In August 2017 we watched Houston Texas flood. Two dear friends of ours found themselves right in the middle of the flooding. Both of them lost their homes. Both are living out of RV’s while they rebuild their lives. One of our friends already had an RV but our friends and former neighbors, Amanda and Jacob, did not own an RV. They started the difficult task of finding an RV that would meet their immediate need, a place to sleep, eat, and live for the next several months that could also transition to meet their recreational needs later. They ended up buying their first travel trailer.
As if purchasing a camper was not overwhelming, Amanda reached out after they got it home. She was finding the next step, outfitting the camper, to be just as overwhelming. She suggested we develop a list of what we would recommend a newbie needed in order to get started.
So, I set about asking that question to my friends. Here is what we came up with.
OUTSIDE OF THE CAMPER:
Water Hoses: We find it is best to have 2 sets of good water hoses that are at least 25 feet long. If you are really safe you will have one for potable water and one that you use to clean the black tank.
Side note: when we are camping at locations that do not have water, we will connect all of our water hoses together and fill up mid camping trip. When selecting our sites being close to water is important to us.
Sewer Hose: Typically one will come with your camper but we found it is short and flimsy and you will want a longer one. We use and like the Camco RhinoFLEX. Ours is only 10-15 feet but they come longer. Depending on where your tanks are you may want to have a longer one. Make sure whatever sewer system you purchase has threading on it so that you can screw the fitting into the sewer. We have been to two different campgrounds that required this.
In addition to the Camco RhinoFLEX hose, we recommend ordering the RhinoFLEX Clear 45 degree RV Sewer Hose Swivel Fitting. It may not be a necessity but being able to see when the water runs clear is helpful. The clear plastic portion of this fitting helps with that.
Latex Gloves. To glove or not to glove is a question of personal preference. We are glove people. No one wants to touch/handle sewer equipment without it.
Levelers. Once you get that new camper to the campground you are gonna need to level it. We love Anderson Leveling System because they are so easy to use. They look like a giant curved ramp that you just place under the tires and back onto them.
General Tool Box: Everyone needs tools and campers are no exception. Screwdrivers, Wrench Sets, zip ties, a level, and even an impact driver can help you put those stabilizer jacks down quickly.
Weight Distribution Hitch: A weight distribution hitch will help distribute the weight from the ball hitch back toward the axles of the tow vehicle and the trailer. Allen highly recommends the Anderson No Sway or the Blue Ox. We have an Equalizer and it works just fine but it just does make a lot of noise. Side note: that is how you know it is working. We just affectionately call ours the Squeekalizer. We actually purchased ours from the dealer when we bought our camper. Allen has purchased his as an after market purchase.
Tote for Black and Grey Water: Depending on how you camp you may find yourself needing to empty the black and grey tanks before the end of the camping trip. A portable tote has wheels so you can haul the black or grey water to the dumping station without moving your camper. Barker, Thetford, or Tote and Store are all good brands.
Holding Tank Enzymes: There are several products on the market to help you care for your black tank. There are pods you can put down the black tank or enzymes that help eat the bacteria. Besides keeping the smell down you want to keep build up off the sensors. If the sensors get dirty they will tell you the tank is full before it actually is. We also recommend any 1 ply toilet paper. You do not need specific RV toilet paper.
UPDATE: I wanted to mention that we use a concoction of water softener, laundry soap and water to help keep our black tank clean. We put one cap of each down the black tank with a gallon of water and we leave it as we drive around. The sloshing around helps clean our black tank. We do find that the cleaner the black tank is, the less the smell coming from it.
Ground Mats. You can find these at a local Wal Mart store. They are large woven polyproplyne material that stand up well to rain, sun, and even lots of little feet. The first weekend I got my mat, it rained a storm and it was solid mud by the end of the weekend. We drug it over to the water facet and rinsed all that mud away. It looked brand new once again. You absolutely may be able to start camping without a ground mat but soon you will add it to your wish list.
