10 Best Camping Accessories
Just like when you move into a new home, when you buy an RV, you’ll want to equip it with accessories that let you make the most of the space. There are some items you need to have to keep you and your coach safe and operating well. Then there are items you might choose to buy and items that just make camping more fun. We’ll walk you through our recommendations to give you the 10 best camping accessories in each category.
“Must-Have” RV Accessories
#1: Wheel Chocks
Heavy-duty wheel chocks range from basic to more deluxe designs that provide extra bells and whistles. Be sure to buy chocks for each tire on your RV model, and to secure the coach from rolling both forward and backward. And with well-designed chocks running less than $10 apiece, you don’t have to break the bank to help keep your expensive trailer safe.
#2: Leveling Blocks
Leveling blocks are necessary whether your RV includes an auto-leveling feature or not. To learn more about why, check out our blog on leveling your RV. There are tons of leveling blocks on the market. Many snap together like building blocks so you can adjust the height of the blocks to fit your surroundings. You can also find leveling blocks that do double duty as wheel chocks, like this set by CARMTEK. These leveling blocks are curved, so as you drive onto them, they lift your coach little by little. Once you’re leveled, smaller blocks wedge underneath the curve to secure your coach and keep it from rolling.
#3: Lanterns & Flashlights
Having battery-powered light sources always comes in handy when you’re camping. You can use them while you’re walking around at night, as an emergency light source if your electricity isn’t working, or as a way to help kids feel less afraid of the dark. We recommend you keep a mix of lanterns and flashlights on hand to use for various things. For example, keep some cheaper flashlights in your coach for kids to use, have a heavy-duty flashlight or two for adults, and buy one or two solar-charged lanterns to use around the campfire at night. If you’re the kind of camper who loves boondocking, having a light source that doesn’t draw on your RV battery is doubly important.
#4: Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detectors
With onboard propane to power appliances and gasoline or diesel to power a generator, it’s critical that you have a carbon monoxide detector onboard. According to the CDC, more than 100,000 people every year visit the ER with carbon monoxide poisoning, so it’s incredibly common – and incredibly easy to prevent. You can find carbon monoxide detectors that can be wall mounted and wired into your electrical system, or models you can plug into an outlet (with a secondary battery backup system). Because carbon monoxide poisoning is most likely to occur while you’re spending longer periods inside your coach, make sure you can hear the alarm from every room in case there’s a leak while you’re sleeping.
Smoke detectors are just as important to have in your RV. Of course, they’re useful while you’re cooking, letting you know if something is burning when you’ve stepped away from the stove. But they can also help prevent catastrophic damage if you forgot to turn a burner off, left a candle burning when you went to bed, or something goes wrong with an old appliance or with your electrical wiring.
#5: Hoses for Tanks
A 2016 study by Ecology Center shows that many generic garden hoses contain levels of lead, phthalates, and bromine that make them unsafe for humans to drink from. So if you’re wondering, “Do I really need a special hose for my fresh water tank?” the answer is yes. Look for hoses specifically labeled drinking water-safe or potable, and which don’t contain lead, BPAs, or phthalates.
Sewer hoses affix to the holding tank dump connection on your RV to empty your black- and gray-water tanks. And while it may seem like a no-brainer to save money on an item that will forever feel dirty after the first time you use it, we would encourage you to spend a little more money. After all, sometimes a tool is valuable not for what it does, but what it doesn’t do – in this case, you want a hose that doesn’t crack, doesn’t come loose from the dump connection, and doesn’t make cleaning it any more difficult than it needs to be. When everything goes to plan, a more expensive hose may seem indistinguishable from a cheaper one. But when something goes wrong with that cheaper hose, you may find yourself regretting the few bucks you saved.
#6: A Broom & Vacuum
People coming in and out of the coach all day can lead to lots of loose dirt, leaves, dust, bugs, and more on your RV floors. Grab a good broom and dustpan or a stick vacuum so you can keep the floors feeling clean and smooth beneath bare feet.
#7: RV-Specific GPS
Why should you use RV-specific GPS equipment when Google Maps can route you to your destination just fine? Well, traveling by RV requires a few more considerations than traveling by car. A GPS unit created just for RVers will alert you to things like overpasses that are too low for your RV’s height, sharp curves, and steep grades in the road that may make it difficult to maneuver your RV. They also often come preloaded with campsites and destination recommendations along your route, giving you a little something extra to help make your trip more enjoyable.
