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Filed under: Comfort at Camp, Preparation & Readiness, Safety on the Road

Campin’ and Trailer Safety Advice From an “Oldtimer”

March 29, 2010 by · 2 Comments 


This week’s blog is a collection of my thoughts and advice to all campers. I know from experience what can happen if you are not a conscientious and safe camper. Unfortunately, I have personally made some of these mistakes. I now take steps to be sure they do not happen again. If you are new to trailer towing and campers, read this blog over and over until it is committed to memory. You will thank me later for the advice.

I shudder when I see someone dumping their sewer tanks bare handed. Too many times I have watched this being done. Perhaps they escape illness or bacterial infection by the graces of God. I have no way of tracking what happens to those who are so lackadaisical in their dumping techniques.

I always wear disposable vinyl gloves when dumping. I am careful not to wipe my face or clothing with the gloves. I used to spray a bleach solution around after dumping to disinfect things, but after ruining some good shirts and pants with the bleach I switched to spraying 91% isopropyl alcohol. I squirt it on my dump valves, caps, hose ends and attachments. After I peel my gloves off I spray my hands and the soles of my shoes and use some excess on the spray bottle and handle. It works extremely well and does not ruin your clothes.

Fresh water hoses from the campground hydrant to the camper need to be drinking water safe. These hoses are made of a non-leaching vinyl and are often resistant to the formation of algae and growth of bacteria. I use my spray bottle of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to spray the hydrant and hose connectors every time I hook up. A couple of times a season I put a few ounces of bleach into the hoses, couple the ends together and slosh them around to disperse the bleach inside the hose. The last step is to rinse the hose well before connecting to the camper. Please, NEVER use a common green garden hose for your water connection.

Avoid using adapters - plug only into the outlet in the power pod designed for your camper.

Electrical adapters really scare me. I am a strong supporter of ONLY plugging into an electrical socket with the same design as the power cord on your camper. Those that insist on using adapters that mate a 50 amp outlet to a 30 amp cord are asking for trouble. The 15 amp to 30 amp adapters are not as dangerous because the socket they plug into is suppose to have a GFCI circuit breaker that does not exceed 20 amps. Still, the 15 to 30 adapter can overheat if current demand is high and result in a melted adapter and ruined outlet.



Typical 15-20 amp outlet tester. Black "thing" is a 30 to 15 adapter to allow 30 amp TT outlets to be tested for safety.

Buy an outlet tester.  They are less than $10.  If testing a 30 amp outlet it is OK to use a 30 to 15 amp adapter.  Any RV supply store should have the adapter.

ALWAYS inspect your camper tires. I cannot stress enough the importance of correct inflation pressure. NEVER run a camper tire low on air. Truthfully, the tires on most of today’s campers are marginal in relation to their load rating and the weight of the camper. The safest thing to do is weigh your camper. Any truck stop will give you a certified weight for under $10. Check the axel weights against the maximum load rating on your tires. If your weights exceed the load rating on your tires you are asking for tire failure. Changing a tire on the side of an Interstate highway is not what you want to do.

Trailer tires are only speed rated for 65 mph. Pulling a camper at 70 or 75 mph is asking for several catastrophes. One is tire failure; the other is too great of a stopping distance to be safe. Of course, fuel mileage should be considered too.

When trailer tires fail on the highway they generally come apart rather than just go flat.

Please, never exceed the tow rating of your vehicle. I know a lot of folks disregard this advice thinking the rating is only suggestive and they can get around it. Personally, I have had way too many white knuckle experiences with even a 1 ton dually pick-up pulling a heavy camper. That is the reason we now have a HDT as our tow vehicle.

Check your tongue weight or pin weight to be sure that your load is properly biased. If your tongue weight is too light you are asking for serious sway of the trailer – an extremely dangerous situation. Too much tongue weight can over tax your weight distribution bars and make your ride extremely harsh. It can also overtax your tow vehicle tires and suspension. Again, check your trailer weights!

This is what can happen to an awning that is not securely locked in place.

Make a list and check it twice! The written check list if for everything that must be done before pulling out with a camper. It should include items like safety chains secured, break-away lanyard attached, TV antenna down, all hatch doors locked, all lights and signals working, brakes actuating, awning locked, tires inspected and more. Every step should be in writing, with a double check box. Even being experienced I cannot trust my memory for everything. Distractions or rushing are sure to cause an oversight you will regret later.

Typical Reflective Safety Triangles that should be in ALL RVs.

Carry safety triangles. You can get them at any truck stop. If you have a break down on the road set them out as soon as possible. Do not use flares. Flares are dangerous and if improperly placed can cause unwanted fires. Leave the use of flares to law enforcement and rescue crews that are trained in their safe use.

Be sure to check the fire extinguisher. If possible add a second fire extinguisher in the tow vehicle and upgrade the one in the RV to a larger size. Be sure to have a good set of wheel chocks. Inside the camper check the smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector and LPG detector for proper operation.

It is an extremely good idea to have a membership in an Emergency Road Service that covers both your tow vehicle and RV. Normal auto road service is not adequate as most will NOT service your RV in a break down. IMHO, Coach Net is at the top of the list. Good Sam ERS is also excellent for RVs. Each will cost about $8.00 a month for a full year subscription. This is money well spent.

For the sake of all our children and pets, please drive extremely slowly in campgrounds. Most have posted speed limits of 10 MPH. I know it seems like a crawl but anything faster is running a risk none of us should take. The likelihood of a child or pet darting out in front of you is exponentially greater while in a campground.

We began trailer camping in a 1968 Scamper pop-up and have pulled travel trailers and fifth wheels for over three decades.  One of the hats I wear is as a retired volunteer EMS provider and trainer.  Safety and proper first aid are priority items for me.  I have witnessed way too many ruined vacations by unnecessary safety-practice negligence.  Please do not become one of the negative statistics by ignoring the rules!

Camping should be a fun and safe experience for all.

Please feel free to add to my list in the comments section.

This is our current camping unit. A 2009 38-1/2' long Cedar Creek 34SATS fifth wheel with 3 slide-outs pulled by a 2004 Volvo VNL670 class 8 tractor converted into a RV Hauler. The Volvo has water, electrical power, toilet, refrigerator, microwave, TV & DVD and twin bunks - it can be used as a stand alone motor home. And to think, it all started over 30 years ago with a pop-up ..........then a 19' TT, then one 22", then another 24', along came a 30 foot, then a 32 foot with a single slide, then a 34' TT with twin slides. The tow vehicles kept getting bigger as well. The Cedar Creek is complete with a fireplace in the living room and a washer/dryer combo upstairs next to the bath. Our plan is to use this unit for "Long Time" RV'ing all over the US and Canada.


2 Responses to “Campin’ and Trailer Safety Advice From an “Oldtimer””
  1. Great tips. We do not travel with our trailer, as we are seasonals, but to all that do I will repeat: please drive slowly on the campgrounds. Kids tend to play on the lanes.

  2. The tips you have listed reflect your knowledge of RVs. Thank you for sharing, these are first hand experiences turned pieces of advice that will definitely be of great use for those who are just starting out as RV camping or outdoor enthusiasts. With the increase in number of RV camping sites, people can now enjoy the great outdoors in a myriad of ways but of course, one of the most important things to consider is safety. Nothing beats enjoying the sights and sounds of nature in a safe manner.

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