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Every RVer has a must-have list after living on wheels for a while. From basic supplies to back-up plans, here is my list of things I haven’t been able to do without during our 7 years as an RVer.
The basics every RVer should have
1. Tool kit
Even if you’re not particularly handy, there are some basic tools and supplies you should have on hand. Most people can handle these without too much difficulty. This is not a comprehensive list, just some ideas
- Screwdriver(s); either one with multiple attachments or multiple sizes with Phillips and flat heads
- Hex keys of various sizes
- Duct tape
- Nails and screws of various sizes and lengths
- Super glue
- Electric variable-speed drill and drill bits
2. Plumbing supplies
If your RV has plumbing that routes to waste tanks, you need to have several things on hand to manage your fresh and waste water. These are the things we need, regardless of whether we are boondocking or in a park with full hook-ups. You can find these at RV supply stores or box stores like Wal-Mart that have an RV supply section.
- Fresh water hose: make sure you get one that’s drinking water safe. Using a regular garden hose exposes you to high levels of lead.
- Water pressure regulator: this little device reduces pressure from any water spigot. RV water pipes are small and plastic and can’t handle high water pressure. The regulator only costs a few bucks and can save you from broken pipes.
- Sewer hose. I recommend at least 2 lengths of hose that can connect together, plus elbow connectors for attachment to the RV and sewer drain. Also, sewer drainage on an RV needs gravity’s help as much as possible. We use a hose support that has graduated heights. It looks like this:
- Waste digester/tank deodorizer: these are chemicals that help break down the waste in your black tank. They come in bottles or drop-ins, which are little packets. I like the drop-ins and always buy the least toxic kind.
- Gloves: your sewer hose and attachments contain raw sewage, so you should never touch them with bare hands. Many people use disposable gloves, but they can rip. We have heavy-duty rubber gloves that we keep in the compartment with the sewer hose.
- RV-safe toilet paper. This paper is different from standard household toilet paper because it dissolves better in your waste tank. You can spend a lot of money on special toilet paper that has an RV brand on it, but we just use Scott septic-safe TP. If you buy a case of TP on Amazon, you get 48 rolls for under $40.
3. Means to navigate
My navigation tool of choice is the Google Maps app. It’s free, it’s on my phone and I can download maps for off-line use in case I have no wireless signal. Even if there is no coverage and you haven’t downloaded a map for the area, with GPS turned on you can still use it to track your progress through an area. More than once I used it to navigate our way when we tried to leave a place and did not have a signal.
4. First aid supplies
Bandages, antibiotic cream, and pain killers are a good start. To that I would add tweezers, anti-itch cream, and something that works both for allergies and nausea: Benadryl. Ice packs and heating pads are good too. All this talk about healthcare brings me to the next section…
Every RVer should have medical coverage
You may be healthy as the proverbial horse, but what if you have an accident?
I know these days, some people choose not to have health insurance because it’s cheaper to pay the tax penalty than to have premiums. And that’s fine. I’m not saying you should have health insurance–if you don’t want it, that’s your choice.
What I am saying is that you should have a way to get medical care if you need it. If you don’t have insurance you should have money put aside to pay for medical care, and be prepared to ask for a payment plan if it’s really expensive and you can’t pay for care up front. In an emergency, most hospitals are legally required to provide care, regardless of insurance (or lack thereof).
I personally have health insurance through an employer, and I bought the most comprehensive coverage I could find. I’m glad I did, because my husband visited an emergency department and then had an outpatient procedure the same week. If I’d chosen the cheaper plan or had no insurance, I probably would be paying for most of it out of pocket.
I also have an FSA (flexible spending account) through my employer, that comes with a debit card. We can pay for co-pays, deductibles, prescriptions, eyeglasses and more with the account using pre-tax dollars, thereby lowering my taxable income. My employer also contributes money to the account.
Also, keep a card or paper with you with any current medications, their doses, the reason you are taking the medication, past surgeries, and drug allergies. That way if you end up seeing a doctor unfamiliar with your medical history, you can just hand them the card instead of having to remember everything when you’re feeling sick. And trust me, us medical professionals LOVE receiving a paper like that. It makes data entry so much easier.
Every RVer should keep copies of their own records
You may plan to go back to the same place every year to do things like see a doctor, do your taxes, or get your vehicle(s) serviced. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. Here are some things I keep with us in digital and/or paper form.
- Medical records, especially test results
- Tax returns
- RV repair records
- Proof of insurance
- Vehicle registration and title
- Marriage license
- Birth certificates and social security cards
I keep all the important stuff in a binder inside plastic sheets. But I’m thinking I’m going to scan copies of all of them and put them in a waterproof box instead, just in case.
Every RVer should have someone to drive their RV in case of an emergency
Ryan and I both know how to drive the RV. If one of us is sick or injured then the other one can do it if necessary.
But if you’re a single traveler or the only driver, I recommend a back-up plan. One option is emergency assistance coverage. Some RV insurance carriers have this specifically for RVers, where if need be they will transport your rig, any family members and pets to another location if you are unable to do so due to a medical issue.
Insurance specifically for your RV lifestyle
Most vehicle insurance plans do not offer the type of coverage needed for an RV. If you are a full-timer, this is especially true. I recommend making sure your coverage extends to personal items on-board, and you might also want to think about coverage for a hotel room/rental vehicle if your rig needs major repairs.
Every RVer should have cash and a major credit card
Lots of small, private RV parks and state campgrounds only take cash. Other places that might only take cash are small gas stations, dump stations at highway rest areas, public transportation and farmer’s market stands. We like to keep a couple hundred dollars in cash with us.
Even though we don’t use our credit card regularly, there are some things we use it for every time. Here are the reasons why we use our credit card:
- When renting a car, because they require a major credit card and auto insurance (if you don’t want to buy their insurance protection). We no longer carry auto insurance because we don’t own a car, and our full-timer’s RV insurance on our motorhome does not cover us driving rental vehicles.
- When paying for large RV repair or maintenance bills.
- To pay for an RV park reservation if we’re booking far in advance. That way if we have to cancel due to an emergency and are charged a cancellation fee, the credit card will cover the fee.
Please keep in mind that we try to never buy anything on credit that we don’t have the money for in our bank account. When we use the credit card, the balance gets paid in full before the due date. The card is used for its added protection and benefits when we need it.
What’s on your must-have list?