A Guide for the New RV Tailgater
Are you a long-time fan that decided 2016 was the season to jump into RV tailgating? While I have been tailgating with the RV tailgaters since I was a freshman, I jumped into the RV (ownership) life before the 2014 season. As a new RV tailgater, I had a lot to learn about the RV Tailgate Life – the RV maintenance, the preparation, the costs, and the unique family you create when you join an RV tailgating group. It’s more than a regular tailgate since you spend whole weekends, not just days, together.
Here’s a guide to help you navigate the wonderful world of RV tailgating.
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What Do We Call This?
In RVTexasYall’s write-up of RV boondocking for baseball they explained the difference between boondocking and dry camping: “Boondocking is basically dry camping, or camping in your RV without hookups. Some RVers only use the term boondocking when they are dry camping out in the middle of nowhere, in nature, away from campgrounds.”
I’d go one step further and just say that tailgating is another form of dry camping. We obviously are not in the middle of nowhere, but we still don’t have hookups. And there are other things are just a little bit different over in this part of the RV Life that differentiate tailgating from regular dry camping.
See Also: Guide to RV Tax Deductions
Preparing Your RV
You should arrive to the tailgate with full freshwater tanks and empty black and gray water tanks. Your typical RV tailgating spot will not have water hookups nor dump stations. So you’ll have to live on what you bring with you and what you can carry out.
To maximize your water supply, you’ll want to make sure that everyone that will use water in the RV knows how to properly use the toilet. This includes letting everyone know what can and cannot go down the drain. You will also want to spread the word about proper water saving techniques. Ever heard of a Navy shower? Learn to turn off the water while you are showering.
If you are a part-timer RVer like us, you may also want to consider adding extra freshwater tanks to your RV. The previous owner of Starter RV added extra water tanks under the bed. While full-time RV owners probably don’t want to give up the storage space under the bed, it is great for bondocking and tailgating. Often, you are only limited by your water supply.
Just like the tailgating spots won’t have water hookups, you are generally on your own for power as well. So arrive with a full tank of gas for your generator and fully charged batteries (house and engine). Bonus points for those of you that have converted to solar and can get away with not running your generators all weekend. Unfortunately, you will find that most RV tailgaters have not done this as the cost is prohibitive for most part-time RVers.
Remember, the first rule of the RV Tailgate Life is to not f*ck it up. First and foremost, this means not to kill yourself or anyone else. With RVs parked in close proximity to each other, you’ll want to make sure to add a Genturi RV Exhaust System to your RV gear. The Genturi redirects the exhaust up and over the RV instead of into your neighbor’s bedroom or trapped between the RVs.
To protect you, your family, and your guests inside your own RV, install carbon monoxide and fire detectors. Test the batteries at the beginning of each tailgating season. Replace the batteries as necessary. We like the 10 year sealed battery versions; you won’t need to hard-wire these into your RV electrical system nor worry about the batteries dying.
See Also: Must Have RV Safety Gear
Parking and Setting Up Your RV Tailgate
If possible before your first game, drive the route in your car, looking to make sure that you will be able to make all turns and avoid low-hanging obstructions (bridges, trees, lights, power lines, etc). A word of caution, no matter how many times you have driven the route, things change! Be on the lookout for unexpected branches and other new obstructions. If you can’t drive it beforehand, check out the Street View on Google Maps.
Local and campus police may block off certain roads, especially near the stadium or other popular tailgating areas on game days. Check the game day traffic and parking plan on the school football website before you leave home. One of the good things about RV tailgating is that many RVers come in the night before, with tailgating Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. While this means more tailgating and fewer road closures, you may have to deal with rush hour traffic getting in. Be patient and take your time arriving.
Don’t follow the GPS blindly, which is even more important in the RV than a car – you just can’t get an RV out of everywhere the GPS may take you!
For your home tailgates, you’ll probably buy a season parking pass along with your season tickets. For away games, you’ll have to look into individual game passes. Some schools are better about welcoming visiting RV fans than others are. Almost every school will charge you significant money for RV parking. At this point, it’s just a cost of the RV tailgate life. Either you suck it up and pay the money or you don’t tailgate.
If you are on a longer trip or plan to explore around the area, you may want to bring a toad or towed vehicle. Check with the school first to find out whether you’ll have to pay for a separate car parking pass and what the rules are on re-entry. You may also be limited to where you can park the car and it may not be next to your RV. You may find it is easier to use Uber, Lyft, or taxis if you are leaving the RV lot and don’t have another tailgater with a car to pick you up. Plus, it’ll save you gas mileage for towing your extra vehicle.
When dry camping in a city setup, RVers will generally recommend that you limit your setup. This means you’ll need to keep your slides in, limit the outside setup, and typically only stay one or two nights. Think overnight RV parking at WalMart or Cracker Barrel. When tailgating, we change the rules completely.
At most schools, you’ll be able to fully setup a tailgate. This means you can extend your RV slides, raise your flags, setup your tailgating tents and lower your awnings. Many tailgating spots will limit how many spaces you are allotted and how far your tailgate setup can go. Don’t block the flow of traffic, especially early on before all the RVers have setup. After all the RVs are in, some schools will let you establish a block party of sorts. Moveable things, like cornhole boards, chairs, and tents can be placed in the streets. If emergency vehicles need to get through, these are easily moved.
Some schools or lots could have quiet hours when music needs to be turned down. Typically, tailgaters will run their RV generators all night long, especially in the south when we need our air conditioners! In any case, be kind to your neighbors and follow any unofficial rules as well as school published official rules.
Leaving the Tailgating Lot
Remember the camping motto of “leave no trace?” Same applies to tailgating. If you want to be able to do this year in and year out, you need to be a good visitor to the schools (whether home or away). Make sure to clean up your tailgating area.
Some schools will provide trash bags and pickup trash after the tailgaters are gone. If you are lucky to be at one of these schools, make sure you bag all your trash and be helpful by putting all the bags in an easily accessible location. Sometimes the trash pickup will be during the night, after the game. You’ll want to make sure they don’t disturb you while you are sleeping off the drunkenness.
If the school or lot does not provide trash pickup, look for a dumpster you can deposit everything in or take it with you and toss it in your household trash. Whatever you do, don’t be like those Georgia fans that left 70 tons of trash for school officials to pickup.
Just like when you were driving in, now you’ll need to get out, avoiding road closures and low-hanging obstructions. Don’t be surprised if you have to take a different route, due to gameday traffic. You should try to wait until the post-game traffic has cleared. No reason to be sitting in traffic when you could be watching other games on TV.
Some schools and NFL stadiums have rules about how long you can stay after a game (typically 2 hours), so make sure you are prepared to leave on time. Remember, the first rule of the RV Tailgate Life still applies: don’t f*ck it up now by drinking and driving! We all love our adult beverages, but your first responsibility as an RV driver is to be safe.
Final Words of Advice for the New RV Tailgater
Your best bet as a new RV tailgater is to find a group of seasoned RV tailgaters from your favorite team to tailgate and travel with. These tailgaters have already been around the block, so to speak, and are full of great information. These guys can tell you where to park and when to not even bother taking the RV on a roadtrip. It’s always more fun to tailgate with friends and as a group anyways, so make some new friends.
We go through all this hassle because at the end of the game, the RV tailgate is fun! Don’t forget that you are suppose to enjoy all this effort. You get to spend some great time with family and friends, cheering on your favorite team. And the community you will build will help you celebrate the wins and get past the losses. Happy tailgating new RV tailgater!