My Top 10 RV Rookie Mistakes

Lessons learned on my first Travato trip.

Damon Bungard  |  09.07.2015

There’s only one first time for everything. Some first times are good, and you can’t wait for the next. Some are bad, and you quickly learn that you never want to do that again. So let’s take a look at the Top 10 RV Rookie mistakes that we made on our first trip in the Travato, and hopefully help all the new RV’ers out there like us have a good first experience, and want to keep exploring what the outdoor RV life has to offer.

We picked up our Travato the week before the 4th of July holiday weekend, so naturally it was fitting to head out for a long holiday weekend initial test drive. Our destination of choice was a new river for me to fish, the White River in Northwestern Arkansas. A cold, tailwater fishery known for record trout, the White was around a 9 hour drive from our home in Spencer, TN. The plan was to load up some kayaks and fly fishing gear, dog stuff for Tripper, and head to Bull Shoals State Park, right on the riverfront.

Photo2Plugged in at site #80 at Bull Shoals State Park

Aside from choosing a poor route that took much longer than it should have, and passing through some massive thunderstorms, everything on the drive went very smoothly. We pulled into our waterfront site, Number 80, set up camp , brought the kayaks down off of the roof, and started working through the features of the Travato and getting familiar with our home for the weekend. Sites there have both electric and water hook-ups, so it was a good way to get familiar with everything without going fully off-grid.

Photo3Getting unloaded and set-up for a kayak shuttle

DCIM101GOPROAsh prepping breakfast in the Travato galley, under Tripper’s intent supervision

The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the river, kayak fishing and doing floats downriver (you can arrange shuttles in the park), catching beautiful trout, enjoying the holiday fireworks show, and Ashley’s cooking and evening cards in the Travato.

DCIM101GOPROLanding a brown trout in the Jackson Kayak Kilroy

Photo6A wild white river brown trout

Photo7Changing flies on the White River

DCIM999GOPROAshley and Tripper enjoying the riverside lunch break

Photo9Arriving at the take-out

DCIM100GOPROG0010212.Evening cards in the Travato

There weren’t any major hiccups or malfunctions, just a few embarrassing ones, so without further a due, here our Top 10 Rookie Mistakes from our first trip in the Travato:

  1. Packing too much. I’m sure this a common one, and one we knew would do until we could figure out just what we would and would not need in the RV. Go into it with that mindset and you’ll be fine, but being a compact RV, you have to watch what you bring. Enjoying relatively gear intensive activities like kayak fishing that we do only adds to the packing list. Be conscious of it, organize and pack things in order of likelihood of need, and in removable containers like Plano trunks, and you’ll be fine. If you bring too much, just rest assured that you can always bring less next time, or find a UPS Store and ship it home.
  2. Outdoor speakers aren’t easily heard inside. The Travato comes with a nice CD/DVD/Stereo entertainment system in the coach, with multiple speaker settings. One of those settings adds sound to the outdoor speakers on the passenger side. Learn which speaker buttons activate which speakers! It’s a little embarrassing to step outside the RV at 10:30 at night and realize you’ve been serenading the neighboring campers with Jay-Z.
  3. Leveling blocks are loud when you drive over them. That pretty much sums that one up. Don’t forget they are under your tires when you drive out of the campsite, or people will laugh at you.
  4. Smoke detectors are loud. Especially loud when they’re right next to your ear while you’re cooking. Make sure you ventilate the coach with the built in fans, opening windows, etc, or you may lose some hearing in your left ear.
  5. If there’s no power, check the master power switch. One day we floated eleven miles in the kayaks, and hired the park service for a shuttle. I left Ashley and Tripper and all of our kayaking gear in the campsite, followed them to the take-out, left the Travato there, and then they brought me back to the site so we could launch. When I parked it at the take-out, I couldn’t get anything in the coach area to work when I tried to check levels, make sure things were turned off, etc, before leaving it there. I was very worried during the float that I had blown fuses or done something else wrong when I disconnected power at the campsite. Turns out all I had done was press the master power switch in the floor entrance area with a flip flop.
  6. Remember the fridge controls. The Travato comes with a fully featured fridge/freezer system. It’s very functional, provides great food storage, and runs off of campground electric, the Travato’s coach battery system, or propane. It’s remembering those power options that’s key, and remembering to change it’s setting when you unplug. Luckily for us, since it wasn’t opened for the 9 hours I was floating the river in 90 degree heat, the fact that I didn’t remember to switch it to propane from electric didn’t harm anything. If you don’t remember to switch it to propane when living off –grid, the loud low-power coach battery beep around 5AM will remind you.
  7. The levels monitor gauge is helpful. Use it. There’s a levels monitor in the dining area that lets you see your black and grey water levels, liquid propane, water tank, and coach battery levels. It’s good to check it regularly, and react accordingly, before you wonder why your sink won’t drain anymore.
  8. Be careful opening overhead bins. Objects May Shift In Flight. Remember Point #1? Overfilled bins and cabinets tend to remind you of that fact when you open them after driving a while. Be careful with how you load cabinets, and what you bring, or you may end up with a purple toe to match that purple toenail polish – just ask Ashley.
  9. Campfire smoke blows in the wind. Remember Point #4? If you’re going to make a campfire outside of the RV, keep in mind which direction the wind is blowing, cause if it’s blowing smoke into the RV, guess what’s going to wake your neighbors up.
  10. Be prepared at the RV dump station. Sunday rolls around, and folks are trying to head home, and a line forms at the dump station. Have your routine down before everybody is watching you and waiting on you while you fumble through the manual, and look puzzled when you pull the grey water handle and nothing comes out. For those more likely to read this before the manual, the grey water pump switch needs to also be pressed when the valve is open to actually pump the grey water out. The switch is on the back wall near the outdoor hose. It says so in the manual.

