Saturday, September 30, 2023


The one thing you absolutely MUST pack when RVing

A credit card’s famous tagline used to be, “Don’t leave home without it.” These same words might well be used when it comes to RVing. No matter where you plan to go, no matter what you plan to do, no matter who is traveling with you, there is one thing that every RVer absolutely must pack for every, single trip: common sense.

Without common sense, things get dicey

You may have seen the headlines or watched the incredible and often terrifying videos. “Bison charges at family of tourists, gores man in Yellowstone National Park” or “Hiker killed in grizzly attack” or “Elk attacks woman.” Similar animal-human interactions have unfortunately occurred with mountain lions, moose, and even wild boar.

“Wild animals” are defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as living things and especially mammals, birds, and fishes that are not domesticated. If you’ve packed your common sense, you’ll remember that critically important word, “wild.”

Wild animals may not act “wild.” Many bison, for example, are accustomed to seeing people in our National Parks. They may not shy away from you, but that doesn’t mean they’ve become tame. They remain wild animals and, as such, are a real threat to your safety. Common sense, along with many official warning signs, will remind you to keep your distance. Do it!

Not just animals

You’ll need common sense even if no wild animals are present. Need examples? How about these headlines: “Woman falls into thermal geyser while attempting a selfie” or “Campers narrowly escape flash flooding in Arizona.”

It’s not my intention to make light of these often-tragic incidents. I don’t like seeing folks get hurt! Instead, I want to encourage you to use common sense and always follow posted rules and warnings.

No common sense?

What happens if you lack common sense? What if your gut doesn’t send your brain the urgent warning: “Danger! Danger!” For new RVers or campers, perhaps you’re not aware of nature’s potential hazards or dangerous situations. What then? Here are some commonsense guidelines for you to follow:

Campsite selection

Choose level ground away from dead trees, rock ledges, or areas prone to flash floods. Avoid camping in low-lying areas where water can accumulate during rainstorms. You don’t want your RV to become stuck in the mud!

Be weather aware

Stay informed about the weather conditions before and during your camping trip. Take along a weather radio like this one. Be prepared for changing weather and pack appropriate clothing, including rain gear and extra layers in case temperatures turn colder.

Fire safety

Follow all fire safety guidelines and regulations. Use only designated fire pits/rings, or safely use portable grills for cooking. Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby and fully extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the campsite. (Use the douse-stir-douse-again-repeat method.)

First aid kit

Carry a well-stocked first aid kit and know how to use its contents. Include essentials like bandages, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers, insect repellent, sunscreen, and any necessary personal medications.

Store food safely

Properly store your food to prevent attracting wildlife. Use bear-resistant containers or store food inside your RV. Keep your campsite clean and dispose of trash in designated containers. Remove food and food wrappers from tow vehicles and keep vehicles and RV locked. (Recently, a black bear opened a pickup door to grab a bag of popcorn left on the inside seat.)


Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Carry an adequate fresh water supply or plan to purify water using water filters, purifying tablets, or boiling methods if you’ll be boondocking.

Navigation and communication

Carry a map, compass, and/or GPS device to navigate the area. Always tell a trustworthy person about your camping and/or hiking plans. Include the location, duration, and expected return day/time.

Insect and plant awareness

Before your trip, familiarize yourself with any potentially harmful insects/reptiles, poisonous plants, or other hazards in the camping area. Take necessary precautions like using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing/boots, and avoiding contact with unfamiliar plants.

Read and follow posted rules

National, state, and local parks and campgrounds have developed rules to help keep you safe while you enjoy the great outdoors. Follow the rules! And make sure your traveling companions remain diligent about following the rules, as well.

Please add additional common sense guidelines that I may have missed. Use the comments section to tell me your thoughts.



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.


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3 months ago

“Use bear-resistant containers or store food inside your RV. ” For some reason, I think a bear could easily get inside of an RV.

3 months ago

New RVers or campers are not the only ones lacking common sense.

3 months ago

Seems like packing common sense is just common sense. 🤔 LOL.

Ron Howes
3 months ago

Someone mentioned a shovel, which reminded me that 50 years ago, when I lived and hunted in Montana, when traveling in a National forest you were required to carry a shovel and a bucket. I knew someone that was hunting one weekend and a forest fire was burning nearby. His vehicle was stopped by rangers and he and the others in his party were pressed into helping fight it, which they did for the rest of the day. No bucket and shovel? You’d be getting an expensive ticket. I wonder if that is still being enforced.

Neal Davis
3 months ago

Thank you, Gail (and Chuck)! Great stuff! My “contibution,” if it’s that, is to echo Alan Warren, the RV Wingman, and say, “Please don’t leave your good manners at home.” Alternately, “Please remember to always take your good manners with you.”

3 months ago

All very good except for the campsite location. Unless you have been to the campground previously, you have no idea what the campsite looks like. Plus, asking for a better site is not really an option. Campgrounds are fully booked. I normally try to get an aerial view of the sites, but that doesn’t show how level the site is or the condition of the trees on the site. If I want a particular open site, I will pay the lock fee if available.

Earl Balentine
3 months ago

Carry a “Go Bag”. Your go bag would contain a change of clothes, medication, flashlite, 1st aid kit and snacks. The last thing you want after a RV accident is spending time buying clothes and acquiring medication while your contacting your insurance company.

Rally Ace
3 months ago

I cannot figure out why it is called ‘common’ sense when it is such a rare commodity.

Diane McGovern
3 months ago
Reply to  Rally Ace

Hi, Rally Ace. I think when it was named “common sense” it was much more common than it is these days. Maybe, and unfortunately, it will need to be renamed “uncommon sense.” Take care. 😀 –Diane at

Bill Byerly
3 months ago
Reply to  Diane McGovern

I’m afraid you might be right Diane…😞

Diane McGovern
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill Byerly

Sad but true.😟 Have a good night, Bill. 😀 –Diane

Brian Karnofsky
3 months ago
Reply to  Diane McGovern

Agree. There never was any common sense. Its just what we think other people should know.

Stephen M
3 months ago

Diane one thing I strongly suggest in your first aid kit, A tourniquet . You or someone else may never need it but there could be that one time it could save a life. And take the time to watch a short video on proper usage.

3 months ago
Reply to  Stephen M

Strangely my name happens to be Diane and I had a tourniquet I had to use when our friend cut off all his fingers.

3 months ago

Add a “shovel” to your fireside campfires. Using water or extinguisher may be nice, but without a shovel you can’t separate the fuel from the fire. (every Firefighters best tool!)

3 months ago
Reply to  Ran

Excellent idea! I will add that item before our next trip.

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