Travel Trailer Camping Tips And Tricks
This article is a complete and comprehensive guide of travel trailer camping tips and tricks for beginners and also serves as a useful checklist for all RVers.
It encompasses many years of preparing and packing travel trailers. I use this guide myself as my own checklist checking these paragraphs below to ensure I do not forget anything.
Renting A Travel Trailer Before Purchasing
I will recommend you that before you commit to purchase a new RV, you rent one first and go travel trailer camping to see if you like the model and the RV type.
Rent a travel trailer before buying. To rent travel trailers, you can check locally here in Outdoorsy where they have a huge inventory and it has a search menu to find travel trailers to rent locally in your area.
Packing Gear And Items For The Trip
Buy all the gear and items that you will need and leave them always inside the RV. I have this list of RV must-haves that is a list of all the things that you have to buy right after you purchased the RV. Do not simply retrieve them from home. Otherwise, you will have extra work each time you go for travel trailer camping. For example, do not take the cutlery from home. Buy new cutlery and leave it inside the travel trailer. Have always most of the gear ready in the RV in case you want to go travel trailer camping on short notice.
We met a family in an RV park that had many utensils labeled to identify its position in cabinets and shelves of the travel trailer.
Buy canned foods and non-perishables. All food that is not consumed can be left stored inside the RV. in this way, when you arrive back home, you will simply grab your dirty clothes and sheets and leave most of the gear and utensils inside for the next travel trailer camping.
Handling Different Water Tanks
The sanitation system in the travel trailer has three water tanks for freshwater, greywater, and black water. You will only fill the freshwater tank before starting your journey and the other tanks will be filled during your trip.
Have always disposable gloves when working with the wastewater tanks, to be more specific, with the blackwater tank.
Freshwater: Water that can be drunk and for general utilization of the passengers. You will load this tank with a hose at home, before starting your journey. It will add weight to your Gross Vehicle Weight equation. If you just bought the RV, rinse the freshwater tank several times before going travel trailer camping as it will have a slight plastic flavor. Likewise, bring bottled water with you as well. Purchase also hand sanitizer to save a little bit more of freshwater when you have to rinse your hands or wash them. Turn off the sink when you are teeth brushing.
Greywater: Water that was utilized in the sink, lavatory washbasins, and shower. It can be used to extinguish the fire in the RV park but is not suitable for human usage.
Blackwater: It is the wastewater that is disposed of from the toilet and can harbor pathogens and bacteria. Dump always the blackwater using disposable gloves. I explain below how to empty these tanks after the travel trailer camping journey finishes.
Suitable Tongue Weight And How It Affects You
To handle better tongue weight, the heaviest items such as the RV generator or suitcases, should be stored at the front of the travel trailer. Otherwise, the travel trailer tends to sway and you will have poor handling of the towing vehicle and trailer down the road
To see what tongue weight is and how it applies to you, please check my article about tongue weight.
Pay Attention To The Towing Capacity Of Your Vehicle
Towing capacity is a vehicle manufacturer specification (Tow Rating) that determines the maximum gross weight that a vehicle is enabled to haul.
In the jam of the door of the side of the driver, you will find the label with the manufacturer’s specifications regarding towing capacity. I know that my 2019 Ford F150 towing capacity is up to 13,189 lbs.
After checking the towing capacity of your tow vehicle, check the weight of your travel trailer in the manufacturer label or user manual.
The tag furnished by the manufacturer, or the information depicted in the user manual will provide you different values:
Dry weight: This is the unloaded vehicle weight, without considering the fluids in the water tank, without cargo, and without passengers.
Gross weight: The gross weight of the tow vehicle is the addition of the dry weight + weight of the passenger + cargo + fluids.
You must not exceed this towing capacity and have a margin of about a thousand pounds as a buffer between the manufacturer specification if the towing capacity and the values you are actually towing as gross weight.
