If you’re about to be a full-time RVer, you’ve probably questioned what you need to bring along with you on your journey. And just like every other full-time RVer, you’ll probably over-pack, throw some stuff away after you’ve made the transition, buy what you (think) you need as you realize you need it, and repeat the process throughout the course of your adventure. Some things are absolutely a necessity, but for the most part you’ll have to figure it out as you go. I know, it’s really overwhelming to think about not being 100% prepared before you make such a drastic lifestyle change. Don’t worry, though, you still have the mindset of living in a house. You learn VERY quickly when your house is as big as your old living room and although you will have to buy things, you don’t have to fill up a bunch of space anymore!
My wife and I made the decision to be full-time RVers in February of this year (2016). Within two months, we sold our house, all of our belongings, and we were officially homeless and almost helpless full-timers. I remember asking a friend of ours, who was and still is a full-timer, “how many outfits do we need to pack for each season?” I don’t recall what the exact number was but it was surprisingly low (way too low for the wife). We had already stuffed most of our clothes in garbage bags when our friend called us back to tell us she was joking.
Joke or not, we were moving into an RV and a BUNCH OF STUFF HAD TO GO! I looked online for a guide that would give me a list of necessities and all I could find were a bunch “do not forget” checklists for the “seasonal” or “once a year” type campers. But we weren’t camping! We were living! I needed to know what tools to bring, how many changes of clothes to keep, how many drinking cups we needed, and what to keep in our storage compartments. But unfortunately, the google search engine algorithm is set up to find exactly what 99% of the population using the same keywords would be looking for – and in this case, I was the 1%.
Well I have made a guide but I’m sorry to say that I do not have a “catch-all” checklist because now that I’ve been a full-time RVer for 6 months, I’ve realized that when you choose to have less, you only choose to keep what’s most important; and “most important” is surprisingly different from one person to the next. On a (kind of) similar note, when I lived in a big and spacious house, me and all my neighbors might as well of had all the same “stuff” in a different color.
Before I get into the “guide”, it’s important to note that when you live a minimalist lifestyle, you have to carefully think about and choose items that represent “home” to you. Before we made the decision to be full-time RVers, we toured our friend’s RV (the same full-timer I was talking about earlier) and we noticed she and her husband had actual, breakable, dinner plates! At first, we thought, “why would they carry extra weight and go through the trouble of wrapping plates every time they relocate?” But then we moved into our RV and realized we wanted certain “things” because that’s simply what “home” was to us.
That said, here is a room by room list of what we keep in our RV; perhaps a very rough “guide” for anyone who’s about to start their full-time RV journey. And just so you have an idea of our layout, here a few pictures of our RV you can reference for size comparisons.
We keep a mini “pack ‘n play” at the foot of our bed that our 15 month old daughter sleeps in. When she outgrows the pack ‘n play, we’ll take out our dining room table and convert that into a small bedroom, at which point we’ll sit around the sink for dinner (the sinks have pieces that sit flush with the counter to increase counter space).
Our bedroom has a king sized bed that flips up with additional storage, a small chest of drawers, and a medium-sized dresser. Naturally, my wife gets about 7/8 of the closet space and the most drawer space. She is a teacher at a local elementary school, so she needs a variety of professional attire. Since I’m working out of the house and in the campground, I don’t need much. My wife said she got rid of some clothes but I can’t tell. I keep about 8 t-shirts, boxers, socks, and sportswear in my drawers. Dress shirts and pants are in the closet. And underneath our bed, we have an extra set of bed linens, a comforter, a suitcase, and out of season clothes.
Ok – RVs are not built like homes. Despite how many items you can cram onto a clothes hanging rod, it can only handle a certain amount of weight while bouncing around on the road. We learned that the hard way. Our first stop on our maiden voyage was Asheville, NC. We hooked up, let the slides out, and found our clothes thrown all over our bedroom; rod ripped completely out of the wall…lesson learned.
Regarding what clothes to pack, here’s a good rule of thumb you’ve probably heard, if you haven’t worn something in a year (6 months in warmer states), trash it! All those boxers and socks with holes in them, trash. Bras you haven’t worn in years, trash. Your backup clothes you keep for the times you’re two weeks overdue on laundry, trash.
If you still have a bunch of clothes left, pick out 5-10 favorite outfits for each season and toss the rest. Once you have that narrowed down, trash lookalikes (shirts, jeans, etc.). Keep a couple of dressy outfits for special occasions and a couple of pairs of dress shoes (1 for summer and 1 for winter).
