The first time that our family went on an adventure, we weren’t fully prepared. Oh, we were ready to see those magnificent peaks of the Appalachian Mountains! We were not ready to be without certain necessities for a long-winded trip that was far from home.
I had forgotten my allergy medication. My wife didn’t take enough towels. And the worst part? We forgot to take the toolbox. I ALWAYS have a toolbox nearby. Needless to say, that was an interesting moment when the tools were needed.
With that being said, I learned the art of creating a bus conversion/Skoolie/RV camping checklist. This brought resolve to our forgetful problem. Before every bus/RV trip, we refer to the checklist. This ensures that we are always prepared and never leave the house without a necessity again.
You may be wondering why you should use a list? If you discipline yourself to stick to the list, then it’ll serve you wonderfully. Using a list will not only help you to not forget anything ever again, but it’ll help you to organize your possessions. In fact, it also helps you in planning the events of your trip! You would be surprised at how having a bus/RV camping checklist will contribute to planning your events.
It prompts you to think about the clothing, food, and other necessities involved with certain activities. For instance, you may include chocolate bars, marshmallows, and graham crackers in your grocery checklist. This is PERFECT for bonfire season and s' mores!
It’s easy to use a checklist. Determine the items that you’ll need. Create categories based on those items. Then add to those categories as you think of more items that are needed. You can add or delete items as you create your checklist.
Days Before Departure
As you’re getting ready for your adventure, there are some things to do in the days before your departure. Let’s take a look at some important tasks to consider:
Days Before Departure
In your bus/RV checklist, be sure to include a pre-departure check. You don’t want to pull out of the driveway with everything flying out of your bus/RV cabinets! Close all cabinet doors and lock them. Make sure that all trash has been removed and the trashcans are stored safely. If your bus/RV has an awning, ensure that it’s closed and secured. Disconnect any electronics and power cords. Turn off any A/C and heating units.
Anything else that is unique to your bus/RV, add it to your list. Remember that your list is specific to YOUR needs.
Now it’s time for the fun part! You like to eat. Your family likes to eat. Do NOT forget the kitchen supplies!
Dutch ovens and iron skillets are a MUST for any outdoor cooking event. They work great for cooking inside a bus/RV or RV as well. (I know that some buses and RVs have kitchens while some don’t.) Remember the basics such as cups, plates, bowls, and eating utensils.
Various other cooking utensils such as spatulas, spoons and pots and pans are a necessity as well.
Please don’t forget the dish soap, dishcloth, and towel! (In fact, I advise adding paper towels to any bus/RV list! Easy cleanup and easy back up in case you forget the dish towels.)
Don’t forget the basic cleaning supplies.
When it comes to preparing your checklist, you’ll want to have your meals planned out. You know your family best so tailor your food list to suit your family’s specific needs. However, I will share some of my suggestions!
It’s best to pack many non-perishable foods when bus/RV camping. (This is especially true if you don’t have a refrigerator on your bus/RV.)
I love packing many canned goods for our bus/RV adventures. My personal favorites are canned vegetables, canned soups, and canned meats.
Don’t forget the basics such as eggs, bread and cereal. I even pack salt and pepper because my family loves the flavor!
Bus/RV Camping Food:
Bed & Bath
Nothing is more miserable than going on vacation and realizing that you’ve forgotten your sleeping bag! It’s a nuisance AND a waste of money to buy another one. For you bus/RV camping checklist, I recommend a section for your bed and bath items.
What do you and your family use on a regular basis? Add it to your list. Remember that you can always add or delete items from your list. When compiling this list, think of toiletries, blankets, sleeping bags, towels, dental hygiene items and more.
Bed & Bath:
Packing List for Bus/RV Bed
Never leave home without first aid items. Since we take our bus/RV to many national parks, our kids enjoy playing in the woods. Bandages, rubbing alcohol and antibiotic ointment are used often on those trips! I also recommend antihistamines for allergies or bee stings, pain relievers and anti-itch cream.
If you do take your pets with you, first aid items for them is recommended as well. Think of the items that you keep handy at home and add them to your First Aid category.
Packing List for Bus/RV Living
We have learned through the years to add a category just for bus/RV living. Your list may be different from ours, but it’s an overall basic compilation of everyday things. Office supplies, cameras and their accessories, surge protectors, batteries, fans and more. What are the daily items of modern living that you cannot live without? Keep in mind that your bus/RV is your home away from home. If you like to hook your bus/RV up to a power source on the campsite, add electrical cords and adapters to this category.
Packing List for Bus/RV Living:
Packing List for Bus/RV Recreation Supplies
When creating this list, think of the things that you enjoy in your downtime and the things you and your family enjoy together. Do you enjoy playing badminton? Add the netting set, the rackets and badminton to your list. Do you enjoy playing board games or cards with your family? Add this to your list as well.
You can never go wrong with adding laptops, books, and music players to this list. There’s nothing quite as special as reading a great novel while surrounded with the sounds of nature.
Beach balls and basketballs are also great things to add to this list if you have more than one child.
This list should include the things that’ll entertain yourself and your family during the travel time of the trip and during the vacation time of the trip.
Packing List for Bus/RV Recreation Supplies:
Clothing & Footwear
Alas, we are on the list that everyone thinks about when packing for a vacation. People usually pack too few of clothes or they pack too many clothes. Creating a list of clothing to pack will offer a nice balance to this popular struggle.
Investigate the weather and climate around the area in which you will travel to. Once that’s determined, plan your wardrobe accordingly. I recommend that you always carry a jacket as you never know when cold weather should strike. Walking shoes and hiking boots are always a must as well.
Jeans, tops and sunglasses should be a given. I recommend packing one day outfit and one pajama set per day. Keep in mind that you can always mix and match clothing on any given day!
I always pack flip flops for each family member to wear in public showers. Even if you won’t be using a public campsite shower, I still recommend packing the flip flops! You never know when you may have to use a public campsite shower. This will protect your feet from certain foot diseases.
Clothing & Footwear:
Whenever you travel anywhere, you MUST have the important identification items and other personal items. Never leave your house without a driver’s license, insurance card, keys, and campsite confirmation. Many campsites won’t allow you into the park if you don’t have the confirmation number of your reservation. If you have a passport, I recommend that you take it just in case. It works great as a second form of identification. (Obviously, if you’re taking your bus/RV across international borders, you’ll need your passport.)
Any other important personal items such as a birth certificate and medical emergency information should be taken with you.
As I stated in the beginning of this article, tools are a necessity! You’ll want to pack things that will be needed for any possible repairs. If your vehicle breaks down at night, you’ll need work lights or flashlights. In our family, we find that walkie talkies are also very useful in communicating when cellular phone service is non-existent.
Toolboxes for mechanics are great to have on any bus/RV. Something as simple as an eyeglass repair kit will prove to be helpful on these trips. When constructing this list, try to think ahead and that’ll help you to determine your list of tools.
Bus/RV Maintenance & Safety Checklist
These are items that you should never leave home without; therefore, make a section for them on your bus/RV checklist.
Should there be an accident on the road, it’s wise to always have your vehicle registration and insurance information stored in a safe location. I like to designate a special folder for these documents and keep them stored in the glove compartment of my vehicle or in a secure drawer in the bus/RV.
It’s a great idea to let your spouse or you hold onto the spare keys while the other has the main keys. If you’re anything like me, you’re prone to locking yourself out of the car!
I also recommend making a box for maintenance items. Plug kits for flat tires, tire pressure gauges, emergency road kits, etc. Anything that you can think of to add to your list in the event of a breakdown or accident.
Lastly, I always keep a fire extinguisher stored under the sink in my bus/RV!
Bus/RV Maintenance & Safety Checklist:
A Skoolie family enjoying a camping trip.
Let’s not forget about the camping gear! Every family is different; some prefer to sleep in the bus/RV or RV while other families prefer to sleep in camping tents. Determine your family desires and traditions and add to them to your list.
In general, be sure to remember campground directories and maps. Other things you may wish to add are portable tables, camp chairs, outdoor rugs, tents and the tent pegs.
On the Water
If you’re family loves to swim and play in the water, make a list for the swimming items. I never allow my family in the lake without life jackets and flotation devices. Therefore, I place those items under this category.
If you are traveling to the beach or lake and have watercraft vehicles, go ahead and add them to the list as well. Canoes, boats, jet skis, and rafts have been forgotten before!
Swimming goggles, fins and water shoes should be on this list as well. The organization is key to successfully packing all your needs.
On the Water:
I and my son LOVE fishing. Although it’s rare for them to forget their fishing gear, I still add it to my checklist. First and foremost, remember to check the fishing license rules to the area in which you’ll be visiting. This is important should the fish and gaming warden ever approach your family.
Remember the fishing gear with tackles, waders, fishing nets, coolers and buckets. Also, remember the fish cleaning tools should you desire to have a fish fry. I try to remember the filet knives, cutting boards and frying pots. I always place my fish frying ingredients in with my food list. (Ingredients such as flour, cornmeal, and oil.)
Camping with Pets
Most families take their pets along with them for bus/RV camping trips. It’s important to remember their necessities as well. Be sure to add their category to your checklist!
First and foremost, remember their food, water, and necessary food bowls.
