Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Customized shelving for your RV cabinets

By Dave Helgeson

How many wardrobe closets, tall overhead cabinets and floor-to-counter storage areas does the average RV really need? Evidently plenty – based on the designs you are likely to see when shopping for a new RV.

I don’t know about you, but when I go RVing I am not taking along piles of dress clothes that need to be hung in a wardrobe, nor am I packing a dozen (foot-plus tall) cereal boxes that need storing in a tall overhead cabinet.

Why can’t RV manufacturers get a clue and install more shelves to make efficient use of the storage space? As it turns out, cabinet arrangement and lack of shelves, drawers, etc., in RVs is dictated more by the cost of those components than by how the RV will be used. Therefore, to keep curb appeal high and costs low, RV manufacturers provide lots of pretty cabinets to look at but with little functionality.

Luckily for you and me, there is an easy way to add custom-height shelves at little cost. Head over to your local home improvement store and pick up some wire rack shelving. Much of this is typically sold under the Rubbermaid brand. They come in widths of 12″, 16″, 20″ and 24″ of varying lengths. The 12″ ones are perfect for dividing overhead cabinets as they match the depth used by most RV manufacturers. The wider units work well for under-counter storage. In-between sizes are useful to divide wardrobe closets.

The shelves have a flange along one edge to provide rigidity. In homes, the flange is designed to be turned down towards the floor, but with RVs be sure to turn the flange up toward the ceiling. This will keep items from sliding off during transit. That way, when you open up an overhead cabinet after a long day on the road, you don’t have to worry about a can of soup falling on the person’s head seated at the dinette below.

Rather than using the mounting hardware that comes with the shelves, buy a pack or two of tubing holders that match the diameter of the larger wire in the shelves. Installation is just a matter of placing a tubing holder around the wire and screwing into the surrounding wood of the RV cabinet. Note: Be sure the screws you use are short enough that they won’t come through the front of the cabinets.

Editor’s note: You can find several types of wire closet shelving at Amazon.


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.



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Sybil Kenney (@guest_83420)
3 years ago

As a weekender camper for 40 years, there is a lot of food that comes out of my home kitchen into the motorhome, that includes large boxes of cereal and other snacks. Therefore some large spaces are required since I am not going to transfer all my food to small containers for 2 nights.

Rory R (@guest_83337)
3 years ago

I understand he is making a case for the storage shelves, but he is overdoing it with comments like “I don’t know about you, but when I go RVing I am not taking along piles of dress clothes that need to be hung in a wardrobe, nor am I packing a dozen (foot-plus tall) cereal boxes that need storing in a tall overhead cabinet.”. No I’m not taking a bunch of dress clothes, but I get the feeling he is traveling along. Leave the wardrobe space alone. Put your shelves in the wardrobe if you don’t use that space. There are those of us who do. You can’t please everybody and it’s hard to tell sometimes, what type of rig is being described. This just proves the point, that I make constantly. There is a reason for so much diviersity in floor plans, classes, price points, and even colors. There is no such thing as one size fits all, and the manufacturers wouldn’t make them all if they didn’t sell. I went off the rails on this one, because I just witnesses an unnecessary “fight” on social media between 2 rv’ers saying nasty things about each other (yeah it got personal), over which class of RV is best. They were both wrong. The best RV for me, may not be the best RV for you. That is nothing to fight about. I’m trying to find a site specific to the RV I own. But even on those sites, you get a group of people that don’t own the type of RV that group was founded for. You want people doing their research looking to purchase that type to get some good info. But teardrop owners discussing the merits of a built-in Onan gen. Come on.

Michael Starks (@guest_83334)
3 years ago

Don’t overlook locker shelves. These standalone shelves require no screws and are usually stackable. Some are coated-wire stands. Some are hard plastic and expandable to the side and upwards. They’re easy to reconfigure, too. If your kids are out of high school, you probably have a couple of locker shelves stashed in your garage or basement.

Vanessa Simmons (@guest_83333)
3 years ago

I agree and one of the first things I did was put shelves in my pantry, overhead cabinets and closets. How many 15″ tall things do I take with me? 24″ deep pantry that is 11″ wide! A can of soup is 4″ tall, a box of pasta 6″. Two 14″ wide closets for hanging! I kept a small space for two skirts (on one hanger), two dress pants (on one hanger) and 4 nice tops, 6 hangers.

They need a woman to design for them. I read a comment about don’t personalize your RV with paint and fabric, the companies pay designers to do the decor and they know best. LOL, LOL, ROFL. I plan to spend the fall and winter painting my interior a soft gray with teal and purple accents (it is a 2018).

MICHELE (@guest_83323)
3 years ago

I put my wire shelves upside down to create a ledge to help keep baskets from falling out of the cabinet when the door is opened

Peter (@guest_83309)
3 years ago

People are always trying to figure out how to get more storage. We are always trying to figure out how to use less space. Once or twice a year we pull everything out and remove stuff we don’t need.
Having less stuff makes it easier to get at what you do need, and having extra space when you;re travelling comes in handy if you want to buy things on the trip. Last summer we were camping in wine country and were happy we cleared out so much space before we went. 5 cases of wine needs space. Happy Trails

Mrs C (@guest_83304)
3 years ago

Can you send a picture? I dont know what tubing holders are

RV Staff
3 years ago
Reply to  Mrs C

Hi, Mrs. C. The holder is shown in Dave’s second picture in the article. Here is a link to the product on Amazon, so you can see better what he’s referring to Thanks for asking. 😀 —Diane at

Paul S Goldberg (@guest_84271)
3 years ago
Reply to  Mrs C

Look at the picture that is with the idea. The “tubing holders” are the loops over the rack with the screw into the wall.

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