How to pack a Motorhome – RV packing tips for beginners


Are you packing up a motorhome, campervan, or outfitting an RV? As I’m sure you’ve realised, trying to put ALL THE THINGS into a small space is not always easy! Not only do you have to figure out what to pack in your camper, you also need to learn HOW to pack it.

There are SO MANY THINGS which can rattle, shake loose or cause imbalances in the vehicle, which can be dangerous or annoying while you’re driving,  so it’s really important to pack your motorhome properly.

RV Packing Tips for beginners

After living and touring in our motorhome for nearly 2 years, we’ve learnt some great tips and tricks to pack a motorhome, and we’re sharing them all below. When we bought our first camper, we knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. We packed our first van completely wrong! Boy did we know it when we set off on our first trip- there were creaks, bangs and noises EVERYWHERE!

We had to learn how to stop rattles in the motorhome, how to pack heavy things low and how to arrange lockers so we didn’t have to empty them just to get something in the back!

Motorhome beginners guide

Are you new to motorhoming or RV life? Welcome – you have LOADS of exciting adventures ahead of you! Just remember, EVERYONE had to learn somewhere. Here are some posts which might help you out:

How to Pack a Motorhome

Right, let’s get started and learn HOW to start packing your motorhome or RV.

There are a million ways to outfit an RV for road trips and none of them are right/ wrong. We recently bought a new motorhome and this is the exact steps I took to make sure I had everything we needed for our trips.

You will find that you have ‘good lockers’ and ‘bad lockers’ inside your camper. Good lockers are easy to access, easy to see inside and easy to keep organized. Bad lockers are hard to access/ hard to see inside and large enough for things to get thrown in without any thought whatsoever, which makes them impossible to keep tidy!

Bad lockers can also have heating duct pipes/ wires/ switches etc inside them, which means you need to think about the types of objects you put into them.

Start by identifying your good/ bad lockers, then collecting your gear and RV kit together.

  • Start with your heavy/ awkward kit (Generators, outdoor furniture, tables, snow chains etc) If you have a garage or outdoor storage, this might be fairly easy, but for many motorhomes, it requires thinking about your lockers carefully
  • Next, gather all your kitchenware/ crockery/ utensils/ plates etc together. Try to put them in places which make sense, but keeps things secure.
  • Protect your heating ducts. You don’t want to store any hot/ perishable food next to these pipes, as they will get very hot. You also don’t want heavy items to fall inside a cupboard or locker and squish the duct- that can be an expensive repair.

Packing Motorhome Tips- don’t panic!

Ok, there’s a high chance your camper is currently utter chaos. Don’t panic- we will get through this in the next hour or two and it will start to feel a lot more under control.

This is NOT the time to start shoving stuff into lockers and hiding it all away- that will only cause confusion and frustration later on. This is when you send the kids, dogs (and possibly husband!) out for an ice cream or a looooooooooooong walk. Take your time and imagine living in the RV for a week/ month/ full time.

RV Packing Tips for beginners- the RV Kitchen

Once the annoying and heavy stuff is stowed away safely, and the RV kitchen gear have mostly got homes, I start looking at food. We don’t do a lot of detailed cooking in our motorhome, but we like to keep the basics like flour/ sugar etc in airtight sealed boxes like these. We find it makes them last longer and stops any little insects getting in.

Try and keep 1-2 rolls of paper towels easily accessible, but store the rest in lockers under the seats. You don’t want to take up all the good lockers with things like paper towels or toilet rolls, which you only need access to every few days.

Make sure sharp knives and other kitchen tools are safely stowed. We put ours in a drawer, wrapped in soft cloths so they can’t accidentally cut anyone. Some people use magnetic strips, which can be effective, but please get a strip of wood to hold them in place or put them away whilst driving- you don’t want those flying at you if you have an accident.

RV Kitchen- packing food for the first night

Give yourself a break- if you’ve been travelling all day, very few people are going to want to spend a long time in the kitchen cooking something fancy.

Make it easy on yourself and you’ll find the whole experience much more enjoyable. Also, don’t go and buy a load of fresh/ perishable food if you’re going on a ferry- it will go bad overnight.

We turn our fridge off for safety reasons, which means we can’t buy fresh food until we’ve arrived in Europe with the motorhome.

How to pack a motorhome- clothes

By now, most of the lockers will be filling up, especially the ones under the motorhome seats. It’s time to think about clothes. Try to split your clothes into things you’ll want daily (underwear, socks, t-shirts etc) and things you might not use every week (snow gear, hiking boots, bikini etc) Obviously, this will depend entirely on where you are road tripping and what you enjoy doing there!

We tend to store shoes in a separate locker or in the wardrobe, and clothes in the wardrobe and we have one small cupboard each.

It is REALLY easy to overpack your clothes, especially for girls, but this is one place where you need to be pretty ruthless. If you are only travelling in your camper for a week, then pack according to the weather (although ALWAYS bring a jacket/ warm jumper, even if the forecast is perfect. You’d be amazed how many times we’ve been caught out!

This basic list is going to vary wildly from person to person and also because of the area you are visiting. But to get you started, here is a checklist for clothes to carry in your camper.

Want to hide more clothes in your RV?

Here are our 5 best tips to increase clothes storage 

How to equip your camper or motorhome-tools

We are nearly there. Now it’s time for tools and bits.

