RV Campsite Safety Essentials
The Do’s and Don’ts to Help Make the Most of Your Vacation Experience
Camping in your RV is one of the most enjoyable things you and your family will ever do. Plus, RVing is the safest and best way to travel because you can avoid, or at least minimize, your exposure to public spaces like busy airports, crowded cruise ships, noisy hotels and restaurants, and unhygienic restrooms.
It’s easy to see why RV travel has become more popular than ever. Before you head out, we’ve got some essential RV safety tips to help you avoid any problems that could arise, whether you’re a newbie or an experienced camper. Here are some of the most common areas of risk and ways to help you protect you and your family from potential dangers.
For many of us, camping involves propane. Some RVs have built-in propane tanks, while others use small portable tanks. Before using a propane stove, the lines and connections need to be checked for leaks using soapy water and a spray bottle. If you’re storing propane, make sure it doesn’t get exposed to temperatures above 120°F. When cooking or using propane outdoors (the same cautions apply for campfires), check the surrounding area for combustible items and clear them before lighting the device; also make sure you use the device in a well-ventilated area.
When lighting a propane appliance, use a proper lighter that keeps your hands and fingers away from the flame, and if the device doesn’t light after the first few attempts, turn the valve off and allow time for the accumulated propane to evacuate the area before trying again.
Never use a larger tank in an attempt to refill a smaller “one-time-use” portable propane cylinder. This is very dangerous. Also, dispose of used propane cylinders properly when they’re empty. Last, when you’re ready to leave, make sure all propane hoses are disconnected on portable devices and shut off all tanks, and store them properly.
Electronics, Radios, and Batteries
Even though many of us use camping as an escape from the digital world, sometimes that isn’t possible, and a tablet, smartphone, etc., are simply part of the trip. If you’re traveling, and especially if you’re outside areas that have cellphone coverage, make sure you have a weather radio.
Being able to receive weather updates may be critical in the event of bad storms or snow. Also, two-way radios are another great tool to allow communication over short distances while camping. Make sure you keep spare batteries or a battery-powered charger including one for your tablet or smartphone and your flashlights.
First Aid and Medical
Every RV should be equipped with an extensive first-aid kit. When you’re outside in the wilderness things are going to happen and you need to be prepared for almost anything.
Your first-aid kit should include normal items such as bandages, gauze, antiseptics, super glue, hand sanitizer, gloves, and ideally more extensive things such as snake- and spider-bite kits, Benadryl, hydrocortisone cream, blood coagulants, and enough of any prescription medications for the time you plan on being gone—plus a few days extra, just in case.
If you already have a good first-aid kit, make sure the medications aren’t expired, because many of these items have a short shelf life.
Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors
One of the most common issues with camping in cold weather comes from using unapproved heating sources inside of an RV for heat. If you have a Class A motorhome or large travel trailer with heat pumps and/or built-in gas-powered heaters this usually isn’t a problem, but for smaller campers, heating can be a challenge.
You should never use a stovetop, or other gas-powered heaters unless they are designed for that purpose. Each year there are many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning from gas-burning appliances being used as heaters inside of a small non-ventilated space.
It’s far better to rely on electric heaters, if possible, and make sure your RV is equipped with an up-to-date smoke and carbon monoxide detector. These devices don’t last forever, so check the date on yours. Typically, a smoke detector is good for eight to ten years and a carbon monoxide detector is good for five to seven years.
Fire Extinguishers and Fire Exits
Another part of good RV safety is having one or more fire extinguishers. Ideally, you should have one inside each vehicle (RV and automobile), and if you’re cooking or enjoying a campfire, you should have a fire extinguisher outside as well. Check them often and make sure everyone knows how to use them, in the event you’re involved in an accident and need someone else to operate it on your behalf.
Most RVs have one or more doors for entry and exit and there might also be special windows that can be opened or even removed in the event of a fire that blocks the use of the exit doors. Train everyone in the RV where those special windows are located and how to use them.
Usually, they’re marked with a red EXIT decal on the window or frame and they may have a red handle to operate them as well. These decals tend to fall off on older RVs, so look around and make sure you find the fire exits and relabel them if necessary.
Connecting to shore power may seem as simple as plugging in a lamp at home, but it really isn’t. Ideally you should have an RV surge protector; if your RV isn’t equipped with one, you can find portable units at Camping World that connect between the campground’s power pedestal and your RV.
These units check for problems such as high and low voltage, high ground wire current, missing ground, and other wiring issues. When you get to your campsite and start to plug-in, it’s best to turn everything off inside of your RV and also switch the breaker off at the power pedestal. Then, plug in the power cord or surge protector and flip the breaker for the power. You can then start turning on devices inside the RV.
Keeping you, your family, your pets, and your RV safe and secure while traveling is usually not a major issue. I’ve been camping since the 1970s and have never encountered a theft issue, but it does happen. Since we don’t know when or where it might happen it’s best to be ready.
This starts with locking up your RV and vehicles as much as possible and also locking up things around your RV such as bicycles, electric scooters, or anything else that can be easily removed from your campsite. If you travel with valuables, you may want to invest in a hidden safe or lockbox for the inside of your RV. Some RVs come equipped with them from the factory, but if yours doesn’t, one can be added.
Although we’ve several topics to help you stay safe around the campsite, every situation is unique and your needs may be different. The most important thing is to be mindful of safety while traveling. Make your own lists of things to check and bring with you, and always have a good emergency plan. Hopefully, you won’t need your first-aid kit or fire extinguisher, but just like a spare tire, it’s better to have it and not need it than not to have it at all.