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Ultimate RV Packing List for a First-Time Camper
A Comprehensive List of Everything You Need for Your RV Camping Adventures!
Photo Credit: Saad Chaudhry
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When loading up the RV, over-packing for your trip can be as much of an issue as under-packing. Taking too much ‘stuff’ robs you of valuable space, taking up too much room and thus making the trip less comfortable. On the other hand, leaving behind the one thing you need for situations like when the weather turns bad can also be extremely problematic.
But what exactly is the balance between ‘too much’ and ‘not enough’? Our RV packing list will help you out. It’s relevant to most RV campers’ needs, and can be adapted to your specific circumstances when appropriate. Start with what’s really important, and if you have some extra storage space left you can grab a few ‘nice-to-have’ items - while knowing you’ll be fully equipped to have a fun time either way.
Photo Credit: Zhou Xian
RV Documentation and Important Information
To begin with, consider where you’re headed and determine what personal documentation you might need, such as passports if you’ll cross a border.
Furthermore, be ready for any eventuality, from being pulled over by law enforcement to collision scenarios. In either case you’ll need to ensure your license and registration are up to date, and proper insurance coverage as well.
If you just bought your RV, place the necessary RV documents inside a secure, waterproof container where you can easily get to them. When renting an RV, always make sure all the paperwork is in order and given to you at the time of rental, well prior to your departure for your trip.
Clothing and Bedroom Items
When picking out clothing and bedding items, prepare for all weather conditions - and don’t forget accessories like blankets and comfy pillows for a good night’s sleep!.
When packing clothes, plan on leaving your brand new, fancy items at home and instead take comfortable, versatile options that are comfortable for the road and appropriate for outdoor activities - since that’s where you’ll obviously be spending most of your time! In the following categories, ideally pick items that are easy to layer, so you can adjust your attire as the temperature changes throughout the day/night:
Short sleeved shirts
Long sleeved shirts
Hiking pants or jeans
Sneakers for general use and hiking
Waterproof rain jacket (when camping in winter or areas with colder climates, also take a heavier jacket, such as a parka)
Hats (Brimmed hat to protect your face from the sun, and beanie-type hat for warmth when it’s cold)
When packing, focus on items made of durable fabric with moisture wicking capabilities, which can help with aspects like temperature regulation - as is the case with woolen socks rather than cotton. The amount of clothing you’ll need to bring depends on the length of the trip and where you plan to stay. Since storage space is limited, a smart approach is to take multiple sets of warm-weather clothing and just one or two sets of warmer items to layer on top.
Also, bear in mind that many RV parks provide on-site laundromats, so you may not have to pack an outfit for each day of your trip. Just make sure to confirm this amenity before setting out, factor in the cost of doing laundry on a regular basis into your budget, and pack accordingly.
Photo Credit: Atarin Michaeli
Toiletries and Personal Items
If you feel clean and comfortable you’ll likely enjoy your adventure more - as will your traveling companions! Luckily, you can still enjoy the luxury of proper personal care in an RV, so the toiletries you pack will look similar to any vacation’s kit - but search for eco-friendly alternatives that are biodegradable so they’ll quickly break down, so as not to harm the environment you’re camping in:
Sponge or washcloth
Shampoo and conditioner
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Razor and shaving cream
Face and body cream
Hair care products, including combs and hairbands
Prescription medicine in ample supply as needed
Feminine hygiene products
Towels (If possible, consider taking separate towels for beach and shower use)
Hand sanitizer or hand wipes
While on the road, store toiletries in a container away from other luggage, so liquids can’t leak onto anything if an accident occurs.
Sun and Mosquito Protection
You’ll still spend a ton of time outside even when RV camping, so you may not realize how much the environment will affect you when first planning your trip. No matter the weather, the sun can have a huge impact on your eyes, so a hat and sunblock are essential. You may want to consider lip balm with sun protection capabilities as well.
Insects can be bothersome, more so in some areas of the country than others, so insect repellent and anti-itch cream will be handy, especially in the early evening when insect activity is at its peak.
Photo Credit: Stijn te Strake
RV Kitchen Items and Food
Familiarize yourself with the new kitchen you’ll be preparing your food in, so you know what must be added to empower you to make delicious meals with minimal effort - while at the same time recognizing the limitations of your available space. Also, ensure it’s a safe area, especially if you have small kids camping with you. Be sure you’ll be able to maintain a sanitary environment as well.
The appliances you decide to take may depend on your power source. For example, when utilizing solar power you won’t want to drain the batteries too quickly, so you may want to take fewer electric kitchen gadgets.
Even when using gas during RV camping, it costs quite a lot in both money and effort to constantly replace propane tanks. Therefore, think of ways to use as little gas as possible, such as enjoying raw veggies, rather than having to cook them for every meal. Building a campfire at your campsite and using that to cook may be a viable option as well - and fun, too!
