When you are new to RVing, the freedom, simplicity, and spontaneity that comes with an adventurous lifestyle can be both exciting and overwhelming. While some people are handy and dive into learning RVs’ unique systems and workings, others may not be quite as comfortable. Never fear! We’re here to get you started on the right foot with several key tips for new RVers.
Regardless of how often you like to travel, you have to start out being new to RVing at some point in time. The flexibility and free reign traveling an RV offers can frequently leave a person feeling inundated with information and advice. There are books, maps, how-to guides, blogs, YouTube videos, online courses, the internet, and of course, your fellow RVers.
Relax! We’re here to give you the essentials. The need-to-knows. Enough information to make you feel comfortable setting off on your first RV adventures, but not so much that you give up your RVing dreams.
These are some basic RV areas that will help set the groundwork for you, so you can begin to get more comfortable with your new style of exploration. We’ll be covering how to manage your RV resources, basic safety, and some of our best travel planning tips to get you on your way.
An RV is a car and a house. When starting out, it’s helpful to think of the systems you have in both and the differences between them.
Most RVs have two power systems, the 12V DC system (like your car) and a 120V AC system (like your house). Your RV batteries are at the heart of the 12V DC system. When you aren’t hooked up to an electrical pedestal, these batteries provide power to your appliances. Many things in your RV will not work if your RV batteries are dead, so it is important to monitor them and keep them charged.
The 120V AC system is what powers your outlets and large-draw appliances like a microwave. This system typically works when the RV is plugged into electrical but not when you’re going down the road. In other words, the outlets will not work in your RV when you’re not plugged in unless you have what’s called an inverter.
You may hear different terms being thrown around like 30amp, 50amp, generators, solar, etc., but what does it all mean? Essentially, these are the types of power sources that provide electricity your RV.
The main power plug on your RV is designed to plug into an outlet designated for either 30amp or 50amp service at a campground electrical pedestal, depending on your specific RV’s size and power needs. However, if this is not an option where you are camping, you can plug into a generator that will provide power or use RV solar panels to charge your RV batteries. Camping without hookups like this is called dry camping or boondocking.
When you are new to RVing, educating yourself on the 3 kinds of holding tanks within an RV’s water system is essential. The 3 types include the fresh water tank, the grey tank, and the black tank.
The fresh water tank is as clear as its name. This tank carries clean, potable water to your shower and sink faucet.
The grey tank collects water runoff from your shower as well as your RV sink faucet.
Finally, the black tank holds all of the sewage water from the toilet.
Your RV will come with tank level indicators, although (spoiler) they are often inaccurate. It’s a wise idea to frequently check and monitor your tanks’ status to make certain you have no overflow within your campsite.
Now, let’s take a look at where the water comes from. The first option is to attach a hose to the city water connection from the outside of your RV. The other possibility is to operate the RV’s pump to use water stored in your freshwater tank.
The city water bypasses the holding tank completely. So, while you’re using city water, the water spigot outside can remain on all the time. The second option available is the fresh water tank. When city water connections are available at your campsite, you fill the freshwater tank and use the RV’s water pump to get it to the faucet, shower, etc.
RV waste water includes both grey water and black water. These both need to be dumped into a designated dump station or sewer connection to empty your grey and black tanks.
On the side of your RV, usually in a compartment, you will find levers that allow you to dump the tanks. You’ll need to use a sewer hose that connects the sewer pipe on your RV to the dump station.
One lever is specifically for the grey tank, and the other will be only for the black tank. It is always a best practice to dump your black tank first. This is simply because you can dump the grey tank – soapy water from your sink and shower – to aid in flushing out the hose.
More than likely, while you’re RVing at a park or campground, you’ll want to leave your sewage hose hooked up for convenience. However, it is important not to leave the black tank valve open because you don’t want the black liquid to drain and leave all the sewage solids in the tank.
Anytime you’re driving or pulling an RV of any length or size, everyone’s safety is a top consideration. Here are a few factors to keep in mind for safely towing a trailer.
