Keeping Up With RV Lingo

Every industry has its own language, and the RV industry is no different.

Fifth wheel RV traveling on the highway

by Greg Gerber

For a newcomer, and even some veterans, it can be daunting to understand all the nuances of the language used by professionals and those who just want to enjoy the RV lifestyle.

To make it easier to understand what everyone is talking about, Workamper News has created the ultimate list of RV lingo.

In alphabetical order, here are some of the more common terms bantered around in conversations along with easy-to-remember definitions:


Aftermarket – Any product added to an RV after its initial purchase.

Air ride suspension – Using air bags as part of a motorhome’s suspension to help ensure a smoother ride and to give the driver more control of an RV.

Air leveling system – Using a computer-operated air bag system to level the motorhome during set up instead of relying upon electric or hydraulic jacks to connect an RV to the ground.

Aluminum frame construction – Using an aluminum structure rather than wood to build an RV from the chassis up. The sidewalls and roof are attached to the aluminum frame.

Arctic package – Equipping any RV with additional insulation and heated holding tanks for use during camping in cold weather.

ATV (all-terrain vehicle) – A three- or four-wheeled vehicle designed to navigate on surfaces other than paved roads, such as forest land, desert dunes and beaches.

Back-in site – A campsite where RVers must back their rigs into the site, as opposed to a drive-in or drive-thru/pull-thru campsite.

Back-up camera – A camera mounted on the rear of many RVs. A monitor in the cockpit allows drivers to get an unobstructed view of what is behind them. Some models sound an alarm when the RV gets too close to an object.

Basement storage – Large enclosed outside storage areas located beneath the floor of any RV. Some models heat the compartments to prevent water lines from freezing in colder climates.

Battery disconnect – Also called a “kill switch,” this device is used to disconnect batteries when not in use in order to prevent appliances and other components from slowly draining the batteries when in storage.

Big rig – Any motorhome or fifth wheel that exceeds 40 feet in length.

Blackwater – Wastewater that comes from toilets only. A blackwater holding tank is dedicated to storing only blackwater sewage. RVers often add chemicals or bacteria to control odor and assist in breaking down waste.

BLM (U.S. Bureau of Land Management) – An agency of the federal government that allows RVers to pay a small annual fee to park an RV on open land. Generally, there are no utilities available on the sites and an RV can only be parked for a few weeks before it must be moved.

Blue boy or blue box – Sometimes called a “honey bucket” or “tinkle tote,” this portable tank is often blue in color and used to store wastewater when dumping holding tanks at RV sites without sewer connections. This allows RVers to empty tanks into a blue boy and drive it or roll it to a dump station without having to move the RV from their site.

Boondocking – Camping without the benefit of any electrical, water, or sewer hookups. Boondocking is often free and can be done anywhere, such as a retail store parking lot, truck stop, rest area, someone’s driveway, or some federal lands.

Breakaway switch – A safety device that will automatically activate brakes on a travel trailer if it becomes separated from the tow vehicle.

Bumper pull – A travel trailer that is pulled from a hitch mounted to the rear of a tow vehicle. It often appears the ball is mounted on the bumper, but it is actually mounted to the vehicle’s chassis.

Bunkhouse – Any RV that contains a bunk bed in the sleeping arrangements.

Bus coach – A large motorhome, similar to a bus, built on a heavy-duty chassis with a diesel engine in back of the RV.

Cabover – The space immediately above the driver’s compartment in a Class C motorhome or truck camper.

Cabin – Although it can refer to the driver’s compartment of a motorhome, it most often refers to a small building in a campground. Some primitive cabins do not have bathrooms.

Camp host – A Workamper who serves as the primary point of contact at a particular campground. Hosts typically collect fees, clean up sites when RVers leave, and educate guests regarding rules and policies.

Campside – The outside area of an RV which often faces the picnic table and is where people enter or exit the RV. It is sometimes covered by an awning.

Campreneur – Anyone who operates a business from their RV.

