In the anticipation of RV season finally taking off, it can be all too easy to forget something important. Packing checklists help us keep track of what needs to be brought, but you also need to have a system to ensure that everything on the list is ready to be packed in the RV in its proper place.


Make the List

  1. Use old school pen and paper. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, because you’re going to be adding items as you think of them, making notes, and even removing an item or two. You can make the final checklist on the computer or tablet after you (think) you’re done. Some items will be RV or vehicle specific while others are purely for fun. You may need to make subheads within your list based on the categories that are further explained below.
  2. Start with a vehicle and trailer list. You can’t get anywhere or have a place to stay unless your RV gets there. Whether it’s a motorized RV or a towed unit, you need to make sure to have certain items within easy reach, as well as many items to have just in case. These items include: leveling blocks, adapters, converters, water hoses, tire pressure gauge, sewer hose, stabilizer jacks, fire extinguisher, extra light bulbs, propane tank, rope, bungee cords, gloves, and emergency roadside items such as a battery jumper and air compressor and highway flares. The goal of each item on this section of the list is for usability and function of the RV, both on the road and at the campsite.
  3. Make your RV life list. What will you need on a daily basis? You’ll need bedding, towels, beach towels, cooking utensils, cookware, dishes, a grill, folding chairs, water, food, medicine, and personal hygiene items. Make sure to include toilet paper, soap, trash bags, bottle opener, can opener, flashlights, sunscreen, and bug spray. If multiple people take multiple medications, list each medication individually per person, so that something isn’t overlooked. In the kitchen, you may have the space for appliances, such as a pressure cooker, coffee maker, or toaster. A 50-foot extension cord can be an invaluable investment, giving you more flexibility than a 25-foot extension cord.
  4. Now add the fun items These are the “nice to have” items that help make the camping experience fun. Bring along board games, movies (if you have a TV or laptop that can run disks), toys, fishing gear, books, bikes, and seasonal sports equipment. Once you get to the campground, it’s time to relax and have fun together.
  5. Review. Once you have your master list, give yourself a few days to look it over and make notes as you think of things. If you’re happy with your list and it’s time to get ready for the trip, it’s time to get everything consolidated.

Time to Pack

Stage it.

Apart from personal bags for each person, you should collect everything on your list and organize them when possible in clear totes that are labeled. Choose totes that you will fit into your tow vehicle or easily into storage areas in the RV. Totes and bins also help to keep things from shifting around during travel. The exceptions would be kitchen and bedding items, as long as nothing obstructs a slide-out (should your RV have a slide-out or two). Put “loose” items into piles during staging.

You can gather these items from within your home, but it makes life easier if you have dedicated camping gear and supplies. That way you don’t need to put everything back when you return from your trip. It can take time to purchase many of these duplicate items if you go this route. Just add a bit at a time and when you make changes at home, such as new dishes or towels, think about whether the old dishes or towels can be used for camping instead.

Load it.

This is easiest as a two-person operation: somebody to load and store, and somebody to check the items on the list as they go into the RV.

It’s important to load an RV appropriately for safety. A rule of thumb, 60 percent of the weight should be in the front half of the RV and 10 percent near the tongue of a trailer. Some items are heavier than others, such as batteries and propane tanks, so make wise decisions as to where to put these items. A hitch scale can help you figure out how much weight you have on the tongue if you are towing an RV. You also need to be cautious about loading your camper from side to side as you want to be as balanced as possible. You also don’t want to overload your RV. Each camper has a GVMR number, which you need to abide by. Overloading your RV doesn’t just affect the weight of the unit, it affects your ability to live in the unit once you’re at the campsite. Too much stuff, and you’ll be walking around it or over it all the time, which can be frustrating. As at the gym, be lean and mean. Only the necessities get in the RV.

Items that go into cupboards or drawers or the refrigerator should be placed in properly and without a lot of room to move around. This may require stuffing softer items such as dish towels and paper towels around harder, heavier items. Velcro and kitchen organizers can also help keeping items in place. The outside of the cupboards or drawers may need to be secured with an extra strap, if they don’t click shut on their own.


You should be all set to depart for your RV trip. As long as you have the basics, don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll learn each trip which items are very important and which items are negligible. You’ll home in on your master list, which you will use for years to come. By then, packing will be a cinch.