RV people move in their own special world and that world has unique words, slang, and acronyms that only motor home owners and othe RV’ers use and understand. This glossary and list of RV slang will help you understand camping and travelling articles on this and other sites, as well as discussions in RV forums.
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Since the RV world and its language are always evolving, please feel free to send us additional definitions that can be included in this RV dictionary using the contact form below. In the meantime, enjoy this list of RV terms, words, and acronyms!
Here is the first part of the RV definitions in alphabetical order.
Back-in site: many campgrounds allow you to pull your motorhome or trailer straight in and straight out, but a back-in campsite requires you to back in your vehicle or trailer.
Back-up monitor: This is a camera mounted on the rear of the RV trailer or motorhome that transmits to a screen by the driver. It allows the driver to see everything behind the RV.
Black water: Sewage, usually from the RV’s toilet.
Black water tank: The tank, usually under the RV, that stores the black water, ie, sewage.
BLM: Bureau of Land Management — an agency within the United States Department of the Interior responsible for administering public lands, including camping and RV use.
Boondocking: Camping some place other than the usual campsites or RV parks. Often in a remote location without hookups, but can also refer to parking in rest stops, truck stops, or retail parking lots (Walmarts are a common place to boondock, although they seem to be limiting it due to liability reasons).
Bunkhouse: An area in an RV that contains bunkbeds.
Bus conversion: Or “conversion bus” or “converted bus” or “bus RV”. A passenger bus or school bus that has been converted into an RV. Usually done by the owners themselves, but there are companies that convert them commercially.
Cab: The part of a motorhome where the driving is done – as opposed to the “house” where people “live” while travelling.
Camper: A generic term used to refer to different types of RVs, but usually smaller camping trailers (anything smaller than a fifth wheel).
Camper van: Technically an RV and/or motorhome, but a common description for smaller vehicles built for travelling and camping, or existing smaller vehicles converted for that purpose.
Camp host: The person who manages, and often owns, a campground or RV park.
Caravan: Another term for a travel trailer or camper trailer, mostly used in the UK. Caravan can also can refer to RVers traveling as a group with their individual RVs.
CDL: Commercial Driver’s License. Some states/provinces/regions require a CDL for larger motorhomes. Not common, but possible, and should be looked into before heading into an unfamiliar area.
Chassis: Like any other motor vehicle, the base frame of a motor home.
Chocks: Blocks that are placed behind the wheels to prevent a motorhome or trailer from moving once parked. Typically wedge-shaped, but variations are available.
Class A: A type of motorhome that typically looks like some sort of large bus. The usual length ranges from 25 feet to 45 feet and, overall, they are the largest motorhome type.
Class B: Camper van style vehicles. Often built on a commercial van chassis with a wider body to make them roomier. Most homemade or self-converted RVs will be Class B’s. The usual length ranges from 16 feet to 24 feet.
Class C: A motorhome built on a truck chassis. Although not a requirement, most Class C’s are seen with the living space of the motorhome extending over the driver’s area. Most often, this space is used as an additional bed, although some Class C’s will use it for storage and/or a media center. Many resemble the size and style of a rental moving truck. The usual length ranges from 16 feet to 36 feet.
Coach: Another name for a Class A motorhome.
Some more definitions in our RV glossary.
Diesel Pusher: Sometimes shortened to DP, a diesel pusher is a Class A motorhome with the diesel engine mounted in the rear of (hence “pushing”) the vehicle
Dry camping: Camping without any hookups. Can also be called boondocking.
Dry weight: A legal term describing the weight of a motorhome or trailer (or ANY vehicle) without any fuel, water, supplies, passengers, and so on. Basically, the weight when it rolled off the factory assembly line.
Dual axle: A vehicle or trailer that has two rear axles.
Dually: A vehicle, in this case a pickup truck or motorhome, with dual-rear wheels, i.e. a pair of wheels next to each other, on one rear axle, for a total of four wheels.
Dump station: A designated location to dump the black and gray water from RV holding tanks.
Fifth wheel: A travel trailer with a special hitch that connects to a receiver in the tow vehicle – usually a truck. Think of it as a smaller version of the hitch used by highway tractors and trailers.
Fresh water tank: The tank used for storing potable (drinkable) water for your motor home or RV trailer.
Full hookup: An RV site with all the usual hookups — electricity, water, and sewer.
Full-timer: Anyone who lives in their RV full-time.
Generator: Obviously used to generate electricity – usually household current (110v North America, 220v Europe). Makes it possible to run bigger appliances and conveniences without external power hookups. Can be powered by gasoline, diesel, or propane (using it’s own fuel source, or sharing it with the motorhome’s fuel tank. Can be built-in to the RV or a stand-alone.
Glamper: A person and/or an RV that takes the “roughing it” out of camping with lots of comforts and often well, or even overly, decorated.
Glamping: What glampers do. See above definition.