INSIDE THE CAMPER:
Suggestions for the inside of the camper get difficult. It is such a personal preference. Do you use paper plates or do you eat off dishes. Do you put sleeping bags on the beds or do you outfit with sheets and comforter. I can only offer ideas on needs. How you meet those needs is really up to you.
Bedding: I personally have made my camper beds as comfortable as I can. We have upgraded mattresses. I have found high thread count sheets. I want my “vacation” bed to be as comfy as my home bed. Others may relegate old bedding to the camper. Others may throw the sleeping bags on the beds and call it good. What I can tell ya is you need bedding. I will say this, if I had unlimited funds I would be purchasing Beddy’s for my bedding. I would really do it for those pesky bunk beds that are so difficult to make.
Eating/Cooking/Serving: How you camp will help you determine what you need. Paper plates, plastic forks, melamine dishes, plastic glasses, faux Yeti’s (or even Yeti’s), flatware, pitchers, ect. The list of things you could use is unlimited. So take a moment before you buy to examine the type of camper you are. Then make your selections. General advice I have here; IKEA is a great place to outfit your camper (assuming you have one close to you). They have folding pans. Small utensils. Look for nesting bowls, collapsible bowls, strainers, even measuring cups.
Towels: Bathing, swimming, kitchen hand towels are all necessities. You may chose to use older towels from home or you may choose to have designated camper towels. We love IKEA bath towels for the camper because the come with a built in loop for putting them on a hook. Don’t have hooks in your bathroom, then I would say you need to get some 3M hooks.
Picnic Tablecloth: Picnic Tables at campgrounds kinda gross me out. Animals get on them. People sit on them. You just never know, so I combat that with a solid tablecloth. Besides a pretty tablecloth on a picnic table in the outdoors just sends a message that you are there and you are getting comfortable. It makes me smile. And it puts a layer between me and whatever has been on that table before me.
If you are really interested you can find three piece picnic table covering. These provide a tablecloth with elastic to hold it down and they also come with bench overs.
Dustpan and Brush: With all the ins and outs going on, it is a given that your camper will track in dirt. I use a small brush and dustpan all the time to battle the dirt. A hand held vacuum might also be a good idea. I know every year when we go on our extended vacation, I put the Dyson in the camper.
Nightlights: If you camp with small children or you yourself get up in the middle of the night, it maybe important for you to have a nightlight. I use a battery operated candle. It provides just the right amount of light.
Shower Caddy: This is another personal preference. Will you be showering at the campground showers or only in your camper? If you think you will be using the campground showers, a caddy will be a must to carry your things to and from. I recommend something you can get wet that drains easily.
Silverware Caddy: Again, do you plan to eat out at the picnic table frequently? Having a caddy outside to keep plastic wear in is handy. You can also put napkins or salt and pepper shakers to keep the wind from blowing them around.
I created a wish list for RV Essentials on Amazon so you could see photos of the things I am describing here. Take a look.
I am sure there are so many other things you will add to your wish list for the camper (flashlights, x-chock wheel stabilizers, decorative pillows, ect). As far as this list goes, I am sure there are things I have forgotten. That is another benefit to group camping, someone will remind me!
What item do you think you can’t live without that you would recommend to a newbie?
If you have dogs, definitely pack leashes, water, and water bowls in your truck or whatever you are using to tow. You also need to have a copy of a recent rabies vaccination with you wherever you go. I would also recommend having a little sign to post in your RV window that says “pet inside” (available at Camping World). That way, if there is a power outage and you are not there but your pets are, someone will know to take action (hopefully). Batteries, fan for sleeping, extra sheets, portable step for sloped camping spots, pen and paper for notes of what else you need LOL; I could go on and on!
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Dana, GREAT advice! We just got a puppy at the beginning of October and I am gonna take note of your suggestions.
Over on Facebook, Amanda reached out to remind us that we recommended a water pressure regulator to them when they got their camper. If you are hooking up to public water it is important to regulate the water pressure. Water pressure can be too high and damage your camper water lines. Thanks Amanda for the catch!