Hint #1: RV or Caravan?
A very basic decision… I’ve tried both and I, personally, came to the following conclusions: If you want to explore the surroundings of your campsite or destination extensively, a caravan should be the vehicle of your choice. You can just leave it on the campground and drive around with your car freely.
On the other hand, if you’re more of the “round trip guy” (as I am) an RV is clearly the better decision. It’s easier and faster to set up and dismount, it’s normally more spacious and often better equipped. But you have to take it with you every time you need a ride. Whereas, as a ride it’s far simpler to move and to handle than a car and trailer. Just take a bike with you for short distances.
Hint #2: Where to go?
It’s not an easy thing to decide for the first camping trip. Being used to hotel rooms, bed & breakfast and room service you are now going to have to get along without anything like that. It’ll be the most restorative and exciting holidays you’ve ever had. Promised.
Just do some research on your first destination, have an image of where you go and what you’ll do, and it’ll be great. For the first-timer: Don’t just go into the blue, but make a plan, a route and set your destinations. There are campsites all over the country (yours too!), but keep in mind that some of them will be completely booked in the holiday season. So first call/write them and secure yourself a place. Second, keep in in mind that voyaging with an RV or Caravan is “slow”… So don’t set yourself too large legs.
Hint #3: Get familiar with your tech
RVs and Caravans are small pieces of engineering art: Everything important is installed in the smallest imaginable space. In order to be able to use, understand and maintain the appliances in your camping vehicle, DO READ THE MANUAL (“RTFM”)! If you rent your first RV, ask your car renter for an introduction.
The most important parts to know about will be the gas system (stove and heating), the water system (refilling and disposal) and the toilet system. Make sure you know every connector for electricity, gas and water and how to handle them.
Another tip: Learn how to SECURE your RV or camper over night. This means intrusion prevention as well as standing level and using the handbrake.
Hint #4: Pack right and light
The first thing of all: DO PACK LIGHT. “Reduce to the max”. Concerning clothes, most campsites offer a laundry room including basins, sinks and even washing mashines for a small buck, so pack less clothes and consider washing once a week. Take a clothesline an some clothespins with you.
Think about parlor games, roleplaying games, sports utensils etc. as well as pen and paper and all chargers, electronis and personal utensils needed. Bring a Flashlight!
Do think about toilet paper (masses, it will be used for virtually everything), dish soap and standard household utensils. Keep in mind that most utensils from at home will not be needed in a reduced and rather simple environment like an RV. Bug spray is a MUST. Just take a look at MY packing list(s) as an example and adapt it to your needs if you like.
At last: Do take care about correct loading of your RV or Trailer (see the video below) and don’t pack more than the maximum loading capacity!
Hint #5: Gourmet considerations
Not an unessential consideration: Food. You’ll have to care for your catering yourself. Most campsites have small shops and even probably a restaurant. Also the surroundings of your destination will ususally offer a a wide variety of gastronomy as well as new, native and exotic grocery.
But you’ll also want to prepare some food “at home” in your RV’s kitchen by yourself. So the first tip: Rely on simple and no-fuss recipes, that are easy to prepare in the smallest possible kitchen. Stock up on simple staple foods like rice, soups, stews and noodles. If you’re like me, pack loads of coffee. Try to take non-breakable tableware with you and look for stackable, space-saving items.
Hint #6: Personal – Just have fun and take it with you
The most important hint for beginners: Take it easy, let go and enjoy. No rules but your own, the complete freedom of where to go and where to stay and, finally, your fu**ing, well-earned peace 🙂
Explore your new surroundings, enjoy qiuetness and nature. Get to know your destination, the country, the people, their way of life. You’ll never get so close to that as with camping.
As in every holiday, take pictures, make videos, write down notes and thoughts. You’ll have much more spare time for contemplation than in a crowded hotel. Make a check list about what you forgot, what was unnecessary and what you want to definitely do again for your next trip that will most certainly follow.
I hope that with these hints I was able to give you the “bare bones of camping” and you’ll have fun and a great time on your first trip!