The Dangers of Living in an RV: Is RV Life Safe?

If you are considering living in an RV full-time you might be wondering… is RV life actually safe?

RV’s are definitely not built the same as a traditional home or apartment after all.

After multiple years of living and traveling in our RV full-time, we have learned the ins and outs of staying safe while RVing.

From fire hazards to inconspicuous mold, we are sharing the dangers of living in an RV you need to know about and what to do to keep you and your family safe:

The Dangers of Living In An RV

A couple sitting on their RV roof next to a row of solar panels with a blue river and green hills out behind them

Is RVing dangerous?

It can be.

Like most things in life, there are risks involved with living and or traveling in an RV.

The main dangers of living in an RV fall into the following categories:

  • Fire Hazards
  • Mold
  • Air Quality
  • Poisonous Gas (like Carbon Monoxide and Propane)
  • Towing and Travel mishaps
  • Weather Events (like wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes)
  • Pests and Wildlife
  • Water Quality

The good news is that there are also plenty of precautions you can take to make RVing as safe as possible.

Don’t let fear stand in the way of your RV dreams!

Setting off for adventure in our RV is one of the best decisions we have ever made…even if it hasn’t always been just smooth sailing.

Here is everything you need to know about the potential dangers of living in an RV and how to keep yourself safe from the main RV hazards:

Fire Hazards

Fifth wheel boonndocking at night in Utah's Dixie National Forest illuminated in the glow of a fire.

One of the most significant dangers of living in an RV is the risk of fire.

Constructed from extremely flammable materials, RVs can go up in flames quickly and RV fires are some of the most destructive and devastating things that can happen.

Fires can also spread quickly between nearby RVs, creating widespread damage and loss.

The biggest fire hazards in RVs include:

  • Space Heaters
  • Grills
  • RV batteries
  • Battery chargers
  • Electrical Areas (battery compartments, inverter, fuse panel, and other areas of electric distribution)
  • Engine Compartments (for driveable RVs and motorhomes)
  • Generators
  • Water Heaters
  • Refrigerators

Some of the most common culprits of RV fires you hear about are space heaters and battery chargers for electric bikes.

Ways to minimize fire risk in RVs:

  • Never leave space heaters unattended or use them overnight
  • Always use grills outdoors
  • Ensure your RV’s electrical system, brake systems, engine, and batteries are well maintained and in good working order
  • Never leave charging batteries unattended

It is also important to know where your emergency exits are in the RV (these will typically be egress doors or windows that swing out to serve as exits).

It is also a good idea to have fire extinguishers in multiple places throughout your RV that are up-to-date and ready to use. (This includes making sure you know how to use them!)

Some RVers choose to install a Thia by Proteng fire suppression system for small enclosed spaces that are at higher risk. It is a fully automatic and self-contained system that releases gas to extinguish flames with high heat is detected.

Mold & Mildew

Another common issue in RVs that can negatively impact your health are mold and mildew.

RVs are susceptible to water leaks and moisture build-up due to the way they are constructed.

In addition, the wear and tear of constantly being out in the elements and traveling down rough roads can lead to cracks and breaks in sealant and caulking that can be extremely difficult to see.

The biggest areas in your RV to check for mold and mildew include slide floors and walls, the roof, the front and back cap of the RV, and areas with plumbing (especially if you have a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, etc).

We will never forget the horror of finding a soft spot in the back wall of our “new to us” RV. Thankfully, we were able to find the leak and fix the rot, but boy that was a haven for mold and mildew.

Ways to minimize the risk of mold and mildew in your RV:

  • Regularly inspect your RV for leaks and maintain all caulking and seals
  • Keep the RV well-ventilated, especially when not in use (open windows, use fans when showering and cooking, etc.)
  • Run a dehumidifier

Common signs of water leaks or mold in an RV:

  • Soft spots in RV floors or roofs
  • Bubbling along RV wallpaper
  • Discoloration on wood or carpet
  • Musty or mildew odors

Top RV Sealants:

We always keep the following RV sealants on hand to keep our RV sealed tight and prevent water damage and leaks. They have proven to be be the best products that we can rely on for long term performance.

