Best RV Power Cords, Extension Cords, & Plug Adapters in 2018
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
Hopefully this isn't a startling revelation, but RVs require power to run their various appliances and systems. Your rig is powered either via its 12-volt systems (batteries) or by being plugged into a 120-volt power source (shore power) via an RV power cord.
Shore power (120 volts) requires connecting your rig to an outside power source, either a power outlet or a generator. Or, you may use a combination of both systems, depending on where you happen to be camping.
But here's the issue... the power connections at campgrounds are not all alike. They come with different sized and shaped power receptacles. Different receptacles mean different amperages, and you have to use the appropriate power source for your rig. You RV either requires a 30 amp or a 50 amp plug to connect to a 120-volt power source.
You can use different RV plug adapters to be able to connect to what's available to you at any given spot if there's no direct match for your RV's power cord. Sometimes you also may need an RV extension cord to reach the power supply, if the distance is too far for your main power cord.
Below are our #1 picks for the best RV power cords, RV extension cords and plug adapters. Click the link below if you want to jump to our RV Power System Guide.
RV Power Cord, Extension Cord, & Plug Adapter Reviews
Getting power from a 120-volt source to your RV is kind of a big deal. You need to make sure you have the right RV power cord (also known as a cordset) for your rig and it needs to be high quality. This is one place you don't want to be cheap. Not when you are dealing with high voltage and high amperage.
Best RV Power Cord
Camco Power Grip Power Cords
An RV power cord is the power cord that comes from your RV and attaches your RV to power (usually at a power pedestal at an RV park). Also known as 'shore power' cords (or even cordsets), they come in 30 amp plug and 50 amp plug versions and in 25 foot (30 and 50 amp plug) and 50 foot (30 amp plug only) lengths. If you need additional length to reach the power source, you can get a high-quality RV extension cord.
The RV power cords reviewed here use a marine-style twist-lock receptacle end that attach to the 30 amp RV plug or 50 amp RV plug (male) marine-style outlet on the RV. Your rig may have a permanently installed shore power cord, in which case you do not need one of these as your RV already has one. However, you can definitely use an RV extension cord, or you can purchase a replacement shorepower cord.
30 amp (90º receptacle) - Choose Length
50 amp (90º receptacle) - 25 foot
30 amp (straight receptacle) 25 foot
50 amp (straight receptacle) 25 foot
Continue Reading Camco RV Power Cord Review
The Camco Power Grip RV Power Cords come in two different styles on the end that plugs into your RV - either a straight connector or a 90-degree connector. We recommend the 90-degree connector.
Why? When the cord sticks straight out, it creates a pull on the plug area. It's not something critical, but common sense tells us that the 90 degree design is better. We're not saying that the straight design will eventually fail, but it sure seems more likely than it would on the 90 degree version.
The other end of the RV power cord has a 90-degree connector with a plug (male) connector. A 30 amp power cord is easily identifiable with its 3-prong (TT-30P) connector, while a 50 amp RV power cord has a 4-prong (14-50P) connector. Learn more about RV plug types. This end plugs into the power pedestal, which provides shore power. Or it plugs into an RV extension cord if you are using one.
How do you know if you need a 50 amp RV power cord or a 30 amp power cord? Easy- just look at how many prongs your existing power cord has. 3-prongs = 30 amp cord and 4-prongs = 50 amp cord. Read the guide below to learn more about how to determine your RV's amperage.
When shopping for an RV power cord, you really want a grip like the Camco has - trust us, your hands and fingers will thank you. Depending on the tightness of the receptacle (female end) that you are plugging into, the connection can be tight and you will need the leverage and grip afforded by the Power Grip handle.
A shore power cord is THE vital link between your RV and your power source. This is one place you don't want to skimp and purchase a cheap piece of caca.
You must use a properly sized QUALITY shore power cord. If you don't, you can have an electrical resistance issue that causes excessive heat and potentially a fire. Watch this video (in the guide below) to see what happens when you use a cheap, undersized cord. ????
Camco Power Grip RV Power Cord Features and Specs:
- High-quality wire (proper wire gauge for the load) and flexible (easy to store) 30 and 50 amp power cords.
- Comes with either a 90-degree female receptacle (which we recommend) or with a straight female receptacle.
- 30 amp RV power cord comes in either 25-foot or 50-foot lengths. It is a 3-wire conductor (10 AWG) that is rated for 30 amps and 3600 watts.
- 50 amp RV power cord comes in 25-foot length only. It is a 4-wire conductor (3 @ 6AWG and 1 @ 8 AWG) that is rated at 50 amps and 12500 watts.
- Weatherproof connection via the threaded locking ring.
- Power Grip handle (ergonomic grip) for easy disconnection (you won't 'kill' your fingers trying to disconnect the cord from the power pedestal or an RV extension cord).
- Storage strap included.
Best RV Extension Cord
Camco Power Grip Extension Cords
Sometimes your RV power cord is just a liiiiiitle too short. ???? This is where a 50 amp or a 30 amp RV extension cord comes in handy. Not any old extension cord will do, either (or this might happen). You MUST HAVE a quality RV extension cord that is rated for the energy load your RV uses.
