Class A motorhome parked at campsite surrounded by fall foliage

RV Terms and Definitions for Full-Time RV Living

We are always on the lookout for the latest innovations in recreational vehicles and RV accessories. It’s astonishing to see the vast amount of products on the market. Maybe a better adjective to use is overwhelming. No one living the RV lifestyle will be surprised when I comment about the equally overwhelming use of acronyms and unique terms. The unique terminology led me to write this post. So here it is, a comprehensive list of RV terms and definitions.

You see, I started the day with an objective to take a deeper dive into the features, options, prices, and consumer reviews across dozens of different power stations. Our team and I have done this before. We have tested Bluetti, BougeRV and other products so, we’re not fazed when we come across terms like LiFePo4, lithium, or 200Wh.

Then I stopped to think, TREKKN wants to serve all outdoor enthusiasts. We aim to provide useful information for beginners and experienced alike. And we’re working hard to fulfill that goal for our readers who are passionate about hiking, camping, traveling by RV, and everything in between.

So we decided to whip up a quick post defining all the terms we are most often asked about as well as many more. I hope it’s helpful as you start (or continue) your RV lifestyle.

List of RV Terms and Definitions

Here are many of the RV terms you will come across during your RV lifestyle. We include simple definitions and/or quick links to usage examples to help you understand the meaning and context of each term.

You can use the search box to search for a specific term. You can also use the small arrows at the top of each column to sort the entire column in alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order.

