In North America the term recreational vehicle and its acronym, RV, are generally used to refer to a vehicle equipped with living space and amenities found in a home; they are sometimes called motorhomes. A recreational vehicle normally includes a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom and a living room. In other countries the term camper van is more common, and the vehicles themselves vary, typically being smaller than in North America.

RVs are intended for everything from brief leisure activities such as vacations and camping, to full-time living, for which they are often parked in special trailer parks. (However, many trailer parks are reserved just for mobile homes, not to be confused with RVs and motorhomes.) RVs can also be rented in most major cities and tourist areas.

Furthermore, they are occasionally used as mobile offices for business travelers and often include customizations such as extra desk space, an upgraded electrical system, a generator, and satellite Internet.


Most modern dictionaries give one of the meanings for the word caravan as "a camper equipped with living quarters". They in turn give one of the meanings for camper as "a recreational vehicle equipped for camping out while travelling". The earliest caravans were used for practical purposes rather than recreation, such as providing shelter and accommodation for people travelling in search of an audience for their art, or to offer their services to distant employers, or to reach a new place of abode.

In Europe, wagons built to live in, rather than just to carry persons or goods, were developed in France around 1810. They were used in England by showmen and circus performers from the 1820s, but Gypsies only began living in caravans (vardos) from about 1850.[1]

The covered wagon that played a significant part in opening up of the interior of the North American continent to white settlement from about 1745 was a type of caravan. A well set up wagon provided its occupants with living quarters as well as a means of transportation for themselves plus their supplies and equipment.[2]

In Canada, the earliest motorhomes were built on car or truck bodies from about 1910.[3] By the 1920s the RV was well established in the US, with RV camping clubs established across the country, despite the unpaved roads and limited camping facilities.[4]

In Australia, the earliest known motor home was built in 1929. It is now in the Goolwa Museum, where it has been partially restored, It is recognized by both the National Museum of Australia and the (Australian) National Motor Museum as being the first motorized caravan in Australia.[5]

Between the late 1920s and the early 1960s some South Australian railway maintenance gangs working in country areas, where they were required to live on site, were accommodated in caravans built by the department instead of the tents they had previously used. These caravans were built like short railway carriages, about 6.1 metres (20 feet) long, but had wooden wheels with solid rubber tyres and ball bearings.[6]


For types and classifications outside North America, see campervan.

There are different classes of vehicles generally labeled as RVs:[7]

Class A motorhome
Constructed on either a commercial truck chassis, a specially designed motor vehicle chassis, or a commercial bus chassis. The addition of slide-outs, first appearing in 1989, dramatically changed the industry, as they allow a wider room than would fit on the road.[8]
Bus Conversion
A commercial passenger bus that has been converted into an RV. Highly customized with luxury components, bus conversions are typically the largest motorhomes available.
Class B campervan
Built using a conventional van, to which either a raised roof has been added or had the back replaced by a low-profile body (aka coach-built).
Class C motorhome
Built on a truck chassis with an attached cab section, which is usually van based, but may also be pickup truck based or even large truck based. They are characterized by a distinctive cab-over profile, the "cab-over" containing a bed or an "entertainment" section. Also referred to as "mini-motorhomes". In the UK, the cab-over is known as a Luton peak or Luton body.
Truck camper
A unit that is temporarily let into the bed or chassis of a pickup truck. These are much favored by hunters and other backwoods travelers, particularly in North America.
Folding trailer
Also known as a pop-up or tent camper, a light-weight unit with sides that collapse for towing and storage. Suitable for towing by many vehicles.
Travel trailer
A unit with rigid sides designed to be towed by some larger vehicle with a bumper or frame hitch. Known in British English as a caravan.
Teardrop trailer
A compact, lightweight travel trailer that resembles a teardrop, sometimes seen being towed by motorcycles.
Hybrid trailer
A blend between a travel trailer and a folding (tent) trailer. One type has rigid sides and pull-out tent sections (usually beds) while another type's top section of walls and its roof can be lowered over its bottom section to reduce its height for towing.
Fifth-wheel trailer
Designed to be towed by a pickup or medium duty truck equipped with a special hitch called a fifth wheel coupling. Part of the trailer body extends over the truck bed, shortening the total length of vehicle plus trailer combined. Some larger fifth-wheel trailers, usually over 40 feet (12.2 m) in length and 18,000 pounds (8,200 kg) in weight, are pulled by small semi-trucks, such as a small Freightliner.
Park model (Vacation/Resort Cottage)
This is a standard travel trailer that is not self-contained. It is designed for park camping only, and while it is easily moved from site to site, as a normal trailer is, it is not capable of "dry camping" as it does not have any water storage tanks and must be used with hookups. It is not a mobile home.
An uncommon term indicating a motorhome built around a semi truck chassis (such as a Freightliner). This type of motor home allows the pulling of large and heavy trailers.
Toy hauler
A motorhome, 5th-wheel, or travel trailer, it is designed to be part living space, and part garage for storing things such as motorcycles and ATVs.