Gray water (or grey water): Dirty water (but not sewage, which would be black water) from an RV’s shower and sinks.
Hitch: The connection between a trailer and the tow vehicle, or the connection between a motor home and the vehicle it’s towing. Is used interchangeably for the connection on the towed item, and the connection on the towing vehicle.
Holding tanks: The tanks which hold an RV’s gray (grey) water, black water, and fresh water.
Hookups: Electrical, water, sewage (and sometimes TV and/or Internet) connections. Most often in the context of a campground or RV park.
House: The part of a motorhome where people “live” while travelling – as opposed to the “cab” where the driving is done.
Keep reading for more RV Dictionary terms and definitions.
KOA: A popular chain of campgrounds and RV parks in the United States and Canada. Stands for Kampgrounds of America.
Leveling: Making sure the RV is level from side to side and back to front. Done a number of ways, including small ramps or blocks under the wheels, or manual or powered jacks.
MM: Shorthand for “mile marker” – the signs that indicate where you are on any given highway. Mile markers used to be very common, but aren’t seen as frequently with the advent of GPS and cell phones.
Moochdocking: Parking your RV someplace – usually a friend or relative’s – for free. Even better if they provide some hookups.
Motorhome: An of RV that has an engine and can move on its own without being towed. There are some people that argue a motorhome is the only “real” RV since the “V” stands for vehicle –and trailers are not vehicles.
NFS: Acronym for National Forest Service.
NPS: An abbreviation for National Park Service.
Pop-up: Refers to any trailer, camper van, or pickup truck slide-in camper that has an entire roof or portion of the roof that can be raised for extra room. These often also include parts that can be unfolded or slid out to increase square footage (usually beds) as well. Everything is meant to be collapsed and stowed away when the trailer or vehicle is moving.
Potable: Usually in reference to water. Safe to drink.
Pull-thru or Pull-through: A campsite that allows you to pull in one end and out the other, eliminating the need to back in your motorhome or trailer.
Rig: A term borrowed from truckers to refer to your trailer and tow vehicle. Also, many motorhome and camper van owners will refer to their vehicle as their rig.
RV: Recreational Vehicle is now used as a general term for all trailers and vehicles with living accommodations. In the past, it only referred to actual vehicles with engines (and some feel it should still only refer to those) but has come to include trailers – mostly as the result of making it easier for dealers who carry both to advertise them under one umbrella.
Shore power: A phrase borrowed from ships, when they drew power from shore while docked, In the case of RV’s it refers electricity provided from an outside source.
Slide: (also, Slide-out) A part of an RV that can extend outwards, usually from the side but sometimes from the rear, to give extra living space.
Slide in: A camping unit that slides into a pickup truck to create a temporary RV.
Snowbird: Someone who lives in the northern part of the United States, or in Canada, but heads down to warmer areas in the southern U.S. for the winter.
Solar: The practice of using the sun for electricity or heating. Some systems are as simple as black plastic pipes on the roof to heat and store water. Other, more complicated setups use solar panels to generate electricity, usually for recharging batteries.
SP: An abbreviation for “State Park” but, honestly, most people just say State Park since it takes just as long to pronounce as the abbreviation.
Stabilizing jacks/Stabilizers: Used as extra support under an RV to prevent excessive movement (bouncing or rocking) while the RV is parked. Many of them can also be used to level the RV (again, while parked).
Super C: A motorhome style that resembles an 18-wheeler highway truck.
Sway control: A device to prevent trailers from swaying or swinging from side-to-side while being towed in windy conditions, or on bad roads.
Tag axle: A third axle located behind the rear drive axle of a motorhome.
Tandem axle: (or Dual axles) Refers to two rear axles on a motorhome or two axles on a camper trailer or RV.
Teardrop trailer: One style of small, lightweight camper trailers that, not surprisingly, have a teardrop shape when viewed the side.
Toad: A play on the word “towed”. A fun nickname and RV’ers inside joke for a vehicle towed behind an RV.
Toy hauler: Any RV, motorhome or trailer, with a large storage area at the back for hauling quads, dirt bikes, golf carts or other “toys”. The large door often does double-duty as ramp for loading and unloading.
Tow vehicle: Any vehicle that pulls an RV trailer or fifth wheel
Travel trailer: Technically any RV that needs to be pulled behind a vehicle
Truck camper: A camping unit that slides into a pickup truck to create a temporary RV.
USFS: An acronym for United States Forestry Service.
Wallydocking Boondocking in a Walmart parking lot.
Winterize: All the required steps to prepare an RV for winter storage or travelling in below freezing conditions.
W/E/S: An abbreviation for water, electric, and sewer – most often used to label campsites or RV sites.
Yamping: Similar to “moochdocking”. Usually parking your RV in the yard or driveway of a friend or family member, however there are some organizations which allow RV owners to “trade” time at each others’ homes.