campgrounds and RV parks with electrical hookups you’re going to need a way to keep the lights and other electronics running whenever you’re not plugged into shore power.
Now, parking in RV parks full time is perfectly acceptable, but it’s going to cost you quite a bit. Just check out this comprehensive cost analysis of RV living to see what I mean.
Most RVs already have batteries to run the 12-volt fixtures like the lights and water pumps. If you add an inexpensive solar panel and charge controller, then you can keep those small electronics running no matter how long you’re away from shore power.
A solar panel like this one from RICH SOLAR will supply you 100-watts of usable power in full sunlight. Combine that with a high-efficiency MPPT charge controller like this one and you’ve got a cheap but effective way to create practically infinite renewable energy.
Having solar panels on your RV can change the game, allowing you to live off grid while still enjoying the comforts of modern technology.
Only problem is, by adding a solar system, you’re increasing the number of items that could potentially give you a problem.
If your solar system does give you any headaches, the primary tool you’ll need to troubleshoot and fix it is a voltage meter. This will allow you to determine where your problem is by seeing where power is flowing and where it’s not.
This digital multimeter is dirt-cheap but has everything you need to successfully diagnose a 12-volt electrical system. Best of all, useful accessories are included like alligator clips that can be a lifesaver when there’s not an extra pair of hands around to help.
Living in an RV doesn’t mean you need to give up modern comforts or take your finger off the pulse of current events.
While you’re parked in an RV park, you’ll often be able to use the wi-fi in the park. However, RV park wi-fi is notorious for having spotty connection and poor service.
A good hotspot will ensure that you have internet anywhere you go, whether you’re in an RV park or you’re parked far off grid.
Granted, there are limitations. If you’re too far off grid, you probably won’t get a signal, but I’ve had good service in some pretty remote locations.
Now, you can use the hotspot on your phone, and many phone plans today include some monthly allotment of data for hotspot usage.
I’ve always found that a backup is necessary though. Plus, it can be very pricey to add more hotspot data to your phone, while adding more data to a hotspot device is generally a bit cheaper.
I personally use the Skyroam Solis. What I love about it is that it can utilize the towers of any major service provider, so I get service on my hotspot in places that my phone doesn’t. The data is affordable and there are packages to fit any amount of internet usage.
Few feelings are as disheartening as turning the key in your car’s ignition only to hear it click and realize that your battery is dead. The only thing that makes it worse is when it’s your RV!
You could make such situations an absolute rarity though by installing a low-voltage disconnect on your RV.
This little device will disconnect your battery from the system entirely when its voltage drops below a certain threshold, protecting your battery and ensuring you never experience a dead battery, even if you leave the headlights on.
If you start your RV just to find it’s dead, you’ll simply flip the breaker switch on the low-voltage disconnect and you’ll be back in action!
These are affordable, pretty simple to install, and I think they should be on every vehicle, let alone every RV! Definitely one of my top camper living essentials.
RVs are prone to all the same problems that houses get, which means that your roof is a potential problem zone. The problem is made worse by all of the things installed on modern RV roofs, like air conditioners, vents, fans, solar panels, and more.
So, what’s the move when you’re parked in the middle of nowhere and you realize that your roof is leaking, or one of your fans isn’t working, or your solar is malfunctioning?
Without a ladder, you’d be in big trouble.
A full size ladder clearly won’t be easy to pack in an already stuffed RV, but this telescoping ladder folds up small when not in use, extending out to a length that makes your roof entirely accessible, no matter where you are.
RVs are not particularly light vehicles, and their tires are working constantly to hold up all that weight. As such, blowouts and other tire issues are very commonplace with RVs, as we’ve covered in the top 15 dangers of RV living.
One way to prevent such problems is with ample tire maintenance, including keeping all of your tires filled to the proper pressure.
Furthermore, it’s always possible for a tire to lose its pressure while you’re parked somewhere long term. How will you leave with a flat tire?
If you have a tire inflator with you, then you’ll always be able to take care of your tires, ensuring they always maintain adequate pressure. And if you do have a flat, then an inflator can help get you back on the road when you would be stuck otherwise.
This little inflator can be plugged into a standard 12-volt cigarette lighter socket, allowing you to fill your tires anywhere, anytime. It can really be a lifesaver in some situations!
A lot of your storage in an RV is outside, so you’ll have to leave the comfort of your RV to reach anything stored there. Even with exterior lighting on your rig, there’s never enough to really see at night. This is also true when you’re pulling into a spot at night and trying to get your campsite set up in the dark!
Sure, you could try to hold your phone with one hand for illumination, but a much easier idea is to keep your hands free and use a headlamp instead. I always keep several around my RV so one is always within reach when I need it.
And headlamps are great for more than just setting up campsites at night. When you need to crawl under your RV to make a repair, having hands-free illumination wherever you look is incredibly helpful!
I prefer the USB rechargeable headlamps like this one so you don’t have to worry about dead batteries. I’d recommend keeping a couple of these around. When you need it, you’ll be thankful it’s there.
Speaking of making repairs, you can’t do any sort of repair work without the proper tools, which is why every RV needs a set of mechanic’s tools on board.
A tool set like this one will cover you for a majority of common repairs that you might need to make on the road.
Keep in mind that RVs are in nearly-constant need of upkeep, maintenance, and repair, so your tool set will most certainly become one of your most used items.
Even for basic maintenance like changing the oil, a tool kit like this one from Deko Pro is essential. You’ll find it’s even more vital when you’re stuck on the side of the road with a minor issue. Without those tools, you might have to wait hours for help to come!
Television has simply become a part of our modern lives, and it’s difficult to say you’re living in the modern world without it.
RVs aren’t exactly the most spacious living accommodations though, and TVs tend to take up quite a bit of space.
Projectors, on the other hand, can be extremely small, like this tiny, portable, USB rechargeable projector that can display an image up to 150 inches! That’s probably overkill for an RV, but with such a tiny form factor, this device is easy to store, and just as easy to take outside and project on the side of the RV for a real movie night!
Living in an RV doesn’t mean you have to give up any of your comfort or safety. With these full time RV living must haves, you can ensure that your RV lifestyle isn’t wanting for anything.
Now that you have all your camper living essentials, it’s time to gear up and get off grid in your RV! If you’ve never taken your RV boondocking before, then check out this complete guide to off grid RV camping for beginners. Or, if you’re looking for a way to keep your RV life free and affordable, then don’t miss this comprehensive guide to off grid RV living.