RV Departure Checklist – Use This RV Checklist Before Driving (Printable)

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Do you have an RV departure checklist? If not, it’s time to put one together.

Why do you need an RV departure checklist before driving down the road?

Well, imagine for a second that you’re heading out for a drive in your new RV. The dogs are along for the ride and everyone’s excited to go on an adventure. As you’re turning onto the main road, you suddenly hear crashing noises as the drawers fly open and items fall out onto the floor. This scares the dogs and they try scrambling onto your lap and under your feet causing you to struggle to control the 20,000 pound recreational vehicle you’re driving.

Sound a bit far fetched? Well, it happened to us. While I was able to safely stop our small Class A motorhome, we realized the danger of missing small details before getting on the road in our RV. This incident was the impetus for us to put together our first RV departure checklist. We shared this incident in more detail and a few others in this episode of the RVing with Joe & Kait podcast.

Read more about the adventures and misadventures of RV living in my second book, Tales From the Open Road.

RV Departure Checklist

RV Departure Checklist

Having a well thought out and complete pre-travel RV checklist will improve safety on the road and make sure important tasks are not forgotten. RVs of every kind are complex with many things that need to be checked prior to getting on the road. Add in a tow vehicle and the complexity goes up.

What should be on your RV pre-trip checklist?

In short, everything should be on your pre-trip RV checklist. When we created our pre-departure checklist, we started on the outside of the RV and then moved to the inside. For example,

  • Tire pressure checked and visual inspection
  • Bay doors locked
  • Hoses and cables disconnected

We listed each item that needed to be checked and included instructions as to what needed to be done. Doors needed to be “locked” and hoses needed to be “disconnected.” We followed the same process for the inside of the RV which ended up becoming quite a long RV checklist before driving down the road.

That said, we realized that in times where we were in a rush, there were certain things we could skip and would just focus on the critical items. For example, we didn’t have to check tire pressure EVERY time we got on the road, but we did HAVE to make sure that we were disconnected from shore power.

We’ve found checklists so helpful that now that we’re part-time RVers, we have a checklist for the house that we use before each camping trip to make sure that everything in the house is buttoned up BEFORE we leave. Nothing like getting an hour away from the house when you realize you left the garage open (ask me how I know).

How to create an RV checklist

The best way I’ve found to describe how to put an effective RV checklist together is to go through the process of taking your RV from camping mode to driving mode. Each thing you need to do to convert it from camping to driving, put on the checklist. Even mundane things like putting the TV remote away. I missed that one and ended up having to fish it out from under a slide because it went flying one day.

You will forget or miss things. If you do, make sure to add them to the checklist. It always helps having someone with you putting the list together as they may think of things you don’t.

Seperate the interior from the exterior

Organize your checklist by area of the RV. We typically start with the exterior and then move inside. This makes life easier so you’re not going back and forth during the pre-trip checklist review. We also like to group things together when it makes sense. For example, we put the water pump and water heater check next to each other because I would be at that panel checking one and could quickly check the other.

If you ever put things on your roof like satellite dishes, portable solar panels, etc, ensure that the rooftop becomes a section in your RV departure checklist.

Should you add your campsite to the checklist?

This is a personal preference but we typically don’t, especially because we don’t stay at many campgrounds. That said, if you do, you may want to add a section that goes through policing your campsite – picking up trash, dog poop, looking for any items left behind, floor mats, etc.

How to go through your checklist

If you have multiple people, it helps if one person always reads the list through and the other checks each item. For example, since Kait is the one who puts the lists together, she reads through them and then I will provide a “Check” or some other verbal confirmation that it’s been done. If we find that something has not been done, put away, etc then I will explain what was missing and how it was rectified. “The bay doors are closed but I had to lock the rear bay door.” This way if something is consistently missing, then you can pay extra attention to it going forward.

I highly recommend visually confirming each item on the list. We’ve been in a rush and I will have thought I did something, when in fact I skipped it. I know it sounds tedious but the result could be annoying (like a drawer coming open) or catastrophic, like your tow car coming uncoupled from the RV on the highway…yep that’s happened to us (although we got EXTREMELY lucky and avoided any damage).

I’ve also found that there are times where I might be having a bad day and I really don’t want to be asked if I really did put something away or not. I’ve learned to take a breath and go through the process so that we’re not dealing with bigger issues down the road.

