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RV Soft Skills and Why You Need them in Your Toolkit

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Managing the rig is only half the equation; achieving your RV goals means effectively managing yourself, your companions, and the journey.

Graphic showing a tool box, then a plus sign, then a heart.
Hard skills + soft skills = RV happiness


RV media is packed with tips, hacks and resources covering sexy hard skills like driving, towing, connecting to park water and power, and emptying the holding tanks (so sexy). But what about the soft skills that make up the other half of the RV experience and shape who you are as an RVer? These are the intangible ingredients like your attitude and expectations. Departure routines and set-up checklists. Maintenance schedules. Travel plans and route choices. Screen time limits for kiddos (and adults?).

Soft skills are the things they don't tell you at the RV dealership or newbie clinic. They are the collective wisdom of the road. Books and media skew toward hard skills, but do not underestimate the power of the soft side and the profound impact it has on achieving your RV goals.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

Hard skills are more intuitive because they are the things we see and touch (not to say they are easy). They refer to the technical knowledge needed to operate, outfit, and maintain an RV safely and efficiently. Connecting a trailer, backing into a camp site, draining the black tank. Need more examples? Pick up any issue of RV Enthusiast, one of the premiere RV hard skills publications.

Hard skills readily lend themselves to training because they are an accepted practice. We don't tend to apply our personal style to RV hard skills because for the most part they are more black and white and we should do them according to the experts and the user manual.

In contrast, soft skills roam the grey area. They are the organizational traits unique to each RVer. They are the habits, processes, and systems we follow to achieve our lifestyle goals. Sometimes we do this intentionally, like with a checklist. Other times we follow a routine without thinking about it. Over time, each RVer tailors their soft skills to compliment their RV lifestyle.

Soft Skills: Getting Personal

It's harder for an expert to recommend soft skills because some are quite personal and value-laden. What works for one RVer may not hold true for another based on how they use their rig and their goals. Is it true that watching TV while RVing distances one from nature? Yes. Does that mean it is wrong to have a TV in your rig? No. Because maybe your definition of travel and leisure includes relaxing and watching a movie on the road, be it at the campground or a Wal-Mart lot. But for someone else, connecting with nature might be tops. And if you're like me the target moves with the journey.

Just because soft skills are fluid and not universal does not mean they should be dismissed. Quite the opposite, they should be studied, experimented with, poked, tweaked, and made better.

If you dive into YouTube and RV web sites you will start to see the experts talking about them. They tend to swim under the surface in the tips, hacks, how-to or planning categories with titles like, 11 Ways to Get Teens Onboard for Your RV Travels; Get the Most out of Your RV’s Closet with These Easy Organizational Hacks; and 5 Tips for Visiting Overcrowded National Parks. If you're around RVing long enough you will undoubtedly hear about these, and better yet, you'll come up with your own. Seasoned RVers know how powerful the soft skills are and love to share insights. Marc and Julie Bennett of RV Love wrote a book containing over 400 of them (their book is actually a mix of both, but it is the most thorough compilation of soft skills I have seen).

Using the above example articles, we generally put soft skills into three buckets: mindset, routine, and planning. These can be thought of like a scientific theory. You might not be able to prove the benefits of a good routine as cold hard fact, but the better ones get tested and proven so many times by RV veterans that they become a dominant paradigm.

So it is worth taking the time to explore them, try them, and see which ones are a good fit for your lifestyle. While they don't get the same attention as hard skills, we promise that investing in soft skills early and often will reduce the learning curve and make your RV experience more efficient and rewarding.

Don't Delay Soft Skills

You don't need to wait for more experience to start focusing on soft skills. Yes, knowing how to empty the black tank is going to feel more important than forming better organizational routines. But what's the use in know how to empty the tank if you forgot to pack the d*&! hose? A brand-new RVer will benefit from a departure checklist just as much as a seasoned pro. For the newbie it means not forgetting the blank tank hose. For the pro it might help him or her do things faster or delegate tasks to someone else.

A balanced set of hard skills and soft skills helps make RVing more efficient, reduces stress, increases safety, and helps improve the RV experience. When you're looking for ways to improve life on the road remember to pack both into your toolkit.


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