Last Updated on
When I bought my brand new travel trailer, I first spent $600 on new tires. (Smart decision.) Then I immediately started researching the best RV surge protectors on the market. (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 most expensive system in that rig: the RV electrical system.
Repairing an RV electrical system is no cheap matter, easily stretching well into the thousands. And replacing the entire rig because the electrical system cannot be repaired following an unexpected electrical event is even more terrifying.
Let’s try to keep you out of a mess like that. I like you too much to see that happen and derail all of your RVing plans.
*Disclaimer: I am not a certified electrician. I don’t even play one on TV. Use all information and advice found here at your own discretion and seek the input of a professional in this arena if you are uncertain.*
Best RV Surge Protectors: Your Sanity-Saving Buying Guide
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 or B or 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 StateFarm.com:
“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.
Here’s a short list of the possible issues you can encounter when plugging your RV into a power pedestal at a campground or RV park:
- 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.
Here Are Our 4 Recommended RV Surge Protectors (most with Circuit Analysis)
*Note: We do not have first-hand experience with all of these products. We have used the first product only and rely on third party reviews for the additional products.*
Whether you need a 30 amp RV Surge Protector or a 50 amp RV Surge Protector, we’ve got you covered. We will take a look at both so that you have a good idea of which options will be best for your situation.
So the Camco 30 amp RV surge protector and circuit analyzer that I chose for my brand new travel trailer before we hit the road and traveled the continent is apparently no longer available on Amazon.
The option you see here is by the same manufacturer and I have to assume will be of the same quality. Actually, this one is quite a bit more expensive than what I had, so let’s hope it’s higher quality!
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 product.
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 more than 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.
I have to point out here that the terminology used by manufacturers for product names can leave you feeling a bit uncertain. This particular product is called an “entry level” surge protector, but it essentially has all the same features as the #1 product recommendation, including surge protection up to 2100 joules.
In addition, it analyzes for all of the same electrical system issues as the Camco product above and helps protect you from them by indicating the issue before plugging your RV into the system. It uses the same basic “light indication” system as the Camco product as well.
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.
Interestingly, the 50-amp version of this product has a more “compact” design, with shorter length that is easier 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 3 and 4 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.)
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 long term, so you aren’t left high and dry without any protection.
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 clearer vision.
I want to point this out first: While this “next level” product does have some additional features that we will cover, it actually costs approximately 3X as much as the “entry level” 30 amp product we covered above.
Only you can decide if these features are worth that much more to you in your situation:
- LCD Display (compared to the simpler “indicator lights” on the less expensive Surge Guard option)
- 2450 joules of surge protection (compared to 2100 joules on the less expensive Surge Guard option)
- Automatic reset on power restoration (meaning the product is reusable, not disposable, after an electrical event)
As I said above, I am not an expert on electrical systems or electrical products such as this. But 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.
Yes, they also have a 50 amp option with the LCD display and increased joule rating, if you are interested in going that (more expensive) route:
**Note: There is also this slightly different 30 amp RV surge protector model available from Southwire that is still expensive but may be more what you are looking for.**
For our final recommended RV surge protector, we are going to introduce a third manufacturer: Progressive Industries. This is what I would consider the last “major player” in the RV surge protector category.
- These are purely surge protectors, without any circuit analyzer functionality
- The joule rating on both products is lower than what we have already looked at above (1790 joules for 30 amp, 3580 joules for 50 amp)
- Even without the circuit analysis feature and the lower joule rating, they are priced higher, comparable with the Surge Guard products above.
- These products are covered by a Lifetime Warranty (reusable product, not disposable following electrical event)
- They both include an All Weather Shield Assembly (clear plastic cover over outlet) (Note: this shield is NOT covered by the warranty.)
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) that provides added peace of mind on the road.
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 of these Best RV Surge Protectors is right for you?
As I’ve made clear, I can’t tell you exactly which RV surge protector you should purchase because I don’t know the specifics of your situation. I know that the Camco RV Surge Protector was the right one for me and my situation, but I hope that the information I’ve provided will help you feel confident in making a surge protector decision that is right for you and your situation.
As always, if you have any questions for me, feel free to leave a comment below! I read them all and will get back to you ASAP.
Now, get out there and keep on TREKKN.
Todd Bonner is the slightly quieter half of the dynamic TREKKN duo. He spends most of his time sharing information about RV travel and safety, RV accessories and tips, and the National Parks he has visited and still desperately craves. When he’s not busy working on TREKKN, you will often find him staring at breathtaking pictures of Glacier National Park, probably his favorite spot on earth.