New to RV Camping? You Need these Camping Tips For Beginners
So, you’ve purchased an RV and are ready to take it out on its maiden voyage. After driving home in your new rig, hopefully you feel confident that it’s time to check out a destination you’ve been looking into.
Still, there are a lot of things to consider other than just the purchase. If you are a new RV owner, take into consideration a few of these RV camping tips for beginners.
1. Make reservations well in advance.
The number of people who want to RV is hitting an all-time high and is growing every day. Popular parks are often full a year or more in advance.
If you are adventurous and don’t mind stepping out of your comfort zone, you may want to consider boondocking. There are also organizations such as Boondocker’s Welcome, that, for a small membership fee, provide you with opportunities to stay at a spot for free. With one of these, you may have the opportunity to enjoy a winery, farm or other unique spot for camping. Some have hookups and some don’t so you definitely want to take that into consideration.
2. Less is more when packing.
Whether you are taking that first inaugural trip a few hours away or are heading out to tour the country, you need to realize that packing a lot is not necessary.
Your first trip will give you a good idea of what you need or don’t need to bring with you. Make a list before you leave of things to pack. When you return, take out anything that you didn’t use. This is a good rule for full-timers as well. If you haven’t used it in six months, get rid of it.
3. Watch your load weight and know how much you can pull.
Confirm your vehicle’s towing capacity from the manufacturer. Learn terms such as Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), cargo weight, tong/hitch weight, pin weight, maximum towing capacity, and payload capacity.
You can calculate your towing capacity with a few trips to a Cat Scale. We did this on our way home from the dealership. Weigh the camper empty, then weigh it again when it’s full.
4. Have a checklist for departure.
This can help in two ways. First, you will have gone through your packing list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. The second is you won’t forget important tasks like securing shower doors or padding breakables in cabinets.
An outside checklist is essential as well and your list might depend on what type of rig you have. Tasks such as pulling in slides, gathering up hoses, and unplugging electricity should be on that list.
5. Do your research
Take time to watch YouTube videos, read articles, and learn everything you can about taking your RV out for the first time. Researching camping tips ahead of time may save you time and frustration.
As a new RVer, do you know how long it takes for your refrigerator to get cool? It usually takes up to 24 hours for it to reach cooling temperature. Leaving your refrigerator on propane while driving will help but most don’t recommend doing this for safety reasons.
6. Take time to get where you are going.
Remember, traveling with your RV is a marathon, not a sprint. If you drive at acceptable speeds for your tires and take time to stop and smell the roses, you will arrive at your destination safely.
Know the arrival time for the park where you are staying. Some may not allow late check-ins and you definitely don’t want to arrive after dark. Your GPS may indicate an arrival time but it’s good to add in time for a slower pace, stops for meals and gas. It may take more time to get in and out of gas stations as well.
7. Scope everything out in advance when you arrive.
One of the most important camping tips for newbies is to scope out your campsite when you arrive. Backing up your big rig or travel trailer will be intimidating at first. Staying at a park that has workers who assist with that will get you started on the right foot on that first trip. You can also ask someone nearby to help. Someone will be glad to assist while everyone else takes a seat to watch the show.
Get out and look (GOAL) is an important term to remember. Consider obstructions in the site, such as a picnic table, electricity post, or trees.
You might want to find an empty parking lot before you take off and practice backing up. You’ll want to get comfortable with the correct way to turn the steering wheel that will put the trailer in the correct direction.
“No worries means no worries. Whether you are a ‘newby’ or a seasoned traveler, take time to get out of your vehicle and examine your site. Once you have a plan for parking and are on the same page with your spotters (highly recommended), calmly and slowly proceed to park. This will help to prevent any damage or misunderstanding. A stress-free (you can do this) set up for your rig will be a great start for your stay, even if it is for just one night.” Aaron Harris, full time RVer, work camper, seasoned veteran.
8. Ask for help and get to know other RVers.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. RVers are some of the nicest people and will be more than willing to share their camping tips – probably more than you want. It’s also a great way to share a coffee at your picnic table, gather around a fire pit, and make lifetime friends.
Find more beginning camping tips
Before you hit the road, make sure you have the RV LIFE Pro tools to get RV-safe GPS directions and to find other points of interest along the way.
For more camping tips, check out this article from Do It Yourself RV on New To RVing: Top 7 Things You Need To Know Today.
Terri and her husband, Todd, are full time RVers and work campers. They have been living full time in their RV for nearly three years with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton, and their Mini Aussie puppy Remi. They are currently wintering in Arizona with plans to continue their travels next summer. Writing is Terri’s passion but she also loves hiking, kayaking and anything she can do outside.
