Best RV Air Conditioner. Rooftop & Portable AC Units

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There’s little argument that summer is the best time to get out and explore in your RV, but for a comfortable trip, you’ll need the best RV air conditioner to combat the heat.

RV air conditioners come in a wide range of types, sizes and installation options, so finding the right option for you can feel overwhelming. Portable or fixed, we’ve got all types of RV air conditioners covered in our RV AC reviews, so you’re sure to find the very best model for your setup.

Whether you’re looking for the best window-mounted RV air conditioner or a low profile rooftop model, read our in-depth reviews and buying guide to find your perfect match.

Best RV Air Conditioners

Ready to get started in time for summer vacation? Here are our reviews of the top RV AC units for cooler, cleaner air whatever your budget and RV type.

Editors Choice for Best Value RV AC

Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner

Dometic Brisk Rooftop Air Conditioner

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One of the most popular models around, the Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner is top of our list.

It is definitely one you should be considering if you are looking for a roof-mounted model. The Brisk II has been two years in the making, marking a substantial improvement on the older version with up to 15% increased airflow and cooling capacity.

Its smart, revamped design uses lighter materials for less weight and higher performance, boasting a high 15,000BTU cooling capacity. Large air openings ensure improved air circulation, while the EPP foam housing further contributes to better cooling. Just bear in mind that at 12 ⅞ inches high, this is not a low profile model.

Suitable for both ducted and non-ducted installation, the Brisk II also features an optional heating function so you could make use of it all year round. The multi-speed blower allows you to personalize your cooling and heating airflow to suit your needs, while the entire unit has been designed to reduce noise levels for a quieter, vibration-free operation.

Installation is relatively easy, however, there are no instructions provided with this model, so you may want to take a look at some articles and videos before getting started.

Also, bear in mind that this RV AC unit does not come with a control box, you will need to purchase a separate thermostat or air distribution box if you don’t have an existing compatible model already.

Durable, robust, and high performing, this RV air conditioning unit is a cut above the rest. While it’s not the cheapest, it is a great buy and highly recommended if you can take a standard height unit.

Pros – Things we liked
15,000BTU cooling capacity
EPP foam housing
Good for ducted and non-ducted installation
Optional heating function
Multi-speed blower
Designed to reduce noise
Cons – Things we didn’t like
No instructions provided
Does not come with a control box

Best RV Air Conditioner for Portability

Zero Breeze Mark 2 Portable AC

Zero Breeze Mark 2 Portable AC

Buy from Zero Breeze

If you are looking for a portable AC unit for your RV, the Zero Breeze Mark 2 is one of the most versatile models around.

Ideal for off-grid camping or wherever the road might take you, run it off its battery, your own 24V battery, or plug it into a standard power outlet with the 240W adapter. For added freedom, you can also purchase an extra converter to recharge it via your 12V dash port.

This unit can be charged up and used wherever, it’s very easy to carry, and makes a great choice for campers or for cooling down your sleeping quarters in larger rigs. Recommended for effective use in spaces between 25-40 square feet, you can also use it to create a refreshing stream of cold air in larger areas or outside, up to two meters distance from the unit.

With a cooling capacity of 2,300BTU, this unit is not a match for cabins in direct sunlight. However, used at night or in campers with good insulation, it is highly effective. The air blowing from the unit can be up to 30 degrees Fahrenheit lower than ambient temperatures, a great way to a better night’s sleep.

Weighing just 16.5lbs, you can easily carry this unit and no installation is required. Use it in your RV, then transfer it to your tow vehicle, home, or tent, wherever you could benefit from cool, fresh air. For added portability, the battery connects directly on to the unit for one-hand carrying.

While this is a great, highly portable model, bear in mind that it just cannot compete with large 10,000 – 15,000 BTU AC units, so don’t expect it to work wonders. What’s more, if you are a light sleeper and are thinking of using it overnight, you may want to think again as it is very noisy.

However, you won’t find a more portable version with the same great performance and ease of use.

Best Low Profile RV Air Conditioner

Dometic Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner

Dometic Penguin Polar Low Profile Air Conditioner

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Taller RVs with more height clearance issues can benefit from a low profile AC unit. However, they’re also a good choice for improving aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, making them also an ideal choice for full-time and regular RVers. The Penguin II by Domeric is one of the most popular low-profile RV air conditioning units around.

