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Essential RV Accessories

We have tried to list the essential RV accessories that combine to make the RV experience both safe and comfortable. We consider these to be essential to every RV, whether motorized or towable. Some of the safety related material is from our RV Safety page http://www.livingthervdream.com/RV-safety.html .

The Essential RV Accessories

Emergency Triangle Reflectors

Towing Insurance

Fire Extinguishers

Fire Alarms

Gas Alarms

Weather Radio

Electrical Surge Protection

Water Filter

Fresh Water Hoses

Water Pressure Regulator

Sewer Hoses

UV Window Covers

UV Tire Covers

Outdoor Camp Chairs

Outdoor Camp Tables

BBQ Grill

Portable Campfire

Propane Extend-a-Stay

Ladder

Tools

Paper Maps

Campground Guides

Electronic Mapping Programs

GPS


Emergency Safety Items

Emergency Triangle Reflectors

I’m sure you’ve seen semi-trucks along the side of the road with three triangular reflectors spaced out behind it. They are there to alert people to move over a lane as the rig is disabled for some reason. These triangles are inexpensive and should be in your RV emergency kit along with several flashlights and road flares to signal a night break down. You might also consider an inexpensive reflective vest so you are visible to oncoming traffic. Obviously, the best piece of emergency equipment is a cell phone to call for help.  Buy them here

Towing Insurance

Hand in hand with the cell phone is towing insurance. We have been towed out of mud filled rally grounds several times. We also have had to be towed to a repair center due to a breakdown. We believe Roadside Towing insurance is the cheapest peace of mind available, thus it is one of the essential RV accessories. For around $100 a year, you know you will be taken care of. We believe the best contracts are available from the Good Sam Club www.goodsamclub.com as well as our service of choice, Coach-Net http://www.coach-net.com/default.aspx. Once you are registered with a towing service, they will send a tow truck with the proper equipment to tow your particular rig. They can also provide emergency fuel or change a tire if you have the proper size spare. Most towable RVs either come with a spare tire, or have a place to store one. Some Class B and C motor homes may have spare tires also. Class A motor home tires are large and quite heavy when mounted on a wheel. My motor home has a storage bay that is shaped to hold a spare tire, but the space is better used for tools in my case. If you routinely travel far from regular services, a spare tire may be a good idea. Some RV travel sources recommend you carry an unmounted spare when traveling to Alaska. There are services there to mount a tire, but it isn’t likely that your specific size will be available.

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are certainly among the essential RV accessories. Most RV’s come with at least one fire extinguisher, usually of the powder type. This type of extinguisher has a pressure gauge with a red/green indicator. While the gauge may read green, the unit might not function correctly after sitting in one position for a long time; the powder settles and clumps in the bottom of the extinguisher. Pick this type unit up and turn it upside down several times every six months or so to loosen the powder. This is also a good time to check that the gauge is in the green area.

Kathy and I have been to a number of RV safety seminars, including some with live fires to put out. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of this vital safety training. It is available at most large rallies. Check out http://macthefireguy.com/ for information on the location and times for this training. We were given advice to have a number of extinguishers on hand. You should have one for your car or truck, one for an outside compartment, one in the bedroom, and one near the kitchen area. These small extinguishers will not put out an RV fire that has been going for more than a couple of minutes. You have them to beat down the flames so you can get out of your rig. Even the largest RV can be reduced to a pile of smoldering ashes in five or six minutes. There are many videos on the internet showing this. For that reason, you must get out quickly. Your “stuff” isn’t worth your life or your family’s life. These four extra fire extinguishers can be purchased for as little as sixty or seventy dollars.

There are automatic temperature activated units for the both engine and the generator compartments. These use foam or a gas such as Halon to displace the oxygen and extinguish the fire. There is also a Halon unit available for the refrigerator compartment to combat refrigerator fires. These units are expensive, but they provide peace of mind.

Fire Alarms

If your rig has a fire alarm, or smoke detector, test it for proper operation and change the battery at least annually. If not, go out and get one immediately. We have found that the alarm is usually placed outside the bedroom and near the gas range. Consequently, it will go off every time you fry bacon. We switched ours to a unit made by Kidde that has a push button switch that turns the alarm off for ten minutes, and then automatically returns the unit to normal operation. We highly recommend it. It wouldn't hurt to have another fire/smoke alarm in the bedroom as a back-up to the main alarm.

