Home Editors' Picks RV Essentials Checklist: Equip RV, Camper for the First Time

RV Essentials Checklist: Equip RV, Camper for the First Time

by Jan Schroder
RV and two people, rv essentials checklist

I compiled this RV essentials checklist through researching and figuring out everything we needed to outfit our new-to-us travel trailer. It felt kind of like outfitting a new dorm room without the stress of wondering whether I’d get a psycho roommate.

Being a camper newbie is a bit overwhelming. It’s like when I was pregnant the first time and took a stroll in Toys R Us, looking at aisle after aisle of baby stuff, without a clue what I needed or even what some of it was.

It’s a new world for us, so I did what I always do when faced with something new: research. Before I bought even one item, I researched tips on organization because I knew space would be an issue.

My husband is taking care of learning how all the mechanical things work and what we need for the exterior of our RV. He spent an afternoon at Tom Johnson Camping in Marion, North Carolina, where a helpful salesman, Ralph, told him what he needed as far as water hoses, electrical cords, and all those kinds of things. We’re still learning how everything works, but I feel reasonably comfortable we’re not going to blow up or asphyxiate ourselves.

After reading a lot of blogs on RV organization, I was ready to start ordering. I wanted to only order things I knew we needed. I figured some things we didn’t know we needed would come up once we actually stayed in the camper. But I knew we need things like sheets, towels and cooking utensils.

I’m sharing what we bought along with a few tips I picked up from my research. My first tip, other than doing your research is to decide how high-end you want your items to be.

For more tips on RVs, see our related story: RV Tips for Beginners and Experts Share Mistakes to Avoid and Other RV Tips for Beginners.

The empty camper, waiting to be equipped.

Unlike an RV where people may travel for weeks at a time, we wouldn’t be spending that much time in the camper so didn’t get the most expensive items. We will also be letting other people use our camper so didn’t want anything we would worry about or that our guests would worry about losing or breaking. But we definitely wanted to spend where it was important.

So, I wanted a decent mattress and good sheets because if you don’t sleep well you don’t play well. But I didn’t want to spend more than I paid for my first car to get one. We found a decent one for less than $250.

For small items I went to Dollar Tree where I picked up salt and pepper shakers, plastic wrap, aluminum foil – those type things. I found pillows I liked at Marshall’s and a few other decorative items at Home Goods. All these other items are from Amazon.

My three criteria for purchasing our RV were necessity, simplicity and how much space each item would take.

Outfitting the bedroom in your camper

This room was the easiest to outfit. Sheets, pillows, mattress cover and we’re good to go. Oh, plus a mattress. We bought our camper used and the mattresses were, well, let’s put it this way – they went directly to the dump.

We used pillows we had at home since we seem to have dozens extra. If you need more and are a Costco member, I highly recommend their pillows – two for $15 and they are awesome.

Mattress

This was definitely our most expensive item, but you gotta have a comfortable bed, right? After doing a lot of research, we opted for a 10-inch memory foam bed and have found it to be really comfortable. It’s medium firm, which works for us. You can spend over $500 on a short-queen 10” mattress, so we thought this one was reasonably priced. $224.74 for short queen.

Queen quilt set for summer

Lightweight and comes with two shams. We’re going to try the white and if it proves too difficult to keep clean, we can get dark grey instead. I got regular queen size rather than short queen for this and for the comforter. I figure a little extra at the top would be fine.

$33.99, comes in black, dark grey, royal blue and white.

Sherpa comforter and throw set

For the cooler months I wanted something that would be super cozy and love this Sherpa Comforter and Throw Combo Set. I could just see myself wrapped in the throw by the campfire and to use on the bed for extra warmth. $65.30, comes in navy and red.

Sheets

There’s a surprisingly large selection of sheets that fit RV queen beds, but these highly rated ones were less than $30 so I went with them.

They come with two pillowcases and can fit mattresses up to 10” thick. Plus, there is a large selection of colors. For $10 more you can get the 6-piece set that has two additional pillowcases. $27.99, come in 24 colors.

Mattress protector

This protector zips completely around our mattress and is waterproof. Plus, it comes in an RV queen short size. $36.90 for queen short.

RV Essentials Checklist for the Kitchen

Our kitchen area is the largest in our camper and we will be spending a lot of time there. I wanted it to be cute, comfortable and functional. It’s shocking how many things you need when you start with nothing.

I tried to stick to the bare minimum. No avocado or egg slicers in this tiny kitchen. Here’s what we’ve been using and these items have been working for us. 

