Rugged RVing: Leveling Your Adventure Vehicle For Off-Road Terrain

Hunkering down for the night in your recreational vehicle, nestled in nature’s splendor, can be one of life’s simple pleasures. That is, until you realize one side of the rig is 2 feet lower than the other. Suddenly your bed feels more like a slide, and you’re slipping off as you try to sleep. Not exactly the relaxing evening you envisioned!

Proper leveling is crucial for RV comfort and functionality, but it can be tricky when boondocking off-grid or traversing uneven terrain. Leveling helps stabilize your RV, prevents appliances and plumbing from malfunctioning, and lets you get a good night’s sleep.

As an avid off-road RV adventurer myself, I’ve endured my fair share of tilting travesties over the years. Let me tell you – fumbling around , trying to get your trailer leveled at 2 AM, is an experience I do not wish to repeat! After much trial and many errors, I’ve discovered some tips and tricks for leveling rigs on rugged terrain.

Leveling Systems Built Tough For The Trails

Leveling your rig begins with having the right gear designed specifically for uneven ground. The type of system you need depends on your RV setup and boondocking style. Here are some top options made to withstand off-road adventures:

Hydraulic Leveling Jacks

These heavy-duty jacks are powered by an electric hydraulic pump which uses fluid force to raise and lower each jack. With the push of a button from inside your RV, they can lift thousands of pounds to stabilize and level your rig on uneven terrain.

The HWH Air Leveling System is a favorite high-end hydraulic system known for its reliability after 40+ years in the RV industry. A bit pricier but worth it for frequent remote camping.

Lippert Ground Control is another reputable hydraulic system, offering various jack configurations to handle different RV weights and lengths. Their 3D Touch Pad gives you precise control during the leveling process.

One tip with hydraulic jacks – listen for the jacks to make solid contact with the ground before lifting the full weight of the rig. This prevents them from rutting into soft surfaces.

Automatic Leveling Systems

These operate similarly to hydraulic systems but are completely automated. Input your specs like RV length and type, and the system’s control box handles the entire leveling sequence with minimal input needed from you.

Bigfoot Leveling Systems are the cream of the crop for automatic leveling. Their systems intelligently adapt to any terrain by measuring twist and flex in the RV frame. Bigfoot offers hydraulic or electric jack options.

LevelMatePRO is a budget-friendly automatic system starting under $1,500. The LCD display panel makes leveling simple even for beginners. Just don’t expect all the bells and whistles of pricier brands.

Automatic systems are fantastic for quick, hands-off leveling. But they lack the nuanced control of hydraulic jacks for fine tuning on angled sites.

Leveling Blocks

These are placed under your RV’s tires to add height and stabilize on uneven ground. They’re inexpensive, low-tech, and great for minor leveling jobs.

Camco Leveling Blocks are a popular choice made from UV-resistant plastic. The interlocking design allows you to stack them in various configurations.

Lynx Levelers take it a step further with color-coded blocks sized specifically for each wheel base. The pointed toe design bites into soft ground for added traction.

Leveling blocks work best in tandem with a hydraulic jack system. You can quickly level one side of the rig with blocks, then tweak the other side with jacks.

Mastering The Balancing Act

Got your gear ready for the rugged road? Here are some key tips I’ve picked up over the years for getting perfectly poised on uneven terrain:

  • Assess the site – Walk the area to identify potential pitfalls like soft spots, holes, or slopes before parking. Use boards under jack pads if needed to prevent sinking.
  • Level side-to-side first – This is the most crucial element for comfort and appliance functionality. Use jacks or leveling blocks to lift the low side until centered.
  • Check end-to-end level – Once centered, use jacks to tweak any tilting from front to back. Get this as close as possible, but perfect fore and aft leveling is less critical than side alignment.
  • Use stabilizing jacks – Once leveled, deploy stabilizing jacks at the four corners of the RV to further reduce rocking and vibration.
  • Unhitch before leveling – Unhooking your trailer or 5th wheel before leveling gives the rig frame added flexibility to adapt to the terrain.
  • Work quickly – Level and stabilize ASAP upon parking before your trailer frame settles into divots or the ground compacts under weight.
  • Go easy extending jacks – Fully extend only 1-2 inches at a time, allowing the frame to adjust gradually as it lifts rather than twisting it by abrupt extensions.
  • Mind appliance angles – When very uneven, keep fridge and shower angles in mind. Park sideways on steep banks so appliances stay as level as possible.

It takes practice to master the intricacies of rugged leveling. Don’t get frustrated if your first boondocking attempts end up a bit crooked. You’ll get the hang of coordinating jacks and blocks with experience.

Watch Out For These Pitfalls!

I’ve made about every leveling mistake possible, from sinking truck tires 2 feet into mud to nearly ripping out grey tank pipes stretched downhill. Here are some pitfalls I’ve learned to avoid – the hard way!

  • Watch holding tank levels – Weight from full grey/black tanks can cause major sagging and throw off leveling. Empty them before parking on uneven sites.
  • Keep an eye on jacks – Visually check that all jacks are making solid contact and none are dangling before lifting the full RV weight.
  • Go easy with stabilizers – Stabilizing jacks are only meant to steady the frame, not lift or level the rig. Over-extending them can cause damage.
  • Watch soft surfaces – Carry and use boards, planks, or gravel to create a solid base if the ground is very soft where jacks extend.
  • Keep an extension cord handy – Running through your RV battery with multiple jack extensions can kill your power. Plug into shore power if available.
  • Have help ready – An extra pair of hands is useful for placing blocks or monitoring jacks and extensions during the leveling process.

Take it slow, double check contact points, and have equipment ready for traction if needed. With smart preparations and attentive leveling, your off-grid overnights will be relaxed and rejuvenating even on rugged terrain.

Smooth Sailing Awaits With Proper Leveling!

Life’s too short for tilting trailers and restless nights! Master the delicate dance of lifting and stabilizing. Then get ready to relax into a nice, long snooze under the stars!

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