reflections of sky and trees in pond at rv park

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When I think back to the first time we set up our RV at a campground, I remember how overwhelming it all seemed. Did we bring everything we would need? And more importantly would we remember how it was all supposed to work. Now that we have been full-time traveling RVers for 9 years we have our RV set up process down to a science.


Here is a step by step guide to everything you need to know to set up your RV at a campsite for the first time. From making your reservation and choosing the best campsite, to parking your RV and setting up all of your hookups. Each section includes a list of all of the gear used so you’ll be ready to set up your RV when you arrive. Feel free to print the guide or checklist and adjust it to your own RV setup process. Enjoy!

TLDR – For the Cliff Notes version, jump to the RV Set Up Checklist.


Reservations (and how to get the best site!)

Whether or not you need a reservation really depends on your travel style and when or where you are traveling. Often we don’t make reservations at all. On the other hand, sometimes you absolutely need a reservation. If you are visiting during the high season, during an event or have your heart set on a particular campground you’ll want to make a reservation.

Reservation tips:

  • Check for discounts and specials. These can be via membership clubs like Good Sam, Passport America, Escapees or even campground specific specials, for example stay 6 nights and get 1 night free. It is always worth asking. For more about RV club discounts check out our article about the 6 best membership clubs for full-time RVers.
  • Find out the cancellation policy just in case you need it.

How to get the best site.

Take a look at the campground map and determine which area of the campground you would like to be in. You’ll have to decide what is important to you. What you want in a site for a quick overnight stop will probably be different than what you want for a longer stay. And everyone has a different rig and different preferences so my best site is probably not the same as your best site.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you need a 30 amp or 50 amp site?
  • A shady site or full sun?
  • Would you like to be close to the pool or playground or as far away from them as possible?
  • Full hook ups, partial hookups or none?
  • Back in site or pull through?
  • A site that faces your neighbor so that you can share common space with your camping buddies?
  • What size site?
  • How long are you staying?
  • On a corner where you can watch the world go by and say hi to all of your neighbors? Or more tucked in for privacy?

Do a little research.

Next, check out Google and Bing maps satellite views of the campground. You’ll be able to see if there are areas with lots of trees or that are adjacent to railroad tracks or a busy road. You should also be able to see if some sites are more spread out than others. Streetview can be helpful too.

For even more information take a look at the reviews and photos of the campground at Campground Reviews and Campendium. They are both great resources. You can gather a lot of information from the photos and you may even find tips about specific sites.

Need network? Check the coverage map for your provider, sometimes coverage is better in certain sections.

Now that you have an idea of the campground, when you make your reservation ask for the site or area that you think is best for you. If the site is available, most campgrounds are perfectly happy to accommodate your request. If there are sites that you do not want make sure to let them know that too!


Pre Check In

Confirm your reservation: It is a good idea to call and confirm your reservation prior to arriving. If you requested a specific site, confirm that too.

Late arrival: If you know that you will be arriving late in the day or are delayed on the road, call the campground and find out the procedure for an after hours check in. Many campgrounds are happy to leave you a check in packet with directions to your site to pick up when you arrive. Others have someone on call to help you and still others simply do not allow check in after dark.

Early arrival: If you plan to be early, ask about early check in or a parking area to wait in. Again, policies will vary, some parks let you check in early if your site is available. Others charge a small fee for early check in. An early check in fee can be worth it depending on the situation.

Tip: If you are very new to RVing, plan your route to the campground ahead of time. Include good places to stop, stretch your legs and take a break. Google and Bing satellite maps are great for this! We still do this whenever possible. Having the route planned out, including stops, just makes everything easier on travel day.


Check In

rv sites flag and mountains

When you arrive at your campground you’ll need to check in. If you have any questions now is a good time to ask them. For example, if you travel with dogs you may want to ask about the dog walk area.

You will need some or all of the following to check in.

  • Payment. Be aware of any campground specific restrictions on cash or credit.
  • Membership discount card. Such as Good Sam, Passport America, Escapees, or Thousand Trails. Some campgrounds will be fine with just the membership number or a soft copy of the information but once in a while you’ll come across one that requires the actual physical card.
  • Registration information & license plate numbers.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Proof of pet vaccinations.

