A Comprehensive RV Setup Checklist for Your Campsite

Contributor

Tucker Ballister

Favorite Trip

5 Months Solo on the Road

Home Base

Hendersonville, NC

Favorite RV

2008 Fleetwood Bounder

About Contributor

Tucker Ballister is our Content Strategist. He’s a lover of the open road and the proud owner of a 2021 Sunlite Classic travel trailer (his 3rd RV to date). Check out more of his RV adventures, gear reviews, and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.

Even experienced RVers utilize checklists when setting up and breaking down camp. There’s much to remember, especially when you’re new to RVing. While forgetting some tasks won’t hurt, others can cause major damage to your RV, the campsite, passengers, or unfortunate bystanders. 

Using an RV setup checklist for the campsite makes the process safer and easier. Download this checklist so it’s at your fingertips when you need it. Better yet, print it and keep a physical copy in your RV. 

Pro Tip: Divide these tasks between you and your travel partner. But then go back and double-check each other’s work. There’s much to remember when setting up and tearing down a campsite. Using a checklist and double-checking each other’s work is the best way to minimize the chances of forgetting something that damages your RV, tow vehicle, or toad/dinghy.

For our full list of RV tutorials, visit our Learn to RV page. 

Download our RV Setup and Teardown Checklist for quick reference.

RV Setup Checklist for Setting Up a Campsite

Eddie Bauer travel trailer parked in great spot for boondocking
Photo by Camping World

This checklist begins once you’ve checked into your campground and located your site. Here’s everything you need to think about to get your RV ready for daily living:

  • Scout your site. Assess the space to determine whether you can pull through or have to back in. Determine how you want to position your RV to make it easier to level and ensure clearance on all sides (above as well) for your entry steps, slide-outs, and awnings.
  • Disconnect your toad or dinghy (Only motorhomes towing a second vehicle).
  • Use a spotter to pull in. Even if your RV has a backup camera, your travel companion should know how to guide an RV, be willing to help, and be easily seen by the driver. 
  • Position your RV within reach of hookups. The lengths of your sewer hose, electrical cord, and potable water hose determine this distance.
  • Install leveling blocks as needed. Use leveling blocks under your wheels to raise your RV and level it from side-to-side (for towable RVs) or side-to-side and front-to-back (for motorhomes). 
  • Chock the wheels. Set these in place to ensure your RV doesn’t shift. 
  • Disconnect your tow vehicle (Towable RVs only). Remove the electrical connection, breakaway cable, safety chains, and any weight distribution hitch components before using the tongue jack to lift your trailer off your vehicle’s hitch ball.
  • Pull your tow vehicle away (Towable RVs only). Allow yourself space to easily unload items from your tow vehicle’s trunk. 
  • Raise or lower the tongue jack or landing legs to level the unit (Towable RVs only). Use a bubble level to check your work from front to back and side to side. 
  • Extend stabilizing jacks. Place jack pads or 2”x4” wooden blocks beneath and extend jacks until they make contact. DO NOT OVEREXTEND! Stabilizing jacks are meant for stabilizing your RV, not for lifting it. View our full tutorial on leveling and stabilizing your RV.
  • Connect a surge protector and your electrical cord to shore power. Use the appropriate surge protector, electrical cord, and/or adapter for your RV’s electrical system. Check that the breaker on the power pedestal is turned on for your 30 or 50-amp outlet. 
  • Attach a potable drinking water hose, water pressure regulator, and water filter. Attach the pressure regulator to the water source. Attach the inline water filter to the regulator. Attach one end of your potable water hose to the filter and the other to your RV’s city water inlet. Skip the filter step if your RV has an onboard filtration system. You may consider using a 90° elbow to reduce strain on the hose’s connection to your city water inlet.
  • Connect the sewer hose to the sewer drain outlet. Place the downstream end in the sewer drain outlet before attaching the bayonet fitting on the other end to your RV’s sewer outlet. Place a sewer hose support below your hose to create a slope from the RV to the drain outlet. 
  • Lower your entry steps. Adjust them to ensure safe entry and exit (if applicable). You may need wooden blocks to support your steps if they don’t come with adjustable legs.
  • Turn on your refrigerator and switch it to AC power. Ensure your refrigerator is powered on and set to run on 120-volt AC power. 
  • Turn on your propane supply. Open the container valve(s) and set the position of your LP regulator
  • Unlock and extend slide-outs. Remove any slide-out locks or brace bars before fully extending your slide-outs
  • Turn on your water heater to fill the tank. Turn it off after 2-3 minutes until hot water is needed. Verify tank is full again before operating.
  • Return all stowed items to their proper positions.
  • Set up kitchen and interior. 
  • Set up the exterior.

