Prepping Your RV for Use

Four Levels of Prep

The idea of prepping an RV for use falls into four distinct categories, as described below.

The amount of preparation you’ll need will depend on what you have already done so we’ll start with the most involved preparation first and work our way to the preparation needed for a weekend outing. The four levels of RV prep are, as follows.

  • Prepping for the very first time
  • Prepping a new-to-you RV
  • Prepping for a new camping season
  • Prepping for a weekend outing
All the kitchen gadgets in a drawer

New Owner RV Preparation

The preparation you’ll need to do for the first time is fairly involved but hopefully you’ll only need to do it once and with the right attitude it will be a fun family experience.  At this level of preparation, you will need to stock your RV with all the basics from towels, bedding, cutlery, cookware, and toiletries, to hoses, sewer connections, surge protectors, and tools. Most of the items you’ll need at this level of preparation are things that will stay in your RV all the time, like hoses and cookware.  You may be able to take some of these materials out of your household inventory, for example, if you have extra towels, sheets, frying pans, and cutlery. But you probably don’t have any RV specific sewer connections lying around your house, so you’ll need to purchase those.

Prepping an RV for use, whether its a large motorhome or a small travel trailer, takes thoughtful consideration of how much you really need to take with you, and if you have room to stow it.

On the other hand, if you can afford the extra expenses, it can be fun to shop for all new RV accessories. You may want to pick out towels and bedding to match the RV’s décor and selecting the right appointments will make your RV feel very special.  We did this when we bought our first RV in 1999. While we waited for the motorhome to be built, we spent that time shopping for everything we’d need to personalize the coach and make it feel homey and comfortable.  Since our RV was new, we knew we wouldn’t need to invest any extra money in repairs, so we were able to focus on the little details like silverware, bedding, and cutlery.

How much “stuff” you put in your RV is a matter of personal choice and how much storage space you have in the RV.  If you just purchased a 40 ft. fifth wheel you will certainly be able to find room in your kitchen for marshmallow roasting sticks, but if your new RV is an R-pod, mpg, or pop-up trailer the limited storage space will probably require you to focus on just essential camping gear.  Additionally, if you have space for it, you may find it convenient to keep extra clothes and toiletries in your RV so when you pack for a camping trip you don’t have to think about clothing or bathroom supplies. The more essentials you can keep in your RV, the easier it is to get everything together for an outing.

When prepping a travel trailer you need to be mindful of the weight you are adding to the RV

Prepping a Used RV

Prepping your first RV if it’s a used rig, may involve a few different procedures. Part of this preparation will involve a thorough inspection of all the parts, systems, and components of the RV to make sure they all work properly. You might need to have the air conditioner repaired, or replace the tires, or get an oil change and brake job, in addition to outfitting it with your personal affects.  The previous owner may have left some useful equipment in the RV, like tire chocks, or an extra propane tank, or sewer hoses, and you’ll need to inventory those items to see what’s missing and still needs to be purchased. With a used RV you may also want to replace the bed, as well as the bedding.

Whether your first RV is new or used it can be an exciting process to outfit it for your camping needs, but I recommend doing this over time.  In the initial prep, just take care of the basics, because you won’t know how much room you have for storage and what you’ll really need for your unique camping style. If your camping style will require a generator, solar panels, WIFI booster, or air compressor it will become readily apparent the more you camp.  Less is more, when it comes to RVing. If you need additional equipment, it will become apparent very soon.

De-winterizing an RV and Getting it Ready for a New Season

The third level of prepping an RV is to get it ready for a new camping season after it has been winterized and stored for the off season.  This is a simple process of flushing out the antifreeze from the waterlines, refilling the freshwater tank, and turning the refrigerator on. You should also check all the components and systems, such as the batteries, tires, engine (if it has one), generator, air conditioner, water heater, furnace, jacks, and slide outs.  Also, many of the staples you typically keep in your RV throughout the camping season may need to be restocked, like pancake mix, refrigerated condiments, and coffee.  If you took the bedding, towels, and extra clothes out of the RV at the end of the season, these items would need to be returned to the RV. When prepping for a new season inspect the entire RV, including the roof, for any damage that might have occurred when the RV was in storage.

Prepping Your RV for Your Next Camping Trip

The least involved level of prepping an RV are the steps needed to prepare your RV for an upcoming camping trip. Because you have already taken care of all the big picture preparations this is the easiest and most fun. It basically just involves packing the food and perishables, and all the trip specific gear you’ll need for your next adventure. If you’re going to the beach, be sure to take your swimsuit. If you’re going to camp along a river, be sure your fly rod is in the RV, and no matter where you’re going be absolutely sure to pack the marshmallows.

Prepping an RV for use for a weekend adventure may just mean stocking up on perishables.

About Peggy Dent

Peggy Dent is an author, writer and full-time RVer, currently traveling in the US and Canada. She's driven a motorhome more than 130,000 miles and learned the secrets, delights, and pitfalls of RVing through her own experiences. She shares her knowledge and insights in numerous RV industry publications. You can contact her through her website at