by Paul and Kerri Elders
RVing is a blast, but learning how to properly pack an RV involves a little planning and a whole lot of restraint. Don’t try to take everything you own with you on every trip. Any Travel Vet will tell you: overpacking is a really bad habit, better not developed in the first place. Here are some tried and true tips and tricks to make underpacking a little easier.
Weight management should be your first consideration when packing any RV. It’s simple: lighter is definitely better. Whenever possible, you want to choose tools and accessories that can serve “double duty” in your RV. Pack things like combination screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, and multipurpose RV cleaning chemicals to save space, time, and weight. If you’re not planning to boondock (camp without hookups), it’s usually a good idea to keep your freshwater tank at ¼ capacity or less to save on travel weight. This accomplishes two very worthy goals: it improves your gas mileage and your rig’s handling. Another good strategy for lighter travel is to frequently dump the graywater and blackwater tanks during your trip. Just remember to leave a little liquid in the tanks to prevent residue caking.
Another extremely important, but often neglected, consideration when packing an RV is how you decide to distribute your packed weight. Give it a little thought, because you want to pack your RV for maximum stability on the road. Pack heavy items in the RV’s exterior storage bays (the lower the better) and do your best to distribute weight evenly as you pack, both side-to-side and front-to-back. This will help improve your rig’s handling and may help keep loads from shifting unexpectedly if you have to take any evasive actions on the roadway.
Large see-through plastic bins are a great solution for storing items in the RV’s exterior storage compartments. Label the bins using easy-to-see, large, bright white labels and large, legible writing. Transparent plastic bins make it easier to find things and also make unpacking a snap when you get back home. Just carry in a bin at a time, unpack, and re-store your empty bins in the rig’s storage compartments until the next trip. Pack frequently used items (like chock blocks, awning tools, patio chairs, etc.) in the front of the exterior storage compartments closest to the front door for quick and easy access once you’re cozied into your favorite camping spot.
When it comes to packing food and cooking utensils, remember the Happy Camper Rule: travel LIGHT. Opt for cans over bottles, and give some thought to just how much food you really need to take. It’s been our experience that lots of RVers end up eating out instead of cooking in, so keep this in mind while stocking your pantry. Really think you’ll be roasting 16 pound turkeys and baking and frosting a three layer cake? Then by all means, pack your turkey roaster, mixer, cake pans, flour, sugar, and other equipment. But if you’re more apt to eat out on the road, skip the extra packing. You’ll save time, weight, work, and water.
You can minimize packing and unpacking between trips by outfitting your RV with its own set of lightweight dishes. However, disposable paper plates and cups are definitely worth considering, since they save even more weight and reduce water use (no washing necessary!). They’ll save you a lot of packing time, cabinet space, and travel weight, and will also save cleanup time and water use on the road.
Disposable “Ziploc” bags can help you save valuable refrigerator space; consider using them instead of rigid Tupperware-type storage containers whenever possible. Empty ziplocs are extremely compact, lightweight, and don’t take up much storage space, plus you can simply discard them after use—no washing, drying or stowing required.
You can use plastic dividers or utility bins for dividing under-bed storage. But you can save weight by using clear, deflatable “space bags” or extra-large Ziploc-type bags. These are super handy for packing clothes you want to store in the under-bed storage compartment. Extra large ziplocs are inexpensive and help you save space while keeping your packed clothing neat, clean, and easily accessible.
Don’t forget to pack all your prescription medicines; it’s a great idea to make a written list of these, just to make packing a little easier. Pack a few extra batteries for flashlights and electronic devices; this is another great use for small ziploc bags. These help keep small items like AA batteries “corraled” and easy to find, especially if you tuck them in your glove box or a kitchen drawer.
And, if you forget anything, don’t worry about it (unless it’s your traveling partner)! You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to either do without whatever you’ve forgotten or to simply replace the item on the road. Remember that where RVing is concerned, less really is more; keep your weight down and travel light. You’ll find that you’ll spend less time packing and unpacking and more time just having FUN; happy trails!