When traveling by RV, you have got to have a place to recharge, refuel, and get rid of any waste, and all of that requires a campsite with full hookups. I’m sure you have seen “full hookup” on the signs of many campgrounds, and possibly wondered what that entails.
So, what is a full hookup campsite?
A full hookup campsite is a site that will have access to all the amenities to hook to your motorhome or travel trailer. These amenities include a hookup for your water lines, a hookup for your electricity. This will include a 50 amp service, 30 amp service or both. Also, there is usually at least one 110v plug. You will also have access to the sewer so that you can hookup your black water and grey water outlet line. (Blackwater is made of anything that goes down your toilet and greywater is anything that goes down your sink or shower.)
While it is becoming more the norm to have full hookups at campgrounds, you might also find a partial hookup campsite, which usually includes water and electricity, but no sewage. There are also deluxe hookup campgrounds, which include full hookups as well as cable, phone lines, and internet.
But now that you know partial and deluxe hookups exist–and that the price fluctuates depending on each option–you will be able to distinguish between the different types when searching for a place to give your RV (and you) a rest.
This article will focus on full hookup campsites, though, and once you are experienced, hooking up will feel like second nature. So, here we are going to talk about the specifics of campground options, what the hookups require, how to hook up, and what equipment you will need.
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First of all, you need to know how much watts your RV has. A simple equation is watts = amps x volts. If you stay under the number you get for your answer, you should be good to go!
Many campgrounds have options for both 30 (3 prongs) and 50 (4 prongs) amp hookups, but some campgrounds only offer 30-amp hookups. 30 amp has less power than 50 amp, so if you have options for both, it is just up to you to know how much power your RV needs.
It is smart to buy an adapter since campgrounds often only have 30-amp power, so that way whatever plug you have can work for whatever power available. Your appliances use a lot of power, so consider what you will use–especially the AC–and go from there.
However, if you, for instance, have a 50-amp hookup, but the campsite only has 30-amp hookups available, be conscious of how much power you are using, as it could mess with the electric grid of the campground.
So, even if it seems like you may be saving power or money, if you have a 50-amp rig, plug it into the 50-amp hookup. Remember to use fewer electronics at a time to save power as well, especially if you have to convert your 50-amp rig to a 30-amp hookup.
Equipment Needed for Electricity Hookups
Knowledge: It is important for you to know your RV’s power specs. Know how much power each device uses, and plan accordingly. Look at your batteries and electric panels often, and if anything looks off, get it checked out.
Polarity tester: You never know if the campground’s electricity is working properly–though it should be–so it is smart to bring a polarity tester, which will tell you if the wiring is in good shape or not. If not, don’t plugin!
Converter: Just in case, you might need a converter if you only have a 4-prong plug in a 3-prong campground.
Surge guard (optional): This can protect your RV from unexpected electrical surges that can damage your RV’s electrical wiring.
Other than that, you need the wire and the plug, which should come with the RV anyway.
How to Hook up to Electricity
First, switch off all the electricity–both the RV’s electrical system and the RV electrical pedestal. Match up the holes of your plug to the prongs on the RV. Once you have firmly plugged in the power cord, you should be safe to take the plug to the shore power at offered by the campground.
Before you connect to the shore power, turn the breaker off. Then, plug into the receptacle, and turn the breaker back on. By turning off the breaker first, you can avoid sparks and outages. It is much safer than adjusting the plug if you have to while the power is on.
And there you have it! It is a pretty simple process, but one that requires a good amount of precaution for everything to go smoothly.
So, water quality depends on the location. It is smart to bring some sort of water filtration system, whether that is a simple Brita filter on your kitchen water tap or getting a portable filter that can be stored in your fridge. Campground water should always be safe to drink, but better to be extra cautious to avoid any inconvenience on the road.
Another thing you might want to consider purchasing is a pressure regulator, so you can make sure the water the campground provides doesn’t fill too fast, which could lead to bursting pipes.
Often, you will see one of two options for ports: either “city water” or “fresh water fill.” With city water, when you fill, the water goes straight to your fixtures. And with fresh water fill, the water goes into your tank, and then a pump in your RV distributes the water where needed.
You can tell the ports apart because the hose will screw right on to the city water port. The freshwater fill looks more like a large opening that the hose can be placed into. Some RVs only have one port that works for both options.
Even though both options work great, you should use city water any time you have access to a pressurized freshwater source. You don’t have to worry about filling your tank when you run out, and you won’t have to hear the loud pump at night when someone uses the bathroom.
The freshwater fill would be for when you need to fill up and get on the road. Then you have water on reserve and ready to use. For this option, you should flip on a switch to get the water running, and you can then turn it off to save it while you are not actively using the water.
There are a couple of potential problems you may encounter, including over pressurizing the water system, clogging due to debris, and encountering mold or bacteria growth. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to avoid these issues. Mostly they are just problems you should be aware of before getting an RV anyway.
To avoid over pressurizing, you can, like mentioned a little earlier, install a regulator between the city water and your hose. This way, you can avoid pipes bursting, and have a working RV for a long time.
You can avoid debris by purchasing an inline water filter. Some 5th wheels and RVs come with this already built-in, so you can check on that if you have not already purchased the RV. In either case, be sure to change the inline filters seasonally. You could also get a filter or pump strainer that attaches right to your hose.
If you want to avoid bacteria and mold, keep the water tank topped off. If the water has been sitting in the heat or storage, make sure you take extra precautions and sanitize the water before use.
