22 RV Camping Tips For Beginners | RV Like A Pro

Congratulations on your new RV! And welcome to the world of RVing. As an RV beginner, I know there is a lot to learn. We were there once too. Just be patient while learning. It will all come with time, I promise. However, in the meantime, to help make your first camping trip a successful one, we put together these RV camping tips for beginners. So you’ll be ready and confident on your next trip.

RV Camping tips for beginners
Visiting Grand Teton National Park with the Airstream

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When you purchase a new to you camper, the RV dealerships or previous RV owner will walk you through the RV and all its functions. However, it is so much information, you will actually only retain a small amount.

So really, the best way to remember it all as new RVer owners, is simply repetition. And these RV camping tips for beginners are sure to help, especially at the start of your new adventure.

As a first time RVer it can be challenging, frustrating, and at times you may want to give up. But with patience and practice, I promise you will be RVing like a pro in no time.

Just don’t rush things, take your time and enjoy the journey.

22 RV Camping Tips for Beginners

1. Try To Rent Before You Buy

RV Camping Tips for Beginners

If you have already purchased your RV then you can skip to #2. However, if you are still shopping then consider renting a few RVs before you buy. It is a great way to try before you buy.

We rented 4 or 5 campers before we made our purchase. There are so many configurations, sizes, styles and etc. Sometimes it is hard to know what will be the best RV for your lifestyle, especially if this is your first RV. So rent a few to figure out what type of RV is the right RV for you.

Outdoorsy, RV Share and Cruise America are a few places that offer RV Rentals.

2. Know The Different Types Of RVs

There are a variety of camper styles and configuration. Some are towable RVs and some are driving ones. It helps to understand the RV lingo and what each of them are, especially if you are still trying to determine which style to purchase.  Here are a list of the most common configurations.

  • Pop-up Camper: pull behind trailer that pops up into a camper
  • Travel Trailer: a bumper pull behind trailer
  • Fifth Wheel: a camper with a coupling mounted into the cargo bed of a tow truck
  • Toy Hauler: an RV with the ability to carry your toys too
  • Class A motorhome: bus like drivable RV
  • Class B Camper: van style drivable RV
  • Class C Motorhome: drivable RV built with a cab or cutaway chassis

3. Understand The Different Types Of Camping Sites

RV Camping Tips for Beginners

Camping has a different meaning to different people. Some people prefer RV Parks with resort amenities and all the luxuries. And others prefer the seclusion of a remote location.

Camp sites range from resort campgrounds to state parks to free campsites. Just keep in mind all campers are not created equal and some are better equipped for remote camping than others, such as solar power, battery capacity and holding tank size.

Understanding the camping terms and what they include will help with making your reservations. Just like most campsites include a picnic table, but not all of them.

  • Full hookups: The RV site has power, water and sewer hook up at the site. The power source can be 30amp or 50amp. Some premium sites have cable too.
  • Partial: The RV site has either power only or power and water hookups. This means no sewer hook up at the site.
  • Dry Camping: The RV site offers no hook ups, just a designated place to park.
  • Boondocking: This is finding a location that is not an RV site and does not have any hook ups. This type of camping is usually on public lands in remote areas.

3. Stay Under Your Weight Limits

Every tow vehicle and RV comes with a weight limit guideline. For safety reasons it is important to stay within those guidelines. So even if more stuff can fit inside, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should take it.

It is a good idea to weigh your RV when it is all packed to make sure you are within the weight limits. I think every truck stop has a scale. It is a pretty quick and easy process. Just pay and weigh.

4. Practice Towing and Parking

RV Camping Tips for Beginners

The only way to get comfortable or better at towing and parking is practice. When we first started, I had zero experience towing anything. We hired a truck driving instructor to teach me how to handle the truck and travel trailer. He rode with us for 4 hours and instructed us on turning, parking, braking, backing up and mountain driving. It helped so much ! And now I am the primary driver and parker.

But you don’t have to hire an instructor. Just take the rig to an open parking lot and practice turns, backing up and parking. It gets easier with time and practice.

5. Check Clearance When Pulling Into Gas Stations

This sounds like no brainer, right? But gas stations can be tricky. So just be cautious when entering. Confirm the overhang heights and turning ratios. Make sure you can get in and most importantly get out. We always make a quick evaluation before entering. And try to stay on the outside pump if possible. And if the gas station is too busy, we just wait or keep going and get gas at the next one.

