RV Nirvana

Just because I’m crazy doesn’t mean I’m stupid

[aka] RV lingo for beginners

So this is inspired by . . . well, you know who you are – I met you along the way as I was searching for our Betty and suffered through your rolling eyes and “let-me-explain-this-part-to-you” lectures along with the “you-don’t-really-need-to-understand-how-this-works-little-missy” brushoffs . . .

AAAAAAGH – it made me want to scream  . . .

” just because you think I’m crazy doesn’t mean I’m stupid . . .

To the uninitiated it feels like there’s this secret club and you are clearly NOT a member . . . so . . .

Word to the wise . . . if you’re gonna start looking at RV’s (even just for fun) it’s a good idea to brush up on some basic lingo that those in the know like to throw around  . . .especially helpful if you don’t want to stand there with the deer-in-the-headlights cocked head puzzlement stance that will inevitably befall you at some point during your RV quest . . . just saying . . .

So here goes – RV lingo 101 the basics:


  • Pop-Up – a towable trailer style camper that is compact for towing and expands or pops up when set-up
  • Travel Trailer – aka TT – a towable trailer that gets pulled by another vehicle
  • Fifth Wheel – aka Fiver or 5er or Gooseneck – also towable, but designed to be hitched to a truck for towing
  • Truck Camper – aka Slide In -designed to fit onto a truck
  • Camper Van – popular European style of motorized van usually with a pop-up top
  • Class B – van style motorized RV usually under 24ft length (class B and Campervan have become somewhat interchangeable in the their terminology)
  • Class B plus – technically not really a class but a marketing term used to identify vehicles that blur the line between class b and class c vehicles (usually built on a cutaway chassis)
  • Class C – motorized style built on a van chassis usually with an over cab area for the bed
  • Class A – mac daddy RV’s built on freight truck beds and generally bigger with larger scale furnished interiors
  • Park Model – designed for permanent parking as opposed to recreational travel
  • Toy Hauler – can be any other style of RV, but built and designed to hold larger, heavier items (toys) such as ATV’s, motorcycles, golf carts etc.


  • Toad – aka Dinghy – a vehicle that is “towed” behind an RV
  • Dually – a pickup truck with 4 tires on 1 rear axle
  • Wide Body – RVs exceeding 8ft in width
  • Slide Out – an area of the RV that can be pushed out to extend the interior space
  • Underbelly – the underside of your RV (usually protected or weatherproofed)
  • Basement – storage area usually below the floor and accessed from the exterior
  • Galley – the RV kitchen area
  • Reefer – slang for refrigerator
  • Batwing – slang for a type of TV antenna
  • Bunkhouse – area containing bunk beds instead of regular beds
  • Gaucho – aka sofa bed – a sofa/dinette bench that converts into a sleeping area
  • Island Queen – queen-sized bed with walking space on either side of it
  • Porpoising – slang for the up and down bouncing motion of an RV while moving
  • Blue Boy – slang for a portable holding tank often used to transport waste liquids to the dump station at campgrounds
  • Dump Station – the place (da da da – cue the scary music) where RV tanks are emptied
  • Honey Wagon – slang for a mobile service that will empty RV tanks at their campsite
  • Boondocking – camping in an RV in remote areas without hookups or services generally without anyone else around
  • Dry Camping – camping in an RV without hookups in a campground or parking lot
  • Curbside – the side of the RV that would be against the curb when legally parallel parked
  • Wet Weight – weight of the RV with all fluids fully loaded (engine oil, water tanks, propane tanks etc.)
  • Dry Weight – weight of the RV without any fuel, water, propane or passengers
  • Doughnut – a rubber ring to seal hoses and connections (so that gas/odor/stinky stuff doesn’t escape)
  • Pusher – slang for Diesel Pusher (motorhome with diesel engine mounted in the rear)
  • Puller – slang for Diesel Puller (motorhome with diesel engine mounted in front)
  • Arctic Package – aka 4 seasons – equipment/structures and/or insulation added to an RV allowing it to fully function in cold environments
  • Winterizing – actions taken to prepare your non 4 season RV to withstand cold climates (usually referring to draining water from lines to prevent pipes cracking from freezing) –  more on that coming soon(ish)


