Photo credit: GoRVing.com
The Do's & Don'ts of RVing & Camping
For Newbies, 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 now entering the world on wheels, many of whom are novices and have a lot to learn. It is RTM's hope that the 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 newbies, novices and knuckleheads, or even a refresher course for part-timers who may have forgotten their manners.
Arrive on Time: 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 is dangerous and disturbing to your new neighbors. In some cases, parks will not allow you to set up if you are late and will make you come back in the morning. Can you say off the grid? Not a good way to start off your vacation.
- Back up, Back in, Pull Through: Unless a park has a pull-through space for your RV to park, 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 parking lot as it’s never as easy as veteran RVers make it look. You don’t want to find your spot then back up into your neighbor’s rig ruining theirs and yours, and your RV experience. And keep in mind, that backing in sometimes means also negotiating around a picnic table, stationary BBQ grill or fire pit. Make sure you have RV insurance!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. RVers are a friendly lot and willing to help, especially the novice. During practice sessions at home, use spotters to help you back up 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 help and services. When making your reservation at any RV park or campground, research their services online, look at a map of the grounds, know where everything is, and see what services they offer. This will help you know what to bring with you and what you can buy there. Some have onsite stores, onsite repair, public bathrooms and showers, laundry rooms, some will even provide spotting services if you’re alone and don’t want to impose on your new neighbors.
- Internet & Satellite Services: RVs, parks and campgrounds are all 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 have and don't have for connection. You may have to use your cell phone hot spot. Same with TV satellite services.
- Be a good neighbor! When arriving at your RV Park or campground destination, remember that you’re building a neighborhood. 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 family or friends who already have this understood liberty with the rig owner.
- Noise Pollution: Turn your music and TV down. 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. Move your party inside!
- 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 noise, especially football and basketball games, can gather rowdy crowds. Unless your neighbors are included, keep the noise to a minimum and/or plan on shutting off or moving inside your rig by a reasonable hour. It might 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 warning so they can prepare accordingly.
- Guns, Knives & Spatulas: It's pretty common for the majority of RVers to carry necessary tools, utensils and weapons, all the things one may need for the open road. Courtesy and consideration of thy neighbor is key to a successful RV experience for all. The last thing you want is a dispute over something silly and end up bringing a spatula or a knife to a gunfight! Not cool!
- Trash & Litter: 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.
- Bad Neighbors: There’s never any guarantee that the people you park next to will be to your liking. In these tribal times, it doesn’t take much to set off an argument or 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 your love for RVing, camping, the great outdoors, family time, new experiences, adventure travel, seeing the wonders that 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. Pick a good place to start!
- 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 never see 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. It’s not Christmas in July. Strings of 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.
- Prepare Ahead - Make a List: Make a list of things you'll need. Don't be a pain in the ass borrower. 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. Toilet paper, paper towels, water, food, soap, shampoo, clean clothes, grilling utensils, medications, first aid kit, booze, plates and cups, condiments, chargers, paper and pen, laptop or tablet, chapstick, bug spray, etc. Remember, whatever you forget, you can buy on the road or at the RV park. But, don't start your new adventure by borrowing stuff from your neighbors unless you pass out and need a defibrillator. Even then, you should carry your own.
- Drink Responsibly! We’ve all been there, one too many, loud laughing, saying silly things, doing stupid stuff that we wouldn’t do under sober circumstances. It’s your vacation, you want to enjoy and let loose. No worries. But make a plan, assign a designated party watcher, have a safe word with someone close 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 outside 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. So plan your booze and time limits before the party begins! The RV community de jour can become a click pretty quick to support/protect each other.
The last thing you want is to wake up the next day and hear you were carried off to your rig by two big burly men from the RV posse the night before because you got so shit-faced that you break-danced in the dirt, fell into the campfire, broke your nose, sprained your wrist, singed your eyebrows, cracked a tooth, twisted your ankle, scraped your knees, burned your butt scaring the hell out of big Jim and the twins, lost your boots, peed your pants, pissed off your neighbors, spilled beer all over everyone, puked in your new ice chest, lost your keys, had to be saved from yourself by strangers, got so loud and belligerent your buddy had to gag you with a spoon which you then swallowed, laughed all the way to your bed, and don’t remember a thing!
It won’t be so funny when you wake up sober and feel the physical damage that ‘one too many’ did to your brain and body, and the personal humiliation of your aberrant behavior. Then there’s the walk of shame, the stares, guilt and embarrassment, others keeping their distance and pretending they don't know you for the rest of the trip. And of course, it's very likely that many RVer's got it all on video, will put it on YouTube where it will live in shared infamy for the rest of your life, which means you could lose your job, spouse and kids. After all that, you may also need a shrink instead of a drink! Don’t be that guy!
Assign a designated party watcher who will know when to call it quits in case you’re not of sane mind. Oh, and by the way, that spoon's gonna hurt coming out the next day! Drink responsibly!
For more info on RVing Tips: Visit GoRving.com