Complete RV Checklists [Printable]: Packing, Setting Up & Essentials

In RV living by Christopher Schopf

Checklists are the greatest, aren’t they?  They make packing and setting up before, during, and after a trip much easier.

In this post, we’ll give you 3 separate checklists.

  1. One for packing
  2. one for setting up,
  3. and one that lists the absolute essentials needed for a successful RV trip.

Packing List Details Before We Start…

There are many items you’ll need to consider taking when packing for an RV trip.  Some of these items are RV or vehicle specific and others are just a part of everyday life.  Other items are purely for fun but are still a very necessary part of packing up for an RV trip.

I organized the RV checklists by category so you can go through each checklist in order to make sure you have everything you need.

The Vehicle and Trailer Checklist

The first checklist has all of the items you’ll definitely want to have for taking care of your vehicle and your camper.  This list includes emergency roadside items like air compressors and battery jumpers as well as the tools you’ll need to complete these tasks.

It also includes the items you’ll need to successfully set up your RV on-site and while on the road.  Forget any of these items and you may not be able to get all of the functionality from your RV.  These items include things like leveling blocks, drinking hoses, and electrical adapters.

The adapters you need will vary depending on what type of RV you have.  For example, people with a 50-amp electrical system may want to bring a 50-amp to 30-amp plug and people with a 30-amp electrical system may want to bring a 30-amp to 50-amp plug.  You may even want to bring a converter that converts these plugs to standard 15-amp electrical outlets.

Daily RV Life Checklist

The next checklist goes over the items that you’ll need on a day-to-day basis.  These items include food, water, clothing, medicine, personal hygiene items, and anything else you might use while living in your RV.

I went over the basics with these items and listed items out generically but you should make them more specific to your needs when applicable.  For example, if you take two types of medicines each day, instead of listing them as medicine, you might want to write out the name of each specific medicine so you won’t forget either one.

The same idea applies to personal hygiene items as well.  If you know you need a WaterPik or some other personal cleaning item then you’ll want to write it in under personal hygiene.  I’ll add some of these items under the Daily RV Life Checklist to give you some inspiration.

Fun RV Checklist

Not all places end up being fun.  This is especially true when it rains.  Just because you end up stopping someplace where there aren’t a lot of fun activities, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

I created a short RV checklist of fun items that you might want to bring to keep yourself occupied during short stays at locations without much to do or during prolonged periods of being stuck in the rain.

If you have specific games you like to play then you might want to add them underneath of games.  I’ll add some camping equipment suggestions but you may want to add your own specific camping equipment as well.

Checklist for Setting Up

The checklist for setting up will give you a step-by-step guide to setting up your RV.  It is a printable RV checklist that you can take with you to help you get set up quickly and easily.  Use it at the campsite or even while stopping for a few hours while out on the road.

Do the checklist in reverse when you want to break camp.  This checklist is short enough that you can print it out and tape it to the inside of your RV door to use as a reference.

RV Essentials Checklist

The RV essentials checklist lays out the bare minimum you need to have a successful RV trip.  Take these items and you’ll at least be able to get to your destination and set up without any trouble.

This checklist includes RV-specific items like leveling blocks, water hoses, and sewer hoses.  It also includes the very basics of everyday living like food, water, and medicine.  These are all of the items that you’ll want to double-check to make sure you have before you leave for your destination.

For the Vehicle and Trailer

  • Roadside emergency kit.
  • Chock blocks.
  • Leveling blocks.
  • Stabilizer jacks.
  • Towing equipment.
  • Portable battery jumper and jumper cables.
  • Extra vehicle fluids. (windshield wiper fluid, oil, etc.)
  • Jack and lug nut wrench for changing tires.
  • Air compressor.
  • Tire pressure gauge.
  • Lift mechanism – (for popup camper owners)
  • Electrical adapters.
  • Drinking water hose.
  • Water pressure regulator.
  • Sewer hose.
  • Black water tank cleaning tools.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Extra light bulbs.
  • Gloves.
  • Tarp.
  • Rope.
  • Bungee cords.

For Daily Life

  • Food.
  • Water.
  • Cooler.
  • Medicine.
  • Medical equipment.
  • Vitamins and supplements.
  • Cell phone.
  • Animal-proof food storage.
  • Propane.
  • Generator fuel.
  • Kitchen utensils.
  • Dishware.
  • Cookware.
  • Can opener.
  • Bottle opener.
  • Trash bags.
  • Soap.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Paper towels.
  • Towels.
  • Washcloths.
  • Personal hygiene items.
  • Cleaning tools.
  • Clothing.
  • Footwear.
  • Sheets, blankets, and pillows.
  • Battery chargers.
  • An extension cord.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Bug spray.
  • Flashlights and lanterns.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Wet-weather gear.

