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“What tools do you carry in the RV?” I get asked this question all the time. With limited space and carrying capacity, it can be a challenge to figure out which tools you need in your RV tool kit. I have been RVing since 2015 and this is a list of my must have tools for your RV tool kit.
20 Must Have Tools For Your RV Tool Kit
1. Multi-Bit Screwdriver
If I could only pick one tool to carry in our RV, it would be the Picquic Stubby multi-bit screwdriver. It’s six screwdrivers in one small package – 2 flat heads, 2 Phillips heads and 2 square drive bits. Other than the tools I carry in my pockets (#4. flashlight & 5. knife) I find myself reaching for the multi-bit screwdriver more than any other tools in my RV tool kit. For times when you need something longer, add the Picquic Sixpac Plus. These also make great gifts and I like to have multiple – one in the glove box, one in my backpack that goes wherever I do and on in a drawer inside the RV.
A claw hammer is always good tool to have in the RV. In addition to using it as a hammer, you can use it to bend things back into shape, knock something loose or use the claw as a crow bar to pry something apart.
3. Duct Tape
I’ve seen Duct tape used to fix just about everything. In the last month, I used it to patch up holes in my gym bag and to seal a leaking hose. Keep a roll on hand to use in a pinch and if you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, try making a Duct tape wallet. If you need tape that can be peeled off safely, add a roll of painter’s tape to your RV tool kit.
I keep the Pelican LED flashlight in my pocket at all times. After carrying it for almost a year, I can honestly say I don’t know how I managed without this must have tool. Before getting this flashlight, I used the one on my phone. Now I find carrying an actual flashlight is much more useful. I also keep a headlamp handy for walking at night and those times I need to keep my hands free. If you need to light a room or your campsite, an LED lantern is a good tool to have.
5. Pocket Knife
I’ve carried a pocket knife everyday for the past twenty years. I use it to open packages, cut just about anything, slice a piece of cheese or apple during a picnic or pop open a stubborn pistachio during movie night. Just like the flashlight, once you carry it, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without this handy tool.
Look for a quality folding knife that has a clip for your pocket. I currently have a Buck 110 Slim which is my beat up knife and gets clipped onto my tool bag. I use these when working on the truck, scraping things, etc. With all the abuse I’ve put it through, a quick cleaning and sharpening is all it takes to look new again. I also use the Buck 040 Onset for various work projects since it has stout construction and a S45VN steel blade. I like the pocket clip it has and blade flipper makes it easy to open with one hand.
Note: Be aware of local laws regarding carrying knives as you travel. I’ve found that a knife with a blade under three inches is legal in most places.
6. Tire Pressure Gauge
Checking tire pressures before a trip is one of our RV checklist items. Not all tire pressure gauges are equal. If you have large RV tires, your tire pressure could be well over 100 psi. I have the Accutire digital tire pressure gauge. It’s inexpensive, easy to read and has a max pressure reading of 150 psi. I have checked the accuracy against a gauge at the tire shop and the reading was within 1.5 psi.
A pair of needle nose pliers are an extremely versatile tool. Great when you need to get into those tight spots in an RV. Add a small and large pair of adjustable Channellocks for those times you need something larger with a flat nose.
Finally, consider a pair of Vise-Grips for your RV tool kit. These are a nice to have that come in very handy when you need to grip and hold something in place. As the name implies, you can use them as a mini-vise.
8. Adjustable Wrench
When space and weight are at a premium in an RV, a few adjustable wrenches can replace a whole set of SAE and metric wrenches. A set of small, medium and large adjustable wrenches should cover most of your needs.
Note: adjustable wrenches can slip on stubborn nuts/bolts or be unable to get to a bolt/nut you need to unscrew or tighten. That’s why the next tool is a must have for your RV tool kit.
9. Socket and Ratchet Set
Sockets are essential to reach things that you would never be able to get to with a wrench. An inexpensive socket set with reversible ratchet that has SAE and metric sockets is a good starting point. Of course, there are accessory sets that will increase the usability of your sockets.
10. Allen Wrenches
A simple set of metric and SAE Allen wrenches is one of those tools that you will be glad to have in your RV tool kit when you need it.
11. Wire Cutters
Not only are wire cutters handy for cutting wires, but they work well for cutting off zip ties.
12. Zip Ties
I have different size zip ties to manage wires or hold things together in an emergency fix. This pack of assorted zip ties has 6, 8 and 12 inch sizes that should work for most applications. I once used zip ties to hold a license plate on after a screw fell out. The zip ties worked so well, I never replaced the screw.
14. Utility Knife
A basic utility knife is a must have tool that you can use to cut through dense material or when breaking down boxes. Keep spare razor blades on hand for when the blade becomes dull and needs to be replaced. While you can use your pocket knife, I prefer to use the utility knife for big projects to save the wear and tear on the blade of the pocket knife.
15. Tape Measure
You never know when you will need to measure something in the RV. A 25′ tape measure should be more than long enough for most RVs. Knowing if an item will fit before buying it can save you many dollars and headaches. I used the tape measure to check the height of a barn once when we were backing our RV inside.
