Omakau Cavalcade RV Parking
Omakau Cavalcade RV Parking by Shellie (CC BY-NC-ND)

Boondocking and Other RV Terms You Need to Know

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Omakau Cavalcade RV Parking
Omakau Cavalcade RV Parking by Shellie (CC BY-NC-ND)
Bounder RV Storage.jpg
Bounder RV Storage.jpg by Jonti Bolles (CC BY-SA)

Basement

No, you won't be heading down a flight of stairs. An RV basement is simply extra storage beneath the floor, similar to the luggage compartments underneath large buses. Not unlike real basements, RV basements can become something of a black hole for gear and unused items, so experienced RV'ers have devised plenty of ways to keep them organized.

Know Your Public Lands
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Boondocking

Ever fantasize about pulling over on some out-of-the-way side road, parking the RV, and spending a night or two? What you're imagining is boondocking — that is, camping outside an established RV park or campground. Suffice it to say, boondockers won't have amenities such as electricity or water hookups, but that's a trade-off some RVers are eager to make for a free night's sleep and, potentially, peace and quiet. Wondering where to boondock? Check out our list of promising spots.

Black Water
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Black Water

Dealing with black water is undoubtedly the least savory part of owning an RV. When you flush a rig's toilet, the waste and wastewater go into the black water tank — so-named for fairly obvious reasons. Of course, these tanks have to be emptied frequently, sanitized with chemicals, and cleaned regularly to prevent buildups. One golden rule RVers swear by? Use only single-ply toilet paper to avoid clogs.

Related: You Won't Believe These RV Horror Stories

Class A Motorhomes
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RVshare
Source: RVshare

Class B Motorhomes

Class Bs are better known as camper vans, and while they're typically the most cramped and basic type of motorhome, you might be surprised at how creative the interiors can get. Of course, you'll also feel less pain at the pump and enjoy fewer limits on where you can go. Class Bs are also the easiest motorhomes to drive, especially for RV newbies.

Class C Motorhomes
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Class C Motorhomes

The "sweet spot" of the RV world for many, Class C motorhomes aren't as big or tricked out as Class As, but they're also not as small or as basic as Class Bs. While you typically can't tow another vehicle with a Class C, they usually still have bathrooms, kitchenettes and, often, handy extra sleeping or storage area above the driver's cabin.

Curb Weight
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Curb Weight

There are tons of weights associated with RV life, and it's worth understanding the differences between all of them. One of the most basic and important is curb weight. That's how much an RV weighs before any people or cargo are added, but it includes everything that comes standard with a rig, plus full water, fuel and propane tanks, and other necessary fluids.

Pinned Partners
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Dinghy

To most people, "dinghy" describes a small boat. In the RV world, a dinghy is a vehicle you can tow behind your rig using the vehicle's own tires (also known as flat towing). Towing a dinghy means having access to a smaller, more nimble vehicle once you reached a destination, a must for travelers who don't want to drive a massive RV into a national park for a day of sightseeing or to the convenience store for a few quick supplies. Not all cars can be used as dinghies, so be sure to check before you buy.

Dump Station
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Dump Station

A dump station is a necessary evil at most campgrounds, and a place you'll want to spend as little time as possible. Most dump stations are typically just a couple of sewer drains where you can hook up an RV's drain pipes to empty wastewater tanks, including the dreaded black water tank. Sounds simple enough, but it can take some practice to become a dump-station pro.

Lean on the Experience of the RV Community
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Extended Stay

Some campgrounds may limit the number of nights campers can spend, especially at peak times. Others may cater to RVs seeking an extended stay — generally anything from a few weeks to several months. Because campgrounds appreciate having the steadier, long-term income, it's often possible to find discounted monthly rates, though they may not always be advertised.

Fifth Wheel
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Fifth Wheel

Ever seen a large RV with a cabin that extends over the bed of a pickup truck? You're probably looking at a fifth wheel. These towable RVs can be quite roomy and often feature more amenities than other nonmotorized rigs, Camping World notes. But you'll need a heavy-duty, full-size truck to tow these beasts, an investment than can be just as pricey as many RVs themselves.

