To set the record straight, my wife does not camp. I have dispersed camped in a Jeep and off road camper for over 20 years, mostly alone or with friends. It is not my wife's game and that's fine. She did it grow up camping in a travel trailer but it still took a couple of years for me to convince her to give it another try...and we did!
We call it our "Covid Camper". Purchased used in 2020 I had finally gotten the blessing from the wife to look around and see what was out there. I read through a few blogs, hit a few websites, read up on brands but nothing major really; and certainly nothing to prepare me for the huge learning curve I was about to endure.
We found a 2018 Class A Thor Ace Motorcoach roughly 31' in length and weighing in at over 21,000 pounds. It sits on a Ford F53 chassis powered by a Ford Triton V10 engine. I was a tad bit intimidated. Uhmmmm....okay...I was petrified.
With the paperwork signed and vehicle prepped it was time to pick it up. The "walk thru" was a sham. "Here are your standard light switches." Huh? I wanted to know about electrical, plumbing, and other ins and outs of operating this thing but it wasn't to be had. I got the keys and me and the kid loaded up and left with the wife following, making sure I didn't wreck this thing on the first day.
If you are looking at your first RV, whether a trailer, Class A, or Class C, there is a lot going on with these things and I'm sure you're wondering what in the hell you are getting into. I certainly was. Now, I am not professing to be an expert on RV's. This post is only to share some of my insights as a newbie and what I learned to do, and not to do.
Gas or Diesel Pusher
It was interesting as I learned how to truly navigate this beast. Driving a Class A is not like driving a standard vehicle. You can't sit back and be lulled by the A/C or music. You have to be engaged in the driving and astutely aware of where you are. You have to consider height, width, length, potholes in the road, and where and when and how to execute a turn or lane change, among other factors. Ours came with side cameras embedded in the side mirrors and they helped tremendously. The side mirrors also had a lower concave mirror that showed the lower length of the RV so I could make sure there weren't any of those drivers who like to hang out in another vehicles blind spot.
Now, I've heard heavenly stories about diesel pusher RV's that sit on a commercial chassis and I'm told it is a huge driving difference. This Ford chassis we had, which is what most gasoline RV's use, rode like a bicycle rolling on its rims sans tires. On longer trips I'd arrive and simply felt beat up. It was far worse when I spent three, 10-hour days driving it back to Louisiana loaded with recovery gear and equipment. Hurricane Laura had nearly destroyed my hometown and I drove it loaded to help for two weeks. It was a brutal three days there, working, and then three days back.
Gas or Diesel - Gas RV's are cheaper and maintenance on a pusher is expensive. Do your research.
Type of Chassis - A commercial chassis, like a Freightliner, are kings of the road.
Driver's Seat - Here you should check for mobility. It will certainly go back and forth, but does it raise and lower?
After 3 days and loaded the author made it to Lake Charles, La
Ours didn't and the side where my left leg rested was just high enough that I struggled
to stay flat-footed. I ended up with a small footstool on the floor to rest my foot on.
Most Class A's will have a hydraulic leveling system. The control panel will be located
near the driver's console and the actuating system in a compartment underneath. For
ours, it was simply an on/off button with other indicators showing which jack(s) were
down/up or moving into place. With the push of another the system automatically
dropped the four jacks and leveled the RV. It's very impressive. For trailers or 5th
Wheel RV's, these may by deployed with a hand crank or individually via an
electronic/hydraulic lift at each jack. If yours is a hand crank get an impact
wrench to speed things up. If you find the system didn't quite get you level, you can
switch to manual mode and adjust as needed. I use an app on my phone that shows a
digital bubble level. If you get the circle inside of the bigger circle, you're set.
Seriously consider who will be travelling with you. We didn't and the lack of adult
sleeping space was missed. The master bedroom was excellent and with an A/C unit
over our heads, it was great sleeping. The problem was the overhead sleeping bunk
above the driver/front passenger area was rated for 300 pounds and two adults would
test that rating. It's great for kids or gear, but not much more. The couch was not a
pull-out sleeper sofa but instead a jack knife bed. That and the dinette bed are not
good for anything but very small children.
My wife is a self-professed RV pro. She and her family had a travel trailer many years ago and before I knew it, we were on a first-name basis with the Amazon delivery guy. She had ordered everything we needed and a few things we didn't need. Yes, she decorated the inside impeccably and the couch and our bed had more pillows than I could count. Here are a few purchases made. Some good, some not so good.
Fresh Water Connection - Every full hook-up site we visited had your water supply
within 10' and after the first outing, I was done with the 100-foot hose my wife
purchased so I got a 25'. The only time the 100 footer is used is when I fill up my fresh
water tank, but I still do not need 100'.
Fresh Water Hose Coil Spring - This device connects to the fresh water outlet on your
RV and then to the end of your hose. If you do not use this or similar, your hose will
collapse and pinch on itself, cutting off the water supply.
In-Line Water Filter - There are dozens of types out there so just do your research.
Most attach at the water source then the hose connects. Keep in mind there is a
direction for the water to flow indicated by arrows. We spent a bit more and ours is
good for roughly 3000 gallons. You can purchase single filters or for those serious
water connosieurs, multiple filters in stages to really clean the agua. The one we
purchased is here.
Portable Black Water Tank - The wife got one of these, but unless you're stationary for
an extended period of time you don't need one. These are designed to let you offload
your black/grey tanks, attach it to your vehicle if needed, and haul it to the
dumpstation...all without disconnecting your RV to drive to the dumpstation.
