RV camping season is starting up and this is the perfect time to review the common and uncommon mistakes that can be made setting up your campsite. These are 43 RV campsite setup mistakes you should know and how to avoid them. Watch the full video here!
Learn from the mistakes Cheri and I have made and many other experienced RVers! We’ve got RV newbie mistakes all the way up to mistakes that some of us experienced RVers still make. How many of these mistakes have you made? Read to the end to find out how to get our free RV setup and tear down checklists. Subscribe so you can catch our entire RV mistakes video series.
You can also find links to many of the items we use in our Amazon RV Supply Store.
RV TRIP MISTAKES BEFORE YOU LEAVE
1. Not doing a proper shakedown of your RV. If you are new to camping in an RV or just got a new or used RV to you, plan a “shakedown” trip before you plan to have a nice, relaxing trip with family, kids, etc. This is best accomplished by having a short trip of 100 miles or so for a weekend. That way you and/or your significant other can figure everything out without the pressure of kids, family members, visitors, etc. You might find problems that need to be fixed, yes, even in a brand new RV! If you must, you can set up your RV in your driveway or on your own property to do this, but we still think you should put a few miles on the RV and/or your tow vehicle in case any issues come up.
2. Not practicing backing up in your RV! You should also practice backing up in a parking lot with cones to get the hang of getting your RV into a campsite. You may not realize this yet, but it is popular campground entertainment to watch fellow campers park (or attempt to park) their RV into a campsite. Practice so you can nail it the first time!
3. Not checking the tire pressure on your RV and/or tow vehicle and of course handling other regular maintenance items. We also recommend a Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) like this one.
4. Not adding water and sewer additive to your black tank and always keeping it in there while traveling. Here is the sewer additive we use.
5. Not turning your refrigerator on until you start putting food in it. It can take 4 – 6 hours or longer for your RV refrigerator to get to the proper temperature. We recommend turning it on the night before you plan to load it with food.
6. Leaving your propane on while you travel is considered a safety risk by many, but let us know what you think in the video comments!
7. Being in a hurry, even for weekend RV trips. We know you want to enjoy as much of your RV camping trip as you can, but slow down and think through each step while traveling. Drive especially slow through the campground and RV park. Mistakes and accidents happen when you are in too big of a hurry.
8. Not bringing the right tools with you. Pack a basic set of tools (hammer, screwdrivers, plyers, socket set) plus:
- Extra fuses for all of your fuses (not having the right fuse when you are out in the middle of nowhere can be a real drag on your trip!)
- Electrical and duct tape
- Miscellaneous screws and glue (things get loose and need to be repaired)
- Air compressor powered by a 12 volt socket (Big enough to fill your RV and truck tires, here is the one that is on our wish list!)
- Head lamp (even though we never plan to arrive and setup camp at night, sometimes travel delays happen and this is a must for setting up at night)
- A basic level (Even with our Lippert automatic leveling system we like to manually check our level)
- Bungee cords and/or rope (Things can break free or need to be strapped down temporarily, these will get the job done!)
- Tire pressure gauge
9. Not having a first aid kit! RVs are dangerous! RVs can have sharp corners and will cut you! Plus adventuring can lead to accidents so be prepared! Here is a basic first aid kit.
10. Not scouting out the campsite first! This is why:
- If you have a big rig like we do, you really need to take another vehicle, bike or walk to the campsite first. That way you can figure out the best way to your campsite and not get stuck in a sharp turn and also note trees and low branches that could be an issue.
- Also check for other RVs or vehicles that may be in the way of getting to your campsite. We see this all the time. Other campers often will park their truck or car and leave them hanging out onto a narrow campground road making it hard or impossible to get by. Let the camp host or campground management know if you see an issue that way you don’t get stuck on the way to your campsite.
- Make a plan of attack for pulling in or backing into your campsite and positioning your RV. Look for the most level area on the campsite to park your RV.
- Also make note of the location of all the RV hookups. Turn on the water and check for the location of your sewer connection if your campsite has one. Bring your RV surge protector with you and check the power beforehand for electrical flaws. We have found many issues like this in advance.
- Check the location of trees and especially low branches on the campsite. Is there any uneven ground or potholes?