If you have a dog(s), add to the list their leash and harness, plastic doggy bags, chew bones, puppy pads, and anything else that your dog(s) need on a regular basis. Most campgrounds have leash laws and pick up laws for animal waste, so don’t forget those items.
If you have cat(s), don’t forget the litter box with a lid!
Camping with Pets:
For the Cat
Camping with Kids
While camping with your kids creates a lifetime of memories, you must remember the necessities! Depending on the ages of your children, don’t forget portable cribs or cots. Child-sized and small adult sleeping bags are also something to add to your list.
In my family, I’ve found that assigning my kids a reusable water bottle kept everyone hydrated and prevented lost drinking glasses.
Camping with Kids:
How to Safely Pack a Bus/RV for Travel
Not that you’ve successfully created your list of necessities, it’s time to pack it in the bus/RV, the correct way.
The first time that I went on a bus/RV trip with my wife, I placed all our items in bags and set them on the floor of the bus/RV. We drove 500 miles into the mountains and didn’t check on the bus/RV until we reached our destination. When I opened the doors for the first time, it looked like a tornado had swept through the bus/RV! My kitchen supplies were EVERYWHERE, our clothes were spilled EVERYWHERE, and my bag of flour had dusted the items in a heavenly manner.
Why did that happen? We drove carefully. We didn’t take sharp turns or make sudden stops.
If nothing is secured inside of your bus/RV, it WILL move around. It doesn’t matter how gently you take a turn, a turn is still a turn! And your bag of kitchen supplies WILL turn. I was better prepared for my next trip.
It’s important to pack your items in secure boxes with secure lids. If your bus/RV cabinets lock, it’s okay to place your food in them as long as the cabinets are LOCKED.
If you’ve placed all your items in secure boxes, don’t leave them sitting in the middle of the bus/RV’s floor. Another contributor to my first messy bus/RV trip was my lack of distributing the weight of my items. You must keep the weight of your items secured and distributed evenly on either side of your bus/RV. Otherwise, this could affect your items as it did mine. In fact, uneven weight distribution can increase the chances of your bus/RV turning over. (This depends on the size as well.)
With your heavy boxes, place them equally on opposite sides of your bus/RV. I would even suggest using bungee cords to tie them in place. This ensures that your items are protected, your bus/RV is protected and your travel will be safer.
If you have discovered that you’ve packed too many items, sort through your list again and delete any items that may not be a necessity. Rearrange your boxes until the weight is evenly distributed. Continue this process until you have packed the bus/RV to the best of your ability. This is why you should never wait to pack for a bus/RV trip at the last minute.
Bus Camping Safety Tips
While bus camping is a fun adventure for you and your family, it’s important to stay safe and alert. These are some guidelines that my family practices for ensuring our safety while camping.
1. Choose a safe campsite.
You don’t want to park your bus near the edge of a ravine or a bears’ den. You’ll also want to consider the amenities that the campsite offers. Do you or a family member have certain medical issues that require you to be near the restrooms or a public phone? Does your campsite have ample resources for water? Does your campsite have wildlife officials or security officers nearby? These are all things to consider when choosing the best campsite for you and your family.
2. Always be aware of the weather.
I advise taking a weather radio and extra batteries on bus camping trips. Many people rely on their smartphone weather apps to stay aware of the weather; however, in some areas, campsites don’t have cellular service. A weather radio will always work! You should have an evacuation plan should there ever be a bad storm, tornado, blizzard, flood, etc. Don’t let the weather surprise you. Always stay a step ahead of the game.
3. Store your food in safe areas.
When your camping in wildlife areas, you MUST keep your food stored in protected bins. Never leave your food sitting out on a picnic table unattended. This may attract bears or coyotes to your campsite. Don’t allow improper food storage to invite danger to your campsite.
4. Always practice fire safety with your campfires.
Our family always has a bucket of water sitting next to our campfire just in case we should have to put it out in a hurry or in case it spreads. When we are ready to put the fire out, we use the bucket of water to put it out and sprinkle the water on with our hands. Never pour a bucket of water on a campfire as it may cause burning wood to float into the surrounding area. It’s a standard practice that everyone should adopt. However, never start a fire on very dry and windy days. This only feeds the fire and could jump-start wildfire events.
Never leave your fire unattended! It can NEVER be trusted to watch itself.
Finally, never allow your fire to grow too big. Campfires that get out of control can become very dangerous very quickly. Keep the fire small and keep it supervised.
5. Stay protected from insect bites.
Staying in the wilderness during the summer months guarantees a war with mosquitoes. I recommend keeping you and your family lathered up with mosquito repellent. Mosquito candles are also great ways to ward off the insect pests.
