Preparing to take a weekend camping trip, a month long tour of the country, or downsizing to live the RV lifestyle? The thought of setting off on an over the road adventure can be exhilarating, but also a little nerve-wracking. It might leave you wondering what you need to pack for your excursion, regardless of the length. Being raised in a family of campers, I would love to share my insights into what I consider the necessities for the travel life.
When preparing your RV for your journey, there are some basic supplies that you will need regardless of the duration of the trip:
- Weather appropriate clothing
- Food and kitchen utensils
- First aid supplies and any prescriptions
- A general toolset
- Recreational activities
- Cleaning supplies and hygiene items
- Pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, and linens.
This list expands as the duration of your trip lengthens, and if you are planning on making the RV lifestyle a permanent situation, there are a few other things to take into consideration as well. Below I have created a more comprehensive list for your reference, as well as taking the time to dive deeper into the details of other items for consideration if you are going to be living in your RV long term.
Basic supplies for Any RV Trip
These are the items that you are going to want to have in your RV regardless of duration.
Location Appropriate Clothing
You are want to take into consideration the climate of where you will be going, as well as what your planned activities will be, then pack accordingly. If you are going for less than a week, then you should plan to pack one outfit per day, plus a couple of spares, for just in case you get dirty and want to change. The RV lifestyle lends itself to casualness, so you will likely be able to make do with the following items:
- Jeans, Pants or Shorts
- T-shirts, long and short sleeve, depending on the climate
- Jacket or coat
- Gloves, if going somewhere cold
- Comfortable shoes, either sneakers or hikers, flip flops, and crocs or shower shoes.
Basic cookware, skillets, cast iron Dutch oven, saucepans, griddle
- Plastic dishware set with enough place settings for each person- avoid glass if at all possible. Paper plates and plastic ware are also an option if you are only going to be out for a couple of days.
- Drinking cups and coffee mugs
- Paper towels and napkins
- Can opener
- Matches and lighters
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfecting wipes and dish soap
- Trash bags
- Aluminum foil, plastic wrap and zipper bags
- Cutting board
- Lighter fluid
- Utensils, sharp knives, tongs and skewers
- Serving bowls and plates
- Dish towels
- Fire extinguisher
- Food: Ideally, you should plan your meals before you go, then just shop for those items, plus snacks and treats. That way you will be sure to have everything that you need (there might not be a store close for forgotten items!)
- Bottled water
- Salt, pepper, oil, spices and seasonings
- Camp griddle, pie irons, Long-handled metal prongs for roasting marshmallows
- Coffee Pot
- Coffee and Tea Bags
- Measuring Cups, spoons, bottle opener, corkscrew and potato peeler
- Portable snacks, like trail mix or granola bars
- Powdered drink mixes- save space by adding these to your bottled water as needed.
These items are an absolute must! When you are out in the wilderness, it is important to be prepared for anything!
- Fully stocked first aid kit
- Fire extinguishers
- Cell phone chargers, spare external batteries
- Cell phone booster, depending on where you will be going
- Flashlights, with spare batteries
- Emergency radio, with spare batteries
- Medications, prescriptions, Aspirin
- Aspirator or Epi-pen for those with asthma or severe allergies.
- Bug Spray
- Bee Spray
- Calamine lotion
- Aloe Vera lotion for sunburns
- Tweezers and scissors
- Various size bandages, ace bandage
- Hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol
- Spare glasses/contact lenses and contact solution
- Maps of the campground and the general area. You should always keep a paper copy, as not GPS or cell phones will have service in all locations.
Personal Hygiene and Bathroom Supplies
- Dental Floss
- Hair ties
- Hairbrush and Combs
- Razors and Shaving Cream
- Nail Clippers
- Toilet Cleaner
- RV Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper
- Towels and Wash cloths
- Air freshener
- Bedding- sheets, pillowcases, comforters, pillows, sleeping bags
- Throw covers or Afghans
- Small fan
- Leveling blocks for RV
- Wheel Chocks
- Basic Tool Kit
- Electrical tape
- Duct Tape
- Jumper cables
- Emergency road kit
- Hydraulic jack
- Tire Pressure Gauge
- Sewage hose with hookups
- Extension cords
- Spare fuses
- Cotter pins
- Extra motor oil and transmission fluid
- Road flares
- Water hose
- Travel sewing kit
- Bungee Cords
- Extra Batteries
- Ice Chest
- Power strip
- Coveralls and Work gloves
- Rubber Gloves for emptying tanks
- Lug Wrench
- Silicone lubricant
- Measuring tape
- Box cutter
- Spare reflectors and light bulbs
- Windshield cleaner and squeegee
- Zip ties
Some of these items are optional, depending on your interests and hobbies.
