The Ultimate RV Checklist
Whether you’re on your first RV camping trip or your 100th, there’s nothing worse than arriving at your campsite and realizing you’ve forgotten the power cord for the waffle maker. To avoid breakfast (and other) disasters, it’s a good idea to create a RV checklist.
To a large extent, what you bring (and how much you bring), will depend on where you’re going, how long you’re staying, what you’re doing, and how much weight your travel trailer or motorhome can handle. But whether you’re spending the weekend at a state park or a week boondocking in a national forest, there are a few things you’ll always want to have for your RV trip. To get you started on creating your own custom RV camping checklist, we’ve put together some advice on what we think are the essentials, the nice to haves, and the things you should just leave at home.
Make a RV Checklist (and Check it Twice)
To make this easy, we’ve split our recommendations into different categories to get you started. Add and delete things based on your camping style. Once you’ve made your list, print it out and keep it in your camper so you know where to find it. Since camping is typically a team sport, spread the packing tasks around to your partner or kids so that everyone can participate (and then maybe it won’t be your fault that there are no waffles on Sunday morning)!
Important Paperwork: First, you’ll want to make sure you have all your important paperwork in one spot, preferably a waterproof bag. Include things like your RV registration and insurance information, warranty documents, RV owner’s manual, passport (especially if you’re going north or south of the border), and your driver’s license. We also like to keep road maps handy just in case we get out of cell phone range, or our GPS sends us to the middle of a corn field.
Outdoor Equipment: Next, think about the things you’ll need to run your RV. You’ll want extension cords of varying lengths, your RV’s power cord, power adapters, a surge protector, voltmeter, spare fuses, fresh water hose, water pressure regulator, sewer hose, wheel chocks, leveling blocks, an extra hitch pin, work and disposable gloves, your solar panel or generator, and a headlamp for setting up in the dark.
Outdoor Living: Include some things that will make your campsite amazing. We recommend an outdoor rug, door mat, camp chairs, a collapsible camp table (especially if you’re boondocking), a portable grill, charcoal and lighter fluid (if needed), LED tiki lights for your awning (if you’re into that kind of thing), and flashlights. If you’re planning on a campfire, make sure to bring a hatchet, matches or a lighter, fire starters, and hot dog and marshmallow roasting sticks.
Adventure Gear: You’ll also want to bring accessories for your adventures. Backpacks, hiking boots, a cooler and ice packs, insect repellent, sunscreen, a picnic or beach blanket, rain gear, and reusable water bottles are good ideas. We also recommend you bring (and know how to use) a compass and trail maps. You don’t want to rely on your phone when hiking in the wilderness.
First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit is a must for RVers. Include an EPI pen if necessary, bandages, gauze and paper tape, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, scissors, alcohol, a thermometer, a hot / cold compress, and aloe gel.
Pet Camping Essentials: If you’re camping with a four-legged furry companion, they’ll need food, treats, a 6-foot leash, collar with tags, a lead or tie down for your campsite, a pet first aid kit, toys, waste bags, medications, and a recent picture in case they wander off. You may also want to have shampoo and grooming supplies to clean up your muddy pup. You’ll also need to pack bowls unless you’re camping in a Bowlus with pet-friendly features.
Hobby and Rainy Day Gear: Don’t forget your camera equipment, binoculars, bicycles and helmets, and things to do if it rains (playing cards, board games, DVDs, books). All Bowlus models have charging stations for your cell phone, tablet and laptop and they’re equipped with a cellular booster. The Endless Highways Edition includes a robust router and an antenna pre-wired on the roof. Just hook up to an external Wi-Fi, or up to two cellular networks, and you’re ready to game online!
Kitchen Gear: How do you get everything in your home kitchen into your RV? Well frankly, you don’t because it’s unnecessary. Instead, focus on the essentials. Drinking glasses, wine glasses (and a corkscrew), mugs, dishes, silverware, sharp knives (with guards), a spatula, tongs, whisk, cutting boards, a bottle / can opener, vegetable peeler, measuring cups and spoons, a couple mixing bowls, a collapsible colander, and potholders should be on your list for sure.
Be selective when packing pots and pans, favoring multitaskers. A lot of RVers pack a Dutch oven, a cast iron skillet, a nonstick skillet, and maybe a crock pot or multicooker. You may also want a blender, a griddle or waffle maker (and the aforementioned power cords), and a coffee pot and filters.
Pack a small selection of microwave-safe food storage containers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, resealable bags, and bag clips. We also recommend using tension rods in your refrigerator and cupboards to keep things in place. Remember, things are going to shift in your camper when you’re going 65 miles per hour.
Cleaning Up: To keep things neat and tidy, you’ll want some biodegradable dish and hand soap, dish towels, sponges, a collapsible dish rack or drying mat, a small broom and dustpan, environmentally friendly kitchen and bathroom cleansers (something that will make the stainless countertops in your Bowlus really shine) and a toilet brush.
Paper Goods: While not the most environmentally friendly option, having paper plates and bowls on hand can simplify mealtime. You’ll also want paper towels, napkins, and facial tissues. And don’t forget the toilet paper. You’ll need thin RV toilet paper unless you have a cassette toilet like the Bowlus.
Noshing: Do a little meal planning before you go and pack some staples. Many campgrounds have camp stores, though they’re not well stocked. We typically bring bottled water, soft and adult beverages, tea, coffee, cocoa, s’mores ingredients, trail mix, and other snack foods in addition to our meals. Don’t forget salt and pepper, spices, and condiments.
Linens: You’ll also need bed linens, towels, a bathmat, and a laundry bag. If you’re going to be gone for a while, you may also want laundry detergent, stain remover, and a roll of quarters or a credit card for the laundromat.
Your Essentials: Finally, think about all the things you need to make your trip enjoyable. Pack your toiletries, any prescription medications, footwear, hats, sunglasses, and weather appropriate clothing. No matter the time of year, we always pack a pair of long pants and a sweatshirt so we can hang out by the fire just a little longer.
RV Checklist of Things to Leave Behind
Now that we’ve given you this massive list, we’re going to caution you to not overpack. Make decisions based on how long you’ll be gone, and then pack a little extra just in case you get delayed (or choose to stay longer). The unique storage solutions in a Bowlus luxury travel trailer provide plenty of room for the necessities and the luxuries.
There are several ways that you can maximize your storage. First, don’t bring the bottle of ibuprofen or dish soap that you bought on your last warehouse store trip. Transfer things into smaller containers (you don’t need 500 ibuprofen for your weekend trip to the mountains). We love the Bowlus kitchen because you can show off your gourmet cooking skills. But pots and pans are heavy, so think about what you really need.
Unless you’re boondocking or going somewhere where you won’t have access to fresh water, hit the road with enough water in your fresh tank to flush the toilet and wash your hands.
As tempting as it may be to avoid the inflated prices of firewood at the campground, don’t bring your own. First, it’s heavy. More importantly, it’s illegal to bring firewood across many state lines (and many states prefer you not to move it from one part of the state to another). Moving firewood can spread tree-killing pests like the Asian long horned beetle, the European Gypsy moth, and the emerald ash borer. It may cost you a few bucks more to buy local firewood, but it’s worth it to ensure the wilderness is there for the next generation of RVers.