Best RV Surge Protectors To Safeguard Your Electronics 

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The best RV surge protectors stop lightning strikes, grid surges, and faulty wiring in their tracks before they wreak havoc on your electrical system. Here are the best models we found for you!
Best RV Surge Protectors - Introduction
The Hughes Power Watchdog: Our Best Choice Overall – Photo by Lindsay Garett

This is The Wise Adventurer’s roundup of the best RV surge protectors, your camper’s first line of defense against potentially harmful electrical surges and failures. 

RV surge protectors are what stand between you and the myriad dangers of hooking up to shore power, be it at RV parks, public campgrounds, or even in your own driveway. All it takes is one mis wired hookup box, lightning strike, or big swing on the local power grid to damage and potentially destroy your RV’s electrical system and any sensitive components plugged into it. 

After analyzing dozens of options currently on the market, we found the Hughes Power Watchdog to be the best RV surge protector overall. We love the Power Watchdog because it combines best-in-class protection with modern wireless controls and easy DIY serviceability for unmatched longevity. 

That being said, the Hughes Power Watchdog won’t be everyone’s first choice, and that’s normal. Some RV’ers prefer a simpler solution without all the latest tech, while others just want the most affordable option possible without sacrificing protection. Good news: You’ll find our top picks for both (and then some) in the list below. 

If you’re new to RV surge protectors entirely (or just want a refresh on what they are and why they’re important), you’ll also want to check out our handy buyer’s guide located down at the bottom of this article. There we’ll break down all the most important factors you should consider when shopping for a surge protector of your own. 

Alright, let’s take a look at our top picks!

ModelSummary
Hughes Power Watchdog: Best RV Surge Protector OverallA high-tech EMS unit with Bluetooth wireless compatibility. Replaceable surge module adds significant value and extends service life. See Review
Progressive Industries EMS Surge Protector: Highest Overall QualityHigh-level electrical protection and automatic EMS monitoring combined with rugged build quality and excellent weather protection. See Review
Southwire Surge Guard: Best RV Surge Protector On A BudgetA high-quality traditional surge protector with outstanding protection and an integrated diagnostic tool. See Review
Progressive Industries Portable: Best For Small RVs An extremely compact two-piece kit that includes a diagnostic tool and a separate replaceable surge module. See Review
Tripp Lite Isobar Ultrablock: Best For Camper VansA compact and affordable surge protector that guards sensitive devices plugged into internal outlets. See Review

Our Picks For The Best RV Surge Protectors

Hughes Power Watchdog: Best RV Surge Protector Overall

Best RV Surge Protectors - Hughes Power Watchdog

Specs: 
– Joule Rating: 6,100
– Amperage: 50 (30 Amp also available)
– Response time: <1 nanosecond
– Weather-resistant: Yes
– Portability: Portable
– Auto-reset: Yes (90 seconds)
– Price: $$$

Taking our top honors as the best RV surge protector overall is the Hughes Power Watchdog. We love the Power Watchdog because it includes best-in-class technology and protection, but somehow costs less than any other premium EMS-equipped surge protector on the market. 

In addition to its outstanding 6,100 joules of protection, here’s what really makes the Watchdog stand out from our perspective: First, this RV surge protector has integrated Bluetooth technology, which allows you to monitor the status of your RV’s electrical system wirelessly, and will even send alerts to your smartphone in real-time as they occur. Second, this is the only EMS surge protector on the market with an easily replaceable surge protection module, and we can’t stress the importance of that enough. 

That’s because on any other RV surge protector, regardless of how much you spend, once the unit has absorbed its threshold of electricity, it has to be replaced. Some surge protectors last for months, others last for years, but at some point, they all reach their limit. Typically that would mean you have to replace the entire unit, but with the Power Watchdog, you’re looking at a $30 part and an easy 10-minute repair. Hughes even backs the Power Watchdog with a surge replacement policy, so if you happen to run your original protection module out in the first two years of ownership, they’ll send you a new one free of charge. 

