Travel Trailer at Campsite

Expert Advice

Packing Up at the Campground

When your camping trip comes to a close, be sure to leave your campsite better than you found it on arrival.

10 Tips for Packing Up at the Campground

It’s hard to make the case that packing up from an RV trip is part of the fun. But with the right attitude and the right approach, it can be. At the very least we can all agree that is a necessity, and since it is a necessity, we might as well do it right. Here are ten tips that will make you a Zen master of packing up camp--and help you prepare for your next trip while doing so.

Start the Night Before

We all want to spend our last night at the campground around the campfire looking up at the stars, but there are a few key things that should get packed up before bed. Your awning, outdoor rug, and camp chairs can get damp overnight if you leave them out, and you don’t want to pack them up (or roll them up!) that way in the morning. If you do you will have to unpack or unroll them when you get home so they dry properly--and who wants extra work when you get home from a trip?  If you roll up a wet awning and leave it out until your next trip it will get moldy--and the stains won’t be easy to remove.

Check Up on Checkout!

Checkout times vary widely at different campgrounds and can easily run from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Additionally, some campgrounds are strict about checkout times, and others are more flexible. Either way, it's important to know what time you are expected to vacate your site before your presence becomes a problem. Camp workers may need to come and do maintenance on your site or clean out your fire pit, and other RV owners may be waiting to pull in and set up camp. If you are uncertain about your checkout time packing up can get stressful pretty quickly--ask me how I know.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Camping with family members, a significant other, or friends? Then make sure that everyone chips in when it comes to setting up, maintaining, and breaking down camp. Assign each camper specific tasks for inside and outside of the camper.  Assign someone to the kitchen, someone to the outdoor area, and someone to unhooking the RV from hookups and storing the hoses and power cords away. Also, make sure that someone checks the top of your slide outs for branches before you retract them. If you are traveling with younger children you might limit their tasks to simply cleaning up after themselves and packing up their own clothing and toys and games. But scale up as they grow up. Our kids know if they want to go camping, they have to help make the magic happen.

“Clean Up” As You “Pack Up”

While you and your camping crew are packing up it is also smart to give key items a quick clean up and wipe down so they are ready for the next adventure. If you forget to empty out the coffee grinds they will be gross next time you camp. Likewise, if you pack up your hiking or fishing gear without giving it a quick clean up then you are simply leaving more work for your next trip. We like to start each vacation with a clean and organized camper and we think you will too!

A Place for Everything

It is also important to put your gear and equipment in logically designated places each time you pack up camp. Water hoses and power cords should be wrapped up neatly and put in storage bins on the “hookup” side of the RV so they are easy to access on your next trip. Likewise, camp chairs should be stored on the “door” side of the RV so they are easily accessible next time they are needed.

Distribute Weight Evenly in Your RV

It is also incredibly important to distribute the weight of your cargo evenly as you pack. Putting too much weight on one side of your RV can cause stress on the tires underneath and lead to a blowout. Also, make sure to know the overall cargo carrying capacity of your RV (CCC) and make sure not to exceed it.

Prevent Flying Objects

Make sure that all objects, particularly heavy ones, are stowed away in cabinets or safely placed in the sink or tub. If you have to slam on the brakes on the way home a coffee maker or skillet that was accidentally left out can easily take flight and do serious damage. Again, ask me how I know.

Focus When Hitching Up

When it comes time to hitch up the RV to your truck or to attach a toad to your motorhome, make sure that you are completely focused. Now is not the time for conversation with friends or for energetic kids to be running circles around your head. Hitching up or attaching a toad is not dangerous---if you pay attention and take it one step at a time!

Leave the Campsite Better Than You Found It

We all want to show up at a clean campsite without trash on the ground, or broken glass in the firepit. So it is incredibly important that we all leave the campsite better than we found it. Before pulling out of your site take a last walk around and pick up any wrappers or bottle tops that may have been left on the ground. Even if you did not leave them there. As RV owners, we should always try to pay it forward to the next camper, and hope that we can inspire them, in some small way, to do the same,

Plan Your Next Trip on the Way Home

Leaving the campground can be a bummer. But it doesn’t have to be. Why not start planning your next trip on the way home? If you already have your next campsite booked, then plan out the camp food or activities that you will enjoy together. Dreaming up the next trip is part of the fun of RV ownership. And so is packing up camp--if you change your attitude about it and think of it as the first step of your next adventure.

family camping

The RV Atlas

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the weekly RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts and the RV Atlas blog. They are also the authors of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations, and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop-up camper more than 10 years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) over at RV Atlas.