What is the most daunting part of camping, especially when you have a family? Packing!
Forgetting something important can take a trip from great to terrible in the blink of an eye. It's enough to stop some people from taking a trip at all. As a mom of 3 (4 if you count my husband) I completely understand how the thought of getting everything packed can be overwhelming.
I am an organizer and make a list for everything, so I am here to take the stress out of getting your family on the road. My checklist covers everything you need for a successful trip, without the worry of forgetting something.
If you are looking for the digital checklist, you can find it here.
If you'd like the printable, click here.
If you're looking for in-depth information on making packing easier and the products I suggest, you're in the right place!
Thoughts on Packing
The number one biggest tip I can give you on packing your family for a trip is to make it simple.
Have a go-to routine for getting your gear out to the camper and stick to it. Once packing becomes a habit, you can get ready for your trip on autopilot and hit the road without that feeling of forgetting something.
I utilize a lot of collapsable tubs, plastic bins, and baskets to make packing as easy as it can be. You'll need to find bins that fit your camper, so I suggest making a note on your phone with the dimensions of every drawer, cabinet, and space you want to use for storage. That way when you're out and about and find good containers, you can know if they'll fit the rig or not! An example of the list I keep is on the left. It's pretty extensive, I wanted to be sure that, if I found something I thought might work in the camper, I had those dimensions.
Once you have containers that fit your rig, it's easy to pack them up in the house and carry them out to the camper. I have the kids help me carry out each tub so I don't have to do so much back and forth. I cannot stress how much of a difference a good system makes. Maybe containers don't work for you, but throwing things in a laundry basket and making only 2-3 trips out to the rig is the system you need. Find what works and stick to it!
Let me break down each area with things to consider and a few tips. If you are looking for recommendations for items to purchase, click here!
These are your basic needs. What I bring on each trip varies greatly for each area depending on what we are doing and where we are going. If our camping trip is a weekend at a local campground to relax, I probably won't bring much past a toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bug spray. If we're going on a week long trip where we are sight seeing and venturing out a lot, I'll bring pretty much the entire medicine cabinet. Gage what you need, and leave the rest. Be prepared so you can be comfortable, but if you know you won't use your make up for a trip--I'd say leave it at home. The less you have to drag back and forth the better!
One of my favorite tips is to find bins that fit the medicine cabinet in your camper and store your toiletries in them in your house. Then, when it is time to go camping, all you have to do is grab the containers and go! You know you've got all of your necessities because that is where you always keep them! It's easy to label your containers (we have "Sun & Bug", "Medicine & First Aid", "Kids' Stuff", "Hair", "Mom's Stuff", and "Dad's Stuff"). This way I don't have to have 2 of everything and I never forget things.
My favorite container for clothes are collapsable fabric cubes. I have enough for each family
member to have up to 3 containers. The nice part is when we aren't using the camper I can collapse all of our cubes and store them in one, so they don't take up much space at home. Sometimes I can get away with using only one tub per person (in the summer!) when we are going on a weekend trip!
I pack enough pants, shirts, socks, undies, and PJs for all of the days we are gone, plus one extra set just in case. Then, I usually pack a sweatshirt, rain jacket, and sweatpants for everyone no matter the time of year. No one wants to be cold when the sun goes down!
If you have hanging space, I usually leave everything that is normally on hangers on the hanger to save me time. Then, if something is still clean when we get home I just move it right back to it's spot in the closet.
One of the biggest mistakes I see RVers make is over packing for the kids. Moms will drive themselves crazy trying to make sure they have all the entertainment they could possibly need. Then, they get to the campsite and the kids busy themselves with digging in the dirt, exploring, making new friends, and creating something out of nothing.
When it comes to the kids, don't over do it! Pack the essentials, their favorite stuffy and a pillow. Maybe a few outdoor toys, a game or movie incase it's rainy, and call it covered!
I am one of those moms that want to bring EVERYTHING for outdoors. When we get away from the daily grind, leave the tablets and home, and get into nature, I want the kids to have all. the. things. My compromise with myself is I try to bring different things every time. One time we have the soccer ball, the next we have the ball gloves and bat.