This adds an obscene amount of value to the Power Watchdog that no other manufacturer can currently touch, but the Watchdog isn’t quite perfect either. The biggest drawback to this model  is kind of silly but honestly we have to say it: There’s a giant backlit pitbull head on the front of this thing, and it’s always on anytime the unit is plugged in. In fact, one of the ways you’ll know you’ve got a fault is when the “giant dog head” turns red. This light is big and bright, which makes the Power Watchdog hilariously conspicuous around camp. This complaint is so common that Hughes even started selling a “dimmer kit” for the Power Watchdog recently!

Pros:Cons:
– Smart EMS system
– Serviceable/repairable
– Bluetooth enabled
– Expensive
– Bright “dog head” display is…interesting…



Progressive Industries EMS Surge Protector: Highest Overall Quality 

Best RV Surge Protectors - Progressive Industries EMS

Specs: 
– Joule Rating: 3,580
– Amperage: 50 (30 Amp also available)
– Response time: <1 nanosecond
– Weather-resistant: Yes
– Portability: Portable
– Auto-reset: Yes (136 seconds)
– Price: $$$

While it may not be the flashiest looking RV surge protector around, we give the Progressive Industries EMS Surge Protector the nod as the most solidly built option overall. Progressive’s surge protectors are tried and true, and are one of the most trusted names by RV owners the world over. 

Protection here is top-notch, both in terms of electrical protection and weather protection. We’re particularly fond of Progressive’s see-through weather box, which shields the plug connection from rain without obstructing the unit’s LED readout, so you can always confirm the status of your connection with a quick glance. On the electrical side, this unit provides diagnostics for open power, open ground, and open neutral issues, as well as reverse polarity protection from mis wired power boxes. 

The other quality-focused feature we appreciate here is Progressive’s lifetime warranty, which covers the surge protector from factory defects for the life of the product. There’s also a handy anti-theft ring included in the design, which allows you to secure the surge protector to the power box using a chain or cable lock to ensure it doesn’t go wandering off while you’re away…

Truth be told, if products like the Hughes Power Watchdog above didn’t exist, we really wouldn’t have any issues with the Progressive Industries EMS. The Progressive unit looks a bit dated by comparison due to the lack of wireless control and smartphone integration, so while its build quality is fantastic, it certainly feels less premium by comparison. We’ll also note that while Progressive delivers improved weather protection over the competition with their sealed plug cover, larger plugs (or those without folding handles) may prevent the cover from closing all the way and doing its job. 

Pros:Cons:
– Robust construction and weatherproofing
– Automatic EMS control system
– Integrated anti-theft ring
– Expensive
– Weather box doesn’t work with larger connectors



Southwire Surge Guard: Best On A Budget

Best RV Surge Protectors - Southwire Surge Guard

Specs: 
– Joule Rating: 4,200
– Amperage: 50 (30 Amp also available)
– Response time: <1 nanosecond
– Weather-resistant: Yes
– Portability: Portable
– Auto-reset: No
– Price: $$

While we can all appreciate the convenience of a modern EMS system with its 24/7 automated protection and wireless monitoring, not everyone is ready (or willing) to shell out the extra money for all those bells and whistles. Indeed, traditional “dogbone” surge protectors still work as reliably as ever, and our favorite of the lot is the Southwire Surge Guard

The Surge Guard is probably the most common RV surge protector you’ll see around the campground, and there are a few good reasons for that. It’s seriously affordable, for starters, and both the 50 and 30 Amp versions can be had for well under $100. It also delivers an impressive 4,200 joules of protection (or 2,100 for the 30 Amp), and includes integrated wiring diagnostics with a straightforward LED readout as well. 

These diagnostics include the detection of both open neutral and open ground situations, as well as miswiring issues at the power box like reverse polarity and missing connections. We also feel that the overall quality of the Surge Guard sets Southwire’s entry-level protector apart from the competition: These hearty plugs include folding T-handles for easier removal, thick brass fittings for better heat management, and a robust weather-resistant treatment.. 