#8: Household Tools
Just like at home, having essential tools onboard can help you deal with a host of surprises. A lot of maintenance just comes down to keeping screws and bolts tight, replacing any corroded weatherstripping, sealing cracks, etc. So a basic tool kit with screwdrivers, a hammer, a variety of wrenches, pliers, utility scissors, a level, a tape measure, wire cutters, etc., will help you deal with the majority of issues. Add in some silicone caulk to seal cracks, a tire pressure gauge to keep your tires properly inflated, duct tape for stopgap repairs, and a power drill, and you’ll have a good kit of basics to see you through your adventures.
#9: Backup Camera
Many RVs come with backup camera prep because backup cameras are one of the most common components RVers like to add to their rigs. These cameras mount onto the rear of your coach and pipe video into a screen in your tow vehicle, helping you minimize your blind spots, back up safely, and stay aware of any objects or people around your RV. There are a wide variety of backup cameras to choose from, across all price points, including wired and wireless versions.
#10: Brushes to Keep Your Exterior Clean
Nature is gorgeous. But it also comes with a whole bunch of elements that can gunk up and damage your RV. From loose leaves to pollen to bugs and critters, debris that gets into places it shouldn’t can keep your RV components from functioning as they should. For example, loose leaves and twigs getting caught in your slides can permanently damage them, and pollen or sap on your RV roof can clog up your roof vents or eat away at sealant.
The most important thing to remember is that you want to clean your RV in the gentlest manner possible – don’t use a pressure washer or abrasive cleaners. Soft brushes and soap and water will do. If you have a walkable roof, you can climb up there and sweep it, but if not, look for brushes with long, telescoping handles and no-scratch bristles to help you clean hard-to-reach areas.
RV Accessories that are “Nice” to Have
#1: Camp Chairs
While many campsites come with a picnic table and you probably have some old camp chairs lying around, buying some nice, comfortable new camp chairs can make a world of difference. You can find well-padded chairs with trays and cup holders, chairs that heat up to keep you warm in cold weather, zero-gravity camp chairs, camp loveseats, and more. Instead of listening to your kids fight over who gets the “good” chair outside, why not just make them all good and enjoy some peace?
#2: Outdoor Rug
Outdoor rugs can be colorful, soft, and easy to clean. Many of them are just as good-looking as rugs you’d put inside your house, with the added benefits of being suitable for high-traffic areas, easy to clean, and resistant to water, stains, and mold. More importantly, they can turn any patch of land outside your RV into a patio and double your living area.
#3: Tap Lights
Tap lights are small, battery-powered lights you can use to illuminate small, awkward spaces. You just install batteries, stick them up with the included adhesive backing, and press the big, translucent button for an instant light source. They’re well-suited for pantries, closets, under-bed storage, bunk beds, cupboards, etc. And the best part is that you can buy an inexpensive set of 5, 10, or more, and have them installed in ten minutes.
#4: Pop-Up Screen Tent
Depending on when and where you camp, you might find yourself fighting off waves of mosquitos, horseflies, stink bugs, bees, wasps, and more. Rather than dousing yourself in bug spray every hour, buying citronella candles you hope will work, or swatting away bugs one by one, consider buying a pop-up screen tent. It creates a fully enclosed outdoor space, using screens to keep insects out and let the breeze in. It also gives you the benefit of shade and a place to keep food where critters can’t get to it.
#5: Walkie Talkies
Walkie-talkies provide a reliable way to communicate over distances, whether or not there’s cell service or electricity. That makes them great for convoys, travel parties that split up in the wild, or keeping tabs on kids who insist on having a taste of freedom.
#6: Mattress Toppers
Newer RV mattresses pull out all the stops for comfort. Heartland mattresses, for example, are often full-sized kings or queens, so you don’t have to buy non-standard sheets just for your RV beds. And we offer tilting beds, cooling gel mattresses, and plush, built-in mattress toppers on various models, too. But if your RV is a little older, or on the less expensive end, you may find that adding a mattress topper improves your camping experience greatly. After all, tomorrow’s adventures are only good as the sleep you get tonight – but it’s an easy thing to upgrade.
#7 Microfiber Towels
This one may be a no-brainer, but if you’re new to camping, you might not realize that you can buy quick-dry, microfiber towels. They’re absorbent, light, and dry faster than typical towels. That helps keep your limited indoor space free from funky smells and means you’ll never have to grab a damp towel when you step out of the shower again.
