As full-time RVers, our goal is to build a life that is fulfilling and allows us to spend our days cultivating joy and supporting our well-being by connecting with nature and the world around us. While much of this has to do with the big picture of where we go, what we do, and how and why we do it… it’s important not to overlook the small details that make our RV travels as seamless as possible. When it comes to RV (recreational vehicle) travel, whether for camping trips or full-time as part of an RV lifestyle, both size and weight of what you are putting in your 5th wheel or travel trailer matters.
It’s essential to have the right dinnerware and dishes that are lightweight, durable, and fit your lifestyle needs. This will not only make your travel days easier and less stressful but also help you to make the most of your small space and potentially limited number of RV cabinets. In this article, we will explore the best dishes for RVs, comparing materials based on a variety of factors including weight, durability, non-toxic design, microwave safety, and eco-friendly/sustainable build.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing Dishes and Dinnerware For an RV
You might have heard that RVs are like putting the content of your camper through an earthquake every time you roll on down the open road and in our experience this is absolutely true.
Not only can using heavy plates and dishes potentially put you at risk of being overweight (which can have both legal and safety ramifications), but if you are using breakable dishes or dinnerware, you run the risk of having to clean up broken glass or ceramic at each new spot. If you want to learn more about RV weight regulations and weigh stations, check out our article.
Adding extra cleanup to your camping trip is not how you want to spend your precious time out in nature!
Here are some factors to keep in mind when stocking your RV cabinets with dishes, which we will explore further throughout the article:
- Weight: How much do the dishes weigh? Every ounce you add inside your RV contributes to your overall weight and must be considered compared to the cargo weight your specific RV is rated to safely carry
- Durability: How long will it last? We are big proponents of buying quality products that will last longer, which is more sustainable in the long run than having to continue to re-purchase items more frequently
- Ease of maintenance: Is it easy to clean? RVing, especially off-grid or boondocking, can mean limited resources when it comes to water. Consider what will be best for easy cleaning
- Ability to be microwaved/heated: Is it microwave-safe? Not all dishes are microwave, oven, and/or dishwasher friendly. If you have a microwave or RV oven and will want to be heating up food, you will want to choose carefully
- Size, Storage & Considerations for Travel Day: Does it travel well? Even the biggest RVs are smaller than a traditional house. Choosing dishes that are the correct size for your limited space will help you optimize storage and cut clutter for more enjoyment
- Materials: When it comes to your health and safety, choosing plates and dishes made of non-toxic materials can help keep you and your family safe so you can continue exploring while feeling your best
- Eco-Friendly: Our world has limited resources, and choosing eco-friendly dinnerware options is an easy way to play a role in protecting the environment – so that you can help it thrive and continue to preserve it for generations to come
Common Materials for RV Dishes:
- Wheat Straw
- Stainless Steel
- Tempered Glass
Types of RV Dishes
While dishes and dinnerware come in a variety of materials, there are a few most commonly used in the RV and camping community for those looking for more durable and eco-friendly options than traditional paper or plastic single-use products, like disposable plates.
The options in this article are great choices as they are also lightweight and work well with limited storage space, while also being more durable and sustainable:
Melamine is a very popular choice among RV owners as the material is lightweight and durable. We have been using melamine dishes in our own RV full time for over a year and they have held up great through everyday use, rough roads, and drops.
Melamine is a type of plastic that is made by combining melamine resin with other materials. Melamine dishes and dinnerware are shatterproof and can withstand rough handling, making them ideal for RV use.
Pros: Lightweight, durable, and non-breakable. Come in a variety of styles, designs, and colors for a more luxurious look than other plastic options
Cons: Not typically microwave safe (prone to melting), plastic is not the most eco-friendly option if you are looking for the most sustainable option
Dinnerware made from wheat straw is an eco-friendly and sustainable option for those looking to reduce their environmental impact. Wheat straw is a renewable and biodegradable material that is left over after wheat harvesting. It is a durable material that can withstand daily use and is resistant to chipping and breaking.
