Saturday, September 24, 2022


Choose and safely use the proper ladder for RV care

By Greg Illes

Most every RV has some kind of built-in ladder to get up on top and inspect or maintain the rig. So why have a separate, portable ladder? There are multiple reasons, and each owner will have a slightly different set of requirements for a suitable portable ladder.

• Inspecting and cleaning are the most common needs for getting up in the air, especially on tall rigs with high windows.

• Comfort is sometimes an issue with the built-in ladders. Portable ladders offer a slanted climb, instead of the monkey-grab vertical ascent of the built-in.

• Branches and obstacles sometimes need moving or trimming to get the rig in or out of a location. A portable ladder is very much more handy than trying to do the job from the rig’s rooftop.

Ladder types fall within three general categories: the standard fold-up stepladder we all know, a specialized super-compact fold-up that collapses in two directions to a slender column, and the telescoping ladder which extends into a variable length.

• The fold-ups are the most common and least expensive, but they are also bulky and awkward to store. Many folks just hang them onto their built-in ladders, which I think looks clunky — and it also can create chafing and scraping on the ladder and the rig. The taller versions are risky on uneven ground.

• Super-compact ladders are a little more trouble to deploy, kind of easy to pinch a finger, but they are very easy to store. I have one of them tucked into a bedroom corner and secured with a velcro strap and it’s nearly invisible until I need it. They cost more, but for some they are worth it. They have the same footing risk as the generic fold-ups.

• Telescoping ladders are heavy and expensive and they must be leaned against an object, but they store easily. They are somewhat more stable and safer than a four-legged ladder type.

There is also a variation on the fold-up ladder, typically called a step stool. If all you need is to reach up to the top edge of your rig to clean it up, maybe one of these light, inexpensive units will do the job.

Whatever your particular needs, buy a quality unit that will be safe and will last, and use every possible precaution when using your ladder. It’s always a good idea to have someone steady it for you. Take your time and keep your weight always over the ladder (don’t reach out). Take pains to ensure that your next trip is not to the local ER, but instead to an exciting destination.

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



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2 years ago

I got one of those 12 foot U Line rolling ladders for my husband to use. It has rails all the way up on both sides and has deep grid steps to step up on. He uses it to wash the motor coach in the garage. They are the safest ladders for tall RV’s. They take up an enormous amount of room since they do not fold, but it’s worth your safety.

2 years ago

I wouldn’t say “most every RV has a built in ladder” — neither of my travel trailers have had ladders, and many do not. RV busses usually have ladders, but not “every RV.”

Also, this article would make a lot more sense with pictures or links to explain the three “types” discussed… I have a folding Krause (3 hinges that lock into 157 positions…) at home and a semi-telescoping knockoff of Little Giant (A frame that extends 4-7′ per side) that travels in the pickup when towing the trailer. I’d be curious what you’re calling a “super compact” ladder.

I’ve used my ladder a LOT to repair roofs (only once mine) and to clear branches (which I prefer to do with a pole-saw, but can’t always). Definitely DO carry one if possible.

2 years ago

I have a Little Giant-type ladder that can be any “tallness” I want ( a /\, or an upside down [__], straight (14′), or any combination of these) but since I now will be traveling alone, I don’t want/need such a heavy one. I want one that’s lightweight and it doesn’t have to be so tall. I think my days on the roof are over (although the view from up there is great!)

Judy S
2 years ago

I have a telescoping ladder for my class B because, as a woman who often camps alone, I didn’t want a fixed exterior ladder that makes it easy for someone to climb onto my roof. But it’s heavy and takes up storage space.

Bill Hall
2 years ago

I have a ladder that does double duty. It can be both a step ladder and a telescoping ladder, capable of serving whatever need I have. It is more bulky and heavier than a standard step ladder, but the versatility is worth the extra storage hassle.

2 years ago

I wish SuperC Renegades had a ladder, they do not. They also tend to be left out when articles are written in RV Travel. I know they the minority in RVs at this time but their availability is increasing.
We use a telescoping ladder as we are fulltime and it is compact. However it is scary using it, as you did point out. We seldom go on the roof.
Find it in our best interest to hire RV Tech for issues that require going up.

Jeff Arthur
2 years ago

You forgot platform/ podium ladders.
only draw back is the size specific nature.
Absolutely the safest ladder I’ve ever used.

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