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New owners of a popup camper or other small RV often ask what accessories they need to buy. Generally, you don't need
much. In fact, my first advice is to simply go camping with the bare minimum of additional purchases, bring a pen and paper,
and write down the things that you absolutely need. It's often a good idea to make your first trip close to a large
department store, so if you discover there's something you absolutely can't live without, you can just go get it. But as
you've camped a few times, you'll realize that you need a few accessories, and this page describes some of the items you
might find useful or necessary. Most of these items will be available locally, but if you're interested in researching the products online, the links below will take you to amazon.com.
I have a
separate page that discusses some of the items you should have to
safely power your camper. In particular, there are two items that will frequently come in handy.
15 to 30 Amp Power Adapter. If you are going to be camping with electrical hookups, in the vast majority of cases, the campground will have a "30 amp" outlet that fits your camper's plug. On rare occasions, however, the campground will only have a standard household outlet. Also, if you want to plug the camper in at home, you will probably need an adapter. You will eventually need an adapter to plug your camper in to such an outlet, so it's best to purchase it before the need arises.
Please visit my
power adapter page for more information on using one of these
adapters. But in general, you can use such an adapter for everything in your camper, with the exception of the air
conditioner, heaters, and appliances that produce heat.
30 Amp RV Extension Cord. As discussed on my power adapter page, if you have the adapter shown above, then you can probably get away with using outdoor extension cords that you already own. The main exception, however, will be if your camper has an air conditioner. In that case, you really need a proper RV extension cord. The cord that came with your camper is usually long enough, but you will sometimes be in situations where the cord is not quite long enough to reach the outlet. In those cases, an extension cord is invaluable.
If you do plan to use your air conditioner, then you should get one of these extension cords in preparation for that day.
Lightweight Cookware Set
As noted above, unless your campground is within pizza delivery range (which is occasionally a good option), you'll need an
assortment of pots and pans for cooking on your camper's stove. Again, there's no need to go out and buy a special set of
"camping" cookware. Old pots and pans from around your house will do an adequate job. If you do need to buy these items,
this is a case where cheap is good. At least at first, you do not need the highest quality items. As you gain experience,
you might want to buy some special high-quality items. But at first, to make sure you have everythig you need, a set like
this is adequate. Since you will only be using this a few days per year, the longevity of the items really isn't that
important. And since you want to keep the camper's weight from creeping up, a lightweight set like this one is actually an
advantage. A similar cookware set is available at
Water Pressure Regulator.
If you're going to be camping with water hookups, then it is extremely important to have a water pressure regulator. These
are available in both plastic and brass. The slightly more expensive brass ones are much more durable. You connect this
regulator to the campground's spiggot, hook your hose to the regulator, and then hook the hose to your camper. Since the
pressure from outdoor faucets can be extremely high in some campgrounds, this regulator will protect your camper's water
system from dangerously high pressure. Some campgrounds have these permanently attached to the faucet, but you don't want to
take a chance, so purchasing one of these is cheap insurance.
Drinking Water Hose
You'll also need a hose to connect your camper's water hookup. You undoubtedly drank from the garden hose when you were
young, with no ill effects. And as you can see, your camper has the same fittings as a standard garden hose. You'll
probably be OK using a garden hose, but most of them contain a warning that they're not intended for drinking water, because
they might leech chemicals into the water. Keep in mind that the hose will often contain stagnant water, sitting in the sun,
so this might be a real possibility. Therefore, even though your garden hose will work in a pinch, if you're going to buy a
hose for your camper, then you ought to buy the right kind, which is approved for use with drinking water. They come in a
variety of lengths, and aren't much more expensive than normal garden hoses.
Level. You will need some method to determine whether your camper is level. If you forget to buy a level, you can easily make a plum bob out of a piece of string and any heavy object. But it's easiest to use a level similar to a carpenter's level. I have two of these mounted on the tongue of the trailer--one to check whether it's level left to right, and the other to see if it's level front to back. Extreme precision is not necessary. In fact, if you bring a carpenter's level with you, it will prove a frustrating exercise, because you will discover that the various parts of the trailer are, in fact, not level with respect to each other. If you get the tongue just right, then the floor won't be level. If you get the floor level, then the beds won't be level.
But mathematical precision is not necessary. Nobody will notice if the camper is off level by a fraction of an inch. And
even a cheap level like this one will get you as close as necessary.
The process of actually leveling the trailer is very straightforward. To level it front to back, you simply crank the tongue jack up or down until the trailer is level. This is why having the level right on the tonue is very convenient. There are three schools of thought when it comes to leveling the trailer side to side. One way or another, you need to raise up the wheel on the low side so that it's the same height as the other side. You should not use the trailer's stabilizer jacks to level the trailer. They are not designed for this purpose, and you will cause damage if you do it this way.
