Electric hook-ups (EHU) were once a rare site on a campsite and eagerly fought over by caravanners and motor home users. Now they are a common feature and, with it becoming standard on more pitches, many tent campers are making use of them – you’ll find cable access points are now a standard feature in our Easy Camp Tour family tents, like the Boston 600. An icon film produced by our sister-brand, Outwell, shows it in more detail.
Horror stories abound about tripped electrics blacking out a campsite but such problems are rare and, along with the risks of using electricity in damp conditions, can be easily avoided. Just remember that electricity does not mix with damp and condensation and those domestic appliances are especially vulnerable.
First, don’t cut corners – buy a dedicated mains hook-up cable with the correct plugs/sockets, miniature circuit breakers and residual circuit device (RCD) required for the safe use of electric in a tent. Do not be tempted to purchase and use a cut-price domestic extension lead or make your own – the chances are that you will not have the right cable and socket/plug specs and it’s not just your life at risk but those of your loved ones too!
Cables tend to be 25m in length – ample to reach service points on most sites. Always fully extend the cable to avoid overheating in use and try not to use any extension.
Next, check out the amperage available at the campsite you’re using. This will determine what you can use and how many appliances can be used at once. It helps to invest in low-amperage electrical goods designed to draw less power when on a campsite.
This is easy to do. Most sites offer 10A-16A electrical supplies but some – especially on the Continent – may be as low as 5A. You need to make sure that the total combined Wattage you use at one time must not exceed the power supplied to you or you will trip trip the site’s electric supply. Unfortunately, the quoted power supplied is normally an average and this can fluctuate with campsite use and temperature so try and keep usage well within the zone.
Simple maths helps.
Power (Watts –W) = Voltage (V) x Current (Amps - A)
A 10A campsite at 230V will provide 2,300W (2.3kW) of power.
Check the power rating of your appliances and start to add them up. Make sure that everything you want to use at once comes under that 2.3kW figure.
Now you see the advantages of low-power appliances, especially if used at peak times like breakfast when you might want to use a kettle, toaster, fan heater and hair dryer. The total power consumption required by such domestic appliances may be in the region of 4.4kW – enough to trip even a 16A supply providing 3.68kW of power. But the use of a low-power kettle and fan heater designed for camping will save around 1.5kW – above a 10A pitch supply but below that 16A figure.
Obviously, a sensible approach to power use will prevent problems but if you do trip the supply tell the site staff immediately in case there is a more serious problem. Also, remember tripping a supply affects others around the site. Do it too often and…
USING A HOOK-UP
Make sure your socket device is placed off the ground and in a position where it will not come into contact with water. Make sure the RCD is in the off position. Fully undo your EH-U cable and connect the cable to the EH-U service point. Turn on the RCD and before you use click the test button to ensure the RCD works. Reset the RCD. If the test fails consult a qualified electrician.
An additional test involves plugging in a mains tester. These are available from camping shops and test the polarity of an EH-U and tests to see if an earth connection exists. This is especially important if camping on the Continent.
When you come to disconnect your power supply, switch off your RCD before removing your cable from the service point. As you coil away your lead check it for any damage and rectify before you use it again.