Batteries, solar panels, generators, converters, inverters, 12 and 110 volt. RVs have complex electrical systems and a multimeter can make short work of tracking down an electrical problem.
17. Thread Seal Tape
I don’t know how many times we’ve hooked up to water at a campground and there was a leak. Adding a strip of tread seal tape around the tread of the spigot fixed the issue most of the time.
18. Leather Work Gloves
A good pair of leather work gloves can save your hands. These are essential when picking up fire wood, removing thorny brush or poison oak/ivy from a campsite or changing a tire.
19. Bottle Jack
Assuming you have a spare tire (and you should), make sure you have a way to raise your vehicle and remove the lug nuts on your wheels.
Most vehicles come with the tools to remove a spare tire. However, if your vehicle has a lift and aftermarket wheels like our 2000 Ford 7.3 diesel, the stock tools may not work. I have a bottle jack to raise the vehicle and an impact wrench (see next item on the list) to remove the lugs from the wheels. Make sure to size the bottle jack for the weight of your vehicle.
20. Power Tools
I made this section the last one because power tools aren’t necessarily a “must have” tool for most RV travelers. That said, they do make certain projects easier and allow you to do more. While I’ve had some corded power tools that I can run off the inverter in our truck camper, I’ve since upgraded to various Craftsman V20 cordless power tools and those are what I carry now.
If you were to only carry one power tool, the cordless drill would be my suggestion. We’ve needed to use one many times while on the road and it’s come in surprisingly hand.
An impact wrench is similar in appearance to a drill but it’s made to remove stuck bolts. If you need to change a tire on the side of the road, it will make quick work of removing and installing the lug nuts on the wheel, assuming you have the right size socket.
Check Your Tool Kit
It’s important to check your RV tool kit regularly, especially if you change RVs and/or your tow behind vehicle. The essential tools I carry now have changed from when we first started RV living. My current RV tool kit is designed for our 4×4 pop-up truck camper. Since the truck is now over 20 years old and has 250k miles and counting, I need to be better prepared when traveling. I make sure to carry a more complete set of tools to work on truck in the field along with various spare parts. If we had a new truck, I would forgo many of these tools/parts.
Watch the video below to see which essential tools I carried while we were living out of different Class B RVs.
Where to Store Your RV Tools
Since you won’t want your tools rattling around in your RV, you’ll need something to store them in. While a traditional tool box is great for the home, it doesn’t always work well for the RV. I prefer soft sided tool bags and boxes that allow you to compress them but also helps prevent rattling.
My go-to tool bag is this Nantucket #711 Diddy Bag. I’ve used mine for over 10 years now and I honestly think it’s indestructible. The bag can be used with the pockets on the inside or outside. I chose to have them on the outside where I can easily see/grab my tools and use the inside of the bag to store various things like wires, connectors, etc. I’ve also been able to fit this bag just about anywhere since it can be squished down to fit most spaces.
For all of the wrenches and sockets, I have the Step22 Pangolin Tool Roll with their wrench roll. This makes it very easy to store and find the wrench/socket I need. Another benefit is that I don’t have to pull out my entire tool bag if I just need a couple wrenches, I can pull the Pangolin out and it’s much easier to carry around rather than trying to carry everything in the Nantucket bag.
For all of the my “garage” items like tools I rarely use, spare parts, electrical items and various other things, I have two Step22 Stingray Flat Box. When not in use, this box will fold down flat. While I love this feature, I’ve found that when you put heavy items into other folding boxes, they tend to break (ask my how I know). These are VERY durable and you can toss them around without worrying about them breaking. I have two stacked in the back of our truck cab and I want to get more.
What to Do When You Don’t Have a Tool You Need
Somewhere down the road you may find yourself in need of a tool that you don’t have in your RV tool kit. You have a few options: rent it, borrow it or buy it.
Rent it. Most auto parts stores will have loaner tools you can rent. Typically, the rental is free but when you take the tool out, they charge you the value of the tool as a deposit. You’re give a couple days to return it and refund the payment when you do. If you love the tool or forget to return it in time, you forfeit the deposit and the tool is now yours. I used the O’Reillys loaner tools program to rent the ball joint press set to work on our 4×4 truck with a pop-up camper on the back.
Borrow it. When I needed a specific power tool for a project on the Ram ProMaster van, rather than running out and buying one, I knocked on a neighbor’s door and borrowed it. I’ve lent out my tools many times to friends and neighbors who needed something specific to finish a project.
Buy it. This is pretty straightforward but if you’re going to invest in a tool, make sure to buy something that will last. On occasion when I’ve needed to pick up a tool like a deep socket, rather than just buying the single size I need, I’ll pick up a set because eventually I’ll buy the set and I hate having random doubles of sockets.
If you don’t have the room or budget to add everything on this list, or find yourself in need of a specific tool you don’t have, ask a neighbor. RVers tend to be a very helpful group and most will be happy to lend you what you need. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people.
What essential tools do you carry in your RV tool kit? Let me know by leaving a comment at the end of this post.
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