When it comes to RVing, bigger isn’t always better. A smaller rig allows you to easily navigate state and national park sites, visit off-the-beaten-path destinations, and camp just about anywhere. But when it comes to storage, you need to get creative and find ways to maximize every square inch.
Looking to make room for everything you need, while keeping your small RV organized and clutter-free? Take inspiration from the modifications I made to my 22-foot-long, no-slide Forest River Ozark 1650BH travel trailer, which allowed my family of three (plus dogs) to spend nearly 3 months living, working, and schooling from the road, without leaving behind any essentials.
Add Underbed Storage
Underbed storage areas are a great space to keep essentials. However, they’re often difficult to access and the strain of lifting, bending, and digging around for items can quickly become a pain. To access this space more easily, install prefabricated drawers to make room for extra clothing and other storage.
Measure the space from the floor to the mattress to give you a guide to work with when searching for drawers that fit your space. For my rig, I used IKEA’s EKET cabinet with two drawers system. These include integrated push-openers that allow the drawers to open with a light push, but still keep the drawers securely closed while in motion. The drawers come in several widths, and by combining a few units I was able to assemble a drawer solution that spanned the length of the bed. I anchored the drawers to the floor using screws, then framed them by adding a wooden gray-stained trim to match the drawers.
This provides my family with lots of extra easily accessible storage, while still leaving room to store lesser-used items in the dead space behind the drawers. A similar approach can be used to access the space under dinette booth seats as well.
When making modifications that add weight to your rig, be sure you’re staying under your maximum vehicle weight (GVWR).
Make Better Use of Hanging Wardrobes
Many RVs come with a narrow hanging clothes cabinet. Often this cabinet wastes valuable space behind and above hanging clothes. To better access this underutilized space, transform the cabinet from a hanging wardrobe into a shelving unit for folded clothes. This is a relatively easy conversion, accomplished by installing a few homemade or store-bought brackets on the interior walls of the cabinet, then cutting lightweight shelves to the correct size to slide into the brackets. This frees up the entire height and depth of this cabinet for storage space.
Remove the bar that’s meant to hang clothes to add even more space, then pack the cabinet with labeled packing cubes or baskets to help keep things even more organized.
Create a Built-in Hamper
Finding storage space for your clothing in a small rig is challenging enough, but you also need to find somewhere to put those clothes once they’re dirty. Get creative by looking around for panels that can be removed to grant access to out-of-the-way spaces that are otherwise empty. Many RVs, even small ones, have hidden nooks that are perfect for storing dirty clothing.
In my rig, the area beneath my bedside table was empty and inaccessible. I gently pried the tabletop off, then reattached it using a piano hinge that allows me to easily lift and lower the table like a lid. Beneath the lid, I placed a fabric laundry bag, which collects any items that need washing. Come laundry day, it’s easy to grab this bag of clothes and head for the campground laundromat.
Remove a Bunk
Larger families love the convenience that built-in bunk beds offer when it comes time to sleep. But how practical are these bunks during the day? Some may find that two beds aren’t truly needed, especially for smaller kids. While an extra bunk makes for great storage space, it can also be haphazard and lead to disorganization. For those looking to really make the most of this space, think about removing a bunk altogether. This instantly makes your rig feel much bigger, and it’s usually simple to remove the screws that hold the bed in place.
Depending on the layout of your RV, you may be able to remove the top bunk or the bottom. In my Ozark, we removed the bottom bunk to gain additional floor space to use as a play area and remote schooling nook for my son, while also providing extra room for the dogs to roam. Once the bunk was removed, there was enough space for a bean bag chair and toys, and even a Christmas tree for the holidays.
In some RVs the area under the bunks is obscured by an outdoor kitchen, making the removal of the top bunk a better option. This is great to give kids and guests more room to move around, sit up fully, and enjoy a private space.
Small Additions Make a Difference
No matter the size of your rig, there are lots of easy ways to add storage space, even if you don’t want to make permanent changes to the structure of your RV. Self-adhesive shelves, baskets, spice racks, netting, and other small organizational items can be added throughout your rig to add functionality and help avoid feeling like you’re living in cramped quarters.