With the Camco Power Grip Extension you can get a 30 amp extension cord or a 50 amp extension cord. It generally comes in lengths ranging from 15 to 50 feet. Camco RV Extension Cords are manufactured with the appropriate sized wire for the rated amperage and include their Power Grip ergonomic handles to make it easier to unplug your cord when it's time to pack up and head out.
30 amp Extension Cord - Choose Length
50 amp Extension Cord - Choose Length
Continue Reading Camco RV Extension Cord Review
Both ends of this 30 amp extension cord have a 90-degree connector. (Do NOT use a traditional extension cord for your RV.)
How do you know if you need a 50 amp extension cord or a 30 amp extension cord? Easy: 3-prongs = 30 amp extension cord and 4-prongs = 50 amp extension cord. Read the guide below to learn more about how to determine your RV's amperage.
Let's say you have a 30 amp RV plug. The male end of your 30 amp RV extension cord plugs into the power pedestal, which is the source of 120-volt shore power. The female end plugs into your RV's power cord. Therefore the extension cord is an extension (get it?) of your power cord. The same electrical current that goes through your 30 amp power cord also goes through your 30 amp extension cord. This means the 30 amp extension cord must be of high quality and must utilize the correct sized wire to be able to handle the electrical load.
You want to only use the minimum length of cord (combination of your rig's power cord and an extension cord) necessary to reach a 120-volt source. Longer electrical runs can cause voltage drop, which can be deadly for your appliances and system.
Watch this video in the below guide to see what happens when you use an extension cord that isn't rated for RV use and is too long. Spoiler alert: things catch fire...
Both ends of the Camco RV extension cord has their Power Grip, which is an ergonomic handle that makes it MUCH easier to disconnect. An ergonomic handle is a finger saver when it comes time to disconnect and put your cord away. Depending on the tightness of the receptacle that you are plugging in to, the connection can be really snug and you will need the leverage and grip afforded by the Power Grip handle.
Camco Power Grip RV Extension Cord Features and Specs:
- High quality wire (proper wire gauge for the load) and flexible, easy to store both 50 and 30 amp extension cords.
- 30 amp extension cord comes in either 25-foot or 50-foot lengths. It is a 3-wire conductor (10 AWG) that is rated for 30 amps and 3600 watts.
- 50 amp extension cord comes in either 15 foot or 30 foot lengths. It is a 4-wire conductor (3 @ 6AWG and 1 @ 8 AWG) that is rated for 50 amps and 12500 watts.
- Power Grip handle (ergonomic grip) on both ends for easy disconnection (you won't 'kill' your fingers trying to disconnect the cord from the power pedestal or an RV power cord).
- Storage strap included.
Best RV Plug Adapter
Camco and Conntek Adapters
The world isn't perfect. You don't always have the exact right outlet to plug your RV into. You may have a 30 amp RV extension cord but it only reaches a 15 amp outlet. Or you may have a 50 amp RV plug and only have a 30 amp outlet to plug into. You have a situation. Your RV's power cord won't fit into the outlet that is available to you. What do you do?
You use an RV plug adapter - a 'dog bone' or a 'hockey puck' RV plug adapter.
An RV plug adapter allows you to plug your existing cord into an outlet that was designed for a different amperage. I.E., you can plug your 30 amp power cord into a 50 amp outlet, your 50 amp power cord into a 30 amp outlet, your 30 amp power cord into a 15 amp outlet, etc, etc, etc.
Below are purchase links for the most common RV plug adapters (dog bones) you might need. For additional RV plug adapter choices, please expand the 'continue reading...' section directly below and you will see all the other adapter choices listed near the bottom of this section.
15 amp to 30 amp Adapter
15 amp to 50 amp Adapter
30 amp to 50 amp Adapter
50 amp to 30 amp Adapter
Continue Reading RV Plug Adapter Review
Seems pretty straight forward, eh? You should be able to run down to your corner hardware store and cobble something together and call it an RV power adapter, right? Not so fast- Unless you have a desire to start a fire, you need to buy a quality RV plug adapter. Watch this video to learn why:
Why You Should Buy A Quality RV Plug Adapter
There are two basic types of RV plug adapters - hockey puck adapters and dog bone adapters. And if you paid attention to the above video, you know that a quality dog bone adapter is best .
There are 15 amp RV plug adapters and 30 amp RV plug adapters in both hockey puck and dog bone configurations. 15 amp to 50 amp RV plug adapters are available in dog bone style only. There are 30 amp to 50 amp RV plug adapters in the dog bone configuration. And finally there are 50 amp to 30 amp RV plug adapters that also only come in dog bones.
Dog bone style RV plug adapters have their male ends 180-degrees from the female ends so that when the male end is plugged into the outlet, the female end is pointed towards you (see images below). This reduces the strain on the adapter when you have a power or extension cord attached to it.
As if things aren't confusing enough, there are more adapters that might come in handy. These are called 'Y' adapters that allow you to take power from two plugs (two 'inputs') and plug a single power cord into it (one 'output'). Thus the term 'Y' adapter - the two 'arms' of the 'Y' are power into the adapter and the bottom 'arm' is power out of the adapter (to your rig).
Say for example you pull up to an older campground and the power pedestal only has a 15 amp and a 30 amp RV plug, but you have a 50 amp rig. There's a 'Y' adapter that lets you plug your 50 amp cord into BOTH the 15 and 30 amp outlets, giving you access to 45 total amps.