You need to carry a selection of tools and kit with you. It’s amazing how miles will add wear and tear to your RV and motorhome and things will need fixing as you travel. Before you go, make sure you complete these last-minute vehicle checks.

Once you have these together, put them somewhere easy to get to and again, use a bag to keep things together so they don’t rattle around.

RV Tips for beginners- packing the ‘bits’

Once you’ve organised tools, it’s time for the ‘bits’. We all have these- the things that go in that special drawer in your kitchen in a house. It’s rare you’ll be able to find a drawer for this purpose (lucky you if you do!) We have a ‘bits box’, which sits inside one of our cupboards and holds batteries, tape, string, cards, pens, notepad and a million more things.

Again, try and keep things you think you’ll need frequently easily accessible, and put other things towards the bottom/ back. Some ‘bits’ to remember are:

  • Games/ cards or whatever you choose to do to relax
  • Chargers for phones/ laptops/ ipads/ wifi/ bike headsets/ portable radios… you get the idea! We use a mixture of 12v chargers (for use while we’re driving) and other chargers which we use on an inverter if necessary, but we try to avoid this. Annoyingly, I’ve just upgraded to a Macbook Pro, which is amazing but my 12v charger for my old laptop doesn’t fit! I’ll have to wait for them to release one for mine.
  • Placemats/ table cloth if you wish. We don’t use these indoors, but we do use a table cloth if we’re setting up a table outside.
  • Cleaning gear- we keep cloths, duster, wet wipes and vanish spray all easily accessible. We also carry an iron and an ironing board as Mr WB is terrified that he might be called into an urgent meeting and need to get on a plane straight away… it’s not happened yet but I just know if I take it off the van we’ll need it! So it’s staying (for now).

Whilst I think about it, don’t forget bedding! Pillows, duvet, bedsheets etc. We have proper bedsheets- we’re not a fan of sleeping bags. We are lucky enough to have a drop-down bed to store the bedding on, but you might need to sacrifice a locker to store yours in.

Other things we try not to forget when packing our camper:

  • Big camera and lenses
  • SD cards
  • Drone
  • Tripod
  • Mini tripod & microphone for vlogging (watch our travel videos here)
  • Laptop/ iPads/ phones
  • Wifi dongle
  • Medical box- basic necessities like plasters, nurofen, diarrhoea tablets, water purification tablets etc. (Don’t drink tap water in Europe- buy bottled.)
  • Laundry stuff. If you wash your laundry while travelling, most laundrettes across Europe require you to provide your own detergent etc. We bring a small amount of ours so it’s ready if we need it.
  • COINS in the local currency. For parking, tips, tolls- you’ll always need them!
  • Gas bottles- we carry two 6kg ones. Beware the issues with getting gas in Europe.
  • Hose pipe for filling fresh water.

Tips and Tricks to pack your motorhome

Here are some of our best tips and tricks to help you pack your RV or motorhome.

  • Put heavy items as low as possible
  • Try to place things you don’t use very regularly (like snowchains) in the places which are annoying to get to (in the back of lockers, under bed, in middle of garage etc.
  • Try and put heavy items over the axles as much as possible, and try not to put ALL the heavy items towards the back/ front. You want the weight spread over each axle as evenly as possible
  • Store tins/ heavy things which could roll as low as possible, and put them in bags or boxes to stop them rolling
  • Try not to carry many extras for plates/ mugs/ glasses, and put the extras in secure boxes so they can’t rattle around.

How to stop rattles in your motorhome

Rattles come last. There’s no point wasting a lot of time stopping rattles in your motorhome, when an hour later you decide to move everything around anyway!

We have created a detailed video and guide on how to stop rattles in your motorhomeclick the link to find out more. 

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RV Kitchen

I assume that you already have the basic utensils and crockery onboard your van. If you don’t you need:

Plates, bowls, mugs, glasses, cutlery, condiments, utensils, TIN OPENER, BOTTLE OPENER, tea towels, washing up stuff, bin bags (doesn’t have to be the big black ones- we find the smaller pedal bin size are often better), kitchen roll, frying pan, saucepan, kettle, teaspoons. (Full list of Road trip essentials can be found here.)

Those are what I would consider basics (though obviously, your list may well differ.) We also find the following useful onboard:

  • Poachpods (have I mentioned I’m addicted to poached eggs? These things are a brilliant invention and I use them pretty much daily)
  • Plastic boxes in the fridge to hold things in place
  • Bottle bag (one of the wine carrying ones from a supermarket- these hold bottles and stop them clinking)
  • Tongs
  • Oven mitt
  • Dishdrying matt (we don’t use a rack- takes up too much space)
  • Tea, coffee, sugar, hot chocolate etc
  • Vitamins or any tablets you require
  • Spray oil for frying- personal preference but it’s easier to dispose of a little excess oil than a whole lot!
  • Chopping boards
  • Sharp knives, including steak knives if you’re partial to red meat
  • Soup spoons (if you eat (drink?) soup!)

So, those are our best tips and tricks for how to pack a motorhome. We hope you’ve found them useful. Most of all, don’t panic. As long as you have the right paperwork, your keys and a credit/ debit card, pretty much everything else can be bought en route if you need to.

Unless you’re going somewhere really off-grid. In which case, maybe panic – and please send me photos so I can enjoy your road trip adventures!!!

The post How to pack a Motorhome – RV packing tips for beginners appeared first on Wandering Bird.