Checklist: How to Set Up and Break Down Your Campsite

May 5, 2023 | Camping Tips, Migration

Checklist: How to Set Up and Break Down Your Campsite

Taking your RV at the campground for the first time can feel overwhelming. Here’s everything you need to know about setting up and breaking down camp.

By Mara Kuhn & Kerri Cox

We’ve all been there. We’ve got our trailer hooked up and ready to go on a camping adventure. We’ve gone through the whole process in our heads over and over. “Did I hook the travel trailer properly? Did I secure all our loose items?” And yet, as you pull away, you wonder what you might find when you open your trailer door at your destination.

You’ll develop your own process the more you camp, but setting up your campsite can be intimidating the first time. With practice and a helpful checklist, you’ll be camping like a pro in no time. 

Benefits of an RV Setup and Teardown Checklist

A setup and teardown checklist can help keep you organized and ready for adventure at a moment’s notice. Want to get away this weekend? No problem. Packing up quickly to avoid a storm or meet up with a friend? Easy. When you know exactly what you need to do to hit the road and then set up when you reach your destination, you can take some of the guesswork out of your next trip. Plus, you can rest assured that the last time you packed up your camper, you stored everything away in its proper place, so it’s ready for use.

Checklists can also help you keep your camper in tip-top shape, so you don’t get stuck handling unexpected repairs or issues on the road. If you see anything amiss, make a note of it and check it out the next time you’re able. The more familiar you are with your rig, the better you’ll be at spotting issues and handling them promptly.

The setup and teardown steps that you take will depend somewhat on which type of camper you have (motorhome owners won’t have to unhook their trailer, for example), but the principles are the same. Take a look through the lists below, pull out what is needed for your particular RV, and get camping.

Campsite Arrival and Setup

Step 1: Survey Your Campsite

When you arrive at the campground, start by surveying your campsite before you begin setting up camp. These should be your first steps:

  • Locate the electrical, water, and sewer hookups before you park your RV. This will help you decide exactly where to park based on the length of your water hose, electrical cord, and sewer hose. 
  • Look for potential obstructions, including low-hanging tree limbs and anything that can interfere with your slide-outs. 
  • Assess the slope of your site.

Prioritize your sewage hookup since it’s usually your shortest connection.

Step 2: Parking Your RV

Once you’ve picked the ideal spot within your campsite, it’s time to park your RV. The exact steps will depend on whether you have a back-in or pull-through site and whether you have a towable or motorized RV. 

As you park your RV, follow these steps:

  • Level your RV left to right. Don’t attempt to level it from front to back just yet. You may need stackable or rolling leveling blocks to properly level your trailer. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step, as your fridge, slide-outs, plumbing, and other components may not operate well on a tilt.
  • Chock the tires on both sides of the rig. This is an important safety step, as it prevents your RV from moving. Never unhitch a towable trailer without properly chocking the tires first. If you’re using behind-the-tire chocks, place them on the front and back of the tires.

X-shaped chocks put pressure between the tires and allow you to lock down tires that are up on leveling blocks, when a normal behind-the-tire chock wouldn’t work.

Step 3: Unhitching Your Trailer

Once your rig is secured, it’s time to unhitch your trailer. If you drive a motorized rig, you can move on to the next step.

Unhitching is the process of separating your trailer from your tow vehicle. Before starting, make sure you understand the different parts of your towing gear. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Lower your tongue jack. You may use a big block of wood or a trailer jack block
  • Unhook your chains and breakaway cable. If you have an electric tongue jack, leave the electrical wire hooked up for now.
  • Remove the sway bar and weight distribution bars. Set these somewhere out of the way. 
  • Flip the locking lever and raise the tongue jack off of the vehicle’s hitch receiver. If you have trouble getting the hitch to release, try to carefully rock the tow vehicle or step on the bumper to apply more leverage.
  • Pull the tow vehicle up a few inches. Don’t go too far, or else you’ll break the electrical connection.
  • Adjust the tongue jack to properly level the RV from front to back. Once you have finished this step, you can move your tow vehicle.