Are you new to travelling and camping in a motorhome and struggling to figure out how to navigate this lifestyle? Don’t stress about it – we’ve all been rookies at one point! To help you get the hang of things we have compiled our top motorhome tips for beginners.
Basic Motorhome Advice for Beginners
Make Sure to Read Your Vehicle Handbook
Everything you need to know about your new motorhome will be explained in great detail in the owner’s manual so make sure you read through it before preparing for your trip, especially if you’ve never owned a motorhome before. The vehicle handbook will give you information such as the maximum legal weight you can carry in your motorhome, information about the electrics, the technical specification of the engine, battery and freshwater tank, and more.
Don’t Put Water in the Fuel Tank or Vice Versa
Usually your water tank will have a blue or white cap, whereas the fuel will have a yellow or black one. However, it’s still possible to get them confused, especially as a beginner. If you accidentally put water in your fuel tank you need to call a motorhome maintenance garage or breakdown service.
If you do the opposite and accidentally put fuel in the freshwater tank, you need to immediately drain the tank into appropriate containers and discard the contaminated water. You’ll also need to clean out your water tank if a larger amount of fuel has gotten in there before you realise your mistake. To do that, you’ll need to use a tank cleaner, although we’d recommend getting it done professionally.
Understand Your Motorhome Electricals
Many motorhome beginners don’t realise that the 203V sockets in their camper won’t work unless plugged into an electric mains, either at a campsite or at your house. Even then, your regular household appliances won’t be able to work all at the same time in a motorhome.
Any appliance that involves a heating element, such as a microwave, toaster, dryer or kettle, will generally consume too much energy and may trip out the campsite’s hook-up protector. If you want to make a cup of tea in the evening while relaxing or reading, it’s worth investing in a gas kettle or lower voltage alternatives to avoid blowing a fuse.
Make Sure Your Leisure Battery is Charged
One of the best motorhome tips for beginners is to always check your leisure battery. A common issue many new owners face is that when they turn on their motorhome, the leisure battery is dead. Always check the leisure battery well in advance before you set off and make sure to test it, and if necessary replace it.
Inspect Heating Controls
Keeping warm is a big concern when camping in a campervan in the UK, so make sure you inspect that the heating is working and also familiarise yourself with the heating controls before setting off on your first journey.
Check you have a full gas bottle and the LPG or diesel tank is full. The last thing you want is to run out of gas in the middle of the night and the heating goes off as a result. It’s hard to tell how much gas you have left in the bottle, so the best way to tell is by simply weighing it. An average propane bottle weighs about nine kilograms when empty and 15kg when full.
To swap over the cylinders you’ll also need a gas spanner. Those are unique for different types of gas so don’t worry about using the wrong bottle, because the spanner won’t fit.
If you get into trouble with your gas bottle while on the road, filling stations usually sell replacement ones. You might also be able to purchase another gas bottle from a garden centre or motorhome dealer.
If your camper is equipped with a fixed LPG tank rather than a bottle you should familiarise yourself with the process of refilling it. In the UK, normally you have to attach a bayonet-style fitting and hold down the button until the tank is full.
Motorhome Camping Tips
After you familiarise yourself with your camper and how everything works, you’ll definitely want to take it out for a camping trip as soon as possible. We also have some motorhome tips for beginners on how to prepare for camping in your home on wheels below.
Practice Camping at Home Before You Go
Modern motorhomes are equipped with loads of fancy and complex tech, so it’s worth doing some prep before your first camping trip to make sure you know how things work.
It might be a good idea to practice by arranging an overnight stay in your garden before your trip. This way, you can identify things that could cause potential issues down the line. You may find that extension pieces get in the way of moving around or take up too much space.
Set your vehicle up as if you’re about to spend the night at a campsite and make sure you know how the blinds work, where all the essential equipment is located, as well as how to set the bed if it’s not fixed.
Remember that you have limited space in your motorhome and you need to fit in kitchen equipment as well as bedding, tableware, clothes, outdoor gear and more. Try to pack only the essentials and be mindful of the weight limit of your motorhome.
You can try swapping some of the items you need for less bulky, lightweight alternatives. For example, opt for melamine mugs and plates instead of ceramic ones, and microfibre towels instead of regular ones for the washroom.
Don’t Forget the Essentials
It’s tempting to buy new accessories such as cushions, bedding and crockery for your new motorhome, but don’t forget to also get the essential gear that you need. This includes equipment like a hose for your freshwater tank, electricity cables and others.
Make sure you create a checklist for yourself so you don’t forget anything.
Be Mindful with Energy and Water Usage
Many beginner campers are too used to the comfort of their house, where they don’t have to worry about electricity and water use. In a motorhome, however, you have a finite amount of charge in the leisure battery and water in the water tank, so you have to be more mindful of how much you use.
Almost all electrical appliances in your camper will use energy from the 12V DC of your leisure battery. Plugging it into a mains activates the mains charger that tops up the battery, but if you’re on the road and want to use any electrical items you need to be mindful of your power usage. If your battery goes flat none of the electrical systems will work.
The same goes for water. You might be used to having hot 20-minute long showers, but that simply won’t work in a camper as it will drain the hot water tank and most of the fresh water tank. The best way to shower in a motorhome is to wet your hair and body then switch off the shower to lather up with shower gel and shampoo, and turn it back on just to rinse yourself off. Another option is using the public showers, if you’re staying at a campsite.
Double Check Everything Before Departure
Before you set off on your journey, take a few minutes to check you have everything and plan your route into the sat nav. Some things to check before you depart include making sure all the overhead cupboards are clicked shut, gas is turned off and electrical cable is unplugged.
Adventuring in your camper is great fun and hopefully our motorhome tips for beginners come in handy when preparing for your trip. If you have any queries, we’re always happy to offer assistance and further advice, simply contact us via our live chat or phone.
This blog was written by Dave Brown. Dave is a Director of his family business which began in 1971. He has a wealth of experience in this sector starting as a workshop apprentice straight from school in 1982. Married with two children, Dave has been an enthusiastic Rugby player since the age of 8, only retiring this year. He will now spend more time travelling in his VW Campervan and watching his favourite team, the Northampton Saints.