youtubeFirst time RV ownership is skyrocketing. If you were lucky enough to find and purchase your first RV in this crazy time, congratulations! Now that you have secured the RV it may seem somewhat intimidating to take it out camping for the first time as there is much to learn and remember.

Following are 5 tips to help make your first camping trip in your RV a success.

1. Practice

Practice using your RV and all of its systems before you leave home. This includes running the slide outs in and out, leveling the RV, deploying the jacks, hitching and unhitching the tow vehicle or dinghy, and checking the exterior signal lights. Practice driving and backing up the RV too.  If you are able to park your RV at or in front of your home, spend your first night “camping” at home! Spend a day in and around the RV performing your normal daily routine cooking meals, showering, sleeping, turning the heat up, showering, brushing your teeth etc. If you forgot how something operates or forgot to pack an essential item it will become apparent at home where it is easier to address than at the campground.

Practice driving and know the best route to the campground

2. Create a Checklist

As you are practicing with your RV at home, create checklists for items to pack, set up camp, and departure. Here’s a great place to start creating your lists. Once at the campground there is a lot to remember during your first set up. Following are some key items.

• Level the RV  (have an assortment of leveling blocks with you)

• Chock the wheels

• Disconnect the tow vehicle or dingy, if needed

• Extend the steps to the entry door

• Plug into shore power (you might need an adapter) Note: You may need to turn the circuit breaker on after plugging in

• Deploy stabilizing jacks / levelers (if not part of the initial leveling process)

• Extend the slide outs

• Connect the city water (you might need a pressure regulator)

• Connect the sewer hose to the sewer opening (you might need a fitting to make the connection)

• Start appliances that may not already be operating like the water heater

Be sure to perform the reverse procedures when breaking camp and hitting the road as newbie mistakes, like driving away with the jacks still deployed, can be an expensive lesson!

3. Plan

While you are probably excited to embark on your first RV trip, spend some time in advance planning. Know where you are going, what the best route for your RV is, if reservations are needed, when is check in time, what services are available, how long will it take to get there, are there any special permits required to camp or recreate, etc? It is highly recommended to keep your first campout a short drive from home. This will allow you to reach the campground without rushing, provide ample daylight to set up camp and if something does go wrong, have extra time to deal with it. Treat yourself the first time out with a reserved campsite with full hookups.

Practice and plan for a successful first campout

4. Arriving at the Campground

Know the address or physical location of the campground entrance and where to go to check-in as many campgrounds / RV parks have an office for registration. It is also recommended to know in advance where your campsite is located in relation to the office so you will have a good idea on where you need to go after checking in. Even if you are provided with a map of the campground, when you check-in spend time in advance learning the layout and roads of the campground to avoid what could be a costly and / or embarrassing navigation error. Knowing the layout of your campsite in relation to the access road will allow you to approach it correctly, know where the utility connections are and allow you to best position your RV in the space to deploy the slide outs. Here are some tips on how to preview campgrounds allowing you to study the approach to the entrance, interior roads and the campsites.

Know what the campground offers

5. Campground Etiquette    

While the whole family is probably excited for their first RV campout in a campground, they need to remember you will have neighbors. This means being  respectful of other campers in regards to noise (music, loud voices), encroaching in their space (even if it is the shortest way to the restroom or beach), pets, campfire smoke and privacy. Please observe all campground rules as most are in place to enhance the camping experience for everyone. Here is an expanded list of things not to do if you wish to be a good campground neighbor.

You will have neighbors

Other articles for first time RV owners:

THE Best Tip for RV Newbies

The Inaugural RV Trip

Maiden Voyage

Questions? Comments? Please add your thoughts below.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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