RV Packing List: 5 Things I Scrapped and 5 I’ll Never Go Without 


Robert Annis

Favorite Trip

A two-month swing through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico in the fall of 2021

Home Base

Indianapolis, IN

Favorite RV

2000 Roadtrek 190 Popular

About Contributor

After spending nearly a decade as a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper, Robert Annis finally broke free of the shackles of gainful employment to become an award-winning outdoor-travel journalist. Over the years, Robert’s byline has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including National Geographic, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Inside Hook, Hemispheres, Departures, Midwest Living, Sierra, Chicago Tribune, RV Magazine, and Hidden Compass.

Every few years, in the spring, I remove almost everything in my 2000 Roadtrek and decide, item by item, what to put back in. It’s a process of deciding on my RV packing list. But I think I’m continuously getting better at deciding — to bastardize The Clash — what needs to stay and what needs to go.

What I Scrapped from My RV Packing List


This one’s a bit of a cheat.

I’ve never had a TV in the van, despite having a cabinet pre-built for one. I nearly bought a small 20-inch flatscreen when doing my last round of renovations, but at the last second, decided against it. Why? I have a 13-inch iPad that allows me to download programming from all my streaming services, not to mention nearly unlimited books. (Speaking of books, I just finished one that I highly recommend called This America of Ours: Bernard and Avis DeVoto and the Forgotten Fight to Save the Wild by Nate Schweber. You will not be disappointed.)

When I’m done with the iPad, it stows away compactly in a bedside table drawer. And by forgoing the television in the cabinet, I was able to find room for my next item.

Any Clothing That Requires a Hanger

The small closet behind the driver’s seat was wasted space, so I took out the clothes rod and built three moveable shelves using a Kreg Shelf Pin Jig, Dewalt drill, and a $15 pre-finished shelf board. The whole process took less than 20 minutes. On the road, I have no need for more dressy clothes and any bulky jackets can just hang from hooks scattered around the van.

Propane-Powered Lantern

One of my earliest camping memories was of my dad lighting a Coleman propane lantern and hearing the hiss of gas and flame while eating hot dogs at France Park. When I started camping on my own, the first thing I bought was that exact same lantern. But while I have many fond memories illuminated by that propane-powered light, I just don’t have room for it and its relatively huge carrying case in the van.


Man and woman sitting outside fifth wheel camper
Photo by Camping World

I’d bought a large pair of binoculars thinking I’d use them to spot wildlife, particularly birds, but they’re so unwieldy, I rarely took them with me on hikes. When I’m working on a wildlife assignment, it’s always with a long telephoto lens, which makes the eyewear superfluous. Because I bought them for a specific purpose, I felt as if removing them from my RV packing list was admitting a mistake. But that’s OK. The bigger mistake would be letting them sit in the van gathering dust.

Excess Dishes

When I first started RVing, I packed in enough pots, pans, cups, and dishes to make Julia Child blush. I’ve pared back quite a lot since then. Why do I need 10 stainless-steel cups when four will do? I don’t need to waste space with multiple pots if I just wash the one when I’m finished. If I plan to rendezvous with friends at a state park, I’ll just bring some extra supplies along, removing them after the trip is finished.

My Five RV Camping Must Haves


Camping is a dirty business: You’re always tracking in dirt, sand, random pebbles, and more into the RV. I used to rely on a simple whiskbroom and dustpan, but this rechargeable Dustbuster allows me to simply vacuum the dirty debris up quickly and effortlessly. I use it to take care of big messes as they happen and for routine cleaning every other day or so. It holds a charge well, so you can go weeks between charges. It’s a must-have on your RV packing list.


I drink a lot of coffee. And while the long shots of YouTube VanLifers grinding beans, heating water, and using elaborate pour-over concoctions look cool, I don’t have time for all that. Instead, I use a standard coffee maker with a stainless steel carafe that you’d find in virtually every high school teacher’s lounge. It’s simple, fast, and allows me to get other things done while I’m waiting for the coffee to brew.