Caravan – A group of RVs traveling together, or the European term for recreation vehicle.

Cassette toilet – A device that looks like a standard toilet, but has a removable container that allows people to carry waste to a restroom or dump station.

CCC (cargo carrying capacity) – The amount of fuel, water, food, cargo and passengers an RV is designed to carry. It is the difference between an RV’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or the maximum it is allowed to carry, and its dry weight when empty. CCC is also a term used to describe a public area built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

Chassis – The undercarriage of any RV which serves as the foundation upon which the entire RV rests. It often includes only a frame and wheels or, in the case of a motorhome, the steering wheel as well.

City water – A term used to describe any water line connected to an RV, whether from a municipal water system or on-site pump. A special food-grade water hose is used to connect the RV to the spigot at a campsite.

Class A motorhome – Any gas- or diesel-powered motorhome that looks like a bus.

Class B motorhome – Any motorhome that most resembles a large van.

Class C motorhome – Built on a modified-truck chassis, these motorhomes usually have a bed, entertainment center or storage above the driver’s compartment.

Coach – Often refers to a motorhome, but can also refer to the interior of an RV. Coach power refers to electricity supplied by batteries or electrical connections to power appliances and components in the living area.

Cockpit – The driver’s area of a motorhome.

Composting toilet – A device which looks like a standard toilet, but it is not attached to any outside sewer connection or holding tank. Rather, the waste is stored in the toilet itself. Special material is added to control odors and break down waste into a pasty substance which is emptied a few times a year.

Converter – An electrical device which converts 120-volt AC power, used in residential power outlets, into 12-volt DC power to operate vehicle electronics and charge vehicle batteries.  By comparison, an inverter does the same thing, but in reverse.

Coupler – The front part of a hitch connection which allows a travel trailer to connect to the ball mount of a tow vehicle.


Delamination – Fiberglass RV sidewalls are constructed by merging different materials together under intense pressure. Delamination occurs when the outer layer begins to separate from the others as a result of water damage, an accident, or normal wear and tear.

Demand water system – A secondary water system used when not hooked up to a water source. A 12-volt water pump pressurizes potable water stored in the freshwater holding tank. The pump cycles on and off whenever a faucet is opened.

Desk – A term used by an RV dealership in reference to the finance manager, who sits at his or her desk and calculates numbers pertaining to a pending sale. “Desking” a deal also factors in add-on services, such as extended warranties and RV insurance.

Dinghy – A vehicle towed by a motorhome. It generally refers to a passenger vehicle, but can also apply to a storage trailer or even a boat.

Dispersed camping – When RVs park on public land in an area without well-defined campsites. Imagine an open field where people drive in and park wherever they’d like. Could also apply to organized boondocking at a rally to squeeze more people into an area without campsites.

Dog bone – Also called a pig tail, it is an electrical adapter which makes it possible to connect an RV to any appropriate electrical outlet. For example, one end plugs into an RV’s 30-amp electric cord so the other end can be attached to a 50-amp pedestal. It also works to connect a 50-amp power cord into a 30-amp outlet.

Donut – A round, thick rubber gasket used to create a firm seal between the sewer hose and the dump receptacle.

Drop-in tablets – Solid tablets made of natural or chemical compounds which are dropped into a blackwater holding tank to breakdown waste and control odors.

Dry camping – Similar to boondocking, it means camping without electrical, water or sewer connections. While boondocking can take place anywhere, dry camping is often used to describe RVing at state or national parks which don’t offer utility connections, or only offer electric.

Dry weight (DW) – The actual weight of an RV after it is built at the factory. It does not include passengers, clothing, dishes, food, water, fuel or aftermarket accessories.

Direct spark ignition (DSI) – A system used to ignite the main burner on a propane appliance with the touch of a button.  It is commonly used on RV refrigerators, furnaces and some water heaters.

Dually – A larger truck with two tires on each side of the back axle.

Ducted heat or air conditioning – Similar to systems found at a sticks-and-bricks home, hot and cold air is pumped from the furnace or air conditioner through a network of ducts.

