RV Hookups for Beginners Guide

Here’s an RV hookups for beginners guide to better prepare you for your first RV trip

Dania and I have been doing this for a long time. So, sometimes I take for granted some of the beginner’s tasks that are now second nature to me—RV hookups being one of those things.

I decided to take a step back and cover some basics that RV beginners need to know. And what better way to start than how to connect full hookups on your first stay at a campground or RV park?

As a first time RVer, you’re probably wondering what steps you need to take and in what order to do them. So, I’m going to share the general rules and my best tips that new RVers need to know.

Electric (with Electric Management System), water (with pressure regulator), and sewer set up © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to set up your RV

For this article, I will focus only on RV hookups for beginners. These steps and tips are the same whether you drive a motorhome, travel trailer, fifth wheel, or camper. Hookups are essentially the same wherever you camp whether it’s an RV park, state park, national park, or any other place that offers hookups.

STEP 1: Set your parking break

The most important thing to do before you even start hooking up is to set your parking brake! Experienced RVers can share plenty of stories where either they or someone else forgot to do this with disastrous (and sometimes humorous) results.

The last thing you want is for your RV to settle and shift back or forth putting tension on your cables. Or, worse, roll-off and pull out the cables and do costly damage to the campground’s panels and connection points.

So, don’t repeat the dumbest RV camping mistakes and set your parking brake!

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

STEP 2: Electric Hookup

I recommend that the first thing you connect is your electric hookup. The main reason is so you can start running your air conditioner, heater, fridge, etc. on the power source from your RV campsite instead of from your RV’s power supply.

There are usually three different plugs on a campsite’s electric pedestal: 20 amp, 30 amp, and 50 amp. Big rigs usually use 50 amps and smaller RVs use 30 amps. You need to know which amp service your RV runs on. But, if you don’t, since the plugs have differently shaped prongs you’ll only be able to plug into the correct one. Before you plug in make certain the breaker is turned OFF.

Once you’re plugged in, flip the breaker switch corresponding to the amp service you need. For instance, you flip the 30 amp breaker after you plug in your 30 amp plug. Then you plug in the other end of your RV twisting it and rotating the collar until it’s snug. You will forego this step if the power cord is wired directly into your RV as our Class A motorhome is.

BUT BEFORE YOU PLUG IN, here is one of the best RV tips I can give you…

PRO TIP: Always use an Electric Management System

Always use an electric management system when connecting your RV to power! Many have learned the hard way that campground electrical panels are not always well-maintained or wired properly. You can also experience a power surge that can severely damage your electrical system.

You can use one of the Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard portable or hardwired units.

Plug this portable surge protector into the campground’s electric power supply and then plug your power cable into the surge protector.

Power adapters

Every RVer needs to carry a few power adapters often referred to as dogbones to make sure that they can connect to whatever power is available to them. These power adapters will have a smaller, lower amperage plug (male blades) on one end and a larger/higher-amperage receptacle (female terminals) at the other end. Look for UL-listed versions of these adapters preferably with rigid grab handles. They do not change the power output.

Recommended electric adapters include:

  • 50-amp RV plugged into the 30-amp source
  • 50-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source
  • 30-amp RV plugged into the 15-amp source
Water hookup with pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

STEP 3: Water hookup

The next hookup to connect is your water hose to the campground’s water source. Just like I recommend an Electric Management System with electrical hookups, I recommend you always use a pressure regulator and water filter connected to your fresh water tank.

STEP 4: Cable hookups

If your campground offers cable TV, you can now connect it to your RV. There’s nothing special to know here. Simply plug in the cable cord to your RV. If you don’t know where your cable port is, consult your owner’s manual.

Sewer hookup © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

STEP 4: Sewer hookups

Lastly, it’s time to do your sewer connection. Since not all campsites have sewer connections this might be something you don’t do until you dump your black and grey tanks at an RV dump station. Whether you’re connecting at a campsite or the dump station, the process is the same. The only difference is how long you leave it connected.

Now, let me warn you, that dealing with your black water tank is one of the biggest downsides of camping. It’s just gross. But it needs to be done and is well worth the stinky effort in the end.

That said, I suggest you put on disposable vinyl gloves before you connect your sewer line or what the RV world likes to call the stinky slinky

Disposable gloves © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’ve sometimes wondered why anyone would take on this bacteriological nightmare without protection. From those who don’t use gloves, we sometimes hear the excuse, “It’s just too much bother and I can’t see much advantage to it.”

Another reasoning runs, “The stuff stays in the hose, so what’s the big deal?” In a perfect world, it’s a good line of reasoning. But since we’re not living in a perfect world, the stuff doesn’t always cooperate and stay in the hose. Pinhole leaks can occur and a misaligned bayonet fitting can pop off, unloading an unholy amount of stuff. File that under “Been there, done that.”