Gas Alarms

Today’s RVs have several propane gas appliances including the hot water heater, range top and stove, refrigerator, and at least one gas furnace. Most RVs will have a propane gas alarm mounted near the floor by the kitchen. This is because propane is heavier than air and will sink to the floor. These alarms may be battery operated or permanently connected to twelve volts from the RV battery. In either case, test these units according to the manufacturer’s instruction book.

If your rig does not have a carbon monoxide alarm, get one immediately and place it in the sleeping area near head height. Carbon monoxide or CO is odorless and colorless and will displace oxygen. It is also slightly lighter than air and will rise to the ceiling, thus the head height suggestion for placement. Carbon monoxide gas is produced by combustion such as from a generator set or even an engine running outside your rig. CO can kill you and your loved ones. Don’t take a chance without having a functioning CO alarm. Check and replace the alarm battery annually with the smoke detector and LP Gas detector batteries. Get a CO alarm  Get an LP alarm here

Weather Radio

We consider our weather radio an essential piece of emergence equipment. We turn it on and tune to the one of seven frequencies that is strongest, and we get National Weather Service (NOAA) forecasts and severe weather alerts for our area. Our radio also can use the Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) system. A programmed NWR SAME receiver will turn on for the alert message, with the listener hearing the 1050 Hz warning alarm tone as an attention signal, followed by the broadcast message. At the end of the broadcast message, listeners will hear a brief digital end-of-message static burst followed by a resumption of the National Weather Service broadcast cycle. To program NWR SAME receivers with the proper county(s) and marine area(s) of choice, you need to know the 6-digit SAME code number(s) for that county(s). Once you have the number, follow the directions supplied the manufacturer of your NWR SAME receiver for programming. The number is available either online at the http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/indexnw.htm , or by telephone at 1-888-NWR-SAME (1-888-697-7263) for a voice menu. Your campground management will have information on the name of the surrounding counties. We use a Midland Model WR 120, which has the SAME technology. It retails for about fifty dollars but can be found at many stores for around thirty. We don’t always program our radio as it will give broad area information including severe weather alerts constantly. Our radio is on constantly, so we check its internal battery often.

  Buy it here

We also use weather apps on our Android smart phone. These are “The Weather Channel” and my favorite, “Radar Now” which uses the built-in GPS and shows live weather radar in your area.

Electrical Surge Protection

In our opinion, all RVs should be protected from power surges as well as over and under voltages. A power surge or a lightning strike on power lines can destroy electrical and electronic items in your coach such as stereos, satellites, microwaves, televisions and refrigerators. This is, in my opinion, the most important of the essential RV accessories. Surge protection is protection against voltage spikes on power lines. Direct lightning strikes are so catastrophic that no device can effectively protect against a close or direct lightning strike. The surge protector absorbs the spike and will possibly be rendered inoperable. Better to lose a surge protector than all your expensive electronics. Over or under voltage protection is effective for a gradual increase or decrease in voltage, exceeding the maximum or minimum voltage for which appliances are rated. Over voltage and under voltage protection removes primary power from the RV when the voltage drops below 102V or above 132V (safe mode).

Devices are available that can protect from these conditions as well as improperly wired electrical pedestals in RV parks. They can be directly wired into the RV or connected to the electrical pedestal and the RV plugged into the protective device. If you have a fifty amp electrical system in your rig, be sure to purchase a fifty amp power protector. In our experience, products from Progressive Industries  http://www.progressiveindustries.net/   Get one here

or the Surge Guard models from Technology Research Corporation  http://www.trci.net/products/surge-guard-rv   Get one here

are the best and most reliable.

Water Filtration

Most late model motor homes and fifth wheel trailers have “whole house” water filters plumbed in, usually located near the water/sewer service bay. The filter element of choice in these is a sediment filter. Water with noticeable haze or murkiness is carrying particulate matter that is referred to as sediment. Large particles settle out of water pretty fast, so what water is carrying are very small particles. Besides the noticeable effect on water clarity, sediment can also create problems by plugging up other filters you may be using, causing them to fail prematurely. We cover RV water filters in detail on our page http://www.livingthervdream.com/RV-water-filters.html

