It doesn’t matter if you have a brand new RV or a longtime trusted travel trailer, you will eventually have to take it out after a long break. This can be done in the spring after a long winter, or during the winter after a long hot summer.
No matter what time of year it is, a shakedown trip is a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t work with your RV.
What is a shakedown trip?
It’s usually a short trip away from your home and a distance of a least two hours away. This gets you and your RV away from familiar areas where you can find out what your rig might need repaired and what supplies you need.
It’s also a great way to find out how exactly you use your camper or trailer and what you need to do differently. Each of these eight steps will vary according to the type of RV, camper or van you own.
However, after your first shakedown trip, you will become a more efficient and happier camper no matter the size and age of your rig.
1. Carefully choose your location
A shakedown trip should be far enough away from stores and services for an actual vacation. However, you should also be close enough to services to pick up any items you are bound to walk out the door without.
Every RVer forgets at least one thing during the first trip of the year, so being close enough to a store will allow you to keep the trip going smoothly. In addition, keep track of what you do tend to forget.
2. Test with both boondocking and full hookup sites
Spend the other half the time in a full hookup campground so you can test connections, hoses, cords, and appliances. A dry camping area is a great place to check out your RVs stabilizers and leveling. A campground is a good place to check for any clearance issues or problems with backing up.
3. Stop frequently and check everything
On the way to your shakedown spot, stop every 45 minutes or so to check things like mileage, lights, brakes, propane and electrical connections, windows, doors, and hitch connections.
Also, check the inside of the RV for any cabinets that like to fly open or items that tend to tumble over. During the trip, keep an eye out for trailer sway, odd noises, and loose skylights or TV antennae.
4. Try to “break” something
This is your chance to really put your RV through the wringer. Use up all the water in your tanks to test how many dishes or bodies you can wash. Fill up all the gray water and black water tanks to test their capacity and check for any flushing or draining issues.
Use several appliances at once to test breakers. Plug things into all the plugs. Open and close drawers and closet doors repeatedly to test hinges and locks. Doing this will test weak areas in your RV that will need to be fixed before a long trip.
5. Pay attention to your movements
Do you tend to hit your head on a bedside light? Does the refrigerator door stick? Have you tripped going up and down the RV steps? How efficient is the kitchen counter setup when cooking meals?
Paying attention to how you move around the RV and set things up can make the difference between a great trip and an annoying trip. Ask your family members if they notice anything that needs to be changed or updated when they live inside and both outside during a camping trip.
6. Practice everything…twice
A shakedown trip is also a great way to practice those skills that tend to get a little rusty. Hitching and unhitching is one of those. Before taking off, hitch and unhitch your trailer or toad vehicle not once, but twice.
Do it again before leaving your campsite. Your campground neighbors may look at you strangely, but you will become more familiar with your rig during the process.
7. Test your camping skills
During a shakedown trip is also a perfect time to hone any rusty camping skills. Test out your campfire-making or outdoor cooking skills. Maybe your towing skills need some fine-tuning. Of course, card-playing, cornhole throwing, and kayaking skills should also be honed.
8. Keep a list or a record
All the items you have forgotten, all the things you need to fix, write it all down. It’s so easy to forget it all when you get back home. Keep a dedicated camping log just for RV lists and ideas.
Another good thing to do is record everything. Take a video of how to hook up the sewer hose and drain the gray and black tanks. Take a photo of how you organize the closet or a cabinet. Make an audio file of the changes you want to make to your RV decor.
Go over your notes and footage when you get home as soon as possible and don’t let too many projects go undone. This will make your second trip much smoother and easier.