- If you notice any problems with your assigned campsite, you can always ask the camp host or campground management for a new site. If it is a busy weekend or busy time of the year, they may not be able to change your site, but it is worth asking.
RV SETUP MISTAKES OUTSIDE
11. Not using walkie talkies or cell phones when backing in or maneuvering the RV. Yelling to each other is not a very effective way to communicate when parking your RV. And related, getting distracted by fellow campers that want to chat even before you’ve parked…yes, it’s happened to us many times. Let others know that you need to focus on parking and setting the RV up first and then you will have time to chat.
12. Not parking close enough to the RV hookups. Before shutting off your engine or unhooking the RV, are you as close as you want to be to the water, electric and sewer hookups? Are your windows facing the view you want?
13. Parking too close to trees or other obstacles. Check all the way around RV for room for your RV slides to come out or steps to fold down.
14. Parking on unlevel ground. Are you parked on the most level part of your campsite? Use a level and check. Even with our Lippert automatic leveling system on the Momentum, we’ve seen it recommended that we manually level with blocks of wood first before engaging the automatic leveling system.
15. Not leveling your RV evenly. Not only is it uncomfortable to be unlevel walking around in your RV (Cheri calls it a fun house!), but it can also affect how your refrigerator cools, how your slides work, etc. Use leveling blocks or wood to get the job done (or use a leveling system).
16. Getting distracted or having conversations during critical parts of the setup and forgetting to chock the wheels, disconnect electrical cable from your tow vehicle, etc. We mentioned this before, but getting distracted during setup is probably the biggest single cause of all RV setup mistakes!
17. Leaving all propane on. We recommend turning just one tank on at a time, that way when it runs out, you can just turn the full one on and take the empty one in for a refill. And for some reason, it always seems that your propane runs out at night or at the most inconvenient time possible. Also helpful with this is a simple propane gauge like this one.
18. Leaving your awning out unsecured (see picture below) and having the wind wreak havoc on it. We see this all the time! Unless you have very secure tie downs for your awning, make sure you bring them in at night or when you leave your RV. You never know when a wind gust or freak storm will blow in and turn your awning into a sail.
19. Not unlatching the convection oven/microwave vent flap. We just discovered this one just a few months ago! According to an RV technician, leaving the flap shut can burn out your convection oven/microwave.
RV SETUP MISTAKES ON THE INSIDE
20. Not realizing that things shift around while traveling, and slide forward inside your RV. You can use small tension rods inside cabinets or just open them slowly. Same goes for your refrigerator and medicine cabinet. On too many occasions we’ve had items fall out and some creating a huge mess in the process.
21. Expanding/exploding liquids! While you are traveling, the change in elevation and the temperature makes shampoo, soap and other sealed liquids expand or contract. This can be quite a unexpected surprise and create a mess!
22. Leaving a roof vent open or on and having it rain. Some newer RVs have a rain sensor or a cover over the vent that prevents this. If you don’t have one of these, be sure to close the vent before you leave or when you go to bed.
23. Leaving your RV blinds open at night. Unless you want to put on a show, be sure to close the shades at night. Even though your RV windows are tinted, that isn’t much help in the dark.
24. Letting your pilot light go out. Depending on your RV, letting the pilot light go out on your stove/oven could allow your RV fill with propane, not good!
RV SETUP ELECTRICAL MISTAKES
25. Not having the right electrical adaptors to connect your RV properly to the power pedestal. Make sure you understand the difference between 15 amp, 30 amp and 50 amp RV electrical connections and what they will run in your RV. You don’t want to continually be tripping circuit breakers, it’s bad for the breakers and bad for RV appliances. You can find the cables we use in our Amazon Store.
26. Not having a long enough electrical cable or an extension. We have a long 50 amp electrical cable, but we still have to use a 10’ extension that we have on many RV trips. I once loaned an electrical cable to a couple on their first night in their brand new RV. The dealer that had sold them the RV had failed to make sure they had a cable with them.
27. Not having a surge protector. Be sure to check for proper wiring and power before connecting your RV. RV parks and campgrounds are notorious for having bad power and that can ruin your RV appliances!