You Risk Losing Your Roots
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Fold Down
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Fold Down

Whether you call it a fold down or a pop-up, this kind of towable RV is one of the most inexpensive you can buy. Because fold downs are so lightweight, they're easier to tow — something that might even be doable with the vehicle you already own. But as Axle Addict cautions, amenities are more basic, it can take a lot of work to set them up and break them down, and the canvas walls don't offer quite as much protection from the elements.

Check Hookup Specs Before You Arrive
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Full Hookup

Finding a campsite with a full hookup is the ultimate in convenience for RV owners. A full hookup means an RV gets to connect to the campground's own electricity, water, and sewer. In other words, you don't need to run a generator for power, use up your own fresh water, or deal with nasty sewage dump stations when a black water tank starts to fill up. The major downside, of course, is cost — sites with full hookups command a premium price.

Gray Water
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Gray Water

Separate from the dreaded black water, gray water is the other wastewater that comes from your RV. Any water washed down the sink in the kitchen, bathroom or shower — essentially, everywhere but the toilet — is considered gray water. On most RVs, gray water has its own tank, and just like the black water tank, it needs regular emptying and maintenance.

Related: 32 RV Tips for Laundry and Cleaning on the Road

Honey Wagon
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Honey Wagon

If black water talk has soured you on RV life, don't despair: At some campgrounds, there's a honey wagon — that's slang for a truck that comes to your site and sucks an RV's tanks clean — to save the day. Of course, this convenience comes with a cost. A quick survey of campgrounds offering the service suggests you'll pay roughly $20 to $30 for each visit from the honey wagon.

Leveling Blocks
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Leveling Blocks

In a perfect world, every campsite would be perfectly flat. Because that's not always the case, many RV owners are left with another chore as they set up camp. While the fanciest RVs often have some sort of self-leveling system, the rest of us are stuck using leveling blocks to ensure we're not stumbling around on a sloping floor during our stay. Typically made of wood or plastic, the blocks go under an RV's tires to keep it level, and figuring out how many you need and where can be a daunting process for newbies.

Pull-Through
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Pull-Through

For many folks with the largest RVs, pull-throughs are the holy grail of campsites. As their name suggests, pull-throughs allow RVs to pull in, park, and hit the road without throwing their rig into reverse. Of course, this convenience often comes with a slightly higher price tag, but the sites also tend to be larger than back-ins.

Slide-Outs
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Slide-Outs

Just as their name suggests, slide-outs are areas of an RV that can slide out of the main vehicle body, increasing floor space and making a rig feel more like a luxurious small apartment than anything on wheels. A hallmark of more expensive RVs, slide-outs can make you the envy of the RV park, but can also add quite a bit of weight and come with maintenance risks such as potential leaks.

Sticks and Bricks
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Sticks and Bricks

Did you hear someone over at the next site bragging about how glad they are to have ditched the ol' "sticks and bricks"? That's just RV slang for a regular house.

Toy Hauler
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Toy Hauler

Want to travel with an ATV? A motorcycle? Lots of bikes? If so, a toy hauler is probably the RV for you. Toy haulers have a large amount of open space in the back for these big "toys," plus a back wall that folds down into a ramp. Not everyone with a toy hauler actually uses them for ATVs or other such extras — some just appreciate the versatility of a more open floorplan.

Travel Trailer
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Travel Trailer

Perhaps the most recognizable kind of RV, travel trailers come in a variety of sizes and styles. Unlike Class A, B, and C motorhomes, they must be towed, but unlike a fifth wheel, some are light enough to be towed with vehicles smaller than a full-size truck. They're also typically less costly, Camping World notes, though nervous drivers may find that they aren't as stable during towing.

Truck Camper
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Truck Camper

Already have a pickup truck, but want some more freedom than towing a massive RV would afford? Consider a truck camper — it actually rests right inside the truck bed, and while the small size means limited space and amenities, it also means truck campers can go more places, and cost far less than other RVs. Camper Report has the lowdown on more pros and cons.

Related: 25 Affordable Camper Alternatives to an RV

There's a Time to Unplug — an RV Trip Isn't One of Them
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Workamping

In a broad sense, workamping is simply what happens when RVers opt to work while on the road. In many cases, that's part-time work at campgrounds and resorts that may net workampers free or reduced-cost campsites. But some entrepreneurs may operate a business on wheels or telecommute from wherever they happen to be. as Workamper News notes. If you're blending any kind of work with RV life, you're a workamper.