So you got a new RV? Awesome! Congrats! I’m sure you are anxious to get your new rig out on the road and have many fun adventures planned. Check out our helpful tips for new RV owners that you will want to be familiar with before you hit the road.
There is nothing quite as exciting as bringing your new RV home from the dealer. We have many helpful posts on our site that will help you to plan what you pack and various how-to tips on using specific parts of your camper.
Here are a few of our favorite posts for the RV beginner:
- 15 Must-Haves for Your New RV
- 12 Things You Totally Don’t Need in Your RV (But Be Glad You Have!)
- Printable RV Campground Setup Checklist
The other day we were talking about our first few trips with our (then) new travel trailer. Some of our mishaps made us laugh (a couple even made us cringe!). This chat inspired us to put a list together of the best advice we wish we had known before taking our RV on our first camping trip.
Best RV Tips for Beginners
- Stock your RV but don’t stress about it. We remember how exciting it was to stock our new camper! We also remember that it felt daunting because we wanted to PACK ALL THE THINGS. The thought of forgetting something at home? Scary! But fear not – because not only will you forget things, you also need to experience life in your camper to figure out what things you want to have with you. We are more than 5 years into life with a travel trailer and we still come home from every single trip with new ideas and new items on our wish list. Include the basics and let the rest fill in over time:
- Bedding and towels
- Kitchen utensils
- Toiletries (including RV safe toilet paper)
- Practice hitching and unhitching your camper at home. Before you hit the open road, run through the process of hitching and unhitching your camper at home. Becoming familiar with this process will help take some of the pressure off the setup process at the campground. The more times you hitch and unhitch your rig, the more comfortable you will become and the easier (and quicker!) it will get. (We highly recommend this trailer alignment tool!! You place one on your tow vehicle (they are magnetic) and the second one on your camper hitch. This tool helps to align your vehicles and gives you a helpful visual to see when you are getting close.)
- Take a practice drive or two. This tip is especially important for those of you who do not have experience towing a trailer. Set aside some time to take your camper for some practice time on the road. Get familiar with using your mirrors, adjusting to your blind spots and practicing wide turns. Practice pulling in and out of your driveaway. If you have the space (or perhaps use a large parking lot near your home), set up some cones to simulate a campsite spot and practice backing your rig into the space. Just like hitching and unhitching, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. If you plan to use a friend or family member to help you back into your campsite, have them come along for the practice session(s) so you can both get familiar with communicating through hand signals.
- Make sure you have any necessary equipment on hand for hooking your camper up to water/electric/sewer. It will be much easier (and cheaper) if you plan to have these supplies on hand ahead of time. Items like a drinking water hose, a sewer hose kit, and sewer hose supports allow you to get your rig setup as soon as you drop the jacks.
- Be familiar with how to work the awning and slide-outs. Understand which switches operate the various features on your camper. Do a mock run-through to practice using these features before you leave home. MAKE SURE these items are put away and secure before you hitch up and drive away.
- Secure all loose items before you leave home. Take one last walk-through in your camper before towing it down the road. Ensure that any object that could become a projectile is well-secured. Do not leave bowls of fruit on the counter or stacks of books on the table. Close the bathroom door. Secure the bunk house ladder (if you have one). Use your sinks and bathtub to hold loose items. The storage spaces under the benches and beds also work great for stowing random objects.
- Know your total length and height (tow vehicle PLUS CAMPER). You never know when you might come across a bridge, tunnel, restaurant drive-thru, etc that has a height or length restriction. Honestly, when it comes to a restaurant drive-thru, we never risk it. We always just park and walk inside to order. This is good info to know when booking a campsite as well. Not all campsites can fit all campers.
- Consider a destination near a camping supply store or dealer store for your first trip. Sometimes, the only way to know if you really have everything you need, is to get out there and camp. However, should you arrive at the campground and realize you forgot an important RV necessity or accessory, it would be helpful to have a well-supplied store nearby. While campground stores often sell a variety of camper gear, their selection is much smaller than the typical dealer store or camping store. Note: you will tend to find that campgrounds are pretty friendly places. If you are setting up your camper and can’t figure out a certain setting, etc, try asking a neighbor! Most camping neighbors, in our experience, are only too happy to help.
- Research your route before you leave home. Remember that your GPS device will not take into consideration the fact that you are towing a trailer. It will aim to get you from Point A to Point B in the quickest amount of time, without considering things like: terrain, narrow turns, steep elevations, etc. Google Earth is a helpful tool for zooming in on specific parts of your route to see how accessible they may or may not be for an RV.
- Be very familiar with your tow vehicle and know what its limitations are. Start with the operator’s manual. Learn and understand what the manufacturer recommends regarding the vehicle’s towing capabilities and limits. Understand all features for example using tow mode and how to enable that function if available. Understand how the brake controller works and how to adjust it properly. Pay attention to the vehicle’s gauges while driving. On long, steep inclines keep an eye on the transmission temperature gauge (if available) so you don’t overheat the transmission. On long declines, consider using the transmission to downshift. Otherwise, you may end up overheating your brakes which can warp them or cause other damage.
We hope that these tips help to prepare you for many successful and fun adventures on the road with your new rig!
Do you have any tips for rookie RV owners that aren’t mentioned above? We would love to hear them! Drop us a comment and tell us about it!