How to Pack Your RV

Everything you need to know to pack like a pro and hit the road stress-free

Introduction

Pack light. Pack right.

Whether you’re a first-timer or a pro, packing your RV takes some forethought and planning. 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 Togo RV Guide includes a few dos, don’ts, tips, and tricks of the trade. Are you ready to get packing?

What’s up, documents?

Your documents might be the last thing on your mind when you are getting ready for an RV adventure, but in reality, this is one of the most important categories. Bringing the right papers and keeping them safe and organized throughout your trip is essential to staying safe—and sane—on the road.

So many papers!

When it comes to packing your papers, think about anything you might need to have documentation of while on the road. Your vehicle registration, campground reservations, roadside assistance info, and all of your packing lists should be kept in a folder where you can easily access them. (Unless, of course, you have downloaded the Togo RV app, which stores nearly all your most important information in the palm of your hand.)

You'll also need checks, IDs, credit card information, bank account information, your vehicle manual or at least a digital copy, any car maintenance history documents and any relevant medical documents or other personal items for yourself and your family.

PRO TIP: Make multiple copies of all your important documents before you leave on your trip. Keep the originals in a safe place you never need to access, and rely on the copies for day-to-day organization. That way you're sure to keep the originals safe and dry when you need them. Or just download the Togo RV app today!

Safe, secure, smudge-free

Just as important as having the right papers is properly storing them in a safe place, away from any moisture or excessive temperatures. A waterproof folder is a great way to keep your documents dry and reduce exposure to humidity.

If you really want to up your organization game, bring along a clipboard or notebook to hold your checklist while you update lists and mark your progress.

Make it easy on yourself and get access to your Togo RV Packing Checklist now.

Electronics

Let’s get electrical.

You might feel like you’re in the dark when you contemplate what to pack first. No worries. This list will help you jumpstart the process.

To start, remember to pack your electrical adapters. This goes for not only your phones, tablets, and computers, but the bigger things, like 20-, 30-, and 50-amp adapters and cords for shore power. No shore power, no fun. Also, throw in some electrical tape, a digital volt meter/multimeter to check your battery, and a digital line monitor to test faulty wiring and monitor your AC voltage and generator frequency. While we’re at it, pack a surge protector and extra fuses as well. (Find information about fuses in your RV owner’s manual.)

Light the way

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.

Generators and solar panels need love, too

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.

Tools and Materials

You don’t have to be a mechanic to pack like one.

Sure, your RV is your home away from home, but at the end of the day, it’s still a vehicle, and it needs to be treated like one. Be sure you pack all of the basics (and then some) you would keep in your car for a long trip.

At a minimum, you'll want:

  • Jumper cables
  • Oil/coolant
  • Wheel chocks
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Parking bricks
  • Road hazard lights

You'll also need to buy or create your own RV toolbox. This is where you will keep all of the essential tools you need to maintain your RV on the road. Here is a general list of what you'll want to include:

  1. Wire stripper
  2. Nails/nuts/bolts/screws/washers
  3. Duct tape
  4. Ratchet and socket set
  5. Standard wrench
  6. Pliers
  7. Hammer
  8. Utility knife
  9. Cordless drill with assorted bits and nut drives
  10. Funnels
  11. Disposable gloves
  12. Vice grips
  13. Multi-bit screwdriver
  14. Allen wrenches
  15. Zip ties
  16. Sealant or seal tape

Tools and fluids don’t mix

Storing your mechanical equipment can be a little tricky considering the space constraints of an RV. But don’t try to cut corners and place your tools, like screwdrivers, next to containers full of caustic fluids. It’s a recipe for disaster.

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 for the Road

Operation: Hydration

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.

In addition to simply packing water, you'll need to bring along any filters you use on your faucets. A fresh water hose is a must, or you won’t be able to fill your fresh water tank when you get to your destination. And unless you’re a glutton for discomfort, be sure to check your water heater before you pack up and go.

Lastly, save yourself a trip to the store and grab your water bottles and packs to stay hydrated on the trail.

