Common RV Terms

When I was first introduced to the RV lifestyle, I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn. Setup and take down are difficult because you don’t know what you don’t know. Hopefully these common RV terms will help you sound like a full-timer the next time you run into a fellow RVer while on the road.

Here are common RV terms that hopefully will help in your understanding! When you’re done here, check out our Travel Inspiration pages to help plan your next trip.

The RV Tanks Terms

Black Tank – holding tank for the water that goes down the toilet. Hopefully, no explanation needed here.

Gray Tank – holding tank for the water that goes down the sink and shower drains (bathroom sink, kitchen sink). Its mainly soapy water and remnants of food from washing dishes.

Fresh Water Tank – holding tank for the water that comes out of your faucets. (Pro Tip 1: Always run a filter when filling up your fresh water tank. Some of the lines at campsites are from the original infrastructure and can be a bit old and gross looking. The filter helps to ensure only clean water makes it into your tank. We don’t drink out of the tap in our camper anyway, but you never know when a drop may land in your mouth during a shower.

RV Hookups

Your RV hookups will determine what you can and cannot use in your rig. Everything that uses power draws a certain number of amps, and there are only so many amps to go around. Even without full hookups you can get a quiet RV generator to guarantee your ability to power the necessities.

Full Hookups – This is one of the most common RV terms used in our household. We like having full hookups, which means power, water and sewage. Having full hookups means your camper is plugged in and does not require running your generator. It also means you have water hooked up (Pro Tip 2: Make sure you have a pressure regulator on the line because water pressure at RV parks is incredibly inconsistent.

Partial Hookups – This is 1 or 2 items from the above. Meaning you may have power, but no water and sewage, or you may have water and power, but no sewage. Having partial hookups can be great, but most RV tanks don’t hold enough water for our family of 5 to make it a week or more. Dumping the black and gray tanks, as well as filling up the fresh, can be slow and time consuming.

Camping With No Hookups

Surely you have heard people talk about camping trips that don’t involve a fancy RV park. When you are camping with no hookups you can call it boondocking or dry camping. While the terms are used interchangeably by most, there is a slight difference between the two.

Boondocking – (Also sometimes called Independent Parking) Is camping overnight in a parking lot or rest area. People that sleep in their RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot are said to be boondocking. Also, many times this term is used interchangeably with Dry Camping.

Dry Camping – We have done a lot of dry camping in the past. This simply means you are camping without any kind of hookups like power, water, and sewage. You are 100% reliant on your RV to provide you those necessities.

Funny RV Terms

This is a pretty short list. Maybe it’s my inner child, but I can’t help but chuckle when we talk about the stinky slinky.

RV Stinky Slinky – is the term used for your sewage hose. This is because the design of makes them collapsible like a slinky (for storage purposes).

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