Designed to fit all standard 14 by 14-inch roof openings, this model has a height of 11 ¼ inches. Sleek shaping and styling further reduce drag and wind resistance for a smoother ride. Thanks to its robust rib-reinforced base pan, this unit has been designed to live up to life on the road, while its R410A refrigerant is a more eco-friendly choice than traditional models.

With 13,500BTUs and a high-performance motor and fan, this RV low profile air conditioning unit is highly effective. It can be used both ducted or non-ducted, although ceiling assembly and a control kit will be required. It can also be used with both single or multi-thermostat zones, making it a good choice for both large and small rigs, however, bear in mind that this unit does not have a heat pump option.

One of the main advantages of this particular model, aside from its low profile and aerodynamic styling, is its whisper-quiet operation. While in reality, it is a touch louder than a whisper, you can still have a conversation or watch TV while it is on without being disturbed. Installation is relatively straightforward, made easier by this model’s low weight.

All in all, if you are looking for a low profile air conditioning unit for your RV, then the Penguin II by market leaders Dometic is most definitely one to consider.

Best Overall RV Air Conditioner

Airxcel Mach 15

Airxcel Mach Arctic Air Conditioner

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For big rigs with ducted AC systems, you’ll want to go for a high-performance RV air conditioning unit, such as the Mach 15 by Airxcel.

Branded as the world’s most powerful RV AC unit, this model has an impressive 15,000BTU cooling capacity and is capable of putting out 325 CFM airflow thanks to its ⅓ HP fan – the largest on the market in an RV AC unit.

This medium profile air conditioning unit has a height of 16 inches and fits standard 14 x 14-inch roof openings. Despite its height, it features a streamlined design to improve airflow and dynamics, while the shroud includes condenser coil protection for an extended product lifespan. To help reduce its impact upon the environment, this unit is now charged with R-410A refrigerant.

Highly reliable, the Mach 15 uses all copper tubing and gas-flux joints for extra longevity and easier maintenance. Raised lance fins, combined with a large evaporator and coils improve this model’s heat dissipation abilities for exceptional performance levels.

For year round use, you can also use this unit as a heater with its optional heater assembly pack. This will provide you with a 5,600 BTU of heat, more than enough for heating areas of 150-200 square feet for a cozy, warm winter in your RV.

If you want to upgrade your RV air conditioning, then the Mach 15 makes a great choice for all ducted systems. Its superior 15,000 BTU and powerful airflow rates make it a popular choice and what’s more, with its optional heater assembly it can also provide you with year-round comfort.

Best RV Air Conditioner for BTU’s

Dometic Blizzard Nxt Air Conditioner

Dometic Blizzard NXT Air Conditioner

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The Blizzard Nxt Air Conditioner by Dometic is one of the most versatile 15,000BTU RV AC units.

Suitable for installation in both single and multi-zone thermostats, in either ducted or non-ducted applications, this unit is a great choice for any large rig where you need maximum cooling performance.

Thanks to its high capacity output fan and motor, the Blizzard Nxt has an impressive maximum airflow rating of 350 CFM. This ensures rapid cooling even in very hot conditions. For winter use, this unit includes a heat pump so you can stay warm in winter as well as refreshingly cool in summer, adding to this unit’s high versatility.

With its aerodynamic design, this mid-profile roof-mounted unit has a height of 14 inches and fits standard roof openings. Featuring extra insulation, it has been carefully designed to minimize noise from the compressor for quiet operation. The shroud and base pan are both injection-molded from high-impact polypropylene to ensure that your AC unit lives up to life on the road.

Unfortunately, while installation is simple in itself, working out exactly what you need for your setup can be a little time-consuming. Also, the ceiling assembly kit and thermostat, if needed are sold separately.

However, if you are looking for a high-performance 15,000BTU for your RV, then the Blizzard Nxt with heat pump makes an excellent choice.