Apart from general items like plates, cups, glasses and silverware, the kitchen items to consider are:
One large pot
Sponge and dish towels
Chef knife and cutting board
Plastic storage containers / Tupperware / plastic wrap
Matches and lighter (always have a backup!)
Water filter and water bottles
Broom & dustpan
Cooking accessories: can opener, spatula, mixing spoon
Optional appliances: toaster, coffee maker, blender
Make sure what you take is suitable in size for your RV's oven, stovetop, and fridge.
For your grocery list it’s best to work out a menu in advance and buy ingredients accordingly. Consider planning meals that are easier to prepare, that you can make in bulk and retain leftovers for the future. Cooking meals prior to your trip in your home kitchen and then freezing them to bring with you is an excellent and convenient option as well. Everyone’s diets, tastes, and nutritional needs vary, but here is a suggested grocery list to get you started:
Coffee (ground rather than whole bean, to limit required accessories)
Peanut butter and jelly
Pasta & sauce
Vegetables (eat raw/cooked)
Batter mix (to use for pancakes, light cakes, and as a coating for fried foods)
Olive oil, salt & pepper
Herbs and spices
Frozen dinners that are easy to heat up, like pizza
Lastly, don’t forget the drinks and ice!
Photo Credit: Hanson Lu
First Aid Kit
Since there’s a good chance your wilderness adventures will take you far away from a doctor or hospital, double check your first aid kit’s contents before packing. In the RV it must be accessible, but for safety’s sake should be in a lockable container if kids are traveling with you:
The essentials are:
Band-aids / gauze / bandages / tape
Bottle of purified water
Instant ice pack
You can also consider the following if you have space, or if you’re camping in a very remote area:
Check out Pathloom’s guide to Wilderness First Aid for more tips!
General Camping Equipment
From making your time around the campfire comfortable to ensuring your black and grey water gets dumped appropriately, you need the right gear designed for all your camping needs. However, when packing general camping gear you still need to align it with your habits and preferences. For example, not everyone will need binoculars for bird watching, but other items on this list are relevant for most campers:
Lighters and matches
Drying rack or clothesline for clothes
Strainer to prevent food particles being dumped with grey water
Gloves and tools for hook-up and dumping of grey and black water
Engine essentials (transmission fluid, motor oil, antifreeze/coolant and hydraulic fluid)
Photo Credit: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos
It’s very likely that you’ll face some sort of DIY repair project during the RV adventure—at the very least you’ll need gadgets that help with camping-related circumstances. Before your first outing you may not know your preferences yet, but the following are considered essential by most RV campers:
Headlamps, flashlights, and solar lights
Basic tool kit: Hammer, screwdriver, wrench, etc.
Decide in advance to what extent you want to ‘unplug’ from technology while you’re out camping. You may want to leave all electronics related to entertainment, so you can focus on nature, but we suggest at the very least you keep communication items on hand and charged up in case of emergency. A list of other electronics to consider:
Laptop or tablet
Portable hotspot device (or phone with this capability)
DVDs with player (if a TV is available - you might not be able to stream!)
Appropriate chargers for all electronics
Packing for Pets
When pets travel along in the RV, pack everything you’ll need to look after them, keep them safe, and keep them from bothering other campers. Your RV packing list for pets could include:
Blankets and/or dog bed
Rope or tether to allow pet to move around but not run away
Photo Credit: Eugene Quek
Fun Items You May Want to Bring
This category isn’t exactly on the ‘essentials’ list since there is so much to do in the outdoors. Still, it’s often fun to pursue your favorite pastimes in a unique environment - and if the weather does turn bad you will need resources to keep everyone busy while you wait out the storm inside the RV.
Be sure to encourage the children to spend time in the fresh air, but playing games inside before going to bed could be a great bonding time for all. The following are especially appropriate for RV use:
Coloring books and crayons for smaller kids
Board games that only require a small table or are comfortable to play on a bed
You can enhance the experience of being outdoors with a few fun items from home. Depending on where you’re camping, the age range and interests of your companions, and the amenities on site, pick from this list:
Shovel and pail to play in the sand
A ball for use in the water, or for kicking around
Water toys and swimming goggles
Card games (also fun to use inside)
Books, magazines or a Kindle
Watersports equipment such as kayaks or SUP boards
There are many reasons why the RV industry is steadily growing. It’s an ideal way to experience the outdoors and have quality time with loved ones, while still enjoying a few luxuries. However, proper planning is vital if you want to make your first RV road trip an adventure worth remembering. Use our lists to guide you and you’ll be fully prepared to make memories on the road that will last a lifetime!
Thanks to Guest Blogger Isabelle Mariner for contributing this post to our site!
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