Whether you’re hitting the road for a months-long #vanlife adventure or just taking your trailer to a campsite for a long weekend, what you bring and how you arrange your vehicle’s living space can make all the difference. From essentials to pack (and what not to pack) to little domestic touches that make it feel more cozy, here are the basics for a happy RV home, wherever the road takes you.
Everything in its place
Like people who live in shoebox-sized condos, most experienced RVers will agree that mess can get out of hand in a hurry and keeping things organized is an essential part of life on the road. Not only will organization allow you to find things when you need them, it will also reduce visual clutter and make for a more relaxed, comfortable space. Organizing an RV is a lot like organizing your closet or garage, with under bed, over-door and drawer organizers helping to make efficient use of the space you have. Clear storage totes will also keep things contained while allowing you to see what’s inside them.
Secure your stuff
The main difference between an RV and a non-mobile home is that RVs move. That means your cargo is going to move around while you’re on the road, no matter how slowly and carefully you drive. Since the last thing you want is a bunch of stuff raining down on your passengers when you hit a bump in the road or a sharp turn, items like toothbrush holders, fridge braces and cupboard bars will help to keep things securely in place.
Carry basic tools
No one’s expecting you to pop the hood and take apart your engine in the case of a breakdown, but carrying a few tools can still save you time and frustration. Heavy duty jumper cables, a lug wrench, a tire pressure gauge and a 12V tire inflator (make sure it’s rated for 80 PSI or higher) are a great start. If your RV has a shower, it might also be worth investing in a T-level and a set of leveling blocks to ensure you have optimum drainage on site. A set of power cord adapters will also come in handy, as different camp sites have different plugs.
The biggest thing RVers will warn newbies about is the urge to fill your mobile home with stuff you think you’ll need. While it makes sense to be equipped for every likely situation, the more things you pack the heavier your rig will be, and the more fuel you’ll burn. On that note, if you’re driving from home to a campsite with water hookups, make sure to save weight by leaving your water tanks empty for the drive.
No matter how long you’re headed out for, the best-equipped RVers are the ones who have figured out how to make their stuff work for them most efficiently. That means packing versatile clothing and layers that can be adapted to different climates and activities, and being somewhat ruthless about leaving the rest of your wardrobe at home. Just as you would when sorting through a pile of clothes you haven’t worn in years, make sure everything you bring is essential, rather than simply nice to have just in case.
Make it homey
Your RV is your home on wheels, and the longer you spend in it the more important those little touches of home will be. A canopy will come in handy for setting up your outdoor living space, while patio lanterns and a small plant or two add vibrancy and a little festivity to the mix. Things like framed artwork and a tablecloth can also add cozy vibes, so long as they don’t contribute much extra weight.
Do a dry run
Your first RV trip will be a learning experience, and the only way to figure out a setup that works for you is by trial and error. That said, camping in your driveway for a night can be a great way to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t before you take off. From cooking to washing up to sleeping, you’re bound to find a few things you want to change or add your first time on board, and all the better if you’re not far from home when you do.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.