The RVs[]

A minimal RV typically contains beds, a table, food preparation and storage areas. Larger models add full bathrooms, refrigerators, living areas, master bedrooms, etc. Some RVs are very elaborate, with satellite TV and Internet access, slide-out sections, and awnings, and either storing a small car inside it or providing the option of towing it behind the RV. RVs can cost (new) from less than US$10,000 to $1,500,000 or more. Very high-end Class A motorhomes, for example, can cost between US$100,000 to $650,000 new. Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International make the Terra Wind - an amphibious Class A RV which costs between $850,000 and $1.2 million.[9] In 2006, Featherlite Luxury Coaches debuted the Featherlite Vantare Platinum Plus, a motorhome featuring marble floors, a built-in treadmill and other luxury features valued at US$2.5 million.[10]

Some people craft their own RVs out of cars, vans, school buses, and buses.

The Parks[]

Many RVers stay at RV parks, most of which feature electrical, water and sewer service (full hookups), as well as cable television and wireless Internet. One can also get partial hookups in the same parks. Amenities often include swimming pools, gamerooms and even destination-resort activities such as horseback riding. Others prefer staying at locations in remote rural areas (called boondocking), and still others at public campgrounds with minimal facilities.

Also many RVers stay at city parks, county parks, state parks and national parks. The United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also offer camping, often at no cost to the camper.

Advantages and Disadvantages[]

Advantages of RVs include not having to move one's things in and out of motel rooms, not having to rent multiple motel rooms, sleeping in a bed one is comfortable with. Also, preparing food oneself saves money compared to eating in restaurants, as well as meeting any dietary restrictions or preferences. At the same time, an RV provides a more organized living space and better protection from the weather than a tent. There is also no council tax if you choose to live in a RV and no home mortgage.

Disadvantages of RVs include low fuel economy for the motorized RV or tow vehicle, lack of maid service as experienced in motels (maid service is available at a few high-end resorts), and the challenge of driving or towing larger RV models for the novice.


There is a stereotype that people who live in RVs full-time do so because they are poor and cannot afford more conventional housing. However, an increasing number of people are opting to sell their homes and live in their RVs, which can cost as much as their home did. Some return to home ownership after several years while some few bounce back and forth between owning a home and going RVing full time. For these, mostly retirees, RVing is a life style choice not a financial decision.

Similarly, RVs — specifically, trailers which strongly resemble travel trailers, but usually with fewer amenities — have been used to temporarily house victims of natural disasters. A notable example is Hurricane Katrina, after which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ordered large numbers of such trailers to house victims of the storm in Louisiana and Mississippi.


Perhaps the most widely known brand of recreational vehicle is Winnebago, a product of Winnebago Industries, Inc., of Forest City, Iowa, USA. In fact, many people still refer to recreational vehicles — especially motorhomes — using the generic term, "Winnebago", even though there are over 140 other major RV manufacturers. [11] The company, under a group of Midwestern investors, was a pioneer of the RV industry in the early 1960s.

On the other side of the coin there was the Bluebird Wanderlodge, a luxury, high end motor coach produced in Fort Valley, Ga from 1963 until 2008. The Wanderlodge was an all metal coach built on the Bluebird bus chassis.

Historical manufacturers include Cayo RV Corporation of Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA, Veseley Corporation famous for their Apache brand plastic sided pop-ups, and for a short while General Motors, whose recreational vehicles still attract a sizable following of collectors. Today, a well-known manufacturer of luxury recreational vehicles of the Class C motorhome type is Dynamax Corporation of Elkhart, IN.

Caravan manufacturers in Europe include: Hobby, Swift Group, Explorer Group, Bailey, Hymer, Westfalia, and CAN KARAVAN. Caravan manufacturers have enjoyed increased sales in recent years due to a rise in popularity of caravaning in Europe.