  • A/C – not to be confused with Air Conditioner – alternating current in 110/120v electrical systems
  • D/C – direct current in 12v electrical systems ( more on RV electrical here )
  • House Battery – aka Coach battery – battery system used to power the livable area of the RV (separate from the chassis battery for the engine)
  • Converter and Inverter – devices used to change electrical current from one current/power to another
  • Dual Electric System – allows an RV to run on electric hookups or self contained with battery or generator
  • Shore Power – slang for the electrical hookups found at campsites or other buildings
  • FHU Full HookUp – water, electric and sewer hook up to your RV at your actual campsite
  • Ducted Heat and/or A/C – ducting systems venting air through ceilings and/or floors to keep your RV at desired temperature
  • BTU British Thermal Unit – measures the quantity of units required to change a temperature  (air conditioners and furnaces use this rating)
  • Heat Strip – a heating element sometimes included in the air conditioner system to allow for heating
  • LP Gas – Liquified Petroleum Gas – propane often used for cooking/heating and some refrigerators and generators
  • Quick Disconnect – fittings that allow quick connections without the use of tools – often used with external barbecues
  • DSI – direct spark ignition – most propane burners are started with an electric spark and the flame is monitored by a circuit board
  • Grey Water – the tank system to capture and hold your waste water from sinks and showers
  • Black Tank – captures and holds your sewage from the toilet  ( more on RV toilets here )
  • TPMS Tire Pressure Monitoring System – measures the tire pressure/inflation of your RV tires
  • Wheelbase – the distance between the center lines of the primary axles of an RV
  • Payload Capacity – aka Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) – maximum combined weight of all cargo (including people and pets) allowable in or on the RV
  • UVW – weight as it leaves the factory (unloaded but with engine oil and coolants)


  • Ball Mount – part of the hitch system that supports the hitch ball and connects it to the trailer coupler
  • Trailer Coupler – the part of the trailer that attached to the ball of the hitch
  • Shank – aka Hitch Bar or Stringer – removable part of the hitch system that slides into the receiver and holds the ball or ball mount
  • Hitch Weight – amount of trailer weight that rest on the tow vehicles hitch
  • Hitch Rating – is the amount of weight assigned by the manufacturers that the hitch can handle
  • Weight Distribution Hitch – utilizing spring bars to distribute some of the trailer’s hitch weight to the axles of the trailer and the tow vehicle . . . go here for a detailed explanation
  • Tongue Weight – the downward force placed on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler
  • GTWGross Trailer Weight – total weight of trailer fully loaded as towed – more on RV weight coming soon(ish)
  • GAWRGross Axle Weight Ratio – the manufacturer specified maximum load weight that can be placed on the axle
  • GCWGross Combined Weight – the combined actual weight of tow vehicle and trailer
  • GCWRGross Combined Weight Ratio – the manufacturer specified maximum load weight including trailer, tow vehicle, fuel, water, propane, supplies, people, pets and toys
  • Trailer Brakes – brakes built into the trailer activated by electric or surge mechanism
  • Brake Controller – allows activation of electric brakes on the trailer to work in harmony with the braking of the tow vehicle


  • Frame Mount Hitch – designed to be bolted to the towing vehicle frame or cross members
  • Kingpin – the device that connects a fifth wheel to the tow vehicle
  • Pin Weight – the weight that a fifth wheel trailer places on the kingpin
  • Slider Hitch – aka Slider – used on short bed trucks to enable fifth wheel towing with sufficient clearance when turning so that trailer doesn’t hit the cab of the truck


  • Box – slang for the motorhome’s livable space – usually a Class A referencing from the chassis up
  • Cockpit – the front of the RV where the “pilot” (driver) and “co-pilot” (passenger) sit
  • GVW Gross vehicle rate – the actual weight of the RV
  • GVWR Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – the manufacturers maximum allowable weight of the RV fully loaded including fuel, water, propane, supplies and all passengers and their stuff
  • Hula Skirt – placed on the back bumper to stop debris from kicking up and into vehicles that are behind the RV
  • Tow Bar – used behind the RV to connect a towed vehicle with all four wheels on the ground


. . . this new found lingo gives you swagger rights next time you find yourself speaking RV . . .

PS: Check out our other RV Guides coming soon(ish)

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