The Do's & Don'ts of RVing & Camping
For Newbie's, Novices & Knuckleheads
by Courtney Caldwell
RVing, glamping, camping, call it what you like. There are rules of the road for RV parks and campgrounds. If you're a veteran RVer or camper then you are already well-versed on the do's and don'ts of living on the road and under the stars. But now with the resurgence of RVing since the great recession, and more RV options available for all demographics and household incomes, a more diverse crowd is entering the world on wheels, many of whom are novices and have a lot to learn. It is RTM's hope that RV veterans help the RV novices learn the ropes, tricks of the trade as it were, and rules of the road, onsite and off. Below are a few suggestions for newbie's, novices and knuckleheads, or even a refresher course for part-timers who may have forgotten to mind their manners.
- Making a List, Counting it Twice: Make a list of things you'll need. Lists not only help you remember all that you'll need, they also help take your mind off what you'll need so you can focus on other stuff like getting your rig ready for the road. If you're new to the game, research online things to bring. Assume everything you use at home is what you'll need on the road. Food, water, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, shampoo, towels and face cloths clean clothes, grilling utensils, medications, first aid kit, plates and cups, condiments, tools, chargers, paper and pen, laptop or tablet, chap stick, bug spray, sun lotion, etc. Remember, whatever you forget, you can buy on the road or at the RV park. Even your own defibrillator is a safe bet to carry along. Don't earn a rep as pain in the butt borrower!
- Arrivals & Departures: Most parks and campsites have specific arrival hours/cut off times to arrive. Make sure you ask during the reservation process what their arrival rules and hours are. Arrive early enough to your destination to allow enough time to set up. Arriving late or after dark can be dangerous, as well as disturbing to your new neighbors. In some cases, parks will not permit set up after dark or if you arrive after hours. Many will ask you to depart and return in the morning. Not a good way to start off your vacation.
- Parking: Practice Makes Perfect: Most RV parks have pull-through spaces for your Class A RV or longer towable. Those that don't will require that you back your rig in whether it’s a Class A, B, C or Fifth Wheel. Many RVers like to park away from the crowds along a ridge of woods which means backing in. If you’re a novice RVer, practice backing up your rig in your driveway or in a vacant parking lot as it’s never as easy as veteran RVers make it look. Once you find your designated spot, you don't want to inadvertently hit your neighbor’s rig ruining theirs and yours, and your RV vacation. Backing in sometimes means also negotiating around a picnic table, stationary BBQ grill or fire pit. Know before you go.
- Speaking of Hitting Things: Make sure you have RV insurance before you hit the road!
- Ask & You Shall Receive: RVers are a friendly lot and willing to help, especially the novice. During practice sessions at home, use flank spotters to help you back up your rig even if they’re people who don’t RV i.e.: friends or neighbors. It’s tricky to back up a big rig so a spotter on each side of the rig, people you can see in your side view mirrors, can provide excellent guidance. It’s an art in itself to get used to spotters in addition to backing up your rig. Most RV park neighbors will be happy to help you spot. Practicing beforehand will make it go more smoothly and you'll look like a pro.
- RV Park Services: Most RV parks and campgrounds offer multiple services, almost like home away from home. When making your reservation at any RV park or campground, research their services online, explore a map of their grounds, know where everything is, and see what services they offer. This will help you understand what to bring and what you can buy there. Some have onsite stores, onsite repair, public bathrooms and showers, laundry rooms, and tank supplies. Be sure to inquire about their water and tank disposal services.
- Internet & Satellite Services: RV parks and campgrounds are quickly catching up to the times relative to wireless internet but not all are there yet.
If you plan to work from the road or stay in touch via internet, check with your destinations to see what they do and don't have for connections. You may have to use your cell phone hot spot as source of connection. Also, ask about their TV satellite and cable services. Newer rigs are set up for easier connections. If staying connected is important to you or you're a full-time RVer, you may want to research newer rigs for your internet needs.
- Love Thy Neighbor! When arriving at your RV Park or campground destination, remember that you’re building a neighborhood of new people. Be courteous to your neighbors. You don’t need to be best friends but keep in mind you’re there for the same reasons, to enjoy the great outdoors. Treat your neighbor’s property and the land on which they’re parked as their home. Do not walk across their property or walk into their rig without knocking unless you’re one of the family or friends who already has this understood liberty with rig owners.
- Noise Pollution: Turn your music and TV down after hours. Most parks and campgrounds have noise curfews. Abide by each park’s rules. Many RVers are baby boomers who tend to retire early/get up early, then spend their days grilling, traveling to local hot spots, and doing meet and greets with neighbors. So for young whippersnapper RVers, understand that many are not night owls like you so be considerate of evening noise pollution.
