10 RV Camping Tips for Beginners

It might be a fact: RV travel is the best way to see the country and escape the daily grind. However, life on the road can come with a learning curve. Following our RV camping tips for beginners will make your next trip easier and more enjoyable, regardless of whether you’re starting out as a full-timer or planning your next family vacation.

RV camping is something like tent camping and driving an RV is nothing like zipping around in your daily driver. Ten basic RV camping tips for beginners include:

  1. Choose the right rig
  2. Choose the right campsites
  3. Make a thorough packing list
  4. Make the most of your storage space
  5. Be prepared for anything
  6. Take a practice drive 
  7. Be gas savvy
  8. Watch your tires
  9. Know how to find dump stations
  10. Have a home-base

Get ready to hit the road by following our tips for RV beginners!

Tip 1: Start with the Right Rig

There are a wide range of RVs available to campers today. In fact, the term RV includes everything from pop-up campers to expansive Class A motorhomes. A camper might give you a more rugged experience to get you close to nature, while the 45-foot Class A will give you all the creature comforts of home.

Starting with the right rig is essential. Let’s break down some of the options:

  • Pop-up campers are probably the most common kind of recreational vehicle. You’ll find them towed behind trucks, SUVs and even some sedans. This might be good option for your next camping trip if your budget is limited or if you want to be up close and personal with nature.
  • Toy haulers are campers that feature a little “garage.” This lets you haul your ATV, snowmobile, golf cart or other “toy” so you’ll have your favorite equipment with you as you travel. You’ll likely need a full-size pickup truck to take a toy hauler with you.
  • Fifth wheel trailers are a roomy option. A fifth wheel trailer has a distinctive hitch that goes over the bed of a truck and can have as many as 5 slide-outs. You might find a full-size kitchen, entertainment center and other creature comforts in a fifth wheel trailer.
  • Travel trailers offer utility and can be quite diverse. Depending on the size of your travel trailer, you’ll need a full-size or even super duty truck to haul it. A classic Airstream might come to mind when thinking of travel trailers. Pop-ups, toy haulers and fifth wheels might also be categorized as travel trailers.
  • Class C motorhomes are the smallest and most nimble of the self propelled options. Built onto regular truck chassis, Class C motorhomes can range in size from 20 feet to 38 feet. Expect to get 8-13 miles per gallon when you’re driving a Class C.
  • Class B motorhomes are also known as camper vans or sleeper vans. They are built on full-size van chassis and offer a compact camping experience. They might not have kitchens or bathrooms, but can offer a comfortable place to sleep and can travel on most roads. You might expect to get 18 to 25 miles per gallon when you’re cruising in a Class B.
  • Class A motorhomes are what comes to mind when you think about RVs. These vehicles are spacious, thanks to their length and slideouts. These vehicles can be high-end and quite luxurious, making them practically a home on wheels. You might hear Class A motorhomes also called diesel pushers. These vehicles can cost up to $950,000 and can be quite expensive to operate.

If you’re planning a simple family camping trip, you might opt to rent an RV. Companies like RVShare and Cruise America make it easy to get the right vehicle or trailer for your next RV trip. If you’re thinking of living the full time RV life, you might opt to purchase your vehicle. 

No matter what kind of vehicle or trailer you choose and whether you choose to rent or buy, you’ll make great memories on the road in your RV.

Tip 2: Choose the Right Campsite

Many RV beginners aren’t familiar with the variety of campsites available. No matter whether you’re camping in a national park or a posh RV resort, you’ll find a menu of options. 

There are 3 main types of campsites available to RVers. These include:

  1. Primitive or boondock sites
  2. Partial hook-up sites
  3. Full hook-up sites

Many campgrounds and RV parks offer all of the above, so you’ll need to know what you’re looking for in a campsite. 

A primitive or boondock site is basically just a place to park. You won’t find fresh water or electricity for your rig at a primitive or boondock site.

Partial hook-up sites might offer electricity, but don’t have water or sewer.

Full hook-up sites have it all. You’ll find electricity and water at a full hook-up site. You might even find sewer and wi-fi at a full hook-up site. 

