RV Hookups Explained

Ted Tibbetts // November 19 // 0 Comments

RV Hookups explained is an attempt to lay out the basics of RV hookups for skoolie owners.

We completed our bus two years ago, but until just recently had never really used RV hookups. Never connected a sewer hose, didn’t have a fresh water drinking hose, didn’t use a water filter, and hadn’t even considered that full hookups at an RV spot might include cable TV!

Nope. Many times we would just be dry camping. Or, if we used water at all it would be only water from our holding tanks and we used a dump station to drain the sewer.

Once we started our Skoolie RV trip, we started looking for places, (sometimes ANY place). Sometimes it was state parks with no hookup sites, other times it was big RV parks with partial RV hookups or full RV hookups. But we found that campgrounds offer many different options, and that we didn’t have all the gear that we needed to utilize what campgrounds offer.

So if you’re building your skoolie or getting ready for your next RV trip, this post provides helpful tips about everything you need to know about RV sewer hookups, shore power, electric, your water hookup, and more!

Water Hookup

Water hookups on site are convenient, especially for water-consuming activities like showers! Because, let’s face it, even just camping is nicer when you’re clean! You can go for a few weeks on a limited water supply if you’re just making coffee and doing dishes, but even then, your tanks diminish quickly when not staying at campgrounds with an RV water hookup.

For the last several years of boondocking, we just filled our fresh water tank with whatever water hoses were on hand. However, for RV camping, we found that we needed other components for our system.

I chose to install an RV water hookup inlet that has ports for both the fresh water tank and for the pressurized water of the city water connection.

City water connected to RV water inlet

I also installed a water pressure regulator because I had heard that RV hookups at different RV parks have radically different city water pressure and it’s possible to damage the skoolie plumbing system. So installing the water pressure regulator seemed like pretty cheap insurance.

I grew up in an era where we survived drinking water out of the hose and climbing trees. But these days an RV water hose should be specifically made for potable water. So we chose this water hose. You can get heated ones, too. Julie lived in the bus a bit last winter and borrowed one, but we hope to AVOID cold, so we didn’t feel like we needed it!

Finally, to round out the water supply system, we bought a water filter.

RV water filter connected to RV park water hookup

I’m used to clean water in Maine (In fact, for years I lived in Poland and my water came from a spring…Poland Spring water!). So when I got to other states…well…I decided I needed water filters. Make sure to flush yours for 2-3 minutes before hooking it up to your system because a CLOUD of carbon dust comes flying out of that sucker when you first hook it up!

When we stay at a campground with an RV water hookup, we screw the water hose directly into the city water part of our inlet valve. And when we leave the campground, if our tanks are down, we fill ’em up! (We’ve found that the skoolie rides a little smoother the heavier it is!)

RV Sewer Hookups

RV and skoolie sewer systems handle wastewater. Gray water tanks hold wastewater from sinks and the shower while a black tank holds waste from the toilet.

I had never used a sewer hookup before. Since we had never been to RV parks we just used a dump station. So we needed a sewer hose. We found that 20 feet have been plenty and that the sewer connection hookup is relatively simple.

RV sewer hose on a support

We unscrew the cap to our RV dump valve (which required some hand strength!) and screw on one end of the sewer hose. Then we screw the two hoses together. At the RV sewer hookup end, we unscrew the cap to the sewer drain and screw in the terminal end. To complete the sewer connection, we just screw the end of the sewer hose into the sewer drain.

Connecting to rv sewer hookup
Connecting RV sewer Elbow

On our first visit to an RV park, we saw this little trellis that supported the sewer hose. “Well isn’t that cute,” I think Julie said. What we didn’t realize at the time was that sewer hose support is not only functional but REQUIRED for RV camping at many RV parks…even if you don’t have a black water tank.

But you need them for some RV camping parks, even if you only have a gray water tank…some are subject to health regulations, so that water drains smoothly downhill between your sewer connections.

And another note about your sewer hookups…it’s not a bad idea to wear gloves for connecting and disconnecting your hookups. Especially if you have a black tank. So having a box of disposable gloves readily available could come in handy!

The Difference Between a 20, 30, and 50 Amp Power Source

Now that we’re full-time RVers and working from the road, power has become more of a necessity rather than a luxury. We have not installed solar yet, so rely on a generator when we need to charge up the laptop and run Starlink.

And while I really like the quiet Predator 3500, it’s nice not having to run it, so finding an RV park with a power source, even if they have partial hookups is convenient.

During the bus conversion, I installed a 30 amp shore power inlet. And RV hook ups come in three flavors: 20, 30, or 50 amp.

20, 30, and 50 amp rv hookup

20 Amp Service

A 20 amp RV hookup has a plug like a regular outlet that you’d have around the house. If you are only running a few lights and a refrigerator, 20 amps would be adequate. We only run lights, Starlink, and charge phones and a laptop, so we often use a 20 amp adapter use a regular extension cord. (When the bus is sitting at home and we want to top off the batteries, or, even at our summer RV site all we have is a 20 amp service.)

30 Amp Service

I would say that 30-amp RV hookups are the most common. You would want to use a 30 amp RV hookup if you plug in other appliances like a TV, microwave, or coffeemaker.

A 30-amp RV hookup has a different plug, and, with a 30-amp service, you should have an electric cord rated for 30 amps.

50 Amp Service

If you’re going whole hog with an air conditioner, washer/dryer, and cable TV, then you’ll be looking for an RV park with full hookup sites rated for 50 amps! A 50 amp electric cord and plug are like your 220-volt dryer plug at home…it has 4 prongs: 2 leads bringing power instead of one, a neutral plug, and a ground plug.

Whichever service you end up using, be sure that the power cord and the plug are rated for the power you will be using.

Surge Protector

Some people recommend using a surge protector. In fact, any article about surge protectors says that they’re a MUST HAVE to protect your RV electrical system. And they’re probably a good idea.

But I don’t have one. Sound like a lot of hype to me. Yes, I might damage something in my electrical system. But I’m hoping that the breaker box handles any issues from RV hookups and if not, I’ll fix it.


Overall, RV hookups are fairly straightforward. But if you’ve never used full RV hookups, you just wouldn’t know. So when we first started camping in national parks, state parks, and RV parks, we didn’t have the right power cord, hoses, and supports that we needed for a hook up site.

So if you plan on building out your skoolie and visiting RV campgrounds with full hookups, then get your skoolie all decked out with the electric components you need for power and the hoses you need for water!

After all, skoolies and RV’s, whether you’re staying at a state park, national parks, or campgrounds with full hookups, remember…it’s not a tent! Enjoy the creature comforts that RV hookups can provide!

About the Author Ted Tibbetts

Ted, a teacher, raft guide and carpenter, has been teaching high school English for over 20 years. A Milken Award winner and a Maine Teacher of the Year State Finalist, Ted loves working on his Skoolie, "Snug," and traveling around to splash in rivers.

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