Note: Last week, our family went on an amazing week-long adventure in an RV! If you follow us on Instagram, you probably saw all the fun pics we shared. It was our first time ever doing anything like this, so naturally, we took down notes of what we learned along the way. The following is a guest post from my husband, Basem, with some helpful RV camping tips for first time RVers. Enjoy! 🙂
As long as I can remember, Sarah and I have always wanted to go on a journey in an RV. It was a refreshing thought to become a nomad and get unplugged to connect with nature. Once we had kids we pushed this dream to our “retirement” years in the future. Then, my friend and co-worker talked about embarking on a 1-year RV adventure with his family, and that just lit a fire under us, so we decided to go for it!
We rented a 24-foot C-class RV for our family: our 3 year old son, 9 month old daughter, and of course Sarah, who is 7 months pregnant. You may think we’re crazy, but we like to consider ourselves young and always hungry for exploration. We started mapping out our scenic route from Toronto to Ottawa to Montreal. We used an app called Roadtrippers which was great in adjusting the route. We made sure our route included as many lakes as possible. We camped out in Algonquin Park for a couple nights – one of the most beautiful parks in Canada – before heading over to Ottawa and Montreal, where we stayed at a couple other campsites.
Here are some RV camping tips we learned along the way:
This is the most common way to make food in an RV situation since you don’t want to smell or fog out the RV. Also very convenient, except for starting the fire! We were using natural firewood and it’s a lot harder to keep it lit than it sounds, but once lit, it stays lit for awhile. Of course, it takes practice and my experience before was only throwing logs in the fireplace or using self-lighting charcoal in a barbecue. The trick to firewood is setting it up as a pyramid with kindle in between. Position it correctly first because it will be difficult to do once hot. Also when barbecuing, make an extra day or two’s worth of food since starting a fire every day is wasteful and inconvenient. Another thing about barbecuing, do them at the public parks with picnic tables because it’s beautiful, fun, and there are less bugs 🙂
May/June was one of the worst times to go camping because of bugs and mosquitoes. Apparently, late July and August is the best time for camping because the bug season comes to an end. Luckily, Sarah brought along some of her homemade bug repellant with essential oils that actually worked really well with mosquitoes. Only problem is that it ended up attracting black flies, which are actually attracted to the scents of the oils – catch 22!
Black flies are brutal – they don’t prick you like mosquitoes, but instead actually take a chunk of your skin when they bite. They can also crawl up under clothing and bite as well. The bites themselves don’t hurt, but they can swell and start to itch within a day or two. If you’ll be spending a lot of time hiking, fishing, or in shady, secluded areas, you’ll probably want to wear a bug jacket to stay protected and still enjoy yourself.
Keep the kids entertained. Our 3 year old was getting homesick after the first day or two. The trick was to bring his favorite toys and items with us on the trip to make him comfortable and feel at home. Also, do unique things with them. For example, at night I took out a few glow sticks and we practiced staying quite in the dark and guessing all the sounds we heard in the wilderness (animals, crickets, tree leaves, etc). Another cool thing we did is break out the rain gear and just let him jump in all the muddy puddles when it rained.
Most RV’s have a power generator, but on our rental we got charged a hefty price for using it when not plugged in at a campsite. So instead, a better thing to do is bring a portable generator (a rechargeable one, not gas) so you can at least plug things into it. I was surprised that the wall sockets in the RV didn’t work unless plugged into a power source. I would’ve expected them to run off the cabin batter like the lights. Even one wall socket would’ve been nice.
The AllStays Camp and RV app was awesome! It saved us many times in finding a camp site, overnight parking when traveling, or RV dump stations at the last minute. It does so much more. This app is essential and more than worth it!
I guess this is common RV knowledge, but almost all Walmart stores offer overnight parking to RVers. You have to ask the manager to see if it’s ok because sometimes the Walmart doesn’t own the parking lot, and they may offer an alternative like parking in the back with the employees. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend Walmart for anything, but they are very RV friendly and you’ll see a few comrades parked out there with you. A trick we figured out is if you want to go sight-seeing in the city, park the RV in the nearest Walmart and take the public transit to the city from there. This is better than finding parking for the beast in the city (which cost us $50 in the heart of Montreal one day – we had no choice!). Also, Flying-J gas stations are very RV friendly.
Ok, black and grey water dumping. It’s not as bad as you think if you’ve never done it before. Just hook up the tube to the spout on the RV, point the other end into the drain, pull the black water lever to release and wait, then the grey water lever and wait, then close the valves, rinse, close, and done! You have to do it once to realize it’s not that bad. Also, its not easy to find RV dump stations, but many (not all) campgrounds will offer this service for $10 or so. The AllStays app helped us find one last minute before we had to return the RV the next morning.
We learned a lot about conserving and wasting water. Since you have to fill the RV with water and dump the black/gray water yourself, you are much more conscious of your water consumption.
When ready to dock for the night, make sure the RV is leveled. Use an app or leveler to make sure you’re not parked on a bump or rock. You may need to inch your RV around to make sure you are leveled before settling down. This is just for convenience so the shower, cooking, etc is leveled, otherwise the shower may not drain properly, for example.
When traveling on the road, try to segment your drive to 2-3 hours at a time. Anything longer is not enjoyable and becomes too much. You are in a house on wheels, so take advantage! After a couple hours, pull over into a trucker/RV friendly rest stop and let your hair down. Stretch, make a bite to eat, enjoy the family… you shouldn’t be in a rush. Enjoy the time and try not to squeeze it.
Our family really enjoyed the RV experience and we recommend it for everyone. It’s important for us city-folk to do this at least once in our life. It brings out the best and worst in us, and teaches us what to improve on. You meet a lot of new people and the kids learn and experience a lot as well. Operating an RV is a great skill to learn as well. Many of the technologies and techniques are borrowed from marine technology by the way, which is very interesting to draw the connection. Perhaps the next frontier will be in a boat! 😉 Take care and happy camping!
Looking for more RV Adventure?
Basem’s friend and co-worker is embarking on a 1 year RV adventure across the US with his family! They’ve rented out their house, bought an RV, mapped out their route, and are on their way for the adventure of a lifetime. They’ve called it the 48 States Project and will be blogging/tweeting about it from the road. We’re so excited to share in this experience with them and wish them all the best on their journey. Follow along with them at their website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
What is that one special adventure that you’ve always dreamt of taking?