“The mountains are calling, and I must go.
Oh, but I need to grab my pillow first!”
– John Muir, with apologies
The weekend beckons. You’re packing the RV on Thursday evening, preparing for an early Friday start. What should you bring?
Better question: What should you not bring?
Your rig may weigh 7,000 lbs, but you only have room for 600 lbs of gear! Every pound counts.
So find your inner Marie Kondo, and let’s get un-packing.
1. Gourmet Kitchen Appliances
There’s something about a campfire that brings out everyone’s Gordon Ramsey a la redneck. Shelves and cabinets fill up with InstaPots, Dutch ovens, turkey fryers, bread machines, waffle irons, espresso machines and whatever else HGTV is currently selling on prime time.
- Instead of a Keurig, bring a French press – or just use a drip cone!
- Instead of a bread machine, purchase some delicious pre-baked La Brea loaves.
- Instead of a waffle iron, bring a griddle for pancakes, and cook anything else you want on it besides.
- Instead of a turkey fryer – wait, you’re bringing a whole friggin’ TURKEY?!
Everything should do double-duty. No saucers, please! Bring a big plate, big bowl, and big cup for every person. No soufflé dishes. A 10-inch skillet or sauté pan and 3-quart sauce pan can together cook almost any meal. Any wider than 8-10 inches, and most pots and pans won’t fit on an RV double-burner stove.
Cast iron is sacred amongst campers, but if you want to save weight, choose stainless steel or anodized aluminum.
Don’t fret – I’m not suggesting you pack nothing but a spork, aluminum foil and a collapsible set of nested silicone bowls. But at least leave the wok.
2. Extra Toiletries
Don’t write me off just yet – I’m not suggesting to abandon all toiletries! In fact, I’m not suggesting you necessarily abandon any.
However, you don’t need to bring along an entire bottle of shampoo. Purchase some empty travel-sized bottles in bulk and squirt some shampoo, conditioner, and body wash inside. Bring teeny-tiny jars of perfume and cologne. Take Navy-style showers. Have everyone share a bar of deodorant.
Well, that’s going too far. Point being, you’re going camping, not walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City.
3. Survival Tools
Every RV-ownin’ man has an inner Bear Grylls. “Goin’ campin’! Great! Better bring that axe/machete/katana!” He runs to the shed, dusts off the cobwebs, and lovingly whispers, “Time to put you to good use.”
I’m as guilty as anyone. I once carried an 8-lb hatchet on a 3,000-mile cross-country cycling trip. I cut my toothbrush in half, but I couldn’t bear to part with my Salvation Army-find hatchet.
But the truth is that a decent survival knife is all you need to defend yourself from lions, tigers and bears. The rest of your tool cache should be RIV repair and maintenance tools:
- Duct tape, roof repair tape
- Flashlight with batteries or a good headlamp
- Screwdriver with Phillips, flathead, square tips
- Drill/impact driver with the same plus twist drill bits
- Limited selection of sockets with ratchet
- Adjustable wrench
- Mini caulk gun
- Rubber mallet
Oh, and don’t bring your own firewood. That’s heavy, and it’s a good way to spread invasive insects and fungi. We all know the campground charges an arm and a leg for firewood. So what? You got 8 mpg just driving here!
4. Canned Goods
No one wants to become the next Donner Party. It’s tempting to bring along an extra case of canned ham n’ beans because, “Hey, what if,” but are they really necessary? Does anyone even actually like ham n’ beans?
RV food should be kept light and convenient.
- Snack bars
- Nuts and crackers
- A limited assortment of ready-to-eat canned goods!
You’re traveling, not training for the next episode of Chopped.
If you must tote along extra food, bring dry, bulk goods: rice, dry beans, dried fish, etc. That way you aren’t carting around the extra water weight.
5. Work Stuff
I am the world’s biggest hypocrite for writing this paragraph. My trusty laptop follows me like a dog. It was the Best Man at my wedding.
But if you’re traveling for a weekend, do you really need that laptop, cooling fan base, web camera, 3-ring binder, and assortment of plugs and wires? Do you actually need to work, or is it there “just in case the boss calls”?
Fight the Man! Leave work at home. You’re RVing, remember? As Bilbo Baggins said,
“It’s a dangerous business … going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Oh, and the same rules apply to gaming consoles. Do not bring a gaming console while traveling. An Xbox has no place within a 50-mile radius of any national park. Ansel Adams is turning over in his grave.
6. Extra Adventure Gear
I don’t fish. I haven’t cast a line in at least five years. But like all good RV owners, I have a pocket fishing pole and a tackle box that somehow worm their way inside every camper I use.
For years, I also carried a heavy pair of binoculars that weighed at least 12 lbs. Ask me how many times I used them, readers. Ask me. A big, fat zero.
Just because Article XYZ on the internet said you needed fishing gear does not mean you need fishing gear! Or binoculars. If you’re a recreational angler or ornithologist, you are excluded. But most of us don’t need half the adventure gear we’re toting around. Bring what you love to do, and leave the rest.
By the way, if you need some extra ideas about where to store your stuff inside your RV, check out these recommendations from my friend Ashley Mann at RV Inspiration.
7. Heavy Packaging
Packaging smartly can easily take off 30-50 lbs – and you don’t have to eliminate any of your stuff.
The rule is simple: Don’t use plastic, wood, cardboard or metal boxes and containers.
Instead, use pillow cases, collapsible laundry hampers and gallon-sized ziplock bags. Fold your clothes rather than hang them. If you’re feeling up to the challenge, purchase some vacuum storage bags and marvel at how small your clothes can really shrink!
8. Hardback Books
Why bring a book when you can use a Kindle? They don’t rip, you can’t –
You know what, forget this advice. Bring that book. Bring three. Books were made for long, low-light nights camping under the stars and on sun-lit sandy beaches. And Kindles don’t work well in direct sunlight, anyway.
One last word of advice from the engineering side of me: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your fuel efficiency is determined mostly by your RV aerodynamics, anyway. Is an extra 100 lbs on top of a 7,000 rig really going to tip the scales?
I say bring less because less is better. Less stuff is more family time, more laughter. Less house is more home. Less distraction is more adventure – maybe, one of these days, even more fishing.