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Dog Bone?! A Guide on RV Power Cord Adapters

| Updated Sep 15, 2023

Don't be an RVer without a dog bone! Wait, that's not how the saying goes, but here is a guide on dog bone adapters and why RVers need one…

Want a home away from home? Simply drive your rig to a campground, plug in, and voila! Right? 


Plugging in your RV is more complicated. You never know what type or condition of power receptacle you will get at your campground. 

You may arrive to find a damaged receptacle or the wrong amperage available to you. So, prepare yourself ahead of time and come with an RV adapter that can suit your needs. 

If you buy something through our links, we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps keep our lights on so we can continue to provide helpful resources for RVers. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.

Dog Bone?! A Guide on RV Power Cord Adapters

Dog Bone?! A Guide on RV Power Cord Adapters

In a recent podcast, certified RV inspector Brenda of Queen Bee RV gave great advice on the importance of RV power cord adaptors. 

Brenda focuses on educating RVers on how to care for their RVs – especially women RVers – and regularly contributes to the podcast, sharing her expertise with our entire audience.

The following is a summary of Brenda’s RV Tip of the Week. We also share the podcast video at the bottom if you prefer to watch her very helpful mini-training.

RV Power Cord Adapters

When plugging your RV into shore power, or 120Volts AC, there are a variety of outlets or receptacles that you will encounter. Refrain from being surprised by the locations or scenarios where you find shore power at various campgrounds.   

You will find the perfect receptacle for your rig’s needs when all the stars align. However, that is rarely the case, and you will need to understand the RV power cord adapters, also known as dog bones.

Dog Bone?! A Guide on RV Power Cord Adapters
one example of a dog bone…

Why You Need an Adaptor

You should use an adapter when hooking up for many reasons. Some include: 

1) An error may occur with the campground reservation system. They might give you an incorrect site with the wrong amperage. 

2) You might find the breaker on the pedestal is broken with the correct amperage size you need, so you have to use the other one. This is especially true if it is after hours and no one can help repair the receptacle. 

3) Certain state and national park restrictions can limit what is available to you. 

4) When you are “mooch docking” or driveway camping using the outlets at home, that is the typical sticks and bricks variety. 

Types of Outlets / Receptacles At Most Campgrounds

The outlets/receptacles you will typically find in the RV space are the 15/20 amp (like in our sticks and bricks), 30 amp, and 50 amp. Many receptacles offer all three sizes, but some require that you choose specific sites for your rig. 

Different Configurations of Adapters

There are also matching power cord adapters you can purchase that offer different configurations to assist with converting your rig’s power needs. That way, you can adapt your RV’s power needs to whatever outlet is available to you at any time.  

When purchasing an adapter, you want to ensure you have the correct male/female configuration. 

For example, some adapters have a 50 amp male plug-in with a 30-amp female plug-in on the other end. But if you need to be able to plug in your RV into a 50-amp plug, but only 30-amp is available, you would need the opposite adapter configuration. 

Pro tip: Pay close attention to these dog bone adapters' male and female ends.  Think about what scenarios you might encounter and have a variety of adapters to remedy multiple situations.

Plugging in Your Adapter

Best practices when plugging in the adapters are similar to the steps for plugging your RV into the campground pedestal:  

  1. Attach the power cord of your RV to the adapter
  2. The breaker turned off at the pedestal 
  3. Plug adapter in 
  4. Turn the breaker back on to send power to the rig

Dog Bone 

surge protectors

Can you use a dog bone with an EMS or surge protector?  Yes!  Brenda highly recommends it for the same reason you use the EMS.  

For example, you are driveway camping and plugged into someone’s 15 or 20-amp sticks and bricks outlet in the garage.  

It is not uncommon that you might find reverse polarity at someone’s home (meaning the hot and neutral have been switched). They may be none the wiser since it does not affect the use of their outlets and appliances inside the home.  

However, this can be very dangerous for RVers since we have no thermal protection on the neutral line should it become energized.

Watts Consumption

The following information can help you understand watts consumption in your RV while utilizing a dog bone adapter.  

RVers with 50-amp service are used to having a total of 12,000 potential watts to use when plugged into shore power.  If you are “dog-boning” from a 30-amp outlet to your 50-amp power cord, you will now only have a potential of 3600 watts to use in the RV.  

For example, a big-ticket 120Volt item like the air conditioner needs approximately 2400 watts on start-up. Then, it will settle down to around 1500 watts.  

Now imagine you couple that with the water heater electric element, the converter charger, or the microwave, which can all consume similar amounts of wattage. You can quickly use the 3600 watts and create problems like tripping the breaker.  You may only be able to operate one of those appliances at a time.

For  30-amp rigs that are using an adapter to step down from a 50-amp outlet to your 30-amp power cord, you will not be able to get 12,000 watts like typical 50-amp RVers. That is because your power cord is still rated at 30 amps. 

You also have a 30-amp breaker inside the RV electrical panel to protect you from calling for too much amperage.

When mooch docking or driveway camping and adapting a 15 or 20-amp outlet to meet your RV power needs, those receptacles can only provide 1800-2400 potential watts.  

That might mean you cannot use big-ticket appliances, especially if your converter charger is in full swing. Or you can only use one outlet or one appliance at a time.

Pro tip: To keep from overloading the circuits, make a cheat sheet with the power consumption needs for your 120Volt appliances and have it handy when you need to utilize a dog bone adapter.

Watch Queen Bee RV's Tip of the Week – video queued up for you

We summarized Queen Bee RV's tip of the week in the post, but watching the video is very helpful! Brenda walks you through what you need to know.

Like what you see in these videos? We'd appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!

We also suggest you tune into our podcast for more troubleshooting tips, camping recipes, and lots of great RV-related information. A new episode airs every Wednesday!

Subscribe with your favorite podcast platform: Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Email | TuneIn | RSS

RV Hookups for Beginners

Are you new to RVing and need some guidance regarding hooking up? 

We have an excellent, easy-to-use beginner guide to help prepare you for hooking up your RV. Keep reading… RV Hookups for Beginners (5 Steps for Your First Trip).

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Dog Bone?! A Guide on RV Power Cord Adapters 1

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-09-15

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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