Post Summary: Everything you need to have on your camper must-haves list, including accessories, tools, and useful gadgets.
Driving across the US in a fully stocked camper brings a kind of freedom that most of us dream of having. Seeing America’s National Parks, stopping at kitschy roadside stops on Route 66, and stargazing at a Dark Sky Park are iconic American family bucket list items.
But wait…what’s a fully stocked camper?
As a family that lived off and on in our vintage camper and made our own three-month cross-country road trip, we’ve learned firsthand what are true camper essentials. We created this list of Camper Must Haves so you can plan your next epic road trip or full-time RV life with ease, knowing you have everything you need.
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*This Camper Must Haves post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you. We only suggest what we think is truly awesome.
THE ESSENTIAL LIST OF CAMPER MUST HAVES
I’m going to start with the tactical, necessary stuff that is important to have but not necessarily fun or glamorous to buy. Does anyone enjoy buying a black water hose? If you do…I find you fascinating.
Then I’ll move on to camper accessories for inside your motorhome and, finally, a separate list of RV necessities that are amazing but in the long run optional depending on your budget, lifestyle, and how you plan to use the camper.
Also, this is not a list that gets down to the minutiae because I’m hoping you already know to bring plates with you.
By the way, you’ll need plates.
First, here’s a quick peek at our Top 10 Must-Haves For A Camper that are our personal choice for what we deem necessary. These do not include the boring but absolutely necessary stuff, like the aforementioned black water hose.
- SOUND MACHINE
- HANDHELD VACUUM
- GARMIN RV GPS
- INSTANT POT
- WATER JUG
- DYRT APP
- TV + DVD PLAYER
MUST HAVES FOR CAMPERS: THE TOOLS
- SEWER HOSE – Top on the camper must have list is a sewer hose for your bathroom waste. Most RVs will have one already, but we decided to buy a new one when we bought our camper. We just didn’t feel like testing it out, you know? There’s also a sewer hose support, which will help allow your hose to stay steady and to use gravity so that nothing gets stuck. It’s great if you’re staying long-term and will have the hose permanently in place. It keeps the hose off the ground and protects it from wear and tear.
- FRESH WATER HOSE – If you don’t already, you’ll want a BPA and lead-free freshwater hose to get clean water to your camper.
- WATER FILTER – You can never really trust that the water in a campground is filtered. If your system doesn’t already have a filter, buy this water filter attachment from Camco so you can know the water is safe.
- WHEEL CHOCKS– An unglamorous but necessary item on your RV list of must-haves is Camco wheel chocks to keep your wheels steady and in place when you’re on uneven ground.
- LEVELERS– Not all campsites are level (many won’t be!), so you’ll need some Lynx levelers to keep your camper level. Not only for comfort but for the safety of your camper. Don’t forget a leveling tool to help you know if you’re actually level. If you have a newer camper, you will probably have built-in, drop-down levelers that are often auto-leveling, so you might not need these.
- POWER EXTENSION CORD – In a perfect RV world, you’ll be able to access power easily…but alas, it is not a perfect RV world. Bring along a power extension cord so you can always have the ability to get to power.
- AMP ADAPTOR CORD – If your camper is a 30 AMP and you end up in a sight that only has 50 amp, you’ll need an adaptor cord. It’s best to have one, so you’re ready should the situation arise. Conversely, if you’re a 50 amp camper and have to use a 30 amp, you’ll need an adaptor. CircleCord has both options, including a 30 amp to 15 amp for anyone plugging into a home.
- WATER PRESSURE REGULATOR – Save your pipes from getting destroyed with a water pressure regulator. This is another one of those RV camper must haves that you’ll wish you had gotten after the fact.
- BLACKWATER ODOR CONTROL – Drop one of these Camco tablets into the toilet to keep odors at bay and help break down toilet paper and human waste. The prices online are generally better than at a store, so stock up before you leave.
- GLOVES – You’ll want some disposable gloves for when you’re dumping the blackwater tank. While you might be able to clean your tank without any spills or runoff, you have no idea how sanitary the person before you was. Buy some disposable gloves here and protect your health.
