RV Hookups Explained (Water, Sewer, Electric)

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What are RV Hookups?

RV hookups supply your RV with electricity, water, and a sewer drain so you can fully use and enjoy your RV. Sometimes full hookups will include Cable TV or WiFi.

Some campsites offer full hookups which include water, sewer, and electricity. Others only offer partial hookups which could include just water, or maybe just water and electricity. And other campsites offer no RV hookups. Camping with no hookups is also known as boondocking or dry camping.

In this article, we will discuss in more detail each of these types of RV hookups and how to use them. We also discuss some related questions surrounding RV hookups and finally we include our RV Setup Video at the end of the article so you can see how Mike and Susan use all of the hookups with their RV!

Electric RV Hookup

Often called shore power, electric hookups can either be 15, 30 or 50 amp. You likely received the correct power cord for your rig when you purchased the RV but you need to know what type of power you need.

When you get to your destination, you simply need to plug the power cord into the outlet on the pedestal provided at your RV spot. Remember to shut down the power at the source and power down your electronics before you plug in.

If your RV requires a 50 amp to power all your inside goodies and the park only provides 30 amp, you can manage but you will not be able to run everything at once. You will also need a converter.

RV Electric Hookup
Add a surge protector to your must-have equipment list.

RV Water Hookup

Water is provided from a spigot, also at your site. Be sure to use a verified dedicated drinking water hose and not a garden hose that can contain harmful chemicals. You may need a heated hose for colder climates. The water from the spigot goes to your sinks, shower, toilet, etc. in your rig.

But you really shouldn’t just hook your fresh water drinking hose up to your RV. You should also use a water pressure regulator and a water filter system before allowing any water to enter your RV through the City Water connection on your RV.

Check out the Related Reading articles at the end of this article to learn more about water hoses and water filters.

RV water hookups
A heated hose is important for freezing weather.

RV Sewer Hookup

The sewer is where the wastewater from your sinks, toilet, and shower will go. These go into the black water tank, from the toilet, and gray water tank from the sinks and shower. Never dump any wastewater on the ground. Dumping black water on the ground is illegal! It must be dumped into a septic or sewer system. Bacteria and harmful diseases are present in the wastewater.

RV sewer hookup
Sewer hoses come in different sizes. Having several size options is a great idea.

Cable TV Hookup

Cable TV is an amenity that is not always included at a full hook-up site. Some long-term parks can allow you to hard wire the Cable TV to your rig. Most are a simple plug and play. If you are staying long term, you may have to call the cable company to get your service hooked up. We have a mobile antenna system that is very easy to hook up and use at our different campsites so we don’t normally utilize any cable provided.

cable tv RV hookup
This mobile Dish system is an easy setup and is paid on a monthly basis so you can turn it off when you don’t need it.

WiFi

WiFi is a service that is provided at most RV parks. But signal strength is dependant on where you are located in the park, if the park has many well placed signal boosters, and the number of people using the WiFi at the same time.

I would not rely on this option if you need to do a work Zoom call. Sometimes you can get a better signal at the park’s office if you have to use the WiFi.

Dump Station

Use a dump station fi your campsite has no RV hookups
Photo via Flickr

If an RV park does not have a sewer hookup at your site it might have a common dump station that you can use to empty your black and grey tanks. You simply drive or pull your rig to the dump area and empty your tanks just like you would if you were at a campsite.

Some RVers carry a “blue boy,” or small wagon that you can fill with black or gray water and take to the dump station. Using this, you don’t have to move your RV. Other parks utilize a “honey wagon” that comes by your site once a week or so and dumps your tank for a fee.

What Does Full RV Hookups Mean at an RV Park?

Full RV hookups mean electric, water, and sewer can be accessed at your site. You will likely pay a bit more compared to a campsite with limited amenities. Aside from the hookups, many high end RV parks provide other amenities such as cable TV and WiFi.

What are Partial RV Hookups?

Partial RV hookups include water and/or electric but not a sewer hookup. In many cases when you are in a campground with partial hookups there will be a dump station or a honey wagon available.

But this is not always the case. Some campgrounds do not have a dump station which means you must find a place to dump your tanks outside of the campground.

Do All Campgrounds Have RV Hookups?

Not all campgrounds provide RV hookups, although most do. Do your research before booking your site so you know exactly what you are getting at any given park.

And many campgrounds offer a variety of hookup sites. For example, a campground may offer full hookup sites, partial hookup sites, and no hookup sites all within the same campground.

Are There RV Hookups in National Parks?

There are some national parks that have RV hookups but those are limited so be sure you know which campgrounds within the park offer hookups. For example, Yellowstone National Park has 12 campgrounds but only 1 offers full hookups.

Be aware that most of the national parks have length limits of 25 feet. You might not be able to stay if your rig is more than 25 feet long.

Are There RV Hookups in State Parks?

Most state parks offer a minimum of electric at each site so you will have to utilize the fresh water in your tanks and dump your wastewater at a dump station. When we arrive at a State Park we use the community spigot to fill our fresh water tank so we have water during our stay.

A few State Parks do offer full hookups but this is rare. While state parks may not offer a lot of amenities, they usually provide quiet, shady sites away from other RVers.

Do Walmarts Have RV Hookups?

Walmarts do not have RV hookups and parking there is usually a case of first come, first served. When parking at a Walmart, always inquire as to whether RVs are allowed in the parking lot and ask about any rules that might be appropriate for that particular store.

