Campers and RVs are delicate pieces of machinery. Much like any other machine comprised of many parts, they are prone to all sorts of mechanical issues, breakdowns, and wear and tear. Not having the tools necessary for simple repairs could leave you in a bind. As such, I highly recommend you take note of the following list of essential tools every camper should have.
You can carry out simple maintenance on your own and save yourself a trip to the mechanic (and the price tag that comes with it). Even if you already possess some of these tools at your home, I’d suggest that you carry an extra set with you in the camper, so you’re ready for every situation.
There are two sections to this article. The first will be lists of tools that I recommend you have both in your camper and at your house. The second is my reasoning for why you need the tools recommended.
First, Inspect Your Camper
Before going through the lists of tools that you need, I highly recommend that you thoroughly inspect your camper from top to bottom. You should take careful note of the fastener types and sizes that you notice, to ensure that you have extras within the tool kit. Imagine a situation where you have a simple maintenance job: tightening a few loose screws. Simple enough, right? Well, it would be impossible if you find that the screws you need are Torx, but you only have a Philips and flat-head screwdriver in the toolbox. Buy what your camper needs.
Must-Have Tools for the Camper
• Safety glasses / goggles
• Sturdy gloves
• Zip ties
• Tire Gauge
• Drill bits
• ½ impact gun
• Lego leveling blocks
• Socket set
• 10-1 Screwdriver
• Flat head screwdriver with huge head
• Bottle jack
• Multi tool
• Multi tester
• Non-contact tester
• Duct tape
• Inflator – 12v
• 110 to 12v converter
Must-Have Tools for Your Home
• Floor jack
• Jack stands
• Grease gun
• RV caulk
• Caulk gun
• Wash brush
Important Tools for Your Camper
It might seem obvious, but in order to store most of the tools on the above list (that are explained in detail below), you need a tool box. You must be sure that the toolbox you buy is big enough to store every item on this list. Also make sure that the box has a good latch. I use a 20-inch toolbox to store all of my extra tools and that is enough for me because most of my tools are already stored in my truck.
Safety Goggles and Mechanic Gloves
Okay, so you have a durable box that is big enough to store all of your tools. What is the next step? Safety, of course. Safety glasses can be helpful in a load of situations, for example to prevent dirt from falling onto your face and into your mouth when crawling under your camper for repairs. Make sure the gloves that you have are resistant to heat and strong enough to protect your hands against sharp edges. I recommend mechanic’s gloves because they keep your hands warm and allow your fingers maximum movability.
Hammers can help you out of many jams. On camping trips, they are useful for hammering down loose nails on the campsite picnic tables or for driving tent spikes into the ground. I have both a rubber mallet and a normal metal hammer, but one or the other might serve you just fine. It is also important to have a hatchet handy for making kindling to get the fires going at night.
Tire Gauge and Inflator
You must ensure that the tires on both your trailer and the tow vehicle are always properly inflated. For this purpose, you must keep a tire gauge on hand, as well as an inflator. My personal preference is for inflators that plug directly into the 12-volt power supply, so I can use them in cases where I have no ready electricity. They can plug directly into the power supply of the trailer or tow vehicle. I also highly recommend that you add a 110-volt to 12-volt converter to plug the inflator into any available power outlets. Inflators have a wide array of uses when camping: from inflating bike and ATV tires to helping save your oxygen with beach toys. Sure, most inflators come with a gauge, but I also have a gauge on hand. Using the gauge, I can check the tires without having to haul out the inflator unless I have to.
You must have a cordless drill in your tool kit, with plenty of drill bits inside. When making repairs, some screws may need a pilot hole or bolts may need to be pushed out. Both require a drill. In those situations, you don’t want to be stuck and find yourself unable to make this simple repair. Another extra to having a drill on hand with tons of bits is that you can use one of the bits for raising and lowering stabilizing jacks. I recommend keeping a small, 12-volt drill inside your camper at all times.
While I put it on my list above, I don’t really think that a cordless impact gun is a necessity. They are expensive and have limited use. However, if you already have one, then a ½ inch cordless impact gun is useful for changing tires. Let me give you one important piece of advice: NEVER use this impact gun on the stabilizers. It is simply too strong and will destroy the threads.
