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What is a Dog Bone Adapter?

Yellow and black dog bone adapter and an extension cord on a wood table

If you’re getting ready to take your RV to a campsite or trying to figure out how to plug it into your home electrical system, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across people talking about the dog bone adapter. But the name doesn’t really give you a good indication as to what this thing is.

So, what is a dog bone adapter? A dog bone adapter is a type of plug adapter that allows you to connect an RV to a power source with different amps. It’s called a dog bone because of it’s traditional dog bone shape.

Dog bone adapters have been used by campers for years to hook into the electrical system at campsites, and most RV owners have at least one with them when they are going on a trip. But using them isn’t as self-explanatory as you might think. Read on to learn what dog bone adapters are used for, which type of dog bone adapter you need, and how to use one safely.

What Use Does a Dog Bone Adapter Have?

A dog bone adapter allows you to hook any RV up to a power source with different amps. For example, many large RVs come with a 50-amp electric service. The plug for this type of RV has four prongs, making it impossible to plug the RV into any outlet that is not 50-amps.

The situation can be problematic if you need to plug your RV in at a park that doesn’t provide 50-amp service, only 30-amp, and there are plenty of them out there.

To solve this problem, you would need a 30-amp male to 50-amp female dog bone adapter. The good news is, dog bone adapters come in several different configurations and are reasonably priced.

Some dog bone adapters are available with unique features that can create moisture-resistant connections, and some have a locking mechanism to help reduce strain on the adapter and connection.

When to Use a Dog Bone Adapter

Any time your plug won’t fit the power source at your campsite, you should use a dog bone adapter to get your RV hooked up to power. 

You might also use a dog bone adapter when:

  • You don’t want to strain your RV’s plug.
  • You want a weatherproof connection.
  • You want a lockable connection.

Which Dog Bone Adapter To Use

Below, we will list a few of the more popular dog bone adapter configurations and what they are used for so that you can make an informed decision about which one you might need.

Dog Bone Configuration When to Use It
15-amp male to 30-amp female If your camper is 30-amps and the power source has a typical house plug
30-amp male to 15-amp female If your camper has a standard house plug and your power source is 30-amps
30-amp male to 50-amp female If your camper is 50-amps and your power source is 30-amps
50-amp male to 30-amp female If your camper is 30-amps and your power source is 50-amps
15-amp male to 50-amp female If your camper is 50-amps and your power source has a typical house plug
Dog bones with matching male and female ends Reduce strain on your campers plug and extends the reach of your campers plug
Dog bones with lockable connections Create weatherproof and strong connections

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When NOT to Use a Dog Bone

While a dog bone can get the job done in a pinch, there are some instances when you should avoid using a dog bone or when an alternative would be a better option.

  • When you need a lot of power. Although dog bones work well at what they do, they can’t work miracles. Just because you can plug your 50-amp RV into the 15-amp outlet does not mean you’re magically going to be able to run 50-amps through that plug now. If you try to use your RV as usual, you’re going to overload the circuit and trip the breaker.
  • When you’re staying long term. If you’re planning to camp in one location long term, it is a much better idea to locate a campsite with a power source that is compatible with your RV than plugging into an outlet not meant for your RV.
  • When the appropriate outlet is available. You don’t need to use your dog bone for the sake of it. If the appropriate outlet is available, you should use it. If having a weatherproof connection is important to you, you should buy a lockable dog bone with a male and female end that matches the amps of your RV.

Are Dog Bones Safe?

For the most part, dog bones are safe, but any time you introduce an adapter into a situation, keeping safe needs to be the number one priority. To help keep you and those traveling with you secure, we’ve compiled this shortlist of safety tips:

  • Use a high-quality dog bone. Don’t buy an off-brand dog bone. When it comes to quality, it is always better to select from a well-known reputable brand. Leisure Cord and Camco are two well known manufacturers of dog bones.
  • Use a high quality, correctly rated extension cord, or avoid using one altogether. Extension cords are rated to have a certain amount of power running through them. Most run-of-the-mill extension cords makers assume that it will be connected into standard household outlets, which usually run at 15-amps. Using an extension cord not rated for the amps you’re using, could melt and cause problems.
  • Avoid plugging a dog bone into a dog bone. Many people have connected a dog bone into a dog bone to get the right connection without any problems, but it isn’t a good idea, just like plugging an extension cord into an extension cord isn’t a good idea. Thankfully this is easy to avoid. Just buy the appropriate dog bone.
  • Skip the cheater box. This is an adapter much like a dog bone, except it has an extra plug and, in theory, would allow you to pull more power to your RV. This would let you run more electricity in your RV. But this will trip the breaker at any campsite equipped with GFCI outlets, and GFCI outlets are code because they help keep people safe.

How to Use a Dogbone

Using a dog bone is nearly as easy as using an extension cord, but there is a little more to it to use it safely and in a way that will not damage the plug. Here’s how to do it:

  • Inspect the dogbone for damage. If it is damaged, you will need to replace it before use.
  • Turn off the electric in your RV like you usually would before plugging it in.
  • Flip the breaker on your power source into the off position.
  • Insert the RV plug into the female end of the dog bone adapter.
  • Plug the male end of the dog bone adapter into the power source.
  • Flip the breaker on and turn the power back on in your RV. You should be all set.

Do You Need a Dog Bone?

Although most RVers will keep a dog bone or two with them when they’re traveling, it isn’t exactly a necessity. You can call ahead to any campsite you plan to visit and see if you will need one, and many campsites will let you borrow one if you put down a deposit for it.

However, if you are considering an extended trip or are a semi-permanent RVer, it can save you some hassle if you have what you need on hand.

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The western part of the country draws me with its mountains, deserts, and red rock vistas. Still, there are numerous other wonders I'm ready to explore., from Maine's rugged coast to California's Big Sur cliffs and everywhere between.