How to prepare your RV for a camping trip

Adventure 4 min read

Most problems on the road are preventable, and preparation can be the key to enjoying your RV travels. Your RV has two main functions. First, it’s portable. Second, it’s a home. So, consider all the prep work that you need to complete to ensure it’s roadworthy and camp worthy. An RV camping checklist made a few weeks in advance of your scheduled trip can help ensure you have time to adjust and buy or order necessary parts and supplies.

Inspect your RV before you travel

Mechanical issues can quickly ruin your RV camping trip. But with preparation, inspection, and routine maintenance, you can protect your rig and prevent components from breaking or wearing out prematurely.

Tire check

Tires lose pressure over time, and you need to check tire pressure before departure. Refer to your manual or the tire placard to find the recommended tire PSI and use a tire pressure gauge to measure your levels.

Check the tread of your tires and the tire manufacturer’s recommendations for specifics. The general guidelines state that tire tread should be 6/32 of an inch or higher. Tread depth 4/32 of an inch or less means it’s time to consider replacing your tires. Inspect for any damage or wear-and-tear around the tires, and check the tightness of the lug nuts.

Engine fluids and filters

You don’t need to be a mechanic to perform some important preventative maintenance on your engine. Whether towing a trailer or driving a motorhome, checking, and changing fluids and filters are well within your wheelhouse or you can have a mechanic do it at a local shop.

Does your mileage indicate that you need an oil change before or during your trip? Don’t just base this off your mileage at departure, but rather all the way through the trip. If you’ve replaced your oil recently, check the levels to ensure there’s been no loss of oil, which could indicate a problem. Work through any other fluids needed like transmission fluid, radiator coolant, brake fluid, and even wiper blade fluids to ensure proper levels. Learn more about how to check fluid levels.

Check the engine, oil, and fuel filters on your motorhome or tow vehicle. You should change the oil filter when changing the engine oil. For the fuel filter, pay attention to a decrease in fuel efficiency, rough idling, or engine stalling– which could indicate the need to replace the filter. Perform a visual inspection of as many belts and hoses as possible while under the hood. You can identify worn or frayed belts and hoses that you should replace before leaving.

Hitch and tow inspection

Inspect your hitch and tow systems prior to departing. RVs have multiple towing setup options. But there are some precautions that can apply to all types of towable vehicles. So, inspect for loose parts, corrosion, or wear on all towing components, including those for:

  • Trailer hitch
  • Weight distribution components
  • Sway control
  • Frame mount hitch
  • Tow dolly components

All bolts loosen over time due to road vibrations, so check those for tightness. Check all cables, chains, and electrical connections for damage. Test brake lights and turn signals, the coupler mechanism, and all hitch pins. If you depart and notice any strangeness in the feel or handling, stop immediately to inspect. Often, these small indications are the difference between a small fix early in the trip or a big problem.

Systems check

An overall systems check ensures all appliances and amenities work as they should. Start with your most basic of needs: water. First, sanitize your freshwater tank if your RV has been in storage. Otherwise, add deodorizer to black and grey water tanks and ensure both are empty. Next, inspect and run your water heater.

Test all the electric and propane appliances to ensure they run and operate as they should.

  • Water pump, water hookup
  • Stove and oven
  • Furnace and AC
  • Refrigerator and microwave
  • Lights and vent fans

Even test the appliances you don’t think you’ll use on this trip, like your AC during an autumn trip, so you can create a to-do list when you return. The sooner you fix non-functional appliances, the better. You should use your generator during this time to check the appliances so you can also inspect it, including changing filters and fluids as needed.

Prepare an RV camping checklist

Enjoying your time at the campsite and in your RV is the next priority. You need to make sure your rig is camp worthy before departure. Otherwise, you may make grocery and equipment runs during your stay.

  • Create a list of items you’ll need at the campground including food, supplies like propane and firewood, and anything else you’d need at camp.
  • Make sure you have enough propane for your trip. Fill or exchange propane cylinders and check tanks for any potential leaks by plugging them in momentarily.
  • Create a meal plan based on your stay. A meal plan will help you organize a stock list for grocery items. Note what needs to be refrigerated so you can plan accordingly.
  • Organize the gear you’ll need for recreation now: what do you need for hiking, fishing, and boating?
  • Leave with a full tank of gas. Find a reasonable price the day or week before the trip.
  • Stock a roadside emergency kit that includes flares and other safety items.
  • Consider buying a roadside assistance membership.
  • Stock common items like extra engine oil, flashlights, batteries, and windshield fluid.
  • Plan your route and double check your reservation details.
  • Ensure you have adequate stabilizers and wheel chocks.
  • Pack all necessary park passes, paperwork, and registrations.
  • Check time-zone changes that may affect your trip.

The logistics will differ based on the extent of your trip, so develop your own list to modify from trip to trip. You can never really prepare your RV camping list too much, and you’ll be thankful you did when all seems to have gone according to plan. See more ideas for your next RV road trip.


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