Kitchen Suggestions

  • Toaster.
  • Coffee maker.
  • Blender.
  • Pots.
  • Pans.
  • Cups.
  • Coffee mugs.
  • Coffee filters.
  • Plates.
  • Bowls.
  • Water strainer.
  • Forks, spoons, and knives.
  • Spatula.
  • Large spoons.
  • Tongs.

Personal Hygiene Suggestions

  • Shampoo.
  • Conditioner.
  • Soap.
  • Toothbrush.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Floss.
  • Water flosser.
  • Moisturizer.
  • Lip balm.

For Fun

  • Campfire wood.
  • Camping gear.
  • Fishing gear.
  • Toys for the kids.
  • Sports equipment.
  • Games for rainy days.
  • Playing cards.
  • Laptops.
  • Tablets.
  • Televisions.
  • DVDs.
  • Books.
  • Magazines.

Camping Equipment Suggestions

  • Tent.
  • Sleeping pad.
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Backpack.
  • Camp stove.
  • Hiking boots.
  • Water bottles.
  • Flotation devices.
  • Kayaks.
  • Canoes.
  • Snowshoes.
  • Cross-country skis.
  • Bikes.

Setting Up

  • Make sure the vehicle is parked close enough to the RV hookups. (sewer, water, and electric)
  • Level the RV from side-to-side.
  • Unhitch your RV.
  • Level the RV from front-to-back.
  • Place chock blocks behind your tires.
  • Stabilize your RV.
  • Make sure everything inside is safe and in place.
  • Hookup your electrical connections.
  • Hookup your sewer connections.
  • Hookup your water connections.
  • Turn on your propane tanks.

Essentials

  • Roadside emergency kit.
  • Chock blocks.
  • Leveling blocks.
  • Towing equipment.
  • Stabilizer jacks.
  • Portable battery jumper and jumper cables.
  • Extra vehicle fluids. (windshield wiper fluid, oil, etc.)
  • Jack and lug nut wrench for changing tires.
  • Air compressor.
  • Tire pressure gauge.
  • Lift mechanism – (for popup camper owners)
  • Electrical adapters.
  • Drinking water hose.
  • Water pressure regulator.
  • Sewer hose.
  • Black water tank cleaning tools.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Food.
  • Water.
  • Medicine.
  • Medical equipment.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Cell phone.
  • Battery chargers.

How to Pack for Your Next RV Trip

These lists wouldn’t be any good if you didn’t know how to pack all of the items that we just listed.  In this section, I’ll give you detailed information on how to pack everything up.  Here is what we’ll cover.

  • Where to put your belongings.
  • How to store your belongings.
  • Securing your items.

Where to Store Your Belongings

An RV needs to be loaded appropriately for it to be safe.  For most trailers, this means that 60% of the weight should be in the front half of the RV and about 10% of this weight should be on or near the tongue of the trailer.

Because of this fact, you need to be careful where you put your gear and other items.  For example, many people store their batteries and propane tanks on the tongue of their camper.  This may not be a great idea as you might end up going over the 10% weight limit for your tongue.

To find out how much weight you have on your tongue, it may be a good idea to buy a hitch scale.  These scales help you determine how much weight you actually have loaded up at the tongue.

You have to be careful how you load your camper from side-to-side as well.  Too much weight placed on one side of the camper will increase trailer sway.  This is true for people with motorhomes as well.  You don’t want to drive a motorhome with all of the cargo loaded into one side of it.

For rear-wheel drive motorhomes, you’ll want to place the weight centered on or just in front of the rear axle.  This will help give you more traction and will improve your motorhome’s handling.

See my post on “How to Keep Your RV from Swaying“.

How to Store Your Belongings

One great tip for storing belongings in RVs and anywhere else is to use clear containers.  Clear plastic bins give you the ability to see what’s in the bin at a glance.  Even better, if the lid for the clear bin is also clear.

You can even place smaller clear bins inside of larger ones to help keep everything organized and in one place.  I’ve even seen some larger clear bins with built-in wheels and a handle.  Bring along a thick sheet of plywood and you’ll have a ramp to roll your wheeled bin down.

