Now that you own an RV, it's time to customize it and make it your dream rig. Believe it or not, buying the RV is only the first step. There are many upgrades you will need to make so your rig performs the way you want it to. Many of these decisions depend on whether you plan to Boondock or park camp. If you want more information on those topics, be sure to read my earlier articles in this series.
RV 101 - How To Boondock
RV 101 - How To Camp In An RV Park
If you haven't yet bought your RV, take a peek at the articles written to help you find the right rig for you. I suggest starting with:
RV 101 - So You Want To Be An RVer?
RV 101- How To Choose The Perfect RV
And go on from there.
In this article, I will share some of the top upgrades that full-time RVers choose for their own rolling homes. Here we go!
Eternabond Tape On Roof
Eternabond is an easy to use tape that seals and weatherproofs your rig. Most RVers swear by it. Eternabond can be used to seal leaks on hoses, but it is most often used on rubber roofs. Add it to the area around the edges, previously drilled holes (like antenna mounts) and around your fan and air conditioners. Eternabond provides a simple way to keep water from getting in overlooked nooks and crannies and nearly anyone can use it.
If your RV did not come with a generator, you may want to consider buying one. The most common generator is a 7500 watt Onan and you see it as an option on many fifth wheels and Motorhomes. You can buy a generator as small as 2500 or as large as a whopping 20,000 watt. It all depends on the space you have for storage and what you will be using it for. Generators are great for running your air, fridge and other electrically powered appliances without an electrical hookup or a solar conversion pack. Remember, however, that they do use diesel and can be loud.
Light blocking curtains or shades
Personally, if I want my RV dark, I want it dark. Many rigs come with cheap blinds that don't do an adequate job of insulating heat or cold and they certainly don't keep out the light. The most popular option in new RV's is the MCD Roll Down, which gives you the choice of both a daytime and nighttime shade. These can be custom fit to any RV, but can be costly. If you want to save some cash or just want to soften the interior décor, consider light blocking curtains.
I knew I would be crazy to rip out perfectly good floors. Instead, I got creative. I found a light colored carpet, which easily masked cat hair and had it cut to lay over the top of my current carpet. You can do it too! Want an updated look without all the hassle? Shop your local carpet store for a remnant or a special order. The shop even did the trimming for me!
Traditional halogen lights take a whole lot of power. New LED lights are efficient and use very little energy. They are perfect for the Boondocker or the electric-conscious RVer. If you plan to update old lights, you will need to do a bit of study. The people at M4Products.com will help you out. They are experts in converting your current light bulbs to LED. They can help you choose the right coloring, shape and size.
Solar panels are an ever popular addition to a recreational vehicle. Today they come in a variety of options, including portable, folding and even thin and flexible. Solar panels require a system to use. You must also invest in an inverter and set of batteries to convert and store the energy for DC to AC use. While this may sound confusing, there are some great websites that can help answer your questions and make suggestions on which packages are right for you. Recently, I discovered the Facebook Group - Solar Powered Recreational Vehicles .
Your drinking water should always be filtered. My RV has a built in water filter system, but I still use bottled or filtered water for drinking. It just feels safer. If you don't mind the taste of water that comes from your tanks, you can buy a simple Brita Water Pitcher. If you prefer to Boondock and get water from a variety of sources, you may want to purchase a true water distiller which will purify water from nearly any source.
Induction burners are taking the RV world by storm. If your rig didn't come with built in's, have no fear! There are several lightweight, portable burners that are easy to store and plug in when in use. Induction burners use specific metal pans and heat them instantly. The burners are safe and highly preferred to propane or gas stoves.
Quality Propane Regulator - Surge protector - Water Regulator
These are the top three items that most RVers add to their arsenal. If you use propane, a quality propane regulator just makes sense. This is almost always an added to purchase as the models available with your rig are less than perfect.
A heavy duty, the RV surge protector is a necessity. In our rig, we have a built in surge protector, but we also use an additional outside unit. If you do not have a surge protector, you need to buy one. One burst of increased electricity can start a fire or ruin your electrical system in seconds. Recently, I watched as a neighbor's rig was struck by lightning. The surge protector completely melted, but it saved the motorcoach. Yep, you need one!
City water comes in a variety of pressures that can affect your RV piping. To protect your RV pipes use a water regulator. When you hook up to an RV site, you have no idea what the pressure of water is that you are sending into your rig. Wise RV owners use a quality water regulator and set the PSI to a constant pressure level safe for their camper.
99% of all RV mattresses are uncomfortable and made to replace. Don't wait, save your back by buying a quality RV mattress. You can buy everything from foam to spring to tempurpedic, but be sure to purchase a mattress made for RV's. These beds are lighter weight and made for travel.
This may seem like a funny thing to add to my list. Truth is, an RV is a tight space. I like to call it my tiny house on wheels. Most rigs have between 200 and 400 square feet of living space for your entire family and it doesn't take long to get on each other's nerves. Full-Timers often suggest buying a set of wireless headphones. This simple device can provide a much needed buffer. One of you can plug in while the other one does something else without being bothered by the noise of the TV or MP3 player. If you travel with kids, they can be a godsend!
Stupid? I think not. Imagine traveling 70 miles an hour in a 65 foot rig (motor-coach plus tow trailer/car) with no place to put your drink! Believe it or not, this is a common RV problem. Cup holders seem to come last on the RV manufacturers list. I personally spent a year browsing the aisles at truck stops only to go home empty handed. Finally, I discovered a solution in the marine industry. It's called Grip Mates. Gripmates.com builds custom mobile drink trays that stay in place and offer the RVer the perfect way to store their drink while driving. They come in trays of 2, 4 and even 5 and they can be customized with monograms! Pretty cool, right?
OMG. People hate the shower heads in their RVs. They are low pressure, cheap and frustrating. If you find yourself hating your shower, here's a popular solution. It's the Oxygenetic shower head. This easy to install handheld unit is a low flow, high pressure dream. It comes in several finish options and can be purchased with or without a massage head.
Paper Towel Holder
It's the little things that make your RV feel like home and a paper towel holder is something everyone needs. No, your RV probably didn't come with one, but that doesn't mean you can't mount one for yourself. Paper towel holders come in several styles and can be mounted or hung from the inside of a cabinet. You can look for a variety of styles at Amazon.com Believe me, paper towels are an essential RV supply so having an easy place to keep them is a kitchen priority.
Wilson 4G Booster
Cell phone reception may vary, but the Wilson 4G booster will give you the best signal possible inside your RV. The Wilson features an inside and outside antenna that accentuates your signal. I have seen my booster take my phone from 1 or 2 bars to 4 bars in a matter of seconds. If you use your phone as an internet hotspot, this booster is essential.
Free internet is only a good thing if it reaches your rig! The WIFI Ranger mounts on top of your RV roof and captures free wifi from long distances. Can't get the free WiFi in the park? This can help. Want to use the WiFi at McDonalds without going inside? This can do that, too. A WIFI Ranger increases the strength of the signal, but it can't make a bad system better. If the park has an internet system built for 5 people and 50 are using it, a ranger will not help you. If the park has a great system built for the entire park, but it bounces off your walls, the ranger will harness the signal and pull it in for you!
Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
Hate to dump that black tank? You have another option. RVers are beginning to embrace the concept of the composting toilet. Composting toilets allow RVers to Boondock for extended periods of time because they are not filling their black tank with waste. By far, the most popular portable composting toilet is the Nature's Head model. For more information on how a composting toilet works in an RV, visit GoneWithTheWynns.com. This couple has traveled North America composting along the way!
Velcro, Command Strips, Quakehold
My three favorite decorating products are industrial strength Velcro, Command Strips and Quakehold. Here's how I use each:
Velcro comes in black or white and the industrial strength can hold up to 20 pounds; that means you can use it to hang things like fire extinguishers. You can also use it to secure toiletries to the medicine cabinet so they don't roll around.
Command Strips are just plain awesome. Need a hook? They've got one. Need a picture hung? No problem. Need a key rack? Boom. They have that too. Command Strips are perfect in RV's because they leave no marks and do not create holes in your wall. I use them everywhere. It helps turn your rig into a home.
Quakehold allows you to take your "pretties" with you. Quakehold is a silly putty style product Sasse, Dawnya China that allows you to decorate with breakables without fear of disaster. In my RV, I have an entire shelf devoted to collectible teapots each stuck on with Quakehold. The teapots never budge. Quakehold is available on Amazon and is removable and reusable and just plain awesome.
I'm sure there is a ton of other items to add to the list, but these should get you started. After my first year of RVing, I found myself emptying my shelves and drawers and tossing items that just didn't work. It may take time to find the right upgrades for your new lifestyle, but stay with it and soon you will customize your RV and make it your dream home on wheels.