I wrote this several years ago for beginning campers.

We had an Alaska blog for about 4 years, and hackers trashed it several times.

This was another really popular article about RV camping from our blog that got wiped out during the crash. Here it is again for your viewing pleasure. 🙂

Step 1

Cabinets tend to fly open, making the contents inside dangerous projectile missiles.

Solution: Buy one of those packages of all different sizes of bungie cords. Hook a bungie from one cabinet knob to another. Tight enough to keep things in, but not so tight you mess up the alignment of your cabinet doors.

Step 2

Pets become projectile missiles if they’re allowed to run loose in an RV while you’re driving. They get under your gas pedal, fall all over the place, or just basically scare the crap out of you.

Solution: One word: KENNEL. If they cry, cover the kennel with a sheet or blanket so they can’t see you. Eventually they’ll get the idea. Kennel two of them together if they get along, so they can comfort one another.

Step 3

Cargo doors will sometimes unlatch and fly open while driving, leaving you with a lot less “stuff” when you get to your destination.

Solution: Latch and lock all doors AFTER you drop your RV off the leveling jacks (if you have them)

Step 4

Items inside cabinets tend to clang and tinkle and literally drive you batty while you’re driving.

Solution: We put a paper towel between plates, remove the glass dish from the microwave and wrap in a kitchen towel, and wrap cups with paper towels. When we get to our destination, we use the paper towels for cleanups.

Step 5 We see a lot of RVs driving down the road with the vents on top flapping and flying, and cargo bay doors unlatched.

Solution: Have two people do a “walkaround” before leaving. We learned this from watching pilots in the military do the walkaround for their aircraft, and it really does work. What one person misses, the other one always catches. This can prevent you from having to pay thousands of dollars in costly repairs.

Step 6 Checking and filling up tires on an RV can be very tough on your hands.

Solution: Before you leave the showroom with your new RV, make SURE they put extenders on your tire valves so you can reach the inner duelies. There’s nothing like being stuck in Denali National Park with a low tire and having to struggle to fill up an inner tire.

Step 7 Running your RV generator can sometimes cost you a lot with gas prices the way they are.

Solution: Turn off your generator if you’re just using your TV or radio or heating system or air conditioning if your RV has an inverter that lets those things run off the cabin batteries. Every once in awhile, do a check of your cabin batteries. If they need a charge, run the generator for a little while until they’re charged up again.

If you don’t have an RV with an inverter, a small Honda or Yamaha generator gets about 15 hours of use from one gallon of gas. This is what campground hosts in Alaska use, and it saves them a bundle of money.

Hint: We turn ours on just to make coffee or cook in the microwave. Otherwise, it stays off most of the time. If you sleep with a CPAP machine, buy a DC to AC converter that is designed for sensitive electronics (like cameras) and hook that into the DC outlets in your RV.

Step 8 Carrying things from the house to the RV is a BIG hassle.

Solution: When you can, try to buy two of each thing (like antacids or shampoo or things like that). That way, it’s already there.

Hint: We use those canvas bags you get at the grocery store to carry things back and forth. They hold a lot, and no plastic bags that tear.

Step 9 We tended to pack too much stuff when we first became RVers.

Solution: Think of everything in terms of days. How many days will we be gone. How much underwear or socks does that equal? How many meals? (always pack an extra meal or two in case something goes wrong with a meal you planned). Thinking of camping in terms of compartmentalized days helps a WHOLE LOT.

Step 10 Some stuff like pet supplies get forgotten.

Solution: Keep a small, extra bag of pet food and a bowl in the RV for those times you forgot their food or containers.

Step 11 The weather is a constant surprise.

Solution: Bring all types of clothing (especially if you’re camping in Alaska or someplace in the mountains). We camp in 20 degree weather at night, pouring rain, sleet and snow in May. You never know what you’re going to run up against. Bring lots of extra blankets, too.

Step 12 Keep getting eaten by mosquitos.