#8: Water Pressure Regulator
A water pressure regulator helps slow the flow of high-pressure water when you’re hooked up to campground water sources. If you only use your RV to boondock, taking all the water you need with you, there’s no need to add a water pressure regulator. But everyone else will want to install this cheap, simple piece of equipment to safeguard their water systems. If a campground’s water pressure is too high, it can cause cracks and leaks inside your hoses and pipes, leading to damage and poorly functioning flow over time.
#9: Portable Back-Up Battery
Whether or not you have a solar energy system or a generator, a backup battery can be a huge help when your main battery has run low or you’re trying not to draw much energy from your RV. You can use them to charge devices or power small appliances in a pinch, and they’re a quiet, reliable source of emergency energy. For example, if a storm comes through and knocks out power at your campground, a backup battery will ensure your phone is charged so you can look up weather news, find an alternate campsite, and get up-to-date information about road closures.
#10: Deluxe Cooler
RV refrigerators can often be small. And no matter how big your fridge is, there are times when you’ll need more space. Enter a deluxe camping cooler. You can use them to store beers for a crowd, sodas for multiple kids, extra meat for a big cookout, and more. You can find models on wheels, so you can roll them like a suitcase, or with heavy-duty latches to keep small kids and clever dogs out. In a pinch, a sturdy cooler can even stand in as a makeshift seat – because who doesn’t need an extra chair from time to time?
RV Accessories That Are “Fun” to Have
You can find models for one person or multiple people, designs that affix to trees or come with stands, and colors in every shade of the rainbow. Whether it’s for a lazy afternoon nap or reading a book, we’ve never met anyone who didn’t like a hammock.
#2: Portable Speakers
Bluetooth speakers are cheap, rechargeable, and a great way to bring some fun to any outdoor or indoor space. Many are waterproof, and some even float, so you can listen to your favorite jams while doing just about anything.
#3: Sticker Map of the US
Keep track of your travels with a giant U.S. map that comes with stickers you can add for every state you’ve visited. It’s a wonderful way to teach kids geography and a great visual tool for adults who can’t quite remember if they’ve been through Iowa or not.
#4: Beer and Wine Mugs
Glass is a major no-no for camping. With people walking around in sandals or bare feet, a single dropped wine glass can create a hazard that’s hard to clean up, since shards may get lost in grass or gravel. So why not upgrade your drink glasses and mugs to the stainless steel, travel variety? They’ll keep your beverages cold, have lids to keep bugs out and prevent spills, and they’re safe for carrying around the campground. Any travel mug will do, but we love the ones that look like stemless wine glasses.
#5: String Lights
If your RV doesn’t already come with LED lights built into your awning or front cap, consider hanging up some inexpensive string lights to create a bit of atmosphere. In addition to illuminating your patio past dark, they’re a great way to make every night feel a little bit more magical, and you can buy them almost anywhere.
#6: Roasting Sticks
When we were kids, if you wanted to roast a marshmallow, you had to hunt for a long stick first. And you know, that can be fun – but what if you’re in a landscape that’s short on trees? Long-handled BBQ skewers or roasting sticks ensure you’ll always have what you need to roast marshmallows, hot dogs, kebabs, corn, or anything else you can think of. Yum.
#7: Inflatable Couch
No more huffing and puffing to fill inflatable furniture. You can now find inflatable couches you fill just by swiping them through the air to collect wind. And the result is a bouncy, cushy place where you can kick back, relax, and enjoy a cold drink while watching the sunset – even on rough terrain. Not bad, right?
#8: Lawn Games
Camping is a great time to make family memories. Like memories of the first time your kids get better than you at cornhole, ladder ball, or frisbee. You can buy giant dominoes, connect four, and many more outdoor games that will keep your kids happy. Of course, games like Red Rover, Simon Says and Red Light/Green Light are free – but there’s something irresistible about playing Jenga with a set that’s taller than your kids. Tell us that’s not going to become a lifelong family memory.
Campgrounds can be great places to go for a stroll or have your kids work off some energy. If you’re not into packing bikes for every member of your family, consider scooters. Whether you get a simple Razor scooter or a three-wheeled kickboard suitable for young kids, they’re a fun, simple way to get from your RV to the bathhouse or general store, and they fold up small when it’s time to travel.
#10: Portable Outdoor Projector
Finally, is there anything more fun than an outdoor movie night? With a portable outdoor projector, you can turn a screen, sheet, or the side of your RV into a movie screen and set up a little blanket where your family can enjoy a picnic under the stars. Of course, keep the volume to a reasonable level, but do expect to make new friends as passersby ooh and aah over your clever new toy.