Dump station – A specific area set up at campgrounds or RV parks and some truck stops or rest areas to allow RV holding tanks to be dumped.

F&I (finance and insurance) – Refers to the department at an RV dealership that helps people finance and insure new or used RVs. It is also where people purchase add on products, such as extended warranties, paint protection, and emergency road service.

Fifth wheel – Also referred to as a “fiver,” these trailers have an elevated front end which extends over the bed of a pickup truck or custom tow vehicle. It has two to four tires on each side of the RV and requires a special hitch mounted in the bed of the truck. When connected, the tow vehicle becomes the RV’s “fifth wheel.”

Flat towing – Towing a car behind a motorhome in a way that all four of the vehicle’s tires are on the road, as compared to a tow dolly, which elevates the front tires.

Fresh water – Clean water stored in a special RV holding tank so it can be used for cooking, showers and washing hands. People often add chemical tablets to keep bacteria from forming in the tank.

Full-hookup (FHU) – A campground connection which includes electricity, water and sewer. Sometimes, it can also include cable TV, telephone or ethernet internet connections.

Full-timer – Someone who lives in an RV full-time. These folks often no longer have a sticks-and-bricks home.


Garage – The backend of a toy hauler RV where equipment and other toys are stored, such a motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, bikes, and even paddlesport equipment. Can also be used to describe a larger, outside-access-only storage area on an RV.

Generator – Sometimes referred to as a “genny” and commonly used on motorhomes and fifth wheels, a generator produces 120-volt AC power to run common household appliances as well as air conditioners and heaters.

Glamping – A short description of “glamorous camping,” which describes camping in upscale conditions, like an RV or a climate-controlled tent.  It is sometimes referred to as “camping under five stars.”

Graywater – Wastewater collected from sinks and the shower. When dumping RV holding tanks, blackwater is always dumped first so graywater can be used to flush solid waste out of the lines.

Galley – The RV’s kitchen area, which may also include the pantry.

GAWR (gross axle weight rating) – This is the total allowable weight an axle was designed to carry. It not only includes the weight of tires, wheels, brakes and the axle itself, it also includes everything carried above that axle. That’s why is it critically important weight is properly distributed in an RV to ensure one axle isn’t carrying too much weight.

GCWR (gross combined weight rating) – is the total allowable weight consisting of the tow vehicle, trailer, all cargo in each vehicle, hitching equipment, water, fuel, pets, and passengers.

Go RVing – A national marketing campaign coordinated by the RV Industry Association to build awareness of RV travel. It is funded by the sale of “stickers” affixed to every new RV sold in America.

GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) – The maximum weight an RV is allowed to carry. It consists of the RV itself as well as fuel, water, food, accessories, passengers, and cargo.

Hardwall construction – Refers to the way an RV is constructed by using hard exterior walls, usually made of fiberglass, as compared to the soft-sided material used in pop-up campers.

Hitch receiver – The device mounted to the frame of a tow vehicle that allows it to connect with a fifth wheel or towable RV. For towables, the receiver slides over a ball mount attached to the truck, van or SUV. For fifth wheels, the king pin is attached to the upper level of the RV and slides into a receiver hitch mounted inside the truck bed.

Hitching post – The electrical pedestal at a campsite where an RV is connected to utilities.

Honey wagon – A truck carrying a very large mobile tank and special equipment used to pump out multiple RV holding tanks when sewer connections are not available.

Hose-carrier bumper – The hollow rear bumper of an RV that is used to store a sewer hose when it is not in use.

Hot skin – A potentially-fatal condition caused when an RV is not properly grounded to an electrical source. The RV’s exterior (skin) becomes electrified to the point when a person, standing on the ground, is electrocuted the moment he or she touches the RV.

Hybrid RV – A hard-sided travel trailer with fold-down tent areas used for sleeping compartments. The beds are similar to tents, with the benefit of a hard-sided kitchen, bathroom and main living area.

