RV Weight Distribution Tips for Packing Your RV

When packing your RV, it’s essential to consider the weight distribution to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. Here are some tips to help you achieve optimal weight distribution.

Merriam-Webster defines weight as the force with which a body is pulled toward the earth. Everything around us feels this gravitational pull. Then you add the forces of movement which can magnify the effect of weight, and … well, you get the point.

Weight and loading are important for an airplane so it will lift off the ground and for a ship so it won’t roll over and they are important for your RV, not only to make sure it will last a long time without premature wear or component failure but also so it will be safe to drive on the highways and back roads.

Distribute weight evenly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are a number of resources for RVers to reference regarding the weight of their RV. Owner’s manuals usually provide weight and loading information as do numerous websites.

One organization, the RV Safety and Education Foundation (RVSEF) has dedicated its existence to the issues of RV weight and loading. It’s an important topic that every RVer should understand.

RV weight distribution, however, is something not a lot of RV owners think about. This is unfortunate because ensuring that all of the weight in your RV is evenly distributed is incredibly important for safety reasons. 

Trailers with cargo that haven’t been distributed across the rig evenly are more likely to sway. Additionally, all RVs that are loaded unevenly (or even overloaded) can suffer from suspension issues, problems with tires, and in some cases, issues with steering.

These are not things you want to have trouble with while on a road trip. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to avoid. The solution is of course to ensure that everything is loaded into your rig properly. 

Here are my tips for packing up your motorhome or trailer with RV weight distribution in mind. 

Distribute weight evenly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know your limits

First and foremost, you want to know the limits of your rig. This includes the cargo-carrying capacity of your RV, the tow limits of your truck (if applicable) as well as the gross axle weight rating (the amount that can be put on any given axle).

Knowing these numbers and ensuring you stay well within the given boundaries is the first step in properly loading your RV. 

Pick and choose

Knowing your limits is a good starting point. The next step is deciding what you will take and what you’ll have to leave behind in order to stay within those limits. Packing light is the name of the game: versatile items that can serve multiple purposes, small items, and lightweight options are ideal.

Obviously, you will only want to take the essentials. Leave unnecessary items at home. But taking some toys or outdoor gear is probably fine. Just so in moderation and keep those weight limits in mind. 

Distribute weight evenly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep things balanced

Once you know the basic parameters you are working with and what you will pack, the next thing to do is actually move the items into the RV. Keep things as balanced as possible—from side-to-side and front-to-back.

Take note of where appliances and slides are. Those things are heavy and should be taken into consideration as you decide where items should be stored. Use all of your storage bays and spread things out evenly between them. If most of your cabinets are on one side of the RV, try to put heavy items on the opposite side to balance out what you’d store in the cabinets. 

Heavy items low and centered

Have some especially heavy items you need to pack? Those should be kept on the floor and on top of an axle. This will help prevent the heavy item from putting too much weight on the front or back. Storing on the floor also ensures the item doesn’t fall, break things, and/or hurt people while the RV is in transit.

If you can, pack an item of similar weight on the opposite side or pack the heavy item opposite your main kitchen appliances in order to even things out from side to side.

Distribute weight evenly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to load drawers and cabinets

Another thing to keep in mind as you’re loading up the RV is how to load the drawers and cabinets.

You want to make sure only lightweight things are in the overhead cabinets in order to help keep things balanced and keep your passengers safe if you’re in a motorhome. Meanwhile, the drawers should not be overloaded as this can break them—and if all of your drawers are on one side of the RV (as is often the case), you’ll be putting a lot of weight in one area and throwing off the balance of the rig. 

Keep tank locations in mind

Water is heavy. It weighs in at 8.34 pounds per gallon meaning a 40-gallon tank weighs over 333 pounds when full. That’s a lot of weight and it can easily put you over your cargo-carrying capacity and out of balance.

If you plan to drive with a full fresh water or waste tanks make sure you know where that particular tank is located and try to pack everything in such a way that the extra weight is balanced out and you aren’t over your RV’s weight limit. 