And, since it is always better to be prepared, consider bringing a five-gallon water jug along for your ride in case the unexpected happens.
Equipment Needed for Water Hookups
Y-adapter: this is what you screw into the city water, and then what connects to your hose. This adapter can work for other uses, too, like black tank flushing, so it is nice to have.
Hose: most RV hoses will hook up to campsite water systems, but as for length, you should consider buying some longer hoses in case the hookups are at the back of the campsite and further from the hookup point. Make sure the hose is lead-free and safe for drinking water.
In-Line water filter: if your RV already has a built-in filter, you don’t have to worry about this as much. But if not, make sure you have a filter to avoid water that isn’t all the way clean.
Pressure regulator: Since some campground’s water system may be too high pressure for your RV’s system, installing this after the water filter ensures that you still get enough water pressure, but of course, not too much.
Hose elbow: If you bring a hose elbow, it will allow your hose to hang straight down to avoid kinking or any damage from someone accidentally walking into it. It also reduces the leverage that comes from the hose hanging straight out.
Expandable hose (optional): It is nice to have a longer hose for when you want to clean off the RV using the campground water, or when you need extra length like mentioned above.
Just remember to never use the same hose for drinking water and sewage!
How to Hook up Water
The list above is in order from campground port to RV port, so once that is all set up, it is relatively easy! You make sure the hose is screwed into the city water hookup on the RV, and then turn your valve to “bypass” instead of “fill tank,” and then turn off your water pump. Then, you turn on the city water, and it should start filling.
When you leave the campsite, make sure your tank is completely drained out. If it isn’t, you will have to clean it to avoid foul odors, and that can take some time. So, after you leave, you are back to using your freshwater supply. Make sure to top off if you need to.
Some campgrounds offer sewer hookups at each site, but a lot of campgrounds opt for a centralized dump station for all the RVs to use. While it might seem more convenient to have your own station, the centralized station is nice because you can dump and move on–you don’t have to leave any part of your RV unprotected.
Plus, full hookup campgrounds (meaning the campsites will have their own sewer hookups) are usually a little more expensive, so if you find out a partial hookup campground offers a dump station and is cheaper, then it is still a really good option.
If you have your own sewer hookups at your campsite, you have some options. First of all, it means your valves will stay open as they are constantly connected. This is fine for the gray tank, but probably not with the black tank, because you need a decent amount of water to get the waste out of the black tank.
If you are going to leave the gray tank open, avoid putting solids down the kitchen sink, or you will have the same problem. But again, it is fine to leave the gray tank open for a few days, but when your black tank starts to get too full, you can close the gray tank to let the sink and shower water build-up, which allows you to have “clean” water to help flush the black tank.
So, you can choose what works for you, but overall, it is best to spend less time with open valves than you might think. Having the option is great, though, and it’s always good to empty before you get back on the road!
Equipment Needed for Sewage Hookups
Rubber gloves: You just never know what will happen–even if your tank is kept really clean, it is better to stay as sanitary as possible. Camping can get dirty, but with RV camping, it shouldn’t have to.
High-quality collapsible sewer hose: You’ll want it to be collapsible mostly for storage, but you should definitely splurge when it comes to sewer hoses. You don’t want to deal with any mishaps in this area.
Sewer hose support: This helps the hose stay in place and supports it, so it doesn’t get any kinks. It also stays cleaner this way.
Elbow piece: This attaches your hose to the sewer drain.
Hand sanitizer: After cleaning the sewage tank, depending on what happens, you may want to actually wash your hands. But, when you really get the hang of it, hand sanitizer should suffice.
Extra garden hose (optional): It would be nice to have a spare, especially when cleaning the sewage hoses and the area around your campsite or the dump station.
How to Hook up to Sewage
So, time to roll up those sleeves. Put your rubber gloves on, and get ready to clean! Of course, you can always pack reusable gloves instead of rubber gloves, but that’s a personal choice. Just remember the option is available.
Check your gray and black valves and make sure they are closed. Now you can grab your sewer hose and use the open end of the hose with the twist-on connector to attach it to your RV drain spout.
If you have a sewer hose support, stretch it from the RV to the sewer drain. As you place the support, you can also pup the hose in place. Attach your hose to the elbow piece that will attach it to the sewer drain.
Make sure you screw this part on really tight, because you don’t want the hose to come loose and spray all around the campsite. After this, open the black tank valve and drain, then close the valve. Repeat for the gray tank.
It is smart to drain the black tank first so the “soapier” water from gray tank can kind of clean the hose as you drain the gray tank afterward. You will refill the tank afterward, so don’t walk away from the tank while the process is happening. You should monitor everything that is going on and keep track of how long it takes for future trips.
After you’ve closed the valves, disconnect from the sewage pipe. Most campsites have non-potable water that you can use for cleaning the site, so go ahead and leave the site cleaner than you found it.
Stowaway your equipment and disinfect anything that still needs it. You’ve done it! You will learn as you go, so if anything feels off, figure out why and change your approach for the next dump.
You Always Have Help
One of the greatest things about the camping community is how friendly people are. The campers you meet are likely going through or have already gone through the same hookup processes that you are now going through.
Don’t hesitate to ask campground owners or other RVers around you for help. They likely have tips and tricks specific to certain RVs or campsites if they have been there before. This help, coupled with RV specific guides you’ve likely been given, should leave you in very good hands.