What To Pack For Your First RV Trip

Airstream closet

Taking your first RV trip after purchasing a camper is an exciting endeavor. But this first trip may also come with a lot of questions about what to pack, what to leave behind and how to fit everything inside of your RV. Creating a comfortable, fully-functional space should be the priority. However, there are different interpretations for what a “comfortable, fully-functional space” looks like. That’s why I’ve broken out my RV packing recommendations into three different groups: Minimalists, Essentialists and Over-Packers. There is no right or wrong group—and you can always add or take items away from each—it just comes down to personal preference.

So, if you’re looking for some sage advice on what to pack for your first RV trip, this quick guide will help get you started.

The Minimalist RVer

Most RVers start in this group and then slowly add more. However, some people stay minimalists with just the basics and nothing more. Minimalist RVers only bring what they need and remove anything that distracts from the overall RV experience. They are the ones who pull into a campsite, set-up and are ready to go within a matter of minutes. They can likely fit everything into one backpack or a single carry-on, and you’ll usually find them dry camping or boondocking.

If this sounds like your style of packing, here are a few things you’ll want to bring with you:

  • RV Must-Haves - In order to have a safe and successful RV trip, you’ll need to bring the following items: Leveling blocks, wheel chocks, sewer hoses, electrical cords, and black tank treatment.
  • RV Toilet Paper - You’ll definitely want to pack some RV-specific toilet paper. This type of toilet paper is thinner and breaks down faster than regular bath tissue, which helps prevent clogs and black tank damage. Look for packaging that specifically says ‘RV’ or ‘marine’ toilet paper. If you can’t find this, then opt for single-ply or one-ply.
  • Basic Tool Kit - You should always have a basic tool kit with you, just in case something breaks or comes loose. Your RV tool kit essentials should include a hammer, some nails, wrenches, pliers, a lightweight drill, a utility knife, scissors, duct tape, batteries, flashlight, bungee cords, and a few extra fuses.
  • First Aid Kit - It’s always a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand, especially if you’re out in the wilderness and far away from any town or medical facilities. At the very minimum, this can help cover a small cut, pull out a splinter or ease a headache.

The Essential RVer

Most RVers fall into this category—they want to travel to get away from daily life but they still want to bring the elements that make life enjoyable. The essential RVer has everything that the minimalist does, plus a few extra creature comforts. They may bring out a few zero-gravity chairs and s'more sticks to really enjoy the camping experience. The essentialists can likely fit everything into a couple of suitcases or large duffle bags, and you’ll typically find them at a state park or campground with basic hook-ups.

If you want to have the essentials while still enjoying the good life, here are some recommended items to bring with you:

  • Outdoor Leisure - This could include some fishing poles, hammocks, or sporting equipment. These are items to enjoy in your downtime or around the campground.
  • All-Weather Needs - While camping, the weather can sometimes change quickly. Having a secondary heat source, extra water and plenty of blankets can be both beneficial and comfortable.
  • Beverage Accessories - You may want to pack some items that’ll allow you to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, some afternoon tea or wine in the evening.
  • Pet Fence - Keeping your dog safe and secure at your campsite is important, and a portable pet fence will help do exactly that. These fences collapse down, and are a great alternative to simply tying your pet’s leash to the picnic table.

The Over-Packed RVer

You’ll know this RVer from the moment they arrive at the campground—in a few hours, their campsite will be fully outfitted with multiple camp chairs, dining tables, tablecloths, floor mats, and string lights. The over-packed RVer has it all and, honestly, they make for an excellent neighbor because if you ever need something, they probably have it. The over-packer will need multiple suitcases, duffle bags and coolers to carry everything, and you’ll most likely find them at an RV resort with all of the amenities.

If having fun and bringing everything you could possibly need (but maybe won’t use) sounds like you, then here are some recommended items for your packing list:

  • Blackstone Griddle - Nothing beats pancakes and bacon on a crisp morning. And making them on a Blackstone griddle is even better. Griddle sizes range from small tabletop models to massive models that come on their own stand.
  • Solo Stove - If you don’t like getting a face full of campfire smoke, then check out Solo Stove. These smokeless fire pits won’t make your clothes smell and will still allow you to enjoy all of the quintessential campfire activities.
  • E-bike - A great, leisurely way to get around the campground or RV resort. Not only are these easy to ride but they’re a great alternative to driving your car or tow vehicle.
  • Upgraded Mattress - If you really want to take your sleeping to the next level, then we recommend upgrading your RV’s mattress. We added a new mattress to our Heartland Sundance, and the soft cushion and cooling layer make for the best night’s sleep.

Regardless of what type of packer you might be, I highly recommend taking a short camping trip near your homebase to do a trial run. This is a great way to evaluate what items you want to keep, what you can leave behind next time and what you forgot to bring in the first place. After a few more trips, you’ll be an RV packing pro and might even have your own packing tips and tricks to share!

Travel Trailer

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.

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