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RV Lifestyle: Five simple things to never leave at home

Actually, there’s six…

Some RVers pride themselves on always having the perfect tool or gadget on hand when they need it while traveling. Every possible scenario or on the road repair has been anticipated and is quickly countered with a quick rummage through a drawer or tool box. These RV commandos live for things to break down or require some adjustment. While the rest of us may admire their organization and planning skills, we also find them slightly irritating. RV commandos can’t sit still for any length of time without deciding their chair needs to be flipped over for some minor tweak. Nothing unsettles this type more than when everything is working as it should. Put these people on a Caribbean cruise and they would be happier toiling in the engine room than lounging on the Lido Deck. 

Obviously, these people are out of their minds, but there is an undeniable satisfaction to being organized and knowing where things are when you need them. Now we’re not proposing you join the ranks of these obsessive types and organize your tools alphabetically or use a label maker on your kitchen cupboards and sock drawers. Instead, we’re going to start with baby steps by mentioning a few of the main things that RVers put tend to either forget or, worse, can’t put their finger on when they need it.

  1. 1.) Medications: Nothing can ruin a day like realizing you left a needed medication sitting on your night stand at home. If it’s critical, you may be in for a long few hours attempting to reach your doctor by phone -and we all know how easy that is, right?- and have them call in a prescription to the closest pharmacy. The very nature of camping often means the closest pharmacy is several hours away.

Solution: Put all medications in a small plastic tub or bag and keep them in a place on board that you won’t forget (i.e. kitchen cupboard, left of the sink). If you get in to the habit of always putting your meds in the same place before leaving home you won’t have to ransack the entire RV at bedtime in a growing state of frustration. While many people use those pill organizers with the days and AM/PM marked on them, make sure to toss in the pill bottles, as well. In a worst-case scenario, having your pill bottle with all relevant info and number of refills remaining on hand will make replacing them on the road much easier. Having a group of pills in a day-of-the-week organizer won’t mean anything to a pharmacist far from home.

  1. 2.) Flashlight: Ah, the mighty -and elusive- flashlight. The one item that everyone has and no one can find when they need it. And when you need it, you really need it. This one won’t need a lot of explanation but can be a real life saver. 

Solution: Buy a good one (Maglites are known for bright, clean light and extreme durability), make sure it has fresh batteries –and keep an unopened package of batteries with it. Flashlights often go long periods of time between use and their batteries will lose their juice just sitting in the flashlight. Having replacements on hand is a quick fix for a dim beam. Headlights (as in a powerful LED light that you wear on your head like a miner’s light) are becoming very popular because they can provide hours of bright light and leave your hands free to work. Have a designated place for your flashlight and/or headlight that never varies. The world’s best flashlight is useless if you can’t find it when you need it.

  1. 3.) Tool box: Those with motorhomes in lieu of towables will generally require a wider range of tools, but basics should still suffice. You don’t need to be able to drop a transmission en route, you just need to be able to address simple fixes. Like the medications mentioned above, keep everything in one place –and know exactly where that place is. 

Solution: A thoughtfully stocked tool box with a good tire pressure gauge, Vice Grips (considered the duct tape of hand tools), socket set, needle nose pliers, hammer, and screwdrivers of varying sizes (both Phillips and regular) will enable you to handle most issues that arise. Speaking of duct tape, a roll should last virtually forever and has tons of possible uses. Semi-jokingly known as “100 MPH tape”, duct tape can be used to hold a loose piece of exterior trim or a wobbly awning in place until you get home. 

A motorcyclist traveling far from home will not have the luxury of bringing along a fully equipped tool box. This unavoidable truth led to motorcycle manufacturers using the same size fasteners whenever possible throughout the bike. This enables them to provide a very streamlined tool kit often kept under the seat that can perform a wide range of repairs. Many RV manufacturers are starting to take a page from the motorcycle engineers and now make a concerted effort to use the same size nut and bolt as often as possible throughout their RV. That is why we suggest a thoughtfully stocked tool box above, as opposed to a fully stocked tool box. A little investigative work before you leave home may reveal that you only need a socket driver with 3 sockets to tackle any item on the vehicle. For those that tend to load their RV fully to the GRWR limits, employing tips like this can jettison a lot of unnecessary weight when employed across the full range of items being lugged on board. 

  1. 4.) Owner’s Manuals: When you buy an RV you’re often loaded down with manuals before leaving the dealership. You’ll get manuals for the RV itself, as well as manuals for all the components included therein: air conditioning manuals, dish washer manuals, generator manuals, engine manuals, solar system manuals, TV manuals, sound system manuals, toilet and pump-out manuals –the list goes on. 

Solution: Put them all in one place and keep them there. Forever. If you take them in to the house to read, make sure they go back. Being confronted with a system screen that says “Error Code 41: Re-Set Panel 3” may not mean much the first time you encounter it, but there’s a chance that having the manual on hand will provide some clarity. The reality, though, is that an owner’s manual has never been helpful for anything. However, they do usually include the company’s toll-free customer service number –and that CAN be helpful.

  1. 5.) “Registration and proof of insurance, please”: RVers as a group aren’t known for being hot rodders on the road. We also aren’t known for being accident prone. The sheer size of RVs make them difficult to miss and other drivers tend to give us a wide berth. But since we’re discussing being organized and prepared for the unexpected, having your current registration and proof of insurance readily available is not only a good idea, it’s the law.

Solution:  Trying to find an AWOL flashlight when you need it can be mildly irritating. Trying to find paperwork you haven’t seen in months while a police officer glares at you from the driver’s side window can be downright unsettling. In most states, registration and insurance have to be renewed every year. Avoid that sinking feeling that hits when the police car behind you hits his lights and you realize that you forgot to change out the now expired paperwork in your glove compartment for the current versions. Get it out before the first trip of the year and visually confirm that everything is valid. If anything is scheduled to expire during the summer months, add a reminder on your phone to nudge you a week before.

That’s it for this week -almost. Five simple items to have on board and accessible when you need them. While there’s lots of other stuff you have to remember to pack, most of it -clothes, rain gear, condiments, books, blankets, toothbrushes and toiletries- can be readily purchased anywhere if forgotten. Which leads us to our final and most important thing to remember before leaving home: money. Cash and credit cards. Nothing can bring a vacation to a screeching halt like reaching for your wallet at the first fuel stop and remembering with a sickly groan that you changed pants right before heading out and your wallet is now several hundred miles away in your laundry basket.

In the rush to hit the open road we’re often overwhelmed with things we’re trying to remember, which strangely enough often leads us to forget something critical. It happens more than you think. Sometimes it even happens to the RV commando. And we’re all too mature to take any satisfaction in that, right?

As always, check your tire pressures before heading out. It should only take a minute because your tire pressure gauge is in your toolbox, right?

Happy Travels,

The Team