Congratulations! You purchased your first RV, are ready to join the RV lifestyle and head out on your first outing. Before you excitedly head out on your first trip, take some time to prepare yourself and your RV to assure a successful inaugural campout.


Prepare for potential problems on the road - Carry a spare, jack and lug wrench

Whether 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. If your choice of RV is a travel trailer, fifth wheel or tent trailer, the jack from your tow vehicle is probably sufficient. You may also consider some road flares or reflective triangles to alert others if your RV were to become a roadside hazard.

* 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.

Prepare to level your RV and keep it from rolling - Blocks and chocks

As a new RVer, you may be surprised to discover the majority of campsites in the Northwest are not level. Equip your RV with blocks for leveling and chocks to assure your RV doesn’t roll away. Most seasoned RVers 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. Note: The breakaway switch should never be engaged to serve as a parking brake.

Blocks for Leveling


Practice Driving

Regardless whether your choice of RV is a motorhome or travel trailer towed behind dad’s pickup truck or the family SUV, you need to practice driving and maneuvering your new 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 and can potentially damage the RV. 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. Find a large empty parking lot to practice backing up and always employ the G.O.A.L acronym.

Practice Driving

Practice RV camping in the driveway

The best way to get acquainted with your new RV is to enjoy a practice campout at home in your own driveway or in a neighbor’s driveway where you will most likely be able to hookup to power and water. By camping at home or your neighbors 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 for us caffeine addicted Northwesterners, left the espresso machine at home! By camping at home, you will have a chance to practice leveling the RV using your newly acquired blocks outlined above, connect the RV to shore power and water, operate the systems, prepare a meal and bed down for the night. If something was forgotten, you can easily go back into the house and retrieve it.

Campout in the Driveway

First Campout – Choose a RV park with full hookups close to home

While RVs are fully self contained allowing the user to camp far from civilization, consider starting close to home with full utility hookups until you get the hang of things. That idyllic off the grid lakeside campsite high in the mountains will still be there when you have gained a bit of RV experience. By camping 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. In addition, the RV Park likely has a small camp store to supply any items you hadn’t thought of, like roasting sticks for the marshmallows you brought along. 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 in the Pacific Northwest expand exponentially.

First Campout - RV Park with Hookups

Ensure a great first camp out in your new RV by preparing your RV and yourself!


Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave Helgeson
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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