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RV Hookups for Beginners (5 Steps for Your First Trip)

| Updated Jan 15, 2024

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

Jennifer 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 realized I should 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?

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 the new RVers need to know.

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RV Hookups for Beginners (How to Set Up Your RV)

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Not too long ago, Jennifer and I made the above video on how to set up your RV at a campground. It covers everything from choosing a site to what to hook up and in what order. It's a great visual guide on what you need to do from start to finish.

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

RV Setup Checklist: 15 Tips on How to Setup Your RV

Step 1: Set Your Parking Brake

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

Step 2: Electric Hookup

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

There are usually 3 different plugs on a campsite's electric panel: 20 amp, 30 amp, and 50 amp. Bigger RVs usually use 50 amp and smaller RVs usually use 30 amp. You should know which kind of amp service your RV runs off of. But, if you don't, the plugs have differently shaped prongs, so you should only be able to plug into the correct one.

Once you're plugged in, you 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 to your RV, giving it a twist and rotating the collar until it's snug.

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

PRO TIP: Always Use a Surge Protector

RV Hookups for Beginners (5 Steps for Your First Trip) 1

Always use a surge protector when connecting your RV to power! A lot of people have learned the hard way that campground electrical panels are not always well-maintained or wired properly. They can cause a power surge that can badly damage your electrical system.

Some RVs have built-in surge protectors, but if yours doesn't, I can recommend 30 Amp Surge Guard or 50 Amp Surge Guard. You can get 5% off either of those surge protectors (or any TechnoRV products) with the coupon code RVLIFESTYLE5.

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

Electrical Hookup Adapters

Not every campground provides multiple amp services. Some may only have electrical hookups for 30 amps or 50 amps. That's why it's a good idea to keep an RV plug adaptor in your RV, like this Dogbone adapter for 50 amp male to 30 amp female.

Step 3: Water Hookup

The next hookup on the list is connecting your water hose to the campground's water source. Just like we recommend a surge protector with electrical hookups, we recommend you always use a water filter connected to your fresh water tank.

We use a relatively new system called Clear20 that consists of an inline water filter and the Dirtguard pre-filter that takes out the sediment and particulates before they go through the inline filter. Or, there is a cheaper Clear2o RV water filter system that uses solid charcoal to filter.

To easily connect your water hose, I recommend getting a  Fresh water quick disconnect. It's much easier than threading hoses by hand and helps minimize water waste from annoying little leaks. The quick connect snaps right on and off. Couldn't be easier.

Connect the filter to the campsite's water spigot, then connect your fresh water hose to the water filter. Then, using the quick connect, connect the other end of the water hose to your RV.

RV Hookups for Beginners (5 Steps for Your First Trip) 2

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.

Step 4: Sewer Hookups

Lastly, it's time to do your sewer connection. Not all campsites have sewer connections, so this might not be something you do until you dump your black tank at RV dump stations.

Whether you're connecting at a campsite or the dump station, the process is basically the same. The only difference is how long you leave it connected.

Now, let me warn you, dealing with your black water tank is one of the biggest downsides of RVing. 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 rubber gloves before you connect your sewer line, or what the RV world likes to call the “stinky slinky.” Make sure your gray tank and black tank are closed, then grab your sewer hose.

Connect the end of the hose with the twist-on connector to your RV drain spout. Then run the hose 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.

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.)

You might also want to review this post from the RV Proctologist!

RV Black Tank

Do NOT Leave Your Black Tank Valve Open When Hooked Up

This is a mistake that a lot of 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 own 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.

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

RV Hookups for Beginners (5 Steps for Your First Trip) 3

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2022-11-25

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

8 Responses to “RV Hookups for Beginners (5 Steps for Your First Trip)”

June 09, 2023at8:48 pm, Tamarah UHLMANN said:

2005 Fleetwood Wilderness
What is the apprx 2in black pipe pointing straight down underneath RV between rear axles?? Unable to determine where or if it needs to be connected


June 10, 2023at8:10 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

This would be a great question for our RVLifestyle Facebook group. Hard to get specific for every model out there here but the FB group is a very large group of RVers and people ask questions like this all the time, and there is always someone with the same model to help – Here is a link: – Team RV Lifestyle


November 26, 2022at12:11 am, Chris Nintzel said:

At least two chocks in addition to the parking brake.


November 25, 2022at9:18 pm, Bryant Payne said:

For the sewer hookup, I always connect the hose to the campground outlet, then to the RV. This way, when you take off the cap on the RV end, if there is any water, or heaven forbid, a valve wasn’t closed, you only get a mess at the RV end instead of both ends if you catch part of the spill in the hose.

IMHO, surge protecters are basically a waste of money. I have a tester (about $30 on Amazon) that I use to check for proper wiring at the pedestal, and if that’s OK, the power is as good as it is to your house. The electronics in new RVs run off 12 volts, and the surge protector does nothing for them. I’ve been camping for 40 years without a surge protector and no fried RV power systems.


November 26, 2022at3:39 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for sharing the sewer hookup tip and your feedback – it is appreciated! Team RV Lifestyle


November 25, 2022at10:50 am, michael smallets said:

I would suggest shutting off campsite water (or water pump) when leaving your RV/TT so that if a leak develops during your absence you won’t have water damage


November 25, 2022at11:18 am, Rick Beal said:

I always make the power connection to my coach first, and then connect to the pedestal last (after ensuring the breaker is off). This prevents arcing which can damage your power cord connectors.


November 25, 2022at7:59 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for adding this tip to the discussion, Michael — Happy Trails! Team RV Lifestyle


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