The method that I use is, in my opinion, not only the cheapest, but also the easiest. When backing in, I back up a few inches further than I want the trailer to be. Then, I check the level, and place one or more pieces of lumber (I carry 2 x 6 boards) in front of the low wheel. Then, I simply tow the trailer up onto the board.
Some people, however, prefer using the BAL Leveler
, shown to the left, a jack which clamps around the tire. You simply crank up
the leveler until the trailer is level. This seems like a lot of extra work to me, but those who own the BAL Leveler swear
by it. In Canada, the BAL leveler is available from
Other RV'ers are just as adamant in preferring these, plastic blocks which are placed under the wheels. They essentially
take the place of the 2x6's I carry, and they do have the advantage of being lighter and easier to clean. The Lynx levelers are also available at
In Canada, the Lynx levelers are available from
Wheel Chock - 2 Pack. Whichever method you use to level your trailer, it is imperative that you chock the wheels! You don't want the trailer rolling away from you. I'm in the habit, no matter how level the site looks, of placing chocks on both wheels before unhitching from the tow vehicle and removing the safety chains. In theory, you really only need two chocks, to be placed on the downhill side of the wheel. But to remove any guesswork, I use a total of four chocks--in front of and behind each wheel. Of course, any piece of wood will work just fine as a chock. Indeed, you can cut a block in half in a triangular shape and make an excellent chock. But since the price is so low, I simply use these plastic chocks. Interestingly enough, these chocks are typically sold in the automotive department of the store, and they're usually cheaper than their identical counterparts from the RV department. But one way or another, make sure your wheels are chocked.
All popup campers come with two stabilizer jacks mounted permanently to the frame at the rear of the camper. As mentioned above, these should never be used to level the trailer. As their name implies, they are intended merely to stabilize the trailer after it is level, to keep the floor solid underneath you as you walk around. Some popups, especially larger ones, also come with stabilizers on the front corners of the trailer. For many smaller popups, however, these are omitted, with the idea being that the tongue jack provides enough support.
I've found that if the trailer does not have front stabilizers, it really makes a big difference to use a couple of jack stands like the ones shown here. After the trailer is level, I simply place these, finger tight, under the front corners of the frame. Then, to put the weight on the jack stands, I simply loosen the tongue jack about half a turn. That way, the weight is divided between the tongue jack and the two jack stands, and it really makes a difference in eliminating any "wiggle" as you move about the camper.
Flashlight Two Pack. It's important to have a few flashlights in your camper. Some people take their flashlights very personally, and spend a lot to buy the very best. I'm not one of those people. I'm much more likely to lose a flashlight than break one, so I typically just buy a few of these inexpensive flashlights, complete with batteries. On those rare occasions when it's not working, there's always a spare available. I keep a couple in the camper, and one in the tow vehicle. These inexpensive Eveready flashlights are built well enough to survive occasionally being dropped. I usually buy one or two a season, and there's always one available. This set comes complete with batteries.
Bright LED Headlamp.
In addition to the flashlight, these LED headlamps are very convenient. Invariably, when you're doing something in the dark,
that activity involves the use of both hands, and having a headlamp allows you to shine the light on what you're doing, but
still have both hands available. The one shown here is relatively durable, but also inexpensive, so you can afford to have a
spare or two. This one uses LED's, so you will have extremely long battery life.
Passport 10L Portable Toilet.
As the song goes, it's a problem to be faced, what to do with human waste. And in the middle of the night, no matter how
luxurious the campground's restroom is, it's nice to deal with the issue in the privacy of your own camper. A small portable
toilet such as this one fits the need. It can be stored in a cabinet of the camper, slid out when needed, and after it is
"flushed", the contents are safely stored in a hermetically sealed container at the bottom. The task of emptying it every
day or two isn't particularly onerous. This is the model that we own, and it is adequate for its purpose. A similar model is available in Canada at
Thetford Porta Potti .
The inexpensive portable toilet shown above is more than adequate, in my opinion. But those who own it sing the praises of
the slightly more expensive Thetford Porta-Potti shown here. Whichever model you decide on, be sure to check the dimensions
before ordering, to make sure that it will fit in the desired cabinet. Some models are taller than others, and might not
fit. A comparable model is available in Canada at
Toilet Deodorant (12-Pack).
Whichever portable toilet you buy, you will need chemicals to place in the holding tank. These are most commonly available
as a liquid. But I prefer these individual packets of dry powder that you simply drop in. The cost is a bit higher, since
each packet actually contains more chemical than you need for a small portable toilet. But for me, the convenience outweighs
the small additional cost.
RV Toilet Tissue
Now that you have your very own toilet, don't forget the toilet paper! When selecting toilet paper, it is important to buy
paper that will dissolve quickly. Normal Scott tissue from the supermarket is reputed to work very well, but it's best to
use a product designed for the purpose. The toilet paper shown here is specially designed for use in RV's, and isn't much
more expensive than normal toilet paper. But if you run out during a trip, just buy a roll of the Scott tissue when you go
to the grocery store, and don't worry about it.