RVing Basics: Things Every RVer Ought to Know

If you’re new to the world of RVing, you might be feeling a little bit overwhelmed by all the information out there. That’s totally understandable, because there’s a lot to know. Let’s start with the RV Basics!

That said, there is no reason you have to know absolutely everything about RVing before you hit the road for your first getaway. In fact, there are only a handful of RVing basics that you really need to understand before you can start taking trips. From there, you can just learn as you go!

So what are those RVing basics that every RVer should know before their first getaway? We’ve listed them below. 

Choosing Your RV

First, you need to choose the RV that is right for you. If you know nothing about RVs, this alone can feel like a lot. Fortunately, by learning just a few things about what to look for, you can make the RV shopping process a whole lot easier.

Some of the main factors to keep in mind when shopping for an RV include:


Obviously, your budget is going to determine a lot. Therefore, it’s best to decide on a budget before you go shopping. This helps narrow down your choices and helps ensure you don’t get your heart set on a rig that is completely out of your price range. 

RV Type

There are several types of RVs, and knowing which type will best suit your needs is going to help narrow down your options a lot.

Do you want a driveable model, which is more expensive but doesn’t require a truck to tow it? Or do you prefer a less expensive towable option? If you want a towable, what is the tow rating on your current vehicle? Will you need to buy a new vehicle just to tow the camper? Maybe you prefer something totally different such as a truck camper or a pop-up.

Explore your options and decide what works best for your situation. 

With many different styles of RVs. there’s bound to be one for you!

Size and Floor Plan

Once you know the type of RV you’d like to have, the next thing to decide is how big you want to go. In a lot of cases, this depends on your budget and what your truck is able to tow. That said, some people choose to go small simply because they want to fit in smaller spots at campgrounds and such. 

Floor plan is another thing to think about, and sometimes size helps determine this. Do you need permanent sleeping spaces for everyone, or will convertible beds be okay? Is a full bathroom a must-have, or is a wet bath good enough? What are your needs and wants?

Often it helps to spend time on floor plans you like and act out day-to-day tasks to see if that layout works for you. Heading to an RV show or renting an RV can make this easier to accomplish. 

New vs Used

Finally, you will want to decide if you want to buy a brand new rig or a used one. New RVs tend to come with a warranty, but they depreciate quickly and often come with kinks that need to be worked out. Meanwhile, used RVs rarely include a warranty, but you can often get more bang for your buck and the previous owner may have already worked out any weird issues the rig experienced as a new build. 

Generally, we recommend going with a used RV, as you’ll get much more RV for your money this way, and used rigs are often very gently used. 

How to Drive an RV

Once you have your RV, the next step is learning to drive it. The quirks of driving an RV will change based on the type of RV you buy, but there are some general rules that help no matter what rig you’re driving. 

These include: 

  • Practice first — Practice driving in a parking lot before your first trip.
  • Avoid driving in bad weather — Never drive through storms or in high winds. 
  • Plan RV-friendly routes — Avoid low clearance bridges and steep grades by planning your route using RV Trip Wizard.
  • Make wide turns — All big rigs require wide turns.
  • Slow down — Going too fast makes it difficult to control the vehicle should something go wrong. 
  • Leave a gap between yourself and the car in front of you — You want plenty of space to stop your heavy rig. 

You can learn more about driving an RV by reading our article on the topic. 

Always make a list of items before setting off in your RV.

Must-Have Items for RVing

There are tons of awesome products marketed to RVers, and you will likely grow a collection of these things over time. That said, there are only a few key items you’ll need in order to get started.

These include:

As long as you have these essentials, you’ll be able to set up camp and enjoy your trip wherever you may roam. 

How to Find Campsites

Obviously, you will need to find places to camp. Fortunately, this is easy enough to do. We highly recommend using Campendium and RV Life Campgrounds to find campgrounds wherever you want to travel, and make sure to use the filtering features to find spots that have the amenities you want and are within your budget. 

Looking for super low-cost camping? Free Campsites is a great place to look for free and budget-friendly campsites. In some cases, iOverlander is also great for this. Just know that you’ll likely be camping without hookups (aka ‘boondocking’) at most free sites. 

Finally, if you plan to camp often, you might consider investing in a membership such as Thousand Trails which can include dozens of campgrounds across the US where members can camp at no additional charge. This is a great investment for full timers and those who head out for long stints. 

Setting Up Camp

Now that you’ve found a campsite, the next step is figuring out how to set up camp. There are several steps involved, so we will give step-by-step instructions below. 

Parking the Rig

First, you will want to park the RV in the campsite. If it’s a pull-through site, this is easy enough. If you need to back in, be sure to have someone spot you. Once you’re parked, check to see if the RV is level. If not, use leveling blocks under the tires to even things out. Use wheel chocks to ensure the RV doesn’t roll. 

Hooking Up Electricity

Once your RV is parked and level, you can hook up the electricity. This is pretty straightforward. Just plug your surge protector into the outlet on the pole and then plug your RV cable into the surge protector.  

Hooking Up Water 

Next up, hooking up the water. Make sure you use a white freshwater hose and put a water pressure regulator on the end of it. Connect the pressure regulator to the water spigot and the other end of the hose to the RV city water inlet. Turn on the spigot and you should have running water in your RV.

Dumping Tanks

Finally, you will need to hook up the sewer. You might want to don some gloves for this task. Connect one end of the sewer hose to the sewer connecting in the ground, making sure to twist it into place (sometimes it’s good to weigh it down with a rock as well). Attach the other end of the hose to the RV sewer output. When your tanks are almost full, pull the black tank handle to dump it first. When it’s finished dumping, close the black tank and open the gray tank. Rinsing the tanks after you dump them is a good idea. 

When you are finished camping, simply unplug the electricity, unhook the water, disconnect and rinse the sewer hose, remove the wheel chocks, pull off of the leveling blocks, and hit the road.

Make sure to properly hook up water and electricity to your vehicle.

Keeping Up with Maintenance

Finally, it is very important to know that RVs require maintenance throughout the year and it is very important to keep up with it. Failing to take care of maintenance tasks could actually ruin your rig, so you really don’t want to skimp on this aspect of RV ownership.

Some of the most important maintenance tasks include:

  • Resealing the roof
  • Replacing window seals
  • Taking care of generator maintenance
  • Winterizing the water system
  • Trickle-charging the battery
  • Replacing the water heater anode rod
  • Keeping pests out

We recommend using RV Life Maintenance to ensure you are staying on top of things in the maintenance department.

About Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea Gonzales has been living in an RV and traveling with her family for 7 years now. She road schools her two children, using various travel experiences as lessons in history, science, geography, and more. During their time on the road, the Gonzales family has had the pleasure of touring the 48 contiguous United States as well as parts of Canada. They have learned a lot along the way and Chelsea is happy to share some of that knowledge through her writing.