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8 Great RV Camping Books, Field Guides, and Directories

Stephanie, her hubby, and their two cats enjoy living and traveling full-time in their RV, often camping off-grid to stretch their budget.

There are several very helpful published resources available to RVers.

There are several very helpful published resources available to RVers.

Eight Basic Books for an RVer's Library

Are you thinking about full-time RVing or about going on the road in your RV for an extended vacation? Or maybe you'll be a weekend RV or tent camper at parks and recreation areas in your home state? Whatever you decide, you'll find that books on beginning RVing, RV repair and maintenance, campground directories, and basic field guides will be invaluable additions to your library.

My recommendation for a good basic camping library would be:

  1. Trailer Life Directory: RV Parks and Campgrounds
  2. Trailer Life RV Repair and Maintenance Manual
  3. Adventures on America's Public Lands (on BLM camping)
  4. National Park Service Camping Guide
  5. Camping with the Corps of Engineers
  6. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America
  7. A field guide to wildflowers
  8. A field guide to reptiles

1. Trailer Life Directory

A few years old, Trailer Life RV Parks, Campgrounds and Services Directory 2011 is still a comprehensive guide to private parks as well as many state parks. There are over 11,000 listings for parks, services, and attractions with detailed information and ratings as well as phone numbers if you want to call ahead. This directory is also a good place to browse for rules of the road and towing laws in each state. There are phone numbers for traffic and weather conditions and important information on bridges, tunnels, and tolls. You'll want to consult this as you make your plans for the day!

2. Trailer Life's RV Repair and Maintenance Manual

Whether you choose an older, used RV or buy a brand new trailer or motor home, you will have ongoing maintenance and repairs on your rig. Finding a service center is not only costly but inconvenient when you are traveling. Trailer Life's RV Repair and Maintenance Manual is an invaluable reference book for keeping your rig in tip-top shape. It contains troubleshooting and repair advice for electrical, gas, water, sanitation, heating, and cooling systems that will save hours of frustration and perhaps save on costly repair bills.

3. Adventures on America's Public Lands

Whether you are RV camping or tent camping, you'll want some good reference books on finding the best campgrounds, depending on where you want to camp and the kind of camping you like to do.

You'll want more than one directory when it comes to camping on public lands. So many federal and other agencies are involved: National Recreation Areas, National Parks and Seashores, Bureau of Land Management land, National Forest Service campgrounds, and Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds. While there are no directories that include all of these national recreation areas, there are excellent individual directories that both tent campers and RV campers will find useful.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has millions of acres of land open for recreational use in the U.S. But in order to use it, you have to be able to find it! Adventures on America's Public Lands is a good guide to BLM lands in the U.S. and gives information about campgrounds and recreation in the various BLM areas. While many of the camping areas are dispersed areas where you can park pretty much wherever you wish, there are also more developed campgrounds with picnic shelters and fire pits. Camping fees are extremely low, sometimes even free.

This guide is for tenters and RVers who do not want to be plugged into utilities. What you give up in modern conveniences will be more than compensated for in wonderful views, privacy, and wide-open spaces. Depending on where the land is located, there are usually nearby wildlife preserves with many opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. BLM land is a boondocker's dream!

4. National Park Service Camping Guide

The National Park system in the U.S. encompasses the most dramatic of the United States' natural wonders. Camping in National Park campgrounds, you have the opportunity to explore some of the most wondrous sights of the world. The National Park Service Camping Guide describes campgrounds in the National Parks, National Seashores, and National Monuments. Most National Parks campgrounds are dry camping only; however, there are some campgrounds in the larger Parks that are operated by vendors and may have services like electric, water, and sewer hookups. Use this guide to check on size limits as older parks may not accommodate new big rigs. National Parks are also wildlife conservation areas and most will offer many opportunities to see birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

5. Camping With the Corps of Engineers

Camping with the Corps of Engineers by Spurgeon L. Hinkle is a good guide to some of the best-designed campgrounds on Federal lands, Campgrounds on Corps of Engineers (COE) land are usually near reservoirs or lakes and have many opportunities for water sports, including boating, swimming and fishing nearby. The sites that we have visited are always spacious; many have water views. Campgrounds usually have hot showers and water and electric hookups at each site, and some have laundry facilities. Prices are reasonable and the America the Beautiful discount pass is usually honored. Because it is close to water, COE land usually has abundant wildlife, and campers can enjoy seeing deer and birds close up.

6. Peterson's Field Guide to Birds

Any time you are away from home you are likely to see unfamiliar birds. When camping in a tent or RV, you are closer to nature and usually spend more time outdoors where you can observe birds and wildlife more closely. You will see different species of birds in different habitats. While hikers and dedicated birdwatchers may see more birds, even armchair birdwatchers might spot a dozen different species from their RVs or campsite.

Don't forget to take a good pair of binoculars and keep your field guide to birds handy. Many birders like to jot down birds that they have seen and keep a notebook for future reference. You can also purchase a Life List notebook to keep track of your sightings.

Some favorite field guides are:

  • Peterson's Field Guide (one of the best field guides to birds in the US)
  • The National Geographic Field Guide
  • National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds

Each of these books has hundreds of colored photographs of birds as well as tips for identifying birds and information on nesting, migration, and feeding habits.

7. A Wildflower Guide

If you are camping or hiking in the spring or summer, you are bound to see many different plants and flowers. Carry along a wildflower guide or keep one in your home so that you can correctly identify pictures you have taken. You can purchase guides specific to the areas you will be visiting, or get a good overall guide for the U.S. like the National Wildlife Federation Guide to Wildflowers or one of the field guides put out by the National Audubon Society. These field guides have hundreds of color pictures of flowers and give detailed information about the plants, where they're found, and when they bloom.

8. Other Field Guides

Don't forget to take along a guide to mammals and a guide to reptiles, especially if you are camping in unfamiliar territory. A handy field guide will help you identify animals that you see and photograph, as well as the ones you should look for on your trip. Remember, don't feed the animals and always keep a safe distance!

Bonus Book: Complete Guide to Full Time RVing: Life on the Open Road

Like most people who are first thinking about RVing, we read many articles and books about the full time RVing lifestyle before we decided to go full time. One of the best and most interesting books was Complete Guide to Full Time RVing: Life on the Open Road . The author, Bill Moeller, has many years of full time RVing experience and offers realistic advice as well as entertaining anecdotes about the lifestyle. You'll find information on how to shop for an RV, budgeting, handling mail while traveling, remodeling an older RV, and much more.

Padre Island National Seashore.  Bird Island Basin campground.

Padre Island National Seashore. Bird Island Basin campground.

Grab a Book and Hit the Road

Although we do rely on our computers for all kinds of information, there is no substitute for a few good reference books. We carry eight or ten camping books and field guides with us whenever we go RVing. Start with a few of the basic campground directories and one or two field guides in your areas of particular interest; add more books later.

We make notes and highlight sections of our campground directories to make sure we remember important details for our next visit. Our field guides to birds, mammals, reptiles, and wildflowers are always handy to identify a new or interesting species, but we also enjoy browsing these books while relaxing at our campsite or when we're still at home dreaming of our next trip.

A few of these field guides and basic books on camping are sure to make planning your next trip easier and your camping trip more fun.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Stephanie Henkel