RV Tips: Steps For Setting Up your RV Campsite

Last Updated on July 28, 2021 by Christina

rv-tipsThere’s nothing better than a checklist. We use one for when we pack. We use one for planning meals for the trip. We use one when winterizing the camper. We use one for de-
winterizing the camper.

A couple of years ago I provided a great reason why RV checklists are important. It was the first trip of the year and for some reason I forgot to pack the support poles for our expandable RV’s bed ends.  Needless to say, bed end support poles are now on our packing checklist.

Another handy dandy checklist is “How to Set Up your RV Campsite.”

Depending on your RV, your checklist will vary slightly. But, after you’ve checked in at the front office and you’re ready to set up camp, there are certain things you have to do no matter whether you own a truck camper, popup, travel trailer, toy hauler, fifth-wheel or motorhome.

Steps For Setting Up Your Campsite:

  • Unless you’re opting for a full hookup campsite, you’ll need to fill your fresh water tank at the campground’s potable water station.


  • You can purchase firewood from the camp store now or later, but please follow the law and don’t bring your own. Also, either burn all your firewood or leave it for the next camper; don’t bring it home with you.

  • Always inspect your site on foot before maneuvering your RV onto the campsite. Look for the optimum location, paying attention to level ground, hookup locations and any obstructions, such as trees and overhead branches which could interfere with slideouts and/or the roof.


  • Have a responsible person direct you as your drive the RV onto the campsite.


  • Situate the RV so that it’s as level as possible from side to side. Depending on the site, you may need to use blocks under the camper’s wheels to bring the RV to fully level. There are several leveling blocks and pads available for purchase, there’s also a DIY version made with treated lumber. Many motorhomes are equipped with automatically leveling jacks.


  • Secure the RV with wheel chocks. Be sure to set them on either side of a wheel to prevent the RV from rolling forward and backward.


  • For towable RVs, unhitch the tow vehicle and lower the jack until the RV is level front to rear.


  • Extend stabilizer jacks so they are snug, but are not carrying the weight of the RV.


  • Connect to power (if applicable). Consider using an adapter with an easy-to-grip handle. More and more RVers are also using a surge protector as well. We always loop our power cord once around the base of the pedestal , offering a bit of protection in case someone trips over the cord.


  • Connect to water (if applicable). Consider using a water regulator and a water filter. The regulator protects your RV’s plumbing from inconsistent water pressure coming from the campground. Likewise, the filter cleanses the potable water entering your RV. At the least, use a washer with screen.


  • Connect to sewer (if applicable). Ensure your connections are secure and running downhill from the RV all the way to the campsite hookup. There are several products available to help ensure your connections are secure no matter the type of fitting. Likewise, other products are designed to support the sewer hose and help the flow run uninterrupted.


  • Open the propane tanks and light the pilot for the water heater. Be patient; it may take a minute or two for the propane to reach the pilot light.


  • For us, since we have an expandable camper, we also have to set up the beds. On the outside, that’s simply a matter of dropping down the bed ends, resting them on the support poles, buttoning the canvas tops. On the inside, we have to install the poles supporting the roof of the canvas.


  • From there, it’s simply a matter of finishing setting up the rest of your campsite’s exterior. This can vary greatly, but some of the more common things are the following: Extend your awning (TIP: Put lights on your awning before you raise it to full height.); Lay out the patio mat; Set out the camping chairs; Put the tablecloth on the picnic table; Set free a cold beverage kept captive in the cooler/refrigerator.


  • Setting up camp on the inside of the RV is a whole other matter. For us, my job is setting up camp outside and my wife takes care of the inside. So I’m not really sure everything she does. All I know is it magically appears ready for action by the time I’m done with the outside. This makes me think she hardly has to do anything. She’s probably just in there soaking up the air conditioning, sipping on some wine.

Just kidding.

Here’s what she does, with some help from the kids:

  • Unloads everything: cornhole game; cooler; bin of kindling wood; portable table; chairs – and anything else that made the journey on the floor of our camper.
  • Since we have an expandable camper, after I get the bed ends ready she has to install the poles supporting the canvas roof over each one. Then, she arranges the mattresses, and covers them with a memory foam topper and sheets.
  • Unless we are connecting to the campground sewer system, she prepares our black tank with a drop-in tank treatment.
  • Cleans and sweeps.
  • As soon as we connect to power, we turn on a light or the air conditioner to ensure we the shore power is working.

Whew. Now that’s all written down, that’s a lot of work! But it’s oh so worth it.

See you next week when we discuss “How to Pack Up your RV Campsite.”

Rick Kessler

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Great Lakes region. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the Gr8LakesCamper blog.