Selecting and managing clothing in a small space

For those of you that live in an RV or travel extensively, you are masters of planning and organizing clothing.  Especially in a small-space truck camper, clothes that are only needed once a year -like …I MIGHT be invited to a fancy lunch at the White House or be in a full blown snow storm – take up precious room.

Before we started traveling full time I read lots of other blogs and talked to other rv traveling retirees to get ideas on clothing.   Since we use to backpack, we learned how to get by on two outfits for a 7 – 10 day trip. Heck, I even did a 10 day, 3-country international trip (pleasure and business dress required) with a purse size backpack and small carry on. Now having multiple outfits seems like a luxury compared to two outfits when backpacking.

When we retired in mid 2014, we threw away 98% of our work clothes.  Truthfully, the majority of them were pretty rough looking since we had not invested in new clothes for several years.  What we didn’t burn or use as rags, we donated to a training center for people starting in professional careers.

Two things that I heard repeatedly from asking RV’ers about their clothes, is that they never wore the ‘dress up’ clothes they packed and initially they packed too many outfits.  Most people said they wear the same pants for 2 – 3 days and shirt for 1 -2 days so didn’t need as many as originally thought.  Many said they try to color coordinate all their clothes to three main colors for easier mixing and matching.

We do laundry about every 7 – 10 days depending on the climate and our range of activities.  Having the type of clothes we do always us to hand wash a piece or two if necessary.  A tip I was taught on handling dirty clothes is to fold them – they take up less room than wadding or crunching.  We store ours in the back seat of the truck in a large canvas bag (the same one I took to college 40 years ago).

Here are some of the basic tips we’ve discovered or learned along the way.

Type of clothes

Fishing/Hiking pants are wonderful.  You can zip off to shorts or capri length, they are

lightweight and stow in a minimal amount of room.  Other great features of these type of pants is they wash easily and dry quickly (unlike jeans) plus do not hold dirt if you are out hiking, etc.  They also do not fade as quickly as jeans with frequent washing.Product Details




Polyester/cotton/spandex material shirts combination are great instead of 100% cotton. They fold up smaller, hand wash easier, dry more quickly and resist wrinkling.

Product Details

They don’t shrink, retain their color through lots of washing, take less room than cotton t-shirts, and take less time to dry.  Layering or on their own, they are workhorses.  Fishing style shirts are great for using alone or as a lightweight wind breaker.

Multi-use shoes are a must.  We wear our Crocs most of the time and switch to our tennis shoes or hiking boots for longer hikes or bike riding for a total of 3 pair of shoes each.

Product Details

The Crocs double as shower shoes.  It was a surprise at how cold the floor of the camper was and so we each have a pair of slippers for inside wear.




Besides our two sweatshirts each, Glenn has a wind breaker and rain gear and I have a wind breaker, heavier jacket and rain gear.

Outdoor Research Swift Sun Hat, Khaki/Dark Grey,One SizeEven our hats are polyester and can be washed and air dried easily instead of the normal canvas hat.


Type of storage:

Product Details

All Glenn’s shirts fit in one and pants in another.

We don’t hang any of our clothes.  I fold up everything into existing cabinets in the bedroom or place in small plastic totes next to the bed. For the first year, I had vacuum sealed bags in our extra storage bag on to of the camper with an extra coat, two towels, and extra bed sheets.  Also carried two sets each of ‘off season’ clothes.  After 1 1/2 years, I left all of this behind since we had not used any of it.

Below are pictures and listings of the specific clothing and linens we carry in some of our 18 cabinets (for a truck camper, this is a lot of inside storage).   Also included some links to neat sites.

Remember that layering is key if you are nomadic traveler – you can plan for ‘perfect’ weather all year round, but seasoned full time rv travelers will tell you — it will be rainy, cold and hot many of your days.

Caite’s clothing list:  (longer list because of being colder than Glenn):

  • 6 long sleeve poly blend t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve button-down fishing shirts
  • 5 short sleeve poly blend shirts
  • 2 pair sweat pants
  • 4 pair hiking/fishing convertible pants
  • 1 pair yoga pants
  • 1 pair long underwear
  • 8 pair socks

Glenn’s clothing list:

  • 2 long sleeve t-shirts
  • 2 short sleeve button-down fishing shirts
  • 5  short sleeve poly blend t-shirts
  • 1 pair sweat pants
  • 5 pair hiking/fishing convertible pants
  • 8 pair socks



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2 Responses to Selecting and managing clothing in a small space

  1. Kate Goetz says:

    This is very timely. Thank you. We’re four weeks away from heading out…finally…and packing the camper is now top of mind. I agree with you on the clothes, I don’t imagine we’ll need more than you guys do. Well, maybe a warm sweater for those cool nights. But we’re still debating on the shoes. I think at last count we were down to four pairs each.

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