Saturday, October 1, 2022


Questionable RVing features: What were they thinking?

Have you ever wondered, “What were they thinking?” when you encountered a feature “designed” to enhance your RVing experience?

My college years were spent earning a degree in architecture. My professors taught me and other students how form follows function. Per the folks at Wiki, “Form follows function is a principle that proposes a building’s purpose should be the starting point for its design rather than its aesthetics.” A few residential examples of “form follows function” include: a solar home with large windows facing south to catch the sun’s rays, the dining room located next to the kitchen, bedrooms located near a bathroom, a house in a heavy snow area will have a steeply pitched roof to shed snow, etc.

This concept must be rather ingrained in me for when I encounter a poorly “designed” feature intended to support RVers in their travels, I wonder “what were they thinking?” Or, more concisely, “What was the designer thinking?”

Any brave souls want to wade in and disconnect the power cord? At least the sewer connection is nice and high! Double failure. Photo – Holly Adkins

When it comes to RVing features, form doesn’t always follow function

Unfortunately, when it comes to things like RV hookups, dump stations, RV “friendly” fuel stations, campsites, and other features meant to improve RVers’ experiences, form often doesn’t follow function! I often wonder if someone even bothered to research the functions of RVs to arrive at the form, i.e., design?

It doesn’t take a lot of research to discover most RVs have an entry door on the curbside (passenger side); they are long and are more difficult to maneuver; utility hookups like water and electrical are typically on the roadside (driver’s side) and the sewer/gray water terminations are also on the roadside; sewer doesn’t flow uphill (basic law of physics); RVs are taller than an average passenger vehicle and difficult to back up, especially if towing and backing into a space on the drivers blind side.

Looks Like a Good Spot to Park Overnight

My most recent encounter with form NOT following function was when my wife and I pulled into a tribal casino that welcomed RVers to spend the night for free in a designated RV area. Their website even stated that many of their RV sites included electricity and water! A quick satellite peek on Google Maps (see photo above) showed long paved sites that were well marked out and numbered. I could even make out the utility hookups located in the concrete curbed islands. I thought, wow, somebody went to the trouble to see what the needs of RVers are! We marked the casino on the map as a definite place to stop for the night.

Casino RV parking looked great in satellite image, but

When my wife and I arrived, it had everything as advertised. The only problem was the whole RV area sloped heavily to one side. Even worse, the RV spaces were diagonal to the slope, preventing me and others with travel trailers/fifth wheels from orienting our RV facing downhill so we could raise the nose of our units to become level. Why would some designer go to the work of designing spaces that were wide and long enough for RVs, even including water and electricity with a power pedestal designed for RVs, while missing the most basic required element of all—being level or creating a site that would easily accommodate an RVer to level their rig? Luckily for me I hadn’t burned all my campfire wood from the night before which served as cribbing to level my RV.

Sites Aren’t Even Close to Level

I guess I will just add this to my list of “what were they thinking” items such as sewer receptacles that are higher than the RVs termination outlet, power pedestals in “non-electric” sites, picnic tables on the roadside (driver’s side of the campsites), dump stations with pads that slope away from the dump opening, power pedestals located in low spots where water ponds, campsites with no way to pull into them unless you go around the one-way loop in the wrong direction, RV “friendly” fuel stations with lack of turning radius to exit the pumps, “U”-shaped dump station drives with the dump on the outside of the bend where can’t you pull up close to it or see it in your mirrors, etc.


What about you? What have you encountered in your RV travels that had you questioning “What were they thinking” where form didn’t follow function?

Sewage Flows up Hill in the Mind of Many Designers – RVTravel photo

Please share.  Photos too!

Dave will be speaking at the FMCA Convention in Tucson, AZ March 25th and 26th. He would love to meet readers that will be attending. Feel free to introduce yourself after one of his seminars.



Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 months ago

I want to know who decided to put single axels on the new campers and if they had ever tried to back one in or try to level one

7 months ago

Our GD Reflection has two outlet connections. One is located at the rear of our 35’ fifthwheel for the kitchen sink tank, the other is in the more common midship location for the black and gray tanks. The design of the trailer has no bumper (handy hose storage) instead they provided one approximately 6’ hose carrier underneath the trailer, which does not have the capacity to store enough hose length for most if not all sites.

7 months ago

Wisconsin state parks have begun putting a curb in the front of the dump station. So not only does your hose need to go up and over the curb if you do spill something outside of the dump area, you know where your connections would be, there is no way to rinse it to the dump inlet.

7 months ago

I think I was in that space with the pooled water. I had to build a bridge with my stacking leveler blocks to get to the outlet hoping to not electrocute myself.

7 months ago

so the rvers at the curbed islands will have hookups but what about the other 95 spots? doesnt make sence.

warren trout
7 months ago

Why I don’t trust so called experts. A licensed electrician probably put the outlet in a hole, etc,

7 months ago

We stayed at a KOA on one trip. As with most RVs the black water connection is on the driver’s side. At first I thought we got a site with no sewage drain, so I put my hose back in the storage. But, as I walked around to get in the RV, I saw the sewer drain under the picnic table on the right side. My hose not long enough to reach it.

7 months ago
Reply to  Ken

So they wanted you to eat over the sewer discharge? Yuck!

7 months ago
Reply to  Ken

Did you look under the neighbors’ table on your driver side? That’s probably where your connection was – Chuck has published photos similar to that. 🙂

7 months ago

In my many years, I have sent many an architect and engineer back to redesign/rethink/revise.. All A&E should be required to do sit down plans reviews with owners and users and explain, not just send them a copy of the plans. Out of self defense I finally became an expert at plans review. Most times the A&Es appreciated being educated on the specific uses of the project.