Or if the pedestal has two 30 amp outlets, there's a 'Y'-style adapter that allows you to plug your 50 amp RV plug into both 30 amp outlets, letting you access 50 amps of power. And so on. In other words, there are specialty power adapters that you may consider having in your power adapter arsenal. Additional 'Y' adapter options appear below.
Below we break down the different types of RV power adapters, a little information about each, and provide a link to check out prices and purchase the one(s) you need.
RV Power Cord Adapter Types, Features, and Specs:
The first amperage number in the below options is the amperage of the power socket you have to work with and the second amperage number is the power cord your rig has.
15 amp to 30 amp adapter
- Camco 55165 dog bone 15 amp to 30 amp RV plug adapter: 12 inches long. Rated for 125 volts and 1875 watts. 10 AWG wire. 5-15P plug (male) and TT-30R receptacle (female). The male end is turned 180 degrees from female end to reduce stress (The female end is pointed at you when male end is plugged into an outlet). Power Grip handle on the female end.
15 amp to 30 amp Adapter
- Camco 55223 hockey puck 15 amp to 30 amp adapter: Rated for 125 volts and 1875 watts. 5-15P plug (male) and TT-30R receptacle (female). Contoured body for easier gripping when removing from the outlet.
15 amp to 30 amp RV Plug: Hockey Puck Style
- Camco 55325 90º hockey puck 15 amp to 30 amp adapter: Rated for 125 volts and 1875 watts. 5-15P plug (male) and TT-30R receptacle (female). The male end is turned 90 degrees from the female end to reduce stress (The female end is pointed down when the male end is plugged into an outlet). Non-slip grooves on body to aid with gripping when removing the adapter from the outlet.
15 amp to 30 amp RV Plug: Hockey Puck Style (90 degree)
15 amp to 50 amp RV plug adapter
- Camco 55168 dog bone 15 amp to 50 amp adapter: 12 inches long. Rated for 125 volts and 1875 watts. 10 AWG wire. 5-15P plug (male) and 14-50R receptacle (female). The male end is turned 180 degrees from female end to reduce stress (The female end is pointed at you when male end is plugged into an outlet). Power Grip handle on the female end.
15 amp to 50 amp Adapter
30 amp to 15 amp adapter
- Camco 55155 dog bone 30 amp to 15 amp adapter: 12 inches long. Rated for 125 volts and 1875 watts. 10 AWG wire. TT-30P plug (male) and 5-15R receptacle (female). The male end is turned 180 degrees from female end to reduce stress (The female end is pointed at you when male end is plugged into an outlet). Power Grip handle on the male end.
30 amp to 15 amp Adapter
30 amp to 50 amp RV adapter
- Camco 55185 dog bone 30 amp to 50 amp adapter: 18 inches long. Rated for 125 volts and 3750 watts. 10 AWG wire. TT-30P plug (male) and 14-50R receptacle (female). The male end is turned 180 degrees from female end to reduce stress (The female end is pointed at you when male end is plugged into an outlet). Power Grip handle on both ends.
30 amp to 50 amp Adapter
50 amp to 30 amp RV adapter
- Camco 55175 dog bone 50 amp to 30 amp adapter: 18 inches long. Rated for 125 volts and 3750 watts. 10 AWG wire. 14-50P plug (male) and TT-30R receptacle (female). The male end is turned 180 degrees from female end to reduce stress (The female end is pointed at you when male end is plugged into an outlet). Power Grip handle on both ends.
50 amp to 30 amp Adapter
- Camco 55025 Power Maximizer 15 amp & 30 amp to 50 amp 'Y' adapter: Designed to have the male ends plugged into both a 15 amp out (non-GFCI) and a 30 amp outlet, and the female end plugged into your 50 amp shore power cord (this setup gives you a theoretical maximum of 45 amps - 15 plus 30 amps). 15-5P plug (male) & TT-30P plug (male) and 14-50R receptacle (female). The TT-30P male end is turned 180 degrees from female end to reduce stress (The female end is pointed at you when male end is plugged into an outlet). Power Grip handle on 30 amp male end and 50 amp female end. Cannot use with a GFCI outlet, which is what most RV parks have on their 15 amp outlets.
Camco Power Maximizer
- Conntek 14995 Power Optimizer (cheater box cord) 30 amp 30 amp to 50 amp 'Y' adapter: 2.7 feet long. 10 AWG wire. Designed to have the male ends plugged into two 30 amp outlets and the female end plugged into your 50 amp shore power cord. (2)TT-30P plugs (male) and 14-50R receptacle (female). Ergonomic handle on all ends. LED power indicator lights on plug end. 30 amp male plugs have to be on the same neutral in order to have 50 amps of power to use.
30 amp (2) to 50 amp Cheater Cord
- Conntek 15961 50 amp to 30 amp adapter & 30 amp 'Y' adapter: 3 feet long. 6, 8 & 10 AWG wire. Designed to 'split' a single 50 amp outlet into two 30 amp outlets. 14-50P plug (male ) and (2)TT-30P receptacles (female). Ergonomic handle on all ends. LED power indicator lights on plug end. Because you are drawing from a single 50 amp outlet, both 30 amp 'legs' will not be able to pull 30 amps at the same time (as this would equal 60 amps, which, last time we checked, is greater than the 50 amps you have available).