That pretty much sums up our first trip. A fun adventure, with plenty of mistakes, but plenty of successes. Hope this list helps you enjoy a future one.

 


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18 Comments

  1. Mike Ringer Posted on 09.08.2015

    Loved your review and sounds like you had a great time. Over packing is something I do everytime even though its in my mind I would say I always pack twice what I need. Hope you do a review of your big trip I look forward to doing it myself in the near future. Going to learn to fly fish hopefully in the shade.

  2. Gene Posted on 09.10.2015

    I don’t know if you are only writing this for your particular unit, but not all RVs have a pump to pump out water. In fact, of the three I have owned, not one had this feature and two were Winnebagos. Good luck.

  3. sherry Posted on 09.11.2015

    We agree with almost all of these! We’ve written similar blogs about the mistakes we’ve made (like bringing too much and the closet hanging rod crashing down). Follow our blog for our full-time RV adventures! Loveyphoto.wordpress.com

  4. Kate Mullen Posted on 09.11.2015

    Hi – great tips! How do you load your kayaks? Would it be manageable with one person? Thanks!!

  5. Jeanette Posted on 09.11.2015

    At least you kept your sense of humor! No matter how long you’ve been RVing, you can still do something “brilliant” from time to time. We are famous for turning our fridge off (on propane) to fill up with gas & forgetting to turn it back on. We now have a slap strap we put on the steering wheel to remind us. Keep trekking & laughing!

  6. Vonheise Posted on 09.11.2015

    I have a 5th wheel… All my tanks are gravity drain. My refrigerator, and most others will not operate off 12 system, just 110 or propane. I too always over pack, however on a 14 week trip across the country and to Alaska and back, that was a blessing. I added a 3′ rack between the rear and the bumper, which will carry a kayak vertically, a generator, bikes and storage. I always use the powered vent over the stove, and have had no alarm problems other than the propane alarm going off once. I smelled propane, but the dealer could find no leaks. I always sleep with a vent on top cracked and a small crack in the window near the stove and refrigerator, just in case. I don’t travel when the daytime temps are below freezing. I sometimes carry a 14′ canoe over the cab of the truck which runs from the nose to the front of the 5th wheel. Took some rigging but bought and modified racks to allow it to happen.

  7. Bill Marrin Posted on 11.03.2015

    We love our Travato! Your article was a great summary of the lessons we have learned. One mystery I have is how to get my kayak to the roof. I would love to know if you are doing something special to get yours to the roof. Thanks, Bill

  8. Denise Laudun Posted on 08.20.2016

    We have a 31′ Sunstar and have only 9500 miles on it and still have 7 months warranty on it. While out camping, my husband noticed our front tires were nearly worn out on the inside of both tires. We thought there would be warranty coverage for new tires. Our dealership called Ford. They said they won’t cover tires or alignment because the manual says it is recommended to load your RV like you use it and then take it to be aligned. I called Winnebago and the answer I got was on page 2 of the manual it says it is recommended to have your RV aligned when full. We have had several RV’s and was never told this before. I would think that if tire alignment and safety were a big issue, that it would be told to you at the walk-through or maybe stated in bold words in the manual.

