Living the RV lifestyle is not as hard as it looks! Simply follow these seven easy steps, to get started on the adventure of a lifetime!
#1 Decide on the right RV for You.
It is perfectly OK to go window shopping for an RV at dealerships and RV shows. This will help you narrow down the type of RV that’s right for you. Ask lots of questions, get behind the wheel, lay on the bed and sit at the dinette. You need to get a feel for what it would be like to live in the different types of units.
There are two main types of RVs: towables and motorhomes.
Towables include travel trailers, truck campers, and fifth-wheel trailers.
Motorhomes include Type A (bus style), Type B (van style), and Type C (with bed over the cab).
If you just want to test out the different types of RVs before buying one, there are businesses that rent RVs for a few days, or even longer. All you have to do is show up with your clothes and some food, and take it out for a test drive of the RV lifestyle.
#2 Once You Have Your RV, Practice Driving It
You usually don’t need a special driver’s license for an RV, but it’s not the same as driving a car. Start out practicing on quiet streets with little traffic and large, empty parking lots, then work your way up to the busy highways. Be sure to practice backing up! That’s what the large, empty parking lot is for. Use your mirrors, and even better, get a backup camera.
The first few times you drive your RV, it will feel intimidating; but very quickly, you’ll get the hang of it. Before you know it, you’ll feel very comfortable behind your big rig.
#3 Familiarize Yourself with the Electrical Systems
Most RVs have two power systems: a 120-volt system (the same as your house) and a 12-volt battery system (like your car). The 120-volt system is the one that powers the wall sockets, and is only functional when you physically plug your RV into shore power, like at a campsite, or, if you have your RV plugged into a gas, diesel or propane generator. This will allow you to run everything you’d have in a house, like electric heaters, hairdryers, coffee makers, etc. If you’re dry camping (not plugged in), you’ll be running the 12-volt system via the RV’s house batteries. These are charged either using the vehicle’s engine, or with solar panels. They will also recharge once you are plugged into shore power again.
The 12-volt system won’t run high powered electrical items like heaters or hair dryers, but it will keep the lights on and the water pump running. If you plan on living off-grid a lot, start looking into installing a solar kit.
#4 Plan Your Trip
Keep your first trip close to home, and on an easy road; no steep hills, no switchback roads, and preferably, not on the busy highway. You can book a stay at an RV resort, or a state or national park campground. During the summer holidays, all the best places will book up months in advance, so plan ahead.
#5 Stock Your Rig with Food, Fuel and Necessities
First, fill up your freshwater tank. Next, stock your RV with food. The refrigerator will probably be much smaller than the one in your house, so plan meals with simple ingredients that don’t need to be refrigerated. Make sure your propane tank is filled before you leave. If your RV uses 5-gallon tanks, those can be found at Walmart, grocery stores, and even the dollar store. If you have a motorhome, it likely has an on-board propane tank, so you will need to locate a place that can fill it. U Haul stores often have propane, as well as some gas stations and truck stops. Finally, you’ll need to fill up with fuel for your engine, either diesel or gas. If you can locate a fuel station that also sells propane, all the better!
It’s a good idea to carry some basic tools too. Jumper cables, a flashlight, extra fuses, screwdrivers, a wrench, anything you’d need if you were living fully dependent on just your car.
#6 Hit the Road, Set Up Camp, Have Fun!
You’re on the road, you’re doing it! Before you pull in and set up your camping spot, check if there’s enough space to pull in and open any slides. Determine what the best approach angle might be; are there low-hanging branches or bushes that might scrape? Most RV sites are designed to set up one very specific way, so note where the electrical, water, and sewer hookups are.
Once you’re pulled in, you may need to level it with blocks, chock the wheels, hook up your water and sewer hose, roll out your awning, etc. When you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to easily set up camp in much less than an hour. Once that’s done, it’s time to relax, and have fun!
#7 Dump and Refill Your Tanks
When your gray and black tanks are full, you’ll need to dump. If you are at a campground, that’s what the sewer hook up is for. If you don’t have a sewer hook up, then you’ll need to find a dump station.
Most black water tanks are built right into the RV, and can be emptied through a sewer hose. On some smaller RVs, the black tank is removable, and you will wheel the tank over to the drain. The procedure for dumping is to empty the black tank first, then empty the gray water (sink and shower water). Following the black dump with the gray dump will rinse out waste from the sewer hose. Finally, refill your fresh water tank, making sure the water is potable.
So those are the basics, simply rinse and repeat, for a lifetime of RV living fun!