Beginner RV Mistakes and Tips for a Happy Camper

RV Beginner Newbie mistakes to avoid

Whether you are an RV newbie or a seasoned RVer – we have some great info for you. LEARN from our mistakes and the mistakes of others to AVOID making these beginner rv mistakes.

Before you head out on the open road the question you probably ask yourself every time you get ready to leave for even the smallest of trips.

Did you forget anything?

Don’t panic! Do read on, because we’ve got an RV checklist to help you prepare and set off stress-free in your RV or camping adventures.

But first, let’s talk about the lessons we’ve learned along the way. Whether you’re new or seasoned, you can learn from our RV newbie mistakes. 

RV Beginner Mistakes # 1 – The Truck Stop

Pulling in the “cars” section of a truck stop. We pulled into a truck stop but used the car section instead of the one we could actually fit in and move through. To make matters worse, we had our car on a tow dolly.

Please, please do not try to back up with a tow dolly attached. Even if you’ve been RV’ing all of your life and somehow managed to do it in the past, stop it.

If you do end up in a jam. like we did, you’re going to need to remove the towed vehicle and the dolly, move them out of your way, move your RV and then reattach everything.

Granted, this is not the end of the world, but wouldn’t it have been so much nicer if we had just pulled into the proper lot? Yes, yes it would have.

truck stop for rv fuel

Mistake #2 – Not Checking Basement Compartments

We checked our list a dozen times to make sure we didn’t forget to pack anything. Isn’t it nice how much an RV can actually hold?

We should have had an RV checklist for beginners with our packing list because while we didn’t forget to pack anything, we did forget to check the basement compartment doors.

We were flagged down on the interstate by a fellow driver frantically trying to tell us we were losing cargo. We now make sure to give each door a good tug before leaving.

There’s no point packing your favorite gear if you lose it all on the way!

Check rv basement compartments
Ben double checking all basement compartments

Mistake #3 – NO CO Error on Fridge

An RV fridge needs to be level to operate properly and safely.

We once parked in a driveway that was on an incline and our fridge put itself into lockout mode. We had to google instructions to reset the circuit board because no one was able to come out to fix it.

This can be one of the more dangerous RV newbie mistakes. When the fridge is tilted even just a few degrees, the coolant can stop working properly and the fridge can catch on fire.

If you’re parked on very hilly terrain, it’s a good idea to just turn the fridge off until you can get level again.

Here is the Reset procedure for NorCold Refrigerators that worked like a charm to get our fridge back up and running again. We just needed to short circuit the board and we were cooling again!

beginner rv mistakes
Image of me resetting the fridge by using a jumper wire.

We’ve learned a lot along the way from our own trial and error and unfortunate mistakes but one of the most valuable resources has been the RV community!

Demian Ross from Rootless Living made his first mistake before he even stepped foot in an RV. He asked the wrong questions.

I was getting opinions. I wasn’t giving facts to get the best answer I could.

Diary of a Family made a mistake that lost them a lot of money and even their home for several days. They suggest you be clear with the shop to see how long the repair is going to take and how much time it will take to fix any issues. Be clear on when they plan to start the repair so you don’t lose money on hotels or airbnb costs.

Make sure the shop knows they can only have it for a certain amount of time.

The Hungry Cuban suffered damage to their RV Mirror from less than ideal driving conditions. They had a lot of glare from the sun in the rear view mirror, plus low hanging branches. The branches won.

RV Life isn’t always glamorous. Things are going to happen and you have to roll with the punches.

But Glenda Russell from The Status Fo wants you to remember something really important

Make this part of your mantra. “It’s all part of the Adventure”. The Good and the Bad.

Here’s a list of even more tips that are great to keep in mind no matter how long you’ve been RV’ing. 

Must-Know RV Camping Tips

We’ve compiled a list of other RV camping tips that have come in handy when living the RV life.

Know your RV Height & Length

You never know when you will come across a bridge with a height sign and you will cringe as you drive under it not knowing if your RV is under the limit. If you know your exact RV height, you’ll always know if it’s safe. Know your length – You’ll need to know where you can fit and where you’re allowed, especially when it comes to parking. 

Don’t depend on Google Maps

We bought an RV specific GPS from Garmin and it has been extremely when it comes to avoiding areas that aren’t RV-friendly. We recommend the Garmin 780 RV GPS which will allow you to enter the height and length of your rig so you don’t find yourself in some interesting predicaments.

Sale
Garmin RV 780 GPS Navigator with Traffic
  • Advanced GPS navigator for the RV and camping enthusiast
  • RV navigator with high-resolution 6. 95" edge-to-edge touch display
  • Custom routing takes into account the size and weight of your RV then finds the best route for your vehicle (Not available in all areas. Always verify appropriateness of route suggestions and defer to all posted road signs and road conditions).
  • Provides road warnings to keep you aware of steep grades, sharp curves, weight limits and more
  • Includes a directory of RV parks and services plus integrated content from Ultimate Public Campgrounds, KOA, overlanded, Plan TripAdvisor, Foursquare and more

Traveling Too Fast

We don’t just mean driving within the speed limit. You will be so excited, on your first big trip, to see everything and go everywhere. But remember, you can always come back to these spots and revisit your favorites or see what you missed. If you rush through everything, are you really seeing it?

Keep your black Tank Closed

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR BLACK TANK CLOSED. Keeping it open allows solids to build up in the tank, creating a “poop pyramid!” Using plenty of water when flushing and keeping the black tank closed can prevent a disgusting dilemma!

Document Your Adventure

You’ll want to share it with others and relive it yourself. We promise. But don’t stress so much about getting it on camera that you miss out on being present for the journey. Here’s a video on our YouTube channel we recently did that goes over how we started and the equipment we use.

Check Inside and Outside Slides for Obstructions

Inside: we had a tube of gorilla glue fall between the slide and drip down into the basement compartment. Outside: We’ve got a little too close to trees in our experience. Have someone with a walkie outside before putting out the slides. 

rv slide out
This was a close call. Enough said.

Become handy and embrace the DIY

Sometimes it can take days or weeks to get your RV into the shop or have a mobile tech visit you. Learn to become handy and try to tackle some of the jobs yourself. YouTube is a fantastic source for this. 

Get a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)

These are invaluable. Keeping tabs on your tire pressure automatically is going to give you peace of mind. Trust us. We recommend and use the ones by “TST”.

Other Helpful RV Newbie Tips/ Beginner RV Mistakes to avoid

  • Carry a basic tool kit and general handy supplies – Buy them before you need them!
  • Know where your breaker box is – Locate the GFCI outlets and carry spare fuses.
  • Bring in your awning – Yes, even if you have a wind sensor. The wind isn’t your only foe.
  • Make sure your steps are up.
  • Overpacking – You don’t need that much stuff. Even if you can technically fit it in there. 
  • Have an electrical extension – You’ll also want adapters and 2 hoses to extend reach.
  • Use an app to check gas prices – We like using Gasbuddy to plan our fuel stops. 
  • Use walkie talkies – You’ll need these when you’re backing into spots if you want to keep your marriage intact.
  • Teardown/Setup Checklist – You can share a list with each other on an iPhone using the reminders app or download our printable checklist at the end of this post. 
  • Maintenance Checklist – Know what to look out for and check up on before it breaks.
WIFI signal in campgrounds
  • Do walkthrough and a walkaround –  Check to ensure jacks are up, the antenna is down, you are leaving nothing behind.

Thanks for reading our beginner RV mistakes! We’ve put together a checklist for you below to download and use before departure. We hope this was helpful and hopefully someday we will see you out on the road! 

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