Running a small campsite I get to meet new visitors and returning visitors each year. Sometimes when I meet new guests for the first time who are also new to owning a motorhome or campervan they will ask me about what essential accessories they need to own. However, when I get to meet returning guests who are relatively new to owning a motorhome or campervan they will tell me about their learning experience. Hence, which accessories they now feel are essential etc. With this post, therefore, I’m going to discuss some of the accessories you definitely want to consider as a motorhome/campervan owner and why. This list below is not about recommending specific products. Its more focused on what you need to consider before purchasing such an accessory and if you will really need it.
I have my own thoughts on essential accessories motorhome/campervan owners should consider. However, before writing this post I’ve also looked around at a few other webpages and videos to review other peoples opinions. There are some accessories which I think every motorhome/campervan should own. I’ll reference them below as essential. However, there are some accessories which may be essential for one person, but not essential for others. Therefore, I’ll title these accessories as optional. The reason being with some accessories it really depends on where you are going and how you intend to use your campervan/motorhome. There is also obviously limited storage space/payload in your motorhome/campervan. You can’t take everything but the kitchen sink.
Introduction to Motorhome and Campervan Accessories
While this post is mainly aimed at motorhome beginners, the information below can still be applicable to existing motorhome owners who want to improve their experience of owning a leisure vehicle. For instance, several of the accessories below depending on where/how you want to use your motorhome or campervan can reduce running costs. Some of the accessories can just simply make your life easier and less stressful.
To start the discussion on motorhome/campervan accessories I’ve included a video below from Andrew Ditton. Andrew is a very experienced leisure industry journalist. However, Andrew is far more familiar with caravans than motorhomes and campervans. Therefore, when he tested a campervan for an extended period of time he became very aware of the essential accessories required. Below I’ll discuss the accessories that Andrew references along with some of my own comments and additional accessories which you may want to consider.
1: Second Leisure Battery – Optional Accessory
Now, in the video above Andrew for his particular trip determined that not having a second leisure battery fitted was a missed opportunity. Therefore, you would think I would have this down as an essential accessory. However, I still think its optional, depending on how you intend to use your motorhome or campervan. If you intend to go wild camping off-grid a second leisure battery is essential. We do have one guest who likes to go wild camping in their motorhome and I believe they have 4 large leisure batteries fitted!
Choosing to go with a second leisure battery has both pros and cons: Image – Amazon
The main reason you would want to consider a second leisure battery is if your campervan/motorhome has a compressor fridge. Compressor fridges are also known as 2-way fridges and can run off 12V or 230V electrical power. As Andrew states in the video, with only one leisure battery in one night, you could drain down that leisure battery significantly. Now, some campervans/motorhomes have a 3-way absorption fridge which can also work on LPG. In that case, a second leisure battery would not be as essential. If you cannot see fridge vents on the outside of your campervan/motorhome, you don’t have a 3-way fridge.
Reasons Not To Choose a Second Leisure Battery
If you do have a 3-way fridge that can work on LPG a second leisure battery becomes more of an optional accessory than an essential. There are downsides of a second leisure battery besides just the additional cost. As I discuss in my post on motorhome leisure batteries, placement is important. Leisure batteries are heavy, hence additional batteries will reduce your remaining user payload for other items. Secondly, putting too much weight on one area of the motorhome chassis can potentially impact steering and general handling performance.
2: Solar Panels – Optional Accessory
Similar to a second leisure battery, while I’ve put solar panels as an optional accessory it does depend on the circumstances. If you only ever intend to take your campervan/motorhome to sites with a 230V hook up, a solar panel is an optional accessory. However, even if you only use sites with an electrical hook up a solar panel can be handy if the grid goes down. Furthermore, they can do a good job of helping to keep your leisure battery at a healthy state of charge when not in use/storage. However, if you do wish to go wild camping off-grid, then a solar panel is pretty much an essential accessory. We use so many electrical consumer devices today, phones, laptops etc, power is always required.
A typical example of a 100W solar panel for a campervan or motorhome: Image – Amazon
You have the option of going for permanent installation or a temporary solar panel which you could put up occasionally. Really, if you are into wild camping you would be better served by a permanent set of panels on the roof. They will provide more power and obviously not take up precious internal storage space. However, when you clean your motorhome/campervan pay special attention to the solar panels. Keeping them clean will improve their efficiency and power output.
A Second Leisure Battery with Solar Panels
If you do wish to use your campervan/motorhome off-grid solar panels go hand-in-hand with a second leisure battery. With a single leisure battery (unless its really large) you are not making full use of the output of your solar panel. As stated above, you still need to consider the impacts on the payload, and its important you understand your weight plate. However, if you can afford it and you have sufficient space/payload, a second leisure battery with a solar panel is a good off-grid setup.
