Lightning and Thunderstorms: Safety Tips for RVers

If you can hear thunder, lightning is not far away

We don’t usually plan our RV trips around thunderstorms or other severe weather. If we knew we’d be spending our vacations taking cover, most likely we’d reschedule our trips. But storms occur throughout the year in just about every place in the world, so they are a fact we simply have to accept. And accepting the reality of storms should prompt us to prepare for how storms can affect us when we’re traveling in our RVs.

The most basic preparation is an emergency preparedness kit that includes a first aid kit. Make sure you check it regularly to ensure that any used supplies have been replaced and that nothing has passed its expiration date.

Be alert to threatening weather © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat lightning

The term heat lightning is commonly used to describe lightning from a distant thunderstorm just too far away to see the actual cloud-to-ground flash or to hear the accompanying thunder. While many people incorrectly think that heat lightning is a specific type of lightning, it is simply the light produced by a distant thunderstorm.

An old term to describe summertime storms! After all, all lightning is “hot”—the typical bolt of lightning has a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Ouch!

Flash flood in the Sonoran Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thunderstorm facts

The definition of a severe thunderstorm is one producing hail one inch in diameter (size of a quarter) or winds of 58 mph or more.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), “Each year across America there are on average 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, and six named hurricanes.” The NWS pointed out that weather disasters lead to about 500 deaths annually.

Every thunderstorm produces lightning.

Thunderstorms can produce high winds that can damage property.

More on severe weather: Hurricane Season: Staying Safe in your RV

Park led evacuation following a flash flood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thunderstorms can cause flash flooding.

Lightning kills more people annually than tornadoes or hurricanes.

A thunderstorm WATCH means that conditions are right for a thunderstorm to develop in the watch area. Be ready to take cover or evacuate.

A thunderstorm WARNING means that a severe thunderstorm has been reported or detected on radar threatening danger to property or life. Take cover or evacuate if there is time and a safe escape route.

Cleanup following a flash flood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you hear it—clear it

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), if you can hear thunder, the storm is close enough that lightning could strike your location at any moment! NWS strongly urges that “If you hear it—clear it!”

All RVers need to remember the Flash to Bang or 30/30 Lightning Rule. If a thunderstorm develops, count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the bang of the thunder to estimate the distance between you and the lightning strike. Because sound travels at about one mile in five seconds, you can determine how far away the lightning is by using this ‘flash-to-bang’ method.

It’s recommended you seek shelter if the time between the lightning flash and the sound of thunder is 30 seconds or less, or six miles away. Once you’re an inside shelter, you should not resume activities until 30 minutes after the last audible thunder.

Be alert to threatening weather © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay informed with local weather forecasts

Unless you’ve RVing in the wilderness, there will be a way to monitor the weather and learn about impending thunderstorms. Cell phones, Internet weather reports, NOAA radios, TV news, weather stations, and local warning systems are some of the ways to be aware of weather threats.

If you’re staying at an RV Park the manager may alert park guests when severe weather is approaching. But it’s advisable to enquire about storm or tornado shelters and local warning systems when registering at the campground.

More on severe weather: Tornado Safety Tips for RVers

NOAA’s NWS, WeatherBug, Weather.com, and other online weather sites can give you a three- to ten-day forecast.

Camping under trees can be hazardous in severe weather © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your RV and site for safety

Most RVers like shady sites on hot summer days. But shade usually comes from trees. Check the trees and shrubs at your site for sturdy branches or ones that might break under high wind conditions. Large branches can cause severe damage to your RV and toad/tow vehicle if not injuries to people. If you notice weak branches ask your park owner to trim them.

>>Check your site for chairs, tables, toys, BBQs, and other objects that can become projectiles in high winds. Bring them inside, tie them down, or secure them in some other way.

Bring your pets inside during inclement weather © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

>>Bring your animals inside during threatening weather.

>>Get your emergency preparedness kit out.

>>Make sure your outside storage doors are closed and locked.

