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How to Load and Pack Your RV for Safety and Comfort

I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.

Learning to pack and load your RV correctly can save you trouble down the road.

Learning to pack and load your RV correctly can save you trouble down the road.

Why Can't You Just Throw Everything In?

It is extremely important to learn how to load and pack your recreational vehicle both from comfort and safety standpoints.

People often forget that an RV is basically just a vehicle, and as such, it needs to be well balanced if it is to move safely along roads and highways.

  • Lopsided coaches don't hold up well to slippery roads, nor do they do well in areas where construction is going on.
  • Furthermore, a poorly packed coach makes finding things difficult and leaves travelers doing without items they would have liked to have had with them.

This is why you must pack and load your camper, travel trailer or motor home carefully. Comfort and safety are everything when you are on the road, and only you can take steps to make sure things are set up and done right.

Tips for packing and loading an RV that will help you to avoid problems.

Tips for packing and loading an RV that will help you to avoid problems.

Why the Proper Loading and Packing Matters

  • When coaches are not balanced, they are dangerous and awkward to drive.
  • When they are not properly packed, they also can make travelers miserable.

You do not want to find yourself standing on the side of the road beside your overturned coach, and you certainly do not want to use your commode only to find you have forgotten your toilet paper!

If you learn the correct method to prepare your motor home or camper for travel, these types of situations will become non issues. With careful organization and planning, you should never have to worry.

Why You Need to Balance Your RV's Load

How to Balance Your RV's Load

The keys to good loading are to keep your unit bottom-heavy and make sure that the items you pack are accurately distributed over your coach’s axles. This article in the Funtimes Guide explains more about how to do this, but here are the most important basics:

  1. Check your manuals to find out how much weight each axle can carry.
  2. Weigh the empty coach on a certified scale at a truck stop.
  3. Pack it, making sure that the heavier items are low and are spread out evenly along its entire length.
  4. Weigh it again.
  5. Make adjustments as needed.

The heaviest weight in a travel unit is in the appliances, slide rooms, engine, generator and water tanks, so weighing lets you know exactly which axles are carrying the most weight.

Once you have this information you can pack light where the weight is heaviest, pack heavy where the weight is lightest. You should also pack light items high and heavy items low.

When you do this, your unit will be much less likely to turn over because you will be able to maintain better control.

A well balanced coach will sit level on the highway.

A well balanced coach will sit level on the highway.

RV Packing Tips

Traveling in a motor home or camper should be as minimalist as possible

Therefore you should limit your loads to small items as well as those that can perform double duty, such as when you find one type of pot you can use for cooking several different items as well as watering any plants you may have with you.

Overdoing it will make you feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable and will cause you to spend the majority of your time moving things around and/or searching for them.

How to Pack on a Trip-by-Trip Basis

There are a number of ways in which people travel in their campers, travel trailers and motor homes. Obviously the amount of things you take with you will depend on where you plan to go and how long you expect to be gone.

  • For a weekend trip, you will only need the basics. To take more than that will mean doing much more work than is necessary.
  • However, if you plan to be gone for several weeks, you will need to be much more careful about what you take with you.

For example, you would only take enough medication with you on a short trip to last a few days, but you will need all of your meds for longer trips as well as your medical history.

Some people travel for months at a time, so they will need to arrange for refilling prescriptions that are necessary.

This is not always easy to do, so people who take ongoing prescriptions, especially if they are narcotic in nature, had better make sure they have enough with them or have made arrangements to obtain more while they're on the road.

Knowing travel plans in advance helps RVers to decide what they must take with them and provides them an option for leaving behind items that aren't as necessary.

You need medications, but you don't need crafts materials!

A properly packed and loaded RV sits level, drives safely and is comfortable to use.

A properly packed and loaded RV sits level, drives safely and is comfortable to use.

Use Checklists

Help yourself by preparing some checklists, then plan on carrying the following items with you:

  • a crock pot, electric frying pan, blender and electric can opener to make cooking and cleanup easier,
  • a small electric heater to keep you warm on chilly days,
  • a cell phone, GPS and laptop,
  • baskets: big ones for bulky clothing items, medium sized for plastic lids, pantry items, and underwear and small for cosmetics, bathroom items and silverware,
  • clear, lidded and stackable plastic containers for dry foods such as cereals and crackers,
  • multiple use items. For example, a large plastic bowl can be used for washing dishes, holding popcorn or other snacks, heating up soup or making pasta in the microwave. One bowl does many jobs and doesn't take up a lot of space,
  • clothing items of similar color so that you can mix and match easily,
  • one jacket, sweater and sweatshirt per traveler and enough clothing for 7 days each,
  • foods that store and cook easily such as shrink wrapped ham steaks, canned goods, and instant potatoes,
  • only enough food for the first few days, (The rest you can shop for as you go)
  • a list of important contacts along with their phone numbers and addresses: such as those for doctors, your insurance company, your bank, and friends, especially those you might be stopping to see along the way,
  • a tool kit,
  • some bad weather gear,
  • a basic first aid kit,
  • prescriptions and over the counter medications,
  • a heating pad and
  • an ice pack.

Use Your Tow Vehicle for Storage

You should also use your tow vehicle for extra storage and keep all nonperishable items in your coach when it is not in use so that you will not have to pack them for each vacation.

Notice that the great majority of the items on this list are small, light weight and easy to store. Space is limited in a motor home, travel trailer or camper, so you have to make the best of it.

At the same time, you have to keep an eye to where you locate items.

The heavier and bigger they are, the more they should be packed low.

Weight should be evenly divided, but you should also try to pack items so that you can easily access them.

Have a Safe, Comfortable Vacation

If you just throw a bunch of random items into your recreational vehicle with no organization and then head down the road, you are bound to have problems during your trip.

At the very least you will feel claustrophobic. At the very worst, your coach might roll over and cause serious damage or even death.

Learning how to load and pack your RV for safety and comfort is not difficult, but doing so can make all the difference in the quality of your RV vacations.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: What do you use to pack your items, such as clothing and linens, to carry to the RV?

Answer: Clothing stays on hangers, linens stay in the RV as do dishes, pots, pans, etc. The rest we take over to the RV in laundry baskets. It takes several trips, but is very easy to do.

© 2012 Sondra Rochelle