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Camping Site Power

All photos are thumbnails, click to see an enlarged version


Power to your camper will be provided via a power distribution box located at your campsite.  

In this photo we see two breakers in the upper left, one 30 amp which controls the round "RV Style" socket below the breakers, and a 20 amp breaker which controls the "duplex" receptacle to the right.  Note on the duplex receptacle, the right side sockets are "T" shaped, allowing both a 15 amp or 20 amp plug to be inserted  Additionally, the 20 amp receptacle is a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter receptacle) which has  "trip" and "reset" buttons in the middle.  The 30 amp receptacle does NOT have a GFI.  Remember this is what feeds the electric to most popups so verify that you pop up has working GFIs on all electric circuits.


FWElectric.jpg (47124 bytes)

In this photo we see three breakers in the upper left, one 30 amp which controls the round 30a "RV Style" socket below the breakers, one 20 amp breaker which controls the "duplex" 110v receptacle to the right as well as a 50a dual pole breaker for the 50a RV socket.  Note on the duplex receptacle, the right side sockets are "T" shaped, allowing both a 15 amp or 20 amp plug to be inserted  Additionally, the 20 amp receptacle is protected by a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter) main breaker (note the red breaker).  In his case the  "trip" and "reset" for the GFI is on the breaker.  A GFI is also know as a GFCI; for more information on them check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission GFCI Fact Sheet.


Here you see the cord exiting the Pop-Up

as well as the cord end.


Electric Adaptors

Plug your RV cord into the 30 amp socket, and you will have sufficient power to run your A/C and other items inside your Pop-Up.  But, what do you do when the campsite only has a 20a receptacle.  Well, 30a to 15a adaptors are available at most RV stores for a few dollars.  These come in three types:

1. Adaptors manufacturered with a rubber housing like this one

2. Adaptors manufacturered with a "bakelite" housing.  Bakelite is a very hard plastic, kind of like porcelain.  Sorry, I couldn't find one on line to show you, but they look just like #1 but are a hard bakelite.

3. "DogBone" Adaptor like this one.

In my opinion, do NOT use a 30 amp to 15 amp rubber adaptor (#1) to run the A/C if a 30 amp socket is not available.  They are not designed to carry the amperage needed for the A/C while dissipating the heat that will begin to build in the adaptor.  You will at least trip a breaker, and at worst melt the adaptor and possibly start a fire!!  

An air conditioner draws around 12 - 15 amps +/-  depending on brand, BTUs and type of compressor.  So it is possible to run an air off a 20 amp receptacle if you leave off the other heavy appliances like electric water heater, hair dryer,  etc       When using a  15 to 30 amp adapter use a dogbone or bakelite type.  Bakelite adapter are also hollow and this helps to dissipate the heat.    The rubber are rated for 15 and hold heat.  Heat increases resistance at the connections.

If you are running an extremely large amount of appliances inside the pop-up, you can run a second extension cord to the 20 amp duplex receptacle, assuming that the 20 amp receptacle is on a separate circuit controlled by it's own breaker.  This cord would then be run to the pop up and under the tenting to supply power to some of your loads .  Remember, the heavier the wire in the extension cord the better ( i.e. an orange cord with #12 wire is better than a brown household cord).  

When using an extension cord a safe rule is 12 gauge cord can be used up to 25'; to go to 50' a ten gauge cord is needed. 

Testing the Electric

I always carry two electric checkers with me.   One is a wall socket volt meter.   If the voltage drops below 105.   I start turning things off.  Most appliances run very poorly, and inefficiently as the voltage drops. Motorized devices like your air conditioner will not work nearly as well, or last as long, with improper voltage  The biggest problem I saw with electric was discount store extension cords.  They were listed as "heavy duty" but only the covering was the heavy part.  The wire would be poor quality 14 or 12 gauge.

The other item I always carry is a polarity checker     This is not as critical as it use to be.   But if the polarity is reversed at a campground and the grass is wet you can get a very nasty shock.  Older campgrounds in rural areas are normally the ones to suspect.   It is also possible to have the polarity reversed in the camper.  RV technicians advise me that they have also worked on many used campers that have had the polarity reversed.  You can't believe how many people think the black wire is ground.   In my camper I leave my volt meter and the polarity checker permanently plugged into and receptacle where I can see it. 

Both volt meters and polarity checkers are available from many sources, but the most common is the electrical section of your local home improvement store.

When we talk about electric safety, remember the 30 amp RV plug is probably not on a GFI  so you are not protected and in some campgrounds neither are the 15 or 20 amp.  Campground owners are not require to bring there electric up to current NEC (National Electric Code) standards unless that are doing work that requires changing the fixtures.   There are still 15 amp plugs out there that are not GFI.  Depending on how you feel about this issue, Ground Fault Interrupters are available as a portable plug in model that you can carry if you encounter an electric panel without one.

Campgrounds that supply electric and are up to code must have at least one 20a receptacle.  So, one would assume that they will have a 20a and something else.  Usually it's a 20a and a 30a or a 20a and a 50a.  I have found that most have all three, a 20a, a 30a and a 50a.  If power is a concern (like Florida in July and you need your A/C) give the campground a call and ask.

From Page 70-460 National Electrical Code 2002 Edition:
"VII. Recreational Vehicle Parks
551.71 Type Receptacles Provided. Every recreational vehicle site with electrical supply shall be equipped with at least one 20-ampere, 125-volt receptacle."

Midwest Electric is the most common brand of RV park power equipment.


Below is the view of a common camp site electric/water connection

Be careful around this type of configuration as it is easy for water to pool around the connections.  You really don't want to be standing in a puddle while working with electricity.

   Revised: May 08, 2007



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