Tips For New RVers, First RV Camping Trip Checklist

Did you take the plunge and buy your first RV at one of the RV shows this winter? Are you getting ready to hit the road and head out on your first camping trip? Listed below is a brief, yet important checklist to ensure a great and safe season without any problems.

RV checklist
Follow these key tips and start your first season without any issues.

1. Choose the right route

If your choice was a larger rig, be sure to plan your trip to avoid traveling roads that have overpasses too low for you to safely clear or twisty roads and streets that are too narrow to comfortably navigate.

Plan ahead and research the most favorable route to get to the campground without having to deal with these challenges along the way. It’s also a good idea to book a campground in advance as well. You can easily plan your travels and find campgrounds on RV Trip Wizard.

2. Level your RV upon arrival

Always take the time to level your RV upon arriving at your destination. This is essential to do, even after the longest of journeys.

Not only can it be very uncomfortable when you are trying to relax or sleep inside the RV, but it can cause your unit (especially the refrigerator) to not function properly. Level your RV when you arrive at camp so you don’t have to be concerned with any issues later on.

Remember To Pull The Wheel Chocks
Remember to pull the wheel chocks

3. Remove the wheel chocks before departing

You just enjoyed the weekend camping, and everything is all packed up, put away and ready for the drive home.

However, when you shift into drive, your rig doesn’t want to move. Resist the temptation to step on the gas a little harder as it is very likely your wheel chocks (which prevented your rig from rolling away during the weekend) are still in place.

If you are lucky, other campers weren’t watching and you can covertly go remove them. Putting chocks away is typically one of the last things you will do before heading out, and it happens more than you think.

4. Don’t drive away while still connected

If you have been hooked up to water, sewer, power, or all three while camped, it is obviously important to ensure you are disconnected before departing the campsite with the RV.

This could prove expensive to your RV or campsite utilities in the process of trying to drive away. Always double check that your RV is free and clear and ready to hit the road before you actually pull out of your campsite.

5. Don’t stay at home too often

If you make the commitment to buy an RV, then you should make the commitment to set time aside and use it as frequently as possible. Even if you can only escape for short trips, look for fun and interesting places to RV that aren’t too far from home.

In Western Washington, where I live, we are blessed with so many places to RV close to home. Ocean beaches, Puget Sound, the Cascades, and Eastern Washington are all within easy reach for a weekend RV getaway.

While making mistakes is just human nature, you can avoid them with a little forethought and effort, which can possibly save you from costly repairs or operating your RV in an unsafe manner. Damaging your RV during your first outing is one adventure in RVing nobody needs to experience.

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We’re the Hambricks, a family of four with a two and four-year-old. While we’ve traveled a lot, we’d never had the pleasure of taking an RV trip. As excited as we were, we knew it would be different than any other trip we’ve been on and might call for more preparation. Here are some things we learned planning and during our trip that will be useful for other first time RVers.


You Don’t Have to Buy an RV to Get the RV Experience, Just Rent One!

Did you know you could have an RV experience without owning an RV? Renting an RV is really simple! We rented ours from Outdoorsy, it’s like an Airbnb for RVs. The process was easy and the owner we rented from told us everything we needed to know before we drove off. We recorded what he said and showed us so we could reference back in case we forgot something on the road.



The Different Types of RVs and How to Choose the Right RV for You

There are three different types of motorhomes: Class A, Class B, and Class C.


Class A Motorhomes are the biggest ones and resemble coach buses. In all honesty they probably aren’t the best option for first timers unless you’re used to driving tour buses or tractor-trailers.


Class B Motorhomes are camper vans. They are sprinter vans that have been converted into a living space. This means the bathrooms and walking space is extremely tight. Your shower and toilet will be in the same space and the max sleeping capacity is typically two people.


We rented a Class C Motorhome. It is a motorhome on the chasse of a truck or a van. They provide a good amount of space and come with multiple beds, dining table and full bathroom. Here’s the inside of the one we rented.



In addition to the motorhomes there are also multiple types of RVs that are towable units, meaning that you pull it with a truck or SUV.


Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?

In most states, RVs weighing under 26,000 pounds don’t require a special license. But Class A RVs are the only ones that could potentially weigh more than 26,000 pounds so if you plan on driving a Class B or C you should be fine. You can double check with the state’s DMV for updated information and these rules sometimes change.


Know the Height of Your RV

Why is knowing the height of your RV important? Depending on where you are driving you may have to go through tunnels or drive under bridges. Your hood scraping the ceiling and you getting stuck is not the time to learn your RV is taller than the height limit. While driving through Zion National Park there is a tunnel that RVs over a certain height can only go through during certain times of the day. If you need to drive through and miss the cut off time the roundabout way adds 2 hours on to your journey!


Making an RV Camp Reservation: Do You Really Need To and What Type of Spot Should You Reserve?

I am a big planner so naturally I wanted to make sure we had all our RV camp reservations secured before getting on the road. Was this really necessary? I think it depends on when and where you are going.


We traveled out West in late November when the weather starts to get very cold. While the weather meant there were fewer RVers and making a reservation wasn’t really necessary to get a spot it also meant not all RV camps were open. When calling some closer to Bryce Canyon I discovered they were closed for the season. Had I not called ahead to make a reservation we could have been left in a situation of having spotty cell phone service making it difficult to find another RV camp to stay at. The nearest one open one was 90 minutes away so I’m really happy we planned ahead.


When making your reservation some parks will give you the option of a pull-through or back in spot. Always go with the pull-through, they are much easier to get in and out of.




Some RV parks have different hook up options. When booking your RV campsite, you need to know if your RV is 30 or 50amp to make sure you book the correct spot. Some RVs do come with an adaptor to hook up to either, but many don’t so make sure ahead of time if you’ll need one or not.



Know Where You Can Replenish Your Propane Along Your Route

Depending on the RV you have your stove and central air including the heat may run on propane only. This means even if you are hooked up to electricity, without propane you will not be able to cook or stay warm in the winter. Filling up the propane in an RV can only be done by a professional and not all propane refill stations service RVs. It’s imperative you know where you can fill up along your route or you could be hungry or freezing!



Double Check Your Destination Has RV Parking

If you’re not pulling a travel trailer and have a motorhome like us parking can be a little tough in some locations. Make sure each of your destinations has parking for RVs. Even if they do, space might be limited so always give yourself extra time to find parking in case you have to go to a different RV parking lot.


These tips should help make your first RV trip one without many hiccups. One thing we learned was the RV community is very helpful. When in doubt just ask a fellow RVer and they will usually be happy to assist you. Enjoy your first RV trip and good luck with not wanting to immediately purchase one when you get back home!


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Have you ever watched someone trying to learn a new skill? Think of children learning to ride a bike. At first, they will require a lot of assistance, such as training wheels or a parent running alongside. Eventually, they’ll make some independent strides of their own—with plenty of wobbling and crashing involved. After a while, they’ll get it. And they’ll soar off down the street on their way to many wonderful adventures.


New RV owners may find themselves facing a similar learning curve. If it’s been a long time since you learned something new, it can be intimidating to suddenly find yourself in a situation where you’re wondering, “How in the world am I going to get this trailer through a tight gas station parking lot? Will I be able to empty the black tank without spilling it everywhere? Am I properly lighting this propane stove, or am I going to damage my rig?”


We’ve been RVing for 8 years now, but we still remember the nervousness we faced before our first trip. Even once we became seasoned RVers, we still faced the same apprehension every time we pulled out for a journey with a newer, bigger rig. The good thing is we can assure you that our unease was soon replaced with enthusiasm as we became accustomed to our new equipment.


The greatest adventure of your life is just around the corner–and we want to help you get to the fun part faster. Thanks to our years of experience, we have the following tips to help you make your first RV trip a success:



  1. Camp Close to Home for Your First Few Trips

You finally bought the RV of your dreams…now it’s time to hit those dream destinations, right? Not so fast. For your first few trips, you’ll want to book campgrounds close to home. This will allow you to gain confidence as you learn how to operate your new rig. Also, it takes a few trips to figure out what to stock in your RV. If you camp close to home, you can easily run home to grab the must-needed items, and you’ll be in familiar territory.


