RV Camping Term Dictionary for RVers
Do you go boondocking or glamping in your RV? Do you love everything about RVing, except maybe dealing with the stinky slinky? Not sure? Learn the top RV terms you need to know for your next outdoor adventure. Some works will look familiar if you are into boating as many nautical terms are used by RVers!
You’ve seen them: the RV set-up with the strings of lights running along their awnings and down to the ground. They have spotless patio mats, place setting organizers centering a picnic table they’ve extended, and a television propped on the end. The chocks ensure their rig is perfectly balanced, and their grill is as big as your spare car. These folks have got this camping thing down....Rest assured: you will too.
Top RV Terms Defined
Ball Mount: The towing vehicle is fixed with a metal tow package, at the end of which is a ball mount. The ball mount holds the trailer tongue or coupler, allowing the trailer to sway at all angles thanks to the lubricant between the two.
Basement : A Class A RV that incorporates large storage areas underneath the living quarters, much like a cross country bus has storage compartments for suitcases under all the seats.
Black Water: The waste water from the toilet, as opposed to the “gray water” which is waste water from the sink. The black water and gray water have two different holding tanks. When it comes time to dump the RV, the black water is released first and the gray water second. That way, the gray water can clean the pipes a bit. Then the sink and toilets are flushed with hoses to clean further.
Boondocking: Also known as "dry camping" or "primitive camping." Camping in an RV while using only the RV’s stored power and water. The battery and the water in the tank generally last two days or so without have to re-charge and re-fill. Also called primitive camping, these sites don’t have sewer utilities either. Campers typically pay a fee to another campground to dump the black and gray water after leaving the primitive camping site.
Breakaway Switch: Should the hitch’s ball and the tongue holding the towing vehicle and trailer become detached, the breakaway switch signals the trailer brakes as well as the driver. The chains, too, provide a third safety measure to keep all campers and vehicles secure.
Bunkhouse: An RV area that has bunk beds instead of regular beds.
Captain Chair: The driver is the captain and he or she sits in a captain's chair while driving the RV.
Caravan: A group of RVs traveling together for both fun and security. If something goes wrong with one RV, others stop to help. The lead RVer is known as the wagon master and the end vehicle, the tail gunner. Groups can hire wagon masters not only to lead the caravan but to make arrangements, plan means, and set up activates.
Chassis Battery: The vehicle battery that drives all 12 volt components of drivetrain, as opposed to the House Battery which operates the 12-volt system powering the house.
Chocks: Wooden or plastic wedges to place under the tires so that the floor of the camper is level even if the campsite isn’t.
Class A Motorhome: A large (24-45 ft.) RV with the housing incorporated onto a powerful vehicle. Open passage between driving and home area.
Class B Motorhome: A camping or touring van modified with a raised roof, beds, kitchen, and toilets. These don’t usually get longer than 25 ft.
Class C Motorhome: An RV built on a van chassis. The "cabover" contains either a full bed or extra storage. Ranging from 16 to 32 ft., these units also offer open passageway between the driver’s seat and the housing.
Cockpit: The front seat where the driver (or pilot) and navigator (or co-pilot) sit.
Curb Weight: An RV’s weight when its empty of fresh or waste water but contains automotive fluids such as fuel, oil, and radiator coolant. The dry weight or DW is the manufacturer's listing of the weight of the RV free of all water AND fluids. Wet Weight – The weight of the RV with all storage and holding tanks full. i.e., water, propane, and with the fluids.
Diesel Puller: Also called a "Puller." This is a motorhome with the diesel engine mounted in the front of the vehicle.
Diesel Pusher: Also called a "Pusher." This is a motorhome that has the diesel engine mounted in the rear of the vehicle.
Dinghy : Also known as a "Toad." A vehicle towed behind a motorhome, sometimes on trailer called a tow dolly, but sometimes with all four wheels on the ground.
Dump Station: The camper's friend and not as dreadful as expected, particularly when the tasks are undertaken with rubber gloves and a stinky slinky in good condition! A dump station is a place where sewage from the RV's black and grey holding tanks can be emptied into a sanitary sewer system. These stations are often located in areas frequented by boats and recreational vehicles, such as marinas, campgrounds, truck stops, and RV parks.
Fifth-Wheel: Also known as a "Fiver" or "Gooseneck." Fifth-wheel trailers are designed to be coupled to a special hitch that is mounted over the rear axle in the bed of a large pickup truck or a specialized vehicle that has been prepared for fifth-wheel trailer compatibility.
Full hookup: As opposed to dry camping or primitive camping, the full hookup site has water, sewer, and electricity.
Galley: A nautical term borrowed by RVers to refer to an RV's kitchen.
GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating): The maximum allowable weight that an axle is designed to carry, according to the manufacturer. GAWR combines the tow vehicle, trailer, fifth-wheel, and motor home axles.
GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating): The manufacturer's recommendations of the maximum allowable weight of the tow vehicle, fully loaded motorhome and dinghy, along with passengers.
Glamping: Luxurious or "glamorous" camping. Glamorous + camping in luxury can occur in a yurt or other tent containing a fully made bed with generous pillows and other amenities.
Gray Tank: The tank where gray water (waste water from sinks and showers) is held. The gray tank is designed to hold waste water until it can be dumped into a septic system.
Gray Water: Waste water from sinks and showers. This waste water will dump into the gray water tank. (See Gray Tank).
