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Best RV Product (Almost) Necessities
If you haven’t read my article on RV products where I give you the complete Amazon grab-bag of everything you NEED to go RVing, you can check that out here.
There is a lot of RV products that did not make the cut for that list. This is not because I do not own them or highly recommend them. That list was simply just the necessities (no BS).
This list is for all the things that I use and love, but could live without if I had to.
When it comes to RV products, we only want to purchase the best. We only want to purchase the products that we will regularly lose. Finally, we only want to purchase products that make our lives easier. After all, when space and weight is limited, the list of things to drag along becomes much, much shorter.
RV Products for Utilities
This one very well could have been included on the “necessities” list, but I camped for years without one. However, with what I know now, I would never move my RV without one.
Have you ever seen a burnt up RV or maybe one on fire on the side of the road? It seems that most RV fires happen while the RV is traveling down the road. This is because RVs have propane gas piped from the tanks to appliances throughout the RV. The going method for RV manufacturers to run these lines is externally along the frame. Which means that they also travel right past the axles and the tires. If you were to experience a tire blowout, the debris may puncture the line causing an instant massive flow of propane directly to the location of a lot of sparks. These lines are not made that tough either, they are just a standard rubber hose.
The simple solution is to turn off your propane when you move your RV, which works. The downside to this method is that RV fridges use propane to run while you are not connected to power. So if you turn off your propane, your fridge is not running while you are traveling. This works for short distances or if you pack your fridge once you get to your destination. But if you are a full-timer like us, we have a stocked fridge at all times and this won’t work.
Thats why I use GasStops on our propane bottles. They work by allowing steady flow of propane through the valve, but will cut it off if a major leak happens. Additionally, they come with a gauge that shows you (relatively) when you are running low on propane. They are simple to use: just screw it onto the propane bottle and then connect the hose to the GasStop.
I purchased one for each bottle on my rig and now I can run my fridge while driving without worry.
- Electrical Adapters
For me, this is a must have RV product. If you know what kind of outlets you are going to have at your campsite, you can get away with not having any. Even then, this is one of those, “Rather have it and not need it” sort of things.
I have a 50 amp RV and sometimes 30 amp spots are all that is available. So, we have to use an adapter to plug into the 30 amp outlet. We just have to be sure not to turn on too many things at a time in the RV.
Even less common, but I am glad I have it, is my 50 amp to 15 amp adapter. This is enough to charge your batteries or run the microwave if you are parked out front of somebody’s house. Just don’t think you are going to fire up the A/C in your RV.
No matter what outlet you use, make sure that you are plugging your RV into your surge protector and then the adapter.
If you have a 50 amp RV, I recommend buying these:
If you have a 30 amp RV, I recommend buying these. (Yes you can safely plug your 30 amp RV into a 50 amp power source.):
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST RV PRODUCTS EVER THOUGHT OF!!!
This may be, and I cannot understate this, one of the best purchases my wife ever made.
Nobody wants their fresh water hose tangled up with their sewage hose, wrapped around their power chord, with their water filter somewhere in between.
That’s why I was so happy when my wife found these heavy duty, waterproof, and labeled storage bags. These are amazing! They help keep the storage underneath our RV organized and clean, with no commingling of hoses.
They have plenty of room for 30+ ft of sewer hose and adapters, 45 ft of 50 amp electrical cord and adapters, and probably 100+ ft of freshwater hose (although I only have 40 ft in mine).
This is going to sound so 2008, but depending on the size of your RV, having a standalone GPS like a Garmin may actually be a necessity.
It’s actually pretty sad that vehicle manufacturers now put 12 inch screens into a lot of their heavy duty trucks, and if you use these trucks as they are intended you may still have to use a standalone GPS.
I thought I was officially done with having a device in my truck thats only purpose is giving me directions. Most people these days either use their phone, or their vehicles built in GPS. Unfortunately, none of these systems have integrated the ability to limit your route based on weight, height, and length restrictions. This can get you into serious trouble if you decide to take a large RV out without considering this.
For instance, we recently camped near Mobile, Alabama. When entering Mobile from the east, you drive through 1 of 2 tunnels that go UNDER the Mobile River. One of those tunnels only has 12 ft of clearance, where the other has 16 ft. If you choose the wrong tunnel, your RV is suddenly a convertible.
This is something I did not think about at all before we purchased our 13.5 ft tall fifth wheel. Most overhangs on highways are labeled for their clearance rating, but if you rely on this method, it does not give you a whole lot of time to stop before you’re due for a new roof. Not that you would want to suddenly slam on your brakes on a highway anyways.
To make matters worse, roads also have weight restrictions. At 26K lbs GCW (gross combined weight) this is something that comes into play with our RV.
Finally, our total length with a 42.5 ft fifth wheel on the back of our F-350 is just under 60 ft long. Some roads have length restrictions because a rig this size just simply will not make it around the curves. If you have ever driven through the Ozarks, this may make sense. Even if there is no restrictions, with a rig this size would you like to take a windy mountain road or cut through narrow downtown city streets?
