Hi everyone. It’s spring, and this is the time of year when most RV owners are dusting off and de-winterizing their RVs (or buying a new one) and planning their first or next vacation.
It’s been a little while since I talked RV gear, and today I wanted to cover 6 things I think every RVer should bring with them to ensure a successful and drama-free RV campground experience.
In our years on the road, we’ve seen plenty of other RVers have an emergency situation with their RV or campsite because they weren’t prepared. Don’t be that RVer!
Equip yourself with the items below and go prepared!
#1 – Dogbone Electrical Power Adapter
‘Dogbone’ adapters – so called because they somewhat resemble a dog’s bone – are an absolute must for every RVer. I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve pulled into a park, selected our campsite, and found that the 30amp plug wasn’t working – but the 50amp plug was.
With an inexpensive adapter, this is a complete non-issue. Without an adapter this can mean changing campsites after you’ve already gotten your rig level (always check the power/water/sewer before you level your rig). Or you may need to run out to Walmart mid setup looking for an adapter and hoping they have one in stock. Save yourself the stress and go prepared!
An adapter is even more important if you have a 50amp rig, as most campgrounds have limited 50amp spots (if any). I imagine most 50amp rig owners are given a dog bone adapter when they buy their vehicle – but if not, now’s the time to equip your RV.
Just as important as 50amp and 30amp adapters, is a 15amp adapter which lets you plug your RV in at your house, at your relatives house, neighbors – and even some state and local parks have 20amp service that you can use with an adapter.
Keep in mind that you can only use as much power as you have access to. A 50amp rig plugged into 30amp power won’t be able to run everything at the same time – especially not multiple A/Cs and the Microwave. By the same token, when plugged into 15amp you have even more limited power available.
On the flip side, if you plug a 30amp rig into 50amp power, you’ll still be limited to 30amps of power by your main circuit breaker. I recommend buying an EMS if you’d like to know how much power you’re using.
For 30 Amp Rigs:
For 50 Amp Rigs:
#2 – 12V Circuit Tester (Test Light)
A 12V Circuit Tester is an inexpensive tool that allow you to diagnose 12V wiring and electrical connection problems in your RV. They work by clipping the clip end to the frame or any ground, then you touch the circuit you want to test with the metal pointed end. If the handle lights up, you have a live circuit (thus, ‘test light’). If it doesn’t, you don’t.
Some of you are thinking “Why should I care?”. Here’s a good example from my own experience. A year or two back we pulled into a campsite and I pressed the auto leveling jack ‘auto level’ button, and nothing happened. I checked everything, and still . . nothing.
I called up HWH (makers of our leveling jacks), and he had me test several connections with my handy test light. Once I found the loose connection, I tightened the bolt (after disconnecting the power), and boom – everything worked perfectly.
There was no need to call a mobile RV repair, no need to go to the shop, and no cost. I was able to fix my problem in less than 20 minutes with the help of a test light and a wrench, and then we got back to camping.
I’ve used my test light many times since then, and now I use an Autoranging Multimeter like this one so I can check DC and AC circuits and more.
I’ll add that it’s important to bring a selection of tools, including adjustable wrenches and a ratchet set. Finding a short is helpful, but having tools to fix it is even more helpful.
#3 – 12V Automotive Fuses
We bring an assortment of 12V Automotive Fuses with us, and so should you.
Your RV’s 12V system is most likely protected by blade-style automotive fuses ranging from 5amps up to 30amps. If any of those fuses were to blow and if you’re caught without a replacement, you’ll have to do without whatever system that fuse was protecting.
That could be your lights, vent fans, heater blower, fridge propane controller, water pump, or a satellite/antenna.
Simple solution – keep an extra set of automotive fuses in your RV. I recommend grabbing a kit like the one pictures, as it has a fuse puller (they can be hard to grip) that doubles as a fuse tester. This allows you to test fuses quickly so you can identify which one is bad without using a test light.