Best RV Air Conditioner for Window Mounting

Frigidaire Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner

Frigidaire Window Mounted Air Conditioner

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If you are looking for an inexpensive, easy to install AC unit for your camper or trailer, be sure to check out this Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner by Frigidaire. Measuring just under 16 x 19 x 13 inches, it’s an ideal choice wherever you’re short on space.

Despite its compact size, this AC unit puts out up to 8,000BTU, more than enough to cool areas up to 350 square feet. Thanks to its top four-way air direction controls, you can get it set up to suit your internal layout, while the rotary controls give you three cool speeds and three fan speeds to choose from. While it’s not the quietest, reducing the fan speed makes it much less noisy for a restful night’s sleep.

For cleaner, healthier air and to enhance your AC unit’s efficacy, this model comes complete with a washable filter that is simple to remove for cleaning. Aside from dust-free air, this compact AC unit also works as a dehumidifier, ideal for hot and humid summer nights. It can remove up to 2.3 pints of water from your RV’s air per hour, helping to keep you comfortable, while also protecting your RV from potential moisture damage and mold formation.

This window-mounted AC unit is much cheaper than roof-mounted units and much easier to install. However, bear in mind that you may need some extra hardware depending on your individual setup and layout.

Of course, it’s not going to compete with large ducted units in terms of cooling performance. However, if you have a small camper or trailer, it has the distinct advantage of its lower power draw as well as its compact size.

Best RV Air Conditioner for Quietness

Airxcel Mach 8 Plus

Airxcel Mach 8 Plus AC

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The Mach 8 Plus is a popular choice if you are looking for a powerful low-profile AC unit for your rig. Measuring just eight inches tall, this unit has a highly durable, strong fiberglass base pan that keeps its weight low for easier installation, a longer product lifespan, and reduced fuel costs.

With a cooling capacity of 13,500 BTU and a maximum airflow of 300CFM, this is a high-performance unit despite its low 90-pound weight. It is also very quiet to run, especially on its lowest speed, making it a good choice for light sleepers. Run it on high during the day for rapid cooling and turn it down at night. For use in winter, you can purchase a heat strip separately.

Suitable for both ducted and non-ducted applications, bear in mind that this is just the roof unit and you will have to source certain extras, such as a ceiling assembly kit, depending on your setup. However, a gasket is included with your purchase.

Thanks to its robust one-piece motor and fan blade venturi design, this sturdy unit is both highly effective and efficient. If you need a quiet, low-profile RV AC unit with a high airflow speed and a good 13,500BTU, complete with the option to install a heat strip, then the Mach 8 makes an unbeatable choice. Its lightweight, yet robust construction makes this a popular, highly durable model.

Best RV Air Conditioner for Small Budgets

Black + Decker Portable Air Conditioner

Black and Decker Portable Air Con

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If you are looking for a portable air conditioner for your RV, you may want to consider this model by Black + Decker. While you may need to make some modifications, for example, the casters are not suitable for use on the road, it is a good value buy that has plenty of useful features.

With a 5,000 BTU cooling capacity, this unit is ideal for areas around 15 x 20 feet. It can also be used as a fan or a dehumidifier, helping to improve the air quality inside your RV, reducing humidity and its associated problems. Filled with R410A refrigerant, this unit is a more environmentally-friendly choice than many other products on the market.

Thanks to the included installation kit and easy connection to your wall or window, this AC unit is very easy to install and comes complete with hoses, hose adapters, and a window casement. It also features a slide-out, washable filter for easy maintenance and improved air quality, as well as a large vented airflow outlet for maximum efficacy.

Easy to use, this AC unit has a top-mounted LED control panel, in addition to a full-function remote control. Use the 24-hour timer to set your AC to come on and go off at specific times, ideal for saving energy and coming back to a cool environment after a day out sight-seeing in the heat. There is also a convenient sleep mode for quiet operation.

While this portable AC unit is not RV-specific, it makes a great choice for any trailer or small RV. Easy to use and install, if you are looking for an inexpensive, yet effective way to keep your RV cool this summer, then this unit could be just what you need.