“So you get a little doo-doo on your hands, just wash it off,” is the next comment. Good idea: a thorough washing with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Meantime, make sure none of it gets off elsewhere and ends up in your mouth eyes, or nose. And hope in the meantime that you don’t have any minor breaks in your skin. If so, the damage may already be done, no matter how much you wash afterward.

What can happen with a bit of misplaced sewage bacteria? Here’s the short list:

  • Gastroenteritis, characterized by cramping stomach pains, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • Hepatitis, characterized by inflammation of the liver, and jaundice
  • Infection of skin or eyes

I don’t think any RVer would like to have a bout of any of those manifestations. Washing up even when using gloves is still a good idea and an outside shower unit that many RVs are equipped with is great for this task.

For those that glove up before going into the ring with the sewer hose I can only say, I gotta hand it to you! Good disposable gloves are best. Gloves you reuse over and over can easily get contaminated.

It’s always a good idea to check and make sure your gray tank and black tank are closed before grabbing your sewer hose.

Sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connect the end of the hose with the twist-on connector to your RV drain spout. Then run the hose to the sewer drain. It’s usually easiest to run your sewer hose support as you go. This support helps direct the hose (and its contents) toward the drain and it is required by law in some jurisdictions.

Now, attach the end of the hose with the elbow connection to the sewer drain. Screw it into position if the sewer drain also has threads (not all do.)

PRO TIP: Do NOT leave your black tank valve open when hooked up

This is a mistake that many new RVers make. They understandably think that if they’re connected, they might as well leave their blank tank valve open so it can continuously drain. Less poo stored in your RV, the better, right? Wrong!

If you leave your black tank valve open while you’re hooked up, it will cause gross and sometimes expensive problems. The most common of which has its inelegant RV terminology: the poop pyramid.

This happens when liquid waste easily drains out when your valve is left open but solid waste builds up in your tank. Like I said, it’s gross—and stinky! And can be expensive to clean out.

Now enjoy the rest of the day! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, don’t leave your black tank valve open!

By the way, I have a post on this dilemma and several others on avoiding sewer woes:

Worth Pondering…

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

—Benjamin Franklin

How to Find and Best Practices for Using RV Dump Stations

This is an answer to one of the most common questions that campers ask: How can I find RV dump stations near me?

Despite the RV life being one filled with freedom and excitement, it still comes with a few little changes of lifestyle that many newcomers have a hard time adjusting to.

One major issue that newcomers to the RV lifestyle find is the issue of waste. Yup, you got it! I’m talking about that waste. As in, the human kind!

Unfortunately, though it might be a great fertilizer you can’t dump your RV waste wherever you may want. It’s not as simple as pulling over along the side of the road and unloading. No, you have to find a dump station in order to make the unloading of your waste as safe, clean, and environmentally friendly as possible.

I will tell you how to find dump stations and offer helpful tips for dumping.

RV Dump Station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Are Dump Stations?

RV Dump Stations are facilities that are designated for dumping RV waste both black and grey tanks. RV owners can get a fresh start on their waste and dirty water storage throughout their road trips and weekend camping trips. However, dump stations aren’t exactly available on every block. Sometimes you must go out of your way to find one when your tanks get full.

Even though RV Dump Stations aren’t packing every street corner, they are still located all over the U.S. and Canada. With a little bit of proper planning, you won’t have to concern yourself too much.

In the same way that we plan our stops for overnight camping, sightseeing, and events, dump stations are another thing that we need to schedule.

RV Dump Station connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for finding RV Dump Stations

Finding RV Dump Stations is easier now than it ever has been. You can imagine what it was like back before the age of the Internet! Today, we can find dump stations rather easily through various online sources and even through simple Google searches.

Search engines make finding dump stations rather easy. However, there can be issues with the accuracy of the information. Sometimes open/closing times and prices will be a bit different than they are in reality. Use Google with a bit of caution!

Boondockers have more of a challenge in finding RV Dump Stations and if off-the-grid camping is your choice, you’ll need to work your trips around them to some extent. The more experience you get with your RV trip planning, the smoother the experience will be. It just takes a bit of practice to get the hang of incorporating dump stations into your trip planning as smoothly as possible.

RV sewer system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Use apps and websites to find Dump Stations

Most campgrounds and RV parks have RV Dump Stations but they can often have long lines or the timing just doesn’t work out for you to use them when you need to. And there is a chance your campground won’t have one.

The following online resources will help you between stops. As for boondockers, the following will help you find dump stations wherever you camp.

Sanidumps.com

This site has been around for more than 17 years and claims to provide the most comprehensive listings of RV Dump Stations online. They list private, public, RV park, non-park, municipal, truck stop, rest stop, campground, camping, resort, commercial, pay, donation, and free RV Dump Stations worldwide including the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. You search by Zip or Postal code.

