EVENTS
AND EXTRAS

Great activities happen at and around Camp A Way. See how much fun guests and staff have in our videos and learn something new with our newsletter articles

Learning Center



Things you should pack with your RV

Are you packing the most used RV accessories?

Black & Gray Tank Maintenance

Everybody does it.

Not many like to talk about it, especially in the confined spaces of your RV. Because it's an uncomfortable subject, many RV owners aren't told the proper way to deal with the Gray and Black waste tanks of their unit by the sales staff or previous owners. Those folks aren't the ones at the campsite trying to problem-solve a clogged or smelly system.

The simplest rule is:"KEEP YOUR VALVES CLOSED UNTIL THE TANK IS FULL!"
Frog Doing His BusinessThe reason for this simple rule is that water (plus time) will break down the paper and solids. If the valve is left open, the water will drain but the solids will pile up on the floor, clogging your tank. Keep your Gray tank closed for at least a couple days before you're ready to empty too. The soapy "gray" water collected from your sinks and shower will be used to rinse out your sewer hose after the Black tank has been emptied. Additionally, open valves allow the smelly sewer gases from the entire campground a chance to enter your RV.

As with most simple rules there are some addenda. The most important are: "USE PLENTY OF WATER!" and "DON'T FLUSH ANYTHING NOT EASILY DISOLVABLE!"
A tank of dry tissue won't flush, but neither will a tank full of woodchips no matter how much water is added. Your system is designed to drain a liquid product at the dump station.

Don't flush paper towels, feminine hygiene products, facial tissues, or cleansing wipes. They won't dissolve in the time it takes the tank to fill up and can easily clog the system. Make sure you flush with a good amount of water. Plenty of water means waste is broken down more quickly, more thoroughly, and odors are greatly reduced. We're not advocating wastefulness, just holding the pedal down for a few seconds.

Anecdotal Notes: Many RVers pour a few gallons of water down their shower and toilet even before they start their trip. This cleans the tank while driving and ensures there's enough disintegration potential. Some even like to add automatic dishwashing detergent and water softener or enzymes/probiotics to that water.

Some interesting videos: "TheFitRV's Clear Black Tank Experiments"
RV Geeks Whole RV P-Trap

Getting your RV Ready for the Camping Season

De-winterizing Your RV


Springtime At Camp A Way Spring cleaning isn't just for your house on a foundation, it's also for your home away from home. We have a quick overview to help you plan your annual "airing out."

DRAIN: Open all faucets in RV. Place a container below your "Low Point" drains and open valves to allow most of the pink, non-toxic antifreeze to drain into the container. Drain hot water tank, if needed, by removing bottom plug. Replace the sacrificial anode, if needed. Take note of any appliance bypasses used, e.g. ice maker, washing machine, water heater, so they can be restored when finished sanitizing.

FLUSH 1: Flush freshwater tank. Close low point drain valves. Push clean water through each faucet and valve until no pink comes from any of the faucets. (I do it twice, once with the tank and pump and again with the city water connection.) Flush hot water tank from outside--be careful, you may get wet. Re-insert water heater plug.

SANITIZE: Make sure your hot water tank is bypassed. Fill fresh water tank along with a quarter cup of bleach for each 15 gallons of water. Run through all indoor and outdoor cold and hot water faucets until chlorine odor is noticed, then let the solution sit for six to 24 hours. (When highly chlorinated water is poured into your aluminum hot water tank it will get covered in a white film that's very difficult to remove without a lot of boiling and scouring--and you can't do all that through the tiny little drain hole.)

MEANWHILE: While sanitizing the freshwater system, inspect inside and out for physical damage. Check battery voltage and water levels, tire pressures, heater/air conditioner, electrical system, refrigerator, smoke and gas alarms, fire extinguisher, and all lights. Verify your checklist of supplies, see Camp A Way's video for suggestions. While Camp A Way and your favorite RV accessory store stock many things, you don't want to find you're missing your plug at 11:45 p.m. when RV supply stores are closed.

