by Morgan Rogue – Have you decided to take the plunge and buy an RV? Congratulations! You’re about to embark upon a lot of great memories with your family.
Whether planning to purchase an RV for full-time living, or just for vacations, it’s important to perform due diligence to understand what you’re about to embark on.
Before purchasing our first RV, we had a million questions. With just one queen sized bed, where were we all going to sleep? Will we be stepping all over each other? How will we stay warm, especially when we are boondocking? Will the AC be able to handle southern heat? How will I cook with no counter space? How are we going to bathe? How are we going to do laundry?
The questions were endless and quite honestly, I was nervous. What the heck were we getting ourselves into?
We’ve learned a lot since those beginner days and feel a lot more confident in our family’s full-time RV life.
Here are 9 things every RV beginner needs to know:
1. Cooking and Baking in an RV
Turning on the oven in your home or apartment would heat up the house, right? The same thing happens in an RV. And since the RV is a lot smaller, it heats the whole place up very fast! Many people won’t even use the oven unless it’s cold enough outside to justify the heat. Even your stovetop will heat up your RV a bit.
Be prepared to not bake as much and to do much of your cooking outdoors, if you can. One way we cook is with an InstantPot because it doesn’t heat up the RV and we can cook an easy, quick meal in very little time. Cooking outside with a camp stove, like a Coleman, is also an option.
2. RV Water and Sewage
In a home, you don’t have to think about dumping your water and sewage, but in an RV, that’s exactly what you have to do. There’s a grey tank for water used from sinks and showers.
Then there’s a black tank for toilet usage. These tend to fill up rather quickly depending on how often you use water and toilet. They will need to be emptied, either by parking somewhere with a sewer that you can “hook up” to or by dumping it in a designated dump station.
3. Organize, Organize, Organize Your RV
I can’t stress organization enough. There’s far less room in an RV, so whatever you take, it’s a good idea to be organized. Have bins in every cabinet and drawer and be sure to mark what’s in the bins. Designate certain spots for certain items. For instance, always keep your batteries in the exact same place.
While at first it might be a challenge to remember where everything is, over time you’ll remember that batteries are in that particular spot because it’s stayed in that particular spot. In the beginning, write down the contents of each of the cabinets and place it on the outside of the corresponding cabinet. This way, all that needs to be done is take a glance at the cabinet, instead of rummaging through every single cabinet to find one item.
4. RV Fridge and Freezer Size
The fridge and freezer will be downsized tremendously. You will no longer be able to go to Costco, buy a bunch of food and freeze it. You will only be able to keep so much food in the fridge and freezer.
Depending on the size of your family, you may have to go shopping a couple times a week. If you plan it right you could go shopping just once a week, but that would depend on if you rely more on fresh foods or nonperishable foods.
5. RV Heating and Cooling
An RV has very little insulation. While almost every RV has AC unit(s) and a heater, you’ll want to insulate a bit so that you’re not constantly running your AC or heater. The main things you want to insulate would be all the windows. They have insulated black out curtains, as well as bubble reflective foil. They both work wonders.
Don’t forget to insulate your water hose in cold temps. You could even insulate the inside of your cabinets. And if you’re in extremely cold temps, you might consider purchasing an RV skirt. Adding insulation is good for both summer and winter temperatures.
6. Propane and RVs
Driving your RV to fill your propane isn’t generally an issue, unless you’re planning on staying stationary somewhere for a long period of time. You can fill propane anywhere that sells propane, I’d suggest doing a Google search as there’s no one major company. Some major truck stops may even sell propane.
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You may want to consider a transfer tank with appropriate hose and hookup so that you don’t have to move your entire RV just to fill your propane. Ask the propane dealer about a transfer tank and appropriate hookups. Your gauges in the RV should let you know when it’s getting low.
7. Taking a Shower in an RV
Taking a shower is a lot different in an RV than in a home. In an RV, your hot water heater is quite small and will only allow for quick showers. We’ll keep the water off until we’re ready to rinse and then will quickly turn it back off. If you prefer to take a normal shower, you may want to use the facilities that are provided by many parks. There are also showers available at truck stops.
8. RV Maintenance
Just like a home or vehicle, an RV will require regular maintenance, including basic oil changes. I would highly suggest understanding some basic RV maintenance to not only save money, but also time. It may be difficult to find someone who can perform RV maintenance.
Even in large towns, we’ve had trouble locating someone to perform an oil change, but since we know how to change the oil ourselves, we don’t need to locate anyone to do it for us. It saves us time and money.
9. Laundry and Full-time RV Living
While some RVs come with their own washer and dryer, many do not. Many parks have laundry facilities. We do our own ‘off grid’ laundry with two 5 gallon buckets. Soap in one bucket and clean water in the other.
Then we use a clothesline to dry. Then there are laundromats available. If you plan to use a laundromat, make sure to have some cash and quarters on hand as some laundromats don’t accept cards.
To learn more about what to expect and how to be prepared for your new life, YouTube was a great resource for us. We’ve learned many tips and tricks from those more experienced. Even now, we watch countless hours of YouTube videos showcasing the successes and struggles of RV life.
I’d also suggest joining Facebook groups where you can read first hand experience from others while also being able to ask your own questions when they come up. Head to Facebook and type ‘RV Group’ in the search bar and you’ll see dozens of active groups.
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Morgan Rogue lives and travels full time in an RV with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. They travel the U.S. sharing preparedness and outdoor knowledge. She is the owner and founder of Rogue Preparedness where she teaches emergency preparedness and survival skills.