7 must-have electrical accessories for RV travel

We're often asked about which tools and spare parts we recommend for Airstream travel. Here's a list of electrical accessories we take with us on every trip.

1. Electrical Management System (EMS) 

Campground power is not always as reliable as you might expect. Once in a while you can get surges or brownouts when you're in a rural area, or when everyone is using their air conditioner at the same time. 

A surge protector is not enough. It won't protect against brownouts that can ruin your electronics (especially the air conditioner), so we always travel with a full Electrical Management System (EMS). These devices cost a little more than surge protectors but compared to the cost of replacing an A/C unit, they're cheap insurance. 

The Progressive EMS we use performs a number of safety checks before it connects the campground power to the RV. It constantly monitors for low voltage/brownouts and automatically shuts itself off before the situation could cause damage. And it's also smart enough to perform safety checks before it reconnects to shore power, saving your electrical system from further voltage drops and zaps.

2. A set of electrical plug adapters

Quite often you'll arrive to a campground or state park that has a power outlet that isn't the same as your Airstream's plug. Having a couple of inexpensive adapters will ensure you can always connect.

There are three types of outlets you'll typically encounter when you travel:  

  • 15 amp (an ordinary household plug)
  • 30 amp RV outlet
  • 50 amp RV outlet

Simply put, you should purchase basic adapters for the two types of plugs you don't already have.

For example, if your Airstream has a 30 amp plug, purchase adapters for 15 and 50 amp plugs. If you have a 50 amp plug, purchase adapters for 15 and 30 amp plugs. Why do you need a 15 amp plug? Some day you'll need to plug into an outlet by someone's house or garage, and you'll be glad you've got a 15 amp adapter in your kit.

A "dogbone" type of adapter is especially handy. These have a short length of cord, so you can plug them in tight spots (which happens a lot). The photo below shows the two adapters we travel with: 30 amp to 50 amp, and 30 amp to 15 amp.

Keep in mind that when you "step down" to a lower amperage plug, you can't use as much electrical power. If you have two air conditioners on the roof and connect to 30 amp, you'll only be able to use one air conditioner.

If you have one air conditioner and step down to 15 amp plug, you shouldn't run the air at all—or you'll risk melting the plug and/or damaging the a/c unit. 

3. Heavy duty 20 amp extension cord

We travel with this accessory primarily for use when courtesy parking at someone's home. It has come in handy several times when we the nearest outlet was around the other side of the house or deep in the garage.  

Further, unless your host has installed a dedicated 30 amp or 50 amp outlet on the house (perhaps for their own RV or electric car), you're going to need an electrical adapter to connect to his or her regular household outlet. 

Why do we suggest a heavy-duty 20 amp extension cord? A heavy-duty cord will reduce the amount of voltage drop that happens when you use long cords. So don't use chintzy "lamp cords" or cords rated for less than 20 amps.

Finally, even if you don't plan to courtesy-park, you still might find yourself needing this useful accessory.

At a recent boondocking rally (which means no power at the campsites) one of our neighbors had a battery problem. He thought he'd have to leave the rally early – until we lent him our 50-foot extension cord and adapter so he could plug into an outlet near the bathhouse. Disaster averted, and you can bet he went out to buy his own cord and adapter after the rally, for future trips! 

4. Extra fuses

Fuses sometimes blow. That's what they are supposed to do when something isn't right in the electrical system. And that's exactly why we travel with a variety of replacement fuses in our Airstream toolkit. 

The most common—and frustrating—fuses to blow are the ones for the power hitch jack and the solar port, but there are plenty of others that can crap out and cause a lot of hassle on the road. 

The good news is that most of the fuses in an Airstream are ordinary, automotive-type mini blade fuses, in various amperages from 10 to 30 amps. Our Maintenance Essentials Kit has all the common ones, and if you need more, you can find them in any auto parts or hardware store.

5. Cleaning kit for electrical connections

Electrical connector maintenance is one of the most important things any RV owner must do. We've been warning people about this problem for years, because it's a big safety issue. Dirty/corroded electrical connectors cause major problems, including melted/burned power plugs and intermittent or non-operating brake lights on the trailer.

If you want to know how bad it can be, take a look at the blog linked above, and this blog about my own recent meltdown.

You should check your electrical connections on the power plug and on the 7-way cord at least twice a year, and do a touchup on them whenever they are less than shiny.

We include all the tools you need to do this simple task in our Maintenance Essentials Kit

6. Power cord storage bag

This accessory is surprisingly handy. Rolling up your power cords and storing them in a bag makes them less prone to tangling, easier to get out of the storage compartment, and more organized.

That's why we developed the ideal power cord storage bags for RVers, in Large and Small sizes. The Large is for 50 amp cords, and the Small is perfect for 30 amp cords. We have one bag for each cord we carry: the normal 30 amp cord that came with the Airstream, a 30 amp extension, and a 20 amp extension. The bags are big enough to fit the adapters, too.

7. Dedicated device chargers

It would be practically un-American not to travel with a whole pile of electronics and a tangle of chargers, right?   ;-) So of course you already travel with yours.

Our tip is just this: chargers are generally cheap. Instead of moving your chargers to and from the Airstream every time you go on a trip, buy a second set of chargers to leave permanently inside the rig. This will save a lot of potential hassle, and keep you from ever forgetting an important charger again.

In our Airstream, we leave chargers for two laptops, USB-C cords for two phones, a charger for one Apple watch, and another USB-C for the tire pressure monitor, and one charging cord for the flashlights we use. Think about what you routinely use and order a set for your next trip.



    Bret King

    Bret King

    Hello. The article has a great list of power adapters. Maybe one to add; and adapter to go from the 30A connection to a 27A generator outlet? Not all generators have the 30A TV connection.

    Joe Claypool

    Joe Claypool

    I always value your intel. I have your dog bone adapters. I’m always nervous whenever I’m hooked up at my house (15A). I was told by a technician that it was ok to run my furnace when using the 15A. Do you agree? Thanks

    Roger Struthers

    Roger Struthers

    On fuses, the one on the power jack is different than the ones inside the Airstream. My 2023 Flying Cloud uses a 30amp Maxi Fuse which is larger than normal. You’ll want to carry an extra one or two. Especially if you are towing out of cold weather as that is the only time I’ve had issues and it was two winters in a row.

    Donald & Debora Wright

    Donald & Debora Wright

    How do I charge the two twelve volt batteries which are connected to each other?

    Rich Luhr

    Rich Luhr


    Bret K: There’s really no such thing as a 27 amp generator outlet, but if your generator lacks a 30 amp RV outlet (known as a TT30), you are correct that you may need an adapter. Look for an “L5-30 to TT-30 adapter”.

    Joe C: There’s no problem running your furnace. The furnace runs off the battery (12 volt DC power) and so it’s perfectly safe to use when the trailer is plugged into any outlet.

    Roger S: Good point about the power jack fuses. They are often a bit different. Some hitches require a “slow blow” type fuse. It’s best to check your hitch jack and see what it needs so you can include that particular fuse in your kit. Sometimes they are hard to find in stores.

    Donald W: If the batteries are connected to the Airstream, just plug the trailer into any power source and the batteries will charge automatically. If the batteries are removed from the Airstream (for winter storage) I recommend a common automotive battery charger/maintainer for each battery.

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