The Pack Report

Getting Your Camper Ready for Warmer Weather

Lengthening days mean the camping season approaches. You can almost taste that fresh mountain air, but you must prep your rig before you set off for your next adventure. What do you need to know to get your camper ready to prepare for the big Memorial Day kickoff?

Before we delve in, did you know that Duluth Pack knows a thing or two about car camping, AKA campers? Duluth Pack is the original manufacturer of car campers. Our iconic canvas Auto Packs were handcrafted in the early 1900s to go on the outside of A-Mobile and T-Mobile vehicles and create a tent-like covering. Pretty fun history lesson!

Fortunately, taking your camper out of storage isn’t nearly as labor-intensive as winterizing it — or maybe that’s mere perception, as the thought of toasted marshmallows around the campfire energizes your muscles for the work. Whatever the reason, you have a bit of happy labor ahead. Here’s how to get your camper ready for warmer weather.

Begin With a Thorough Inspection 

Your first step is to check on the changes over the long winter. Start with a thorough interior and exterior inspection of your rig. Here are some specific areas to test.

1. Tires 

RV tires require a higher PSI to carry all that weight, but they lose air over the winter. Check your manual, as requirements can span from 45–110 PSI, depending on your rig.

2. Exterior Damage

Heavy snow and rain can cause roof cracks and worsen delamination if you leave your rig uncovered. Windows may develop hairline cracks.

3. Battery

Even the best batteries lose charge in the off-season. Fully charged RV batteries should read 12.7 volts, so run a test by attaching yours to a voltmeter while the RV is disconnected from shore power. Before plugging your battery into the charger, check the water levels and use distilled water to top it first if below the plates.

4. Propane Tanks 

Fill your propane tanks and reinstall them to the mounts. Apply soapy water to the hose connectors to check for bubbles — if any form, you may have a leak.

Additionally, test propane-fueled appliances, like your refrigerator. If you detect problems, contact a dealer, as propane leaks aren’t something to mess with.

5. Hitch 

If towing a pull-behind model, inspect the hitch to ensure it remains secured to the tow vehicle and you have all lever bars, chains, and electrical hookups ready to go. Hook up the electric brakes and test them to make sure they work.

If you traded in your tow vehicle for a new model over the winter, check that you have the right class of hitch. They rangefrom Class 1 to Class 5, with Class 1 having the lowest capacity — is yours sufficient for your camper’s weight?

Engine Maintenance for Class A Through C Campers 

You likely have a mechanic inspect your car once a year — and your camper is no different. If you have a Class A through C model, you should schedule a thorough workup or tend to your engine DIY style, depending on your level of automotive know-how.

Start with a good old-fashioned oil change and check your other fluid levels, including your transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and coolant. Then, swap your filters and check your belts, replacing any worn or frayed versions. You should change your air filters roughly every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, erring on the side of caution if you often boondock down dusty trails.

Test Your Systems 

The next step is to test your RV systems. You’ve already ensured your propane-based appliances work well. Now, check the 120-volt AC versions like your microwave. If you have a 50-amp 120/240 input for shore power, test that everything works when hooked up to a power source. Those with electrical know-how may feel confident enough to troubleshoot issues but contact your dealer or mechanic if not. 

Flush Your Water Lines 

You most likely put antifreeze in your tanks to winterize your RV. Dump your black and gray water tanks at your local KOA or other approved dump facility. An approved enzymatic additive will freshen these tanks before takeoff — it’s also wise to keep some on board in case things get stinky later.

Then, flush your freshwater lines by adding a quarter cup of bleach for every 16 gallons your freshwater tank holds. Set the mixture aside while you empty the tank. Plug your drains and add the bleach solution to your freshwater tank before topping any remaining space off with clean water. Turn on your water pump, run every faucet until you smell bleach, then turn the pump back off and let the works sit for up to 12 hours to disinfect.

The Old Scrub-a-Dub 

Your baby deserves a good bath before you show her off to the world. Dig out the pressure washer to clean the outside or visit a DIY car wash with tall enough bays for a thorough exterior wash.

Running an ozone generator will kill pests like fleas and bedbugs while removing unpleasant smoke and BO aromas lingering in your upholstery. However, ensure you follow the safety instructions, as exposure harms people and pets.

Once the air clears, get down and dirty, starting your interior scrub from top to bottom. Take everything out of cabinets and place them on a blanket outside — you’ll want to review your stash, anyway. Wipe everything with a disinfecting cleaner, using a toothbrush to scrub inside window wells and those tiny crevices around your solar inverter.

Remember the inside of your stove, fridge, and microwave, and get that washing machine running for your bedding. Finish with your window glass and the floors, maybe adding a new welcome mat to wipe your muddy boots.

Check Your Supplies

Now that your cabinets are empty and clean, it’s time to reload them. What essentials do you need to rely on your self-sufficiency in the wild? Here’s a short list of must-haves to pack in your RV:

  • Tools, including a multi-bit screwdriver, assorted wrenches and pliers, a socket and ratchet set, Allen wrenches, utility knife, duct tape, wire cutters, zip ties, mallet or hammer and work gloves
  • Campsite tools such as a chainsaw or hatchet for cutting firewood, a paracord for stringing up tarps, and a shovel and fire extinguisher for campfire safety 
  • Automotive tools, including a tire pressure gauge, spare oil and antifreeze, flares, triangles, and at least one spare tire
  • A first aid kit containing multiple sizes of bandages and wraps, antibiotic ointment, OTC painkillers, sunscreen, bug spray, and copies of any prescription medications — ask your doctor about a 2-week stash to keep in your RV
  • Light, including headlamps for hands-free workability, flashlights, and lanterns
  • Spare water beside your freshwater tank and filtering supplies such as disinfecting tablets, mechanical straws, and a larger filtration device
  • Bear spray if heading into bear country — a little self-protection is also wise, regardless of your typical destination.
  • Camp rations such as jerky, cans of tuna, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, individually wrapped cheese sticks, beans and canned veggies
  • Cooking gear, including a fire poker, tongs for toasting marshmallows, and a grill kit if you use a grate or carry a camp grill.
  • Trash receptacles such as a bear box if camping in such country. Although a bear is unlikely to break into your RV, it’s wise to keep up the habit. Plus, leaving food outside your camper could endanger other outdoor adventurers who don’t have the luxury of four walls.
  • Details that make camping special, like a gourmet coffee you only enjoy on mountain mornings or that new novel you mean to dig into while kicking back on your hammock.

Prepare for Launch

Where will you go to kick off the 2024 camping season? Is boondocking more your style, or do you use your RV to tour the nation’s hottest destinations without dropping a fortune on hotels?

Get your reservations early, as some require several months in advance to reserve a coveted spot. If you love boondocking, check the conditions where you intend to travel. For example, many places in the desert southwest have burn restrictions, especially in the hot and dry early days of summer.

Prepare Your Camper for Warm Weather Fun

Active, outdoor types look forward to Memorial Day with anticipation, as it marks the start of the summer camping season. More die-hard adventurers and those in desert or tropical climates might hit the road even sooner. Before heading out for the wilds, ensure your camper is up to the task by preparing it for the warm weather.

Are you in need of last-minute supplies to get your camper ready and make your next trip the most memorable one yet? Duluth Pack has everything you need to make your first spring camping adventure — and each one to come — a success. Check out the online store and make 2024 the year of creating campfire memories.

Happy Adventuring, friends!

Happy Adventures - Duluth Pack

Guest Contributor: Jack Shaw