Thanks for your support! If you make a purchase using our links in this article, we may make a commission. And, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See the full disclosure here.
Seems like every time we go RVing we pack too many clothes and too much food. At the same time, we end up forgetting to pack sunglasses and bug repellent. If you are a newbie RVer, we have put together the best RV packing tips for beginners.
Between your research and the RV sales rep, you learned that your new coach has plenty of room for everything you need. Yet you’re still trying to figure out how you will fit everything. All of a sudden, all of that massive storage became tiny.
We’ll show you what you need with our RV packing tips for beginners. Following our RV packing tips for beginners in the order we present them will minimize the “MacGyvering” to make everything fit.
How Do You Pack for an RV Trip?
When packing for an RV trip, you should create category lists of everything essential to your vacation. Each list should focus on different subjects:
- RV essential accessories
- Emergency kits
- Grocery list
- Pet requirements
- RV outdoor furniture and RV outdoor kitchen supplies
- RV apps and backup hard copy tools
- Rainy day entertainment
Veteran RVers use these lists when they buy a new RV. You’ll find it easier scratching the item from a list rather than wasting 45 minutes trying to make something fit.
Packing for an RV trip shouldn’t take place the morning you’re about to leave. Your mind and emotions will be filled with many last-minute things. Veteran RVers learned from their own experiences that the RV packing tip for a beginner should have the mindset to start at least a week or two ahead of time, so you can think it through and do it the right way the first time.
What Should I Pack for My First Camping Trip?
In the Remote Period of the Modern Era (2020-Present), packing for a first camping trip can’t assume a family-friendly campground. With over 20% of Americans hitching up and rolling out, the diversity of RV destination options is plentiful.
The packing tips for a beginner heading out for a boondocking trip can be different than for someone heading to a KOA. A solo woman RVer looking to explore the U.S. national parks has different needs than a retired couple who wants to full-time at an RV resort.
There are some RV items that everyone should have with them regardless of RV style. How they customize those items to their specific needs is unique to them. Our RV packing tips for beginners below set the perspective to help everyone to start asking the right questions and solve the issues for themselves.
1. Pack Your RV Essential Accessories First
Your first priority for every RV packing tip for beginners and veterans is stowing your RV essential accessories. Before enjoying the RV lifestyle, you must ensure you can survive on the road. RV hoses, power cords, wheel chocks, linens, and RV safe TP (yes, they make 2-ply) must be on board. Most of the time, these items won’t ever leave the coach.
Check out our gear page to see all of the RV gear we use. Most of our gear is on its 5th season now and still going strong. If something breaks it comes off our list!
2. Stock Your RV Emergency Kits
4-5 RV emergency kits need to be fully stocked before you put the key in the ignition. These kits are there for those “just in case” scenarios we hope you never have to experience. That’s why they’re number 2 on our RV packing tips for beginner’s list.
- First Aid Kit
- Pet First Aid and Survival Kit (if applicable)
- RV Roadside Emergency Kit
- RV Survival Kit
- RV Tool Kit
3. Have Basic Tools in Your RV Tool Kit
Another great RV packing tip for beginners is to put together a good RV tool kit with reliable basic tools. If you look around your motorhome or travel trailer, you’ll see that the hardware used is usually Phillips screws, hexagon nuts and bolts, electric wiring, CPVC or PEX plumbing, and other components.
Over 90% of your RV can be repaired yourself with a little research, YouTube, and some advice from veteran RVers. To keep your RV tool kit small, some excellent multi-tool devices are on the market for small and medium-sized hardware.
Start with the basics and add to your collection when it’s needed. Fellow RVers may have rarely needed tools, so don’t be afraid to ask your friendly neighbor for some extra help.
4. Plan RV Meals That Are Easy To Make
Burgers, hot dogs, and cereal will get you through a camping weekend. Yet you can find thousands of RV meal ideas online that are easy to make. Some can be prepped and frozen beforehand, and others are quick and easy on your RV cooktop.
A quick search will even help you find those thematic recipes for RV tailgating, an RV thanksgiving, and other holiday dishes. Everyone will love these healthy meals that cook up in your RV kitchen.
Best of all, many of these food items take up little room in your RV refrigerator and pantry. Another excellent RV packing tip for beginners regarding food is that many of these RV meal plans are money-savers.
5. Bring All the Necessary Pet Supplies and Stuffies
According to a recent report, 44% of all RVers bring their dog along, and more than 4% RV with their cats. There are many ways to make your drivable or towable RV more pet-friendly. A significant portion of RV buyers will put the comfort of their four-legged fur baby on their required list when searching for the perfect RV.
An RV packing tip for beginners we always encourage for pet families is to spend some training time getting your dog or cat comfortable with the rolling house. Bringing their bed, kennel, food, and toys is one part of the equation. You also want to bring their license and vaccination paperwork. Also, have some recent photos of them in case their curiosity gets them lost.
6. Pack Light and Evenly
When packing everything, another important RV packing tip for beginners is to keep it light and even. When your RV’s weight is balanced, you’ll have better control while traveling. Also, you’ll use less fuel during the trip.
Using RV organization hacks like plastic bins and other storage organizers help you bring the most, balance your RV cargo weight, and still keep your RV relatively light.
Many RVers that go on long trips put together capsule wardrobes that serve multiple purposes. This handful of clothing items reduces valuable closet space and gives you plenty of wardrobe options when you need to “look the part” or get comfortable.
7. Pack RV Go Bags for Activities
Here’s an RV packing tip for beginners that some veteran RVers don’t practice. Create RV go bags for your various planned activities. Have a pre-loaded beach bag with all needed items like sun tan lotion, beach towels, and other things. Picnic bags have all of the dining ware and insulated pockets you need for a great day out.
Be creative with the different bags. These grab-and-go bags help ensure that you have everything you need and keep you organized. You may want to use a duffle bag for rainy day activities that don’t require a screen. Thinks like board games, cards, and craft projects.
8. Download All Your Apps & Handy Hardcopies
RV packing tips for beginners also include loading up your mobile devices. Have your tow vehicle or motorhome’s dashboard infotainment system set up with all of the apps you plan to use. Also, go through the initial login protocols and get familiar with how the app works on this screen.
We also recommend having a hard copy atlas and travel guide with you as well. Even with data boosting devices, the dead zones are out there. Paper doesn’t require electricity and is impervious to bad reception.
9. Don’t Forget Your Camping Outdoor Furniture
Why did Wally Byam create Airstream? Because his wife was sick of getting her dresses muddy (it was a little more complicated than that, but that was a factor).
Enjoying your RV’s outdoor living space can be your zen moment with the ideal RV camping chair. A stationary camping chair with a beverage holder could be nice. Some may want an RV folding rocking camping chair, a zero-gravity lounge, an oversized camping chair, or a heated camping chair for those late-season RV trips.
Whatever RV outdoor furniture pieces you decide on, don’t be the one who forgot that RV packing tip for beginners that forgot their camping chairs. Otherwise, you may have to buy an “off-the-rack” special that aggravates your sciatica.
10. Have an RV Checklist for Camping
The excitement is overwhelming, and you believe you have everything. Most RV newbies will hop in the driver’s seat and take off. This moment in time is the source of many problems on RV trips. Specifically, “Did we bring…,” “Did you remember to grab…,” or “I could swear I packed the…”
Suddenly, your Super Spouse/Parent status drops to the “rolling-eye ne’er-do-well person I must suffer.” That’s why we recommend double-checking those lists you created before leaving as the ultimate RV packing tip for beginners. After all, you have your Super status to protect.
11. Keep Your RV Packing Items Realistic
Overthinking can get you in trouble. The “what ifs” could have you end up packing many steamer trunks full of your entire wardrobe, fine china, and other unrealistic cargo. Yes,, some famous celebrities and noteworthy people RV in their off-hours. Unless they personally invite you to go camping with them, you don’t need to be prepared to meet them.
The RV packing tip for beginners here is to be realistic. Plan for your trip. If by chance you were to meet John Ratzenberger in his Little Guy Max, more than likely, he’ll be comfortably dressed just like you.
12. Leave The Bad Attitudes At Home
If no one has told you this, things go wrong in the RV lifestyle. How you handle the situation determines what kind of RV trip you’ll have. Many times, those situations turn into the best campfire stories ever.
You’ll have everyone laughing WITH you because they’ve had the same or a similar situation. For many, RVers use these bad situations and how they get through them as ways to earn their “RV Stripes.”
So, as an RV packing tip for beginners, stow the bad attitude, use your available resources, and you’ll get through whatever situation you go through. Just don’t let it bring you down.
13. Keep Your RV Below Its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum amount of weight your RV can safely hold. It’s required by the various RV regulatory agencies and set by the manufacturers.
When you over-pack your RV above the GVWR, the coach becomes more difficult to control while traveling. Also, if you are in an accident, your RV insurance company will tell you you’re out of compliance with your insurance policy, so they won’t pay.
14. Mind the Firewood and Campfire Restrictions
Campfires and camping go hand-in-hand. Due to the drought conditions in the western states, campfires have had to be either banned or regulated to above-ground stove devices.
Campgrounds now require that guests use wood from their suppliers. This is also a preventive measure to ensure that the wood is thoroughly dry and doesn’t contain any contaminants that could harm the local environment.
Our RV Camping Magazine subscribers can read the October 2021 RV Gear feature about portable campfire ideas. In our FREE digital magazine, we discussed many different campfire stoves and other ways you can enjoy the campfire experience safely that adhere to the fire ban regulations.
15. Unless You Have To, Leave Work at Work
The final RV packing tip for beginners on what not to bring is to leave work at work unless you must. There are some great coaches with RV office space, but if this RV vacation is your time to unwind, then mentally be on vacation.
Even if this is a weekend trip to your favorite local campground or boondocking destination, unplug, relax, and refresh yourself. Isn’t that the reason you decided to get into the RV lifestyle?
Final Thoughts on RV Packing Tips For Beginners
If you follow our RV packing tips for beginners, you have the best chance of having everything you need and want for your RV trip. You may still forget one or two things, but you’ll get better with practice. Hopefully, the things you forgot are cheaply replaced on the road.
Your RV trip starts the minute you start packing, so ensure the whole family is involved. Have the whole family involved in the trip plan too. You never know what the kids will find. They may surprise you with packing for a family hike.