By Robert Alistair Jones, Guest Contributor
Over the years, seasoned RVers have devised many and varied quick tips and cheats to make life on the road a bit easier. Here are a few of my favorite go-to RV hacks and improvisations, sorted into the zones of the vehicle that most commonly cause organizational headaches.
Bathroom, Washing and Laundry?//////
Hanging shoe organizers
Hanging shoe organizers are amazingly versatile space-savers that instantly convert any unused wall into a dozen or more convenient vertical storage pockets. In the shower, each pocket can hold shower gel, sun lotion, soap, shampoo, razor, nail brush and so on. You can always cut hanging shoe organizers up into sections if you want to reposition a few pockets elsewhere, too. For example, keep toothpaste, brushes, mouthwash and floss outside of the immediate shower area.
For outdoor spigots, hanging a bar of soap in pantyhose or a sock within reach of the faucet means you won’t have to carry it there and back each time. The soap will produce perfectly good suds from inside the fabric, so there’s no need to remove it to wash.
Another handy bathroom idea is the use of a wall rail to trap shower products and keep them from sliding or falling over as you drive. Simply screw a small towel hanger (or even a series of basic D-bar cabinet handles) to a convenient wall and slot your wash products in behind them. You can also use binder clips and twine to suspend some smaller/lighter items, from shelves or hooks.
If you don’t have access to a washing machine, one of the most effective ways to launder clothes manually is to use a bucket and a sink plunger. Half-filling the bucket with water and detergent, then using the plunger to force sudsy water through the fabrics, makes for a surprisingly good “analogue” washer. If you need to get back on the road before the clothes are dry, shower cubicles are a perfect place to hang them. (I’d advise using an extendable tension rod positioned over the tray, rather than risk overloading a flimsy shower curtain rail.)
Use a simple plastic pill dispenser with multiple compartments to store basic capsule medicines like aspirin, antacids, hay fever capsules and vitamins. Be sure to label each compartment clearly before decanting from larger bottles and packets. Using brand names or logos cut from packets is a good method. You can then use strong double-sided tape or self-adhesive Velcro to mount these space-saving dispensers to walls or the insides of cupboard doors for quick and easy access.
Food storage is especially space-hungry, so avoid the default cylindrical containers wherever possible. They waste lots of cupboard real estate. Instead, decant all dry goods into square or rectangular containers to make sure that every available inch is put to good use. It’s easy to find larger square Tupperware for bulk goods, like flour or cereals, but for smaller items, like herbs and spices, you may need to get creative. Tic Tac boxes are one particularly ingenious method we’ve seen for storing seasonings on the go.
Always make use of the insides of cupboard doors where possible. Metal caddies, of the type you commonly see in shower stalls, are equally well-suited to storing fresh produce that’s liable to roll around and become damaged on an open shelf. Equally, don’t neglect the underside of shelves. It’s unlikely you’ll have much room under most shelves to hang large pots and pans, but attaching a magazine file sideways beneath a shelf is a great method of achieving extra storage for flatter items like baking trays and foil.
Battery-operated motion-sensor lights can be attached to the inside of cupboards, pantries and other dark storage spaces so that they automatically illuminate the area you’re trying to see when the doors are opened. They’re cheap to buy, usually have some sort of self-adhesive pad for easy mounting and they don’t need to be wired in.
Rather than having to stick to shatterproof beakers everywhere you go, slip foam koozies, the padded sleeves intended to keep canned beverages cool, around delicate glassware before loading them onto cupboard shelves. They should stay protected from any knocks and clinks in transit. And don’t forget the non-slip shelf liners, too, of course.
RV ovens are notorious for uneven cooking, but placing food on a pizza stone, or a thick, unglazed ceramic tile, before sliding it into the oven to bake, can work wonders in helping heat to distribute better. (Be sure to let the ceramic cool fully before cleaning, as a hot stone immersed in water can shatter quite dramatically.)
Utilize the sides of the bed with a few cut-up sections of the shoe organizer. They can be attached around bed bases to provide a place for slippers, ear plugs, books, flashlights, water bottles and any other items that might prove useful to keep within easy reach in the dark.
It’s important to get a good night’s sleep when on the road, but that budget RV mattress can be uncomfortable. A far cheaper option than replacing the mattress is to buy a decent quality mattress topper. A couple of inches of extra padding can make a huge difference. In a pinch, you can even cut down a thick camping bed roll or foam yoga mat and slip it between the mattress and the sheet.
If you’re likely to need to get up and move about during the night, consider a few strips of glow-in-the-dark tape for subtly and strategically marking out entrance steps and door handles. At a few dollars per roll, it’s an easy and cheap way to navigate through the RV in low light without having to wake everyone by turning on overhead lights.
Slide a foam rubber pool noodle or pipe insulator over awning struts when the canopy is extended. Making a long slit down one side of the noodles and push-fitting them is the simplest way. My family has nursed many bumped heads because of excitable ball games being too close to the awning. This is an excellent method of reducing the risk for very little cost.
On breezy days, keep tablecloths attached to picnic benches or tables by punching eyelets around the edge of the cloth and hooking a length of bungee cord from one side to the other across the underside of the table. Lightweight metal grommets can be added to reinforce the eyelets and increase the durability.
When needing to hang wet, dirty or bulky items, such as beach towels and cooking pots, away from the RV or campfire, fasten an old belt around a tree trunk and slip in a few S-hooks over the sides.
Sage, lemons and cloves are all great ways of naturally repelling insects from a campfire or picnic area. Add bunches of sage leaves directly to the fire, ideally around the edges where it will only singe and smoke lightly. Lemons halved with cloves pressed in make for handy additions to a picnic table. Most biting winged insects hate the smell of citrus.
Cracking open engine hoods overnight can deter critters from sheltering in there, and running battery-powered LED lighting strips underneath campers can also be effective in keeping them away from cozy recesses. There are some campers who even swear by a few shavings of strong-smelling soap, such as eucalyptus or menthol, scattered around in darker cupboards and cubbies to deter various pests.
An effective way to illuminate a larger space in a pinch is to safely attach a flashlight or small lamp to a full water bottle (ideally a gallon jug), with the light pointing inward through the container. The water will diffuse the light more softly over a much wider area than the sharper, more narrowly focused flashlight beam can achieve.
Robert Alistair Jones is a freelance writer and lover of travel, both international and in his native UK. He and his family love camping and have often hired an RV to travel the British Isles, France and Spain.