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Outfitting Your New RV - Just The Essentials

Field Tested Products You Need

Mark Quasius
Apr 1, 2013
Photographers: Mark Quasius
OK, you’ve just emptied your bank account and picked up that new RV you’ve been longing to buy. It’s your first, and you’re itching to hit the road and go camping, so you pick it up at the dealership, sign your life away, and you’re ready to go, right? Wrong. Now is when you find out buying a new RV is just the beginning. You need to fill it up with stuff before you can use it, so hopefully you haven’t burned up your entire checking account and have a little left over. You’ll need it.
An RV is just a big box with the potential for some great experiences. But none of these things come ready to go. It’s not like a car where you get the keys and start driving. An RV has a number of systems that need accessories in order to operate. You won’t need big fuzzy dice to hang from the mirror, but you will need a few necessities before you’re ready to hit the road. Fortunately, this stuff is available at your local RV dealer or from online stores that specialize in camping accessories.
Naturally, there are the obvious items, such as silverware, dishes, and cookware. Bedding, towels, washcloths, soap, and cleaning supplies might not be a bad thing, either. But there are a number of RV-specific things you are going to need before you get going.
Fresh-Water Systems
Your RV has a fresh-water tank to store water for drinking, washing, and showers. This tank isn’t going to fill itself, so you’ll need some garden hose to connect to a campground spigot. When dealing with drinking water, you should always use one of those white garden hoses that are FDA-approved for drinking water. They come in various lengths and diameters. Campground spigot locations are never in the same place in every park, so rather than getting one long 50-foot hose, you’re better off getting two 25-foot hoses. Most times you won’t need very much hose to reach and when you do, you can simply couple the two together. Having two smaller hoses also provides a spare should one develop a leak while camping. If you have a separate blank tank-flushing attachment, be sure to keep a regular garden hose on hand for that to prevent any cross contamination.
Photo 2/10   |   Wide selections of RV water filters are available from Hydro Life or other manufacturers.
You’re also going to want to make sure that your water is clean when it enters your water tank. Campground water sources vary, so you’ll need a water filter to prevent any sediment or rust from getting into your system. Bacteriostatic filters, such as the popular C2063 element for the Hydro Life HL-200 canister filter, will also filter out harmful bacteria. Some filters can even guard against cryptosporidium and other bad bugs that are best kept out of your digestive tract.
Water systems work best at no more than 60 psi of water pressure. Many larger campgrounds crank up the water pressure in order to feed a vast network of campsites without starving them for water. Excessive water pressure can cause damage to your RV’s plumbing system, so adding a water pressure regulator will prevent that from happening. Be sure to use a Watts-style regulator rather than the small in-line regulators that are basically irrigation system–flow restrictors. The Watts regulator is adjustable and also has a port for a pressure gauge so that you know how much pressure you have. These regulators should be attached at the spigot rather than your RV to prevent damage to your water hose.
Sanitary Systems
Now that you have plenty of fresh water in your RV, you know it’s going to wind up in your holding tanks pretty soon and you are going to want to get it out of there. Your RV may or may not have come with a sewer hose, but even if it did, chances are it’s a low-quality hose and doesn’t have any fittings on the outlet end. Sewer hoses gain quality as they get thicker. A number of sewer hose kits are available, but try to stick with something at least 15 mils thick as a bare minimum. Heavier hoses are better and you might even consider a super-duty hose like the RhinoFLEX if your budget allows. Hoses are available in 10- and 20-foot lengths.
Photo 3/10   |   Buying a quality sewer hose system, such as this RhinoFLEX, ensures trouble-free operation and long life when connected to your sewer connection.
This is another area where two 10-foot hoses are better than one 20-foot hose. Having a long hose all snaked up on the ground doesn’t help it drain. I actually carry a third hose as a spare or for those cases when the sewer connection is quite far away or one of mine develops a leak. Sewer connections vary. Some are threaded while some are bare pipes stuck in the ground. A right-angle connector with a threaded adapter and a rubber donut allow you to connect to either. A clear plastic extension tube is also a handy item so you can tell when your black tank has been properly flushed.
Electrical Systems
