Saturday, September 23, 2023


Hobbies for RVers: Yes, you can make yours work in a small space

The American author and Pulitzer Prize winner Phyllis McGinley once said, “A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away.” I agree. Wholeheartedly. But what hobbies can an RVer do inside their rig? After all, we have very limited space.

Hobbies I have known

My husband and I shared many different hobbies over the years in our stix-n-brix home. My favorite? Furniture refinishing and/or upcycling. We scoured local garage sales, flea markets, and auctions to find “just the right piece” of furniture. Then, we’d bring it home, clean it up and, often as not, rebuild and refinish it for a new purpose. The entire process was fun, and I loved the challenge and creativity this hobby required. Obviously, there’s no way to refinish furniture inside the RV. This hobby requires space for supplies and tools. You can’t strip paint or apply varnish inside, either. Our furniture refinishing hobby is restricted to our stix-n-brix garage when we’re at home—not traveling.

I also did a lot of sewing during our “pre-RV” years. But now? I have yet to find a good place in our RV for my sewing machine to “live.” Not only that, but where can I lay out yards of fabric in order to place patterns and cut? Crawling around on the RV floor to cut fabric seems more like a hassle than hobby to me.

Now what?

So, what now? What kind of hobby can an RVer have inside their limited space? I’ve been researching. And guess what? I found several hobbies that seem not only doable but actually suited for the RV lifestyle. Before we look at specific examples of hobbies, it’s important to know some basic principles of pursuing a hobby while living in a small space.

Basic principles

Downsize the hobby

Sometimes you can simply downsize your hobby. For example, I enjoy sewing but may need to downsize this hobby to better fit our RV life. Rather than lug along my big sewing machines, it makes sense to downsize to a smaller sewing option, like embroidery. (Here’s a small sewing machine Nanci Dixon recommends.) I can still work with fabric and be creative by learning new stitches, implementing a variety of colors, and producing new items.

The principle of downsizing the hobby can apply to most every hobby. For example, if you enjoy playing your tuba but your RV space makes that hobby difficult, think about learning a new (and smaller) instrument.

Identify hobby traits

The hobby of refinishing furniture has many different traits: creativity, carpentry, painting, etc. If I focus on these particular traits, I might find a new hobby that fits (literally) into our RV lifestyle. For example, I’ve recently discovered “dot painting.” (You can check it out here.) This kind of painting originated in India and requires no special training. I started out using some leftover craft paint I had at home, used a new pencil eraser as my “dotting tool,” and experimented dotting on some scrap paper. Guess what? I really enjoyed making patterns, swirls, and free-form shapes. I ordered dotting tools and some paintable bookmarks and began a hobby that takes up very little space inside our RV.

Limit the number of hobbies

RV life gives us the ability to do many things. When it comes to indoor hobbies, limiting these special interests is important. Why? There simply isn’t space inside your rig for you to pursue more than one or maybe two hobbies at once. For example, I can paint, and I can embroider, but if I try to do both hobbies concurrently, I’m soon tripping over thread or searching for a flat surface where my paintings can dry.

The more people who travel with you, the more you will need to limit the hobbies you do at one time. After all, they may need space for their special interests, too!

What to do with hobby results?

Another thing to consider when choosing a “small space” hobby is what you’ll do with any completed projects that result from your hobby. For example, my dotting hobby produces decorated bookmarks. It doesn’t make sense for me to keep every bookmark I make. So, I give some of the finished bookmarks to folks to distribute on church mission trips. I also give some bookmarks to our local library to give away. And I keep some bookmarks to tuck into books that I give to my grandkids for birthdays and holidays.

If your hobby produces something tangible, figure out what you’ll do with the hobby’s result. It will give you purpose and incentive to do your best. It will also prevent your RV from becoming cluttered or even overrun by “stuff.”

Indoor hobbies for RVers in a small space

Once you understand and implement the basic principles for small-space hobbies for us RVers, your choices are almost limitless. Check out these hobbies that RVers can do. Then, please add your own indoor hobby ideas in the comments.

  • Culinary hobbies. If you enjoy cooking or baking, consider making it your hobby. Learning about the science behind the different processes can be fascinating!
  • Jewelry making. The only challenge here is to find secure storage for your collection of beads, wire, and tools. Results can be stunning.
  • Writing. All you need is a laptop computer and your imagination. Get busy writing the next great American novel. Or begin an autobiography for your kids and grandkids.
  • Leather-working. Keep your projects small, like bracelets or key chains, and let your creativity soar. Check online for hints and tips.
  • Music. Singing or writing music can be a lifelong hobby. Your results might find their way onto the “Talent Night” campground stage, as well!
  • Magic. Perfect your sleight of hand tricks. YouTube can provide guidance for this hobby, too!
  • Gaming. Learn how to play the video games your kids enjoy. Then challenge them to play with you online.
  • Paper crafts. Check out online videos for origami projects. Learn, and then teach your grandkids.
  • Chess or checkers. Get your travel buddy involved in these or other board games. Then, work to perfect your strategies.
  • Programming. Learn to code or set up websites. It’s educational and challenging, too!
  • Knot tying. This hobby can really come in handy as you RV. Who knew rope could be so much fun!

