How to Pack an RV Refrigerator (7 Simple Steps)

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Properly packing an RV fridge will help create the space you need, ensure the fridge cools efficiently, and improve food safety.

Learn how to pack an RV refrigerator in 7 easy steps and how to avoid common packing mistakes below.

How to Pack an RV Refrigerator Step-By-Step

1. Plan Meals Ahead

Before hitting the road on your RV trip, it’s important to plan your meals. Knowing what you’ll eat each day saves time and ensures you pack only the essentials. This helps to optimize the space in your RV fridge and avoid overpacking. Planning your meals also helps reduce food spoilage, as you’ll only bring what you intend to consume.

Here are some tips to help you plan your meals.

RV Meal Planning Tips

And to make the planning process easier, download our RV Meal Planner and Grocery List! This one-page printable was designed to make meal planning and grocery shopping as simple as possible.

RV Meal Planner & Grocery List

2. Pre-Cool the Fridge Before Packing

Before placing items in your RV refrigerator, ensure it’s pre-cooled.

Did You Know…
The ideal temperature for an RV fridge is between 35° and 38°F.

Pre-cooling ensures that the food you store remains fresher for longer. Remember, RV fridges, especially absorption refrigerators, take longer to cool than your home unit. So, give it ample time to reach the desired temperature. I recommend turning it on 24 hours before you fill it with food.

3. Pre-Freeze Items

If you have items that need to be kept frozen or very cold, pre-freeze them at home before placing them in the RV freezer or cooler. This tip ensures your food remains cold during the trip, especially if you choose not to run it while driving.

Related: How to Keep an RV Fridge Cool While Driving

4. Repack Prepackaged Items

Repack Prepackaged Items

Bulky packaging can consume a lot of space in your RV fridge. It’s a good practice to remove such packaging and transfer the contents to transparent, stackable, and square containers (if possible). This saves space and allows you to see everything inside the container easily.

Don’t forget to label items for easy identification. For delicate items like fruits and vegetables, use mesh or net bags. They prevent these items from shifting during travel.

5. Pack the Fridge

When packing your RV fridge, always place heavier items at the bottom and lighter ones on top. This distribution of weight helps with stability during travel.

Neatly stack and organize your items, considering their frequency of use. For instance, items you’ll use frequently should be easily accessible.

However, be cautious not to pack the fridge too tightly. Proper air circulation is vital to prevent overheating and food spoilage. Remember, smaller fridges in RVs need more meticulous planning than your regular home refrigerator.

6. Use Tension Bars

Adjustable Bars for Camper RV Refrigerator
Adjustable Bars for Camper RV Refrigerator via Amazon

Tension bars are a lifesaver when it comes to keeping things in place in your RV fridge. They ensure items don’t tumble over, preventing potential messes and food spoilage. They’re especially useful in larger RV fridges where there’s a higher likelihood of items shifting.

7. Lock the Fridge Door

Child Proof Refrigerator/Fridge/Freezer Door Lock
Child Proof Refrigerator/Fridge/Freezer Door Lock

The last thing you want during your trip is for the refrigerator door to swing open, spilling everything inside. Always ensure the fridge door is locked before hitting the road.

Some RV refrigerators come with built-in locks, while others might require an aftermarket solution. Check out our guide on how to keep an RV fridge door closed if your unit doesn’t have a built-in lock. There are options for every type of RV fridge.

Bonus Tip: Monitor the Fridge’s Temp

Temperature fluctuations can lead to spoiled food. It’s advisable to use a fridge thermometer with an alarm to monitor the fridge’s temperature. This ensures your food stays within a safe temperature zone.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends keeping your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but for optimal results, aim for a temperature between 35° and 38°F.

AcuRite Digital Wireless Fridge and Freezer Thermometer with Alarm

AcuRite Digital Wireless Fridge and Freezer Thermometer with Alarm

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Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

Common Packing Mistakes to Avoid

Do Not Overpack the Fridge

One of the most common mistakes RVers make is overpacking their fridge. I’ve been guilty of this myself. To be fair, most RV fridges are pretty small, so it’s difficult not to overpack it.

