The RV and Camping communities have their own lingo. Sometimes it can be confusing and even experienced campers misunderstand and misuse some terms. Here are definitions and explanations for some common words and phrases used in and around RVs.
RV: Recreational Vehicle. This a broad term and sometimes includes riding toys like ATVs and other OHVSs but it usually refers to a motorhome, truck camper, or camping trailer with living space. In typical use, when someone talks about an "RV" they usually mean a motorhome, but it could be commonly used for a travel trailer too.
BLM: Bureau of Land Management. The federal government agency responsible for management of federally owned lands, most of which are west of the Mississippi River. Many of these areas are open to dispersed camping and sometimes OHV and other recreational activity. Not to be confused with the Black Lives Matter movement.
DRV: Disaster Recovery Vehicle -- an RV used as an emergency disaster shelter.
OHV: Off Highway Vehicle such as a dirt bike, ATV, dune buggy, side-by-side, or 4x4.
Motorhome: A self-propelled recreational vehicle. To be considered a motorhome, it should have sleeping and kitchen facilities and most also have bathrooms and living room areas. Some more complete van conversions are considered Class B motorhomes.
Winnebago: Winnebago is a specific brand of motorhomes. They were one of the first companies to manufacturer commercial motorhomes and their name, in common usage, has become synonymous with "motorhome".
Travel trailer: A recreational vehicle with an A-frame hitch that has to be pulled by a car, truck, or SUV. Some small units might be able to be towed by a motorcycle. In third world countries people even sometimes pull little camping/travel trailers with a bicycle!
Fifth wheel: A travel trailer that uses a fifth wheel hitch similar to the one on a semi-trailer instead of a standard ball hitch that connects to the tow vehicle bumper.
Gooseneck trailers are similar to 5th wheel trailers except they use an ordinary ball mount in the bed of the pickup instead of a fifth wheel hitch.
Bumper pull: A travel trailer that uses a conventional ball hitch that connects to a hitch mounted on or beneath the bumper of the tow vehicle.
Class A: A motorhome in which the driver's cockpit is an integral part of the living space. Class A motorhomes are usually built on a heavy duty truck or bus chassis.
Class B: A motorhome based on a van. These are usually elaborate van conversions that incorporate the living facilities of a motorhome within a standard van body. They may have an extended or popup roof for added headroom but usually not other significant body modifications, although slideouts are starting to show up on Class B units. Some expanded Class B's are marketed as Class B+.
Class C: A motorhome built on a cutaway van or truck chassis. Also called a "mini motorhome". Mostly built on cutaway van chassis, there are some that were built on a pickup chassis. The driver's compartment and the front of the motorhome are retained from the original van and a fairly large living space similar to a travel trailer built in place of where the cargo area would have been. A few Class C's were built on standard pickup chassis. For a while, some Class C's (sometimes called "micro-mini motorhomes) were built on a Toyota pickup chassis. Some new luxury Class Cs, known as Super Cs are built on heavy duty truck chassis like those used to pull semi-trailers. A "micro-mini motorhome" is a special sub-class built on a Toyota 3/4 ton pickup chassis. There are also some custom micros built using a Volkswagen bug chassis. You may even see some Class C's (called Super C's) built on heavy duty trucks like those used to pull semis.
Tent trailer: A towable recreational vehicle that includes canvas sides. Their light weight and collapsible low profile allows them to be towed by smaller vehicles than hard sided travel trailers. The light weight helps minimize fuel consumption by the tow vehicle.
Self-contained: A recreational vehicle that includes complete sleeping, cooking, and sanitation facilities. A self-contained vehicle usually also includes an on board generator to supply 120-volt power. Water is stored in a fresh water tank and waste water from sinks and shower is collected in a gray water tank. Sewage from the toilet is collected in a black water tank. The stove, furnace, hot water heater, and usually the refrigerator are powered by propane.
Boondocking: refers to camping without hookups, usually in a remote or primitive camping area. Also known ad dry camping or dispersed camping.
Off the grid: refers to camping without hookups; stopping in a rest area or Walmart parking lot, or camping in remote Forest Service campgrounds without hookups is considered camping off the grid.
Dry camping: same as boondocking and camping off the grid, e.g. without hookups.