Distribute weight evenly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Observe before you drive

Once everything is loaded into the RV, it’s time for a visual inspection. Head outside and look at the rig. Make sure it isn’t obviously leaning to one side or the other. If you pull a trailer, make sure the trailer isn’t weighing down the truck and make sure the bottom of the trailer is parallel with the ground.

Essentially, you are looking for any signs that you’ve overloaded the RV or that the weight inside isn’t balanced. You will want to add this visual inspection to your pre-trip walk-around every time you drive. 

Go get weighed

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to know whether you’re overloaded and almost impossible to know whether one axle is taking the brunt of the work without getting properly weighed. Even if everything looks good from the outside, you could still be totally out of balance. For this reason, it’s best to head to a nearby truck scale to be weighed after you’ve loaded up the RV. These can usually be found at truck stops and will give you tons of information about how your RV is loaded. 

Check this out to learn more: Should I Weigh My RV?

Yes, RV weight distribution is an incredibly important thing. Luckily, you know this now and can take the steps above to prevent any dangerous situations caused by uneven weight distributions from cropping up during your RV travels.

Worth Pondering…

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.

—C.S. Lewis

Who Needs an RV Supplemental Braking System?

I brake it down here!

Bringing a towed car along with your motorhome is a great way to increase your mobility and see local attractions near your campsite. But if you’re bringing a toad you’re going to want an RV supplemental braking system.

RV supplemental braking systems go between your motorhome and your towed car to help with braking making you safer on the road. Let’s take a closer look at what an RV supplemental braking system is, why you may need one, and different options for buying one. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is an RV supplemental braking system?

An RV supplemental braking system is a device that applies the brakes on your towed vehicle whenever you apply the brakes in your motorhome. There are four main types of supplemental braking systems:

  • Pre-set
  • Proportional
  • Direct
  • Vacuum-assist

Pre-set systems

Pre-set systems are the most basic type of RV supplemental braking system. These are portable electric systems that connect to your RV and respond when your RV’s brake lights engage. When the brake signal reaches the device in the car, it responds by depressing an extended arm onto the brake pedal. 

These systems are portable and easy to install but they don’t offer the accuracy or control of other types.

Proportional systems

Proportional supplemental braking systems are the most popular type. They’re designed to sense when your RV slows down. The system then applies the brakes in your towed vehicle with proportional force to how you apply them in your motorhome—hence the name. 

Proportional systems are more accurate and provide finer control than pre-set systems. This braking system can provide emergency braking. 

Direct systems

Direct systems connect directly to your RV’s brake lines to directly detect your brake timing and pressure and replicate those factors in your towed vehicle. These features make the system more difficult to install but the benefit is that direct systems are highly accurate and responsive. Plus, direct braking systems never require manual adjustment. 

The downside of a direct system is you’ll need professional help or a mechanical background to install it. 

Vacuum-assist systems

Many vehicles, particularly hybrids, won’t work with most RV supplemental braking systems because they utilize power-assist braking. Using a typical braking system with these vehicles can damage them. 

This is where vacuum-assist systems come in. The actual mechanics are a bit complicated, but basically, vacuum-assist systems tap into a vacuum source to safely and effectively apply braking force to cars with power-assist braking.

Vacuum-assist supplemental braking systems don’t offer full emergency braking and the installation is fairly involved. However, if you have a vehicle with power-assist brakes, this braking system may be your only option. Alternatively, you could opt to tow your toad via a trailer or another means.

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who needs an RV supplemental braking system and why?

If you’re towing a vehicle behind your motorhome, you need a supplemental braking system. Nearly anywhere you drive in the U.S. and Canada an RV supplemental braking system is a legal requirement if you’re towing any vehicle or trailer over a certain weight. Your RV’s warranty also likely requires you to use supplemental brakes when towing over a certain weight. 

RV supplemental braking systems have benefits besides helping you follow the law and keep your warranty. They also make you much safer on the road, especially if you have a system with full emergency braking. 

A supplemental braking system also reduces the stress on both your RV and your towed vehicle. Your motorhome’s brakes aren’t designed to handle the extra weight of your towed vehicle leading to lots of extra wear and tear if a supplemental system isn’t used. The same goes for your towed vehicle which will experience excessive force from your RV if it doesn’t engage its brakes. 

