20 things you need in your essential caravan starter kit

This month’s content theme is ‘Ready Steady Camp’, and in our April magazine issue we published a feature titled ’44 ways to get your camping season started’ – a fun, back-to-camping guide featuring, tips, tricks and hacks from our magazine team and Club members on how to make this year your most memorable yet.

For newcomers to caravanning, I’ve pulled together a starter kit of 20 accessories you’ll need – some of it’s essential, some of it’s desirable, all of it is open to discussion, disagreement and debate. But I stand by my list!
1. Towing mirrors
If you’re towing a caravan, you need to be able to see 20 metres behind you, and four metres either side of the caravan. So nearly all tow vehicles need to fit additional towing mirrors. They’re usually fitted the wing mirrors, by clamp, suction or strap. Some fit certain wing mirror types better than others.
2. Spare rear number plate
You need a number plate on the rear of your caravan, and it must be the same as the car you’re towing it with, reflective, with black characters on a yellow background. A makeshift, biro-drawn cardboard plate won’t do!
3. Water carrier
An Aquaroll, or similar, to fill with water from a fresh tap and roll it to your pitch, then plug into your van’s fresh water inlet point and give you running water inside your tourer. Make sure you’ve got a water pump and hose to attach the carrier to your van’s water inlet.
4. Waste water carrier
A Wastemaster or similar, to capture the ‘grey’ water that drains from your shower or sink. Be sure you have flexi waste pipes too – these plug into you caravan waste drain points and into your container.
5. Electric hook-up lead
The standard, 25m orange cable is ideal. One wound onto a reel is great for tidiness, but be sure to unspool it before plugging into the bollard on site.
6. Gas bottle
Typically 6kg or 7kg, Propane or Butane (although Butane won’t ‘gas’ in freezing conditions). You’ll likely buy your first bottle on a ‘refill agreement’, and then exchange it when it’s empty for a full one. There are also refillable alternatives.
7. Regulator and gas hose
Modern caravans are fitted with a regulator, normally in a locker, ready for you to attach to a cylinder by means of a short length of rubber hose and a nut that screws into the bottle’s brass fitting. It ensures the gas pressure as it leaves the bottle is correct in order to burn.
8. Gas spanner
When your gas cylinder’s empty, you’ll need a spanner to undo the hose thread. Get a chunky one or it won’t last. It’ll save you skinning your knuckles too.
9. Hitch lock and wheel clamp
These are the most commonly used security devices and deterrents. Hitchlocks are quick and easy to fit and stop anyone hitching the caravan to a tow car. Wheelclamps come in different varieties, but do the same job of stopping the wheel turning.
10. Caravan step
Whether you opt for plastic or metal, a sturdy step makes getting in and out of your van a whole lot easier.
11. Corner steady winder
To lower your leg steadies on site. And here’s a tip, if you can’t get a young family member to do this for you, consider taking a cordless drill and adaptor.
12. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarm
Given you’ll be cooking in and around your caravan, these are both potential lifesavers. Check the batteries, regularly.
13. Leisure battery
This powers your 12V equipment when you’re camping away from electric hook up. It’s not normally supplied with new caravans. There are different types and sizes, and they’re all different prices. Check out our data sheet online and be sure to get a heavier duty, more expensive one of you’re powering a mover and plan to do a lot of your caravanning off grid.
14. Toilet chemicals and rinse
There’s quite a wide choice of liquids and sachets to drop into your toilet cassette, to reduce odours and break down all the unpleasant stuff. They’re usually green or blue chemicals. Many caravans have a separate flush tank, in which you can add a fragranced flush additive – often pink in colour.
15. Levelling ramps, wheel chocks and blocks
If your pitch isn’t level, you’ll need ramps to level the caravan from side to side, and wheel chocks to stop the wheels rolling back down the ramp. Blocks are often useful to put under leg steadies or the jockey wheel on very uneven ground.
16. Awning
Awnings double your living space, and the modern breed of inflatable awnings are easier to put up than ever.
17. First aid kit 
You might build this to suit your specific needs, but be sure to include plasters, bandages, painkillers (paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin), antihistamines, disinfectant, bacterial wipes or gel. I tend to keep sun cream and insect repellent in here too.

18. Fire bucket, fire extinguisher and blanket
Fire buckets are great for tent fires, while blankets and fire extinguishers can help to stop small on-board fires, such as pan fires.
19. Tool kit
A small kit, with hammer, a few flat blade and Phillips screwdrivers, adjustable spanner, torque wrench, pliers, utility knife, torch, WD40, a few rags, a foot pump and tyre pressure gauge, cable ties, Duck tape and plastic gloves (such as the ones you get from some fuel stations for the business of empty toilets and draining down tanks). These should help you with most running repairs on your holidays.
20. Living kit
What you need for your living quarters is really up to you, but I’d recommend sheets and quilts, mattress topper, pillows, melamine crockery, plastic glasses, cutlery, sharp knives, scissors, saucepans, kettle, toaster, tin opener, salt & pepper pots, TV, tea towels, dustpan and brush, washing up liquid, matches, loo roll, corkscrew.
And finally, a few extra bits and pieces you might want to consider if you’ve got space:
A barbecue
Camping chairs for al fresco eating
Nose weight gauge
Hitch head stabiliser
Spirit level
Alarms and tracking devices
Water purifying tabs
Emergency fuse and bulb kit
I’ve probably missed out lots of things, but be sure to let me know?

Rob Ganley Rob is the Club’s Editor-in-Chief. A former group editor of Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome magazines, he joined The Camping and Caravanning Club in 2014. Rob has been lucky enough to explore the world on fly-drive motorhome holidays, including US Route 66 in an RV, and New Zealand in a campervan. More recently he tours with his wife and children, 12 & 9, and together they’ve camped in France, Italy and Spain in caravans and motorhomes. Read other posts by this author