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Campground electrical hookups

by Tom Jones

We're often asked about the electrical hookups available at campgrounds vs the electrical cord that comes with an RV. The following explains the various hookups and how they affect your RV.

Most RVs come with either a 30A cord or a 50A cord. (30A = 30 amps and 50A = 50 amps). The 30A cord will have 3 pins, one of which is "hot" and the 50 A cord will have 4 pins, two of which are "hot". Most campgrounds have both 30A and 50A receptacles, although some have only 30A or even 20A. An adapter will be needed to plug into a receptacle that is rated different from your power cord/plug. Adapters are available at Camping World, WalMart or most RV parts places to connect whichever cord/plug your RV has into any of the receptacle types. However, it doesn't mean that you will be able to run everything; Refer to the following table.

RV plug   Campground   Adapter  Can run 
type      receptacle   needed  

30A           30A         No      All 
30A           20A         Yes     Some  
50A           50A         No      All 
50A           30A         Yes     Some 
50A           20A         yes     Some  

If the above table indicates "some", it means that you will not be able to run everything electrical in your RV. In some cases, you will have the choice of which items can be run, but in others you have no choice. For example:

  • If you plug a 50A cord/plug into a 30A receptacle via an adapter, one of the two "hot" legs in the 50A cord will not receive any power; None of the items wired to that leg can be used.
  • If you plug a 30A cord/plug into a 20A receptacle, you will have to manage which items you turn on at the same time in order to avoid overloading the campground circuit and/or tripping a breaker. You might be able to run a few small things while the air conditioning is on, but don't expect to use a coffee maker or electric frying pan while doing so.

Whichever electric hookup arranagement you have, it is good practice to check the voltage at one of your outlets while the a/c is running. This can be done with either a multimeter or a plug-in voltmeter made for this purpose. If the voltage gets below about 107 volts with the a/c running or when you plug in additional appliances, this is not a good thing and will tend to shorten the life of the a/c compressor motor.
Contributors to this article were Karl Kolbus and Tom Jones.