How to Pack Your RV for a Camping Trip

Apr 12, 2021 | Food & Camp Cooking

How to Pack Your RV for a Camping Trip

Ready for your next camping trip? This RV packing checklist outlines everything you need to know to pack your RV like a pro and hit the road stress-free.

By Togo RV

In this article:

Whether you’re a first-timer or a pro, packing your RV takes some forethought and planning. And even though it might seem like your RV has endless shelves, cabinets, and nooks and crannies, you’ll soon find that space is limited. To help make the most of your RV’s space, this RV packing checklist includes a few dos, don’ts, tips, and tricks of the trade.

Remember to space your heavy items throughout the RV to avoid weighing down one side of the rig. Do this both from front to back and side to side. Staying as light as possible is important to keep your rig under the necessary payload and towing capacity limits.


Documents and Important Information

When it comes to bringing along your important information, think about anything you might need to have documentation of while on the road. Your vehicle registration, campground reservations, and roadside assistance info, and all of your RV and camping packing lists should be kept in a folder for easy access. If you prefer to keep things digital, the Togo RV app stores your checklists and important RV and travel information in your profile.

Documents on a table in an RV

You’ll also need IDs and driver’s licenses, your RV manual (or access to a digital copy), your RV’s maintenance history, and any relevant medical documents or other personal items.

Make multiple copies of your important documents before you leave on your trip and keep the originals in a safe place.

Store your documents in a safe place, away from any moisture or excessive temperatures. A waterproof folder is ideal for keeping your documents dry and reduces exposure to humidity. Some RVers also use a clipboard or notebook when walking through their setup and breakdown checklists to mark their progress.

Electronics

Electrical diagnostic equipment

Adapters and Chargers

To start, remember to pack your electrical adapters. This goes for your phones, tablets, and computers as well as the bigger things, like 20-, 30-, and 50-amp adapters and cords for shore power. Also, throw in some electrical tape, a digital voltmeter/multimeter to check your battery, and a digital line monitor to test faulty wiring and monitor your AC voltage and generator frequency. It’s a good idea to pack a surge protector and extra fuses as well. (Find information about fuses in your RV owner’s manual.)

Lighting

It can get dark when the campfire starts to lose steam. Be sure to bring flashlights, lanterns, headlamps, and any extra lighting you can for inside and outside the RV at night. Adequate lighting is not just a convenience, it is a basic safety measure and a necessity. That also goes for bringing extra batteries and a charger for rechargeables.

Generator

If you plan on using a generator or have one in your RV, make sure you check it prior to departure and bring along any necessary cords or replacement parts. If you are getting energy from a solar panel system, bring all the necessary parts and replacements for that as well.

RV Toolbox

You’ll need both an emergency roadside safety kit and an RV toolbox to fix repairs on the go. This is where you will keep all of the essential tools you need to maintain your RV on the road. Many of these items are similar to what you need with a car or home, like a hammer, screwdriver, duct tape, jumper cables, and a tire pressure gauge. Other useful essentials include leveling blocks, wheel chocks, roof patches, and sealant. 

RV Tool Storage Tips

Storing your mechanical equipment can be a little tricky considering the space constraints of an RV. Don’t place tools next to containers full of caustic fluids. Make sure to safely store all your vehicle fluids, like coolant and oil, in a waterproof, airtight container or bin to avoid nasty spills. If you have exterior storage on your RV for tools and equipment, use it. If not, try to keep all of your tools organized neatly in a large, sturdy toolbox or a few smaller toolboxes scattered around the RV for weight distribution. Make sure to keep them out of reach of any small children.

Water

Unless you’re off to do some boondocking, it’s not advisable to travel with a full fresh water tank. That’s because an average 40-gallon tank will add an extra 334 pounds to the weight of your RV. So, pack water for the trip to make sure you have constant access to safe drinking water.

Related The Best Water Filters for Your RV

In addition to simply packing water, make sure to bring along any water filters you’ll need. A high-quality fresh water hose is a must to fill your fresh water tank when you get to your destination. A water pressure regulator is also highly recommended because the water from the RV campground might come out at very high pressure, which can cause damage to your RV. And be sure to check your water heater before you pack up and go.

If you’re traveling with cases of bottled water, keep them stored evenly across the RV and low to the ground. 

Bring along some purifying powder for impure water. You never know when you might need it, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Bathroom

Remember to pack your black water tank chemicals, sewer hose and attachments, and sanitation gloves. Before you leave on a trip, pour the black water tank chemicals into the toilet along with some water and a toilet deodorant. Each time you empty the tank, you’ll need to refill the treatment chemicals.

