First-time RV owners Lorisa and Ron Pierson share their shopping list of essential supplies
Trailer Life is fortunate to have an editorial team with decades of RV-camping experience, but not everyone who works for the publication is a seasoned RVer. Marketing Manager Lorisa Pierson is a case in point. Although Lorisa and her husband, Ron, always planned to get into RVing, a limited budget, busy work schedules and a long list of activities that centered around their son and daughter kept RV ownership on the back burner.
Then Lorisa was diagnosed with colon cancer. After struggling through months of treatment, she emerged with a clean bill of health and a renewed desire to own an RV and start making camping memories with her family. The time had come.
With a lightweight bunkhouse trailer in mind, the Piersons shopped at RV shows and local dealerships before settling on the perfect 24-footer. The L-shaped kitchen, large bathroom and full-length patio awning on the Keystone Bullet won them over, plus the fact that the trailer can be towed by Ron’s Toyota Tundra.
Compared to other first-time buyers, Lorisa was lucky. She had easy access to a wealth of RV knowledge from Trailer Life and sister companies Camping World and the Good Sam Club. But even with all that exposure, she didn’t realize how many of the accessories that are needed for RV camping don’t actually come with an RV. Despite rushing to round up the necessary gear before their first trip, Lorisa and Ron still wound up lacking a few important items when they got to the campground.
In true Trailer Life spirit, the Piersons are eager to help fellow newbies make their way up the RV learning curve. Sharing their newfound knowledge, the couple offers the following shopping list of 30 RV essentials, from basic accessories to handpicked items that made their initial camping trips even better.
Lorisa and Ron learned right away that campground water pressure is often much higher than what RV manufacturers recommend. To reduce the flow rate, the couple attaches a pressure regulator to the campsite’s water supply. The brass model they purchased is lead-free and safe to use with drinking water.
Any water that goes into the freshwater tank should be filtered. For new RVers like the Piersons, an in-line water filter is the simplest option. Not only does it reduce sediments and other contaminants, it can improve the taste of campground water. Lorisa and Ron use replaceable carbon filters with KDF, which contains zinc and copper additives that resist bacterial growth.
As the Piersons discovered, campsite water connections can be quite a way from their RV, requiring a freshwater-supply hose that can extend up to 50 feet or a couple of shorter ones that can be connected to go the distance. Lorisa and Ron likewise learned that you get what you pay for when it comes to freshwater hoses, and, for that matter, many other RV accessories. The cheaper the hose, the greater the chance it’ll kink and leak.
Connecting the freshwater hose directly to the RV’s city-water intake can put stress on the hose and fittings. To extend the life of their hose, the Piersons made a small investment in a 90-degree brass entry elbow. This go-between fitting lets the hose hang straight down from the intake, easing strain on it and preventing kinks.
Sanitation is one of the things that intimidates new RV owners, but Lorisa and Ron found it wasn’t a big deal once they learned proper dumping and flushing techniques and used appropriate chemicals. Holding-tank chemicals come in a variety of formulations and forms, and most work as advertised to deodorize and break down solids. First-timers can ask fellow RVers for recommendations and try different brands to come up with the treatment they like best. The Piersons opted for easy-to-use drop-in packets.
The Piersons’ Bullet didn’t come with a sewer hose, but Lorisa knew from reading Trailer Life that they needed a good one. They invested in a brand-name kit that included a high-quality sewer hose and a see-through connector so they can tell when the water is clean as the tank is being flushed. It’s also smart to pack a box of heavy-duty disposable gloves for handling the sewer hose and emptying holding tanks.
Power spikes and dips are not uncommon at campgrounds. A surge protector can help keep unsteady electricity from putting an RV’s appliances at risk. For newbies like the Piersons, a portable model that plugs into the RV’s cord set does the job. Costlier hardwired electrical management systems that become a permanent part of the RV are also available.
Commonly called “dogbones,” power adapters come in handy when the campsite’s electrical output is incompatible with the RV or the power plug doesn’t match the pedestal receptacle.
RV fuses can blow at any time, catching many new RVers unaware and unprepared. For such occasions the Piersons carry a set of replacement fuses in their toolbox. Their kit uses LED technology, making blown fuses easier to locate on dark fuse panels.
