When I bought my brand new travel trailer, I immediately spent another $600 on new tires. That was a smart decision. Then I went on to research everything I need to know about the best RV surge protectors. That was an equally smart decision.
My order of operations makes sense. I protected the entire rig from potential structural damage that can result from a blowout. Then I protected the electrical system, which is the most expensive system in that rig.
Repairing an RV electrical system is not an inexpensive undertaking. General repair costs alone can easily stretch well into the thousands of dollars. Replacing the entire electrical system (and any blown appliances) because of a surge or other unexpected event is even more terrifying.
Let’s try to help you avoid that kind of a mess. I like you too much to see that happen, not to mention derail all of your RV travel plans.
Related Reading: Best Travel Trailer Tires
The Guide You Need to Understand RV Surge Protectors
If you’re new to the world of RVing, I probably made you a bit nervous with that intro. Good. Because honestly, you should be nervous…at least nervous enough to take some time finding the best RV surge protector you possibly can for your RV.
It doesn’t matter if you have a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or Class A, Class B, or Class C driveable rig. One of the first things you need to do is protect the integrity of its electrical system, and this protection needs to happen on two different fronts. Let’s go over those quickly.
Electrical System Surge Protection
As you are probably aware, electrical surges happen quite frequently within any electrical grid. These surges can originate from several sources:
- From the electric utility company during power grid switching
- When large appliance motors cycle off and on
- During an electrical storm and resulting nearby lightning strikes
What you probably didn’t know is that you are often not even aware of these events because smaller surges don’t cause catastrophic damage to your electrical appliances or electronic devices.
But that doesn’t mean there is no damage occurring during these surges, according to an article by State Farm:
“These smaller surges can slowly cause damage, so your computer or stereo may continue to function until the integrity of the electronic components finally erode. This shortens the life span of appliances and electronics.”
So do you think your RV’s electrical system is immune to these surges? I don’t think so.
The bottom line is that for both the short term and the long term protection of your RV, your appliances and your personal electronic devices, protecting from all kinds of electrical surges is the only logical choice.
Circuit Analysis BEFORE Plugging In
It would be really cool and simple if we could trust that anywhere we choose to plug in our RV is going to be a safe option that includes a safe and properly functioning electrical system. The reality is much different.
A number of issues could arise when you’re plugging your RV into a power pedestal at the RV park or campground.
Here is a short list of the potential problems with plugging your RV into shore power:
- Open Ground
- Reverse Polarity
- Open Neutral
- Hot/Ground Reversed
- Hot on Neutral with Hot Open
I saw your eyes just glaze over there for a second. And I get it: this “electric speak” can be pretty daunting. And boring.
But these boring details can fry your RV, and probably the electrical circuits in your brain at the same time. These are potentially damaging situations that you must know about before connecting your expensive RV to any electrical system.
And the best way to protect yourself from a nightmare scenario caused by any of these issues we have just discussed is by investing a little bit of money up front in a quality RV Surge Protector with integrated circuit analysis capabilities.
Related Reading: 50+ Best Accessories for RV Owners
4 Recommended RV Surge Protectors
We have first-hand experience with the Camco 55301 30-Amp RV Power Defender. We relied on feedback from other RVers and third party reviews for information about the remaining products.
Let’s take a look at both the 30-amp RV Surge Protector and the 50-amp RV Surge Protector. That will give you a good idea of the options that will best fit your situation.
Pick #1. Camco 30-Amp RV Power Defender
I chose the Camco 30-Amp RV surge protector and circuit analyzer. The specific product I purchased for my brand new travel trailer is no longer available. That happens as old products are discontinued and new innovations come to market.
Never fear, the same manufacturer, Camco, makes a 30-Amp surge protector very similar to the one I used as we traveled around the continent.
Camco is a well-known brand that produces high quality supplies and gear for an RV lifestyle. Accordingly, I assume new products are of the same quality as old versions. This one is quite a bit more expensive than what I had, so let’s hope the quality is even higher!
30-Amp Male and 30-Amp Female voltage protector helps protect your RV or camper from high and low voltage levels and power surges.
- Auto connect and disconnect
There is also a 50-Amp RV surge protector by Camco. Obviously, it is a bit more expensive , as is everything for 50-Amp systems. But, the design is very similar and I would expect it to perform just as well as the 30-Amp Power Grip.
Did I have any damage to my RV’s electrical system during those 17 months on the road using my Camco product? Nope.
Did I see any issues with the structural integrity of my surge protector? Nope.
Did I have to replace this RV surge protector after such extensive use, plugging and unplugging every 3-7 days? Nope.
But you should know this: One of the yellow diagnostic lights used for circuit analysis did go out on me after a little over a year of use. After realizing this issue and plugging it in at a couple of different locations, I felt comfortable still using it with that slight defect as I was still able to “interpret” the lights.
Here’s what I really love about this 30 amp RV surge protector:
- It provided peace of mind, knowing my rig was protected against surges up to 2800 joules.
- Its weather resistant design kept me from the hassle of trying to protect it from rain and snow.
- The Power Grip handles made it extremely easy to unplug in all situations without any difficulty or struggle.
- Its extremely durable, high-quality construction kept me from having to “baby” it. (Nobody wants that.)
So, despite the issue with the light, I honestly would not hesitate to buy a Camco product again for a second round of RV adventures around the continent. Nice going, Camco.
The Technology Research 44260 has a great name and analyzes for all of the same electrical system issues as the Camco product. It helps protect your rig’s systems by indicating the issue before plugging your RV into the system. And, it uses the same basic “light indication” system as the Camco product.
But for me, this product isn’t quite as appealing for the following reasons:
- It does not have the same “power grip” design as the Camco surge protector. I feel that it would be slightly more difficult to get a good grip on this product when trying to remove it in wet or cold conditions because of this design.
- It is slightly more expensive than the Camco surge protector while essentially providing the same benefits.
- Not as compact and easy to store.
A Critical Distinction Between Two Types of Surge Protection Devices
Before we move on to products 3 and 4, I want to point out a clear and important distinction between these first two products and the last two we will consider. The manufacturers honestly do an incredibly poor job of communicating this distinction, in my opinion. If they did a better job of educating new RVers about this point, I am confident they would sell far more of the higher end products like the ones we recommend below. (A shout out here to TREKKN reader Norm for helping to better educate me on this point so I can pass it along to you.)
Key Point: Certain Models are Designed to Protect Your Systems from ONE Power Surge
And here is that critical distinction: The less expensive models above essentially serve as external, “one time use” electrical fuses for your RV. This means that if there is a significant power surge in the system you are plugged into, less expensive products 1 and 2 would save your RV from the surge, but they will also be rendered useless. They will be “burned out” and no longer able to protect your RV. This would mean that you would not be able to safely plug back into the electrical system until you buy a new surge protector.
On the other hand, the higher priced models (like 3 and 4 below) are equipped with Emergency Power Off (EPO) functions. This essentially means that they are functioning not as “one time use” fuses, but rather as circuit breakers that can be reset (automatically) after a power surge and continue protecting your RV. Essentially, you are paying significantly more for these products because they are not disposable after an electrical event. They will continue to protect you longer term, so you aren’t left high and dry.
There, do you feel all educated now? Well, you should. I went far too long without fully understanding this distinction. Now, you can make your buying decision with based on a more complete picture.
This model is manufactured by Technology Research, the same supplier as the 44260 Model in #2 above. Note that while this “next level” product has some additional features (which we cover below), it costs approximately 3X more than their entry level model.
Only you can decide if these features are worth that much more to you in your situation:
As I said above, I am not an expert on electrical systems or electrical products such as this. Based on the information provided on this product, it’s simply a decision of whether you want a “one time use” product that can be destroyed by an electrical surge (products 1 and 2 above) or whether you want a reusable product like this that will continue to protect your RV after an electrical event.
Note that Surge Guard also makes a Southwire 30 amp RV surge protector. It’s still on the higher end of the price range, but worth taking a look at as an alternative to the Surge Guard model above.
Now, there are a few very important things you need to know right away about this EMS-PT30X surge protector and its 50 amp counterpart:
While I would have liked to have had both of these features on my RV surge protector, all of these points together still don’t necessarily make these Progressive Industries products the right options for me.
However, if I was full-time RVing again, I would seriously consider this because of that warranty (and its reusable design). When living in an RV, peace of mind is a big factor in the decision making process.
This may be exactly what you realize that you are looking for. We all have different situations and different comfort points when it comes to price, so I wanted to make sure you understood that this option was out there if it makes sense for you.
If you go this route, I would encourage you to continue to research the “circuit analysis” side of the equation and ensure that you have everything you need to adequately protect your RV.
Which RV Surge Protector is the Best One for You?
As I’ve made clear time and time again, I can’t tell you exactly which RV surge protector you should purchase. That’s because we all individual needs. I don’t know the specifics of your situation.
I do know that the Camco RV Surge Protector was the right one for me and my situation. And I hope that this article provided your with what you need to make an informed decision. Base your decision on how you plan to travel, your type of rig, and where you’re going.
Now, get out there and keep on TREKKN!
Todd loves a competitive game of table tennis, a breathtaking hike, and exploring new places. He lived and traveled in an RV with his family as they traveled throughout much of the US and parts of Canada. Todd has extensive knowledge about RV travel, safety, and accessories and has shared many of his stories here on TREKKN. When he’s not busy launching and building small businesses, you may find him staring at pictures of Glacier National Park (probably his favorite spot on earth).