RV Terms for Newbies: Who Knew What It Really Meant

I was reminded the other day how many terms we use when talking about RVing. Boondocking, dry camping, Harvest Host, and chocks are just a few of the words that could be confusing for newbies. I thought it was time to spell out a few RV terms for Newbies.

If you think of an RV term that you think should be added to the list please share it in the comments. If it is added to the list I will credit you or your website. Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge with us all!

RV Terms for Newbies

5er – slang for a 5th Wheel.

AF 1 – Air Force One (see definition).

AGM – absorbent glass mat. This is a type of lead acid battery.

Air Force One Air Force One brand of supplemental braking system used when towing vehicles.

Amps – short for ampere, it measures the amount of charge flowing through a circuit over time.

Amp hour – is the amount of energy charge in a battery that will allow one ampere of current to flow for one hour.

Anode Rod – steel coil wire in the water heater that attracts minerals and protects the water heater from rust and corrosion.

Phil Changing the Anode Rod

Army Corps of Engineers – (COE) offers some of the best campgrounds in the country centered around water. These campgrounds are open to anyone, not just those with a military affiliation. 

Axle Ratio – the driveshaft or output shaft revolutions needed to spin the axle one complete turn. 

Back in Site – campsite that you back your RV into.

Ball Mount – receiver hitch accessory with a shank and a trailer ball platform.

Orange Device is Ball Mount

Basement – storage area below the main living area, which is accessible from the outside.

Batwing – RV Antenna.

Black Tank – the tank that holds anything flushed down the toilet.

Black Water – contains human waste that must be properly disposed.

BLM – Bureau of Land Management (See Definition).

Blue Boy

Blue Boy – (honey wagon) portable waste tank that allows you to dump your RV’s sewage and or greywater without having to take your whole RV to the dumpsite.

Boondockers Welcome – RV club that allows you to park free on private property.

Boondocking – originates from boondocks, which means far away from a town or city. It is not commonly used it to describe camping without hookups.

Brake Away System – a system designed to apply the brakes on a towed vehicle if the towed vehicle becomes unattached from the motorhome while driving.  


Brake Controller – electric brake controller is a device that sends a signal from your vehicle’s brakes to the connector on your hitch to your trailer or tow vehicle. When a driver presses on the brake pedal, the brake controller lets the trailer’s or tow vehicle brake system know how much braking power is needed to stop.

Bureau of Land Management – (BLM) agency within the US Department of the Interior responsible for administering public lands. These lands are available for boondocking for free or for small fees.

Bypass Valve – a valve that prevents water from entering the water heater. Used during winterization.

Camp Hosting – volunteer positions at campgrounds.

Camper – RV with facilities for cooking and sleeping. May also refer to a person who camps in a tent or RV.

Cargo Carrying Capacity – (CCC) is the maximum allowed weight of everything you add to the RV, including all belongings.

Cargo Weight – the actual weight of all items you add to the Curb Weight of the vehicle or trailer. This includes personal cargo, optional upgrades or equipment, and Tongue Weight. This number determines how much you can safely put in your RV.  

Charge Controller

Charge Controller – limits the rate at which electric current is added to or drawn from electric batteries. It prevents overcharging and may protect against overvoltage.  

Chassis – The frame of a motor home including the engine, transmission, drive train, axles, and wheels. When referring to a van or a class C, the chassis also includes the cab.  


Chassis Battery – starts the engine and runs the automotive systems in a motorhome. 


Chocks – (Wheel chocks or Blocking) are devices placed in front of your RVs wheels for safety and accident prevention. Chocks prevent RVs from unintentionally moving.

City Water – water from the city connection not from your freshwater holding tank.

Coach – motorhome.


Coach Battery – (house battery) powers the lights, furnace, water pump, and other 12 volt devices in the coach.

Cockpit – the front driving area of a motorhome.

COE – Corps of Engineers (See definition).

Converter – converts household 120-volt AC power into the 12-volt DC power needed to recharge the RV battery.  


Coupler – a mechanism that is bolted or welded onto the end of a trailer tongue. It fits securely over and pivots on the tow vehicle hitch ball.  

Curb Weight – the actual weight of your RV, including all standard equipment, full fuel tanks, full fresh water tanks, full propane bottles, and all other equipment fluids, but adding personal items or people.  

Deep Cycle – lead acid battery designed to be regularly deeply discharged using most of its capacity.

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RV terms for newbies can be confusing. We have listed them all with easy to understand definitions. RV Newbie slang made easy!

Delamination – when the fiberglass or gel coat outer layer of an RV starts to pull away from the substrate, usually luan or lightweight plywood.  

