If you're about to own an RV, there's actually a fairly long list of things you should buy and things you can buy (but don't have to).
Here's a quick checklist of the bare essentials. If you don't have these in your RV - you could run into a problem at some stage.
If you buy a used RV - the seller may have already bought these and will probably include them in the sale. It's worth asking and checking all of the compartments as you are more than likely to find some of these items there. They may be in great shape - or not so great. Assess what you have before you go on a shopping spree.
This list is based on reading hundreds of articles and watching hours of videos by experienced RV'ers. The links on this page go to Amazon but you can get the same items in RV stores and some of them will probably be available in Walmart Supercenters too.
Here's everything you need to get your RV safely and comfortably parked in your campground site.
RV Leveling blocks
Also known as RV lego blocks, these hardy yet lightweight blocks create a level surface underneath your RV. Some campgrounds have very well-leveled surfaces where you won't need these, but others may have an angle to them that you'd like to correct. You just pull out your levelers, arrange them as you want to, and drive the RV over them.
Simple and affordable, wheel chocks simply help stop your RV from rolling anywhere. They work like a doorstop: If the wheel begins to move, it encounters an obstacle and stops.
Related posts: How to Park an RV on a Hill
X-chock wheel stabilizers
For extra safety and stability, you can use x-chock stabilizers for dual wheels (tandem). You just place them between the wheels and use the included ratchet to expand them so that they stick to the wheels. The X-chocks can really reduce the amount of wheel movement to a minimum so you can move around your RV without feeling it bounce.
Water pressure regulator
Campground city water hook-ups often offer high water pressure. Which may sound nice but can actually damage the delicate pipes and faucets of RV's. That's why a water pressure regulator is absolutely necessary. Simple plastic ones are also an option - but a brass one with a gauge isn't too expensive and makes a wise long-term investment.
Electrical converter (dogbone)
Campgrounds often offer a 50Amp electrical outlet for hook-ups. That would be ok if your RV has 50Amp but not if - like many rigs - it runs on 30Amps. You would need a converter of 50Amp into 30. And if you have a 50Amp rig, you would need the opposite - a converter from 30Amp (which you might encounter in some campgrounds) to 50Amp.
Rv'ers fondly call these converters dogbones - because of their shape. Find out which you need and add it to your inventory.
Related post: What Does “Full Hookups” Mean in an RV Park?
A surge protector is something most people get for their computers back home or other sensitive electronic equipment. Considering how expensive an RV is - and how many appliances run on its electric systems, a surge protector is just smart to have. A weather-resistant surge protector should always be sitting along with your electricity hook-up whenever you plug in your RV.
Quality water hose
Water quality isn't just about taste. Living in an RV you want to make sure you're consuming water that's free of bacteria as well as harmful chemicals. The first step is to make sure you're using a high-quality drinking water hose like this BPA-free one by Camco.
A reliable clean water hose isn't enough. Traveling around the country, you just never know what quality of water you'll run into. This is one item you shouldn't cheap out on. Make sure it's a 5-micron active carbon filter that will keep out small bacteria and microscopic debris out of your drinking water.
Related post: Is RV Water Safe to Drink?
The above items will take care of water coming from your hook-ups but what about the water tank? Your freshwater tank is filled from the same sources but then has water standing in it for days on end. Making sure the water that goes into the tank is great but you also need to sanitize the entire tank every now and again. Essentially, you add a cleaning solution to the water tank, slush it around by driving (optional) and then let the water out and flush the system with clean fresh water.
Some people use bleach as the cleaning solution but I prefer a less toxic and more eco-friendly designated solution. It also means you won't have that distasteful chlorine smell in your water.
Black tank cleaning solutions
Moving on to the other end of things... Your black tank is where your sewage flows to when you're not hooked-up to an external sewer. Clearly, things can get smelly - and that smell can sift right back up through your toilet. Keeping the toilet lid shut is always a good idea but you should also make sure the tank is as clean as it can be. For that, you need two products -
Black tank drop-in packs that break down the mess down there and allow it to flush out more effectively, as well as deodorizing the tank.
Related post: How Do RV Toilets Work?
A high-pressure cleaning water pipe - either straight or flexible - that you can insert through the toilet and use to thoroughly and effectively rinse the black water tank. Empty your tank before beginning and then make sure the valve remains open to let the excess water flush out.
Special RV toilet paper
Yes, I'm still looking down the toilet here 😀 It's just something you may not be thinking of but should. In order to minimize the risk of clogging, opt for 100% bio-degradable RV-designated toilet tissue. This type of TP breaks down faster than the regular one and will quickly get flushed out on the next dump.
Related post: Why Do You Need Special RV Toilet Paper?
Items that will keep you safer
The second part of this checklist is dedicated to items and systems designed to keep you safer while out there enjoying RV life.
Air pressure monitor
New models of motorhomes already have this and if you're towing with a new pickup truck then you're truck's tires almost certainly have built-in air pressure sensors. However, for your towable - or for older RV models - you need to constantly check the air pressure in your tires. And that's where an air pressure monitor comes in hand. Install it once and get the data transmitted to the driver's cab at all times.
Related post: Top 15 RV Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems
This is another item that is built into modern motorhomes and towing vehicles but you might need for your 5th wheel or travel trailer. Install a good wireless backup camera and get a good view of what's going on behind you as you drive in reverse.
First Aid kit
You can either create your own First Aid kit by putting together a collection of band-aids, sterile pads, and bandages - or just get a fully stocked First Aid kit with everything organized and ready for use.
Flashlights and a headlamp
Flashlights are a dime a dozen and you should probably keep a bunch of them lying around in various places. Not only do they come in handy - literally - when it's dark outside but you may also need them when trying to look inside a deep compartment in your RV.
What you should really invest in though is a quality hands-free headlamp. Make sure you get a water-resistant one so you can go out there even on a rainy night if the need arises.
General maintenance items
Finally, the last section of this list is for those small must-have items that are just for general maintenance issues. You can read more about them in this extensive list of RV maintenance tips but here they are in a nutshell.
Or in other words, heavy-duty disposable gloves for handling your black tank and sewer lines.
Again, you can read about this in the 49 RV Maintenance Tips post but in short, it's good practice to keep all moving external parts of your RV well lubricated. The Boeshield T-9 spray comes highly recommended by RV'ers or you could use the good old WD40. There are also specific products for various RV parts but a can of one of these general-purpose lubricants will do the job pretty well.
Lug Wrench and Electric Screwdriver
Now, you may want to add more tools or even a complete toolbox to your RV - but keep in mind that these instruments can weight quite a lot. In an RV, you want to keep your weight down so here are two tools you should keep - but probably not a whole lot of other ones.
A lug wrench
RV'ers constantly need to watch their tires and wheels. If anything seems loose - tighten it before driving away. That's when a lug wrench is indispensable.
For other screws, nuts, and bolts, a small cordless screwdriver with multiple screw bits can be a lifesaver -
That ends this list for now. We'll probably add more items down the line so if you can think of anything that we forgot and belongs on this "must-have" checklist please leave a comment to let us know!