Avoid a wave of bottled water

If you’re traveling with cases of bottled water, keep them stored evenly across the RV and low to the ground. The last thing you want is to take a corner and have a 30-pound case of water rocket across your RV.

PRO TIP: 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.

Toiletries

Up a creek without a paddle.

Your RV toilet is a gift from above. It keeps you civilized in the most uncivilized locations. So you need to treat it with love and care, which is why we have an entire Togo RV Guide about its maintenance. This section is about the absolute necessities for your civilized self.

That said, remember to pack your black water tank chemicals, sewer hose and attachments, and sanitation gloves. Forget any of these items, and the only thing you’re flushing down the drain is a good time camping.

We won’t wade into the debate over whether regular toilet paper or RV-specific toilet paper is best. Let’s just say one way or the other, you’ll need T.P. So pack it. That goes for disposable cleaning wipes, as well, to clean your toilet quickly and painlessly.

If you've got all these necessities packed and ready to go, you should be able to look forward to enjoying relatively modern plumbing no matter where you find yourself.

Hygiene and Health

The essentials of hygiene, health, and first aid.

Now that we've covered the basics of packing everything you need for your vehicle, we can focus on what you and your family will need to pack as personal items. First and foremost, you need to buy a high-quality first aid kit that will assist you in the event of any injuries during travel.

Your first aid kit should absolutely 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.

Just as important is bringing along all necessary medicines. Here is a quick packing list of what you should carry along in your portable medicine cabinet:

  • Pain reliever/fever reducer (child/adult)
  • Thermometer
  • Anti-nausea/anti-diarrhea/heartburn medication
  • Prescription medications
  • Allergy medication/EpiPens
  • Inhalers
  • Cough syrup
  • Homeopathic medications, if applicable
  • Multivitamins
  • Eye drops/ear drops

PRO TIP: Remember to bring along any written instructions for the medicine if the dosage is not directly written on the bottle or pack of pills, as well as any necessary measuring spoons to properly administer the dosage.

Next on the list will be protecting yourself and your family from the elements. Make sure to bring along ample sun protection—sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and aloe vera gel to soothe any burns—as well as insect repellent for those nights by the campfire. We will discuss some other forms of protection, such as insect nets, in the next section.

Last comes your toiletries. When it comes to maintaining your hygiene on the road, keep in mind that you will need to have everything with you since you won't be getting much help from the campgrounds. Here is a list of must-haves:

  • Shower shoes
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Body soap
  • Nail clippers
  • Razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Body lotion
  • Face lotion
  • Make-up
  • Make-up remover
  • Q-tips
  • Cotton swabs
  • Bucket or travel caddy for the shower
  • Loofa
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Heavy-duty hand cream
  • Laundry detergent
  • Stain remover
  • Fabric softener
  • Clothes pins/wire

PRO TIP: 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, and leave the perfume at home.

Storing your hygiene and health gear

Now that you've got an idea of what to pack, it's time to think about how to store it all conveniently. It is probably easiest to 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 is sturdy enough not to fall over while you’re driving. If your trip is short enough, it will be helpful to buy the travel-size options of toothpaste, shampoo, etc. But if you're traveling with a family, this won't be an option.

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 that no time is wasted trying to find it in an emergency.

Clothing and Linens

Pack the right clothes. Plan for the wrong weather.

“Clothing and linens” is usually the category that comes to mind when we think about "packing," and that's because what you bring in terms of wearables determines the ultimate comfort of your trip. If you forget rain boots, or a campfire blanket, or a sleeping pad, you'll feel the loss until you force yourself out to the nearest store to buy a replacement. Give this section a few read throughs until you are confident that you have what’s needed to feel prepared at every step of your journey. Or use the checklists in the Togo RV app.

A simple way to start packing your wearables is to list and imagine the different situations that could arise, like below.

Rain

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, rain coats with hoods, and ponchos for those seasonal—and unexpected—storms.