Rvdumps.com

This site is only for U.S. RV Dump Stations. They primarily focus on locations other than RV parks and campgrounds—places like rest areas, truck stops, gas stations, and others. This site may be easier to use because you can search by state, city, or map. The map feature lets you find your location and then visually see what is closest. The map feature also shows Interstate rest areas with dump stations are only shown on the dump stations map.

Allstays RV Dump

RV Dumps checks your location and displays up to 150 points on a map view. You can filter by type to see only what you want to see on the map and zoom out. You can also use the offline manual lookup to find locations by type, state, and city even when you have no phone service.

AllStays is a travel-focused company that provides a range of resources for RVers, campers, and truckers. One resource is an app specifically for finding dump stations, called AllStays RV Dump.

You can download that app by itself or AllStays Pro instead. With AllStays Pro, you can find RV Dump Stations and SO MUCH MORE! AllStays Pro is browser based (not an app) but it’s a great resource for RVers. Some RVers rely on it almost exclusively fot their RV travels.

Sanitize with Lysol © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campendium

This is a popular website listing campgrounds and you can use it to find dump stations, too. First, search by state, then select “view map.” The map search feature then has a “Quick Links” tab near the bottom of the page where you can select “Dump Stations.” Dump stations will then populate on the map.

It’s worth noting that Campendium (and all its great features) has been bundled with a few other great RV resources into one great app called Roadpass Pro.

Roadpass Pro INCLUDES:

  • Access to all 14,000+ free boondocking locations in the OvernightRVParking.com app
  • RV GPS navigation that considers weight limits, low overhead clearances, grades of terrain, and propane restrictions to give you turn-by-turn directions specific to your RV
  • Roadtrippers Plus, where you can plan trips with up to 150 stops, collaborate with friends on route planning, and get real-time traffic along your route.
  • Full access to Campendium’s premium features, including viewing cell coverage maps, public land map overlays, and trail maps

RVshare.com

This RV Rental site also has a section that allows you to search for nearby RV Dump Stations. Find the state you are in and then scroll the cities for dump stations nearby. It’s a straightforward, browser-based resource that helps you easily find what you’re looking for.

Use disposable vinyl when dumping black and grey tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for using RV dump stations

A very important thing to remember is that RV Dump Stations are a shared space where all RVers go to empty out their waste and tanks. That means that we should treat them with respect and care.

We are all guests at these sites and leaving the dump station cleaner than we found them is ALWAYS common courtesy.

The sad truth is that many RV dump stations have had to shut down due to excessive waste spillage and improper care by users. With this in mind, always take the time to clean up after yourself and keep your waste where it is supposed to be—in the septic tank underground and not above ground all over the place!

Sewerage system including black tank flush © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pre-preparation

Have the right tools ready and available:

  • Disposable vinyl gloves for handling the sewer hose
  • Clear sewer adapter to know if your tanks have finished emptying
  • Sewer, recommend 30 feet available
  • Coupler 90 bayonet fitting or 45 degree or straight
  • Hand sanitizer for clean up afterwards

Dump station practices and courtesies to keep in mind are:

  • Keep a pair of disposable vinyl gloves stored in the compartment that you store the tank hose. This will help you keep your hands clean as you work.
  • Keep a slope between the hose and sewer to make sure everything empties out of your tank.
  • Dump the black-water tank before the gray-water tank so the soapy water from the gray tank can clean the residue from the hose.

Also, remember to use the water hose provided at most dump stations to clean up the area and any potential spillage that may occur during your dumping process.

And as many dump stations also offer drinking water, be sure to choose the right connection if you are planning to top off your freshwater tanks. There are usually two hoses available. The one near the actual hole in the ground is usually marked as non-potable water. It’s just for washing down any spills.

The freshwater or potable hose is usually located at the far end of the dump station.

Make sure you have an airtight connection with the RV Dump Station Hole. Smaller hoses should use a small black donut that fits over the end of the hose coming from the RV.

Leave the dump station area cleaner than you found it.

Plan Ahead!

Dawn Dish Soap acts as a detergent in the black water tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Waste is something that all RV owners have to deal with. It may be a bit of a hassle but the freedom of the open road does come with a few obstacles that need to be overcome along the way. That is why RV dump stations are both a godsend and a hurdle that must be worked around at the same time.

The best practice when it comes to RV dump stations is to always plan ahead of time. You never want to be caught off-guard with a full black tank and nowhere to let it out safely and legally. That is why you should always keep an eye on your online resources for where the best dump stations are for you and your route.

With proper planning, you shouldn’t have to go too far out of your way to get to an RV dump station. Once you have a good understanding of where the dump stations on your route are, you can hit the road with a clear and calm head. You don’t have to worry that your, uh… Delicate matters will come back to haunt you in the middle of a trip.

On the same topic, you should also check out:

Worth Pondering…

Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.

—Yan Zhitui (531–591)

Why and How to Use Dawn Dish Soap in RV Black Tanks?