Inverter – An electrical device which converts 12-volt DC battery power into 120-volt AC electricity to operate equipment that plugs it into a standard outlet. By comparison, a converter does the same thing, but in reverse.

Kelley Blue Book – A book, blue in color, which was started in the 1920s by Kelley Kar Company and is today simply known as Kelley Blue Book. The publication is used to determine the private sale and wholesale price of a car, tow vehicle, or RV.

Kill switch – A device used to disconnect an RV from its batteries whenever DC power is not needed. This prevents batteries from accidentally being drained.

King pin – A device located beneath the front section of a fifth wheel that allows the RV to be connected to a hitch receiver in the bed of the tow vehicle.

King pin stabilizer – A tripod set up under a fifth wheel’s king pin for added stability when the RV is parked. Without it, RVers may feel sway when walking in the upstairs portion of a fifth wheel.


Landing gear – Electric or hydraulic-operated levelers or stabilizing jacks used to connect an RV to the ground to prevent movement when people walk through the RV.

Lot docking – Staying overnight in a parking lot at a retail store, rest area, or truck stop.

LP (liquid petroleum) – A more-sciency way to say propane.

Manufacturer – The company which actually built a recreation vehicle. This differs from a supplier, which builds components attached to RVs.

MH – Standard abbreviation for motorhome.

Monitor panel – A centrally-located device which allows RVers to check fluid levels in the gray, black and freshwater holding tanks, as well as available power in auxiliary batteries and the fuel level in propane tanks.

Motorhome – Also called a motorized RV, it refers to any recreation vehicle with its own engine and transmission enabling it to be driven from place to place. It comes in three classes. Class A refers to bus-like motorhomes, Class B refers to van-like motorhomes, and Class C describes motorhomes with a bed, entertainment center, or storage directly above the driver’s compartment.

Moochdocking – Boondocking on someone’s driveway or private land, most often without any utility connections or connected to electricity through a common extension cord.

MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) – The often highly-inflated price for a new RV shown on the sticker displayed on a dealer’s lot.

NADA book – A publication previously produced by the National Automobile Dealers Association, now published by J.D. Power, used to determine the value of pre-owned RVs, cars, and towed vehicles.

Navigator – The passenger who charts the initial travel route. Once underway, the navigator finds fuel stations, restaurants, and campgrounds along the route in order to prevent the driver from being distracted. Sometimes called the co-pilot, this person also keeps the driver stocked with beverages and snacks.

NPS (National Park Service) – The federal agency tasked with managing America’s national parks, monuments, and historic sites.

OEM (original equipment manufacturer) – The company which initially built an RV, tow vehicle, or towed vehicle.

OHI (formerly Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) – The trade association representing interests of professional outdoor hospitality companies, like campgrounds and RV resorts.

Overhang – The portion of an RV which extends from the rear axle to the end of the vehicle.

Overhead sleeper – The sleeping area on the front end of a Class C motorhome or a truck camper which extends over the driver’s compartment.


Park model – A structure similar to a tiny home or manufactured home which is intended to remain permanently parked in the same place. It is built to standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation and cannot exceed 400 square feet.

PDI (pre-delivery inspection) – An inspection conducted at the factory or RV dealership before an RV is delivered to a buyer. Ideally, a PDI makes sure appliances work as intended and there are no major flaws with the RV itself.

Pedestal – The power station at a campsite. It will most certainly include electricity, but can also include water and cable television hookups.

Pigtail – Similar to a dog bone, it is an electrical adapter for which one end plugs into an RV’s 50-amp electric cord so the other end can be attached to a 30-amp pedestal. It also works to connect a 30-amp power cord into a 50-amp outlet.

Pinch rolled – A construction term describing how RV sidewalls are made by squeezing a combination of lamination, insulation, plywood and interior paneling together to form a permanent bond.

Pit toilet – An old fashioned outhouse where the toilet cannot be flushed and waste collects in a large storage vault before being pumped out by a honey wagon. Whatever is dropped into a pit toilet usually remains there forever.

