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10 organization tips to keep your camper tidy

Maintaining an organized space is key to enjoying your camping experience to the fullest

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high-roof 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter van
My high-roof 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter van can sleep six and features a ton of organizational hacks.
Photo by Lucy Beaugard

The beginning of 2019 brings a chance to think through fresh starts and new goals, especially when it comes to our homes. But for the RV-obsessed, the new year is also the time to think about how we can reimagine, refresh, and reorganize our campers. Love campers and RVs? Come join our community group!

Because of their compact size, many campers and trailers can be challenging to keep organized. If you’re living in a Class A, perhaps you have enough space to spread out and let the little things pile up. But for anyone in a smaller travel trailer or camper van, maintaining a tidy space (thanks, Marie Kondo) is key to enjoying your camper experience to the fullest. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find what you need, and a mess in a camper will always be front and center.

Families, especially, or anyone traveling with more than one person in a camper should pay attention to organization. This doesn’t mean that messes don’t happen; when I travel with my two kids in our camper van, it transforms from orderly to a disaster in a matter of seconds. But adhering to these 10 tips makes tidying up your camper a cinch.

As I’m the owner of a 4x4 Sprinter converted by Sportsmobile, the advice that follows has been accumulated by my family of four thanks to hands-on experiences in our van. While it most easily applies to other van life followers, it also works for any type of RV. Behold, 10 tips to keep your camper organized and clean.

Have a spot for everything

It’s no understatement to say that anything that goes into my van has a specific place to live. Our sunscreen, bug spray, and baby wipes stay in a small box cabinet at the sliding door entry, conveniently located so we don’t have to go inside the van to grab them.

Likewise, small items like sunglasses, camping books, hats, and our first aid kit all have a place, and we put them back after every use. This sounds like a small thing, but it’s the key to maintaining a tidy van and finding the items you need quickly.

Don’t pack clothes in bags

This took us a while to figure out. In our first Sprinter van that we converted ourselves, we didn’t have upper storage cabinets to hold our clothes. For each trip we would pack our clothes into duffle bags and then have to rifle through the bags each time we needed something. It was time consuming and inefficient.

Now, we’ve banished all bags from our van. Instead, we pack clothes into InterDesign clear bins from the Container Store. Although originally designed for fridges and pantries, the Jumbo size fits in many upper cabinets, and the smaller bins are good for holding socks, gloves, or hats. Because we pack straight into the clear bins, things are easy to see, clothes stay more organized, and we don’t have to try to store awkward duffle bags when we’re on the road.

Photo by Lucy Beaugard

Manage your laundry

What happens to the clothes when we’re finished wearing them? We put them in an old drawstring sleeping bag sack that takes up little space when it’s empty and expands nicely to hold dirty clothes for four. When the large sack is full, it’s time to do laundry.

That being said, we try to make sure we don’t haphazardly put clothes into the laundry. We’ll designate a pair of jeans and a fleece for everyone as our “campfire clothes” and wear other clothes more than once when we’re on the road.

Bring reusable bags with you

Even though we don’t like duffle bags in the camper, we do need bags on hand. A sturdy backpack or two works well for impromptu hike picnics, and we always stash a few reusable grocery bags into a cubby. These are not only good for shopping, but also work if you need to pack a change of clothes or a swimsuit for a trip to the recreation center pool or hot springs.

Use hanging space

One of our most important pieces of advice is not to ignore hanging space in your camper. We love hooks for jackets, ski helmets, hats, fleeces, vests, and sweatshirts. Don’t have a lot of flat surfaces for hooks? Try an L-track system.

This inconspicuous pre-drilled track can be installed anywhere in your camper—on the floor of your gear garage, below your cabinets, literally anywhere—and used in a plethora of ways. Hang carabiners off of it for an instant jacket rack; recess the tracks to make adjustable fork mounts for bikes; and, of course, use it to tie down anything you don’t want flying around. Start with this four-pack of L-track and set of round rings.

We also love the Nite Ize Gear Line. Wear-resistant webbing and sturdy S-biner clips keep your hats and towels organized, and the gear line can be hung up pretty much anywhere. In the winter we hang it across the van and over the heater to dry towels or wet jackets. In the summer it hangs easily off of our awning to keep miscellaneous items organized.

Use small containers to keep pantries and cabinets organized.
Photo by Lucy Beaugard

Get creative with storage solutions

Spend some time at the Container Store or Target looking at storage solutions that might fit well in your space. We use small trays to organize dry goods items in our pantry, and the aforementioned refrigerator bins to pack our clothes. We also only buy cooking gear that is stackable; try the Magma seven-piece nesting set, this colorful nine-piece nesting mixing bowl set, and a five-cup kettle that packs down small, and gets you hot water, fast.

Over-the-door hangers can organize cooking tools or cleaning supplies, and instead of using bulky spice jars, we manually refill this slim six-piece set. Narrow file holders work well for organizing cleaning supplies or toiletries, and magnetic wall strips can hold cooking tools or containers of herbs. Ceiling-mounted paper plate dispensers and hanging fruit hammocks work well in some RVs, and some people keep track of remote controls with velcro on cabinets.

Do the dishes right away

We know it’s a hassle, but if you do your dishes right away, it helps keep your space much cleaner. The only time we break this rule is when we know we’re headed to a house or place where we can use someone’s dishwasher. In that case, we just stack the dishes in the sink and unload them all when we arrive at our destination.

L-track keeps our camper organized inside and out.
Photo by Jason Barber

Use your outdoor space well

Part of being a pro organizer is knowing when something should live outside your camper instead of inside. We love our gear garage in our van as it allows us to store all of the bikes and skis we need. But larger gear like stand up paddle boards need special racks, like these surf hooks that mount to a ladder and pole and swivel when not in use.

We also love our rear storage boxes. An open box (also from Aluminess) can hold jerry cans or firewood, and we like the closed boxes for storing camp chairs, tie-down straps, and snow chains. All of these rather bulky items would be challenging to fit inside the camper.

Adopt a “no shoes” policy

Keep your van clean by using a large sand-free mat at the entry. We like the one from CGear; the mat keeps sand and dirt out, can be sprayed off easily with a hose, comes in multiple sizes, and is lined with heavy duty D-rings so you can stake it down. Consider the 8-by-8-foot medium mat or the 12-by-12-foot extra-large mat.

Once inside your van, designate a place for shoes and make sure everyone takes their shoes off. This keeps dirt out and helps a camper stay a bit cleaner in the long run.

Manage your trash

We have two trash cans inside our camper: One is an under-the-sink can, and the other is a a small hanging car trash bag on one of the front seat arm rests. This keeps things clean while you’re driving and is easy to dump out at gas stations.

At camp, keep trash organized—and your van from smelling—with a water-resistant canvas trash bag that fits over your rear spare tire. We like the Trasharoo, and it’s an easy way to haul trash out of national parks or more remote sites that don’t have trash service.