Attempting to tow more weight than what your tow vehicle is rated to handle not only puts you and other drivers at risk but also increases the likelihood of damage to your vehicle. It’s best to understand an RV’s fully-loaded weight before hooking it up to your vehicle (or even purchasing the RV!).
Also, be sure you have a proper understanding of your hitch system. Whether you have a fifth wheel or are using a weight-distribution hitch with sway control on a travel trailer, understanding how they work is essential. When set up correctly, well-maintained hitch systems will provide the safest towing experience while RVing.
Cars towed behind motorhomes are nicknamed “toads” in the RV world. When double towing toads, trailers, or boats behind your motorhome, always be sure to factor that weight into your calculations, too.
While Google Maps and Waze are decent apps for planning travels, they do not know that you’re driving an RV. They are unable to factor in the length, width, and height of your rig. Instead, think about trying these navigation apps as an alternative:
RVLife RV Safe GPS is an app that turns your phone into an RV GPS. It shows grades, low clearance alerts, weight restrictions, propane-restricted tunnels, and more. It’s included in the RV Life Pro bundle. The bundle is just $49/year and also includes RV Trip Wizard to plan your RV trips and routes and Maintain My RV. Learn more here.
Additionally, CoPilot GPS is an RVer favorite for trip planning. In the areas where cell service can be sporadic, this app has an offline navigation feature that provides clear directions. CoPilot GPS also calculates your route according to the size and class of your RV.
The first app that’s highly regarded among RVers is RV Trip Wizard. This is a simple web-based RV trip planning tool that helps you plan every aspect of your route. From rest stops to fuel stations to campgrounds filtered by RV membership, RV Trip Wizard makes travel planning a breeze!
Check out our post How To Use RV Trip Wizard To Plan An RV Road Trip to learn more about this great tool.
The Allstays app is also a well-rounded tool for the avid nomad. The small $9.99 fee required for use more than pays for itself in very little time. Not only are you able to plan your trip, but you can locate RV dump stations, truck stops, rest areas, and even camping options with reviews included. By using Allstays, you can locate your nearest Walmart or Pilot gas station too.
Our final app recommendation that you’ll find to be nifty and functional for RVing is the Campendium app. This app specializes in providing campground reviews from fellow RVers. You’ll find detailed information such as traveler photos, cell service coverage, and different GPS coordinates. To help you locate free camping and overnight parking at Cabela’s and Cracker Barrel, look no further than the Campendium app.
Chances are these and countless other handy apps will spare you many hours of unwanted stress that traveling can sometimes bring. Thankfully a variety of methods are available to help guide you along the way to learning the ins and outs of owning an RV.
Having an assortment of mobile apps to choose from is one of the most convenient resources. The RVing community continues to grow every year, and with that growth comes a greater need for dependable apps. As the demand for more extensive technology capability increases, chances are, the possibilities for seeking the answer to an RVers questions will be available via an app.
A walkaround’s importance is to confirm everything on the RV’s interior and exterior is secure for travel. Be sure to check all doors, stabilizers, stairs, etc., to ensure they are safe and road-ready.
When you’re new to RVing, trying to remember everything can certainly be overwhelming. That’s when having a functional checklist nearby can come in handy. Here is a list of various checklists that we find to be user-friendly and extremely helpful via our dear friends at Getaway Couple.
Another consideration is to make a checklist that’s specific to your RV and all of its components. Always remember that taking your time to check everything on your RV before heading out is far more to your advantage than performing a rushed and scatter-brained inspection.
If you’re new to RVing, consider these tips a baseline and take comfort in the knowledge that every one of your fellow RVers was new once too. And most of them are willing to help! The RV community has a wide array of backgrounds, ages, and experience levels, and in our experience has been most helpful to those learning the ropes.
We wish you luck in starting your new RVing journey! Be sure to read the Golden Rules of Camping before setting up camp!
Going full-time RVing is a whole other animal, and lots more needs to be explained. We’ve created a full-blown course about Preparing To Full-Time with fellow full-time RVers Drivin’ & Vibin and Getaway Couple on RV Masterclass. This course will teach you everything you need to know to smoothly transition to full-time RV life!
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