ASME Propane TankLargest type of propane tanks, the American Society of Mechanic Engineers tanks are typically found on driveable motorhomes such as Class A RVs.
Air CompressorPortable system with air tank that is used for pneumatic applications such as inflating tires and blowing out water from pipes.
AMPThe short reference to ampere, a measure of an electric current unit. RV hookup sites are typically 20-Amp, 30-Amp, or 50-Amp. The power connection to your RV must match the campsite Amp rating. Use a surge protector when necessary.
AwningA heavy fabric structure that extends out (manual or automatic) from the top of the RV to provide shade when RV is parked.
Battery Tender ChargerDevice used to charge and help maintain your vehicle's battery when RV is in storage.
Bayonet FittingDevice that attaches to lug fitting on sewer line, creating an extension that allows user to easily connect and disconnect sewer hose.
Black TankThe holding tank into which the toilet drains.
Black WaterSewage.
BoondockingCamping off-grid without water or power. Also referred to as Dry Camping or Dispersed Camping.
Brake ControllerDevice in tow vehicle to activate the brakes on a travel trailer or fifth wheel.
Breakaway SwitchElectrical switch on travel trailers (connected by a cable to the tow vehicle) that automatically engages the brakes in the event the trailer is separated from the tow vehicle.
BTUUnit of measure of the heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree (F). Air conditioners and furnaces are rated based on BTU.
Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)Amount of weight available for cargo, passengers, liquids, and all other accessories and supplies.
Cargo WeightTotal weight of all passengers, food, clothing, liquids, supplies, and accessories.
Class A RVThe largest category of motorhomes that range in length from 29' to 45'. Average height is 11' to 13'.
Class B RVCampervans, the smallest motorhomes that range in length from 18' to 24'. A newer Class B+ is slightly larger and has recently become popular.
Class C RVClass C RVMidsize motorhomes ranging in length from 30' to 33'. A Super C is a new classification that refers to a slightly larger Class C RV. Sleeping area is typically built-in above the cab area.
Dispersed CampingBoondocking
Dry WeightWeight of an RV as shipped from the manufacturer. Excludes passenger and cargo weight. (also called Shipped Weight)
Excess Flow ValveSafety feature built into propane connectors to cut off up to 90% of gas flow in event of flow surge.
Fifth WheelLargest type of travel trailer with a raised and extended front area that attaches to the bed of a truck with the use of a jaw hitch.
Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)
Combined total weight of the RV Dry Weight plus Cargo Weight.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)Maximum allowed weight of RV Dry Weight plus Cargo Weight.
Hitch WeightPin Weight or Hitch Weight
Holding Tank TreatmentChemical product used in RV sewer holding tanks to liquify waste solids and tissues and reduce odors.
InverterConverts electricity into usable A/C power.
LiFePO4Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) is a rechargeable battery technology. Popular for longer lifespan, improved safety, and higher discharge at 100%.
Max Towing CapacityMaximum amount of weight that can safely be towed by a specific vehicle. Include RV's GVW and weight of all passengers, cargo, and liquids in tow vehicle.
MotorhomeA recreational vehicle with an engine.
NMC BatteryBatteries that contain a cathode made from a combination of Nickel, Manganese and Cobalt, and used for storing solar energy.
Payload CapacityMaximum amount of weight that can safely be added to the bed of the truck. Includes actual weight of tongue / hitch (or pin), plus all accessories and other supplies carried in the truck bed.
Overfill Protection DeviceThe OPD is a safety featured built into liquid petroleum gas tanks that prevent the tank from being filled over 80% capacity. This ensures there is room for the propane vapor to expand as the temperature changes.
Pin WeightWeight and pressure applied from fifth wheel king pin to the hitch in the bed of the tow vehicle. Also called Hitch Weight or King Pin Weight.
Portable Power StationA portable device designed to store and power electronic devices in off-grid areas.
Propane Tank GaugeSafety device that allows user to check for minor leaks at connection points on a tank.
Pull-Through SiteCampsite that allows an RV to be driven straight through. This is helpful as drivers of large RVs do not need to back in.
Radial Ply TirePneumatic tire in which ply cords are laid at 90-degrees to the center line of the tread.
Sewer Hose SupportSupport system used to hold sewer line above ground to protect the hose.
Shipped WeightWeight of an RV as shipped from the manufacturer. Excludes passenger and cargo weight. (also called Dry Weight)
Shore LineElectrical cord that connects 120VAC from exterior power source on land to the RV. Also called Shore Cord or Power Cord.
Solar PanelsCollects solar energy that is then transferred to power station.
Speed RatingA rating for tires that indicates the maximum speed at which the RV should be driven with the specific tire installed.
Surge ProtectorProtect your RV from high- and low-voltage levels and power surges.
Tank RinserAttaches to RV sewer outlet and hose to rinse all residue out of the RV holding tanks.
Teardrop TrailerLighter and smaller travel trailers designed with a rounded front and are easier to tow relative to other travel trailers.
Tongue WeightWeight and pressure applied from the trailer tongue/coupler to the conventional/bumper hitch on the tow vehicle.
Toy HaulerTrailers that are designed with specific storage areas for outdoor and water toys (e.g., motorbikes, kayaks, snowmobiles).
Travel TrailerThe most common type of trailer with a range in length of 13' to 40' that attaches to a hitch on a tow vehicle.
Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW)
Total weight of the RV as manufactured, including frame, body, axles, and all fluids (including a full tank of fuel and LP gas).
UnderbellyArea under the RV's floor inside the chassis main rails that is typically enclosed within a weatherproof material.
Water Pressure RegulatorDevice installed on the water hose that protects hose and RV's plumbing system by limiting the pressure of city water systems from entering the vehicle. Gauge allows users to monitor water pressure.

RV Owner’s Manual

I understand as much as the next guy that nobody likes to read the owner’s manuals. Most people buy a new gadget or accessory and rip straight past the instruction manual to get their mitts on the shiny new toy.

But, please remember to read your owner’s manual when you buy (or rent) an RV. It’s such a helpful resource. It will likely include many terms and definitions we don’t include here. Moreover, every vehicle model may be slightly different.

It’s always worth the time to look through the manual. Understand the recommended tire pressure, type of oil, and electrical warnings, among the other systems in your RV. Whether it’s for the weekend, a season, or full-time travel, this is your home on wheels. You’ll want to get to know the ins and the outs for safe travels.

Can You Suggest Any Other RV Terms to Include?

Are there any other terms you think we should include here? Let us know in the comments section below.

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