- RV TOILET PAPER – You don’t want to learn the hard way that you need septic safe toilet paper that breaks down quickly. If you are making a long trip, save up by buying a bulk supply of Scott Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper.
- BASIC TOOLS: You’ll need to have some basic tools for any kind of snags that arise. You can buy a tool kit like this if you don’t already have tools. Tools and supplies that are always good to have around are a screwdriver set, crescent wrench, hammer, hatchet or ax, all-purpose high strength tape, silicone or rubber seal, diagonal cutting pliers, zip ties, rope, and a pocket knife. We used all of these while we lived on the road for three months.
- FIRE EXTINGUISHER– We keep our fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and easily accessible should the need arise.
- SMOKE ALARM – We travel with a small child, so we’re safety nuts about our camper. For us, installing a small battery-operated smoke alarm brought peace of mind.
- CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR – Newer RV’s might already have a carbon monoxide detector, but if you bought a used RV or have a vintage camper like us, it might be time to buy a new carbon monoxide detector or put one if it isn’t there already
- FLASHLIGHT, LANTERN, HEADLAMP (Top 10 Pick) – We had all three and made use of all of them. A headlamp is great when you need to look under the hood of your camper, a flashlight is perfect for late-night walks around the campsite, and a lantern is an all-around safety device (breaking down on the side of the road) that is part of the outdoors lifestyle.
- THE DYRT APP – An app that you can use to find campsites is a godsend. The Dyrt includes everything from BLM land, parking lots that allow parking, state parks, and privately owned campsites. User-generated reviews can help you to know if it’s a campsite you want to visit. If you’ll be road tripping long term, it’s worth investing in the PRO option so you can access the app even when you’re offline (a godsend in remote places where a connection can be spotty) and use their other handy road trip planning tools. You can learn more about The Dyrt here.
- ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE PLAN – We weren’t sure we would get a roadside assistance plan, but boy, are we happy we did! We broke down THREE times on the highway. Granted, we have an old camper, but still, don’t leave yourself in a jam. We highly recommend you get a roadside assistance plan that’s for RV’s. We used AAA, but there’s also Good Sam Roadside Assistance. In retrospect, we should have gone with Good Sam since we noticed that more campsites offered Good Sam Roadside discounts. You can check prices for AAA here and Good Sam Roadside here.
- SPARE TIRE – Do make sure you have a spare tire with you. Remember how we needed roadside assistance. One of those times was for a blown out tire. You don’t want to be in 100-degree weather in the middle of nowhere without a spare tire.
MUST HAVE CAMPER ACCESSORIES FOR INSIDE
- HANDHELD VACUUM (Top 10 Item): A vacuum is top on the list for camper must haves. Let me repeat it for the people in the back; IT’S A MUST! Camper life means a lot of outdoor living, so you’re bound to track in dirt. We don’t wear our shoes in the camper, but it still gets dirty as all heck. If you travel with a pet, then a vacuum is a no-brainer. We use a small portable handheld vacuum from Black and Decker and it does everything we need. If you have a bigger rig than us, you might want a cordless stick vacuum from Moosoo so you don’t have to bend over to clean.
- BROOM: I personally think a vacuum is more important than a broom, but there were definitely times a small broom came in handy as well. Like the time I broke our glass pyrex, and it shattered all over the floor. A broom was handy. We use a mini broom and dustpan set like this.
- WIFI EXTENDER KIT– If you’ll be in your camper long term or if your work is digital, you might want to buy a wifi extender from Netgear. In our experience, most of the campsites had decent wifi. Other times, it was dreadfully slow, and we had to use our phone data.
- CELL PHONE BOOSTER – Another option is to invest in a booster for your cell phone signal. These are a bigger investment and recommended for those who travel full time or for digital nomads who must have a strong signal. The signal booster Weboost is compatible with all U.S companies and will help boost if there is a signal already present. However, it can’t make something out of nothing!