Campsites with full hookups usually have a cable-TV connection, but to catch your favorite shows, a coaxial cable is needed. The Piersons have one with a high-grade RG-6 cable that extends 25 feet to link the RV’s cable inlet to the campsite’s cable connection.
Trailer wheels must be stabilized so they don’t move when the RV is parked and unhitched. Chocks for this purpose come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they deploy in different ways. Because the Bullet’s tandem axles are widely spaced, the Piersons use a pair of extended-width chocks.
Even paved campsites aren’t always level. For trailers that don’t have an automatic leveling system, blocks may be needed to raise some of the tires to get the RV on an even plane. Using wood blocks is an option, but the Piersons opted for a set of 10 heavy-duty polypropylene levelers. They stack the blocks as needed in front of the tires, then Ron slowly tows the trailer onto them.
Jack pads are important RV accessories, particularly if you camp on soil, grass or sand. The pads create a larger footprint that spreads out the load of the trailer’s tongue jack and stabilizers to prevent them from sinking into soft ground or damaging paved surfaces. The Piersons bought a pack of four lightweight polypropylene pads with built-in handles.
Lorisa and Ron recommend getting a big enough toolbox to hold the hand tools, hardware and spare parts needed for the trailer, truck and hitch, keeping everything in one place. Some truck owners install a locking toolbox in the front of the cargo bed for this purpose. Among other things, the Piersons’ toolbox holds extra L-pins for the sway-control brackets on their hitch and spare safety pins for the hitch coupler, which they’ve learned from experience to have on hand.
New RVers often resort to hanging grocery bags from doorknobs or cabinet pulls to hold trash, but Lorisa went with a more elegant solution: a collapsible frame that holds plastic kitchen bags. Topped with a lid, the trash-bag holder folds to an easy-to-store size for travel and sets up instantly, indoors or out.
For drying just-washed pots, pans and tableware, Lorisa found a smartly designed rack that pops up for doing dishes and folds flat for traveling. The rack has a movable spout so water drains into the sink, not onto the counter.
For hanging kitchen towels, Lorisa discovered a clear-plastic rack that hooks over a drawer or cabinet door. The rack extends out far enough that damp towels don’t touch the wood cabinetry.
An anti-fatigue floor mat keeps the Piersons on their toes while doing meal prep and washing dishes. The cushy PVC mat not only makes their feet and legs happier, it keeps the kitchen floor dry.
To keep the bathroom floor from getting soaked, the Piersons roll out a thin but absorbent microfiber mat. Unlike most residential bath mats, this one dries quickly and doesn’t take up much space when stored.
Although the Piersons’ trailer has a decent-size shower, a little more elbow room is always welcome, so they installed a cleverly designed rod that extends the shower curtain outward. When no one is showering, the rod folds out of the way and doubles as a place to hang damp towels, swimsuits and laundry.
Even with the shower rod doing double duty, the Piersons still didn’t have enough spots for wet towels in the bathroom. Clipping a couple of inexpensive plastic hooks on top of the bathroom door remedied that.
The Bullet’s bathroom door also holds a hanging shoe organizer, but it’s not for shoes. The 15 clear-plastic pockets house brushes, a blow dryer and other bathroom essentials that don’t fit in the medicine cabinet.
Quick-dissolving toilet paper is strongly recommended for RV use, and the Piersons take no chances. They stock up on a name-brand RV-friendly two-ply that is 100 percent biodegradable.
The Piersons were so impressed with the push bar on the screen door of a neighboring RV, they bought one to install on their trailer. The sturdy aftermarket handle not only makes coming and going easier, it protects the fragile screen
Next to the Bullet’s outdoor kitchen, the Piersons line up a couple of folding tables for dishing up meals, stacking supplies and plugging in appliances. The space-saving tables not only have legs that telescope and collapse, the tops fold in half to fit in a storage compartment.
Outdoor seating is essential for happy camping, and the Piersons wouldn’t be without their folding rockers. Whether they rock or not, camp chairs should be comfortable, sturdy, weather-resistant and collapsible for storage.
