Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Living in the Roadtrek: CHECKLISTS

During these winter months when it is to cold to travel in the Roadtrek, I will write some more articles about what it is like to live in the Roadtrek on a trip. This article is about Checklists.

Most RVers use some form of checklist to make sure that things that need to be stowed away, shut down, closed up or not be left behind are put away and accounted for. There are a variety of methods that are used. Some use a paper checklist. Some use some type of reminder device. Airplanes have the same thing and use a red cloth tag that says "REMOVE BEFORE TAKE OFF" or "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT" that is hung from strategic parts of the plane and each must be taken off and accounted for before the plane takes off showing that the ground crew inspected and did whatever needs to be done at those points before the planes takes off. It is important for RVers to do the same thing before they get into their RV and go off on the road.

Now, you are going to say, "What is the big deal?" What do you have to check for anyway?" Well, the big deal comes when you have been in a campground for the night and you are hooked up to the water or electric box - drive away without remembering to dis-attach those connections and you have problems. Go off driving down the road with your TV antenna still upright, and you have problems. These and other similar problems are ones that you don't want to have and can be avoided with a simple and routine check - that must be done every time you are about to get in and start to drive off.

I thought about how to do this in our Roadtrek from before the day we picked it up. I had read about several things that others have done. I really want to use those red ribbon tags like the airplanes use - you can purchase smaller versions of them as souvenirs at air history museums, but I realized that this was going to be hard to attach to the places that they would need to be attached to and that it could get rather expensive. I liked the idea of something physical that had to be accounted for. Meryl, on the other hand, likes paper lists. One RVer uses large center spring hair clips and labels each one representing something that must be accounted for - sticks each on the steering wheel when the attachment is made or the night before leaving for items that must be checked. In this way, it is rather hard to drive with these large hair clips on the steering wheel and anyone still remaining is an obvious reminder that something has been forgotten. I could see, with all of the things that I foresaw needing to be checked and accounted for that there was not that much room on the steering wheel. Another RVer uses a sock to remind him that his TV antenna is still up. The sock is kept on the antenna crank handle which is on the inside on the ceiling of the Roadtrek when the antenna is down, when the antenna is up, the sock is moved to the gearshift handle of the van. It is hard to drive with a sock on the gearshift - so again, you are going to know that the antenna has not been put down. (Antennas are a common thing to be forgotten.) I liked all of the ideas and we decided to make a combination of them in our own way.

What is worth checking, is worth checking twice. Our two systems are a double check and believe me, even with these there have been a few almost forgotten things that we were forgetting on several occasions. I liked the sock idea so much that it is a third check on the antenna being down. Drive with the antenna up and you can damage the antenna, hit what should be an OK height overpass unless the antenna is sticking up, and get a lot of laughs from everyone in the campground that you pass - who will all be shouting that your antenna is up!

Here is Meryl's paper checklist:

This was created with Excel. Any spreadsheet software will work and there are some free office packages legitimately available on the Internet. Creating one this way makes it easy to modify and easy to print out. We print out copies for more than the number of days that we plan to be away. You need one every morning. What you see included on the list is fairly obvious -and you will notice what comes first on the list. You might want to copy all of this or modify it to your own needs of things to absolutely remember The rear curtain refers to un-attaching a security curtain that Meryl made for the Roadtrek. I will talk about that specifically in another article to come. Return the bench refers to a small stool that we have if we need to sit instead of bending down to do something. That gets stored inside the rear cargo doors and is easy to forget. Secure the TV is to make sure the TV is locked down on its brackets so that it will not move while the Roadtrek is in motion. We added several items after our first winter trip because when we made up the list it was during the summer and the furnace never crossed our minds.

Before we take off each morning Meryl goes through this list and checks things off as we do them - unhook the electric cable from the campground outlet box - check, turn the water pump off - check, and all the way down the list until everything has a check mark next to it.

This is Meryl's system. I have my own and pretty much mine duplicates hers. While it is possible that we could drive off if something was missed on the paper list, with my system, there is an physical reminder.

As one of my many creative talents (self-plug - hey, if you don't compliment yourself, who is going to do it?), I am a leather worker. I decided to take the idea of the hair clips and the red airplane ribbons and create leather straps that go on the steering wheel. Each leather strap has a snap button to secure it to the steering wheel and each is labeled with something that has to be checked. I must admit that I do not have all of the things in my system that Meryl has in hers - for example, I don't have a strap that says "bench" but I have all of the crucial items. When the item is accounted for the strap comes off the steering wheel. When we end the day at night and hook up at the campground each strap of something that is in use or connected goes onto the steering wheel. You can't drive away the next morning without seeing a strap that you forgot. Here is a photo of one of my straps:

Not my neatest work, but since they are for me and done in a bit of a rush before our first trip, they have well served their purpose and will continue to do so. It snaps easily on the steering wheel and they pretty much fill up the wheel when all are on. Of course, you only put the ones needed during that trip on - so some do stay in their Ziploc bag in the overhead drawer in the front of the Roadtrek. Those that are being used are kept in the front tray behind the cup holders. They go there when they come off to make it easier that night to have what will be needed close at hand. The easier you make this for yourself to do, the more you are likely to do it.

I take off the ones for the things that I have secured and checked in the morning and then ask Meryl one by one about the things that she has checked and secured. So how long does this all take. It becomes part of the process of unhooking in the morning so it is hard to say how long the double checking takes, but the whole unhooking process takes just ten or fifteen minutes at the most. The final checks inside do add about two minutes to the whole process. Of course, on some mornings when I am anxious to get underway, these two minutes can seem like forever. But in the end, the process is very worthwhile. It is best not to start to feel that the checklist is not necessary any longer because unhooking and hooking up has become routine. It is when something is routine that things are forgotten.


  1. I've never used a checklist and I forget something every time I take off. You'da thunk I woulda learned by now. BTW, there's an APP for that called "RV Check." I'm enjoying reading your posts.

  2. Adventure Treks has checklists that can be modified to individual needs/wants. It really is a great tool!