  9. Steve Schaefer Posted on 08.20.2016

    We have a 2015 Winnebago Aspect which also has a pump to drain the grey tank. Our previous 2008 Aspect had the two tanks next to each other and didn’t require a pump. Now we are embarrassed on Sunday morning when everyone is lined up at the state park’s dump station that we take so long for the pump to empty the grey tank, even though we do the procedure as efficiently as possible. I wish Winnebago would come up with a faster way to empty the grey tank. Other than that we love our Aspect.

  10. Jerry and Elsa Porter Posted on 10.06.2016

    Greetings Everyone: We packed (and probably over packed) our 2014 Travato and left from El Monte, California steering in the direction of Forest City Iowa. That was about eight weeks ago. When we arrived at Lichtsinn Motors (one mile from the W factory) approximately eight days into our travel plans we gasped when we saw our new pre-ordered 2017 model. Our travel system includes stop, look and listen. It really pays to ask the travelers and the home town people directions to local parks in order to eat lunch or take a nap under a tree.

    In the review you mentioned some of the situations we experienced. The refrigerator after being on electric needs to placed back on propane. The smoke detector really let me know I was cooking bacon on too high a flame. Our new model comes equipped with a solar panel which keeps the house battery all perky. For Senior Citizens they have now included steps outside each front door and a handle to climb up with the sliding door open which is placed right on top of the water box. We now have put 7500 miles on the new one. Life is great. Happy Trails Jerry and Elsa

  11. Arden Rader Posted on 10.16.2016

    Whether it is 1030 at night or any other time outdoor speakers are outrageously thoughtless to use in the presence of other campers.

  12. Roger Posted on 11.12.2016

    First,..altho’ our 2017 Aspect has outdoor entertainment system & outdoor speakers,..I HATE the idea. I have camped my whole life,(am 70),.. and NEVER asked any camping neighbors if I could listen to their BLARING music!!! Ugh. This problem often turns ugly, too…
    As for a pump to empty Gray tank,..we have one. No one on our walkthru told us. SOOO,..the Gray overflowed and backed up through the shower drain. In the process it inverted the bladder in the drain ‘p-trap’,..blocking the shower drain! Ugh again. Dealer repaired it and Winnebago had to pay for someone’s oversight at the selling dealer.
    And, while we’re here,..no one gave us a training on an RV tankless water heater,..an appliance we had never used. And,..the hot water went ice cold,..of course in the middle of my wife’s shower. A simple training would have meant that would never have happened. Why did it have to be my wife???

  13. brad schiller Posted on 12.17.2016

    would like to see more info on cold weather camping (class A ) for future camping in off season . what needs to be done to protect the water systems
    thanks brad

  14. Bob Lee Posted on 01.21.2017

    Itasca Meridian 34H 2004 just how cold can we safely go ? I want to use it more
    Bob

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 01.21.2017

      There’s no simple answer for how cold you can go with using your RV. Of course the biggest issue is keeping your water and plumbing from freezing. I’ve seen videos of very hearty RV campers putting skirts around the entire coach and running small heaters or incandescent light bulbs near the critical plumbing and holding areas. There are some RV parks who also have heat tape on their water taps, but those are few and far between. Try searching on YouTube and Google with keywords “RV winter camping” and you should get plenty of hits.

  15. david Posted on 02.19.2017

    Hello Damon
    Great Story and great pointers. Thanks for sharing.
    I just purchased a Era winnebago. My first rv.
    I noticed in one of your photos that your coach has a ladder on the back and a luggage rack on the roof along with some other items. My question is was it included with your purchase or was it added after?
    Im interested in the ladder and luggage rack for mine.
    Thanks in advance
    David

  16. colleen Posted on 04.09.2017

    We’ve just completed our third winter in Florida. We have a 2005 Winnebago Vectra with plenty of closet space so I overpacked again! What is the “formula” to keep from overpacking and deciding what to bring?

  17. Paul Posted on 07.05.2017

    Nice review. I wish I had read it before tonight. :-/
    Our second outing in a month, and yesterday was the 4th of July. We’re returning home in our 2017 Travato 59g and it’s the first time we used the showers. I dumped the grey. Remembered the “pump” eventually. We watched tv. Both of us thought it was raining hard outside when I realized it was the sink over running! That darned sink cover glass will turn the water on if you’re not too carefeful. Learned my lesson on that one. Loved your article. Hope you’re still enjoying the Travato.