If you’re the proud owner of a travel trailer, you know the importance of watching the scales — and we don’t mean the one you keep in your bathroom at home. Staying at an appropriate weight is even more important for your towable RV than it is for your waistline. It can literally become a safety issue!
That said, when you’re camper hauling on a regular basis, or even full-timing, it can be easy to accidentally go over your target, especially if you’re the type to stockpile goods or overpack. I mean, water alone is eight pounds a gallon, and you’ve also got groceries, clothing, and adventure gear to contend with. It’s not surprising that your curb weight is on the up.
But pursuing a minimalist lifestyle is one of the main reasons many of us get into camping in the first place, especially if you’re trading your sticks-and-bricks home for a mobile palace on wheels. So in this post, we’ll go over some basic tips to help you decrease your hauling weight — and to more effectively create the tiny-living experience you’re aiming for.
Step One: Downsizing Well to Start With
Whether you’re just packing up the camper for a weekend away or you’re trading in your stable life for one more footloose and fancy-free, when you move from your house or apartment into a travel trailer, you’re going to have to do some prioritizing when it comes to deciding what to bring. Even the largest fifth-wheel trailer with multiple slide-outs is pretty darn small when compared to the average American home!
When you only have a limited amount of square footage to contend with, you have to get really picky about what stays and what goes. And if you’re planning to take to the road full time, this means downsizing your home will become an even more important project, with longer-term implications and permanent decisions to be made.
If you’re just taking a vacation, whether it’s a long weekend or an epic cross-country trek, move onto the next subhead: smart packing. There, we’ll give you some hints and tips to ensure you don’t end up drowning in your belongings during your trip. But for now, we’re going to focus on those of you who plan to implement full-time RV living, or who are in the process of downsizing your home for any other reason.
It’s 2019, so chances are, by this point, you’ve heard of Marie Kondo, and we’re not breaking any new ground by telling you to surround yourself only with items that “spark joy.” (Psst: if you’ve somehow been living under a rock for the last, oh, half a decade, check out her seminal work, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or catch her new special on Netflix.)
But as hokey as it may sound, Kondo’s method is taking the world by storm precisely because it is so effective. In a world where many of us are told to acquire as many possessions as possible (and then to hold onto them at all costs), Kondo’s theory suggests that living with less might actually allow us the room we need for a fuller life. It’s emboldened thousands of people to get a lot more ruthless when it comes to decluttering and reorganizing, as opposed to keeping around items that have long since overstayed their welcome.
So even if you don’t take her method verbatim, going category by category through each and every one of your belongings, don’t be afraid to do away with more than you may at first feel comfortable with. After all, things — even the most valuable or sentimentally significant things — are just things. Most of them can be replaced, and even the ones that can’t aren’t anywhere near as important as our experiences or memories.
Gathering new experiences and memories is likely exactly what you took up RVing for… and it’s way harder to do so in a rig that’s packed to the brim with all sorts of stuff you never end up needing.
So next time you go about reorganizing your closet or going through your kitchen drawers, instead of thinking, what if I need this? — consider reframing the question to, what if I don’t?
Smart Packing 101: What Not to Bring
Okay, now that we’ve gotten some of the theoretical stuff out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you channel those minimalistic intentions into a reasonable packing list?
Well, let’s ditch the packing list for a second and talk instead about what not to bring… or at least, how to use timing to your advantage when it comes to certain necessities.
First things first: water is weighty. So if you want to maintain a low hauling weight, wait to fill up until you get to your destination (or just before!). Obviously, it may not be possible to fill up on the spot if you’re headed to a remote, off-grid campsite, but you don’t have to drag your water all the way from home. Waiting until the last minute to fill your freshwater tank and dump your holding tanks means you’ll have a fresh batch of water waiting, and plenty of room to spare before your RV’s need to “go” forces you back into civilization.
The same goes for food! There’s no need to stock up on tons of bulky groceries ahead of time. You can make the shopping trip once you’ve arrived, which will keep your towing weight low and ensure you have the freshest meals possible.
As far as your wardrobe, accessories, and gear, there’s a lot of wiggle room and your individual results will vary widely depending on your personal camping style and vacation activities. You may, in fact, need to bring a heavy piece of equipment like a kayak, or have three different sets of hiking boots at your disposal.
But most of the time, we tend to bring way too much thanks to that pesky but what if? mindset it’s all too easy to adopt. Chances are, if you don’t use it on an everyday basis at home (or have a specific event in mind for it), you probably don’t need to bring it along on your trip. And the good news is, no matter where you’re headed, chances are there are stores either at your destination or along the route… so if you do forget something critical (like, say, sunscreen), you can totally replace it.
One of our top tips for RV owners specifically is to stock your RV with the basics ahead of time and just leave them on board so you don’t have to think about it every time you’re getting ready to hit the road. Getting a dedicated set of sheets, bath towels, and kitchen items like cookware will save you stress before your trip and ensure you always have what you need — and not way more than you need! When you’re grabbing stuff in a rush from home, it’s a whole lot easier to take too much along with you.
Finally, for even more tips on what you most likely don’t need to have on your trip, check out our post on items to leave firmly off your packing list. From that hot (but painful) pair of heels to the family-sized sack of rice, there are plenty of items that’ll do nothing but weigh you down… so avoid them.
Keeping yourself from giving into the urge to overpack won’t just help you take a more simplified and stress-free vacation. It can also help you achieve the minimalist life you’re looking for — one where your experiences and adventures take precedence over your material items and things. Living a scaled-down lifestyle is a great way to make room for the stuff that really does matter, and when you’re intentional about what you surround yourself with, you find yourself surrounded by only the things that matter most.
Minimalist living is a huge deal in the RVing community, which has close ties with the tiny house movement and others who are working to create more intentional ways of moving through the world. Full-time travelers take this to its logical extent by foregoing their oversized houses (and oversized mortgages) in exchange for homes, vehicles, and lifestyles that allow them to incorporate travel into their day-to-day lives.
In the end, so long as you have food to eat, clothes on your back, and good company beside you, you have everything you need for an amazing adventure. So if in doubt, leave it out. Both your trailer’s axles and your mental health will thank you.
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