You did it!
You got the rig. You’ve got the family. You’re ready for your great outdoor adventure.
The only problem…
How do you connect hookup everything when you get there?
If you’re asking this question, then welcome because we’re going to break down all the details of RV hookups so you can enjoy the comforts of home on the road.
From A-Z, this guide is for those beginners who need a little guidance.
Let’s dive in!
What Are RV Hookups?
Simply put – RV hook ups are the connection points to “amenities” offered at a RV campground. The location you’re staying at will have different systems in place to make your life a little more comfortable when camping.
These systems primarily consist of three services:
Ideally, the campground will provide you with all three systems so you can enjoy your RV much like a home.
Most RV sites will offer “full hookups” which consist of all 3 of these options. Others might offer partial hookups which will be 1 or 2 options. While some campgrounds offer no hook ups which means you’re boondocking or “dry camping”.
We’re going to go into the details now.
Is A RV Hookup Complicated?
Your first time can feel challenging. However, once you’ve done it a couple times you’ll find that you’ll start creating your own process for getting it done quickly and correctly.
If you just read this article and look up a couple youtube videos, you’ll find everything you need for a great experience.
RV Hookup Basics
Before you head out for your next RV trip (or your first!) you’re going to want some basic equipment.
Let’s take a look.
Your RV will have a power cord allowing you to connect to the RV park (or campground).
You’ll most likely have either a 30 or 50 amp electrical system. What you want to dothech is check for what electrical system the location offers first and foremost, and if necessary you’ll want to get a power converter.
It’s best to have both a 30 amp rv plug and 50 amp rv plug in any case, along with rv plug adapters. The adapters will make sure you can plug your rv into any power connection. There are 30 Amp to 15 Amp adapters, 30 Amp to 50 Amp adapters, and 50 Amp to 15 Amp adapters.
Most RVs don’t come with built in surge protectors, although there are a few that do. This means you’ll most likely want to get your own external rv surge protector. Just like the rv plugs, its best to get both the surge protector for 30 amps, and the surge protector for 50 amps.
Why? Because it protects your RV from electrical damage due to power surges.
Water Hose (Needs To Be Potable)
If your camping site offers a water source, then it will most likely be connected to a city water line, which means you’ll be able to shower, use it for washing dishes, cooking, drinking, and more.
In order to leverage this amenity, you’ll need a reliable water hose to pass the water into your water tank.
Most importantly, this needs to be a hose that is drinking water safe. If the hose does not say “potable” on it, DON’T use it. They contain harmful chemicals and you’ll get sick.
Also – always double check your camping location that the water source is potable. Rarely your RV spot might not contain drinkable water.
Yes, you will need a rv specific sewer hose too. This little item will probably be the most important piece of equipment you come across in your RV.
Why? Because this is what keeps your #2 from wreaking havoc on your RV.
At a campground with an RV sewer hookup you’ll be able to dump your waste into the campgrounds sewer drain.
Sewer Hose Attachments & Stands
There are two specific attachments you’ll want to bring:
The elbow will help you with keeping your sewer hose straight. You don’t want to kink it. Plus, if you get a clear one you’ll see when your black water tank is empty.
The waste valve is helpful for your sewer connection because it will allow you to secure your hose before you open the tank. You’ll want this to avoid leaks and spills.
As for the support stand, these will come in handy to create a downward slope for the waste to ext from your black tank.
RVing is a lot like life, you’re gonna deal with a lot of $hit. If you don’t want this waste getting on your hands, clothes, and inside your RV then you’re going to want disposable gloves.
Emptying your septic tank involves getting in contact with a lot of germs. Even dealing with your gray water tank involves a lot of nasty microbes.
Really, imagine trying to open a sewer cap, with your bare hands.
Just get the gloves, and thank us later.
With these core items in place, let’s now look further into the separate RV hookups, and how to get them connected correctly.
Types Of RV Hookups
When you’re RV camping, if you want the best experience, you’re going to want the campground to offer full RV hookups, which include these four different types.
Just for reference, most state parks, national parks, RV parks, and campgrounds offer full hookups, although don’t be surprised if you find partial amenities.
Either way, here’s each type broken down.
RV Electrical Hookups
Alright, one of the first things you’ll want to do when camping is getting your electrical system figured out.
When you pull up to the site, you’ll notice a power supply box sticking out of the ground. It’s hard to miss.
This will power everything in your RV. From your air conditioner to your coffee maker.
An electrical hookup will be the most common amenity you’ll at an RV site.
Now, these boxes will have plugs which typically include three different types of outlets:
This will be where you plug in your power cord.
First thing you’ll want to do is power off the electrical breaker box at your hook up site, and check if your plug is compatible with the outlet offered.
If not, you’ll need to use a power converter. Otherwise you risk toasting your electronics.
PRO TIP – whenever plugging in your converters, make sure there is a snug fit. You don’t want any gaps between the plugs because you’ll melt the converter plastic and potentially cause a fire.