Jayco is the largest privately held manufacturer of recreational vehicles in the United States. Triple E based out of Winkler Manitoba, is a large manufacturer in Canada. Winkler Manitoba Canada

RV Lifestyle[]

The RV lifestyle is made up of those interested in traveling and camping rather than living in one location, as well as by vacationers. Some travel nearer the equator during the winter months in their RV and return in spring. This is sometimes referred to in the USA as snowbirding. There is also a large segment of younger people who participate in the RV lifestyle. Those who live in an RV are known as fulltimers and live H.O.W. (Houses On Wheels) in comparison to those who live primarily in a house and are known as slabbers or part-timers. There is another subculture of the RV lifestyle known as workampers, these are people that work at the campgrounds/RV parks they stay at for site and perks.

In Australia these retired travelers are called "grey nomads" (see below). They usually travel north in winter in their RVs to catch the warmer weather and return south for spring and summer. Some "grey nomads" have sold their homes choosing to travel on a continuous basis.

While many RVers may be retirees, other individuals and families are choosing RV travel as a way to see parts of the world while maintaining their incomes via technology available from the RV (such as internet, phone, fax, etc.).

Some choose to park in locations without camping sites for a variety of reasons, including saving money, more choice of location, isolation, privacy, adventure, more self-sufficiency and to be nearer a target location.

There is a growing community of Burners (Burning Man participants) who have taken recreational vehicles and modified them so as to fit their beliefs. The conversion of old school buses to this end is popular. A subculture are taking old diesel vehicles and using biodiesel or waste vegetable oil in them, in order to be more environmentally friendly.

Grey Nomad[]

A grey nomad is someone who is 55 or older and is taking a long term camping trip around Australia. Although they may travel in lots of different kinds of rigs such as motorhomes, caravans, camper trailers and tents, grey nomads can be characterised by their sense of adventure, humour and their camaraderie.


Family Motor Coach Association[]

The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) is an international organization of families who own and enjoy the recreational use of motorhomes. Since 1963 FMCA has issued more than 390,000 memberships to families who look to the association as their source of information about all facets of motorhome ownership and travel. FMCA is a member-owned association that maintains its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and employs a full-time office staff. FMCA is governed by volunteer officers who are elected from within the ranks of the association.

Good Sam Club[]

The Good Sam Club is an international organization of RV owners. Its primary goals are to make RV'ing safer and more enjoyable, and to save members money through Club-endorsed benefits and services. It claims over a million members.


There are at least three sources of rating information about recreational vehicles.

RV Comparison Guide[]

By J R Consumer Resources,, this publication provides buying tips and construction information. It rates motorhomes, fifth wheels and travel trailers.

The guide may be purchased either in hard copy or as a downloadable PDF file.

RV Ratings Guide CDs[]

Published by the RV Consumer Group,, these guides are available as searchable databases on CD-ROM for both Apple Mac OS X and for Microsoft Windows. The ratings cover RV models back as far as 1993.

A unique aspect of this product is the ability to search for RVs, and their ratings, by intended usage. Each RV is given a rating for uses such as family vacationing, snow birding, and full timing. This is important because an RV that will suffice for short family vacations may not stand up to the constant usage of full timing. Conversely, a family might save money by getting an RV appropriate to short vacations rather than getting a more costly full timer's rig.

Other Meanings[]

Australian English: The term "recreational vehicle" may refer to a sport utility vehicle (SUV or 4x4).

British English: The term "recreational vehicle" may refer to a sport utility vehicle, Dune buggies or ATVs. Terms covering some of the vehicles classified as "recreational vehicle" in North America are camper van or motorhome (see below) and caravan. The term RV is used for imported North America vehicles.

Other Languages[]

French language: The French-made English term "camping-car" is used, and term has also spread to Japan.

German language: A "recreational vehicle" is called "Wohnmobil" or "Wohnwagen" (trailer type). Wohnen means live or reside; [12]".

Spanish language: A "recreational vehicle" is called autocaravana . The word "caravaning" is also (albeit rarely) used to mean "traveling together as a group" in British English, leading to a different meaning. In Guatemala, Mexico and other Latin American countries the word used to describe this kind of vehicle is "Casa Rodante" (Rolling House).

Finnish language: A "recreational vehicle" is called matkailuauto. The term can be translated as "Travelling car" (Matkailu = Travelling, Auto = Car).