  1. Reserve a Private Campground for Your First Trip

If you want to spark an internet debate, just ask the people on an RV forum whether public parks or private campgrounds are better. While no one can debate that beauty and solitude are often found in our nation’s state and national parks, there are some added amenities that make private campgrounds a perfect choice for your first trip. First, they often have full hookups. Until you understand your rig and your family’s needs, it’s better to have electricity, water, and sewer onsite. Also, private parks often have helpful staff members who can assist with things like backing into a site for the first time.



  1. Reserve a Pull-Thru Site at Your First Campground

There are many beautiful campsites in this nation. Some are easy to pull right into, while others require backing down a long driveway at a 30-degree angle while trying to avoid some trees. You will eventually be able to veer your trailer into practically any spot with ease, but you can avoid some headaches for your first trip by booking a pull-thru site. A pull-thru site is one that is situated between two roads, making it easy to pull right in when you arrive and pull right out when you leave…no backing up required. On your first trip, you have enough to worry about without having to angle a trailer into a spot. Keep it easy peasy with a pull-thru!


  1. Divide and Conquer During Setup

Arriving at a campground is a little different from arriving at a hotel. There are quite a few tasks that need to be done in order to secure your trailer and set up a cozy campsite. Doing these for the first time takes a lot longer than it will once you learn your rhythm and routines. If you have younger kids, the easiest thing to do is to get them out from underfoot so one adult of the family can truly concentrate on setup, while the other concentrates on keeping the kids happy and safe. If you have older kids, they can help with the setup process.



  1. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Even if you’re not usually the type of person to ask for help from random strangers on the street, you’ll learn that this is a wonderful benefit from campground culture, when needed. As you are learning to operate a new rig, there will, undoubtedly, be some tasks you forget how to do or never learned in the first place. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most of your neighbors were in your shoes at one time or another and will kindly pay it forward.


  1. Don’t be Afraid to Say No to Help When Backing In

One of the silly things that stress us out is feeling like other RVers are judging us when we are backing in the rig. For reasons unknown to us, there are some people who like to kick back in their camp chairs and watch other RVers set up camp. Some will eagerly jump in and offer to help, which is great—except when it isn’t. If you don’t want the help, don’t worry about politely declining with a simple, “Hey, we are new at this, and we want to learn how to do it. We’ll let you know if we need some assistance!”



  1. Expect the Unexpected—and Don’t Let it Get You Down

Things may go wrong, as they inevitably will. Perhaps you didn’t understand how long to cool the fridge and had nowhere to put your piles of groceries. Perhaps you found out something isn’t working in the RV or broke something that was working. Stuff happens. Try not to lose too much of your vacation time fretting over mistakes and mishaps. Do your best to problem solve and move on.



  1. Avoid Driving at Night

If at all possible, plan your early trips to include driving and setting up during daylight hours. Driving at night can be risky. If you have a breakdown, you’ll have a harder time finding help since the auto parts stores, garages, and RV dealerships will be closed. Setting up at night can also be immensely more difficult due to the lack of sight.


  1. Breathe. Go Slow. Have Fun.

Things will eventually get easier! You will soon be able to set up camp blindfolded. Until then, all you can do is be patient with yourself as you learn. Don’t be too critical on yourself…and don’t forget to have fun along the way.


Once you get your first-time jitters out of the way and gain some useful experiences, you can rest easy knowing that the road ahead is much smoother, with far fewer pit stops. You will get the hang of operating, maintaining, and towing that beautiful new RV. It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely be worth the effort, especially when you finally do take that dream rig to your dream destinations. Pretty soon, you’ll be like the kid on the bike, pedaling fast with a smile on your face.


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Lists For RV Travel And Road Trip Planning

My friend is looking at me, radiating excitement.  “We are going to spend three WEEKS on the road!  I hardly know where to begin packing!!”