The benefits of using Dawn dish soap in RV black tanks as well as proper tank cleaning procedures and some other cleaners to consider

Keeping up with RV maintenance and cleaning is just part of RV life! One aspect that is necessary but not very glamorous is emptying and cleaning the black and grey water tanks. This can seem like a complex problem but many products and solutions can help make this a lot easier.

Sewer hose connected to dump site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One common remedy involves the use of Dawn dish soap in RV black tanks. It is a detergent and grease cutter that will not harm your tanks and is eco-friendly and biodegradable. It is not corrosive and will not damage your plumbing. It has no phosphates so is a green product that is considered environmentally friendly.

Whether it’s a store-bought cleaner or a homemade recipe, there are numerous ways to clean your black tanks and keep them functional. Below, I’ll explore some of the uses and benefits of Dawn dish soap as well as proper cleaning tank procedures, and some other effective cleaners to consider.

Sewer hose connected to dump site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why use Dawn dish soap in RV black tanks?

Dawn dish soap is one of the most popular household cleaners and its uses are nearly limitless. Obviously, it can be used to clean dishes (it’s right in the name) but this soap can also be used as a pest remover, drain cleaner, stain remover, or just as an easy way to make a bubble mixture for kids.

It’s important to properly clean your RV water tanks so you’ll want to make sure that Dawn is a good choice before you start using it. Many people have incorporated it into their maintenance routines and some of the benefits are listed below:

  • Eco-friendly: One of the best parts about using Dawn dish soap in RV black tanks is that it’s an environment-friendly soap. It doesn’t contain phosphates and can be broken down by bacteria. This means that it’s a safe and biodegradable soap to use even if you’re cleaning/dumping your tank in a strict or natural environment.
  • Cheap: Another great bonus is that Dawn dish soap is quite affordable! If you use high-end cleaners that are specifically engineered for tank cleaning, that price can add up fast. On the other hand, Dawn is cheap and it won’t make a dent in your wallet. In addition, you only need to use ¼ to ⅓ cups of Dawn dish soap at a time so the average large bottle will last you for multiple months.
  • Non-corrosive: Dawn is also a gentle and non-corrosive soap. It’s effective at breaking down grease, eliminating odors, and softening blockages but it won’t eat into the material of your tank. Other effective cleaners exist (such as bleach) but they can be harmful to your tank and the surrounding pieces. You can use Dawn with peace of mind and won’t have to worry about the long-term effects it will have on the integrity of your plumbing system.
  • Easy to buy in bulk: Finally, Dawn is widely available in stores and online and easy to buy in large quantities. If you clean out your tank regularly you may just want to get a large container and work your way through it. If this is the case, Dawn is a fantastic option. You can find it at pretty much any grocery store and might even be able to find it in gas stations or small mini-marts along your journey. Loading up in large quantities is easy and affordable.
Approved dump site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to clean an RV black tank

Now we know that you can use Dawn dish soap in RV black tanks but that knowledge won’t do you any good unless you follow proper tank-cleaning procedures. It’s important to do a deep clean of your tanks at least twice a year but you’ll probably want to do it even more frequently than that if you live in the RV full-time.

Your black and grey water tanks should be dumped frequently so that odors and blockages don’t become a problem. Generally, the rule of thumb is that it’s time to empty them once they are about 2/3 full.

RV connections for dumping and flushing tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of us just don’t like to think about it until we have to but cleaning out RV tanks is quite simple. Here’s what you need to do:

Use disposable plastic gloves to wear when performing the deed. You’ll eliminate any chance of spreading bacteria if you toss the gloves before going into your RV.

Drain the tanks by connecting the sewer hose and emptying the contents into an approved dumping site. Drain the black tank first. Always! Once drained, close the black tank valve. Then open the gray water valve to empty it. The reason for this is to clean the hose attached to your wastewater tanks. The residue will go into the septic system at the campground.

Clean out buildup by using a tank rinser, flush valve, or macerator. This will help prevent blockages in the future. When finished, close both black and gray waste tank valves.

Add 4-5 quarts of fresh water to the tanks to provide a good base for future use. The system needs a certain amount of water to operate so never leave it completely dry. Finally add ¼ to ⅓ cup of Dawn dish soap to your tanks and you’re ready to go.

Approved dump site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other cleaners for RV black tanks

Using Dawn dish soap in RV black tanks is certainly an effective method but it’s not your only choice. There are numerous other tank treatments that have been used over the years and some of them might work better for you depending on your preference and the availability of certain products in your area.

While you can always use store-bought water treatments there are a number of homemade tank cleaners you can try as well. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Citric acid: This is a mild, naturally occurring acid that can break down build-ups and improve the smell of your holding tanks. It can be combined with Borax, water, and baking soda to strengthen its cleaning ability.
  • Fabric softener: Fabric softener is another good way to break down buildups in your tank and improve the smell. This is a mild and pleasant cleaner that has proven to be effective.
  • Yeast: Believe it or not, kitchen yeast is a good RV tank cleaner too. Yeast is an active culture that feeds off the bacteria and waste in a tank. It might take a few days to become effective so some people combine it with hydrogen peroxide to make it stronger.
  • Water and more water: Surprisingly enough, some people get by just fine without using any kind of special add-in. As long as you use plenty of water to flush out your tanks, you may not need to add a chemical cleaner. However, if you’re having problems with blockages and smells, one of the previous options can be helpful.

