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Review: Escapees RVers’ Boot Camp

There’s so much going on, I struggled to narrow it down this week.

But the highlight of the last several days has been our attendance at the Escapees RVers’ Boot Camp.

We were not asked to review the Boot Camp, nor did we receive any sort of compensation from the Escapees. In fact, they probably don’t even know I’m writing this, or that two of the folks in attendance keep a blog!

What Is RVers’ Boot Camp?

Club House at Rainbow’s End where classes were held

The Escapees is an RV club with several campgrounds across the country and all sorts of benefits, group events and even a mail forwarding service. Josh and I joined up earlier this year, but we haven’t taken full advantage of our membership yet.

RVers Boot Camp is a multi-day program for new RVers that Escapees offers. Boot Camp is for anyone, whether they have a motorhome, towable or are just considering adopting the lifestyle. It’s appropriate for weekenders as well as full-timers.

Held at Escapees campgrounds, Boot Camps give attendees a chance to meet one another, ask questions, go to classes and then test out all they learn each evening in their own RV.

We weren’t able to get our own RV and truck ready to go by the time our Boot Camp weekend rolled around, so we stayed in a nearby hotel in Livingston, Texas that was a short 15 minute drive each morning to Rainbow’s End RV Park

 How it Works

Boot Camp instructors giving their last remarks

Boot Camp is a treasure trove of information. Not a second is wasted by the outstanding instructors, and every topic is covered. Here’s a taste of the classes offered:

  • RV systems (appliances, electric, plumbing, propane, etc.)
  • Driving
  • Weight and load management
  • Fire safety
  • Personal safety
  • Tires
  • Choosing an RV
  • Topics specific to towables and to motorhomes

Each day, the main classes take place for an hour and a half each, with breaks in between. Electives are offered daily, and there is also a full-timer round-table. Even some meals are provided, and each night there is a campfire gathering for instructors and attendees to get to know each other better.

We received handouts, a CD with videos and other resources. Plus this was an invaluable opportunity to ask questions of experts. Everything I wanted to know ahead of time (and more) was answered thanks to the responsiveness of the instructors.

What We Learned

I don’t want to give away everything, in part because it really should be experienced first-hand. And, to be honest, we learned so much that it would take a much longer blog post to enumerate it all.

But here are some of the tidbits that really stuck with us.

Tire Safety

  • If you have a blowout, accelerate (not brake) to minimize the new side force until you can gain control of your vehicle and come to a safe stop. This works for any vehicle, not just RVs.
  • Keeping your tires inflated is essential, as is making sure you replace them every 6-7 years.
  • Learn to decipher the codes on the side of your tires. They can tell you all sorts of things, from their age to their appropriate load.
Going to Boot Camp will teach you tire-speak

Weight Management

  • Do not drive with your vehicle, trailer or motorhome overloaded with weight. This can cause damage to all sorts of systems, including blowouts.
  • Tires and axles also have weight ratings, so don’t neglect these.
  • It is essential that you get your setup professionally weighed by a service like SmartWeigh — and not just total weight, but the weight on each wheel.

Fire Safety

  • Collectively decide on and then practice your fire escape plan, which should include a window that you can prop open and get out of within 20 (or fewer) seconds — because that’s all the time you have in an RV!
  • Just because you can drive down the road with your propane on to keep your fridge running and beer cold doesn’t necessarily mean you should. This is a fire hazard, so turn off the propane at the source before driving.
  • Traditional ionization fire detectors and ABC fire extinguishers may not be keeping you as safe as you’d imagine. Try switching to dual photoelectric/ionization detectors and AFFF foam extinguishers. And don’t forget the carbon monoxide detector.
Setup for fire demonstration
Live fire safety demonstration
Putting out the flames

More Good Stuff

  • Learn the exact height of your vehicle so you do not run into anything, including trees, overhangs at gas stations and low bridges.
  • Learn the systems in your RV and how they all work together. There are a lot of great gadgets out there that will improve their usability. Also, build and follow a maintenance plan for all systems.

This is just a tiny taste of the info we gained this weekend. I seriously got hand cramps taking notes.

Final Word

As of fall 2014, the course was $200 for one person or $300 for two. For 20 hours of high-quality instruction, plus all the other benefits, we felt it was 100% worth the cost.

If you’re considering attending, I’d suggest bringing a pad of paper and a good pen, as well as a comfortable camp chair or a chair pad. You may also want to bring some change to make purchases from the vending machines.

If you bring your RV with you, plan to take advantage of the other opportunities you’ll have, like one-on-one driving training and RV weighing. These come at an extra cost.

So… what’s the bottom line from Ardent Camper? If you’re a new RVer, or if you’re considering getting an RV, and if there is an Escapees RVers’ Boot Camp near you, do it. Absolutely.

Have you taken any classes for new RVers? Did you feel they were helpful? Why or why not?

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