6. The RV Essentials To Have For Your First Trip

On your first trip, make sure you have the necessary RV essentials. These items should always stay with your RV, because you will need them on every trip. And then you won’t ever forget them. Here is a helpful RV essential purchase list.

7. Confirm Your Hoses And Cords Will Reach Before You Unhook

Before you unhook and set up, confirm your power cord, water hose and sewer hose will reach the connections. We have all made this mistake at least once. Not all campsites have the connections in the same place, so keep that in mind. So you may need to more your RV forward or back to reach the connections. At some point you may want to have a second water hose and sewer hose for those times when you need a longer connection.

You should also confirm the camper is on level ground before you unhook. You may need to adjust or add some leveling blocks to the tires on one side to get it level. We travel with a small level in the kitchen drawer, it helps a lot to determine if we are level.

8. Don’t Wear Yourself Out On Travel Days

RV Camping Tips for Beginners

This could be the most valuable of RV camping tips for beginners. Because towing can be exhausting. Especially if you encounter heavy city traffic or road construction. There are a few rules to go by so your travel days are less exhausting and more enjoyable.

The 3/3/3 rule. Travel no more than 300 miles in a day. Stop every 3 hours, arrive before 3pm and stay for 3 days.

Another is the 2/2/2 rule. Travel no more than 200 miles in a day. Stop every 2 hours, arrive before 2pm and stay for 2 days.

Of course if you are trying to get somewhere fast, then these wont work. But for a more pleasant travel experience, these rules are helpful.

9. Know Your Heights And Lengths

It is a good idea to understand your height and length restrictions. You will at some point encounter a low bridge. And if you know your height you won’t have to guess whether or not you will fit. We have them written down in the truck, because somehow I always forget.

Also, in todays world, RVs are much larger in size than they were 30 years ago. And some of the older parks were not made to handle big rigs. So if you have a large RV, make sure the campground is big rig friendly or else you may not fit or you could damage your camper with tight spaces from trees and other structures.

10. Have Some Tools On Hand

RV Camping Tips for Beginners

Having a small set of basic tools on hand is a must. Small things in the RV will need to be fixed and you will have to put on the “handy man” hat at times. With that being said, most thing that come up are minor. None the less, having the correct tools is key to being able to fix the problem.

So, it is recommended to have torque wrench and a basic tool set with screwdriver, pliers and hammer. Also, make sure you have a spare tire and some spare parts like screws, bolts and clips in the toolbox.

11. Camp Close To Home On Your First Trip

For your first RV road trip, it is highly recommended that you camp close to home. This way if something goes wrong or you forgot an important item from home, it is only a short drive away. Some people also camp in the driveway a night or two to get familiar with their RV.

12. How To Dump Black and Grey Tanks

Yes, it is the messy part of camping. Once you figure it out, it is not that bad. Here are a few things to help with the process:

  • Use RV or single ply toilet paper. We really like Scotts RV toilet paper and you can pick it up at any Wal-Mart.
  • Wear gloves! Because it is a poopy job. And eventually you will get stuff on you.
  • Make sure to dump the black tank first and then dump the gray tank.

Also, don’t leave your tanks open, let them fill first, then dump, especially black tank. You could leave the gray open while you shower, but there is chance of sewer smell to sneak in. Also make sure to add a tank treatment after you dump, this helps to break down the waste and control smells. We really like Happy Campers RV Holding Tank Treatment. We have tried a variety of brands but like this one the best.

13. Clean The Fresh Water Tank

This sounds much more difficult than it is. But it is something that needs to be done to keep your fresh water holding tanks clean. It is recommended that you sanitize your tank about every 6 months. There are bleach and non-bleach sanitizing solutions. It is a more time consuming than difficult, but if you plan to drink from your tanks its very important.

14. Create Set Up And Break Down Checklists

In the beginning you may want to create a check list for your set up and break down routine. This list will help you not to forget the things that need to be done prior to moving your RV. And also help with set up upon arrival. It includes things like making sure all windows are secured and locked and vents closed. Making sure your RV is tow ready before take off will help with any mishaps and damage.

15. Understand What Will Work With And Without Shore Power

Power is a wonderful thing! And when you are hooked up to shore power depending on your unit, with either 30 or 50 amp, everything in your RV will work. Understanding what works with and without shore power will help with meal planning, power consumption and understanding battery capacity.