50 amp to 30 amp (2) 'Y' Adapter
- Conntek 14963 50 amp to 30 amp adapter & 15 amp 'Y' adapter: 3 feet long. 6, 8 & 10 AWG wire. Designed to 'split' a single 50 amp outlet into 30 amp & 15 amp outlets. 14-50P plug (male ) with TT-30P and 5-15R receptacles (female). Ergonomic handle on all ends. LED power indicator lights on plug end.
50 amp to 30 amp & 15 amp 'Y' Adapter
Recommendations for Replacement Parts & Accessories
Before we go into the guide on using and understanding your RV power systems, we want to show you some accessories and other gear that can be extremely helpful. Products range from storage for your cords, to replacing a shore power cord, to upgrading your RV's power inlet. If you're not interested, jump to the Guide to Understanding RV Power Systems.
RV Power Cord Accessories
So you've got a fancy power cord or a long RV extension cord. Now you need somewhere to store it. Or you might need someway to make sure your new purchase doesn't grow legs. Check it:
Camco Power Grip Storage Bag
If you like things tidy, then you probably don't like just throwing your power cord and extension cord into a storage bay/area. Or how about all those RV plug adapters and maybe a surge protector? Those electrical bits can certainly disappear if you don't have a place to keep them.
Enter Camco's Power Grip Storage Bag. This large, nylon duffel bag has two compartments - large main (zippered) compartment that can hold 50 feet of power/extension cord (or a couple smaller cords) and a smaller, padded compartment for all your plug adapters and power management devices.
Camco Power Grip Storage Bag
Camco Cord Storage Bag
Camco Power Grip Cable Lock
Use the Camco Power Grip Cable Lock to 'tie' together your Power Grip (or other ergonomic grip) equipped shore power and extension cord. Or use it to secure your RV's power cord to the power pedestal and/or an RV surge protector.
The Power Lock is a security cable with braided steel wire (60 inches in length) that has a tough vinyl coating. One end of the cable is a loop that you pass the other end through (locking pin), then secure it together with the included lock head.
Camco Power Grip Cable Lock
Camco Cable Lock
Camco Power Grip Power Ball Lock
Ever wonder how you keep your RV's power cord, extension cord and maybe surge protector from 'walking' off? Besides the cable lock featured directly above, Camco offers their Power Grip Ball Lock. This is a spherical clamshell made of tough plastic that locks a connection point (shore power cord to extension cord, or power cord to surge protector).
While this won't secure your cords to a stationary object, it does 'tie' cords together so that they cannot be separated, making it harder to carry away. And the ball keeps connectors off the ground, out of any water in case it happens to rain. We're not 100% sold on this concept, but hey, it's a thing so we are showing you that it's available. (Lock and keys included.)
Camco Power Grip Ball Lock
Camco Ball Lock
Camco Power Cord Strap
Looking for a way to keep your RV power cord (or extension cord) in that nice, neat coil that you so carefully make it into before you toss it into your storage area? If you don't want to spring for Camco's above power cord, their simple strap might be right for you.
This nylon strap with carrying handle has a plastic quick-disconnect so that you can easily wrap it around your neatly coiled cord. Not much else to it. Simple. Effective. Get one! (or two, or three...)
Camco Carrying/Storage Strap
RV Cord Replacement Parts
What happens if the dog chews off the end of your power cord? Or what if the cord gets damaged in the middle? There are replacements available for plug ends, receptacle ends, and and the RV cord itself, if yours is hardwired to your rig.
Replacement RV Cord Plugs and Receptacles
Camco makes replacement plug and receptacle ends for both 30 amp and 50 amp RV cords. These can be used to replace the male ends of shore power cords as well as both the male and female ends of extension cords, so if the prongs/receptacle are 'tired', or the cord going into the plug/receptacle has become frayed, you don't need to replace the entire cord (though you need to check the overall cord condition to see if cord replacement is the better route to go).
(If you need the female end of an RV shore power cord, also known as a marine-style twist-lock connector, see the section just below.)
30 amp RV plug replacement 'heads' (for the plug, or male end) come in two sizes - normal and mini. Mini plugs are used for hardwired RV power cords that have the plug end inside a rather small storage door. Or you could use it if you have really small hands. ????
All of the Camco RV receptacle replacement come with their Power Grip handles, to make it easier to disconnect the 'head' during use.
30 amp RV Plug Replacement
50 amp RV Plug Replacement
Mini 30 amp RV Plug Replacement
30 amp Receptacle Replacement
50 amp Receptacle Replacement
Replacing The Plug (Male) End Of An RV Power Or Extension Cord
Replacement RV Power (Shore Power) Cords
Conntek makes replacement 30 amp RV power cords and 50 amp RV power cords for rigs that have a hardwired shore power cord. These replacement cords come in various lengths and have the plug end installed, with bare wires on the other end so you can connect it directly to your RV.