>>Retract any awnings and ensure they’re securely fastened.

>>Close and latch your windows.

>>If you are going to evacuate, leave early, and make sure you are not heading into the storm.

Rockport-Fulton (Texas) following major hurricane destruction © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take cover before the storm arrives

The safest place to locate during a thunderstorm—if you choose not to evacuate­—is in the basement of a sturdy building. This area will give you the greatest protection from lightning, winds, tornados, and flying objects. The next safest area is an inside room with no windows and plenty of walls between you and the storm.

More on severe weather: Hail Can Be a Killer Especially For Your RV

Like mobile homes, RVs can be blown over in high winds. They’re not the safest place to be. But if you have no alternative, stay in a hallway away from windows and cabinets that can fly open turning their contents into projectiles.

Hurricane damage on the Texas Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you see lightning or hear thunder, stay inside.

Stay inside for about 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap.

Unplug electronics like TVs, DVDs, computers, coffee pots, and so forth. Use cell phones and battery-powered devices. A battery-powered NOAA radio would be very useful at a time like this.

Cleaning up following a flash flood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other Dangers

Both during and after a severe thunderstorm flooding may be a problem. If you are in a low area, move to higher ground. Some RV parks have a flood gauge showing five or six feet above their entry driveway.

If you are traveling and come across a flooded roadway, don’t try to drive through it. You could get washed away if the water is moving rapidly. Or, if there are downed power lines in that water, you could be electrocuted.

Park directed evacuation following a flash flood © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lightning strikes can split trees, breaking large branches off, and start wildfires.

More on severe weather: Arrival of Summer: On Dehydration, Hurricane Season & RVs

If someone has been struck by lightning, call 911 and start CPR immediately. The American Heart Association has a “learn CPR in one minute eight seconds” course that teaches CPR well enough that anyone can deliver effective CPR in such an emergency.

Worth Pondering…

If I accept the sunshine and warmth, then I must also accept the thunder and lightning.

—Khalil Gibran

Excessive Heat Warnings: Safety Tips for RVers

Look out for these heat exhaustion symptoms while camping

Dangerous temperatures exceeding 105 degrees Fahrenheit in select areas of the Southeast and Southwest have prompted excessive heat warnings. The weather conditions pose a threat to young children, older adults, and anyone who doesn’t take the right safety precautions before and during the heat wave.

Guadalupe River State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Last year, 43 Texas State Parks reported 102 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. Since January 1, 54 heat-related incidents have already been reported, compared to 34 reported by this time last year, according to a news release from the department in late June.

Heat-related incidents can be prevented with a few measures to ensure that both you and your family can safely get through this heat wave.

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a very real threat to anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun. Even though it’s not always obvious from the get-go, several heat exhaustion symptoms can let you know there’s a problem. 

As someone who has experienced heat exhaustion, it’s not a fun time! It interrupted my whole day and left me feeling weak, nauseous, and shaky. 

Below, I’ll provide a comprehensive guide to heat exhaustion including its prevention, symptoms, treatment options, and the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prevention

With temperatures soaring into the triple digits, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shared their suggestions for staying safe in the outdoors. Here are their top six heat hacks:

>> Hydrate: It’s important to drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Don’t forget to bring enough for your four-legged family members too.

More on severe weather: Arrival of Summer: On Dehydration, Hurricane Season & RVs

>> Block the Rays: Apply a generous amount of sunscreen or sunblock before heading outdoors. Be sure to reapply every couple of hours and after swimming or sweating.

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

>> Dress Smart: Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; a wide-brimmed hat, correct shoes, sunscreen, and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun. For pets, protect paws against blistering by hitting the trails during cooler times of the day when the ground isn’t hot or by putting booties on pets to help shield paws from the hot ground. Touch the pavement or ground with the back of your hand. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.

Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

>> Stay Salty: Food helps keep up energy and replace salt lost from sweating. Eating snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna, and dried fruit is a fantastic way to nourish your body while on the trails.

