You’ve finally decided: it’s time to take a trip in an RV. You’re embracing this choose-your-own-adventure style of travel, which magically comes with a comfortable bed and a refrigerator.
No sooner has your RV rental been approved than you get a knot in your stomach.
It’s time to pack!
What will you need in the RV? What will you forget? How in the world will everything fit?
If your upcoming RV adventure is being overshadowed by packing stress, then that needs to stop right now. The sooner you understand that RV trips are about making memories, not the stuff piled around you, the sooner you’ll be free to enjoy this exciting opportunity.
Here’s your no-stress, no-frills, comprehensive packing guide for your upcoming RV trip.
Why Does Packing Matter So Much?
Strategic packing is important for obvious reasons, and some not so obvious. First of all, there are important items you will want to have with you. Without planning, you’ll find yourself spending money on items you could’ve brought from home.
Second, you’ll want to keep the clutter down. RVs are carefully designed to maximize livable space. But too much stuff can quickly cause you to feel overwhelmed. This is why it’s so vital to bring only the things you need, so you can focus on the experience…not shifting a mess around so you have a place to sit down.
The third reason packing is important may not be obvious to a new RV user: carrying capacity. With full tanks of gas and fresh water, plus multiple people onboard, your RV may not have the carrying capacity to pack out every square inch of available storage space.
Let’s use a real-world example to put this into perspective. Do you know the carrying capacity of a 4-door Jeep Wrangler is around 1,300 pounds, compared to the Class C Winnebago View carrying capacity of about 1,400 pounds? With the available storage space in the View and many other RV models, it’s certainly possible to exceed the weight limit.
Don’t worry too much. You won’t hit your capacity with reasonable amounts of clothing and kitchen ware. But start throwing in your bag of golf clubs and ski equipment for four people, and you may need to run some calculations. (Pro tip: you can hit the scale at any large truck stop to find out how much your RV weighs fully loaded. Just don’t forget to add in the weight of the people onboard!)
Essential RV Packing Checklist
If you’re new to RVing, you may be confused about what you absolutely need for your RV trip. Here are a few categories to review, with some items you can easily bring from home (and avoid buying on your trip). The list might need to be adjusted for you, depending on time of year and the activities you have planned.
- Plates, bowls, cups, and cutlery
- Pots and pan depending on your group size
- Cooking utensils, such as a spatula, wooden spoon, and ladle
- Tupperware and/or Ziploc bags for leftovers
- Condiments and spices to match your meal plan
- Aluminum foil
- Paper towels
- Trash bags
- Multi-purpose cleaner
- Dish sponge or rag
- Dish soap
We highly recommend planning your meals in advance if you can. That way, you can bring certain ingredients from home, like condiments and spices. If you plan to have electrical hookups, the Instapot is many RVers’ best friend. If you plan to dry camp instead, our pro tip is to wash and prep your produce at home, while you still have plenty of water to use.Note: all AdventureKT rentals come with utensil tray, paper towels, Organic Simple Green Counter and Kitchen Spray Cleaner, dish sponge, and dish drying rack. A complete kitchen/cooking set for 4 is available to rent. Other kitchen add-ons include a toaster and Keurig coffee maker.
Bring an outdoor grill to facilitate tasty meals with a view. Don’t forget a grill mitt and any grill utensils you may want to use.
Note: AdventureKT has barbecue grills available for rent.
Consider bringing similar bedding to what you use at home, to get your best night’s sleep on the road.
Note: AdventureKT has bedding available for rent. Our bedding/linens/towels package stocks your RV for the number of people selected. We’ll even contact you for your preferences, such as sleeping bags vs. traditional sheets and blankets. No linen laundry when you get home!
Pack season-appropriate clothing, but make sure you check the forecast at your destination. If you’re going to a high-elevation location, you might be surprised by how much cooler it is there.
Clothing is an area where you can go overboard. There’s little reason to pack more than a week’s worth of clothing, given the prevalence of laundromats in nearly every small town across the country. Remember, you want to keep clutter and weight down! Just make sure to pack laundry detergent and quarters, so you’re ready when you do run across a laundromat.
Don’t forget your toiletries, so you can avoid the cost of replacing them on the road. Sunscreen and bug spray are must-haves.
If you have a long drive ahead of you, consider how you’ll stay entertained. Design a special playlist, have podcast episodes in the queue, or pull out that book-on-CD that’s been buried for a few months.
Entertaining the little ones is important for everyone’s sanity. Have a handful of new coloring books, puzzle books, and small toys ready to pull out. The novelty goes a long way.
A huge part of any RV road trip is the time you get to spend outside. For that reason, you should consider your “patio” area and how you can comfortably relax outdoors. Depending on the storage space in the RV you rent, you should consider bringing an outdoor rug (to keep the mess down), patio chairs, and a small folding table for holding drinks and personal items.
Note: all AdventureKT rentals come with a long stem lighter. Our complete outdoor camp essentials package comes with propane BBQ, BBQ utensils, 4 folding camp chairs, outdoor rug, 550 lumen LED lantern, outdoor folding table, table cloth, and wind clamps.
If you’re traveling to a No Open Fire area, then you can still have all the pleasures of a campfire with our Forest Service-approved campfire-in-a-can propane campfire set up. This set up is approved for no fire zoned areas. In late 2015, most campsites in California were fire restricted and this little baby was the super hero! Don’t get caught without the real deal to make those s’mores. Does not include a propane bottle. Uses standard 5-gallon propane tank fittings.
Other RV Gear
You won’t go far without your RV gear! You’ll need a potable water hose (which you should only ever use for potable water), and a septic hose for dumping grey and black water. Most RVs come equipped with their own electric cord, but you may need an adaptor at some RV parks. For example, a 30 amp to 50 amp adaptor, or vice versa.
Note: all AdventureKT rentals come with a potable water hose, water pressure regulator, septic hose, septic drop-ins, septic hose riser, sanitation gloves, RV toilet paper, cable TV cable, and leveling blocks. We provide a hand broom and dust pan for cleaning, plus a long handle broom for RVs over 24-feet. Last, but not least, we ensure your propane tank is filled at least half-way.
Review our full add-on list to ensure you have everything you want for your upcoming adventure. We also have an article called “10 RV Camping Essentials You Absolutely Must Pack for Your Road Trip” that you can review before you go.
How Do I Pack for My Specific RV Type?
You now have a general RV packing checklist. But what storage considerations should you keep in mind, depending on the type of RV you’re renting? Here’s a quick run-down of the storage space you should expect from your RV rental.
Class B Van
Class B RVs allow you to achieve your #vanlife dreams! They have the least amount of storage, due to their small size. You should expect small overhead storage compartments and no external storage.
What Class Bs lack in storage, they make up for in mobility and maneuverability. If you want to travel often and easily, it’s difficult to beat this RV type. You might even find yourself stealth camping in a place you could never park a Class A.
Our travel trailers range in length from 21-feet to 25-feet. External storage is minimal, but remember you can store items in the bed of your tow vehicle. Our Keystone Bullet 1900RD has a pass-through storage bay accessible from the outside. Our Wildwood X-Lite travel trailer also has pass-through storage, and the most overall storage of our travel trailer options.
Inside, you’ll find more cabinet storage than a Class B, simply due to the longer length. But just because you have the cabinet space, doesn’t mean you should fill it all! Remember to keep carrying capacity in mind as you pack.
Meet me in the middle with a Class C RV, known for its cab-over bunk bed. Exterior bay storage and larger overhead cabinets offer more room for families. Paired with the ability to sleep 5-8 people, depending on the model, these units are definitely among the most popular in our fleet.
Ah, Class A. The good life. If you’re struggling to narrow down your packing list, this RV class type will maximize your storage, inside and out.
Class As are a really good option if you plan to stay in one area for a few days. You’ll be able to stretch out a bit and avoid feeling like the walls are closing in around you. But if you envision yourself moving frequently, you may find the large size decreases your maneuverability.
When it comes to choosing the right RV type for you, budget should not be your only consideration. Spend some time thinking about how you want to use your RV. Do you want to have full hookups or dry camp? Do you want to move every day, or stay in one place for a week? Our team of experts is always happy to discuss the options with you, to ensure you’re satisfied with your RV rental.
What to Leave at Home
Don’t let packing concerns detract from the wonderful adventure you are about to embark on. As you prepare, remember why you’re doing this. It isn’t to have all the material comforts of home, but to get away from home–into nature and new experiences.
At the end of the day, we hope you’ll use this as an opportunity to spend time with your family and make memories, even if there are a few humorous moments learning how to make do without XYZ. With a sense of humor, you don’t need much.
Travel writer Brittany Highland is adventuring through her sixth year of full-time travel. After exploring the continental United States for the first five years in a Class A diesel RV, she and her husband downsized to their Jeep Wrangler. With their two-year-old, nicknamed #LittleNomad, they overlanded through the interior of Mexico in early 2019. The couple now bounces between their Jeep and a Winnebago View, moving the convoy every few days while working full-time. You can follow Brittany on RVWanderlust.com, Jeepsies.com, and all the related social platforms. Within the next few years, she plans to begin overlanding around the world.