While not as durable as stoneware or porcelain, wheat straw dinnerware is a sturdy alternative to plastic dishes and is ideal for casual dining. It is also microwave and dishwasher-safe, making it a practical choice for RV or outdoor use. Overall, dinnerware made from wheat straw offers a balance of durability and sustainability, making it a popular choice for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Pros: Wheat straw is generally microwave and dishwasher safe; durable; sustainable
Cons: While hard and non-breakable, it can be scratched if using metal knives
Important Note: While wheat straw dishes are generally considered to be gluten-free, there is potential for cross-contamination that could make some products not suitable for those with gluten or wheat allergies or celiac disease. Be sure to check on each product’s specifics prior to purchasing.
Unbreakable Plastic Dinnerware
Another popular choice for RVers and outdoor enthusiasts is unbreakable plastic, due to its lightweight and durable nature. Made from various types of plastics, such as Tritan, polycarbonate or polypropylene, unbreakable plastic dinnerware is resistant to breakage, chipping, and scratching, making it ideal for RV travel and outdoor activities.
While it may not be as eco-friendly or sustainable as other materials, unbreakable plastic dinnerware is a practical and cost-effective option for those looking for a low-maintenance solution. It is also typically microwave and dishwasher-safe, making it easy to clean and use.
It is important to note that some plastics may contain harmful chemicals such as BPA, so it is important to check for non-toxic options when purchasing reusable plastic dinnerware.
Pros: Durable, light-weight, and generally microwave and dishwasher safe
Cons: Some plastics can contain toxic chemicals and plastic is not the most sustainable option when compared to other products. While fairly sturdy, these types of plastics can also feel more casual if you are wanting a sturdier or more luxurious feel to your RV or camping dining experience
Acrylic is another popular material for RV dishes due to its lightweight and durable nature. It is shatterproof, making it an excellent option for use in RVs where items are likely to shift during travel. Acrylic dishes are also available in a variety of colors and designs, making it easy to match them to your RV’s decor, although they tend to have a more casual feel, similar to those in the plastic category.
Additionally, acrylic is non-toxic and does not leach harmful chemicals into food. However, acrylic dishes may scratch easily and become discolored over time due to exposure to sunlight or hot liquids. They are also not microwave-safe and may not be suitable for use with hot foods or liquids.
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Durable and resistant to shattering or breaking
- Non-toxic and safe for food use
- Available in a wide range of colors and designs
- Affordable and budget-friendly
- BPA-free and does not leach harmful chemicals into food
- Can scratch easily, especially when washed with abrasive sponges or utensils
- Can become discolored over time due to exposure to sunlight or hot liquids
- Not suitable for use in the microwave or with hot liquids or foods
- May not be recyclable in all areas
An eco-friendly and natural alternative to traditional dinnerware materials is wood. Wooden dishes are also non-toxic and biodegradable, making them a great choice for those looking for an eco-friendly option.
However, wooden dinnerware may not be as durable as other materials and can be prone to chipping and cracking over time. While bamboo options tend to be dishwasher safe, other wood options are not and many may require handwashing and occasional oiling to maintain their appearance and durability.
Despite these drawbacks, wooden dinnerware can add a unique and rustic touch to any dining experience, making it a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking for a natural alternative to plastic or ceramic dinnerware.
- Lightweight and less breakable than ceramic glass, porcelain, or stoneware options
- Rustic look
- May not be as durable as other options (can be scratched by knives)
- Some options can be heavy
- Can absorb moisture and develop stains or odors
- Depending on the material, may or may not be microwave or dishwasher safe
- May require regular oiling or conditioning to maintain their quality and prevent cracking
Tempered Glass Dishes
A popular choice for those seeking a durable and long-lasting option is glass. Tempered glass is heated and cooled rapidly, creating a stronger and more durable material than regular glass. Tempered glass dinnerware is resistant to chipping, scratching, and breaking, making it a practical choice for daily use, although it still comes with risks when being used as part of an RV lifestyle.
It is non-reactive and safe for food use, making it a popular choice for those with concerns about potential chemical leaching from other materials. Tempered glass dinnerware is also dishwasher and microwave-safe, making it easy to clean and use.
However, tempered glass dinnerware can be heavy and may not be as practical for outdoor camping activities or travel as it is also more prone to shattering if dropped on a hard surface. Despite these drawbacks, tempered glass dinnerware is a great choice for those seeking a durable and long-lasting option that feels more formal or like the dishes you would find in a traditional home.
If you choose glass dishes for your RV, be sure to take extra precautions with how you store them to prevent any accidental breakage.
- Microwave, dishwasher, and RV oven friendly
- Sturdy and more formal
- More prone to breaks or chips. If you choose glass, we recommend using padding and careful storage that will keep your dishes from shifting or bouncing during transit on your RV travel days as much as possible
A classic and durable option that has been popular for many years. Enamel is a glass coating that is applied to metal, typically steel or cast iron, and is baked on at high temperatures. This creates a smooth and durable surface that is resistant to chipping, scratching, and staining. Enamel dinnerware is also non-reactive and safe for food use, making it a practical choice for daily use. It is also easy to clean and can be used in the oven or on the stovetop.
However, enamel dinnerware can be heavy and may not be suitable for your RV travels, depending on how much cargo-carrying capacity you have. It is also prone to chipping or cracking if dropped on a hard surface. Despite these drawbacks, enamel dinnerware is a popular choice for those seeking a durable and classic option that is safe for food use and easy to clean.
- Durable and resistant to chipping, scratching, and staining
- Non-reactive and safe for food use
- Oven and stovetop safe
- Classic and timeless design
- Can be heavy and less suitable for outdoor activities or travel
- Can chip or crack if dropped on a hard surface
Stainless steel dishes are also considered safe for food use. They are durable, easy to clean, and don’t react with acidic foods. However, some people may find that food tastes metallic when served in stainless steel dishes. They can also feel hot to the touch when holding hot liquids, and may not retain heat as well as other options, leaving you with cold food more quickly.
- Durable and resistant to corrosion and rust
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Non-reactive and safe for food use
- Easy to clean and dishwasher safe
- Sleek and modern design
- Can be prone to scratching and denting
- Can become hot to the touch when used with hot food or liquids
- May not retain heat as well as other materials
Choosing the Best Dishes For Your RV
When it comes to selecting the perfect dishes for your RV, it is important to consider not only factors about your lifestyle, but also your specific RV as well.
For example, motorhomes with air-ride will provide a smoother ride and allow for more cargo-carrying capacity, making heavier or glass dishes a more plausible option. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have a lightweight trailer without independent suspension and/or plan to take your RV on rough roads, such as those you would find while boondocking, you will probably want to stick with lighter weight and non-breakable materials.
Keep these factors in mind, as you explore what dishes or dinnerware might be best suited for your specific RV and how you plan to travel in it.
One of the most crucial factors to consider when choosing dinnerware and dishes for an RV is weight. You don’t want to be lugging around heavy plates and cups that take up valuable space and add unnecessary weight to your RV, especially if you do not have much wiggle room when it comes to cargo capacity.
Luckily, there are a few different materials that offer lightweight design, while also being fairly durable for longer-term use, including wheat straw, melamine, and bamboo.
Top Pick For Lightweight RV Dishes: Wheat Straw (like the plates below) or melamine
Durability is another essential factor to consider when selecting dinnerware and dishes for an RV. Your RV dishes and dinnerware should be able to withstand the rigors of travel and frequent use, especially if you travel often or full-time RV. This is both important when it comes to not breaking, but also the quality and being long-lasting.
Stoneware and porcelain are two materials that are known for their durability, but also their fragility. Stoneware is a type of clay that is fired at high temperatures, making it a bit more resistant to chipping and cracking. Porcelain is made from a mixture of clay and other materials and is also known for its strength and durability. Unfortunately, these are not typically the best suited for RV travel or camping trips as they are not made from non-breakable materials and can leave you with broken or chipped dishes during transit. Remember, RV travel is a lot rougher than the life these dishes might encounter in a typical home kitchen environment.
For this reason, non-breakable options like acrylic, plastics, stainless steel, melamine, wheat straw, or enamel are better suited for RV use. While these are all not going to break, when it comes to scratches and wear and tear, enamel and stainless steel will typically hold up better than plastics or acrylic.
Top Pick For Durable RV Dishes: Enamel (like the set below)
When it comes to dinnerware and dishes for an RV, you want to ensure that they are safe to use and won’t leach harmful chemicals into your food.
Non-toxic dinnerware and dishes are becoming increasingly popular among consumers who are concerned about their health and the environment. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing non-toxic dinnerware is to ensure that it is free from Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacturing of some plastics and resins.
BPA has been linked to a variety of health problems, including hormonal imbalances and developmental issues, and has been banned in many countries for use in baby bottles and sippy cups. While BPA exposure from dinnerware is typically low, it is still important to choose BPA-free options to minimize the risk of potential health problems.
Look for dinnerware made from materials such as glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or non-toxic plastics such as polypropylene or Tritan, which are free from harmful chemicals and safe for food use.
Microwave safety is another factor to consider when selecting dinnerware and dishes for an RV. Not all materials are suitable for use in the microwave, and using the wrong type of dish can lead to cracking or even shattering.
Glass and ceramic dishes are safe for use in the microwave, as long as they are not decorated with metallic paint or trim. Stoneware dishes are also microwave safe, as long as they are not decorated with metallic paint or glaze. Both of these are heavy and breakable, so we do recommend keeping these items to a minimum if you do choose to use them in your RV.
Certain dishes, like melamine, are not recommended for use in the microwave, as they can crack or even melt under high heat. However, some manufacturers produce microwave-safe melamine dishes, so it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions before using them in the microwave.
Top Pick for Non-Toxic RV Dishes & Microwave Safety: Strong glass (like the set below); although Wheat Straw may be better suited for your RV if you do not want to worry about how you pack your dishes to keep them from breaking or chipping
Eco-Friendly & Sustainable
As more people become conscious of their impact on the environment, eco-friendly and sustainable dinnerware, and dishes are becoming more popular.
Bamboo is a sustainable material that is fast-growing and renewable, making it an excellent choice for eco-friendly RV dinnerware. Bamboo plates and bowls are also biodegradable and compostable, which means they won’t contribute to landfill waste.
Glass and ceramic dishes are environmentally friendly, as they are made from natural materials and can be recycled. Stainless steel dishes are also a sustainable choice, as they are durable and long-lasting, reducing the need for replacement.
Finally, wheat straw is another material gaining in popularity that is also touted as an eco-friendly alternative.
Top Pick For Eco-Friendly RV Dishes: Lightweight, microwave and dishwasher-friendly wheat straw
Other Great Products For The Camper Kitchen
Dishes and dinnerware are just one part of your RV kitchen setup. When stocking your RV with all the essentials you need for cooking your favorite meals to fuel your adventures traveling out in nature, it is important to be selective with what you will really need and use regularly and what works best in a small space that will take a beating on travel days.
Here are some items we stock in our RV kitchen:
Collapsible bowls. These are a popular choice for RVers and outdoor enthusiasts due to their space-saving and portable design. These bowls can be collapsed or flattened when not in use, making them perfect for easy storage in small spaces such as an RV kitchen. Collapsible bowls are often made from lightweight and durable materials such as silicone, which is also non-toxic and easy to clean.
However, collapsible bowls may not be as sturdy as traditional bowls and may be prone to tipping over or spilling (yes, this has happened to us). They may also not be suitable for hot liquids or food due to the potential for collapse. Despite these drawbacks, collapsible bowls are a practical and convenient option for those looking to save space and reduce clutter in their RV or outdoor gear.