Update and modify your RV departure checklist

Each time we move into a new RV, we update our departure checklist. To give you a brief summary, we started RV life in a Class A motorhome towing a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and traveling with two large dogs. Then we downsized to a ProMaster Class B RV and also tested a series of Class B RVs by different manufacturers and then lived out of a 4×4 pop-up truck camper for two years. We now have a Class B RV again that we use part-time.

Some important items Not to Forget on Your Checklist

Propane. Visually check the tank(s), make sure you don’t smell any gas and turn the tanks off (if you do that prior to driving). This is also a good time to check your propane level.

Appliances. Do you have a dishwasher or washing machine? If so, Do these need to be emptied or stowed before driving?

Vent(s). Check and close vents. These can be annoying if they’re open while going down the road and have the potential to break.

Stabilizing Jacks. While most hydraulic jacks SHOULD retract on their own, never assume and visually verify they’ve all retracted before driving off. Even more important to check manual jacks prior to leaving.

Drains. Ensure that any water or holding tank drains are fully closed. I know I’ve forgotten to close our grey tank valve and heard water dripping when we used our sink for the first time.

Campground connections. Verify that your water hose, sewer line(s), shore power, etc is all disconnected and stowed. Also check any TV cable cords and outdoor lights you may have set up at camp.

Wheel chocks, jack pads and leveling blocks. Ensure that those have been picked up and put away. It’s VERY easy to drive off without something like a leveling block when you can’t grab it until you’ve driven off with it. I’ve left a few pads behind because I simply forgot about them and drove off.

Vehicle fluids. You want to make sure that your vehicles vital fluids are not only full but not leaking anywhere. I always like to do a quick visual check of the oil level, brake fluid, etc and then get down and take a look under the vehicle – looking for any drips or wet spots under your vehicle AND the camper (if you tow a trailer). I’ve found oil leaks and other things during these checks on our 2000 F350 when we lived out of the truck camper on it.

I hope our checklist will give you a good starting point for creating your own RV checklist before driving down the road.

RV Checklist Departure

Here is a list of items to consider for your checklist. See our RV Departure Checklist in action in the video below.

Portable solar panel detached and put away
– Carpets and mats put away
– Exterior storage doors locked
– Awning retracted
– Windshield cleaned
– Rear view and side view cameras cleaned
– Tire pressure checked and visual inspection (RV and tow car)
– Hoses and cables disconnected
Portable electrical management system stowed
– Locks and keys collected and stored
– Steps are cleared and carpet is put away
– Antenna down
– Fans on the roof are closed
– Slides in, locked and post-it secured (to remind us to unlock before putting the slides out)
– Kitchen secured
Travel Berkey Water Filter strapped down (Berkey Water System Review)
– Water pump off (we never travel with the pump on because if there is a leak, you won’t hear the pump going down the road and could end up with serious water damage)
– Water heater off
– Lights off including storage bays and closets
– Generator off
– Inverter off
– Bathroom products secured
– Shower door latched
– Toilet flushed (and secured if using a portable toilet)
– Drawers pushed in all the way and locked
– Doors closed
– Refrigerator items secured
– Windows closed
– Dog water bowl level check
– Fuel check
– Windshield wipers in working order
– Leveling jacks retracted
– Steps retracted when engine is on
Leveling blocks and Jack Pads put away
– Tire chock removed and put away
– Tow car in tow mode
– Secure tow car to RV
– Check all safety pins
– Attach brake line to tow car
– Check turn signals and brake lights
Walkie talkies charged and ready to use
– Water, coffee and snacks easily accessible by the passenger

Now it’s time to put together your RV checklist and make sure to use it before you hit the road. Download our checklist and use it as a starting point for yours.

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11 thoughts on “RV Departure Checklist – Use This RV Checklist Before Driving (Printable)”

  1. Being new to van life (Pleasure-Way Lexor FL), I’ve been really appreciating seeing checklists like this shared. “Flush the toilet” made me lol- thanks for the proof that this is a real list!

  2. Have loved following you and Kait! Bought your book and laughed out loud many times!! Many of your trials and tribulations are quite familiar!! Waiting for book 2!!

  3. Joe and Kait,
    Well, we finally have our Chinook Class B van. Should be full time by August 1 or slightly sooner. Wrapping up prior commitments then off we go. Hopefully we will bump into you both along the way.
    all the best,

  4. Thank you for the RV checklist. We are new at this and have already made a couple of mistakes but this will certainly help!!

  5. Hey if y’all are thinking of camping in the cold, I would love to hear what preparations are needed to prevent water and sewer lines from freezing. We are still in the planning stages, haven’t bought the van yet. I’ve heard Ultra Heat makes some good products.


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