If you're near or will be near a place you can dump your black and gray tanks, you may wish to fill them and add your favorite probiotic/enzymatic additive or automatic dishwashing soap plus water softener (modified GEO method) to soak and clean your tanks and sensors. Avoid regular dish soap if you're going for a drive unless you want suds all over the place.

FLUSH 2: Drain bleach water from freshwater tank by either dumping onto ground in a safe area (chlorine concentration is very low) or use pump to push water into holding tanks at an RV park hookup or NOT BUSY dump station. Flush entire freshwater system again until all chlorine odor has dissipated.

RV Geeks have another great video: Freshwater Sanitation Refreshing

Camping, Firewood & Invasive Species

OF MOTHS AND MEN

Did you know that how and where you camp and toast your marshmallows could affect the extinction of American species?

On July 3, 1844 Sigurður Ísleifsson smashed the eggs and killed the last mating pair of Great Auks so the "Last Auk" could be stuffed and displayed. Ten-year-old Press Clay Southworth shot the last known Passenger Pigeon on March 24, 1900 because it looked different from all the other birds he knew from the area and he wanted a closer look. We don't want your name going into the history books of being the one who killed the last Ash or Walnut tree in North America.

In 1876, Harvord Professor E. Leopold Trouvelot thought he could make silk from some bugs he collected in France. He couldn’t. Instead, he moved on to studying astronomy and the Gypsy Moth moved across the continent, consuming the leaves off 13 million acres of trees and shrubs each year.

You may remember losing Elm trees across the continent to Dutch Elm Disease, heard about the python problem in Florida, or have seen programs detailing the Cane Toad problem in Australia. There are currently three major infestations that are ransacking the continent's foliage: Thousand Cankers Disease (walnut trees), Emerald Ash Borer (ash trees), and Gypsy Moth (all trees and shrubs thanks to Prof. Trouvelot). There are state and federal quarantines established that prevent the movement of firewood and outdoor furniture even across county lines in some areas. Nebraska is one of only ten states that has not yet succumbed to these outbreaks. Unfortunately, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, among other states, have been hit by all three. To make matters worse, there are currently 15 other invasive species we also have to worry about. Here's what you can do to help:Quarantined States

DON'T MOVE FIREWOOD!

Buy your firewood in the same town or campground in which you are staying. Burn it all or leave it for the next camper. If you live in an unaffected area, don't transport firewood through a quarantined area, e.g. leaving South Sioux City, NE to Camp A Way in Lincoln, NE by way of Interstate 29 in Iowa, this would make your firewood subject to confiscation. Emerald Ash Borer. Credit: Marianne Prue, Ohio Department of Natural Resources - Division of Forestry, Bugwood.org

INSPECT & CLEAN YOUR EQUIPMENT!

Eastern US campers are advised to ensure their furniture, awnings, bumpers, children's toys, etc. are free from Gypsy Moth egg masses. These yellow or cream colored velvety pouches are about the size of a ball point pen cap and can contain over 1000 eggs. These pests reproduce rapidly and can ruin over 13 MILLION acres of trees in a single season. If you're moving, you're required by law to have a licensed pest control technician inspect your belongings and moving van, that's how seriously the Agriculture Departments are taking this pest.

EDUCATE YOURSELF!

Egg sacs: Credit: Milan Pernek, Forestry Research Institute, Bugwood.orgAs a traveler, you should learn about the threats to the areas you'll be travelling, not just great campgrounds, like Camp A Way, and sightseeing destinations, like the Omaha Zoo (just named best zoo in the world.) Visit the website www.hungrypests.com for more information about these pests: Asian Citrus Psyllid, Asian Gypsy Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle, Citrus Greening, Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, European Grapevine Moth, European Gypsy Moth, False Codling Moth, Giant African Snail, Imported Fire Ant, Khapra Beetle, Light Brown Apple Moth, Mediterranean Fruit Fly, Mexican Fruit Fly, Old World Bollworm, Oriental Fruit Fly, Spotted Lanternfly, Sudden Oak Death.

RV Electrical System Problems, The Converter

The House Lights Dim, but This isn't Broadway; A Tale of Two Circuits

Light bulb is questionable.

Camper Bob just finished setting up the RV for a relaxing few days. The game is playing on TV, the AC is cooling things down, but the overhead lights won’t work, and his water pump is dry and quiet. Bob tracks down a campground host and vents his frustration, "Everything worked yesterday at the last campground, what's going on in this place!?"

It appears Camper Bob is having some electrical converter issues. Camp A Way's Chris Queen relates that this particular problem is a very common electrical issue that guests bring to him. Another is that the power pedestal breaker is turned off and/or the RV’s breakers are tripped.

Your RV has two electrical systems. First, a 12 volt system that runs the lights, water pump, and vent fans using the batteries--the vitals for when you're boondocking. Second, a 120 volt system that runs the electrical outlets and air conditioner when you're plugged into a campground's electrical system. 12 = battery, 120 = plug. Appliances like the refrigerator, water heater, and furnace may have multiple voltage modes, check your manual. (Amps are a different conversation, let's not get confusing here. Look for an upcoming video regarding that.)

There's a piece of equipment on your RV called a CONVERTER that bridges the two systems. It allows campground current to power your lights and other 12 volt appliances as well as recharge your batteries. When this gadget fails, only the 120 volt system works and your batteries discharge over time. The converter probably failed a couple days ago, but the batteries weren't dead yet.

If the above scenario happens to you there are three steps you can take to try to remedy the situation.

First, make sure your light switch is on at both the wall and the fixture. Sometimes a tall person will turn off the overhead switch directly on the light fixture.

Check Fuses


Second, find your breaker and fuse panel. Make sure no fuse has burned up and no breaker has tripped; if one did trip, turn it OFF to reset breaker then flip switch back ON. If a fuse blew, replace it with the appropriate size fuse.

What's hidden behind here?


Third, locate your converter and check the fuses--disconnect your outdoor power plug for safety. Usually the fuses are the colorful automotive, blade-style fuses. Some RVs combine the converter into the breaker panel and will have breakers and fuses behind the cover next to a plastic vent. Other RVs will have the converter mounted to a wall in an underbelly storage bay. Check your manual for details, there might be a reset button or battery safety switch not covered in this short article.

Hidden Treasure

Did any of these fix the problem? GREAT! If these steps didn't help, it appears your converter will need to be replaced. If you're not VERY comfortable working with electronics, you'll want to contact a dealer or qualified repair technician to fully test and replace the unit if needed.

Basics of RV Electricity

Electricty 001: Visualize the Basics


Chris learned how to add graphics to video. In only 3 or 4 more years, he just might produce a high quality video.

Cold Weather Camping

Things to think about when the weather turns cold.

Winter Camping.

RVing and Camping can be enjoyed year-round, even in northern climates. For some avid outdoors enthusiasts, it doesn’t even reduce the time spent outside around the campfire. There are some special factors to consider when staying in sub-freezing temperatures.

Ultra site in winter
First is personal protection and clothing.

  1. Layers. Temperatures vary throughout the day. Being able to peel off or add a layer or two at a time is a tremendous advantage to adapting your personal comfort.

  2. Slow and Steady. Working hard makes you sweat; sweat soaks into your coat and makes it sticky, or worse, prevents it from keeping you warm later, after you cool down. (If you must work hard, see #1.

  3. Hats and gloves are your friends. If you’re worried about your hair, get earmuffs or headbands. Insulated boots are great, but overshoes work well for the fashion conscious.

Camping habits to ensure a smooth stay.the stalagmites of a winter water leak

  1. Water: Running water DOES freeze. Some photographers make a living capturing beautiful images of frozen rivers, seas, and waterfalls. In an RV, water freezes in the worst possible places: in your waste lines or behind a permanent bulkhead. Make or buy a heated, insulated hose, or fill your internal tank and drain your hose afterwards. Make sure there are no leaks outdoors, no matter how slow. Exposed metal freezes quickly, make sure pressure regulators & water filters are heated and insulated too.
  2. Waste: Just like in warmer times, KEEP YOUR WASTE LINES CLOSED UNTIL FULL. Just like in the summer, clogs can develop from flushing “not-full” tanks. Even worse, a slow trickle of the gray water lines each time you wash your hands will add layer upon layer of ice in the waste hose until it’s fully clogged with an ice dam. A trickling faucet just builds this ice dam even faster. We don’t want to talk about what happens when the BLACK water tank is left open in the winter. Add some RV antifreeze to your closed tanks each time after the holding tanks are emptied.
    running water was frozen in this sewer hose
  3. Insulation: Skirting helps. Custom canvas skirting, insulated panels, and even cheap painter’s plastic and duct tape all block the wind and keep a warmer zone under your RV. It might not be above freezing under there, but it’ll be much warmer than the wind-chill temps. Fiberglass is NOT for outdoors; don’t wrap your hose with it. It absorbs water, negating any insulative qualities it used to have. If it stays dry, mice and squirrels steal it for their nests—or worse, just move their nests to your place. Hay bales are as bad or worse than fiberglass.
  4. Heating: Use your furnace, it’s made to heat your whole RV. Space heaters should be used sparingly and only for small spaces for short periods of time. Long use of a space heater will overheat a circuit breaker, which will shut off power to your entire RV, leading to frozen water lines and a colder environment than you started out trying to overcome in the first place. Never leave a space heater unattended. Heat tape applied to pipes works much better and safer than heat lamps or light bulbs.
  5. Cabinet Doors. You may notice your bathroom is a lot colder than your living room. Keep cabinet doors open in the bathroom and under-sink areas to ensure the warm RV air isn’t blocked from circulating around exposed water lines. Make sure the underbelly storage doors weather-stripping has a complete seal. Wind can sometimes find a gap and cause freezing. In high-wind areas, it’s sometimes necessary to build a wind shield for your refrigerator and water heater vents which blocks direct wind but still allows proper, safe ventilation.
  6. Troubleshooting: Make sure your heat tape thermostats are not near heat sources. Hair dryers are excellent thawing tools. If you have a frozen water hose, first use the hair dryer on all exposed metal pieces, including the filter screen (sometimes in plastic) where water comes into the RV. If the park water faucet is frozen, use a bucket to trap the hair dryer’s hot air around the faucet. Find a frozen spot by bending your hose; the stiff spot is where ice lurks. Large frozen spot? Stick the hose in your shower to thaw for a couple hours.  RV/Marine Antifreeze
  7. Tips: Travelling in a winterized RV? Carry a few jugs of RV antifreeze and some gallons of drinking water. After using the facilities, “flush” with antifreeze. After washing hands or brushing teeth, pour a cup or two of antifreeze down the sink to clear the p-trap and dilute the soapy water in the gray tank. You’ll need to use extra antifreeze if you’ve washed dishes. (Remember to fully fill your holding tanks before you flush them out.)

Winterizing your RV for Seasonal Storage

Winterizing Your RV.

Every fall or winter, all “self-contained” RVs need to be protected the unit is to be stored in freezing temperatures. Nobody wants to open their camper on a beautiful spring day and see a moldy, dirty house of horrors full of leaky pipes and burst holding tanks.  Winterizing, at least helps with the mold and broken pipes and tanks; the dirty...well that’s up to you, but we’ll go over that briefly.

Fill, clean, and flush your waste tanks. If you can let it soak for a few days before hand, it would be all the better. (See previous newsletters.)
draining the RV's water heater
Drain your freshwater tank, (cold, unpressurized) water heater tank, and water lines. Open up all faucets and “Low Point Drains” which should be marked with stickers; some might require you to crawl under the RV. Turning on the water pump may help force water out of the system. Inspect your water tank drain plug. It should have a chewed-up metal rod attached, this is by design; it attracts the uglies that would eat the walls of your tank. Replace it if the sacrificial anode rod is loose or about to corrode completely through.

While you’re waiting for various tanks and pipes to drain, take advantage of the time by vacuuming, removing all food, perishables, clothing, linens, and toiletries. Don’t give any potential rodent intruders anything to eat or nest in.
introducing RV antifreeze into the water system
Close the low point drains and arrange valves to bypass the water heater. If you don’t bypass the water heater, you’ll waste 5 – 15 gallons of antifreeze because it will completely fill before allowing antifreeze to move on to the faucets. Remove and bypass any water filters. Most RVs have a special suction hose near the pump to assist in winterizing, if your RV doesn’t have one, connect a converter kit or attach a new tube to the pump inlet.

Place the hose inside the antifreeze jug, turn on the pump at the main switch panel and open the cold-water side of a faucet. You should hear the pump grumbling and see pink fluid entering the hose. Soon that pink fluid will spill out from the faucet. Turn off the cold handle and turn on the hot until pink antifreeze appears. Repeat this procedure at each faucet, shower, and toilet in the RV…including the outdoor handwashing stations. My 28’ RV usually takes at least 2-3 gallons of antifreeze. I like to pour a cup or two extra antifreeze down each P-trap and into the closed toilet to help keep odors out of the living space.

If you have an ice maker or washing machine, consult your owner’s manual for instructions in winterizing those.

Turn off your propane. Pull in your slides. Disconnect power. You may want to take your propane tanks home to prevent theft. Disconnect or remove your batteries in case you forgot to turn something off. This may not cover everything to your particular RV, but it will definitely get you on the right track.

Heated Hoses

Should You Buy or Make Your Own Heated Hose?

Heated Hose
Pre-made heated hoses have some advantages over a homemade hose.
1. Time & Ease of assembly. Campers lacking the time, space, or skill to make their own can pull a newly purchased hose right out of the box, connect it and be done. Creating a homemade hose takes some supplies, 1-3 hours, and some dry, open area to make.
2. Handling & Storage. A pre-made hose is handled exactly like a regular hose; its vinyl jacket sheds water quickly and allows the hose to be coiled up easily. A homemade hose must be handled with a little more care than a regular hose. Coils must be made larger, taking up more space. The insulation doesn’t shed water as quickly and requires occasional inspection with possible replacement every few years.
3. Troubleshooting. A pre-made hose works or it doesn’t; if it quits heating, gets its protective cover torn, or springs a leak, toss it. A homemade hose might require some detective work if it malfunctions. Look for an opening in the insulation, check the heat tape for malfunction, is there an area the hose and heat tape aren’t touching?
4. Safety. Pre-made hoses must pass some basic quality and safety checks. All the parts of a homemade hose pass those same quality and safety checks, but did those parts get combined in a safe manner? Was the heat tape in good working order or was it something rattling around in the bottom of a toolbox for the past few years?

bad wiring joke

Pre-made electric hoses have 4 drawbacks when compared to a properly assembled homemade heated/insulated hose.
1. Cost. Premade hoses cost $80-$200. Homemade $20-$50.
2. The insulation isn’t as thick. Premade has .5 – 2 mm, Homemade has 10-20mm.
3. Only the main hose body is heated. The heaters in premade hoses start 1”-6” away from the ends. You’ll need a spare heat tape for the additional water attachments. Homemade hoses have extra heat tape to ensure filters, regulators, fittings, and faucets all stay warm.
4. Custom length. Pre-made hoses cannot be cut. Homemade can be as short as 6 feet or as long as 200’ in length. They can also be cut and repaired.