Dispersed Camping: same as boondocking or dry camping but usually refers to specific BLM or Forest Service areas designated for off-grid campin where camping is permitted but there are no designated camp sites.
You are usually free to camp anywhere in a dispersed camping area, but
there are sometimes special rules or restrictions in some areas. Most common rules require you to be at least a certain distance (usually about 150') from any road.
Converter: an electrical device that converts 120-volt AC into 12-volt DC power. Input is from a 120-volt AC source, such as shore power or a generator. The 12- volt DC output powers lights, fans, pumps, and other 12-volt accessories in RVs and sometimes also charges batteries.
Inverter: an electrical device that changes 12-volt DC battery power into 120-volt AC power; some large inverters include a powerful battery charger.
Mini-motorhome: another name for a Class C motorhome.
Micro-mini-motorhome: the extra small Class C motorhomes once built on the Toyota 3/4 ton pickup chassis.
Super-C motorhome: A Class C motorhome built on a heavy duty truck chassis, often like those used to pull semis.
Bus Conversion: Some large luxury motorhomes are converted bus chassis. Provost is the most prominent in the current marketplace, but the Wanderlodge, built on a BlueBird bus chassis has also enjoyed a long and noble history. After the fact conversions, often do it yourself projects, are built on retired school, Greyhound or city bus chassis.
Motorcoach: a motorhome built on a bus chassis; also called a bus conversion.
Bunkhouse: an RV with bunkbeds. Sometimes used to describe an RV with lots of sleeping accommodations.
Camper: used to describe someone who camps or a camping vehicle; most commonly applied to truck campers that mount on a pickup truck.
Truck camper: A camping unit that slides into the bed of a pickup truck. Truck campers usually include bed, a dinette, and a galley. Some may have bathroom facilities.
Camper shell: a removable cover over the bed of a pickup; a shell usually does not have any built in components such as cabinets, counters, or appliances like you would find in a truck camper.
Slide-out: a section of an RV that slides out to make additional room inside
Toad: a tow car or dingy towed behind a motorhome.
Campground: A place specially prepared for camping, often with both tent and RV sites, but sometimes only one or the other. It may refer to a formal camping location or a group of campers boondocking in a dispersed camping area.
RV Park: a campground dedicated to RVs. They may or may not allow tent camping on occasion, but are usually focused on RV friendly camp sites and services. There is usually a picnic table and fire pit or fire ring at each site for your personal use. Some sites may have various levels of hookups (water, sewer, electricity, phone, cable TV, Internet access). Sometimes there are shade pavillions at each site or a larger community pavillion for general use. There may also be community restrooms with showers. Some of the larger RV Parks include clubhouses that offer games and social activities.
Back-in Site: an RV camping site designed for you to back your RV into. Sometimes you can pull in instead, but then you have to back out when it is time to leave.
Pull-through: describes a campsite in which the driver can
drive in one side and then out the other without ever having to back
up. Particularly convenient for large trailers and motorhomes towing a
Primitive campground: A camping area without water, electricity or sewer hookups.
RV/Marine Deep Cycle Battery: a 12-volt battery designed for powering RV lights and appliances. They are designed to accommodate frequent discharge and charging needed for off the grid use. Ordinary automotive starting batteries are designed for the heavy load of turning the engine over and do not stand up to frequent discharge/charge cycles.
6-volt Golf Cart Batteries: as the name implies, they are used to power golf carts, but are often used in series to create 12-volts, replacing RV/Marine Deep Cycle Batteries. Golf cart batteries are even more heavy duty than RV/Marine Deep Cycle Batteries and will deliver more power and last longer. Two 6-volt golf cart batteries wired in series would deliver better performance (i.e., more power and longer life) than two 12-volt Deep Cycle batteries wired in parallel.
Holding tanks: normally refers to the waste water tanks on self-contained recreational vehicles but technically includes the fresh water tank.
Gray water: the waste water from sinks and showers.
Black water: the waste from the toilet. Some RVs also catch water from the shower in the black water tank to minimize filling of the gray water tank and to provide extra liquid to facilitate chemical breakdown of wastes and flushing of the tank.
Fresh water: potable water stored in a tank or supplied by a hose connected to city water.