Related articles:

Worth Pondering…

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

—Charlie Brown, from Peanuts

The Best RV Toilet Paper

Which RV toilet paper is best?

There isn’t a soul on the planet that would choose to use a gas station bathroom on a road trip unless the circumstances were dire. If your road trip is facilitated by the use of an RV, you can thankfully avoid this horror, but the trade-off is you need to make sure your RV bathroom doesn’t become clogged by using improper toilet paper.

Life is a great journey in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Invention of toilet paper

Joseph C. Gayetty (c. 1817-1827– c. 1890s) was an American inventor credited with the invention of commercial toilet paper. Gayetty first marketed toilet paper on December 8, 1857. Each sheet of pure Manila hemp paper was watermarked “J C Gayetty N Y”. The original product contained aloe as a lubricant and was marketed as an anti-hemorrhoid medical product.

It was the first and remained only one of the few commercial toilet papers from 1857 to 1890 remaining in common use until the invention of splinter-free toilet paper in 1935 by the Northern Tissue Company.

Sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to know before you buy RV toilet paper

It’s all about how quickly the sheets of toilet paper begin to dissolve with toilet papers specifically marketed to RV use being “rapid-dissolve.” However, most standard toilet papers still dissolve quickly enough to be used safely. The sewage system of an RV can become clogged if you use toilet paper that doesn’t dissolve quickly enough so if you’re unsure just test it by placing some sheets in water. If it starts to dissolve within five to10 seconds, it should be fine.

Related Article: 15 Bad Camping Decisions

Dump Station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Toilet paper break down test

If there is ever any question about whether some toilet paper can be used in an RV, try this…

Using a regular clear water glass (about 10 oz.), fill it half-full of water.

Drop in a couple of clean pieces of toilet paper.

With one hand on top of the glass to seal it and the other on the bottom, shake the glass two times vigorously—but no more. Set the glass down.

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Look to see if the toilet paper has dissolved/disintegrated.

If so, that toilet paper is probably safe to use in your RV. If the sheets of paper are still in large pieces, don’t use it. Also note that shaking the glass more than two times will nearly always cause the paper to dissolve!

There are many brands of toilet paper that can be called RV Friendly that aren’t necessarily advertised as an RV toilet paper, and some toilet paper that is advertised as RV toilet paper but does not pass the break down test. I encourage you to do your own test and select an appropriate brand that meets your needs and budget.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ply number

Toilet paper comes in either one-, two- or three-ply forms with the higher the number of plies typically meaning higher levels of thickness, durability, absorbency, and softness. Most toilet paper is two-ply with three-ply toilet papers being considered a premium item and one-ply being considered cheap. Some one-ply and three-ply options can be qualitatively equal to two-ply options though so always check the user reviews to find a good deal or make sure you aren’t overspending.

Related Article: Sewer Tank Woes

Sewer hose and connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roll size

The size of a toilet paper roll is more important for RVs than other uses as RVs have limited space both in use and in storage. Larger rolls will last longer without needing to be replaced but smaller rolls mean increased space inside the RV. Consider the overall size of your RV carefully before purchasing a package of toilet paper.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to look for in quality RV toilet paper

Strength vs. softness

The construction process of toilet paper that leads to a particular roll’s qualities is mostly dependent on how much of the materials used are recycled vs. virgin (new). Recycled materials typically lead a toilet paper to have less softness but increased strength while virgin materials lead to the inverse effect. Both options are equally good choices with the deciding factor being your personal preferences.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texture

Many toilet paper brands use textures to accomplish various goals. Some textures increase the strength of the toilet paper. Others, like pleating and quilting lead to greater adhesion and softness, respectively. Other textures are simply the logo of the brand embossed onto the toilet paper. Many consumers have personal preferences when it comes to textured toilet paper so feel free to experiment to find what works for you.

Harvest Moon RV Park, Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How much you can expect to spend on RV toilet paper

When shopping for RV toilet paper the cost to look for is the price per roll, not the overall cost of the package. Most toilet paper can be considered inexpensive for less than $.50 per roll while expensive toilet paper typically costs $1 per roll or more.

Sewer hose and connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Toilet paper orientation

Does it really matter what orientation the roll is situated in when placed on a toilet paper holder? Yes and no. Those more opinionated than others might struggle to utilize an orientation that goes against their views, but on a technical level, there isn’t enough of a difference to argue the point. That said, the over orientation is used for the original toilet paper patent while the under orientation has been noted to be a little more difficult for young children and playful pets to fully spin out (which could be a good thing). 

