Getting an RV is a very exciting thing! These homes on wheels allow us the ability to hit the road for as long as we want without ever having to see the inside of a dirty motel room again. RVs can be a ton of fun, but you'll want to know what you’re doing in order to make the best of it. Most of this knowledge will be a learn-as-you-go experience, but there are a few tips, tricks, and insights to learn before hand. Don’t go RVing without reading this information as it will help to prepare you for a successful camping trip and an unforgettable RV experience!
Take Notes/Record the Walk-Thru
When you pick up your RV, the dealership will do a walk-thru with you in order to teach you the ropes. You will see where the valves for the tanks are, how to light the water heater and furnace, how to work the slides, and lots of other important things. Make sure to bring along a note pad and take detailed notes. If you can, record the entire walk-thru so you can review it again later. There will be a lot of information presented here and some of it you won’t need right away. Having it written down or recorded will allow you to go back to it later when you need it, just in case you've forgotten exactly how to do something.
Camp In Your Driveway
When you first get your RV home, you don't have to wait to take your first camping trip, but don’t go RVing too far away just yet! Try camping in your driveway for a week or so. This will allow you to learn how everything works and deal with any quirks or kinks while still right at home. Testing components here and there for a moment isn’t the same as actually staying in the RV, and won’t present some of the problems or difficulties you may run into out on a campsite. Here you will have everything at home within just a few feet, so you’re not stuck somewhere if you have a problem like getting the awning to retract.
Camping in your driveway is good practice for camping, but you also want to practice towing or driving the RV. Get a feel for the unit whether you’re towing or driving a motorhome. Turning, stopping, and parking are very different in an RV than in a typical vehicle. Take the RV out on some back roads and get used to the way it feels, how wide you need to take turns, and how long it takes to stop. Find yourself a large empty parking lot and practice backing up. Don’t go out for a road trip until you are completely comfortable doing all these actions, because adding in traffic and unexpected road conditions is only going to add to the difficulty of dealing with your rig.
There are a lot of extras out there that you can get for your RV. It can be tempting to stock up on all the coolest gadgets right away, but it is a good idea to wait on purchasing items you think you may need until you know for sure that you need them. One of the few items we recommend that you pick up with your RV no matter what, are extra/longer hoses and cords. You don’t want to go RVing and find yourself in a situation where your hose or cord isn’t long enough. You never know what location you will find yourself in, where a tree may be in the way, or how far from the outlet your camper will actually be. Invest in a longer fresh water hose, a garden hose that is a different color than your fresh water hose (so that you can tell them apart), a longer sewer hose, and a nice long extensions cord for your power. These will be life savers when you go to hook up your RV, or clean and dump your tanks. While you’re looking at the extension cords, get some amp converters as well. Your RV may be wired for 50 amp but the campsite may only offer 30 or less. Having a few of these in your arsenal will ensure that you can plug in no matter what the campground offers.
Keeping Up On the Black Tank
The black tank is one dirty job but since Mike Rowe isn’t hanging around at the campsite to empty it for you, you'll have to learn to deal with it on your own! It’s really not as bad as you might expect, as long as you have the proper tools and know how to keep up on the maintenance. The first item you want to make sure you get is a pack of disposable gloves. These handy items (pun intended) will keep all that bacteria off your skin while you deal with hooking up the sewer hose and emptying the tank. Put them on any time you handle anything to do with the sewer system. Next, you want a chemical to put down in there. Get one that is enzyme based with a deodorizer. This will take care of odors while the enzymes break down the solids, making it easier to dump. The next tidbit of information is something many new RVers learn the hard way. Don’t make this mistake! Never leave your black tank valve open when not dumping! This goes for driving down the road, while in storage, and even when you’re hooked up to sewer at your campsite! Having the valve open will allow air in there and it will dry out anything that is still in the tank. This means it will form a hard cement-like mud on the inside of your tank, and can be very hard to get off. Close the valve as soon as you're done emptying the tank, and you shouldn't have anything to worry about!
Keep in mind that just like at home there are some basic things that will need regular maintenance. Keeping up on maintenance will extend the life of your RV and its components, but also save you money by keeping things more efficient and therefore using less energy. Don’t go RVing without making sure you perform routine maintenance on the following parts, if you have them:
- Slideout seals and mechanisms
- Water heater
- Kitchen appliances
- Roof vents
If you’re storing your rig for the winter, make sure you winterize it! This is the process of running RV antifreeze through the water lines, prepping appliances, and getting the rig ready to hibernate. Not winterizing beforehand can lead to some serious issues, such as water freezing in the pipes and bursting them. When you get your RV parked for the winter, make sure to cover the tires to prevent sun damage. These are all very important things to keep your RV in tip-top shape while you wait for spring.
Even the seasoned full-time RVers were once beginners and had to learn along the way! Keep in mind that every RV is different, so read your owners manuals and keep them on hand to check and ensure you are performing tasks properly.