The Real Dangers of Camping in an RV Park or Campground

Sure, you’ve thought about theft and petty crimes but there are other dangers of camping in an RV park or campground you probably haven’t considered. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

We know that it’s important to be on the alert for petty crimes and should lock our doors and windows. But have you considered the more subtle but real dangers of camping in an RV park or campground?

I’m talking about fire-starting, stomach-upsetting, water-logged dangers that too many campers often overlook.

In this post I’ll discuss five real dangers to be aware of. Then, you’ll know what to look for and what questions to ask when booking your next camping site.

PLUS, at the end, I’ll link to other articles on staying safe while enjoying the RV lifestyle.

CreekFire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, some of these dangers are more prevalent in different parts of the country. You’re not likely to encounter tropical storms or hurricanes in South Dakota, for instance. However, I’m sure you can apply the wisdom of each danger to whatever location you’re traveling to.

The point of this article is not to scare you but to PREPARE you for less-obvious dangers you may not have considered. I LOVE camping and think everyone can and should enjoy it too.

So, whether you’re a solo traveler, a senior, a young newbie, or a family with a gaggle of kids, don’t let these dangers deter you from camping. Just consider them and how best to prepare for them as necessary.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Bad electrical

Unfortunately, it’s far too common for electrical hookups not to be properly maintained. RV parks that are under poor management or laissez-fair attitude often delay electrical maintenance and repair.

That leaves RVers at risk of using a faulty outlet and two big dangers. The first big (and costly) danger is a power surge that fries your electrical system. 

The second big danger of bad electrical is FIRE! It’s no surprise that sparks or surges of electricity can catch your RV on fire. It’s important to know your RV fire safety.

That’s why I recommend you always inspect your electrical connection before you plug in. Does it look badly unmaintained? Do you see any exposed wires? If it’s scary-looking, you probably should be concerned.

I also recommend you always use an Electric Management System like the units available from Progressive Electric Management Systems or Surge Guard.

Dakota Campground, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Unclean water

Living in the U. S. and Canada, we often take safe drinking water for granted. In many of our homes, we can drink straight from the tap. But that doesn’t mean we can do the same while camping.

Flint, Michigan has certainly served as a warning to all Americans that we should think twice before blindly trusting any water spout.

Unclean water is one of the top unseen dangers of camping and should be taken seriously. Do you really want to chance ruining your trip with a sick stomach at the very least (or possibly far worse)? 

I suggest always using a water filter for your RV.

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Bad site location for flooding

This camping danger applies to campground locations as well as individual campsites. You can unwittingly park in a flood zone and not be properly prepared if a storm hits. 

Granted, this isn’t usually a year-round risk. However, at the very least, you want to be aware of the possible necessity to pack up and move if a big storm is headed your way.

It’s important to learn flood basics and note where your campsite is in relation to:

  • Rivers and streams
  • Mountains and steep hills
  • Rocky and shallow clay soils

Note that notably dry locations like Arizona are not immune to flooding! In fact, they can be more at risk of flash floods. So, take heavy rains seriously wherever you’re camping. 

Be sure to check that out Flash Floods: Safety Tips for RVers.

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Unsafe neighborhoods

RV park websites can paint a picturesque setting that may be located in an unsafe neighborhood. Theft and violent crimes may prevail in the area and you’d have no idea until you drive through and get that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.

While RV parks and campgrounds are generally very safe, you should always be aware of your surroundings. And you do need to take extra precautions whenever parking overnight at truck stops, Walmarts, or other lot-docking locations.

You can easily research local crime in the area online. SpotCrime.com is one such helpful resource you can use to search by address or state. For more peace of mind wherever you travel, you can install an RV security system.

But please be assured that theft isn’t as common at RV parks as one might think and violent crimes are even rarer. So, be aware, but don’t be scared!

RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Unstaffed RV park office

You might think of an unstaffed RV park office as an inconvenience but it also poses a safety risk. An unstaffed RV park or campground is also more at risk of crime since it’s not being monitored 24/7.

Having someone familiar with the campground and nearby area can be vitally helpful in an emergency. This is especially true if you’re a solo RVer. 

Regardless of whether RV park or campground staff is available at all times, I do have a life-saving recommendation for you! 

Always keep the campground address and your campsite number within reach, like on a post-it on your fridge. Plus, the name and address of the nearest hospital! Having this info at your fingertips can save precious time when trying to get emergency services to your location.

Grandma’s RV Camping, Elizabethtown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional safety concerns while RVing

The above are common dangers of camping wherever you travel but there is one more safety issue I want to leave you with.

Fire safety

Fire represents a risk that RVers need to keep top of mind. An RV fire can spread in a fast and furious manner leading to devastating damage, injury, and even loss of life.

RVs have numerous potential sources of fires—RV refrigerators, propane appliances, space heaters, washers and driers, gasoline or diesel engines, and electrical wiring that take a beating when traveling on less-than-ideal highways. So, every RV owner needs to develop a safety plan that covers how to deal with a fire.

