Monday, April 15, 2013

Camping with electricity is my favorite way to camp

One of the first questions that I get from new campers is about camping with electricity. Pitching a tent on the open ground and communing with nature is what most people think camping is all about. Much of the time, that mental picture is true. However; lots of people enjoy basic comforts and will only rent sites that offer electricity (also called electrical hook-ups).

Sound surprising? Think again.

Medical necessity is one reason why people choose to rent sites that have electricity. I am not alone in dealing with asthma. The CDC numbers indicate that 1:12 people nationwide have the disease. Camping is one of my favorite activities but it can also be difficult. Changes in temperature or elevation can sent my lungs into a coughing frenzy that requires neutralizer treatments to control. Electricity is required to run the machine.

Many people can only rough it up to a point. Then we begin to miss heaters or refrigerators. Heaven forbid that our netbook or smart phone needs to be charged in the campground!

The different types of electrical hook-ups that are offered at campgrounds gets technical in a hurry. This link on  Understanding RV Electricty opens to a comprehensive (albeit technical) tutorial about campsite electricity. I'll give you a very brief rundown below.

First, a look at why you might want to go camping with electricity anyway.

Because you want to
Most of us have a phone and computer that we want to keep charged. Campers may want to listen to the big game on a radio. There are dozens of reasons for camping with electricity. The best reason may be because you want to.

Medical necessity
Not all tent or RV sites are created the same and not all have electric hook-ups. State and national parks may offer a limited number of campsites may have a small amount of electricity and are on stand-by for those who have medical needs. This amount of electricity is only enough to power a medical device or cpap but not for anything else. If you push your luck, the blown circuit breaker in the camp office will give you away every time.

A quick word. 
The following is not comprehensive and is for very general information only. If you have questions about camping with electricity, check with your camp host or campground management.

Low amperage
Commercial campgrounds (not state or national parks) usually offer 30 amp electrical outlets. You need this to run a refrigerator or charge a netbook. A 30 amp outlet is usually fine for tent camping or if you are using minimal appliances. It won't work for large RVs or to run many high-drawing appliances at the same time. Bring an adapter in case you can't plug directly into the electrical box by the campsite.

Higher amperage
Commercial campgrounds almost always offer 50 amp power. Absolutely essential for big RVs, some campers who have pop-up trailers or 5th wheels need this much electricity. If you want to run the ice maker, wash clothes and use the hair dryer at the same time, then you need the higher amperage electricity at your campsite. Plan on bringing an adapter.

Want to learn more? Here are some hot tips for cool fall break camping.


  1. Great article! I love camping and I admit that having power makes it much more comfortable and enjoyable. Good info.

  2. It's a shame that camping wasn't on my radar screen years ago. Electricity makes it easier but I had no idea that we could use it with a tent. The things that you learn as you get older. lol