Battery Jump Starter/Air Compressor

I drive a lot at night in a van that doesn’t have many modern amenities like automatic headlights. How many times have I arrived at my destination for the night, drew the currents, and fell asleep without shutting off my headlights?  The number is embarrassingly high, which is why I splurged on a jump starter similar to this Dewalt power station.

I could call Good Sam for help, but this makes it much easier just to do it myself. Is tire pressure running low? The unit includes an air compressor that allows me to quickly inflate them to the correct PSI. As an added bonus, if my house battery’s running low, I can plug my electronics into it for a quick charge. There are smaller jump-starter units, but this gives me the most bang for my buck.

Multi-Colored Luggage Cubes

For the first few years in my van, I placed neatly folded clothes onto cabinet shelves. But by the end of the trip, it’d be one huge, jumbled ball of cotton and polyester. Using luggage cubes was a revelation. I have a different cube color/size for each type of clothing – T-shirts, pants, underwear, socks, and more. I no longer have to search through the swamp of clothes looking for that Vandoliers shirt I wanted to wear. Everything’s neat, organized, and easy to find.

Rechargeable Lights/Bluetooth Speakers

I was browsing through my local Costco last year when I came across a set of rechargeable lights and Bluetooth speakers. I thought they’d be perfect for the RV, and so far, they haven’t let me down. Each unit produces 700 lumens of light, while the speakers provide more than adequate sound quality for days underneath the awning. I can use them singularly or in stereo tandem.

Shop bluetooth speakers.

What items are must-haves on your RV packing list? Share in the comments below.

  • Comment (13)
  • Patricia Reed says:

    Use a combination lock for what you don’t want to walk away. My husband loses keys like a tree in the autumn.

  • Norma Adams says:

    Another item to pack is a small rechargeable fan that clips onto a door or cabinet. I got one from Amazon for $15 and use it all the time.

  • Keith says:

    I never leave on a camping trip without my mechanic’s tools. Not many but just the necessary few in case I need to repair something. We’ve just started rv’ing with an ‘04 34’ Dolphin which has lots of storage areas. We only take what food and drink we believe we’ll need for our outing.

  • Duane says:

    I enjoyed the article as I am always looking for a paradigm shift to my opinions about what I carry. However, your list was very specific to the space limitations of your particular RV, as well your personal needs. I’d also like to see your opinion of “Five Things Every RV’er Should Ditch or Have”.
    For Five Things Every RV’er Should Have, I would submit this list: 1) Battery Jump Starter/Air Compressor. 2) Low-Profile Bottle Jack/Lug Wrenches. 3) Road Hazard Reflectors. 4) Good LED flashlights/area lighting. 5) Small Tree Saw.
    For Five Things Every RV’er Should Ditch, I would submit this list: 1) Excessive folding/bag chairs. 2) Excessive cooking gear. 3) Excessive wood for leveling (use lightweight interlocking blocks). 4) Excessive clothing/bedding/towels. 5) Excessive outdoor junk (lights/pads/flags/flowers/etc.)

  • J R Jones says:

    We have a 2006 26′ Winnebago MH with a wardrobe and shower. The hung item space must be used and outer wear works well there. The shower floor stores dog food kibble containers and wine bottles (upright) in a cardboard case from the store. The one gallon water bottles store in the shower as well. The cockpit passenger wall had a stretched out pocket that I replaced with a cargo net and another just aft of that, next to the door for utility stuff and dog leashes.

  • Sari Alsaker says:

    I never go anywhere without candles and newspapers. I can make a bonfire anywhere, even with wet wood by tightly wrapping newspapers around pieces of wax (old crayons work)and crunching more newspapers. Of course newspapers are handy for washing windows, etc and cleaning fish. But bonfires are mandatory for me!

  • Ginny says:

    I must have an Instant Pot! It’s a simpler way of cooking, in less time, and with less clean up. Also, I know what’s in the food. It’s an all around win! I know it takes space, but it earns it. Also it can be used outside. Most recipes call for a minimum of ingredients. Oh so tasty are the results.

  • Jorge says:

    I like your information and agree have a Winabago Mini Drop probably a little more space can see where I can improve using your information and I’m just a 100 miles up the road from you Thank You

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