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?
The majority of 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). The key here is understanding how much you can plug in before the circuit breaker trips.
Some campsites will double up on the electric points, which means that if you overload the electrics, you not only trip out your tent but also your neighbour’s, which could make you very unpopular.
Make sure 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 an understanding of Ohms law and also taking into account any voltage drop (which can cause a current increase) with long lengths of cable!
The formula is Power (in Watts) = Voltage x current (Amps).
But don’t worry. You don’t need to 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 very power-hungry, but you can get a low watt camping kettle. Also, becareful of running devices at the same time. You may avoid overloading the supply by turning off a heater or when using the kettle, for example.
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 at the same time.
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, then you’ll have a full 3.68kW to use.
Just add up all the Watts of the appliances you want to use at the same time, and make sure it stays below the amount of Watts on the campsite’s Electric Hook-Up.
Low-Wattage Appliances for Camping
Below are some examples of low-wattage appliances you can use for camping.
The lower the watts you use, the more devices you can run at the same time.
- Capacity 1.7L
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 up 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 plus 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.
P.S. Campsites with Electric Hook Ups
You can find campsites with electric hook-ups and campfires using our campsite finder.
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