- Outside Parties: If you have a rig with a TV on the outside be mindful if the volume is disturbing to your neighbors. Most RVs are parked only feet from each other. Outdoor TV volume, especially football and basketball games, can gather rowdy crowds. Unless your neighbors are included, keep the noise to a minimum and/or plan on moving your party inside by a reasonable hour. It may even be helpful to invite or inform your neighbors that you’re planning a party to watch a game. Give them the courtesy of an invitation or a heads-up so they can prepare accordingly.
- Spatulas, Spoons & Screwdrivers: It's common place for the majority of RVers to carry necessary repair tools, parts and cooking utensils, including pots and pans, all things one may need for the open road, not unlike the days of yore when crossing the open space of prairie in a covered wagon. Make sure to bring all your own tools and utensils so you're not lost in space. You never know what you'll need and when you'll need it. Always be prepared!
- Litter Bugs: Throw away your trash in the appropriate designated bins provided by the park facility every night as not to stink up the neighborhood, and especially when leaving for good. Do not leave a mess behind. RV park owners will not forget who's making a mess or causing trouble. It could make your next visit challenging.
- Fire Pits, Fire Grills, Camp Fires – The majority of RVers travel in summer months when it’s the warmest and most often to the west where there are so many natural wonders i.e.: Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Utah’s Caves, Colorado Rockies, Yellowstone National Park which covers Montana, Utah and Idaho, and California’s beautiful pacific coastline. All of these destinations, especially in the summer, are ripe for fire. As our planet warms, there are longer droughts which in turn make our land drier and easily set ablaze. Make sure all fires are completely out before heading out for the day or for good. The smallest of embers can start a devastating fire destroying thousands of acres and hundreds of homes and lives for years to come, and can wipe out your favorite RV parks. Also, check your rig/truck before leaving to make sure nothing is dragging which could spark a fire.
- May Peace Be With You: There’s never any guarantee that the people you park next to will be to your liking. In these challenging times, it doesn’t take much to set off a disagreement. Tread lightly when meeting new people. Avoid hot topics like politics, race, religion, sex, immigration, and finances until you at least know if you and your neighbors are of like mind. All classes of people RV. Remember, your common thread is the love for RVing, camping, the great outdoors, family time, new experiences, adventure travel, seeing the wonders America has to offer, living under the stars and being free from the daily chains that bind you. There are so many common topics to share to ensure you get off on the right foot.
- Lights! Action! Most RVers travel to get away from all the light pollution that blocks the beautiful glitter of the evening stars in our skies. People who live in well-lit cities and suburbia rarely see how many stars there truly are, or the magic of the Milky Way, so traveling to open lands and parks that have open skies such as Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and many parts of California provide that glorious view. Be mindful of how much light you emit from or around your RV at night. Bright lights interfere with the evening glow that nature offers. Keep your night lanterns to regulation, and use natural moonlight, stars, campfires, fire pits, or whatever light the park provides for your safety as your light options.
- Safety & Security: Traveling the open road is one of life's best adventures especially with family and friends. But, keep in mind that it also has its challenges compared to the security and protection of your brick and mortar home. Make sure your rig is in optimal condition for the road especially if it's been stored for awhile. Get a good bumper-to-bumper check-up for your rig with a reputable RV dealer or repair shop. This includes full engine, belts, oil, tires and spare, brakes, anti-freeze, windshield fluid, tank conditions, air conditioning and heaters, and whatever else needs attention for the road. Most people don't break down in their driveways where it's convenient. Most breakdowns occur away from home in areas not conducive to rig repair. Not only is this bad for your rig, it can be dangerous to you or your family in unfamiliar territory. That said, even though you've prepared for the journey, prepare ahead for breakdowns and delays. Carry extra parts, make sure you have a roadside assistance plan, and cell phones are charged. Also, make sure you have enough of your medications if delayed. Let family or friends know your travel plans and routes, always walk in pairs at truck stops, and if you carry any weapons for protection on your rig, make sure they're licensed, stored, locked and well out of reach where children can't access them.
- Drink Responsibly! We’ve all been there, one too many, saying or doing silly things that we may not do under sober circumstances. It’s your vacation. You've worked hard and earned it. You want to enjoy and let loose. No worries. But make a plan, assign a designated party watcher, a buddy system, have a safe word with someone close to you with whom you would trust to say, ‘you’ve had enough, it’s time to go!’ Leave with dignity. RVing and camping are all about being out in the open air and noise travels. Party hardy till the cows come home but be mindful that you’re in close quarters with your RV neighbors. It’s not your basement, backyard or a bar.
The RV community de jour can become a click pretty quick to support/protect each other.
You may not like waking up the next day to the chatter of being carried off to your rig by two big burly men from the RV posse the night before because you tripped over the campfire, sprained your wrist, singed your eyebrows, twisted an ankle, lost your keys, laughed all the way to your bed, and don’t remember a thing!
And of course, in today's social media environment, it's possible some folks got it all on video, put it on YouTube where it will live in infamy for the rest of your life. Where's the fun in that? Please drink responsibly!