7 Tips for Newbies to Know BEFORE the First Trip

Vacationing by RV this summer? Here’s what you need to know.

When you first heard the words “black water” in conversation, you may have assumed the speaker was discussing an obscure movie, perhaps an Australian film created by 3D models or a 2017 Jean-Claude Van Damme flick.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, if you’re one of the many people who decides to take a summer road trip in an RV you would know that the first definition of black water is solid and liquid waste that must be dumped from your RV holding tank.

Here are seven helpful tips to know before embarking on your first RV road trip.

Sewer hose connected and ready to dump © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Don’t get poop on yourself

If there’s a toilet in your rig—and there most likely is—you’re going to need to dump the waste—the aforementioned black water—at some point (likely sooner rather than later). When you go to open the storage compartment on the side of the vehicle to remove the cap and connect the sewer hose in order to dump, remember this: Make sure the dump valves are closed! Trust me on this! Read the page in your RV owner’s manual about the holding tanks. Make sure you close those latches! Otherwise, you might gag while your sneakers become “poop shoes” you can never wear again.

Sewer hose connection up-close © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Remember your toolkit

It’s hard to anticipate something like having your side view mirror get so loose that it no longer provides any help with attempting lane changes. But these things happen, and you should prepare for them, instead of relying on your copilot to turn or finding a man on the road who has a wrench you can borrow to tighten said mirror.

Sewer dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring a toolkit. And store it on the curb side. Again, trust me on this. Bring Allen wrenches or Hex Key set. Bring duct tape and Rhino tape. Bring variety of screwdrivers including Phillips and Robertson. Bring hammer. Bring scissors. Bring a variety of wrenches. Bring plenty of rags. Be ready to fix the unanticipated.

Read carefully before pulling lever © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Pack sufficient cookware

If you’re renting an RV that comes stocked with kitchen tools, check that it also has pots and pans, cutting boards, and silverware. And if it has knives, make sure they’re sharp enough to cut effectively. Will the rental company reimburse you for replacing any missing or faulty cookware? It may be wise to take complete inventory of your cookware at time of rental.

Camping at Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Use leveling blocks

Like Legos? Stackable leveling blocks can be placed under your vehicle’s wheels in order to level out your parking spot. If you arrive at your camping site when it is dark or too tired to use leveling blocks, be prepared to face the consequences.  The fridge may stop running (because it relies on gravity to cool properly and only works when the vehicle is level). That brings us to the next tip.

Camping at Monahans Sands State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Arrive at your campground before dark

Plan your trip so that you get to your overnight parking spot before dark. Whether you’re driving into a campground, an RV park, or—especially—a place in the desert or woods where you’ll be boondocking (RV-speak for spending the night somewhere for free, without electric or water hookups), it’s important to be able to see your surroundings.

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

It’s very challenging to see camping site numbers and even harder to determine whether you’ve parked safely (and level) in the dark. Also: You want to wake up the next morning and be able to recognize your surroundings. Not knowing where you are can have a rather disturbing feel!

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Use RV toilet essentials

Sorry to bring up the poop thing again, but it’s important. Without it, traveling during a pandemic would be more dangerous. And if you don’t pack certain RV bathroom essentials, you’ll find yourself up a certain creek without a paddle.

Camping at Poches RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Knowing what your black water tank holds, the next logical question to ask is: how the heck do you keep it clean and odor-free? Fortunately, the availability of commercial chemicals and deodorizers makes it pretty simple to maintain your black tank on a regular basis.

Camping in Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the start of your camping trip, add a dose of RV black water tank treatment, which may come in liquid form or in Tide-Pod-like packets. Be sure to add in about a gallon of water, as well, which helps the chemicals do their job. Along with keeping tank odors down, these chemicals also have the ability to break down solid waste and toilet paper. That makes for a much smoother process when it comes time to dump your tanks.

Even if you use those things properly, there is a rare possibility you might end up with a clog in your toilet—and that is not a pretty picture.

Hiking Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise

Driving your bathroom and kitchen around with you makes life super convenient. You can eat, nap, and relieve yourself whenever you’d like! With that in mind, here are several suggestions on structuring your days when you visit national or state parks: Wake up early. Make coffee. Drive inside the park to a place with a gorgeous view. Enjoy the sunrise and wildlife with few other humans around. Go on a hike

Enjoying camping on Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you return to your camping site, take some time to appreciate the RV lifestyle. Bask in the nature around you before retiring to your big sleeping box. And promise yourself you’ll go on another road trip real soon!

