Why Plan An RV Shakedown Trip?

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 Technical Content Writer. 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.

The concept of a shakedown trip may already be familiar to some. Personally, I don’t start a camping season without taking an intial short trip to work out all the kinks of my RV and equipment. No matter how many years of experience you have, an RV shakedown trip is the best way to prevent issues.

But what does an RV shakedown trip involve? What are its benefits? How do you plan and execute an RV shakedown as a first-timer? 

We’ll answer all of those questions and more. 

What is an RV Shakedown Trip?

Couple assessing their camper's storage on RV shakedown trip
Photo by Camping World

An RV shakedown trip is usually your first trip of the season – or your first trip after your RV has been in long-term storage. It’s your chance to test that everything works as expected for the adventures you have planned. It’s also your time to assess any service or maintenance needs before you hit the road on longer trips. 

The origins of the term “shakedown cruise” can be traced to a nautical term referring to the performance testing of a ship. An RV shakedown, then, is your chance to test the performance of your RV and ensure everything is ready for another camping season. 

Most RVers keep their shakedown trip close to home so they can return for any forgotten supplies or tools needed for minor repairs. Towable owners will already have a secondary vehicle, but many motorhome owners will have a partner follow behind in a second vehicle in case of a breakdown. 

What Are The Benefits of an RV Shakedown Trip?

Man checking stovetop pilot light during RV shakedown trip
Photo by Camping World

The main benefit of an RV shakedown trip is to, well, shake everything out! Let’s break that down further to explain why each camping season should start with an RV shakedown.

  • You can test your appliances in a low-stress environment. Confirm that your stovetop, microwave, awnings, and other equipment still function as anticipated.
  • You can inspect water systems for leaks. Ensure the functionality of your fresh and wastewater systems.
  • You can compile a damage report. Note any components that require repairs (minor or major).
  • You can assess how well you stored your RV. Turn a critical eye on how well you prepared your RV for seasonal storage and make note of deficiencies to improve upon. 
  • You get practice setting up and tearing down your campsite. Recall your processes for setting up and tearing down your RV campsites. Download this checklist so you always have a reminder on hand.
  • You can refresh your memory on ownership information. Take the time to check that your RV insurance cards, vehicle registration, and other essential paperwork are up-to-date and onboard. Read your owner’s manuals to refresh your memory of your RV’s standard operating procedures and troubleshooting protocols.
  • You refresh yourself on RV driving etiquette. Remember to give yourself extra room for braking and turning, and note your RV’s exterior height so you remember to avoid low bridges or underpasses throughout the upcoming season.

How To Plan an RV Shakedown Trip

An RV shakedown trip can be as simple as camping in your backyard for a weekend to test everything out. But you can have fun and explore a new destination, too. Here are our top five tips for planning your RV shakedown: 

Stay Close to Home

Family camping near home along a river
Photo by Camping World

Investigate new campgrounds, state parks, or boondocking areas within an hour or two of home. It’s good to stay close to home for a shakedown trip in case you forget anything or need to return home for tools you didn’t realize you’d need. 

It also helps because you can extend your shakedown trip to work days. If you find a campground in your town, you can still commute to work during the day and focus on shaking down your RV’s systems in the evening. 

Here’s a great resource with more tips to help you plan an RV staycation. And if you want to find new camping destinations in your area, use our interactive US map to filter resources for your state. 


Bring Tools

Most of my seasonal RV shakedowns have brought to attention several minor repairs. Sometimes, it’s as simple as tightening the screws on a loose screen door latch. Other times, it has required the removal and replacement of a broken scissor jack. 

Either way, it’s smart to bring a set of tools on your shakedown so you can make any necessary repairs. In fact, I recommend having a dedicated set of tools for your RV – a set that lives inside or in an underneath storage compartment. 

This RV tool kit should be uniquely designed to include the tools most used (or most needed) in your RV. To help you determine which tools those might be, we’ve compiled this list of more than 60 RV tools and supplies for safe travels. You might not need them all, but some are must-haves.

Prepare a Variety of Meals

Woman preparing meal inside RV
Photo by Camping World

What better way to complete a thorough kitchen check than by cooking? Cook on every burner on your cooktop. Heat up something in the microwave. Try baking RV cookies if you have an oven. Grill your favorite meats on your outdoor griddle. 

Preparing a variety of meals on your shakedown cruise allows you to ensure that all your kitchen appliances are working to your satisfaction. It has the added benefit of requiring nearly all of your kitchen utensils so that you can check for needed upgrades in that department too. 

Looking for some camp cooking inspiration?


Use Everything

It’s an RV shakedown, after all! That means using everything inside and outside your RV to ensure it’s working. It starts with simple things like opening your awning(s), taking a shower, turning on the television, and using the toilet. 

But there are other things you might not think about because you use them less frequently. Open and close all of your windows. Test that the air conditioner is cooling. Open all roof vents and turn on the vent fans. Plug your phone into every indoor and outdoor outlet – or use a receptacle tester. Our checklist below has a more comprehensive list you can download for future reference.