Once you’ve trashed everything you haven’t seen in 6 months or longer, your old socks and underwear, and lookalike items, check your owner’s manual to see how much weight your clothes rod hanger can hold. If you still have too much weight, you only have two options: 1) reinforce your clothes hanging rod, and/or 2) shed more clothes. Just remember, you are simplifying! It’s not easy to get rid of your “stuff,” but it’s soooo freeing! Your clothes aren’t nearly as important as you think they are.
And just FYI, if you’re the kind of person who keeps costumes in your closet for 30 years “because you might get invited to a ghost busters themed Halloween party one day,” this lifestyle probably isn’t for you.
In our bathroom, we use Norwex products when we can because they are silver infused and therefore self-disinfecting, so you can actually bathe without soap if need be (perfect for life on the road)! We got rid of our old rags and bought 2 towels and 2 wash cloths each (for me, my wife, and our daughter); and they are color coded to keep things nice and organized.
- Other than Norwex, we pretty much use everything that we used in our house. Again, we just got rid of everything we never used (mostly old medicine, smell good stuff, and overflow items). Other than the basic toiletries, here’s what we currently have in our bathroom:
- 6 towels
- 6 wash cloths
- Charmin toilet paper (has the blue label, great for RV holding tanks!)
- Medicine – kept in 3 acrylic 6×12 inch boxes (cough & flu-like medicine, prescriptions, and first aid)
- Curling iron
- Clippers (beard trimmer)
- Bathroom toys for our daughter (kept in a plastic crate in the bathroom)
Kitchen/Dining Room/Breakfast nook
When we sold everything in our house, we had a garage-sale with a fold out table dedicated to kitchen ware. We must have had 60 cups we were selling — SIXTY!!! There were two and a half people living in our house. Why did we have 60 cups?!?!? Because we had the space. So if you’ve got too many cups, you should sell everything and live in an RV 🙂
- Now, our kitchen ware consists of:
- Cutlery (we cook just about every meal, so nice cutlery is a must for us)
- Silverware (we also have nice silverware because it isn’t much extra weight and it doesn’t take up much space)
- Pots (3 pots, the largest holding 1 gallon)
- 1 heavy-duty searing pan
- 3 baking pans
- 4 Ozark 20 oz cups (Yeti knock off but in one test, they kept ice for 20+ hours)
- 2 Ozark 32 oz cups
- 4 coffee mugs
- plastic plates (8), bowls (6), and cups (8)
- 12 extra cups that have accumulated and need to be trashed
- 4 non-stick cookie sheets (2 small and 2 medium)
- 2 small baking stones
- 1 Keurig coffee maker (on sale!)
- 1 Blender
- Small crock pot
- 3 mixing bowls of different sizes
- 1 strainer
- and about 4 sets of Tupperware of different sizes
- In our Dining Room/Breakfast nook, we have 4 chairs where the seats flip-up for additional storage. In each of them, I have office supplies and paperwork separated into 4 categories (mail, supplies, documents/forms, and paperwork that needs to be reviewed.
Living Room/Play area/Office
Our living room is also our baby’s play area and my office. There isn’t much storage there, so we primarily use shelving and counter space for baby toys, books, and blankets. I’ve also got a couple of drawers that I use for office supplies that I need to get to quickly. I use a wireless keyboard and mouse along with a desktop computer and I use the t.v as my monitor. A fold up table that’s about 3 ft long is used as an office desk, which is stored behind the recliners when not in use. The “office use” of our living room is not ideal. I’ve got a fairly large printer that sits on the floor and there are wires everywhere! I’m still thinking about an efficient set up and I’ll keep y’all posted when I figure it out.
We have 3 storage compartments: the main compartment that runs from one side to the other (our basement), a medium-sized compartment that is underneath our 5th wheel tongue (front storage), and a smaller compartment in the rear (back storage).
- In our “basement,” we have 4 acrylic heavy-duty storage compartments. I measured the entry way and storage space and found boxes that would maximize the space and still slide out when full.
- Office supplies (Box 1)
- Paperwork for my company that is locked and secured
- Branded items I use for client presentations and mailings
- Overflow office supplies (printer paper, stables, presentation binders, etc.)
- Camping and Outdoor (Box 2)
- sleeping bags
- wet suits
- fishing supplies
- Stuff that I thought we needed to keep but I haven’t touched since we moved out of our house (Box 3 and 4)
- Electronic wires (old chargers, RCA cables, wires that go to…who knows what, etc.)