When you are not connected to shore power, then you may have limited use on some items such as the air conditioner, microwave, outlets working without the converter or being able to blow dry your hair.

So get familiar with your rig set up. Figure out what uses electric and or gas and what can’t be used while dry camping or boon-docking.

Solar and generators are also an option. So if you plan to be off grid often, then consider the additional cost and purchase the necessary equipment.

16. Look At The Weather Forecast

It is no fun driving in bad weather or setting up and breaking down in it. So always check ahead of time to see if you need to adjust your schedule. Maybe this means leaving earlier than originally planned, or packing up the night before. Sometimes it could mean staying another night or rerouting your plans all together.  

17. Check Your Tires Before And During Your Trip

It is always a good habit to check your tire pressure before a trip. Eventually you may want to invest in a tire pressure monitoring system. It is also a good idea to walk around the RV to visually check that everything looks good. And you should feel your tires too when you make a stop on the road. A hot to the touch tire indicates that something is not right.

18. Don’t Forget The Kitchen Gadgets

I remember our first RV trip. I packed food for 10 days and it was challenging to get all the food to fit in the refrigerator and small spaces. So remember, unless you are going somewhere remote, there is usually a grocery store not too far away. If you use a lot of fresh ingredients, sometimes its easier to go to the store every few days, then try to stock up on so much.

You will however want to make sure you have the kitchen essentials needed for cooking. And don’t forget things like a can opener, a bottle and wine opener and salt and pepper A lighter or matches for the camp fire. And an oven mitten for campfire and oven cooking. Here are some of my favorite RV cooking gadgets:

19. Use RV Friendly Apps To Route Your Trips

RV Camping Tips for Beginners

There are many ways to route your RV trips. And when you are going new places, it is a good idea to use an RV friendly app to take you on the best route. That way you can avoid clearance issues and propane restrictions.

The iphone map sometimes gets wacky and sends you down horrible roads. So find an app or two that you like to work with. Some free apps I use are: InRoute because it shows the elevation changes and curviness of the road so I know what to expect driving. I also use Truck Map and RV Life Trip Wizard.

20. Check The Propane Tanks

Before you head out on your first RV camping trip, confirm your tanks are filled with propane. If you are relying on propane to cook, the you will really need it.

Propane tanks can be filled at some campgrounds, propane filling stations, U-haul, Ace Hardware and various other places.

21. Tips For Storing Your RV

Even if you are traveling in your RV full time, you will need to store it at some point. And for some it may also need to be winterized. And others dehumidified. Depending on the weather in your storage location.

First, find a safe and secure location. It is always a good idea to add a wheel lock or some safety device to help deter theft. Make sure the RV is secured with all windows and doors locked and the window shades closed.

  • Make sure to dump the black and grey tanks and drain the fresh water tank before storing.
  • Turn the propane off and power down the entire RV, so you can preserve the batteries.
  • Remove all items from the refrigerator. And if the refrigerator is still moist and cool, you may want to prop the door open so it does not get any mold.
  • Remove all open food or trash and things that would attract bugs.

The idea is to have the camper ready to go without issue when you are ready to use it again.

22. Memberships To Consider

There are many memberships to join as RV newbies. Don’t let it overwhelm you. As you begin to travel, you can purchase them as needed during our journey. I recommend not buy them all at once. You will get a feel for what memberships will be most beneficial to you along the way. But here are a few to consider:

  • Good Sam: For $29 a year you get discounts on select campgrounds, retail discounts at Camping World and RV.com and fuel discounts at Pilot Flying J’s.
  • National Parks Pass: If you enjoy national parks and monuments and plan to visit more than one a year, then you should get a National Park Pass.
  • Harvest Hosts: For a unique camping overnighter, the Harvest Hosts membership lets you stay at wineries, breweries, farms and other locations. The annual membership has unlimited stays throughout the year. Sign up here and use code HHFRIENDS15 get 15% off your membership.

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Summary of RV camping tips for beginners

It will take some time to get it all figured out. So in the meantime, go have fun and make some great camping memories! This is one of the most important things!

If you have any questions, please leave it in the comments below.

I hope you found these RV camping tips for beginners blog post helpful! Gathering all this information is the first step to a successful adventure on the open road. So take these great tips and enjoy the RV lifestyle and maybe we will see you somewhere along the way!

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