Make sure you get a campground map and the best route to your campsite. This is usually standard operating procedure but sometimes they forget. Campground maps usually list local attractions and services.

Note about Thousand Trails: Most Thousand Trails campgrounds let you choose you own sites! We absolutely love this option because we can choose a site that works best for us. You’ll check in with the ranger then drive around the campground and choose a site. Once your RV is set up you go back to check in and let them know which site you are in. Tip: If there is a place to park our rig we like to scope campsites on our bikes. When we find the site we want, one of us stays there while the other brings our RV back. If you drive a rig with a toad, that works too. If you have a portable EMS, bring it with you so that you can check the power post in the sites you scope.

For more about Thousand Trails check out how we traveled the country, camped with hookups for $5.01 per night and saved $28,992.19 in 6 years with our Thousand Trails membership.


Campsite Walk Through

Before you pull into the campsite do a quick walk through.

Check for:

Tip: Wear gloves and be aware the spiders love to hide inside RV power posts.  No big deal if you are paying attention but you may need to provide umm… spider relocation services.  

If you are parked in a location that is not blocking the road now is a great time to take a closer look at your campsite.  If you are blocking the road, pull into the site first.

Next, check out the campsite a little more closely. 

  • Turn on the water for a second. 
  • Find the sewer hookup. (If it is a FHU site)
  • Check the electrical power.  Use your EMS to do this.  If you do not have an EMS seriously consider purchasing one.
    • Make sure the power breakers are off.
    • Plug in your EMS.
    • Turn on the breaker.
    • Let your EMS check the power. If the power is good carry on with your RV set up. If not head back to the office and have them check and fix the power or switch you to another site.

Note the boundaries of the site and the surroundings and decide exactly where you want to park.

Make sure that:

  • RV will be close enough to the utilities.
  • Slides (if you have them) have room to extend.
  • You will have room to navigate around your rig once your RV is set up.  
  • Leave room for your tow vehicle or toad.
  • Awning has room to extend.
  • Stairs have room to open properly.  
  • Fire pit, if there is one and you plan on using it, is appropriately distanced from your RV.
  • Ants – Be aware of anthills do not park where your tires or stabilizers will be on an anthill.  (And….yup… we did that once and it resulted in what we still refer to as the great ant attack!)


If you encounter an issue you can call or return to the office and have them resolve the issue or move you to another site.


Park Your RV in the Site

empty campsite at florida beach campground

If you have a spotter – and if at all possible you should – make sure to use them and have a communication plan.  Cell phone, walkie talkies, hand signals, whatever works for you. As a spotter, stay clear of the rig until the vehicle is in park and you have an all clear signal from the driver.  

Back In Tips: 

  • Backing up a trailer can be confusing if you are not used to it. Try holding the steering wheel at the bottom, the trailer will move in the same direction as your hands.
  • Whether you are an old pro or a newbie, it can be very helpful to put an orange cone in the site to give you a target to aim for while parking.  

Once the rig is parked where you want it, you’ll need to make sure that you are level. 

Level and Stabilize

This will vary between RVs. Some RVs, like our travel trailer need to be manually leveled. Some rigs have an automatic leveling system that will do all of the work for you! *This section details manually leveling a travel trailer but the general idea is applicable to all RVs – you’ll want to level and stabilize.

What you need to level and stabilize your travel trailer.

  • Levels. These are standard on many RVs. If you don’t have any, they are inexpensive, easy to install and worth having. They make basic levels in stick on and screw on versions.
  • Leveling pads. To raise one side of your RV so that it is level. Also handy to put under stabilizers.
  • Wheel chocks. To keep your RV wheels from moving.
  • Wheel stop chocks. Optional. These go in between your tires and are screwed tight. They really help to stabilize your RV.
  • Socket adapter for stabilizer jack. Optional. So that you can use a drill to raise and lower your stabilizer jacks.
  • Tongue Jack Stand/Cone. Depending on your tongue jack you may need a Tongue Jack Stand.
  • Coupler lock. To lock your travel trailer once it is unhooked.
  • Long bike security cable with looped ends and lock. Optional. To run through your tires for an added layer of security.
  • Tire Covers. Optional. To protect your tires from the sun.

Before you unhook level from left to right.

