As we’ve said before, we like to think of mistakes as educational and improvement opportunities.
And we’ve had plenty of “educational and improvement opportunities” along the way.
The good news for you is that we’re happy to share those experiences with you in form of tips and how-to advice.
But sometimes we find advice to pass along from others. Sometimes it’s readers and/or listeners of the RV Lifestyle blog and podcast. Sometimes it’s from other sources altogether.
So when National Parks Traveler recently posted its “10 Best Tips for National Park RVing,” I thought it would be great to pass the list along to you, especially if you are new to RVing and visiting National Parks.
Drumroll please….and here it is:
- Camp near activities or attractions: National parks offer many things to see and do — usually too many, in fact, to see and do in one brief visit. Instead, make a short list of “must see” items and plan around those things. Among other things, this will cut fuel costs and driving time (since you’ll ideally be closer to what you want to see and do).
- You’re better off with a reservation: Check out the National Park System’s reservation portal (recreation.gov) and you’ll get a feel for how landing a spot ahead of time can be a big deal. RVers should reserve as far ahead as possible, know details of your RV so you know what spots can handle it, and be sure to take note of the water, sewer, and electric hookup status. CampgroundViews.com also offers you the opportunity to find and tour parks before you go, offering info for more than 16,000 parks using more than 3,100 videos, and nearly 34,000 photos. (Check out my video about CampgroundViews.com with its founder below.)
- Practice RVing: OK, this is specific to boondocking. In short, don’t wait until a big trip to try it if you’ve never done it. Find a campground near your home with hookups then challenge yourself to see how long you can go before exhausting water supply, electricity, and so on.
- Prepare for the dump station and water hookups: Use your own freshwater supply hose and never fill your fresh water tank with a dump station hose (unless it's marked potable, it's not safe for drinking. Besides, someone may have cleaned their black water tank with it). Consider picking up a Water Bandit garden hose adapter that allows you to attach a freshwater hose to any unthreaded or stripped water source in order to fill your tank. We also use quick connects for our water hose to easily attach the water hose to the RV.
- Plan ahead for pets: This is a biggie. National parks are not the most pet-friend camping destinations. Many trails don’t allow pets. So what can you do? First, never leave our pet alone in an RV on a summer day — air conditioning units can and do fail, putting your pet at risk of a heat stroke. Also, where pets are allows, be sure to keep pets leashed to help them avoid dangerous natural hazards and know seasonal wildlife dangers.
- Study RV-friendly routes: As National Parks Traveler put it, “National park roads can take you to the top of the world and burn your RV brakes out at the bottom.” Many park roads are simply unsafe for RVs, like the The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park. Consider purchasing the Mountain Directory Guides to map safe RV routes to and from the park. A GPS navigation app for RVs and truckers is also helpful. Of course, you’ll also want to look into buying RV roadside emergency coverage. (National parks are usually far away from RV repair shops and one RV tow may cost more than your entire trip.)
- Practice your RV maneuvering skills: From steep downhill grades to narrow interior roads and back-in RV sites lodged between boulders, obstacles can be found aplenty. Practice backing up, driving on mountain roads (if possible), and consider at least watching helpful YouTube videos. Some places even offer RV driver education courses.
- Bring enough supplies: If you need to buy food, fuel and provisions inside or just outside park gates, you’ll pay a premium. Plan ahead to minimize your costs and day trips to town. Check out some of the RV Lifestyle recipes to help you stick to a menu. Stock your pantry with non-refrigerated food. Also be sure to bring consumables like paper towels and plates — unless you enjoy paying a premium while on the road.
- Drive extra defensively in the park: Visitor overcrowding and poor driving skills all contribute to wildlife-vehicle collisions in national parks, but you can take steps to avoid becoming another statistic. Drive slower than posted speed limits. Allow yourself extra stopping distance. Use roadside turnouts and drive in the slow lane. Nothing fuels road rage faster than RVs holding up traffic.
- Be a considerate: From outdoor kitchens to exterior home theaters, we RVers enjoy the comforts of home. But please don’t let the noise from your favorite RV luxuries annoy your neighbors. Use your generator sparingly. Don’t contribute to air and noise pollution. Minimize TV and stereo sound. And be sure to respect dark skies!
Feel free to contribute your recommendations below, as there are surely many other things people should consider while RVing in our National Parks.