This guide takes you through using electric hookups, and what appliances you could use when camping, as well as a hand table to work out how much power you can use.
Sometimes using electricity in your tent is essential, especially if you want to heat your tent in the cooler months. There are also times when a kettle, microwave, lights, and a small fridge may be useful on a long camp, as well as a bottle steriliser for babies. (Not to mention a phone charger!)
What electrical appliances can you use at the campsite?
Most campsites in the UK will provide a three-pin connector rated at 16 Amps, which can provide a 230V supply, just like at home.
The campsite's electric supply will be fitted with a miniature circuit breaker (MCB). Understanding how much you can plug in before the circuit breaker trips is key.
Some campsites will double up on the electricity points, which means that if you overload the electricity, you trip out your tent and your neighbour's, which could make you very unpopular.
Ensure the campsite shows you how to reset the electrics if they trip. This may be something only the campsite owner can do, which may not be possible between 9 pm and 9 am, or there could even be a charge for resetting the electrics.
Many campsites only provide a 10A supply, and you may even find sites with only 5A (especially in Europe), so don't assume everything you could run at one site can be used at another.
Working out exactly how much you can plug in and turn on requires understanding Ohm's law and considering any voltage drop (which can cause a current increase) with long cable lengths!
The formula is Power (in Watts) = Voltage x current (Amps).
But don't worry. You needn't be a mathematical physics genius to work things out. You can use the table below to see how much power you have available depending on the current available at the campsite.
|Site Amps||Calculation||How Much Power|
|16A||230V x 16A||3.68kW|
|10A||230V x 10A||2.3kW|
|5A||230V x 5A||1.15kW|
Different appliances draw different amounts of current. A domestic kettle is power-hungry but you can get a low-watt camping kettle. Also, be careful of running devices at the same time. For example, when using the kettle, you may avoid overloading the supply by turning off a heater.
Here's some example of appliance power, but of course, check your own devices:
|Appliance||Typical Power (W)||Current (A)|
|2kw Fan Heater||2000||8.7|
|1kw Fan Heater||1000||4.4|
|Low Watt camping fan heater||750||3.3|
|600W Hair Dryer||600||2.6|
|1.2kw Hair Dryer||1200||5.2|
Examples of what appliances you can use when camping
If you are on a campsite with a 10 Amp supply, you will have around 2.3kW available.
That means you could run a low-watt camping or travel kettle (around 750 Watts), plus a low-watt toaster (900 Watts). But if someone then plugs in a low 600W Hair Dryer, you are dangerously close to tripping the electrics.
Of course, not all appliances are the same. Your camping kettle may use 1000W, and your low-watt travel toaster may also use 1000W. That won't give you enough power to run much else simultaneously.
If the campsite only has a 5 Amp supply, then you will only have around 1.15kW.
That 1000W kettle will be the only thing you can have running.
Of course, if you are on a campsite with a full 16Amps, you'll have a full 3.68kW to use.
Add up all the Watts of the appliances you want to use simultaneously and ensure it stays below the maximum Watts on the campsite's Electric Hook-Up.
Connecting to the Electric Supply
So here's the common sense bit: Electricity is Dangerous.
Always use a proper IP44-rated supply with a Residual Current Device (RCD) built-in to connect to the campsite's electric supply - do not use a household extension.
A proper camping electric hook-up unit is obtainable for around £50.
You should also keep your unit dry and raise it off the floor.
Although it is a little more expensive, we recommend the Outwell Mains 3-Way-Roller Kit with USB and Light. It's a nice safe design; you don't need an additional USB charger. It also has a night light, which is useful if you have young kids. Click here to read our review of this mains roller kit.
No power? Check the grey switch.
Newer electric hook-up points have a grey turn switch above where you plug your lead.