Elkhart, Indiana, USA[]

Elkhart, Indiana, USA is known as the "RV Capital of the World" because it is home to many RV manufacturers, including Berkshire Hathaway's Forest River, Dynamax Corporation, Heartland RV, the Damon Corporation, Four Winds International, Hy-Line, Keystone, Monaco, Sun Valley, and Travel Supreme. Many other manufacturers, including Newmar, Dutchmen, Gulf Stream, and Jayco, can be found in the nearby towns of Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, and Wakarusa. In 2005, these locales experienced a boom because of the large number of trailers ordered to house Hurricane Katrina victims.


On most newer RVs, the manufacturer includes a fold-out awning. The awning is attached to the door-side of the RV and is often about 75% of the length of the RV. The newer models are of a roll-out/roll-in design and have legs that can either remain attached to the side of the RV or be unfastened and placed on the ground. Another type of awning used by RVers is a portable pop-up canopy or tent (like an E-Z UP) that provides a temporary solution to people who want to be outdoors and enjoy shade. The frame usually incorporates an accordion style truss which folds up compactly. Some of these awnings have side curtains that can keep out wind and bugs.
Battery Disconnect
A solenoid which is wired first in the 12v system that, when activated, opens or closes and turns 12v power on or off to that system. Found mostly on Motorhomes which will incorporate 2 disconnect systems, 1 for the House batteries and 1 for the Chassis Batteries. usually controlled by either, manually opening or closing the solenoid by turning it or moving a lever, or electronically operated via a remote switch mounted inside the RV. with a disconnect turned off, that battery circuit is 'dead' and no power will be available from the batteries. Generators and starter motors usually bypass these systems due to high power demands.
Battery isolator
A rectifier or solenoid switch based module in the engine of a recreational vehicle that provides charging power from the engine to the house battery. The isolator also prevents power use by the circuits drawing on the [house battery] from also draining the engine or vehicle battery.
Black water
Wastewater from the RV toilet. Body waste. Called blackwater because, if left in the blackwater tank long enough, it turns black.
Black water tank flush
A pipe built into the black water holding tank that is connected to a source of pressurized water via a hose that is used to help flush solids from the holding tank at a dump site. If using a black water tank flush system in a campsite, the use of a back-flow preventer on the end of the hose to prevent sewage from flowing into the potable water system is recommended.
Brake Controller
A device used to control the electric brakes on the trailer. Taking power from the tow vehicle's battery, it is activated by sensing voltage to the brake lights. upon this signal it sends power, through the 7way plug at the rear, to the electro magnets inside the trailer's brake drums, activating the brakes. Usually adjustable to control the amount of braking power applied as well as incorporating manual operation to allow the trailer brakes to be activated independently from the tow vehicle brakes. Some models also incorporate G-force sensors which will apply the trailer brakes when it senses a deceleration.
Chemicals (for wastewater tanks)
A variety of commercially produced chemicals that are added to the blackwater and graywater tanks to control odours. These chemicals may or may not kill the bacteria in the tanks and may or may not have an adverse effect on septic systems. Some wastewater tank chemicals contain enzymes that are supposed to control odors and help breakdown the organic materials in the wastewater. Commonly referred to as 'blue' or 'green', the latter being designed to be less harmful to the environment.
City Water Hookup
A fitting on the outside of the RV, allowing a water hose to be connected to provide fresh water from an external, pressurized, supply
An electrical device that is usually supplied built-in the RV by the manufacturer. The converter takes AC power from a campground electrical hookup (shore power) or generator and converts that power to 12 volts DC for use in the vehicle. Converters also charge the house batteries.
Dry camping (boondocking)
Is camping in a campground or any area without water, electricity and sewage hookups, including parking lots or driveways. In the USA, most campgrounds operated by the US Department of the Interior (BLM, National Park Service, National Monuments, National Wildlife Areas, National Forests) and most state and county campgrounds do not have full hookups for water, sewage or electricity. Dry camping is made more comfortable by having:
  1. A supply of potable water storage within the RV
  2. Enough house-battery(s) power to supply basic camping needs (low voltage lights, water pump, control portion of refrigerator, etc.)
  3. A means of recharging the house battery(s) such as solar panels or generators
  4. Enough wastewater tank capacity to contain the wastewater for several days of camping