After setting up their rockers, the Piersons arrange a couple of small tables within arm’s reach for snacks, drinks and cell phones. A familiar site at RV campgrounds, these folding tables stand up to the elements and lay flay for storage.
Gathering around a crackling fire is the classic camping experience, but the Piersons aren’t keen on hauling firewood or cleaning up ash. Instead, they pack a portable fire pit that connects to a propane cylinder and lights up under a bed of lava rocks.
Frying up bacon and flipping pancakes outside is another camping tradition that’s made easier with technology. For mouthwatering outdoor meals anytime, the Piersons travel with a portable table-top griddle. Theirs is propane-powered, and Lorisa says, “It’s the best thing ever!” Ron even takes part in a Facebook group that shares outdoor-griddle recipes and photos.
While a portable ice-maker won’t be on every RVer’s list of essential equipment, it’s a must for the Pierson family. They chose a relatively compact stainless-steel model that plugs into a 120-volt AC power source and doesn’t take up much space on the kitchen counter or an outdoor table. It cranks out up to 25 pounds of frosty cubes a day, enough to keep everyone’s drinks on ice.
The Piersons swear by a bargain cleaning brand most folks have never heard of: LA’s Totally Awesome. The all-purpose cleaner works like a champ in RV kitchens and bathrooms, as well as on patio awnings, outdoor furniture and plenty of other places. Lorisa calls it “the deal of the century” because it sells for just $1 at Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar and 99 Cents Only Stores.
Do you have an essential RV accessory that didn’t make the Pierson family’s must-have list? Let us know at [email protected].
My fave all-time must-haves are an assortment of 3M Command stick-on hooks. I do recommend that you wipe down the area with alcohol to get a good stick. The clean removability is so important. Just love them.
You can add a broom or small vacuum to the list of needed items. It would be pretty hard to keep the floor clean without something to get rid of dirt, sand, etc.
Roy and Mary Fralick
I pack a green hose for flushing the holding tanks.
Don’t forget to pack a large box of Patience! RV camping can be a lot of work and headaches for the new RVer, and for the experienced as well sometimes! Bring a bag of Ask-for-Help as well. The RV community is more than happy to help with advice and assistance for newbies and oldies — nicest group of folks we have come to love and appreciate. Happy and safe camping everyone!
I agree with most of this list of things that make camping, well, possible. The Piersons did some good “homework”! Yet, as a retired civil engineer and water-utility manager, I take issue with the first one, the water-pressure regulator. The orifices in these little devices may help somewhat in controlling residual water pressure — the pressure that exists at their outlets while the water is flowing. They will certainly reduce the water flow rate. However, they cannot control the static water pressure — the pressure that exists when water flow is shut off by faucets, etc., downstream. If the static water pressure is too high for the PEX water-piping system in the RV, a leak will result. There are pressure-control valves out there, but they’re complicated and, therefore, heavy and expensive.
Be careful using LA’s Totally Awesome. My husband used it for cleaning the linoleum floor in our small motorhome. Unfortunately, it made the floor very slick. I had a pair of leather-soled slippers on one evening, and my foot went right out from under me and I landed on my tailbone. I spent a miserable rest of the trip, and the discomfort lasted months. I am now wiser and using only rubber-soled slippers and shoes in the RV. Much safer!
LA’s Totally Awesome in the spray bottle should be diluted. You would think a product in a spray bottle would be ready for use. Straight is way too powerful and can damage paint and other things. The drop in black-tank chemicals are for a 40-gallon holding tank or bigger, so make sure you read instructions for usage and know the capacity of your tank.
I’m a huge fan of the Totally Awesome product. Have been using it for a couple of years. Works fantastic for removing bugs from the front of your vehicle. Spray on and let it sit for about 5 minutes, and with a light scrub they are gone.
A cordless drill or impact driver with a socket for stabilizer jacks.
Do not use a battery impact on your stabilizes. Use a battery drill. The impact will cause the screw to chatter more and wear out faster.
