If you’re like us, you went out and bought a RV to start your full-time dream without ever having owned one before. The idea to do this, came less from the love of camping (ok, not at all) and more from the love of freedom, travel and adventure. So those “minor” details of understanding how a rig works and the ins and outs of every day RV life were things we figured out along the way. We had been camping with family and knew the basics, but that doesn’t really prepare you for the real full-time life. BJ spent a lot of time googling and watching YouTube videos when things weren’t working properly or those rare occasions of operator error..LOL! So I thought I’d share the knowledge we’ve learned over the past year and a half, to save as many of you from frustrating days on the road.
Let’s talk about black tanks (YAY)
Fortunately for me, I don’t have to mess with this at all. My Batman takes care of all our sewer needs (bless his heart). He has a strict regiment and routine he uses to drain, clean and keep things as least smelly as possible. His tips: If you’re connected to sewer, leave the grey tanks open and black closed. Then as you notice the black tank getting full, go ahead and close the grey tank valves, so you can have shower and sink water to flush the hose after draining the black tank. Then he puts some powder laundry detergent with a splash of bleach down the toilet before he performs a fresh water flush, to help keep the black tank “clean” and smells at bay. We rarely use the additive you pour down after you drain, but when it starts to heat up outside, you’ll notice the smell gets a little stronger between drains, and that’s when we use it. We’ve also been told a ton of times that the morning of a move, pour a few bags of ice down the toilet and it’ll help knock anything stuck loose and drain when you get setup. Ok, enough of that!
Antenna and Cable
I see this question a lot…you’ve scanned and still aren’t picking up any channels. This little problem was definitely one we had to google and ask about. Apparently there is a small booster button behind one of the TVs in your coach. In our first camper it was connected to the TV in the living room and in this one it’s behind the bedroom TV. So you just have to look around. There is a teeny tiny little button to push to turn it on (once on you’ll see a green light), right beside the button. You’ll want this on when using the antenna or air to scan for channels. If the amplifier/booster is on and you’re connected to cable you won’t be able to pickup any channels through cable, so be sure to turn it off when using a cable connection. Also, this adapter (for iphones) has been a game-changer for watching and streaming, it allows you to share your phone screen to your TV so you can stream without connecting your smart TV or roku to wifi and just use your phone’s data. (you’ll also need a HDMI cable).
Dealing with electric service
Rigs are getting bigger and most need 50amp service. Many parks, especially state parks, don’t always have 50amp hookups, but will have two 30amp plugs. We discovered what we call the pigtails, it is two 30amp plugs that connect to a 50amp. This allows you to hookup just as if you had a single 50amp outlet. At only $40 I think it should definitely be part of your must haves.
Misc Tips & Tricks
- It took us a few months before we realized we had to actually open the vent for the microwave hood on the OUTSIDE of the camper for it to work right. We’d turn it on and it makes that fan sound, but it wasn’t sucking the air out at all. You have to turn the little tabs or slide them (depending on your model) to allow the vent to open. We leave it open until a windy day comes along and the noise of it flapping around drives us crazy.
Every campground has different water pressure so you’ll want to ALWAYS keep a regulator on the spigot (that’s what we call them in the south) to help avoid coming home to a flooded rig.
- I see on different forums folks debating whether or not to leave the hot water heater on all the time. I don’t know if there is any real reason other than to conserve electricity and maybe help to prolong the life of the heating element, but we do cut ours on and off as needed. It just seems silly to have it running when we’re away from the camper exploring for hours. We got use to doing this from staying in sites with only one 30amp plug and having to pick and choose when and what was using electricity. Also, another hot water heater tip, if you drain it make sure you give it time to fill back up before turning it on or you’ll fry the heating element. We drain every bit of water out of the camper before we move to lose as much weight as possible. So we have to give the tank time to fill before turning on.
Setting Up and Packing Up
- Be sure to double check that you have room for your slides to extend before leveling and unhooking. We made that timely mistake only once. We measured and now we just bust out the tape measure if we’re at all unsure if there’s enough room…measure twice unhook once 😉
- Take the time to sweep off the roof and slides before packing up (or every few weeks if you don’t move that often).
- Have a routine (and even better a checklist, specific to your coach) when getting ready to pull out and even while setting up. In the beginning I’d drive BJ crazy trying to figure out how I can help, interrupting his flow and routine, which could cause an expensive mistake of forgetting to do something important. So instead I began staying in ear shot range for when he actually needed my help and now we have it DOWN! I know what I need to do and when and mostly to stay out of the way :).
- Before you pull out of the campground, stop and just do one more double check that everything is how it should be, especially if packing up felt rushed or chaotic.
These are just a few of things that come to mind. Camping and Full-Timing comes with daily “ah-ha” moments and I think it’s impossible to know everything about your rig. My best advice is to take your time (I’d rather spend an extra 25 minutes to make sure something is done right than pay $$$ to fix it later) and when in doubt Google it. And oh yeah, enjoy and have fun!