If you’re new to the RVing lifestyle, you might be feeling a tinge of stress and anxiety about hitching up and heading out for the first time. Don’t worry, we’ve all had that “first RV experience” and we’ve all made our share of mistakes (hopefully none of them too bad!). Maybe a few cringe-worthy ones, but none so bad that you threw in the towel. In this post we’re not going to cover the actual towing of your RV because we’re going to assume that you had a fun, uneventful trip to your destination and you’re now ready to unhitch and start having a blast! But before you can get out the cornhole and crack open the beers, you have to set up camp! Follow this RV set-up checklist and you’ll be kicking back and enjoying the camping life in no time!
Backing It In
No matter whether you’re towing a small hybrid trailer or a large motorhome, you want to make sure that your RV’s resting spot allows you to fully extend your awning(s), tent beds, slide-out rooms, and rear cargo ramps. If your campsite is free and clear of obstructions (trees/branches), then you’re good to go. However, if the campground you’ve chosen has shade trees, you’ll most likely have to do some trial and error back-ins to ensure that you have ample room on both sides of your RV. When extending the awning or sliding out the rooms to check, have a spotter watch to make sure you’re not going to hit something that can cause tears/rips or expensive damage. Also make sure that your RV is within reach of the hookups for electricity, water, and sewer.
The recommended way to level an RV is in this order: side to side, then front to back (with slide-out rooms NOT extended; you’ll extend them later!). Slide leveling blocks under the wheels to even out the sides if necessary. Refer to a small, handheld level inside of your RV that you’ve set on the dinette, floor, or inside the refrigerator, or look at ones you’ve have installed on the exterior sidewall. When you’re satisfied that your RV isn’t off kilter, set tire chocks behind all the tires to keep them from moving.
Get It Stabilized!
The majority of RVs are equipped with four stabilizer jacks that act as stabilizers (makes sense, right?). It’s important to bring along with you some wood blocks or bricks on which you can set the jacks when they’re deployed. Having a barrier between the jacks and the ground ensures that they’re not likely to sink into soft, unstable ground and fail in their ability to stabilize your RV. Or, if you feel more comfortable using a product made specifically for RV jacks, you can find Camco and Level-Trek pads online and in camping stores.
You can now unhitch the RV from your tow vehicle (including removing safety chains and sway bar if applicable). If needed, raise or lower the front of the RV using the tongue or leveling jacks.
Expand Your Living Space
This could probably go without saying, but head to your entrance door and retract the entry steps. There’s no need to test your vertical jumping skills just to get into your RV.
Once inside, you can retract the slide-out rooms and extend the patio awning(s). Make sure your battery is connected and fully charged before pushing the slide-out button. It’s recommended that your spotter once again keep an eye on them while they’re moving just to make sure they’re out of harm’s way. Since expanding your living space and increasing the width of your RV can cause it to shift a little, check to see if it’s still level and make slight adjustments if needed.
If your RV has expandable tent-style beds, unlock the exterior locks, slide the levers to the side, and slowly guide them down. Then go inside and attach the shepherd hooks (if applicable) to support the tent material. Unzip the windows to create ventilation if desired.
Give your RV life by hooking it up to the electrical box at your campsite. Turn off the circuit breaker on the box and then plug your power cord into the box (use a surge protector if desired). Flip the switch to ON on the circuit breaker.
If hooking up to a campground water source, protect your water lines from irregular pressure that can damage your system by attaching a water pressure regulator to the water outlet on the box before attaching your fresh water hose (not a garden hose; these are not safe to drink from). Attach the hose to the box and your RV. Or, if your campground just has water pumps, then fill up buckets of water and dump them into your water tanks using a funnel. Not only does this take time and muscle, but it also makes you keenly aware of every superfluous drop of water you use! If restricted to just the amount of water in your tank (no endless flow of water from the campground water source), you’ll have to turn your water pump on and off every time you want to use a faucet or shower.
Next, if your campsite has a sewer hookup, secure your sewer hose to the hookup and your RV (using gloved hands), making sure the connections at both ends are very tight (this also probably goes without saying!). To achieve the optimal drainage from your RV into the drainage system, use a sewer hose support that provides the right angle for drainage and prevents backups. Inexpensive and worth every penny! Open and close valves for gray and black tanks, respectively.
Hook up your propane tanks.
Turn your refrigerator on so it can start cooling down!
If you like using a voltmeter, plug it in so that you can monitor the campground voltage coming into your RV. Any reading below or above the range of 105V-135V should be cause for concern.
Fill your hot water tank with water, and then light it!
For cable TV (if your campground offers it), connect your RV’s cable TV coax cable to the campground cable connection. If the campground doesn’t offer cable but you still want to watch TV, set up your antenna and adjust it so that you can pick up a signal.
Phew! Now that your indoor living is ready for you, head outside and set up a great outdoor living space that’ll be fun and comfortable to use. Unlock your exterior storage compartments and grab your outdoor carpet/rug. Set it up underneath your patio awning for a designated spot for camping chairs or your picnic table. A door mat is a must as well so you can scrape any dirt or mud off your shoes before stepping into your RV (or just remove your shoes before entering to avoid tracking dirt inside altogether).
Set up chairs around the fire pit so it’ll be ready to use when it’s s’more time or just time to enjoy refreshments around a crackling fire.
If you brought campsite decorations like potted plants or flowers, pink flamingoes, a nameplate, or wind chimes, arrange them where you want them to go.
Hang awning decorations and lights that not only give your RV its own unique style, but they illuminate it at night with a fun, colorful décor.
There is a lot of prep work that goes into getting set up at your campsite properly, but once you do it a time or two, it’ll become like second nature and it won’t take much time at all. A good idea is to always travel with a checklist so that you don’t miss an important step that could result in damage to your RV. Also, ask your friends or campsite neighbors for any set-up advice as well. And who knows, maybe someone will learn something from a step that you’re doing! Here at Lakeshore RV, we’re always ready to help with any RV-related questions or concerns, so give us a call! If your RV needs repair or you’re looking for an RV accessory, we can help you with that! Or if you’re still in the RV buying stage, check out our huge inventory of new and used RVs that includes travel trailers, fifth wheels, toy haulers, and destination trailers! We offer huge discounts and special no-money-down financing so the RVing lifestyle is always right at your fingertips! Call, click, or visit us in Muskegon, MI, today!