>> Buddy System: Two brains are better than one. It’s beneficial to have someone with you in hot conditions so you can look after each other on the trail. With high temperatures, heat-related illnesses are common, and having a friend around to help recognize the early symptoms can save you from getting sick.

Peralta Trailhead, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

>> Plan Ahead: Study the map and have it with you, avoid relying on your phone for maps since service may be unavailable in back-country areas. Average hikers move at 2 miles per hour, so allow yourself plenty of time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Make sure to rest in a cool or shaded area to recover from the heat if necessary. It is also a good idea to let someone know your plan before you hit the trails and what time you should be back. That way, if you become lost, people know where to look.

Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware of the heat and humidity index. A relative humidity of 60 percent or higher makes it hard for sweat to evaporate off your body. This can then lead to overheating, reports WebMD. You can experience heat exhaustion on any warm day but the risk increases exponentially if the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more. If the heat and humidity are high, limit strenuous activity and try to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day. 

More on severe weather: Hurricane Season: Staying Safe in your RV

Know if you are in a high-risk group. Heat exhaustion can affect anyone but the most vulnerable are those who are young and old: Children younger than 5 and adults older than 65 need to take extra precautions to avoid heat exhaustion.

Palm Desert, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you do plan to spend time outdoors during a particularly hot or humid day, you can form good habits to protect yourself. First of all, hydrate! Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you’re not feeling thirsty. 

Wear appropriate clothing and sun protection. Wear loose, light-colored clothing that is breathable. A breathable wide-brimmed hat will help you stay cool. Apply sunscreen frequently as well. If you have severe sunburn, you’re more likely to develop heat exhaustion because your body is warmer than usual according to Health Line.

Finally, NEVER leave children or pets in cars on hot days. This is common sense for most people but a reminder is still needed. Even adults can become overheated if they spend too much time in this environment! 

Palmetto State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Symptoms

First things first, you need to know the warning signs for heat exhaustion. This usually builds up over time and doesn’t hit you all at once. Some people might experience every symptom while others only have a few.

According to the Mayo Clinic the heat exhaustion symptoms and warning signs to watch for include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cool, damp skin
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Low blood pressure (especially when standing up quickly)
  • Swollen feet or hands
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dark urine
  • Pale skin
  • Fainting
  • Confusion

If you or someone around you is experiencing these heat exhaustion symptoms, it’s important to treat them immediately. Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke if it isn’t promptly dealt with. 

More on severe weather: Severe Weather: Tornado Safety Tips for RVers

Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Treatment options

Once heat exhaustion has set in, there are several things you can do to treat yourself or others according to the Cleveland Clinic. It’s best if you can get someone to help you because a person who is affected shouldn’t be moving around too much. 

First of all, heat exhaustion occurs when your body gets too hot and cannot cool itself down. This is especially common in areas with high heat and high humidity (because your sweat cannot evaporate and cool you down). 

Your priority needs to be lowering your body temperature. If possible, go indoors and find a cool room and lie down. Otherwise, look for a shady area where you can get out of the sun. Don’t exert yourself in this condition. 

Coachella Valley Preserve, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You need to hydrate. Heat exhaustion commonly occurs when someone is dehydrated because they don’t have enough fluids to produce cooling sweat. Drink cool water or sports drinks to replenish fluids and electrolytes. Don’t gulp it down, but take small sips so you can slowly adjust. If you drink too much too soon, you’ll cause more harm than good. Avoid soda and alcohol during this time. 

Finally, try to cool down with exterior methods. You can use cold washcloths, air conditioning, fans, or a cool bath/shower to lower your body temperature. If the affected person is wearing tight, restrictive clothing, that should also be removed. 

More on severe weather: Hail Can Be a Killer Especially For Your RV

Try all of the methods above for about one hour. If the heat exhaustion symptoms don’t improve during this period, it’s time to seek medical attention.

