Low-Cost Way to Test for Campground Wiring Problems

campground wiring problems
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Protect yourself against campground wiring problems!

You may have seen the photo on the right before in one of my other articles or on the website. But believe it or not, it was our actual "power pole" at a campground near West Yellowstone. While it was obviously a concern, we've found much better-looking power poles that had problems too.

There are two main electrical problems to be aware of at campgrounds:
  • Bad wiring of the power pole at the campsite
  • Power surges that occur during a nearby lightning strike
I really recommend that you spend the money for a good surge suppressor that has a built-in circuit tester (check out my article on Avoiding Campground Electrical Problems). But when we first started camping years ago with our popup, we were a bit overwhelmed with all the things we had to spend money on. If this describes you, there is a good low-cost solution that helps address the first (and most common) concern.
Bad wiring at the campsite
We're all in a hurry to get things set up when we pull into a new spot. While it's tempting to just plug in your electrical hookup when camping, you can easily destroy electrical components if the power source is bad. With a 30 amp circuit (what's common with most small travel trailers), the main problems that can exist with the electrical source are:
  • No power
  • Not properly grounded
  • The neutral line is open
  • The polarity is reversed

These problems can cause damage to your electronic components, not to mention that some of the problems could be dangerous and present a shock hazard. In all cases, it's best to test the power and find out if you have a problem before you plug in your trailer!

PLEASE NOTE: This all applies to a 30 amp power source. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of a low-cost solution for testing a 50 amp circuit should you have a larger rig.

Low-cost solution to test for campground wiring problems

Low-cost solution to test for campground wiring problems

How to test for campground wiring problems

The photo above shows the solution we used when we first had our pop-up camper. The black device on the left is an adapter that plugs into the 30 amp socket on the power pole and converts to a standard electrical outlet like you have throughout your home. The yellow device on the right is a standard electrical tester that will diagnose if there are problems with the wiring.

Once you've plugged these into the power pole and turned on the breaker the indicator lights on the tester will let you know the condition of the wiring. The label on the tester shows the various light possibilities and what each combination of lights means. For example, with our old tester shown above, if the first light is off and the next two are yellow, the wiring is okay and you are good to go.

Be sure to test the power pole before you plug in your trailer. In our case, any time we've had a problem, the campground office has always been willing to move us to another campsite.

As I mentioned from the beginning, this is a low-cost solution. It does not protect you from all the problems that you could run into, but it does a great job of identifying the most common ones.
- Denny

Denny Johnson

Denny Johnson

After having spent most of our adult life in Orlando, my wife Fay and I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2020. We are loving the change of seasons and being near the mountains. Plus, this part of the country is loaded with great places to camp. 
We camped years ago with a pop-up camper, but got serious about it when we purchased our Casita in 2014. There was a lot to learn as we started traveling with it, and a lot of conflicting opinions on line. That's when I decided that creating a website would be a good retirement project. I started tinyTowable.com to share things we've learned along the way that have worked well for us in hopes that the information would be of help to others.
However, since moving to Tennessee, I've gotten involved with new hobbies (you can check some out on my personal website at https://www.softrite.com) and we haven't camped very much. So, at the end of 2023, I made the tough decision to stop updating this website.
Small Travel Trailer Products We Like Small Travel Trailer Articles
Our devices shown in the photo above are quite old. I've reviewed current products
on Amazon and found two that work exactly the same way as ours.

NOTE: You need BOTH of the devices above to test the 30 amp power source at a campsite.

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