EternaBond RoofSeal Waterproof & Airtight Sealant
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Clear Lexel Adhesive Caulk, 10.5-Ounce
$15.49 ($1.48 / Fl Oz)
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Dicor 501LSW-1 Epdm Self-Leveling Lap Sealant

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RV Dehumidifier:

We also keep this dehumidifier on hand and are sure to use it especially when staying in really damp, humid environments.

Our Pick
Dehumidifier Quiet with Auto Shut Off

A dehumidifier in a small package perfect for RVs

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04/08/2024 09:19 pm GMT

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be a serious threat and danger of living in an RV, especially if you use propane appliances or run a generator.

Ways to minimize the risk of Carbon Monoxide build-up:

  • Any propane appliance or generator should be properly vented to ensure there is no buildup of harmful gasses inside the RV
  • Never use portable generators inside
  • Install CO detectors and routinely check to ensure they are working and up to date.

RV CO detector:

We love this combination Carbon Monoxide and propane detector! It sits flush beneath the stairs in our fifth wheel and provides us peace of mind while being out of sight out of mind.

Top Pick
Safe-T-Alert by MTI Industries 35-742-BL Dual LP/CO Battery Powered Alarm

Loud flush mount alarm with low power draw that alerts to propane and carbon monoxide gas simultaneously

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04/09/2024 05:52 pm GMT

Propane Leaks

A large white 40 pound propane tank with pigtails, hose, and regulators attached in an RV propane compartment

Propane leaks are another potential danger to be mindful of when living in an RV as propane is commonly used for things like heating, cooking, and even refrigeration in RVs.

Over time propane hoses can develop leaks and damage and corrosion can create the potential for dangerous propane gas build-up, fire, or even explosion.

Ways to minimize the risk of propane leaks:

  • Invest in a quality propane leak detector
  • Invest in quality propane hoses
  • Know how to check for propane hose leaks
  • Turn off propane appliances when not in use
  • Turn off propane when traveling (this will be a requirement when traveling through tunnels)

Top RV propane detectors:

If you have concerns about propane leaks it can be a good idea to purchase a hand-held propane leak detector in addition to your hard-wired one for early detection in hard-to-reach areas.

Top Pick
Safe-T-Alert by MTI Industries 35-742-BL Dual LP/CO Battery Powered Alarm

Loud flush mount alarm with low power draw that alerts to propane and carbon monoxide gas simultaneously

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04/09/2024 05:52 pm GMT
RVer's Pick
TopTes PT199 Natural Gas Leak Detector with Audible & Visual Alarm

A portable gas leak detector (including LPG) with visual and audible alarms to signal the presence of propane to help you detect leaks and their source

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04/08/2024 08:47 pm GMT

Towing & RV Travel Safety

A silver device with numbers listing RV tire pressure and temperature sitting on the brown dashboard of a truck with an RV outside the window

Towing an RV or driving an RV down the road comes with risks of its own.

From accidents to breakdowns and roadside emergencies, it is important to be prepared for the dangers that RVing can bring on travel days.

We have had multiple incidents that left us stranded on the side of the highway, but it was better to sit safe waiting for assistance due to hyper-vigilance than to find ourselves in a much more dier situation.

Some of the biggest risks of RV travel include:

  • Vehicle or engine malfunction (including overheating, brake malfunction, etc.)
  • Being overweight based on your RV weight ratings or tow vehicle weight ratings
  • Traveling in high winds or poor weather conditions (snow, rain, etc.)
  • Not obeying safe speed limits
  • Not being mindful of bridge clearance heights, bridge weight limits, or windy roads that are not RV-safe
  • Tire blowouts

Ways to minimize dangers while traveling with your RV:

  • Invest in a high-quality roadside assistance service like Coach-Net
  • Use an RV safe GPS that alerts you to RV safe routes including bridges and roads
  • Perform regular maintenance on our RV and tow vehcile
  • Invest in quality RV and tow vehicle tires and a tire pressure monitoring system and regularly inspect tires for wear and tear
  • Weigh your RV and tow vehicle
  • Do not drive over 60-65 mph while towing
  • Be mindful when traveling in winds over 35 mph (we recommend not traveling in winds around 50mph or more) or weather conditions such as ice, snow, or heavy rain
  • Always check your brake and trailer connections before traveling
A woman standing with her brown dog next to a white truck and a large fifth wheel RV about to be towed by a red tow truck on the side of a highway

Our top tools for safe RV travel:

Our tire pressure monitoring system allows us to always keep an eye on our RV tire pressures and alerts us to problems before they get out of hand.

Our Pick
EEZTire-TPMS Tire Pressure Monitoring System E518-6AT Sensors

Visible and audible alerts based on the pressure units you set for your specific RV tires. A trusty co-pilot for peace of mind while towing

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Our RV-safe GPS helps us avoid low bridges and unsafe roads so that travel days are a whole lot less stressful.

If you don’t want to rely on an app and don’t mind having an additional device in your vehicle, a Garmin RV GPS is another great option.

Our Pick

Our go-to RV-safe GPS that is directly on our phones. RV safe GPS routes with regular updates, made by RVers for RVers

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RVer's Pick
Garmin RV 795 GPS RV Navigator, Custom RV Routing

Find the best roads for your RV with custom routing for the size and weight of your RV or trailer. You can also access a preloaded directory of RV parks and services, Tripadvisor traveler ratings and content from places like Ultimate Public Campgrounds, KOA, and the U.S. National Parks directory,

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READ MORE: The Only RV Travel Day Checklist You Will Ever Need

Weather Events

Severe weather can pose risks to anyone, but the dangers can be even more pronounced when living in an RV.

For example, being in the path of a tornado with no basement or safe space to get to is a major danger.

Weather events that pose risks for RVers include:

  • Severe rain and flooding
  • Hurricanes and strong winds
  • Tornadoes
  • Wildfires

When living and traveling in an RV it is important to stay up to date on weather alerts, have an evacuation plan in place, and carry emergency supplies with you both in your RV and your vehicle (food, water, first-aid, extra clothes).

To minimize the dangers of weather events while RVing:

  • Use apps like Accuweather or WeatherBug to monitor weather forecasts and weather and wildfire alerts
  • Be ready to leave your RV at a moment’s notice
  • Ask the locals about evacuation plans or storm shelters (such as campground bathrooms)
  • Consider a satellite device like the Garmin inReach or a satellite plan for your phone should you need assistance outside of cell service
  • Consider a backup power plan for your RV should you lose power (such as a portable generator, solar power, or propane-powered appliances)

READ MORE: Best Apps For RVing

Water Quality

Berkey water filter sitting on the kitchen island of an RV with beautiful sunset views of Lone Rock Beach in Utah

Water quality can vary drastically between different RV parks and campgrounds and can pose significant risks to your health if contaminated.

Not only can campground water be questionable… if you like to boondock you are likely to come across some preeetty sketchy water sources when filling your fresh water tank.

The “potable water” sitting directly next to the dump station, we are looking at you 🤢.

Quality water is one of those things you simply can’t take for granted when RVing.

To ensure consistent high-quality, safe, drinking water we highly recommend investing in a water filtration system for your RV.

Ways to ensure you have quality water in your RV:

  • Regularly sanitize your RV water lines and fresh water tank to prevent bacteria growth
  • Use a high-quality water filter
  • Purchase bottled water when necessary

Top water filtration systems for RVs:

In addition to an inline water filter on your house, we highly recommend having an additional water filter for your drinking water in the RV.

We love our Berkey, which is a portable option that trickle feeds through high-quality filters that last years before needing replacement. We use this in combination with a whole house filter that came installed in our luxury fifth wheel.

You can also opt for a more extensive whole-house water filter, this just requires you to be sure that your water lines are properly sanitized at all times!

