A Guide to Common RV Abbreviations and Slang
Hang around these parts and you might see some weird abbreviations that you don’t understand. Or even RV specific slang.
This is your guide to everything RV abbreviations and slang so you’ll at least be able to follow along with the RV conversations around you. Soon, even newbies will be talking like grizzled old RV veterans.
Yes, we RVers are kind of a weird lot. We’ve come up with a language all our own.
But let’s start translating that for newbies.
Types of RVs Explained
RV stands for recreational vehicle. It is a generic term that encompasses all types of recreational vehicles – Class A motor homes, Class C motor homes, Class B vans, travel trailers, and fifth wheels. Another generic term for RVs are Rigs.
A Big Rig means that it is a very large RV. The definitions can vary, but typically the RV is over 35 or 36 feet. Common issues for big rigs involve parking as many campgrounds have limited spots that can accommodate the larger RVs.
RVs with Engines
Class A Motor homes look like the big tour buses and are also referred to as a Coach. They have an engine and are self-propelled. Class A motor homes can be gas or diesel powered. If the motor home has a diesel engine, you may here it referred to as a diesel pusher or a diesel puller (with or without the diesel). A Diesel Pusher means the engine is mounted at the rear of the RV and the engine pushes the RV forward. A Diesel Puller means the engine is mounted in the front, like a gas engine, and pulls the RV forward.
Class C Motor homes meanwhile have a space over the drivers’ compartment called a Cabover (over the drivers cabin). Often this is a bunk bed or sleeping space. If not needed for sleeping space, many people have turned this area into additional storage space. Like their Class A cousins, the Class C motorhome has an engine and is self-propelled.
Class B Motor Homes are also self-propelled motor homes but are on a minivan chassis. This means they are the smallest of the self-propelled motor homes.
Van Conversion is a van that has been converted into livable space, similar to Class B motor homes.
Schoolie or Bus Conversion is an old school bus converted into an RV and living space.
Overlander this is an RV that is specifically designed for long trips in very rough terrain. Think the Mexican outback. Often Jeeps that include tents, these are often custom built rigs designed specifically with their owner in mind.
RVs without Engines
Travel Trailers meanwhile are not self-propelled, meaning they have no engine. You’ll need a separate tow vehicle for these RVs. TT, a common internet abbreviation for travel trailers, attach to the tow vehicle at the hitch at the bumper. Thus, these are often called bumper pulls.
A Pop-Up Camper is a type of travel trailer that folds down into a small trailer for storage and transport and then “pops up” into a larger living space at your camping spot. Pop-ups often have canvas walls and screen windows similar to a tent. Also known as PUPs.
Fifth Wheels are similar to travel trailers in that they are not self-propelled and need a tow vehicle. Unlike travel trailers, these need special adapters in the bed of the truck to hook up to the tow vehicle. Fifth wheels have living space, often a bedroom, in the space over the bed of the tow truck. These are also referred to as a Fiver, 5er, and 5ver. So many RV abbreviations and slang just for fifth wheels!
Truck Camper sits over the bed of a truck. Also called a Slide In, since it slides into the truck bed.
Other RV Descriptions
Toy Hauler is a specific type of RV that is designed specifically to haul things like ATVs, motor bikes, and fun outdoor toys. The storage space for these “toys” typically has liners similar to what you would find in a truck bed, to be easily washed when dirt accumulates and a ramp to get the toys in and out of the back of the RV. This space may not be as well insulated as the interior living space. Traditionally these have been fifth wheels, although you are seeing some Class As and Cs move in this direction.
Bunk House is an RV floor plan that has bunk beds in it.
Park Model is a type of travel trailer that is designed to be parked at a campground or other location and not moved. These often do not have (or have very limited) holding tanks and may even have more permanent plumbing installed.
Parts of the RV
Four Season Package means that the RV has been designed or built with camping all year round. Typically this means that it is designed for camping in colder weather, with enclosed Underbelly, the plumbing guts under the main living space, and better insulation throughout. This may even include such features as double-pane windows,
Basement is the storage area underneath the living space, typically only accessible from the outside. This is a great area to store things like grills, outdoor equipment and accessories. Pass Through Storage means that you can go from one side of the RV to the other in the basement storage area.
Toad is the internet slang for a towed vehicle. When you say towed outloud, it sounds like toad (the frog) and somewhere, somehow it got changed into toad. You’ll also see the towed vehicle referred to as the Dinghy.
Air bags are part of some higher end RV’s suspension systems and act as shock absorbers.
Jack Pads are pads that you place under the jacks to prevent them from sinking into soft ground where the jacks may get stuck. Also useful to assist in leveling when the ground is uneven. (Landing gear and Jack Pads pictured to the left) Learn how to make your own jack pads
Heat Pump or Heat Strip is usually added on to the RV’s air conditioning unit and can produce heat. It is typically good until about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Below 40 degrees, you’ll need to run the RV’s furnace.
Slides are the parts of the RV that “slide” out to create a larger interior living space.
TPMS The abbreviation for Tire Pressure Monitoring System, which monitors the condition of your tires. Higher end RVs and passenger cars/trucks often have these systems built-in; others have to add these on after-market.
RV Water System Basics
Holding Tanks are the water tanks in the RV. There are three types of holding tanks:
- Black Tank is something that RVers love to complain about. This is where the toilet waste goes. Read more about black tanks
- Gray Tank is another waste water tank, but specifically for sinks and showers. This waste water is typically not as harmful if spilled and some areas may allow you to “dump” on the ground. Read more about gray tanks
- Freshwater Tank holds the clean water that you can use in the RV for toilet flushing, washing dishes, showering, and drinking.