Every RV has a power cord so that it can plug into an electrical outlet to recharge batteries and run the various 120-volt AC electrical items. Depending on your RV, this might be a 50-amp 120/240 connection, a 30-amp 120-volt cord, or even a small 20-amp cord. Campground pedestal configurations vary, as well. If you have a 50-amp RV, there will be times when you are going to have to plug into a 30-amp receptacle. A 30- to 50-amp dog-bone adapter will allow you to do that. A second 30- to 20-amp adapter will allow you to further plug into a standard house receptacle when necessary. Depending on your campsites, it won’t hurt to have an extension cord along. Most 30-amp cords are 50 feet long and usually reach, but 50-amp cords are heavy and typically are only 30 feet long. You won’t use an extension cord very often, but it will be a real lifesaver some day when your campground pedestal is just out of reach.
Photo 4/10   |   Progressive Industries makes an excellent line of surge protection equipment.
Campground voltage varies widely. You’d think that everyone would have standard 120-volt power available, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen. Some older campgrounds have added sites and expanded but really haven’t upgraded their electrical systems. When loads of campers arrive in the afternoon and start switching on their air conditioners, the voltage can drop to levels that can damage your RV’s electrical components. Having a surge protector will protect your electrical system. Some less-expensive surge protectors only protect against surges, so those units should be avoided. Be sure that your surge protector has low-voltage protection and will shut off power to your RV should the voltage drop to unsafe levels. Various models are available that can either be permanently mounted or portable. If you want to go one step further, you can add a voltage booster, such as an Autoformer, to boost voltage so that you can continue to use the campground electricity to power your RV when voltage is marginally low.
Fire Safety
By law, every RV will come with a fire extinguisher. But it’s most likely a tiny 10-pounder that meets the minimum requirement of the law but really isn’t effective in combating fires. Upgrading to a larger 20-pound size will make a big difference, and upgrading to a foam extinguisher is an even better choice. Most of these extinguishers are mounted close to the entry door. Consider how easy it would be to access that extinguisher should a fire erupt in the galley area one evening when you are in the bedroom. It would be a good idea to add a second extinguisher and keep it in the bedroom area of your RV.
Photo 8/10   |   Larger fire extinguishers are recommended to replace the small-sized units that come with your RV.
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are also important items to consider. Both carbon monoxide and smoke rise, so you need to have units that are mounted on the ceiling. Some carbon monoxide detectors are combo units that also detect any LP gas leaks. These are mounted close to the floor, which is ideal for a gas leak but not so ideal for carbon monoxide, so adding a ceiling-mounted carbon monoxide detector is a wise decision.
Photo 9/10   |   outfitting Your New Rv Just The Essentials kiddie Smoke Detector
Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems
A tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is also a good investment. If one of your tires picks up a nail or develops any other type of slow leak, you’ll never know it until it’s too late, especially on a towed vehicle or trailer. If allowed to continue, the low pressure will overheat the tire and result in a blowout. A TPMS will alert you to a loss of air so that you have time to pull over and deal with it before it causes serious damage. A wide selection of models are available that use either internal or external sensors, some of which can measure temperature as well as pressure.
In addition to the aforementioned items, there are a number of helpful accessories that will make your camping experience much more enjoyable. Most RVs are equipped with roof-mounted ventilation fans. But these cannot be used when it rains, and the lid will need to be closed to prevent damage if the wind kicks up. By adding a fan hood, such as one of the various MaxxAir Vent models, you will be able to keep your vent open in most of those weather conditions.
Photo 10/10   |   Installing a vent hood will allow you to use your vent fan in almost any weather condition.
An Extend-a-Stay tee is another handy item. It will allow you to power your gas grill from the RV’s propane tank rather than portable bottles. Some models also allow the connection to a second portable tank so that you can power a motorhome with an external tank rather than use your fixed tank when doing extended camping. Also, some sort of blocking will be required for your leveling jacks. Your jacks will sink into the soil in soft ground. You can use wooden blocking if you want, but there are a number of durable plastic pads that can be stacked, don’t rot out, and are easy to clean.


Kiddie Fire Extinguisher
None, AK
Surge Guard
Clearwater, FL 33760
Hughes Autoformers
Anaheim, CA 92807
RV Upgrades
Camping World
Hydro Life Water Filtration
Maxxair Vent Corp.
Progressive Industries Surge Protection



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