Solution: Avon Skin-so-Soft shower gel (original scent) in the shower, and the spray when you get out. Also wash your hair with the shower gel so they don’t bite your head. We also take Super B complex vitamins (from Walmart) and wear a B2 vitamin mosquito patch made by Agraco. It comes in a yellow package of 2 patches and does not contain Deet. These patches last 36 hours, and you put them on 2 hours before going outside. More info: AgraCo.com or 1-800-337-4169.

Hint: If you’re vacationing in Alaska and need some Avon, visit the Saturday (and Sunday) market in downtown Anchorage. The Avon lady is always at her booth.

Step 13 Washing dishes will sometimes use up a lot of the fresh water in your RV.

Solution: If you’re just going away for the weekend, put dirty dishes in a garbage bag and stuff under the RV in one of the cargo bay doors. Throw in the dishwasher when you get home. Use recycled paper plates (paper from paper and not trees). If you’re going to be on a long vacation, save up your dishes until you get to a campground and wash them in the water hose or someplace you’re allowed.

I used to marvel at people who were dumping their septic because they would have always have a sink full of dirty dishes. Now I understand why!

Step 14 Don’t sit in your RV for the whole trip, refusing to socialize with the rest of the campers around you.

Solution: Best conversation opener: “Where ya from?” RV campers LOVE to tell you where they came from – in great detail! RV campgrounds are for socializing and relaxing, not being a hermit!

Step 15 Don’t leave any food outside in bear-infested campgrounds.

Solution: There are hundreds of variations of bear-safe containers available at your local sportsman’s store.

Step 16 Keep a close eye on your gray water contents. If you let it get too full, it will fill up your shower with yucky water. Gray water is the water you’ve drained down your kitchen sink or bathroom sink or shower. Make it a habit to always push the buttons to check to see if your gray water is getting to the 2/3rds mark. We once had to drive to a dumping station (there aren’t many in Alaska) with a shower full of water, hoping it didn’t leak out onto the floor!

Step 17 Dump your black water (toilet water) only after it gets fairly full (2/3rds or more). It’s best to have it jostle around on your way home so that things like toilet paper don’t get stuck to the sides. That way, everything empties out when you empty the septic just before going home.

Step 18 Be sure to wear those nylon or other type of disposable gloves when emptying the septic. This is important, even if your system is like ours and is completely self-contained. Wash your hands afterwards and use some of that disinfectant for your hands, like Purel.

Step 19 Be courteous at the septic dump sites you go to. Many of them are offered free by gas stations. Throw away your disposable gloves after using in a receptacle instead of throwing them on the ground. Use the water hose always supplied to wash up around the area you just used. No one likes to look at other people’s yucky mess after they’ve dumped their septic.

Step 20 When it is getting close to the end of the season, empty your septic, then take a garden hose and run fresh water into your toilet or attach one to the flush valve if one is supplied with your RV. Pour a couple of drops of Palmolive or Dawn dishwashing soap down the toilet while flushing. (not too much, or it will foam up) Leave it really clean like this while it sits over the winter, or you will have a septic whose indicators don’t work correctly when Spring comes for the next season.

Step 21 Empty your black and gray water just before going home after every trip. Leaving it in there for a couple of weeks before you go again is not a good habit to get into. When you go to dump it, the smell will knock you over! I’ve been next to other RVs while they were dumping that do this, and I swear someone died in there!

Step 22 Keep your refrigerator on while driving and your propane tank on. We weren’t sure about this when we first started camping, but if you have a long ways to go before you camp, you don’t want your food to spoil. Most RVs now have a double circuit that switches automatically. When power is removed from the fridge, the propane kicks in to keep your food cold.

Step 23 When you start getting a couple of nights in the 40s, it is time to take your RV in to get it winterized by the dealer or other authorized RV repair shop. They flush out the lines and put RV antifreeze in the lines to keep them from cracking. Just before taking it to get it winterized, make sure you did Step 20 above. Once you get your RV back home to park for the winter, make sure you turn off the cabin batteries. (most RVs have a battery bypass switch for this)One winter, our dealer had our RV for a few months to fix some items, and one of their techs left the batteries on in Dec and Jan. They literally blew up inside the battery compartment and threw acid EVERYWHERE. They spent a long time cleaning up the compartment.

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