RV Advice

First Time RV Camping Tips, Tricks & Planning Essentials

Maybe you’ve pitched tents and cooked over campfires for years, and now you’re looking to bring some of the comforts of home on your next adventure. Or you’ve always dreamed of sleeping under the stars but don’t know where to start. There’s an easy answer to your camping conundrum, one that gets you outdoors, eases you into the camping lifestyle, and lets you bring along a few touches of home. It’s RV camping, and here’s everything you need to know to take that first trip.

Home Away From Home

Renting the right RV for your group and itinerary can make the difference between an unforgettable trip and one that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons. If you have an SUV or truck and towing experience, consider renting a travel trailer from Outdoorsy, Cruise America, or your local RV dealer. A compact and cozy teardrop is all you may need for a couples weekend, but a family-size bunkhouse is going to be a better choice if you’re bringing the kids along. The trailer advantage is that you can unhitch, set up camp, and take off to explore the trails, rivers, and mountains nearby. Love listening to birds singing outside your tent? Rent a pop-up trailer to get that tent feel with all the perks of RV living. Rent a self-driving class A or C for more space, maneuverability, and additional bells and whistles like larger water holding tanks (meaning longer hot showers), generators (for going off-the-grid on that secluded mountain lake), and more elaborate kitchens (for the gourmets in your group).

Trip Planning

Keep it simple the first time out by picking a campground close to home. Book a riverfront or beachfront site for a relaxing weekend in camp, or make a reservation near your favorite theme park or festival to spend the weekend on the go. State and national parks offer hiking, biking, paddling, and climbing at your doorstep, but have fewer amenities like laundry, WiFi and dog parks.

To be close to major attractions with these perks and more, book at Kampgrounds of America, where you’ll find well-stocked camp stores, playgrounds, snack bars, experienced staff ready to guide you to your campsite and answer your questions and more. Download KOA’s mobile app to find campgrounds along your route, and book a pull-through site for easy parking.

Travel in spring and fall for the best selection of campsites, or make reservations well in advance for campgrounds close to major attractions and or for camping in summer or around major holidays. Check campsite details carefully to make sure your site’s size and hookups match your RV’s capabilities, and call the campground to talk through any questions. Can you connect to a water line? Does your site have electric hookup? Some sites even have full sewer hook ups. If you’d rather not hook up at all, make sure your campground has full bathhouse facilities.

Site Set-Up

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The idea of coming off a long day on the road to a hot shower, soft bed, and home-cooked meal may seem too good to be true. But outdoor adventure with a side of glamping is what RV camping is all about. Hang a hammock and set up your favorite camp chairs by the fire ring. Extend your RV awning to create a shady patio space. Bring along the kid’s bikes so they can ride around the campground and pack a few board games for rainy days and family game nights.

Remember to pack sheets, pillows, and towels for your RV bed and bath, or rent them with your camper if possible. Most rentals come with plates, cups, utensils, and pots and pans for the kitchen. Luxuries like hairdryers, coffee makers, and laptops would never work in a tent, but are welcome additions to your RV campsite. No need for trail mix and freeze-dried meals, a full kitchen means you can stock your RV with your favorite snacks and beverages.

Indoor/Outdoor Cooking

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Maximize your outdoor time with quick breakfast and lunch prep in your kitchen. Smaller RVs typically come with cooler-size refrigerators and propane stoves, while larger campers can have induction stovetops and full-size refrigerators, ovens, and microwaves. Come dinnertime, build a campfire to enjoy camping classics like beef stew, chili and cornbread, or burgers and dogs with all the fixings. Pack firestarter and charcoal to get your fire going quickly, and pick up your firewood at the campground office to keep the flames going into the night. Other nice-to-haves: a cast iron Dutch oven, roasting forks for hot dogs and s’mores, and plenty of freezer bags to pack up leftovers. Bring all your food inside and dispose of trash in campground containers to keep the critters from wandering into your camp after dark.

Gear Essentials

There’s nothing worse than getting to your campground and realizing you don’t have what you need to enjoy the amenities. Do your pre-trip research to pack the right gear for everything your campground and destination has to offer. Swimming in the campground pool or lake? Bring your swimsuit, towel, and beach chair. Close to hiking and biking trails? Toss in the hiking boots and trekking poles. Smaller items like backpacks and climbing gear can be stashed in your car or RV, while you can decide if you want to haul larger gear like kayaks, SUP boards, and bikes from home or rent from a local outfitter. Outfitters will not only drop gear at your trailhead or boat launch and provide shuttle service, but they’ll also know the best places to go and how to get there.

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Pack for comfort and efficient use of space with lightweight, breathable clothing in non-wrinkle fabrics like polyester, nylon, and spandex. Start with moisture-wicking base layers, and then add loose-fitting warmth layers of fleece or wool. Top it off with wind and rain-resistant outer layers for when it’s cold and wet. Bring clothes to relax and keep warm in camp, along with a pair of comfortable camp shoes packed in a crushable duffle that can be folded down and stored. Weather conditions can change in a heartbeat, so no matter what the forecast says when you leave home, pack extra layers and lighter clothes for those unexpected temperature changes.

An RV allows you fully immerse yourself in the outdoors with a level of comfort you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a great way to introduce newcomers to camping and visit the most beautiful places the country has to offer. Give it a try and discover how different camping can be when you have so many amenities of home along for the ride. Find a KOA near you to get started today!

Written by Ann Gibson for RootsRated Media in partnership with Kampgrounds of America.


Tips for you first RV trip.