Just about anything in your RV, trailer or tent that can snap, crack, rip loose, tear, bend, leak, spark, or fall off will do exactly that—and always when you're out enjoying nature 40 miles from nowhere.
The whole trick to maintaining inner tranquility and not letting a mini disaster spoil your trip is to have a well-equipped RV toolbox on hand. This contains mostly inexpensive yet important items that newcomers and veteran campers alike should pack for every trip, both big and small.
Tools for Your RV Toolbox
No matter how well constructed your rig might be, eventually something will have to be tightened, loosened, pounded flat, pried or cut. Here are some basics that can help you deal with everyday problems and annoyances:
- Socket wrench set (standard and metric) for tightening and loosening bolts and machine nuts.
- Phillips head and flat bladed screwdrivers (large, medium, small) for tightening and loosening screws; also for prying items apart.
- Standard pliers for holding machine nuts while installing or removing, or squeezing items together.
- Channel-lock pliers (medium and large) for dealing with oversized machine nuts or turning pipes
10-inch Crescent wrench-for when sockets won't fit properly.
- Small drill bit set with sizes ranging from 1/16- to 1/4-inch. Get the type that works with both metal and wood.
- Cordless drill with spare battery for turning the drill bits that make the holes. Also good for lowering and raising trailer stabilizing jacks.
- Sturdy claw hammer enables you to straighten what got bent, bend what got straightened, drive nails and stakes, and pull 'em out again, and provide "persuasion" where needed.
- Pocket knife for cutting rope and twine, stripping wire insulation, or just whittling if you're so inclined.
- Hobby knife with blade protector and extra blades, extremely sharp, for making very precise cuts in canvas, vinyl, tape, paper, wood and some plastics.
- Wire cutters for cutting electrical wire, or turning metal coat hangers into marshmallow skewers.
- Small tape measure to determine how much electrical wire you're going to need, or how much ground clearance you'll have while trying to get over that boulder embedded in the road.
- Mini hacksaw with extra blades good for cutting away twisted bolts, damaged metal work, thicker plastics...anything where a knife won't work.
- Small two-way bubble level to make sure your rig is properly leveled so you're not sleeping with your feet higher than your head.
- Folding tree saw for cutting trees that have fallen across the only road out and you can't back up. Emergency use only; rangers and camp hosts frown when you start your own tree service on government and private land.
Adhesives Help Keep Things Together
While glues can't mend a broken heart, they'll fix just about anything else and can save a situation that's going from bad to worse.
Adhesives are available for many specialized purposes. Here's what you'll want to add to your collection of RV tools:
- "Super" glue for high strength repairs.
- Vinyl adhesive for fixing tears in same-named fabrics.
- Threadlocker glue to prevent screws and bolts from vibrating loose.
- Multi-purpose adhesive for re-affixing door seals, loose trim and molding, and re-sticking peeling decals.
- Silicon sealant to keep the rain from creeping in.
- Seam sealer (for tents), for keeping the dew on the outside.
Another "sticky" item that can spare you from disaster is a small set of adhesive-backed hook-and-loop tabs. And don't forget that universal fix-it that's good for practically any repair: Duct Tape!
Hardware and Fasteners
When tape or glues just won't fix it, a "heck-bag" of assorted wood, machine and self-tapping screws, plus small bolts in a few sizes and lengths with matching nuts and washers can save you from uttering a few choice curse words when something substantial busts loose.
A bundle of plastic zip ties (removable and permanent) is also handy for cinching things together while out in the forest.
Toss in a couple of spare cabinet door catches too, to prevent your toiletries from flying all over the bathroom while traveling.
Let There Be Light
Nothing is more aggravating than your coach lights blinking off right at dinnertime. Or having a Highway Patrol officer wave you over because a brake light is out. That's why having a few select electrical items in your well-equipped trailer or RV toolbox can be unbelievably handy.
First and foremost is an assortment of fuses in various amperage ratings to replace blown fuses on your power converter/charger or power panel. A blown fuse is usually the result of pulling too much amperage on one circuit, or an electrical short; but sometimes they'll "pop" for no good reason. Be sure to replace a blown fuse only with the same size, never larger. A fuse that blows repeatedly is a good indication that you've got a short somewhere that must be repaired, otherwise the same problem will persist.
A collection of spare bulbs for brake, turn and running lights are also a must, and can save you from a traffic violation or worse. Make sure you have interior light bulbs as well.
A miniature voltmeter is helpful for tracing shorts and measuring battery voltages.
A small roll of 10- to 12-gauge insulated wire can help you bypass a problem area, and be sure to include a roll of electrical tape to prevent sparks or fuses from blowing.
A battery-operated or butane powered soldering iron and solder is helpful for making solid electrical repairs when you're out in the boondocks with no AC power.
And a nice option is a head-mounted flashlight, for working in the dark where you need both hands free.
If all else fails, a box of weatherproof safety matches is ideal. You can use them to light a fuel lantern or a properly prepared campfire to hold back the night. Use with caution; they burn like a firecracker fuse and you can't blow them out!
Hand Protection to Keep on Hand
While campground repairs often call for a delicate touch, there are many jobs that are just plain dirty. For those tasks, you should stock a dozen pairs of latex or nitrile rubber gloves, plus a sturdy pair of leather work gloves for the rough stuff. And afterwards, you can refresh yourself with some pre-moistened wipes or waterless skin cleanser. All these items can be found at home improvement centers and grocery stores.
The "Miscellaneous" Department
Some last-but-not-least items you'll want to have in your trailer or RV toolbox:
- Tube of ball hitch lube to minimize grinding while towing.
- Small travel-size can of spray lubricant.
- Spare fresh water hose washers.
- Roll of Teflon plumber's tape.
- Wide tipped felt marker (permanent) for making signs, marking your belongings, and keeping track of which wire is which.
- A coupler or kingpin lock can take care of security concerns you might have about your trailer being stolen; and for any other situations not previously mentioned: an assortment of bungee cords to strap things down.
- Two-way radios-for backing your rig into a site, hitching up the trailer, monitoring the kids, and more. The hands-free/headphone type is preferable so you can keep both hands on the wheel. Eliminates the need for your spouse to shout instructions.
So there you have it...the ultimate basic toolbox. Over 46 must-have vacation savers, and they all fit in a standard 24-inch x 11-inch x 11-inch toolbox.
Reserve a campsite.
Jeff Adams is a California-based freelance writer, contributor to ReserveAmerica.com and an avid camping enthusiast. He's been dragging his trailer and willing family around the western U.S. for over a decade.