17 steps for quick RV setup at a campground

 17 steps for quick RV setup at a campground

RV setup at a campground for newbies can be a daunting experience those first few times. Here's a very helpful checklist for you.

We're in a Class C RV so the things we do and the order in which we do them may differ for you if you are in something different. But generally, whatever kind of RV you have, these RV setup steps at a campground should be very applicable.

If you'd rather see than read, here's the video we just did on how we did our RV setup. Then come back and scroll down for tour 17 written RV setup tips, which you can then use as a checklist.

1) RV setup – Getting a site

These days, reservations are often required. But we seldom get one ourselves. And almost always we get a spot. The best day to usually snag an unreserved campsite is Sunday, just after noon. That's when many of the weekenders have pulled out. If we're out west at one of the popular National Park campgrounds or one near a top tourist attraction, we'll show up as soon as the office opens in the morning and see if we can get one for someone leaving later that day or to grab a cancellation site.

RV setup at a campground image of our site
This is our campsite site at Addison Oaks Park in Michigan that we used in our RV setup video

2) RV setup – Choosing a site

We look for one with afternoon shade. In the morning, the sun is great. But in summer and early fall, the afternoon sun can be brutally hot. While we do put often out an awning, we try to have it and as much of the site outside our door shaded in the afternoon. Also, pick a campsite not too close to your neighbor's firepit. And if you burn a campfire yourself, depending on the prevailing wind, see if you can get a site so that campfire ring doesn't fill your RV with your own smoke.

3) RV setup – Backing in

Have a spotter. Jennifer always goes to the back of the campsite and makes sure I can see her in the side mirror. She uses hand signals to direct me in, making sure I don't hit a tree or the picnic table or drive into the aforementioned firepit. Don't ask. But, yes, using Jennifer as a spotter arose from previous experiences.

Our Rv setup at a campground has Jennifer directing me in my side mrrors
When we do RV setup at a campground Jennifer gives hand directions as I back up

4) RV setup – Look Up

If you see dead branches overhead, you should not camp under them. Even a small limb that falls from any distance can do a lot of damage to you or your RV.

5) RV setup – Set the emergency brake

Always, always do this as soon as you are in place on the site before you do the rest of the RV setup steps.

6) RV setup – Hook up Electricity

Our RV runs on 30 amp shore power. Plut the electrical cord into the 30 amp receptacle. If there is only a 50 amp plug and you have an adapter, you can use it. Check the breakers above the plug. Flip the breaker on for the plug you are using. Our RV has a surge protector built-in. If yours doesn't, I recommend you get one to go between the power cord and the pedestal. In older campgrounds, there are a lot of pedestals with bad connections that can damage tur RV's electrical system and your appliances.

We can recommend the Southwire Surge Guard, model 34930.

When you plug in the other end of the cord to the shore connector on the RV, lock it in place. With ours, it's a turn to the right. We also have a locking wheel on the plug to make it seven more secure. See the video for an example.

7) RV setup – Hook up the water

We recommend that you always use a water filter between the spigot and the freshwater hose that connects to your RV. We use a relatively new system called Clear20 that consists of an inline water filter and the Dirtguard pre-filter that takes out the sediment and particulates before they go through the inline filter.

The filtration medium difference is the way the water is filtered. The cheaper and more common inline RV water filter we used to buy used powdered charcoal. The Clear2o RV water filter system uses solid charcoal. 

And that leads to the efficiency of the filtering. The cheap carbon powder filters screen out particulates and sediment down to about 20 microns. The solid Clear2o inline RV water filter system screens those particulates down to 1 micron. It makes the star cleaner, clearer and it taste better. 

When it comes time to connect your hose to the RV, use a Fresh water quick disconnect. This solves the problem of having to thread and tighten the connectors by hand, something that had to be lined up just so and always seems to result in an annoying little leak. The quick disconnect takes seconds, it snaps on and off instantly and is totally leak-free. You can get them at any RV shop or Amazon for about $13 at https://amzn.to/2YUAEG7

water filter that we connect when doing rv setup at a campground
This is the Clear20 two-stage water filter

8) RV setup – Coil your cables and wires

Don't leave your wires and cables all jumbled up. Coil then, It looks much nicer. Besides, if you keep them coiled, they'll “train” themselves to stay that way when you wind them up and put them away.

9) RV setup – Plug in the cable TV

If your campground offers cable TV, connect it up. We also see quick cable connect adapters for the cable.

10) RV setup – Level your RV

I did a video a few weeks ago about how much we love our automatic leveling system. We wouldn't have an RV without one and it was the very first extra we had installed when we get our new RV earlier this summer. If you don't have one, use a level inside the RV and put little blocks under the wheels to get the unit as level as possible.

11) RV setup – Turn in the hot water heater

Some units need tome to warm the water. Others are instantly hot. Whatever, when you want hot water, you want it then. So turn it on as soon as you can after arriving.

12) RV setup – Secure your pet

If you have a pet, how will you be able to keep them restrained and secure? Small dogs can be kept in portable pens. Larger dogs need to be on a leash or rope.   We tie Bo to a picnic table, a tree, or, more often than not, the rear trailer hitch (see the video).

13) RV setup – Put out the awning

We use our awning a lot in the summer. But do not trust the weather. Sudden winds can do real havoc to awnings and are extremely costly to repair. We never leave our out overnight, no matter what the weather forecast is. And we don't leave it out when we will be away from the campsite on a hike or bike ride that lasts over a couple of hours. 

14) RV setup – Put down a ground cover

Whether your RV is on a poured cement pad, asphalt, gravel, dirt, or sand, a cover cuts down on the amount of mud and dirt you bring inside. You may also want to use a smaller piece of carpet or an outdoor mat just outside the door (again, see our video). If you can, take off your shoes or boots before going inside the RV. Whatever you do,  don’t leave them outside and unattended for long periods of time or overnight, becauee unpleasant things like mice, spiders and scorpions can make themselves a new home

15) RV setup – Tend to your trash

Be sure to know where the trash can be disposed of. Some campgrounds pick it up each morning. Others expect you to take it to a garbage bin or dumpster. But don’t leave trash lying around either inside or outside the RV.

16) RV setup – Activate the step override

The center step on RVs automatically extends and retracts every time you open and close the RV door. That's why most RVs have a step override that turns off the automatic setting and keeps the step out. Don't worry, if you forget to turn it off when you are breaking camp, it will retract as soon as you start the engine.

17) RV setup – Know where you are

Finally, one thing we always do inside the RV before kicking back and having fun is to write down the official name of the campground, the office phone number, and our site number. Usually, we do this pon those sticky PostIt notes. In an emergency, if you have to call 911 for assistance, you want to be able to quickly and accurately say where you are.

If you found this article helpful, here are five detailed resources we have for you here on the RV Lifestyle Travel Blog:

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17 steps for quick RV setup at a campground

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

11 Comments

  • My wife and I use walkie talkies to backup our camper.

  • Yes, we just picked up a pair and plan tp do the same!

  • Great tips thank you!
    Is it safest to turn off all breakers first before touching the box?
    I thought I had read that, and to first plug into your RV then do the plug in to the proper receptacle last and then turn the correct breaker on.

  • Excellent article and companion video. I really enjoy your content! Thank for taking the time to share with us all.

  • Great video and helpful hints. Thank for sharing your insight.

  • Very nice article!
    Additional suggestions:
    1. I believe a very important additional electrical safety device is a non-contact voltage tester, such as the Klein Tools NCVT-2, available for around $20 on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Klein-Tools-NCVT-2-Standard-Protection/dp/B004FXJOQO/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=NCVT&qid=1596485213&sr=8-3) is a very important safety device, especially if one does not have an EMS (such as Progressive Industries EMS-PT30X), but even if one does have and use an EMS.
    2. Connect your RV to the campground pedestal via an Electrical management System (“EMS”).
    3. Sunshades, with silver side out, in your windows to keep out heat in the summer or silver side in to keep heat in during cold weather.
    4. Say hello to and thank the campground host(s) for their service.

  • Informative article as always. Glad you are using the Clear2O. Me too, I have been using the Clear2O RV inline filter for over a year and I bought the Dirtguard about a month ago at CampingWorld. So far so good and it’s conveniently size to fit in my travel trailer.

  • Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my site so i came to return the want?.I’m
    attempting to in finding issues to improve my website!I suppose its good enough to make use of some of your ideas!!

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  • I love your advice to make sure you have a spotter that is always helping you back out safely. My partner and I want to get a new RV this year so that we can start traveling more. We want to be comfortable during our travels so a nice RV is essential.

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