RV Packing List and Tips for First Timers

by Kimberley McGee

A roomy rec vehicle through RVshare or local RV renting company is an affordable alternative to crammed flights, expensive hotels and tent camping adventures. If you’ve decided to rent an RV but are a little nervous (like us!) take the sting out of setting out in a rumbling RV and pack well. If you aren’t sure what type of RV you need, worried about driving, insuring or caring for the RV? Check out how to “Drive an RV without Fear.”

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Kitchen Essentials for RVing

Be prepared to bring all your favorites, but understand that the fridge is smaller than you are used to. Don’t overpack it! It needs to be able to keep cool and stay shut when you’re rockin’ down the road. Put more non-perishables on your list and pick up fresh food as you go as much as possible.

Check that the RV has plates, glasses, silverware and all that. Make sure you have a good knife, can opener, bottle opener and towels. I like the reusable dishcloths that dry out quickly and don’t leave a soggy mess in the sink. They are good scrubbers as well as absorbent towels when dry and relatively inexpensive. I’ve even used them to wipe up greasy messes, thrown them in the wash and they come out like new.

Packing for The Fam

While you need to be aware of space, don’t skimp on extra clothes. Kids are going to get dirty, wet and generally wear their good time all over their clothes. Have a set of clothes for eating out (trust me) and extra clothes to change into when they have gone too far in the creek or rolled, accidentally or on purpose, down a muddy hill.

Bring layers! It gets cold at night in many of the places you may venture to. Bring extra diapers for littles and sweaters for all and you won’t have to scramble for sad substitutes on your vaca. If space is limited, try rolling the clothes in tight cylinders and sliding them into the luggage or available drawers. Stand them on end so you (or your kids!) can quickly see them and pull them out without rifling through all the clothes on top.

Accessories are key. Hats, sunglasses, raincoats or other weather-resistant jacket and shoes for all terrains (i.e., don’t just bring hiking shoes and flip flops).

Pack sheet sets folded nicely and slipped into the pillowcase so it’s nice and tidy, easy to find. Extra pillowcases can come in handy and are easy to switch out if they get dropped or dirtied. Don’t forget the chargers, sunscreen, toothpaste, batteries and toiletries you absolutely must have (for me it’s moisturizer and chapstick).

The Business Basics

Here’s a good list of all you will need, and then some, for hitting the road with safety and emergency products in place. The RV you rent should have most of these things, but double-check before you are in the high desert without battery jumper cables.

  • Battery jumper cables
  • Flashlights (big and little for lots of hands)
  • Surge protector
  • Electrical adapters
  • Toilet chemicals
  • RV-friendly toilet paper (check with the owner of the RV you are renting)
  • Water pressure regulator
  • Drinking water hose
  • Leveling blocks
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Extension cords
  • Sewing kit
  • Wheel chocks (these should be included in your RV but ask how to use them if you are in any way unsure)
  • Shovel (a handy travel shovel can get you out of jams of many kinds)
  • Electrical and duct tape
  • Extra cotter pins
  • Extra motor oil and transmission fluid
  • Tarps
  • Emergency road kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Large sealable bag for documents, including your license, registration, reservation packet, contact info and instructions


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