The average person does not pay much attention to these restrictions or “truck route” signs. While towing a house is the last time you want to figure out how you’re going to make a U-turn. A dead end often means backing up for a ways, and that “a ways” could mean MILES.
Until integrated vehicle GPS or Google Maps gets on board with the needs of its consumers, drivers choosing large RVs will be stuck going back in time 15 years and picking up a trucker or RV GPS unit. Although I still prefer using my phone for GPS when I am not pulling our rig, our Garmin has become one of the best RV products I have purchased because it allows me to drive worry free to our next campsite.
Garmin currently sells 4 different models of RV GPS units. With the exception of a few minor details, the only real difference between the models is the size of the screen and whether or not it has a built-in dash cam. Screens are available at 7, 8, and 10 inches. Only the 7 inch model is available with a built-in dash cam. But, all of the others are able to control compatible Garmin dash cams.
I personally chose the 7 inch model to not further overcrowd my dash. Also, I would like to be able to put my GPS away and still have a functioning dash cam when I am not towing, so I chose the model without that feature. I personally did not need a larger display and I find the price difference significant without added functionality. If a 7 inch screen is enough for you, that is my recommendation as the price begins to add up.
- Furrion Vision S
If your RV was built within the last few years, you probably know what Furrion Vision is. There is probably a cover plate for a pre-wired camera on the back of your RV. This is one of those RV products that sure aren’t necessary, but it makes your life a lot easier. It can even make traveling a lot safer.
I know I will get some backlash from the good ol’ boys that, “Have been towing without cameras their whole lives, and never needed one.”
Well, same. But when we bought a 40+ footer, I decided to embrace technology and get all the help I could get.
Honestly, I do not use it for backing up as much as I thought I would. That is what my wife is for. It is hard to perceive distances. I think of it just like a backup camera on a truck. It is nice to have but there is no replacement for getting out and looking. Don’t put all of your trust in a camera when something could easily be out of view. Being able to pan and use your peripherals is key.
The real game changer with this camera system is when you are driving down the highway. When a fifth wheel is 8.5 ft wide, even with tow mirrors extended you cannot see behind you very easily. This is especially true when folks like to follow real close. The age old sign, “If you cannot see my mirrors, I cannot see you,” reads true. Some people should use common sense when following somebody (especially east of Texas).
Regardless of what type of RV you are driving, even the smallest of travel trailers block your view of what is directly behind you. Being able to tell that you are fully past somebody before you get over, or being able to tell that somebody is flying up next to you before you change lanes, is paramount. These are the facts that have made this system one of the best RV products I have purchased.
True. It’s an unnecessary luxury, but could you really put a price on safety when you’re moving that much weight around?
Furrion offers a few options when it comes to this system depending on the screen size for the monitor and the number/style of cameras. It’s a good idea to check your RV to see what it is pre-wired with if you want a truly plug-and-play install. My fifth wheel was wired with a Sharkfin on the rear and the two side cameras in the side marker lights.
If your RV is pre-wired the same as mine, the install is simple. Remove the screws holding on the cover plates, plug in the cameras, and screwing them down. If your RV is not prewired, it does take some simple wiring. However, it is no more difficult than replacing an external light assembly.
I chose the 7 inch monitor to match the screen size of my GPS. 4.3 and 5 inch monitors are available as well. The sideview cameras are not compatible with the 4.3 inch display. So, if you want that feature, you must choose a 5 or 7 inch display.
The only thing left to choose is how many cameras and what style you would like.
There is several different packages, you just need to know how many and what cameras you want:
Chances are, if your RV is pre-wired for a Furrion Vision system, you will find a cover plate for one of these on the back of your rig. It is their most advanced camera and has audio built-in (although I haven’t found a use for that feature yet). The antenna provides a long range and we almost never have any connectivity issues from the cab of our truck to the back of our trailer (over 50 ft). They also advertise this camera as being able to be installed as a doorway observation camera when park (more on this subject later).
This camera is designed to be mounted on the back of your RV. It comes with, and is mounted to a marker light. The intention is that you replace the existing marker light and use its power source to run the camera and the new light.
This camera installs the same as the previous light if your RV is not pre-wired for it. If it is pre-wired, you simply remove the cover plate, plug it in, and screw it down. These are mounted up front on the side of your RV and give you a view down the side much like the side view mirrors on your car.
As a Security System
One of the features that Furrion uses to advertise the Vision system is its ability to be used a security camera system when your RV is parked. This claim is somewhat misleading because they choose to leave out a very key detail:
THE CAMERAS ARE POWERED BY THE RUNNING LIGHTS!
This is not a problem if you are in a motorhome and you are willing to leave your running lights on at all times. If you are in a towable RV, your running lights are powered via your tow vehicle and lose that power as soon as you disconnect your vehicle. There is a workaround, if you would like to run a jumper from your aux (12v) pin to your running light pin on your trailer’s electrical plug. There is a few RV products out there to easily run this jumper for you. Just make sure you choose a fused option. Keep in mind that either of these options will run your RV’s running lights AT ALL TIMES, day and night.
The only other option is to run a separate power source to all of your cameras that is independent of your lights. This is a very labor intensive process.
Another problem you will run into is that the monitor is powered by a 12v DC cigarette lighter adapter. Unless your RV has a DC cigarette lighter port where you would want to place your monitor, you either need to wire one in or purchase an AC power cord for the monitor like the one below that I got. (Hint: I got the 2 pack for a special project you can find more about soon).
The camera systems do have some good built-in features for use as a security system like night vision, motion detection, and sound (Sharkfin and rear camera). It is great to have the added functionality out of a single system.
I chose the 4 camera system because I had the intention of also using it as a security system. This gave me one camera for each of the pre-wired locations on my rig and an additional camera to mount above my entrance door for security system use.
If I could go back, I would not have purchased this package because my RV is pre-wired for the Sharkfin on the back. This means the standard red marker light camera would have to be used for the security camera above the door. The Sharkfin is a better fit for use as the camera over the entrance door. I would have bought the standard 3 piece camera kit and a standalone Sharkfin camera as an add-on.
- Tire Pressure Monitor
My biggest fear while towing around our large fifth wheel is experiencing a blowout that causes me to lose control of my rig. Unlike large semi-trucks, I do not have dual-wheels on any axle of my rig. If I were to have a blow-out on my trailer, there would not be another tire there to take the load until I stopped. This may cause some pretty serious handling issues and maybe even a crash from loss of control.
With the number of miles I am towing, the peace of mind provided by being able to constantly monitor my tire pressures makes having a tire pressure monitor one of the best RV products I have purchased.
Most modern vehicles have a TPMS system that warns drivers of inflation issues on their vehicle, but what about the trailer?
Most RV’s do not come with any sort of tire pressure monitors system installed. Some RVs may come pre-equipped with a signal booster for a system. Lippert is very famous for doing this with a lot of products to influence you to purchase their accessories. My RV came with Lippert’s Tire Linc booster dock installed in the battery bay and a fancy sticker to tell me what it was.
I chose to go with another product, so I simply removed the installed booster dock and used the power source to wire in my own booster (pictured above).
There is a few options to choose from in the tire pressure monitor department and they all generally include the same features with minor differences between them. The main thing that you are looking for is the ability to monitor tire pressure and temperature reliably while moving down the road, and the ability to set alerts for these parameters to limit the amount of attention you give the screen.
I was not a fan of Lippert’s Tire Linc product because it is part of the OneControl System and you have to use your phone as the in-cab portion of the system. When it came to a safety system like this, I did not want to rely on ensuring an app on my phone was always open while towing. If this is something that you would like, to limit the number of screens you have in your cab, it does have good reviews and you can check it out here. Also, to be fair, you can buy a package that has an in-cab alerter, but it does not tell you anything more than that a problem exists (no screen, just a light and a tone).
I prefer to have a small standalone monitor that gives me everything I need to know at a glance or within a press of a button.
With this type of product, a true budget option is not necessarily a good idea and often will be more frustrating than useful. My choice was between the Tire Minder and the GUTA when I made my purchase.
I personally chose the GUTA because it was cheaper and I wanted to use the extra 2 sensors for my airbags (bad idea, but more on that another time).
The Tire Minder is the #1 rated standalone TPMS system and has amazing reviews. It is much more popular, but the GUTA system also has great reviews, just fewer of them. I have had 0 issues with my GUTA system and it saved me some money. Both of the systems operate virtually identically with the same components: monitor, booster/repeater, and tire valve cap sensors. You just have to make sure you get enough sensors for the number of tires on your trailer.
Miscellaneous RV Products
- Door Lock
This is a total preference thing, but I really enjoy having a keypad door latch/lock on our RV. The best part about this RV product is that it isn’t anything extra you have to drag around, you just replace something already installed on your RV.
I am the only person in my family that ever carries keys on them (mhm…wife). I am also normally the last person out of the truck when we arrive back at our campsite because I am getting our 2 year old out of her seat. If it wasn’t for our keypad lock, when we arrived back I would see my wife and oldest daughter standing by the door like sad puppy dogs waiting to be let in the camper.
Fortunately for them and their inner puppy dogs, I installed a key pad lock on our camper. No keys required; punch in a 4 digit code, hit unlock, and you’re in. They also come with a key fob as well, but we do not personally use that feature.
The keyless entry and push button start on my truck allows my keys to stay in my pocket without fumbling around for the right one. The keypad on our RV’s door allows them to stay there. Far from a necessity, but one of my favorite RV products we have purchased.
There is 3 different styles that are available. There is a Standard handle, a Class C/A handle, and a “Compact” handle that does not take up as much room, and is able to be used on all glass doors (the dimensions fit my needs and it is cheaper, so this is the one that I chose even though I could have used a standard model).
- Outdoor Rug
This one does not need much explanation, but it is one of the best RV products to make a campsite a little bit homier and creates a cleaner outdoor space for the little ones to play. It is also the single best RV product to cut down on the amount of dirt tracked inside.
This brand and style of rug is pretty common with RVers and ours has held up great. It folds away easily and comes with a bag and stakes to hold it down. It comes in a variety of sizes and color patterns, so choose your favorite.
If you have any questions about any of my suggestions, reach out.
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