Guides

FAQ about RV Camping

by Kendra Clapp OlguínAug 26, 2021

If you’re not familiar with it, the camping and RV world can seem foreign and overwhelming. However, with such variety among the types of RVs, campgrounds, parks, and campsites, taking a moment and sifting through the definitions and specifications of each one can help you take hold of the wheel. Below you’ll find some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to RV camping.

What’s an RV?

A person sits in front of their RV while watching their campfire. A dog sits nearby. This was taken at Elkamp Eastcreek campground in Mineral, Washington.

RV stands for “recreational vehicle,” which basically translates to an enjoyment vehicle. So, yeah. Try not to have fun camping in one of these babies.

The inside of an Airstream RV trailer.

Features of an RV can include a kitchen, bathroom, bed(s), toilet, bath, shower, closet, storage, air conditioning, water heater, propane heat, televisions, and much more. They can range from a rustic teardrop trailer to a luxurious motorhome with multiple baths. Keep reading to learn about the different types of RVs.

To read about the history of RVing, visit this blog post on RVshare.

What are the different types of RVs?

An image depicting the different types of RVs: travel trailer, pop up camper, class C trailer, and fifth wheel.

All right, brace yourself for a pretty long answer to this question. There are a few different types of RV, and they are mostly divvied into these categories:

  • Class A Motorhomes
  • Class B Motorhome
  • Class C Motorhome
  • Travel Trailer
  • Fifth Wheel Trailer
  • Pop-up Trailer
  • Truck Camper
  • Toy Hauler

Here’s an easy trick: all classes of “motorhomes” have, well, a motor in them. With these options, you choose whether you want to fuel up with gas or diesel. However, all of the other types of RVs require a tow vehicle to pull them. In these circumstances, pay attention to the amount of weight (GVWR) your vehicle can tow. If you do not have a vehicle that can pull the RV you are purchasing, then you’re going to have to purchase a tow vehicle as well. 

Class A Motorhomes

A class A motorhome sitting at its campsite at Elkamp Eastcreek Campground in Mineral, Washington.
A class A RV motorhome sits at its campsite at Ramblin Redwoods RV Park and Campground in Crescent City, California.

Class A motorhomes are boxy, larger RVs that have the ability to tow a vehicle in the back. Most have “slide-outs” in which a portion of their sides expand for more space when parked. 

Class B Motorhomes

A Class B RV or campervan, plugged into the electric and water at Sonoran RV Park in Gila Bend, Arizona.
A class B RV or campervan sitting at a campsite at Kamp Klamath in Klamath, California.

The smallest option of all RVs, Class B motorhomes are campervans. You’ve probably heard of Vanlife, right? Campervans have made quite the comeback in the most recent years but have been around for a while. There are a variety of options on the market if you can live in a smaller space. A great thing about this size of RV is its ability to fit into all sorts of parks and campgrounds.

Class C Motorhomes

A class C RV motorhome, sitting at its campsite at Cava Robles RV Resort in Paso Robles, California.
A class C RV sitting at its campsite at Jim & Mary's RV Park outside of Missoula, Montana.

Although they are Class “C,” their size tends to be between Class A and Class B. In recent years, many RV companies have done a great job figuring out ways to fit all sorts of amenities into 19-23″ Class C options. Many have slideouts to accomplish this. Additionally, you can tow a vehicle with the Class C option.

Travel Trailer

A group of friends play cards in front of their RV at their campsite at Elkamp Eastcreek Campground in Mineral, Washington.
An Airstream travel trailer sits at its campsite at Sawyer Rapids RV Park in Elkton, Oregon.

These RVs pull by an automobile, usually an SUV or truck. Their sizes range from 15 feet to 33 feet, so there is a lot of variety in this category. If you decide to go the travel-trailer route, you would need to weigh your options again. Travel trailers have extremely cost-effective options, with some being pretty inexpensive compared to other RVs. Yet, similar to Class A motorhomes, some get pretty pricey the more space and amenities you add. Many travel trailers have built-in bunks, making them an excellent option for a family. Without a motor, you don’t have to worry about engine maintenance. You will, however, still have maintenance but can be more manageable than other RV options.

With different brands having options at various price points, travel trailers are the most popular choice for RVers. Additionally, with its lack of an engine, older models hold their values. As a result, many feel more comfortable buying an older travel trailer than they would an older motorhome.

The inside of travel trailers can vary, but most have a full bath, kitchen, and many have slide-outs to expand the living space. 

Towing a travel trailer might intimidate many that might not have experience with hauling. These concerns can be addressed by practice or getting a smaller-sized travel trailer.

Fifth-wheel Trailer

A fifth-wheel travel trailer and RV sits at its campsite at the Crown Villa RV Resort in Bend, Oregon.
A fifth-wheel travel trailer is towed down the road outside of Valley View RV Park and Campground in Island Park, Idaho, just outside of Yellowstone.

