Sierra Nevada Airstreams -> TT Owner's Guide -> Living

Enjoyment of the whispering winds, the zephyrs, the airstreams of the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin areas of the United States in a recreational vehicle.

Connections in the campground

No matter how you camp, whether in a full services park or out in the wilds all by yourself, setting up camp means making arrangements for connecting to water supplies, waste disposal, communications, and other needs. Even on the road your RV is connected to electrical sources and tanks for liquid supply and waste. Here is a look at the range of connections for a longer term campsite, from dry camping to full service and the issues involved.


Also see the Owner's Guide page on water – The issues of concern are system sanitizing, water supply source, approved hoses and equipment that are kept safe from contamination, and local conditions.

If your water source is a public water supply, it will probably be carefully monitored by public health authorities and be prepared for public use according to a number of standards and will have disinfectants in it. Private source water supplies can usually be considered safe but may need filtering or other treatment.

Water pressure may be a concern. A pressure regulator is always good insurance. Many RV's have these mounted at the water service entrance to the RV. You can also get pressure regulators designed for inline hose connection. Or you can pick up a household regulator at home improvement stores and use adapters to fit your need. If possible, put the regulator on the feed end to your hoses so they also protect your hoses from excess pressure. Your RV plumbing should not be exposed to more than about 40 PSI as a general matter.

Hoses should not be left out in the sun. Loosely coil any excess hose under the RV. Make sure that hoses are flat on the ground and out of any pathways. Do what you can to minimize any tripping hazard.


The black and gray waste tanks in your RV will do for a weekend or so but can create a very unpleasant situation when they get full. The gray water waste (wash water) is likely to need attention first, but is easiest to handle. The black waste (toilet) requires a bit more care because it does contain more solid matter.

Most campsite hookups depend upon a flexible three inch diameter drain hose connected to the waste outlet on the RV. This usually runs to a standard sewer pipe set to ground level. Your drain hose should have a fitting to allow it to set into the camp sewer drain sealing the connection. The drain hose should generally be oriented with a slight slope between the RV and the sewer drain. A droop in the hose can be installed that will fill with liquid waste to prevent sewer gases or rodents or other problems from getting to the RV from the sewer drains.

The slope of sewer drains is usually a very important balance between making sure there is flow but not so much as to leave solids behind. This isn't as much a concern for the RV waste line. The RV should only have the gray water drain, which has no large solids, always open. The black water should only be released when the tank has sufficient content to wash down the line. This means that, even when connected to camp sewer, the black tank valve should be closed and only 'dumped' every couple of days or so depending upon toilet use. It is usually a good idea to close the gray tank a day or so prior to dumping the black tank in order to be able to use the accumulated gray water to wash the toilet waste through the drain hose. By always flushing the hose with gray water tank waste after dumping the black tank, you will have less organic waste in your drain hoses and plumbing, which is generally a bit safer and more sanitary.


The electrical connections can be dangerous in many ways. There are also many safeguards built into wiring codes to help contain the danger but errors can occur. It is up to you to make sure that unsafe conditions are detected and corrected.

  1. make sure that all wires and cables are not worn or frayed.

  2. Use proper sized wire for the load and length

  3. Place cords out of the way so they are not a tripping hazard or obstacle.

  4. Try to minimize the number of plugs, connectors, and adapters and length of cord.

  5. Don't bypass safety measures like circuit breakers and ground fault interrupters (GFI)

  6. Don't wad up cords in use – allow ventilation

  7. Keep connections clean and free of dirt and make sure they are tight.

The 'Grid'

The power grid connects to your RV using either 30 Amp single phase (120 v) service or 50 Amp split (or two) phase (240v) service. Single phase service is just a high power version of your standard household appliance outlet with three wires. Split phase is often used in houses for 240v appliances such as ovens or clothes dryers and these use four wires. You can count the pins or sockets on the plugs to tell what is 120v single phase or 240v split phase most of the time (there are some 240v connections that don't use 4 pins).

Power voltages are not tightly specified and can vary by ten percent or so. A nominal 117 volt supply can range between 130 and 105 volts. Higher voltages tend to burn out lamps and electronic stuff faster while low voltages tend to burn out motors faster. Why there are such changes has a lot to do with how far the electricity has to travel and the expected loads on the system when it was designed.

In most cases, you can pull the power lead from your RV and just plug it into the camp power pedestal as they will have plugs for both 50 Amps and 30 Amp services. All you do is to match up the plugs and check that the circuit breakers are closed. It's when the camp power pedestal does not have the same kind of plugs that match those on your RV power cord that you have to be especially careful. There are adapters to handle most plug mismatch situations but the usual circumstance is to reduce the electrical power available to your rig. For instance, the 30 Amp single phase RV plug to a 15 or 20 Amp household plug adapter is perhaps most common but will allow you to use on 15 Amps at a time in your RV rather than 30. The version of this adapter for 50 Amp split phase has additional limitation in that you can't run any of the 240v appliances in your RV.

It is always a good idea to have indicators in your RV to use to make sure you are properly connected. The simplest is only $5 or so and uses indicator lights to tell you if the wiring is connected properly or not. The next step up tells you the voltage. Volt meters are particularly important when running an air conditioner so you can make sure to turn it off if the voltage goes to low (usually anything below 110v is hard on them.)

Communications: TV, telephone, cell service, wi-fi

Water, sewer, and electric (WSE) are the traditional offerings of full service parks. More and more RV parks are starting to offer additional connections for telephone, television, and internet. The latest is wi-fi where the RV park provides a wireless network connection to the internet. You install a wireless networking card in your RV computer and then you can log into the park network to access your e-mail and other internet services. This is a very convenient means to medium speed internet access and the costs are usually only a few dollars per hour.

Other than that, most RV connections are going towards independent and broad coverage communications methods such as satellite TV and cellular telephone service. Cable TV and standard POTS (plain old telephone service) require a park to make special arrangements with communications companies and to install rather extensive infrastructure. These capital costs are why TV and telephone are not as common in parks as the more essential WSE.

For more information

Water and sanitation

Gray waste


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