Dump station
A place where RV waste-water tanks are emptied. Usually a small concrete pad with a 3 to 4-inch brass fitting embedded into the concrete. The fitting accepts a sewer hose from the RV. Sewage dumped into the station goes into a sewer or a septic system. The brass fitting usually has a pivoting cover to keep rocks and other objects out of the dump station piping. Dump stations are usually situated so that an RV can be driven next to the receptacle. Dump stations often have running water for rinsing the RV's sanitary pipes and for cleaning up the dump station pad. This water should not be used to fill an RV's potable water tank. RV etiquette demands that the user of an RV dump station cleans up any spills.
Dumping, dumping tanks
The act of emptying the waste tanks.
Electric trailer brakes
On travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers, usually over a certain weight, a supplemental system of stopping the rig is needed. Within the towing vehicle's cab is a trailer brake device that uses the towing vehicle's 12 volt DC current to apply a current to electrically-operated wheel brakes on the trailer's wheels. The braking device senses the slowing momentum of the vehicle, usually with a small pendulum, to send a current to the trailer wheel brake actuators to help stop the rig. The current sent to the actuators is proportional to the rate of slowing of the vehicle.
Fifth wheel coupling
The fifth wheel coupling or hitch provides the link between a fifth-wheel trailer and the towing truck. Newer fifth-wheel hitches are pivoted in two dimensions to ease hitching up and to give the truck and trailer more freedom of movement together. Some models are called sliding-fifth-wheel hitches because the entire hitch assembly can be rolled from its forward towing position to a more rearward position for backing up and maneuvering in tight situations. This allows the driver of a fifth-wheel trailer more leeway in making sharp turns and not having the front of the trailer impact the cab of the truck.
Fresh water
The RV'S water supply when "Dry Camping" or on the road.
Full Timer
A person who has decided to live 100% of the time in their RV.
A gasoline, diesel or propane-powered device for generating 120 or 240 volts AC electrical power for use when boondocking or dry camping. Generators are rated by their electrical output, usually in watts. A minimum generator size for a small RV would be 1500 to 2000 watts. To run an RV air conditioner, a minimum of 3000 watts is usually needed. Larger RV's with multiple air conditioners require generators with 6000 and more watts of capacity. Generators also charge the house battery(s). Generators are common in North America but very unusual in Europe, where their noise would be an unpopular intrusion to the rural calm of a campsite.
Gravity Fill
An external fill point for filling the fresh water tank. made up of a large diameter hose that runs into the tank and incorporates a hole in the side of the RV which allows water to be fed, via a water hose, into the tank using gravity alone. A smaller diameter 'vent' hose is usually installed along side to allow air to escape the tank when filling.
Grey water
Waste water from the sinks and showers. It is not truly "clean", but it is not as "dirty" as "blackwater". It is called graywater because it looks gray from detergents in the water.
High voltage
Refers to shore power, generator power or power from an inverter, which is AC at the standard household voltage and frequency of one's country, used to run air conditioners, television and stereo systems, microwave ovens, electrical refrigerators, electric space heaters and electric water heaters. It also powers AC outlets in the RV for electrical devices such as toasters, hair dryers, computers, printers etc. (Strictly, "AC" only means that the polarity reverses many times per second, but in an RV it may be assumed to mean high voltage.)
Holding Tanks
Tanks built in or mounted under the floor, used for storage of black and grey water. Separate tanks are used for black water and grey water, often adding an extra tank for the shower or washing machine, if equipped. Tank level is monitored by an LED display inside the RV and all tanks drain to an external hook up point for dumping. Usually found on American RVs where almost every RV in production incorporates holding tanks.
The batteries, usually 12 volt DC, that are installed on or within an RV. Known in the UK as 'leisure batteries'. Usually there are multiple batteries combined in a parallel circuit which keep 12 volts but increase the amperes, but there may be a single house battery on some smaller RV's. The house battery(s) are separate and isolated electrically from the vehicle battery(s) that are used to start and operate the motor vehicle part of the RV (motor of a motorhome, car or truck for tow vehicles or campers). RV batteries differ from car or truck batteries in that they are 'deep cycle' batteries. This means that RV batteries can be drawn down further before recharging than car or truck batteries. For best RV battery life, users should not draw down the charge below 50% before recharging. Deep cycle batteries that are well maintained and cared for can last 10+ years. RV batteries that are poorly maintained and abused will last only a year or two. Batteries are rated in amp-hours; multiplying this figure by the battery voltage yields watt-hours, which indicates the length of time a known load can be run.
