We know a lot of RV newbies are out there. You’re listening. You’re camping. And, you’re packing! We want to help make that packing process easier with our RV stock-up list and tips.
If your family is like ours, packing is a challenge. Perhaps you have one leader in the family who ends up doing the work. Perhaps the kids add a lot of chaos. Somehow, it ends up feeling like a miracle that any of us arrive at a campsite with what we need.
If you are feeling like packing is so.much.work, hang in there. It gets easier. You learn how to streamline the process. It’s kind of like having a pet. You can totally love that pet and totally be aggravated by some of the care. However, if packing and unpacking have you feeling so overwhelmed that you are not enjoying your RV as much as you’d like, we hope our RV stock-up list and tips bring you some help.
We published a whole chapter on packing in our book See You at the Campground. While some of these tips are aimed at newbies, we want to point out that your packing game may always have room for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been camping. For us, just changing trailers makes packing much more difficult temporarily until we learn how to pack the new trailer in a way that works for us.
To hear more about our RV stock-up list and tips, press play on the media player above or look for The RV Atlas wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
Have Dedicated Camping Gear
One of the amazing things about owning an RV is that you can store your gear in it between trips. We highly recommend keeping as much dedicated camping gear in your rig as you possibly can. Hauling coffee makers and blankets and pillows back and forth between the house and the RV gets old fast.
If it is too much of a hit to your budget to duplicate everything right away, add a few things each year. Try to start thinking through every single thing you carry in and out and buy a few items here and there. Holidays are a great time to get something new for the house, and send the older stuff out to the RV.
We also recommend going to IKEA. It is such a great place to stock up on RV gear for a budget-friendly price. Check out some of our favorite IKEA recommendations here.
Decide What Kind of Camping Trip You are Packing For
Some people take every single thing on every single trip. Some people are minimalist packers, no matter where they are traveling. Instead, try to find the right balance by thinking through what kind of camping trip you are taking and pack accordingly.
Bikes are the perfect example. Are they worth the effort of hauling on every trip? Absolutely not. Some campground are just not bike friendly. The same applies for much of your gear. Make hard choices about what you are bringing, and think about whether you’ll actually use everything you take. If you won’t use it, don’t pack it!
Divide and Conquer
One of the easiest ways to make packing go more smoothly is to divide and conquer the chores involved. Now, this may involve some give and take. It may involve some grumbling and eye rolling. But, strive to have a division of labor that feels fair and works for everyone in your family.
Someone has to be responsible for something, or no one will be responsible for it. You’ve got to own it. Decide who is responsible for what, and stick to it.
In our family, Jeremy might head up all of the truck and outdoor trailer prep, while Stephanie handles more of the indoor items. It did take us a long time to really get our routine together…okay, we are still working on that, honestly.
Another tip, if you divide the labor, try to accept how the other person does things. If you give up control, you are giving up control. Umm, we’re still working on that, too!
Teach the Kids to Help from Day One (Or Close to Day One)
When we say “divide and conquer,” that doesn’t just include spouses. It includes kids, as well. Teach your kids to help from day one–or starting tomorrow. Your kids may need some guidance to get rolling, but then, they may surprise you with all they can manage independently.
We started teaching our kids how to pack during their preschool years–and even earlier for our younger son. They can pack themselves. They may need a list to get started, but then they do the rest. They gather up their own special things, their entertainment and books etc.
Also, your kids can help with the campground chores. They can be super useful while setting up the campsite and while breaking camp. In addition to packing, make sure the kids are involved in the unpacking process. You gotta pay if you want to play!
Unpack Right Away, Every Time, Without Exception
Don’t leave stuff lingering. Unpack when you get home. If you have to reward yourself with take-out or pizza, then do it. Trust us.
Leaving stuff in the RV means you are likely to forget it’s out there. Also, when you go to pack up for your next trip, it is no fun to find a mess from the last trip. Get all hands on deck, and get it done.
Develop a Stock-Up List for Packing your RV
Everyone needs a checklist. We have to admit, it took many years for us to actually make an official checklist that we could print and us each time. Once we did, we were so glad we did. We want to share this list with you. Check out our Complete RV Stock Up Checklist.
This list is sorted into categories (pantry, medicine cabinet, consumables, etc.). And, it’s also sorted into “Must Haves” and “Nice to Haves.” If you start off traveling with everything on the “Must Have” list, you should be pretty well set. Then, improve the experience by adding in the “Nice to Haves” that appeal to your family as your budget allows. You don’t need everything on the very first trip, but you do need a toothbrush.
The list of consumables is great because it reminds you to check the supply level on the things you’ll use throughout the season. You may use up all of your toilet paper in the middle of a season, and you’ll want to know that before you arrive at your next campsite.
Another good thing is that this list is really handy when you are taking your first trip of the season. Chances are, you’ll carry a bunch of stuff out of the trailer for the winter months (such as food items that would attract pests or toiletries that could freeze). The RV stock-up list really ensures you reload the proper items.
Check out our list, and let us know if there is anything we overlooked!
Budgeting for Stocking the RV
How much should you plan to spend when stocking the RV? That is a hard question because it really depends on what you include in “stocking.” If you include all of the gear you’ll need to buy for your first RV, you really could spend $1000. Now, that includes some big ticket items that you’ll use for years and some that will protect your RV from further expenses (such as a good surge protector. Yes, they cost upwards of $100, but they are cheaper than replacing all of the appliances in your RV).
Once you have those big gear items for your electric system, for your water/sewer system, for hauling, for safety/security, then you will move into the items that go inside the RV to give you the comforts of home. Again, this price can vary depending on whether or not you’ll just use stuff from your house or buy all new dedicated gear. But remember, you don’t have to spend a lot right upfront. Haul your pillows, your coffee maker, your toothbrush from home for a year or two!
Don’t go crazy. Get the camper. Go on a few trips. See what works for you and what doesn’t before you invest. For now, we hope our RV stock up list and tips has given you a good idea of where to start!
Our final tip, consider buying our book!! You can find it on Amazon and it is on the shelves in Target stores and local bookstores. If you are a new RVer, we think this book has a lot of practical advice that will make your first season of camping a safe, successful, fun experience. That way, you’ll get hooked and keep on camping!
See You at the Campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy