Just like any type of culture or lifestyle, RVing has its slang terms that can often be confusing to those who are unfamiliar or new to the RV lifestyle. I have compiled a newbie (someone new to the RV world) and wanna-be (someone who wants to RV but but not there yet) list of some of the more popular jargon terms used by frequent RVers.
“When I left my sticks and bricks to go to my favorite NP, I almost forgot my toad! My DW told me to turn the MH around and that’s when I realized our stinky slinky was trailing behind us! I finally got the rig situated and we’re going boondocking with a bit of moochdocking the next few weeks.”
Did you understand that, or was it just a bunch of gibberish?
Don’t worry if it was all mumbo jumbo to you because it’ll make perfect sense by the end of this RV glossary.
The world of RVing is full of acronyms. Those include RV (recreational vehicle), FW (fifth-wheel), TT (travel trailer), FHU (full hook up), BH (bunk house), and many more. In these days of rising campground costs and campground crowding, there are a host of other acronyms RVers should know about. Those are the acronyms of federal agencies that oversee millions of acres of public land that offer free and low-cost camping.
Here are the acronyms for those federal agencies:
- USFS (United States Forest Service)
- COE (Corps of Engineers)
- DOD (Department of Defense)
- DOE (Department of Energy)
- NWR (National Wildlife Refuge)
- TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)
DOI (Department of the Interior) oversees the following federal land agencies that will be of interest to RVers. Their acronyms are:
- BOI (Bureau of Indian Affairs)
- BLM (Bureau of Land Management)
- USBR (Bureau of Reclamation)
- NPS (National Park Service)
- FWS (Fish and Wildlife Service)
RV terminology, jardon, and acronyms for newbie RVers
When we first started living the RV lifestyle many decades ago, it all sounded Greek to me.
Whenever I blankly stared at an experienced RVer, I felt like Jackie Chan in the movie Rush Hour when Chris Tucker loudly asked, “Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth?!”
If you can relate to me and Jackie Chan, then keep reading. The following RV slang, lingo, and abbreviations will help you understand the words that are coming out of experienced RVers’ mouths. Plus, you’ll sound like a veteran RVer, too!
Basement refers to the storage area below the main area of your motorhome that is accessed from the outside.
The black tank is the term for the holding tank that holds waste from your toilet. When you flush, the contents of the bowl are directed (most often via gravity feed) into the black tank. When you dump your RV holding tanks, the waste leaves the holding tank and goes into the sewer.
Blue boy (poop tote, turd trailer)
This is like a personal-sized honey wagon. It’s a small holding tank on wheels used for emptying black or gray water without moving your RV. These were traditionally blue but they’re commonly gray nowadays like this Camco Rhino Portable RV Tote Tank.
Boondocking (dry camping)
Boondocking is camping off-grid. Your RV is self-contained which means you don’t plug your RV into water, electricity, or sewer.
Though boondocking is used as a broad term, it most accurately refers to camping out on land somewhere where permitted (like federally owned land in the West). It’s a style of camping where you are away from people and out in nature.
CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity)
The maximum weight limit for personal items you can add to an RV.
Refers to diesel motorhome with engine located in the rear of the RV. The engine location helps push the RV down the road and provides a smoother, quieter ride.
Electrical adapter used to connect a 30amp RV to a 50amp electrical plug or a 50amp RV to a 30amp electrical plug.
The weight of the RV as it comes off the assembly line. Does not include supplies, water, fuel, or passenger weights. Manufacturers weigh each RV and apply a sticker listing the dry weight before shipping.
DW/DH (Dear Wife/Dear Husband)
Whenever someone is referring to DW or DH, they’re referring to their significant other. DW stands for Dear Wife and DH for Dear Husband. We could also use DD for the Dear Dogs that travel with many of us.
This may seem like odd acronyms to include on an RV terminology list but you’d be surprised how often they come up. You’ll see them in RV forums, social media posts, and sometimes even mixed into spoken conversation.
Fiver (5er or 5th)
A fiver refers to a fifth-wheel trailer which is a trailer that hooks into the bed of a truck as opposed to the back hitch of a tow vehicle. They tend to be bigger than a standard travel trailer.
You may want to refer to Meet the RVs: The Towables for even more clarification.
Flat towing is towing a vehicle behind your RV with all four wheels of the towed/toad/dinghy vehicle on the ground. Flat-towing does not involve the use of a dolly or trailer and is our preferred way to tow. However, not all vehicles can be flat-towed.
Fresh Water Capacity
The amount of drinkable water an RV fresh water tank can hold.
A campsite that offers a water supply, sewer/septic, and electricity.
People who live in their RV year round.
Galley is another term referring to the kitchen of an RV.
GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating)
This is the total allowable weight on each individual axle which includes the weight of tires, wheels, brakes, and the axle itself.
GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating)
This is the total allowable weight of the tow vehicle and trailer (or motorhome and toad) and all cargo in each, hitching fluids, and occupants.
Your RV gray tank is an RV holding tank into which your sinks and indoor shower drain. Depending on the configuration of your RV, it may have one or more gray tanks to capture and store gray water.
Gray Water Capacity
The amount of used water from the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and shower that a gray water tank can hold.
GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)
The maximum RV weight limit includes the vehicle’s chassis, body, engine, fluids, fuel, accessories, passengers, and contents.
The towing capacity of the receiver hitch.
Refers to the fresh water, gray water, and black water tanks.
When you put a sweet word next to a rustic one, you wonder what in the world it could mean. In this case, honey is meant as a euphemism for the dirty work that this wagon does. A honey wagon is a truck or trailer with a large liquid-holding tank that comes around to pump out RV waste tanks. They make regular stops at campgrounds, truck stops, and, of course, RV dump stations.
The engine brake is used on some diesel vehicles.
MH is simply an abbreviation for motorhome. Sometimes people use motorhome as an all-encompassing term for RVs but experienced RVers know better. A motorhome specifically refers to RVs with a built-in cab and engine unlike travel trailers requiring a tow vehicle.
Read Meet the RVs: Find the Right RV Class for Your Travel Style to learn more on the difference between motorhomes and RV trailers.
Moochdocking is similar to boondocking but it’s not exactly self-contained since you mooch off your family and friends to do it. Simply put, moochdocking is when you park at a friend or family member’s house.
Sometimes, you’re not mooching anything more than a parking space. Other times, you may be mooching water and power. It’s worth mentioning that moochdock etiquette includes offering to pay for the utilities you use or at least buy them dinner.
A Navy shower is when you turn the water off between wetting and rinsing. It certainly conserves hot water but it leaves you cold in between rinses and isn’t nearly as enjoyable as regular showers.
NF (National Forest)
Though not seen as frequently as NP (see below), the letters NF pop up often. They’re an abbreviation for national forest and often follow the name of a particular national forest such as Pisgah NF or Sequoia NF.
NFS (National Forest System)
No, techies, this does not refer to a Network File System! In the camping world, this refers to the National Forest System. The NFS manages public lands in the form of national forests and grasslands. To add even more letters, this system is administered by the USFS (US Forest Service).
NP (National Park)
It seems obvious once it’s spelled out but NP stands for National Park. As you know, we RVers love the national parks. So, you’ll see this abbreviation often.
By the way, you really should read What NOT TO DO in National Parks.
NPS (National Park Service)
NPS stands for the National Park Service which has been entrusted with the care of the national parks since 1916. However, it’s the NPS.gov website that RVers refer to the most.
The NPS website is the #1 resource for planning a visit to a national park. You can easily find a park, events, passes, and trip ideas on the site. Plus, learn how you can get involved with their important mission.
NWRS (National Wildlife Refuge System)
Operating under the direction of FWS, the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) is a network of 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts located in all 50 states and five U.S. territories. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas, and national wildlife refuges provide vital habitats for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, including birding, photography, and environmental education.
By the way, I have an article on NWRS: Banking on Nature: Record Numbers Visit National Wildlife Refuges.
Poop pyramid (poo pyramid)
Unfortunately, it’s just like what it sounds like a pile of poop. Human waste piles up in your RV tank and pretty much becomes a solid mass that refuses to flow out of your stinky slinky.
This happens when liquid waste easily drains out when your valve is left open but solid waste builds up in your tank. It’s gross—and stinky! And can be expensive to clean out. So, don’t leave your black tank valve open!
By the way, I have a post on this dilemma and several others on avoiding sewer woes:
- Sewer Tank Woes
- How to Keep Your RV Drains Clean, Fresh, and Functioning Properly
- Why and How to Use Dawn Dish Soap in RV Black Tanks?
- The Best RV Toilet Paper
PP (provincial park)
A provincial park is Canada’s version of a state park. Since Canada is separated into provinces, the name makes perfect sense. Canada also has national parks.
For example, Banff is a National Park run by Canada’s federal government while Wells Gray is a Provincial Park (PP) run by the province of British Columbia.
A rig is synonymous with an RV. Although, sometimes RVers use it as an umbrella term for their RV and everything they attach to it (like a tow vehicle or towed vehicle). You can think of it as whatever they’ve rigged up to take on your camping trip.
If you look closely, you’ll probably quickly realize this is a mash-up of two words: sanitation dump. Once you realize that, it’s pretty self-explanatory as a place where you dump your sanitation. You can read more about sanidumps in How to Find and Best Practices for Using RV Dump Stations.
A frequently use term meaning your rig can supply utilities (water and electricity) and waste management without an external source, for a limited duration. As you learned earlier in the list, boondocking is a self-contained way to RV.
A compartment was added to an RV to increase interior space. The slide-out (or slide-out room) slides into the body during travel and slides out when the RV is parked.
A protective covering that prevents dirt, debris, and water from collecting on top of an RV slide-out. Slide toppers come in different sizes and styles to fit a variety of slide-outs.
SP (state park)
Just like NP, SP comes up in conversations a lot with RVers. That’s because we love the state parks just as much as our national parks.
This acronym is often tied to a state acronym. If you see AZ SP or GA SP, for instance, it’s referring to an Arizona state park or Georgia state park, respectively.
I have numerous articles on exploring state parks:
- 12 of the Best State Parks for Spring Camping
- 12 of the Best State Parks for Summer Camping
- 12 of the Best State Parks for Fall Camping
- 12 of the Best State Parks for Winter Camping
- 12 of the Best State Parks for Snowbirds
Sticks and bricks
Sticks and bricks refer to a house on a foundation, i.e., not an RV. Many RVers are part-timers which means they live part of the year in a sticks-and-bricks house.
You’ll hear part-timers say things like, “It’s time to go check on my sticks and bricks.” Or, full-timers will say, “I sold my sticks and bricks and haven’t regretted it for a second.”
Dania and I are part-timers. We live in our sticks and bricks for about five months of the year and RV for the remainder.
Stinky slinky is the RV slang term used to refer to a sewer hose! For those not yet familiar with the stinky slinky, you’ll connect one side of this hose (usually 3 inches in diameter) to your holding tank outlet and the other end to the sewer inlet. This is how you dump your holding tanks.
A stinky slinky is a funny name for a sewer hose. It has spiraled ridges and stretches out like a slinky… and, well, it’s stinky. Dealing with human waste is surely one of the downsides of RVing. So, silly terms like this help us to laugh about an otherwise yucky task.
A toad is a homophone that clever RVers came up with to refer to towed vehicles. Get it? Towed… toad.
A toad is a vehicle that is towed behind your motorhome. Once you settle your RV into a campsite, you use your toad to drive around town or the area. It’s also referred to as a dinghy as in the little boats that go back and forth from the ship to shore.
The maximum weight a tow vehicle can safely tow, is determined by the vehicle manufacturer. Consult the vehicle manufacturer or use a towing guide to find out the towing capacity of a particular vehicle.
The term toy hauler refers to a specific type of RV that has a garage in the rear, often with a ramp door for easy access. The garage area of a toy hauler is often used to carry ATVs, motorcycles, other recreational gear, or even a car.
TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)
TPMS stands for Tire Pressure Monitoring System. You may be familiar with it if you have a recent model year car (2007 or newer) as all new cars come with tire pressure monitoring built-in now. But there are also aftermarket systems that can be added to your vehicle’s tires.
TT (travel trailer)
Remember how we said fifth wheels don’t hook onto the hitch at the back of a tow vehicle? Well, travel trailers do. A travel trailer is an RV trailer that hitches onto any tow vehicle which may include an SUV or even a car.
TV (tow vehicle)
A tow vehicle is what pulls a travel trailer or fifth wheel. It’s typically a truck but SUVs and even cars can be tow vehicles for smaller travel trailers.
Don’t confuse TV or tow vehicles for towed vehicles. Tow vehicles pull whereas towed vehicles are pulled. That’s probably why we’ve clearly distinguished the terms between TV and toads.
Wallydocking (lot docking)
Wallydocking is parking overnight in a Walmart parking lot. It’s a popular option when you’re looking for free overnight camping.
In general, it’s a form of lot docking as in parking lot docking. Cracker Barrel is another lot docking favorite but a cute nickname hasn’t emerged for that yet. I think Barreldocking has a nice ring to it… let’s see if it catches on.
The weight of the vehicle with the fuel, fresh water, and propane tanks full. Note these important weights:
- Propane: 4.24 pounds per gallon
- Water: 8.34 pounds per gallon
- Gasoline: 6.3 pounds per gallon
- Diesel fuel: 7 pounds per gallon
Slanted blocks, usually made of plastic material but sometimes wood, used to prevent the RV from rolling.
Generally refers to RVers exchanging work for a free campsite, utilities, and possibly a small wage. Full-time RVers often do this to save on expenses.
Jargon is the verbal sleight of hand that makes the old hat seem newly fashionable; it gives an air of novelty and specious profundity to ideas that, if stated directly, would seem superficial, stale, frivolous, or false. The line between serious and spurious scholarship is an easy one to blur with jargon on your side.