Interior view of RV bathroom decorated
Photo: Lindsey Chambers

Also, make sure you have your RV toilet paper and disposable cleaning wipes to clean your toilet quickly and painlessly.

Related Everything You Need to Know about RV Toilets and Black Tanks

Purchase a shower head that’s made specifically for RV showers. This will not only help with conservation, but it also provides a steady stream of good water pressure for your showers.

Hygiene and Health

First and foremost, you need a high-quality first-aid kit that will assist you in the event of any injuries during travel. Your first-aid kit should include antibiotic ointment, burn ointment, insect/animal bite treatment, gauze, bandages, scissors, and as many other essentials as you can fit. If you don’t have the time to amass your own kit, buy a pre-made one created specifically for camping. These kits are usually certified and include manuals to help you with basic care. Your first aid kit should be stored somewhere accessible where the entire family knows where to find it. It should always be put back in its designated place after use so no time is wasted trying to find it in an emergency.

Just as important is bringing along all necessary medicines. Include things like a pain reliever/fever reducer, a thermometer, anti-nausea/anti-diarrhea/heartburn medication, any prescription medications, allergy medications, cough syrup, eye drops, and vitamins.

Related How to Stock Your RV’s Medicine Cabinet

Make sure to bring along ample sun protection and aloe vera gel to soothe any burns. Don’t forget insect repellent, and consider packing a mosquito net for nighttime, especially if you’re traveling with children.

When it comes to maintaining your hygiene on the road, you’ll want to have most everything with you since campgrounds are light on amenities in this category. Try to find multipurpose toiletries to save on space and minimize additional weight.

Keep in mind that strong-smelling shampoos, soaps, or perfumes attract all kinds of insects. Keep your hygiene products simple and odor-free whenever possible.

Buy a few soft cases of various sizes for your hygiene products, like waterproof bags that close tightly so they can be stored in smaller spaces. If you pack all of your items in one big, sturdy bag, you’ll have a harder time stashing it in the precious space available. Your shower gear can be stored in your shower caddy or bucket and hung on your shower head, as long as it’s sturdy enough.

Clothing and Linens

What you bring in terms of wearables determines the ultimate comfort of your trip. A simple way to start packing your wearables is to list and imagine the different situations that could arise.

Woman carrying sheets

Wet Weather

Rain is a reality for any camper, and when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, appropriate rain gear can feel like a lifesaver. Make sure you bring rain boots, umbrellas, raincoats with hoods, and ponchos for those seasonal—and unexpected—storms.

Mud is a problem because it makes messes in your rig. Make sure to bring rags that you can use to wipe off boots, door mats to wipe your feet, extra socks, and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

Cold Weather

No matter where and when you’re traveling, you will want to prepare for the chance of chilly nights where you’re staying. Don’t forget a warm jacket, hats, gloves, thick socks, long underwear, and sweaters for those unexpected cold fronts. Extra blankets are also handy when sitting outside at the campfire.

Related Cold Weather Camping Gear: What to Pack For a Winter RV Adventure

Warm Weather

Hot weather can be just as much of an issue as cold. A sun hat, sunglasses, sun umbrella, and lightweight blankets for hot nights will help keep you comfortable and protected. Warmer weather also means packing your bathing suits and swim shoes. You can keep your RV cool with sun blockers and portable fans throughout. 

Bedding and Pillows

Some people choose to just rely on sleeping bags even when they sleep inside; others prefer to bring classic bedding with sheets, comforters, and pillowcases. Whatever you do, make sure you bring enough pillows for everyone to feel comfortable no matter where they sleep. Think ahead to how you are going to wash and dry any large bedding that gets dirty during the trip.

Related A Buying Guide to the Best RV Mattresses

Towels

As much as you want to pack lightly for your trip, you really can’t have too many towels. Make sure you bring hand towels as well as shower towels, pool towels, and clean-up towels or rags. Since you might not have a dryer available, having enough towels to get you through a rainy day or a family trip to the showers is essential for everyone’s comfort.

Camping Gear

Let’s talk about your tent. If you’re a newbie, you may be thinking, “I don’t need a tent, that’s the entire reason I bought an RV in the first place!” But many RVers find themselves pitching a tent now and then during their trips. It’s never a bad idea to bring one along if you have room.

Of course, if you plan on camping outside for one night or more, there will be some additional supplies that you will need to make your night peaceful and safe.

Campsite set up next to a lake
  • Camping pads: A must-have to keep you at the base level of comfort in your tent and to keep you dry in case your tent leaks or the ground is wet. Based on your desires, needs, and budget, you can get anything from a full-blown air mattress to a minimalist ultra-light air pad. What you choose will depend on the weather, your personal preference, your budget, and the size of your tent.
  • Sleeping bags: Make sure you’ve got one for each person and that you have them rolled and stored as tightly as possible.
  • Accessories: For added comfort, bring along an extra tarp for the ground, flashlights, and extra blankets, and, of course, good ghost stories.