Endless list

Please add to this list of hobbies for RVers. I would love to hear how you “hobby” inside your RV!

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Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


  1. I started woodcarving. You only need a few tools. I started with a pocket knife and reshaped the blades. I have two fixed blade knives, a few gauges, and a good strop with compound. There are many good how to videos on YouTube featuring small projects. It’s a great hobby.

  2. There are literally hundreds of RV’ers that quilt. We’re part-timers and usually 2 sewing machines travel with us in the rig. Using my hand crank outdoors allows me to meet many other campers. My big computerized, electronic machine has traveled over 50,000 miles in our rig. It’s super easy to piece quilt blocks in or outside the rig, especially if all the pieces are pre-cut. I can lay out the blocks on the bed to assemble the top, and then quilt it when I get back to the stix-and-brix. If you spend time in a RV park, they may have a room with tables that you can use for cutting etc. Since that is not our type of camping most of the time, I just use the dinette or counter for a cutting space when I run out of quilt blocks that I’ve pre-cut. And, of course, visiting quilt shops for new fabric is a most enjoyable hobby.

  3. I’m a card artist and for short camping trips I pack a tote with my markers, colored pencils, stamped images to color and several other bits I like to use. Someday (when we’re retired and try RV living in a slightly bigger RV!) I hope to make a bunk room into my stamp/card room and have plenty of storage for all my equipment! I’d love to hear from any other stampers/card-makers who already do this! 🙂

  4. Thank you, Gail! Is the RV bed too small to cut material to a pattern? Maybe the sewing machine is a greater constraint. I no longer have any hobbies. I sometimes consider transferring parts of my sports card (mostly baseball) collection from cardboard boxes to notebooks while traveling, but the boxes take a lot of space and I quickly dismiss the thought.

  5. I’m a quilter and as long as I’m not applying the backing (the only space large enough to do this is in the stix-n-bricks home), it comes with me camping! I generally have all the pieces cut out and hand sew them. I can cut pieces for the quilt in the camper if need be. My other hobby is card making. I have a bunch of stuff ready to go for camping so I am only hauling a bag (little larger than a shopping bag) with me when we go camping. I do find though, unless we are gone for more than 2 weeks camping, I simply don’t have the time for my hobbies as we are usually out exploring.

  6. I’m a quilter, and a 17′ TT doesn’t have much space for a machine, so I don’t take one except on rare occasions. When I do it/they have to travel in the truck, there is too much road jouncing in any place we have space for a machine, modern or vintage. A friend and I have taken our hand crank vintage Singer machines on one trip so far – where it turned out to be way to windy and gritty to sew outside anyway.
    I do English Paper Piecing while traveling. I like to prep an entire quilt, or at least the majority of it, whether EPP or machine, home or camping. I organize it, and can take as many baggies of supplies as I think I’ll need for our trips. (Usually one to 2-1/2 weeks) I’ve yet to run out before we head home.
    We also read, a lot on trips. Most of mine is on the Kindle, my husband may take a book or two in addition to the Kindle.

  7. We love to rock paint and then leave the rock in the campground. The supplies are small and the rocks we purchase in a small bag at Lowes.

  8. I cross stitch and quilt. Cross stitch is easy because I only have room for small patterns for the walls but I do change out the projects for seasons and months.
    As for quilting, well, I honestly overdo it. I keep all of the fabric in what would be the washer/dryer closet of our Class A. The sewing machines go under the dinette. Yes, plural. I have a featherweight and a Babylock. And, I also have some storage at my daughter’s house that I change out everything.

  9. Photography- I use pro-level gear and multiple formats, digital & film. But I cannot take it all. Film gear gets left behind this year, and I am limiting my lens selection every more for digital, mostly choosing a basic set of lens that work on more than one camera body. Ditto for flashes. I AM adding a very compact drone camera.

  10. We have a class c and when we full timed I had my two sewing machines. I was limited to warmer days because I just set a card table up outside

  11. Spouse has sewing machine permanently living in the RV. Smaller, but works fine. Does quilting blocks. Finished at home.
    Amateur radio, very useful hobby. Small footprint, talk to the World.

  12. Some of the hobbies I do while full-timeing. Quilting, seeing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, spinning (yes, there is a spinning wheel on board), for a time I had a small weaving loom, but it went into storage when we got an inflatable kayak, and stained glass. I don’t like to do the same thing over and over so have a variety. I finish one project before starting another.


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