Usery Mountain Park, Mesa, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat stroke

Heat exhaustion isn’t fun to deal with but most people who receive proper treatment make a full recovery within a day or two. However, if the exhaustion is left untreated, it can rapidly change into heat stroke. 

This is a serious medical emergency that can end in death. A heat stroke occurs when your body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It can cause brain damage and can be life-threatening for most people reports the Mayo Clinic.

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to Health Line, symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • High fever (104 or higher)
  • Flushed, red skin
  • Headache
  • Delirium
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Coma
El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If heat stroke has begun to set in, you need to seek medical help immediately. While you wait for them to arrive, do everything possible to lower the body temperature of the affected person. Immerse them in a cold bath, mist the skin with cool water, or apply ice packs to high blood flow areas (wrists, neck, groin, armpits). Get them out of the sun and keep them still until help arrives, states the Mayo Clinic.

More on severe weather: Handling Cold Weather in Your RV

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke need to be taken seriously. If you feel like you’re becoming dizzy, weak, or nauseous after spending time in the sun, take care of yourself as soon as possible. These conditions can quickly get worse if you ignore them. 

Worth Pondering…

“‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”

—Sydney Smith

Severe Weather: Tornado Safety Tips for RVers

Tips for staying safe when camping in a tornado region

If you are planning on RVing or camping in a tornado region there are basic tips and information you should know before you go. 

The United States averages 1,200 tornados a year, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Doppler radar has improved the ability to forecast tornados but still only gives a warning of three to 30 minutes. With such little forewarning, NOAA stresses that tornado preparedness is critical.

An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a tornado?

A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. Because wind is invisible, it is hard to see a tornado unless it forms a condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust, and debris. Tornadoes can be among the most violent phenomena of all atmospheric storms we experience.

Where do tornadoes occur?

Tornadoes occur in many parts of the world including Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. Even New Zealand reports about 20 tornadoes each year. Two of the highest concentrations of tornadoes outside the U.S. are Argentina and Bangladesh.

An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How many tornadoes occur in the U.S. each year?

About 1,200 tornadoes hit the U.S. yearly. Since official tornado records only date back to 1950, we do not know the actual average number of tornadoes that occur each year. Plus, tornado spotting and reporting methods have changed a lot over the last several decades which mean that we are observing more tornadoes that actually happen.

Related: Stay Safe this Summer by Using These Outdoor Heat Hacks

Where is Tornado Alley?

Tornado Alley is a nickname invented by the media to refer to a broad area of relatively high tornado occurrence in the central United States. Various “Tornado Alley” maps look different because tornado occurrence can be measured in many ways: by all tornadoes, tornado county segments, intense and violent tornadoes only, and databases with different periods.

However, the idea of a “tornado alley” can be misleading. The U.S. tornado threat shifts from the Southeast in the cooler months of the year toward the southern and central Plains in May and June and the northern Plains and Midwest during early summer. Tornadoes can occur and have been reported in all fifty states!

Please remember, violent tornadoes do happen outside “Tornado Alley” every year.

An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When are tornadoes most likely?

Tornado season usually refers to the time of year the U.S. sees the most tornadoes. The peak “tornado season” for the southern Plains (e.g., Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas) is from May into early June. On the Gulf coast, it is earlier in the spring. In the northern Plains and upper Midwest (North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota), tornado season is in June and July. But, remember, tornadoes can happen at any time of year. Tornadoes can also happen at any time of day or night, but most tornadoes occur between 4–9 p.m.

What is the difference between a Tornado WATCH and a Tornado WARNING?

A Tornado WATCH is issued by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 across the entire U.S. for weather conditions that are favorable for tornadoes and severe weather. A watch can cover parts of a state or several states. Watch and prepare for severe weather and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio to know when warnings are issued.

Related: Hurricane Season: Staying Safe in your RV

A Tornado WARNING is issued by the local NOAA National Weather Service Forecast Office meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 over a designated area. This means a tornado has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar and there is a serious threat to life and property to those in the path of the tornado. A tornado warning indicates that you should ACT NOW to find safe shelter! A warning can cover parts of counties or several counties in the path of danger.

An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How is tornado strength rated?

To determine the strength of a tornado, experts examine the damage it caused. From this information, we can estimate the wind speeds.

Originally developed by Dr. Theodore Fujita in 1971, NOAA placed the Enhanced F-Scale in use in 2007 as an update to the original F-Scale.

The EF-Scale takes into account more variables than the original Fujita Scale (F-Scale) when assigning a wind speed rating to a tornado, incorporating 28 damage indicators such as building type, structures, and trees. For each damage indicator, there are 8 degrees of damage ranging from the beginning of visible damage to destruction of the damage indicator.

The original F-scale did not take these details into account. The original F-Scale historical database will not change. An F5 tornado rated years ago is still an F5 but the wind speed associated with the tornado may have been somewhat less than previously estimated. A correlation between the original F-Scale and the EF-Scale has been developed. This makes it possible to express ratings in terms of one scale to the other, preserving the historical database.

Fujita Scale (F-Scale)

Based on this scale tornados are rated as follows:

EF Rating = 3 Second Gust in MPH

  • 0 = 65-85 mph
  • 1 = 86-110 mph
  • 2 = 111-135 mph
  • 3 = 136-165 mph
  • 4 = 166-200 mph
  • 5 = Over 200 mph
An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tornado Warning Systems

If you are RVing near a small town, chances are there is a siren system that can be heard for several miles. Take a moment when you first arrive at your RV Park to find out about the tornado and storm warning systems for your area, even if you are staying only a short time. 

Tornado Shelters

Find out if your park has an onsite storm shelter or where the nearest shelter is located. Basements and underground shelters are the safest, but small, sturdy inside rooms and hallways provide adequate protection during a tornado, as well.

Related: Camping Awareness: Wildfire Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life

If there is no shelter on site, alternatives might be the park’s shower or bathroom stalls. If there is a sturdy building with closets or an inside hallway try to take shelter there. If none of these exist, drive to the nearest shelter as quickly as is safe. Keep your seatbelt on. 

Be careful! Tornadoes can form and be in contact with the ground without a fully condensed funnel!

Do RVs attract tornadoes? Of course not! It may seem that way, considering many tornado deaths occur in them and that some of the most graphic reports of tornado damage come from campgrounds, RV parks, and mobile home communities. The reason for this is that RVs and mobile homes are, in general, much easier for a tornado to damage and destroy than well-built houses and office buildings. A brief, relatively weak tornado that may have gone undetected in the wilderness or misclassified as severe straight-line thunderstorm winds while doing minor damage to sturdy houses, can blow an RV apart. Historically, mobile home parks have been reliable indicators, not attractors, of tornadoes.

An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tornado preparedness plan

NOAA’s and the American Red Cross’ recommended actions include:

  • Monitoring an NOAA Weather Radio
  • Know where to go for shelter, preferably within walking distance
  • Stow chairs and barbecues and other objects that could become projectiles
  • Go immediately when a tornado warning is issued
  • Wherever you find shelter stay away from windows
  • DO NOT plan on staying inside your RV
  • Bring your pets, if allowed, in a carrier
  • Grab only essentials (purse, ID, cash) and only if easily accessible
  • Don’t waste time searching for anything
  • Practice your tornado drill periodically

Signs of potential tornado 

  • Electrical charge in the air
  • Large hail
  • Lightning
  • Roaring noise
  • Grayish/greenish clouds
  • Visibly rotating clouds
  • Wall cloud that appears as thunderclouds dropping close to the ground
  • Cloud progressively extending down to the ground, increasingly funnel-shaped
  • Rotating dust or debris rising from the ground, often “reaching” towards a descending funnel-shaped cloud
An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inland and plains tornados

Tornados that develop on the plains and most parts of the country often are accompanied by hail or lightning. These warning signs are your signals to seek shelter until the storm passes. We tend to think of tornados as “approaching” from some distance. Bear in mind that every tornado begins somewhere. If that “somewhere” is close to you, you won’t have much time to get to a shelter.

