An RV is a great answer to the call of the open road. It invokes images of long drives into warm sunsets and marshmallows around campfires with a flush toilet and full-size bed right behind you. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your camping style or you’re ready to sell your home and hit the road full-time, here are six things to consider if you’re just beginning your RV adventure.
1. Consider Renting for Your First Outing
The RV lifestyle is all the rage currently, but the truth is there’s a lot to learn when getting behind the wheel of an RV for the first time. That’s why renting an RV for your first outing can be a great way to break into the scene. A quality rental company can help you understand the ins and outs of the RV you’re trying out, can help you plan and prepare for your trip, and may even be able to help you make the right purchase when you’re ready. Sometimes, an experience isn’t everything we imagined it to be. Renting an RV can be a great way to discover if RVing is right for you.
2. Take Your Time Choosing an RV
Whether you’re renting or buying, you’ll want to find the RV that fits you best, and one size does not fit all. RVs are grouped into classes based on the kind of chassis they are built on which will determine everything from size, to cargo space, to they way you drive it and where you take it.
- Class A RVs are built on a chassis designed specifically for RVs. This allows them to be much bigger and carry more weight. Class A RVs are a home on wheels. They are popular for touring the country and can often be seen towing a separate vehicle.
- Class B RVs are built on a van chassis, making them compact and maneuverable. There is a wide variety within this class, ranging from DIY conversions with little more than a bed and storage area to fully manufactured units with sleeping areas and full bathrooms. Class B RVs are great for getting to out of the way places, but they are a tight fit on the inside and won’t carry much cargo.
- Class C RVs are built on a commercial van or truck chassis and generally offer the same features as a Class A RV but with a smaller floor plan and price tag. You can recognize Class C RVs because they still have the van or truck front end, usually with a sleeper cabin over the cab. These are versatile RVs that can be good for everything from an extended trip into the backcountry to long-distance touring if you’re comfortable with the space and weight limits.
- Non-motorized RVs are towed behind a car or truck and come in a wide variety of lengths. These can include 5th-wheelers, travel trailers, pop-up campers, truck campers, and teardrop campers. The biggest advantage to a non-motorized RV is the ability to park the RV and drive around in your vehicle.
Selecting the right RV out of all these options is going to be a very personal choice based on who is going where and what you want to do when you get there. And what you want to do along the way, because the beauty of the RV is that it makes the journey part of the destination.
3. Get to Know Your RV
Once you’ve selected your RV, get to know it inside and out. Learn its features and where all its components are. This will be especially helpful when you’re pulling into your first campsite. Knowing where your water intake and electrical outlets are located is just like knowing which side of the vehicle your gas tank filler is on. You’ll need to back into some campsites to line yourself up correctly.
Take your RV for a test spin, preferably for an over-nighter or weekend. This will give you a chance to get it on the road, experience camping in it, and learn how to clean it out and store it. Making mistakes is how you’ll learn best, and it’s a good idea to make those early mistakes close to home.
4. Dial in Your Packing List
Just because it can fit doesn’t mean it should fit. It can be tempting to take every luxury item you can fit into your RV, but weight matters when you’re driving over mountains or counting the cost of fuel efficiency. Not to mention that an overcrowded RV can turn freedom into anxiety when you realize that instead of escaping it all, you brought it all with you.
When packing your RV, think minimalist and lightweight. Take only what you need to have a safe, fun trip. And that includes your tools. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself making repairs on the side of the road, but if you do, you want to have a good set of tools to get the job done right and get you back out on the road safely. Make up a tool list while you’re getting to know your RV, and then make sure they’re packed before you hit the road.
5. Make a Plan
Getting behind the wheel of a new RV can induce spontaneity, but it’s important to have a plan in place, especially when you’re just starting out. Research your route and destination so you can budget accordingly for gas, food, campsites, and other expenses. Plan your route to avoid cities during rush hour and windy mountain passes in the dark of night. You’ll also want to be sure that your chosen destination can accommodate your new RV, or that you are equipped to boondock your RV (camp without a water, sewer, or electric connection) in that primitive site. And of course, know what you’re going to do when things don’t go as planned, because they surely won't.
6. Enjoy Making New Friends
RVers are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. So enjoy making new friends, and don’t be afraid to learn from a more experienced RVer sharing the campground with you. Everybody was a beginner at some point, and there’s nothing an enthusiast loves more than sharing their knowledge and experience with a fellow RVer. A community of new friends will enrich your RV experience.
As a first-time Rver, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan, and then get out there and have some fun. In an RV, the world is literally at your doorstep.