It’s a well-made and reliable system, but like most basic surge protectors, it comes with two drawbacks you’ll want to be aware of. First, this is a non-EMS system, which means you’ll need to manually reset it in the event of a surge or other trip-inducing situation. Second, the Southwire Surge Guard is non-serviceable, which means once it’s absorbed its fill of electricity, you’ll have to replace it rather than repair it. 

Pros:Cons:
– Outstanding quality and protective features
– Includes power box diagnostics
– Affordable
– Non-EMS system
– Non-serviceable 



Progressive Industries Portable: Best For Small RVs

Best RV Surge Protectors - Progressive Industries Portable

Specs: 
– Joule Rating: 2,030 
– Amperage: 50 Amp (30 Amp also available)
– Response time: <1 nanosecond
– Weather-resistant: Yes
– Portability: Portable
– Auto-reset: No
– Price:

The unpleasant truth about all RV surge protectors is that even the most robust systems can only absorb so much electricity before they hit their limit and are rendered useless. This is why you’ll often hear surge protectors referred to as “sacrificial” systems: They’re built to fail, sacrificing themselves when conditions become too extreme to save your electrical system. The Progressive Industries Portable takes this approach to the extreme with a “one and done” approach that’s only designed to survive a single major surge. 

Buying a “single-use” surge protector may sound like a waste of money, but we believe there are actually several advantages to a system like this. First and foremost, the Progressive Portable system is dirt cheap, and includes both a surge protector and a separate testing module for under $50. 

By separating the two components, you’re also dramatically reducing the cost of replacement once the surge protector hits its limit: Replacement Progressive Portable protectors only cost about $35 each, so we love that anyone can afford to have a second one on hand in the event of a large spike that trips your system. This also means “repairing” the Progressive Portable is as simple as swapping out the plug, so you can do it yourself in a matter of seconds to safely restore power to your rig. 

We’ll also note that this super-compact system fits much better under your typical hookup box awning, which makes it much lower profile and less conspicuous to potential thieves. Sure, it won’t last quite as long as larger, more robust systems, but at a fraction of the cost, we think the Progressive Portable is a smart solution for budget-conscious RV’ers. 

Pros:Cons:
– Affordable
– Compact
– Simple to replace
– Shorter lifespan than most
– You’ll want to have a spare handy at all times



Tripp Lite Isobar Ultrablok: Best Surge Protector For Camper Vans

Best RV Surge Protectors - Tripp Lite Ultrablok

Specs: 
– Joule Rating: 1410
– Amperage: 15 Amps
– Response time: <1 nanosecond
– Weather-resistant: No
– Portability: Portable
– Auto-reset: Yes (100 seconds)
– Price: $

If you’re running a smaller camper van rig like a Westfalia or a Sprinter that runs off standard 20/15Amp plugs (the same as a three-prong household plug), the RV surge protectors above aren’t what you’re looking for. Sure, you could make them work with a few dogbones and adaptors, but if basic protection for your electronics is what you need, we recommend you keep it simple and go with Tripp Lite’s Isobar Ultrablok

That’s because rather than plugging into a power box, the Ultrablok simply plugs into your existing outlets, and provides an impressive 1,410 joules of protection (per outlet) to any devices you run through it. Should a surge or spike situation happen to overload the Ultrablok, Tripp Lite also includes an automatic shutoff feature that shuts off all power in under 1 nanosecond to prevent dangerously high currents from reaching your sensitive devices. 

We love the compact size and plug-and-play functionality of these units, which makes them ideal for both weekend campers and full-time vanlifers alike. Diagnostic LEDs along the top of the Ultrablok make for even greater user-friendliness, clearly communicating when a line is safe to use or when a fault is present. There’s even an internal circuit breaker integrated into the Ultrablok, which will automatically reset after being tripped once safe operating conditions are detected. 

Your main downside to the Tripp Lite is that unlike traditional RV surge protectors, the Ultrablok isn’t designed for outdoor use, which means it shouldn’t be plugged directly into a hookup box. This means you’ll need an additional unit for each outlet you want to protect, and also means any devices powered directly through shore power (battery chargers, for instance) are still vulnerable to surges. Still, this is a highly effective way to protect expensive devices like your vanlife fridge, water pump, laptop, and smartphone, and makes for cheap insurance as well. 