Knives

I opted for this Cuisinart 12-piece knife set because it has over 15,000 positive reviews, cost less than $20 and each knife comes with a cover. Plus, the different colors are fun. $19.99.

Cutting boards

With a set of four different size boards, all your chopping needs will be met. I like this set and appreciate that every board has non-slip feet and a groove to catch juices. It also comes with a set of six cooking bamboo cutting utensils. $19.54 for set of four cutting boards and six cooking utensils.

Dishes

I knew I wanted melamine plates. The only drawback to these is that you can’t put them in the microwave, but we can use paper plates for that.

I love blue and white so fell in love with this 12-piece set that has four dinner plates, four salad plates and four bowls. $41.37 for 12-piece set.

Glasses

Opting for just one type of glass, I got these 16-ounce plastic tumblers. I really wanted glasses that could stack in the cabinet to save space. These don’t go in the dishwasher, which isn’t a problem for us, so if you are lucky enough to have one, you may want to opt for a different tumbler. $19.99 for eight.

Flatware

I liked the look of this hammered silverware set made of stainless steel. It comes in sets of service for four, eight or 12. I opted for a set for eight. $31.98 for a 40-piece set.

Serving spoons

Even if we’re just dishing out takeout meals, we need serving spoons.
These stainless steel spoons fit the bill and are inexpensive. $9.99 for six.

Cast iron skillet

Being a lucky girl from the South, I use the cast iron skillet my mom and dad got for a wedding present many decades ago. Yes, they are heavy, but I can’t imagine a kitchen without one.

Lodge makes a really good one and I found this 10.25” one that’s perfect. It comes in several sizes. $17.90 for 10.25”; start at $13.17 for smallest size.

Saucepan

I’m hoping one saucepan will be enough as our cabinet space is limited. This two-quart version comes with a glass lid and has a Bakelite handle. $17.95; comes in grey and red.

Small cookie sheet

Our camper oven is small – bigger than an Easy Bake Oven, but smaller than a regular one. A full-size cookie sheet won’t fit, but I enjoy using the smaller quarter sheet size anyway at home, which is usually big enough for what I need to cook. $14.98 for a set of two.

Measuring bowls, cups and spoons


This set has all the basics plus it all nests together to save space. It comes with a colander, mesh strainer, two mixing bowls, measuring cups and measuring spoons $24.47 for 13-piece set.

Reusable ice cubes

Tired of my watered-down drinks, I bought some of these for home use. So, I thought why not try them for the camper rather than messing with ice cubes trays? Our freezer is very small and these freeze fast. Plus, they’re fun! I like the colored ones, but they also come in clear and fruit shapes. $12.99 for 30.

Checklist for Campers for the Bathroom

Our bathroom is barely big enough to turn around in. On the plus side, there won’t be any cluttered counter space because there is none. Several of these purchases are about maximizing the little space we do have.

Happy Camper RV shower curtain

When purchasing items for our camper, I debated between going camper cutesy and keeping things a bit more subdued. I figured I was less likely to tire of our decor if I had fun with patterns, but in my favorite blues and greys.

The only place I caved and bought camper décor was the shower curtain. We are surrounded by trees and I’m a big fan of buffalo checks, so this one won. $16.99.

Mesh shower caddy with pockets

The bathroom in our camper is teeny. Think small, then cut that size in half. There is nowhere to place anything. I found these and thought they were brilliant. We can hang these in the shower to hold shampoo, conditioners, soap and razors. The pockets are mesh, so they won’t hold water and hopefully, won’t mildew. 2 for $13.99

Turkish towels

I use Turkish towels when we go to the pool. I love that they are not bulky and dry fast, two qualities that make them perfect for a camper. With four different colors we can always tell whose towel belongs to whom. They are also large enough to use for a picnic blanket or even a tablecloth.

We won’t have access to a washer and dryer so will be bringing these home after each trip to the camper. They will take up less room in our car. $39.99.

Command hooks

I learned you don’t want to put nails in your RV or camper because the walls are filled with things like pipes for plumbing and wires that serve important functions. So, people use Command Hooks to hang all types of items from photos to oven mitts to towels. I bought two different sizes – large ones for our towels and a pack of 20 for smaller items.

You can find several sizes here.

If I’ve left anything out that you love, please let me know in the comments below.

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Silverware, Sheets & Skillets: Essentials for Outfitting an RV or Camper - The Travel 100 - TripWriters September 3, 2021 - 2:01 am

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