RV Camping Basics - Learn From Our Mistakes
Well, there my wife and I were after signing the paperwork on our new Pop-Up camper with a voucher to use in the parts department for some RV basics. As awesome as it was to get the voucher, we knew about as much about what we needed for our new RV as we did about building a flux capacitor. Knowing what we know now (about RV needs, not the flux capacitor) we would have spent less of our voucher on frilly bits and more on what we truly needed. Our goal with this post is to help out should you, our kind RV acquaintance, find yourself wondering what RV basics you need for your glamp-it-up voyage. A side note here; the products shown here are on the lower end in price. The idea is to get you what you need to get started and you can upgrade pieces as you go. If you would rather spend more money up front for items of better quality I say go for it.
RV Camping Basics - Safety!
First off, let’s talk about RV basics regarding safety. None of us are impervious to injury, and there is no bigger damper on a good glamping adventure than someone getting hurt so having a “safety first” attitude is key.
Should you find yourself in a bad way, however, a good first aid kit is a must-have, especially if you are “boondocking” out in the sticks somewhere. (More on boondocking in another post.) You don’t want to skimp here so get more than you think you will need. Here is one example, but there are plenty to be found out there after doing some research.
Another note, we suggest you don’t leave your only first aid kit in your tow vehicle. Have one in your tow vehicle for sure, just don’t let it be the only one you have should someone get hurt back at camp while the tow vehicle is at the closest fishing hole. No good fellow camping enthusiasts!
RV Camping Basics - Chocking
Next on the RV basics safety list is chock blocks. I suppose if you have a motorhome with a parking brake these may not be essential, but I use them with our Class C, all the same, should some youngin decide to mess around and pull the parking brake or mess with the shifter. Having them with our pop-up trailer saved our vinyl fence one afternoon after the trailer gained some momentum coming off the ball of our tow vehicle.
We chocked our trailer before removing it from the tow vehicle from that point forward. There will be numerous situations where there are far more important things to worry about rolling over than a fence, so these are inexpensive insurance keeping folks from getting hurt and your RV camping adventure vehicle from damage.
Some blocks are simple plastic, some are made out of rubber, and some are metal that fit a double axle vehicle or trailer. We have the plastic ones, but they do have a tendency to slide on concrete whereas the rubber ones as I understand do not.
RV Camping Basics - Communication
Another RV camping basics safety note revolves around communication, specifically when backing your RV into your desired camping location. A lot of RVs these days come complete with a backup camera which is very nice, but I always like having a pair of radios to chat with the Mrs as I’m backing in the RV. Not only does this keep us from being heard yelling across the entire park like a couple of rude idiots, but they also make sure I can hear what she says when she says it.Very handy little gizmos for sure.You don’t have to go crazy on price either, just get something that works unless you have other needs for the spendier ones. Some folks prefer to get rechargeable versions while others like less expensive models and just buy rechargeable batteries.
RV Camping Basics - RV Protection
An additional area of focus is protecting the entrails of your RV. Poor voltage and over pressurizing your water system can lead to costly repairs, but luckily, there are a couple of items on the market that can aid you in protecting your glamper from these perils. First, let’s talk about voltage protection. Some RV parks have been around a while, so understandably there could be some issues with the power pedestals you plug your RV into. Too much voltage or too little can cause damage, so placing a circuit indicator/surge protector in between the pedestal and your RV is always a good idea. You will see a couple of types out there. Some just plug in between the park pedestal and your RV plug, while other options include hardware which is hardwired into your RV itself. Some are a little spendy, but far less expensive than frying your RV’s electrical system or expensive electronics you may have plugged in innocently charging away inside.
Water Pressure Protection
As previously mentioned, too much water pressure can damage your plumbing, so some cheap insurance is to get a couple of pressure regulators. We have two of them ourselves.
One is designated for the fresh water hose, and the other is dedicated to the hose used to rinse the black water tank.(More on hoses and other RV connections here in a jiffy) Pictured are the regulators we use, but some folks prefer the more expensive regulators with a dial gauge so you can verify the pressure is being regulated. We may opt to upgrade ours as well in the near future.
At just over $30 for a pair, these automatically decrease the water pressure entering your RV to 40-50 PSI which helps eliminate damage to your plumbing. Keep in mind, most of your RV is plumbed and wired prior to the sides being put on so it is very possible plumbing damage could take place in areas with less than convenient access. Ain’t nobody got time for that, we have camping to do!!
RV Camping Basics - Leveling And Service Hook-Up
Now that we have some basic safety and RV protection covered let’s talk about leveling your RV, and connecting it to services such as water and sewer. You also need a power cord, but the RVs we purchased came with the power cord, so I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time here. If for whatever reason you don’t have one, you may be able to order a replacement online using the good ole world wide web. Just make sure you fully understand how many amps your electrical system was designed for.
