Are you new to camping? Or have you camped without electric in the past and want to now take the step to camp with electrics? We look at the does and don’ts when it comes to buying camping electrics and how to use them properly when on the campsite.
Camping with electrics is becoming the done thing now when on many campsites. It does make camping a little easier and now that almost everyone adults and children take electronic devices camping with them there is now more of a need to have electric in your tent to allow you to charge all these devices.
This also gives you more versatility when it comes to cooking onsite as many now take electric camping cookers, BBQ’s, ovens and induction hobs. We have reviewed a few electric cooking devices in the following post – Top 7 Camping Cookers
Having electrics while camping is also useful if you plan to use inflatable beds, furniture or adventure items such as kayaks while on your camping trip. If you like the idea of any of these you check them out by the following link – Inflatable Camping Gear
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What is Electric Hook-Up (EHU)
Electric hook up is simply where you plug into the electric system on the campsite. Many campsites have hook up points, small electric points or meters that allow you to plug in a mobile mains kit or extension into them via a three-pin plug and then run the cable into the inside of your tent where the extension is fitted with plug point and sometimes USB charging point. These points or meters are normally situated at to the back of your pitch and often one point will provide electricity to more than one pitch.
A mobile mains kit is much like a long extension cable whereby you plug it into an electricity source (campsite electric point or meter) and run the cable to where you need it to be (inside the tent) where you will have sockets or USB points to plug in your electrics. Mobile mains kits are made for the outdoors and have a thicker cable cord than your indoor extension cables. they are watertight and have socket coverings and a built-in on/off switch and RCD unit.
The most important thing to remember if you are wanting to use electrics when camping is to buy a proper mobile mains kit (one built for such use) and not some cheap alternative that could be dangerous to use at best.
But, what all do you need to consider before purchasing a mains or electric hook-up kit?
There are many different mobile mains products now on the market to meet the varying needs of campers. Varying amounts of sockets, with or without USB points, some with lights built-in, varying lengths of cable and even ones now with a cable reel so your cable is stored neatly.
So, with all the varieties on offer, you would think purchasing an electric hook up would be quite simple right?
As well as being able to buy mobile mains kits from reputable retailers and manufacturers there are also many cheap and dangerous alternatives being sold, claiming that they are mobile mains kits when in fact they do not meet the safety standards needed to run electrics safely on a campsite. If you are currently using one like this we would strongly suggest you upgrade it. It may cost you a little more but lives are worth more than a few extra quid in our eyes.
What to Look For In a Mains Kit
RCD stands for Residual Current Device and is a life-saving device designed to prevent you from receiving a fatal electric shock.
RCD’s can also provide some protection against electrical fires and also offers a level of protection that normal fuses and circuit breakers don’t. All good Electric Hook-Ups will have a built-in RCD.
MCB or Miniature Circuit Breakers are now more commonly used instead of fuses in many low voltage electrical units.
MCB’s will switch off or kill the electrics if it detects any abnormal currents or if the device is overloaded. MCB’s will detect even low current abnormalities before a fuse would so it gives greater protection to have one of these built-in.
IP or Ingress Protection are specifications met by the product. The numbers after them tell you what the item is protected from. In the case of Hook-Up electrics, we are looking for IP44 which means the unit has protection from entry by solid objects with a diameter or thickness greater than 1.0mm and protection from splashed water.
Most units with IP44 standards are easy to identify as the socket and circuit breaker units will have covers on the. This is to protect them from solid objects entering any part and water getting into the electric points when there is nothing plugged into the socket and it is laying open.
Notice how Both of these mobile mains kits have socket covers, this is to comply with IP44.
What You Should Avoid
The following ones are often sold as mobile mains kits online and these are the types that you should avoid. Now I know they are cheaper, sometimes even a lot cheaper but please consider how a proper EHU could save your life. It is always better to spend that little extra to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones.
Read how using a PROPER mobile mains kit/extension saved our lives while on a camping trip. If we had of been using any of these cheaper versions we would not have been here to tell the tale and warn other of the dangers. Read our An Electrifying Camping Experience story by clicking on the link.
But here is what I recommend avoiding. Please notice how they don’t have RCD’s, MCB’s or comply with IP44.
Safely Using an Electric Mains Kit
Buying a safe electrics mains kit is the start of your camping with electrics journey. You also need to be careful when using this too. Here are a few pointers of using your electric mains kit properly.
- Place your plugged unit into the tent then uncoil and take the plug to plug into mains, this ensures you are not going to be walking about with a live plug box in your hand.
- Always FULLY uncoil the wire, even if on a reel.
- Never use an extension cable with your kit. Your kit is already the extension and it is an unsafe practice to plug an extension into another extension.
- Keep away from water or anywhere it may get wet. (next to cool boxes, near kettles or drinking jugs, touching the side of the tent in case of condensation)
- Do not run electrics across the floor of your tent.
For further assistance, The Caravan and Camping Club have a datasheet covering using electric in your tent,
I am not going to individually review EHU kits here as for me it is going to come down to your own personal choice as long as you avoid using any without the proper circuit breakers or socket covers I am sure whatever you choose is going to meet your needs.
By following the points below you should be able to buy a mobile mains kit to meet your needs.
- Buy from a reputable dealer, shop, retailer. Camping stores and those who sell camping gear should be able to talk you through what you need and be knowledgable in using electrics while camping.
- Look for mobile mains kits that have built-in RCD and MCB’s.
- Ensure the kit you are choosing meets IP44 standards. You should be able to visibly see the socket and RCD/MCB covers.
- Lights, if you are looking to have lights as part of your mobile mains kit check for these before purchase. Lights on mobile kits are LED lights so check if they have multiple brightness levels.
- USB charging points. Most new mobile mains kits now come with USB charging points. Having these built-in saves carrying extra plugs and leaves plug points free for other electrical items.
I also have only ever had one EHU set since I started using electrics in the tent. Ours is the Hi Gear Mobile Mains Kit, 15 meters, 3 sockets, from Go Outdoors. It does exactly what we need it to do and until it needs to be replaced I won’t be changing it. After all, it has already saved our lives, the least I can do is ensure it has a long life!
If you are looking to purchase a mobile mains kit I would recommend a reputable retailer such as the following.
If you have advice or stories you would like to share with other campers why not get in touch through our comments. We love hearing from our readers.