It should go without mention, but if you bring any power tools along with you, then you should have all necessary chargers on hand as well. Having the tool but realizing it is out of juice is tantamount to a punch to the gut.
I use my level to make sure that my camper is level when I reach my campsite. Instead of throwing one into the toolbox (but it won’t hurt), you can always get a level that attaches to the camper directly. I have a 2-foot level inside the back of my camper, but a tiny 9-inch level will work just fine and take up less room inside your toolbox.
Bottle Jack and Lego Blocks
Imagine that one of your camper’s tires explodes on the side of the road. Thinking that you already have a jack inside your truck, you go to make quick work of the tire and get back on the road. Then you have a stunning realization: your trucks level does not fit your camper. Buy a jack specifically for your camper and make sure that you test it out before you begin your trip.
If you don’t want two jacks, and if you have a tandem axle trailer, there is an easy alternative. You can use Lego style leveling blocks to lift your trailer up and change the tire. Just use the blocks to build a solid ramp and then drive upwards onto it with the undamaged tire. The busted tire will easily lift up off the ground.
Pliers and Multi-Tools
You need three types of items here: a needle nose, channel locks, and a multi-tool. The vast majority of needle nose pliers also include the wire cutters you would need in the event of electrical repairs. If yours do not have a wire cutter built-in, buy another pair. You will need the channel locks if you have to repair pipes or if you must grip nuts or large bolts. I like the multi-tool for the included knife and file, as well as the extras that may come in handy. Remember, be prepared for anything.
Socket Set and Wrenches
One of my favorite pieces of equipment is my 275-piece mechanics tool kit. I have three of them, in fact. One in my truck, one in my camper, and one in my home workshop. Within the kit, I included a few extra tools: mostly screwdrivers and pliers. My kit includes: ¼, 3/8, and ½ inch ratchets, standard and metric sockets, and standard and metric wrenches. It also has more sizes that I have ever seen or used, but at least I am prepared for anything. To be honest, I have only used this kit on a handful of occasions, but each time I did, I thanked my lucky stars that I remembered to stow it away. There was a situation where I realized my battery was dead after a long day of shopping for camping equipment. Another time, my caliper bolt came loose when I was driving to work. I was able to make these simple repairs and continue on my way.
Although the kit does have an incredible variety of sizes included, it did not come with the size I needed for my camper’s water heater’s plug and anode. As such, I made note of those sizes and threw them into the kit. The sizes were enough for my truck and trailer’s lug nuts, however. Other items that I adore about my kit include: Allen and combination wrenches (both in standard and metric size) and a multibit screwdriver. I consider this kit my toolbox inside my toolbox.
Maybe such a kit is not in your playbook. That’s fine. Just be sure that you include a ½ inch ratchet that has the correct size for your trailer and a 3/8-inch ratchet, as well as metric and standard sockets. This should be enough for all of the sizes you’ll find inside your camper. You also need an adjustable wrench to help you tighten any loose nuts or bolts you find.
Simply get a 10-1 screwdriver because it should help you find all of the types and sizes of screws you will find on your camper. They include the most common Philips, flat, torx, square bits, and nut driver types. In addition, make sure your toolbox has a huge flat head screwdriver that comes with a pry bar.
Just throw a small hacksaw into your toolbox. This will help you cut metal or plastic. Also, a pruning saw will help you cut fire wood.
Other Items of Note
There are many other smaller items that should be in your toolbox that you may not have considered. A small tube of silicone will help you seal up leaking seams. Duct tape must always be on hand, because it is possible to fix or built anything with it. Zip ties are like duct tape in that they are extremely versatile repair boosters. And finally, keep a container of WD40 to handle any squeaky hinges or bolts that won’t budge.
Important Tools for Your Home
The bottle jacks I listed above are great, but I definitely prefer floor jacks. They are also super easy to use because of the long handles and high lifting angles they provide. This is a must have in your garage for tire and brake maintenance. Because of their size, they are too heavy to bring in the camper.
This will help keep your wheel bearings properly greased. They are greasy, so you better leave them at home.
Any bathroom needs a caulking every couple of years. This is also true for your camper’s bathroom, so keep this handy!
This is simply to wash your camper after a long trip into the great outdoors.