Your RV is a home on wheels. When you arrive at a campsite with full hook-ups, you’ve got all the comforts of home including electricity, running water, a kitchen, and a bathroom. But in order to be able to take full advantage of these amenities, you need to know how to hook up your RV to the systems provided at the campground.
Connecting your RV to full hook-ups isn’t difficult, but it is pretty important to get it right. So today we’re talking about everything you need to properly hook up your RV at your campsite, and exactly how to do it.
- 1) Items Needed to Hook Up Your RV
- 2) Hooking Up an RV: Step-by-Step
- 3) Hook Up Your RV To Electric
- 4) How To Hook Up An RV To Fresh Water
- 5) Hooking Up the RV to the Sewer Connection
???? Watch the video… and then keep reading.
Items Needed to Hook Up Your RV
Depending on the services available at a particular campsite, there are a number of items needed to properly connect your RV, especially if full hook-ups are available. Before we get to the step-by-step guide, let’s take a look at each item and its purpose.
RV Power Cord
Your RV has a power cord that you will connect to the power pedestal at the campsite to deliver electricity to your RV.
Your RV’s power cord connects to the campground’s power pedestal, delivering electricity to your RV. It may be on a cord reel like ours is.
Most RVs have either a 30-amp or 50-amp electrical system. Some campground power pedestals offer 15/20-, 30-, and 50-amp service. Others may only offer 15/20- or 30-amp power, which may require you to adapt your power cord in order to connect (more on that in just a minute). First, let’s talk about your surge protector.
If you don’t have a built-in RV surge protector, you should use a portable unit, connecting it to the campground’s power pedestal before you connect anything else, thus eliminating the danger of a power surge to your RV.
Most surge protectors have a display of some kind that indicates whether the power pedestal is safe for your RV. You should never connect your RV’s power cord to a power pedestal when a surge protector indicates an error.
If your RV has a 50-amp electrical system, as ours does, and you arrive at a campsite with a power pedestal that only provides 15/20 or 30-amp power, you’ll need to use a dogbone adapter. Or two.
John’s holding a 30-to-50-amp dogbone, which allows us to connect our 50-amp rig to a 30-amp pedestal.Dogbone adapters allow you to connect your 50-amp RV to a 30-amp power pedestal (or even to 15/20-amp power), but you’ll also need to adjust your power usage accordingly. For example, if you try to run your RV’s air conditioner, the microwave, and a blow dryer all at the same time, you’ll almost certainly trip the breaker on the power pedestal.
Potable Water Hose
Full hook-ups include a designated connection to city water at your site. This means you’ll have all the water you want for a great shower after that hike, and you won’t have to worry about strict water conservation as you do when you’re boondocking, relying on the supply from your freshwater tank to get you through the next week. (Please note that we still believe in water conservation. We just appreciate the opportunity to not have to monitor our water usage quite as closely every now and then.)
- No matter the destination, it’s along for the ride.
- Drinking Water Safe - Manufactured with FDA sanctioned materials
When hooking up to a water source to bring water into your RV, you’ll want to be sure to only use a drinking-water-safe hose, which is typically white or blue. Those potable water hoses contain no harmful chemicals and are specifically made for this purpose. Remember that you’ll be drinking, showering, and cooking with the water coming into your RV.
It may seem odd to suggest keeping disinfectant spray on hand, but you’ll soon discover that not all RVers take sanitation seriously at their campsites. Having easy access to disinfectant spray allows you to sanitize the water connection before attaching your potable water hose. The last thing that spigot may have been used for is rinsing out the last RVers’ sewer hose. ????
Water Pressure Regulator
Having a generous amount of water pressure may be great for showering, but it’s not great for RV plumbing, which is often rated not to exceed 65 PSI. A water pressure regulator helps prevent pipes from leaking or bursting, which can cause costly damage. While a basic fixed-pressure model will work just fine, we prefer our higher-end adjustable water pressure regulator that also has a higher flow rate.