Pros:Cons:
– Inexpensive
– Convenient
– Outstanding protection
– Protects single outlets, not entire system
– Not for outdoor use



Buyer’s Guide For The Best RV Surge Protectors

Whether you own the latest and greatest class A or you’re out exploring US roads, in a custom made van conversion, your RV represents a huge investment in either time, money, or both. Your electrical system (and the components it powers) is one of the most complicated aspects of your RV, and also one of the most expensive to repair when disaster strikes. 

Considering the cost of your typical electrical repair, which typically ranges between a few hundred dollars to well over $1000, even the most expensive RV surge protectors are comparatively cheap insurance for RV’ers. Whether you’re considering one from the list above or another model that didn’t make our roundup, here’s what you need to know when shopping for a protector of your own. 

Why Do You Need An RV Surge Protector?

When we hook our RVs up to shore power, we’re plugging into the electric “grid” provided by a local power company. Most folks don’t know this, but the electricity that comes from your standard 120V hookup actually fluctuates up and down to a certain degree depending on the local demand for electricity. 

In most scenarios, these fluctuations are minor and present no actual threat to your RV’s electrical system. Certain events like lightning strikes, damaged power lines, or grid failures, however, can cause much larger swings in the power grid, which can potentially damage your RV’s sensitive electronics. 

Best RV Surge Protectors - Why do you need a Surge Protector
Electrical storms like these can bring massive spikes to a local power grid. 

This is where an RV surge protector comes into play: A surge protector is essentially a safety buffer between your RV and the electric hookups at RV parks and campgrounds. Surge protectors detect and intercept these potentially damaging swings in power, stopping the current before it has a chance to reach your electrical system. 

A surge protector is especially important if you regularly stay in locations with large amounts of RVs present. RV parks are rarely prepared to handle the massive power draw that comes with dozens of large RVs all running their air conditioners and other appliances at the same time, which often causes a low voltage situation. Low voltage situations can be just as bad for your appliances as voltage spikes, so a good surge protector is indispensable at resorts like these. 

How To Use A Surge Protector

All of the RV surge protectors found on the list above are considered “portable” protectors, which simply means they aren’t hard-wired into your RV’s electrical system. These are our preferred type of protectors for their versatility and ease of use, so for this section, we’ll be focusing on portable protectors only. 

Best RV Surge Protectors - How to use a Surge Protector
Portable protectors like the Southwire Surge Guard seen here live outside and plug directly into the power box.

While portable RV surge protectors are fairly sophisticated pieces of equipment, they’re actually incredibly easy to use. Simply plug your RV’s power cord into the surge protector, then plug the surge protector into the power box, and finally, flip the breaker on the power box to turn on power to your RV. 

As soon as the power is turned on at the box, your surge protector goes to work, acting as an intermediary between incoming electricity and your rig. If there are any immediate issues with the power box such as reverse polarity wiring or an open ground or neutral issue, the protector will let you know before the box has a chance to create issues. 

Assuming there are no issues with the power box itself, your surge protector automatically begins “monitoring” incoming current for any regularities. Any time a major spike or drop in power is detected at the power box, the surge protector will “trip” and shut off power to your RV to protect it from harm. 

Joule Ratings Explained

The level of protection provided by an RV surge protector is always listed in “joules” which are the standard international unit of measurement for energy of any kind. There’s a lot of boring science behind what these ratings are and how they’re determined, but all you really need to know as an RV owner is that the higher the joule rating on a surge protector, the better. 

Best RV Surge Protectors - Joule Rating Explained
Even smaller rigs like this pop-up camper should have at least 2,000 joules of protection when using shore power. We recommend even more for larger 50-amp systems. 

That’s because a surge protector’s joule rating is the amount of energy it can absorb before it fails. For this reason, we prefer to see at least 2,000 Joules of protection on a portable surge guard: Anything less, and there’s a good chance you’re RV surge protector of choice will stop working long before you feel you’ve “got your money’s worth” out of your investment.

Amp Rating

All RV surge protectors are rated at either 30 amps or 50 amps. The good news here is that there’s no need for guesswork about which type is best for your RV: All you need to do is take a look at your rig’s electrical plug. 

Best RV Surge Protectors - Amp Rating 1
A standard 30-amp connection, with two diagonal prongs and one round ground prong. 

If your RV has a three-prong plug, you’ve got a 30-amp system. These plugs use one diagonal 120-volt “hot” prong, one opposite “neutral” prong, and one round “ground” prong. 

Best RV Surge Protectors - Amp Rating 2
A standard 50 Amp plug, with its three vertical prongs and one round ground prong. 

If your RV has a four-prong plug, you’re working with a 50-amp system. 50 amp systems add a second 120-volt “hot” wire to the mix to provide more power to larger rigs. This is the most common type of plug for class A RVs, but double-check your plug to be sure. 

Hardwired V. Portable

As mentioned above, all of the RV surge protectors on our list are of the portable variety, but there are a few pros and cons to both types, so let’s quickly go over those here. Portables are our preference, so we’ll start with those. 

The main benefit of a portable RV surge protector is simplicity. These protectors are relatively compact, require little to no electrical know-how, and are generally just “plug and play” right out of the box. 

Best RV Surge Protectors - Hardwired V. Portable
Portable protectors deliver ample protection even for large rigs like this, and require zero electrical know-how or professional installation. 

The main drawback of portable systems is that they aren’t hard-wired to anything, which makes them very easy to steal when left unattended. Sounds outrageous, but trust us, it happens. We’ll also note that while most portable surge protectors are well guarded against the elements (particularly rain), they’re technically more exposed to wear and tear from weather than hardwired protectors, which are mounted inside your RV.

Our main complaint with hardwired RV surge protectors is that 99% of us simply don’t have the electrical skills or know-how to install one ourselves, which means spending extra money to have them installed professionally. Granted, hardwired systems are typically a bit less expensive than their portable counterparts, but the difference isn’t enough to break even on the install from a cost standpoint. 

A Word On EMS Protection

The best RV surge protectors come with a feature called “EMS” which stands for “electric management system.” EMS technology is a “smart” monitoring system that constantly evaluates the incoming flow of electricity to your RV both before and after a trip or fault scenario. 

The main difference between an EMS-equipped surge protector and a traditional surge protector is that an EMS unit will automatically restore power to your RV once it detects that energy levels have restabilized and returned to normal. This feature is indispensable for RV owners who often spend the day away from their rigs out exploring: Rather than coming home to a hot RV and a refrigerator full of spoiled groceries, your EMS surge protector will return everything to normal without requiring any intervention on your part. 

Best RV Surge Protector - A Word On EMS Protection
EMS systems keep everything running smoothly while you’re away, no manual resets required. 

Most EMS units also include a real-time digital display, which displays things like fault codes, current voltage levels, and status readouts during starting or restarting procedures. We’ll also note that many EMS units now also include Bluetooth technology, allowing RV owners to wirelessly monitor their power status from remote devices like smartphones. 

The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict

Best RV Surge Protector - TWA Verdict
The Hughes Power Watchdog: Our choice for the best RV surge protector overall. 

Taking all the above into consideration, we found the Hughes Power Watchdog to be the best RV surge protector overall. The fact that the Watchdog’s surge module can be easily (and inexpensively) replaced as needed already makes this unit well worth the asking price, but the addition of automatic EMS monitoring and Bluetooth control puts it miles ahead of the current competition. 

Not everyone needs a high-tech solution, however, and for those RV owners, we highly recommend the Progressive Industries EMS. This unit is built like an absolute tank with outstanding protection from electrical issues and weather alike, and is also backed by Progressive’s lifetime warranty for the life of the product. 

Of course if you’re just looking for reliable protection and have no need for an EMS system, we’ve found both the Southwire Surge Guard and Progressive Industries Portable deliver excellent quality and value for the money.

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