Water Pump is the equipment that pumps water out of the freshwater tank and to the sink, shower, or toilet. Typically not needed when you are on City Water.
Stinky Slinky is the sewer hose. Make sure you have a good one.
To Sanitize means to clean the freshwater tanks and plumbing. Great side effect is that it often helps clean the black and gray tanks as well.
Dump means to empty the black and gray waste water tanks. This is done at a dump stations if you are boondocking or are in a campground without full hookups.
RV 101: Electrical Systems
Chassis Battery or Engine Battery is the battery located in the engine designed for starting the RV in a self-propelled RV.
House Battery is the battery or batteries that power the living space of the RV.
Inverter is what changes the DC power from the battery into AC power needed to power the household outlets in your RV (and thus the electronics like TVs).
Converter changes the AC power into DC power and charges the RV house batteries.
12 Volt or 12V is the DC power. This system runs basics like lights, water pump, and gas appliance circuit boards (ie furnace and propane fridge).
Genset is a generator set. Used to provide power to the living quarters of an RV and charge the batteries when camping without power hookups.
Three Way Fridge is not sex with multiple partners (sorry for those that got their hopes up). Instead this is referring to the fridge that can run on propane, or AC or DC power.
Residential Fridge is a fridge that runs only on electric and not propane. These are the same models that you would find in a sticks and brick home and are often cheaper than 3 way RV fridges.
RV Campground Lingo
Hookups are when you have power, water, and sewer connections right there at your camping spot.
Full Hookups, often abbreviated FHU, are when you have all three types of hook-ups, power, water, and sewer. Some full hookup campgrounds even include cable.
Partial Hookups mean that you have only some of the hookups, often water and power but no sewer. In a campground listing this may be listed as W/E for water and electric hookups only.
Shore Power is another slang term that RVers use for power hookups.
City Water is another term for water hookups. You are on “City Water” when you have a water hookup and don’t need to use the on-board water pump.
Dump Station is where you go to empty the RV black and gray waste tanks when you do not have a full hookup at your camping spot.
Burn Ban means that you are not permitted to have campfires. This can be by law, regulation, or campground policy, often because of fire risks due to drought.
10 Year Rule is a rule that RV resorts and private campgrounds will use to prohibit older and unsightly RVs from staying at the campgrounds. This is more common at higher end RV resorts.
55 and up is another private RV campground rule where the RVers are all of a certain age (55 and up). The activities and the amenities are all geared for older RVers and are not typically kid or family friendly.
US Government Agency RV Abbreviations
NPS is the US National Park Service that maintains our National Parks and the campgrounds within those parks. RV Camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, New River Gorge, West Virginia
COE means the Army Corp of Engineers. They have some awesome campgrounds, including McKinney Campground at Lake Allatoona, Georgia.
BLM means the US Bureau of Land Management. These are usually not campgrounds per se but rather large swaths of land. In some of these areas, you are permitted to camp without hookups (ie boondock). BLM lands are more prevalent in the Western parts of the United States.
Who Are RVers
Pilot is the driver. The Navigator is the passenger that is typically responsible for reading maps and giving the driver directions. Both terms are borrowed from airplanes.
Full Timers means that the RV owners are living full-time in their RV, without a separate sticks and bricks, which is what RVers call traditional housing (no matter if that was a house, condo, apartment, or townhouse). This is often abbreviated as FT.
Weekenders typically only use their RVs on weekends or short vacations.
Part Timers means people that live in their RVs only some of the time but not full-time. These are often Snowbirds are people from the north that go south during winter (like migratory birds do). Also called RV Sometimers
Fur Babies are the four-legged RVers commonly known as pets. Read more about RVing with Dogs
Slang for What RVers Do
Boondocking is when you camp in your RV without hookups. So boondocking means that you are fully self-contained – you bring your own water, produce your own power (batteries, generators, solar), and store your waste water. This is also called Dry Camping or Primitive Camping. Read More About Dry Camping
Wallydocking means to boondock at Wal-Mart or similar overnight stops. Read More about Overnight RV Parking
Moochdocking is when you are camping for free on someone’s land or property, often a family member or friend’s house. If you are lucky, you can get a water hookup (from their garden hose) and maybe even 15 amp power (household electric and not 30 amp or 50 amp power hookups found at campgrounds). Also referred to as Driveway Surfing.
Flat Towing or Four Wheels Down means towing a vehicle behind the Class A or Class C motor homes with all four wheels on the ground. Using this towing method, you won’t need a separate tow dolly or trailer to carry your toad. Motorhome Magazine produces an annual guide to Dinghy Towing that is invaluable for car shoppers if you are interested in finding vehicles that you can flat tow.
Caravan is a group of RVers traveling together. Although in Europe, caravan means RVs, typically similar to a small Class C or large Class B.
RV mods or modifications are when RVers modify their RVs to make them more livable or unique. Common RV mods include ripping out the carpet to put in laminate flooring, painting the RV, upgrading RV features like showers, and ripping out bunks to add RV offices.
Winterize is the process that part-timers and weekenders go through to prepare their RVs for winter storage, which typically includes cleaning, dumping tanks, and clearing the pipes of all water to prevent busted pipes during freezing temperatures. Read More about RV Winterization
Any More RV Abbreviations or Slang?
Don’t feel bad because others probably have your same questions.
Comment below and I’ll explain what the terms mean to RVers.
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