Mud

Mud is a problem because it makes messes! 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, a vest, hats, gloves, thick socks, long underwear, and sweaters for those unexpected cold fronts. It might seem cumbersome to lug all of this along with you, but when you don't have these items, there's no real replacement.

Hot 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.

On the bright side, hot weather means packing your swim trunks, workout clothes, and hiking boots!

Insects

Technically not weather, but you might mistake a swarm of nasty mosquitoes for a bad storm. You might want to consider bringing along a mosquito net for night time, especially if you're traveling with children. Long sleeves and long pants are also recommended for those nights by the campfire.

Bedding and pillows

There are a lot of different ways you can tackle the issue of bedding when RV camping. 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.

Towels

As much as you want to pack lightly for your trip, you really can't have too many towels. Make sure you bring towels to dry your hands 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.

Comfort

Don't hesitate to bring along blankets for the campfire, snuggly sweatshirts, knit caps, and anything else that will help add that comfortable campfire feeling to your trip.

Camping Gear

Camping gear and fireside essentials.

How have we made it this far without discussing the all-important camping gear? It’s time to tackle these fun fireside essentials.

First things first, 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.

  • 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 (colder nights mean more heavy-duty pads), your personal preference (how important is back comfort to you?), 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

The three categories of entertainment.

Now for the fun part. Take some time to brainstorm with your fellow adventurers on what entertainment items you want to bring along with you. For this section, there are no right or wrong answers, but it is generally a good idea to organize your entertainment lists into three sections: electronics, indoor entertainment, and outdoor entertainment.

Electronics

Depending on your generator/solar power/RV Wi-Fi situation, you may or may not decide that it's worth it to bring along a ton of electronics. After all, some people choose to embrace RVing in an attempt to escape these kinds of things. 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 ideas include: a boom box for the campfire, headphones for private listening, Kindles, tablets, and of course, don't forget your cell phone!

PRO TIP: Don’t. Forget. Your. Chargers!

Indoor
There are many ways to entertain yourself indoors on a rainy RV day. Here is some inspiration for both adults and kids:

  • Books (they’re heavy, so only pack the ones you're sure to read!)
  • Magazines
  • Coloring books and colored pencils (great for any age)
  • Yahtzee
  • Deck of cards
  • Chess/checkers board
  • Board games
  • Dominos
  • Pen and paper for charades
  • Yoga mat
  • Arts and crafts box
  • Play-Doh (if you're brave!)
  • Paint and easel (only serious hobbyists for this one; otherwise it won't be worth the weight and size)

Outdoor
Outdoor entertainment is endless! Here are some favorites:

  • Binoculars
  • Telescope
  • Deck of cards
  • Volleyball net/ball
  • Sports balls
  • Badminton
  • Hammock
  • Swinging rope
  • Magnifying glass
  • Squirt guns
  • Marshmallow shooter
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Bird watching kit
  • Boogie boards/kickboards
  • Goggles
  • Swim cap
  • Swim shoes
  • Flippers

Kitchen Essentials

The perfect kitchen for every home away from home.

The kitchen is the heart of the home whether you are on the road or not. Because of the importance of the kitchen, packing it up can feel like an insurmountable challenge. Rest assured, it's not. All you need is to put some thought into meal planning to help make sure you bring the essentials—and skip the unnecessary.  

Refrigerator

There are a few important things to consider when packing your refrigerator. First of all, 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 over-stuffed with items. You also should organize your items in terms of weight. Heavy stuff should go at the bottom of the fridge, and lighter stuff should go on top.

It's a good idea to avoid storing easily spillable liquids in your fridge. Use your fridge to bring along necessary food staples like meat, milk, condiments, and diced veggies. You can keep liquids like leftover soup in airtight plastic Tupperware containers.

You will need to take extra care to make sure your refrigerator door stays closed while on the road. Luckily, you can buy special RV refrigerator tension bars that are created specifically for this purpose.

Here is a quick list of some other RV refrigerator essentials that will help keep your food safe and secure:

  • RV fridge cooling fan
  • Bungee cords
  • Clear Tupperware containers
  • Command hooks for the fridge or freezer
  • RV fridge tension bars
  • A level to check that fridge is balanced
  • Plastic food safe containers to store spillable liquids

Remember that an RV refrigerator is subject to the outside temperature, so you will 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 the very hot days of summer. In extreme heat, you cannot always rely on your RV to stay cold enough to protect your meat and frozen foods.

Food

Okay, let's talk about 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. Here is a good list of essential RV foods to get you started:

  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Sliced bread
  • Dinner rolls
  • Taco kit
  • Stir-fry kit
  • Frozen pizzas
  • Pasta and tomato/alfredo sauce
  • Eggs
  • Avocado
  • Ready-made pancake mix
  • S'more ingredients
  • Canned soup
  • Burgers, buns, and toppings
  • Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, steak sauce
  • Bratwurst
  • Steaks
  • Bacon
  • Deli meats
  • Coffee
  • Milk
  • Chocolate pudding
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Coleslaw
  • Oil/cooking spray
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

Outdoor cooking

Half the fun of camping is cooking on an open fire or barbeque! For outdoor cooking, you can't go wrong with a big Dutch oven for any over-the-fire meals you want to make for the group. You'll also want a couple of cast-iron skillets to make some fried eggs and bacon in the morning.

If you're looking to barbeque, it might be easiest to stick to steaks and brats, but if you want to do kebabs, make sure you cut up the chicken and veggies ahead of time and bring skewers (which can double as s'more sticks!).

Clean-up and storage

Of course, the easiest way to eat while camping is to use paper plates, napkins, and plasticware, and if it's your first time on the road, this might be the safest option. However, if you're a little more experienced and want to lend a hand to the environment, reusable plasticware is the more responsible choice. Make sure you bring dish soap, sponges, and a drying rack for all clean-up, as well as a ton of paper towels.

For storing food, you'll want all the basics—aluminum foil, plastic wrap, Ziploc bags of all sizes, and Tupperware containers.

Cookware and utensils

Cookware is heavy, cumbersome, and sometimes breakable, so it is totally reasonable to only bring the bare minimum. For most campers, this just means a few pots and pans, a coffee maker of some sort, a baking dish for lasagna and the like, a cookie sheet, and anything you need for the kids. The utensils you'll need will depend on your food list and how often you plan to eat outside. However, some staples include your spatula, tongs, serving spoons, serving trays, a salad bowl, and a wooden spoon.

Packing for Kids

Little kids equal big packing considerations.

There's nothing better than bringing the little ones on an RV adventure. Kids add magic and joy to the most ordinary circumstances, so watching them experience camping, exploring, and adventuring is next-level joy for everyone. However, there are some added concerns that you need to be aware of when it comes to packing for and traveling with kids. (For more specific information about traveling with kids, see our article, Packing for an RV trip with kids.)

Of course, having kids with you means that there will simply be more people to manage and organize in the RV. This means that organization is key. One great way to keep things organized and easily accessible for the family is to store your things in clear, transparent containers so that your kids can easily find their clothes, toys, and gear.

Another tip is to invest in packing extra clothes for the little ones and for yourself, since kids tend to soil their clothing (and your clothing) a lot 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 bottle washer, and baby sleep gear to the sections above.

Luckily, you can find some pretty cool kids’ packs that are specifically geared towards bringing kids along on camping trips, and you can find kid-sized camping pads and other camping gear at your local equipment store. There's nothing stopping your little ones from joining in on the fun and beginning their own RVing obsession!

Conclusion

Now go pack already!

Packing for an RV outing can be overwhelming at first. With this guide and Togo RV's handy checklists (here and here), you are already well on your way to tackling the beast we call RV packing. That means you and your family and friends can get on the road to fun faster!

Did you find this Togo RV Guide helpful? Then share it with your friends in high—and low—places. Don’t forget to tell them that Togo RV got you to your first campfire of the season speedy quick. With a spotless rig, a smile on your face, and two tanks of propane to boot.

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