Are you going on your first camper adventure?
Hopefully, you’ve practiced your towing, hitching and unhitching, backing up, and turning.
But now that the take-off is getting closer, it’s about time to put together a packing list.
Being prepared is crucial when traveling in a camper. There’s not much room, and you don’t want to exceed the weight limit.
Unfortunately, when we leave the packing to the last minute, we tend to take a bunch of unnecessary stuff, or miss something vital.
Be careful not to overpack your trailer, doing so can compromise your driving.
Not to mention taking up some valuable space within the camper.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together a list of 42 essential RV must haves, in five categories, for your first camper adventure that you should definitely include.
You can add and take out items to fit your specific needs. Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. General Essentials
To begin our list, we wanted to include some of the general essentials that you should add.
These next few items may be seen as no-brainers, but these are usually the things we tend to forget—or is that just me?
- Flashlight: We recommend this flashlight from Fenix—it even comes with batteries.
- Spare batteries: For all products that need them.
- Fire extinguisher.
- Toolkit: This toolkit from Apollo has everything you need for quick automotive repairs.
- Water hose: Preferably two—one to flush out the sewer system and the other for sanitary water.
- Road flares: In case of emergencies on the road, these come in handy if you break down after dark. Check out these LED flares from SlimK.
- Trash bags: For recycling and non-recycling, plus trash cans for both.
- Duct tape: This has many uses and can temporarily fix minor damages.
2. Bed Essentials
The whole idea of traveling with a camper is that you’re close to nature and saving money on motels and hotels.
However, without the proper bedding equipment, this may not be as enjoyable.
While you may want to pack all the items from your bedroom since your camper is your house on wheels, it’s best to just stick with the basics. Here’s what you should bring for bedtime:
Depending on how long you’re traveling for, take enough sheets for all the beds, plus an extra set for each.
If laundry facilities aren’t available, either in your camper or at the campgrounds, you may need more spares.
If you’re gone for no more than a few days, just one additional set may be enough.
Make sure you can change the sheets at least once a week.
Sleeping on dirty sheets can have a significant impact on your health, particularly if you suffer from allergies.
Even if they still look clean, tiny microorganisms, such as dust mites can thrive in the fabric after a few days of use.
We recommend these RV-friendly, queen-size sheet sets from Nestl Bedding.
They’re made with breathable, hypoallergenic material for comfort. A variety of colors and sizes make them the ideal travel trailer bedroom accessory.
Pillows And Pillowcases
Similar to the hazards of sleeping on dirty sheets, make sure you pack enough pillowcases. Dirty pillow cases readily carry bacteria that can cause acne flare-ups.
When traveling with a camper, especially during rainy or colder months, minor sickness is likely to happen.
Colds and flu will result in pillow cases quickly becoming grubby and germ-laden.
To prevent germs and bacteria from spreading, it is essential that you change the pillowcases regularly, to avoid them seeping into the pillows beneath.
If space allows, a pillow protectors also come in handy—and they’re much easier to wash than pillows!
Be sure to check out our in-depth buying guide to the best camping pillows.
Blankets And Sleeping Bags
The nights can get cold, even during the summer.
You want to be sure you can stay warm without having to sleep fully dressed—which can be pretty uncomfortable, not to mention unhygienic.
Blankets or sleeping bags are essential, unless you’re camping in a tropical climate in the middle of summer.
You can choose whichever you prefer. During colder weather, you may want to bring both.
Pack enough so that there’s an extra in case it’s needed. Getting stuck in the heart of no man’s land with wet or soiled blankets and no back-up is never fun.
Plus, who doesn’t enjoy snuggling up with a cozy blanket by the fire?
Why not go with a versatile blanket that’s lightweight, plush and waterproof, but also washable?
Take, for example, this blanket from Oceas that also doubles as a picnic blanket.
With a fleece finish, it’s warm and cozy, and even windproof if you want to sleep outside!
A generous size of 58 inches by 79 inches, and weighing just over two pounds, it packs away into a small waterproof bag for storage—saving precious space and weight.
3. Bath Essentials
No matter where the road may lead you, nature will eventually call.
Most campers will have at least a small onboard restroom fitted, with a toilet and perhaps a shower cabin.
Even if yours hasn’t got one, you should still bring your bathroom essentials.
These may include the following:
Soap is a given. As we venture into the great outdoors, and outside of our sanitary abodes, germs and bacteria are everywhere.
