youtubeAre you an RV newbie? Fearful of the things you might forget or do wrong during your first camping trip? RVing is not as difficult as you may think, but here is a list of common mistakes first time RVers commit.

Not having a checklist. Checklists are key to a successful RV trip for both what to take with you and what to do upon breaking camp. Not only will a checklist keep you from forgetting your toothbrush, but more importantly a checklist may save you the embarrassment of driving off with your jacks down and viewed by an audience of fellow campers, or worse. Following is a list of items you should check before pulling out of your campsite:

  • Check that the hitch coupler on your fifth wheel, travel trailer or dinghy is properly attached and latched
  • Is the breakaway cable attached
  • Are safety chains connected
  • Shore power cord unplugged and stowed
  • Holding tanks dumped and valves fully closed
  • Sewer hose disconnected and stowed
  • Water hose disconnected and stowed
  • Are the jacks fully retracted
  • TV cable disconnected and stowed
  • TV antenna down
  • Wheel chocks removed and stowed

  • Refrigerator / freezer doors secured for travel
  • Awning retracted and secured
  • Marker lights, brake lights and turn signals working. Click here for a newbie tip.
  • Interior cabinet doors secured for travel
  • Counter tops and tables cleared
  • Freestanding furniture secured for travel
  • Slide outs retracted
  • Water pump and water heater turned off

  • Entry steps retracted
  • Windows and vents closed
  • Sliding doors latched
  • Perform a final walk around before hitting the road


  • Plan to arrive at your campsite well before sunset. Setting up camp for the first time can be somewhat intimidating, trying to do so in the dark is a recipe for failure.

Get there early to find a good spot

  • Don’t plan to travel too far in one day. Slow down, be patient and enjoy the journey to your campsite. Many seasoned RVers subscribe to self-imposed limits like the 3/3/3 rule. Which is as follows. “Limit your travel to no more than 300 miles in one day. Second, arrive no later than 3 p.m. Finally, stay at your destination for at least three days.
  • Plan to arrive early. Planning to arrive at the campsite early builds in extra time for mishaps and delays that you might experience along the way. It also gives you extra time to check in and pick out your campsite if you didn’t reserve a space in advance.


  • Check the weather forecast at your intended campsite before leaving home. Not only will this help you know what kind of clothing and gear to pack, but it will also give you an idea on how to set up camp. If windy, orient the nose of the RV into the wind, don’t park in a low spot if it is going to rain, etc. Another tip for newbies: What is the forecast overnight while you are asleep? Leaving the awning out when overnight wind is forecasted practically assures a noisy night of sleep as it flops around in the wind. Where will your RVs gutters drip if raining. The drip, drip, drip of water hitting something outside your bedroom window is not how you want to experience your first night of RV camping.

Watch for tree limbs that might damage RV roof

Know the True Size of Your RV

  • Don’t trust the height and length listed in the sales brochure for your RV. It is likely longer and taller than listed. If longer, it may not fit in the campsite or storage area you planned on. Taller means you might not fit under bridges, tunnels, or fuel station canopies. The result of discovering your RV is too tall is a newbie mistake you don’t want to make as this video.
Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. With over 40 years experience in the industry and a lifetime of RVing, Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.


0 #1 Donald Allen Hoch 2022-09-30 15:19
Keep up the good work Dave

Wa State Park Director (retired)

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