So excited for you! At RV Pirates, we walk you through absolutely everything you need to know for your first voyage. We make sure to get you prepped before pick-up and ready to sail at departure; and, if there’s ever anything you need help with during your journey, we’ll be a message or phone call away. You’ll never be marooned, Matey!
Here are the Pirates’ tips for your first RV rental:
1. Get familiar with the size of the RV you are driving
Most of our RVs are 11 feet tall, 8.5 feet wide and range from 24 to 31 feet long. If you’ve ever driven a U-Haul truck before, great… This will be an easier drive for you! If you’ve never driven anything bigger than a Prius, then stop worrying and start thinking big. All you need for a safe first time RV journey is to understand the size of the vehicle you are driving. Focus on how high, how wide and how long the RV is and never take chances on blind spots, especially when backing up. It’s easier than it sounds, promise!
Let’s talk about ground and height clearance.
Never drive into an underground parking lot or a fast-food drive through. Vegas might have a few hotels with a clearance high enough for an RV, almost everywhere else, don’t count on it and just park outdoors. When driving through neighborhoods, be careful of tree branches sticking out or hanging low that might clip the top and corners of the RV. When backing up or parking parallel, lean your head down into the rearview mirror so you can see the top corners of the RV to make sure you’re clearing any signposts or tree branches. Be mindful of the awning as it’s a piece that sticks out of the RV and is easy to hit if you’re not paying attention.
Bottom clearance is something to pay attention to when you’re making tight turns, to avoid hitting a sidewalk, for example. Off roading? Better not, it’s a heavy machine and it’ll easily get stuck in sand, dirt or mud.
Next is to think about length of the RV.
When you’re pulling into a gas station, take your time and make sure that you look at the back of the RV when you’re pulling in and out of a gas pump. The RV has a long backside that’s easy to hit when you’re turning in an intersection or into a gas pump. It’s even easier to not hit anything at all if you just keep an eye out for both the back and front of the RV when making turns. Also, when backing up, if you are trying to get into a tight campsite or have any objects behind you whatsoever, like street signs, trees, walls, fences; if it’s safe, we highly recommend having someone spotting outside for you. It doesn’t matter if the RV has a backup camera, that camera isn’t giving you a full line of sight of your surroundings as it’s pointing straight down. Have your trusty First Mate or someone nearby to guide you into your spot. It’s a bother to some but, trust us, it won’t ruin your vacation to be on the safer side than to wing it and crash it when backing up. If you’re on your own and it’s safe to do so, just go outside and take a look at the surroundings of the RV before you back up.
Last but not least, take into consideration how wide the RV is.
This is mostly the easiest dimension to master. You have two trusty side mirrors that will show you the clearance you have. The trick here is to keep an eye out on the top corners of the RV when backing up parking parallel or when pulling into any kind of tight spot and as we mentioned before, watch out for tree branches sticking out!
Yo ho ho!
Now that we are talking about safety, be sure to let us know the size of your crew so we can set you up with the RV that has the right number of seatbelts to keep yer hearties safe. Also, check your weather advisories, make sure you plan your route accordingly and completely avoid driving on snow or icy roads. If temperatures are to range from low to subfreezing, let us know as we need to make sure that we can winterize the RV before you weigh anchor.
2. Figuring out what powers what
Our RVs have 4 forms of power generation: Gasoline generator, house or coach batteries, propane gas and plug-in to shore power.
The onboard generator will power the A/C, microwave, TV/DVD and outlets; as well as the lights and the fridge/freezer. The generator also charges the house batteries, and the generator will not turn on if the house batteries are not on. The generator uses the same gasoline tank as the engine; important to take into consideration when dry camping for a few nights. For an extra fee, we offer topping up the gasoline tank for you.
The house batteries power the water pump, USB ports and the lights inside your ship. Also, in conjunction with the propane, the house batteries will power the ship’s heater and keep the fridge/freezer working when the generator is not on or when you are not plugged into shore power. So, if you’re driving, the house batteries and propane keep all of your food cold along your journey. You can easily camp without being plugged-in/no hook-ups aka “dry camping”, as long as you can regularly charge the house batteries by using the generator or by driving around, as the engine will also charge them. Super important to pay attention to the battery levels and never let them get low as this permanently damages the batteries. Battery levels can be checked in the RV’s control panel, usually located in the kitchen area.
