In this article we’ll describe what is RV shore power, and we’ll look at some common RV shore power adapters so we can utilize shore power at the campsite and at home.
This article contains affiliate links. If you click a link and buy something I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information please see the Disclosure page.
Disclaimer: This article is a quick summary definition of RV shore power. It is not an exhaustive, technical document. I am not a certified electrician or RV technician…just an RV owner like you. This article has been researched and compiled for educational purposes. I can’t be held responsible for any outcomes that result from this information or from omissions not presented in this article.
Always check your RV’s instruction manual for how to use and connect/disconnect from electrical outlets.
With that out of the way let’s look at: RV shore power definition.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is RV Shore Power?
- 2 Key Takeaways
- 3 Understanding RV Shore Power
- 3.1 Common RV Electrical Adapters – Dogbone adapters
- 3.1.1 30-amp RV but Campsite only has a 50-amp outlet – what do you need
- 3.1.2 30-amp RV but you can only access a 15-amp outlet – what do you need
- 3.1.3 50-amp RV but you can only access a 30-amp outlet – what do you need
- 3.1.4 50-amp RV but you can only access a 15-amp outlet – what do you need
- 3.1.5 Older Small RV with only 15-amp plug – what will you need
- 3.1 Common RV Electrical Adapters – Dogbone adapters
- 4 Related RV Glossary Terms
What is RV Shore Power?
RV Shore power is when you plug your RV into an external electrical outlet to receive Alternating Current (AC) electricity from the outlet.
These AC outlets are the kind you find:
- at campsites that have electrical hookups
- outside your home or garage.
Plugging your RV into shore power means you are drawing electricity from the electrical grid.
When plugged into shore power (with adequate amperage) you can run your RV’s 120-volt AC electrical appliances and devices without worrying about draining your RV batteries or having to run your generator. You may be able to enjoy most of the luxuries of home, but in your RV.
Plus, when you plug into shore power your RV’s converter will convert the inflowing AC electricity from the grid into DC electricity to charge your RV’s batteries.
The current – or the amount of electricity – you can draw from these outlets varies, and is measured in Amps.
Some newer campgrounds may have higher 50-amp service, many have 30-amp service, and outside your home you may have smaller 15-amp electrical outlets.
It’s a good idea to carry a couple different electrical adapters for your RV so you can plug into sockets of different amperages. (More on these adapters below.)
Below is a picture of power pedestal at a campsite supplying 50 amps of RV shore power.
You can see the 50-amp circuit breaker at the top of the pedestal. Notice it is in the OFF position. Always make sure the breaker is in the OFF position before you insert your RV’s electrical cord or adapter into the socket.
If your RV has a 30-amp RV shore power cord, you won’t be able to plug into this directly. You’d need an adapter.
Remember to always follow the instruction manual of your RV when connecting and disconnecting from shore power to avoid damaging the electrical circuits and appliances in your RV.
- RV Shore power means plugging your RV’s power cord into an external AC electrical outlet
- Plugging into shore power allows you to run AC electrical appliances and charge your RV’s batteries (your onboard converter converts AC into DC electricity for your batteries)
- It’s wise to have electrical adapters for your RV so you can plug into sockets of different amperages
- If you use an adapter to plug your RV into a smaller amperage outlet you won’t be able to run all your electrical appliances like you would if you plugged into a socket that matched the amperage of your RV (more on this below)
- Follow your RV’s instruction manual concerning safe procedures for connecting and disconnecting from shore power.
Understanding RV Shore Power
Depending on the what type of hookup your RV has you may require electrical adapters in order to plug in and use the AC electricity from the outlet.
A lot of newer, larger RV’s come equipped with 50-amp plugs intended to plug into a 50-amp electrical outlet. And lots of modern campgrounds have 50-amp electrical outlets at their campsites.
But not all campsites will have 50-amp outlets. If you’re staying at an older campground, they may only have 30-amp outlets available.
So you’ll need to be prepared and have adapters. An electrical adapter for an RV is sometimes called a “dogbone”. This is because its shape resembles that of a dogbone. Two thicker ends and skinny in the middle.
Common RV Electrical Adapters – Dogbone adapters
You’ll encounter situations where your campsite will have a different electrical outlet than your RV’s shore power plug. Example, your RV has a 30-amp plug but the campsite may only have a 50-amp outlet. These don’t directly match up. So…
What are you going to do?
Well, you’ll need to pack some dogbone adapters with you. These accessories adapt your RV’s electrical connection to match a different amperage outlet at a campsite.
Below we’ll look at a couple different situations classified by your RV amperage.
30-amp RV but Campsite only has a 50-amp outlet – what do you need
If you have a 30-amp RV and the campsite only has a 50 amp outlet, you’ll need a 50 amp Male to 30 amp Female dogbone adapter to make this work.
What this does: the 50-amp male end will plug into the campsite’s power outlet and your RV’s 30-amp power cord will plug into the 30-amp female end of the dogbone adapter.
Sometimes a campsite only has a 50-amp receptacle. Or what can also happen is that since 30-amp outlets are the most common, they can get worn out over time, and the 30-amp outlet on the campsite’s power pedestal won’t work, but the 50-amp outlet will.
Below is a picture of Camco’s 50-amp Male to 30-female electrical adapter cord. (Sometimes denoted 50M/30F for short.)