Compare the Best RV Air Conditioners

Table Comparing the Top 5 RV Washer Dryers
Image Title Price Rating Buy
OpenDometic Brisk Rooftop Air Conditioner Compare Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner
$$$
86
Buy on Amazon
OpenZero Breeze Mark 2 Portable AC Compare Zero Breeze Mark 2 Portable AC
$$$$$
90
Buy on Zero Breeze
OpenDometic Penguin Polar Low Profile Air Conditioner Compare Dometic Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop AC
$$$$
82
Buy on Amazon
OpenAirxcel Mach Arctic Air Conditioner Compare Airxcel Mach 15 Air Conditioner
$$$$
90
Buy on Amazon
OpenDometic Blizzard Nxt Air Conditioner Compare Dometic Blizzard Nxt Air Conditioners
$$$$$
84
Buy on Amazon
OpenFrigidaire Window Mounted Air Conditioner Compare Frigidaire Window-Mounted Air Con
$
90
Buy on Amazon
OpenAirxcel Mach 8 Plus AC Compare Airxcel Mach 8 Plus Air Conditioner
$$$
80
Buy on Amazon
OpenBlack and Decker Portable Air Con Compare Black + Decker Portable Air Conditioner
$
90
Buy on Amazon

Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best RV Air Conditioner

With so many excellent models to choose from, all with a vast array of features, functions, and specifications, it can be easy to get bogged down in the details.

Here’s our no-nonsense guide to choosing the best RV air conditioner, so you can choose the best RV AC with confidence.

Price

As with many things in life, you tend to get what you pay for and quality costs. However, that said, the amount of money that you spend on your RV AC unit should also reflect the amount of usage that you expect to get from it.

If you use your RV for one or two short trips in summer and don’t tend to visit areas with overly hot climates, then you could save money with a lower BTU model or opt for a portable version that you can also use at home or elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you use your RV extensively over summer months, are a full-timer, or tend to travel through warmer climates, then you should definitely look at more expensive models that have a higher BTU rating.

If you have a large rig, you may find that it is much more cost-effective to fit two units rather than one very high rated model. Two units used in tandem will often also cool faster and allow you to better personalize your temperature levels throughout your rig.

Ducted or Non-Ducted

What’s the difference? Basically, a ducted style AC wires directly into your RV, whereas a non-ducted AC unit does not.

A ducted unit matches up with the ducts in your RV ceiling and it is controlled via a thermostat. Ducted units tend to cost more, but offer integrated, more consistent cooling that is comparable to what you get in a bricks-and-mortar home.

Non-ducted units tend to be used in smaller RVs and rely on remote controls for their operation. They blow cold air from the bottom part of the unit into your living area. While they generally tend to be cheaper than ducted units, there are a large number of models that can be used for both ducted and non-ducted use.

Switching from a non-ducted to a ducted system can be expensive, so it’s not a decision you’ll want to make lightly.

Cooling Capacity – BTUs (British Thermal Units)

Your RV air conditioning’s cooling capacity is measured in BTUs. British Thermal Units are essentially a measure of energy. The higher the number of BTUs, the more powerful your air conditioner will be.

Generally, most models recommended for big rigs are around 15,000BTUs, capable of cooling an area of 10 by 50 feet. For smaller RVs, you can use models with lower BTU ratings and still achieve sufficient levels of performance to cool your living space.

Just be aware that even if your RV is on the small side, it must be sufficiently insulated for a lower-powered AC unit to work effectively. If you have direct sunlight entering your cabin and your entire roof is exposed to the sun, then any unit under 10,000 BTUs is going to struggle to provide a significant reduction in temperature.

However, these lower-powered units can be much more effective at night when there is no external heat source.

To match your RV size to your minimum BTU requirements, here are some handy guidelines:

  • Under 300 sq feet – 5,000-7,000 BTUs
  • Under 550 sq feet – 8,000- 12,000 BTUs
  • 550 sq feet and above – 14,000 + BTUs

Low Profile Vs Full Height Design

First of all, both low profile and full height units work in the same way. So, there is no specific benefit to your system’s cooling capacity in opting for one over the other.

If you have a tall RV, then it makes sense to opt for a low profile model that is less likely to become damaged by height restrictive obstacles. If you have a lower RV, then you can save money on your purchase price by choosing a full height version.

