For many beginners, one of the main concerns with RV life is the time it takes to set up the RV when arriving at a campground. The good news is that the longer you do this, and the better you know the rig, the shorter the time span it would take you to set up camp.
To answer the question, based on our experience and research:
Setting up a travel trailer with full hookups can take you anything between 10 minutes to 75 minutes, depending on the type of RV, type of site and mostly how experienced you are.
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Note that the upper limit of 75 minutes assumes both that you're new to this and that the site might have some issues so you'll need to put extra time into leveling the trailer and hooking up the connections. In a level site with no need to adjust the connections, even a total newbie shouldn't take more than 20-30 minutes to set up a travel trailer for a stay.
Now, let us break down how we got to these numbers. First, a word about the different RVs and why this post focuses on travel trailers.
Why Setting up a Travel Trailer Is Different from Setting up a Motorhome or Fifth-Wheel Trailer
If you’ve owned fifth-wheel trailers or motorhomes in the past, you might think you’re over all that newbie setup stuff. Setting up your new travel trailer at a campsite will be easy-peasy, right?
The first key difference between travel trailers and motorhomes is parking.
This is easier to do in some ways and harder in others. For one, you’re driving your pickup truck or SUV to tow the travel trailer, so there’s comfort and familiarity there. Driving a motorhome takes time to get used to, as you must adjust to the sheer size and bulk of the vehicle.
Your trailer also isn’t as large as a motorhome is, making maneuverability easier. However, the trailer can jackknife or sway with improper handling. Those are two issues you don’t often have to worry about with a motorhome.
If you’ve towed fifth-wheel trailers in the past, then indeed, setting up a travel trailer at a campsite will be familiar. A lot of the steps are the same, but with one major change: there are no front wheels on a fifth-wheel trailer. Instead, these trailers have legs at the front so they can sit on the bed of your pickup truck. Jacks are more of a necessity to stabilize a fifth-wheel, although you will use jacks for your travel trailer as well.
The Stages of Travel Trailer Setup and How Long Each Takes
As you’re planning your arrival at a campground in the coming days, you’ll have to consider how to set up your travel trailer. We’ll go over the steps for you here. We’ll also include the rough amount of time each part should take you.
- Park your travel trailer on the campground. Time: 2 to 10 minutes.
- Release your trailer from your pickup truck or SUV. Time: 2 to 10 minutes.
- Make sure the trailer is level both side-to-side and front-to-back. Stabilizer jacks will come in handy here. Time: 0 to 15 minutes.
- Set up your wheel chocks. These are wedges that will keep the wheels in place. Time: 2 to 5 minutes.
- Grab the electrical connection cord, plug it into the campground’s electrical hookup, and then restore power to the RV. How you do that exactly depends on your electric setup and that of the camp. Time: 1 to 10 minutes.
- If you have a water hookup at your campsite, you’ll see two hoses: the blackwater sewage hose and the white freshwater hose. Connect these now. You may need to use a water pressure regulator or add extensions. Time: 2 to 15 minutes.
- Set up outdoor seating, the awning, a fire, and any other necessities. Time: 1 to 10 minutes.
How Long Does Setup Take with a Fifth-Wheel Trailer?
As mentioned, the setup processes for a fifth-wheel trailer and travel trailer aren’t too different. You’re likely to spend more time leveling and stabilizing a fifth-wheel because of its two front legs. Each leg will have what are called lock pins. The lock pins take the brunt of the trailer’s weight when it’s at rest. It’s very important then that you get them level the first time.
To do so, you have to lift the jacks to connect them to the lock pins. You must also access the jack control panel door, which lets you adjust jack-leg positioning. Put the trailer lower on the ground by pulling the jack-legs down and then lift the trailer higher by pushing up on the front jack-legs. As per many experienced RVers, jack-legs should sit beneath wooden pads.
If that sounds complicated, don't let it deter you from switching to a 5th wheel at some point. First, here too, practice makes perfect - or at least fast. Secondly, many modern 5th wheels come with automatic systems that make leveling a breeze. You can level the 5th wheel literally at the push of a button.