Another reality in the wilderness is watching out for ticks. Check each other out every day for ticks. The most commonplace that ticks love to reside is in the safe haven of hair. Check everyone’s heads really well for ticks.
6. Be allergy prepared.
If you or your loved ones have allergies to certain things in nature, always be prepared. Keep a bottle of antihistamine tablets nearby for bee stings, poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak encounters. If you or a loved one has been prescribed an EpiPen, NEVER leave home without it!
7. Wear sun protection.
Whether it’s the summer or the winter, the sun can damage the skin. Use sunscreen for protection in the warm months. This will lessen the odds of sunburn. In the cooler months, keep your face protected with hats and your eyes protected with sunglasses. Never look directly at the sun as this can burn the retina in your eyes.
8. Stay hydrated when playing outdoors!
I cannot say this enough. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration can sneak up on you like a thief in the night. Ensure that you have plenty of bottled water and/or tap water available for everyone to drink throughout the day. And remember, just because you have played in the water all day does NOT mean that you’re hydrated!
9. Watch out for wildlife.
Always be aware of your surroundings. While seeing wildlife can be a serene experience, never approach a wild animal. Many people become enamored with bear cubs and will try to approach one. DO NOT DO THIS. This is how people get seriously hurt or killed. Avoid all wildlife and ensure that your campsite will not attract wildlife to it. Should you ever touch a wild animal, wash your hands thoroughly. You never know if an animal is diseased or not. If you get bit by wildlife, contact your doctor immediately to be tested for rabies.
10. Have fun but stay safe!
Be wise, use common sense and have fun! It’s possible to enjoy your trip without behaving irresponsibly. Follow these basic guidelines and you’ll improve the safety of your loved ones and those nearby. Be responsible, be respectful, and have fun!
Friends joined around a campfire.
As with anywhere we go in life, we must be considerate of others around us. If you’re new to bus life, let’s take a look at some bus etiquette tips. We all want to be happy campers, right?
1. Never park too close to your neighbor.
You should value your space as much as anyone else values their space. Be considerate of other bus campers and don’t park in their “front yard” so to speak.
2. Always obey the campsite rules.
Everywhere we go in life, there’s a set of rules to follow. Don’t be the one camper that doesn’t follow the rules and stirs dissension through the campsite. Be polite and obey the rules.
3. Don’t allow your animals to run freely through the campsite.
How would you feel if you were grilling hot dogs by your bus and someone else’s dog came and ate your hot dogs? What if he relieved his bowels in front of your favorite camp chair? You wouldn’t be a happy camper. Keep your animals on leashes and in your area. This will allow for a happy campsite for everyone.
4. Don’t block the roadways around the campsite.
Every campsite has a road that circles around until you reach the exit sign. Don’t be the person that parks your bus on the road. Be courteous and park your bus where it’s supposed to be parked and ensure it is completely off the road.
5. Keep the noise level down; especially at night.
Blaring loud music at night is one of the rudest behaviors a camper can do. When the sun goes down, cease the loud music and have respect for others around you. Many campsites have rules about this and could fine you if you’re caught blaring your music past sunset or you can be kicked out if it continues
6. Keep your campsite clean.
No one enjoys being a neighbor to a dirty, unclean neighbor. For the courtesy of others, keep your campsite clean and don’t trash it. Besides, keeping a dirty, trashy campsite will invite unwanted wildlife. This will also anger the campsite neighbors. Be safe and clean.
7. If you’re a smoker, be courteous of others around you.
This one really annoys me. You’re an asthmatic and go to the mountains for fresh air when…your campsite neighbor lights up a cigarette five feet away from you. And he smokes the entirety of your trip. Don’t be that person. Some campsites have a designated smoking area. If yours does not, find a secluded area away from other campers to indulge in your smoking habit. Remember that not everyone can be around cigarette smoke for the sake of their health.
8. Make sure that your kids are respectful.
Have a talk with your kids about being respectful to others. Let them know where they can and cannot run, where they can and cannot raise their voices, etc. Lay down the rules to them so that they don’t disrupt other campers.
9. Always leave your fireplace clean or with only ashes and wood.
Nobody wants to come into your campsite after you leave and find your fireplace filled with your trash that they have to dispose of. Trash goes in the trash cans and fires must be put completely out when you leave the campsite.
Now that I’ve shared with you some great techniques in making a bus checklist, how to safely pack your bus, how to use good safety practices on the campsite, and bus etiquette, you should be ready to hit the road!
Remember to pack the necessities, but you can always add or delete items as you go through your checklist. And remember, when you’re loading the bus, evenly distribute the weight. This will prevent many types of accidents. Stay safe, drive carefully, and have fun!