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RV Accessories: No BS, What do you NEED to go RVing?
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
I wish it was that simple. Whether you are planning to go full-time or are purchasing an RV for weekend trips to the lake, RVs need a lot of stuff to go with them. Purchasing the RV, whether that is a motorhome, a travel trailer, or a fifth wheel, comes with a secondary shopping list. This list is often overlooked when initially shopping for an RV, but when you realize all the stuff you need…it can be extremely overwhelming!
Luckily, if you were overwhelmed by the sheer number of options when it comes to RVs, you will be pleasantly surprised that there is very few options for RV accessories and EVERYBODY agrees on which ones are necessary and which are not.
I wish that were true, but unfortunately the RV accessory market is just as crowded as the RV manufacturer market and you will find a resource out there that tells you each product is a necessity and they are all the best of the best.
Well I will let you in on a secret…they’re not! In fact, if I have been given any advice that holds true since we have been living in our RV full-time, it’s that less is more. If you can get by with a smaller amount of stuff, then do it! When it comes to RVs, space and weight is limited!
(Say it again for the spouses that do not listen.)
There is a ton of POINTLESS items in the RV space.
Now why would somebody that makes money from people buying MORE stuff through their links encourage their readers to buy less?
I want you to succeed. You are working hard for your money and the cost of living isn’t getting any cheaper. I want to make RVing more accessible because when I was growing up tent camping, it did not seem that way. Finally, because I am honest.
I created this Amazon grab bag of RV accessory necessities (say that 10 times fast) so you can sort through all of the BS and get what you really need. If you want to learn about some of the products out there that you could live without, but shouldn’t have to, check out my article on Best RV Product (Almost) Necessities). So without further ado, I present you: My No BS Guide to RV Accessories.
The “Hookups” (Utilities)
- Electrical (1 Item)
You just spent a bunch of money on an RV, so I’m guessing (and I am just spit-balling here) the last thing you want to have happen is for your RV’s electrical system to be fried by some shady RV park electricity?
I didn’t think so.
It is no secret that RV parks do not often have the most reliable connections when it comes the utilities. Protect your investment with a surge protector.
This is the exact model of surge protector that we use on our fifth wheel. Just make sure you select either 30 or 50 amp depending on your RV’s needs.
- Water (3 items)
As hit or miss as RV park electrical can be, the water supply can be even more questionable. We have had everything from a firehose, to a trickle; clean pristine water, to water flowing yellow straight out of the faucet. There is a few RV accessories that you can purchase to protect your pipes and your health.
First thing is first, to connect your RV to the bib you are going to need a hose. While any old hose will technically work, regular garden hoses aren’t rated for potable water (they can release contaminates into your drinking water). I recommend getting 2 smaller hoses vs. 1 long hose, as about 3/4 of the time a shorter hose is all that is needed and you won’t have to have a massive coil laying on the ground.
There is so many different types of hoses, but all that truly matters is that it is rated for potable water.
I use 2 of the 25 ft Camco standard style hoses below. But some people swear by the collapsible style hoses because they are lightweight and coil easily.
Remember that if you bought a four season RV and plan on putting that claim to the test, you need to have someway to prevent your hose from freezing up. They make heated hoses for this purpose.
Water Pressure Regulator
You’re probably asking, why in the world would I want to limit the amount of water pressure I have in my RV? Well, I hate to break it to you, but your home on wheels is NOT indestructible. While RVs are now manufactured with the use of PEX (the same fresh water plumbing used in most houses) most manufacturers recommend to not exceed 45 psi on the pressure inlet.
On the contrary, if you have a “on-demand” water heater like we do, it most likely will not operate very well without a minimum of 45 psi. In other words, the sweet spot is most likely between 50-55 psi if you have this type of water heater. But I must say, you should always follow your manufacturer’s recommendation in the manual.
There is a few different styles of water pressure regulators. One style is very simple and preset at the factory between 40-50 psi. The downside to this style is that if you want to bump the pressure up a few psi to get consistent tankless water heater operation, you cannot do it. Additionally, you have no way of monitoring how much pressure you are actually getting. My choice is an adjustable regulator with a gauge for monitoring so that you can dial in the best pressure for your unit. Unfortunately nothing can really be done about low water pressure, but high water pressure should be limited with a product like what is found below.
Did I say we have had yellow water coming out of our faucet? Yeah that was the moment I decided it was a necessity to have a filter on our water inlet and not just the water we drink.
Depending on how intense you would like to go with your water filtration, there is several different options. We personally use a secondary, much more intense, filter for our drinking water so we do not use any super high tech filter for our water inlet. We have used both the options below and they perform very similarly. It just depends on whether you would like to replace the whole housing or just the internal filter each time.
Finally, I do not own a high end Blu Tech filter, but I do see A LOT of them around. When we got our RV, we considered getting one as they are the highest rated water filter out there, but since we use a really nice water filter for our drinking water, we ultimately decided it was not necessary for our needs. But, those that do own one swear by them and will never use anything else.
- Sewer (4 items)
Not every part of RV utilities are glamorous. In fact, one particular part of owning an RV is crap. Literally.