Fifth-wheels look like a hybrid of Class A motorhomes and travel trailers in that they tend to be large and boxy like Class A’s, but pickup trucks tow them like many travel trailers. To have a fifth-wheel, you must have a pickup truck with a large tow capacity and a big enough bed to put in a special hitch designed for fifth-wheel towing. You can identify fifth-wheels by their larger size and living space extending over the pickup truck bed, usually a “second story” bedroom within the RV. 

If you’re comfortable with towing big rigs, have a big truck, and want your RV to feel like a residential home, this option might be best for you. With their grand size, this category of RVs provides amenities like multiple full baths, a washing machine, and a fuller, residential-style kitchen with an island. In addition, they often have slideouts to expand their luxurious living spaces. 

Because of their size and amenities, you are looking at one expensive rig. Fifth-wheels are often cottages people park at a specific location for an extended time. It’s a tiny home.

Pop-up Trailer

A pop up trailer RV sits at its campsite at Valley View RV Park and Campground in Island Park, Idaho, outside of Yellowstone National Park.
A pop up camper and RV sits at its campsite along a brook at Lost River Family Campground in Lincoln, New Hampshire.

The most cost-effective of the bunch, pop-up trailers are expandable rigs with “soft walls” that expand up and out when parked and set up. They are the lightest of RVs, allowing a wide range of vehicles able to tow them. They are for the person or family that will be spending most of their time outside at a campground, don’t mind using campground bathrooms and facilities, and like tent-like sleeping quarters. Not quite as “glamorous” as other options, they still provide a great camping experience. Their lightweight nature and smaller size allow them to manage rough terrain and fit into tighter spaces. They are more fuel-efficient than other options and are the perfect fit for people looking to use them during the summer or in mild climates.

Truck Camper

A truck camper RV sits at its campsite at the Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield, California.
A truck camper sits at its campsite, taken off the truck, at Ames Brook Campground in Ashland, New Hampshire.

Truck campers can handle whatever you throw at it as it snugly fits on top of a pickup truck bed. This style is often chosen by those that like to dry-camp, move around often, and don’t mind the tight living quarters. They are less expensive than other options; however, you are not getting the amenities you might enjoy otherwise. Depending on the truck you have, you might have to do some coordinating in terms of size and fit, as well. They are, however, a shorter length than other options, making them easy to maneuver, and their lighter weight means fewer trips to the gas pump.

Toy Haulers

A toy hauler RV sits at its campsite in Indian Wells RV Park in Indio, California.

Toy haulers are fifth-wheel trailers or travel trailers with the ability to stow away a “toy,” like an ATV, motorcycle, golf cart, scooters, or other types of fun vehicles. This option is great for people who need space to tow adventure gear. To spot a toy hauler, look for hinges on the bumper that allow the back to open up.

What is RVing? 

RVing is the practice of driving, camping, or living in an RV.

What’s the difference between campgrounds, RV campgrounds, RV parks, and RV resorts?

Campground

People at their tent campsite at Kamp Klamath in Klamath, California.

Many different types of campgrounds and parks fall under the umbrella label of “campground.” In the traditional sense, campgrounds can accommodate both tent and RV camping. Additionally, tent-only campgrounds are simply called campgrounds.

RV Campground

An aerial depiction of Dark Sky RV Campground in Kanab, Utah.
An Airstream RV and travel trailer sits at its sandy campsite with a campfire going in Ride Out Ranch Campground in Florence, Arizona.

These campgrounds can be more of a rustic experience, meaning that they might not have hookups for your RV, electric, water, or sewage. The campsites may not be level and might not accommodate larger motorhomes. Their benefit is that they tend to be in more picturesque locations like in or near national and state forests and parks. Campsites might vary individually as the campground tends to be organized around the natural environment.

RV Park

Oceanside RV Resort in Coos Bay, Oregon.
Children ride their bikes at Valley View RV Park and Campground in Island Park, Idaho, outside of Yellowstone National Park.

RV parks are constructed to accommodate all types of RVs. They usually provide full hookups (water, electric, and sewage) and the sites might have paved parking spaces for your rig. Overall, the park might have amenities like a bathhouse, laundry room, and pool but not all do.

RV Resort

An aerial view of Cava Robles RV Resort in Paso Robles, California.
An Airstream travel trailer sits at its campsite at the Crown Villa RV Resort in Bend, Oregon.

