the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people
I hate lingo. When folks use specialized language, it feels like a separation to me–us vs. them. If you understand the specialized words I use, we have something in common and we are insiders. Those people over there who don’t understand what we’re talking about? They must be outsiders, and good riddance!
I know lingo also makes communication easier for people who share knowledge. Like pronouns, lingo saves us from having to use full descriptions every time we talk. But lingo is often exclusionary, even if folks don’t mean to use it that way. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I will now explain some of the lingo I’ve encountered while living my life on the road.
Airstream–A brand of travel trailer made from distinctively shiny metal, with curves instead of corners.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–Government agency that administers public land, especially in the Southwest. There is so much BLM land where folks can boondock/dry camp for free.
Boondocking–Staying somewhere (often public land) for free. Some people use boondocking interchangeably with dry camping, while others differentiate between the two and use boondocking only in relation to public land. To learn all about boondocking, read my post “10 Fundamentals for Boondockers.” My friend Coyote Sue calls dry camping in a parking lot blacktop boondocking .
Canned ham– A trailer, usually vintage, in the shape of a can of ham on its side.
Casita–Brand of a particular style of lightweight travel trailer.
*Class A—RV that looks like a bus with a flat front nose; motor home.
*Class B–A van with the comforts (shower, toilet, kitchenette) of an RV.
*Class C—motor home with a van nose and an overhead cab with a bed.
CRVL–I saw this twice at the RTR and had no idea what it meant, until I saw it spelled out in tiny letters at the bottom of a sticker. CRVL stands for Cheap RV Living, a fantastic online resource for anyone living on the road, no matter what kind of rig is involved. There’s also a Cheap RV Living YouTube channel for folks who’d rather watch videos.
*Dispersed camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds; sometimes called primitive camping or boondocking.
Dry camping–Camping with no hookups, sometimes used interchageably with boondocking.
*5th wheel–Trailers which hook to a hitch in the bed of a pickup truck.
Full-timer–Someone who does not have a sticks-n-bricks house; someone who lives on the road all the time.
*House battery–A deep cycle battery used to run household items in a rig.
Motor home–An RV that has a motor in it so it can be driven; a motor home can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C.
Mr. Buddy–A brand of heaters which run on propane and are very popular with vandwellers and rubber tramps.
Nomad–According to Merriam-Webster, this is a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory; an individual who roams about.
Part-timer–Someone who has a sticks-n-bricks house where s/he lives at least sometimes; someone who lives on the road sometimes, but also lives in a stationary home sometimes.
Popup–A type of towed RV that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport.
Public Land–Land owned by a local, state, or federal government. When rubber tramps and other nomads talk about public land, they typically mean land open to (usually free) camping. Public land can include city or county parks, fishing lakes, BLM land, Bureau of Reclamation Land, National Forests, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national seashores and lakeshores.
Primitive camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds. In primitive camping areas, there are no water, sewage, or electrical hookups and usually no toilets of any kind, no water, no ramadas, no picnic tables, and no metal fire rings. Primitive camping is sometimes called dispersed camping. Folks boondock or dry camp in primitive camping areas.
Rig–What one drives and lives in. My rig is a conversion van. A rig can be a cargo van. A rig can be a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. A rig can be a car or an SUV. A rig can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C motor home. A rig can be a combination of a tow vehicle and a travel trailer or a converted cargo trailer or a 5th wheel or a tear drop or a popup.
Rubber tramp–The Urban Dictionary says a rubber tramp is a “person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.” Not all folks at the RTR would consider themselves rubber tramps.
RTArt Camp–A camp within the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, The RTArt Camp is a place within the larger gathering for nomadic artists and creative nomads to come together to share skills, create art together, have fun, and build community.
Rubber Tramp Art Community (RTAC)–An intentional community for nomadic artists/creative travelers. Members of the group meet to camp together, create art together, teach each other new skills, help each other, and spend time together as a community.
Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR)–A winter gathering in Quartzsite, AZ for folks who live on the road (either full-timers or part-timers) or who want to live on the road. At the RTR there are seminars about living on the road and opportunities to meet people and hang out with friends. I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at the RTR in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Also see Cheap RV Living for more info about the RTR.
RV–Recreational vehicle. RVs include motor homes, 5th wheels, and travel trailers.
Shakedown–a practice trip taken before a longer trip. (According to Wikipedia,, this term comes from “shakedown cruise,” which “is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested.”)
*Snowbird–Someone who lives in cool places in the summer and warm places in the winter, traveling as the seasons change. Snowbirds can travel north to south or from low elevation to to high elevation and back again.
Solo–Traveling alone, usually said in regards to a woman. The assumption that most women travel with men is often made, so a distinction is sometimes made when a women travels alone. I’ve never heard anyone asking a man if he is solo or hearing a man describe himself as solo.
Stealth parking–Living in one’s rig (especially in a city) without others knowing one is living in one’s rig. Check out Cheap RV Living for “Bob’s 12 Commandants for Stealth Parking in the City” and “Stealth Parking Locations.”
Sticks-n-bricks–A conventional home, although it doesn’t have to be made from wood and bricks. A sticks-n-bricks can be an apartment or a manufactured home, or a house made from adobe or stucco or straw-bale. A sticks-n-bricks isn’t mobile.
Teardrop—a streamlined, compact, lightweight traveltrailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear.
Toad–A vehicle towed behind an RV. I guess because the vehicles are towed, people started calling them toads. People in big motorhomes often pull a vehicle behind the motorhome so they can park their rig and use the smaller vehicle to drive around for errands and exploring.
Tow vehicle–What one uses to tow one’s travel trailer.
*Travel trailer (TT)–Travel trailers hook up to a hitch and are pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers vary greatly in size. Most people use the travel trailer as living quarters and don’t live in the tow vehicle.
*Vandweller–A person living in his/her van who wants to be there.
Vault (or pit) toilet–Non-flushing toilet sometimes found on public land; basically a tall plastic toilet set over a hole where the waste products sit until they are pumped out.
*All or part of starred definitions come from How to Live in a Car, Van, or RV by Bob Wells. I highly recommend this book to anyone contemplating or starting life on the road.
What lingo dealing with life on the road do you know that I have not included in this post? Please leave a comment with other terms you hear rubber tramps and van dwellers and RVers toss around.