June 27, 2024




Camping has been a major part of our relationship from the time my husband and I met. We started off tent camping in the remote stretches of the Uinta mountains in Utah while we were dating. We continued camping each summer after, adding babies along the way. We loved the simplicity of throwing a tent and a few supplies into the car and finding a quiet corner of the woods to be immersed in nature, but it soon became clear that we needed to find a way to make it more sustainable with kids.

We wanted to take our kids camping as often as we could, and we realized that having an RV would make it so much easier for us. Being able to go on spur-of-the-moment adventures because all of our camping stuff was in one place really appealed to us. No more rummaging through our house and garage for hours trying to find everything (and then still forgetting to bring the flashlights).

Once we got our Jayco Jay Flight, we were completely hooked. Camping was simple again! Over time, RVing went from something we did on occasional weekends to becoming our full-time lifestyle. Three years ago we sold our house, moved into our RV full-time and started exploring the US in our RV trailer.


Switching from tent camping to an RV can feel overwhelming. But with a few tips, you’ll find it’s a fantastic upgrade to your camping experience. The first thing you should do is be very clear on what you want in an RV.

RV Size

What size RV you get will depend on many factors. How much weight can your vehicle pull? Are you willing to upgrade your tow vehicle to get a larger RV? Would you prefer a motorized RV so that you don’t have to deal with a tow vehicle? How many people do you want it to sleep? Where are you planning to camp? State and national parks often limit the length of your RV, with guidelines anywhere from a 19-foot to a 35-foot maximum. But more than half of national parks will allow a 40-foot rig, so you can plan your purchase around your travel preferences.

Even though national parks usually have size limitations, nearby RV parks often don’t. Some of our favorite camping spots have been Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land outside a national park or a nearby state park. State parks are typically less strict on length limits, less expensive than national parks and getting a spot in them tends to be easier.

RV Type

There are many different types of RVs to consider, with several general categories to choose from.

There are travel trailers (or bumper pulls) that are pulled from a ball hitch on the bumper of your tow vehicle. They can be pulled with a truck or sometimes an SUV, and come in lengths ranging anywhere from 10 to 40 feet.

You also have fifth wheel trailers that are pulled from a hitch mounted into the bed of a truck. These trailers are typically easier to haul than travel trailers. They have higher ceilings and feel more open in the living areas. One thing to consider about fifth wheel trailers is that they cannot be pulled by an SUV and have to be pulled by a truck with a fifth wheel hitch installed.

Then there are toy haulers, which most commonly come as either a fifth wheel or a travel trailer. These RVs are made to haul motorcycles, 4 wheelers, side-by-sides, etc. They have a large onboard garage space that can also be reconfigured into living space once you are at your destination and have removed the motorized toys. The garage space often converts to a patio, which can be handy for families with small kids, since you can keep them inside the RV while giving them fresh air and sunshine. Toy haulers are often among the larger RV types and may require a heavy duty truck to tow.

Lastly, there are motorized RVs, including Class AClass B and Class C models. The upside to motorized RVs is they do not require a haul vehicle. You can access food, the bathroom and supplies while you’re traveling, and there’s more room for passenger comfort. Motorhomes can be more expensive than travel trailers, and they have more mechanical parts to service if something goes wrong. Also, if you need to go somewhere after setting up camp, you’ll either have to pack up and drive your RV, or plan to bring a separate vehicle for driving around town.

We chose a 37-foot Jayco travel trailer that we haul with a diesel SUV. We chose this setup because we have five kids and wanted a rear bunk room. Although a fifth wheel appealed to us, we wanted something we could tow with an SUV so we could all drive in one car.


An RV has a higher learning curve than a tent, but getting to know the basic features can help you feel confident in your new rig.


RV hookups refer to the plumbing and electrical connections that you hookup when getting to an RV site. They include the black water tanks that hold waste from the toilet(s), the grey water tanks that hold waste water from the sinks and shower, a hose that connects the city water spigot at the site to your fresh water supply in your rig, and the electrical cords that will either be 30 amp (smaller RVs) or 50 amp (larger RVs). Your rig will also have a fresh water holding tank that you can fill and use with the onboard pump when your RV site does not have water hookups.

This is an area where RVing really shines compared to tent camping. No more stumbling through the darkness at night looking for a public bathroom facility. (If that!) With RVs, you have the convenience of using your own private bathroom, day or night, without interference. If you have kids, this alone might be enough to convince you to get an RV. No more late-night escorts to the bathroom––you’ll know they can safely handle it themselves inside the RV.