3: Refillable LPG Bottles – Optional Accessory
I’ve written a guide to refillable LPG bottles as I’ve noticed more and more of our guests choosing to take this option. However, as a generalisation for all campervan/motorhome owners I personally still put them in the optional accessories category. Yes, with a refillable LPG bottle you will be able to top up with LPG for significantly less than swopping a bottle over. However, the upfront cost of a refillable LPG bottle can be considerable. Therefore, if you only use your campervan/motorhome a couple of times a year it would take probably at least 5-10 years to see the cost benefits of that investment. However, as with the second leisure batteries and solar panels, with off-grid camping its different. If you are a frequent off-grid wild camper or you tour around Europe then I would consider re-fillable LPG bottles as an essential accessory.
Safefill, Gaslow and GAS IT pictured above are the three main brands of refillable LPG bottles in the UK: Image – Amazon
Want to Tour Europe? – Consider a Refillable LPG Bottle
Now, you may be wondering why I referenced touring around Europe as a reason to consider a refillable LPG bottle. Well, its to do with many of the electrical hook-ups found on EU campsites. We have a few guests who I see each year who also like to do touring around Europe. Several of those guests have gone for re-fillable LPG bottles specifically for that reason. In Europe, many sites don’t provide 16A of power as we do here at Horton Common. They may only provide 10A, 6A and one guest told me of a site they used in the EU with just 3A. Hence, on those European campsites, you are using more gas and the mains hook-up is providing very little. Hence, you’ll have to use a gas stove kettle instead of an electric camping kettle.
Furthermore, in Europe, it can be a real challenge finding suitable locations to swop UK spec LPG bottles. However, in Europe Autogas is quite common, which can be used on refillable LPG bottles. So in summary. If you only use your campervan/motorhome a couple of times a year on short week/two-week breaks I classify refillable LPG bottles as an optional accessory. However, if you frequently wild camp off-grid or want to tour Europe I classify refillable LPG bottles as an essential accessory.
4: Back-Up Electric Fan Heater – Essential Accessory
Depending on the type/spec of your campervan or class of motorhome you may have a Truma gas furnace or maybe even an Alde wet heating system. In some cases, you may be able to generate heat via a 230V mains hook up or from your LPG bottle. However, if you are touring in the depths of winter and the temperature is approaching or below zero it is a good idea to have a backup source of heat. Providing 230V power is available.
A typical example of a low power 230V/500W space heater ideal as a backup heat source for a campervan or motorhome: Image – Amazon
As Andrew states in the video above, never use a gas stove as a backup source of heat, its a carbon monoxide risk, more on that below. Obviously you will only be able to use an electric fan heater as a back up on a site with mains hookup. Also, never presume a campsite provides the full 16A of power as we do here at Horton Common. Therefore, choose an electric fan heater with multiple heat output settings. Its better to have a heater which has an output of 500W for instance, than a 3000W heater which just trips the hookup power supply.
5: Hook Up Cable Tidy Reel – Essential Accessory
Its often the small things which can make a big difference in life. A cable tidy reel may seem like an insignificant accessory to some. But I believe it can make your life as a campervan or motorhome owner a whole lot easier. Typically when hook up cables are purchased they don’t come on a reel, its just a long/loose extension cable. I see guests from time to time pack up, wind the cable around their arm and put it in a side locker. However, hook up cables can get into knots. I have seen guests struggle to untangle a 25m extension cable. Therefore, a simple thing like a cable tidy reel can make your lift a lot easier. Especially if you arrive on-site in the pouring rain and you want to get that hook up sorted as quickly as possible.
You may not initially think of a hookup cable tidy reel as an essential accessory. However, untangling a 25m power cable in the rain may make you reconsider: Image – Amazon
While we are on the subject of hook up cables if you do need to purchase one I would advise going for a 25m cable instead of the shorter options. While many sites like ours have hook up points within a few meters of your pitch that’s not always the case. Therefore with a 25m cable, you are giving your self the best opportunity to connect up the mains. Say for instance you were on a grass site and you wanted to avoid a muddy area next to the hookup point. Importantly though, never connect up a hookup cable still on a reel or bunched up. Heat can build up in the cable, potentially causing cable damage but its also a potential fire risk.
6: 16A to 13A Socket Adapter – Essential Accessory
I’ve previously written about how to connect to a houses electric supply. Within that post, I discuss the fact that for a safe connection its not only about owning a 16A to 13A socket adapter, though it is an essential accessory. You also need to consider the distance to the RCD trip, potentially using an additional RCD etc. So if you want to know more, please click the link above.