If you’re traveling during peak season or just in general, it is wise to make a campground reservation in advance. This will guarantee space is available before you arrive and ensure you have a place to spend the night.

From a simple boondock site to a full hook-up site at a glamping (glamorous camping) resort, you’ll find you have options when it comes to campsites. Figure out what works for you and choose the right campsite for your RV journey. Read campsite reviews, check out Google Maps satellite views and do your research before committing to a lengthy stay.

Tip 3: Make a Thorough Packing List

When you’re living life on the road in a RV or just planning a week-long trip, it is a good idea to know what you’ll need to make your home away from home comfortable.

From basic tools and parts to kitchen gear, there’s a lot that goes into packing for an RV trip. If you’re renting an RV, it might be full-furnished with some of the essentials. Some items you might want to include on your RV packing list include:

  • Surge protectors
  • Electrical adapters
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Leveling blocks
  • Sewer hose and kit
  • Drinking water hose
  • Duct tape
  • Kitchen and cooking supplies like cutting boards, cutlery and more
  • Batteries
  • Bug spray
  • Charging cords for all devices
  • Yard games and sports equipment
  • Saw or hatchet

Don’t forget that there is no one-size-fits-all camping list. The supplies you bring will likely depend on your interests and needs. Make a list that works for you and check it twice before you plug your destination into Google Maps and hit the open road.

Tip 4: Make the Most of Your Storage Space

Even if you’re traveling in a roomy Class A motorhome, you’ll likely find that storage space is at a steep premium. Here are some RV storage ideas that might work for you:

  • Make the most of limited closet space with hanging organizers.
  • Use a caddy organizer to make the most of bedside storage. Stash books, remotes, cellphones and more in the pockets.
  • Use a magazine holder to hold extra rolls of RV-friendly toilet paper.
  • Use surge protectors and choose electronics with extra outlets to make the most of your power access.
  • If you’re towing a vehicle for excursions, keep it organized and store items in the trunk. You can also use over-the-seat organizers and cubbies to hold even more things and keep it tidy.
  • Use magnets and hanging hooks to keep kitchen items on walls and secure.
  • Choose versatile cookware and use cabinet organizers to maximize space and keep things secure.
  • Use under-the-shelf baskets to hold goods.

There are all kinds of space saving hacks that can help you make the most of your RV storage space. A quick Google search will help you find even more tips and let your RV stay tidy and organized so you have more room to enjoy.

Tip 5: Be Prepared for Anything

Anything can happen when you’re on the road. Be prepared for anything by having the right tools on board. You might want to carry:

  • T-handle lug wrenches for better leverage. If you’re on the road with a travel trailer, you’ll want to make your wrenches fit both the vehicle you’re driving and the vehicle you’re towing.
  • Heavy jumper cables that carry the amps you’ll need for a quick start.
  • Extra fuses in case something is blown.

Many campgrounds and RV resorts have general stores that carry a limited amount of parts and supplies. Even with this in mind, you’ll find it is best to be prepared on your own.

Tip 6: Take a Practice Drive

There’s a lot to consider if you’re getting behind the wheel of an RV for the first time. Driving a motorhome or towing a vehicle is much different than getting behind the wheel of your daily driver. Your rig will be long and wide and requires special considerations.

Consider taking a practice drive before setting out on your journey. You’ll want to get a feel for how the vehicle handles, what it’s like to take a turn, how to travel on different road surfaces and more. 

It is also wise to take a practice drive to make sure your mirrors are in the proper positions. In most cases, one mirror is there to help you see traffic behind you. The other might be pointed or your tires and blind sports. You’ll want to see your tires as this will help you make turns and avoid hitting curbs. Seeing the tires will also help you pay attention to where you are on the road. Your RV is much wider than your usual vehicle and you’ll need to be aware of your lane lines.

Drive slowly when you’re behind the wheel of a RV. You’ll need to remember that your motor-home or towed RV is much heavier than your regular vehicle, which means you’ll need extra time to brake. Extra stopping distance is required and slamming on the brakes could be damaging to your rig. You can protect your brakes while heading downhill by downshifting. This will let your engine do the slowing down and help prolong the life of your brakes while keeping them from overheating.