Related Article: Maintain Your RV: What You Absolutely Need To Know To Avoid Disasters on the Road

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And finally…

Never—NEVER leave your black tank valve open while parked and hooked up to the sewer. If you do, the liquids will trickle out and the solids will build up in the tank. Not Good!!! Doing this may cause you to actually have to replace the tank! Keep the valve closed until you actually dump the tanks.

Worth Pondering…

Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.

—Yan Zhitui (531–591)

Maintain Your RV: What You Absolutely Need To Know To Avoid Disasters on the Road

The better you maintain your recreational vehicle the fewer problems you are likely to have which in turn means more money in your pocket

If you travel in a motorhome, get regular oil changes and tune-ups. If you have a trailer or fifth wheel, keep the hitch in good operating condition.

For all RVs, check the tires, the roof, the window seals, and the appliances on a regular basis or before you take any trip.

Monitor board for fresh water, grey and black water, and propane tanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV toilet paper 101

Keep your RV’s pipes clean.

Of all the toilet tissue varieties available, which type is best for use in RVs? Your safest bet is to forgo quilted, scented, double-ply or dyed versions in favor of white, unscented, single-ply toilet paper.

Monitor board for black water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Single-ply paper disintegrates faster than two-ply, three-ply, or quilted tissue in your holding tank, thereby helping to avoid clogged dump valves and fouled sensors that produce faulty tank-level readings. As for dyed, bleached, or scented tissue, the chemicals used in these products can destroy the bacteria that break down solids in septic tanks.

Electric, water, sewer, and cable TV hookups © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can purchase toilet paper that is labeled “green” or made specifically for RVs, though other readily available options are equally suitable.

To test your toilet paper for RV use, place a couple of sheets in a covered jar of water and shake. If the paper disintegrates quickly, it’s OK to use in your RV.

Water and sewer tanks and outlets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Electrical Safety – Safely Plugging Your RV into Power

Voltage can be set into motion by pushing current through a path of least voltage “Pressure”. In some cases this can be your body. In short, if you touch something charged with 100 volts with one wet hand and then touch something else charged with zero volts with the other wet hand, then the 100 volts will be set into motion through the conduit—in this case, you.

Secure sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So, not to get all scary here, there are some basic safety measures to take when plugging your RV into the campground pedestal. If the pedestal is operating correctly, then there should be no problem, but just in case, think about how you could avoid potential voltage pressure from being released.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First step is to make sure the circuit breaker on the pedestal is turned off. With only one hand, and standing on dry ground, flip the breaker off. Now, with one hand, and never standing or kneeling on wet surfaces, plug your power into the pedestal. (Example: you wouldn’t want to be plugging the power in with one hand and bracing your other hand on the pedestal. Remember, that could potentially complete a circuit if the pedestal was charged for some reason).

Once you plug power in then test a few items in your RV. If you find yourself getting shocked by touching things in the RV, then shut the power off and let the campground attendant know what is going on.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV Electrical Safety – Protecting Your RV Electrical System

Running power to a recreational vehicle without some kind of electrical management system is simply asking for trouble. If you do not have one of these devices in place then you are playing a risky game with your RV. We have too much invested in our RVs not to protect it from the perils that can come along with electricity.

Dump Station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are numerous choices in the marketplace but we believe the Progressive Electric Management Systems are the best on the market. These units continuously monitor the power supply coming into your RV and if it detects a variance outside of the tolerances then it will shut the power down. Without the device, a power spike or even low voltage from old worn out park pedestals can do damage to your electrical system.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All energy management systems and surge protectors manufactured by Progressive Industries are covered by a lifetime warranty.

When you plug your RV into power, the Progressive unit runs a series of tests on the pedestal power to ensure that it is safe. Once it finishes evaluating the power, then, and only then, will it release the power to the RV. If the Progressive unit detects a power problem, then it will display an error code explaining what the issue is.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once power is released to the RV, then the unit continues to monitor the power for spikes or low voltage situations that could damage the sensitive components in your RV.

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

7 Tips for Newbies to Know BEFORE the First Trip

Vacationing by RV this summer? Here’s what you need to know.

When you first heard the words “black water” in conversation, you may have assumed the speaker was discussing an obscure movie, perhaps an Australian film created by 3D models or a 2017 Jean-Claude Van Damme flick.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, if you’re one of the many people who decides to take a summer road trip in an RV you would know that the first definition of black water is solid and liquid waste that must be dumped from your RV holding tank.

Here are seven helpful tips to know before embarking on your first RV road trip.

Sewer hose connected and ready to dump © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Don’t get poop on yourself

If there’s a toilet in your rig—and there most likely is—you’re going to need to dump the waste—the aforementioned black water—at some point (likely sooner rather than later). When you go to open the storage compartment on the side of the vehicle to remove the cap and connect the sewer hose in order to dump, remember this: Make sure the dump valves are closed! Trust me on this! Read the page in your RV owner’s manual about the holding tanks. Make sure you close those latches! Otherwise, you might gag while your sneakers become “poop shoes” you can never wear again.