Items placed in the refrigerator may need to be padded.  Soft fruits and vegetables might roll around in an RV refrigerator and we all know that bruised fruit spoils faster and doesn’t taste nearly as good as fruit that was well cared for.  Wrap your fruits and veggies in paper towels and place them securely in bags so that they don’t move around while in transit.

Securing Your Items

An item placed inside of a camper or motorhome must be properly secured.  This is especially true for dangerous kitchen items as well as fragile appliances, dishware, and camping gear.

For starters, make sure everything is in a cabinet, drawer, or bin.  Make sure items in drawers and cabinets don’t have a lot of room to move around and secure them inside when necessary.  You wouldn’t want to get to your destination only to have everything fall out of your cabinet as soon as you open it would you?

Once everything is securely in place, make sure that the drawers and cabinets will stay shut during transit.  In some cases, this may mean you have to tie the cabinets up or place straps around the drawers.  Keep them from opening up while driving and you won’t have a mess to clean up when you get to your campsite.

Other Considerations to Think About When Packing

  • Weight.
  • Size.
  • Dual-purpose items.

Weight Limits

Campers and motorhomes literally allow us to bring everything, including the kitchen sink.  However, there weight limits to consider when packing for an RV trip.

Your camper or motorhome will have a GVWR number that you’ll need to abide by.  This number includes the weight of your trailer or motorhome so keep this in mind as you tally up final weights to see what you can bring.

Also, keep in mind that every ounce of weight you add to your camper or motorhome will reduce your gas mileage and make your RV more difficult to travel with.  Reduce the total weight of your RV and you’ll save money as well as the environment.

Size Restrictions

An RV doesn’t have an unlimited amount of space.  Overpack and you may find yourself walking around objects in your RV all day long.  This can quickly get frustrating and it can make it more difficult for you to get to the items you actually need.

Only bring the items you’ll actually need for your trip and leave the rest at home.  Doing so will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration.  After all, you’re on vacation, why not take a break from some of your stuff?

Dual-Purpose Items

A great way to reduce the amount of gear you need to bring with you is to buy items that can serve more than one purpose.  On a very basic level, this could be a can opener that also works as a bottle opener.  Or a fork that also works as a spoon.

On a more advanced level, you might get a convection oven instead of a toaster and a microwave.  An appliance like this will save a lot of space as you’ll be able to completely eliminate the need to have two appliances.

If you need inspiration, look at ultra-light camping gear.  I have seen radios that also act as emergency beacons as well as handheld flashlights.  A tool like this turns three different pieces of gear into one.

Dual-purpose items save space, reduce weight, and reduce the total number of items you have to pack – it’s a triple win.

What NOT to Bring On Your Next RV Trip

We talked about what to bring when taking an RV trip but there are also items that you shouldn’t bring as well.  Here is a quick list of items for you to consider leaving behind.  I’ll explain the list in more detail afterward.

  • Food.
  • Water.
  • Kitchen equipment.
  • Camping gear.
  • Clothing.
  • Alcohol.
  • Tobacco.
  • Fire-arms.
  • Pepper-spray.
  • Recreational drugs.

When you first look at this list it might seem crazy not to bring food, water, and other essential items.  However, if you’re traveling across borders you may not be able to transport some of these items.  Even food needs to be discarded when traveling from the United States into Canada.

Some items can’t even legally be transported across state lines.  For example, it is technically illegal to bring alcohol purchased in one state into another state.  While you’re unlikely to get in trouble for doing so it is something you might want to consider.

If you’re traveling to another state or country, pick up your food, alcohol, and tobacco products when you get there.

Some items may not even be legal to use in some areas.  For example, people living in Colorado can legally use marijuana.  In other states, you can get put in jail for having too much of this substance on your person.  The same holds true for pepper-spray.  It is perfectly legal to carry pepper spray around with you in Pennsylvania but it is illegal to do so in New York.  If you’re traveling through New York, it might be a good idea to buy pepper spray when you get closer to your final destination.

In most cases, you’ll want to leave most of your water tank empty as well.  Driving with a full water tank puts additional strain on the holding tank and adds significantly to your RV’s weight.  Put about 5 gallons of water in each of your tanks and fill the rest up when you get close to your destination.  In most cases, you’ll be able to fill-up on-site anyway.

Finally, decide what you’re going to eat before you head out on your trip.  This will eliminate the need to take kitchen appliances and utensils that you know you will not be using on your trip.

In Closing

So now you know what to bring on your next RV trip and what not to bring on your next RV trip.  Use these checklists as a guideline and refine them to meet the particular needs of your family and you’ll never forget anything again.