This website contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase a product after clicking my link to it.
I see a lot of lists of “must have” RV accessories published by other RV bloggers, and I always find it interesting to note how many items on those lists are items I've never owned in my years of RVing.
In this article, I've listed some of the items I frequently see on lists with titles like “100 RV Gadgets You Can't Camp Without” along with my thoughts on why I haven't personally found those items to be an RV necessity.
Maybe you will end up deciding to purchase some of the items on this list (or maybe you already have), but if you're new to RVing, hopefully this article will help you not feel like you have to rush out and buy so many RV accessories before you figure out your camping style and determine what you actually need.
Many RV owners, especially those who live in their RVs full time, find a dehumidifier to be an absolute necessity. Not only can having one make hot, humid weather more bearable, more importantly, in cold winter weather, a dehumidifier can combat the problem of condensation inside the RV which can lead to mold and mildew.
However, before buying one and having to find space for it in your RV, I would recommend waiting to see if you really do need it.
We spent three winters living in below-freezing temperatures in our four season fifth wheel, and condensation was never a problem for us. I even kept a hygrometer / thermometer on our refrigerator, and it consistently read below 20% humidity.
Why do some people have this problem but not us? I believe it has to do with the amount of insulation in a given RV. Since condensation forms when warm, most air comes in contact with a cold surface, there are two possible causes of condensation in an RV:
- Excess humidity due to inadequate ventilation, and
- Cold walls, windows, and other exterior surfaces.
Our fifth wheel (a Keystone Everest) was equipped with attic vents designed to help reduce humidity in the RV, but RVers who don't have these will often crack a window or ceiling vent during the winter (or buy a dehumidifier!). As for cold walls, since our camper is designed for four-season use, it has extra insulation which makes a big difference in the RV's ability to hold in heat. We did have single-pane windows, but during the winter I insulated them (you can read how here) so the warm inside air doesn't easily reach them.
(I explain more about condensation in RV's and offer ideas for preventing and solving the problem in this article.)
An Outdoor Rug
Many RVers say they enjoy having an outdoor rug to create an area for sitting outside, especially when it's muddy. The previous owners of our RV gave us two outdoor rugs when we bought our fifth wheel, and we used them for about a year and a half, but after being outside in all kinds of weather, the plastic started to deteriorate bits of it would be tracked in stuck to our shoes, where I felt like I was constantly sweeping it up. Eventually, I threw the rugs away and have been happier without them–but so far we've always had a concrete, paving stone, or gravel patio, so we haven't had the problems that a lot of people who like them are trying to solve.
I can see a rug being nice for camping on a beach, or for if you're in a campsite that's muddy or doesn't have a gravel path to your vehicle, but for the most part, I consider it more as a luxury than a necessity, and they take up a lot of storage space under the RV, so for for keeping floors clean I prefer a coir doormat.
Bottom Line: Wait to see if you need it before purchasing one, unless you just want one to decorate your patio.
RV GPS System
Having an RV GPS system as opposed to just using Google Maps on your phone is important because it will make sure your route is RV-friendly. And while there are some excellent RV GPS systems available that will customize your route according to your RV's size and weight, it is possible to just use your phone with the help of the CoPilot RV navigation app. It's not cheap for an app, but it offers a more affordable alternative to a complete RV GPS system. If you do decide to go this route (no pun intended!), I would recommend getting a dashboard mount for your phone.
Bottom Line: An RV-specific GPS system can save you some navigation headaches, but for occasional use or to help you stick to a budget, your phone will work.
Oxygenics Shower Head
RV shower heads are often low quality, and if you're struggling with low water pressure, a replacement RV shower head can make a big difference. However, our fifth wheel came with a shower head that was actually pretty nice, with a flow rate of 2 gallons per minute and decent pressure.
I had a different problem, though: my hot water ran out faster than I would have liked. I thought maybe replacing the shower head would help, so I bought this handheld Oxygenics shower head because it has a flow rate of 1.5 gallons per minute yet still maintains a good amount of pressure. But since I wasn't using my other shower head at full strength anyway, I didn't notice much of a difference in the length of my shower, and a few months later, I discovered the real culprit was my aging hot water heater. Since replacing the water heater (with the same 12 gallon model I had before), I have had plenty of hot water for a shower.