Every RV comes with its own poop chute, but that poop chute isn’t endless. It must be emptied (dun dun dun). Luckily, this can be a [relatively] clean process. Clean for you, not for the inside of your hose.
If you have ever seen the infamous Robin Williams scene from RV, you may have some anxiety about this part of RV life.
With a little help from these RV accessories, you can virtually eliminate the risk of any disastrous (yet hilarious) hijinks involved with emptying your grey or black tanks.
First things, first, you need a hose to get the contents from point A to point B. Also, you need the adapters to connect it to your RV and the ground. Most of the prefabricated hoses are universal, but the easiest way to make sure you have every necessary part, and they all work together, is to buy a kit.
The Camco RhinoFLEX products are my favorite because you can collapse them easily and they stay collapsed. A lot of other manufacturers claim their products collapse down, but it is a lot like trying to put anything back into its original packaging, it just doesn’t work. My recommendation is to get a kit with the larger hose and get a couple of shorter hose extensions. This way, you can (much like the water hose) have only the amount of hose out as necessary. This is especially important when it comes to sewer because you want your hose to be as straight and streamlined as possible since gravity is the only force helping it drain.
This may sound really weird, but you need to be able to see your tanks drain.
Strange right? Well, hear me out. Your dumping your tanks and you think it is done, so you disconnect the hose. Next thing you know, WHOOSH! A poo-splosion all over you. It wasn’t done draining yet.
Well, hopefully not that bad, but among other reasons, when you are counting every pound and water is one of the heaviest things on your RV, it helps to make sure your tanks are actually empty when you empty them. You need to be able to see it, even if it is your wife’s liquified poo.
This is probably one of the simplest RV accessories on this list, but very important.
Sewer Hose Support
I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to the sewer situation, we would all prefer it to go smoothly. Literally, we need it to flow smoothly. This is one thing that gets overlooked all too often. Unfortunately, when this is neglected the sewer hose will constantly be filled with “contents,” will leak, and could potentially BACK-UP!
Last time I checked, water does not flow up hill. We rely on gravity to drain the sewer in our RVs. Just like us, sewer hoses need support. There will almost always be a big bow in the hose that does not provide for a smooth downhill from the RV to the hole in the ground if you do not use a support.
Speaking of potential poo-splosions, using a secondary gate valve on your sewer outlet is not required, but can virtually eliminate the potential for any “accidents” when removing the cap.
So picture this, you just got to your campsite at the end of a very bumpy road. You go to hookup your sewer hose, unbeknownst to you, one of your tank valves cracked open on the drive and the fury of your black tank is unleashed all over you. Even if you try to close the valve before you remove the cap, it is too late, the outlet pipe is already pre-charged with the contents of your tank.
Even if your valves do not come dislodged during your drive, the outlet pipe will almost always drain “liquid” out when you removed the cap. Using a secondary gate valve at the cap prevents this liquid from escaping until the hose is connected.
Some valves available have a clear section on them, eliminating the need for the clear elbow previously mentioned.
Depending on the type of RV and the size, this category of RV accessories may be simple or relatively complicated.
- Chocking (1 item)
Probably the most important part of parking your RV (besides not hitting anything like the guy that just nailed a tree in the spot next to us) is making sure your RV doesn’t roll away on you.
It took a genius to get the wheel rolling 5000 years ago. It still takes a chunk of virtually any material to stop it today.
However, it does take a little more thought than just grabbing a rock or log from your parking spot. I have found that the best chocks are the solid rubber ones because they do not slide. I had a set of the lightweight plastic ones that we replaced with a rubber set. They may have flown out of the back of my truck-bed while towing our trailer, but that is only part of the reason they were replaced. The other reason was that I found out when I went to do the “pull-test” when hitching up, they actually slid on the concrete. That kind of defeats the purpose of them.
Another thing to think about is type of ground that you will be parking on most of the time. One of our first campsites that we took our trailer to was very sandy. When we went to pull out of our spot, my wife couldn’t find one of the chocks. This is because it was actually buried in the sand under the tire. In situations like this, X-chocks could prove useful as an added safety measure, even though this isn’t really their true purpose. Despite them being a type of wheel chock, they are not meant to fully replace the use of the standard wedge style chock. In reality, they help reduce the amount of sway from your RV rocking back and forth on the wheels. They could really also be placed into the stabilizing category because this is more of their purpose.
X-chocks are far from a necessity but can easily help provide security in softer ground and stability on smoother surfaces. Truly a single set of wedge style chocks is all that is needed.
- Stabilizing (1 item)
Stabilizing refers to making your RV more rigid so it is not moving around on you while you are trying to live in it. RVs are designed to be towed or driven down the road, which means they sit on a suspension system that softens the ride while it moves; good thing for driving, bad thing for living in it. To fix this problem, RVs are built with a system to add more rigidity when parked. This can be as simple as a scissor jack bolted to the frame, or more complex like the hydraulic jacks found on large motorhomes and fifth-wheels.
A lot of modern RVs have self-leveling/stabilizing systems that do not require much more than pushing a button. Even with these high tech systems, they could use a little help.
I think we all could.
