A first camping trip in a trailer can be overwhelming. What to bring? What to leave home?

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to take your first couple of camping trips within driving distance of a big box store such as Walmart. We joke that we are on a mission to visit every Walmart in the US as we have made so many quick trips to pick up a forgotten item while camping.

I also suggest making lists. I try to make a quick inventory every trip when packing up. Are we running low on soap, paper towels, or toilet paper? Right now, I jot it down in my phone, but I may try to come up with a better system at some point.

I have a collapsible bin that lives by the door at home. Anything going back to the trailer goes right in the bin. As I wash towels and dishes, I try to keep them from wandering away.

Ultimately, I function by list. Lots and lots of lists. And I revisit my lists regularly to examine what we are and are not using.

Before I get into detail about what is on my list, I want to address what is not on my list – firewood. I don’t think I can beg enough, for most people living in the midwest, PLEASE DO NOT TRANSPORT FIREWOOD! I know firewood can be expensive and hard to find at many destinations. I know you may have stacks and stacks of great-burning, well-seasoned wood in your yard. But the health of the forests that we all love so much depend on the cooperation of EVERY SINGLE camper. Emerald ash-borers have devastated the forests across much of the country because of campers not knowing or not caring. And greater threats loom in the form of the asian longhorn beetle, wooly adelgid, gypsy moths and more. Many parks are beginning to crack down on bringing in firewood and will levy steep fines if wood doesn’t have a special label. For more information on rules and restrictions where you live please visit dontmovefirewood.org.

Since everyone’s list will be different, please feel free to download my trailer packing list and make your own updates. Be sure to check out my posts on What to Buy 1 and 2 for more detailed suggestions on specialty RV purchases such as hoses, cords, etc. This list assumes you have those things covered. One of the reasons we bought a trailer is the ability to keep all of our camping gear in one place, so this is the stuff that lives in our trailer. I have skipped over clothes because there is so much variability from person to person and I usually make a list of perishable food for each trip. I also have not addressed the tools we bring as that is probably another blog post.

Kitchen:

  • Plates (4) – we have a Corelle set because it is break resistant and microwave safe
  • Small plates (4)
  • Bowls (4) – our Corelle bowls have lids as well for storing leftovers
  • Thermal travel mugs (2)
  • Ceramic mugs (2) – for reheating coffee or tea in the microwave
  • Silverware (set for 6) – we bring extra and have a few plastic pieces for backup
  • Silverware tray
  • Reusable water bottles – we have a wide assortment for various activities
  • Plastic cups (2)
  • Plastic wine glasses (2)
  • Potholders (2)
  • Dishtowels (4)
  • Dish rags (4)
  • Dish drainer – found a small one at the dollar store
  • Sponge
  • SOS pads/steel scrubber – great for scrubbing our cast iron
  • Foil – we get the heavy duty for making campfire meals
  • Plastic bags – assorted sizes
  • Plastic wrap
  • Brown paper bags – lots of uses, but we also make our own microwave popcorn
  • Coffee filters
  • Paper plates
  • Paper plate holders – We use these with one of the cheap, thin paper plates instead of buying the more expensive plates or plastic plates. The dirty paper plates make great fire starters.
  • Serving tray – This may seem silly, but we are always loading up our tray with ingredients, dishes, etc. to cook outside.
  • Coffee percolator – We started with a cheap electric coffee maker, but switched to the percolator when we camped without electricity. It makes great coffee and we found the special percolator filters. We bought the pricey percolator from Cabela’s. It is designed to go over a campfire, whereas some of the cheaper models are not.
  • Thermos – Because we use a percolator, we needed something to keep our coffee hot. And this absolutely does that. We can fill it in the morning and still have a hot drink for a late afternoon pick-me-up. In fact, if we don’t end up drinking all of our coffee, it will still be relatively warm the next morning.
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Nonstick skillet
  • Small pot with lid
  • Large nonstick pot with lid
  • Cast iron griddle
  • Steamer basket
  • Mixing bowl
  • Plastic food storage containers
  • Cookie sheet
  • 8×8 pan
  • 9×13 dish
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Large spoon
  • Flipper
  • Grater
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Measuring spoons
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Wet measuring cup
  • Rubber spatula
  • Whisk
  • Ladle
  • Chef’s knife – be sure to get something with a cover
  • Paring knives/steak knives
  • Cutting board
  • Colander – This collapsible one saves space.
  • Tongs
  • Bag clips
  • Kitchen shears
  • Tea pitcher
  • Pizza stone – This is essential for cooking in the trailer oven. It helps evenly distribute the heat.
  • Oven thermometer – Again, trailer ovens are not nearly as accurate as those at home. A thermometer is important for any baking.

