RV Vocabulary 101 – How Not To Sound Like A Rookie

“Move your toad!” “Park next to the fiver.” “Do you need shore power?”

Huh? What the heck did the oldtimer in the rig next to you just say? None of us like to sound clueless, but learning the lingo takes time. Your RV vocabulary obviously needs some improvement.

There isn’t a special dictionary for the world of RV camping but there is this handy list. Let us help you appear a little better informed and improve your RV vocabulary right away.

Parked RV by Paul Brennan for NextRv.co
RV Vocabulary 101: How Not To Talk Like A Rookie
5th Wheel by Paul Brennan

The Words

Airbag – We aren’t talking about your car’s safety features. RV airbags are a type of shock absorber in place near both axles on your rig.

Basement – The extra area under a raised chassis, this allows for a large “basement” type of storage

Black Water Tank – The black sewage tank underneath your RV’s main floor hold the waste from your toilet.

Boondocking –  *See dry camping below.

Breakaway – A breakaway device activates the trailer brakes in an emergency. It is usually a disconnect from the towing vehicle.

Caravan – Caravans are simply a RVers who travel the road together, in a pack. The members stay in contact via CB radios, walkie-talkies or even cell phones – where there’s service.

Diesel Puller/Pusher – A motorhome can be “pulled” by a diesel engine in the front or “pushed” from the engine in the back.

Dry Camping – This refers to the practice of relying solely on your RV or trailer’s batteries and water tanks. You do not have any outside power, water or sewage systems. Often called “boondocking”.

Dually – A dually refers to the dual wheels on each side of a pickup truck’s back axle. Duallys have 6 tires vs 4.

Dump Station – Dump stations are for the proper emptying of your holding tanks – gray and black.

Fifth (5th) Wheel – A special hitch installs in the bed of the towing pickup for pulling the trailers or coaches. There is usually a raised area that sits over the bed of the truck. Gooseneck or a “fiver” are two other terms.

Fulltimers (Fulltiming) – Fulltimers live in their RVs or trailers all year long vs just using the rig on occasion or parttime.

Gray Water Tank – This is a separate system from the black water tank. Its hold the sink and shower drain water. Gray water is recyclable for lawn watering and other purposes.

Holding Tanks – Holding tanks refer to the black and gray water tanks for waste water storage when there is no sewer line available.

Hookups – The most commonly referred to hookups are water, power and sewer. A “full hookup” is the availability of all three while some locations also offer phone and TV hookup service.

Hula Skirt – A hula skirt is a fringe that you will see attached to the back of an RV or rig. It keeps rocks and debris from flying up and hitting the vehicle behind the rig.

Porpoising – Porpoising is the up and down motion of RV going down the road. As a result, it mimics a dolphin or porpoise in the water.

Pull-through – Eliminates the need to back your rig in or out of a parking spot. The pull-through sites are usually filled first at most campgrounds.

Rig – Rig can refer to the RV or to a towing pickup and its trailer.

RV – The term “RV” stands for a recreational vehicle. It may refer to any pleasure vehicle that contains living quarters.

Safety Chains – The criss-crossed safety chains attach to the RV frame. The chains prevent trailer separation due to hitch failure.

Self-Contained – A self-contained rig requires no outside hookups for operation. Depending on the size of the RV and the amount of people camping, it may run for several days on its own power.

Shore Power – Shore power is supplied to the rig from an outside source. It keeps you from having to use your rig’s battery.

Slideout – Slideouts do just that – they slide out from the main body of the RV. Usually from 1-3 per rig, they can almost double the living space of the unit.

Toad – Any vehicle towed behind the RV is called a toad or “tow-ed”.

Tow Bar – The bar that allows your towable vehicle to follow your rig along on its own four tires.  

Wagonmaster – The leader of an RV caravan often called the wagonmaster. A term that goes back to the days of the wagon trains traipsing across the country. The wagonmaster may be the lead rig on trips or act as the contact person for reservations and communications.

Widebody – A widebody is an RV wider than the traditional 8 feet.

Winterize – Winterizing is preparing your rig for winter storage. However, it could also refer to getting it ready for some cold weather trips.

Improve Your RV Vocabulary

This list is just a sampling of the phrases and terms you’ll hear as you become an experienced RVer. Let us know when you come across some new ones. We’d love to hear from you and expand our own RV vocabulary.

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