Diesel Puller – (FRED or Front Engine Diesel)  diesel motorhomes with the engine located in the front of the RV.  

Diesel Pusher – (RED or Rear Engine Diesel) diesel motorhomes with the engine found in the back of the RV.

Dinette – (Booth dinette) area with bench seats on opposite sides and a table in-between.

Booth Dinette
Dog Bone

Dinghy – a vehicle that is towed behind a motorhome. It is also referred to as flat towing, four-down towing, and recreational towing.

Direct Spark Ignition – means that the water heater can be automatically lighted by a switch inside the RV.

Dog Bone – the dog bone is a power adapter that allows you to plug your RV into a power pedestal at a lower amperage. Contributor Bryan Marklin.

Domicile – your legal, permanent residence.

RV Donut

Donut – rubber ring that seals the dump hose and the campsite sewer connection so that gases and odors do not escape.

Driveway Surfing – parking your RV in someone’s driveway with or without hookups.

Dry Camping – camping in your RV without hookups. No electric, water, or sewer connections. 

Dry Weight – the actual weight of a vehicle or trailer containing standard equipment without fuel, fluids, cargo, passengers, or optional equipment. 

DSI – Direct Spark Ignition (see definition).

Dump Station

Dually – a pickup truck with four tires on one rear axle.  

Dump Station – location provided to empty grey and black tanks.

Equalizer Hitch – (weight distribution hitch) hitch that evenly distributes the weight of your payload.  

Escapees – RV club that provides mail service, domicile, and events.

FHU – full hookups including sewer, water, and electricity.

Fiver – slang for 5th wheel.

Flat Tow – attaching a tow bar to a suitable automobile and letting the vehicle roll along behind the RV on its own four tires.

Flooded Wet Cell – (Wet Cell) battery that operates using a liquid electrolyte solution (battery acid) covering all internal parts. Wet-cell batteries produce gas when overcharging, which needs to be vented.  

FMCA – (Family Motor Coach Association) membership RV travel club.

FRED – Front Engine Diesel.

Fresh Water Capacity – the number of gallons of freshwater your RV will hold.

Full Hookups – connecting to sewer, electric, and water. 

Full-timers – people who live in their RV full time without returning to a house.

Galley – area in the RV where the kitchen is located.

Gasser – motorhome with a gas engine.

GAWR – (Gross Axle Weight Rating) is the maximum allowable weight each axle is rated to carry, as measured at the tires, including the axle assembly itself. The GAWR is specified by the vehicle manufacturer.  


GCW – (Gross Combination Weight) is the actual weight of a fully-loaded tow vehicle plus the towed vehicle (car or RV), including personal items, fluids, passengers, and optional equipment.  

GCWR – (Gross Combination Weight Rating) maximum allowable combined weight of the towing vehicle and the towed vehicle. It assumes both vehicles have functioning brakes, except vehicles less than 1,500 lbs.  

Gel cell – leak-proof batteries that use battery acid in the form of a gel. 

Gel coat – is a synthetic resin-based product used to coat and protect the fiberglass. Fiberglass gel coat is less than 1/32” thick, and it’s bonded directly to the fiberglass surface and gives your RV it’s shine. 

More RV Terms for Newbies

Glamping – a blend of “glamorous” and “camping”, and describes a style of camping with amenities and, in some cases, resort-style services not usually associated with “traditional” camping. Contributed by Hector Rodriguez.

Grey tank – holds wastewater from the shower and kitchen sink drains.

Grey Water – water from the kitchen sink and shower.

GTW – (Gross Trailer Weight) gross trailer weight is the actual weight of your fully-loaded trailer, which includes the weight of the trailer itself along with everything loaded onto it or into it.

GVW – (Gross Vehicle Weight) the actual weight of a fully-loaded RV, including all cargo, fluids, passengers, and optional equipment.  

GVWR – (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) means the maximum allowable weight of the fully-loaded vehicle, including liquids, passengers, cargo, and the tongue weight of a towed vehicle. The tow vehicle and RV will each have a GVWR.

Harvest Host – membership that allows you to stay for free at businesses.

Heat pump – is when the AC works in reverse mode and heats RV without using propane.  

Holding tanks – stores fluids for the RV. It includes a tank for freshwater, greywater, and black water.

Honey Wagon – (blue boy) portable waste tank that allows you to dump your RV’s sewage or greywater without having to take your whole RV to the dumpsite.   

House Battery – (coach battery) powers the lights, furnace, water pump and other 12 volt devices in the coach.

