So you want to go RVing... I'm all about it! If you're just starting out it can be a bit overwhelming when gathering gear for your first few trips out on the road. I have put together a checklist of things you need to do to when packing and setting up camp.
Here is a PDF link you can click and download to make things easier for you. I'll go into detail on some of the things listed on the checklist. There are also links to gear attached at the bottom to help you out as well.
Packing Down Inside the Camper
The way we like to start when packing down camp is on the inside. I find that the better you secure the camper before you travel, the less you will have to do when setting up and we are always pooped after a long day on the road.
TAKE DOWN ALL THE THINGS: Since we are full-time, we do have a few knick-knacks on display around the house (picture, trinkets, Furbo's, etc.). When packing to move I take them all down unless they are velcroed/command stripped in place. Every camper is different but each has hiding places to stow items. I have hiding places under the kitchen chair cushions, a hidden drawer under the table, and I store items in storage boxes in cabinets. In the bathroom I store items in the linen closet and in the bedroom, I tuck them into drawers. We also take down appliances in the kitchen and place them either in cabinets or on the floor where they are tucked out of the way of the slides.
STRAP ALL THE THINGS DOWN: Most campers do come with straps and D-ring hooks already installed. I start in the top (bedroom) and work my way down the camper. Are the closet doors latched? Bedroom door? Shower door? Sweet. Now let's go to the main room. Are the kitchen table chairs strapped down? Did you earthquake test the table to make sure it is properly screwed into the ground? TV strapped in? Refrigerator set and strapped (if you haven't read my refrigerator blog, you should when doing this step)? Awesome. You have used all the straps the camper came with. We took it a step further and bought large reusable twist ties for our cabinets since we stock them full of knick-knacks and kitchen appliances.
SLIDES: Now that you've packed your house down enough for an earthquake, we are ready to put the slides in. Make sure everything is out of the way of the slides. This could be rugs, fold-up dog kennels, fans, etc. Once you checked the slide area, you are ready to put them in. I do one slide at a time just to make sure nothing will get in the way of the slide. Once the slides are in go outside and make sure they are completely in. Slide motors do wear out and one of ours does have a tendency to keep the slide from going all the way in. If this happens you can either reset the motor (which takes time) or you can put the side out and back in until it completely closes.
TURN OFF ALL POWER: Make sure you remember to turn off everything except the fridge. A/C, water heater, lights, etc. Then you will turn on your inverter so your fridge stays cold on the road.
Sweet! Your camper is closed up and secure. Now let's go over some things with disconnecting hoses and hitching up the camper.
Packing Down Outside the Camper
DUMP THE TANKS: We prep this a couple days in advance by closing off the grey tanks and making sure they are at least half full. This way, when you dump the black tank, the grey tanks will flush the septic hoses making them easier to unhook and pack up. On your travel day, you will dump the black tank first and then the grey tank. Once everything is dumped and closed off, we go inside and add a couple of gallons of water to the black tank through the toilet. This helps better clean your black tank while you travel. The water splashes around the tank cleaning off the sides the tank flush might have missed. You can also add some water to the freshwater tank if you would like to use the toilet during your travels.
DISCONNECT ALL HOSES: The water and septic hoses are no problem, just take them off and stow them, but before you disconnect the power cable, turn off the breaker on the power pole first. This is an extra safety precaution so nobody gets electrocuted.
CONNECT TO TRUCK: Yep, you're ready to hitch up! Connect the truck and ensure the hitch and safety are in place. Then pull up landing gear and remove chocks and blocks. Before leaving check your tire pressure and brake lights.
Setting Up Camp Outside
You have safely made it to your destination. You are a badass! But don't crack open a beer just yet, you still have to set up camp safely.
CHECK YOUR SPACE: Once you have pulled into your spot, before unhooking, first check that you are close enough to hook-ups, the camper is relatively level looking at it from the front, and you have enough room to fully put out your slides.
LEVELLING: Always, always put the front jacks down and chocks between the tires before unhooking from the trailer. Under the trailer jacks, put blocks to keep the jacks from possibly sinking into the earth. We have an auto-leveller which we absolutely love! Press one button and it does the work for you. Depending on how much you travel, you might want to add this to your must-have's list when shopping. It saves us so much time! But if you do not decide to go with an auto-leveller system, no worries! It can be done manually. Anderson jacks work wonders and basically have chocks built-in, they are wedge-shaped crescents that you drive the camper onto that level the trailer. Also, level mate pro helps when levelling and connects to your phone (so you don't have to carry a level).
POWER: We never plug in our camper without first plugging in our surge protector to the outside outlet to make sure the connections are properly wired. You do NOT want to fry your camper so do not skip this step. Surge protector first, then power cord. When the cord is secure, we then flip the brake on the power pole. We also keep 2 power cord with us at all time; a 35 ft 50 AMP rated power cord and a 25 ft 50 AMP extension cord for those far away boxes.
WATER: Make sure you have a drinking water quality hose. And if you are in a colder environment, it would be smart to have some hose insulation. We actually have an electric drinking water hose we can plugin that keeps the hose from freezing. We also have a water purifier that connects to our hose.
SEPTIC: This is the fun part! Always wear gloves during this step. We keep a box in our under storage right next to the tank valves. We do have a specific hose brand that we like. We have tried others and they do not hook together as well. We have had hoses disconnect themselves and find them when we go to dump. The first time it happened we pulled the tank open without checking the hoses were secure. Thankfully it was the grey tank, but we didn't think to check the hoses because we had been there a week and had already dumped. We also have installed an additional valve to the septic tank that we close when travelling in case anything gets knocked loose on the road. Nobody likes surprises that come out to say hi when removing the cap to connect the septic hose. Back to connecting septic hoses. Depending on how long we will be staying we add the septic backflush. If less than one week we do not add this step. On the septic line running to the ground, we connect a clear piece so that we can tell when everything has finished draining. Once everything is connected, we drain and black tank to flush out the couple of gallons of water we added at the beginning of the trip. You'd be surprised how much gets knocked loose!
Yay! The hard part is over and you barely broke a sweat! Now let's talk about the inside.
Setting Up the Camper Inside
TURN ON WATER HEATER: I do this as soon as we have power. Often we get to camp late and want to cook or shower and the water takes a long time to fully heat up! I also turn on the A/C or heat while I'm at it.
SLIDES: Put one slide out at a time to make sure nothing has shifted in the way during travel (queue flight attendant landing speech here). It has definitely happened more than once where things shift or break and fall in the way of the side. This is where you use your secret ninja skills to climb in between the gap and make room for the slides to open. Once the slides are out, it's time to go back outside. Yes, back outside. You'll be checking the slide seels here to make sure they're all facing out. This will protect you from leaks if you have heavy rain coming your way. I like to think it protects you from bugs making their way inside too, but let's get real, bugs can squeeze in anywhere.
UNSTRAP ALL THE THINGS: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It's easier to unstrap than to strap for travel. You'll also learn what needs extra care in strapping the more you travel. In our case, it's our refrigerator.
PUT THE THINGS BACK IN THEIR SPOTS: Again self-explanatory.
CRACK A COLD ONE: You are now able to relax! Enjoy your trip :)
Click and download the PDF link for your own, organized checklist!
If I did not cover something and you still have a question, feel free to comment or send me an email via the contact page! We are here to help.