Victoria Day Weekend (Canada) and Memorial Day Weekend (United States) seem to be the unofficial start of the summer camping season. Families pull their camping gear out of storage, freshen up the motorhome (or RV), and choose their favourite spot to set up camp for the weekend. From planning your trip, to hitting the road, and setting up camp, we’ve got 16 Motorhome Safety Tips for you to check out.
Preparing Your Motorhome
Few families use their motorhomes during the colder months, so running a check on the entire vehicle before you head out on the road is important to ensure everything is in working order. Some key areas to include in your seasonal checkup are:
- Electronics: Check everything from external lights and backup cameras (if you have one) to windshield wipers and the horn.
- Tires: As with any vehicle, tires don’t last forever so check the tread is good (here’s how to do so using a coin!), and make sure that they’re all inflated correctly for your vehicle. Do a quick check to make sure there’s nothing stuck in the tires from previous road trips, as these can lead to slow leaks and flat tires.
- Fluid levels: This is a great time to check everything – oil, washer fluid, water, coolant – so that you’re not caught unawares mid-trip. If anything is low, make sure to top up and refresh before you head out.
- General items: Make sure anything that isn’t physically part of your motorhome is secured or stored for travel, like TV antennae or satellite dishes, and anything that’s designed for stationery use is locked in place, like awnings, exterior bay doors, or steps. Be sure to tuck away any cords, hoses, or additional furniture and toys too!
Driving Your Motorhome
Experienced motorhome owners know that an RV is nothing like the family car, and the same goes for camping trailers and fifth wheel trailers too. Not only are these much larger overall than your daily driver, but there are a few extra things to consider while driving:
- Defensive driving: Given the size of the vehicle, they’re not easy stop in a hurry, so make sure your driver is attentive to other vehicles while on the road. Increase the distance between you and the car in front to more than 2 seconds, and should someone squeeze into the gap in front, add more space by slowing down.
- Mirrors: A motorhome’s side mirrors, as well as the ones on your vehicle, are your best bet for seeing behind you while on the road. Of course, a larger vehicle means larger/longer blind spots, so use your mirrors, signal early, and change lanes slowly when you need to.
- Turning: With the extra length that a motorhome brings (as well as towed trailers and fifth wheels), you’ll need to account for it when making a turn. Move further into the lane before making your turn so that you have more space to get the back end of the vehicle around the corner and keep it on the road.
- Passing and merging: Motorhomes are designed for the mobile vacation experience, not for speed or agility on the road, so don’t expect to be able to pass other vehicles with any speed. If you do have to pass someone, make sure you have lots of time and space to do so (applying extra care when changing lanes), and merge back into the left lane as soon as it’s safe to do so.
- Backing up: Probably one of the most challenging things to do in a motorhome is to back up into your camping spot or a parking space. If you have a backup camera, this is a huge help. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to ask someone to be your guide, and always use your mirrors so you’re aware of your surroundings. Most importantly, go slowly.
Plan Your Trip
Once you’ve got your RV ready to go, and you’re comfortable driving it, take the time to plan your trip so you don’t have to deal with anything on the go. Here are a few key things to consider:
- Weather: A motorhome makes it easier to deal with those unexpected summer thunderstorms and showers, but it’s always a good idea to know what weather to expect for your camping trip, and the drive to get there. Use com to plan!
- Road conditions: Weather is one thing, but there’s nothing worse than sitting for hours because of summertime construction on the roads, or traffic for that matter. Of course, accidents can happen, especially with so many more people using the roads to travel in the summer, but do what you can to keep your travel as smooth and straightforward as possible. The US DOT Federal Highway Administration has everything you need!
- Know where you’re going: While it can be exciting and fun to not know exactly where you’re staying each night, it’s always good to have a general idea of the area you intend to be in. This allows you to plan for gas stops and rest breaks accordingly, and provides an itinerary for family and friends so they know where you should be each day or night.
Once You’ve Arrived
Camping is one of the most popular vacations for families in North America, so here are a few tips to make sure you have fun, while staying safe:
- Fire Safety: A camp fire makes the camping experience most memorable, so it’s important to enjoy one safely, both for your family and the surrounding environment. Don’t build fires under low trees, never leave a fire unattended, and always extinguish the fire completely before bed or leaving the campsite. Here are more ways to be campfire safe this season.
- Bug bites: While you’re out in the wilderness, bugs can be a real pain, so be sure to keep bug repellant close by, and maybe burn citronella candles (only if there is no campfire ban, and with the same precautions in mind as a campfire). If you have allergies to bug bites, make sure you have the proper medication to respond to a reaction, like allergy pills or even an EpiPen for serious reactions.
- First aid: Keep your first aid kit easily accessible and regularly stocked at all times, as you never know when you might need it. If you use a number of items while camping, see if you can stock up at your next rest stop so you’re never without the items you need.
- Animal safety: Whether you’re camping in a tent or your RV, you’re outside in the wilderness, and therefore surrounded by many animals throughout the day and night. Always exercise caution with wild animals, never approach them, and familiarize yourself with proper behaviour ahead of time. Also, secure food to avoid attracting unwanted attention from hungry animals, and store your garbage properly until you’re able to dispose of it.
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