This will be her first ever road trip in her life.  She will be traveling by camper van with her new beau and his two dogs to tour the West Coast.  The questions spill out: where to go, what to see, what to expect, what to pack, and enough what-if scenarios to fill a bathtub.  She is practically vibrating with a mixture of thrill and terror of her first road adventure.

She looks at me with wide eyes.  “I know it is still a few months off, but I am already trying to make a list of what to pack.  But he plans to just grab some clothes and go!”

The Book of Lists, aka my trip planning brain (Photo by TC Wait)

And here lies the delicate balance between being prepared for an adventure, and being spontaneously go-with-the-flow.  Whether you are a list-keeper or a by-the-seat-of-your-pants free spirit traveler seems to depend partly on your personality and preference, but also based on what kind of trip you might be planning, and how often you travel.  For the purpose of curiosity, I conducted an informal poll on whether fellow RVers were “list keepers” or “pack-n-go” travelers.

Based on this not-at-all scientific query, results indicate a fairly even split.  It also seems that the more “practiced” travelers (full-time or frequent weekenders) drift toward the “pack-n-go” system, BUT also have incorporated established routines as a habit to make sure they are indeed travel-ready and safe.  Those who don’t travel frequently, or are branching out into uncharted waters (ie taking a first cross-country trip) tend to lean toward list-making.

Personally, I lean toward the list side.  OK, to be honest, I might actually define the list side.  I actually have an entire BOOK of LISTS.  And it is the third volume of Book of Lists that I keep….  I see the Book as my travel brain—it keeps all of the thoughts that rattle around in my brain before, during, and after our travels in one place so that the next trip goes a little smoother.

I have packing lists, repair lists, lists of veterinarians, lists with maps of routes through congested cities, list of tools we need to bring, lists of people’s contact information we meet along the way, lists of books we want to listen to while driving, you get the picture here….  Each trip builds on the previous travel experiences, and the Book serves as a convenient way to keep track of the successes and the challenges.

There is no right or wrong way to plan for your RV adventure.  No matter how you prepare to get out there, the bottom line is that you actually get out there!

To continue my non-scientific research, I would love to hear how you go about getting ready for your travels.  Do you list, or do you just go?

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How To Take Your Horse On A Road Trip

Imagine arriving at an idyllic campsite in your RV, saddling your favorite equine companion, and riding off into the sunset. This situation may seem overly utopian, but equestrian campers may find it a reality.

Whether you’re a full-fledged rodeo competitor or a trail-riding beginner, you shouuld give it a try. An equestrian RV trip may be just what you need to explore new places and get to know your horse.

Photo from Pixabay

Finding an equestrian trailer

There are several options as far as equine transportation for RVs. When choosing a vehicle or trailer, consider how many horses you plan to bring. It’s also important to consider the number of people.

The Epicruiser Superspec Luxury Horsebox motorhome. Photo from Epicruiser

Motorhome with horse compartment: Motorhomes with horse stalls are by far the most luxurious vehicles for equestrian camping. Reaching lengths up to 45 feet, RVs like Equine Motorcoach and Epicruiser Superspec Luxury Horsebox include full living spaces and separate horse chambers with up to four stalls. Given their size, you may not want to buy one of these RVs unless you plan on full-timing.

Horse trailer with living quarters: Another approach to equestrian RVing is to travel in a horse trailer with living quarters. This allows you to disconnect your tow vehicle if needed.

Interior of the Lonestar Custom Horse Hauler

Although most trailers allow very little space to move around, Featherlite’s Country Estate Ranch Trailer and the Lonestar Custom Horse Hauler offer plenty of space and homey luxury. However, considering their 53-foot length, you should be prepared for a semi truck-like driving experience.

Thor Industries offers a more practical 21-foot trailer with two horse stalls for easier maneuverability.

The Stable Boy® Kit installed in a fifth wheel trailer. Photo from Equine Equipped

Toy hauler with horse stall: If you aren’t ready to purchase a new trailer, Equine Equipped Inc. offers a solution. The Stable Boy® Kit allows you to convert any toy hauler or fifth wheel with a garage into a horse trailer. Simply install the lightweight stalls, padding, and mats into the back of your trailer to safely transport 1-2 horses.