Hard-sided: An RV's walls made of aluminum or any other hard material.
Hitch Weight or Tongue Weight: The amount of weight imposed the hitch bears when the trailer/fifth-wheel is connected. Hitch weight for a travel trailer runs around 10-15 percent of overall weight; fifth-wheel hitch weight can be up to 18 to 20 percent of overall weight.
Holding Tanks: The tanks in an RV that hold black and gray waste water. The gray water tank holds waste water from the sinks and shower; the black water tank holds sewage from the toilet.
Hula Skirt: A skirt placed on the back bumper of an RV to prevent (or at least reduce) debris that is thrown from the rear wheels and might cause damage to anything being towed behind the motor home other vehicles behind the RV.
Inverter: A unit that changes 12-volt direct current to 110-volt alternating current. An inverter will allow powering of computers, phone chargers, and appliances when an RV is not hooked up to electrical.
Island Queen: A queen sized bed that has space to walk around it on both sides.
Jake Brake: Also known as an exhaust brake. A compression release engine brake. This device is installed on the engine which causes deceleration by restricting the exhaust gases. Exhaust brakes are used to supplement the service brakes of a vehicle and to increase stopping power. Especially useful to slow heavy loads down steep grades.
Kingpin: The pin that connects a fifth wheel to the towing vehicle. It slides into the fifth wheel hitch and locks in place.
Leveling: Positioning the RV in camp so it will be level, using small ramps and blocks (also called levelers or chocks) placed under the wheels. Scissor or power leveling jacks make leveling the mobile home easier. Leveling comes before stabilizing on your towable RV!
Motorcoach: Term for a motor home built on a bus or custom chassis chassis.
Moochdocking: The act of parking an RV in front of a friend's home and proceeding to use their electricity, sewage, and general hospitality.
Part-timers: People who do not use their RV full-time or year-around.
Patio Mat: A rubber or plastic mat placed at the entrance of an RV. Helps to keep RV and entire site clean and way from sand and dirt.
Pitch-in – An RV campground potluck, typically occurring with a caravan of campers. Everyone brings a dish to share.
Pull-through: A campsite positioned so that the RV driver can to pull into the site to park, then pull forward out the other side to leave. The Pull-through saves the Class A and large Fifth-Wheels from undertaking sometimes precarious backing out attempts.
Rig: A common term for what many people call their RVs.
Shank : Also known as a hitch bar or stinger, the shank slides out of the hitch system that carries the ball or adjustable ball mount. It slides into the receiver.
Shore Cord: The (often grounded) extension cord that connects to the campground electrical hookup so the RV can get power.
Shore Power: Electricity provided to the RV by the campsite’s electrical hook up. Yes, this is another boating term adopted by the RV community.
Slideout: An RV with "slide outs" that extend out and widens the unit, thus adding more living space. A slideout is operated either by hydraulics, electricity or manually when the RV is stationary and setup for camping.
Slide Topper: An awning that extends out over a slideout in order to keep out leaves and debris from the top of the slideout.
Snowbird: Term for someone in a northern climate that heads "south" to live somewhere warm for the winter months.
Stabilizing Jack: A jack inserted under or lowered from trailers and motor homes for the purpose of stabilizing the RV while in a parked position. A stabilizing jack does not bear significant weight and is only used to keep your RV stabilized after you’ve already gotten it level.
Stinky Slinky: A slang term for the sewer hose.
Sway: Also known as yaw, this trailer fishtailing action occurs when wind or sharp curves make the trailers move from side to side. Reduce speed should any sway begin because it can get powerful enough to yank the tow vehicle from the road.
Toad: Also known as a dinghy. A toad is what's being towed behind an RV.
Tow Rating: The manufacturer's rating of the maximum weight limit that can safely be towed by a particular vehicle. Tow ratings are related to overall trailer weight, not trailer size, in most cases. However, some tow ratings impose limits as to frontal area of the trailer and overall length. The vehicle manufacturer according to several criteria, including engine size, transmission, axle ratio, brakes, chassis, cooling systems, and other special equipment, determines tow ratings.
Toy Hauler: Term for fifth wheel, travel trailer or motorhome with built-in garage area. Toy haulers have a fold down ramp for motorcycles, ATV's and other motorized "toys."
Winterize: The preparation of the RV for winter use or storage and something every RV owner must do. When the RV sits idle, belts and bolts can loosen or become ineffective. The RV is designed to be driven regularly, so part of the weatherization process is determining who will start and drive it at regular intervals.
Van Camper: Another word to describe a Class B touring van.
Wet Bath: A type of bathroom in an RV where the shower and toilet are combined in the same room.
Wet Weight: The weight of an RV when all tanks are full (fuel, water, and propane).
Workamping: A person living in and working from an RV. A "workamper" is someone "workamping" from the comfort of their RV.
La Mesa RV Supports Your Camping Adventures in Every Way!
While buying and maintaining your new RV can feel intimidating at first, know that La Mesa RV is here to provide all the amenities you’ll need to make life in the great outdoors comfortable, thrilling, and fun. We’ve spent the past 40 years refining every detail of top-of-the-line RV service and have fixed the major and minor issues every brand exhibits. If you see a gorgeous Winnebago, Tiffin, Roadtrek, Fleetwood, Thor Motor Coach or any model catching your eye, don’t hesitate to call us at 800-496-8778 or email us today!