Lessons from an experienced camper

Having owned my camper for more than three years, I now consider myself to be rather experienced. Many of my routines are automatic and quick. But two recent experiences reminded me that I have yet to see it all and camping is always a learning process.

The first near-disaster happened last week at the dump station. I was connecting my two-year-old Rhino sewer hose, when the hose completely disconnected from the fitting. Confused, I tried inserting and twisting, but soon realized the glue had failed. I briefly considered duct tape, then realized there is not enough tape in the world to risk a black water explosion.

Ironically, just the week before I pulled into the dump station behind a brand new trailer owner. He was understandably nervous and I offered to help or answer any questions. He confirmed with me the proper order for pulling the valves was: a little gray to test the system, black, then the rest of the gray. I had never heard of testing the system with gray water, but admitted it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

A week later and I realized a gray water test could have save me from a black water disaster. I will now be adding that step to my dump routine.

My second mistake happened involved electrical issues. I admit to knowing only the bare minimum of electricity and most of it is theoretical from physics class. However, I do happen to know someone who is handy that I can call when needed. He happens to have raised me and is therefore very invested in keeping me alive. I highly recommend finding such a person.

On my Virginia trip, I awoke to no power inside the trailer. Ironically, the propane had also run out, but that was a quick fix of switching over tanks. I soon deduced that while the 12V system was fine (lights, etc.) anything functioning off 110V system (fridge, microwave, outlets, etc.) wasn’t getting power despite being plugged in. I checked fuses, but all looked well. As that is the extent of my fix-it-ness, I called my on-demand electrician.

As a camper who wants to protect her expensive purchase, I always use an EMS when plugging in. This is similar to a surge protector, and does protect against surges, but also alerts to other issues such as low voltage. Again, my electricity knowledge ends with those weird diagrams we were forced to draw in school, but many knowledgeable people have warned me that this is very bad and can do thousands of dollars of damage.

The EMS I purchased when I got my trailer was the Camco brand – I bought quite a bit from them initially. It reads red, yellow, and green lights. I have never found an issues, but I have had a camping buddy find an electrical issue with one.

On the morning without electricity, my EMS continued to show a green light. In the interest of problem-solving, I plugged directly into the shore power, bypassing the EMS. Power returned to the trailer immediately. I tried the EMS on another site – no power. It seemed my EMS went bad.

Unfortunately, the Camco warranty is only for a year. So I would have to purchase another one. This time, I found excellent reviews for the Progressive Industries brand. Bonus: it features a lifetime warranty.

This weekend was my first trip out with my new EMS. I rolled into the campground on Friday after a long week of work. I immediately began setting up, excited for a relaxing night of a campfire and reading. I put off hooking up the electric until last because I had to do a little minor assembly of the EMS (screw on the cover). I was ready to plug in and then unplug from the week when I realized this EMS did not use the red/yellow/green light system. It cycles through numbers. I found the instruction booklet. Volts, amps, wait… It was reading E02. That was an error message. I flipped another page – open ground!

I took the EMS to another site – no error. A call to my electrician confirmed this would be a problem. I drove to the registration booth. There would be nobody to fix the problem until the next morning at the earliest. However, there were two overflow sites reserved for just this problem,

I fought back frustration as I broke down the set-up and moved to the second site. I know better. I know checking the electric should be one of the first things I do when I arrive, just for such a reason. But hubris got the better of me.

Post script: I did still have the Camco and plugged it into the open ground outlet out of curiosity. It did read green.

In the end, both of these were small errors that could have been much bigger mistakes. I will take them both as reminders to always prepare for the worse and not get cocky about my trailering. Bad things can and do happen!

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