Although many campgrounds today are advertising they are “Big Rig Friendly”, most campgrounds are not. Many campground were designed decades ago when RVs were smaller and did not have slides. For those RVers who have larger rigs or multiple slides, these older campgrounds can make arrival and departure a very frustrating time.
If you find yourself in a tight situation (such as these folks in the photo who came within inches of hitting a truck parked on its own campsite, while backing into their assigned camp site), there are several things you can do to make the situation a little better.
At check-in, be honest about your rig length. Yes, some campgrounds still charge for larger rigs – but there is a reason for that. Bigger rigs get bigger sites! Don’t say you are 30 feet in length when your rig is 35 feet! A few feet can make a major difference.
If you have any slides that are problematic (deep, long or perhaps double-sided) ask the reservationist if there are trees, high electric boxes, lamp posts or other obstacles on your site. If they are uncertain or do not know, ask to view the site first.
Pull-thrus are the preferred sites for Full-Timers because often you do not need to unhook your rig and these sites are usually close to the entrance. However, they are often bordered by smaller trees (“awning eaters” is what I call them!) or lamp posts for late-night arrivals.
When you are assigned a camp site (or if you are allowed to find one on your own) get out and walk it. Look for your hookups. Make sure the electrical box contains enough amps (especially if you paid a higher price for 50 amp service) and that – if applicable – it has Cable or Sat TV hookup. Locate your water and sewer hookups.
We have noticed that some older campgrounds still have shared water hookups. To temporarily correct this, they have placed a Y-connect on it. Make sure that if your water is shared it has such a connection and if it does not, contact the campground office before you get set-up. If you have your own Y-connect, you can use that, but keep in mind that if campers are (or will be) beside you, you will have to turn off their water and disconnect their hose to get your Y-connect back when you leave.
If there are any movable obstacles in your way, such as a picnic table, make sure you drag them out of your way.
The next step is to discuss the site with your spouse and/or family. If it is a back-in site, make sure that your spouse or family members help you. They need to remain in your mirrors and also in the back corner of the rig to watch for any problems. Some RVers use radios to communicate. This is okay, but often hard on the driver trying to maneuver the rig and maintain contact. Larger rigs sometimes have back-up cameras. This is good, yet someone watching outside is still recommended.
Maintain communication with your helpers! Discuss the terminology you will use. Does “HOLD IT!” mean you are going to hit something or you should just stop? What does “straight” mean? Should the driver try to straighten the rig or do you really mean he should “follow” the rig and it will be straight? This may seem trivial but to a driver this is crucial information. And remember to maintain mirror contact at all times. If they can’t see you behind the rig, they cannot hear you!
If you are arriving at a campground at night you will find yourself having more difficulty getting in a campsite. Why? You’re tired from a long day and everyone is cranky. Plus, it is dark and you cannot see everything. Do not let that add to your frustration. Make sure everyone has flashlights and walk the site as you would during daylight hours. Move obstacles, locate hookups and potential problems. See where you want to put your rig and have your family stand on both sides of the back corner of the rig (yet in your mirrors) with flashlights. Use the light as a guide where to center the back of your rig. If you are traveling alone or with just a spouse, place two flashlights on the ground where you want to have your rig.
A great set of flashlights to get are Craftsman rechargables. They stand-up and when the batteries are weak, you can recharge them. We have helped people back-in after midnight, in blinding rain, during wind storms and heavy snowfall with these flashlights. They are very heavy-duty and well worth the cost. They can save you quite a bit of frustration during late-night arrivals!
Once you are in your campsite and level, walk around and verify if your slides will clear any identified obstacles, especially electric boxes. If you cannot judge or if it appears close, carry a small tape measure with you and measure out the width of your slide from the RV. We have a slide 40 inches deep. May not seem like much, but since the slide is over 10 feet long, that can make all the difference in the world with a tall electric box! So if anything appears close, measure before putting your slides out. Do not let a damaged slide ruin your trip.
Most often when you arrive at a campground you will find a few folks who will flock around you and “try” to help you get into you campsite. If this makes you nervous, all you have to do is let them know their offer of help is appreciated, but you and your family have a system. Most are very understanding and will return to their own site or stand aside so you can get into yours.
If you do arrive at a campsite that is too narrow or not long enough, let the campground office know immediately. Do not try to damage your rig or cause yourself a lot of grief trying to fit in a site that is too small. Most are very understanding of RVers needs. And if you find another vehicle or RV on or encroaching on your assigned campsite, ask the office before you do anything. Occasionally some Campers will spread out more than they should. Although most are apologetic and will move, some will not. Try not to put yourself in a bad situation with your new neighbors. Ask the campground office about what should be done in this situation, as this is something they need to be aware of. You may try to handle it yourself, but if your neighbors have extra vehicles on your site, they may not have paid for extra vehicles (or extra people) and the campground office may not be aware. Some campgrounds restrict the number of vehicles and/or people allowed per campsite.
Fitting in a campsite does not have to be a hassle each stop of the journey. Ask for a large enough site to accommodate your rig and walk over the site before pulling or backing-in. Locate your hookups and any obstacles. Have your companions help you and communicate with each other. If you have a system or plan at each stop and you will soon find “fitting in” less of a hassle.