New RV First Trip

Congratulations; you did your research, attended an RV show (or two) and purchased your first RV!  Now it's time to prepare for the maiden voyage.

Following are some tips to help make that first trip in your new RV a success:

Practice Driving:

Regardless if your choice of RV is a motorhome or travel trailer towed behind the family SUV, you need to practice driving and maneuvering your rig.

The RV is most likely longer, taller, wider and accelerates slower than anything you have driven before. As you practice, know the height of your RV and watch for height restrictions of bridges and underpasses, watch for low-hanging branches and anything else that restricts your path of travel. Those towing travel trailers or fifth wheels need to remember that what you are towing is most likely wider than the vehicle towing it and you need to leave extra room on both sides of the tow vehicle when negotiating tight spaces. This is also a good time to practice using your side mirrors as your rear view mirror will be of little use. If your new RV is a motorhome, familiarize yourself with the cockpit controls like the headlights and wipers as you may need these in a hurry and unable to safely locate them while driving in traffic on an unfamiliar road.

Carry a Spare, Jack and Lug Wrench:

Regardless if you are driving the family sedan or your new RV, flat tires happen. Part of the joy of RVing is getting away from it all, which means you are farther away from city tire stores and services. If your RV didn’t come with a spare tire and wheel, now is the time to get one* and the tools required to change it. Once you have obtained a spare, check to make sure you have a lug wrench of the correct size with enough leverage to break the lug bolts / nuts loose, plus a jack that will safely lift your RV high enough to change it. You may also consider some road flares or reflective triangles to alert others if you were to become a roadside hazard. One more basic item you should carry is a tire gauge.

*Large class A motorhomes typically do not come with a spare as they are too large and heavy for the average person to change on their own. If this is you, get an emergency road service policy and research in advance where you are likely to obtain a spare tire for your rig when needed.

Blocks and Chocks:

Surprise - the majority of campsites you will visit during your travels will not be level, requiring you to carry blocks for leveling and chocks to assure your RV doesn’t roll away. Some RVers carry interlocking blocks specifically designed for RV use while the majority just carry an assortment of short lengths of dimensional lumber mainly 2x4 and 2x6. By placing the right amount of blocks on the low side of the RV and driving up onto them, an uneven campsite can quickly be remedied. Even if your RV has leveling jacks designed to lift your RV off the ground, you will still want to carry some blocks to place under the jacks to keep them from damaging hot asphalt or sinking in soft ground. Wheel chocks most important job is to keep your RV from rolling down an incline, but they also serve to keep your RV (especially trailers) from rocking front to rear when the occupants are moving about. Chocks can be as simple as large wooden blocks to more intricate items that sandwich between tires on dual axle trailers and lock in place for security. Always chock the tires on your towable RV before you unhitch from the tow vehicle.

“Don’t Be This Guy – Get Some Wheel Chocks!”

Test Campout in Your Driveway:

The best way to assure a successful maiden voyage is to enjoy your first campout at home in your driveway. By camping at home you have a place to fall back in the event of a less than successful first night in your RV. Nothing is worse (possibly embarrassing too) than arriving at the campground and discovering you forgot to pack bedding, the proper toiletries, fill the propane tanks, how to operate the water heater or worst of all left the espresso machine at home! By camping at home, you will have a chance to level the RV, connect it to shore power and water, operate the systems, cook a meal and bed down for a night. If something was forgotten, you can go back into the house and retrieve it. If you forgot propane or how to operate the furnace you still have a warm home available to sleep in.

Reserve a Full Hook Up Campsite:

For your first camping trip, reserve a full hook-up campsite close to home and head out in the morning. Reserving guarantees you a campsite. By staying close to home you will arrive early with plenty of daylight, energy and alertness to set up camp for the first time. By having a full hookup site you can freely learn to operate the systems in your new RV without the worries of depleting the 12 volt house battery, running out of water or filling your holding tanks to capacity. As you gain confidence, try weaning yourself off the hookups by disconnecting from the water, power and sewer and practice “dry camping”, you can always hook back up if needed. Once you have mastered dry camping, the options for places to camp expand exponentially.

Now get out there and enjoy your first camp out!

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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