Tornados can develop during the day or night. Naturally, nighttime tornados are the most frightening since you may not be able to see them coming, or might be asleep when they hit. 

An approaching storm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tornados spawned by hurricanes

Unlike inland tornados spawned from storms, those that develop in hurricanes often do so in the absence of hail and lightning. They can also develop days after a hurricane makes landfall but tend to develop during the daytime after the first few hours over land. 

Related: Six Heat Hacks to Stay Safe This Summer

Although tornados can develop in the hurricane’s rain bands, far from the eye or center of the storm, they are most likely to develop in the right front quadrant of the hurricane. If you know where you are about the hurricane’s eye and sections, you have a better chance of avoiding tornados. 

Obviously, evacuating before the hurricane makes landfall is the best choice you can make. Know when to get out of Dodge! Many situations can prevent you from getting as far away as you’d like, if at all. Running out of gas or diesel might be one of them.

Worth Pondering…

Outside the rain began to pour in sheets, and the wind howled. Giant pieces of hail began to pelt the building—banging off the skylights so hard that Simpson worried the glass might shatter. Then, as it had earlier in the day, the wind briefly let up. It was then Simpson heard a sound she had dreaded—a sound she couldn’t believe she was actually hearing. It was 2:40 p.m. and the tornado sirens in Moore started to wail.

―Holly Bailey, The Mercy of the Sky: The Story of a Tornado

10 Tips for RV Travel: How to Make the Most of Your Road Trip

Nothing screams summer more than a good ole’ road trip and RV travel is perfect for summer travel. Here are few tips to make your road trip as smooth as possible.

Road trips are a quintessential form of modern travel giving people the freedom to choose their direction and schedule and take in some beautiful sights on the way. 

RVing is a marvelous way to experience the freedom and flexibility of travel. RV road trips are sure not to disappoint—from traveling across America or heading north to Canada.

Driving a motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pre-Requisite of Traveling

Traveling in an RV is a great potential way to see the country while still having all the comforts of home. However, it’s essential to be prepared before hitting the open road.

Choose the right RV. Not all RVs are created equal. Make sure to pick one that’s the right size for the underlying needs and that has all the features you require.

Get insurance. Just like with a car, one needs insurance for the RV. That will protect you and your passengers in case of any damage or accidents.

Related Article: Top 10 RV Travel Tips of All Time

Be Patient and enjoy the process.

Driving a motorhome on US Highway 89 south of Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best tips for RV travel

These 10 tips will help make the road trip as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. So, whether you’re a first-time RV traveler or a seasoned pro, be sure to check out these tips.

Driving a motorhome on Newfound Gap Road, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #1: Plan, plan, and plan

While I do admit that spontaneous road trips can be as much fun as the ones you plan weeks or months in advance, some planning is required for even the most spur-of-the-moment trips. It’s always a good idea to at least have a sense of what direction you’re going and which major roads you’ll be taking in case something happens with your navigation. Several excellent online resources can help potential travelers plan the route, so check them out.

Utah’s Burr Trail is not suitable for most RVs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #2: Know the vehicle’s limitations

RVs are big and bulky making them a bit tricky to drive. That’s why it’s essential to know the vehicle’s limitations before hitting the open road. For example, the user will want to ensure that everyone is well aware of Row much weight the RV can safely carry. Users might also want to know the maximum speed limit of the vehicle and need to get familiarized with every one of the ins and outs of driving an RV before setting out on the trip.

This rest area west of Las Cruces (New Mexico) is a great stop to stretch your legs and snap a photo of the World’s Largest Roadrunner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #3: Plan for rest stops

When driving an RV, it’s essential to plan for rest stops. That is especially true if traveling with children or pets. Ensure that the RV has plenty of food and water for the trip and schedule regular rest stops so that everyone can get a break from the road. It’s also important to plan your overnight stops and make reservations well in advance, especially in the busy summer travel season.

