RVing for newbies

red van with couple parked near the beach with palm trees

Source @we_who_roam - shared with permission


Although exciting, the thought of towing or driving a larger vehicle can be somewhat intimidating. Australia is a fantastic country full of beauty and diversity. So, there is no need to allow a little intimidation to hinder you from experiencing great adventures.



Let us start with some RV lingo and their meanings:


Another name for a RV/ camper / set up.


The berth quantity indicates the legal number of passengers the vehicle can sleep and generally indicates how many seat belts are available. For example, a six berth motorhome can carry six passengers. Always check whether the berth matches the number of sleeping capacity. 

Dump Station

A place where you can empty your black and grey tanks.

Grey Water Tank

This is where used water from sinks and showers is stored.

Black Water Tank

Where your wastewater is held. This holds solid and liquid waste such as sewage.

Stinky Slinky

What some RVer’s call the flexible sewer hose used to dump the RV waste tanks.

Extended Stay Site

Campsite where you can stay very long periods of time, up to months or even a whole season.


Known as "self-sufficient camping, roughing it, off the grid".  This refers to camping without any sources or external hook-ups, such as water, sewer, and electricity. Not always free and could incur a nominal cost. 

Fresh Water Tank

Where your drinking water is held.


The violent back and forth motion experienced during towing, usually caused by an unbalanced trailer or uneven road.


 Also known as ‘Yaw’ or ‘Snaking’, Swaying refers to the loss of control of the caravan and is usually caused by driving on an uneven terrain wind, overload, or imbalanced loading.


A campsite with easy access and departure that will allow you to set up and leave without ever having to back up.

RV Nomad/ Full-Timers

These are people who live out of their RV year-round. These people have made a deliberate lifestyle choice to continuously travel to new destinations by RV.


These are people who will live and travel for months at a time in their RV and still have a home base.

Weekend Warrior

People who live in “sticks and bricks” homes with set jobs, but get out and explore in their RVs on weekends


A motorhome feature that expands out to create more living space, usually in the living room and bedroom areas.

Tail Swing

Describes the extra distance the rear end of the RV uses during a turn. The longer the space between the rear wheel and the end of the RV the larger the tail swing will be. It is very important to know how much tail swing your RV has when turning corners in tight situations.



It is also good to know the different types of RV’s (especially if you are thinking of buying one):

The most confused term in the industry is between mobile homes and motorhomes. Although these terms are used interchangeably there are differences between the two. Mobile homes are towable and do not have engines. A motorhome has an engine and can travel with a driver inside.

Motorised vehicles:


motor home and campervans with descriptions


While there are several ‘classes’ of motorised products, simply understanding the difference between campervans and motorhomes is important. 

  • Motorhomes

Truck chassis using the original driver's cabin. The additional sleeping/living quarters are built separately onto the rear by an RV manufacturer.

  • Campervans

 Truck/van chassis with the existing rear walls and space converted into sleeping/living quarters. A compact camper looks like a Toyota HiAce or similar.


Towable vehicles

Tent trailer

Also known as a popup trailer, are light and small enough to be towed by small vehicles. They are typically a box trailer used to store cooking and camping equipment, and have collapsible, pull-out bunks and tent walls.

Camper trailers

Are easily towed by smaller vehicles. They are convenient, generally easy to set up and have room for a gas cooker, fridge, table and sink.


A caravan has rigid sides and is designed to be towed. They come in a variety of forms and sizes and provide a comfortable living from two to six plus berths.


A vehicle with a fixed, extended roof.


These are generally used on caravans. Pop-tops have an extended roof that must be manually folded out or up.

They have a lower profile when the extension is down, allowing easier towing and storage. The pop-top provides extra headroom when in use

Fifth wheelers

This hitch is closely related to that of a semi-trailer hitch with its design. It uses a hitch or turntable placed over the back of a ute/medium duty truck, and resembles a wheel - Ergo, the fifth wheel of the caravan. Part of the trailer body extends over the truck bed, shortening the total length of the vehicle and trailer combined.


Now that you have been briefed on the various RV options out there, you can make your pick based on what kind of travel will suit you best, here.



Ensure that you are capable of driving or towing your chosen RV. Motorhomes are fairly easy to drive and you can drive them with a standard open driver’s license, just keep in mind its dimensions and extra load. If you are towing your RV it is recommended to take some towing lessons. See our list of best towing courses in Australia here.


If you have an ensuite RV know your tank sizes. Know how much your tanks can hold. Chances are you may encounter some difficulties with your fresh, grey, and black water tank indicators. Pay attention to how much you put in and when you need to empty them. After a few trips, you will have a feel for how much your rig can hold.


Start slow. If you can, do a dry camp outside your house. This will give you an idea of how it will feel and help you figure out what you may forget to pack. On your first few trips go to nearby campgrounds for short stays.


Do not overpack but remember to pack an essential toolkit. Include items such as Allen or hex wrenches, duct tape, zip ties, flashlight, etc.


Plan your route and know where you are staying. Knowing where you are going will help you plan out resting points, where the petrol stations are etc. Choose a suitable caravan park for the trip you intend to have and be sure to book your campgrounds ahead of time here - especially during peak seasons.

Heavy vehicle rest areas are not camping areas. These are reserved for trucks so be sure to exclude these when planning your rest stops.


At caravan parks, privacy can be limited. A lot of the time your campsite is within a few meters of another site and caravans have thin walls and a lot of open screens – something to keep in mind when having conversations.


Things go wrong, no matter how well you plan. This could be from a caravan park you planned on staying at being fully booked, bad weather, a blown tyre, or mechanical problems. Don’t sweat the small things and always try to be as prepared as possible and remain flexible. If all else fails sometimes throwing the odd tantrum helps too.


Get insurance. Nothing is more stressful than hitting the open road and not having any insurance. This is step one for being prepared for the unprepared. Read more on how to get RV insurance you are confident about here.


Safety should always be your main priority. Yes, a great Aussie road trip is an exhilarating experience, but do not let all the excitement shadow the importance of safety. Read more about caravanners tips to staying safe on the road here.


If you are buying an RV, make sure you do your homework. From picking your ideal RV  to knowing what to look for when purchasing second-hand caravan. Read more on our ultimate motorhome buying guide here.


Don’t put it off. Hook up that caravan, hit the road and have fun.  Indulge in the beauty Australia has to offer. Nothing beats the freedom of the open road; the sense of adventure and fun as you explore new places and the flexibility that comes from taking your accommodation with you. So be sure to savour every moment and learning experience.


Now that you’re armed with the basics to get you on the road, begin hunting for your perfect RV today. Search our extensive list of motorhomes and caravans for sale in Australia - search now. If you’re planning your trip and need a place to stay, Campstay has the best park or campground near you, search today.



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