- We also keep an extra t.v for outdoor viewing and a tackle box for easy access.
- Office supplies (Box 1)
- In our “front storage,” we have 2 additional boxes that can also fit in the “basement.”
- Pool/Beach stuff for our daughter (Box 1)
- Extra toys and games (Box 2)
- I also keep my golf clubs in the front storage and I have a binding machine for client presentations that I keep in there.
- In our “back storage” (for the guys), I have my tools.
- Wireless drill
- wireless impact drill
- tape measure
- Voltage Tester
- extension cords
- black tank extension
- 50 amp to 30 amp adaptor
- 30 amp to 15 amp adaptor
- Voltage Tester – I’m still learning about electricity but you want to make sure there isn’t a wiring issue at the campsite. There are a number of different things that could cause issues with electricity going to your unit, so you want to be especially cautious and test beforehand. The tester measures the voltage going to the receptacle that your unit plugs into. Your maximum voltage is likely 120 but normally there is a sticker on your RV somewhere near the power plug that tells you. Testing your voltage beforehand doesn’t mean you can’t get a random spike while your RV is plugged in but testing before hooking up is definitely a good practice.
- RV friendly toilet paper – The last thing you want is a clogged tank; especially a clogged black (poo) tank. The Charmin toilet paper mentioned above is sufficient but if you want to shop around, here are some other options.
- Clear black tank hose adaptor – Make sure it’s clear! It’s a little gross to watch but you want to make sure you flush your black tank until the water runs clear! Solids settle at the bottom of your tank and can eventually mix with toilet paper and clog your tank. The amount my wife and I talk about poo has increase 100 fold since we started living in an RV. It comes with the territory.
- Black tank hose – I like the one in the link because it’s hard plastic and the o-rings are solid. I’ve tried the “flex hose” and I’m not a big fan because although it’s more flexible, it also punctures easily.
- Sewer Hose Support – As the saying goes, “poo don’t flow up-hill.” But sometimes that’s how your campground site is sloped. This is the solution to that problem.
- Levelers – Unless you plan on being stationary with your RV, it is a 100% certainty there will be times your leveling jacks alone won’t do the job. Put these underneath your leveling jacks or tires, and add a few inches!
- Wheel Chocks – You definitely don’t want your house rolling anywhere unless you’re the one driving it!
- Amp Converters – Everything that uses electricity requires a certain amount of amps to run. When your unit is pulling more electricity than the circuit is pushing, you’ll flip the breaker. You’ll need to figure out what you can and cannot run if you have an outlet pushing less than you need to pull. For example, we have 2 A/C units. When I’m at a 30 amp camp site, we have to turn off my 2nd A/C unit and along with themicrowave to keep from flipping the breaker. Which converter you need will depend on how many amps your unit is pulling. If you’ve got a 50 amp RV, I’d get a 50 – 30 amp converter and a 30 to 15 amp converter. If you’re unit is a 30 amp unit, you just need the 30 to 15 amp converter.
- Fresh water drinking hose – Fresh water hoses are BPA free. I’d get 50 ft of hose, especially if you’ll be boondocking (dry camping – without hookups). 25 ft is likely sufficient but you never know when you’ll need more and there’s always the possibility of springing a leak.
- Water pressure regulator – There is a maximum amount of water pressure that you can run to your unit. Exceeding that amount and you run the risk of blowing seals. The last thing you want is water damage in your RV! And busting a seal normally means no (or limited) water supply until you fix the leak. The water pressure regulator keeps the pressure below a certain amount. I prefer the regulator with a gauge and one that can be adjusted but they are a little pricier. The cheap ones without a gauge is sufficient. The big thing is that you have one!
Just FYI, We have a 41.5 ft 5th wheel. And while your RV may be smaller, our 500 sq ft 5th wheel is still closer to the size of your unit than a house! So you may not have the space for multiple pots and pans but you still have space for pots and pans! You’ll obviously adjust accordingly but I can assure you, it can be done and you won’t miss the “stuff.” We wanted to make sure we had an RV big enough for our growing family but as you can see, we have way too much space! We’ve got too many cups (it’s a pet peeve of mine), wasted storage space for overflow items, and one of our compartments is only about half full. Hindsight, we wish we would have gone smaller for maneuverability and boondocking purposes. Live and learn!
And that’s it!
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