Sewer hose connection up-close © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Remember your toolkit

It’s hard to anticipate something like having your side view mirror get so loose that it no longer provides any help with attempting lane changes. But these things happen, and you should prepare for them, instead of relying on your copilot to turn or finding a man on the road who has a wrench you can borrow to tighten said mirror.

Sewer dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring a toolkit. And store it on the curb side. Again, trust me on this. Bring Allen wrenches or Hex Key set. Bring duct tape and Rhino tape. Bring variety of screwdrivers including Phillips and Robertson. Bring hammer. Bring scissors. Bring a variety of wrenches. Bring plenty of rags. Be ready to fix the unanticipated.

Read carefully before pulling lever © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Pack sufficient cookware

If you’re renting an RV that comes stocked with kitchen tools, check that it also has pots and pans, cutting boards, and silverware. And if it has knives, make sure they’re sharp enough to cut effectively. Will the rental company reimburse you for replacing any missing or faulty cookware? It may be wise to take complete inventory of your cookware at time of rental.

Camping at Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Use leveling blocks

Like Legos? Stackable leveling blocks can be placed under your vehicle’s wheels in order to level out your parking spot. If you arrive at your camping site when it is dark or too tired to use leveling blocks, be prepared to face the consequences.  The fridge may stop running (because it relies on gravity to cool properly and only works when the vehicle is level). That brings us to the next tip.

Camping at Monahans Sands State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Arrive at your campground before dark

Plan your trip so that you get to your overnight parking spot before dark. Whether you’re driving into a campground, an RV park, or—especially—a place in the desert or woods where you’ll be boondocking (RV-speak for spending the night somewhere for free, without electric or water hookups), it’s important to be able to see your surroundings.

Camping at Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s very challenging to see camping site numbers and even harder to determine whether you’ve parked safely (and level) in the dark. Also: You want to wake up the next morning and be able to recognize your surroundings. Not knowing where you are can have a rather disturbing feel!

Camping at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Use RV toilet essentials

Sorry to bring up the poop thing again, but it’s important. Without it, traveling during a pandemic would be more dangerous. And if you don’t pack certain RV bathroom essentials, you’ll find yourself up a certain creek without a paddle.

Camping at Poches RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Knowing what your black water tank holds, the next logical question to ask is: how the heck do you keep it clean and odor-free? Fortunately, the availability of commercial chemicals and deodorizers makes it pretty simple to maintain your black tank on a regular basis.

Camping in Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the start of your camping trip, add a dose of RV black water tank treatment, which may come in liquid form or in Tide-Pod-like packets. Be sure to add in about a gallon of water, as well, which helps the chemicals do their job. Along with keeping tank odors down, these chemicals also have the ability to break down solid waste and toilet paper. That makes for a much smoother process when it comes time to dump your tanks.

Even if you use those things properly, there is a rare possibility you might end up with a clog in your toilet—and that is not a pretty picture.

Hiking Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise

Driving your bathroom and kitchen around with you makes life super convenient. You can eat, nap, and relieve yourself whenever you’d like! With that in mind, here are several suggestions on structuring your days when you visit national or state parks: Wake up early. Make coffee. Drive inside the park to a place with a gorgeous view. Enjoy the sunrise and wildlife with few other humans around. Go on a hike

Enjoying camping on Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you return to your camping site, take some time to appreciate the RV lifestyle. Bask in the nature around you before retiring to your big sleeping box. And promise yourself you’ll go on another road trip real soon!

Worth Pondering…

Wherever we go, we’re always at home.

Sewer Tank Woes

Avoid RV black water tank problems

With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) everyone’s lives—yours and ours—were thrown into a scrambled state of flux. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack the RV again and head out on our next adventure. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

Maintaining and emptying your septic system on a regular basis is an unglamorous—but necessary—part of any RV adventure. And without proper maintenance and care of this system, things can get pretty ugly.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the final epistle is written on the trials and tribulations of the RV Lifestyle—the Weekend Warriors, Snowbirds, and Full Timers—the subject of many conversations will focus on the woes of sewer tanks. Learning how to dump them is your first lesson and how to keep them from smelling is the second.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After graduating from your own personal version of RV Sewer Tanks 101, you may also require schooling in the finer details of how to unclog them, when you treat them badly.

It usually isn’t that big of a deal when you notice the sewer tanks filling up, especially when you personally don’t have to dump the tanks—its hubby’s job, yippee, you say! And it wouldn’t have been a big deal that day, since as usual we were camping in a park with full hook-ups, which mean an onsite sewer connection.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So on a typical day, when the tanks fills up, I—as in hubby, that’s me—just goes outside and dump the tanks, first the gray water, then the black as in sewer. That worked well for over 20 years.