Poop pyramid – It’s as gross as it sounds. The pyramid is created when RVers keep the black tank open all the time allowing liquid to drain, leaving only solid residue to build up in the tank and eventually interfere with dumping operations. Often, the pyramid is rock hard and must be cleared by a professional.

Pop-up – Also called a folding trailer, this travel trailer folds down for travel, but pops up to create a larger living area. The two ends often feature tent-like screen rooms large enough to accommodate a bed.

Primitive camping – Similar to boondocking, an RV is parked in an area without access to fresh water, electricity, or sewage connections.

Pull-In – A campsite which allows the RV to be pulled into position, rather than backed in. The difference between a pull-in and pull-thru campsite is that a pull-in might not be long enough for a tow vehicle to remain connected to the RV overnight.

Pull-off – A section of highway which allows a driver to pull off the road for a quick break or to spend the night.

Pull-thru – A campsite which allows the driver to pull in and leave in the same direction. The sites are often long enough to allow the RV to remain attached to the tow vehicle or towed vehicle overnight.

Pusher – Refers to any motorhome with a rear engine. Almost always diesel-powered, pushers create enough power to “push” the motorhome down the road. On the other hand, a front-engine RV works to pull the vehicle along the road.

Rally – An organized gathering of RVers that can range from less than 10 to several thousand people. Larger rallies often have planned activities and entertainment.

Recreational park trailer – Most frequently referred to as a park model, it is is designed to be permanently set up in an immovable location at a campground or RV resort. It looks like a tiny house and may have a loft area to use for sleeping or storage.

Rig – A reference to any RV, whether a motorhome, fifth wheel, or travel trailer.

RV – Standard abbreviation for recreation vehicle. Although some people refer to RVs as “recreational vehicles,” the RV Industry Association defines RVs as “recreation vehicles.” Built to standards established by the U.S. Department of Transportation, an RV is designed to serve as temporary living quarters when traveling and recreating. It cannot exceed 400 square feet of interior space.

RVDA (Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association) – The trade association representing the interests of professional RV dealers and service centers.

RVIA (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association) – The trade association representing the interests of RV manufacturers and component suppliers.

RV queen bed – The term used to describe a unique mattress size for use in RVs. While a traditional queen bed is 60-by-80-inches, and RV queen is generally 60-by-74- or 60-by-76-inches. That means it will require specially-fitted sheets.

Schoolie – A school bus that has been converted into a livable motorhome.

Self-contained – Any RV with its own onboard systems for generating electric power, or storing fresh water and wastewater. It has its own toilet and cooking facilities.

Shore power – The electricity received when an RV is plugged into a pedestal or outlet at a campground.

Sleeper dinette – A booth used for dining that can be converted to a sleeping area when needed.

Slideout – An expandable room which slides in and out to create extra living space when not traveling. Slide rooms can be extended and retracted electrically or with hydraulic equipment.

Slider – A special hitch used for towing fifth wheel RVs that slides during turns to prevent the RV from crashing into the tow vehicle.

Slinky – Sometimes called the “stinky slinky,” this device provides sloped support to sewer hoses to facilitate draining tanks at campgrounds. While it is convenient to be able to drain gray water at all times, it is important to keep the black tank valve closed, except when being emptied, to prevent a “poop pyramid” from developing in the tank.

Snowbird – Human versions of migrating birds, except snowbirds drive south for the winter.

Split bath – Describes a bathroom design where the shower is separate from toilet facilities. It is also used to describe large RVs that have a toilet, sink and shower in the bathroom as well as a separate room with just a toilet and sink.

SURV (sport utility RV) – Also called a “hybrid travel trailer,” it features hard sides and expandable bed ends similar to a pop-up in that they fold down rather than pull out.

Stabilizer jacks – Support jacks underneath the RV chassis which are operated manually, electrically, or hydraulicly to stabilize an RV when parked. Without stabilizer jacks, the RV will wobble whenever someone walks through it.