Another thing to keep in mind when driving an RV is that the maps app isn’t designed to accommodate your rig. For example, Google Maps or Apple Maps might take you down a route not designed to accommodate the width and weight of your RV. You might want to use a special GPS app designed for truckers. Even though you’re not driving a semi, apps like TruckMap and Hammer can take you on roads designed to handle a large vehicle.

Tip 7: Be Gas Savvy

RVs, both motorhomes and travel trailers, can be serious gas hogs. A Class A diesel pusher might just get a few miles per gallon and you’ll notice a serious drop in MPGs when you’re hauling even a pop-up camper. 

Here are a few tips to help you reduce the bucks you spend at the pump when you’re on the road with your RV:

  • Drive slow. If you’re traveling at the speed limit or even slightly under, you’ll consume less fuel and save on gas. Gas mileage goes down when you’re traveling above 60 miles per hour. Slow down for safety, save on fuel and enjoy the journey.
  • Don’t drive on windy days. Windy road conditions can increase gas consumption. When you’re behind the wheel of a high profile vehicle like an RV, wind can be dangerous and expensive. In many cases, wind can be a precursor to a serious storm too. Stay safe and save on gas by avoiding windy conditions.
  • Empty your holding tanks. Water is HEAVY. Traveling with full water tanks means extra weight, which means extra gas consumption. You might want to keep enough water on hand for your toileting needs, but not much else. One gallon of water weighs 8 lbs and this adds up fast.
  • Don’t overpack your vehicle. It is important to travel with the essentials. And it is important to have extra supplies in case of an emergency. But anything else will weigh your vehicle down and decrease the miles per gallon you’ll get in your rig.

Tip 8: Watch Your Tires

Most RVs are equipped with a TPMS, or tire pressure monitoring system. This electronic system and its sensors are important to staying safe on the road. But there are other things you can do to make sure your tires are in tip-top condition.

It’s a good idea to be aware of the age of your tires. Even if the tread looks brand new, tires over 5 years old can be dangerous. Exposure to the elements, UV damage and even dry rot can deteriorate tires and cause safety hazards. It is a good idea to have your vehicle tires inspected by a professional before you set out on your RV journey. If you’re a full-timer, make a tire inspection part of your regular maintenance while you’re on the road.

It is also wise to physically check your tire pressure at each stop. Even with your TPMS, it is a good idea to be aware of your pressure. This is especially important during cold weather or during times of temperature fluctuations. You might also want to travel with an air compressor while you’re on the road to add air as needed.

Tip 9: Know How to Find Dump Stations

If you’re boondocking off the grid or staying at primitive sites, you’ll likely need to find a place to dump your grey and black water and fill your tanks with fresh water. Believe it or not, but there’s an app for that. 

The AllStays Camp and RV app will set you back $9.99 in the Apple App Store, but will certainly come in handy when it’s time to dump. It will help you find dump stations at campgrounds, truckstops, wastewater treatment plants, rest areas, service centers and other places. 

Downloading the app is a good idea for other reasons. It will help you find places to camp, keep you up-to-date on other essential information, and might even help you save money in the long run. It’s consistently been rated an essential app for RVers and can make life on the road easier with just a few taps.

Tip 10: Have a Homebase

If you’re new to life on the road, you’ll need to take care of a few logistical things before you head out for your journey. If you’re a full-timer, you’ll likely need a permanent address to receive mail, keep your driver’s license current and even register your vehicles.

Americas Mailbox is a full-service homebase provider. Americas Mailbox can help with everything from mail forwarding to tax savings with South Dakota residency. In addition to homebase services, Americas Mailbox also has an RV campground near beautiful Rapid City, South Dakota in the breathtaking Black Hills. 

Make the most of your time on the road regardless of whether you're planning a family RV camping vacation or heading out as a full-timer. Keep these 10 RV camping tips for beginners in mind and be prepared for adventure!

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