Worth Pondering…

Wherever we go, we’re always at home.

What to Look For in an RV Campground?

A key factor in planning any RV road trip is the RV parks and campgrounds

Plans for your next RV road trip is mostly complete. You’re excited to hit the open road with your family, but haven’t given much thought to where you’re camping. Obviously, you know your destination. But, you aren’t sure how far you want to drive the first day, and whether you want to make some stops along the way. You’ll just Google the nearest campground when you feel the time is right to set up camp for the night.

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But before you hit the road, you should be aware that not all RV campgrounds are created equal and no one park is perfect for everyone. Campers can find RV parks in state parks and national parks as well as privately owned campgrounds. And the quality varies from budget to high end resorts.

A key factor in planning any RV road trip is the RV parks and campgrounds.

Meaher State Park near Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re thinking that all campgrounds are the same, think again. Every campground has its own set of rules and regulations, as well as different amenities. If you aren’t looking for full hookups, you can be less picky about what campground you choose for your stay. But if you’re looking for all the amenities including electric, water, sewer, cable TV, and Wi-Fi, there are several things you should look for before making your decision.

Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choosing an RV park sight unseen can be like playing the lottery. Many parks and resorts feature a variety of amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for all ages enabling families to enjoy quality time together.

Before leaving home, take the time to check out the best camping parks along your intended route and at your camping destination.

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choices for RV parks and campgrounds include luxurious RV resorts, activity-filled family destinations, 55+ parks, secluded natural settings, and basic parks conveniently located for an overnight stay. Prices also run the gamut.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a variety of campgrounds, each offering different amenities and activities. These include private RV parks; casino camping; national, state, and county park campgrounds; Army Corps of Engineers parks; and service club facilities.

Harvest Moon RV Resort, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are the best tips for choosing a campground and campsite that you and your family will love?

Irwins RV Park, Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing can make or break your RV vacation like choosing a campground not suited to your family’s needs and interests. When selecting a park, think about your camping style and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you camping with a young family?
  • Are you an active couple looking for outdoor adventures?
  • Are you snowbirds who enjoy on-site activities and the opportunity to meet new friends?
  • How large is your RV?
  • Consider your needs when choosing an RV park.
  • What amenities do you require? Full hook-ups? 30- or 50-amp electric service?
  • Are you looking for a rural or urban setting?
  • What is your nightly/weekly/monthly camping budget?
  • Do you travel with pets?
Cajun Palms RV Resort, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you plan to stay one night, a weekend, a week, or longer, there are campgrounds throughout the U.S. and Canada to meet your needs. All are unique. No two parks are the same. Each campground will provide something a little different.

You decide. Remember, getting there is half the fun.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be aware that RV parks and campgrounds have varied rules for check in and check out. Although some parks have 24 hour check in, most have set times that you must check in and check out. Some parks do not permit check ins prior to noon. If you plan to stop after hours call ahead to make the necessary arrangements.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

Operating an RV: Departure and Setup Checklist

Checklists can make your RV arrivals and departures easier and safer

If you’re new to RVing, you’re smart to wonder about how to drive and operate your RV properly. It’s your home away from home, and should be treated as such. And RVing with Rex has you covered with answers, tips, ideas, and more, so you can hit the road with confidence.

From inspecting and maintaining your RV to knowing how to depart from a campsite and set up procedure upon arrival at a new campground or RV park, having a plan helps everything run more smoothly and ensures you’re informed and in control every step of the way.

Camping at Irwins RV Park in Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Below is a Departure and Setup checklist to help get you started. It is meant to be a starting point for your own list.

Departure Checklist

Lower antenna and satellite dish

Retract awnings

Camping at Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Return slide-outs to their travel position

Secure loose items inside cabinets

Close and latch shower and closet doors

Close and latch oven, stovetop, and refrigerator doors

Camping at 12 Tribes Casino RV Resort in Omak, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Close and latch all internal doors (bathroom, bedroom, etc.)

Close roof vents and windows

Turn off propane-powered appliances

Close propane tank valve

Camping at Meaher State Park near Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clear the RV of trash

Stow steps, hand rails, etc.

Close and latch external door(s)

Check tire pressure on all tires

Camping at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Disconnect all hookups (electricity, sewer, water, cable, satellite)

Remove stabilizing jacks, raise leveling jacks, and store leveling blocks (as applicable)

Hitch trailer to tow vehicle or dinghy/toad to motorized RV

Camping at River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Test hitch connection by driving forward

Check signal lights, 4-way lights, brake lights, headlights, and fog lights

Do a final walk-around

Check mirrors

Checking in at the office at Whispering Hills RV Park near Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrival and Setup Checklist

Once you’ve arrived at your campground, RV resort, or final destination, it’s time to park, set up, and relax. Here are some basic pointers.