Setting up the Inside of Your RV

Spacious interior of Eddie Bauer fifth wheel
Photo by Camping World

Every floorplan is unique, meaning your exact process will differ depending on your RV’s make and model. Here’s a list of all the considerations you might account for when setting up your RV’s interior: 

  • Open the blinds. 
  • Plug in the electric kettle and/or coffee maker.
  • Set out dish soap and sponge(s).
  • Place shower essentials back in the shower from their stored locations.
  • Raise the TV antenna. (Only applicable to RVs with a manual antenna).
  • Turn on the TV and run a channel scan. Check that your signal booster is turned on if applicable. 
  • Place bedding/linens on any convertible sleeping areas you’ll use. 

Setting up the Outside of Your RV

Couple enjoying camping outside their Eddie Bauer RV
Photo by Camping World

Some may not apply to your setup, but here’s a comprehensive list of everything you might set up for your RV’s outdoor living area:

RV Teardown Checklist

Rear of Eddie Bauer travel trailer
Photo by Camping World

Use this checklist to ensure you’re ready to head home or explore your next destination: 

  • Stow items in your outdoor kitchen. 
  • Stow all outdoor camp gear (chairs, patio mats, griddles, outdoor games, patio lights, etc.)
  • Retract RV awnings. 
  • Lower TV antenna (if applicable).
  • Stow all interior appliances that can shift during travel. 
  • Turn off all interior and exterior electronics and lights.
  • Close the blinds/curtains.
  • Turn off your water heater. 
  • Retract and secure slide-outs.
  • Drain holding tanks and stow sewer hose and hose support.
  • Turn off the propane supply. 
  • Turn off the refrigerator.
  • Turn off city water and store the water hose, regulator, and filter. Take the time to blow any remaining water out of the hose and filter before stowing.
  • Disconnect the surge protector, electrical cord, and any electrical adapters and stow away.
  • Check to ensure all rooftop accessories are in the stowed position.
  • Retract stabilizing jacks and entry step(s).
  • Raise the tongue jack to prep for connecting your tow vehicle (Towable RVs only). 
  • Connect tow vehicle and weight distribution hitch (Towable RVs only).
  • Remove wheel chocks and stow. 
  • Check tire pressures and condition.
  • Pull forward off leveling blocks.
  • Collect and store leveling blocks.
  • Lock all compartment doors.
  • Use a spotter to guide you out of your campsite. 
  • Connect your toad or dinghy (Motorhomes only).
  • Conduct a final walkaround
  • Verify you have all camping partners. Don’t leave your furry companions either!
  • Stop and re-check all hitch connections after moving a short distance.

Are there items on your RV setup or teardown checklist that we didn’t include? Share them in the comments below.

  • Comment (17)
  • John Miller says:

    Always check for slide room clearance before unhooking tow vehicle.

  • S.J. Marshall says:

    Pretty good checklist, however, I would like to add one very important step to your departure list. At least it is an important step for us!
    “Ensure all doors and windows are closed and secured, and toilet seat is down.”
    We have a motorhome we like to take on extended trips. Even though we have our own checklist to use, we are constantly overlooking at least one drawer or door that has not been fully secured before we pull out. Fortunately, we generally notice/hear the oversite either as we are pulling out of our driveway or within a couple miles of our home.