Our Pick
Travel Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter

Black Berkey Elements remove or dramatically reduce over 200+ typical contaminants that could be present in lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, and other freshwater sources—no electricity, tools, or plumbing are required.

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RVer's Pick
Clearsource Ultra RV Water Filter System with VirusGuard

Top of the line filters that use NASA-developed technology to remove or reduce, bacteria, cysts, and viruses

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04/08/2024 08:40 pm GMT

Top choice for RV Water softener:

You can also encounter hard water around the country, which can cause damage to your RV plumbing. If you plan to RV often we recommend using an RV water softener to protect from corrosion and damage.

Our Pick
On The Go OTG4-DBLSOFT-Portable 16,000 Grain RV Water Softener

Helps combat hard water that can damage RV plumbing, cause build-up that impacts water pressure, and can leave behind rust and stains. Work with regular table salt!

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04/08/2024 08:50 pm GMT

Air Quality

A large fifth-wheel and white truck in a big open area of red dirt with cliffs in the distance while boondocking near Capitol Reef National Park

RVing is wonderful because it brings the outdoors right outside your door.

With this can also come a plethora of dust, dirt, and allergens.

Poor air quality and dust can be a concern while RVing, especially for those with allergies, asthma, or compromised immune systems.

In addition, many RV materials (such as carpets, cabinets, and upholstery) can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can pose health risks, especially in small confined spaces.

To minimize exposure to off-gassing chemicals, choose RVs with low-VOC materials or allow new RVs time to gass off in a well-ventilated space before use. You could also consider buying a used RV where this will be much less of a concern.

Ways to optimize air quality in your RV:

  • Use air purifiers
  • Clean and replace air filters regularly (both in your air purifier and in your RV’s heating and cooling system air intakes and returns)
  • Dust and vacuum your RV regularly
  • Clear RV vent fan screens regularly
  • Wipe down walls and baseboards (you will be surprised how much dirt and dust clings here especially after being somewhere like the desert)

RV Air Purifier:

We love that this air purifier is quiet, has a night mode, and lets us know when the filter needs to be changed.

Our Pick
LEVOIT Air Purifier

Powerful air purifier in a small package that has both whisper-quiet and night modes to limit disruptions

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Pests & Wildlife

Your RV is meant to be used in the great outdoors, which means you will be bringing it right into the home of all kinds of pests, rodents, and other wildlife.

While we want to live in harmony with nature as much as possible, we certainly don’t want unwelcomed gusts building homes in our RV, potentially causing damage and spreading disease.

Common pest problems in RVs:

  • Mice and rodents
  • Ants
  • Stink bugs or beetles

Ways to minimize pests in your RV:

  • Keep food stored in air-tight containers
  • Always clean up food crumbs
  • Seal cracks or openings where animals can enter

It is also possible that you will encounter larger wildlife while RVing as well, such as bears, moose, deer, or alligators.

It is important to keep the outside area of your campsite clean and free from food particles or smells as much as possible, especially when camping in more remote areas.

Always secure your food and garbage, and keep your distance if you do happen to see wildlife.

Theft & Break-Ins

A large used fifth wheel RV next to a white Ram truck camping in a field with the orange glow of a sunset behind them

One of the biggest questions we get about the RV lifestyle is about how safe we feel with all of our belongings in our RV.

RVs can become targets for theft, especially if your RV has been left unattended or you are camping in a remote area.

More often than not, RV theft happens to items easily taken from the outside of the RV such as bikes that are not locked up well enough or from storage bays that have been left unlocked.

Ways to prevent RV theft:

  • Change RV compartment locks so that they are not universal
  • Upgrade your RV door lock
  • Use motion sensor lights around the outside of the RV
  • Install a security system and security cameras
  • Use a hitch lock or ball lock when leaving your RV unattended
  • Lock up valuable items in a fire-resistant safe
  • Use a high-quality lock for your bikes or e-bikes

Thankfully in our multiple years of full-time RVing, we have never had anything stolen. We have taken plenty of security measures and always move spots if we feel unsure or unsafe at a particular campsite.