Stick-and-tin – An RV with wood framing and corrugated aluminum exterior, as opposed to a fiberglass exterior.

Sticks-and-bricks – Traditional houses made of lumber and stone, as compared to a home on wheels.

Street side – The side of an RV, usually next to the driver, that usually faces utility connections.

Super C – A much larger version of a Class C motorhome which features heavy-duty equipment and larger living areas.

Supplier – A company which makes components installed on RVs or sells aftermarket equipment to enhance the RV lifestyle.


Tag-axle – A motorhome or fifth wheel with a third axle to support a heavier chassis.

Tail swing – The turning radius of an RV’s rear wheels as they round a corner. It is important to pay attention to tail swing at fuel stops and when pulling into or out of a campsite in order to avoid a collision.

Tin can – A common reference to Airstream-brand travel trailers, which are known for their distinctive smooth, shiny aluminum siding.

Toad – The passenger vehicle towed behind a motorhome and also referred to as a “dinghy.”

Tongue weight – The actual weight that presses down on a tow vehicle’s hitch ball. Generally, tongue weight is less than 15% of the gross vehicle weight (GVW). Tongue weight is a factor in determining the maximum weight to safely tow a vehicle. That number is determined by the tow vehicle’s manufacturer.

Tow bar – A piece of equipment which attaches to a vehicle enabling it to be flat towed behind a motorhome. It has a Y appearance with two long, flexible ends attached to the vehicle and the shorter end inserted into the RV’s hitch.

Tow dolly – A two-wheeled piece of equipment mounted to a motorhome’s hitch that enables a passenger vehicle to be towed behind the motorhome with its front tires elevated.

TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) – A device which allows a driver to instantly check the pressure of all tires from the cab of a truck or motorhome. It sounds an alarm when pressure drops or a tire overheats.

TT – The common abbreviation for travel trailer.

Triple towing – The act of towing two items behind a vehicle. For example, a motorhome could triple-tow a car and a boat; however, it is illegal to do so in some states.

Turn radius – Also referred to as “tail swing,” it is the radius the entire vehicle combination – either motorhome plus tow vehicle, or tow vehicle plus RV – requires to safely make a turn.

Unit – Generally refers to any type of RV, whether motorized or towable.

Upside down – Sometimes referred to as “negative equity,” it is a situation in which the RV is valued less than the balance due on a loan.

UVW (unloaded vehicle weight) – The actual weight of the RV alone without passengers, water, fuel, food, cargo, and equipment.

Wagon master – The person who is tasked with planning routes for caravans or special activities for rallies.

Wallydocking – Staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot.

Water pressure regulator relief valve – An angled valve or special device that works to control water pressure coming into an RV. The values prevent damage to plumbing when a faucet is turned on or the toilet is flushed.

Weekend warrior – Someone who generally uses an RV only on weekends.

Wet bath – Tiny bathrooms typically found on Class B motorhomes or small travel trailers in which the user sits on the toilet and uses a wand to take a shower.

Wet bay – The exterior compartment of an RV that includes water and dump connections.

Wheelbase – The distance between axles which greatly influences an RV’s turn radius.

Winter Texans – Similar to snowbirds, these RVers from other states spend the winter months only in Texas.

Winterize – Preparing an RV for freezing weather by draining water tanks and toilet, filling them with antifreeze, and blowing out water lines with air to prevent damage caused by freezing.

Workamper – A person who does any kind of work while living in any type of RV.

So, what did we miss? If there is a common term people need to know about, please send us an email to [email protected] so we can update the list of RV lingo.

Thanks for reading the Gone Workamping blog from Workamper News. Join today to see all the new job opportunities for RVers, as well as the training and resources to confidently find the right Workamping job for you – easily and securely.


    Carol Ann Quibell

    (February 18, 2024 - 10:32 am)

    Excellent Greg! Really great information as usual. It’s funny because I wrote a post a few months ago on RV Lingo but definitely didn’t go into as much detail as you did. Very thorough ! Thanks.

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