Inverter – converts DC power to AC power. 

King Pin Weights – (Pin Weight) the actual weight pressing down on the fifth wheel hitch by the trailer. The recommended amount of king pin weight is 15-25% of the GTW.

Leveling Jacks – either manual or automatic devices that level and stabilize the RV.

Manual Leveling Jacks

Macerator – motorized grinders that turn your black tank solids and liquids into a slurry that can drain longer distances through a much smaller sewer hose.

Magic Fan – a type of RV roof vent fan. Contributor Bryan Marklin.

MOHO – slang for motorhome.

Moochdocking – slang term used when you park your RV in someone’s driveway for free.

NCC – Net Carrying Capacity.

Net carrying capacity (NCC) – the maximum weight of all personal belongings food, fresh water, LP gas, tools, dealer-installed accessories, and other items that can be carried by the unit.  

Newbie – someone new to RVing.

NP – National Park.

NPS– National Park Service.

NRVIA – (National RV Inspectors Association) organization that inspects RVs before purchase. It is very similar to a home inspection. 

Power Pedestal

RVDA – Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association.

Park Model – a type of RV that is designed to provide temporary accommodation for recreation, camping or seasonal use and stays permanently at the campground.

Part-timers – people who live in their RVs for extended periods before returning to their home.

Passport America – RV Club that provides discounts on camping.

Pedestal – a box that holds the electrical power for the RV to plug into.

Pop Up – towable RV that collapses for easy storage and transport.   


Porpoising – front and rear bounce that occurs when towing a travel trailer. The front of the trailer hits a bump, then the rear hits the bump, and they both bounce independently of each other, creating an oscillating motion.

Primitive Camping – (backcountry camping) remote camping areas without amenities such as bathrooms, running water, or first aid supplies.  

Provincial Parks –  is a park administered by a province of a country, as opposed to a national park such as Canada. Contributed by George O’Briain.

Pull-in – campsites that require you to pull into the site instead of backing in which is the norm.

Pull-through – site with access that allows you to drive all the way through the site without having to back up.

Quick disconnect – used to provide fast and easy connection and disconnection of fluid lines. They often are used to replace connections that require tools to assemble and disassemble.  

RED – Rear Engine Diesel.

Reefer – slang for refrigerator.

RLP – (The Road Life Project) RV club that provides health insurance, discounts, meetups, and programs for kids.

RV – recreational vehicle.

RVIA – (RV Industry Association) represents RV manufacturers and their suppliers.

RVRA – (RV Rental Association) national association for rental companies

Safety Chains – a series of metal links or rings connected to or fitted into one another, and are inclusive of the hooks, coupling devices, and other connections, necessary in the coupling together of a towed vehicle.  

Sani-dump – properly constructed facility intended to receive the discharge of wastewater from any holding tank in an RV, and having a means of discharging the contents to an approved wastewater disposal system.

Self-contained – RV that can function without outside resources, including electricity, water, and sewer.  

Shore power – a 120-volt power source where you connect your RV power cord.  

Snowbirds – RVers who travel south from their homes in the winter and live in RVs until spring.

Solar Array – solar panels arranged in a group to capture the maximum amount of sunlight to convert it into usable electricity. Contributor Bryan Marklin.

Solar Controller – (Solar Charge Controller) a voltage and/or current regulator to keep batteries from overcharging. It regulates the voltage and current coming from the solar panels going to the battery.

SP – State Park.

Sticks and Bricks – traditional home.

Stinky Slinky – hose used to drain the grey and black tanks.

Stinky Slinky

Sway Bar – (anti-sway bar) help stabilize towed RVs and reduce the side to side swaying motion caused by passing trucks and gusts of wind.

Tail swing – describes the extra distance the rear end of the RV uses during a turn. The longer the space between the rear wheel and the end of the RV, the larger the tail swing will be.  

Thermocouple – a safety device that is used to detect if your furnace’s pilot light is lit.  

Thousand Trails – (TT) RV club that provides discounts for campgrounds.

Toad – slang for a towed vehicle that you tow behind a motorhome.

Tongue Weight – the downward force that the tongue of the trailer exerts on the hitch that is connected to the vehicle.

Tow Bar – connect to the back of your motorhome and the front of your vehicle so you can flat tow it. 

Tow dolly – 2-wheel trailer that is specifically designed to tow automobiles. It carries the front wheels of your car while the back wheels remain on the road.  

Our Old Tow Dolly

Tow Rating – (Towing capacity) the maximum weight your vehicle can pull while towing.