I carry a couple pieces of rain gutter to lay in the sewer centipede to avoid kinking of the sewer hose. A few quick disconnects for water hoses and a Y-splitter to allow extra hoses to be hooked up. We use motorcycle-helmet bungee nets to secure kitchen-counter items. Motion-sensing LEDs in the cabinets and closets. Folding step stools to reach high cabinets. Sticky tack (removable adhesive putty) to hang laminated photos and cards. A compact printer and a laminator. Lexan strips or cookie sheets in cabinets to prevent cans falling out after you travel.
A 12-inch-square piece of perforated rubber mat under your block/pad to catch the dirt and mud. A quick shake, and it’s clean.
I love having an Ettore Grip ‘n Grab to pick up trash in the camp area and put it in trash bags. Taking walks and picking up trash is what I do.
I have a large metal tray with handles on each end, purchased for less than $15 at Walmart. I load it up with items I am carrying out to the picnic table for a meal and use it again to reduce the number of trips back inside for cleanup. We also make a lot of foil-packet meals on the campfire, and because the tray is metal, it is great for putting those hot packets on straight from the fire.
I have a Maglite flashlight in a wall-mounted holder in the “garage” (RV storage compartment) for quick access while outside. I also have a mini Maglite in the kitchen drawer along with one in the bedroom in case we wake up in the middle of the night with no power.
A long cable and a lock for bikes, generators or anything else that you don’t want to walk away.
Thanks for all the tips. We still have a couple more to tick off, but we have a great start. I added a small Shark vacuum, and it really helps. Doesn’t take up a lot of space, not too noisy and works on hard floors as well as carpet. Great for camping trips, especially with fur babies! LA Totally Awesome is just that — awesome! I have the concentrate, but I’m going to grab a bottle of the spray before we hit the road again.
Although you have a portable griddle on the list, I was surprised that you do not have a portable barbecue grill. They are a must-have. I own a Weber that is small, lightweight and easy to store. A picnic-table cover is a bonus.
1) Distilled water for battery. 2) Auto-wiring repair kit. 3) Hitch-coupler lock. 4) Hidden spare key for the door. 5) Stick-on solar light with motion sensor. 6) Can of spray lube. 7) Portable solar panel and controller. 8) Portable air compressor (my Ryobi 18-volt works great and uses the same battery as my drill. I use it on the stabilizer jacks and my portable fan). 9) Voltage tester. 10) Self-priming water hose and 5-gallon jug(s) to fill water tank. 11) Large reusable tie-wraps for hose, electrical cord, coax cable, etc. 12) Bungee cords. 13) Hydraulic jack for tire changes. 14) Small tool kit. 15) Small roll of EternaBond tape for roof repair. 16) Auto duster mop used on inside and outside surfaces.
I would recommend a 30-amp or 50-amp power extension cord, depending on what power you have on your rig. Sometimes that pedestal receptacle is too far away. You won’t need to move your rig closer after you’ve leveled it, plus it allows you not to have to pull your rig’s cord all the way out. Just expose the plug and use the extension.
Adjustable spring-loaded bars are great to keep things from moving in the refrigerator.
I have a motorhome with doors that lock in at the bottom of the door. In the past the door would unlock if we hit a bump. The door wood slam open and close. Now we use extendable spring-loaded fridge/shelf bars to put between the door and the doorjamb when locked in the open mode — nice and fairly tight to keep them open. We haven’t had a problem since using them.
One great item to add to your list when camping at sites with full hookups is one of the cleaning robots from i-Robot or other brands. These are great for keeping the inside of your rig clean and are especially recommended if you have kids that are constantly tracking in dirt and sand. My wife won’t go glamping without it.
A child-size broom stores in little space and does well in our small camper. We also have drawstring bags that I make to carry bath essentials to showers at camp.
Along with the angle hose connector and pressure regulator, an attachment for connecting a spigot makes it very easy to connect a 5-foot green hose from the spigot to the flush connector on my black water tank. Since the spigot is adjacent to an access storage compartment, I keep hand soap, paper towels and disposable gloves within reach for cleanup after washing up sewer pipes when packing down to head home.
I use a tension rod (curtain or shower) in my RV’s shower to hang items. I can easily take it down when not in use.
Installing a good-quality (metal) water Y (with shutoffs for each direction) after the water-pressure regulator will let you aim and control the built-up pressure — so you don’t get “sprayed on” disconnecting your water hose.