Check in with campground office/park ranger station

Obtain directions to campsite

Electric, water, sewer, and cable TV connections © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upon arrival at your site, do a walk-through, and determine best location for RV and toad/tow vehicle

Drive into campsite (pull through or back in)

Check parking job (space, alignment with hookups, clearance for slide-outs and basement bins)

Level RV

Connected to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lower leveling jacks until RV is supported

Unhitch RV and park toad/tow vehicle

Extend steps and restore hand rails and slide-outs to their parked position

Open propane tank valve

RV connections with caution warnings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connect to hookups (electricity, water, sewer, cable, satellite)

Extend slide-outs

Raise antenna and satellite dish

Sealed sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up outdoor gear and awnings

Return items to their parked storage positions

And now to kick back and relax © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.

—Franklin P. Adams

7 Campground Hookup Essentials

Trouble-free camping makes for happy camping

You’re out on the road in your new recreation vehicle for the first time and pull into a campground or RV park. You commit that huge mistake that tells the world you’re a newcomer to the world of RVing. Everyone makes rookie RV mistakes, but you can avoid the worst ones if you do your homework ahead of time.

Pull-through site at Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For the first couple of years of RVing it seemed I learned something new every time I pulled into a campsite and hooked up to the utilities. Sometimes, it was not the most enjoyable experience but a learning lesson.

Pull-in sites with a view at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Over the years, experienced RVers develop a mental “checklist” of items to inspect, clean, and prepare for when hooking up at a campground or RV park.

Following is a list of seven campground hookup essentials to follow:

Choose a Site That Best Meets Your Needs

Pull-through sites with a view at Irwins RV Park in Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You may want the patio side away from the glaring afternoon sun, or you may want to look out on a beautiful sunset. North facing campsites will have the sun warming the patio early in the morning. 

Back-in sites at Gulf State Park near Ocean Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The closer to the bathhouse, Laundromat, garbage bins, and dog park, the more traffic and noise. If you need Wi-Fi, check with the campground host to see if the signal is strong enough to get to the site you’ve been assigned.

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you are camping in extreme heat, check to see what side the refrigerator will be parked on during the heat of the day. Your refrigerator will run more efficient if it’s not in direct sunlight in the hot afternoon.

Inspect the Site

Inspecting the site at Coastal Georgia RV Resort near Brunswick and the Golden Isles, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Upon arrival at your site, do a walkthrough, and determine the best location for RV and toad/tow vehicle. Inspect the site for low hanging limbs and other obstacles that are in the way of an extended slide, broken glass, or other sharp items. Look down; look up. Check line of site for a satellite dish. Be aware of location and height of utility box in relation to your hookups and slides.

RV Leveling

Level sites at Cajun Palms RV Resort near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Level the rig before extending the slideouts. A level coach means a level chassis which means a solid and flush sidewall for the room to extend out.

Electrical supply

Progressive Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

First step is to make sure the circuit breaker on the campground pedestal is turned off. Attach your RV power cord to an electric management system and plug into the pedestal. There are numerous choices in the marketplace but we believe the Progressive Electric Management Systems are the best. These units continuously monitor the power supply coming into your RV and if it detects a variance outside of the tolerances will shut the power down. Without the device, a power spike or low or high voltage can damage to your electrical system.


At the very least, check the electrical supply at the campground before plugging in by plugging in a GFCI tester. 

Sanitize the city water faucet before connecting your water hose and pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sanitize the city water faucet with ½ cup bleach in a gallon of water prior to attaching your pressure regulator and water hose. Fecal coli and other pathogens can form on exposed fixtures and a simple spray will provide a sanitized environment. Make sure you use an approved drinking water hose for the supply and store it away from the drain hose equipment. Make sure the valve is set to city water, not “fill tank” if you rig has this feature.

Dump Hose

Electric, water, sewer and cable TV connections © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Connect your dump hose to the dump station if applicable but leave the valves closed. Open valves let odors into the rig and worse, allow liquid to drain out and solids to stay in the tank and pyramid.

Propane Tank

Open your propane tank slowly! There is an excess flow valve designed into the POL valve connected to the tank and opening it fast with shut down the valve until pressure subsides which can be several minutes. Check the stove and oven before opening the valve to make sure they are not on.

And it was another beautiful day at Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey