How to Have Electricity When Camping: 5 Reliable Power Sources

campsite with solar panels

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Camping offers a chance to disconnect from the daily hustle and to reconnect with nature. However, that doesn’t mean you have to leave all comforts of modern life behind. Maintaining access to electricity can enhance your camping experience by allowing you to keep devices charged, light your campsite at night, and even power small appliances. As you gear up for your outdoor adventure, consider how you can keep your electronic devices powered.

Using electricity while camping requires planning and awareness of safety to ensure a smooth and enjoyable outing. It’s important to select an option that not only fits your power demand but is also portable and appropriate for the natural environment.

When deciding on a power source, take into account how long you’ll be camping and what devices you’ll need to power. 

Know Your Electricity Needs While Camping

Before you head into the great outdoors, it’s important to assess how much power you’ll need and understand safety practices when using electricity in natural settings.

Determining Power Requirements

To calculate your power needs, start by listing all electronic devices you plan to bring, such as your laptop, phone, camera, and other equipment. For each one, you’ll want to determine the wattage it consumes and the duration you’ll use it. Portable devices typically have their power requirements listed on the device or its charger.

  • Laptop: 50 watts
  • Phone: 5-10 watts
  • Camera: 2-5 watts
  • Lights: 5-20 watts depending on the bulb type

For instance, if you’re planning to use a phone that requires 5 watts for 2 hours a day, that’s 10 watt-hours per day. Add up the watt-hours for all devices to get your daily power requirement. Your total will guide the size of the portable charger or battery bank you’ll need to keep everything running smoothly.

Safety Considerations in Natural Settings

When using electricity in the wilderness, your top priority should always be safety. Keep your power sources dry and protected from the elements to prevent damage and reduce the risk of fire. Here are specific safety tips:

  • Keep batteries and power banks shielded from direct sunlight and high temperatures to prevent overheating.
  • Use equipment designed for outdoor use, particularly when it comes to cords and power strips, which should be rated for outdoor or all-weather use.
  • Be mindful of wildlife and natural surroundings—secure cords to avoid tripping hazards and disturbances to the environment.

Remember, not all campsites may allow generators due to noise or environmental concerns, so look into solar panels or portable battery packs as quieter, eco-friendly alternatives. Your safety and that of the surrounding nature should always stay at the forefront when incorporating electricity into your camping experience.

Campground Wired Power

When camping at established campgrounds, you’re often provided with the convenience of wired power hookups. These are designed to connect your RV or camping trailer to the campground’s electrical system, allowing you to enjoy the comforts of home while surrounded by nature.

Most campgrounds offer hookups with different amperage ratings to cater to various needs:

  • 20-amp outlets: Ideal for basic camping setups and smaller RVs, running lights, and small appliances.
  • 30-amp outlets: Single-pole hookups delivering around 3,600 watts, suitable for a medium-sized RV.
  • 50-amp outlets: These are double-pole connections, offering up to 12,000 watts for larger RVs with multiple appliances.

Here’s a quick reference on the types of campground power:

AmperageWattsOutlet TypeBest For
20-ampTypically 2,400 wattsStandard three-prong outletsBasic camping, small appliances
30-ampAbout 3,600 wattsSingle-pole hookupsMedium RVs, moderate appliance use
50-ampUp to 12,000 wattsDouble-pole hookupsLarge RVs, extensive appliance use

It’s vital to match your RV’s electrical system with the campground’s hookup to avoid overloading your systems or tripping breakers. If you have a 30-amp RV, stick to 30-amp outlets. Similarly, only connect to 50-amp outlets if your setup is equipped to handle it. Adapters are available, but they won’t increase the power you can draw—they simply allow you to connect to the available outlet.

Remember to handle all electrical connections with caution and ensure your equipment is in good working order to prevent safety hazards. 

Batteries and Power Stations for Camping

Built-In RV and Car Battery Systems

Your RV’s built-in battery bank typically relies on 12-volt house batteries, which power the basic systems when you’re off the grid. These batteries recharge as you drive or when connected to an external power source. If you’re camping with your car, your vehicle’s battery can serve as an emergency power supply. However, use it sparingly; you don’t want to drain your car’s battery and get stranded.

  • RV Battery Bank: Provides power for interior lights, water pump, and appliance controls.
  • Car Battery: Can be used for charging devices via the cigarette lighter or a power inverter.

Portable Power Stations and Their Advantages

Portable power stations are a step up from your typical batteries. They are essentially large battery banks that can power several devices at once and are available in various sizes and capacities.

  • Advantages:
    • Versatility: Can charge anything from smartphones to portable fridges.
    • Eco-Friendly: Many are rechargeable via solar panels.
    • Portability: Unlike portable generators, no fuel is needed, making them quieter and easier to transport.

When choosing a portable power station, consider the watt-hour (Wh) rating to gauge how much power you’ll need. Remember, the higher the rating, the more electricity it can store and provide for your devices.

Solar Generators

Solar generators are a clean, quiet, and renewable power source, ideal for camping trips. Unlike traditional gas generators, they don’t produce fumes and operate silently, making them perfect for nature enthusiasts who want to minimize their environmental impact.

Portability: You’ll often find solar generators in a compact and portable design. They come with a built-in battery that stores energy harnessed from solar panels. Many models can easily fit in your car trunk, and some even come with carrying handles or wheels.

