Using Electric In A Tent: What You Need To Know

Tent camping is great fun but what do you do when you need to charge your phone or use a small appliance like a coffee maker, or a small camping space heater? Can you use electricity in a tent? Is it safe to use electric in a tent?

Using electricity in a camping tent is safe and can provide some of the comforts of home while still enjoying a few days in the outdoors. For the safest experience, you should use an extension cord that is free of damage. Pay attention to keeping the extension cord out of puddles of water and don’t overload it with too many appliances.

Follow along for a few tips for using electricity in a camping tent.

Bring some of the comforts of home to your next camping trip by using electric with small appliances

How do you get electricity when camping in a tent?

Many campgrounds offer campsites with electric hookups suitable for RV camping. Some will also offer electric hookups on campsites intended for tent camping.

Either of these types of sites is a good option to consider. Our family for many years has enjoyed camping at state park campgrounds all over Michigan and we almost always choose a campsite with electrical service.

If you’ll need electricity when tent camping just be certain before making a reservation that your preferred campsite has electrical service provided. If the campground is considered primitive then it’s not likely to have electricity at any of the campsites.

There are other options for getting electricity for charging a few devices or powering small appliances. Those could include bringing a rechargeable power bank (these can be very expensive and need to be recharged) or even a small generator (this is noisy and not great for tent camping).

In this article, we’re dealing with the option of electrical service that’s provided for you at a campsite.

Can you plug an extension cord into a camping electric hook-up?

You can plug an extension cord into the power box at your campsite. Just be certain there is 20 amp electrical service provided at your campsite you wish to use.

You can use extension cords to power multiple devices. One of the great things about hooking up is that it gives you access to safe electricity, which in turn gives you access to a number of other devices. This can make camping a whole lot more comfortable than trying to live with lanterns and flashlights.

A simple extension cord could solve all your problems at once, letting you plug in several small devices and appliances. Just make sure that the extension cord is in good shape and not too old or worn out.

In addition, be aware of what kind of weather conditions you will be facing on your trip and be mindful of the fact that your extension cords should not get wet if at all possible. A little dampness and even light rain shouldn’t cause a problem. Just keep each end of the extension cord dry and don’t allow the cord along its length to lie in puddles of water.

Lighting up your tent is possible with electricity on your campsite

How long should an extension cord be for tent camping?

Your extension cord should be short enough to allow your devices to still reach the outlet but not so short that it’s creating a tripping hazard. If you’re looking at a typical 20-foot cord, that’ll be plenty.

You can get away with running an extension cord longer than 20 feet, but you have to make sure you use the right kind of extension cord. We recommend going no longer than 50 feet and using a heavy-duty power tool extension cord. These are 14 gauge and help ensure your electricity isn’t lost along the way. We also recommend using an orange or yellow extension cord as these are more visible during the day if they’re on the ground and at night if they’re tangled in your tent or other camping gear.

A good option is the BLACK+DECKER 50 Ft. Retractable Extension Cord (#CommmissionEarned). It comes with a heavy-duty 50-foot extension cord and provides 4 power outlets, and on/of switch, and an overload switch.

Affiliate Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! You can learn more here.

What precautions should I take while using electric in a tent?

Whatever extension cord you choose there are some precautions to take.

Check your extension cord over carefully to make sure it’s in good condition before you take it tent camping. To protect against possible electrical shock look for any fraying of the ends, or cuts, or damage along the length of the cord. If any such damage is found use a different extension cord.

Be careful where you lay the cord on the ground as it leads to the tent. Try not to lay it where a puddle of water could form if it rains.

Some tents have a pass-through for extension cords. It’s a good idea to use it rather than laying it in the tent doorway where the cord might be stepped on or tripped over and where it could be damaged by the door sipper. If you must pass it into the tent through the door opening then care should be taken to protect the extension cord.

How can I use electricity in my tent if there’s no power hookup?

If you’re camping in the woods, things get trickier. Most people don’t have access to a portable generator. And even if you do happen to have a generator, it may be difficult to run it while in your tent because of noise. And you should never use a generator in your tent or any other enclosed space because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. For these reasons, most people opt for battery-powered options or solar panels.

Is it safe to use electricity in a tent?

It’s important to know that electricity and water do not mix. If you are using electric in a tent, keep it away from water. This can be a challenge if it rains or there’s much dew on the ground in the morning. But if you follow a few of the precautions I share next you shouldn’t have any trouble with this.

Sometimes its the little things like electric lights that make camping just a bit easier

What precautions should you take?

When using electricity in your tent, it’s important to take some precautions. If you can, avoid using electric items in your tent you don’t really need there.

Use a power strip with surge protection or make sure to plug the device being used into a grounded GFCI outlet. A GFCI is an outlet that senses any stray electrical currents and trips the breaker within milliseconds to prevent electrocution.

If you are using heaters then it is especially important that you have some kind of ground fault circuit interrupter. If there is any water in the heater or anywhere near it then you could have a serious injury on your hands so be extra careful with heaters because they are even more likely to cause fires than other types of appliances due to their high levels of energy consumption.

You also want to avoid overloading the power source by having too many things plugged in at once which could result in tripping circuits and making them unsafe for use.

Don’t use electricity near flammable materials like gasoline and other fuels. To prevent damage keep the extension cord away from grills or propane heaters.

What can I power with electricity while tent camping

While the idea of pitching a tent and camping out in the wilderness is appealing to many, it comes with a great deal of preparation and roughing it.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your modern conveniences at home when you go on your next camping trip.

The key is understanding how to use electric while tent camping so that you can power what you really need and be safe at the same time.

Here are some examples of items that can be powered by an electric source during a tent camping trip:

  • Electric blanket
  • Battery packs for charging your phone and other electronic devices like an iPad
  • Electric air pump for the air mattress
  • A small fan for keeping cool at night
  • Electric heater for staying warm before heading off to bed or after getting up early in the morning. Take great caution in using an electric heater while you sleep. Be sure you keep sleeping bags and clothing away from the heater and the heater away from the side of the tent.
  • Electric cooler for keeping beverages and food cold
  • An electric kettle for coffee or tea in the morning without having to start a fire
  • Kevin

    About the Author

    Hi, I'm Kevin and I love getting outside. I want my articles to be as helpful as possible so that you can learn to enjoy getting outside more often yourself. So leave a comment if you have a question, find a typo, or think I missed something. I'd love to hear from you.

    You can learn more about me and find more of my articles here.

Leave a Comment