However, regardless of your RV’s height clearance, if you can afford to, it is always preferable to opt for a low profile model. Lower profile units encounter less drag and wind resistance, making them a better choice for improved fuel efficiency and durability.

They also tend to be lighter and more aerodynamic, reducing weight as well as fuel costs with long term use.
Dual Use with Heat Pump
Choosing an RV conditioner with a heat pump is a great way to get more bang for your buck, especially if you tend to RV all year-round.

While units with heat pumps included tend to cost a fair bit more, many units give you the possibility to purchase a heat pump or heat strip separately. This means that you can purchase your RV AC unit and enjoy summer while getting the heat side of things set up for winter can remain an option for the future.

If you expect to be using your RV extensively or are going to be full-timers, bear in mind that while AC units with heat pumps are great for increasing your temperature by a few degrees and taking off the chill, they are not recommended as your only heat source throughout winter.

So, by all means, choose a heat pump for extra comfort and to supplement your existing heating, but don’t expect it to warm your entire rig this winter.

Noise Level

Air conditioning units all make a certain degree of noise. Some units are much quieter than others, so it makes sense to pay attention to how they are rated before purchasing.

While external rooftop models may be less noisy from the inside of your RV, if you have a portable or window-mounted model, you may struggle to sleep with your air conditioning on.

Power Compatibility

If you are planning on traveling internationally, then you should always check that all of your electrical components are suitable for use in the area that you will be driving to.

As AC units are so expensive and pretty much essential to your comfort, it makes sense to double-check your power compatibility before you plug your RV into shore power abroad.

Power Consumption

When you’re off-grid, you’re not going to be able to run your AC as you would when you’re hooked up. Bear in mind that like all other high-power appliances, you’re going to have to account for a considerable start-up wattage surge as well as the general running power required.

Once your RV AC has started up it can draw anything between 600-1,500 Watts, although the initial start-up consumption can be between 1,700-3,500 Watts.

If you like to travel frequently off-grid, you may like to look at smaller models with a lower-power consumption and start-up Wattages. Or get the best of both worlds with a high-powered model for use with shore power and a lower-rated model for limited use in the backcountry.

Vent Position and Number

For non-ducted units, take a close look at how many air vents and their positioning on your AC unit. More vents and more positions will give you the ability to better personalize your airflow to match your setup.

Air Purification

Choosing an RV air conditioner with air purification is a great way to improve the air quality inside your RV.

Cooking smells, black tank odors, and that musty, stale smell from months of storage can all be eliminated much faster, with less need for harmful chemicals.

As RVs are small living spaces that you will want to keep closed up when the AC is running, it makes sense to opt for a version that can purify your air. This is especially true if you are a family with numerous individuals, as well as for pet owners.

Size and Weight

Roof-mounted RV AC units are generally designed to fit in your standard 14 x 14-inch roof opening. However, you should always double-check as sizes can vary.

Height is another important factor to consider as discussed earlier. Choosing a low profile model can save you money on fuel in the long term by reducing wind resistance and drag.

Low profile models also tend to be lighter, although will also find some mid and high-profile models that use various materials, such as fiberglass, to reduce weight. Lower weight equates to greater fuel efficiency, as well as making your unit easier to install.

For portable units, size is a big issue as you don’t want your AC unit encroaching on your living space. Window-mounted versions are generally compact, however, some portable floor models can be very bulky meaning they can take up precious floor space when in use and valuable cupboard space when they’re not.

Weight also affects how easy it is to move your portable unit into and out of your RV, as well as from one part of your living quarters to another.

Clearance Height

Before you commit to purchasing a mid or high-profile RC AC unit, double-check your rig’s clearance height with the unit attached.

If you have a tall RV, then you will need to go for a low-profile unit to ensure that it does not restrict your travel itineraries or become damaged by vegetation and obstructions.

Insulation Strength

Ensure that your AC unit is correctly installed and insulated for the best levels of performance.

Some units come with everything you will need for an installation, others have additional insulation foam panels that you can purchase separately to improve your AC setup.

Making sure that your AC ductwork, central unit, and any openings are sufficiently insulated will ensure that warm air stays out so your AC can cool your internal air.