One great tip is to use CampgroundViews.com to check out your campground in advance. This website has pictures and even videos of over 16,000 campgrounds! Want to bring the scooters, but you're not sure if the road is gravel? Take a "drive" through the park on CampgroundViews and find out! It will save you bringing extra stuff that you can't use at your particular destination. We highly recommend it!
This is one area where I also keep some things in the camper all the time. Outdoor toys and equipment aren't going to go bad if they stay in the camper all year long. Here are some examples of what I keep in the camper: sand toys, sidewalk chalk, bug & butterfly cages, glow sticks, squirt guns, and a few balls. I can't stress enough though--don't over do it. The kids make their own fun at the campground!
The fridge is an area much like the toiletries for me. Get containers that fit your rig to store things in at home, then you can just grab the containers of the items you need and go! I've got examples of the containers I use in the fridge here that you can grab on Amazon. I've also discovered that your good old plastic "shoe" tubs tend to be the best fit and can hold the most!
Always make sure your fridge is on ahead of time to start the cool down process. Depending on its size and type, an RV fridge can take over 24 hours to cool down to temp. Also make sure you don't pack it so full there isn't room for air to flow. An RV fridge works by circulating the air, so if the air can't circulate the fridge is going to have a hard time getting cool and staying cool. They do make fans to help with this that you may want to consider if your fridge has a hard time getting down to temp.
Finally, if possible, pack your fridge with items that are already cold. I like to take all of my camping food straight from the store to the camper to eliminate the extra step of bringing it from the store to the house, and then the house to the camper. For example, try to buy cold drinks so warm ones don't bring up the temperature of the fridge.
If you haven't figured it out by now, how you store things in your home to make it easy to transition to your rig is THE key to making your camping trip easier. So, just like for toiletries and the fridge, I try to keep items I bring with us camping in containers I use in the camper AND the house. We have a whole tub dedicated to S'mores. ;)
Tubs are your best friend because they save you steps. I promise, the investment of good tubs will go a long way in your camping adventures. Consider organizing things at home together, like "Bread & Buns" in one container, or "Cereal & Granola". I have a tub of kids individually wrapped snacks that comes with us camping as well. I just grab it and go! No need to get special snacks for camping, we just bring what we already have at home.
If you have pets, you might be concerned about keeping them comfortable while you're camping. New surroundings might make them nervous, so bringing items from home is a smart idea. However, we do keep a few things in the camper for our pup, Bella. We have a dog blanket for the bed, since she likes to jump up on our bed when we're camping. We also keep bowls in the camper--we just found it was something we regularly forgot when we didn't have a set strictly for the camper. And we also keep pet waste bags, a leash, and tie out all in the camper. They won't go bad and are essential to camping with the dog, so they just stay put! I do always check to make sure these items have stayed in the camper before we leave, which is why they made their way onto the checklist!
The only thing we have to worry about bringing for the dog is her food, medication, and bed. Our girl is getting older and doesn't really have any toys she loves anymore , but in her younger days I would have brought a favorite toy or two as well.
I wish towels would wash themselves so I wouldn't have to worry about them, but they don't...so be sure to reload your towels every time you head out! In our camper we usually bring 2 towels and wash cloths per person, a few hand towels, and a beach towel for everyone. Then, I always have a few back ups that stay in the camper in case something happens to someone's towel. We hardly have to use them, but if they weren't in the camper you can be sure someone would drop their beach towel in the mud and be towel-less for the rest of the trip.
One additional item I suggest (and keep in our camper all the time) is a clothesline. This is how I get away with only one beach towel per person (and sometimes we use it for bath towels if they're not drying out in the camper). We hang our towels out to dry and they're ready for the next day! We have found the line works better than the ladder on the back of the camper because we can spread the towels out more!
This list may look a little different for you, but they're the items you definitely don't want to forget! We have more than one YouTube channel, so the camera is essential to us...your phone might be enough for you! We also tend to have to work occasionally, so our computers come with us as well. I hope you're lucky enough to get to leave your computer at home!
For dishes and such, this is mostly a reminder for me to check our supply. I keep paper plates, disposable silverware, Solo cups, TP, and paper towels in the camper at all times--but since these are consumables, I always like to check our supply before we leave.
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