But, overpacking restricts air circulation within the fridge, leading to uneven cooling. This can result in some areas of the fridge being too warm, putting your food at risk of spoiling.

Secondly, overpacking can strain the fridge’s motor, leading to increased energy consumption and potential long-term damage.

The takeaway – try to strike a balance. Pack enough for your trip, but ensure ample space for air to circulate. This will not only make the RV fridge colder but more evenly cool throughout.

Ensure the Fridge Door is Secure

The last thing you want while navigating a winding road or rough terrain is for your fridge door to swing open. Not only can this lead to food and drinks spilling out, but it can also increase the risk of food spoilage if the door remains open for an extended period.

Always double-check the door before setting off. Some modern RV fridges come equipped with built-in locks or latches, but if yours doesn’t, consider investing in an aftermarket solution to keep everything secure.

Child Proof Refrigerator/Fridge/Freezer Door Lock

Child Proof Refrigerator/Fridge/Freezer Door Lock

Buy Now on Amazon

Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

If you have a french door fridge, you can use a lock like this:

French Fridge Door Lock

French Fridge Door Lock

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Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

Ensure Items are Sealed Properly to Prevent Spills

Spills inside your RV fridge aren’t just a cleaning hassle; they can also lead to cross-contamination. Always ensure that containers are sealed tightly. Opt for containers with screw-on or snap-on lids for added security.

Keep Raw Meats and Ready-to-Eat Foods Separate

Food safety should be a top priority when packing your RV fridge. Raw meats, especially poultry, can harbor harmful bacteria that can contaminate other foods. Always store raw meats at the bottom of the fridge in sealed containers to prevent their juices from dripping onto other items.

Ready-to-eat foods, like deli meats, cheeses, and prepared salads, should be stored separately, ideally in a different section of the fridge or in sealed containers.

Avoid Storing Hot Food Items

It might seem convenient to cook a meal and immediately store the leftovers in the fridge, but this can be a recipe for disaster. Hot foods can raise the fridge’s internal temperature, affecting the safety and freshness of other stored items.

Always allow hot foods to cool to room temperature before placing them in the fridge. This not only ensures the safety of your food but also helps maintain the efficiency of your RV fridge.

Why Properly Packing Your RV Fridge is So Important

Properly packing and maintaining an RV fridge has a larger impact on the overall RV experience than many think. Here’s why:

Ensuring Food Safety

The primary purpose of a refrigerator is to keep food safe by slowing down the growth of harmful bacteria. When an RV fridge is packed correctly, with raw and cooked foods appropriately separated and stored at the right temperatures, the risk of foodborne illnesses dramatically decreases.

Maximizing Available Space

RV fridges are typically smaller than their residential counterparts. Every cubic foot of space counts. Properly organizing and packing your items means you can carry more food and reduce the need for frequent stops to restock. This is particularly beneficial for those venturing into remote areas where stores are few and far between.

Reducing Food Wastage

When you know where everything is in your fridge, and everything is visible and accessible, you’re less likely to forget about items that could go bad. Proper packing prevents food spoilage, ensuring you consume everything you’ve brought along, reducing waste, and saving money.

Enhancing Energy Efficiency

A well-packed fridge allows for optimal air circulation, ensuring that the unit doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the desired temperature. This not only prolongs the life of your fridge but also conserves energy, which is vital when relying on an RV’s limited power sources.

Preventing Accidents and Messes

Imagine driving down a bumpy road and hearing the clatter of items falling in your fridge or, worse, discovering a mess of spilled liquids and broken containers. Properly packed fridges, with items secured in place, prevent such mishaps, ensuring a smoother and stress-free trip.

Prolonging the Life of Your Fridge

An efficiently packed fridge, where air circulates freely and the motor isn’t strained, operates optimally. This not only ensures your food stays fresh but also prolongs the life of the fridge itself. Considering that an RV fridge is a significant investment, it makes sense to take steps to ensure it lasts as long as possible.

In essence, the way you pack your RV fridge can influence the quality of your meals, the safety of your food, and even the overall enjoyment of your trip. It’s a small task with big implications, making it an essential aspect of your RV camping experience.

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