I have a few helpful articles on developing a plan to deal with RV fires:

And finally the Safety List For when your RV is Parked.

Worth Pondering…

Take care of yourself. You’ll find it hard to get a replacement.

Does a Surge Protector Provide Enough Protection?

While the use of a surge protector does have merit, it protects your equipment from only one of a wide variety of possible electrical problems

An electrical surge—at least in terms of what a surge protector will protect against—is a sudden and large (generally huge) increase in voltage, oftentimes of only a very short duration—maybe only milliseconds.

It’s the type of surge caused most often by lightning hitting electrical equipment or by certain failures—or faults—within the electrical system itself.

A surge protector may or may not protect against any particular surge. Different surge protection devices have different ratings. Having a surge protector in place is better than having nothing at all. But, does a surge protector alone provide adequate protection?

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are a variety of other electrical malfunctions that can be identified with a simple outlet tester.

An EMS (Electrical Management System) device can protect against additional damaging conditions that a surge protector will not protect against and that an outlet tester will not detect.

Let’s start first with the very basics of 120V AC power, the type found at home and in your RV. There is a hot wire (the source of the electricity), a neutral wire (the return path to the source of the electricity, thus making a complete circuit), and a ground wire which is provided as a safety measure and will route the power in the circuit to ground (literally into the Earth) in the event of a wiring failure.

A tester will test an outlet and indicate if there are wiring problems present among any of the three wires mentioned above and their associated connections:

  • Open (disconnected) ground wire
  • Open neutral wire
  • Open hot wire
  • Hot and neutral reversed
  • Hot and ground reversed
  • Proper and normal connection
Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More surge protector abnormalities

Additional abnormal conditions can be present and are not necessarily unsafe for the occupants of the home or the RV but over time can be very bad for the equipment particularly for refrigerator and air conditioning compressor motors.

The following abnormal conditions must be protected against: High or low voltage and high or low frequency.

Most EMS models will protect against abnormal voltage conditions and some also protect against abnormal frequency conditions. A surge protector will not protect against any of these four conditions.

It seems obvious that high voltage is a bad thing. Just as high water pressure will rupture a water hose, high voltage will damage electrical equipment.

But why is low voltage a bad thing?

Electrical components run on power (watts) which is a combination of both voltage (volts) and current (amperes or amps). At proper voltage, an electrical device especially a motor will draw enough current to operate properly.

As the motor is being asked to do more work, it will draw more current. If it becomes overloaded, it will draw too much current and the circuit breaker will trip, thus protecting both the motor and the wiring.

Some more advanced motors will even have internal protection devices that trip and reset automatically.

Let’s say the voltage at the campground is low. The motor will start to draw enough current to still do the work it is being asked to do. As the voltage drops, the motor will draw more and more current.

Current is what causes the motor to heat up. If the motor runs for an extended period at low voltage and high current—but not high enough to trip the breaker—it will heat too much and damage itself.

However, this damage may not occur right away. Repeated conditions of low voltage will cause the motor to damage itself little by little until it eventually fails.

An EMS device senses this low voltage condition and will trip the power at a preset voltage to prevent motors from damaging themselves.

What about frequency?

The standard electrical power utilized throughout most of the world is alternating current.

In the U.S. and Canada, power is delivered to the home at 120 V ac and 60 Hz (the abbreviation for Hertz which stands for cycles).

In Europe, the standard is 240 V ac and 50 Hz.

The frequency is simply a reference to how many times per second the voltage alternates, hence the term alternating current. (The voltage and the current both alternate.)

Many devices depend upon that 60 Hz as a timing reference to properly do whatever they do.

Electric wall clocks, electric light timers, traffic signal timers, telephone company switching equipment, radio receivers, etc., all depend on a very steady and accurate 60 Hz as a reference so they can, in turn, remain accurate. (More modern Equipment tends to utilize internal timers or reference signals from the GPS satellite system for high-accuracy timing.)

The fact that so many devices need reliable 60 Hz power is the reason the non-inverter type generators have to run at 3600 rpm (revolutions per minute) regardless of how much load is on them. If they only ran at 3000 rpm, the frequency would only be 50 Hz.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What about high or low frequency?

A high or low frequency condition might not be damaging to the particular device but it could cause the device to act improperly or it could damage the equipment that the device is controlling.

To summarize, yes a surge protector is good, an EMS is better and an EMS that also protects against abnormal frequency conditions is better still.

Regarding that circuit tester mentioned above, once it is known that the RV is plugged into properly wired shore power as determined by an EMS device, it is an excellent idea to go around and check all the outlets in the rig periodically.

Unlike a home, the wiring in the rig is subjected to all the vibrations and temperature variations that come along with the RV lifestyle.

Insulation on wires can rub through and expose bare wires, connections can become loose, and any of the dangerous conditions already mentioned can develop over time, conditions that may be harmful or even fatal, and must be avoided by taking the proper precautions.

And if you have electric heaters plugged in, you might want to review this post again and get it organized.

Here are a few links that may help you prepare for your next RV trip:

Worth Pondering…

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

—Stephen Covey