A Y-valve is an optional accessory that many RVers choose to purchase for their rig. This valve connects to the campsite’s water spigot and provides an additional second water connection. This is incredibly useful for rinsing items off or flushing the black tank, and still having access to water without disconnecting the potable water hose connected to the RV.
Inline Water Filter
An inline water filter is a must for every RV. Much like a surge protector protects your RV’s electrical system, the inline water filter protects your RV’s water system by filtering out sediment that can cause damage and clogs. Some RVs come equipped with them already built in. If yours doesn’t an external filter is a must.
RV Sewer Hose
A sewer hose is required for emptying your grey and black tanks. When you have full hook-ups, you’ll connect your RV sewer hose from your RV’s wastewater outlet to the campsite’s sewer drain.
PRO TIP: Whether you’re at a full hook-up or not, it’s ESSENTIAL that you ALWAYS leave your black tank drain valve CLOSED except when you’re dumping the tanks. Did we say that LOUD enough?! LOL Leaving the black valve open while the RV is in use might just be the single worst newbie mistake you can make.
It will allow the “liquids” to run out of the tank, leaving the “solids” behind. Those solids will then pile up and harden over time in a process known as “Pyramiding” which we’re hoping you can envision without our getting any more graphic. ???? This can lead to horrible odors, requiring the services of a professional to clean out the tank, or even tank replacement. Don’t do it!
Although not as dire a mistake as leaving your black valve open, it’s also a good idea to leave your gray tank valve closed as well, even when fully hooked up. An open gray valve can allow sewer gas odors into your RV.
RV sewer hoses come in varying lengths, styles, and price ranges. Many of the major manufacturers of RV accessories have sewer hose kits that provide all you need.
RV Sewer Hose Attachments
The two most common hose attachments are a clear elbow and sewer fitting adapter.
The clear sewer elbow helps you to see when your tanks finish emptying. A sewer adapter helps connect your hose to multiple types of sewer drain connections. Some states or municipalities require the use of a sewer adapter to maintain a leak-proof seal between the RV and the campground’s sewer connection.
Sewer Hose Holder & Support
Some RVs come equipped with a mounted sewer hose holder, offering a convenient place to store your sewer hose. Having a designated area for your sewer hose is important because it prevents a contaminated sewer hose from coming in contact with other accessories or gear, especially the freshwater inlet and hose.
If your RV does not have a sewer hose holder, it’s easy and inexpensive to add one to your rig. At the very least, you’ll want a separate designated container for storing your RV sewer hose.
We also recommend using a sewer hose support to keep a steady downhill flow to the park’s sewer outlet. As with sewer hose adapters, some places require RVers to keep their sewer hose up off the ground.
- RV SEWER HOSE SUPPORT: Elevated design supports your drainage hose and promotes better draining
- IMPROVED DESIGN: 26% wider and 30% deeper for increased stability and a smoother overall RV experience
Disposable or Washable Gloves
Wearing disposable or washable/reusable gloves while emptying your wastewater tanks is the best way to prevent germs and bacteria (and other stuff!) from getting on your hands and then transferring to other locations. Whenever we see someone dumping their tanks bare-handed, we think to ourselves “Newbie” and “Yuck!” at the same time.
Hooking Up an RV: Step-by-Step
So you’ve got all the gear and you’ve arrived at your campsite with full hook-ups available. Let’s hook up an RV!
Hook Up Your RV To Electric
A few reminders: A full hook-up RV site includes access to electricity. This may be either 15/20-amp, 30-amp, or 50-amp, so be sure you have the proper adapters (also known as “Dog Bones”) in advance.
If you have a 50-amp RV and are at a campsite that only has a 30-amp power outlet, use an adapter to convert your plug down to 30-amp, but be mindful of your power usage to avoid tripping the breaker. The same holds if you’re connecting a 30-amp RV to a 15/20-amp outlet. Use an appropriate 30-amp to 15/20-amp adapter and pay attention to your power usage.
