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Using an Electric Hook Up (EHU) when Camping

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Oct 2012; updated Apr 2023.

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 EHU with Mini Circuit Breaker

The campsite EHU with Mini Circuit Breaker

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 AmpsCalculationHow Much Power
16A230V x 16A3.68kW
10A230V x 10A2.3kW
5A230V x 5A1.15kW

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:

Typical Device Power Consumption
ApplianceTypical Power (W)Current (A)
Household Kettle20008.7
Camping Kettle7503.3
800W Microwave10004.4
2kw Fan Heater20008.7
1kw Fan Heater10004.4
Low Watt camping fan heater7503.3
600W Hair Dryer6002.6
1.2kw Hair Dryer12005.2

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.

Photo of the power supply in the off position

See the grey turn switch? When it's in the off position, you can connect or disconnect your tent's electric hook-up. In the off position, you'll often see a hole on the side of the switch, as shown in this photo.

Photo with the electricity supply turned on

In this photo, the power is turned on. Notice the little hole has disappeared. This has now safely locked your power lead to the supply. Do NOT pull the power lead out without turning the grey switch into the off position.

P.S. Campsites with Electric Hook Ups

You can find campsites with electric hook-ups and campfires using our campsite finder.