RV Jargon: Common RV Lingo Decoded

RV lingo can seem like a foreign language to those who aren’t familiar with the lifestyle. Did you just buy an RV (or are thinking about it) and can’t wait to travel? Do you dream of sunrises on mountain ranges, animals grazing in wide-open spaces, the smooth rumble of the road passing by beneath you, having the conveniences of your home while camping, or even just living in a big city and not having to pay sky-high rent prices?

Well, as you are researching, thinking about booking that first campsite, or considering signing that RV park lease – here is some terminology that will inevitably come up as you navigate your way through RVs and RV life. It will make a world of difference if you’ve at least heard/read these words once before!

RV Jargon: Common RV Lingo Decoded 7

Types of RVs

Let’s start off with the basics (you should definitely start here if you haven’t purchased your RV

  • RV/Recreational Vehicle/Rig – a vehicle or trailer with amenities that accommodate living quarters. This covers all ‘types’ of RVs, which we will dig into below. A perfect conversation starter would be, “That’s a nice rig you got there!”
  • Motorhome – an RV with a motor in it. You can drive these straight to your destination and have all the amenities of a home. This is probably what most people picture in their minds when somebody mentions an RV.
  • Travel trailer (TT)/Bumper Pulls – a non-motorized trailer. A travel trailer is pulled behind a truck (or another vehicle) using a hitch.
  • Fifth Wheel/Fiver/5er – also a non-motorized trailer/travel trailer. A fifth wheel requires a large, heavy-duty truck to tow. The truck used for towing will have a “U” shaped hitch coupling found in the bed, and it will allow the trailer to have another point to rest its weight.
  • Class A motorhome/Coach – a large, luxurious, RV. These are built using either a commercial bus chassis (bonus word – chasis – the outer framework or base frame of your RV), a commercial truck chassis, or a motor vehicle chassis. Usually, they will have at least 2 slides in order to expand the living area.
  • Pusher/diesel pusher – a type of Class A motorhome that has a diesel engine in the rear of the RV. You’ll typically get more gas mileage with one of these rigs as opposed to a gas-powered
  • Class B motorhome/Campervan – essentially, a customized van. These are built on a van chassis. They have no slide outs and are generally the least expensive, smallest, and easiest to drive.
  • Class C motorhome – a more compact version of a Class A. The chassis is usually a van or truck base, and their distinguishable feature is an over-cab sleeping area.


RV Hardware Terminology

  • Black tank – this tank holds sewage. Every time you flush your toilet, it has to go somewhere! This tank tends to scare new RVers, but as long as you flush it out regularly, you should have no issues.
  • Grey tank – this tank holds water that goes down your sinks and shower drain. Some RVs don’t have a grey tank, which means all of this water would go into your black tank.
  • Fresh tank – this tank holds potable water for human consumption. You would fill this tank when you plan to go camping somewhere that doesn’t have water readily available. Essentially, it’s your drinking water storage.
  • Slides/slide-outs – these are sections that extend from your trailer (once you’re parked) in order to make more room inside. They are usually activated by a button or a mechanical lever.
  • Leveling blocks/jack pads/stacker blocks/stabilizer pads – these are what you rest your RV on in order to make it level. These are especially helpful on uneven surfaces because you can
    put as many bricks as you need on each corner! They also keep your jacks from sinking into the ground.
  • Wheel chocks – used to keep your tires from moving once you’re parked. They are curved and hug an edge of your tire in order to stabilize your trailer. Think of them as parking brakes!

Stinky slinky is RV lingo for the hose used to dump your black tank.

RV Components

  • Basement – the storage located underneath the floor of the RV. Motorhomes and fifth wheels have the largest basements.
  • Wet bath – an all-in-one shower and toilet combo! The entire room is the shower, it sounds a little strange, but the toilet and sink are designed to get wet in this room when the shower is on. (Makes it easier to clean if you ask me!)
  • Toad – this is RV slang for ‘towed vehicle’. It refers to the vehicle you tow BEHIND your motorhome. People will tow a vehicle behind their motorhome when they want to have an easier way to get around once their RV is parked.
  • Tow vehicle – this refers to the vehicle that is towing your trailer. It will be the vehicle in FRONT of your towable RV.
  • Stinky slinky – a drain hose that is used to dump your RV waste tank. One end connects to your RV and the other end connects to the dump station. Also known as a sewer hose.
  • LP tanks (liquified petroleum)/DOT (Department of Transportation) cylinders – these are propane tanks. Many RVs have the ability to use some combination of propane and electricity for power and heat. Most people have extra tanks on hand to use when they go camping somewhere without an electric hookup.

RV Life

  • Shore power – the electricity source you plug your RV into. The more you use your RV, you will become familiar with the number of amps needed to run multiple appliances at once. Common
    RV connections are 30 and 50 amps.
  • Partial hookups – usually used to refer to your RV being plugged into an electricity source and a water source. A partial hookup will be missing one of the big 3 – electricity, water, or sewage.
  • Full hookups – this includes shore power, but also city water and a sewer dump directly on your campsite! This is what you will have at an RV park and sometimes you can find full hookups in remote campsites as well (but they will usually have a higher fee associated with that particular site).
  • Boondocking/Dry camping – camping in remote areas that don’t have any hookups and are typically not anywhere near a developed campground. It’s probably what you picture when someone says they are going off-grid for a few days.
  • BLM (Bureau of Land Management) – an organization that has partnered with various state and local agencies to manage America’s undeveloped public lands for visitors. Their website offers remote and fairly inexpensive camping opportunities.
  • Dump station – a center where you can dump your black and grey holding tanks. Most campsites will have dump stations either right on site or very close by.
  • Part-timers – people who live in their RV part-time. Most part-timers have a house but enjoy spending long periods of time traveling.
  • Full-timers – people who live in their RV full time. Some full-timers travel constantly, making a living by working remotely. Other full-timers live at campsites, oftentimes enjoying rent prices much lower than apartment complexes.
  • Snowbirds – people who travel from the cold, northern states to the south during the winter. Here in Texas, we see many snowbirds come through.
  • Workcamping – a situation where people work at parks in exchange for a free campsite! Many work campers receive a paycheck and simply have a rent-free place to park their RV and live in. (This term is also used to describe anyone who works from their RV, as in a “working camper,” but most commonly is used to describe the former situation.)

Towable RVs are one of many types of RVs on the road today.

Now that you’ve read through this list, don’t let RV language intimidate you! Fellow campers are always willing to lend a helping hand to a newbie. With practice, the jargon will just come to you naturally. Having an RV is a wonderful way to connect with nature and other people who also love the outdoors. If this is your starting point, your best adventure is out there waiting for you!

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RV Jargon: Common RV Lingo Decoded 8
RV Jargon: Common RV Lingo Decoded 9


Gaby Jimenez

Gaby and her husband, David, have been full-time RVers for the past 4 years, along with their 2 dogs and cat (yes, all in the RV!). She is a freelance writer and loves to travel to national and state parks with her family. In Austin, her and David enjoy camping, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, bike riding and of course, finding new places to explore with their dogs.

2 Responses to “RV Jargon: Common RV Lingo Decoded

  • Gaby Jimenez
    Robert Pimentel
    3 years ago

    don’t forget Dinghy is what some call their towed.

  • Awesome article, thanks Gaby! I feel so much more prepared to go out and get my own RV.
    P.S. – thanks for the clarification about “Toad”, I kept thinking everyone had pet toads, silly me!

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