Anyways, once you’re plugged in correctly go ahead and turn on the power supply and you’ll be good to go.
Technically, this means you’re now running on “shore power”, which is just a fancy term for being linked to the grid.
RV Water Hookups
If you want hot showers, you’ll want a water hookup.
In fact, if you want anything water related, you’ll want a water connection.
The water hookup provides you with running water which will allow you to wash your hands, flush the toilet, take showers, and more without needing to burn through your holding tank reserves or use the public bathrooms.
These won’t be as common as electrical hookups, but most RV parks and resorts will offer hookups for water. Campgrounds can be hit or miss.
Here is where you’ll need your fresh water drinking hose (and no, please don’t use a cpvc pipe) which typically comes with a blue or white stripe or color to indicate it can be used with your fresh water tank.
The connection to the fresh water line is straight forward, you just need to twist the hose.
Couple things you might want to add is:
- Water pressure regulator – very useful for modulating the pressure which can cause damage to your fresh water tank if not regulated.
- Water Filter – If you’re used to drinking tap water, you can do without a water filter, but most people opt for this to get truly fresh water without extra contaminants.
RV Sewer Hookups
This is the fun one. Sewer hookup.
The beauty of RV camping at a site with full RV hookups is being able to dump your black tank into the campgrounds sewer system right away, without needing to find an external dump station.
But, this is a luxury. Most RV camping locations won’t offer direct sewer hookups, but instead they’ll have a central dump station where you’ll dispose of your waste at the end of your camping trip.
To connect your sewer hookup, the first thing you’ll want to do is get those handy gloves. You’ll then want to make sure your valve gates are closed.
Don’t ever leave your black tank valves open when opening the sewer cap. Ever.
If the RV sites you’re staying at don’t have sewer support, then you’ll want to lay down a support to keep a downward flow.
Connect your hose to your RVs black tank cap, then connect it to the sites private septic system connection and you’re good to go.
PRO TIP – you can screw in your elbow piece before connecting the hose which can make things easier.
Cable & Wifi Hookups
Some RV sites (especially those “RV resorts”) will offer cable tv or free wifi. The wifi doesn’t often work well, but the cable tv could be useful for the kids or a movie night.
The process is the same as if you were hooking up your cable box at home.
Just grab a coaxial cable and hook it up to your rig.
RV Hookups Checklist: Step-By-Step
Here’s a handy checklist you can use for all your RV hook ups:
- Find RV electrical box at site.
- Power down the sites electrical.
- Determine proper amp rating for plug.
- Grab your surge protector (or adaptor if needed).
- Plug into power source.
- Turn on breaker.
- Find your water hose.
- Disinfect the spigot (if you’re extra cautious).
- Connect pressure regulator.
- Connect water line.
- Use pipe clamps is necessary.
- Connect cable if you want.
- For septic, first put on gloves.
- Turn off valve gate.
- Remove septic cap.
- Connect sewer hose.
- Lay down support.
- Connect elbow to adaptor (if necessary).
- Connect elbow to the campsites sewer station.
Look at that. Who knew RV hook ups could be so straightforward!
Lingo & Terms You Need To Know
Before your RV pulls up to any campsite, you’ll want to know what kind of RV hookups are available.
This is especially true if you plan on staying for a week or more.
Here’s a couple terms and lingo that will help you when searching for your next camping location.
Full RV Hookups
Full hookups means you’ll get the three amenities above (plus other amenities if lucky). Electrical, water, and sewer. Sometimes you might even find a gas line.
Partial RV Hookups
This typically means electrical only (although sometimes water). At least you’ll get air conditioning!
This also can be referred to as dispersed camping, which means a campsite with no hookups. You’ll often find this on BLM land. In end, you’re left to your own devices. You’ll have to use your own generator, because there will be no electrical, and you’re reliant on you water tank reserves. You will also need to find a dump station to unload your waste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do National Parks Have Full Hookups?
Yes and no. Some National Parks will offer a luxurious camping experience. Others will offer partial RV hookups.
Do State Parks Offer RV Hookups?
A majority of state parks will offer electrical. Most RV spots will require you to use your fresh water tank and will make you go to a dump station.
Do RVs Need Electrical Hook Ups?
No. RVs are designed for camping without any hookups. You’ll need a generator along with high quality batteries if you want any air conditioning, but if you’re roughing it then you can dry camp. The hookups are nice because you won’t need to pick and choose which appliances to use.
RV hookups offer a great way to enjoy your RV to the max. From taking nice warm showers after a long hike, to watching a show with your significant other to unwind, these amenities can make your camping experience so much better.
Remember, not every location will have these hookups, so it’s important to call the site ahead of time for confirmation if you need a specific amenity.
Also – don’t stress. If this is your first time getting everything connected, you’re probably going to do it wrong. Embrace the suck and improve as you go. That’s what RVing is all about!