People have been escaping the city to camp in the woods for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. But innovations in the RV industry have made camping considerably more glamorous and more accessible in recent decades. So, if you’re new to the trend and you’ve been hearing the term ‘RV’ thrown around, it makes sense to wonder: what does RV stand for?
What Does RV Stand For?
It also includes motorhomes, such as gas and diesel Class A RVs, Class B camper vans, and Class C and Super C motor coaches. Truck bed campers sort of exist in a class of their own, but they’ve grown rapidly in popularity over the last few years too.
The “Unofficial” Meaning
For many, RV also stands for adventure! Recreational vehicles provide the comforts of home in a mobile unit that can be in Tulsa tonight and Albuquerque tomorrow. In that way, they also signify freedom – freedom to roam, freedom to sleep almost anywhere, and freedom to experience America’s cultural and environmental diversity.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that RV is also synonymous with embracing self-sufficiency. Life is different in an RV, and it requires an awareness of how to provide for our basic needs; an awareness that we often take for granted in everyday life.
A Brief History of RVs
RVs have been around for more than a century. Their origins can be traced back to the earliest road trippers equipping passenger vehicles with bunks, coolers, camping equipment, and other amenities needed for their adventures.
Officially, the first production RV was manufactured by Pierce-Arrow, which introduced the Touring Landau as their original RV in 1910. Today, the Landau would be considered a camper van, as it was a small motorized camper equipped with a bed, a sink, a toilet, and an early mobile phone. It sold for a hefty early 20th-century price of $8,000.
Since then, creativity has produced many RV makes and models, from fifth wheels that could be towed by a VW Beetle to off-road monsters that resemble military vehicles. They all have one thing in common: they’re all designed to be your home away from home.
While early RVs were designed for shorter road trips, it didn’t take long for the full-time RV lifestyle to take root. Interestingly, the economic downturn in the 1930s made the RV lifestyle a necessity, rather than a privilege, for many.
Today, people are drawn to RVs for a number of reasons. Some are simply looking to make their weekend camping trips more comfortable. Others are looking for a method to retire, downsize, and explore the United States. And some are simply looking for a different way of life that’s not centered around the urban or suburban homestead.
That’s a big reason why today’s manufacturers produce unique RV makes and models. Whether you’re a full-timer, a weekend warrior, or you want to experience the peace and solitude of a remote boondocking area, there’s an RV out there for you.
Types of RVs
To narrow in on the type of RV that’s best for you and your travel companions, here’s a brief description of RV classes and types:
Class A Motorhomes (Gas and Diesel RVs)
Gas and diesel Class A RVs are generally the largest and most luxurious RV types. They’re typically built on a truck or bus chassis and offer spacious living areas, ample sleeping capacity, and an abundance of storage space. Most floorplans include a full kitchen with the kinds of residential appliances you’d desire for full-time RVing.
Class B Motorhomes
Class B motorhomes are also known as camper vans. They’ve grown immensely popular with the allure of “van life” and they offer most of the amenities of a larger RV in a more compact package. The main benefits of Class B camper vans include more nimble driving and navigation, better off-road capability, and improved fuel economy.
Class C and Super C Motorhomes
Class C and super C RVs are the middle ground between large Class A motorhomes and compact Class B campers. They are distinguishable by the extra sleeping or cargo space above the cab, which makes them an ideal choice for family camping. They offer more living space than Class Bs while being easier to drive than Class A RVs.
The pop-up camper is often the gateway to larger recreational vehicles. For many beginners, these campers are affordable and easy to tow, making them a great choice for campers that are looking to sleep off the ground but aren’t yet ready to purchase a larger, heavier trailer.
Travel trailers also referred to as campers, are the most popular type of towable RV. They’re available in lengths as short as 15 feet and as long as 40 feet, which means there are a lot of options. The best travel trailer for you will depend on your vehicle’s tow rating.
Travel trailers often feature spacious floorplans with bunk beds that expand their sleeping capacity to accommodate large families. They also have the benefit of allowing you to park in a campground and detach your tow vehicle to explore the surrounding area.
Fifth wheels are excellent towables for setting up an RV basecamp. They are generally larger than travel trailers, which means they require larger trucks to tow them safely. Instead of connecting to a hitch ball at the back of your truck, fifth wheels attach to a pin box that is welded or bolted to your truck’s frame inside the truck bed.
This design places the hitch weight of the fifth wheel more directly over your truck’s rear axle, which makes towing them a bit easier. Fifth wheels also tend to offer floorplans with the kitchen in the front, rear, or center of the RV, allowing you to choose the layout that best suits your lifestyle.
Technically, you’ll find toy haulers that also fit into the ‘travel trailer’ and ‘5th wheel’ categories. But regardless of how they’re hitched to your tow vehicle, this RV type is classified by having a large garage area at the rear.
On most models, a large rear door folds down and becomes an entry ramp. Toy haulers are designed for carrying ATVs, dirt bikes, and other large recreation gear. Many of them also have convertible garages that become a comfortable lounge area or sleeping space once your toys are unloaded.
Now that you know what RV stands for, it’s time to explore which type is best for you. Here are some resources to help:
- 7 Things To Do on your RV Rental Trip if You’re Thinking of Buying
- Four Benefits of Buying a Used RV
- The Ultimate Checklist for Buying a Pre-Owned RV
What intrigues or perplexes you about RVs? We’d love to answer your questions in the comments below!
Tucker Ballister is a Technical Content Writer for Camping World and a lover of the open road. You can check out more of his adventures and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.