I do believe for every campervan/motorhome owner a 16A to 13A power socket adapter, its an essential accessory: Image – Amazon
Perhaps you want to keep your leisure battery topped up while your van is in winter storage on your drive. As Andrew states, perhaps you are visiting a friend and you can hook-up to the power from their home. These are just a few scenarios where having the 16A to 13A power socket accessory can be very handy indeed. You do have to remember however, you can only pull a maximum of 13A of power through the socket. Therefore you would have to potentially reconsider which appliances you use. So your electric kettle or microwave may be off-limits.
7: Portable Leisure Battery Charger/Conditioner – Essential Accessory
While your campervan/motorhome has its own onboard 12V leisure battery charger I do think its essential to own a proper portable leisure battery charger. If you want to learn the specifics about what separates a good leisure battery charger from cheaper alternatives please click the link above. Leisure batteries are so important to modern campervans and motorhomes its essential that they are properly cared for. Many leisure batteries, depending on their battery chemistry can be significantly damaged if depleted below 50% and remain at a low state of charge. A good quality portable leisure battery can often recover a poorly performing leisure battery close to its full capacity.
A high quality portable leisure battery charger such as this CTEK MXS is an essential accessory for any campervan or motorhome owner who wants to keep their leisure battery in good health: Image – Amazon
Another key use for a portable leisure battery charger is while the campervan/motorhome is in winter storage. A leisure battery at a low state of charge in a low-temperature environment is one of the worse case scenarios. Hence, during winter storage you can remove the leisure battery from the campervan/motorhome and charge it at home. This will be the best means to ensure the health of the leisure battery for when you want to use it again next spring/summer.
8: Thermal Screens/Blinds – Essential Accessory
As you can see in Andrews video above in that campervan he is using internal thermal screens. I’ve written a post on motorhome thermal screens as there are internal and external options. There are pros and cons to both, so if you’re curious what they are please click the link above. Our campervan and motorhome guests use thermal screens both in the cold and warm months of the year. To either keep the heat in or keep the heat from the sun out. I’ve been informed from several of our guests that the difference thermal screens can make to create a comfortable living space can be significant.
I believe thermal blinds for campervans and motorhomes are an essential accessory. However, you will have to decide whether external or internal blinds will be more suitable for your leisure vehicle: Image – Amazon
Another issue which can occur with motorhomes and campervans in the morning is condensation on the window. Hence, thermal screens can help to reduce issues with condensation build-up. However, the effectiveness does depend on the type (external or internal) and the fitment of the thermal screens. In summary, many of our campervan/motorhome guests do use them therefore I feel they are an essential accessory.
9: Grip Matts and Levelling Ramps – Essential Accessories
Many of our motorhome guests have informed me they choose to visit Horton Common due to our road and hardstanding pitches. Some motorhome owners will avoid grass pitches at all costs so they don’t get stuck in the mud. However, sometimes using a grass pitch or driving onto grass may be unavoidable. Hence, you want to be prepared if you do get stuck to have the ability to get going again. That’s where grip mats come in. Now, they cannot perform miracles. If you are on very soft/wet ground its likely you would need the assistance of another vehicle to tow you out. However, I’ve heard several of our campervan and motorhome guests state that grip mats have helped them out on several occasions with their wheels spinning on wet grass.
From the feedback of our campervan/motorhome guests, I believe grip mats are an essential accessory: Image – Amazon
A separate but related essential accessory is levelling ramps. I’ve written a post on levelling ramps because from seeing various cracked ramps over the years I do have some recommendations on which ramps to avoid. Why do you need to level your motorhome? Well, it depends, if your vehicle is off-level it can affect the performance of your fridge. If you use your onboard shower and the vehicle is not level it may not drain properly. Finally, you will generally get a better nights sleep when the vehicle is level. I do also have a separate post on how to level a motorhome.
10: Wind/Roll Out Canopies and Driveaway Awnings – Optional Accessories
Motorhome and campervan awnings are a very different proposition to caravan awnings. With a motorhome, its a highly mobile leisure vehicle. Therefore applicable awnings have to match that mobility. There are two main types of motorhome awning, roll or wind out canopy awnings and driveaway awnings. If I was to estimate I would say that just over 50% of our motorhome guests have a roll/wind out canopy awning attached to the side of their van. Driveway awnings are less common, I probably only see them on-site a couple of times a year.
While I wouldn’t describe a canopy awning as an essential accessory I definitely think they provide a lot of value to our guests: Image – Amazon
I would say that neither type of awning is an essential accessory. However, do feel that in many cases a roll/wind out canopy awning can provide a real benefit. I’ll see our guests using this type of awning to provide shade on a hot summers day. However, roll/wind out awnings are still extremely quick to pack up when you want to leave the campsite for the day. When you are purchasing a new or used motorhome check to see if it comes with an attached canopy awning. One of our guests told me when they purchased their motorhome they didn’t even realise one came included.
11. Reversing Cameras – Optional Accessory
Now, while I’ve classified a reversing camera an optional accessory I found it a tough call to make. In reality, I do think in most cases they should be a serious consideration. The reason I’ve classified them an optional is with smaller campervans and panel van conversion motorhomes you may still have some natural rear visibility. However, with most coachbuilt motorhomes, particularly larger units, I do think a reversing camera is an essential accessory. If you are travelling as a couple and one person can get out to watch, a reversing camera is less essential.
If you own anything other than a small campervan/motorhome I do actually think a reversing camera is an essential accessory: Image – Amazon
However, say are out on the road on a wet/winters day and you need to reverse. Asking your partner to get out to watch you reverse is not exactly practical or something they are going to want to do. Furthermore, even with a partner watching you reverse, there can be miss communication. One misheard the other, leading to an accident. So, in summary, I think for small campervans/motorhomes reversing cameras are an optional accessory. However, for anything larger, I believe they are an essential accessory.
12: Motorhome Specific Sat Navs – Optional Accessory
Ok, first off I think every campervan and motorhome owner should have a good/large paper-based map in their vehicle of UK roads. We all love our gadgets (phones, SatNavs) but they can fail on us from time to time. Now, I do think for a less stressful trip having a Sat Nav can provide a lot of benefits. Modern units can provide traffic updates and divert your route to avoid congestion. However, many people today also use their phone as a navigation device and some campervans/motorhomes come with built-in Sat Navs. There is a specific type of Sat Nav marketed to leisure vehicle owners, stating they can avoid narrow roads, low bridges etc.
I only regard motorhome specific Sat Nav units as an optional accessory: Image – Amazon
I’ve written a post on these motorhome specific Sat Navs. From the feedback I’ve received from our guests, I wouldn’t put too much faith into them. I’ve heard several stories of these units still directing our guests down roads which were too narrow etc. So, while I think some form of navigation unit today is almost an essential accessory, I believe leisure vehicle specific Sat Navs are an optional accessory. As I discuss in my post linked above. Personally I would design my own custom route online which can then be uploaded to pretty much any Sat Nav/Smart Phone.
13: Carbon Monoxide Alarm: The Most Essential Accessory of All
All of the other essential and optional accessories above can help you enjoy your time in your campervan or motorhome a little easier. This one is different. A carbon monoxide alarm could literally save the life of you and your family. Many (but not all) leisure vehicles come with a carbon monoxide monitor included. However, many people never actually press that test button. So who knows if its working or not!? If you take anything away from reading this post I hope its to test your carbon monoxide monitor if you have one, and if you don’t, get one.
Every campervan and motorhome owner should own a carbon monoxide alarm and test it regularly. It is unquestionably an essential accessory: Image – Amazon
I would advise pressing the test button on your carbon monoxide monitor before you set off on each trip. I’d also advise having a spare set of batteries to hand. Now, many carbon monoxide monitors will sound off when their battery is running low. However, never presume that will happen. Press the test button and if you don’t hear it respond, swop the batteries. If it still doesn’t respond with the new batteries then replace the carbon monoxide monitor. The cost of a carbon monoxide alarm is so insignificant compared to the safety benefits. I discuss different types of CO/smoke alarm in my post on the best fire safety equipment for caravans/motorhomes.
Conclusions on Campervan and Motorhome Accessories
With this post, I didn’t want to go into every single accessory to do with cleaning a motorhome etc or torches. Though I will quickly note, I do think head torches are an essential accessory. I wanted to discuss what I believe to be essential and optional accessories for campervan and motorhome owners which are not totally obvious. Now, the above is based on my own thoughts and from the feedback of our guests. However many people will have different opinions on the above accessories to whether they are essential or optional items. Though I think we can all agree a carbon monoxide alarm is an essential accessory. So please if you have one already, test that its working, it may just save your life. You may also want to check out my post on campervans vs motorhomes. Alternatively, you may be interested in my post on the best teardrop caravans for towing behind a campervan/motorhome.
Anyway thanks for reading, I hope this helped you consider which accessories you really need. I also hope in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common. 🙂