30 amp replacement shore power cords use 10 AWG wire and have a right angle TT-30P plug (male) on one end. Replacement 50 amp RV cords (shore power) use 6 AWG wire (3 wires) and 8 AWG (1 wire) with a right angle 14-50P plug on one end. NOTE: these replacement power cords don't have ergonomic grips on the plug end. ☹️
Replacement 30 amp RV Cord (pick a length)
Replacement 50 amp RV Cord (pick a length)
Replacement RV Power Cord Twist-Lock Ends (Female)
If you have a removable RV shore power cord, there are replacement female ends available (but they are pricey and you're probably better off purchasing an entire new RV power cord).
Marine-style twist-lock female ends are available in both 30 amp and 50 amp RV plug versions. The 30 amp RV plug version includes both the receptacle and weatherproof cover as a kit. You have to purchase the 50 amp RV plug pieces separately. Like we said, just buy a new power cord. We are just showing you the options that are available, not recommending you actually pull the trigger on buying these components separately. ????
30 amp Twist-Lock Replacement Kit
50 amp Twist-Lock Replacement Receptacle
50 amp Twist-Lock Replacement Cover
Marine-Style Twist-Lock RV Power Inlets
Replacement Marine-Style Twist-Lock RV Power Inlets
Has your RV's power inlet (where you attach the power cord) seen better days? Maybe the prongs are fried, the threads are worn out or you just want a better version of it. You can replace it with a new and/or better one if you want to.
Replacement RV power inlets that use the marine-style twist-lock (waterproof) connectors come in three different styles - traditional square inlet, contoured inlets, and stainless steel power inlets. All styles are available in both 30 amp and 50 amp versions.
These replacement RV power inlets are fairly easy to replace, assuming you know a thing or two about electricity. Since we are talking the main power input of your rig, you really want to know what you are doing before you replace the inlet. Otherwise, hire a professional.
30 amp Receptacle Standard
50 amp Receptacle Standard
30 amp Receptacle Contoured
50 amp Receptacle Contoured
30 amp Receptacle Stainless Steel
50 amp Receptacle Stainless Steel
Marine-Style Twist-Lock RV Power Inlets Conversion Kits
Do you have a permanently attached (fixed) RV power cord that you are tired of dealing with?
You can ditch the fixed RV power cord and convert it to a removable, marine-style twist-lock connector that makes dealing with shore power cords that much easier.
These shore power plug conversion kits come with everything you need to ditch the fixed power cord and turn it into a removable power cord with a weatherproof, marine-style power inlet.
Your life will become sooooo much easier. OK, that's an exaggeration, but at least one small part of your life will become easier - dealing with your RV's power cord.
While installing this conversion kit isn't rocket science (see video below, or you can download the PDF instructions here), you should be fairly handy and not be afraid of electricity. If you have any doubts about your skill level, have a handy friend help out, or better yet, hire a professional.
30 amp RV Power Inlet Conversion Kit
50 amp RV Power Inlet Conversion Kit
Installing An RV Power Plug Conversion Kit
SmartPlug - A Better RV Power Cord
Unlike many cases of a solution looking for a problem, the SmartPlug actually fixes a genuine issue that exists with the traditional RV power inlets. There are countless examples of a poor electrical connection at the marine-style power inlet causing the female plug to become burned, which renders it dangerous to use (if it's still functioning at all). Worse case scenario, and this happens, is that the poor connection causes a fire. ????
If you are upgrading from a fixed power cord to a removable one, it's highly advisable to spend a bit more money and get the SmartPlug conversion kit. This uses your existing power cord (replacing the receptacle end with a SmartPlug connector) and replaces the power inlet that is part of your RV.
If you are unhappy with your current marine-style twist-lock connector, you can easily switch it out for a SmartPlug (view instructions here). If you don't feel comfortable dealing with electrical bits on your rig, have a handy friend help you, or pay a professional to do the install.
Some of the features of the SmartPlug include:
- Uses your existing power cord (replaces receptacle end with SmartPlug) and is a direct replacement for the power inlet on your rig (or easily converts your permanently attached power cord to a removable power cord).
- 20 times the electrical contact than the traditional, marine-style twist-lock connector.
- Multi-point locking system with three weatherproof, silicone seals.
- Eliminates the loose connection issue that leads to plug burnout (due to resistive heating).
- No twisting to install - just push straight in until the locking clips engage. Easy!
- No lock rings to mess with or to break off.
- SmartPlug combo kits (include power inlet and plug) are available in marine grade stainless steel, or three fireproof plastic colors: white, black, and gray.
RV SmartPlug Introduction
30 amp SmartPlug Stainless Steel Kit
50 amp SmartPlug Stainless Steel Kit
SmartPlug Combo Kit- Plastic (choose color)
30 amp Kit
50 amp Kit
There is an optional SmartPlug weather resistant cover that protects the receptacle (female) end of your SmartPlug power cord from moisture when you aren't using it. It also comes with a lanyard that you can use to attach the cover to your cord set when not using the cover.
Guide To Understanding RV Power Systems
First of all, please have a ton of respect for electricity. It CAN kill you. Yeah.
Do keep this in mind.
It can also really hurt you. Kind of like this guy. Don't be this guy, even though it's entertaining to watch. We can't stop watching, at least. Thanks, electricity fail man.
Ok, that was fun. Refocusing...
