Guide to Camping with Electricity

Using Electricity When Camping
Part of camping, be that in a Campervan, Caravan, Motorhome or Tent, is electricity. At times this can be confusing and a little frightening. Anything involving a possible electric shock puts me off!, but it needn’t be. In this guide, we’ll go through using electricity when camping, and coming away unshocked!! This guide, is, as we say, ‘bobby’ basic.

Camping Electricity

courtesy L Hoon Flickr

Electricity and Campsites

We’re outside camping but we want the same amount of electricity as we have at home (which, by the way is 230v). It just makes life that little bit easier, boiling kettles, toasting bread and generally keeping warm.

Let’s start with the campsite. On each pitch there will be an electricity bollard, usually 10Amp or 16Amp as a maximum. When you arrive, plug your orange (as that’s the colour most of them are) mains lead in to the campervan/caravan, first. Then in to the bollard on the camping pitch. Safety means that electric will be contained. If you plug into the bollard first, your mains lead will be alive with electric. Not such a good idea when the socket falls in a puddle!

In a campervan/caravan, the 230v AC electricity is converted into 12v DC via the leisure battery. As we’ve said, the campsite bollard is 10Amp or 16Amp, (supplying that all important 230V). It will be fitted with a Miniature Circuit Breaker (MCB) which will trip out if you overload the bollard with too many electrical items. Most electric bollards have more than one electric point on them, if you overload it and trip it out, it will take out your neighbours electric as well. The last thing you want to do create a mass blackout – that would be the time to pack up and leave!!!

Electricity and What you can use

We’ve talked briefly about Amps, Voltage, and tripping out! But what does all this mean? The electric bollard is supplying possibly 10Amps to 16Amps, you need to convert Amps to Voltage, to see how much power your campervan/caravan has. The calculation is:
Voltage x Current (Amps) = Power (in the form of Watts)

Looks complicated, I know, but it’s not. Let’s take a look…

Electric Bollard gives you 10Amp going into your 230v campervan = 10A x 230V = 2.3Kw, and likewise if the Electric Bollard gives you 16Amp, the calculation is 16A x 230V = 3.68kW.

Following that calculation, we know the total Kilowatt power we can use at any one time. We just need to make sure we don’t exceed that level by turning on too many appliances at once. Domestic appliances (Kettles, Toasters etc) which you take from home, consume more power than specialist appliances for camping. It might be worth checking out camping appliances. Another tip, is don’t run too many appliances at the same time.

Help is at hand, in the form of this handy table created by Camping and Caravanning Club, who, also have a host of other Data Sheets.

Appliance Power (W) Current (A) Appliance Power (W) Current (A)
Domestic kettle 2000 8.7 Camping kettle 750 3.3
Domestic Fan Heater 1000 4.4 Camping fan heater 750 3.3
Domestic Fan Heater 1-2kw 2000 8.7 Refrigerator 135 0.6
Hi speed kettle 3000 13 Toaster 900 3.9
Iron 1300 5.6 Microwave Oven (800W cooking Power) 1000 4.4
LCD TV 45 0.2 Battery Charger 100/ 300 0.4 or 1.3
Truma water heater 850/1300 3.7/5.6 Hair Dryer 600/1200 2.6/5.2

The idea is, look at what you have plugged in and make sure the total Watts of the items do not exceed the total Watts available to you.

What Appliances could I run

Taking the above chart, and assuming you are on a 10Amp campsite, you have 2.3Kw at your disposal. You could run the microwave (1000w) and a domestic fan heater (1000w), but not much else. If you invest in camping appliances, you could run, a kettle (750w), fan heater (750w) and hairdryer (600w).Crusader Proprietary Device

Electricity and Tent Camping

With camping being such an outdoor pursuit! using electricity can be a little scary. You’re much nearer the source, than if you were camping in a campervan/caravan. Remembering the old adage, ‘Electricity and Water Do Not Mix’ will go a long way to keeping you safe.

It includes condensation, it’s wise to keep electrical appliances off the ground and to stop using appliances if conditions get too wet. It is definitely cheaper to camp with domestic appliances, grabbed from home, but, is your kitchen kettle really intended for camping, and outdoor use?

A key piece of equipment for campers, is the Proprietary device, manufactured specifically for tent hook ups. It has up to 3, three pin domestic outlets and a residual circuit breaker (giving another level of safety). Remember to check the residual circuit breaker each time. Because you’re outside, the unit should be a physically protected to a minimum of IP44. The one above, is by Crusader and available from Amazon

Camping with Electricity

Available from Sunncamp

Electricity and Camping in Europe

Europe is such a fantastic place to explore, but their electricity supply, can be a different kettle of fish. Europe runs at 220V, rather than our 230V, which in effect means you have 10Amp less to use. If you travel into less touristy areas, you may find the electricity supply is as little, as 5Amp or 6Amp.

European sites also have an interesting mixture of old and new style hook ups. The old style with two-pin hook-ups, rather than the UK 3 pin. Easily resolved by taking a continental adaptor lead with you (pictured right). The lead has a two-pin adaptor at one end, to go into the electric supply, and the other end has the usual blue commando plug to link to your normal hook up arrangement.

It’s worth mentioning that many a time we’ve been ‘parked’ a fair distance from the electricity and have had to connect two 25m hook up leads. Therefore, an investment in a second lead may be worth while.Before you turn on anything, check that the electrical supply is not reversed polarity. You can do this with a simple Mains Tester. Plug this into a socket, inside the campervan/caravan, and it will light up to tell you if the supply is a reversed polarity.

What is Reversed Polarity?

In the UK our electric runs through the live wire, leaving the neutral wire, well, neutral. It means that when you turn off the kettle, the electric supply to it is shut off. A reversed polarity (of which large sections of Europe have), means that the electric current is running through the neutral wire instead of the live wire. When we connect this electric supply to our UK vans, and turn off the same kettle, the electric current is still running through the appliance. A potentially lethal shock could incur.

If you take (or create, if you’re an electrician) a modified extension lead, where the live and neutral wires have been reversed, you can create a solution. When the polarity tester confirms that the supply is reversed, you use the modified extension lead. Instead of your normal hook up/extension lead, make sure you label it as such.

Last ‘electrifying’ words!

Finally, whatever you’re doing with electric whilst camping, always take precautions. Water and electric don’t mix, don’t overload your electric supply (as you take out the campsite and have to move on quickly!). Finally, take a torch in case all else fails.

Disclaimer: All content provided in this ‘Guide to Electricity Whilst Camping’ article is for informational purposes only. The owner of this article makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information in this article.

The owner ‘Guide to Electricity Whilst Camping’ article will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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