A basics side note, you may want to invest in a plug adapter in case you want to plug your RV in at home, or you end up in a park that does not have 30 or 50amp service. These will allow you to charge your batteries and run just about everything in your RV outside of your microwave and your air conditioner. You will need your 30 or 50 amp services for those voltage hungry contraptions.
Now onto leveling. As a tip, I suggest getting some adult building blocks otherwise known as leveling blocks. There are a couple of popular brands we see most often, but they work pretty much the same by allowing you to stack multiple locking blocks together until you reach the desired height to level your rig. We have the yellow ones ourselves should you be curious.
When we had our pop-up, we used them to level the trailer by pulling over or backing over them to get as close to level as possible. “How important is it to have our trailer level?” you may ask. Pretty darn important. We have experienced situations where the tanks didn’t drain completely, the refrigerator was less efficient, and outdoor cabinets didn’t latch properly (I know, first world problems). Also with the pop-up, the main door would not operate all to well if the trailer had any twist in it.
Let’s face it; most RVs are built to save weight and cost, so they aren’t made out of the best building materials known to man. You will also want enough of these blocks to place under the front trailer jack as well as the stabilizer jacks if your RV is so equipped. The large footprint of the blocks help the jacks from sinking in the dirt as badly. There may also be times where the jacks aren’t long enough to reach the ground by themselves and need a little assist from their partner in crime the leveling block.
Oh, and pick yourself up a bubble level. It makes it way easier to level your rig with one of these.
Let’s chat about the RV camping basics of water connection mmm k? So, as a best practice, you will want a hose specifically designated for fresh water use only.
What I mean by that is, only use this hose for your freshwater and nothing else. It has a designated purpose and is proud of it! This is the hose you use to fill your fresh water tank and/or connect to a park or city water supply using your handy dandy pressure regulator previously mentioned. A common set up you will see as you voyage about is a combination of a white or blue freshwater hose, a water filter, and the aforementioned pressure regulator.
We use a lot of Camco products, so that is what you will see posted most frequently.We have had a lot of success with them, and they don’t break the bank.
Now we talk about everyone’s favorite part of the RV experience, and that is the hose used to drain your black and grey tanks known by the Glamp Nation as “the stinky slinky.” For those of you new to the game, the grey water is the water from your sinks and shower, and the black water is from your toilet. We will get into some best practices around these hook-ups in a later post, so, for now, we will just talk about what is needed and why as part of this RV camping basics post.
First, let’s talk about the protective barrier, more specifically gloves. Some folks like to have a dedicated pair of gloves that they keep in a storage bin with their sewage hose and only use them for that purpose. Other folks like to go with the disposable gloves that can be used once and thrown away like the ones pictured. The choice is yours.
Once you have donned your gloves, you will need to make your connections from your RV dump outlet to the dump location. As you travel, you will find not all sewer dump inlets are located in a convenient location so if your storage allows it you may consider carrying an extension hose.
This is an area I would suggest not going overly cheap on as some tubing you can buy can be easily damaged. You don’t want your “poop tube” easily damaged, just saying. We use the Rhinoflex set up you see pictured as we have found it to be durable and has solid leak-free connections. You will notice it has a tapered adapter on the elbow which is important as not all parks use the same size inlets and you don’t want to have to makeshift a funnel only to find out it didn’t work.
You will also want to think about investing in a hose support. These handy little fellas help the draining from your RV by creating a nice gradual slope. This helps with water flow and thus the cleaning of the inside of the tube.
We also like to carry an additional hose which is separate from our freshwater hose. This hose is handy at dump stations as some don’t have a hose to use to rinse off the area or to connect to your blank tank rinse inlet (should your RV have one).
Other commonly used items by both new and veteran RVers alike are holding tank treatments. These treatments use enzymes to help break down waste and contain some smell good stuff to keep your holding tanks from smelling like…well…holding tanks.
There are a number of manufacturers out there, but we use porta-paks as there is no measuring or the like. Just drop one in as your flushing the toilet, and the deed is done. They also make dissolvable tabs for the grey water. These are pretty easy to use as well, you just put one in the sink or shower drain and run water on them until they dissolve. All I can tell you from personal experience is that they make a huge difference!
The other toilet related basics topic is your choice of toilet paper. You need to purchase toilet paper that dissolves in water, or you risk clogging your septic system or drainage hose. You don’t necessarily need to buy paper with “RV” stamped all over it, but if the paper you use doesn’t dissolve after being put in say a glass of water, I will suggest finding a different type.
Hopefully, this post has helped in your research and perhaps moved you from the "I don't even know where to start" mindset to one of, "Let's do this!"
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