1st Time RVing Essential Items

Traveller's Compass

These are just the basics to go RVing for the first time.  Some higher end RVs come with some of these items permanently attached.  And a lot of dealerships will throw in some of these items to sweeten your deal.  So before you set up an Amazon Prime account (pays for itself in free shipping almost immediately) and order these items, make sure you don't already have them.  If you do, they should be pretty clearly listed in your paperwork in an easy to find place.


This is what you'll need to connect to full hookups at a campground or RV park.  We have another list for additional items that are more preference or convenience than need.  These are the things you really need for your RV to function with hookups.

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Water Pressure Regulator

RVs are engineered for pretty low water pressure, some 40-50lbs, others 55-65lbs.  Anything above that low threshold will likely spring a leak somewhere inside your floors or walls, which is one of the biggest problems RVers ever face.  Almost all of the water sources you're going to connect to will be over 65lbs of pressure.  If you're boondocking/dry camping, you won't need this until you use hookups.

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Inline Water Filter

These are pretty universally used in RVing.  You want to keep your water system as clean as you can.  That starts by running any water through this filter before it touches your water system.  The only exception is your pressure regulator, because too much pressure can break these filters.  Change them when they start feeling heavy, when you see that discolored water has been going through it, or once a year, whichever comes first.  It's also common practice to use them when filling your fresh water tank or an aqua tank for boondocking.

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Food grade water hose

You'll need a hose that is specifically intended for drinking water.  25 feet is the most commonly used size.  A lot of people carry a 50 foot hose in case they need a longer reach.

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Sewer Hose

This is one task you'll want to do gracefully the first time every time.  Do yourself a favor and watch a quick youtube video demonstrating how to hook these up.  Then practice attaching and dismounting the fittings before there is any dirty stuff inside them.  If your RV came with a macerator pump, you probably already have the equipment you'll need to dump your black and gray tanks.

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Electrical Management System

It's almost impossible to use electrical hookups on a regular basis and not at some point be exposed to some kind of condition at your pedestal that can damage expensive things inside your RV.  EMS devices are expensive and they really should be standard equipment on all RVS.  But very few RVs actually come equipped with them.  "Surge protectors" are a joke.  Don't trust your expensive things relying on one.  Power surges aren't the most likely electrical hazard you're going to run into while hooked up to an electrical hookup.  You want an electrical management system, which offers surge protection as one of many crucial features.

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Whichever power system you have, you'll most likely have to use the other type at some point.  The adapters are inexpensive, so you should always have one with you.

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Blue Nitrile Gloves  

You'll need these to connect and disconnect your sewer hose. (You'll also want some small plastic bags to cover the ends of the sewer hose for storing it. )

Parking Your RV

There are a few items you need to park an RV for camping.  They vary a bit depending on the features of your RV, but this is the essential list.

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Leveling Blocks

 If you have a powered leveling system, you won't need these, but don't mistake "stabilizing" jacks for leveling jacks.  Stabilizing jacks are meant to steady the RV after you get it level.  Leveling jacks are meant to do the leveling and the stabilizing.

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Wheel Chocks

An RV that rolls after unhitching is a problem.  Wheel chocks prevent that problem.

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Hitch Locks

Security is a bigger concern in RVing than it was 10 or even 5 years ago.  In addition to these locks, if you're pulling a travel trailer/camper trailer, padlock your safety chains around the hitch bars so a thief can't just bypass your hitch lock by hooking the chains to their truck.  Travel trailers and camper trailers generally need a receiver pin lock, a ball hitch lock and a coupler lock.  5th Wheels generally require a receiver pin lock and a king pin lock.  Motorhomes generally require a receiver pin lock, if they have a hitch.  If a motor home is pulling a trailer, they generally need a receiver pin lock, ball hitch lock, and a coupler lock.

Traveling With Your RV

If you're driving a motorhome and not towing anything, just make sure you're road worthy and your insurance and registration are up to date.  If you're towing an RV trailer or towing something with a motorhome, make sure you have accurate numbers for how much weight your vehicle is rated to tow, including tongue weight, and the same numbers for the hitch that is on your vehicle (if it isn't a factory installed hitch).  Then load up as if ready to camp and go to a truck scale to find out for sure how much weight you're dealing with - vehicle without trailer attached, vehicle with trailer attached, trailer only, and if possible each axle of the trailer and each side of the trailer individually to make sure you're distributing your weight well.  Don't proceed if you're not comfortably within your rated numbers.

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Trailer Lights Wiring Harness

Most modern trucks, SUVs and vans have a wiring connector near the back of the vehicle that you can plug right into with a trailer lights connector.  If not, you'll have to either tap into your tail lights or patch in each wire individually.  A 7-wire connection is standard on RVs.  These options have a place to enter the exact year, make, and model of your vehicle to help you get the right wiring harness for plug and play ability on your vehicle.

Trailer Brake Controller

Your trailer has brakes, and your tow vehicle needs their help to properly handle all the dispersed weight while braking.  You can adjust your brake controller to make your trailer brakes grab more or less in relation to your tow vehicle's brakes.  Tekonsha has the best model at just about every price point.

Weight Distribution and Sway Control

This is for trailers attached to a ball hitch at the rear of the tow vehicle, which excludes 5th wheels.  You'll want both sway control and weight distribution.  Not all weight distribution systems come with sway control, but all of these options do.