Not that this is a bad thing—unless you have a weakened immune system, a little germ-exposure is harmless.
Still, it’s nice to be able to wash off some of the dirt before eating, at least.
We found this amazing biodegradable liquid hand soap from Method.
It’s mild for the hands, and environmentally friendly, with lots of scents to choose from.
Shampoo And Conditioner
This may not be as important for men, depending on personal preferences, no judgment here. But, if you’re traveling with your girlfriend or wife, she may want to include this.
Hair gets dirty pretty fast. Especially if your adventure includes hiking, cycling, or any physical activity for that matter.
This shampoo and conditioner set from Love Beauty & Planet has no harmful additives and is infused with coconut oil for a natural, but subtle scent.
However, if you’re parked by a lake, avoid washing with soaps and shampoos in the water. The unnatural ingredients found in many beauty products can damage the environment under the surface, even those that claim to be biodegradable.
Toothbrushes And Toothpaste
Never skip on dental hygiene. Both you and your fellow campers will appreciate a fresh smelling breath inside a small trailer.
Towels have many uses—the most important being after you’ve showered or washed your hands. It’s always nice to have something to dry yourself with.
When traveling in a camper, bring at least two towels per person, plus a few smaller ones for the hands. This way there’s no need to share towels with anyone, and you have an extra to bring when going swimming or hiking.
Similar to the sheets and pillowcases, it’s important to keep your towels clean. On longer trips, make sure you find a laundromat or somewhere to wash them.
Do your best to pack towels that dry fast, such as these microfiber towels from Dock & Bay, since you probably won’t have a dryer available.
There’s a choice of several bright colors, so each family member can distinguish their own towel.
Unless you want to go aú naturale, toilet paper is essential. There are, of course, ways to get about, using stones, nearby vegetation, or even snow, but toilet paper tends to be a favorite.
However, when using toilet paper in the great outdoors, there are some things to be aware of. First, be mindful of the usage.
Even if you have an onboard toilet, you should not flush as much as you’re used to at home.
Two, find a fast-dissolving product, like this one from Scott.
If your camper doesn’t have an onboard bathroom, many recommend digging a cathole.
This is where you find a spot at least 200 feet away from any walkways, camping areas or water, and dig a hole where you can answer the call of nature.
Some may say it’s okay to burn the used toilet paper in the hole. However, this can result in wildfires.
It’s better to place it in a bag, tie it well and toss it in the trash.
A toiletry kit is an excellent way to store all of your personal bathroom essentials. It also allows for easy storage away from the restroom.
This is especially useful if you’re parked on an official site with public toilets and showers.
For sanitary reasons, it’s best to have one that you can hang, like this one from Bago.
Then you won’t have to worry about bringing home any unwanted germs from the floor.
4. Kitchen And Dining Essentials
This might be the most indispensable item on our list.
Food is a big part of traveling, and many will appreciate a “home cooked” meal while on the road.
Here, there’s a long list of essentials to bring, so I’m going to keep it short.
Before hitting the road, make a meal plan for what you’re going to cook while away, plus your favorite snacks. This will help you to pack what you need and nothing more. Food can weigh your trailer down, so don’t overdo it.
Check your route for any mini markets or grocery stores, then you can pack lightly and stack up once empty.
When traveling, especially with kids, sometimes the space between meals is prolonged. This can have a serious impact on our general health.
To avoid feeling fatigued, make sure you pack some healthy snacks. You can even keep them in ziplock bags and bring them with you on your day hike.
Cups And Mugs
You can’t drink all of your liquids from plastic bottles.
There’s nothing better than enjoying your morning coffee with your favorite mug, looking at some beautiful scenery.
But keep in mind that while driving, cups can move around if not secured properly.
Due to this, you may want to invest in mugs made of material that doesn’t break easily, such as these Asobu mugs.
Don’t fill up the onboard cabinets with mugs and cups.
Bring one per person, plus one or two extra for unexpected visitors.
Avoid using disposable cups, unless you’re actually going to reuse them. This may seem like a good way to avoid doing the dishes.
However, these cups will likely end up polluting the site.
It just wouldn’t be fair to ask yourself or your travel mates to eat the food from their hands. Plates, bowls, and utensils are essential.
Like your cups and mugs, bring just enough plus a few extra. In fact, most campers do just fine with a set of one plate, bowl, spoon, fork, and knife each.