Have Fun

Kids having fun setting up camp games on spring RV shakedown trip
Photo by Camping World

Your RV shakedown trip shouldn’t be all work and no play. Explore somewhere in your backyard that maybe you’ve been overlooking for years. Spend time outdoors, hiking, biking, fishing, paddling, or enjoying any other recreational pursuit of your choice. All those pursuits require equipment too! By having fun, you’re even tricking yourself into shaking down all the camping gear that you bring along on your RV adventures. 

RV Shakedown Checklist

There’s a lot to remember to inspect on an RV shakedown trip. So we’ve compiled this checklist to help you go through your RV thoroughly so you feel confident it’s ready for the upcoming camping season after your shakedown. 

Outside Your RV

Checking water hookup outside RV for RV shakedown trip
Photo by Camping World

Carefully ascend your RV’s ladder or climb a secondary ladder for a visual inspection (only walking on your roof if allowed by your manufacturer). Inspect the following…

  • Roof for damage, cracked or broken seals, and missing roof sealant
  • Seals around all roof-mounted vents and accessories (A/C, antenna, etc.)
  • Exterior for cracked or broken seals, chipped/missing paint, etc.
  • Seals around windows, compartment doors, and entry door(s)
  • Security of hitch/tongue/bumper-mounted accessories
  • Presence and condition of propane container(s)
  • Presence and condition of propane container cover (if applicable)
  • Propane level
  • Battery charge and condition
  • Condition of the battery storage compartment
  • Presence and condition of your shore power cord
  • Presence and condition of your surge protector
  • Presence and condition of low-point drains and drain caps
  • Tread depth and condition of tires
  • Condition and operation of stabilizing jacks/landing gear (manual, electric, or hydraulic)
  • Condition and operation of tongue jack (manual or electric for towables)
  • Compartment condition and operation of your outdoor shower (if applicable)
  • Condition and operation of your outdoor kitchen (if applicable, check the fridge, griddle, and faucet operation and inspect cabinetry and countertops)
  • Condition and operation of outdoor TV
  • Condition of underneath storage compartments (a common spot for pests to make seasonal homes)
  • Presence and condition of potable water hose, water filter, pressure regulator, and any applicable hose connectors
  • Presence and condition of wheel chocks and leveling blocks
  • Presence and tightness of water heater drain plug
  • Presence and condition of sewer hose(s), connectors, elbows, and supports
  • Presence and condition of sewer termination outlet cap(s)
  • Operation of sewer termination valves (once connected to a dump station)
  • Condition and operation of awning(s)
  • Operation of outdoor speakers
  • Operation of outdoor AC outlets
  • Function of the fresh water tank fill
  • Presence and condition of weight distribution hitch components (for towables)
  • Operation of installed backup, marker, and side view cameras (if applicable)
  • Condition of side view mirrors (for motorhomes)
  • Condition of windshield wipers (for motorhomes)
  • Fluid levels (engine oil for motorhomes and generators; windshield wiper fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and hydraulic fluid for motorhomes)
  • Operation of the generator (portable or onboard)

Inside Your RV

Checking AC outlets inside RV for RV shakedown trip
Photo by Camping World

Moving inside your RV, there’s plenty to look for while you’re enjoying your first camping trip of the season. As your RV shakedown progresses, make sure you inspect the…

  • Interior for signs of water damage
  • Operation of RV control systems (holding tank sensors, battery level indicator, Bluetooth connectivity for more advanced systems, and others as applicable)
  • Operation of all interior lights
  • Condition and operation of roof vents and vent fans
  • Operation and effectiveness of the air conditioner(s)
  • Operation of the antenna
  • Operation of all kitchen appliances (all cooktop burners, microwave, oven, dishwasher, ice maker, and others as applicable)
  • Operation of the range vent fan
  • Operation of the water heater (on all applicable modes)
  • Operation of the furnace
  • Operation of the water pump
  • Operation of the electric fireplace (if applicable)
  • Connection and operation of the city water inlet
  • Operation of all slide-outs
  • Conversion of all convertible sleeping areas (dinettes, tri-fold sofas, flip-up bunks, drop-down bunks, and all others as applicable)
  • Operation of the shower (hot and cold)
  • Operation of all sink faucets (hot and cold)
  • Operation of the toilet (flush ball and sprayer)
  • Condition and operation of all cabinets, drawers, closet doors, and openings to other storage areas
  • Operation of all indoor electronics (TVs, radio, speakers, DVD players, Wi-Fi routers, and others as applicable)
  • Operation and effectiveness of solar system components (if applicable)
  • Operation of all turn signals, brake lights, and emergency flashers
  • Operation of the engine (for motorhomes)
  • Operation of the built-in backup camera (for motorhomes if applicable)
  • Operation of all dashboard console instruments (for motorhomes)

We hope these checklists and tips make you excited to plan an RV shakedown trip to start your next camping season. To provide further assistance, here are a few more resources you should be thinking about in the spring: 

Is there anything you’d add to our RV shakedown checklist? Let us know in the comments below. 

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