RV Surge Protector
An RV surge protector is another must have item in our opinion. A surge protector acts as a an additional layer of insurance that protects your expensive RV electronics from damage. They work by shutting off power to your RV in a split second when a surge is detected.
Surges can come in many forms, but most often they result from nearby lightning strikes, downed power lines, or campground power issues. All electronics are sensitive to power surges, and your RV is full of them – everything from the motors and control boards that move your slides, to TVs and your Refrigerator.
Most people plug their Flat-Screen TVs, Computers, and other electronics into at least a basic surge protector – and yet many of those same people don’t protect their far more expensive RV from power surges.
We recently met a couple who suffered major damage from a power surge when lightning struck nearby. It caused more than $5000 worth of damage, and they had to get a new control board for their fridge, and replace their A/C unit and all TVs. They could have avoided that major headache and expense on their vacation if they’d just plugged into a surge protector.
The Progressive Industries Smart Surge Protectors are your best option for solid RV Surge Protection. The new XL models include a weather shield and improved locking bracket (pictured). These units also check and protect you from reverse polarity, open neutral, and open ground – all potentially RV damaging problems that can result from old decaying wiring or mis-wired plugs at the campground post.
#5 – RV Leveling Blocks
Even if your RV has auto-leveling jacks (like ours), RV leveling blocks are still a must-bring accessory (unless you only camp at perfectly level RV resorts) :-).
This is especially true in campsites where the back of the rig will be lower than the front of the rig. Auto-Leveling jacks can’t and shouldn’t lift the rear wheels of your RV off the ground as your real wheels keep your RV in place with the parking brake.
I get around this by stacking a few blocks, then backing onto them. it’s important that you have enough blocks to support all 4 rear wheels if you have a Class-C or a Class-A RV.
I also find that when setting up on sloped campsites, our RV is a lot more stable if a put blocks under the wheels on the lower side vs. relying entirely on leveling jacks.
What kind of drama could be caused by using a sewer hose without a support? Surprisingly, quite a bit!
Would you believe we’ve stayed in at least a dozen RV parks that required a sewer hose support? It’s true – and your options are to either use your own support, buy their over-priced support, or go elsewhere.
Not the kind of thing you want to deal with on check-in after a long days drive, so better to be prepared.
Most of these campgrounds weren’t being difficult either – it was due to city, country, or other government ordinance.
Besides, sewer hose supports are surprisingly awesome. They make it easier to fully empty your tanks, and they prevent people – including you – from stepping on your sewer hose (yuck). What’s not to like?
A Few More ‘Good things to have’:
Extra Camco Drinking Water Hose – I recommend that everyone bring 2 drinking water hoses with them on every trip. Hoses can get damaged or fail, so I consider a spare a necessity. An extra hose also allows me to set the RV up further away from the water spigot, which is often desirable depending on the setup of the campsite. I’ve also found that with an extra hose I can sometimes reach spigots in state parks that don’t offer full hookups, so I can fill the fresh water tank without moving the RV.
High-Flow Water Pressure Regulator – Most people we know use a water pressure regulator (good), but the vast majority use the cheap regulators they give you at the RV dealer. Low pressure regulators make your shower and faucets dribble, and are frustrating to deal with. Replace with this high-flow unit to protect your RV while still having a useable shower.
Brass 90° Hose Saver – Many RV’s have city-water attachment points that stick straight out the side of the RV. Plenty of people simply attach a hose, and when under pressure the hose sticks a foot or two out from the side of the RV. This puts a lot of stress on the hose, and results in premature failure. This simple brass elbow makes your hose easier to attach, and helps your hose last longer.
While we had a few ‘uh oh’ moments at campgrounds during our first year on the road, now we’re prepared for pretty much anything. Most of the time our backups go to helping less-prepared RVers, and that’s ok – but there aren’t always other RVers around to help you out.
Better to go prepared and to be equipped, and then when you have an issue it will be nothing more than a blip on your vacation – instead of potentially consuming your vacation. Until next time, happy RV trekking!