There are a few things to consider when parking at a Walmart. Utilize the store lot for an overnight but don’t make yourself at home for a family vacation. Don’t set up chairs and if you can avoid it, don’t extend your slide outs.

Always be courteous, pick up any trash you may have around your rig, and leave it in good shape for the next vehicle that will be there. Many Walmarts no longer allow rigs to park there overnight because of people who abused the privilege.

Check out our article called FREE RV Parking Overnight At Walmart (Rules & Safety) for all the details about staying overnight at a Walmart.

Do walmarts have RV hookups
Photo via Flickr

Related Questions

1. Do Harvest Hosts Locations Have Hookups?

Most Harvest Hosts locations do not have hookups but some allow the use of a generator. The advantage of a Harvest Host is rather than a parking lot, you can stay at these places and enjoy the business or features of the host. These can include wineries, farms, breweries, and more.

We’ve stayed at several Harvest Hosts and always enjoyed what we found there. We stayed at a dairy farm and were able to purchase milk and cheese. Once we stayed at the home of a woodworker who gave us a demonstration and invited us to join him and his wife at a campfire that evening.

We also stayed at a beautiful winery and partook in a wine tasting. To learn about these places, you pay Harvest Hosts a yearly fee and then you pay nothing to stay at the locations. It is suggested that you make a purchase to help support the business when you are there.

Check out our article and video about Harvest Hosts called Harvest Hosts – A Great Way to Camp for Free! for lots of helpful info and a discount if you want to join!

Do Harvest Hosts Locations Have Hookups
Harvest Host sites don’t generally have hookups. We purchased some of the host’s dairy products for a great treat.

2. Do Boondockers Welcome Locations Have Hookups?

Approximately 75% of Boondockers Welcome locations offer 110V electricity, and some will have water hookups too. Most will not have sewer.

Because you are parking on someone’s land or property, and not in a commercial park, you should not expect to have a conveniently placed pedestal. Typically you just plug into the owner’s outside electrical receptacle which looks like a plug you would plug a regular extension cord into. So be sure you have the proper adapter to go from 50 or 30 amp to 110.

We utilized a Boondockers Welcome once and would do so again. Mike and Susan have used Boondockers Welcome and love it! They enjoy meeting fellow RVers who are kind enough to allow other RVers to stay on their property for free! And they get great advice about cool places to visit in the area from a local.

Be sure to ask a few questions about where you will be parking. Questions such as “How level are the sites?” or “What size of rig can you accommodate?” are all good places to start. Google Earth or Google Satellite are good places to look and see the layout of the land before you arrive. We ended up there several nights waiting out a storm.

For more info about Boondockers Welcome check out our article, which includes our youTube Video, called Boondockers Welcome – Free RV Camping Review.

3. What specialized equipment do you need for boondocking?

You will need to purchase some extra equipment if you do plan to spend much time boondocking. What can you use for a power source if you want to park at a Walmart overnight? The battery on your RV can power your lights but not your outlets. Your battery may only last you a few days and if it’s cold, maybe less than that.

We survived the great freeze in Texas last February and thought we needed to replace our batteries. It was just too cold and the battery was having a problem holding a charge. We ended up hooking up our electric cord to our diesel truck and powering our lights that way. Since then, we have added a battery and purchased a generator. And, while we never thought we would boondock much, we are now looking forward to spending more time outside of RV parks.

A generator is a must have if you want to boondock a lot. You can even run your air conditioner on a generator. You can run the stove, refrigerator, and furnace on propane. If you want to add an alternative power source, add some solar panels. Check out our article called 10 Best Portable and Quiet Generators for Camping for your best options.

When bookdocking, make sure your water tanks are full and you can also carry extra water containers for drinking, doing dishes, etc. You can always conserve water while you are off grid by skipping showers, taking a sponge bath, or using wet wipes to clean up.

Try doing dishes in a tub and keep the water from going into your gray tank. When you head out to camp, make sure your holding tanks are empty so you have as much room as possible. Items such as a composting toilet can help to extend the use of your black tank. LED lights, a water saving showerhead, or solar power can also keep you off grid longer.

What specialized equipment do you need for boondocking
A generator is a great addition to you RV setup and is particularly great if you plan to boondock.

See How Mike and Susan Use Full RV Hookups!

Conclusion:

For anyone who is new to RVing, spending time reading articles, watching YouTube videos, and talking with your RV neighbors will help get you up to speed quickly. Believe me, you learn as you go, and will be up to speed on all the RV terms, and will be helping your fellow RVers in no time.


Related Reading:

How to Setup Your RV Campsite for Beginners Water, Sewer, Electric, and Gear PLUS a Setup Checklist!

15 Best Drinking Water Hoses for Your RV or Camper

How Do I Support My RV Sewer Hose?

How to Clean and Store an RV Sewer Hose

How to Dump RV Tanks at Home – Complete Guide with Video!


About the author…

Terri Nighswonger and her husband Todd are full time RVers and work campers. They have been living full time in their RV for nearly three years with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton, and their Minnie Australian Shepherd puppy, Remi.

They are currently work camping along the shores of the beautiful Taylor River in Almont, CO, and are enjoying the cool summer temperatures, as well as the abundance of hiking trails. They plan to enjoy the west and then head to Arizona for the winter. Writing is Terri’s passion but she also loves hiking, kayaking, walking her dogs, and anything she can do outdoors.

Full Time RVer Terri Nighswonger

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