We will assume you have an RV. Your RV has an electrical system. Actually, did you know that it has two to three different electrical systems? Boy howdy, it sure does! Don't worry, it may seem daunting now, but it will get easier once you are familiar with your rig.
There are some things in your RV that won't work unless you are connected to an external power source providing 120 volts of electricity, unless your rig has an inverter or is connected to a generator, which is basically the same thing as shore power (120-volt power).
What kind of things won't work unless using a generator or shore power? Typically, your household outlets, your air conditioner, your TV (unless it's a 12 volt TV), and your microwave. Usually, these appliances don't work off your batteries. Instead, these typically run off 120-volt power.
We are only concerned with the RVs power systems, not the RV ENGINE's power system (the automotive system) which you only have if you have a motor home. Still, we will explain the difference between your two RV systems and the automotive system.
Ergonomic Cord Grips
MOTOR HOMES: You have 3 electrical systems.
- A 12-volt RV system (Things in the living area of the RV that run off your RV battery).
- A 120-volt RV system (Things that only work when you plug into shore power).
- A 12-volt automotive system (powers the engine electrical system, and other 'bits' that are only 'on' when your motor home is driving down the road).
TRAILERS: You have 2 electrical systems.
- A 120-volt system that is used when you plug into shore power.
- A 12-volt RV system running things from your RV battery.
No matter what you have, when you plug in to a shore power source, you are using the 120-volt system. If your converter/charger is working properly, your RV batteries should also be getting charged.
12-volts? 120-V?? Automotive System?
RRRRRR! ???? Please Help Me Understand!
We know you're probably not an electrician, so we are going to make this as simple as possible while helping you to understand the ins and outs of electricity and your RV. This is not a complete course on electrical systems- we are just going to give you a basic understand of how your RV works.
Here's a simpler explanation of some of the terminology we are using:
120-Volts: The power you get from plugging into an external power source. (I.E. NOT using your battery power.)
12-Volts: This is the power you get from your motor home or trailer battery or batteries. In my (Camp Addict co-founder Kelly's) travel trailer, I only boondock. This means I almost never have external, 120-volt power. Therefore, I cannot run the things that require 120-volts such as my microwave, my two 120-volt TV's, and the household outlets in my travel trailer.
Those items all require 120-volt (shore power or generator power) to work. I do have a portable generator which provides 120-volt power, the same as shore power. I use it to power up my batteries when it has been too cloudy for the sun to let my portable solar panels do the job. Or when I want to use the microwave, which is rare.
12-volt AUTOMOTIVE system: (Motor Homes only) (Battery power) Pretend your motor home is simply an engine with no additional electrical parts, just like a regular car. Your car, like your motor home, has a battery. That battery is a 12-volt system. It starts your engine, turns lights on, powers your radio, etc.
That's the 12-volt 'automotive' system in your RV, and that's about all that it powers. You have your RV engine battery, and you have your separate motor home 'house' batteries. Your motor home 'house' batteries are part of your 12-volt RV system (below).
12-volt RV system: (Motor Homes and Trailers) (Battery power) This is comprised of the battery (or batteries) that power things inside the living space of your RV, or everything that is not your engine. It powers things such as the 12-volt 'cigarette lighter' outlets and USB power ports in your rig, interior lights, water pump, likely your sound system, 12-volt TVs, and more, depending on the bells and whistles your RV has.
These batteries don't run anything related to the engine of a motor home. They only run some of the systems that make an RV an RV (the 12-volt systems)!
120-volt RV system: (Motor Homes and Trailers) (External/Shore power) The 120-volt electrical system in your motor home or travel trailer is powered when you are hooked up to a shore power source. The 120-volt RV system powers all the other 'RV related' electrical stuff... your power outlets, 120-volt TV's, your microwave, air conditioner, etc. (non-12 volt systems)
Everything can be powered by the 120-volt system in most RVs (12-volt systems are powered by a 120-volt source via your rig's charger/converter). But not all appliances/systems can be powered by your 12-volt system (battery power) unless you have an inverter. You would need to be running a generator, or be connected to shore power. You will have to learn the ins and outs of your particular rig- what systems are powered by what voltages.
RV Plug End Types
All RV power and extension cords use plug ends that are compliant with the NEMA standards. NEMA stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association and is the organization that sets the standards for electrical connectors used throughout the US, Canada, and many other countries. This means that RV power cords are compatible with power pedestals, so there is never a case of, um, this 30 amp plug isn't fitting into that 30 amp receptacle. They just work!
Below are the NEMA connectors that you will see in 30 amp and 50 amp RV installations. You know, in case you were curious or wanted to win the next time you are playing an RV trivia game (geek).
30 Amp Plugs
A 30 amp RV plug is of a three-terminal design (hot, neutral and ground). The male (plug) end has 2 straight blades (hot & neutral) and 1 round prong (ground). The hot and neutral terminals are at 45º from vertical, and 90º from each other. The female (receptacle) end has 3 receptacles that match up with the male end's prongs (on 30 amp extension cords) or an L5-30R marine-style twist-lock connector (on 30 amp RV power cords).
Are your eyes glazing over yet? No? Really??? Um, OK, let's continue...
A 30 amp RV power cord has a male end with a TT-30P plug and a female end with a L5-30R marine-style twist-lock receptacle connector. The twist-lock connector is either available with a straight connector or a 90º connector (that reduces strain).