Also, don’t bring your most expensive dishes. Instead, opt for something durable that doesn’t break easily and won’t cause an emotional breakdown if lost.
Since you’re on an adventure, one suggestion I have is to find something versatile that you can bring off-road, like this set from Light My Fire.
If you plan on doing some cooking other than mac n’ cheese, knives are essential.
Bring a few cooking utensils too. For example, this set from Wealers has pretty much everything you need, all in a handy storage case.
If you take along loose knives, ensure you store them safely, so they won’t cause any damage while you’re traveling.
Mixing Bowls, Pots, And Pans
Kitchen staples, like mixing bowls, pots and pans are also necessary unless you’re planning on eating out the whole time.
This bowl set, from Rosanna, has lids, so the bowls double up as storage containers.
Remember that less is more, so unless you’re planning on cooking a big feast, you’ll do fine with one or two of each.
Cleaning supplies include:
- Compact vacuum: This will come in handy when your camper gets filled with crumbs. This lightweight 2-in-1 vacuum is perfect for a trailer.
- Air freshener: This I would say is especially important if you have a toilet onboard. Things can get smelly after a while, so it’s good to have something to freshen up the air a bit.
- Dish soap.
- Cloths: Microfiber is best.
- Laundry detergent.
- Multi-purpose cleaner.
- Paper towels.
Kitchen Storage Essentials
You might have to get creative when it comes to storage, but if you take a peek around the web, you’ll find ideas on how to store away your items so you won’t have to look at them.
I like to bring plastic containers and hanging organizers along, like this set.
These can store a bunch of stuff and make your camper appear roomier.
Here you can store your napkins and paper towels, ziplock bags, spices, cooking oil, among others. If you feel eager for more ideas on how to pack and organize your kitchen, this video is very helpful.
5. Activity Essentials
For any great camping trip, activities are a must.
This could include hiking, ball playing, or swimming. These activities don’t require much equipment, but there are some essentials.
Staying hydrated is extremely important when going on adventures. Make sure you bring at least one or two water bottles, that you can quickly refill when needed.
You could also get a hydration backpack. These are basically standard backpacks, but fitted with a bag to contain water, and a tube coming around the front to sip from.
These are great for any activity, especially as you don’t have to carry a bottle in your hand.
Drinking enough water is crucial. Men should drink at least 125 ounces per day, while women should drink at least 90.
Dehydration can lead to all sorts of ailments, and while on the road, hospitals and clinics are not always in reach.
Whenever you’re outdoors, it’s vital to protect your skin and eyes from the sun. Sunburn can rapidly take all the fun out of an adventure.
Here’s what you should bring:
- Sunscreen: Use SPF 15 at the very least.
- Hats or visors
The sun isn’t the only thing you should protect your skin from. Mosquitoes and other biting insects can also ruin your vacation.
Not only will they make your skin itch like crazy, but they can also transmit diseases, like West Nile virus. This illness is especially widespread during mosquito season in North America.
Fortunately, it won’t necessarily cause significant damage, but it can definitely make you sick.
Make sure you include an insect repellent on your list.
Look for products containing components that are voted safe by the EPA. These are also safe for kids, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.
First Aid Kit
We can’t stress the importance of a first aid kit enough. You never know what may happen on the road and so you should always be prepared.
Your first aid kit should include the following:
- Antiseptic wash: This is to clean any wounds or bites.
- Sterile gauze pads, medical tape, and scissors.
- Elastic bandages.
- Adhesive bandages.
- Instant cold packs.
- Disposable gloves.
- Sting and bite treatments: Calamine lotions and hydrocortisone cream among other calming lotions.
- Antibiotic ointment.
Finally, this important information should be kept to hand at all times, in case of accidents or emergencies:
- Contact information: Keep phone numbers for family doctors, local emergency services, poison helplines, and emergency road service providers on hand. Plus the phone numbers of family members or friends that should be contacted in case of an emergency.
- Medical consent for each traveler.
- Medical history of each traveler.
Now we’re at the end of our list of all the things you want in your camper for your first adventure.
When camping for the first time, you don’t want to get a headache thinking about all the things you might have forgotten.
This list covers all the essentials, and we hope it’s a good starting point for you.
Do you have any something you always bring in your camper that we didn’t mention? If so, feel free to share with us and other readers in the comment section below. If you liked our list, make sure you share it to keep the word going!