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Setting up Camp: A Simple Guide for RV Newbies

| Updated Jan 15, 2024

Setting up camp can be a challenge for RV newbies. From choosing and packing your supplies to finding the right campsite and setting up your RV, there are a lot of things that may not have been covered at your RV orientation.

The good news is that setting up camp gets easier with practice, and the tips provided here will help you work out the kinks before you hit the open road.

Important Step Before You Embark – Practice!

rv in driveway

The best time for RV newbies to get familiar with setting up camp is before you set out on a long-distance adventure.

Plan to have a weekend getaway in your driveway, including using the supplies you’ve brought along.

If you run into problems you will be glad you were only practicing. You will learn so much!

3 Things to Practice for Setting up Camping: 

  1. Parking and Leveling 

    Pull-through sites aren’t always available, so practice backing into a spot in your driveway or a large empty parking lot before you set off. The more level the surface you choose for setting up camp, the easier it will be. Even if your RV has an auto-leveling system, it helps to practice using manual tools such as leveling blocks, wheel chocks, and a bubble level. Begin by leveling side-to-side, and then level front-to-back.

  2. Packing and Supplies 

    RV newbies find out quickly that they have a home on wheels. You are going to need everything from linens and dishware to aloe lotion and undergarments. Practicing at home makes it easy to run inside for the things you’ve forgotten, but you are going to learn that the best option is to simply do without things you didn’t bring along. Try not to run inside the house when you think you need something during this practice time.

  3. Slideouts 

    Slideouts make life inside an RV roomier, but they add extra challenges to setting up camp. Your RV needs to be leveled as much as possible, and you will have to plan on the extra space needed when you choose the campsite. Trying to spend long periods in an RV without opening the slideouts is cumbersome at best and many motorhomes require extending them for access to sleeping or kitchen facilities. Practice using them and not using them. 

Selecting Your Site

rv park

Choosing the perfect campsite can be difficult if you have a small RV. RV newbies who start out with a longer rig will quickly learn that a perfect campsite is nearly impossible. The location you choose for setting up camp will make or break your camping excursion.

  • Location – Plan carefully and early. The best spots in campgrounds may be reserved months in advance, so do your homework and make reservations ahead of your journey. Make sure that your chosen destination has everything you need, including water, power, and either sewer hookups or an on-site dump station. Look at online maps of the campground for help in selecting a spot.
Setting up Camp: A Simple Guide for RV Newbies 1
  • Sun and Shade – In cooler weather, you will want a campsite with plenty of sunlight, but you will appreciate a shady place during the heat of summer. Additionally, orienting your RV so that it points North and South will give you more solar exposure. You often can’t choose the ideal site when making reservations, but if you have choices on arrival, look for a site that matches your needs.
rv hoses
  • RV Access – Hooking up power, water, and sewage is not difficult, but it is important that RV newbies know how to do it before you get to the campground. Know your hoses. A semi-standard color code for RVs uses white hoses for freshwater, black for blackwater, and anything other than those for greywater. Connecting the hoses and electricity is basically the same as using water hoses or electric cords at home, but it is vitally important that connections are tight.

Need some help in finding an open spot at a campground this summer? CLICK HERE to read our article offering 17 insider tips on getting a campsite

Camp Etiquette

In addition to setting up camp, RV newbies should take the time to learn a bit of campsite etiquette. These social rules will make it easier for you to interact with other people, keep your RV safer, and generally be more acceptable in the camping domain.

  • Introductions – Introduce yourself to your neighbors. RVers are their own community watch program, so giving and getting a better look at the people around you goes a long way towards adding an extra layer of security to your campsite. Don’t invite yourself over for dinner, but let them know who you are and notify them of any visitors you may be expecting.
  • Leave No Trace – LNT is the creed of campers. If you brought it in, take it out. Campgrounds have dumpsters for disposing of trash, so you don’t have any excuses (there never are) for leaving trash behind. Even better, pick up trash left by someone else.
  • Pets – Not even dog lovers want to listen to someone else’s dog barking throughout the night or rummaging through trash. Keep your pets on a leash, and clean up behind them in every sense of the word. Leave pets at the campsite when you introduce yourself. Finally, you are responsible for everything your pets do. There are no exceptions to this rule.

There is a fine art to camping etiquette. CLICK HERE for our article on the unwritten rules of camping and watch the video below.

Leaving Your Campsite Unattended

If you brought along a passenger vehicle, it is convenient to leave your RV set up and use the car for exploring the local area. Before setting off on a day full of adventure, make sure you have secured your campsite. 

  • Put Things Away – Take out the trash and put away any coolers, rubbish bins, grills, or other items that may be blown about by winds or carried off by strangers. 
  • Take Minor Precautions – Whether you have one or not, be sure to mount a “Beware of Dog” sign conspicuously. Unless you know your neighbors, don’t mention where you are going or when you will be returning. 
  • Lights – Leave a light burning inside the RV, but not outside. Inside lights might indicate someone is home, but a daytime exterior light screams “We aren’t here!”

For RV newbies, setting up camp may seem daunting, but it isn’t as bad as we can make it sound. With practice, you will be able to set it up in a few minutes, and the more you do it, the easier it will get. The rewards are worth the effort you put into it.

Are You an RV Newbie? Or Thinking of Joining the RV Lifestyle?  

newbie guide

THIS is the ebook to get first – before you purchase anything- to make sure you are heading in the right direction with the right RV and plans.

So, buckle up and get ready for the ride of your life. Consider this not just a guide—but an invitation to discover the joy of RV travel and the freedom of the open road.

You’ll find it all in this 64-page ebook (digital PDF – NOT a print book) The Newbies Guide to the RV Lifestyle

Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-05-17

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

3 Responses to “Setting up Camp: A Simple Guide for RV Newbies”

June 04, 2021at8:49 am, 7 EASY No-Cook Recipe Ideas For Your Next RV Camping Trip - 2boomersandababy said:

[…] And if you are new to camping or the RV Lifestyle – Bookmark this post to get up to speed before you go! […]

May 18, 2021at4:12 pm, Gerrit DeVries said:

Like the previous comment, I have tried to obtain the packing list or which you have spoken. I always get the same message, that I am already enrolled, yet I still have not been able to obtain the list. Thanks for your help on this.

May 17, 2021at7:45 am, Cherie said:


I really enjoy reading your blogs. I am a newbie camper with an A-liner. I would love to get your packing list and when I sign up for it they tell me I’m already enrolled but I never got a packing list. Is there a way you could send it to me?

Thanks, love your ideas.


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