As a beginner to the world of RVs, it’s inevitable that you’ll make a few mistakes. But having a reliable resource to learn from can minimize first-time holiday stress and help your holiday get off to a smooth start. Here is our list of 10 essential tips to help any new RV owner get through their rookie phase without a hitch.
1. Take Your Time When Buying Your RV
The two most common mistakes we see from first-time RV buyers are overspending and buying a larger RV than they actually need.
Keep in mind, buying an RV is just the first of a long list of RV related expenses. Some of these essential RV expenses include water and sewer hoses, attachments, wheel chocks, and levelers. Not to mention, you’ll undoubtedly want to modify your RV once you have a little camping experience with equipment such as extra solar panels, a generator, or extra water capacity.
Buying the largest RV you can afford is a recipe for disaster. Bigger is not always better in this case. A smaller rig will be more nimble, easier to drive, easier to park, and quicker to setup. Our tip to remember is a smaller RV will give you better gas mileage and will take up less room when you’re storing it.
A report carried out by Camper Report found that an RV 25’ or less will fit into 93% of all national park campgrounds around the USA, whereas an RV 40’ in length will only fit in 53% of national park campgrounds. Be realistic about your camping needs, and you’ll be rewarded with a much easier camping experience.
2. Learn To DIY
An RV, just like your car, has a maintenance schedule and will require repairs from time to time.
The most common repairs that RV owners will have to deal with are :
- Dead batteries
- Tire blowouts
- Water leaks
- Roof and window leaks
- Blocked toilets and sinks
- Minor electrical issues
- Heating/Cooling/Ventilation system failure
- Brake problems
An often-forgotten tip: learning how to do some of these basic repairs will save you thousands of dollars in repairs bills over the lifespan of your RV. Learning how to fix minor problems yourself will save you the trouble of having to find a repair shop with the capability to repair large RVs when you’re on the road as well.
3. Choose Your Campsite Carefully
RV newbies are often surprised at the variety of different style campsites available. Carefully choosing a campsite can be the difference between a memorable holiday or a camping experience you’d rather forget.
The first consideration is whether your RV will fit at the campsite. Campgrounds all have their limits regarding maximum RV size. You’ll need to consider whether you need water and electricity hookups if your RV is without a generator or water tanks. If you have children or pets, you may need to consider extra camping space or choose a campsite with children-friendly areas and activities.
Perhaps the best and most trustworthy way to judge the suitability of a campsite is by talking with other RVers who have stayed there previously. RV-related forums such as RV Net or campground review sites like Campground Reviews are packed full of useful information and give RV owners the ability to ask questions about particular campgrounds and receive great tips from experienced travelers and the campsite owners themselves.
4. Prepare A Repair Kit
When you own an RV, you’ll inevitably experience a problem that needs fixing. So, one of the best investments you can make for your rig is to put together a repair kit. You don’t need to carry enough tools to turn your RV into a mobile repair shop. However, with the following items, you’ll be able to fix most minor repairs on the road:
- Roll of duct tape
- Zip ties
- Leatherman multi-tool
- Wire cutters
- Bungee cords
- Tire-Pressure gauge
- Spare fuses
- Lug wrench
- Portable air compressor
- Adjustable wrench set/combination wrenches
- A socket set
- Flathead and Philips head screwdrivers
- Hose repair kit
- Sealing lubricant
- Jump-starter kit (be sure it includes heavy-duty jumper cables)
- Motor oil/transmission fluid/brake fluid
- Radiator hoses and hose clamps
5. Take A Dry Run In Your Driveway Or Local Campground
Once you’ve purchased your first rig, you’ll want to take it out as soon as possible. Just remember, your first outing will likely be the most difficult and stressful RV camping trip you take. But, you don’t need to travel far to put your RVing skills to the test – in fact, you don’t need to leave your driveway!
