Essential RV accessories for newbie travelers.
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 Lifethat 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].
Camping photos by Lorisa and Ron Pierson