How About with a Motorhome?
As we mentioned above, parking is sometimes more of a hassle in a motorhome versus a travel trailer. This becomes especially true if you’re driving bigger RVs like Class As or Class Cs.
Once you do get parked and settled, you still have to worry about stabilizing your vehicle. You’ll also have to hook up the motorhome to a source of power. A surge protector prevents permanent, expensive damage to your vehicle’s electrical system.
Then there are the freshwater and blackwater connections. A water regulator may be necessary to keep water pressure at the recommended levels of 40 to 60 pounds per square inch or PSI.
We would estimate then that the amount of time it takes to get your RV set up is comparable to the amount of time you’d spend getting your travel trailer ready. It might take you a little less time to prep your RV, but you probably wouldn’t shave off too many extra minutes.
How to Get Better at Setup
If you’re looking at the above numbers and balking, that’s understandable. Who wants to spend hours setting up their travel trailer for a weekend at a campground? Not you. How can you get better at setup? There’s one way:
That may sound cliché, but it’s true. The more time you spend doing the same thing, the better and faster you can do it. Obviously, the first time you set up your travel trailer at a campground, it’s probably going to take you several hours. There’s no way around that. You have to get a feel for the lay of the land.
Once you stay at campsites and parks more often, setup will become easier and easier. Soon you might even be able to cut your current time in half, getting everything ready in an hour or less!
Saving Time with RV Campground Setup
There are some methods of setup that can help you save time immediately. One of these is knowing the park or campground you’re spending time in. RV and trailer experts recommend getting a map right after parking your vehicle. This way, you can assess how close the site is to facilities which you may want to use - or avoid being close to.
Knowing where to go can help you avoid having to ask for changes after your rig is at the site, so study the map as well as you can. If you can get your hands on a campground map before your trip, this is even better.
Make sure the site is suitable for your length of trailer and that the electricity, sewage and water connections are close enough. If you can, read reviews and look at photos others took of the sites. Your site may not be identical but you might be able to spot issues before arrival - and choose a different campground.
Want to save even more time setting up your travel trailer at a campground? Just follow these tips and hacks:
- Traveling with others? Give every family member a clear task. Let them know what it is while still at home and show them how to do it. Kids can be in charge of many things related to setting up a travel trailer - so use the workforce!
- Always get to the campground as early as possible. Especially during the first few times with your new travel trailer. You might think it’s confusing setting up your travel trailer in daylight for the first time. Imagine having to do it at night.
- If you're only staying for the night and won't need to use your towing vehicle, you might be able to get away with driving into your site and staying hitched. This could save you valuable time - but generally only if the site is level enough.
- Check the location of your sewage opening and hookups before parking and leveling. You don't want to invest time in leveling your rig, only to find out your sewage hose doesn't quite make it to where it needs to go.
- Pack efficiently. For instance, you might stack all the bedding and sleeping bags on a single bed for easy access.
- Double and triple-check that you have all your hookups, connectors, and other essentials before you go for a safe and enjoyable camping trip.
- Know where all your equipment is and make sure you can get to it fast. There are many places where you can store your connectors and hookups - depending on the make and model of your trailer. Make use of them.
In the end, you'll have a level and fully functional travel trailer to enjoy! Whether you're staying in the campground for one night or ten, it's worth putting the time into properly setting up your camper but without stressing too much. After all, you're doing this to enjoy life!
And remember, practice makes perfect. Or at least makes good enough to forget about the hassle and entirely disregard so you can enjoy life in your RV!
And as always, we would love to get feedback from other experienced RVers, so if you can share in a comment what kind of rig you have and how long it takes you to set up your RV in the campground, that would be fantastic. Thank you!
Be sure to check out some of our other helpful guides:
Should I Get a Travel Trailer or Motorhome?
Driving A Motorhome (9 Things You Need To Know Before Getting Behind The Wheel)