Taking a practice run close to home will give you a feel of what RVing will feel like and allow you to identify any potential issues you might face when you’re hundreds of miles away. This is the ideal situation to familiarize yourself with your RV’s systems and learn how to set up, level, and pack-up your RV. Best of all, if you’ve found you’ve forgotten to pack something, you can walk to your house and get it. There’s nothing worse than traveling hundreds of miles, parking your RV, and getting ready to relax only to find that you’ve left the coffee at home.
6. Leave The Water At Home
It’s common sense to want to fill up your water tanks before your head out on your holiday, especially if you’re traveling to a new campsite, or planning to stop on the way. Tempting as it is, you’ll have a much easier time if you leave the water at home and fill your RV’s water tank once you reach the campsite.
Your RV is already a large, heavy vehicle. If you add the weight of a 30-gallon water tank that is full of water, you’re adding an extra 250 lbs. That’s weight that will affect your gas mileage and make your RV more difficult to handle and maneuver.
If you must take water with you, in case of a stopover before you reach your destination, only take a small amount. And be sure to call your campground before you leave to confirm they currently have water available. The same goes for when you’re ready to leave. Empty your waste tanks before you head home to ensure you’re carrying as little weight as possible.
7. Figure Out Your Adaptors Ahead Of Time
Now that you own an RV, you’ll need to collect a few different electrical adaptors to ensure you can hook into whatever power is offered at your chosen campsite. Your RV could be either a 20, 30, or 50 Amp RV. It’s generally marked on the electrical plug with how many Amps your electrical service is.
Most RV parks will provide a variety of hookups, but some campsites still only provide 30 Amp power. Along with electrical adaptors that can step the Amps up or down, it’s worth investing in some extension cords. These must be checked regularly for signs of wear and tear and replaced, if necessary, to minimize the risk of fire.
8. Rely On Checklists
As an RV newbie, you won’t have a camping routine yet. Even experienced campers will forget important items occasionally or overlook an essential step. A tip to consider is preparing a checklist that will help ensure everything is prepared for your road trip.
Ideally, you should have separate checklists: a list for packing, a list of things to check before you hit the road (tire pressure, lights, fuel level, oil, and fluids, etc.), and a list to help you set up once you arrive at your destination. A setup checklist will save you a lot of grief after a long drive and might include:
- Checking your campsite for obstacles and low hanging branches
- Identifying the water, sewage, and electrical hookups
- Parking your RV as close to each hookup as practical
- Level the RV if necessary
- Chock the wheels
- Connecting the hookups and switching your RV to draw from each one
- Setup your awning and outdoor area
9. Get Into The Habit Of Doing A Walk-around
If you have ever worked with heavy machinery, you will be familiar with this concept. A walk-around is exactly as it sounds – you are walking around the RV to identify any potential problems. These may include water and oil leaks, anything that is loose or out of place, any other vehicles or hazards that are close to your RV, and any other obvious signs of trouble.
Because of the sheer size of an RV and its limited visibility, ideally, a walk-around should be carried out before moving it. This includes when you stop for gas, if you stop to get groceries, and when you are leaving a campsite or parking lot. As you get to know your RV and have some experience, you’ll be able to perform this step pretty quickly. It’s a simple preventative measure that will save you a lot of headaches.
10. Learn How To Travel Light
During your first few trips, it’s tempting to take as many things as you can fit into your rig. After all, it’s better to have something and not need it, than to need something you don’t have, right? It makes sense, but in reality, the opposite is true.
The more you pack, the more gas you will use, the slower your RV will be, and the worse it will handle. You’ll also need to ensure that anything you pack is tightly secured and unable to move in transport.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a foolproof method to traveling light, it’s something that you will get the hang of after a few trips. Kitchen goodies, clothes, and electronics are usually a pretty good place to start assessing if you’ve brought things that you won’t use on your holiday. You don’t have to be a Tetris master at packing, just consider what items you took on your last holiday that went unused.