- CAMPING CHAIRS – Must-haves for RV living have to include a comfy camping chair that you can use at your site, but also for those magical moments when you pull over to watch the most amazing sunset of your life. Like the Coleman Quad Camping Chair, a good camping chair will be light, easy to pack up, wide and sturdy enough to hold your body size, ergonomic, and have a cup holder. You need a cup holder!
- GARMIN RV GPS (Top 10 Pick) – We loved our Garmin RV 785 GPS. You put in the size and weight of your vehicle, and the GPS will give you the best route based on your vehicle. Our camper isn’t even that big, but I imagine it’s a godsend for vehicles that are much taller and won’t be able to pass certain areas. It also has other useful features like local RV Parks and campsites, warnings about steep grades, weight limits, and warns you if you’re getting too close to other vehicles and other hazards. We loved it! You can compare prices for it on Garmin and Amazon.
- BACKUP CAMERA (Top 10 Pick)- A backup camera can offer a lot of peace of mind when driving around a huge RV. We bought the Garmin BC 35 Wireless Backup Camera because it was compatible with the above Garmin RV 785. We love it and highly suggest getting a backup camera for your rig. You can compare prices for it on Garmin and Amazon.
- LAUNDRY BAG – A laundry bag that’s collapsible for easy storage is one of those RV necessities. I like this collection of mesh laundry bags because you can throw them in the wash if you have delicates and separate your clothes as you collect dirty laundry.
- INSTANT POT (Top 10 pick) – A multicooker is a godsend when you’re living in a camper and need to reduce the number of things you have. Also, if you have kids, just make your life easier and get a pressure cooker. A multicooker does everything. You can boil eggs, make rice, slow cook, steam, saute, warm-up, you can even make yogurt with it! We use this Instant Pot, but if your budget allows, I would spring for the pressure cooker/air fryer duo like the Instant Pot Duo Crisp Pressure Cooker. That way, you can also make crispy things like french fries.
- FIRST AID KIT – Accidents happen, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Make sure your camper has a first aid kit like this for the inevitable cut and scrape.
- TV/DVD PLAYER (Top 10 Pick)- This could have probably been put in the optional list for must-have camper items, but for us, it was a godsend and in our top 10 list. Why? Because we travel with a young child and sometimes putting on a movie was the best way for us to get dinner cooked or get some work done. And while an i-pad is another option for kids, a decent wifi connection wasn’t something we could rely on. We bought a 24 inch TV from Insignia, some kid-friendly movies, and a small DVD player. It was worth every penny.
- AIR FRESHENER – Small space living can get…stinky. Sometimes I would burn Palo Santo to keep it fresh, but when I needed something fast and convenient, I would use Meyer’s Room Freshener Spray. I like it because it’s not as harsh a product as something like Febreze.
- REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES – A reusable water bottle that you can refill every day is a must. We are loyal to Hydroflask and love their fun color choices. It can keep your drink ice cold for 24 hours and piping hot for 12 hours. You can compare prices for Hydroflask on Hydroflask and Amazon.
- INSULATED COFFEE MUG – A coffee mug that will keep your coffee warm for hours is great for RV living when you don’t have a way to reheat your coffee (unless you have a microwave, which we don’t). Again, we are lovers of Hydroflask. You can compare prices for the insulated coffee mug on Hydroflask and Amazon.
- SLIPPERS (Top 10 Pick)- Camper necessities include being comfortable in your camper. Since we don’t wear shoes in the RV, slippers help us feel cozy. We adore the store Topdrawer and especially love their reversible house slippers. They come in an assortment of cute designs and are machine washable.
- SOUND MACHINE (Top 10 Pick) – We’ve stayed at RV parks that are right next to train tracks and highways. Having an ambient sound machine will do a lot to help block out the noise. We’ve been using the Marpac Dohm Classic noise machine for over 15 years now, and we LOVE it. We prefer it because it makes a general white noise sound rather than noise machines that produce a soundtrack of sounds like “ocean waves” or “forest rhythms.” Those are way too distracting for us.