Dumping Tanks

If your RV site has full hookups onsite––electrical, sewer and water––then dumping tanks is easy. Just hook up your grey and black water hose to the sewer connection and pull the lever below each tank when you need to dump that tank. If you don’t have full hookups at your site, you will just fill your waste water holding tanks while you’re parked. When they’re full, drive your RV to the dump station at your campground and attach your waste hose to the RV and the dump station to empty the tanks. If you’re careful with your water usage, you should be able to go a few days before having to dump, depending on the size of your tanks.

Setting Up Camp

After hooking up your sewer and electric you’ll need to finish setting up camp. That includes unhitching if you’re in a travel trailer, setting up the leveling jacks and putting out any slideouts you may have. Slideouts are a great way to increase the space of your rig, and they’re typically controlled by a button inside the RVs control panel. But before you extend your slideouts, walk around your rig and make all moving parts have the needed clearance. Nothing is worse than running a slide into an electric post or a tree!

Heating and Cooling

One of the biggest pluses of RV camping over tent camping is climate control. RV furnaces run on propane, which means you don’t have to be on any hookups to heat your unit. The stove and fridge will typically run on propane for the same reason; you can use them without any electricity. The same is not true for the AC units and most electrical outlets, as they will need shore power (a 30 or 50 amp electrical cord plugged into an outside power source) or a running generator in order to operate. So if you’re planning on using AC or electric fans, look for an electric hookup.


A big worry people have when transitioning from a tent to an RV is what to do in the winter, or off season. Although storing an RV isn’t quite as easy as folding it up and tossing it into the garage, winterizing an RV isn’t as hard as it may seem. To winterize our RV, we drain the tanks and water heater, blow out the lines with our air compressor, and put some RV antifreeze in the toilet. On average, it takes us less than half an hour. There are a lot of great YouTube videos that can walk you through the process, but many dealers also offer winterizing service.

If you’re hoping to RV during winter or in freezing temperatures, make sure you find one rated for all-season RVing. These RVs have added insulation in the walls and around the pipes, with a sealed and insulated underbelly, to ensure the unit can stand up to inclement weather. Even if your RV is rated for four-season camping, if you’re not planning to use it over the winter, you will still need to follow the steps above to winterize your unit. This is because even cold-weather prepped RVs use the onboard heater to keep everything running smoothly, which doesn’t protect the RV the same way when it’s powered down in storage.

When choosing an RV it is important to talk through what types of camping you would like to do with a dealer so they can provide the best guidance on what will be best for you.


If what you love about tent camping is the ability to be surrounded only by nature, boondocking is for you. Boondocking (also called dry camping or dispersed camping) refers to camping without any hookups. It can be as practical or rustic as you like, as it encompasses both camping out in a parking lot overnight and driving to a remote spot in the wilderness without people around for miles.

Boondocking is a great way to explore unique or secluded areas and enjoy the great outdoors with more room to breathe. Many of these spots are inexpensive or free, but you do sacrifice some amenities. The BLM allows an individual to camp in one spot for up to two weeks for free. BLM land is usually in fairly remote locations with dirt road access where you choose your own suitable campsite. Other places to find good dry camping are through Harvest Hosts and Hipcamp. If camping off-grid appeals to you, be sure to get a generator and fill all your propane and fresh water tanks before heading out. Be prepared to pack out everything you brought in, and limit your water usage while camping.

When we used to camp in tents, we loved dry camping. We would find a cozy spot off the grid and settle in for a few days of peace and quiet. Having an RV hasn’t diminished our love of camping off-grid at all; it’s made it easier to stay in the wild longer, because we’re no longer limited by weather conditions.


When we upgraded our camping from tents to an RV, we opened up a whole new level of outdoor exploration. Our RV allows our family to camp more often, for longer, and in a greater variety of locations and weather. It creates a home base and sense of stability for our family when we’re on the road.

We can sleep in our own beds, have our systems and routines in place, eat our own food, read our own books, etc., and yet we can wake up one morning at the Grand Canyon. Or Yellowstone. We can snorkel in the Florida Keys and paddle board in Lake Tahoe, collect shells in Santa Cruz, and slide down the dunes at White Sands National Park. And all the while, we have everything we need tucked into our RV storage compartments, waiting for our next adventure.


Renee Tilby and her family travel in a Jayco Jay Flight travel trailer.

Your Saved Floorplans

Click the star on a floorplan page to save and compare.