Tips for New RVers
You’ve done your research and taken the plunge, and now you have an RV! You’re probably overflowing with ideas of where you’d like to visit, but hang on just a second! Here are a few tips and tricks for those who are new to the RV scene to help make sure your camping trips go as smoothly as possible.
Get to Know Your RV
You’ll want to know some of the things that are specific to your RV, like load limits, towing capacity, dimensions, and more. These things will help keep you safe when driving around with your new RV. Keep in mind that your RV will be bigger than what you’re used to, and some areas of the road, like bridges, will have clearance heights and weight restrictions.
Before you officially set out toward that national park, it would be a good idea to get to know your RV a bit and acclimate yourself to driving it around. Switching lanes, going up hills, parking, and even just moving around will be different from what you’re used to. You’ll also take longer than you normally would to reach your destination, so plan for longer traveling times.
Practice Makes Perfect, or at Least Helps You Work Out Some of the Kinks
Practice camping in your RV at home first. If you forget something or find you don’t know how to do something, you’re safe and comfortable, and can make a note of what you’ll need to figure out for the real thing.
When you’re ready to venture out further, start local and branch out from there, keeping your trips short. You’ll get a better idea of what you might need in practice, not just in theory, and you won’t be so far from home.
By test driving your RV and staying close to home, you’ll also learn how the inside of the unit behaves. Drawers might pop open, things in the fridge might shift around, you name it. You’ll want to know what needs to be secured in the unit and how to tie/secure things down before you get too far away.
You’ll also want to research what kinds of routes you’ll be taking, as well as taking into consideration the terrain you’ll be driving over. Paved roads will be different from well-paved paths, and these will be different from wilder terrain.
Pack Spare Parts and Tools
You won’t have to become an expert on the mechanical details of operating and maintaining your RV, but you’ll likely run into situations (and sometimes, in less-than-advantageous places) where it will be helpful to know a thing or two about how to make quick fixes and repairs. Proper tools and knowledge will help your trip go much smoother in the event of a blown tire or light bulb.
You’ll want to have a basic toolkit on hand, with screwdrivers, pliers, a selection of combination and crescent wrenches, and a socket set with various sized sockets and extensions. You’ll also want to have a flashlight, safety goggles, work gloves, extra fuses, light bulbs, jumper cables, nuts, bolts, and connectors. You might also need to bring parts that are specific to the unit you have purchased.
Pack the Right Supplies
There are a lot of different things to take into consideration when deciding what to pack.
Know what activities you’ll be doing and anticipate the weather you’ll be in so you can bring the proper clothing and gear. You also want to know who will be coming and how much food you’ll need to bring versus buy, as well as how much cleaning you’ll need/want to do while you’re traveling. Extra considerations will be what kinds of things you’ll need for those activities you have planned, as well as taking some indoor options if you get stuck in the rain or just want to chill.
It is also common for new RVers to over-pack, so be aware of bringing too much with you! Only pack what you’ll need and remember to keep it organized.
You’ll want to try to hit the sweet spot of being prepared, but not over-burdened. Don’t stress about it too much though, you’ll learn the proper balance with time and experience!
Plan Ahead for the Specific Location(s) You’ll Be Going To
In an RV, you’ll have the opportunity to make stops along the way to your ultimate destination (or maybe the stops are the destination!). Plan your trip ahead of time to take into consideration the places you’ll want to visit, as well as places you might just need to stop at. You’ll want to check out campgrounds along the way if your RV is compatible with their requirements, what kinds of hookup options they have available, and whether they have open spots for you to book.
Many campsites are booked well in advance, months or sometimes even years out in the future. Make sure you have a plan in place, so you don’t end up stranded.
You’ll also want to be conscious of parking spots even at quick pit stops. You’ll need more space to park your RV in, so try to keep this in mind!
Plan for Being at the Campsite
Each campsite is a little different, so you’ll want to do your research and perhaps call ahead to speak with someone to prepare properly.
Know what kinds of electrical, water, and sewage hookups are available, and have the proper equipment for what they have. There are several different kinds of RV electrical hookups, and you’ll need different equipment for what the campsite has available.
Set up a checklist for what you’ll need to do once you arrive. This list will look a little different for each type of RV and for each person, but generally, it might include:
- Check the site for potential obstacles that can block you when backing in, like lowhanging branches or rocks.
- Park close to the hookups, and give yourself plenty of space for slide-outs, outdoor seating areas, etc.
- Secure your RV. Have leveling blocks, if your RV needs them, and wheel chocks, and apply the parking brake.
- After connecting your RV to the electrical hookup, make sure to switch your appliances to pull power from the hookup, not your battery or gas.
- Have and wear gloves when attaching the sewer hose to the drain hook up.
- Set up your awning and outdoor area outside of the RV.
Be aware of weather conditions while you’re camping. If it’s too windy, you’ll want to put away your awning and outdoor supplies. Also, keep in mind that the weather can change overnight! Check out the forecast and make sure you won’t have to run out in the middle of the night to secure renegade equipment.
You’ll also want to become familiar with campsite courtesies for RVers. There are some unspoken rules that help everyone get along a little better, just like in regular life! Read up on some of our tips here.
Some Additional Considerations
If there are hookups for water at your destination, don’t travel with your tanks full! Water is heavy and eats up gas. Call the campground you’re travelling to beforehand to make sure there are no unforeseen issues with the water at their facilities.
Prep as much as you can before you leave your house, to speed up set-up time once you arrive at the campsite.
RV beds often take different-sized sheets, so know your mattress’s dimensions and buy the right sizes.
Plan to give yourself plenty of daylight time to set up once you arrive at your campsite, but be prepared in the event that you might have to set up after dark.
Along the same lines as the tip above, make sure you arrive before the campsite closes! Some campsites lock their gates during ‘quiet hours’.
With a bit of prep and forethought, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring that your camping trip goes smoothly. Don’t sweat it though: RVing is an experience! You’ll learn as you go and figure out what works for you. You can also reach out to other RVers and join communities online to connect with other new and experienced RVers.