Related Article: Road Trip Planning for the First Time RVer

Be aware of overhanging branches before backing into a camping site; pictured above is Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #4: Be aware of your surroundings

When driving an RV, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for other vehicles, low-hanging branches, and tight curves. It’s also important to be mindful of the RV’s size to avoid driving into a tight space or hitting something with the vehicle.

Stay organized with a place for everything © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #5: Stay organized

One of the biggest challenges of RV travel is staying organized. There’s a lot of stuff to keep track of when on the road and it is pretty easy to lose track of things. That’s why it’s crucial to stay organized from the trip’s start. That means packing everything in an easy-to-access place.

Stopping at a roadside attraction on US Highway 191 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #6: Don’t be afraid to make some stops

As eager as you might be to reach your destination, the random stops you make along the way are what will make your trip truly memorable. Visiting local businesses will give you a truer sense of the area you’re traveling in and could point you in some directions you didn’t know about before. Not to mention that getting out of the RV to stretch your legs is essential to ensuring everyone’s comfort the entire way.

Camping at Colorado River RV Park at Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #7: Know the camping basics

If one is not familiar with camping basics, now is the time to learn. Camping can be fun, but it’s important to know what travelers are doing before hitting the open road. That ultimately means knowing how to set up the RV on a camping site and the correct way to hook up the utilities (electric, water, and sewer). It’s also essential to learn the first aid basics to deal with any emergencies that may arise.

Camping in bad weather at Capital City RV Park in Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #8: Be prepared for bad weather

No matter the time of year you’re traveling, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for bad weather. That means packing a few extra clothes and some camping gear that can help travelers stay warm and dry in case of a storm.

Related Article: 30 RV Hacks and Tips for a Successful Road Trip

All set up in a camping site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #9: Be aware of the fuel budget

RVs require a lot of fuel, so it’s essential to be aware of the designated fuel budget before going on the trip. That means knowing how many miles the RV can travel on a tank of fuel and being prepared for a higher cost in some areas (expect to pay more per gallon in California, for instance).

Having fun may mean enjoying the sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

● Tip #10: Have fun!

The best thing about RV travel is that it’s all about having fun! So make sure to relax and enjoy the trip. That means taking time to explore the areas travelers are visiting and spending time with friends and family. Do not forget to capture plenty of moments in the photos to look back on the trip and remember all the good times one had.

Having fun may mean shopping at the local farmers’ market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other key guidelines

Here are some of my top-notch tips for a successful trip:

  • Create a packing list and stick to it
  • Check for traffic updates and plan the route accordingly
  • Find a storage location for all of the belongings
  • Stay safe on the road by following the rules of the road
  • Enjoy the journey and take in the sights and sounds of the open road
Walking the trails at Greenville, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Final stance

Now that you’re familiar with the basics of RV travel, it’s time to start planning the trip. The initial step is to decide on a destination. Do some research and find destinations that interest everyone. Once travelers have a few ideas, start putting planning the route and put together an itinerary. That will help ensure that one covers all the bases during the trip.

Unexpected fun adventure © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once the itinerary is in place, it’s time to start packing. Pack everything adventurers will need including clothes, RV supplies and camping gear, and food and drinks. And don’t forget to bring the camera so everybody can capture all the memories of the trip.

Related Article: How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in your RV?

Welcome Centers are a great source of information about the local area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finally, stock up on fuel and supplies before hitting the open road. That will help ensure that you have everything needed for a fun and successful trip.

Follow these tips to make the most of the road trip.

Worth Pondering…

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hail Can Be a Killer Especially For Your RV

There are four things that absolutely kill all recreational vehicles: water damage, neglect, accidents, and severe hail

If you are a careful owner that follows preventive maintenance guidelines and takes measures to reduce humidity in your rig you are well on the way to maintaining your RV in good condition.

