Get smart about sewage.
First things first: it’s time to talk about sewage. Some new RV owners feel overwhelmed by the idea of black tanks, gray tanks, hoses, dump stations, and chemical treatments. But it's really not that complicated to use and maintain your RV’s sewage system. Let's break it down.
Your RV toilet is a septic toilet that holds waste in what’s called a black tank. The black tank can be found by opening the door on the exterior of your RV. The black tank gets emptied through a capped pipe with an open/close release valve. Every week or so, it needs to be emptied at a dump station. To do that, you’ll need a specially designed sewer hose that connects the black tank to the dump station. Note that before you ever take off the cap, you will want to make sure the release valve is in the closed position or will find yourself in a very crappy situation.
Most RVs don't come with a sewer hose, so you’ll probably have to buy one. You might also want to pick up some hose tracks, which help to keep your hose stabilized while you dump, as well as some disposable gloves to wear during the job.
Your black tank needs to be treated with special chemicals that help break down waste. Before you leave on a trip, you’ll pour these chemicals into the toilet along with some water and a toilet deodorant. Each time you empty the tank, you'll need to refill the treatment chemicals. Make sure you buy special RV toilet paper that’s suited for the black tank, too.
Besides the black tank, your travel trailer will also have a gray tank, which fills with the water that drains from your shower and sink. This one also needs to be emptied, and you can use the same hose for both tanks.
To summarize, you'll need to buy:
- Sewage hose and tracks
- Tank treatment chemicals
- Toilet deodorant
- RV toilet paper
Clean H20 on the go.
Having access to clean, filtered water—without having to constantly buy bottles—is key when you’re RV camping. That’s why high-quality drinking water hoses are essential. These hoses connect your faucets to the city water supply at the campground and carry drinking water to your RV.
However, because city water isn't always totally dependable, you may also want to have a water filter that can be fitted directly onto the hose. A water pressure regulator is also highly recommended. That’s because the water from the RV campground might come out at very high pressure, which can cause damage to your RV.
Assuming you don't plan to shower exclusively at the campground, the last step to ensuring fresh water is to purchase a shower head that’s made specifically for RV showers. This will not only help with conservation, but it also provides a steady stream of good water pressure for your showers.
Shockingly easy electricity.
It takes a little planning to make sure you’ll always have power during your trip, whether you’re at a campsite or boondocking—but it’s well worth it!
What’s the #1 essential item for electricity? A 50-amp to 30-amp adapter. Many RV campsites only have 30-volt outlets available, and the adapter makes it possible to plug in even if your RV has 50-amp service. Remember though if you are converting down to a 30-amp service that you can’t power everything in your RV that you would on a 50-amp service so pay attention to what you have on at the same time.
You'll also want to bring a supply of power cords, extension cords, and extra fuses to make sure you're always hooked in safely. Don't forget jumper cables or even a lithium jump-starter kit. You’ll be glad you have them if your RV breaks down.
Many RVers purchase generators or solar panels so they have access to power when they’re boondocking or on the road. Both can carry a pretty hefty price tag, so consider taking a few trips without one to see how you manage before deciding whether the investment makes sense for your lifestyle.
Meet your must-have accessories.
Now let’s move on to some of our favorite RV accessories that will make your trip infinitely more convenient and comfortable.
Up first is a Wi-Fi extender, which can help you capture the campground's Wi-Fi signal from (just about) wherever you’re parked. Extenders are best-sellers among RV owners, and they come highly recommended as the most reliable way to get Wi-Fi while traveling. Keep in mind they’re not guaranteed to work if you’re too far from the signal’s source, so plan accordingly.
Newer Wi-Fi extenders are starting to also offer their own 4G LTE connectivity plans in addition to Wi-Fi extension. Togo Roadlink™ is one of those newer systems that allows you to stream your favorite shows, surf the internet and keep up with loved ones – wherever you may roam. To learn more, click here. Roadlink is one of the few systems that allows you to stay connected even while you’re in motion.
Next, get a little help with your outdoor cooking. While it's great to roast your dinners and marshmallows over a natural open flame, kindling a fire night after night can get exhausting—and smelly. If you plan to cook outside a lot, consider purchasing a propane campfire, a propane grill, or an aluminum outdoor stove so you can enjoy more controlled, smoke-free cooking.
For more about packing food for your camping adventures, take a look at our RV pantry checklist here!
Another small RV accessory with a big payoff is a set of leveling blocks. If you're parked on uneven terrain, these will help keep your RV level and, maybe more importantly, prevent your food from falling out of the fridge!
Some RV beds can be uncomfortable to sleep on, but a plush, comfortable mattress topper is an easy and relatively inexpensive fix. You may also want to purchase some zippered fitted sheets, which make it easier to change your linens when you’re in cramped quarters with limited laundry options.
Finally, anything that helps cool down your RV and RV fridge is worth the investment, especially if you'll be doing a lot of traveling during the summer months or in warmer climates. Consider purchasing these items:
- An RV fridge cooling fan. Improper circulation in the fridge can quickly lead to spoiled food, and a fan is an easy preventive measure.
- High-power table and bedroom fans. These will help keep you and your guests cool by circulating the air inside your RV.
- Sun blockers for the windows. These are inexpensive inserts that reflect sunlight off of your RV and keep your vehicle cooler.
- An air conditioner. If you don't already have A/C in your RV, it might be worth the investment. These rigs can get unbearably hot in the summer, especially if you’re cooking inside.
There you have it! With these RV camping essentials onboard, you know you’re well-prepared—so you can keep your focus on the fun adventures that lie ahead. For a complete guide to packing your RV, check out our e-book here.