Book extract: RV There Yet?

Five Mile Bay4 Five Mile Bay Five Mile Bay4
Don Marilyn Marilyn and Don Jessen Don Marilyn
Five Mile Bay2 Five Mile Bay Five Mile Bay2

Fans of Don and Marilyn Jessen’s fabulous RV books will be delighted at the release of their new publication, RV There Yet?, a guide to owning and using a recreational vehicle in Aotearoa. In this extract, Don and Marilyn provide excellent advice on preparing your vehicle for a trip, along with a few handy checklists.

Travel the length and breadth of New Zealand, stop at Department of Conservation camps, freedom camps, and New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) parks or motorcamps and you cannot help but notice the RVs parked up everywhere.

We’re not talking about the thousands of campervan tourists, who number about 50,000 per year, but the New Zealand RV owners that ply our country, estimated to be in the region of 80,000-plus.

These RVs come in all shapes and sizes, from the small self-contained vans to the luxury multi-metre motorhomes and buses, small caravans to large and specialty vehicles, such as fifth-wheelers (so named for the tray-mounted coupling or ‘fifth wheel’ of a semi-trailer) and slide-on ute campers.

Whichever sparks your imagination or suits your purpose, there’s a wide range to choose from regardless of budget. New Zealanders use their RVs for holidays, to live in permanently, to put up extra guests or as temporary accommodation when working away from home. A little time invested before you leave can make your trip much less stressful and way more successful.

Are you legal?

A few weeks before you leave, check you have a current warrant of fitness or certificate of compliance and current registration. If you are planning to plug into 240-volt power, check you have a current electrical warrant. If you are planning to go freedom camping, check your certified self-contained certificate is current.

General maintenance

Be mindful of general maintenance

Check silicon sealing on joints and panels and roof vents for wear and tear. If the motorhome has been sitting for some time, check starting and consider draining old fuel and refilling. Check tyres for tread depth, wear and pressure. For caravans, check the brakes and wheel bearings, particularly if the van has been sitting for some time.

Fill it and empty it

Check the date on the gas bottle and have it tested before refilling if out of date. Check freshwater tanks are full. Check grey-water tank is empty. Set up cassette toilet black-water tank. Check hoses and connections.

Make sure it works

Check battery charge and preferably cool fridge and freezer for a few hours before adding food. Check appliances are working.

Air it out

Open up the RV, clean any mould or mildew and air the seating, upholstery and bedding.

Before you drive away

Complete all checks before driving away

Check that windows are closed and latched and that the roof vents are down. We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve seen RVs on the road with the roof-vent open, a sure way to get it ripped off or create leaks around the flashings.

Secure everything before setting off

Check that any loose items have been safely stowed away. Cupboards should be securely shut with strong catches to prevent them from coming open in transit. Check bikes or any outside gear is securely attached.

Don’t forget to prep your home

Cancel the mail, let your neighbours know you are going away, organise your animals and garden watering. Divert your landline (if you have one) to mobile. Turn major appliances off at the wall plug. Secure valuables. Pull curtains and lock your house securely. Leave a spare key with a trusted friend, not under the doormat.

Packing and stowing

Everything you pack in your RV is going to add weight, so keep asking yourself whether you really need it. This is particularly important if you are running close to weight limits for licence and certificate of fitness requirements. Also watch the weight added on outside racks, such as bikes or canoes. E-bikes are considerably heavier than standard bikes and may need a more robust rack and additional panel-fixing points.

Weight of fluids

  • Water 1kg per litre
  • Diesel 0.96kg per litre
  • Petrol 0.7kg per litre
  • LPG 0.48kg per litre

Packing lists

We run two packing lists for our RV, the permanent storage items for both inside and outside use, and our trip list.

Permanent storage 

A great idea we took to heart in our very early days was to have a designated space for everything and to keep it in that space so we could readily lay our hands on it when the time came. Here’s our list of essential items, which we keep pre-packed in the RV.

  • Fire extinguisher and fire blanket
  • First-aid kit
  • Torch and batteries
  • Tool kit including mallet and hammer, screwdrivers and socket set, pliers, electrical tape
  • Waste tanks and hoses for rollaway tank
  • Toilet chemical
  • Disposable gloves
  • Caravan Reyrolle power lead and conversion cord
  • Water hose and funnel
  • Bucket
  • Tyre jack
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Wheel chocks
  • Levelling blocks
  • Parking leg handle (for caravans)
  • Spare tyre or inflation kit
  • Rags
  • Deck chairs
  • Sun umbrella
  • Folding awning table
  • Awning, awning mat, pegs and poles
  • Maps
  • NZMCA Travel Directory (also available online)
  • Crockery
  • Pots and pans
  • Baking dishes
  • Glasses/wine glasses
  • Cutlery
  • Gas stove lighter and matches
  • Storage containers
  • Coffee maker or smoothie maker
  • Broom and shovel
  • Portable vacuum
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Dishwashing mop
  • Washing line and pegs
  • Washing powder
  • Laundry bag
  • Tissues
  • Paper towels
  • Aluminium foil
  • Rubbish bin liners

Trip packing list

  • Sheets and pillowcases
  • Blankets
  • Duvet
  • Pillows
  • Bath towels and beach towels
  • Face cloths
  • Tea towels
  • Dishcloths
  • Personal toiletries
  • Pantry food basics: sugar, tea, coffee, fruit juice, your favourite tipple, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, herbs, pasta, rice
  • Fridge food basics: eggs, milk, butter or margarine, cheese, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Freezer food: meat, pre-made meals, frozen veggies
  • Clothing for all seasons
  • Footwear
  • Rainwear
  • Hats
  • Insect repellent
  • Citronella candles
  • Sun block
  • Medications
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Phones, laptops and devices and charging cords
  • Reading books
  • Games
  • Music and DVDs
  • Camera
  • Prescription glasses/sunglasses
  • Wallet
  • Fuel cards
  • Business/personal calling cards

Planning your itinerary

Makaraka, Gisborne

Depending on your point of view, you may wish to avoid travelling on public holidays or in school holidays. Alternatively, you may like to take advantage of the special activities that are on at these times or take the kids or grandkids adventuring. You can find out when the school holidays are each year at

Some cafés and restaurants impose a surcharge on public holidays. There are also restricted trading regulations for Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day, meaning that service stations and supermarkets, among others, may be shut.

Win one of two copies of RV there yet? to give away.


We have two copies of RV there yet? to give away.

Click here to enter before 18th November 2019.

Find more motorhomes, RVs and caravans for sale in NZ

Keep up to date with news by signing up to's free newsletter or by liking us on Facebook