So, you’ve purchased your RV and are getting ready to hit the road for your first adventure. You have packed clothing, food, first aid supplies, personal products, outdoor play equipment, but, do you have these ten must haves for RV camping?
First thing in the morning this item will make or break your day! Coffee is an essential requirement for any kind of camping and RV camping is no exception. Whether you wait patiently for your French press to deliver the perfect brew or you program your automatic coffee maker to have that first cup of joe ready when you roll out of bed, some type of coffee maker is essential. Choices abound from pod makers to an old-fashioned over the fire pit tin pot, from a programmable coffee maker to a simple pour over. No matter your choice, get it brewed!
Of course, to get that perfect brew a water filter makes a difference. No matter where you camp, in an RV park or in the wild, water can taste and smell different, it can contain sediment and harmful contaminants such as lead, heavy metals or pesticides, and it can affect what enters your body through drinking, teeth brushing, showering, or food preparation. Water filtration systems can be as simple as an in-line filter for your drinking water, a multi-canister system for all your holding tank water, or a full RV water filtration system. Filters may be ultraviolet units or ceramic, single line or multiple canister, or a full reverse osmosis system.
If you only RV camp occasionally, an in-line unit that attaches to your water hose may adequately filter odor and taste; however, they are small, and have a shorter life span than a canister system, and do not remove sediment. For those who RV full-time, a canister system may be a better choice. Canister systems range from one to three canisters, regulate odor and taste, remove sediment, pesticides, and lead, and are compact and relatively inexpensive.
Consider the microns a filter removes, the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) rating, the material, the flow rate and the life estimate of the filter in choosing how to filter your RV water. No matter which system you choose, each option, however, requires regular (at least once a year) cleaning of your holding tanks–see the last item on this list of “must haves”.
Quality camping chair
Now that you have filtered your water and brewed a cup of coffee, sit down in your camping chair and enjoy the day. A comfortable, easy to store, simple to set up chair is another “must have” for RV camping. Choose from your standard foldable camp chair in a bag, a rocking or gliding chair, a zero-gravity lounge chair, a round “club” chair, or a light-weight backpacking model. Each model has unique features: some have umbrellas attached, some come with a detachable footrest, some have one or more built-in cup holders or even a cooler, all come in a multitude of colors and prices. The choices are almost limitless so opt for the chair that is easy to set up, comfortable in height and support, and will increase your enjoyment of these moments while RV camping. Sit and relax, enjoy the view and the brew, and the sheer joy of RV life.
One of the other joys of RV living is making life easier and that includes how you cook, so an outdoor grill is a “must have” on my list. In warmer months or climates, not overheating your rig with your oven or stove puts less of a strain on your AC and reduces the power draw on your batteries. Not only do many RV parks offer fire pits, but you can bring your own grill as well. There are table top models with single burners that use propane cylinders, full-size gas grills, smokers, charcoal grills, sun-powered cookers, and electric grills. Find the type and style that suits your family and your favorite grillable foods and bring it along. Gathering a group around a grill for a meal is a great way to get to know your neighbors as well.
Staying in contact with your group on the trail, guiding your driver into a space, or letting your kids talk to their friends across the park is made simple and enjoyable with walkie talkies. Depending on your needs, considering the range, channel selection, and feature set for your uses is all that’s required. You can have walkie talkies for the whole family with easy to use kid-friendly features, or an ultra sophisticated long-range system. When you want to call the crew in from the pool for that great meal you just grilled, a walkie talkie is a “must have”.
Once you’ve guided the rig into its spot with your walkie talkie, it’s time to set up for your stay. Getting the rig level can be as simple as pushing the ‘level” button in your rig, or it can mean using leveling blocks. Leveling your RV is important for your refrigeration unit to run correctly, for your comfort in sitting and sleeping, and to allow your metering systems to provide accurate readings. You can make your own leveling blocks from pieces of wood, wider than your tires and pressure treated. Wooden blocks are heavy, take up storage space, and are prone to cracking and splitting. Heavy duty plastic leveling blocks are light in weight, stackable,and come with a variety of sizes, weights, heights, strengths and costs. Talk to other owners of your model RV and find out what their experience has been, read articles or watch videos on leveling an RV, and keep this “must have” in your camper.