More expensive than RV parks, RV resorts offer amenities you’d find at, well, a resort. These include a clubhouse, pools, saunas, hot tubs, fitness centers, game rooms, restaurants or cafes, pickleball/tennis courts, bathhouses, laundry rooms, car washing stations, dog parks, and more. The sites themselves are full hookups with water, electricity, sewage and will most likely have cable hookups and wifi provided. I’ll note that many RV parks use the term “resort” loosely. Be sure to read campground descriptions thoroughly to determine if it’s a resort or not.

Motorcoach Resort

Motorcoach resorts are communities of Class A motorhomes that are over 40 feet long. They offer the amenities of a luxury resort and tend to be near a golf course. For example, the sites might include landscaped lawns, brick-paved parking spaces, a bathhouse, outdoor kitchens, and more.

What are the different types of campsites?

Primitive

An empty primitive campsite at Wildfox Cabins and Campground in Scarborough, Maine.

Camping on a primitive site is known as “dry camping” because there aren’t any hookups (water, electric, sewage). Instead, campers rely on campground facilitates for dishwashing, showering, and toilet use. Primitive campsites are found in campgrounds and RV campgrounds.

Partial Hookup

An empty partial hookup campsite at Rodanthe Water Sports and Campground in Rodanthe, North Carolina.
Water and electric hookups connected to its sources at a campsite in Ames Brook Campground in Ashland, New Hampshire.

Partial hookup sites offer a water connection, electric connection, or both water and electric connections for your RV. They usually never offer a sewage connection, meaning, when you stay in a partial hookup, you use the campground’s dump station for releasing your grey and black water.

Full Hookup

A woman connects her RV's sewage hose at a campsite in Ames Brook Campground in Ashland, New Hampshire.
A teardrop travel trailer sitting at a campsite with full hookups at Valley View RV Park and Campground in Island Park, Idaho, just outside of Yellowstone National Park.

This type of site is exactly what you’d expect, all the hookups. That means the campsite has water, electric, and sewage connections for your RV. In addition, depending on what type of campground or park you’re staying at, some sites will include a cable hookup and wifi connection.

What are the different RVing lifestyles?

A woman sits at a picnic table at Crane Prairie RV Resort near Bend, Oregon in the Cascade Lakes region.
  • Weekend RVing: People who take their RV out for a weekend camping trip.
  • Vacation RVing: Campers who go on vacation with their RV instead of staying in a hotel or resort.
  • Seasonal: Individuals who might be retired or work remotely and travel to an area for several months at a time, such as “snowbirds” or “winter Texans” who travel south for the winter.
  • Full Time RVing: Someone who lives in their RV year-round.

 Do I need a special license or insurance?

A man drives his Nissan Armada, pulling an Airstream trailer.

For most RVs, you won’t need a special license to drive or tow them. Depending on the state you live in or are traveling to, there are some requirements for driving particular Class A motorhomes. I’m talking about the BIG motorhomes. For the most part, you’re fine with your regular driver’s license.

In terms of insurance, if you purchase an RV, you will need RV insurance. It should come out to be a similar amount to what you pay to insure your vehicle.

Can I tow an RV with my car?

A Nissan Armada towing an Airstream travel trailer and RV in Redwoods National Park in California.

That depends on the kind of car and RV you have. If you have a pickup truck or SUV, you’ll most likely be able to tow some type of RV. Determining the kind of RV depends on your car’s tow capacity, the maximum amount of weight your vehicle can tow when pulling a trailer. Here is Curt’s Towing Capacity Guide. If you have an RV in mind and want to figure out what vehicle you need to tow it, I’ll refer you to Togo RV’s Ultimate Towing Guide.

Can I rent an RV?

A man opens the door to his RV rental in Elkamp Eastcreek Campground in Mineral, Washington.

Yes, you can! There are plenty of RV rentals, from listings on RVshare to nearby RV dealerships offering rentals. A simple online search will yield the options in your area.

How do I book a campsite? 

An aerial view of On the Saco Family Campground in Brownfield, Maine.

With Campspot, it’s super easy to book your campsite. Just as you would book a hotel, go online to Campspot.com or download Campspot’s app to search for campsites by specific campgrounds, locations, and site types. Before, and I’m talking only a couple of years ago, you would have to call campgrounds and reserve sites via phone. Queue the endless voicemails, games of phone tag, and then having to give your credit card information over the phone. With Campspot, you can look through campground images and select the exact site you want. Then, when you had to reserve over the phone, they would assign you the sites. Campspot is changing the way people camp, simplifying the planning process so you can focus on what’s important: making memories outside with your loved ones.

Can I camp in a tent in an RV site?

A man sets up a tent at a campsite near RVs at Timber Surf Campground in Fountain, Michigan.

That depends on the type of campsite and campground. At most campgrounds, rustic without any paved RV sites, campsites can be for both RVs and tents. If you want an RV and a tent at one site, confirm that the campground allows it with a manager or employee. Some may not or may charge an additional fee.