Consider Your Size Of Trailer Hitch Ball
The hitch ball is a rounded ball shaped attachment that links the travel trailer with a trailer hitch. The diameters of the ball hitch are pretty much standard values ( these are 1 7/8″, it can be 2″, or 2 5/16″ and rarely, never my case, it can be 3″) Check which match yours. This article can help you to understand how ball hitches work. But at least know that the travel trailer has to match the hitch ball.
Driving In The Road: Have Travel Trailer Breaks
When the towing vehicle breaks, the towed vehicle has a tendency to continue moving forward because of inertia. There is weight transfer to the front in case of deceleration. Furthermore, and also as a consequence of inertia, when there are curves, the travel trailer can dangerously shift outward.
There are trailer brakes and they should be installed and used. They will help to moderate the effects of inertia in case of sudden braking of the towing vehicle. Just bear in mind that these trailer brakes will not improve your towing capacity, only will improve the handling of the travel trailer.
Avoid Fishtailing And Oversteering
Fishtailing happens when the travel trailer loses traction. It has a consequence called oversteering. It can be because of lack of weight distribution, or because the travel trailer entered a surface without friction and therefore it has low surface adherence, such as ice, gravel or sand.
To avoid fishtailing, you must have a weight distribution system installed. If you have a lightweight camper, such as a teardrop camper or a 12″, and a strong towing vehicle such as the F-150 2020, you do not need a weight distribution system. But the recommendation is to have always sway bars installed to distribute weight.
However, consider that oversteering can also be the consequence of lack of adherence and friction if there is ice, rain or sand.
If you are a reader from the European Union, please note that having these sway bars is mandatory. Therefore, you are required to have a proper weight distribution system installed.
If you want to know more about weight distribution, I have a good article about the topic here.
Arrival To The RV Campsite: Protect The RV Fridge Parking On Flat Ground
You must park your RV on flat ground. The RV refrigerator may become damaged if you park in an inclined surface that is not horizontal and has a slope. The reason is that the RV fridge utilizes gravity to transport the fluids. Therefore, the liquid ammonia will undergo an accumulation in the tube of the evaporator. This hinders the circulation of the ammonia gas and will affect the RV refrigerator. This will not happen in an hour, but if you stay a whole week in a plumb surface, it may be a problem.
Use a bubble level or a spirit level to measure this. Snap one in each corner of the travel trailer walls for a correct and complete measurement.
Stabilizing The Travel Trailer After Leveling It
Now that you have parked in flat ground and that you have checked this through a couple of measurements with the bubble level device, it is time to attach the stabilizers to the RV.
Note that the stabilizers will not level the RV. Leveling your RV is a previous step. The stabilizers will only, well, stabilize it.
First, untow the travel trailer from the towing vehicle. Not only because the towing vehicle will be free to take you for a ride and visit the surroundings, but also because it is easier to set up the stabilizers afterward.
One for each wheel, they help to stabilize the travel trailer so you can move inside without the RV copying the movements of the occupants.
If you do not have an electric jack because it will add gross weight to the travel trailer, it saves yourself the hassle of lowering and raising the handle of the crank to lower or raise for each side each stabilizer.
Therefore, what I use, and you can order it too, is a De Walt cordless drill from Amazon. You will need an RV scissor jack drill adapter. Insert the scissor jack adapter in your power cordless drill from De Walt, and raise and lower your scissor jack in just a fraction of the time. I do not use blocks of wood below the stabilizers, but half of the people in RV campsites use them.
Have Several Electric Adapters For The Pedestals
In the RV campsite, you will retrieve power from any of the electrical pedestals. purchase a set of adapters and keep them with you. They can be 15, 30 or 50 amp. However, the majority will have 30 amp. Pedestals are known also as “RV hookups”.
If you do not have the right adapter, you will have to purchase it in the administration office of the RV park. Better carry a small set of adapters with you, just in case.
If you are a reader from the European Union, you will only need one single European standard for all pedestals in all RV parks. They do not have US adapters but all supermarkets and stores have them. The only exception is Italy, that did not adapt to the European standards yet, so for RV parks in Italy, you will need their adapter that can be purchased anywhere easily.