That day, of course, life wasn’t so simple. As the lights on the tank monitor turned from green to amber then quickly to red, I knew that there was a problem.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What’s the problem?

At that moment I wasn’t aware that I had inadvertently left the black water valve open less than 12 hours earlier.

On that occasion I had dumped the black tank, closed the valve, and drained the gray as usual. After closing the gray water tank I attached a water hose to the black tank flush, opened the black and turned on the water. Flush complete, water turned off, and hose stowed.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I recall a conversation with an RVer who related a story about her husband who had a great idea. An idea so wonderful she said that he actually called it brilliant. An idea that he requested a pat on the back for. An idea he was sure you could only get from a real RVer, someone who knew what they were doing.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never mind that this particular genius of an idea went against what all the manufacturers recommended and what all the experts advised. This had come from a fellow RVer, a man who lived in his camper. A man he met for literally two minutes while camping in some off-beat location in the mountains of east Kentucky.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You guessed it folks—he left the tanks open. And, not just the grey tank but both of them! And now the black tank monitor indicated full while it was almost empty!

She could see from the expression on his face and the glazed look of his eyes, he was about to start tinkering and she knew right then, this would be her entertainment for the next hour or two.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After jolting out the door, she could hear him fumbling around in the storage bins looking for tools and who knows what else. She heard the water turn on and what sounded like a tote being filled. He was filling two five-gallon water tanks at the spigot.

She knew this was probably a big deal, but couldn’t help but relish in the fact that she had been right and that this was totally his fault.

Caring for your sewer tank system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the next hour, he ran in and out of the camper tugging the heavy water tanks back and forth from bathroom to spigot. He checked the tanks then continued with his plan. She could hear him fiddling with the valve outside, cursing up a storm, while trying not to attract attention from the neighbors.

Worth Pondering…

Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.

—Anon

Ready to Talk Like an RVer?

Are you ready for an RV lifestyle?

Learn all the terms used in the RV world and lifestyle. Here’s a few to get you started.

Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been RVing for years, you’re bound to have questions. And we have answers at RVing with Rex.

Gray Water

Waste water from sinks and showers. Gray water is stored in a specific holding tank separate from fresh water and black water.

Gray and black water drain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Black Water

Waste water from the toilet system. Black water stays in a holding tank until it is emptied at a dumping station.

Back-in sites © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Back-in Site

A camping space that requires backing in an RV as opposed to pulling through.

Pull-through site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Pull-through Site

A camping space that allows an RV to enter from one side and leave from the other, eliminating the need to back the RV out of the site.

Full hookups © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Full Hookup

Campground utilities that include 30/50-amp electric service, city water, and sewer connection.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)

The maximum operating weight allowed for an RV, including fuel and propane, holding tanks, gear, and passengers. For a towable RV this includes: the maximum allowable weight at the trailer axle(s), plus the hitch weight. For a motorized RV, this includes: the maximum allowable weight at all of the axles.

GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating)

The maximum operating weight of a motorized vehicle combined with the maximum allowable weight it can tow.

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

The maximum permissible weight on one axle of the RV.

Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)

The permissible weight that an RV can carry.

Wheelbase

The distance between the center lines of a vehicle’s primary axles.

Motorhome interior with galley (left) and desk and pull-out table (right) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Galley

Kitchen of an RV. Name is borrowed from the boating industry.

Basement bins for storage with access from either side of motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Basement

Storage compartments below the floor of an RV that can be accessed from outside.

LP Gas/Propane

Liquid Petroleum Gas is used to fuel appliances such as stoves, ovens, water heaters, refrigerators, and furnaces.

Dump station © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dump Station

A safe location, often at a campsite, to empty black water and gray water holding tanks.

Self-Contained

An RV that includes the basic necessities needed for boondocking or dry camping without electrical, water, and sewer hookups. A self-contained RV usually includes a fresh water tank, dry-cell batteries, inverter, and generator or solar panels.

Reefer and microwave © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Reefer

Slang for an RV refrigerator.

Boondocking at Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Boondocking

Boondocking is camping without hookups. Power will come from your generator, deep-cell batteries, and solar power system. 

Deep-Cycle Batteries

Deep-cycle batteries are designed to discharge power at a slow rate for an extended period of time. In RV applications, deep-cycle batteries power the comforts of home like your cooking appliances and lights. Add distilled water when the electrolyte level falls below a half-inch above the plates. Do not overfill. keep the water level an eighth of an inch below the battery’s internal vent-wall.

Converter

Converts 120-volt Alternating Current (AC) power into 12-volt Direct Current (DC) power.

Dinghy/toad attached to motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dinghy/Toad

A vehicle towed at the rear of a motorized RV.

Backup Monitor

A camera in the back of an RV that connects to a digital monitor in the dashboard to give the driver a better view of what’s behind them, when reversing or when towing on the road.

Worth Pondering…
May the joy of today, bring forth happiness for tomorrow.