The product that you choose depends on what type of RV you have and what type of leveling/stabilizing system your RV is equipped with.
If your RV is a regular bumper-pull travel trailer, then stabilizing your RV is most likely accomplished with individual scissor jacks at each corner of the trailer that are actuated with a crank and good old fashion elbow grease. If your travel trailer is extra fancy, it may have tandem electrically actuated stabilizers at the front and the rear that are controlled in pairs. It is important to realize that NEITHER of these options are meant to level your trailer.
The best thing you can do to help these stabilizers (or yourself if your jacks are human powered) is to provide a stable and raised surface for them to bed down on. The classic way of doing this is to stick a chunk of wood (or 6) underneath the jack before you lower it. The downsides to wood are that it rots, bugs are attracted to it, and it is often much heavier than the plastic alternative.
Most travel trailers you will see in the RV park will be using interlocking stackable plastic blocks because you can use them to serve multiple purposes (i.e. under your tires to level the axles) and you can use as many or as little as you would like. Some, however, choose to use single blocks under their stabilizers and tongue jacks. There is many different manufacturers, but the most popular is Andersen. Whatever product you choose, just remember that you will need enough to go under all (4+) stabilizing points and your tongue jack.
The leveling and stabilizing systems on fifth wheels and motorhomes are pretty similar to each other. They consist of 4-6 leveling/stabilizing jacks and are hydraulically powered in most cases. They do not need any additional products to operate either, but placing something under them can greatly reduce the stress and prevent the chance of them slipping on the ground.
Most people use one of 2 options for this purpose: Andersen Blocks or SnapPads. Their use is simple and both of them attach to the bottom of the jacks. Their only real difference in use is that SnapPads are (semi) permanently attached to the bottom of the jacks. They never have to be removed, even when driving down the highway. Andersen Blocks do have to be removed every time you use them and only attach temporarily with magnets. The advantage of Andersen Blocks is that they provide a much taller support for the jacks. In some cases, depending on the amount of slant in your parking space, a block may still need to be placed under a SnapPad to extend the length of the jack and allow it to reach the ground. I personally use Andersen Blocks on my fifth wheel because of this reason.
- Leveling (1 item)
Leveling provides more than just comfort in your RV. Many of the systems actually rely on being level to function properly. Everything from your fridge’s coolant system to your tanks draining properly need a level condition.
It can get pretty confusing when everything in this category is called leveling or stabilizing interchangeably. It is a large misconception with RVers that they are the same concept and this gets brought on because of auto leveling systems that use the stabilizers to help level the rig. Despite this truth, leveling is something that (for the most part) SHOULD be left up to you to accomplish with the use of wheel levelers and the tongue jack(s).
Now, if you have an auto-leveling system on your RV it is almost impossible to do this. In the end, you have to let the computer do it for you, but that does NOT mean you just park it, push a button and go; you will get yourself into trouble if you do this. You must do your best to level the rig up before you press the button.
Leveling is accomplished while your towable is still hooked to your vehicle or before you officially park your motorhome. This is because leveling started with your tires. Leveling systems are NOT meant to bear the whole weight of your RV. They are meant to prevent your RVs suspension from compressing while you are living in it. The axles of your RV are meant to hold that weight, so if your leveling system is lifting a tire off the ground, it is putting unnecessary stress on the jacks and could bend or break your RV’s frame or jacks.
When you arrive at your campsite, you should park your RV and then check the side to side level of your rig. If it is not level, you need to determine which side must come up to bring it level. Once that is decided you will place a leveler either in front of or behind the tire(s) on that side and drive the RV onto the leveler until a level condition is reached.
If you have a motorhome, then you will have to accomplish leveling side to side and front to back at the same time, but it is all done with this same method, unlike a towable. So apply the same concept and purchase the necessary amount of levelers to handle all your tires.
I have used multiple products for this purpose in both my travel trailer and fifth wheel, but my favorite is the Andersen Leveler. It is very smooth and you do not need to gas it super hard to climb your axle up a “stair-step” like most other options require. However, if you choose to use the stackable blocks for your stabilizers, this is a good opportunity to use a product for multiple purposes.
After your RV is leveled side to side, you can unhitch your trailer and if your RV is not equipped with an auto-leveling system, adjust your tongue jack(s) to reach level from front to back. Once level is reached, drop your stabilizers only enough to slightly lift your RV (about 1/2 inch). If your RV does have auto-leveling, then leveling front to back manually is not required as your RV will do this for you. You can push the auto-level button and let it do its thing.
- Use Common Sense (Priceless)
Everybody seems to be an expert when it comes to RV accessories. I am not different (obviously). Everybody claims everything they drag around is a necessity. On this one, I am different: Less is More. Take a drive through an RV park and look at what everybody else is using if you need reassurance that the products that you are buying are needed or the best of its kind. If 75% of the people are using a product, it is probably a good product. When something does not make sense or looks wrong, it probably is.
In the end, if you are unsure if you need something, DO NOT BUY IT! You can always buy it later if you need it, but the RV market (like all else) is very good at inventing solutions to problems that do not exist.
If you are still not sure, or have a question about one of my suggestions on RV accessories, reach out.
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