28. Plugging power cord into your RV with the breaker on! DON’T DO THIS! Make sure the breaker on the power pedestal is off before plugging in your RV, then you can turn it back on. Why? You can send a spike of electricity to your appliances and damage them by plugging directly into a live circuit.
RV SETUP MISTAKES WATER
30. Not using a water pressure regulator. Many RV parks and campgrounds have water pressure that is too high and it can damage your RV. Always use a water pressure regulator like this cheap one, or like this one we ordered that comes with a gauge and an adjustable regulator.
31. Not using the right water hose or having enough hose. Make sure you use a freshwater drinking hose, and not a garden hose to connect to your RV. Also, make sure you have several extensions because your water connection could be far away from your RV.
32. Not using a right-angle adaptor to take the pressure off of your freshwater connection to your RV. This will help stop any damage to the plastic piece that connects to your RV.
RV SETUP MISTAKES SEWER
33. Over filling your tanks! It’s common knowledge that tank monitors on RVs are not accurate. So it’s better to dump your tanks early rather than late. Your black tank will burp or spit at you and if you are still seated, it will be an unpleasant experience!
34. Washing clothes with grey tank closed. I was washing clothes in our previous RV and the grey tank was closed and it got too full! Where did the water go? It looked for the point of least resistance, water shot up into the bedroom closet and what is worse, the grey tank burst and dropped into the underbelly. Somehow, I forgot to mention that one in my biggest RV mistakes video series. Huge repair bill on that one!
35. Not having a separate container or the covers for your sewer hoses. This can lead to cross contamination if you store your sewer hoses with the rest of your RV setup gear. We use a black plastic bin, and it has enough room for all of our sewer hoses and fittings.
36. Not using disposable gloves for ALL sewer activities! See picture below! Yes, I witnessed this recently at a dump station! For sanitary reasons, ALWAYS use disposable gloves when handling your sewer hoses, containers, fittings, etc. I might try out these reusable gloves in the future, but I’m still not that comfortable with it. What do you think?
37. Not using a sewer hose support to keep it off of ground. The sewer hose support helps your black and grey tank contents drain easily and completely. Here is a homemade DIY hack: You can cut a large PVC pipe in half and use blocks (rocks, etc.) to create a sloping support for your sewer hoses.
38. Not having enough sewer hoses. You can see a theme going here! Always have spares of your critical RV setup supplies. Same goes for sewer hoses! Not only do you need extra length if your sewer connection is far away. You also need a spare for when one of your sewer hoses springs a leak. Which does happens frequently.
39. Leaving your black tank valve open. You can create serious issues with your black tank if you leave the valve open all of the time. We won’t get into all of the ugly details, but trust us. None of these issues are fun, so don’t do it! TIP: You can also close your grey tank valve and allow the tank to fill up, then use that to flush out your sewer hose after dumping your black tank.
40. Not using RV safe toilet paper. There are several brands of toilet paper that will work, but we use Scott. Whatever you use, just make sure it will breakdown quickly in your black tank.
41. Not having a blue tote! No sewer hook-up at your campground? it’s not fun having to pack up your entire RV and taking a trip to the dump station to empty your tanks. You can burn through several hours of your RV trip doing this! So although this is not technically an RV setup mistake, we really ‘enjoy’ our blue tote ha ha!
42. Not locking your pin if you have a towable RV. I forgot to add this one to the video, but to prevent theft of your RV (or to make it more difficult for someone to take your RV) we use this wheel pin lock.
43. The biggest RV setup mistake is thinking you can’t handle setting up an RV and giving up on your dream RV trip. Hopefully after reading this and watching our video, you will feel more confident taking your RV out camping. There is a saying, ‘always make new mistakes’. So now that you’ve read about all of these RV setup mistakes, you can’t repeat them! Just kidding! Just like in all aspects of life, mistakes can and will happen. Just learn from them and move on to enjoying your RV trip!
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Did we miss any RV campsite setup mistakes that you’ve made or you’ve heard of, let us know in the comments on YouTube. That way we and others can learn from you. Please share this post with your RV friends! Thanks for subscribing to our blog and on YouTube!
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