Our favorite RV Security items:

Our SimpliSafe system has alarms for our RV door and storage compartments, as well as comes with cameras that allow us to check in on the RV and our pup whenever we leave her in the RV.

Our Pick
SimpliSafe 8 Piece Wireless Home Security System

A well-rounded security system for your RV doors and storage bays that allow for greater peace of mind when traveling or away from your RV

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04/08/2024 08:38 pm GMT

Unfortunately, you do also hear stories about entire travel trailers or fifth wheels being taken. Hitch and coupler locks can help deter these types of crimes.

Our Pick
BOYISEN 5th Wheel King Pin Lock Solid Steel Anti Theft for RVs

Brightly colored, weather resistant, steel lock to prevent fifth wheel theft

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02/18/2024 08:57 am GMT
RVer's Pick
Master Lock - Couplers - Trailer Lock

Universal coupler lock fits virtually all 1-7/8", 2", and 2-5/16" trailer couplers

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04/08/2024 09:15 pm GMT

Boondocking Safety

Another major concern others express is about the potential dangers of living in an RV while boondocking.

Boondocking can be a great way to camp in more remote areas, enjoy additional privacy and stunning views, all while saving money and camping for free.

This said, boondocking also has the reputation of being a bit more dangerous.

While it is true that you can potentially run into more trouble when camping out on public lands in remote places, staying vigilant can help you stay safe.

The great thing about free camping is that you can simply move on should you feel uneasy at any location. Whenever we show up to a new spot we always walk around to make sure we feel safe before settling in.

We also are careful to check reviews before selecting boondocking sites using a variety of different apps for boondocking!

READ MORE: Beginners Guide To Boondocking

RVing With Pets

An large RV, brown dog, and white Ram truck, boondocking on the beach at Lone Rock Beach Dispersed Camping area in Big Water Utah

One of the biggest draws of RVing for us is being able to travel with our dog!

This said, there are certain dangers to be aware of when living in an RV with your dog as well including the threat of overheating as well as many of the same dangers discussed above (gasses, fire hazards).

Here are the best ways to keep your pet safe while RVing:

  • Be sure that the RV is temperature controlled (and have a way to check and get alerts if temperatures go outside of an acceptable range)
  • Leave a note stating there is a dog inside in case there is an emergency
  • Install a camera to check on your pets while you are out
  • Always note where nearby veterinary services are and carry all of your pet’s paperwork with you (you will need this especially if you plan to cross the border and RV in Canada).

Best devices for keeping your pet safe while RVing:

The Temp Stick provides us peace of mind that our Azalea is in a comfortable and safe environment while we are out. It provides us with alerts if temperatures change and become unsafe while we are out (which would happen if our air conditioner were to malfunction on a hot day, for example).

We also have a camera set up that we can use to check in on Azalea while we are out!

Our Pick
Temp Stick Remote WiFi Temperature & Humidity Sensor

Remote WiFi temperature and humidity monitor with no monthly fees and a 3-year warranty

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Healthcare While RVing

One last tricky piece about RVing can be accessing necessary healthcare while traveling away from your home state or visiting more remote areas.

Health is everyone’s top priority and there are a few ways you can make sure you receive any necessary healthcare while RVing:

  • Research healthcare facilities or urgent care clinics along your route
  • Carry a comprehensive first aid kit and replenish it frequently
  • Check if your health care plan has allowances for out-of-state
  • Look into virtual or telehealth options your insurance may provide
  • Consider purchasing travel health insurance for additional peace of mind

In our years of full-time travel we have visited doctors in multiple states, used telehealth services, and were grateful we had a fully stocked first aid kit on hand a time or two.

While you certainly can’t ever minimize the risks associated with RVing to zero, there are plenty of ways you can guard against some of the dangers of living in an RV to make sure your RV travel adventures are not only safe but also provide the opportunity to make amazing lifelong memories you won’t soon forget.

Interested in other helpful RV Guides? Read More:

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