- CAST IRON SKILLET – A cast iron skillet from Lodge is one of the classic camper must haves. You can use it on the grill, in your oven, on the stovetop…it’s an overall excellent cooking utensil. Plus, you can make cast iron brownies.
VINTAGE CAMPER MUST HAVES
If you’re like us and are driving around in a vintage camper (translation-OLD), you might need some things that someone who is driving in a brand spanking new RV won’t need. Here we go:
- SPEAKERS – Our camper has an 8 track player (unfortunately, it doesn’t work!) so when we want to play music while we’re driving or hanging out in the camper, we need to use a portable speaker system. We like our Ultimate Ears speaker because it has excellent sound quality, is waterproof, and is Alexa compatible.
- POWERBANK (Top 10 Pick)- Due to our only cigarette lighter being occupied by our GPS system, we can’t charge our phone while driving. Having a power bank means you can always rely on a fully charged phone. We also use a solar-powered power bank as an additional backup because even conventional power banks need to be charged.
- WATER JUG– While most RV users can use their filtered water tank for dedicated drinking water, the age of our camper leaves us a little insecure about the cleanliness of our tank. We bring this two-gallon jug from Coleman, but if you have a bigger rig with a larger family/group you will probably a five-gallon jug that you can refill at grocery stores. If you’re traveling in the summer or living long term in your vintage RV, I would invest in a Yeti 6 gallon water cooler. It will keep your beverages ice cold for days (the Coleman won’t keep your water ice cold) and is a far superior product. Compare prices for the Yeti Water Cooler on Amazon and Yeti.
- HEADPHONES – Vintage campers are not the best at keeping out sound, especially when you’re driving on the highway. If you want to watch a movie or listen to an audible book, you’ll want some headphones so you can actually hear what’s going on. We use BOSE headphones and love the comfortable fit and fantastic sound quality. They are premium headphones, so if you want a noise-canceling headphones at an economical price, check out Cowin Headphones.
OPTIONAL “MUST HAVES” FOR A CAMPER
- FLAMELESS CANDLES – If you love the ambiance that candles bring, then a flameless candle set is the perfect camper accessory. I have them and LOVE them. In fact, I love them so much I rarely use real candles anymore. Also, if you have kids, you don’t have to worry about your child burning your RV down.
- ROASTING STICKS – I would put this in my personal “must have for RV camping” list, but others might not deem it necessary. We are a S’more-loving crew and will take any opportunity to sit around the fire pit and make S’mores. If you’re camping with a toddler or young kids, these Marshmallow Roasting Sticks from Jolly Green Products are perfect for them since they extend up to 34″. You can also use them for hot dogs and sausages. Win, win!
- STEMLESS WINEGLASSES – I really don’t enjoy drinking wine from a plastic cup. I can’t do it. If you’re like me and want a real wine glass, then you’ll love these stemless wine glasses that come with silicone sleeves to protect them from breaking.
- PORTABLE BBQ – A portable BBQ from Weber is a great addition to your camper setup. Yes, you have an entire kitchen in your RV, but sometimes it’s nice to cook outside and not have your camper smell like bacon or fish all day.
- ICE MAKER -If you like blended drinks (margaritas, anyone?) or will be in a hot climate, you’ll probably want a portable ice maker. This countertop ice maker can make nine ice cubes in six minutes.
- PORTABLE SOLAR PANELS – If you are boondocking a lot or want the ability to know you have options, portable solar panels are an excellent choice. In some instances, buying portable solar panels can be a better choice than permanent solar panels on your camper since these can be packed up and used for various things. Also, you can easily move the panels to get the best sun exposure. The Acopower solar panel kit packs up small and is great for beginners.
- HAMMOCK – Do I need to explain why having a hammock is amazing? We have the Double Wise Owl hammock and love it. Lightweight and easy to put up. The whole darn family gets in and enjoys a lazy swing.
That’s our complete list of camper must haves you need to bring.
Do you have something on your RV must haves list that we forgot? Let us know in the comments. We love getting tips from fellow adventures.
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