Traveling in a large RV offers perks beyond just added floor space. Big rigs host large fresh water and holding tanks, residential refrigerators, roof space for solar panel setups, and power generators—allowing for extended stays in dispersed and non-serviced locations. Bonus amenities such as washers and dryers, full-sized showers, king-size beds, multiple living spaces, and extra storage capacity can typically be found in RVs that are longer than 35 feet.
Whether you’re a weekend traveler, a part-time RVer, a snowbird, or live in your rig full-time, navigating roads and campgrounds in a big rig often entails a bit of extra planning.
RVs are long, wide, and difficult to maneuver. But, don’t forget—RVs are tall, too. This means when it comes to overhangs, bridges, canopies, and power lines, you have to be careful; RVs and low clearances don’t play well together. Here’s what you can do about it as an RV driver starting with knowing the exact height of your rig.
Not how tall the owner’s manual says it is but how tall it really is? You simply have to go out and measure it yourself. This way you know for sure and that helps you better plan your traveling route without worrying about losing your satellite dish under a lower-than-expected bridge or underpass. The highest clearance is typically found toward the center of an underpass.
Always check the weather forecast when you’re driving or towing your big rig. The flexibility to leave a location early or late depending on wind or precipitation conditions could save you from a frightening driving experience or serious accident.
It’s especially prudent to consider weather conditions when planning to traverse a route with numerous sharp curves or steep grades. Big rig engines are subject to overheating when pushing or pulling up long grades. When the outdoor temperature is high, the risk of engine overheating rises. If you don’t have a substantial braking system on board or the weather is not optimal, routing around long or steep downgrades may be worth the added time and fuel.
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The taller and longer the RV, the more susceptible it is to strong crosswinds. The National Weather Service says that winds of 30 miles per hour will make it difficult to drive high-profile vehicles. If wind speeds are any higher, namely higher than 40 miles per hour, it’s best not to drive big rigs. A crosswind that strong can easily knock over these taller vehicles.
Before you set out on a trip, be sure to check wind advisories along the route. If you know where and when there will be inclement weather you can modify your route, postpone the trip, or find a safe place to hunker down and wait out the weather.
Consider commuting with empty holding tanks. Not only do full tanks decrease fuel efficiency and tax an engine, but added liquid weight can decrease braking efficiency.
RVs have advanced in both design and size but not all campgrounds were built or have been upgraded to accommodate large or heavy rigs. Confirm that a campsite can accommodate a big rig by verifying that both the campsite you’ve selected and the access roads to that camping space can support your rig’s overall length, width, weight, and ride height.
If the campsite pad is dirt or grass, make sure you have the correct tools to level your rig. Heavy rigs and their levelers are known to sink into soft pads—including asphalt. Wet weather can further impact a site’s ability to support larger rigs.
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When researching, consider the campsite’s stated length and width. Look out for any mentions regarding vegetation overgrowth or low-hanging tree branches. Be prepared to respect the boundaries of established campsites. It’s necessary to choose another option if you suspect or realize your rig might negatively impact campsite conservation.
Keep reports of a campsite’s grade in mind. Most refrigerators need to be level to function properly but RVs with longer wheelbases (especially Class A motorhomes) can be difficult to level in a site with a moderate grade or more.
Check out the campground’s official website, read reviews left by previous travelers, utilize satellite-based mapping tools, and/or contact the RV park to confirm the accuracy of the information.
If you arrive at the entrance to your destination and are concerned about accessibility, scout the area. While this practice is typical for RVers with big rigs exploring dispersed camping areas, it’s also good practice when pulling up to any campground with dubitable access. Unhooking a towed vehicle, dropping your tow-behind RV, or walking the route may seem like a hassle but it can save you stress, time, and money.
Driving fatigue besets many big rig drivers more quickly than when driving an automobile. Also, big rig-accessible rest stop locations aren’t as readily available, especially on secondary highways. Planning possible break locations ahead of time at rest areas, truck stops, or big box store parking lots makes for a more enjoyable and safe journey.
Big box stores and grocery chains typically feature large lots with ample, big rig-friendly parking options during local operating hours and are often within walking distance of restaurants and coffee shops.
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It’s in everyone’s best interest that large RV operators move slowly and methodically even if that means holding up traffic. When the opportunity to allow more agile vehicles to pass arises, it’s courteous to permit that.
Careful research when traveling with your large rig will lead to an enjoyable and safe adventure. Equip yourself with a plan, a backup plan, and flexibility for all your big rig travels.
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In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
—Mark Twain (1835-1910)