5 Tips for New RVers

When we decided to try RV living, we knew nothing. Having never even spent a weekend in an RV before deciding to live in one, we may have known slightly less than nothing. Suffice to say we have learned a lot in our 2.5 years full-time RVing and have compiled a list of 5 tips for new RVers.

Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or a long-term adventure, the right preparation and intel will keep RV life enjoyable rather than stressful. Let's dive in and discover how to make the most of your RVing adventure!

1. Find the Right RV

Selecting the right RV that suits your needs and preferences is crucial. Consider factors such as size, layout, amenities, and towing capacity. There are thousands of RVs available on the market (they’re often referred to as “rigs”). Take your time, make sure you’re getting the rig that has what’s right for you, and make sure the quality is good - especially if you’ll be RVing full-time.

2. Understand the Math and Lingo of Hauling

Prior to the RV lifestyle, we didn’t know what things like GVWR, CGVWR, payload, tow
capacity, hitch weight, or trailer brake meant. We certainly didn’t anticipate having to do math or learn jargon but alas, here we are. To safely haul your new home (or your weekend getaway), you’ll need to know your numbers. So let’s start with some definitions.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)

The maximum allowable weight that a vehicle is designed to carry, including the vehicle's own weight, passengers, cargo, and fuel. Both your truck and your rig will have a separate GVWR.

GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating)

This is the maximum allowable weight of a vehicle and its towed load. It includes the combined weight of the towing vehicle (such as an RV or truck) and any trailers or vehicles being towed (such as a camper, boat, or car). The GCWR takes into account the weight of the vehicle itself, passengers, cargo, fuel, fluids, and the weight of the trailer and its contents.

To understand what factors are included in the above two definitions, here are a couple more definitions.

Dry Weight

The weight of the equipment itself. Both your truck and rig have a dry
weight. Simply put, this refers to the weight of the truck or trailer without anything in it -
including gas, fluids, passengers, or cargo. This is important because it tells you what
your starting point is and how much more weight you can safely add to your setup.

Curb Weight

Curb weight is the total weight of the vehicle including standard
equipment and required fluids, like motor oil, transmission oil, coolant, AC refrigerant,
and a full tank of gas.


this is the maximum weight of anything that your truck or rig can safely carry.
Passengers, cargo, gas, groceries, clothing - anything that’s in the truck or RV besides
the vehicle itself. In the context of RVing, payload is a crucial consideration as it
determines how much gear, supplies, and personal belongings you can bring on your
trip without exceeding the vehicle's weight limits.

Knowing these definitions, let’s look at our first 2 definitions again:
GVWR = Curb Weight + Payload

GCWR = Curb Weight of Truck + Dry Weight of Rig + Payload (of both truck and trailer)

This may seem excessive to go this far in detail on what seems like obscure acronyms,
definitions, and numbers, but these numbers are paramount to your safety on the road and may be one of the most important tips for new RVers.

Marc of Keep Your Daydream does a great job explaining all of this over here in this video.

3. Find the Right Vehicle

Now that you know all the numbers that are involved, you’ll need to make sure you find the right vehicle for your rig.

We leased our truck first based on payments we knew were within our budget, then found a trailer that we loved and fit the specs.

Let’s look at the real numbers so it’s easier to understand.

The first truck we leased, Scarlett, was a Sierra 1500 with Turbo. This is not the engine we
thought we were picking up
, but she was a wonderful first truck for us!

GMC Sierra 1500 Elevation Package (2.7L Turbo) Scarlett’s Max GVWR was 7,000 lbs.
Scarlett’s Curb Weight was 4,960 lbs.
(Therefore) Scarlett’s Max Payload was 2,040 lbs.
Scarlett’s Max GCWR was 12,000 lbs.
Scarlett’s Max Hitch Weight was 6,600 lbs.

As mentioned, our rig is a Heartland North Trail. His name is Raphael (like the Ninja Turtle since we carry our home with us like a turtle).

Heartland North Trail 22RBK
Raphy’s Max GVWR is 6,900 lbs
Raphy’s Dry Weight is 5,800 lbs.
(Therefore) Raphy’s Max Payload is 1,100 lbs.
Raphy’s Hitch Weight is 499 lbs.

Hauling Raphy is right at the top of Scarlett’s GCWR. We knew that we couldn’t get a rig any bigger than Raphy when we had Scarlett.

This doesn’t seem like a “fun” tip and may seem a bit tedious, but it’s incredibly important to get this right before you commit to a vehicle and/or rig.

4. Make Safety Your #1 Priority

You can’t enjoy RV life if you’re not around.

Here are the things we did to always make safety our priority:

  1. Work from a checklist so you don’t forget anything. When you’re first starting out,
    hooking and unhooking your rig won’t be second nature - use a checklist so you don’t miss any crucial steps.
  2. Double check each other’s work - there’s no room for ego in safety. If you have a
    partner, have them check your work when you first start. This also helps you stay cross trained in each other’s duties in case one of you is sick or injured on a travel day.
  3. Continuously monitor the weight of your setup to avoid exceeding the weight your truck can safely haul
  4. Continuously monitor your tires on both your truck and your rig. Make sure you know the cold PSI for your tires and keep them filled.
  5. Never back your rig in if you can’t see your partner. Even if you’re using phones or
    walkies, we’ve had all of it fail before. Be patient and wait until you can see your partner in your mirrors before backing up.
  6. Avoid socializing while hooking or unhooking your rig. Both are important activities that need your full attention.
  7. Avoid rushing or performing important activities while hungry or tired.
  8. Always know your numbers - height of your truck, height and width of your rig. As you make your way on your adventures, you may find that you don’t always fit on all roads.
  9. Speaking of, use an RV-specific GPS or app so you know that you’re not going down
    any roads that will take you to low clearances or places you can’t fit.
  10. Always, always, always chock your tires. That gets 3 “always” because we didn’t do this and our trailer rolled at us in our driveway.

5. Practice Driving, Parking and Maneuvering

After the aforementioned trailer incident, a friend’s dad came over and put us through 10 hours of boot camp to prepare us for our first trip.

We drove and parked and drove and parked and parked and parked, and even drove in a circle backwards around a light pole in an empty parking lot. We hooked, we unhooked, we hooked, we unhooked. We learned and repeated so much by repeating .

It’s one thing to watch YouTube videos (which we did), and read articles (which we also did), but practicing in real life is a game changer and absolutely imperative. We also used our first trip to practice on repeat in quick succession. We stayed at 4 campgrounds in 4 nights making sure to unhook and hook up each time for the practice.

Finding Your Way as a New RVer

These tips for new RVers will help you navigate the road ahead with confidence and make your RV trip a resounding success. So pack your bags, fuel up your sense of adventure, and set out on an unforgettable RV journey filled with discovery, relaxation, and a deep connection with the world around you. Happy travels!