The Ultimate RV Packing List, According to a Couple Who Has Traveled the Country in One
Don't pack up your RV without checking out this list.
If you've taken travel lockdowns in stride and have shifted your summer vacation plans to a road trip — an RV trip, to be more specific — you've likely gathered quite a lengthy checklist of trip preparations, including finding the perfect RV and route. But after you've secured the right vehicle, you might be wondering what to fill it with. What kind of dishes are the most durable? What tech items will help you stay online while you're on the road? (Unless you're looking to totally unplug, that is). We decided to ask the experts about what items should be on every RV traveler's packing list.
Related: More RV road trip tips
Enter: Matt and Brad Kirouac, RV travelers and founders of Hello Ranger, a National Parks blog, app, and podcast. The Kirouacs are currently on a quest to see all of America's National Parks in a 26-foot RV, and they shared their story on Travel + Leisure's own podcast Let's Go Together. We also asked them to share the items that have saved them while traveling in an RV, including some unexpected picks, such as a heated blanket and insulated wine bottle sleeves.
Keep reading for Matt and Brad Kirouac's must-haves for any RV trip.
1. WiFi Signal Booster
To buy: ALFA WiFi/Internet Range Extender Kit, amazon.com, $150
"One of the most frustrating things for us adapting to RV life was the erratic WiFi on our travels, making it difficult to get work done efficiently, and also just to relax at the end of the day with a little Netflix time. By purchasing and hooking up a WiFi signal booster, most of those issues have gone away, and we can reliably use our devices no matter where we are. Sure, it might not be as speedy and smooth as a city apartment or a Starbucks, but it definitely gets the job done, and it’s a huge stress reliever," – Matt Kirouac
2. Chargers & Adapters
"Nowadays, this pretty much goes without saying, but don’t forget chargers for your phones and laptops. This is especially true on a road trip, when you’re most likely relying on your phones for GPS, and in case emergencies arise when you’re in a remote locale. Also bring an adapter for your phone so you can plug it into your dashboard and use it for directions (and podcasts/music) while driving, without having to fiddle with it," – M.K.
3. Heated Blanket
"In general, when traveling and camping in an RV, it’s a good idea to prepare for the most extreme, and unexpected, weather. Depending where you are, it might get close to freezing late at night, even if it’s in the 80s or 90s during the day. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve woken up shivering in the middle of the night because I was under-prepared with my flimsy blanket, even in the summer months, and even in parts of the country I didn’t realize ever got that cold at all (like Santa Fe, which was a freezing reality check). It’s best to play it safe with a heated blanket.
Bonus: Speaking of sleeping, a mattress pad was a pivotal addition for us. When we first bought our RV, sleeping on the queen-sized bed felt like sleeping on pavement compared to the mattress we had in our Chicago loft. It’s amazing how far a simple, cushy mattress pad can go in terms of basic comfort. I still miss our king-sized bed, though…," – M.K.
To buy: Honeywell HT-900 TurboForce Air Circulator Fan, amazon.com, $15
"Conversely, when it’s hot outside, it’s extra hot inside the RV. And AC isn’t nearly as reliable as it is in houses, condos, apartments, etc. RVs simply aren’t equipped to handle extreme heat, like in places like Tucson and Phoenix. Trust me, we learned this the hard way while in Tucson for two months. It gets HOT. Our RV’s AC was working overtime, but once the temperature exceeds the mid-90s, there’s only so much it can do, as the weather effectively turns the RV into one giant Easy-Bake Oven. We wound up having to make a couple emergency trips to Target to pick up fans to provide more air circulation, which really helps," – M.K.
5. Durable Dishes & Kitchen Accessories
To buy: Wine Wings Reusable Bottle Protector Sleeves, amazon.com, $18 for set of four (originally $30)
"An RV is not the place to stock up on coupes or stemware. In general, reduce your glass supplies as much as possible, because you never know when you might hit a bump hard enough to shatter a few things. We’ve primarily focused our cups, bowls, and plates on non-glass items as much as possible, so they can rattle around in your cabinets without having to worry about mishaps. The best things to get are microwaveable dishes, because more than likely, you’ll be using your RV microwave a lot. Currently, the only glass we have are liquor and wine bottles, and the way we protect those is by wrapping bottles in insulating 'sleeves,' and bundling them snuggled together in square containers. By not having a lot of wiggle room, this prevents glass from bouncing around much, and the sleeves provide the perfect insulation for precious cargo," – M.K.
6. Folding Chairs
"Lawn-style folding chairs are the essential item I never knew I needed, until Brad somewhat spontaneously purchased a couple one day. I didn’t think I would really use them, but they’ve become a crucial part of my daily routine. After working all day inside the RV, I head outside to our makeshift 'patio,' wherever that may be, and sit down on a chair with a book. It’s how I unwind and clock out of 'work' mode each day. It also provides the sense that it extends our living space outdoors, effectively doubling our 26-foot RV and adding some much-needed room. I’d also recommend purchasing a mat or pad of some sort, in case you happen to be someplace where your 'patio' is mostly dirt or rock, as this softens up the landscape and makes it feel homier," – M.K.
7. Leveling Blocks
To buy: Camco Heavy Duty Leveling Blocks, amazon.com, $40
"This was something I never would have thought of, and you probably won’t either… until you find yourself sleeping at an awkward angle, with all the blood rushing to your head. Most of the time, we don’t wind up needing to use leveling blocks to place under our RV tires, but you’re much better erring on the side of caution, rather than dizzying discomfort. They’re also super easy to use and store, as they just stack on top of each other like Legos, and easily stash away in small compartments," – M.K.
8. Dump Hose
"Possibly the most essential item to get is a dump hose. They don't come with RVs for good reason (I wouldn't want a used dump hose). It's also important to understand how to use and hook up, because you don't want to end up like me with a shower of, well...," – Brad Kirouac
9. DSLR Camera or GoPro
To buy: GoPro HERO8 Bundle, gopro.com, $300 (originally $450)
In addition to a DSLR camera, "it's also great to get some online training first if you are not experienced so you can make the most out of your investment. Talking about cameras, it's also a great idea to get a GoPro like the HERO8 Bundle Pack. These are great for when you are going snorkeling in Biscayne National Park or heading into a cave to go spelunking at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. Plus, who doesn't love a nice fisheye view photo," – B.K.
10. Outdoor Adventure Gear
To buy: PRODIVE Premium Dry Top Snorkel Set, amazon.com, $26
"Speaking of snorkeling, that really got us in the mood to buy wetsuits, flippers, snorkeling vests, and a snorkeling masks ... After traveling in our RV for two years, we have found some pretty unique places to adventure into, and we’ve found ourselves scrambling to make sure we can get the most out of the experience. Kind of like the time we went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico to go spelunking but I wore out the treads of my hiking shoes that they wouldn't allow me to go on the excursion for my safety. So make sure to check your hiking shoes for proper tread, I recommend ones with FOOTSHAPE Toe Box technology from Altra. They allow your toes to relax and spread out naturally for more comfort and stability," – B.K.
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