Preparing for a trip

Before embarking on your equestrian excursion, make sure your horse is prepared. It is very helpful to have a well-trained horse. However, even horses with trail riding experience can get jumpy when spending the night in a new place.

You may want to practice “camping” in a friend’s pasture so that your horse can adapt. Shoe your horse a week before trail riding, and make sure all vaccinations are up to date.

Call your campsite ahead of time, as some RV parks require weed-free feed. If you need to change your horse’s feed, you should slowly replace it at home over several days. Make sure you bring enough water (20 gallons a day per horse) if there is no water access.

When packing your horse trailer, be prepared for all circumstances. Although you don’t need to bring every piece of equipment you own, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You should definitely pack feed/water troughs, hay nets, rope, a muck bucket and fork, a blanket, and riding gear. It can also be helpful to carry a small electric fence. Keep all paperwork, registration, proof of ownership, and health records with you. If you are prepared for the worst, there’s a good chance your trip will go smoothly.

Photo by Rosie Blamey/Unsplash

Choosing a location

There many RV parks in the United States that allow equestrian camping and some offer full RV hookups as well. When camping in smaller parks, you should reserve a campsite.

In addition to the campgrounds listed, many U.S. National Parks offer equestrian camping.

  • Blake Ranch: Located in Arizona near Route 66, Blake Ranch offers stalls, corrals, and riding areas for equestrian campers.
  • Tryon International Equestrian Center: North Carolina’s Tryon Equestrian Center offers full RV hookups. It also allows access to a recreation center and stabling, as well as hosting certain equestrian competitions.
  • Mullet Hall Equestrian Center: Mullet Hall Equestrian Center in South Carolina is ideal for horses. It allows access to trails, pastures, stalls with water and electricity, and horse washing stations. It also hosts events throughout the year.
  • Farr Park Campground & Horse Activity Center: Located near the Great River Road in Louisiana, Farr Park Campground offers horse boarding and full hookups. Pastures and trails are also available for horseback riding.
  • Oak Mountain State Park Equestrian Camping: With 12 equestrian sites, Oak Mountain State Park is one of Alabama’s best campgrounds. Stable boarding is available at an extra cost.
  • Bell Cow Lake & Equestrian Campground: Located in Oklahoma, Bell Cow Lake offers full RV hookups and picket poles for horses. Riders can easily access its lakeside trails.
  • Mozingo Lake Park: Missouri’s Mozingo Lake Park contains 13 equestrian RV sites that can be reserved. It also allows access to trails, picket posts, and picnic areas.
  • Sheyenne Oaks: Sheyenne Oaks in North Dakota gives campers access to manure dumps and complimentary corrals. You can also purchase hay or manure forks if you choose.
  • Lake Arrowhead State Park: Lake Arrowhead State Park in Texas is an ideal camping spot. It features four equestrian RV campgrounds with hookups. Reserve a site ahead of time and enjoy 5 miles of horse trails.
  • Kiva RV Park & Horse Motel: New Mexico’s Kiva RV Park offers RV sites with full hookups. Horse boarding is available for $20 a day per horse. Campers can enjoy a range of trails through New Mexico.
  • Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort: Horse boarding, corrals, and full RV hookups are available at California’s Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort. The park also offers guided trail rides along the beach.
  • Whistle Stop RV Resort: Whistle Stop RV Resort in Texas offers campsites with full hookups. It features spacious pastures, as well as covered corral rentals and stalls. You can also rent an RV on site if your horse trailer doesn’t have living quarters.
  • Alafia River State Park:At Florida’s Alafia River State Park, campers have access to equestrian campsites with full hookups. A 12-stall horse barn is included free of charge.
  • Ross Prairie Campground: The Ross Prairie Campground in Florida includes 14 equestrian sites with tie posts. A horse washing area is available after days on the trail. Be sure to make a reservation in advance.

Equestrian RV camping is an experience like no other. Though it takes some planning and preparation, you won’t regret it. Plan a trip with your equine companions this summer!

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