1. Plenty of water and water containers
Many national park campgrounds don’t have water hookups. Check your destination’s capabilities and be prepared to dry camp. Bring plenty of water for cooking, washing up and drinking. Be sure to also bring a reusable water jug and reusable water bottles to fill at many parks’ drinking water filling stations. A reusable water bottle is also a must for reducing single-use plastic waste and staying hydrated on the trails.
2. Emergency Vehicle Kit
When your vehicle is also your home, there’s an extra level of anxiety if it breaks down. Be prepared for roadside emergencies with a spare tire, jumper cables, extra coolant and oil and if you’re traveling long distances between gas stations, extra fuel.
3. Wheel chocks and leveling blocks
You don’t want to end up sleeping with your head downhill or have the onions roll off the counter when you’re trying to cook. If your RV doesn’t have hydraulic levelers, make sure to pack leveling blocks so you can stay horizontal, regardless of how uneven the ground is. Leveling blocks stack and can go under any of your vehicles’ tires, so you can make the perfect adjustments. Wheel chocks are also essential for safety. These blocks keep your RV from rolling away in case of parking brake failure.
4. Portable Generator or Solar Charger
Many national park campgrounds don’t have hookups, so you’ll be without access to a battery charge unless you pack a generator or a solar charging system, such as Goal Zero. Plan accordingly, as many parks limit generator use to a few hours each day to maintain the peace and quiet of the campgrounds.
If you don’t have access to electric hookups and your battery runs out, you don’t want your perishable food items to spoil. It’s always a good idea to keep a small cooler and ice packs at the ready for unexpected circumstances, or even just to have a picnic away from your RV.
6. Camp chairs
No matter how comfy your RV couch is, there’s nothing quite like sitting out under the stars in a national park. While most campgrounds have picnic tables, a foldable camp chair is much more comfortable.
7. Sunscreen and Bug spray
Don’t underestimate the effects of spending all day in the sun, especially in high-elevation parks like Rocky Mountain. Lather up in the morning and bring it in your daypack with you to reapply throughout the day. Bug spray is also a lifesaver when you end up at a particularly buggy campground or trail.
8. Sturdy shoes
Feel free to bring your flip flops for the RV, but you’re going to want a sturdy pair of hiking boots if you plan to venture outside the campground in most of our nation’s parks. Ankle support is essential when you encounter broken or rocky trails and a good grippy sole keeps you from slipping when conditions are wet.
When you visit desert or high-elevation parks, the temperature and weather can change significantly from night to day and even from one spot in the park to another. Pack quick-dry layers to keep yourself comfortable from frosty mornings to scorching afternoons. Even if the forecast looks clear, rain gear is also a good idea.
10. Headlamp and flashlight
When the sun goes down, it gets very dark in many of our parks, thanks to a lack of light pollution. Pack a headlamp to stay hands-free or a good flashlight to keep from having to use the one on your phone. Don’t forget the spare batteries!
11. Bear spray
When you’re in grizzly bear country in parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier, bear spray is often recommended if not required. A can of bear spray can help deter an aggressive bear. Bring a can with you while hiking and be sure you know how to use it and keep it in an accessible place. Storing food and scented items properly will hopefully avoid any bear encounters at the campground, but it’s a good idea to keep spray nearby, especially when cooking. Please note, some parks like Yosemite do not allow bear spray, so always check regulations before packing.
12. First-Aid Kit
Packing a first-aid kit is like having car insurance – you hope you never have to use it, but if you do, you’re glad you have it. From campfire burns to bumps and scrapes, a well-stocked first aid kit will keep you and your family adventuring instead of packing up and heading home. Be sure to pack allergy medication when headed to an unfamiliar ecosystem – you never know what you might be allergic to.