Cast iron. This is another popular material for cookware and dinnerware due to its durability and ability to retain heat. Cast iron dinnerware can last for decades and is often passed down through generations. Cast iron is also versatile and can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, or over an open flame.
Additionally, cast iron is non-toxic and does not leach harmful chemicals into food. However, cast iron is typically fairly heavy so it is best to try to use it sparingly. It can also require special care and maintenance, including seasoning and occasional oiling, to maintain its non-stick surface and prevent rust.
Cast iron can also be expensive compared to other materials, but its durability and long lifespan can make it a worthwhile investment for those who use it regularly. We have one large cast iron pan we have brought with us all over the U.S. and it is one of our favorite pans to cook with.
We keep it in a low cabinet that is sturdy, to account for its heavier weight.
Finally, one of the best purchases we have made for our RV is a set of versatile pans that we can use over propane while off-grid and boondocking, or on our induction cooktop when we have electric hook-ups. This allows us to save on propane while we are paying for electricity and in general, gives us more options should we ever experience any issues with our propane or electrical systems.
In Conclusion: Considerations For Purchasing RV Dishes & Dinnerware
Choosing the best dinnerware and dishes for an RV requires careful consideration of several factors, including weight, durability, the safety of design and materials, microwave safety, and eco-friendliness. By choosing the right materials, you can ensure that your RV dishes and dinnerware are safe for any road trip you might venture out on and furnish your RV kitchen with products you feel good about using.
As full-time RVers, we know how important it is to balance what travels well and what you are comfortable with on a day-to-day basis.
For example, this is what we have in our RV kitchen as full-time travelers:
- 4 Tempered Glass containers & 2 Porcelain bowls that we use for food storage and reheating. While it is breakable, keeping it wrapped in a padded drawer has kept them safe even over the toughest roads (and the independent suspension on our DRV Mobile Suites fifth wheel helps with this as well).
- 1 Nuwave Induction cooktop burner
- 1 set of All-Clad fry pans
- 1 large Cast Iron Skillet, set on the bottom of a sturdy drawer of a bottom cabinet
- 4 stoneware coffee mugs, placed tightly in a secure cabinet
- 1 set of melamine dishes
- Occasionally recycled/ compostable single-use paper products
- Heavier duty silverware set
- 1 set of acrylic cups
- Collapsible silicone bowls
- 1 glass Pyrex container
- Stainless steel tumblers
It is okay to strike that balance between camp casual and what you will enjoy for everyday use, as long as you are cognizant of the potential break risks and carefully track your weight. Being able to have the comforts of home while traveling is the best thing about RV life or going on an RV trip, so it shouldn’t have to feel like you have to make major sacrifices when it comes to your decor and everyday items.
Comparing Materials Overall
Melamine, bamboo, stoneware, porcelain, glass, ceramic, and stainless steel are all popular materials for RV dinnerware and dishes, each with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
- Melamine material is lightweight and shatterproof, but it is not microwave safe and may not be environmentally friendly.
- Bamboo makes for sustainable, lightweight dishes that are microwave safe, but it may not be as durable as other materials.
- Stoneware and porcelain are durable and non-toxic, but they may be heavy, breakable, and not always suitable for microwave use.
- Glass and ceramic dishes are non-reactive and safe for food use, but they may not be as durable as other materials.
- Stainless steel dishes are durable and hygienic, but they may not be microwave safe and can be heavy.
When choosing the best dinnerware and dishes for your RV, consider your specific needs and preferences, as well as the materials’ advantages and disadvantages. Look for dinnerware and dishes that are lightweight, durable, non-toxic, microwave safe, and eco-friendly, and choose the material that best meets your needs.
In conclusion, selecting the best dishes and dinnerware for an RV involves careful consideration of various factors. Lightweight, durable, non-toxic, microwave-safe, and eco-friendly materials are essential to ensure that your RV dishes and dinnerware are safe, practical, and sustainable. Ultimately, the right choice of material for your RV dinnerware and dishes will depend on your specific needs and preferences, as well as the features and benefits of each material.