I’ve been a full time RVer since 2007 and there have been quite a few RVing lessons to learn. Here are a few of the most important ones – I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as I continue my life on the road.

ANTS: How do you keep ants out of your rig? Here are a few suggestions that should stop them before they enter.

Raven RendevousRavens Rendezvous at the Ramada

• Sprinkle Comet cleanser or talcum powder (which may be more environmentally friendly) around everything on your rig that touches the ground: tires, stabilizers and leveling jacks, hoses, and cords. For some reason, the ants won’t cross the line of dry powder.

• Something else to try is diatomaceous earth (not the kind used in pool filters), which can be found in most garden centers; this will work as long as you keep it dry. It is not harmful to pets or children.

Fishhook Barrel CactusFishhook Barrel Cactus

MICE: While camped in Tonto National Forest, AZ, we had our first rving lesson when we were surprised to find mice in the RV. I opened the storage compartment under the dinette seat to get the bag of cat food and discovered the food was spilling out though a ragged hole in the bottom of the bag. We set a mousetrap, baited it with peanut butter and, within hours, had a little corpse to dispose of. Over the next few days, we kept baiting the trap and terminated three more critters.

How they managed to get in is a mystery, but if there’s a way, they certainly will. Check your rig for any openings a rodent could squeeze through. Here are several ideas I’ve heard of that will keep them out:

• Fabric softener sheets tucked into drawers, cabinets, closets, under sinks, etc. This is what I’ve been using since our invasion – so far, so good. This was a very useful rving lesson.

• Expanding foam is good for cracks and around pipes where they go through the wall or floor.

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• Mice apparently don’t like the smell of Irish Spring soap, so put boxes of it in storage areas.

• Peppermint oil is said to be a natural rodent repellent. You can dab it on cotton balls and stick them wherever you need them. I also heard it can be used as an insect repellent and have tried it. It does seem to work, but only for a while when the smell is strong.

• Poisoning them isn’t a good idea; they might die in places you can’t reach and create a terrible smell.

I actually hate to kill them - had a pet mouse from time to time as a kid.


I can no longer brag that I haven’t had to deal with an rving lesson from these critters, and I have heard about the very costly rv lessons others have learned. Packrats apparently love wiring, or the insulation around the wiring, as well as hoses, and they can do thousands of dollars of damage. I heard of one rver who had to replace or rebuild her engine after packrats got to work on it while her motorhome was in storage.

Morning at Diablo CanyonMorning at Diablo Canyon - Organ Pipe Cactus NM

My experience was, fortunately, not as horrible, as I only had to replace three water hoses while I was at Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument this past winter. I initially thought it was due to freezing, then that the hose was old, but it was finally clear that a packrat had taken a bite. I solved the problem by filling my fresh water tank and putting the hose away. I also got the electrical cord off the ground, as it looked as though he had taken a nibble out of that as well. No more problems – for me at least. The pack rat moved on to my neighbor’s rig and started in on his hose!

Someone told me pack rats won’t go on concrete, so if you’re parked for long periods or need to store your motorhome, try to have your rv parked on a hard surface, well away from desert flora and fauna.

When I'm parked for any length of time near where pack rats live, I open up the engine compartment on the rig and the hood on my car.

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Another method for keeping them away, used successfully by many, is to put a string of Christmas lights, or rope lights, around the perimeter of your motor home, just inside the drip line. Hook them up to a sensor, so they’ll go on at sundown and off at sunrise. I’ve seen these lights around many rvs, and was told they keep snakes away – maybe they do both.

Since so many folks say this works, it's definitely an rving lesson you'll want to put into practice, especially if you're out in the desert.

Peppermint oil, which you can buy at a natural foods store, is said to work to keep pack rats away, as well as mice. Seems like it might be a good idea to keep a little bottle of peppermint oil handy.

If your towing vehicle or dinghy is sitting and you’re worried about its engine, it’s suggested you leave the hood up.

More RVing Lessons

TV ANTENNA: Many a TV antenna has been knocked for a loop because someone forgot to lower it before driving out of the campground. I keep an ordinary spring-loaded clothespin on the antenna crank when it is down. If we raise the antenna, the clothespin gets pinned to the edge of the ignition keyhole. That way, I can’t help but be reminded of the antenna as I get ready to take off.

LIGHTS & TURN SIGNALS ON TOW VEHICLE: If lights and/or turn signals are not working, try spraying the electrical connections with white vinegar.

HOLDING TANK SENSOR LIGHTS: We call these “idiot lights” since they seldom indicate the true state of the black and gray water tanks. One recommendation is to fill the problem tanks half full (of course, since the lights are not working correctly, you’ll have to guess), then add ½ cup of Dawn detergent before starting out, and emptying the tank/s when you arrive at the next campsite. If the first attempt doesn’t work, try it again.

STUCK IN MUD, SNOW, OR SAND: Carry two strips of metal plasterer’s lath, 10” x 30” each. If you get stuck, place these either behind or in front of the drive axle wheels. Once you are unstuck, you can hose them off and store flat to use again.

Of course, there are more RVing lessons to learn, such as driving an RV.

RV Checklists will help both new and experienced RVers stay out of trouble.

Check out RV Etiquette for some ideas on how to be a good neighbor.

Hopefully, any rving lessons in your future will be small ones, easily learned and easily cured.

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