I find outdoor rugs help tremendously, especially when there is little or no paving at the site. Avoid rubber-backed rugs, as they retain moisture, and the dirt or sand does not sift through. They reduce the dirt tracked in and provide a clean surface for all the activity just outside the RV. A small blower is also helpful in the final cleanup before breaking camp. This avoids rolling up the dirt and taking it home!
A two-burner camp stove. I bought one because the outdoor kitchen stove is small and does not handle larger skillets and Dutch ovens, which I use often. I bought a hose with a quick-disconnect that plugs into the trailer’s RV gas manifold. Also, cooking outside prevents heating up the trailer on warmer days and prevents grease from settling on surfaces inside your trailer.
David E. Weller
Buying chemicals for your holding tank can be very expensive. We use the Unique brand. Chemicals and other supplies can be bought at considerably lower prices on Amazon. We bought our RV at a dealership, and the salesman actually told us not to buy supplies at their store.
We have a first-aid kit in our motorhome at all times. You never know when a bandage could be used.
Best cooker for small RV trailer: Kuraidori induction cooktop.
We bring a small leaf blower to blow off the awning and trailer top when we are under lots of trees.
A Garmin RV GPS is a must for anyone who can afford it. If you put in your destination, not only will it get you there, but it will direct you there in a way that won’t go under any low bridges that would rip your A/C units and satellite dish off your RV. An absolute must is a tire-pressure indicator for your RV and your tow vehicle. It could save your life, your family’s life, and anyone else on the road that you could hit if your tire blew out from too high or too low of pressure.
Extra batteries for flashlights, etc., and a pen and pad of paper for making a list of supplies you found you need. And don’t forget to take rabies-shot certificates obtained from the vet for your fur-babies. Also, there is a Rescue Pet Inside sign you can place in one of your windows, should you be gone and, heaven forbid, a power outage occurs with your animals inside a hot camper!
Dana L. Bradley
We love the bungee assortment we bought from Home Depot. About $12 for 30 of them. We’ve used sizes and configurations we never would have thought to buy individually.
One great item to add to your camping list when camping at sites with full hookups is one of the cleaning robots (i.e. i-Robot or other brands). These are great for keeping the inside of your rig clean and is especially recommended if you have kids that are constantly tracking in dirt and sand! My wife won’t go glamping without it!
1) We use an Atomic Beam lantern to light up the campsite. 2) I put the male part of a brass quick-connect pair on the brass elbow attached to the camper water inlet and put the female part on the water hose. Connecting the water hose to the camper no longer means rubbing my knuckles against the camper. Also, it does not leak. 3) I put screw-on quick-connects on my TV cable for the same reason. You just have to be sure you have enough distance so it does not slip off. 4) I like the idea of the drill-powered air compressor. 5) I bought five stands from Harbor Freight to use with my jack stands instead of trying to place a stack of blocks in the right position. Works great.
Mud dauber screens to protect your refrigerator and heater vents and air intakes if you live in or are spending any time in Texas.
Linda and Tom Warmuth
Two or more large RV outdoor mats (8’x16’ or bigger) for the “patio” area just outside your rig.
Folding outdoor carpet/mat made from polypropylene. These keep the under-awning area cleaner and drier while providing a nice place for kids and pets to relax on the ground. They also help cut down on dirt being tracked inside the RV. Mallet for driving stakes to hold down the outdoor carpet, folding pet/kid pen, awning guy line, volleyball-net guy lines, horseshoe pins, etc. Folding camp shovel for use with campfires/coals when Dutch-oven cooking and campsite cleanup. Lightweight, above-ground fire bowl with folding or collapsing legs. For use when or where fires are permitted but no ground fires are permitted, or when the campfire pit that’s provided at your site is located so far away it’s impractical. Real wheel chocks (as in wedges) that will prevent your RV from rolling away when you’re parked on a slope. Those X-type chocks can help stabilize your towable RV, but don’t depend on them to keep the vehicle from rolling away. I had my travel trailer roll several feet up against a tree one time when I had them installed and tightened as tight as possible.