TPMS(Tire Pressure Monitoring System) is an electronic system designed to monitor the air pressure and temperature inside the pneumatic tires.

Triple Tow – is when you are towing a trailer (like a fifth wheel) and then attach another trailer (like a boat) to the fifth wheel.

Triple Tow

Truck Camper – RV carried in the bed of a pickup truck.

Underbelly – RV’s underfloor surface that is protected by waterproofed material.

United States Forest Service – (USFS) – Offers boondocking free or for a small fee throughout the country. Some areas have developed campgrounds.

USACE – (COE and Army COE) United States Army Corps of Engineers (See Definition).

USFS – United States Forest Service (See definition).

UVW – (Unloaded Vehicle Weight) the weight of a vehicle as manufactured at the factory. It includes full engine and generator fuel tanks and fluids, if applicable. It does not add cargo, water, propane, or dealer-installed accessories.

Water Pressure Regulator

Wallydock – dry camping in a Walmart parking lot.

Water Pressure Regulatorhelps to protect the RV plumbing from damage caused by high water pressure. 

Weekenders – campers who RV on their time off from work, usually weekends and holidays.

Weight Distribution System – helps to ensure a smooth, level ride and allows you to tow at the maximum capacity allowed by your hitch. It also helps to correct tow vehicle sag, improve steering and stopping, improve trailer sway. 

Wet Weight – weight of the RV that does not include the weight of consumables, such as fuel and oils.  

Wheelbase – is the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels.  


Wide Body – RV with an external body width larger than 96 inches (8 feet).

Winterizing – preparing the RV to withstand cold winter conditions without damage.  

Workamper – people who work as an employee, operate a business or donate time as a volunteer while living in an RV.

Workamping – combines part-time or full-time paid or volunteer work with RV or tent camping. Workampers generally receive compensation in the form of a free campsite, and sometimes additional wages.

RV Terms for Newbies

We hope this helps to clear up any confusion! If you have RV terms you think we should add please leave a comment below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil & Stacy

Author: Stacy, You, Me & the RV, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019

Disclosures: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate programs. These programs are affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and other affiliated sites. It does not cost you anything to use these links.


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    One my wife has always had trouble remembering, “Tag Axle”.

    One more, “4-Down”. It’s also the license plate on our Toad.

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    Jeff Jackson

    Newbie here with a question. I have to head up into KY for some family assistance but it is going to be in the teens at night. How do you protect your rig from the bitter cold?

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      That is not a newbie question. It is a great question!! We have not been in a cold weather situation (and hope never to be) so we are not the best people to ask. There are a ton of videos out about it though.

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    Wayne and Carrie Anderson

    Excellent list, very fun to go through! How about adding Lot Docking – overnight parking at a retail or restaurant parking lot such as Cracker Barrel or Cabela’s.

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    Bryan Marklin

    I was also looking for:
    Dog Bone (pedestal power tester/ protecter)
    Inverter (DC to AC or vice versa)
    Magic Fan
    Solar Array

    That’s my first cut! Keep the great videos coming- hope to see you in Tampa

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    For the Sailors in the group how about something more important than amps and watts, what about Gedunk Stand, and Pogey Bait. Can’t survive long without these….

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    George OBriain

    And another:
    Tail-gunner or Trail party – The rig(s) that sweep the route after a group or convoy of RV have transited.
    Provincial Parks – Canadian Provincial Parks that provide camping facilities at a reasonable cost. Sites normally do not have services, but water and a dump-site is usually available.
    Pilot and Co-pilot seats, Co-pilot seat is sometimes referred to as the Princess seat.

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    George OBriain

    I agree to add ‘glamping’ Also: 20amp, 30amp 50amp, part-timers, back-in and toad, slang for towed vehicle.

    Just a note on porpoising, it is experience with those that have pneumatic suspension, when the air bags are not full or are leaking.

    If you include “winterizing”, then de-winterizing should be included.

    After thought: MOT – provincial and federal offices of Ministry of Transportation, RCMP – Royal Canadian Mounted Police who patrol Canadian Highways except for Ontario and Quebec in which case you OPP (Ontario Provincial Police and Quebec Provincial Police)

    A great list.

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    Joe Testa

    12VDC = 12 volts direct current, aka your battery/batteries.
    120VAC = 120 Volts alternating current, what you would recognize in a stick/brick home.
    VOM = Volt/Ohm meter, aka volt meter, used to check 12VDC and 120VAC, as well as a few other things depending on the model.
    NCVT = Non Contact Voltage Tester, used to test an electrical pedestal before you touch it to plug in your RV at a campsite.

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