Otherwise, warm air will continue to enter and your unit will not be able to effectively cool your living space.

Ease of Installation

Installing your RV air conditioning unit can be a complicated process.

It all depends on how handy you are and what your setup is like compared to the unit that you are replacing. If you are replacing like-for-like, then it is going to be much simpler than changing from one style to another.

In general, the main difficulty is getting your unit onto the roof, which can be a tricky process and will require some assistance. Once your installation is underway, you may find some incompatibility issues or the need for additional items. For this reason, we recommend closely reading through the manufacturer’s installation manual, as well as looking online for some videos.

While most RVers can get their installation up and running in a few hours, bear in mind that this isn’t always the case, especially if you need additional parts.

So, don’t attempt to install your AC the day before your vacation or at any other period when you’re going to be rushed for time.

Types of RV AC Units

RV air conditioning units fall into four main types. To help you to find the best model for your RV, let’s take a closer look at each type, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Rooftop RV Air Conditioner

By far the most popular type of RV air conditioner, rooftop models save you space inside by fitting on to your roof.

The roof is also an ideal location for your AC unit as even when you’re parked up, it’s still likely to benefit from some air movement.

Available in ducted or non-ducted versions, you’ll likely want to purchase a rooftop RV air conditioner to replace or upgrade an existing model.

Window RV Air Conditioner

Easy to install and relatively inexpensive, wall-mounted RV air conditioners are a good choice for smaller trailers.

Thanks to their space-saving design and comparatively low power drawer they are a popular choice with small RVs owners who enjoy traveling off-grid.

On the downside, they can impact the amount of natural light that you get in your trailer and you may have to spend a lot of time searching for a model that is compatible with your window size.

Portable RV Air Conditioner

Small in size and easy to move around from one part of your RV to another, portable RV units are relatively cheap and require no installation.

They are not the highest performance models, although when used in a small area, they can definitely make your trip much more comfortable.

Bear in mind that your portable RV air conditioner will take up quite a bit of space, both when it’s in use and to store. However, if you don’t spend a lot of time in your RV, you can benefit from transferring your portable model to your home.

Under Bench RV Air Conditioner

Under-bench units are discreet, you won’t even notice that they are there. They will, however, reduce your available under-bench storage space.

As hot air rises and under-bench models are low down with limited vents, they can struggle to effectively cool your entire rig. But they are a popular, minimalist choice if you don’t have a rooftop model and they are also very easy to install.

Final Thoughts

With so many excellent models to choose from, all with a wide array of different specifications and installation processes, it can be really difficult to decide which is the best RV air conditioning unit for your motorhome.

Whether you are looking for an RV AC upgrade or a completely new RV AC installation, we’ve covered all of the main types of RV air conditioning units.

For high powered cooling in your class A, you’ll need a powerful ducted model like the Mach 15 by Airxcel. With an impressive 15,000 BTU and a 325CFM airflow, this is the one to go for when you’re looking to upgrade your RV’s AC system.

If you’re looking for an equally powerful, but highly versatile RV AC unit then you can’t go wrong with the Dometic Blizzard Nxt Air Conditioner. Suitable for ducted and non-ducted installations, as well as single or multi-zone applications, this model benefits from a 15,000BTU capacity and a 350 CFM airflow for rapid cooling. This model also includes a heat pump for extra warmth over winter.

For smaller RVs without a rooftop cooling system, the Window-Mounted Mini-Compact Air Conditioner by Frigidaire is easy to install and won’t take up valuable space, while the Black+Decker Portable AC Unit can be easily moved around and requires no installation whatsoever.

In short, whatever type of RV air conditioner you need, you can’t go wrong with our hand-picked selection of the very best models out there.

About Karan Riley

I am the owner and main contributor to RV4Campers. I first got bit by the RVing bug when I joined a friend who was into Van Life for weekend getaways. It became apparent very quickly that this was a style of life I enjoyed and wanted more of, so it wasn't long before I had my own travel trailer. I didn't have a lot of money to throw around back then so I did lots of research into all the gear and gadgets. And this is how my RV passion exploded, I've now spent countless hours playing around with many different bits of kit and reading user manuals. And it's this wealth of knowledge I bring to RV4Campers.