That will eliminate water damage and neglect as possible destroyers. But there’s not much you can do about the forces of nature when they strike.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most forms of weather are not a problem while in your RV. People inside who aren’t touching anything conductive are safe. Lightning can damage wiring and electronics and even burn a small hole in the skin, but that is repairable. (So if you are in your RV and lightning is crashing down around you, stay put. You’re already in a good shelter.)

Heavy winds are likewise not usually a problem when situated in an RV park. If you are exceptionally concerned retract the slides.

But hail can be a killer. Hail can dimple the surface, rip holes in the skin, and destroy slide toppers.

Camping in Rapid City Campground and RV Park, Rapid City, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Imagine a baseball dropped from an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. Now imagine that baseball reaching speeds of 120 mph as it falls to the ground—and imagine you’re under it!

Fortunately, most hail is small—usually less than 2 inches in diameter. The largest hailstone (nearly the size of a volleyball!) fell on July 23, 2010, in Vivian, South Dakota, and had a diameter of 8.0 inches, a circumference of 18.62 inches, and weighed just under 2 pounds.

Camping in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hail is a frequent occurrence through the nation’s heartland during spring and summer, especially the Plains states and Prairie provinces but it happen anywhere there’s a thunderstorm. The presence of large hail indicates very strong updrafts and downdrafts within the thunderstorm.

While most weather watchers had their eyes trained on the Gulf Coast, a severe thunderstorm swept through the Black Hills region in South Dakota, devastating much of the area’s campgrounds and leaving millions of dollars in damaged RVs and structures.

Camping in Arrow Campground, Wall, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hart Ranch Resort south of Rapid City was one of the parks hit hardest by the Monday, August 27, 2021 storm. Hail the size of baseballs destroyed vehicle windows and bodies as well as almost every RV skylight and vent. RV roofs also sustained significant damage. The storm hit suddenly just after 7 p.m. Many RVs at the park sustained interior damage when water poured through broken vents.

The storm also ravaged the Mount Rushmore KOA Resort, just six miles from the Mount Rushmore National Monument. Managers there reported most RVs and other vehicles sustained severe damage as did many of the roofed structures on the campground. About 90 percent of the roofs on their structures need to be replaced and about 80 percent of the vehicles on the park had broken windows. Most of the RVs parked sustained damage. Most of the roof vents on units were taken out.

RVs parked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s no 100 percent guaranteed way of avoiding hail damage other than keeping your RV parked undercover. Since that doesn’t work on the road or in an RV park, a few other strategies will help to reduce your risk.

Check the weather report along your route during the summer when thunderstorms are more likely. A good weather app on your phone or tablet that shows color radar will help you spot thunderstorm activity as it happens.

Tornado warnings are a major red flag since tornadoes are spawned from the same severe thunderstorms that produce hail. Consider altering your route to avoid the highest risk areas or delay departure to the following day.

Camping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get off the road before the thunderstorm hits. There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Too many people wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms approach. Unfortunately, these delayed actions lead to many lightning deaths and injuries. 

When lightning and hail start happening it’s usually too late to look for shelter. Driving into hail at highway speeds will result in the hail smashing on the RV even harder, which increases the chance of permanent surface damage.

On-Ur-Way RV Park, Onawa, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hail can exceed the size of softballs and fall at speeds of over 100 mph, seriously injuring or killing anyone in its path. Even small hail driven by the wind can cause severe injuries.

DO NOT park under large trees or power lines, since these are easily felled by straight-line winds, which would be even worse. DO NOT stop in the middle of a lane under an overpass.

Camping at Dakota Campground, Mitchell, South © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most of the time hail damage is strictly cosmetic. This brings up the issue of whether to fix it or live with it. Talk to your trusted RV dealer and/or manufacturer before making your decision. There are no shortcuts to a good repair, so be wary of anyone who offers to fix it cheaply.

You may eventually encounter some hail, but it likely won’t be large enough to result in permanent damage. Don’t let a minor risk overshadow your travels—you’ll be fine and your RV probably will be too.

Worth Pondering…

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors