5 RV Tips and Tricks to Prepare for Your First Camping Trip

So, you’ve purchased your first Heartland RV unit, and you are ready to get out to explore, but you have a few questions on how to prepare for your first RV camping trip. Don’t worry; you’re not alone; we have all have had a “first camping trip.” Here are a few RV tips for camping to get you out on the road.

1. Walk Through and Camp at Home First

After picking up your Heartland unit from the dealer and having the PDI and walk through with them, you might feel like you just drank from a firehose of information. It is a good idea to set your unit up at your storage unit or at home to do your own familiarization of your new home on wheels. During this time, make sure you know how to use the slide, see how the awning functions, and where all the connections are located. A thorough front to back, side to side, once over before your first trip is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Photo by: @gleason_family_adventures, Sundance 294BH

Camping at home sounds crazy and unconventional, but I promise this is one of the best ways to get familiar with your unit. Finding out you need a flashlight, extension cord, spatula, and extra blankets within walking distance of your front door will save you time and money. Plus, you won’t have to try to find a store when you are at a campground.

When camping at home, you can also work out some first-time camping hiccups. On our most recent purchase, we had a few things that we needed to tweak to make it feel more like home. It was easy to make those personal fixes with the tools in the backyard and eliminated handyman frustration.

Pro RV Tip: Invite some friends over for a cookout and backyard campfire on your chosen camp at-home date. It will make your first-night camping even more memorable.

2. Book Your Campsite in Advance and Make it Close to Home

Once you have become familiar with your Heartland RV unit, it is time to book your first trip to get out and explore. Picking out a campground is one of my favorite things to do. There is something about looking for the right location I want to go to and the amenities that the park might have. Families might be interested in a campground with things like Wibits, playgrounds, indoor or outdoor pools, fishing lakes, and planned kid’s activities. In comparison, couples and solo travelers might look for quiet, secluded parks with tranquil, scenic overlooks. Whatever you are looking for in a campground, it does exist; all you have to do is find it.

Photo: Mongo River Run Campground in Howe, Indiana

After finding your perfect first-time camping location, book your site and do it well in advance of your trip. Campgrounds fill up over major holidays and weekends, so snag that campsite as soon as you have chosen your travel dates.

Pro-Tip: While we all dream of camping in Yellowstone National Park or boondocking on BLM land, try not to plan your first trip hundreds of miles from home or on a technically challenging road.

3. Plan Your Menu and Shop Before you Go

Planning your meals before you go camping saves you the headache of trying to think about what you will cook while you are out having fun. The saying, “keep it simple,” is my motto while at camp. I love creating a meal plan that pleases everyone in my group and keeps me from feeling like all I am doing is cooking.

If you have a family, roasting hotdogs over the campfire, a side of watermelon, and a bagged salad with all the trimmings included is a real winner. However, when my husband and I go camping alone, without kids, we enjoy finding a local butcher who locally sources their meat to get some steaks, sauté some veggies on the griddle, and have some fresh garden salad. Your meals can be whatever you want them to be.

Pro-Tip: Consider utilizing a crockpot. Coming back from a full day of exploration and cooking is a recipe for a grumpy cook.

4. Setting Up Your Unit...And Don't Forget the Sewer Hose

Setting up and getting your camper into your site might make you a little nervous. Don’t let it. You’ve practiced at home. You’ve done your research. All you have to do is get it into the site. If you are concerned about backing in on your first trip out, book a pull-thru site.

There are a few things to know about setting up that are important. If you do these, you should be set for the duration of your stay.

  • Make sure your unit is level right to left before unhooking it from your towing vehicle.
  • Set the chocks.
  • Level the unit from front to back.
  • Lower the jacks.
  • Make your connections, sewer, water, and electric.
  • Put out your slides.

What good is a full hook-up site if you don’t have all the needed pieces and parts? Make sure to have everything you need for connecting before going. You’ll want to check that you have your power cord for the unit that goes to the power source. Check for your water hoses, do not assume the water source will be close to your unit’s connection; make sure to have enough length. (Ask me how I know about this!) On one maiden voyage with one of our units, we got to the campground and realized we did not have our sewer hose. We were in the middle of nowhere, and the closet store with a hose was over 45 minutes away.  Once you are set up in a full hook-up site, you do not want to have to connect back to your vehicle to go dump tanks in the middle of a camping trip. We had to drive to get the needed sewer connection, and it felt like a waste of precious camping time.

Pro-Tip: Check and double-check that you have all your connections and stabilizing equipment.

5. Enjoy Your Time at the Campground

With all the little details out of the way, it is time to savor the RV lifestyle and reap the benefits of owning your unit. Settle deep into those zero gravity chairs for a moment of peace or grab the kids by the hand to explore the campground. Step back away from your site for a moment to admire your setup and campsite. Your RV journeys are just beginning, and there are memories to be made around the campfire.

Photo by: @oilsandgracetribe, Cyclone 4006



This article was written by brand ambassador Brandy Gleason, Gleason Family Adventures.