Carry some basic tools even if you can’t use them

Carry some basic tools even if you can’t use them

By Greg Illes

Well, that’s sort of a joke title — why carry tools if you can’t use them? Actually, the answer is simple: you will use them when you have to.

This article is not for the accomplished do-it-yourselfer, who likely can give us all advice on tool kits. This tip is for the people who can’t remember the last time they picked up a screwdriver. The list which follows is meant to give you a small working tool kit, with only a small investment, which will allow you to fix a lot of simple problems that crop up on an RV. These tools’ usage is pretty much self-explanatory, and none require any advanced skill for their use.

All of these tools are sold in any hardware store — but be sure to buy “decent” tools. Stay away from the $2-special table, because the metal in cheap tools is soft and poorly formed. And don’t be tempted by one of those “all-in-one” tool kits because they have stuff you don’t need and poor-quality versions of what you do need. Shop carefully, buy quality and get familiar with the tools before you tuck them away for later use.

• Screwdriver, multi-blade, $6 — Get one of those six-way screwdrivers. You will have large and small Phillips, large and small slot, and 1/4-inch and 5/16-inch nut drivers, all in one tool.

• Pliers, locking slip-joint, $12 — A really great plier with a grip range around 0-3 inches. Good for pipes, squeezing stuff together and tearing stuff apart.

• Pliers, needle-nose, $8 — Good for twisting wire or fetching tiny things from remote cracks and crannies.

• Hammer, ball-peen, $10 — Just a small hammer for tapping, not a big pounder.

• Wrench, adjustable, $10 (small), $15 (large) — Get two of these, sometimes called “Crescent” wrenches — but that’s a brand name like Kleenex. They will fit any nut or bolt, but they often won’t fit into spaces where the bolts are. You would need a set of wrenches and sockets for such versatility, and that’s beyond this “super-basic” tool set.

• Duct tape, $8 — Another universal tool. The only tape I use any more is the Gorilla brand, far superior to anything else I’ve tried.

• Utility knife with retractable blade, and spare blades, $8 — Universal tool with many uses.

• Voltmeter, $20 — A principal electrical diagnostic tool. This is the only tool which needs a tiny bit of education to use, but it is invaluable (maybe even just to let a helper use it). It will tell you everything from your battery’s state of charge to whether you have a bad switch or connector.

• Inspection mirror, $10 — There are a lot of places that this comes in handy to peek into.

Yes, there are thousands of tools that you could buy and carry (and I carry hundreds) — but if I think back on what I grab first and use the most, this list covers 95% of them.

So there you go. Put everything in a sturdy case or soft-sided bag for safekeeping. For less than $100 or so, you can stuff this in a drawer or the back of a storage compartment and drag it out when something breaks. You’ll be a hero to yourself and your traveling companions!


Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at