  • Check the level on the front of your RV. If the bubble is not in the middle of the level it is time to pull out your leveling pads. 
  • The leveling pads need to go under the tires on the side of the RV that you want to raise.  This is also the direction that you want the bubble to go.  In other words, remember that the bubble will move towards the side with the leveling pads.  
  • If the site is small or you really want to keep the RV in exactly the position it is in:
    • Place the leveling pads on the ground next to each of the tires. Have the driver pull forward slowly until there is room to slide the leveling pads in to the space where the tires were.  
    • Once the vehicle is in park, slide the leveling pads into place.  
    • Have the driver back up slowly onto the leveling pads.  Check the level again.  
  • If the site is a little larger you can just put the leveling pads in front of or behind the tires and pull onto them.
  • Adjust if necessary. You may need to add or remove leveling pads to get your rig level.
  • If you need to add leveling pads it will be easier to drive onto them if you build a ramp or pyramid.

Tip: Stay away from the tires until you are sure the vehicle is in park.

Here is a quick video from Lynx Levelers showing how to place and pull on to your leveling pads.

Next, unhook and level front to back.

  • Chock your tires.  
  • Unhook – this will vary between rigs.  Follow the procedure for your particular equipment.
  • Level your rig from front to back.  
    • Check the level on the side of your RV. Then raise or lower the front of your RV using your tongue jack until the level bubble is in the middle. Again, remember that the bubble will move towards the side that you raise.
  • Lower stabilizer jacks.
    • We use stacks of leveling pads under each of our stabilizer jacks. It makes it easier to extend them because they don’t have to go down as far. It also helps keep our RV more stable.
    • Remember the stabilizer jacks are meant to stabilize, not lift your RV. They should be lowered until they are snug.
  • Go back to your chocks and make sure that they are snug.
  • Lock travel trailer with coupler lock.
  • Run bike security lock through both tires on one side of travel trailer and lock looped ends together.
  • Put on tire covers.
  • Insert wheel stop chocks if you are using them.
rv tires with cable lock and chocked wheels
RV tires with chocks, a cable lock and a wheel stop chock for additional stability. Stack of leveling pads in background under stabilizer jack.

Congrats! Your RV is parked, level and locked! Time to set up the rest of your RV campsite.


Power Connection

The next step in your RV set up is to connect your rig to the campsite power.

What you need to set up your RV power connection.

  • Electrical Management System (EMS). An EMS protects your RV and appliances if you encounter poor power from the campground. Your EMS needs to match your RV power, 30 amp or 50 amp.
  • Lock. Only if you have a portable EMS – if you have an onboard EMS you won’t need the lock. We use this lock for our EMS – the length is easily adjustable so it locks to just about any power post.
  • Power dogbone(s). Optional and handy – but not entirely recommended. Power dogbones are adapters for electrical sockets that allow you to plug your 50 amp plug into a 30 amp plug or your 30 amp plug into a 15 amp plug. They don’t change the power, just allow you to connect to another type of plug. It is best to plug in to the correct plug type if at all possible. (For example, your 30 amp EMS can not really check the power on a 50 amp connection.)

An important note about campground power. You will want to use an Electrical Management System (EMS). This is a device that protects your RV from a variety of possible power problems. For example, a mis-wired electrical post, low voltage, power surges and so on. Basically an EMS scans the power source for issue before it allows any power through to your RV. Once you have power, it scans continuously. If the EMS encounters a power problem, it cuts the power before your RV or appliances can be damaged. Think of it as insurance, you can protect your (expensive) RV and appliances from damage due to poor campground power with an EMS. For more information about how an EMS works in general and a review of ours, check out EMS-PT30X – Can You Afford Not to Have One?

How to connect your RV power.

  • By now you have already checked the power post with your EMS and removed any resident spiders.
  • Make sure all power breakers are all set to the OFF position.
  • Plug your EMS into the 30 or 50 amp socket.
  • Plug your RV power cord into the EMS.
  • Flip the breaker on.
  • Once the EMS has finished checking the power, it will allow it through to your RV.

If it’s very hot out now is a great time to turn on your AC to start cooling down your RV. Turn on your refrigerator and anything else you want to run while you are inside. Open up your stairs on the way in.


RV Water Hookup

water spigot and splitter at campsite

What you need to set up your RV water connection.

  • Fresh water hose. Not just any garden hose. Fresh water hoses are made to be drinking water safe. We had this basic fresh water hose for years and recently upgraded to the light and easier to handle Zero G RV/Marine Fresh Water Hose. (It is one of my favorite upgrades!)
  • Inline water filter. Even if you do not drink your water directly from the tap. Campground water varies widely and the filter helps to keep your water system clean. We do drink our water but we use a Travel Berkey to filter it first. This Camco inline water filter has worked well for us over the years. The first time you buy one, you’ll want to get the version with the flexible hose connector. When it is time to replace the filter, keep the flexible hose connector.
  • Pressure regulator. RV water pipes simply can not withstand high water pressure, they will burst. A pressure regulator maintains a safe water pressure for your pipes.
  • Water splitter. Optional. The splitter has one outlet that attaches to the city water connection and splits it into two water outlets. It is very convenient to have an extra water connection at your campsite for your black tank flush.
  • Extra fresh water hose. Optional. Just in case the water connection is very far away from your RV and for a back up. Two 25 foot water hoses is what we have found works best.
  • Ball bungee or carry strap. Optional. To hang your water hose once it is connected so that it is neat and off the ground.

If you have never hooked your RV to a water connection before – set up your RV “fresh water kit”.

This is how to do it with the Camco Inline water filter, if you are using another water filter follow the instructions for your water filter. I find it is easier to connect all the pieces together on a picnic table and then bring them all to the water spigot together.

  • Start with the pressure regulator.
  • Connect the flexible hose connector to the Pressure Regulator.
  • Next, connect the water filter to the flexible hose connector. It has an arrow on it to tell you which way the water should flow.
  • Finally, connect your fresh water hose to the other end of the water filter.
  • The first time that you use your water filter and every time you replace it, it will need to be flushed before use. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Now you have a “fresh water kit”. All of these pieces will stay connected together and you will use them to connect to city water every time you set up your RV at a campground.

How to hook up your RV to city water.

Clean the water spigot. Trust me, you want to clean it before you connect to it. I have seen people put their sewer hose over the water spigot to rinse it out. Gross!

  • Connect a splitter to the water spigot. You only need to do this if you want to have an outdoor water connection available.
  • Connect the pressure regulator on your “fresh water kit” to the splitter.
  • Run some water through the hose. This is both to rinse it a little bit and to remove any air from the hose.
    • If this is the first time you are using your water filter it needs to be flushed. Turn on the city water and run water through the filter and your entire “fresh water kit” until the water runs clear. It will start out black, don’t worry, it is just the charcoal being flush out of the filter.
  • Turn the water off again.
  • Connect your hose to the fresh water inlet on the side of your RV.
  • Turn the water on and check for any leaks or drips.
  • Now go inside and run the cold water. It will probably spit and spurt a few times. Run until it stops spitting. Do the same for the hot water.
  • That’s it! Your water is connected.

When you disconnect your water, leave your “fresh water kit” connected together and store it that way. It will save you a few steps the next time you connect to city water.


RV Sewer Hose Hookup

The last thing you’ll need to connect in your RV set up process is the sewer hookup. You’ll already have running water inside so you can wash your hands when you are done.

A quick overview of how RV sewer systems work.

RVs have two separate tanks for waste water, a grey tank and a black tank. The sinks and shower drain into the grey tank. The toilet drains into the black tank. Both tanks have separate outlets that run to a single sewer connection on the outside of your RV.

When the tanks are full they need to be emptied. This is done by connecting one end of a sewer hose to your RV sewer connection and the other end to a dump station or campground sewer connection. Once the sewer hose is connected each tank is emptied separately.

The black tank is always emptied first. Pulling the lever that opens the tank allows the contents to flow through the sewer hose and into the dump station or campground sewer. Once the black tank is empty, the lever is used to close the tank again. Next, the grey tank is emptied in the same manner. The contents of the grey tank wash away any bits from the black tank that may be left in the sewer hose as the tank empties.

It actually works pretty well and is not nearly as gross as you might think. Now, on to how exactly to hook up your RV sewer connection at a campground.

Tip: Please use RV toilet paper in your RV. Yes, it is more expensive but It is made to dissolve very quickly and prevent clogs in your black tank.

What you’ll need to set up your RV sewer connection.

  • Sewer hose and adapter. We have used a version of this Rhino sewer hose since we started full-time RVing and it works well.
  • Hose to flush your tanks. Not your fresh water hose. It is nice if the hose is lightweight and easy to store.
  • Sewer hose supports. To hold the sewer hose at an angle so that the tank contents flow downhill. And to keep it off the ground.
  • Disposable gloves. You can buy them online but stopping by Harbor Freight is the cheapest option we have found. Look for the 100 packs of nitrile gloves. Make sure to download a 20% off coupon & check for freebies.
  • Clear sewer extender for the RV end of the sewer hose. Optional. Helpful for emptying and flushing your tanks. A short one is fine, you just want to be able to see what is going on as you empty your tanks.
  • Sewer hose caps. Optional. To put on the ends of your sewer hose for transport or storage. Caps make it easier to handle and put away because you don’t need to worry about drips.
  • Flexible sewer adapter. Semi-optional. Used to connect your sewer hose to a campground sewer connection that is stripped or difficult to use. If you are camping a lot or full-timing you absolutely want in your sewer kit. It is made of a flexible rubber with a little “give” so that it can be securely attached without threads.
  • Extra length of sewer hose. Optional. In case the sewer connection is far away from your RV.
  • Bin or storage container. Optional. It is a good idea to have a bin that closes so that you can store all of your RV sewer accessories together. Personally, I don’t want this stuff in contact with anything else in my RV.

How to set up your RV sewer hose.

  • Put on disposable gloves.
  • Remove your sewer hose from it’s storage location. Most RVs have a designated place built-in for sewer hose storage.
  • Verify the black and grey tank release valves are closed. Then remove the RV sewer outlet safety cap.
  • If you use caps on your sewer hose remove them now. If you don’t, your sewer hose won’t expand easily due to the suction created by the caps.
  • Connect your sewer hose to the RV sewer outlet. The outlet will have small raised knobs on it. Slip the sewer hose on, then turn to lock in to the knobs. Make sure it is securely connected.
  • Remove the sewer cover from the campground sewer hookup.
  • Screw your sewer adapter into the campground sewer hookup so that it is secure.
    • If the campground sewer hookup is not threaded use your (no longer optional) flexible sewer adapter. Push it into the sewer connection so that it is secure.
    • Screw your sewer adapter into the Flexible Adapter so that it is secure.
  • Insert the elbow end of your sewer hose into the sewer adapter.
  • Your sewer hose should now be securely connected to your RV and to the campground sewer hookup.
  • Next, set out your sewer hose supports and run your sewer hose so that it slopes downhill towards the campground sewer hookup. (Because we all know what flows downhill.)
  • P-trap. You can build a P-trap into your sewer hose by creating a U in the hose so that it fills completely with liquid.

Tip: If you are concerned about your sewer run, test it with grey water before dumping your black tank. Note, you will need more grey water to flush the hose after you empty the black tank.

A note on P-traps.

rv life rhino sewer hose setup

We build a P-trap into our sewer hose when we are connected to a campground sewer for two reasons. First, it mimics a traditional P-trap, like the ones under your sink, and helps keep sewer odors out of our RV. Second, it stops sewer flies from getting into your RV tanks through the sewer hose. It does not affect the emptying of our tanks as the pressure of the liquid coming out of the tanks pushes everything through the hose. You do need to empty it when you disconnect the sewer. If you plan to leave your grey tank open at all during your stay I would suggest creating a P-trap in your sewer hose.


Dump Your RV Black and Grey Tanks

OK, dumping your tanks is not really part of RV set up. You are going to need to do it while you are there so here’s how.

Important:

Do not leave your black tank open at a campground. It will become hopelessly clogged if you do. Only open it when you are emptying or flushing your black tank.

Your black and grey tanks need to be at least 3/4 full before you dump your tanks.

How to dump your black and grey tanks.

  • Now that your sewer hose is connected you will be ready when you need to empty your tanks.
  • Dump your black tank first. Pull the lever that opens your black tank to do this. The contents will flow out through your sewer hose and into the campground sewer. If you are using a clear sewer extender you will be able to see when the tank has emptied.
  • If you are flushing your black tank, now is the time to do it. We flush the black tank every time we empty it and recommend you do too.
    • Do not close the black tank outlet just yet.
    • Connect one end of your black tank flush hose to the campground water and the other to your black tank flush inlet. If your RV does not have a built in black tank flush you can use a Rhino Blaster Sewer Rinser adapter.
    • Turn on the water and let it run for a while. If you have a clear sewer extender, now is when it really comes in handy. You’ll be able to see when the water runs clear.
  • Close your black tank using the lever.
  • Next, dump your grey tank. Pull the lever that opens your grey tank. The contents of your grey tank will flow out through your sewer hose. As they do, they will wash away any leftover black tank content that may be lurking in the sewer hose.
  • Close your grey tank using the lever.

That’s it! You’ve emptied your black and grey tanks!

Now back to your RV campsite set up!


Slides and Inside

Now that you are connected to all of the utilities, it’s time to put out your slides if you have them. It is a good idea to have someone outside watching for obstacles just in case. Hopefully you have already measured them to make sure they fit as outlined above.

Also turn on your refrigerator and set up anything else you need inside your RV.


Campsite SAFETY

In our 9 years of full-time RV we have always felt safe. We read reviews of every campground we stay at before we arrive and if we see anything in the comments that makes us nervous we just choose another place to stay. Generally, we are more concerned about tripping or twisting an ankle than any kind of crime. That said, because we are traveling, we are always in new and unfamiliar locations so it is always good to be aware of your surroundings.

A few safety considerations around the campsite.

Note your location.

Campground or RV Resort Name
Address
County
Your SITE number
Office and Emergency Phone Number
Local Sheriff phone number (Remember 911 may not work very well with cell phones.)

We write our site number on the campground map next to the address and tack it up on a cork-board. Any other information that we may need is also tacked to the cork-board so that we always know exactly where to find it quickly in the case of an emergency.

Important documents.

Keep any important documents in a specific location so you will always know where to find them. Things like emergency contact information, medical insurance card, prescriptions, copy of driver’s license and so on. It may be easier to keep these things in a secure cloud location so that they are always accessible from anywhere that you have a secure network connection.

Weather radio.

These days weather forecasts and warnings are readily accessible on your cell phone. A weather radio is still a good idea for RVers because they are not dependent on cell phone data or the campground wireless network. Data service and campground wireless networks can be unreliable. Also, if there is a storm and the power is out, the campground wireless is probably also off.

A weather radio works on radio waves and service is available in a wider range of locations. In 9 years of full-time RVing we have always been able to receive a signal to our weather radio.

In areas of the country where weather events can happen suddenly, like tornadoes and tsunamis, being notified of a weather event before it happens is critical.

Tip: Make sure to get a weather radio with S.A.M.E technology. This will allow you to set the specific types of events you want to be alerted to. For example, we turn off the Tornado Watch category and turn on the Tornado Warning category. I am happy to be woken up for a warning, not so much for a watch. We have been using this weather radio by Midland, for 9 years and counting. It is a basic model with S.A.M.E. technology and battery backup.

Go bag.

It is not a bad idea to have a go bag ready just in case. You’ll need to decide what to put in yours. Check out the suggestions at the American Red Cross for ideas.

Google maps offline.

You can download a self selected area of Google Maps for offline use. This is a great idea if you do not think you will have data service or if you will be in an area for a length of time. Also useful when traveling through an area without data service. Check out Google’s instructions for iPhone and Android if you are not sure how to download maps.

Slides.

Some slides seem to be magnets for hitting your head or clipping your arm while walking around the outside of your RV. There are two things you can do about this.

  • Put a piece of pipe insulation or a pool noodle over the corners of your slides.
  • Place a small orange cone on the ground just below the corner of the slide.

Tree roots or other tripping hazards.

  • Place a small orange cone next to the root or tripping hazard.

Flashlights.

Keep a few flashlights around just in case you need them. We recently got a few of these rechargeable flashlights. They are incredibly bright, recharge via USB and even have a strong magnet built in so they can be attached to a metal surface.

First Aid Kit.

It is a good idea to have a first aid kit in your RV. You can purchase a pre-made First Aid Kit or put on together yourself.

Drinking water.

Campground water sources are all different and you really have no way of knowing how safe the water is. We filter all of our drinking water with a Travel Berkey and it is one of the most used RV accessories we have.

If you decide not to drink the campground water you can:

  • Bring bottled water.
  • Use refillable water containers. Drinking water fill stations are common at grocery stores and Walmart. Some campgrounds have drinking water fill stations on site.
  • Use a filtration system like a Berkey or a Lifesaver Jerrycan.

Lock up bikes and other toys.

I don’t want to give you the impression that theft is rampant at campgrounds, it is not. But it does happen sometimes so it is just a good idea to lock up items like bikes, generators etc.


Patio or Yard

picnic table overlooking lake and rv campground

Outdoor living spaces vary widely from person to person so we’ll just share some of our favorite basics.

Door mat. These actually make a huge difference, they stop you from tracking most of the outdoors into your RV.

Wrap around step rugs. These help keep dirt and dust out of your RV. We have one on every step. They are nice because they stay on your steps during travel so you don’t even need a place to store them. Tip: The front edge of the step rugs wear the fastest so if you flip your step rug around when the front edge is close to wearing out they will last almost twice as long.

RV patio area mat. Yet another way to keep from tracking dirt into your RV. Are you sensing a theme here? They also add a little ambiance to your outdoor area and make it feel like you have another room outdoors. On the other hand, they are large and need to be put out and stowed away every time you move. A mat with a bag is handy.

Grill. Of course, you’ll want a grill. Our Weber Q 1000 is one of our most used accessories.

Folding table. Most campsites will have a picnic table but some do not. Convenient for extra food prep space, working outside or any projects.

Propane fire pit. I love a really crackling campfire and never thought I would want a propane fire pit. It turns out that they are pretty cool and we sit around the campfire far more often now that we have one. For one thing, they are easy, all you have to do is turn it on. So even if you are only out for a half hour you can have a fire. Also, there are often fire bans at campgrounds in some areas but you can almost always run your propane fire pit. We have the Little Red Campfire and love it.

Bug repellent. No one likes mosquito bites.

Solar lanterns. A peaceful soft light for evenings at the campsite. Our friends have a few of these inflatable solar lanterns. They are on my wish-list.

Chairs. A camping chair is a must. Our Kijaro Dual Lock chairs are sturdy and comfortable. On average they seem to last us about two years of almost daily use.

Screen room. These really are another room and a great way to make the most of your outdoor space.

Solar lights. Great for lighting your stairs and the entryway to your site at night. We use these solar garden/pathway lights and they work well for us but I can not entirely recommend them. They do have an on/off switch which is nice but they do not always last through the night. Sadly, we haven’t found anything better yet.

Small propane tank. These are great for gas grills and propane fire pits. They are small enough to be easy to handle around the campsite and a much cheaper way to buy propane than the disposable green canisters. Plus, you can help the environment by not using disposable canisters. If you want more detail read our review of the Worthington 1 gallon propane tank.

RV Set Up Checklist

Pre Check In

  • Confirm reservation and site type prior to arrival.
  • Early or late arrival.   Let the campground know and find out the check in procedure.

Check In

  • Payment.  Be aware of what payment types are accepted.
  • Membership discount card.
  • Registration info and license plate number.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Proof of pet vaccinations.
  • Get a campground map with the route to your site.

Campsite Walk Through

  • Check the site for nails, dog doo or other debris before you pull in.
  • Check for branches or other obstacles.
  • Locate and inspect utilities.
    • Test power post with EMS.
    • Run water for a second.
    • Visually inspect sewer hookup.

Parking your RV in your campsite.  

Make sure that:

  • RV is parked close enough to connect the utilities.  
  • Slides have clearance to open.
  • Leave room to walk around the outside of your RV once you are set up.
  • You have a spot in the site to park your tow vehicle or toad.
  • Awning has space to extend.
  • Stairs have room to open properly.
  • Fire pit is appropriately distanced from RV.
  • Ants.  If there are anthills do not place your tires or stabilizers on them.  

Level and Stabilize

This section is tailored to a travel trailer.  The idea is the same for all RVs, you’ll need to level and stabilize.  

  • Level RV Left to Right – Before you unhook.
  • Check your levels to determine which side needs to be raised.  
    Note: The level air bubble always tries to go UP.  It will move towards the side you raise.  
    • Place leveling pads next to your tires.  
    • Pull RV forward or back so that you can slide in leveling pads.  
    • Slide leveling pads into the spot where your tires will go.  
    • Pull RV on to leveling pads. 
    • Check levels and adjust until level.   
  • Chock tires.
  • Unhook tow vehicle.
  • Level Front to Back – Use tongue jack to do this.
  • Lower stabilizer jacks and stabilize RV.
  • Tap in wheel chocks again.
  • Lock travel trailer with coupler lock.
  • Run long bike lock cable through both tires on one side and lock loops together.
  • Put on tire covers.
  • Insert wheel stop chocks or X-chocks. 

RV Power Connection Set Up 

  • Verify breaker is in the OFF position.
  • Plug EMS into the power post.
  • Plug RV power cord into EMS.
  • Flip breaker to ON position.

RV Fresh Water Connection

  • Sanitize water spigot.  
  • Screw on splitter.  (If using.)
  • Attach pressure regulator.
  • Connect inline water filter.
  • Attach fresh water hose.
  • Run a little water through the hose.  (To fill and flush the hose.)
  • Connect the other end of the freshwater hose to your RV fresh water inlet.  
  • Turn on water.  
  • Hang your water hose off the ground if possible.
  • Run a little water inside to clear any air from water lines.  

Sewer

  • Put on your disposable gloves.
  • Verify that black and grey tanks are closed.
  • Remove safety caps from RV sewer outlet and sewer hose.
  • Attach sewer hose to RV sewer outlet.  Make sure it is secure.  
  • Thread sewer adapter into campground sewer hookup.  
    Note: If the campground sewer connection is not threaded:
    • Use the flexible sewer adapter.
    • Push it into the campground sewer connection until secure.
    • Thread the normal sewer adapter into the flexible sewer adapter. 
  • Insert elbow end of sewer hose into sewer adapter.  Make sure it is secure.  
  • Set out sewer hose supports.  
  • Run sewer hose along supports so that it runs downhill. 
  • Add P-trap to sewer hose.  (If desired.)
  • Test sewer run with a little grey water.  

Slides & Inside

  • Extend slides.
  • Set up anything you need inside your RV.  

Campsite Safety

  • Note location and put info in easily accessible spot.
    • Campground name, address, county, site number and after hours contact number.
    • Add any other info you want to have on hand.  For example, local sheriffs number and so on.  
  • Set weather radio to current county.  
  • Lock bikes and toys.  
  • Make sure flashlights are charged and accessible. 
  • Set out small orange cones by any tripping hazards.
  • Download offline google maps.  If desired. 
  • Put pool noodle or pipe insulation over any slide corners.  If desired.  
  • Ensure you have:
    • First Aid Kit.
    • Access to important documents.  eg prescription info, medical insurance card etc.
    • Go bag.  If desired.
    • Drinking water or filtration system.  

Set Up RV Patio/Yard Area

The outside area will vary widely from person to person so here are a few of our favorite basics.  Thinking about how you plan to use your outdoor area will help you decide what to include at your campsite.  

  • Door mat.
  • Wrap around step rugs.
  • RV patio area mat.
  • Grill.
  • Camping chairs
  • Bug repellent.
  • Propane fire pit.
  • Folding table.
  • Solar lanterns.
  • Solar walkway lights.
  • Screen room.
  • Small refillable propane tank.  For your grill and fire pit.  

Enjoy your campsite!

That’s it. Your RV is all set up. It may seem overwhelming at first but you will get used to it. After you have done it a few times it will become second nature. Until then, slow down and take it step by step.


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THANKS FOR READING!

We’ve been full-time RVers since 2012. 127,000 miles and 45 states later, we are still towing our home around the United States.

On TowingHome we share what we have learned along the way; what we love (and what we don’t) about the RV lifestyle, tips and tricks, our favorite campgrounds, places and gear.

We hope that it makes your journey a little bit easier.


RV Set Up Guide Step by Step (And Everything You Need)
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