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It’s easy to get carried away when you pack for an RV vacation. It’s natural for us all to want to have that ‘home from home’ experience while out on the road, however this often means filling the cabin with superfluous items in the pursuit of comfort.

The old adage, ‘less is more’ becomes relevant when packing for an RV trip, especially if space is already limited and there’s a family in tow.

In this guide we are going to take a look at the essential items that should be packed, and the some of the tempting stuff you can safely leave behind.

We’ll also take a quick look at why you should pack lightly and how your vacation will be all the better for some careful planning, and only bringing along the items that you really need.

So if you are ready, let’s jump to it.

Packing Light – The Important Stuff

Rvs on beach

Although needs will differ depending on who you are bringing along with you, (a baby is going to need a whole load of different gear compared to a family with young teenagers for instance), the distances you are travelling and the time of year will all play a part in the luggage wish list.

That being said, there’s still a uniform set of items that every RV traveller should ensure are packed.

What follows are some general guidelines and considerations to help you focus more on the RV essentials and only bringing along the important stuff.

1. Safety and Emergency Items

The first things to take stock of are the first aid and emergency items.

Safety has to be the number one priority for any RV trip and you should not cut corners on this, especially in an attempt to save space.

Beyond a fully stocked first aid kit, you should have road side emergency items packed, (while travelling in Europe a warning triangle and hi-vis jacket are a legal requirement).

You should also ensure that the spare wheel, jack, toolbox and other items that can assist in some roadside repairs join you on the journey too.

Safety within the cabin is paramount too. Equipment such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and a working fire extinguisher should all be present and correct and checked before you depart.

Finally, there’s emergency items should you be stranded for any reason. Extra water, non perishable rations, medication, flares and USB battery backup charger for your phone could all prove extremely valuable in times of need.

These precautions may seem extensive, however they become especially important if you plan on travelling somewhere remote.

2. Food & Drinks

Gauging how much food to bring can be difficult, especially if you are new to Rving or you have several mouths to feed on the trip.

Knowing appetites and tastes can be a challenge, even with your own family (I know, I have a 5 year old daughter and a 2 year old son).

Again, destination or route, size of the RV and the number of people joining you on tour all play a part.

A remote destination will require more pre-packing. However, whether you’re off driving through Florida or off to the wilderness in Canada, a moderate amount of tinned goods and non-perishables should be prioritized.

Where ever you are going bringing plenty of water is essential. As is convenient foods that are easy to prepare, (pasta, sauces etc).

You should aim to spend more time enjoying your vacation and sightseeing than hovering around your RV kitchen area.

The size of your RV (and the available refrigerator space) will clearly dictate how much food you pack before you depart.

The key tip I would give here is that this is America. You are never too far from a supermarket, meaning you could get away with packing just 2 days worth of food and still be able to restock easily when you need. So keep that in mind while packing the food and drinks.

3. Household Items

Household items is an area where many RV users make mistakes when it comes to packing. It is easy to think that the blender and waffle maker are all integral to a good holiday, along with every discernible pot from the kitchen.

You will NOT need these things.

If you are renting an RV, relevant items will for part of the rental agreement (sometimes as add on packs, however the rental company will provide what you need). In this scenario it really is one less thing to worry about.

However, when packing your own RV, leave the cumbersome household equipment behind.

Or if you do choose to bring appliances along, try to be selective. Yes, a nice coffee in the mornings is a treat, but does the coffee machine need to come along in place of a more versatile kettle?

When it comes to other kitchen items a good cutting knife, a multi-purpose pot/pan and a few plates and some silverware are all you really need.

4. Toys and entertainment

Packing the items for leisure time can really take up space. Paddleboards, kayaks, bikes etc these are large and heavy and while sometimes necessary, with a bit of clever thinking it is possible to leave some of this stuff at home.

Okay, while strapping the bikes to the back of the RV isn’t so much of an issue, inflatables for the water based fun can be a real space saver.

Kids clearly need some toys to keep them entertained, but whittle this down to just 2 or 3 per child is more than enough. Prioritise items that can help get them outside and enjoying the surroundings of wherever you’re headed.

Yes the iPad can help stop the squabbling while in transit, but a simple soccer ball is a space-saving item that can bring lots of fun.

When it comes to your own entertainment, it’s likely that your RV will have a working television. You may even need to bring your laptop in case any work needs doing.

Try not to rely on these though. Your on vacation, a pack of cards and a good board game will provide more refreshing and sociable entertainment than the latest release on Netflix, (assuming you have internet).

Pack light on the toys and entertainment, and go back to basics. The chance to disconnect is all part of the fun.

5. Clothes

I can’t very well advize on what clothes you should pack. This is another area dependant on location and who is in the cabin with you.

While travelling anywhere with a chance of cold climes or wet weather a quality windbreaker and waterproof boots are highly recommended.

These won’t take up much space and easily fall into the category of essential items if the bad weather hits.

When deciding on what type of clothing to bring, eying the forecast is step number one and then you pack accordingly.

Anyone with toddlers and young children will know that you can easily end up changing their outfit due to stains at least twice a day, so pack enough for that eventuality. (Otherwise you’ll be washing clothes for a big part of your vacation).

For hot weather conditions sun block, a hat and sunglasses should make the list, along with your swimming gear.

For adults, less is generally more. Bringing your entire wardrobe so that you have a choice of 5 evening outfits that one time you decide to go to dinner is really just a waste of space and time.

Why you should aim to pack light

RV and hills

You may ask yourself why bother going to the effort of packing light. You own an RV with plenty of space, you also have a trailer attached. You plan on bringing every item you could conceivably need. Who cares if it doesn’t get used.

Here’s some reasons why that is the wrong approach to traveling with your RV

Packing light makes your RV safer

Every RV has a maximum safe weight capacity. If you are an owner of a 5th wheel RV you have the maximum weight capacity of the hitch to think about, along with the capability of the tow vehicle.

In other words, blindly filling up the cabin with everything you might want to use on vacation can end up being very dangerous.

Packing light will mean you will never reach these maximum capacity levels.

It will also mean you are safe should you pass any obligatory weigh stations on your travels. Nobody wants to be on the road and fail one of these tests just because they thought bringing half the contents of the basement on holiday was a good idea.

Packing light makes the vacation less of a headache for you

If you are travelling a long distance and have an itinerary that takes in a number of night stops, the last thing you want to be doing is to spend an hour repacking every morning before hitting the road.

That’s what too much superfluous stuff does to your travelling ability. If you are playing Tetris everyday in order to fit in your luggage, you know you’re doing something wrong. You’ve packed too many things.

Also, travelling light makes it easier to find the stuff you really need. Everything from cleaning the kitchen to accessing the toys is made simple of you only have what you really need.

Packing light helps you focus on what’s important

family fun

An RV holiday should be about experiencing the outdoors with family and friends. Turning the vehicle into a home from home puts an unnecessary stop to that.

Yes you should aim to have enough stuff to make the trip comfortable, but beyond that roughing it just a little bit is what makes RV vacations and camping so much fun.

By getting rid of the excess stuff you not only declutter the cabin making it more enjoyable to stay in, you also help declutter the mind.

Disconnect, switch off and spend this quality time with the ones you love. That’s what the trip should be about, and packing only what you really need is one of the things that will help you achieve that.