Boat owners often describe theirs as “a hole in the water, into which you throw money.”
First-time travel trailer buyers quickly realize that RVs, motorhomes, campers, and travel trailers aren’t much different.
Purchasing your travel trailer is only the first step. Modern campers require a lot of extra “stuff” to ensure they’re comfortable, safe, and well-maintained.
We’ll assume you’ve already shopped the basics. Many — like safe drinking hoses, sewer hoses, and wheel chocks — are obvious. But, if you’re a new owner or just bought your first travel trailer, these are the must-have travel trailer accessories that may not have occurred to you.
This isn’t a fluff list of RV kitchen gadgets that we’re calling “essential,” but rather the must-have travel trailer accessories that we never leave home without. No matter where we’re going or for how long, we always pack these.
Electrical Travel Trailer Accessories
Surge Protector[amazon box=”B07PRS5NPB”]
The electrical systems in most travel trailers are complex and delicate. The electric systems at many state parks and campgrounds are (often) old, shoddy, and unpredictable. It’s a terrible mix.
Plugging your new or new-to-you travel trailer into shore power is always a gamble. All it takes is one incorrectly wired 30-amp socket to fry your trailer’s electronics, and you’re looking at a costly repair.
The solution: A surge protector designed specifically for travel trailers and RVs. This is hands-down one of the most important travel trailer accessories, as it acts as a “go-between” from campground power to your travel trailer. If something goes hinky with the campground’s electrical system, the surge protector will shut off before a potentially dangerous spike hits your rig.
For us, we love the Hughes Autoformers PWD30-EPO Power Watchdog Smart Bluetooth Surge Protector Plus EPO. At around $200, it’s the most expensive accessory we purchased for our travel trailer. But, we can’t recommend it more highly.
One really nice feature is that we can monitor the surge protector on our phones via Bluetooth. On the occasions where we’ve overloaded the circuit, the PWD30-EPO can be easily reset through the dedicated app. We don’t even have to leave our travel trailer.
If yours is a 50-amp rig, check out the Hughes Autoformers PWD50-EPO-H Power Watchdog Smart Bluetooth Surge Protector Plus EPO with Auto Shutoff.
Extension Cords[amazon box=”B000BUU5YU”]
Depending on where you camp, extension cords are something you won’t need often. But, like RV insurance, when you need it, you’ll be very, very glad you have it.
For a 30 amp travel trailer, I highly recommend having at least a 10-foot 30-amp extension cord. A 25-foot cord is better. We keep a 10-foot 15-amp extension cord on hand as well.
LED Light Bulbs[amazon box=”B07T9PJ8Z6″]
Some would argue this isn’t completely necessary. They’re not wrong. You can certainly live with your factory-installed incandescent bulbs.
The problem is that they suck a lot of power — like a lot relative to their size and the function they serve. When you’re running a small, 30-amp travel trailer, every amp counts. I want every last bit of power available to me.
The solution is to replace the factory bulbs in your travel trailer with LEDs. For a small travel trailer, like our 17-foot Casita with around a dozen bulbs, that costs about $30. The bulbs are rated to tens of thousands of hours, so basically they’ll outlast you.
If you’re worried because you’re not handy, just know that replacing the bulbs in your RV is not much different than replacing the light bulbs in your home. Pop the old ones out, pop the new ones in.
It’s one of the most inexpensive upgrades you can make to your travel trailer, and it’s more than worth it.
Battery Tester[amazon box=”B000EVWDU0″]
Travel trailer owners quickly learn that so much of their sanity and comfort while camping revolves around a healthy battery. Many RV and travel trailer issues center around the electrical system. So, when problems arise, the first and easiest thing to do is to check the battery.
Thankfully, testing your battery is as easy as, well, using a battery tester. Just plug this little device into a 12v outlet somewhere in your travel trailer and check the reading to ensure your battery is charged and working properly.
Water & Plumbing Travel Trailer Accessories
Water Pressure Regulator[amazon box=”B000EDQQD8″]
The same reasons you should buy a surge protector — fragile travel trailer electrical systems and shoddy campground electrical systems don’t mix — are why you need a water pressure regulator.
Unregulated campground water pressure can vary between a trickle and over 100 psi. The latter is enough to literally break the plumbing in most travel trailers and cause a catastrophic flood in the process.
A water pressure regulator is an inexpensive metal piece that physically restricts the flow of water at the spigot. There are hundreds of options but we went with this brass model from Camco.
It’s less than $20 and dead-simple to use: Screw it directly to the spigot, then hook up your travel trailer’s water hose as usual. It’s factory set to no more than 50 psi, so you can rest assured it won’t break your plumbing.
You don’t absolutely need a regulator with a gauge. But, I like being able to see how strong the flow is. Plus, it means that I can get a visual reading on whether water is actually flowing without even leaving our Casita.
Water Filter[amazon box=”B0010ED27I”]
Campground water quality is often as questionable as the water pressure. If you’re planning to drink the tap water (or shower with, or do dishes with, or cook with, or brush your teeth with …), you’re going to want a water filter.
There are dozens of great RV water filter brands on the market. We went with Culligan, and have been very happy with it. The filters run about $25 and are designed to last an entire season. So, at the end of the year, just toss it and buy a new one next year.
Happy Camper Powder[amazon box=”B007S0LDME”]
Most travel trailer toilets are designed not to stink — as long as you take care of them. Febreze and Poo-Pouri will only take you so far before your camper-mates begin to hate you.
The dirt-cheap solution is Happy Campers holding tank treatment powder. Follow the directions on the package to the letter, and you’re toilet (and bathroom) will never smell. Plus, it’s biodegradable, eco-safe, and septic-friendly.
Everything Else …
Most people think to pack a flashlight. And you should. I love this multipurpose, solar-rechargeable light from Goal Zero.
But, I would strongly suggest packing a headlamp too. Despite our best intentions, we occasionally wind up pulling into camp after dark. A headlamp (instead of a flashlight) guarantees that I have both hands free while unhitching and hooking up our water, sewer, and electric.
Rubber Gloves[amazon bestseller=”rubber gloves” items=”3″]
On a checklist of travel trailer accessories, rubber gloves might seem like just a “nice-to-have” item. But, trust me, they’re essential, even if you’re not a germaphobe. And especially now in the time of COVID-19.
When you’re hooking up at a dozen different campgrounds on your next trip, you’re going to be sticking your hands in some questionable places. There’s just no way around it.
Reusable gloves work just as well and are much better for the environment. But, this is one thing that I prefer to go the disposable route. I use one pair to hook up when we arrive at camp, and another when we’re breaking down. Finish with plenty of hand sanitizer, of course.
Bonus: Ceramic Space Heater[amazon box=”B074MR2C61″]
Travel trailer owners who camp in winter or anywhere that cold weather is an issue know that reliable heat is critical. Propane is dirt cheap and fairly reliable in most RV furnaces.
But, we’ve found that a ceramic heater is even better. They’re small, ultra-portable, and inexpensive. (Tip: Get one with tip-over protection, especially if you have pets.)
Plus, if you’re hooked up to shore power, you can use the campground’s “free” electricity rather than paying to burn your own propane. It’s also a great backup in the event that your furnace fails or you run out of propane in the middle of a brutal, 20-degree night in February in the Outer Banks when nothing is open for miles in every direction (ask me how I know …).
What are your most essential travel trailer accessories — those bits of camper kit you never leave home without? Let us know in the comments below!