7 months ago

Pet peeve: Beautifully done RV sites with utilities perfectly placed but electric pedestal so high there is no way to open your slide.

7 months ago

All of the above! We often remark the designer obviously never used an RV. $$ dictates a lot of the violations. Unethical business/advertising practices a lot more.

7 months ago

We stayed at a casino campground (not a parking lot…an RV park) that had two interesting features:

1) The sewer caps had holes drilled in them. This let the sewer system’s stink come out the holes…nice.

2) Each site had the neighbor’s sewer pipe under their awning space in their grass. The morning I left I apologized profusely to my neighbor as I did the dump-deed literally under his awning.

Yesterday my wife and I attended an RV show. While we saw many examples of “what were they thinking?” two, in particular, come to mind:

1) A small outdoor kitchen with a sink. The cupboard above the sink came down to within about 6″ of the sink barely clearing the faucet top. How is a user supposed to effectively use that “covered up” sink/faucet?

2) On each side of the head of a bed were shelves about 8″ wide and 8″ above and extending over the mattress. Sound like a headache waiting to happen???

Last edited 7 months ago by Spike
7 months ago
Reply to  Spike

Regards to your #2 – These are probably CPAP shelfs. This seems to be the latest craze in RV construction (putting outlets and a shelf by the Bed).

Karoline Moore
7 months ago

We are camphost on a campground owned by the National Forest Service, that was designed before RV’s and trailers were so big. We have campers, that have been coming for 50 plus years. The campground was designed with tent campers in mind. One of our six loops is electric and has water at each site. There are 2 of 14 sites on that loop, that one has to approach against the one-way traffic with anything bigger than a van/car/truck. We as the camphosts advise people to go against traffic and will help to stop traffic. I am also sure, that before we all started showing up with our rolling homes, the road was a two-way road…. The sites are however are fairly level (paved), have the pedestal and water on the correct side…. So in this case, it was not the designers, it is because of the changing need of campers…. usually my biggest pet-peeve is: I do not want to look at the neighbors poop hose while we are grilling, eating or just sitting outside… .

7 months ago

Years ago we were at a rally in Cannon Beach at a park. To get level our front end was so high no way could be get out. Short me could not even reach the step to go in without crawling. The RV park I have been in for the last 8 years the sites are not level. Works OK for every one but motorhomes – we have to all raise our fronts.

In 2006 we stopped at a truck stop with an ‘RV’ pump. Problem is to leave there was a 90 degree angle. Thankfully we did not try it but a guy pulling a 5th wheel did and was stuck. After filling up he tried to pull out and was stuck.

Other stations that advertise ‘RV friendly’ are designed so with the convenience store in front of them. This results when pulling out if cars are parked in front you can’t get out. Our gas tank is in the back so we have pull up farther. They just built a station and store across from the park. Someone used their brain and changed that – very RV friendly.

7 months ago

At a new beautiful state park campground in my area at least half the pull-through sites are backwards. They will not let you drive the wrong way on the narrow road. You have to either park backwards or make a U-turn like my husband did. (It took him 10 minutes to turn around but he did it LOL). When you open your door and put down your stairs, you are less than a foot from walking in the road. That’s really dangerous if you have kids. The big patio, pergola, picnic table, etc are on the driver’s side of the RV. The sites are all at least 80 feet long and all the hook ups are at the very end of the parking pad so they are at least 20 – 30 feet away from your RV. You better have extra electric and water hoses and hope you don’t trip over them. This campground is less than 5 years old. Who designed this?

7 months ago
Reply to  Suru

After one time, carry extra hose, water “Y’s”, power cord, plug adapters. You will be glad you did. Better not to need them, than go looking for Wal-Mart.

Glenn L. Lygrisse
7 months ago

This article is spot on!!! My wife and I have often asked, “Did the people who designed this ever try to actually use it?” Designers should be required to utilize their own products, perhaps then they could understand the blessing of function first, form to follow.

Billy Vitro
7 months ago

I used to store my RV at a facility that advertised they have a dump and washing station for people who have space there – the problem is, you have to back in (or block the road and other storage units) and the dump inlet is on the wrong side.

Ray Zimmermann
7 months ago

Many times in campground design, form follows $$$$. If they can maximize the number of sites by putting your neighbors sewer connection under your picnic table, that’s what they will do.

Bob p
7 months ago

This is prime examples of people who are educated far beyond their intelligence level.

7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Heh, heh … and there’s soooo many of them! 🙂

7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p


Irvin Kanode
7 months ago

My biggest pet peeve is truck stops that advertise for RV business but that have gasoline pump islands that don’t have sufficient room for RVs to get in and out of the pumps–especially when they’re busy. And my trailer is only 22′.

We’ve stopped trying at truck stops and have found that many other stations are easier to get in and out of and less busy (unless it’s morning or evening commute hours).

There’s a gas station at an interstate exit approaching Starved Rock State Park in Illinois that has a billboard stating they’re RV friendly. When you pull in, there’s a sign directing you to one island and signs pointing out an exit loop around the building.

I wish more gas stations and fast food restaurants would do that!

7 months ago

The last picture shows the sewer hose installed on the top of the cast-iron san-t. That is the clean-out access when they have a mainline clog that needs to be cleared. The other lower inlet is where you should install your sewer hose. It’s an old park to be using cast-iron like that and there’s better ways to install the sewer tap but it looks worse than it is by the RV guy not knowing what to do.

Dan Fabian
7 months ago
Reply to  Crowman

There are many more RV-ers like that, or having dump valve open.

Sign up for the RVtravel Newsletter

Your information will *never* be shared or sold to a 3rd party.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Every Saturday and Sunday morning. Serving RVers for more than 20 years.