Below is picture of the 50-amp MALE end of the dogbone adapter. This plugs into the campsite’s 50-amp outlet.
And below is the other end of the adapter – the female end. Notice how it has different number and pattern of holes compared to the 50-amp. This is so you can insert your 30-amp plug from your camper into this end.
30-amp RV but you can only access a 15-amp outlet – what do you need
This is a common situation people encounter when they park their RV at home and want to access electricity from their home. RV owners do this to charge the RV batteries, or pre-cool their fridge prior to hitting the road.
Most people only have 15 amp electrical outlets outside their house.
In order to plug your 30-amp RV into these outlets, you’ll need a 15-amp MALE to 30-amp FEMALE adapter like the one shown below. (Or 15M/30F adapter for short.)
Since you’ll only be drawing about 15 amps from the electrical outlet, you won’t be able to run all your RV’s appliances like you would plugged into a 30-amp outlet, but it’ll work to charge your batteries and perhaps run some appliances like your fridge one at a time. Avoid running multiple appliances simultaneously. The electrical current draw could exceed the supply and trip the breaker.
An air conditioner will likely trip the breaker so avoid this if possible too.
50-amp RV but you can only access a 30-amp outlet – what do you need
If your RV has a 50-amp plug, but the campsite only has 30-amp service, you won’t be able to directly plug your 50-amp plug into the 30-amp outlet. You’ll need an adapter to make your 50-amp “male” plug fit into the 30-amp “female” socket.
For this situation you’d need a 30-amp MALE to 50-amp FEMALE adapter. (30M/50F adapter)
Most people with larger 50-amp RV’s consider a dogbone like this to be a must-have. Because you encounter lots of campgrounds with only 30-amp campsites.
The 30-amp MALE end will plug into the campsite’s 30 amp electrical outlet, you’ll plug your RV’s 50-amp power cord into the FEMALE end of this adapter.
And since 30-amp is a step down from 50-amp, this electrical outlet will provide you a lower amount of electrical current than a 50-amp outlet would. This means you won’t be able to run as many appliances simultaneously. If you tried, the electrical draw could exceed the 30-amp electrical outlet and cause the circuit breaker to trip.
If your 50-amp RV has two air conditioners for instance, you should only run one at a time if you’re plugged into a 30-amp socket.
50-amp RV but you can only access a 15-amp outlet – what do you need
If you want to plug your large RV equipped with a 50-amp cord into a 15-amp outlet, you have a couple options. But keep in mind you won’t be able to run many of your usual RV appliances when plugged into a 15-amp outlet, but you could charge your RV’s batteries.
Option 1. You could get a 15-amp Male to 50-amp Female adapter like the one shown below. You’d plug the male end into the 15-amp socket, and plug your RV’s 50-amp cord into the adapter’s 50-amp female end.
Option 2. Since you likely already have a 30-amp MALE to 50-amp FEMALE adapter to fit 30-amp sockets, you could get another dogbone adapter to attach to this dogbone. Chain them together.
This second dogbone adapter would be a 15-amp MALE to 30-amp FEMALE adapter (15M/30F adapter).
You’d have your RV power cord plugged into the 30M/50F adapter, and this adapter plugged into the 15M/30F adapter, and the male end of this adapter plugged into the 15-amp electrical socket. (Kind of confusing to write but easy to do.)
Older Small RV with only 15-amp plug – what will you need
If you have an older RV or a really small pop up camper it may only have a 15-amp RV shore power cord.
Since your electrical outlets outside your home or garage are likely 15-amp anyway, you shouldn’t need any adapter to plug in at home.
But what if you’re at a campsite with only 30-amp or 50-amp service.
If the campsite has 30-amp service, you’ll need a 30-amp MALE to 15-amp FEMALE dogbone adapter.
Below is a picture of a 30-amp MALE to 15-amp FEMALE adapter. Or 30M/15F for short. You’d insert the 30-amp MALE end into the campsite’s 30-amp electrical outlet, and you’d plug your camper’s 15-amp cord into the 15-amp FEMALE end of this adapter.
What if the campsite only has 50-amp service? This won’t happen very often, but sometimes the 30-amp socket on the pedestal won’t be working properly, meaning you’ll have to use the 50-amp socket if you want shore power.
In this case you can use two adapters connected together. You’ll need the 30M/15F adapter shown above, plus you’ll need a 50-amp MALE to 30-amp FEMALE adapter. (Or 50M/30F for short.)
You’ll connect your RV’s 15-amp power cord into the female end of the 30M/15F adapter shown above. Then you’ll connect the male end of this 30M/15F adapter into the female end of the 50M/30F adapter shown below. The Male end of the 50M/30F will plug into the campsite’s 50-amp electrical socket.
Remember to always check the instruction manual of your RV for safe electricity use and guidance.
Related RV Glossary Terms
This is when you stay in a spot with your RV that does not have any hookups.
These are campsites that have water, electrical and sewer hookups
Partial hookups are campsites that usually have only water and electricity: they don’t have all 3 amenities of a full hookup.
Pull Through Campsite definition
These are camping sites that do not require you to back in to them. You only need to go in one direction to pull through them. Sometimes simply called “pull-thrus”.
RV Gray Water Tanks – explained
Gray water is water that empties down the drain of a sink or shower. In an RV it collects in the gray water tank.