50 Amp Plugs
A 50 amp RV plug is a four-terminal design (hot, hot, neutral and ground). The male (plug) end has 3 straight blades (hot, hot & neutral) and 1 round prong (ground). The female (receptacle) end has 4 receptacles that match up with the male end's prongs.
A 50 amp RV power cord has a male end with a 14-50P plug and a female end with a SS2-50R marine-style twist-lock receptacle connector. The twist-lock connector is either available with a straight connector or a 90º connector (that reduces strain).
Amperage Of Your RV
Your RV is wired for a certain amperage. You will either have a 30 amp rig or a 50 amp RV cord. How do you know which yours is? If you are unsure, it's super easy to find out! Simply look at the plug on your RVs power cord, located somewhere inside a door (if you have a fixed cord) or on the outside of your RV (if you have a detachable cord).
A 50 amp rig has 4 prongs. A 30 amp rig has 3 prongs. Simple, right?
A 30 amp RV plug (3 prongs) will look like the picture on the below left. A 50 amp plug (4 prongs) will look like the one on the below right.
Now, at any given campground, there are USUALLY separate 120-volt outlets for the 30 amp extension cord or power cord and for the 50 amp extension cord or power cord on a single power pedestal. However, sometimes you go to a park that only offers one type of plug, usually a 30 amp. This is when an adapter becomes a necessity.
We're not going to talk about the specifics of RV power and the intricate details of electricity and power usage. Learning more about power can be very detailed and complicated.
There are other more knowledgeable resources for figuring out how much amperage certain appliances take and what one can or cannot use at the same time. This page is simply to learn about what cords and/or adapters you need and why, with a general overview of RV systems and electricity.
Connecting To A Power Outlet That Doesn't Match Your RV's Plug
What's an RVer to do in this situation? The solution is easy. You must have a 'dog bone' or 'puck' style adapter to match your RV plug to the 120-volt outlet that you have access to.
Be aware, if you have a 50 amp rig, and you connect to a 30 amp plug, you won't be able to use as much amperage in your rig then if you were connected to a 50 amp outlet. Same is true if you have a 30 amp rig and plug into a 15 amp (household) outlet. You can only use as much amperage as the outlet you are plugged into can provide (yes, this should be common sense, but we figured we'd clarify this).
However, say you have a 30 amp extension cord from you rig plugged into a 50 amp outlet, yes, you will still have use of your full 30 amps. It's simple math (or something like that) - there is no way you can squeeze 50 amps worth of power out of a 30 amp receptacle, but you certainly can get 30 amps of 'juice' out of a 50 amp outlet.
Don't worry, plugging your 30 amp (via a dog bone adapter) into a 50 amp outlet won't fry your 30 amp electrical system. Because your 30 amp plug only has 1 'live' prong, it only accesses 120-volts. No worries, 240-volts will NOT be going into your rig. It doesn't work that way.
(Do NOT ever plug your RV into a household dryer plug, which looks exactly like a 30 amp outlet. Your rig will get fried...) Let's reiterate this point:
Do Not Plug Into That Dryer Outlet!!!
And Make Damn Sure Your Electrician KNOWS RV Systems!
The "modern voltage protection devices" that Mike Sokol mentions that could save your RV from damage do to incorrect voltage are Electrical Management Systems (EMS). We discuss why you need an EMS for your RV, as well as tell you the best ones to purchase, in the RV Surge Protector guide.
Types Of RV Plug Adapters
There are two primary types of RV plug adapters:
- Dog Bone Adapters
- Puck Adapters
Like anything else, both have their pros and cons. Let's look at the differences:
Dog Bone Adapters
The dog bone style is bigger so takes up a little more room. Space becomes a huge commodity in an RV, so having a few dog bones can take up a bit of space more than the puck styles will. However, they are more hardy and reliable than the puck style, so they are highly recommended over the pucks.
If you are always in a campground, you will want to have one for every scenario, so likely you should have at least 2 of them (appropriate connections for your rig's amperage rating).
Hockey Puck Adapters
The hockey puck style is not as reliable or as hardy as the dog bone styles are. They tend to get hot while using them, so it's best if you need to use one for any extended period of time, to get the dog bone.
The pucks are smaller though, so if you don't need to use them often, or for very long, you may be able to go with the pucks. You could also just have them for backups.
Why You Should Buy A Quality RV Plug Adapter
RV Extension Cords
Do NOT ever, EVER use a regular household/yard extension cord to connect to your RV! Holy moly. This would be asking for disaster/fire/frying of your rig. Here's a perfect example- The guy in this video made three common mistakes.
1. He used a household extension cord that was WAY too small for his 50 amp rig, and
2. He used way too long of an extension cord, causing a ton of heat buildup.
3. He put a large load on the insufficiently sized extension cord when he ran his A/C. This caused the too small of a cord to heat up and start a fire.
Have a look at what happened:
Use The Properly Sized Extension Cord Or This Will Happen
Using a smaller diameter cable and/or a too low rated amperage cable will cause more resistance for the electricity when it runs through. Also, the longer the wire, the greater the resistance. Long cables and/or smaller cables causes an voltage drop as well as HEAT, which can cause a fire.
If you need to use an extension cord, use the shortest cord possible. You should make sure it has the same amperage rating that your RV's shore power cord uses. The diameter of the extension cord wire (aka, the wire gauge) should be the same as your shore power cord, or bigger. This way there is little to no voltage drop when you are using high powered electronics such as your air conditioner or hair dryer.
Difference Between an RV Power Cord and Extension Cord
How To Plug Your RV Into Shore Power
So you get to your destination campground, you pull into your spot, get level and now it's time to plug in your 30 or 50 amp RV cord.
Don't be tempted to just plug in without testing the outlet first, no matter whether you have a 50 amp plug or a 30 amp plug. There are plenty of campgrounds that don't have their wiring correct on any given pedestal. You should first test the outlet using a polarity tester or a surge protector. (IF that surge protector tells you if the outlet is wired properly or not.)
This is good insurance for keeping your rig safe and sound electrically. An ill-wired outlet, or even too little power coming through the outlet, can lead to an RV electrical disaster. Always, always check the power at the pedestal first!
Checking Power Source Polarity, etc.
You are playing with fire (literally) if you don't check your power source before you plug your rig into it. It isn't unheard of for a power pedestal (or other power source outlet) to be wired incorrectly, which can cause major damage to your RV's electrical system. CHECK before you plug in!
We recommend that you use an RV surge protector (or more specifically, an electrical management system), which will tell you if the outlet is safe to plug into, and it can protect you from voltage spikes, low and high voltage conditions, and more. Well worth the money to have this kind of electrical protection for your rig!
If you want to only have the bare minimum to allow you to check the outlet condition, you can use the Camco Power Defender circuit analyzer. This is available for 30 amp receptacles only (you can use an RV surge protector if you have a 50 amp plug) and checks the condition of the ground, neutral and hot-wiring, as well as checks for correct polarity. It also offers 1050 Joules of voltage surge protection.
Camco Power Defender Circuit Analyzer
Inspecting An RV Power Or Extension Cord
If you have a surge protector that plugs in at that pedestal, plug it in first, WITHOUT your shore power cord attached, no matter whether it's a 50 amp rv cord or a 30 amp rv cord. Once it reads ok, then you can plug in your shore power cord.
If you have a surge protector mounted inside your rig, then make sure you have the kind that will 'test' the pedestal before allowing power to enter your rig. Most interior-mounted surge protectors will do this, but make sure before you go plugging it into a pedestal.
If there is something wrong with the pedestal, the built-in surge protector will not allow power to get in and you should be alerted, and you should alert the owner of the pedestal. (Be aware, they may or may not listen to you. If they disagree, you better ask for a new spot or leave. It's not worth the risk of blowing up your entire rig.)
Hot Skin Detection
Explanation Of RV Hot Skin Condition And How To Detect
As Mike states in the above video, anyone who plugs their RV into shore power should have a voltage detection tool and test your rig each time you plug in (and before you touch your RV).
The Fluke VoltAlert tool that Mike recommends has an issue - it has a voltage sensitivity range of 90-1000 Volts AC. The bottom end of the voltage range is above the 40 volts that Mike demonstrates in the video. While it appears that the Fluke tool detects at this lower voltage (and Mike has stated on his blog that it will detect at 40 volts), we aren't comfortable recommending the Fluke device.
Instead, Klein Tools makes an equivalent tool that has a voltage range of 12 to 1000 volts AC. We like that! You can purchase the Klein NCVT-3 via the below link - it's quite affordable insurance against being electrocuted.
How To Plug Your RV Into A Portable Generator
When I (Kelly) first got my Yamaha 2000is portable generator, I was totally scared to use it. I didn't know how. Then I had someone show me how and it was embarrassingly easy!
Because I understand how intimidating it can be, I am going to explain to you how to do it as well.
First, know that most generators are not made specifically for RVs (unless they are specifically RV ready such as the Champion 75531i). Therefore, you may find that there is no outlet on the generator that fits your RV power cord.
Now what? Once again, you simply need an adapter. (The Camp Addict portable generator page has a section on generator adapters that will walk you through what you need.)
Connecting Your Portable Generator To Your RV
1. If your RV is equipped with an inverter, turn it off.
2. Get the generator out, make sure you have plenty of gas and oil in it.
3. Turn the generator on, according to the instructions for your generator. Let it warm up for about a minute or however long the manufacturer's directions are. The generator's outlets are now 'live'.
4. Plug your shore power cord (with the appropriate adapter if necessary) into the generator.
5. Your rig should now have 120-volt power!
That's it! Easy peasy.
Generator Power Cords
Well, kids, we're about done here. There's more than meets the eye when it comes to RV power cables, extension cords, and plug adapters and how/when to use them. We hope you got some useful information out of this Camp Addict page regarding how to get power to your rig and RV electricity in general.
Once you get out there and start RVing, this stuff becomes second nature. It's natural for it to feel scary at first, especially since we are talking about electricity, where doing the wrong thing can cost mega-bucks or even be deadly.
For instance, I (Kelly) almost had an electrician plug my RV into the dryer outlet. ???? I knew from forums and such that this could fry my rig so thank god I stopped him the next day. Things like this are VERY valuable to know.
And now YOU know. So get out there and Camp On, Addicts!