Bottom Line: If you want a higher pressure shower, an Oxygenics shower head might help. Otherwise, it's probably not necessary.
I am not sure why this kitchen appliance appears on every list of “must have RV accessories”. I have one, and while I tried using it more when I first bought it, now I only use it a couple of times per year. Usually I prefer to cook my food on the stove or in the oven and don't find that an Instant Pot actually saves me much time. Since my motorhome doesn't have an oven, I purchased an air fryer toaster oven to use in it.
However, it all comes down to personal preference. If you already own an Instant Pot and use it all the time, then you'll probably appreciate bring it with you in your RV or buying a small one to keep in your RV.
Bottom Line: If you don't already use an Instant Pot, it's just one more thing to find space to store in your RV.
A countertop ice maker shows up on a lot of “accessories every RV needs” type lists, and I've seen a lot of people on Facebook recommend it to new RV owners as well. I guess whether or not you need it just depends on your lifestyle–if you typically add ice cubes to a drink multiple times per day, maybe it would come in handy. Just having a couple of normal ice cube trays in the freezer gives us all the ice we need, since we can keep our cold beverages in the refrigerator.
Occasionally you may find that you've been traveling all day in the heat, and when you arrive at your campsite you just want to kick back with an ice cold drink, but your RV refrigerator isn't cold yet. In that case, I would just buy a bag of ice at a gas station or campground store.
Bottom Line: Do you go through 2+ trays of ice cubes every day? Then maybe an ice maker would be a time saver for you. Otherwise, it's just another way to take up counter space.
Zero Gravity Camping Chairs
“Zero gravity” chairs are another popular item for “RV Must Have” lists. Once again, this comes down to personal preference, but I don't often enjoy reclining when I'm sitting, and trying out other people's “zero gravity” chairs hasn't made me feel like I'm missing out.
This is the style of chair I have, and I really like them. They're bigger and sturdier than your average umbrella-style chair, and I like that I can sit cross-legged in them.
Lots of people use Command Strips for hanging things on the walls of their campers, but I have an alternative that's cheaper by the foot, stronger, and easier to remove. It's called acrylic mounting tape, it works in all weather, and I use it for all kinds of projects around my RV. You can read about some of the uses I've found for it in this article.
Electric Coffee Maker
Don't get me wrong–coffee is important to me! I just realized a long time ago that there were a lot more space-efficient ways of making coffee than a traditional coffee maker appliance. My favorite way to make plain old coffee in a French press. I used to have a French press made of glass, but it broke, so I replaced it with a stainless steel one, which is better for an RV.
RV Toilet Paper
There are two ways to avoid toilet paper clogs in your RV sewage system
- Never put toilet paper down your toilet. (Not my preferred solution)
- Make sure any toilet paper you put down your toilet dissolves very quickly.
You can buy special RV toilet paper that's designed to break down quickly, but it's really not necessary to do so if you do these things instead:
- Make sure there is always plenty of water in your black tank to help dissolve the toilet paper.
- Use a tank treatment that will help break down the toilet paper. (My favorite is Tank Techs Rx Probiotic holding tank treatment.)
It's also helpful to use single-ply toilet paper, but any brand will work; it doesn't have to say “RV” on the package. I usually buy Scott brand. Scott also makes a rapid-dissolving toilet paper, but any single-ply brand will work.
There are tests YouTube you can watch where people put various brands of toilet paper in containers of water and shake them to see which one dissolves the fastest if you want to be really certain of your toilet paper brand, but as long as there's water in your tank, any brand of toilet paper will eventually break down. The Tank Techs Rx treatment I mentioned recommends leaving a small amount of liquid in your tank at all times so that any toilet paper left in the tank will never completely dry out, and so that your colony of good bacteria will continue to multiply and break down the solids in your tank.
I'm a sucker for RV kitchen gadgets, or any kind of kitchen gadgets, really. Something about browsing through Bed, Bath, & Beyond brings back childhood memories of playing house. I also really love seeing clever ways to save space in an RV. So nested mixing bowls with measuring cups and spoons, collapsible silicone storage containers, and nesting stainless steel induction cookware, and other collapsible kitchen gadgets are really tempting to me just because they're so darn clever.