An inverter takes the 12 volt DC house power from the house battery(s) and inverts that to AC power at the standard household voltage and frequency for one's country. Inverters are not usually supplied in RV's by the manufacturer. Inverters are rated by their output, in watts. There are two categories of inverters. The least expensive are called 'modified sine-wave' or 'quasi-sine wave' inverters. The more expensive versions are 'sine-wave' or 'full sine-wave' inverters. The modified- or quasi-sine wave inverters work well for most RV uses, but most inverter manufacturers recommend the use of full sine wave inverters to power televisions, VCR players and recorders, DVD players, computers, printers, fax machines and other electronic devices. Like a generator, inverters must be sized to accommodate the anticipated electrical load. Most inverters in RVs are rated at 1500-2000 watts. This is enough power to run a microwave oven or run a TV, DVD and computer but not at the same time as the microwave. The number of watt-hours that can be provided; how long a given load can be run; depends on the battery, after allowing for the slight inefficiency of the inverter. Heavy electrical loads like air conditioners, space heaters, water heaters and refrigerator/freezers cannot be powered by an inverter as the house battery(s) do not have enough watt-hours and would be run down quickly.
King-pin support
A king-pin support is used on a fifth-wheel trailer to give the front of the trailer more stability. It is usually a tripod that attaches to the king-pin of the fifth-wheel trailer hitch. Most are adjustable with a hand crank.
Landing gear
On a fifth-wheel trailer these are two jacks that are usually coupled together and are motor driven, that lift the front of the fifth-wheel trailer up so that the truck can be driven under the front and hitch-up. Once hitched up, the landing gear jacks are raised to their stowed position for traveling.
Leveling jacks
Installed under the RV, help to get the vehicle level once it has a place to stay. Many newer class A motorhomes and some fifthwheel trailers have computer-controlled leveling jacks that at the touch of a button, automatically extend and level the RV. On trailers, the manufacturer often installs rear leveling jacks that are either lowered by hand crank or a motor to give the rear of the trailer more stability.
Low voltage
Low voltage refers to electricity from the house battery(s), typically 12 volts DC. This electricity is used to run lights, the water pump, the control portion of a refrigerator, the igniters for cooktops, smoke and gas detectors, fans, jack and slide-out motors, and often the blower and control circuits of a built-in propane furnace.
Pink water
Refers to water to which 'pink' antifreeze has been added. This is done in cold climates to keep the internal plumbing pipes and tubing from freezing. Pink is used to imply that it is not toxic. Normal antifreeze is colored green or blue to show that it is a toxic chemical.
Most RV refrigerators are "Absorption Cycle", rather than "Compressor Cycle" appliances. These operate by the direct application of heat to the refrigerant, without the use of a pump, unlike most domestic refrigerators. In recent years special 12V DC operated compressor type refrigerators have been developed and are being used in some RVs.
The typical RV (absorption) refrigerator uses either propane or electricity as a heat source. Most operate on propane or AC (2-way), while some add 12V DC (three-way). Three-way (powered) RV refrigerators draw too many amps to be powered by the house battery(s), but may run on 12V DC power while the vehicle engine is running, a generator is running or the RV is connected to shore power. Newer models use 12V DC to control electronics that switch power sources automatically. Absorption refrigerators are very sensitive to being level and do not function unless reasonably level. However, newer RV refrigerators are less sensitive to being run out of level.
Anyone planning a long ferry ride with an RV should bear in mind that it is impossible to run the fridge while on board, where gas bottles must be turned off, and electricity is seldom provided.
RV shower
Is a method of showering that conserves water, wastewater tankage and battery power in a motorhome, trailer or camper while dry camping. The total time for the water being on is typically under 2 minutes and often less. The RV shower is similar to a Navy shower. Owners of smaller vehicles seldom use the shower in the van, preferring to use the campground showers.
Sanitary station