The RV has an onboard propane tank that ignites your stove and oven. Flip on the house batteries to ignite the propane and together they’ll keep the fridge, freezer, water heater and space heater working. We will do your propane tank refill for an additional fee.
The RV comes with a 30amp cable that you can plug-in to a 30amp campsite. When you plug-in the RV, every electrical appliance will come to life and you won’t need to use the generator. The refrigerator also stops using propane and switches to electric power. You still need propane for the water heater, space heater, stove and oven. You also need to keep the house batteries on when you are plugged in. There are campsites that are 50amp service only, for example, the Grand Canyon RV park. They’ll either supply you with a 50amp converter or, just let us know before you head out, and we will loan you one at no cost. Avast ye! Remember to disconnect before heading off and plugging back to the RVs generator.
3. The fresh water, grey water, and black water aka “poop tank”
Your house on wheels has 3 tanks.
The fresh water tank is where you store the water you’ll be using for the faucets, flushing the toilet or taking showers. We recommend you fill the water tank when you get close to your destination or at your campsite if it has a water hookup because having a full water tank makes the RV heavier and sucks up gasoline. We do not recommend drinking that water ever, even with a filter. You just don’t know what pollutants are possibly lingering at whichever site you choose to fill-up on water.
The grey water tank collects the used water from the faucets and shower. Never flush any food down the sinks and never wash any sand down the RVs shower. This will damage the tanks and will cost you many pieces of eight.
The black water tank collects everything flushed down the toilet. Make sure you’ve tossed the RV waste dissolving chemicals provided down the toilet before you use it for the first time. So always remember to throw one in after you have emptied the black water tank. Only flush RV safe waste dissolving chemicals, human waste and single ply toilet paper. Do not flush anything else down the toilet. Absolutely no wipes, no sanitary products and, Matey, stop eating so much corn else you’re going to clog the black water tank… arrrggghhh!
Emptying the grey and black water tank
This is a super easy step most new timers are afraid of doing. No one likes to deal with poop but it’s easier and cleaner than it sounds! First, make sure you have the black and grey water valves shut before taking the cap off. Remove the cap that covers the sewage outlets located outside the RV. You’ll have a sewage hose you connect to the sewage outlet of the RV and just place the other end of the hose into the campsite’s sewage or an RV’s dump station sewage. Once you have set up that hose, open the black water valve first (marked on the RV) and, when emptied, then open the grey water valve. Grey water will help wash out what’s left from the black water. It’s a relatively clean process as long as you wear gloves, which we supply, and make sure you connect the waste hose nice and tight. You won’t get yourself dirty if you follow the steps above, seriously. Don’t forget to close the valves, snug the cap on, rinse the waste hose with clean water, put it back on the storage bin and, finally, drop one of those waste dissolving chemicals down the toilet, else you risk getting the black water tank clogged.
Your crew size and your overall water usage (faucets, shower, toilet) will determine how often you’ll need to empty the grey and black water tanks. We recommend emptying the tanks every two to three days, regardless, to avoid unappealing smells, especially during hot summer days. This also allows for waste to not solidify in the tanks. For an extra fee, we offer doing the final waste tanks disposal for you.
4.Getting to know the control and levels panel
Inside the RV, there’s a control panel usually located in the kitchen area. In that panel you can turn on the generator, water pump (needs to be off if there’s no water in the tanks) and water heater (takes about 15 minutes to heat up the water). In that same panel, you can monitor the RVs fresh, grey, and black water levels. We recommend you normally drive around with 1/3 fresh water so you can use the toilet and sinks on the road. We also suggest to immediately flush the tanks if they reach full so that they don’t overflow when driving through steep hills, turning or breaking. The other very important level to pay attention to is how much power is left on the house batteries. Never let the house batteries get low as it damages them, which in turn will cause problems with the generator and the propane.
Seems complicated? Listen to these old salts because it’s not. Plus, shoot us a message or call if you need help and we’re all hands on deck. Our RVs are actually very easy to drive, easy to use and in top shipshape. Watch a trusty YouTube tutorial on how to use an RV and, with our detailed in-person walkthrough… Blimey, we’ll make you one heck of a well-prepared first-time RV Pirate! We provide all the kitchen, bathroom, cleaning, RV essentials you might need so just get ready for a great experience, may it be on an amazing adventure in the wild outdoors or wherever the journey takes you.