But do I really need them? No. I don't even think I'd actually like having to pull a bowl out from under all my measuring cups and spoons, or put them away all neatly every time I dried the dishes. And I've been able to organize my RV kitchen in a way that everything fits in the space I have. So would these RV kitchen accessories be nice to have? Maybe some of them would be. But “must haves”? Probably not.
Bottom Line: If you really like these clever kitchen gadgets, then get them! But you probably don't actually need them.
A lot of “RV essentials” lists recommend using plastic, Melamine, or Corelle dishes because they are lightweight and don't break easily. If you're buying new dishes for your RV anyway, those are great choices, but if you are moving into an RV full time and have glass dishes you like and want to keep, replacing them is not a requirement.
I actually have glass plates and drinking glasses myself. I figured that rather than getting rid of perfectly good dishes and buying new ones, I might as well keep them and replace them if they broke. So far, they have stayed safe during travel with sheets of rubber shelf liner between each plate and bowl, liquor bottle sleeves around the glasses, and tension rods in front of shelves. If you don't mind replacing your dishes but just prefer to drink out of glass instead of plastic (that's how I am), a set of tumblers or stemless wine glasses with silicone sleeves is what I would choose.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Melamine can't be microwaved, so if you use your microwave a lot, you may want to avoid buying dishes made of Melamine. Instead, dishes made of wheat straw are a nice looking, microwaveable, BPA-free alternative.
When we were first talking about living in an RV, I loved the idea of being able to go completely off grid, so I really wanted to deck out our fifth wheel with solar panels. But it turns out we actually prefer staying at campgrounds where we have access to full electrical hookups.
Additionally, I found out that while solar panels do make it possible to camp off grid for a longer period of time, especially in combination with a composting toilet, they don't produce enough power on their own to run an RV air conditioner (that would require a generator), so my dreams of RV homesteading powered only by renewable energy sources were not as simple as I'd originally thought.
Bottom Line: Are you planning to camp frequently at locations where you won't have full electrical hookups? Then solar power might be worth considering. Just don't count on them as your sole source of power, especially if you plan to run an air conditioner.
A quiet RV generator allows you to power electrical appliances and electronics off grid as well as provide emergency electrical backup.
If you plan to camp at locations where you don't have full hookups, or if you or others in your household rely on electricity for safety reasons (such as in extreme heat or cold, or to power medical devices), a generator is definitely a good idea. But if you'll mainly be using your RV at places where you have full hookups, you can probably make do without one.
If you're new to RVing, you want might try a few trips to places where you don't need a generator before you invest in a bunch of boondocking gear.
Bottom Line: Whether or not you need a generator depends on your lifestyle and how often you anticipate that you'll be camping without full electrical hookups.
LED light bulbs
Replacing all of the lights in the RV with LED bulbs is a “camping hack” that I have tried, but I have had the hardest time finding LED bulbs that don't give off light that's too white “white” for me, since I prefer tungsten light bulbs. Even the ones that are supposed to be “warm wight” are usually too white for me. The nice thing about LED bulbs is they don't burn out and need to be replaced as frequently, and they also stay cool (regular RV light bulbs give off a good amount of heat) and conserve electricity.
Since I'm nearly always hooked up to shore power though, regular light bulbs work just fine for me and are much cheaper. I am still gradually replacing some of my RV light bulbs with LED light bulbs as they burn out just because I hate having to change them, but for me it's not worth it to throw away a bunch of perfectly good bulbs and replace them all at once.
If you do buy LED bulbs, they are much cheaper online than they are at most RV stores. Just be sure to read the reviews first because the quality of the ones sold online can really vary. Also, pay close attention to the type of bulb. Some look very similar to one another, but if you get the wrong kind it won't work.
Bottom Line: If you do a lot of boondocking or prefer bright white light bulbs instead of yellowish ones, LED bulbs are probably a good investment for you. Otherwise, wait to buy them until the ones you have burn out.
What do you think? Is there anything you would add to or leave off this list? Leave a comment to let me know!