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