I have been camping all over the world in a tent since I was a toddler. Only in the last 2 years I got into camping in an RV with my wife and two small kids. I gotta admit that traveling in my class B RV or travel trailer was a big learning experience. So I thought I would share my experience with you guys who are also just getting into it.
First question I had when starting to do the whole RV thing was “How much will it cost?”. Obviously the cost of your RV or travel trailer depends on your taste. I personally bought both used and saved thousands of dollars thanks to it. Also I see that there is no reason to buy brand new RV or trailers. Reason is that the RV warranties suck. Doesn’t matter what company you buy from the reason why they suck is because if something is going to break it’s going to break while you are on the road. So then you either have your RV towed to the manufacture and wait for weeks if not months to get it fixed which means you just bought something that you can’t use. Also you can do what most people do which is to have your RV serviced at the nearest RV dealer and have the manufacturer cover those costs, which sucks big time because most RV dealers will not fix your RV fast unless you are paying top dollar (something the warranty won’t cover) or unless you buy the RV from that dealer. So in my experience it’s best to buy a used RV. If you want a really good quality modern RV then just buy something at least 1 year old and something that has been used by actual people who camp in it. Because if anything is going to break in an RV it will happen within the first few months of the RV coming out of the factory. When an RV is brand new and is taken out on the road it’s like taking a brand new home through an earthquake. All the glue and parts that are still settling in will break as the RV is shaking while you are going down the road. So save yourself a lot of money and headaches by buying used. I got all of my RV’s on Facebook marketplace. Also I sold my cars and RVs on there. So definitely give it a go.
Now once you have your RV you will probably wonder like I did as to how much does it cost to camp. Also where can you find any deals. Personally I tried several of those discount clubs and they are mostly not worth the up front costs with exception to one. Get the Passport America discount card. It’s cheap and it really does work. With it you will get 50% off the sites. There are limits like some RV parks won’t let you use it on the weekends or during holidays but still if you use that discount on 2 nights you right away recovered the up front cost of the card itself. After that it’s pure savings. Other great websites I use to find FREE, cheap or just great camping is freecampsites.net plus boondockerswelcome.com that connects you with people who have space on their property to accomodate RVs and will let you stay overnight for free. Farvesthosts.com is another free or cheap way to stay at privet farms and wineries.
Next thing I will say after you get your RV is to get tools and supplies so you can do most of the fixing that every RV requires yourself. Yes RV’s do breakdown. Again it’s like taking your house through an earthquake, except after the initial break-in period most repairs are minor things like resealing a leaking roof. You will also need to re-tighten the lug nuts on your wheels or plumbing connections etc.
So instead of spending $100 to pay a mechanic to fix your loose wheel or paying to have your RV towed to an RV repair shop just invest the money up front in proper tools.
I definitely recommend getting a good set of wrenches like this set I got on Amazon.
Also get a surge protector (either 30 or 50amp) since many of the RV parks have horrible power. A spike or drop in the electrical connection to your RV can cause all your electrical systems to fry. This kind of RV repair would cost thousands of dollars. So it’s definitely wise to invest in one of these surge protectors and always remember to use it.
Next things you should get are a good quality hose for drinking water. Here is the one I use.
A water filter to make sure you have clean water. You would be surprised to see how many RV parks have bad water connections that let in dust and other particles in their water.
Leveling blocks since no camp site is every going to be perfectly level. Get at least 2 of these!
Another must haves are a good sewage hose and also disposable gloves so you can empty out your black tank fast and without making a mess.
You will most likely need to fix roof leaks. So get a ladder to get up on the roof. I use this folding ladder and also this RV roof tape/sealant to make those repairs fast.
Some other things that maybe are essentials that you need to invest in right away but that are very helpul as you start doing more RVing are things like upgraded locks, generators and better shower faucet.
Get yourself a good gas or even better a solar generator so you have power when camping in the wilderness or at staying overnight at some parking lot. I did an article about the generators I use which you can read here. In case you don’t have the time to read it, here are the generators I use.
I also installed new electric and remote controlled locks on my RV because they are a lot more convenient to use but also safer since all factory RV locks come from the same mold and turns out that there are only a few key combinations. That means if you leave your factory locks on your RV then someone at the RV park will be able to open it with their key. Here the locks I use on my RV’s.
Here is a shower faucet that I upgraded to on all my RV’s because it saves a lot of water while still giving you a lot of water pressure. This is essential when boondocking where you can’t easily refill your water tanks.
Another great investment for boondocking or when staying at State/Federal parks which usually don’t have full hookups is an external and portable waste tank. This will allow you to empty your RV tanks into it and then you can use your vehicle (or your hands) to pull it to a near by dump station. This has saved my ass many times when my wife wanted to take a shower but the tanks turned out to be full.
A great way to make hot meals is by doing it in an instapot. It’s a pressure cooker that just works whether you use it at home or while RVing.
If your work relies on you having internet connection like my job does then you will need to invest in a cell phone signal extender. A lot of the parks are in such remote locations that there is no good cell signal, but with this gadget you will be able to magnify it so that you still get good a great connection. Just keep in mind that this only works if there is at least a little bit of a signal, even if it’s faint. If you are in an area where there is completely no cell reception then the signal booster won’t work since it has nothing to boost.
Once you start driving around with a big RV or travel trailer you will very quickly learn that there are many roads where you simply can’t drive like you would with your normal car. That is how I at the beginning got myself into a lot of trouble. Because I just relied on Google maps for directions. Unfortunately most navigation apps or systems don’t take into the account the length but also the height of your rig. This can be a nightmare when you end up driving to a bridge underpass that is not tall enough to fit your RV or trailer. What do you do then? Well you will have to stop traffic as you struggle to turn around and come back to find another way. That’s where a dedicated navigation system for RVing comes in handy. You can put in your rig dimensions and it will tell you according where you can and can’t go.
Another good thing to have is a portable air compressor to make sure your RV tires are always up to the right air pressure. Remember you are now driving a big and heavy rig that requires properly inflated tires. If they are under or over inflated it can cause you a tire blowout which can be not only very expensive to fix but also dangerous.
One way to help keep your RV at the proper temperature without always relying on your AC or heating is to insulate the windows better. Since the windows on RV’s are usually simple single piece of glass that isn’t insulated that is how most of your heat or cold temps get into your RV. Reflectix is a great material that you can put on your windows to reflect the sun or cold back outside.