Bob Walter says
Per your Point 1: There is also a great app in the App Store, which is currently free but that is changing soon, that allows you to get notified when national park or national forest campgrounds become available. This is for things like cancellations. Try “Campsite notifier”, it seemed to work well for me. Happy camping and hope you get a site!!
BOONDOCKING – If you’re boondocking there aren’t hookups….NONE. What you’re describing are people that are circumventing RV park regulations, enticing RVers to stop at their business thus producing a new revenue stream, etc. Actual boondocking is off the grid, no hookups, on your own systems. And there are apps to help you find those places which can range from a pullout on a road to miles out into public lands on dirt roads….. awesome adventures. Nothing wrong with the Harvest Hosts and other memberships that help you find low cost (if you paid a membership IT IS NOT FREE) locations….. but those aren’t boondocking.
ITEM 3: Weighing your camper empty and then full is worthless and does NOTHING for your safety or proper loading. The proper way to determine your loading is:
1) Load everything up just as you’re going on your trip. This includes food, water tanks full, fuel tanks full, everything…..even the people that will be in the tow rig.
2) weigh each axle individually at a scale. You don’t need a CAT scale, just an accurate enough scale of sufficient capacity. Here in Oregon we have a lot of roadside scales that the state operates for regulation of the trucking industry and many are usable even when they’re not in service (mostly not in service). The point is, any accurate scale, CAT scales are just one option.
3) After you’ve weighed each axle, disconnect from your trailer and weigh the tow rig.
4) You can now determine everything you need to know about your load.
Compare the axle weight of each axle to the maximum axle weight on the placards of the tow rig and the trailer. If any exceed the placarded axle weight you need to make changes
ALSO check your tires, the combined weight capacity of all tires on a given axle must exceed the actual weight that axle is carrying.
Calculate your tongue (bumper pull) or pin (fifth wheel/goose neck) weight. Ensure that the percentage of your trailer weight carried on the tongue or pin is within the safe range. You know those videos you see with the trailer whipping back and forth and then destroying tow rig and trailer in an explosion of RV industry standards….. they generally were operating with unsafe loading most often too much tongue weight but too little can take you out as well.
Personally, I also conduct a scale weighing exercise with 1/4 tank or less fuel, empty water tanks, full black and grey tanks, and only the driver. While I know I’m not going to exceed max weight anywhere, I want to know that tongue/pin weight when in conditions of low loading such as after the trip when I’m going to dump the tanks and top off the propane.
ITEM 5 – There is nothing truly unsafe about leaving a properly functioning propane refrigerator on while traveling. The only danger is fire and the tiny bit of propane used to run a refrigerator isn’t going to be dangerous even if the flame goes out and the thermistor doesn’t shut off the supply. That’s because….you’re driving down the road and it’s getting massively diluted and vented overboard the entire time.
It is however, illegal to refuel a gasoline rig (maybe diesel as well) while propane appliances are on in many if not all jurisdictions.
As for most people…. in the real world MOST people leave their propane fridge on for the entire trip, including while driving, and yes, even while refueling. Because most people don’t have a clue.
ITEM 7 – OMG NO
“Staying at a park that has workers who assist with that will get you started on the right foot on that first trip. You can also ask someone nearby to help. Someone will be glad to assist while everyone else takes a seat to watch the show.”
This is INSANE. First, having been across the country numerous times I’ve NEVER seen a park where employees assist with getting parked and can only imagine that this must be some nose in the air hoighty toighty type operation for those with more money than brains.
As the RV owner, NEVER accept help from the friendly neighbors (or employees) beyond perhaps watching a clearance. You need to be able to get into your space with your organic assets only (wife, husband, reliable kids, etc.). It’s your rig and your liability (for your rig or other property).
Instead, take your new RV out and practice in an empty parking lot. You can find one in industrial areas on the weekend in just about any locale. Practice various angles of “attack” into a space from the main roadway. Some are fairly mild angles, others are near 90 degrees and can be difficult.
Take this opportunity to work out communications whether hand signals or small radios….DONT yell back and forth as you’d be disturbing neighbors in the camp ground and someone may think you’re getting mad at her/him.
Also, as a backing guide, be sure you can see the driver and the driver can see you. As the driver, if you lose sight of your guide, STOP.
Get this all worked out when you’re not in a rush to get camp set up. You aren’t blocking the road for the rig that pulled up behind you. And you’re able to take your time.
Trust me, especially for a couple, your relationship will be better off.