Before You Hit the Road
Experience, of course, is the best teacher. But there are some things you should know before you hit the road. Wondering about the differences between driving a car and driving or towing an RV? You’ll find the answers right here. You’ll also find a travel checklist to help you pack the “right stuff” along with tips on how to be an eco-friendly RVer, how to locate safe campsites, and how to keep your RV in tip-top shape.
Camping Safety Tips
Okay, you’ve chosen your destination, packed your gear, and you’re ready to roll. But wait! Before you leave for that camping adventure, carefully read and follow these safety tips.
- 1. Arrive at the campground a few hours before sundown to allow enough time to choose a campsite, inspect the area, and set up camp in the daylight.
- 2. Look for campsites:
- that have trees or shrubbery to the north and west that will provide shelter against the wind
- that are level with ample room
- away from gullies that could flood in heavy rain and areas that could become muddy
- away from trees with dead branches that could fall. Clear away rocks or other debris that could cause accidents. Inspect the site for poison ivy and bees’ nests.
- 3. If campfires are permitted, build them in a spot where they cannot spread. From the time a fire is lit until it is put out, someone needs to watch it. Keep water nearby in case of an emergency. Use water and soil to put out fires completely.
Green RVing Guide
Like everyone, RVers have a responsibility to protect the environment. Do your part to help preserve the great outdoors for future generations by following these conservation tips:
- Keep your RV on roads that it is equipped to handle.
- Keep RV and tow vehicle engines well tuned to conserve energy and reduce emissions.
- Always use marked RV campsites.
- Recycle as you travel. Take note of campground recycling categories; they may be different from those you use at home.
- Minimize the use of disposables. Mix your own cold drinks from powders, and assign a mug to each family member rather than using paper cups. Discard excess packaging at home.
- Keep campfires small to minimize the amount of ash and pollution. Don’t put anything into the fire pit that will not burn, such as plastics, foils, and metals. Observe fire rules, which may change each day with weather conditions.
- Use nontoxic cleaning supplies and tank additives.
- Where pets are permitted, keep them indoors or use a screw-in stake. Tying them to trees can damage fragile bark.
- Your favorite music may be your neighbor’s noise pollution. Observe quiet hours for generators, boom boxes, and noisy games.
- Work with nature. In hot weather, use natural shade, awnings and canvas covers. In cold weather, park where the RV will be protected from north and west winds.
- Leave campground showers, the dump station, and the campsite as clean as you found them.
- At the end of your trip, dispose of all trash properly.
Observing these simple guidelines will make you a Green RVer!
RV Driving – Different, Not Difficult
If you’re an experienced car driver, you already have the skills necessary to drive a motorized RV. The automatic transmission, power brakes and steering you’re accustomed to are standard features on most RVs.
With proper attention to the differences – the vehicle size, height and weight – you’ll find it fun and easy to take the wheel of a motorhome.
Whether you drive a motorized RV or tow an RV, you should always:
- Before leaving, sit in the driver’s seat and adjust all mirrors for optimal road views.
- Account for your vehicle size when turning. The front and rear wheels will track paths much farther apart than those of a car.
- Allow more time to brake, change lanes, and merge onto a busy highway because big vehicles take more time to accelerate and slow down than small ones.
Drivers towing a folding camping trailer or travel trailer also should:You do not need a special license to drive or tow the vast majority of RVs.
- Match the proper tow vehicle to your RV. Most full and mid-size family cars can pull a trailer; so can today’s popular vans, SUVs, and light-duty trucks. Check maximum weight it can pull.
- Use the right trailer hitch, and make sure it is hitched correctly.
- Connect brakes and signal lights. Make sure that the trailer’s brakes, turn signals, and taillights are synchronized with the towing vehicle.
- Back up with care. By placing your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, the trailer will move in the direction you turn your hand. (For example, to move the trailer to the right, move your hand to the right.) Once the trailer is moving in the proper direction, avoid any sharp movements of the steering wheel.
- It’s also wise to have someone stand outside the vehicle to make sure the driver avoids any obstacles not seen in the mirrors. If another person is not available, the driver should inspect the area behind the vehicle prior to backing up. Doing so can prevent surprises and accidents.
- Whether you’re driving a motorhome or a tow vehicle, make sure you and every passenger wears a seat belt. According to the National Safety Belt Coalition, this is the single most effective thing you can do to prevent serious injury and death in a traffic accident.
RV Travel Checklist
Keep your RV stocked and you’ll be ready to go anytime, anywhere. But before you leave home, be sure to balance your load – and don’t over pack. (Consult the weight label on your RV for more information.) Here’s a list of some stock items to keep on board.
- Bottle/can opener
- Camera & film
- First-aid supplies
- Fishing gear
- Flashlights, lanterns
- Folding chairs
- Grill & fuel
- Insect repellent
- Maps, road atlas
- Nature field guides
- Picnic basket
- Road flares
- Rope, cords, or wire
- Shovel (small folding type)
- Sports equipment
- Toilet paper
- Tool kit
- Trash bags
- Water hose