Black and Grey Tanks
You will need to purchase RV Septic Hose(s). Here's the one we chose. You'll want to
get two sections instead of one long one. Most of the time you'll only need one
section. The type we purchased had very sturdy rotating fittings that locked very well
It also had a 90 degree sewer adaptor. Trust me on this, you WILL need to secure the
sewer hose into the septic tank outlet sticking out of the ground. They are usually
3"-4" PVC pipe. Yes, you can use a rock resting on top of the hose, but even those are
questionable. My first experience with dumping our black tank came after I simply
stuck the end of the hose in the drain, not realizing how much force was exerted when
I pulled the handle. It was just in the nick of time that I got my foot on the neck of the
hose as it was bucking under the pressure. The 90 degree adapter has tiered fittings
to screw into 3" or 4" septic. A quick twist to get the threads to bite and your safe
from, well, you know what.
Most campgrounds will require you to keep the sewer line off of the ground. This
device is a collapsible, accordion-like plastic thingy that stretches underneath your
sewer hose from the RV to the sewer line. Here's where you need a sewer hose
support. Again, there are dozens out there but the one we bought is here.
And here's a trick I learned to prevent smells and bugs from flying from the sewer line
back into the RV. After you've connected your sewer and extended the sewer hose
support under it; allow a short section of the sewer line to droop. Similar to the P-
Trap under your sink or designed into your toilet at home, this will keep water in the
line and prevent unwanted smells and bugs from paying you a visit!
You should always dump the black first, then the grey. That way any solids are moved
through the septic hose and down the drain. Many RV's also have a black tank flush.
You can purchase water hoses for this that are shorter and colored bright orange so as
not to confuse them with any other hoses. Attach to the black tank outlet and the
end to your hose bibb and fill the black tank. You do not need to fill it up, but let it go
for 2-3 fifteen fills and flush the tank between each one. That way your black tank is
much cleaner. Leave a bit of the water in the tank and drop in one of the black tank
deoridizer tabs and you're set.
Unless your have a weird fetish invest in a good set of rubber gloves for dumping. It
will splash and you will get "(sh)it" on your hands.
And while we're gagging on this topic, after a good black tank dump and cleaning,
leave a few gallons of clean water inside. The toilet is generally on top of the black
tank and after several um..."sessions", solids will begin to pile. Leaving some water in
the tank will help disperse this waste, get it suspended, and help it drain at your
RV's must have miles of wiring to accomodate all of the sytems. Whether it's for shore
power, generator power (aka the "genie"), powering the inverter or converter, tapping
into the house batteries or the vehicle battery...it's a lot. I will not remotely pretend
to be an electrician but I have learned a few things.
30 Amp or 50 Amp
Many smaller RV's are 30 amp. With two A/C's and other amenities ours was a 50 amp.
These are easily distuinguished by unique male/female plugs on either cord. You can't
plug one into the other. You can get a step down short cord to go from 50 amp to 30
amp, however. Our storage facility only supplied 30 amp power and this adaptor
worked great. If I was cleaning up the inside of the RV on a Phoenix summer day, I
could still run one A/C.
If you're on shore power, do not run the genie! If you're on the genie, do not plug into
shore power. Period.
Look at your RV wiring diagram and find any plugs that are running through the
inverter. When you find them, those are the ones that will still work off of the
engine battery, i.e. if you're driving and need to charge a device. Yes, you can crank
the genie but why do so if you don't need to?
While getting a new inverter my RV repair guy suggested an inverter disconnect
switch. Prior to getting it, the inverter was always under load and connected to the
batteries even when parked for an extended period of time. He suggested this on/off
switch in our battery compartment. When parked we turn off, i.e. "disconnect" the
inverter from the batteries.
Believe it or not, many RV's do not have a way to monitor the house batteries. My RV
shop installed a bluetooth device that, after downloading the companion app, I have
more information about my batteries than I know what to do with. Voltage,
Amperage, Usage, History, if there is a drain, etc. It has been incredible!
The best part of this experience was buying the stuff to have fun with. Now, that's not
to say it was cheap, I mean, it's my wife, and she does not scrimp. Plus, if you've made
it this far you know by now you're not getting off cheap. The RV lifestyle isn't, so bite
the bullet unless you just plan on loitering under your awning for days on end while
sitting on the ground.
Chairs - We initially invested in several aluminum folding chairs with the fold out end
table. They were nice but not having a place to rest the feet became uncomfortable.
A few months later we bought two of the folding, recliner-type chairs. Rest your feet
on the bar, lean back, and lock it into place. Priceless.
We love to cook outside and our RV had an external propane valve. Along with a
longer propane hose, one of our first purchases was an outdoor stove/griddle. This
was had from Ace Hardware and was much cheaper than most. The legs collapse and
both griddle and BBQ attachments can be removed for easy storage. Here's the one
we've used. My fondest memory was us set up over the weekend at Lake Pleasant,
Arizona. It was a Sunday, weather was cool and it was football season. I started an
early gumbo (we're from Louisiana!) and because I'm technically challenged, got the
kid to set up the outside TV. There was nothing better that day than cooking and
watching the Saints. It doesn't get any better than that!
It's safe to say that one could go on forever about their first RV experience. Thanks to the web anyone can muddle through the vast resources out there to help them navigate that new world. So, if you're thinking about pursuing this adventure be sure and read up, watch the videos, and read the blogs. You are surely to learn a thing or two and prevent some of the mistakes I've made. Cheers ~