Fresh Water Hoses

Plastic or rubber garden hoses are not suitable for fresh water use. The hoses you use for supplying fresh water to your rig should be purpose designed for supplying fresh potable water. They are constructed so they won’t impart taste or odor to the water. Typically these hoses come in either one half inch or five eighths inch diameter and in various lengths up to one hundred feet. The larger diameter hose will provide more flow and are the best choice. We carry two twenty-five foot hoses. Most campsites will only require one length, but some need more. I would not want to have most of a fifty foot hose coiled up under my rig. Other shorter lengths of four to ten feet are useful for hooking up filters and for bypassing them if necessary. If you use a hose to flush your holding tanks, use one made in other colors than your fresh water hoses. The same goes for hoses used to wash your rig. We use a fifty foot green plastic garden hose for that purpose. When you buy fittings such as “Y” connectors and shut-off valves, avoid the temptation to go cheap and use plastic ones. Spend a little more and buy brass fittings, and you won’t be surprised some night when one of them lets go and you have a high pressure flood on your hands. This is the voice of experience talking.

There are special drinking water hoses made especially for cold weather use. They have a heating element permanently woven into the hose and use electricity from the power pedestal to keep the hose from freezing if the outside temperature drops below freezing during the night. They are expensive costing as much as one hundred dollars for a twenty-five foot length. We try to avoid areas where this might happen, but we aren’t always successful. A less expensive and quite effective method is to purchase an electrical “heat tape” and connect it to the length of the hose. These usually have a thermostat that activates when the temperature drops past a set limit. Cover that up with inexpensive pipe insulation and you won’t have problems with your hose freezing.

When you pack up to depart your campsite, blow all the water out of your hoses and roll them up with the ends screwed together. This will keep them sanitary and easy to store. If at all possible, do not store fresh water hoses in the same compartment as sewer hoses and fittings. This could possibly result in some nasty consequences. Poop and drinking water should never mix. Enough said about that.

Water Pressure Regulator

Another of the essential RV accessories is a Water pressure regulator. A water pressure regulator reduces the park water pressure down to less than fifty pounds per square inch, forty being preferable. This is to prevent high water pressure from damaging plumbing lines and fittings buried deep down in the bowels of your rig, and keep it from flooding. A good water pressure regulator will reduce pressure but allow maximum flow, thus ensuring an adequate shower pressure. Most will have a gauge to measure the outlet pressure and can be adjusted to your desired pressure. This type of regulator should cost somewhere in the fifty to sixty-five dollar range. Get one here

Sewer Hoses

No matter what the rig, you must dump that pesky black tank from time to time. Sewer hoses come in a rainbow of colors and many lengths and thicknesses. Some press fit together, and some use bayonet type fittings. I prefer the positive locking bayonet type coupling as it will not pull apart. The material used for the hose should be as thick as you can find. Hose sidewall material ranges from 10 mils thick to over forty. The thicker material is much better. The thin stuff can develop pinhole leaks that can spoil your day. Usually, the sidewall material is stretched over a coiled metal wire so the hose can be compressed for storage. Unfortunately, when stepped on, these hoses will never be round again. A new material has no metal coil and can be compressed and stepped on and will return to the original shape. These hoses come in ten to fifteen foot lengths. We carry a five, a ten, and a fifteen footer. There have been several occasions where we have had to use all of it to reach the sewer connection.  Get it here

An essential accessory is a threaded connection to the sewer with a bayonet fitting on the other end for the hose. Some municipalities require a rubber “doughnut” fitting between hose and sewer hole, so keep one on hand.  Get it here Other places require the sewer hose to be supported several inches above the ground. We have a “slinky” device for this as well as a length of plastic gutter and PVC supports for longer runs. Get it here  You should also have caps for both ends of each hose to keep things clean and dry in the compartment where your sewer gear is stored.

This seems like a good time to remind you that the black water holding tank in your rig has a three inch opening to the sewer valve. Thirty or forty gallons of black water sludge can gravity feed through that opening at an alarming rate. This is why you want to double check all your sewer connections before you open that valve. It’s amazing how much of that tank will empty on the ground before you can reach the valve to close it. “I’m just sayin'!”.

Another method of dumping the black holding tank is the electric macerator. This is a twelve volt device very much like a sink disposer. A motor turns a set of metal knives to chop and shred all solids coming down the line and then pump it out a garden hose sized hose to the dump. It can also pump uphill several feet as well as quite a long distance. A great advantage to an electric macerator is if you are parked next to a house. You can run the hose to a sewer clean-out and evacuate your tanks. These range in price from two hundred to four hundred dollars. Get one now

UV Protective Window Coverings

The windshield of a motor home will expose all seats and dashboard areas to this. UV resistant covers can be made to fit any motor home and are sold in sets that include the front side windows as well as the windshield. A side benefit is that they will keep the rig cooler. Large windows on fifth wheel trailers can also benefit from these covers. They can be made to fit inside the rig with suction cups, or outside with snap or twist fittings. There are also covers available for side mirrors and windshield wipers.

UV Protective Tire Covers

Tires are especially susceptible to premature aging due to UV radiation. White tire covers will protect them as well as keep them cooler than black covers. Some attach over each tire with stretch cords to keep them on. Others attach to the outside of the rig with snaps or other fasteners. I think the latter are far easier to attach and take off.

Outdoor Camp Chairs

The first thing that comes to mind is outdoor seating, either as chairs or lounges. Just remember that the large lounges can be hard to store. We prefer the director style chairs as we find them to be more comfortable than the “bag” style chairs. They cost a little more, but some even have built-in trays for drinks and snacks. Whatever you buy, remember that you must find room for it somewhere in the rig or towed vehicle. We recommend sitting in a lot of different chairs to get the most comfortable “sit”.

Outdoor Camp Tables

We have several folding tables to use when we go to flea markets and sell our bead products. We have two four footers and a small two by two foot table we used to use for our radio show. Now, we use one of the four foot tables for the grill. Our experience with campground picnic tables has been mixed. Some are nice, six or more feet long and made of artificial materials. Most however are old wooden tables with plenty of splinters. We have a heavy duty vinyl cover for six foot picnic tables and matching covers for the seats. We use it often. This is dependent on there being tables at all. Our experience is about half of the campgrounds we visit have them.

BBQ Grill

We believe a good outdoor grill is an essential piece of gear for the full time RVer. A key consideration is finding storage space for the grill. If you have plenty of room in your pickup truck for a large home style grill, bring it along. Most of us will have to live with smaller portable grills that will fit in basement storage compartments. We keep ours in a large plastic tub to keep grease and other debris away from the storage compartment. These grills can cost as little as ten dollars for a cheap charcoal model to over five hundred for a deluxe stainless steel beauty. By far, most of the grills we see in campgrounds are propane gas models. We used a WalMart low end model that cost around thirty dollars. I was on number four after almost eight years on the road when the bottom rusted out. We now are the proud owners of a Webber Q model 120. We also use a twenty pound gas bottle instead of the one pound canisters because we can refill the bottle much more economically than constantly purchasing the canisters. From what I have found in campgrounds and in internet surveys, the Coleman “Road Trip” and the Webber “Baby Q”  like ours are the most popular gas grills in use.

Portable Campfire

I included this item because we have one, and I am starting to see more and more of them appear in campgrounds. The brand name is “Little Red Campfire” or Campfire in a Can”. It is basically a propane gas burner with ceramic fire logs on top. You remove the red top and unwind the gas hose and regulator. Hook it up to a propane source and light it and you have an instant campfire. We always ask if we can use it in areas where there are “No Open Fires Allowed” signs due to drought conditions. We have not been refused, yet. These little guys put out enough heat to keep your feet warm on cold nights and they draw people in to talk around the campfire.   Get one here

Propane "Extend-a-Stay

The Extend-a-Stay can be used for two purposes. First, if you run out of LP gas in your motor home propane tank; and second, to hook up the Extend-a-Stay to an outside LP/propane cylinder.  This lets propane gas into your system from the outside cylinder allowing you to have continuous gas supply without having to move your RV and refill your permanent propane tank until you are ready to move. Additionally, you can use LP gas from your propane system to fuel high pressure appliances like grills and camp stoves straight from your RV’s permanent LP gas system.

The standard kit includes brass tee fitting and 5' flexible pigtail for hooking up an outside propane cylinder to fuel your RV LP system. The deluxe kit also includes 12' of high pressure appliance hose to fuel your high pressure appliances directly from your RVs LP Gas system.

These kits are available at most RV stores. The standard kit costs around seventy dollars, the deluxe kit is around one hundred dollars. Installation is pretty straightforward if you are handy with tools. Any modification to your LP gas system should include a leak test and a pressure drop test. These tests are best done by a professional.

Ladder

A good ladder is essential for putting up sunscreens as well as washing your rig. The main concern should be the posted weight capacity of the ladder. Flimsy folding ladders contribute to dangerous falls. An RV ladder should be compact enough when folded to store easily. We store our ladder on a rack hanging from the built-in ladder at the rear of the coach. We bought a Werner brand ladder at a hardware store rated for three hundred and fifty pounds. Get it now

Tools

The selection of tools you carry should be determined by your expertise in fixing RV related systems. This can include tools for working with PVC piping to fix RV plumbing issues; electrical testing devices such as digital voltmeters for troubleshooting electrical problems, an assortment of general purpose tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, and sockets for general repairs. There are many books available to help with repair of RV systems as well as the manuals that came with the RV for those items. One tool I find invaluable is a two pound short handle sledge hammer for pounding stakes in the ground to anchor awnings and ground mats. Another must-have is a battery powered drill and extra battery. My favorite source for tools and even specialty tools is Harbor Freight Tools http://www.harborfreight.com/ because they have stores across the country as well as internet ordering.

Paper Maps

In spite of all the electronic gadgets we have to help us find our way around our beautiful country, paper maps are still handy and can be easily marked up to find your way around. We use a large type road atlas by the American Map Company that we have replaced three times because the pages get dog-eared and torn. We also obtain state maps from the various welcome centers we visit. If you will stay in one state and tour it for an extended time, it is a good idea to buy a detailed state road atlas. We also carry a Motor Carriers Road Atlas available at truck stops. This will have low clearance bridges and hazardous cargo (propane) restrictions listed by state. Last but certainly not least, we have the Mountain Directory East and Mountain Directory West. They list most of the mountain grades of five percent or more that a large truck or motor home might encounter and describes them. This is a lot of weight to carry and store, but it is peace of mind for us as we travel through new territory.

While not exactly a map, we carry a wonderful book called The Next Exit. This is also available as an application for Android and iPhones. The book is divided by state and then by Interstate highways. There is an entry for each exit with information on facilities available and even nearby campgrounds. What makes this guide a “must have” for RVers is that facilities that can accommodate large rigs are printed in red. This way you can look ahead to see where RV friendly stops are located.

Campground Guides

We carry the latest edition of the Good Sam Campground Directory. This gives us information on campgrounds, fairgrounds, state and national parks and other places to camp across the country. Often we refer to it several hours before we stop for the night and call one campground we have found for a reservation. The directory includes prior year’s pricing information, number of sites, a description of amenities, phone number and website, and directions to the campground. There is also a campground rating system included to give you ratings on the facilities as well as recreation opportunities near the property. There are other campground guides, but this is the most comprehensive of all. Trailer Life has a similar product, but it will probably be merged with the Woodall’s as they are owned by the same company.

We belong to several campground clubs and each one has its own guidebook. We carry a guide for Passport America, RPI, Thousand Trails, Escapees, and several others. Those are mostly used for trip planning.

Electronic Mapping Programs

There are a number of programs that run on a personal computer that are helpful for trip planning as well as providing Global Positioning System (GPS) information in real time. We use Street Atlas from the DeLorme Company, http://www.delorme.com/, mostly for trip planning. Another popular program is Streets and Trips from Microsoft, http://www.microsoft.com/Streets/ although Microsoft has stopped selling it as well as stopped support for it.  Co Pilot Live, http://www.copilotlive.com/, from ALK Technologies is another system that also will run on a PC as well as Android and Apple cell phones and tablets. All these programs require a learning curve to use all the features available, but I find the one I use invaluable to give me information on mileage to travel as well as fuel usage. There are after-market overlay files for use with these programs that will overlay symbols indicating special points of interest such as campground clubs, fuel stops, restaurant chains, and many others of use to RVers. These files are available on the Discovery Owner’s Association website, http://www.discoveryowners.com/cginfo.htm and are available free of charge.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

GPS systems for vehicles have been around for years and are quite helpful for directing you in unfamiliar territory. Recently, new models have been introduced specifically for the RVer. They provide input of the height, width, length, and weight of your rig so as to not route you on roads with low bridges and weight restrictions. They also come pre-loaded with many points of interest such as campgrounds and parks as well as fuel sources. These units are being introduced constantly, and the best bet is to look them up in RV specific publications.

Cellular telephones and tablet computers are often GPS equipped, and there are many applications or apps available for the RVer. I believe the best is an app called “All Stays Camp and RV.” This app is available for Android and Apple phones and tablets. We have it running on an Apple iPad and it will indicate campgrounds along the way. When you click on the symbol, all information about that campground will appear as well as reviews by previous campers.

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