In Europe, black water is usually collected in a portable toilet with a detachable tank which is carried to the sanitary station. Sometimes referred to as a Thetford, Porta Potti or an Elsan (from commercial names), this tank has a small amount of 'blue' or 'green' added to it each time it is emptied, to manage odours. The sign for a sanitary station usually includes the word 'Chemical' in one form or another.
Shore power
Electricity that is available to an RV from a power company. The basic service in USA campgrounds is a standard 2-prong w/ground 120 volt AC outlet with 15-20 amps. Most newer USA campgrounds with electrical hookups offer three outlets in the connection box: 2-prong w/ground 120 volt AC 20 amp; 3-prong RV 120 volt AC 30 amp; and a 4-prong RV 120/240 volt AC 50 amp (which can power 120 volt loads and the large 240 volt loads at the same time). A variety of plug converters are available from RV supply houses to convert from one type of plug to another. (High voltage can kill when wired incorrectly, and the fact that appliances work does not mean that it's wired correctly.) In the UK and most of Europe, 240 volt power is supplied through a 16 amp socket which is designed for outdoor use. In continental Europe, although the socket is rated at 16 amps, the circuit is often limited to a much lower current, sometimes as low as 3 Amps. Less modern campgrounds may use domestic sockets similar to those found in homes.
A section of the RV that can be expanded by pulling it outward from the side of the vehicle, thus making the interior space wider. Many modern North American RVs feature at least one slide-out section – this is typically to widen the kitchen and better accommodate the seating area. Newer and larger motorhomes and larger fifth-wheel trailers (over 30') often have three slide-outs: one in the kitchen, one in the living room and one in the bedroom.
A fixed awning attached to the top of a slide room and the side of the RV. when the room is opened, the awning opens with it, covering the roof of the slide room. Mainly used to keep debris such as leaves and snow from building up on the roof of the slide room. It will open and close with the room by use of spring tension which is applied when rolled out and recoils when the room comes in, closing the awning up.
Solar cell or Photovoltaic panel(s)
Solar panels or photovoltaic cells can be installed on the roof of the RV. They produce slightly in excess of 12 Volts DC (12.8 to 13). The panel(s) are used to charge the house battery(s) when the RV is not hooked up to shore power or the vehicle's engine is not working or a generator is not present. Photovoltaic cells used on RVs are often 24" x 36" and produce 100 to 120 watts.
Tag Axle
A 45 foot motorhome with two rear axles, a drive axle and a weight bearing (tag) axle.
Tow ball weight
Also called tongue weight, this is the downward force exerted on the tow ball by the RV trailer coupling with weight-distribution devices, if any, deactivated.
Tow vehicle
The car or truck that is used to tow an RV trailer.
Towed vehicle or "toad"
A car or other vehicle that is towed behind motorhomes for use when the motorhome is set up in a campground and connected to utilities. Also called a "dinghy". Fairly common in the US and Canada, less common in Europe.
Umbilical cord
The electrical cord that connects the RV trailer to the towing vehicle (car, van, SUV, or truck). This cord brings electricity from the vehicle's alternator to charge the trailer house battery(s). The umbilical cord also brings electrical current from the vehicle to control the electric brakes, stop and turn lights and night running lights on the trailer.
Weight distribution hitch
A system of springs and levers that transfers part of the tow ball weight onto the front wheels of the towing vehicle and, to a lesser extent, the RV trailer.
White water
This is the fresh water directly taken from a clean-water source. It may or may not be potable water, i.e., drinking water.
Wild camping
A UK term to refer to staying overnight without a designated camping area.
The maintenance of an RV's water system to protect it from damage during cold winter storage. This involves making sure all water is removed from the hoses and tanks using compressed air or adding a non-toxic antifreeze to the system. Some modern RVs are equipped with automatic winterization systems.

See also[]

  • Travel trailer
  • Caravan parks
  • RV park
  • Campervan
  1. "History of the Vardo (Gypsy Caravan)", ValleyStream Media, 2009
  2. "Inside a pioneer covered wagon", Robin Flinchum, PageWise, Inc, 2002
  3. "From Past to Present 1901 - 1910",, 2003
  4. "RV History", RV/MH Heritage Foundation, retrieved 2009
  5. "Pop Kaesler's Motorhome", Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia, retrieved 2009
  6. "Heritage Caravan", History Trust of South Australia, 2003
  7. "Go Rving RV roundup". Go RVing Canada.. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  8. "The Era of the Slideout Room" Retrieved 23 October 2008
  9. "CAMI", Cool Amphibious Manufacturers International's Terra Wind.
  10. "Press Releases: World's most expensive RV debuts for $2.5 million". RV News & Newsletter. July 11, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  11. RVIA List of Manufacturers
  12. "German RV Reference". A.Ebert. Retrieved 2007-08-30.