City Water Connection: an externally mounted female hose connection used to connect an RV to a campground faucet to get fresh water.
Potable water: Water that is fit to drink.
Potable water hose: a hose specifically designed to maintain the integrity of potable water. Similar to a garden hose but they don't leach plastic taste into the water. You should ALWAYS use a potable water hose to provide city water to your RV or fill your RV or water jugs. They are usually white with a blue stripe or light blue in color.
Shore power: electrical power (120 volts AC) supplied to an RV (or boat) via a heavy cable to power on board 120 volt electrical appliances.
Full hookups: Full hookups in an RV campground include electricity, water, and sewer. Many modern campgrounds also include Wifi Internet access.
Dump station: usually a concrete pad or basin connected to a sewer system into which the holding tanks of recreational vehicles are emptied.
Full timers: people who live in their RVs year round.
Part timers: people who use their RVs for more than just weekend outings and vacations but don't live in the full time.
Snowbirds: People who spend the winters in their RVs in warm southern climates.
Caravan: RVs traveling together as a group. The term is also used commonly in England and Europe to describe what is called a camper or travel trailer in the United States.
Cockpit: The area of a motorhome where the driver sits and the controls are located. In a boat it is the open seating area usually at the stern of the boat.
Galley: the kitchen of a recreational vehicle or boat.
Head: the bathroom in a boat or RV and sometimes used to refer to the toilet facilities in a campground. Often it refers to the toilet specifically.
LP Gas: LPG is short for liquified petroleum gas; this gas is used to power the stove, hot water heater, furnace and even the refrigerator in most RVs. Also known as propane but sometimes includes a percentage of butane. The rather offensive odor is added to make it easy to detect and avoid leaks.
Toy-hauler: an RV equipped with an integrated "garage" space to haul Off Highway Vehicles and other motorized or non-motorized "toys" or equipment. Most toy-haulers are travel trailers but there are a few toy-hauler motorhomes as well.
Rig: many RVers refer to their RV (motorhome, camper, or trailer) as their "rig".
Iron ranger: the collection box where you deposit your fees at campgrounds without a human attendant.
Water thief: a device that attaches to an unthreaded faucet via a rubber connector that allows you to temporarily connect a garden hose to the faucet.
Automatic Transfer Switch: an electrical device that automatically connects the output of an RV generator to the breaker panel when the generator is running; normal (default) position connects the shore power cord to the breaker panel. RVs without an Automatic Transfer Switch require the user to plug the shore power cord into a receptacle powered by the generator.
Generator: a portable or on board device that generates 120-volt AC electric power for RVs. On board devices may run on gasoline, diesel, or propane. Portable models usually run on gasoline or propane. On board generators usually have an electric starter so they can be started from inside the vehicle. Portable units usually use a pull starter but may have an optional electric starter. These devices consist of two major components: a motor and a generator. When running, the motor turns the generator which creates electrical power.
Levelers: Electric/hydraulic jacking systems used to level and stabilize an RV. Automatic leveling systems level the RV at the touch of a button; manual controlled systems use a separate switch or lever to manipulate each jack until the vehicle is level.
Stabilizing jacks: jacking or jack stands used to support and stabilize the body of an RV to level and prevent rocking. Some popular versions of permanently installed active stabilizing jacks are scissor jacks, hydraulic jacks, and ratcheting jacks similar to a permanently mounted bumper jack. Portable, pyramid shaped adjustable aluminum jack stands can also be used for stabilizing smaller vehicles like travel trailers. Taller version are available to larger RVs. There is a large bolt like extension on the top that screws up and down to adjust the height. They are mostly used for stabilizing because they don't really have sufficient lifting capacity to raise an RV to level it.
Leveling blocks: originally leveling blocks were usually home made from pieces of dimensional (2" thick) 6" or 8" wide lumber that could be stacked to raise wheels of an RV to level it. Modern versions are often made of plastic and fit together like giant legos. They are lighter and easier to clean than the old wooded blocks. Blocks are placed in front of a wheel that needs to be raised to level a vehicle and then the vehicle is driven up onto the blocks. Some version have chocks to keep from driving too far and to hold the tire in place so it doesn't roll off once it is in place.
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