The supplemental brakes also improve the function and lifespan of your tow bar. Having a braking system reduces stress on the tow bar. As a bonus, supplemental brakes also reduce the chances of jackknifing when braking suddenly. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3 great options for RV supplemental braking system

Now that we know all about RV supplemental braking systems, let’s look at three of the best options you can buy right now. 

1. Blue Ox Patriot braking system

The Blue Ox Patriot 3 Braking System is one of the most popular RV supplemental braking systems around. This is an all-electric proportional system that’s able to work on hybrid vehicles without the use of a vacuum source.

For even more control, the system includes a wireless remote control so you can manually apply the brakes if needed. The Blue Ox Patriot system also includes a built-in battery to ensure it always has the power needed to brake. 

2. Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System

The Demco Stay-in-Play Duo Braking System is a vacuum system that can work with any car. This RV supplemental braking system only activates when both your RV’s brakes are applied, and sufficient force is detected. This creates a safer, more reliable system. 

Even better, the Demco Braking System doesn’t need to be removed when you’re not towing a vehicle. Once installed, the Stay-in-Play Duo is always ready to tow. 

3. Roadmaster 9160 Brakemaster Supplemental Braking System

The Roadmaster 9160 BrakeMaster Supplemental Braking System is one of the most popular direct braking systems available. This system provides truly proportional and synchronized braking between your motorhome and your towed car. It also provides a full breakaway emergency braking system. 

Once the Roadmaster system is installed, it can be connected and disconnected from your towed vehicle in under a minute without the use of tools. Plus, because it weighs less than 5 pounds, it’s easy to store when it’s not in use. 

We use a Demco Stay-In-Play Duo Braking System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RV supplemental braking system is a must if you have a towed car

An RV supplemental braking system isn’t just a good idea; it’s usually a legal requirement. These systems help keep you, your motorhome, and your towed car safe by detecting when you brake your motorhome and applying the brakes in your towed car. This allows you to slow down more easily and safely and avoid losing control of your vehicle or causing an accident. 

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie (1867-1934), physicist and chemist

The Ultimate Guide to RV Shows

Whether you’re a newbie looking to buy your first travel trailer or a seasoned traveler with an upgrade on your mind, RV shows can be very enjoyable and beneficial

What do you think of when you hear RV Show

You might think of an endless maze of RVs lined up in a warehouse with sales personnel jumping out at every corner. But the days of those kinds of RV shows are moving behind us. In 2023, RV shows include live auctions, RV giveaways, play areas for kids, community areas for meeting RVers, product demonstrations, seminars, and workshops. 

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Attending an RV show is an exciting outing for the entire family whether you’re shopping for a new RV, upgrading your current model, selling your RV, or looking to learn about the latest RV innovations and camp gear. 

But, visiting an RV show can be a big disappointment if you go unprepared. They cover acres of space and the amount of information available can be overwhelming. 

These RV show tips will help you make the most of your RV show visit even if you’re just attending to have fun, win prizes, and meet fellow RVers.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What happens at an RV show?

Some RV shows are little more than a collection of RVs sitting on a lot. But most RV shows are fun, educational, exciting to explore and offer opportunities to connect with other campers.

Quality RV shows will offer most, if not all, of the following: 

  • VIP areas: Register early to receive a complimentary gift bag, retail product discounts, VIP Lounge access, refreshments, and a chance to win an RV
  • RV valuation: Find out what your current RV is worth if you’re ready to sell and upgrade to a new model
  • RV giveaways: Enter for a chance to win a brand-new RV
  • New and used RV inventory: Walk through RVs of all shapes and sizes to feel what it would be like to live and vacation in them
  • Kid zones: Inspire the next generation of campers to discover the joys of RVing
  • RV retail spaces: Get the latest on innovative new products in the RV and camping industries
  • Design specialists: Consult an expert about upgrades you want to make to your RV
Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who are RV shows for?

The short answer is—RV shows are for everyone. If you already own an RV you can explore the possibility of a trade-in or upgrade. You’ll also find new camping gear to make your trips more comfortable. 