Capacity and Charging Time: Solar generators have varying capacities to meet different energy needs. It’s important to consider how much power you’ll require for your devices when choosing one. It’s equally essential to note that charging times can vary significantly based on solar conditions and the size of the solar panels.

  • High-capacity models: Can run larger appliances.
  • Smaller-capacity models: Ideal for phones, tablets, and lights.

Ease of Use: Solar generators don’t demand technical expertise. They’re essentially plug-and-play devices. Just expose the solar panels to sunlight and connect your devices or appliances to the generator.

Tips for Optimal Usage:

  • Position: Place your solar panels where they’ll receive maximum sunlight.
  • Maintenance: Keep the solar panels clean for efficient energy absorption.
  • Plan ahead: Fully charge your generator before your trip as a backup.

Portable Power Banks

When you’re camping and need to keep your devices charged, portable power banks are your go-to solution. They’re compact, easy to carry, and come with various capacities to match your energy needs.

Choosing the Right Power Bank Capacity

Capacity is measured in milliampere-hours (mAh) and higher numbers signify more stored energy. To choose the right power bank, you’ll need to consider two main factors: the battery life of your devices and the length of your camping trip. Here is a basic guideline to help you select:

  • Small capacity (1,000 – 5,000 mAh): Ideal for charging a smartphone once or twice.
  • Medium capacity (5,000 – 10,000 mAh): Can charge a smartphone several times or a tablet once.
  • Large capacity (10,000 – 20,000 mAh): Suitable for multiple charges on various devices, like smartphones and tablets.
  • Extra-large capacity (20,000 mAh and above): Best for lengthy trips or charging multiple devices multiple times.

Remember, larger capacities mean more weight, so balance your power needs with portability.

Using Power Banks for Charging Devices

To get the most out of your power bank, connect your device to the USB port using the cable that came with your device or a compatible one. Here are some quick tips:

  • Turn off your device while charging: This speeds up the process.
  • Use the right port: If your power bank has multiple ports, they may differ in output. Some may even feature USB-C or fast charging capabilities. Port Types Description Standard USB-A Common for all devices; usually 5V/2.1A output USB-C For newer devices; supports faster charging Qualcomm Quick Charge™ Charge compatible devices up to 4X faster
  • Maintain your power bank: Rechargeable power banks should be kept charged and used regularly to maintain battery health.

Make sure to keep your portable power bank’s charge level in mind; it’s a good idea to recharge it whenever you have access to a power source so you won’t be caught off-guard.

Gas Generators for Reliable Energy

When you’re camping and in need of a dependable power source, gas generators are a solid choice. They’re known for their ability to provide a substantial amount of electricity, suitable for various camping appliances and tools.

How Gas Generators Work:

  • Converts gasoline into electrical power
  • Internal combustion engine drives an alternator
  • Electrical output for your devices


  • Reliable: Functions in most weather conditions.
  • Powerful: Offers more wattage for high-consumption devices.
  • Portable: Many models are designed for ease of transport.

Considerations when Choosing a Gas Generator:

  1. Wattage: Assess your power needs; most campers will find a sub-500-watt model sufficient, but if your demand is higher, look for 1,000 to 2,000 watts.
  2. Cost: Prices vary depending on power output; expect to spend around $400 for smaller units, scaling up to about $1,500 for more powerful options.
  3. Noise Level: Gas generators can be noisy, so consider quieter models if possible.
  4. Environmental Impact: They do emit fumes, so place them downwind and in well-ventilated areas.

Safety Tips:

  • Always read the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep the generator dry and use a canopy if necessary.
  • Ensure proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Remember, the efficiency and total output power of your gas generator will significantly influence your camping experience.

Practical Tips for Electricity Use in Wilderness

When you’re camping in the wilderness, it’s crucial to use electricity smartly to maintain harmony with nature and ensure your gadgets last through the trip.

Maximizing Efficiency and Durability

Efficiency is key for a successful wilderness camping trip. You’ll want to make sure you’re extracting the most out of your power sources. Here’s how:

  • Solar Panels: Position your solar panels in direct sunlight, away from the shade of trees. Tilt them to face the sun and adjust their angle throughout the day to capture peak solar energy.
  • Power Storage:
    • Use Efficient Appliances: Opt for those with an energy-saving rating.
    • Portable Power Banks: Charge them during the day so they’re ready for nighttime use.

Durability concerns how long your power sources and storage will last. Here are some tips to ensure sustainability:

  • Protect Devices: Store your power devices in a dry, safe place to prevent damage.
  • Regular Maintenance: Keep your equipment, like solar panels or generators, clean and in good repair to extend their lifespan.

Adapting to the Outdoor Environment

Adapting your electricity needs to the outdoor environment means being prepared for the variables that wilderness camping presents:

  • Backup Plan: Always have an alternative power source. If you’re relying on solar energy, bring a gas generator or power bank as a contingency.
  • Natural Resources: Respect the environment by not using coal or cutting down trees for firewood. Instead, use fallen branches or twigs for small fires if necessary and follow all local guidelines.

Being adaptable also means being aware of your surroundings and how they impact your electricity usage:

  • Weather Considerations: Know that solar panels will have reduced output on cloudy days, so plan your electricity usage accordingly.


When you’re out in the wild, staying connected and powered up is simpler than you might think. Whether it’s for safety, comfort, or convenience, you’ve got options.

Be sure to pick the option that aligns with your camping style and power needs. Remember, preparation is key, so plan ahead, choose wisely, and enjoy the great outdoors without sacrificing the power you need. 

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