- Camp Chairs
- Solar, Gas, or Electric Lantern
- Folding card table
- Fishing gear, including applicable licenses (most states allow you to purchase online)
- Football, basketball,
- Radio/music phone docking station
- Corn hole or horseshoes
- Books or Kindle
- Playing cards
- Board games
- Portable DVD Player/DVDs
- Art and Crafting Supplies
- Camera Equipment
- Pet Food and Supplies (if your four-legged friend will be coming with you)
- Small grill
- Propane or charcoal or grill
Living the RV Life Full Time – What to Pack
If you are planning on downsizing and living in your RV as you cruise across the country, you are going to want to add to the above list.
- Dress clothes and shoes – While you are unlikely to need these on a week-long camping trip, you will probably want to have a couple of nicer dress options as you travel the countryside.
- Small safe – keep this in your bedroom for cash, jewelry, and other small valuables.
- Important Documents (paper copies): Insurance policies, Identification- Copies and originals of driver’s licenses, social security cards, passports, credit cards, banking information, tax documents.
- Digital Copies of Financial Statements, Tax Documents, and Receipts- These should be backed up using a cloud server, not just saved to your laptop.
- Photographs can also be scanned and saved electronically. Originals can be placed in storage or given to family members for safekeeping.
- Decorative items- You will be living in this space, so you will want to make it homey. Just be careful as square footage is limited so too much can make your new domicile look cluttered. Also remember to avoid glass items whenever possible, as they are much more likely to get broken.
What if you forgot to pack something?
If you’re traveling in the US, all you really need is your credit card and a photo ID. Anything else you can pretty much get while on the road.
Walmart Super Centers are a good place to stop and get anything you may have forgotten to pack. They have areas dedicated to RV’s so you can even get things like black tank cleaning supplies or special toilet paper (read here why you may need to use special RV toilet paper).
The point is, you don’t have to worry too much about forgetting something.
Having said that, if you’re planning on spending your RV vacation in a remote area, it’s best to at least think about the things you need ahead of time, so you can shop on the way. Otherwise, you could be stuck without them once reaching your destination.
Helpful Tips to Remember as You Hit the Road
- Plan ahead so you know that you are going to end each day that you are traveling in a location where it is safe to overnight.
- Call ahead to make RV campsite reservations. Don’t just assume that there will be a spot available to you, especially if you want access to water and sewer facilities. Be aware that while some campgrounds are open 24/7, others may close the gates after dark, locking you out if you get there after hours.
- Keep An Eye On Your Gas Gauge- Most RVs get between 5 and 7 MPG, so pay attention!
- Check your Oil, Windshield Washer Fluid, and Tire Pressure at Each Stop.
- Watch your weight when packing. Don’t carry a full load of fresh water if you are going to overnight where water hookups are available. Also make sure that your black and gray water tanks are empty prior to leaving. The lack of additional weight can really help to increase your fuel efficiency.
- Make sure that you know your RV’s weight limits, and that you stick to them. These limitations are set for safety purposes. If you are unsure that you are within guidelines, you can always weight your RV at a nearby highway weigh station.
- Always chock your wheels when you park, even if you are on level ground. This prevents your RV from rolling. If you have a tow behind type camper, chock the wheels before you unhitch.
- Clean up after yourselves at night. Don’t leave our food or trash as it may attract animals. Also, close your canopy or umbrellas, and put away chairs and tables or anything that could get blown around if the wind picks up.
Be Safe, and Have Fun!
Traveling in your RV can be a grand adventure and an amazing opportunity to make memories, meet new people, and discover new places. With proper planning and preparations, and by following the tips listed above, you can ensure that your next trip will be your best trip.