Electric Camping

By Steve Shapiro

For over a decade I had been tent camping with my son who was in the Boy Scouts, so I pretty much had the tent camping process finely tuned.

Wanting to continue camping I decided to ‘step up’ in comfort and decided to buy an RV. Once we bought the RV I started reading everything I could find about RV camping. While the ‘learn by doing’ method is quite ‘fun’, it is also fun to be prepared for possibilities that may arise before they occur.

One major difference between tent camping and RV camping is electric power. During tent camping rarely did we need any shore power (unless you’re like one of my fellow Scoutmaster’s who actually bought a window A/C unit for a one week summer camp). During tent camping, everything we used would run either on batteries or propane. The RV is quite a different story. A major part of the convenience of RV camping is electricity. For us that means shore power at a campsite.

One thing that I learned was to have a wide selection of power coupling pigtails.

For example:


30 Amp Male to 15 Amp Female


30 Amp Male to 50 Amp Female


50 Amp Male to 30 Amp Female


30 Amp Female to 15 Amp Male

The idea behind this was that regardless of the type of shore power source available, we could plug into it. While we may not be able to run all of our appliances on a 20 amp source, at least we would be able to power the A/C (mandatory here in Florida), or the oven or the microwave one at a time. Even though our RV is a30 amp system, I went a bought a 50 to 30 amp pigtail, a 30 to 50 amp pigtail, a 20 to 30 amp pigtail, a 30 to 20 amp pigtail and of course a 30 amp surge protector.

One thing that I had not read about, nor had heard about, nor had experienced until this weekend was the possibility of a bad circuit breaker at the campsite. Imagine our surprise after getting hooked up after dark, turning on the A/C and having the power go out when we turned on the oven. Each time this happened, one of us would have to go outside, brave the mosquito swarms and reset the shore power breaker hopefully before the 80% plus Florida humidity or the mosquitos could catch up to us. After a few attempts to run both at the same time, I was able to confirm the reproducibility of results. We could either cook dinner or keep cool, but not both at the same time. Having run the A/C, oven and even the microwave all at the same time at other campsites, I determined that this must be a bad shore power circuit breaker.

This is where our 50 to 30 amp pigtail came into use.

The way electricity works is that regardless of the capacity of the source, an electric device will draw as much as it needs. This is why there are circuit breakers or fuses. These devices prevent you from using an amount of electricity that exceeds the capacity of the source. These devices ensure that you can use less, but not more than the rated amount.

Think about your house. You might have a 200 amp service to the house that connects to a circuit breaker box that has multiple circuit breakers. High current appliances like your electric stove, dishwasher or refrigerator will use a large amount of current and be connected to a high current circuit and circuit breaker while your low current devices such as a computer, TV or light bulb would be connected to a low current circuit and circuit breaker. One big breaker (the master breaker) prevents you from using more than your 200 amps all at one time while the smaller breakers prevent you from using too much current from any one circuit within the house.

An RV electric system is much the same. Think of the shore power breaker as an outside master breaker and the one in your RV as an inside master breaker.

In our case, we switched from a 30 amp source to a 50 amp source. Since our RV is a 30 amp system, it would not need or even be able to draw anything more than 30 amps. If it tried to do that, the inside master breaker would switch off. If in an unlikely scenario we attempted to use more than 50 amps at one time, the ouside shore power breaker would switch off.

With the use of a simple and inexpensive part, the problem was solved and disaster averted. We were able to enjoy the rest of our camping trip without having to worry about losing power or being eaten alive by mosquitos.

SKS 3/19/16


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Myakka River State Park

We went to Myakka River State Park a couple of weekends ago.

2016-03-19 09.35.10

Early Saturday morning by the river

Myakka River State Park  is about 9 miles east of Sarasota and about 90 miles south of where we live. It is one of the largest state parks in Florida, covering several thousand acres.


Myakka Wildlife Tours airboat – photo from the park website

There are tram tours in the cooler months, and airboat tours year round on really large airboats.


Wooden walkway through the tree canopy – photo from the park website

There is a raised canopy walkway and lots of hiking trails.

2016-03-19 12.56.20

All the rest of the day on Saturday

But we didn’t get to do any of that. Because it rained all day on Saturday. I guess it’s good we enjoy each other’s company.

We’ve made reservations to take a long weekend there over Labor Day. And then we’ll do EVERYTHING!


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Marking Our Territory

When we walk around the campgrounds, I see people with cute string lights of things like palm trees or flamingos (we are in Florida, after all) and potted plants and little yard flags that say things like “Happy Campers – Welcome to the Smith’s Campfire” with cute little pictures of trailers or campfires or cute forest creatures roasting marshmallows. So, now I’m thinkin’ I want something like that, but a quick check of Amazon or a quick search for “camper flags” yields maybe a dozen designs, most of which I’ve already seen. I want something that is uniquely ours.

However, I do have a little trouble limiting the number of tabs I open up in when doing an internet search:

Too Many Tabs


Jennifer Jangles has a nice blog entry from this past spring about making curtains and an awning for her vintage camper. Since I made my camper privacy curtains from fleece so I wouldn’t even have to worry about hems, perhaps her projects are a bit ambitious for me. I do like her Happy Camper bag, though. Maybe I’ll check out her etsy site….

Pretty cute, huh?

Craftsy has some really cute quilting patterns relating to the outdoors, but not really for the outdoors. Moving on.

Camper.com doesn’t have anything to do with camping. But I like the home page.

Not a camping site, despite the url.

Not a camping site, despite the url.

Snuginadub has a fun Facebook page, but they’re UKers, and camping is really quite different over there. Fun, but not much I can use.

I know a lot of people really like Pinterest, but when I find something on a pinterest board (site? pinup?) that I like, I click on it only to find another pinterest board full of things that are linked to other pinterest boards, and trying to find the original source for anything is like wandering through a carnival funhouse trying to figure out which passage is real in a maze of glass walls and mirrors. Now I have a Pinterest headache. And nothing to show for it.

Maybe I’m being too specific in my search for camping flags. This site has lots of different garden flags.

Owls, maybe?

And I like this one from Amazon:

Not even a harvest owl.

I’m still thinking about creating my own, but maybe this one will do for a start.

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Hillsborough River State Park

We first stayed at HRSP this past February. We reserved a pull-through site, only to arrive and find that the way it was configured, how we had to park to access the water and electric left the trailer door and awning on the opposite side of the trailer from the picnic table and fire circle. (Site 51-D, FYI.) Live and learn.

Pull-through site 51-D

Campsite 51-D

Steve built me a campfire, using all the skills he’s acquired in his more-than-a-decade of Boy Scout camping and leadering.

1st campfire HRSP 2014-02-22_19-39-26_684

1st campfire

And I had my first roasted marshmallow in I don’t know how long.

1st marshmallow roast

1st marshmallow roast

Fortunately, there were only a few marshmallow casualties.

Marshmallow casualties

Marshmallow casualties

Our trip this past weekend, though (Site #112 – much better), it was too wet for a campfire. Our site didn’t have standing water, but it was kinda muddy and the mosquitoes were relentless.

Not our campsite, thank goodness!

Not our campsite, thank goodness!

When I took Sophie for a quick walk, I noticed some of the other campers had planned ahead for the possibility of muddy ground.

Groundcover #2 HRSP 2014-07-19 17.02.35 Groundcover #3 HRSP 2014-07-19 17.02.44

Shoe scraper - "Only $10!" One fellow camper proudly showed me his new bootscraper, another thing we’ll want to get, I’m sure.

New bootscraper - "Only $10!"

New bootscraper – “Only $10!”

Since we’ve had all the rain lately, the water level was quite a bit higher.

canoe launch Feb. 2014

canoe launch Feb. 2014

Canoe launch #2 HRSP 2014-07-19 17.11.18

canoe launch July 2014

I thought this tree looked kinda interesting, sticking out from the bank parallel to the water. As soon as Sophie and I stopped for me to take this photo, though, the mosquitoes swarmed us and it was the only shot I could get.

horizontal tree / mosquito trap

horizontal tree / mosquito trap

The Camp Host whiteboard showed a Saturday night Campfire program. When I called the office for time/topic, the ranger told me it was a tram tour of Ft. Foster and the tram would pick me up at my campsite!



But that will have to wait for another post.

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Lake Louisa State Park and Walt Disney World

Lilipads around the curve - Lake Louisa SP


One of the first Florida state parks we camped at was Lake Louisa State Park, where some friends of ours had rented a cabin for a games weekend. When it got to be around 10:00 pm, we heard lots of booming sounds, realized it was Disney’s fireworks show, and also realized that Lake Louisa would be a great camping base for going to Disney World.

I’ve lived in Florida for over five years and had never been to Disney, so we started making plans and finally made it this month for my birthday. We took Friday off, arrived at the park around noon, got all set up and headed out to Downtown Disney for dinner.

Banana Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Banana Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Triple Chocolate Cake

Triple Chocolate Cake

We ate at House of Blues – the best part of the dinner was definitely the dessert.

All things Disney are about 20 miles away from Lake Louisa, so it’s not quite as convenient as staying at their on-site RV park, but for 1/5 the nightly rate, it made our trip much more affordable.

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Getting Ready to Hit The Road

We’re heading off to Oscar Scherer for this month’s weekend jaunt. The trailer is all hooked up to the truck and we just need to finish packing and our morning coffee and take the little car over to Einstein Brothers for their Baker’s Dozen for our breakfast for today and tomorrow (and some left over for me to take to work on Monday).

I have a new phone with a camera better than my actual camera, so I plan on being able to take lots of pictures of EVERYTHING!

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Campground Hosts Program

HRSP Campground Host Display

Most state park systems have some kind of Campground Host program. This involves signing up (way in advance for those highly desirable  S. Florida campgrounds during the winter months) to volunteer approximately 20 hours per week at the campground in exchange for a free camping site during that time. I haven’t looked into it too much at this point because we’re just not there yet, but if it is 20 hours per week per campsite, that’s only 10 hours per week apiece for couples. So, if the average campsite is $20 per night (most are more), then the net exchange rate is $7 per hour. But when you consider that you’re not having to pay any taxes on that amount, it raises the pay equivalent to about $10 per hour. Not bad for a part-time job that can be split between two people!

The Florida state parks we’ve been to so far have 2-4 Host sites, usually right beside the bathroom/shower houses, where I presume a good deal of the volunteer work occurs. When we were at Hillsborough River State Park, our site was right across the lane from a particularly enthusiastic host couple, as evidenced by their very welcoming display, and the different activities available during the week.

I didn’t have an chance to meet them, since we were there on a quick weekend run, but I did notice the big magnet on the side of their truck.

Camp Hosts Nomads

In addition to being Campground Hosts, they were also members of the United Methodist NOMADS, a mission volunteer program. While not listed on their official Camp Host white board, I’m thinking a regular Bible study was probably part of their contribution to the camp calendar, too.

Putting “campground hosts” into a search engine yields many results for all different states, and CampHost.org has listings for several states. Again, not something we’re ready for just yet, but I can definitely see this program being part of our future plans.

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