Turn Off Pedestal Breaker
Turn off the breaker on the pedestal before connecting anything. While doing so, inspect the pedestal and circuit breaker for any obvious signs of damage. Also, when breaking camp, always turn the break off before disconnecting the power cord.
Using a Surge Protector, Plug into Power
With the power pedestal breaker turned off, you can now connect your surge protector to the power pedestal. Again, if you have a built-in surge protector, you can skip this step, since it’s obviously already in line. Then connect the power cord or surge protector into the correct power outlet.
Turn on the Breaker
Once you’ve connected your RV to the power outlet, you can then flip the circuit breaker on. Look for any warning or fault indications on your surge protector. If there are any, immediately disconnect from that pedestal and be sure to report the issue to campground staff. If no warnings are displayed, the power should be flowing to your RV, and you should be good to go.
How To Hook Up An RV To Fresh Water
A full hook-up RV site will also provide you with a freshwater connection for your faucets, shower, and toilet(s). Having a steady supply of fresh water is a bonus for RVers. Let’s take a look at the steps for connecting your RV to your freshwater connection.
Disinfect Water Spigot
Use a disinfectant spray to sanitize the water spigot. You never know how previous campers have treated the water spigot, and you want a clean connection for your water supply.
Hook Up Your Potable Water Hose
If you’re using a Y-connector, connect it to the city water supply. Connect your water pressure regulator to one side of the Y-connector, and then connect your potable water hose to the water pressure regulator.
If you’re using an inline water filter, attach your inline filter in line at one end of the water hose. If your RV has a built-in water filter, you can of course skip this step, since the filter is always in place.
Hooking Up the RV to the Sewer Connection
Another great feature of a full hook-up campsite is the ability to dump your tanks right there at your site, as opposed to using a dump station. If you’re not familiar with this process yet, it can seem a bit intimidating. The following steps will have you feeling confident in no time.
Connect Sewer Hose to Your RV
Whenever you’re about to connect your sewer hose to the RV, it’s a good practice to first check your gate valves to make sure they’re closed. Removing the sewer cap with either of the gate valves open will cause a rush of gray and/or black water. That’s not a mistake you want to make!
Once you’ve confirmed that your gate valves are closed, remove the cap and connect the sewer hose to your RV.
Lay Sewer Hose on Support
Some RV parks and campgrounds require a sewer hose support if you’re staying hooked up to the sewer connection. Spread these supports out under the hose as you stretch it to reach the park sewer connection.
Connect to Park Sewer
Use the park sewer adapter to connect your sewer hose to the park’s sewer connection. Make sure the adapter is pushed securely into the sewer connection. Some adapters press in (versus using a twist-lock), making it helpful to place a large rock or brick on the adapter to keep a tight connection when dumping tanks. The newer version of our favorite adapter uses the twist-lock design so no weighting down the connection is required.
That’s it! You’ve just learned how to hook up an RV at a campground that offers full hook-ups. This means you can enjoy air conditioning, long hot showers (well… as long as the hot water holds out!), a ready sewer dump station, and all the power you need to enjoy the amenities of your RV.
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Once you’re connected to power, water, and sewer, you can relax and make yourself at home.
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Monday 28th of June 2021
I would add a step to the electric procedure. Don't plug in your rv until you have turned on the breaker with your surge protector plugged in. You want to know about faulty wiring before it gets to the rv.turn off breaker plug in surge protector turn on breaker. If all is good. turn breaker back off. plug in rv, then turn breaker back on.
Monday 28th of June 2021
Hi Ron! Because our system is pretty built into our rig and not portable, it's not practical to do that. But it actually doesn't matter, as the Power Watchdog analyzes the power BEFORE allowing it to pass through to the RV. If both wiring and power level aren't okay, it won't send power to the RV. It will also show what the problem is in two places — on the face of the unit (the dog's face lights up bright red and shows a specific error code) and also by sending an alert to our phone and/or tablet via Bluetooth. The Power Watchdog is fantastic!