Solar panels are a must, especially if you are boondocking. Solar panels, however, are not just for those times you are off-grid. They can enhance your experience in an RV park as well. Charging your batteries using solar power requires no fuel, makes no sound, can charge your batteries for hours using just the sun, and can potentially extend the life of your RV battery. Plus, solar panels are almost maintenance free, and since they burn no fuel, are good for the planet. The amount of power you can draw from panels is determined by your battery capacity and your inverter. Your battery produces DC power and your inverter changes it to AC power. AC power runs everything from your must have coffee maker to your TV and phone charger. This is a slow steady charge to your battery pack in your RV. The bonus to solar panels is you can go off grid any place, any time, and still have power for your systems and devices.
Essential to converting solar energy to AC power from your DC battery, is the “must have’ inverter. You can learn all about solar power and especially how to choose the right inverter at Go Power’s learning center. Start up power, or draw, on an appliance can significantly affect how much total power an appliance such as a microwave needs to run efficiently and safely with the other power using systems in your RV. Using the Go Power! Calculator helps you find out how much solar, and which inverter is right for you.
Whether or not you are using solar to charge your batteries, an inverter in an RV provides you with the ability to power appliances which require 12volt Alternating Current power, or in simplest terms, items that would normally need to be plugged into a power outlet or a generator.
If you have an RV that does not have an inverter built into it, you will need to be plugged into a power source at an RV park or into a generator, to use various appliances, to charge phones, to watch TV, and other such things.
The size of your inverter will depend on the size of the appliances you need to provide with power. Determine the size inverter and the type (sine or modified sine) and purchase your inverter accordingly.
Knowing how your RV electrical system powers your systems and appliances is important to avoid popping breakers, blowing fuses and avoiding electrical fires. To avoid overloading your electrical system a “must have” is a surge protector which monitors wiring issues, power spikes, reverse polarity, and other common electrical problems. This is a power strip similar to the one you plug in at home to protect your phone and tv. Whether you have a 30 or 50 amp rig, a surge protector at minimum protects your RV from power surges. Surge protectors come in portable or installed models with both automatic shut-offs for your systems, or a messaging/alert sent electronically. You can also choose between a hardwired or portable plug and play electrical management system depending on whether you travel frequently or not and how comfortable you might be installing an EMS system in your RV.
Holding tank treatment
Now that you’ve spent a great weekend camping in your RV, or if you’re full-time and moving to a new location, a holding tank treatment for your black water waste tank is definitely a ‘must have”.
The black-water tank is one of three (or four) tanks in the typical RV. The others include freshwater, gray-water tank where the freshwater drains after it’s used in bathing or cooking, and the black tank which holds toilet waste. Treatment for your black tank reduces or eliminates odors caused by the breakdown of waste materials.
A number of cleaners work well in RVs: chemical, nitrate, bio-active, and enzyme cleaners. Chemical treatments are the least expensive, and control odor the best; however, they don’t always succeed at breaking down waste as well. Enzymes break down waste products and only mask odors with a cover-up scent additive; they also must be added regularly, and do not work well in overly hot or cold climates. Nitrates work by creating an odorless gas, nitrogen, and they are environmentally friendly. Bio-active treatments last over time because aerobic bacteria reproduce and continue to break down the sewage in your tank.
Holding tank treatments come in powder, drop-in packets, and liquid form and vary in cost and frequency of use. If you have full hook-ups and access to plenty of water, keeping your black tank odor free is much easier than if you are conserving water while boondocking. Your black tank should be emptied when it is ¾’s full and flushed with lots of waters with a DIY solution of 1/4 cup Borax detergent, 1/4 cup water softener, plus some Dawn dish soap. Using only one-ply septic safe toilet paper is important to avoid clogs and tank buildup of solids.
Sanitizing your holding tank can be done using a ratio of a quarter cup of bleach to 15 gallons of water. You can let the solution just sit for 8 hours, or drive with the bleach water solution sloshing around in your tank to eliminate waste and odors, dumping in an approved dump station.
These are 10 of my “Must Haves” for enjoyable RV camping, on or off the grid. There are probably as many “must haves” as there are RVers so you may find your list differs.
When you’re prepared, RV camping is a wonderful experience. It provides an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors while having some of the luxuries of home. It’s the best of both worlds! With these must-have items, you’re sure to stay safe, keep your rig in working order, stay comfortable, and most importantly, have fun!