img_7179.jpg

Pantry:

  • Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Spices
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Coffee creamer
  • Nonstick spray
  • Shelf-stable milk
  • Hiking snacks

Refrigerator/Freezer:

  • Water filter pitcher – We prefer to minimize our use of bottled water. The trailer has a water filter, but this is a nice backup and it fits in the door of the refrigerator.
  • Fan – Trailer refrigerators are notorious for warm and cold spots. A fan helps air circulate and the refrigerator functions better. We are on our second one. I am not sure how accurate it is, but I read that on/off switches on these types of fans tend to corrode quickly. This one works by inserting/removing batteries.
  • Water bottles/jugs – We always have some drinking water in case the water as a campground is just no good. We had brown water at a recent campground.
  • Thermometer – We don’t want to risk food poisoning.
  • Ice cube trays
  • Ice bin – This bin from IKEA is a great size.

Bedroom:

  • Pillows
  • Sheets – Our bed is a RV(short queen) and we bought this set. The sheets are very nice and we use the bottom sheet. The top sheet has elastic at the foot and is supposed to stay tucked in. I guess we are restless sleepers, because we always kicked it off. So we replaced it with a Full-sized flat sheet from LL Bean. We also use a flannel top sheet. In the winter, it provides extra warmth and in the summer it makes a perfect light blanket. I know the LL Bean sheets are pricey, but I love good sheets and these are my favorites.
  • Comforter
  • Extra blankets – We store lots of extra blankets above our bed. We would be fine if the heat went out for the night.

Bathroom:

  • Toilet paper – Much has been written about RV toilet paper. I plan to do an official experiment later, but we have been using Scott brand without issues.
  • Bath towels (4) – Of course any towels will do, but these from IKEA are light weight and have tabs for hanging.
  • Hand towels (2)
  • Hair towel – I like something super-absorbent to get most of the moisture out of my hair.
  • Wash cloths
  • Beach towels – I am a recent convert to the Turkish beach towels. They take up way less space than traditional towels and can be used as a wrap.
  • Bath mat – The 2109s has a small footprint. This mat from Ikea fits great.
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Face soap
  • Deodorant
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Brush/comb
  • Hair ties, headbands, etc.
  • Contact lens case and solution
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Hair dryer
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Antacid
  • Pain relievers
  • Bandages
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Medications
  • Drying rack – If you plan to swim, kayak, or hike in the rain, having a small, hanging drying rack is great. Wet clothes and swimsuits can add up quickly.
  • Shower caddy – Occasionally, we will visit a bathhouse if we are going a long time without sewer or water hookups. This works better than dumping everything is a plastic bag.img_7181

Cleaning:

  • Vacuum – A small Dirt Devil is great for quick touch ups. We aren’t worried about something that deep cleans, so a cheap version works well.
  • Dust mop/broom – It is amazing how much dirt gets tracked in. We have a no-shoe-rule in our trailer and we still need to sweep nearly every day. We also have a Swiffer for wet/dry mopping.
  • General cleaning spray – Save space and get a gentle all-purpose spray. We like the Method line of products.
  • Paper towels
  • Trash can/recycling bin – Sorting for recycling is important to us. This can fits well and is heavy enough to not tip over when going down the road. Most of the time we use leftover grocery store bags in the cans – not a perfect fit, but we make it work.
  • Trash bags
  • Laundry hamper – In our 2109s, we climb into bed from the foot. This hamper squeezes between the wall and the bed by the sofa. This thing has put up with a lot of abuse in the past year and we are thrilled with how it has held up.
  • Laundry pods/detergent – Not just for snacking anymore! Pods are perfect for keeping the in the trailer in case we need to do an emergency load of laundry.
  • Dryer sheets
  • Quarters
  • Dish soap
  • Toilet bowl cleaner – I have read that since the RV toilet bowl is plastic, it is very important to use gentle cleaners. I’m not sure how necessary it is, but I put it in the better-safe-than-sorry category. I have gone through less than two bottles in a year.
  • Toilet brush – Likewise, I think it is important to not use a stiff-bristled brush. This works just fine, and you can squeeze out extra water with the cover.
  • Johnny Chock – As weekend campers our black water tank is never more than 1/3 full when it is time to dump. It is good practice to empty as much fresh water as possible into the black water tank. I can either stand with my foot on the peddle for 10 minutes, or use the Johnny Chock while I clean the rest of the bathroom.
  • Small trash can – I keep a second small can under the sink for bathroom trash and to store the toilet brush and Johnny Chock. I got one from the dollar store.

Miscellaneous:

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Hangers
  • Tissues
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Lighters
  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Money – We stash a few $20 bills in a few places. Firewood stands, rural restaurants, and sometimes even campgrounds don’t take credit cards. Likewise, I have a couple loose checks.
  • Batteries – assorted sizes
  • Small level – For getting the trailer set up.
  • Extra charging cables – It only took a couple nights of climbing into bed only to realize the charging cables are in the truck before I ordered extras. Pro tip: make sure to buy certified cables. Cheap cables aren’t worth the risk of ruining a phone or starting a fire.

Activities:

  • Guidebooks/field guides – This may be half the weight we carry in our trailer.
  • Maps
  • Cards/games
  • Movies – Our trailer still takes DVDs so we hit up the discount bins at Wal-mart for a few favorites to keep in the trailer for rainy nights. We also put the word out to friends and family. So many people have complete DVD collections of old TV shows that they are happy to let us borrow.
  • Fishing gear
  • Hammock
  • Binoculars
  • Boots
  • Hiking poles
  • Backpacks
  • Books
  • Bikes/helmets
  • Kayaks/paddles/lifevests/drybags

Outside:

  • Chairs – We are hard on our camp chairs and we are currently using these from REI. It is worth it to us to spend a little more for a chair that will last more than one season. I am shocked to see negative reviews on the REI site because ours have held up great. I guess we got a good batch.
  • Chocks
  • Levelers
  • Stove/grill
  • Tablecloth
  • Tablecloth clips
  • Lanterns/flashlights
  • Head lamps
  • Firestarters – I am extremely opposed to lighter fluid campfires. Lighter fluid is stinky, toxic, kind of dangerous, and doesn’t really work. We have spent many evenings watching our neighbors douse a struggling fire. It may briefly flare, but the heat doesn’t build up enough to sustain combustion. There are lots of great firestarter options out there, but we like these best.
  • Rug
  • Grilling tools
  • Outdoor tables– I like something for my drinks and books around the campfire.
  • Thermacell – I am a mosquito magnet. I can get bit in the middle of winter. These are miracle products. And about the only thing I have found that consistently keeps the bugs away.
  • Fire poker
  • Hot dog forks
  • Doormat – The small inside the front door is very small. We have found small, cheap rugs at Walmart and Menards. I think they are basically carpet remnants. They are great for our purposes and we don’t feel bad throwing them away when they get muddy.
  • Ax
  • Tarp and paracord – Multipurpose items that cover our firewood or be erected as a rain shelter.
  • Bucket – This takes up little room in storage, but we have found dozens of uses for it. Most recently, it caught the water from a slow leak and prevented our site from becoming a muddy mess.
  • Water jug – This is something else that got transported over from our tent camping gear. “Just throw it in there, we may use it sometime.” More than once we have used it to top off our fresh water tank. It has totally saved us on a couple occasions. Make sure you get one with a spout.

One thought on “Ultimate Trailer Packing List

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