  • Vicki Oglesbee says:

    One of us always goes behind the RV while the other turns on turn signals, flashers, taps brakes, turns on all lights—to make sure everything is working before we pull out on the road. If one has a towable, trailer/fifth wheel it’s wise to test the breakaway switch periodically.

  • Rick says:

    One thing I’ve been told is to turn off the circuit breaker before plugging in and before unplugging the power. You don’t want to be doing this in case the A/C or furnace is on and drawing lots of power or you forgot to turn off the refrigerator.

    When I turn off the propane I turn on the stove to purge the lines so no gas stays in the unit, then turn off the stove.

    • Hi Rick,

      I apologize for the delayed reply, as I wanted to get insight from our technical service team on your comment. Here’s their reply:

      It is very good advice to ensure that all 120VAC loads are off when changing power sources (none, generator, inverter, or shore power) so that they are not damaged by surges. However, circuit breakers are safety devices, not switches. Every time they are flipped it wears them out a little bit. The appliance switches/controls should be used for turning loads on and off. The furnace runs on 12VDC power, not 120VAC power and is unaffected by this issue.

      Purging the LP gas from all lines when not in use will allow air into the system. The oxygen and humidity can cause brass, copper, and rubber to oxidize and fail prematurely. There will be little pressure or volume left behind in the lines when the LP containers are turned off and should not be dangerous. In addition, the chore of purging the air from the system later is inconvenient and may even result in a flame out with an open valve if the system were improperly purged.

      Side note: many people turn off the battery disconnect for travel in the interest of safety, but the house battery is required for emergency braking!

  • Karen says:

    This is great! So needed and we can customize it but it gives us a great start. Thank you!

  • George Lemagie says:

    ALWAYS turn the electric breaker on the power pedestal OFF before plugging in or unplugging your RV’s electrical service. This prevents arching which damages both the contacts on your power cable and the pedestal outlet. Damaged contacts will cause overheating and eventually an electrical fire.

    • Hi George,

      I was curious to get our technical service team’s thoughts on your comment, which is why my reply is delayed. Here’s their response:

      If you’ve shut off all 120VAC loads in the RV when connecting and disconnecting, there will be little or no arcing, making this recommendation unnecessary. Most shore cord damage is actually done when users exceed the capacity of their system, of during a drop in voltage in the park at peak usage hours. A very effective practice to ensure that no damage is done to a shore cord is the use a QUALITY surge protector. The best of these eliminate arcing, prevent operating the RV on poor quality pedestal power, and will not let the user exceed the rated capacity.

      Here’s our guide to choosing the proper surge protector for your RV: https://blog.campingworld.com/learn-to-rv/how-to-choose-an-rv-surge-protector/

  • Dan Wallace says:

    Tucker
    You have done a very good job with these check list. I have been raving for 40 years and this is the best I have seen.
    Thanks for all the newbies who will need this.

  • Fred Miles says:

    My Arctic Fox camper model 1150 has a kill switch. I have no idea when I should put the switch in the on or off position. I could sure use some help with this problem.

    • Hi Fred!

      Sorry for the delayed response, but I wanted to get our technical service team’s thoughts. Here’s their reply:

      Although most will refer to this as a Battery Disconnect Switch, Arctic Fox actually does refer to it as a Battery Kill Switch. It is usually located under the bunk step. This company has used 2 different switches, a fixed round rotary switch and a smaller black switch with a removable red plastic key. The switch must be on at all times when the camper is in use or the battery will not be in the system. When plugged in to 120VAC shore power, the converter will be on to provide 12VDC power and charge the battery. The converter does not have adequate output power to satisfy high demand loads, and the battery is there to back it up. The user can know if the switch is on or off by looking at it: the large, round, fixed red knob points an arrow towards the on or off labels. The key style is only removable in the off position, and cannot be removed while in the on position.

      I hope this helps, but please let us know if you have any follow up questions!

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