April 18, 2023
I’m in several RV life social media groups, so interact with people at all stages of their journey. One of the most frequent questions asked from those just starting out is “what do I need to pack in my RV?”
The answer is simple: whatever you will need in your daily life.
But the process isn’t so simple.
When we live in a sticks and bricks, we have room, and how much everything weighs doesn’t factor in when making decisions.
But in RV life, space and weight are crucial, so must be thought about. Anytime something can serve multiple purposes, it’s a winner. If a lighter option exists on something you use, it may be good to replace it.
It also depends on what size RV and how long you will be in it. Our packing list for our 16 foot travel trailer for a long weekend is quite different from our 39 foot 5th wheel that we now full time in.
Some of typical living spaces may not be in your RV, some may be combined with another space, so be sure to think about that. Sketching out your storage space and listing what you’ll keep where can be very helpful, and save you from purchasing a rig that may not work for you. Keep in mind, just because the space is big enough, doesn’t mean you should fill it!
So let’s run through the spaces of a typical home and RV and what to think about when deciding.
BEDROOM This is a pretty basic list since the bed and clothing storage come built in. You will need bedding, possibly 2 sets so you have a back up if you won’t have quick access to laundry. You’ll need clothing for the seasons and activities you will participate in. Think about where you will be staying and how often you will have access to a laundry facility to decide. Most of us have too many clothes and that is a lot of extra weight, but, since we do laundry weekly, our rule of thumb is 7-10 days worth of clothing items, plus workout gear, swimwear and sleepwear.
BATHROOM This is another area where it can be easy to have too much. You will need your basic toiletries, cosmetics, linens (plus an extra set, depending on laundry routine) for both bathing and swimming, and don’t forget about pets, if they get bathed. We also keep a few extra throw blankets and scatter rugs in here for cooler weather or messy feet.
KITCHEN This is the area most of us overdo things. While there are plenty of gadgets that do one thing really well, there are a surprising amount that can do more than one thing and eliminate utensils or special equipment. It comes down to what is important to you. Most don’t have a dishwasher, so we keep enough cups, plates and bowls for our family of 3 for 1 meal, plus utensils, as well as enough storage containers to serve from and hold leftovers to feed us all a meal–these are our guide. Should we have company, we use paper plates! I love cooking and baking, so we made room for a nesting mixing bowls, a hand mixer, instant pot, coffeepot, and cook with 2 cast iron pans and a boiler, plus we have a Blackstone grill since we have always loved grilling out. A few specialty utensils and our set is complete and has served us well for over a year.
LIVING ROOM/COMMON AREA This area will be used for movies and television watching, reading and board games or electronic games. We have a small cabinet that houses all of our entertainment–so we downsized our games to travel or card decks, and all of our DVDs fit into small books and stack with our small library of favorite books, as well. Our game system is small and compact, so doesn’t take up a lot of room.
We also keep a couple of throw blankets for cooler nights. Since our RV has only a 2 seater loveseat, we added a lightweight beanbag chair for extra seating, in addition to dining chairs, and it has worked perfectly without adding extra weight. We also added an area rug that makes it feel like home an is an added layer of insulation for keeping cool or warm in the RV.
OFFICE We all work from home and love arts and crafts, so we paired down to what we need. A laptop and mouse works well and fits into a small storage bag for travel days or heading to work at a café. We have a small box for stationery, markers, colored pencils, drawing books, coloring books and craft paper, as well as scissors and a ruler. This has proven to be ample to keep us entertained on rainy days, along with our books and games. We also keep extra flashlights and lanterns in here, and our charging cords for our electronics. We used a divided tackle box style that we can coil our cords into and store them when not in use.
GARAGE Our 5th wheel RV has a large garage, so we can hold a lot, just as you would a garage in a home. We store tools and equipment for basic repairs or work and RV hookups. For entertainment, we have our snorkeling gear, inflatable paddleboards, fishing poles and a tackle box, bike helmets, a tote of outdoor toys, and a stroller/trailer for our dogs. We also fit our rug, folding chairs, solo stove and dog fencing for enhancing our outdoor space when location and weather allow. Our bikes don’t fit in here, but they do fit on a bike rack on the back (that we ensured was RV rated!). We also like to hike, so keep a small hiking pack, hiking sticks, thermos’s and a soft lunch box, as well as rain gear and a couple other backpacks.
PORCH/PATIO Most campsites have an outdoor space, so we set ours up with the gear we store in our garage. Some RVs even come with fold out porch/patios, but you’ll still need to store things when it is folded away, but you can still create this outdoor space. We had a hammock when we started out, but it wasn’t quick to set up, so we have since put it in storage.
This will just get you started, and as you learn to make these decisions, you will figure out what works for you. Weight is always a factor, so pay attention to what you have. If you plan to spend more time “boondocking” or “off-grid” (a.k.a. not plugged in and completely self-reliant) then you will want less weight to allow for fresh water, and full black/grey tanks when driving (1 gallon of water is 8lbs so it can add up fast!)
A shake down trip, or a few, will be vital to “test drive” the lifestyle and see what you need. Depending on how often you go and where, it can vary. We are lucky enough to have a home base we stop through every few months, so we can swap things seasonally, but this isn’t an option for everyone.
You may keep stuff you end up not needing, and you may get rid of things you did actually need. It will happen. Often you can replace them, and there are always donation drop offs along your travels to get rid of things you won’t need.
Are there things I forgot to include? Comment below and let me know!
Like or comment below, and share with others to support the blog. I post weekly about teaching, traveling and family. Until next time, you can find us on Facebook, TikTok & Instagram @barnesonmove or follow our adventures at BarnesOnMove.com