Sunday 20th of June 2021
Well as soon as i clicked on to watch a pop up came on for us to come along for the ride as we go bungy jumping in New Zealand and hit the watch it now button and voila….
Amy A. Moore
Saturday 16th of May 2020
Hi there! I've decided to sell my house,buy some land and a nice 5th wheel to live in completely stationary for a few years to save money & live smaller. I have questions about trying into my sewer system and what it will mean for dumping, grey water, black water, etc. I would think I could treat it just like a regular house toilet but that seems too easy. Thanks!
Saturday 16th of May 2020
Hi Amy! Cool! Sounds like an exciting plan! The short answer to your question is that you're right... that's too easy! ???? With any RV hooked up to the sewer system, you still have to treat the toilet & black tank as if you weren't. You need to leave the black valve closed until the black tank is full enough to dump. If you don't, and you leave the black valve open, what happens is called "pyramiding." With the valve open, all of the liquids that get flushed flow right out. But the solids are left behind. Over time, that will cause some serious issues... as you can probably imagine (sorry, hope you're not eating, LOL!).
It's up to you whether or not you want to leave the gray valve open while you're hooked up (we do... but there are other people who will tell you that you shouldn't, to keep sewer flies and other pests out... we've just never had a problem with either of those in 17+ years of full-time RVing). If you do leave it open, you can use water that runs into the sinks and shower as you would in a normal house... since it just flows right out of the gray tank and down the sewer. When the black tank fills enough to need dumping, close the gray valve (or valves... fifth wheels often have more than one gray tank) the day before. That lets the gray tank(s) fill with some water so that after you dump the black, you can pull the gray valve(s) and have a rush of gray water clean your sewer hose of the "black" stuff. ???? Then you can repeat.
Couple of other quick thoughts:Be sure to ask, or find out, what the setup is with all of the sinks on any fifth wheel you buy. Some of them will be plumbed so that water from one of the bathroom sinks goes into the black tank (to add more liquid to the tank to help it dump more effectively). You'll want to be aware of that if yours is plumbed that way so you don't overflow the black tank by mistake. If you do want to leave your gray valve open so that you don't have to keep an eye on the level in the gray tank, you can also put a bit of an "elbow" in the sewer line to act like a "P" trap under your sink (see this video)... it stays filled with water and prevents odor/critters from coming up your sewer hose (again... we've never had that happen, but other people have). If you think a "couple of years" could be more like 3 or 4, you may want to consider a more home-like option like a park model or tiny home. Those would be plumbed into the sewer system just like a house, so you wouldn't have to deal with tanks at all. Wouldn't be moveable (i.e. if you wanted to take the fifth on vacation during that time), but might be more comfortable... especially if where you're planning to stay is prone to extremely cold temps.
Hope this helps!! Wishing you the best of luck!
Saturday 21st of December 2019
I am having a tough time finding the correct fittings to connect the sewer hose from my travel trailer to the drain coming out of the side of my house. Most drains are in the ground and you simply insert the end of the hose. This is becoming quite the headache because no one seems to know what I am talking about so they don't know what fittings I need. I am brand new to this stuff and I think it should be easier. So do you know what connections I would need to connect to the drain coming out of my house? I have pictures but I can't seem to attach them here. Thanks so much for any help
Saturday 21st of December 2019
Hi Garrison. Sorry you're having such difficulties! We're not familiar with the type of drain you're trying to connect to... and we don't have a means for you to upload pictures here. If you can upload them somewhere else online and provide links to them, we'd be happy to take a look at them to see if we have any suggestions. But it might be easier if you brought the RV sewer connection you're using into a plumbing or big box hardware store to see if they can help you piece together what you need.
Tuesday 23rd of June 2015
I have a clog shower how do I unclog it. Thanks Anthony
Tuesday 23rd of June 2015
Is it the shower head that's clogged, or the drain?