There are certain things that absolutely “must” come along on any RV trip. The spouse and kids, ingredients for S’mores, and baby’s kiddie movie du jour (this is, of course, non-negotiable). And that’s just a start, to be sure. However, equal reflection must also be given to what not to bring, namely those items that only contribute by taking up space, adding unnecessary weight, and, well, just lack any real compelling reason to lug them around the countryside. The following is a list of some of the most common onboard RV albatrosses that travelers should cut loose from their packing list.
At home, your reputation as a culinary champion is well-documented. And you’ve got every cooking appliance on-call ready to defend that hallowed reputation at a moment’s notice. That’s all well and good for the Duck ala Orange back home, but RVing doesn’t really lend itself to such gourmet faire – not the cooking apparatus to create them. Sure, there’s probably a nook onboard to stick the bread machine. The wok could – in theory – double as a way to haul in firewood. And yes, waking up to a stack of Mickey Mouse waffles (courtesy of that special waffle iron) and a frothy cappuccino (another space-hogging appliance) is indeed a nice treat, but I’m guessing all this superfluous gear is just getting in the way. Naturally, it’s up to you to decide if there’s enough room (and patience) to haul all these things around, but the family would be just as well served by a couple large pots and pans, a placesetting for every member of the crew, and a handful of utensil than such one-trick pony cooking aids listed above.
While we’re on the subject of food, it’s time to shakedown that ever-expanding pantry of yours, with the shelves laden with canned goods of every persuasion, “just in case.” Many travelers (especially newbies) suffer from a kind of hunger paranoia on their initial few trips. “I’ll just bring along a few cans of soup,” you say. Next thing you know, those innocent little trips to Costco are getting longer and more expensive, creating an army of aluminum onboard. Put the six-pack of refried down and walk away from the shopping cart. All this stuff is adding up, and besides, you’re never going to eat your way through all of it. Planning meals ahead of time is the best way to avoid over packing on foodstuff. Approximate what you’ll need and buy accordingly. Otherwise, the idea of “stocking up” is more appropriate for a Cubs Scout sleepover than a typical RV jaunt. Remember, you can always buy more if you run out.
I respect the pioneering spirit many of us have in terms of servicing our rigs. RVing is one of the last bastions of active do-it-yourselves and I’m certainly not looking to change that. You love your tools, I love my tools. With that said, there’s a limit to what we can (and should do) in terms of service and maintenance on the road, with self-imposed limits on our tools always a smart move. A basic tool kit? You bet – throw it in a compartment and hope you won’t need it. Duct tape? You bet your life. A Home Depot-like inventory taking up every valuable inch in the pass-thru storage? Better not. That ball pine hammer is heavy; that collection of socket wrenches for every occasion isn’t feather-light, either. Ask yourself two questions before bring tools along. First, Am I likely to need this tool? Second, Do I know what this tool is for? If you answer No to either probe, leave it on the workbench in the basement.
Water is heavy. Don’t’ believe me? Just ask the poor motorhome lugging around that 100 gallons of fresh water and who-knows-how full the tanks are in terms of the gray and black. Even half-empty tanks can add hundreds of needless pounds to your travels, weight that could be used instead for a drum set, a dozen extra pair of shoes, and Uncle Vern. Get in the habit of dumping tanks early and often. While it’s always good to keep a small level of fluids in those tanks (to prevent materials from sticking, for instance), as a rule less is definitely more. And unless the trip calls for a secluded, boon docking (e.g. dry camping) getaway, you can probably skimp on the fresh water tank by connecting to the campground’s aqua supply.
I don’t fault the design or the use of extra carrying devices such as a roof-mounted storage pod, an auxiliary trailer, or a receiver/hitch-mounted bin for extra items. The problem comes when an RVer then believe it’s his or her duty to fill the newfound space to capacity, which only lends to an overloaded condition. If you’re disciplined enough to know about such an impact to your RV’s GVWR, great. However, if you’re about as likely to visit the dentist as a weigh station, it’s probably a good idea to skip these add-ons. They’ll only feed your over packing desires, worsen aerodynamics and/or fuel economy, and make loading/off-loading that much more of a chore.
Towing the line
What is the point of towing a vehicle behind the motorhome that gets worse fuel mileage than the RV? Whether you call it a “toad,” “dinghy,” or “errand mobile,” a towed vehicle should be everything that a Class A isn’t – small, agile, lightweight, and oh so fuel-friendly. Switching from that bulky SUV to a mid-size will save you countless cash at the gas pump and cut down on the RV’s overtime towing duties.
As someone who has been gauged more than a few times by that convenient, albeit pricey stack of bundled firewood for sale at the campground office, the temptation to transport my own supply is a constant mental tug of war. But, my friends, it’s just not worth it. Not only does a stack of fresh-cut lumber mess up storage compartments with dirty, wet splinters, but also such BYOF (bring your own firewood) is too weighty of an extravagance in order to save $4 in timber.
I couldn’t help but notice the laptop and briefcase over there in the corner. Sounds like a fun weekend you’ve got planned cuddled up with that stock report, P/L statements, and a mailbox full of unread/unwanted emails. First off, the boss is back in Cincinnati, so you’re not earning any brownie points by turning the weekend into a all-work-no-fun proposition. Second, you’re not going to do any work anyway and you know it. So why don’t you save us all the trouble and leave that “work” stuff back at the office?
This might sound like overkill, but don’t bring anything heavy. Simply put, if there’s a lightweight equivalent, favor that instead. For instance, opt for paperback books over hard covers. Go with paper plates instead of the usual dinnerware. Substitute cans instead of bottles, plastic instead of glass. Condiment packets over full-size containers of mustard, ketchup, and the like. Take items out of their bulky packaging and store in zip-lock bags or other space-saving ways. The list goes on and on.
One of the most back-breaking things the family has to carry around is your crummy attitude. Frankly, it’s weighing everybody down. The barking, the snapping, the rushing around like a madman/madwoman to get everything the way you like. Enough already. All that impatient driving, the mumbling under the breath, ushering the kids about like the vacation is ruled by some sort of demented clock. Relax. That grouch is the 9-5 version of you, not the let’s-get-out-of-town-and-have-some-fun you. Kindly escort Grumpy Pants from camp and start over. Embrace the weekend warrior inside you and let it all go already. I thought we all agreed we were going on a vacation? Start acting like it.