If you’ve never owned or traveled in an RV, these shows are ideal for imagining yourself inside a travel trailer, fifth-wheeler, or motorhome. There are more options to peruse than on a typical RV dealership lot. While you explore, you’ll find information on RV financing, service and maintenance, insurance, and other RV-related services.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re a DIY RVer, RV shows are inspirational. You can discover the latest RV floorplans or speak with design specialists about remodeling ideas to make your RV more functional and cozy. 

People enjoy RV travel for many reasons—escaping to warmer weather at unsung snowbird destinations, unplugging at off-grid basecamps for outdoor recreation, or traveling with the family to enjoy nature and road trips. You can use an RV to travel your way—there is no one right way.

RV shows are a great way to discover how other RVers enjoy the lifestyle by connecting with other campers. You never know when a new connection will lead to new community RV trips in the future. 

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why go to an RV show?

If you’re wondering why an RV show should be on your to-do list this year, here are seven reasons to attend:

  • For RV education: RV shows provide value even if you’re not in the market for a new RV. Most shows offer seminars, lectures, tutorials, workshops, and walkthroughs of RVs and RV-related products.
  • Seminars and workshops: Many shows have veteran RV travelers who share knowledge on topics like Basic RV Maintenance, Trip Planning, and RV Packing Tips. Listen, take notes, and ask questions.
  • Product demonstrations: Many vendors conduct live demonstrations so you can see products in action and discover new options for upgrading your RV before the next camping season.
  • Meet manufacturer reps: Unlike dealerships, RV shows have representatives from various RV manufacturers to answer your questions about how RVs are made and speak to their quality versus the competition.
  • To discover the latest camping gear: Vendors at RV shows offer every type of gear imaginable—surge protectors, sewer products, water hoses, and pressure regulators, water filters, portable grills, tire covers, kayaks, and e-bikes. Looking for a new bed that fits just right in your RV? They’ve got you covered. Need an internet or satellite TV solution? Vendors will have plenty of options for you. Everything you can imagine for camping adventures can be found at an RV show.
  • To find new places to visit: RV shows are great places to discover new destinations and RV parks to explore. Representatives from regional tourism bureaus and RV resorts often have booths at RV shows to showcase everything their destinations offer. 
  • Check the exhibitor list online before the show to make a short list of the booths you’d like to visit.
  • To meet other RVers: Building a community as an RVer can be a challenge. Attending RV shows can help you grow your network and expand your community of fellow campers. Whether you utilize that community to get answers to RV maintenance questions, travel and campground recommendations, or tips for the best RV camping gear, the friendships you forge at an RV show may last a lifetime.
Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for making the most of your RV show visit

Whether you’re buying, trading in, or exploring RV retail products, use these tips to maximize RV shows:

  • Attend the first day to allow yourself time to return if you find something you like. 
  • Break it up—look at RVs or products one day and attend seminars another.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Some shows are very large, and you’ll do a lot of walking.
  • Bring nutritious snacks and water. Many shows have food vendors but lines can be long and choices may be limited.
  • Check the schedule and map in advance to identify models or seminars you don’t want to miss.
  • Do some pre-show preparation. Consider your budget and what type of travel you do. Educate yourself on the different RV types to determine whether a motorhome or towable might work best for you. Then make a list of must-haves.
  • Spend time in the models you like. Sit in the seats. Try the bed. Open and close the cabinets and drawers. See how you fit in the shower. It may feel silly, but it’ll give you a better feel of the RV.
  • Take copious notes and photos of your preferred units. Include the brand, exact model and configuration, length, price, and other items you liked or didn’t like.
  • Collect contact information. Business cards are useful for following up with sales representatives or vendors you connect with. 
  • Make a shortlist of favorites at the end. Sit down after you’ve had a chance to think about the RVs you saw and revisit your favorites.

Worth Pondering…

The RV lifestyle is like nothing else.

It’s leaving home, exploring America, and yet bringing your home along with you!

Stopping at a wayside picnic area, preparing lunch in your kitchen.

It’s sleeping in your own bed every night, yet waking up to a new vista each morning!

The sounds of a crackling campfire; of a mountain stream, of frogs, and crickets.

It’s families drawn closer; it’s retirees being rewarded for many years of labor.

—Loren Eyrich, Two-Lane Roads