The Generator And The Batteries
You require a generator with a potency of more than three thousand watts to provide adequate power to your RV AC unit. I recommend the Yamaha and the Champion, because they are remote controlled and because they are very silent and this is very important so you do not disturb the RV campsite neighbors or your family.
Preferably, the generator must have even more power than the aforementioned 3,000 watts, if you want to use the RV air conditioner and other devices at the same time, such as a couple of lights, a microwave oven, charging the batteries, and a television.
The lighting system of the travel trailer, the heater, the jacks, and the awning and slide system, will function using the power of the batteries. That is fine, but if you are using the heater, expect the batteries to deplete. You will require the generator to load the batteries and it can take a bit more than an hour until they are fully charged.
However, if you are able to connect your RV to a pedestal of the RV campsite, you will not need the generator at all. But if you do boondock, you will need a generator and gasoline for it.
The RV Refrigerator: Propane And Electricity
The RV refrigerators that I always had, modern Dometic and Norcold fridges can operate either utilizing electricity or also propane.
These smart fridges have currently an Auto mode wherein they can switch automatically to the correct setting and use propane or electricity depending on the power source connected.
If you are in an RV campsite, you will connect to the electrical pedestal and switch to electricity, or the RV fridge will switch itself in this Auto mode that I have just described briefly.
In our article about RV fridges, I already recommended not to use residential fridges for RVs even if they have nicer designs because they will not run on propane gas only. you should purchase a dedicated RV refrigerator from Norcold or Dometic.
Empty The Wastewater Tanks
When RVs have to go…..they have to go……You know already that you have three tanks in your RV sanitation system that hold three different fluids. One for freshwater and two wastewater tanks for black and greywater.
You have the freshwater tank that you will load at home using a hose. The greywater tank is for the utilized water from the kitchen and sink and the blackwater tank for the toilet deposits.
Some RV campsites have their own dumpsite. If your RV campsite does not have a dump vessel, you have to search for an RV dump station: a private dump station or one that belongs to a municipality. The public dump station can be an office that depends on the Department of Transport or is a facility part of a wastewater processing plant.
If you are a reader from the European Union, all RV parks have their own dump vessel so you will unload your wastewater tanks there.
You require to buy disposable gloves and a dump hose of not less than 15´ that is transparent in the connections, so you can see when it is empty and finished with the retrieval of the wastewater tanks in your travel trailer.
One end of the dump hose is connected through a standard connection to your RV, and the other end is connected to the dump hole. You open now the tank by pulling off the black lever.
Through the transparent end of the dump hose, you will notice when the process is completed and the tank is empty. The RV dump station has a place to wash it. The best place to store the dump hoses is for me, an exterior cabinet in my travel trailer.
You can also at any moment empty also the freshwater tank. You can leave it open so it gradually dumps the unused freshwater as you return home.
Arriving At Home
If you have followed my advice above, you can leave the travel trailer already packed because you have your own dedicated utensils and amenities for the RV. Only take home the perishables and garments that require laundry. No extra work for unpacking and everything is ready for the next travel trailer camping event. I hope you remembered to empty the freshwater tank, I forgot this frequently in the past.
Travel Trailer Camping Tips And Tricks: Conclusions
These tips and tricks for travel trailers camping from the list above are the consequence of the experience of many years. Please let me know in the comments your opinion and other travel trailer camping tips and tricks you want to add. I also have a related post where I list all the accessories and must-haves that I bought in the first couple of weeks after buying my new travel trailer.
I am Tony, an RV designer and RV developer. I create bill of materials for RV manufacturers for travel trailers and fifth wheels. I worked as a freelance transportation consultant for Lyft. As an RV development consultant, I create customization trees for RV manufacturers who want to offer a solution to prospective customers to design their custom RV with variant configuration. Apart from this, I sell in Indiana trailer hitches, hitch balls, goosenecks and weight distribution systems where I provide advice to customers who want to know which is their towing capacity, which hitch ball should they utilize and how to deploy a weight distribution system. I do my best to explain all these processes and their installation, here in RV Favorites.