Car Camping in Your Tesla with RV Power

Plugged in and charing at a Washington State Park

So you want to car camp in your Tesla? As it turns out, that is pretty easy. The back of a Model Y is the same size as a Twin mattress, and plenty of mattress solutions are available for all of the various Tesla models. I bought a folding, memory foam mattress, but you could use whatever you like, The cars now even have a “Camp Mode” available in the climate control. Camp Mode keeps the HVAC on as well as the USB and 12v ports, and disables Sentry mode. If you’ve ever camped in the back of a pickup truck with a canopy, or even in an old tent, you will know that respiration and perspiration can cause a lot of condensation over night, but the Tesla HVAC keeps the air circulating and you don’t wake up in the morning to find everything damp.

Camp Mode — after a few minutes the screen goes black so it isn’t so bright.

What about power, you might reasonably ask. I encourage you to run this experiment with your own car in your own driveway — better to find out at home instead of in the middle of nowhere — but I turned Camp Mode on in my car while it was in my driveway and I left it for a few hours. My car seemed to use about 4 miles of range per hour to keep itself at temperature. With a full battery, camping should be fine.

What if you go to a campground? RV sites have power for campers, so how can you use that to not just maintain the battery, but to actually charge your Tesla? The mobile connector that comes with a new Tesla only has a 110v connector, and most RV spots in State Parks and private campgrounds do have 110v outlets. Unfortunately, that would only add around 3 miles per hour of range, but it is better than nothing.

Many newer RV camp sites have 50 Amp, 220v power available, and those sites need a NEMA 1450 connector. Fortunately, you can order a NEMA 1450 connector from Tesla for only $35. One of these should comfortably charge your car overnight.

NEMA 1450 connector available from Tesla
RV Power at a campground. You can see that I am plugged into the 50 Amp, 220v connector. I usually turn the breaker off, plug in the Tesla adapter, flip the breaker back on, and then plug into the car.
At this campground, the 50 Amp connection resulted in 28 mi/hr of range added. By morning, I was easily ready to go, even though I slept with the HVAC on and the outide temperatures were in the mid 30F range.

For a very long time, many RVs, and RV camp sites were set up for 30 Amp, 110v power. This isn’t great, but it will increase the charging of your Tesla to around 6 miles of range per hour. You will need an adapter that goes between the NEMA 1450 connector and the RV power pedestal at the camp site. These are available on Amazon.

When all of this is connected, it looks like this:

One caution: you have to go into the charging menu on the Tesla and set the maximum power to 24 Amps so the car doesn’t try to draw 40 amps and melt everything.

I spent the night in the back of my Model Y in Camp Mode while using the 30 Amp connector, and, even with the HVAC set on 65 degrees, I was able to add 6 miles per hour of range. It worked well, and reduced the gear needed for car camping. The only other things that I took were a sleeping bag, a cooler with food, and a backpacking stove and pot for dinner. Pretty easy.

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I’m a Dad, a Project Manager, and a Seattle resident.

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Tod Bookless

Tod Bookless

I’m a Dad, a Project Manager, and a Seattle resident.

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