Entertainment

Electronics

Depending on your RV WiFi situation, you may or may not decide that it’s worth it to bring along a ton of electronics. Still, if you have work to do or kids to entertain, bringing a laptop and charger is probably a good idea. Don’t forget to download any movies or TV shows you want to watch before you leave to save battery life.

Some other products for entertainment that RVers favor are a portable stereo, headphones, e-readers, tablets, and an outdoor movie projector

Related 22 Fun RV Accessories You Didn’t Know You Needed

Family outside an RV playing games

Indoor Entertainment Ideas for RVing

There are many ways to entertain yourself indoors on a rainy day while RVing. Consider bringing along books, board games, a deck of cards, a yoga mat, an arts and crafts box, and coloring books.

Outdoor Entertainment Ideas for RVing

Outdoor entertainment is endless. Some RV camping favorites to bring include binoculars, hammock, volleyball net, sports balls, badminton, squirt guns, bird watching kit, pool floats or boogie boards, goggles, and comfy camp chairs.

Kitchen Essentials

For easy kitchen packing, put some thought into meal planning to help make sure you bring the essentials—and skip the unnecessary.  

Refrigerator

An RV refrigerator and a normal refrigerator are not the same. Your RV refrigerator needs proper ventilation to work properly, so it should never be overstuffed with items, and you’ll want to use an RV fridge cooling fan. You also should organize your items based on weight. Heavy stuff should go at the bottom of the fridge, and lighter stuff should go on top. Use a level to check that the fridge is balanced.

You need to take extra care to make sure that your refrigerator door stays closed while on the road with RV refrigerator tension bars that are created specifically for this purpose. Bungee cords also come in handy. Avoid storing easily spillable liquids in your fridge and store everything in airtight containers.

Remember that an RV refrigerator is subject to the outside temperature, so you need to keep an eye on the refrigerator’s temperature and adjust it based on how hot or cold it is outside. It might be a good idea to have some extra ice on hand in a cooler if you’re going to be traveling during hot summer days. In extreme heat, you cannot always rely on your RV to stay cold enough to protect your meat and frozen foods.

A couple cooking in an RV

Food

Your RV food list won’t differ too much from your typical grocery list, except it will depend a little more heavily on non-perishable and canned items.

Outdoor Cooking

Friends hanging out outside an RV near a lake cooking on BBQ

For outdoor cooking, you can’t go wrong with a Dutch oven for any over-the-fire meals you want to make. You’ll also want a cast-iron skillet, a camp stove, or an electric skillet or griddle. Skewers are useful when grilling, and they can double as s’more sticks. 

Clean-up and Storage

The easiest way to eat while camping is to use paper plates, napkins, and plasticware. However, reusable tableware is the more environmentally responsible choice. Make sure you bring dish soap, sponges, and a drying rack for all clean-up, as well as paper towels.

For storing food, you’ll want all the basics—aluminum foil, plastic wrap, baggies, and reusable containers.

Cookware and Utensils

Cookware is heavy, cumbersome, and sometimes breakable, so many RVers only pack the bare minimum. For most campers, this just means a few pots and pans, a coffee maker, a baking dish, a baking sheet, and anything extra you need for the kids. The utensils you’ll need depends on your food list and how often you plan to eat outside. Some staples include a spatula, tongs, serving spoons, serving trays, a salad bowl, and a wooden spoon. And don’t forget a can opener and probe thermometer.

Related Must-Have RV Kitchen Accessories

Packing for Kids

There’s nothing better than bringing your kids along for an RV adventure and watching them experience camping and exploring. However, there are some added concerns that you need to be aware of when it comes to packing for and traveling with kids. 

A family stepping into an RV

Related 6 Quick Tips: Packing for RV Camping with Kids

Having kids with you means there are more people to manage and organize in the RV. Keep things organized and easily accessible for the family by storing items in clear, transparent containers so that your kids can easily find their clothes, toys, and gear.

Invest in packing extra clothes since kids tend to soil their clothing (and yours) more quickly. And of course, if you have babies or young children with you on the road, be sure to add diapers, wipes, bottles and a bottle washer, and baby sleep gear.

Related What It’s Like Taking an RV Road Trip With a Baby

You can find some pretty cool kids’ packs that are specifically geared toward bringing kids along on camping trips, and you can find kid-sized camping pads and other camping gear.


Packing for an RV outing can be overwhelming at first, but with this guide and Togo RV’s handy checklists, you’re already well on your way to becoming an RV packing pro.

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