There are tons of useful outdoor tools and activities that require electricity. Unfortunately, our houses have yet to evolve to the point where there are safe electrical sockets outside the average home. So, extension cords it is!
You can’t use just any old extension cord outside, though. First of all, it has to be long enough to reach around the garden. It also needs to be protected against the elements. Take a look as we give our picks for the best outdoor extension cord.
Our quick picks for the most useful outdoor extension cords are:
Outdoor Extension Cord Buyers Guide
We start our list with a cord that stays flexible and working in heat and frost. The US Wire and Cable 98050 comes in a 25, 50 or 100-foot length. The 50 is a great choice for a mid-length cord — able to satisfy most length-needs adequately.
It’s not just the length that’s versatile, but you can use it indoors and outdoors. It’s resistant in extreme weather with no chance of abrasion or deterioration due to rain, snow or shine.
If you want to gauge how much this cord can do as well as what the outside can withstand, it’s safe to use with tools up to 125 volts or 1,875 watts. For an added perk, the plug glows day or night to show you when power is running through it.
Speaking of running, you can, too, without this cord weighing you down. It weighs 3.92 pounds — not a bad weight for such a lengthy, hefty piece of kit. This will make carrying it around a breeze, and it won’t pull you back moving around the garden. A lighter weight also means you can store it on a shelf with no fear of the shelf collapsing.
Even when on the shelf, the sleek red and blue design makes this a treat to look at, and hard to miss in the grass. You’ll know when to step over it — stepping on it too much could shorten its lifespan.
This cable boasts a long lifetime, and if yours arrives faulty — highly unlikely — the company is wonderfully helpful. Due to the lifetime limited warranty, if anything breaks, the company is contractually obligated to ship you a new cord. This should come at no cost to you.
Just don’t go calling the manufacturer about faults because of the plugs — unfortunately, they can be stiff. This doesn’t take away from the quality of the cable, though.
Aside from the stiffness, the other factors build up into this cord providing the most value — high quality, multiple sizes and a helpful manufacturer. This cord can be left sitting, gathering dust for months, and still do excellent work, year after year.
- Glows when connected to power.
- Made in the USA.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Stiff plug.
- Retains coiling memory from packaging.
Camco 50-Foot PowerGrip Outdoor 50-Amp — Best Heavy-Duty
Another cord with options, if this 50-footer is too much for you, there’s also a 15, 25 and 30-foot choice. However, 50 is the perfect length to power an RV, electric car, or use corded tools as you traipse around a large garden.
As you traipse, you’ll find the Camco PowerGrip is both flexible and durable. This is great, as a durable coating often makes you think it’d be hard and immobile. That’s not the case for this cord. As well as that, the coating is hard wearing, heat-resistant and flame-retardant.
This is a cable that’s well-prepared for the elements, too. Its PVC sheath serves as its protection from wear and tear and mother nature.
As well as being ready for nature, the cord is well-prepared for a good tugging at its connected ends. The plugs are easy to grip, and the 90-degree heads release stress and pressure on the cord and connection. This makes it so that the cord and plugs should last you a long time.
The power conducts itself through the cord as wonderfully as convenience does through the plugs. It features a high-conductivity set of 50-amp male and female connectors — fit for 125/250 volts or 12,500 watts, and are constructed with complete copper.
Further wonderful construction, the cord comes with a threaded locking ring, which is also weatherproof. This is a guarantee of further protection from moisture, letting you plug in through all weather.
When you’re done, an adjustable cord organizer and carrying strap and handle are provided, making for easy transportation and organized storage.
This is a really great, well-protected cord you can use in severe weather and under strain with no fear. If you live in a harsher climate or an area with rougher land to lay on, this may be the best cord for you.
Lastly, this cord weighs a whopping 35.3 pounds, so be careful how you store it. Such a high weight is a clear indicator of knowing this is a heavy-duty piece of equipment. However, it’s not so good if you’re moving around a lot with the cable following you.
- Hard wearing.
- Included organizer and carrying strap.
- Solidly made and designed to last.
- Hassle-free PowerGrip grips on the plugs.
- Covering is thermoplastic — not the stronger thermoset.
- Strap adjusters may not be as tight as desired.
- Very heavy.
AmazonBasics 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord — Best Budget
If you’re on a budget and looking for something that’ll still perform well, the AmazonBasics extension cord may be the one for you. With 15, 25, 50, 75 and 100-foot options available in two colors, it’s got you covered.
You’re even covered when it comes to the color. The options of orange and green are perfect for two types of people — one of these being the one who wants to see their cord to avoid tripping on it. The other, who wants it to blend into the grass as they power outdoor equipment during a gathering.
This vinyl covering protects the copper wires inside from sunlight, moisture and abrasion. Nobody is telling you to use this in the middle of a storm, but for light rainfall or damp grass, it’s a survivor.
Although not storm-ready, this humble cord is just as functional as any other. It may not come with fancy plugs or a high price tag, but it’ll do the job. And it won’t get any permanent twists or crimps while doing it!
Although it’s not advertised to be as durable as some of the more expensive ones out there, it’s not fussy. The cord won’t give you a hard time if you leave it out in the rain or catch it in a door by mistake. Even if you’re accident-prone, the cord will act as intended until you do something so klutzy, it’s dire.
Its durability is slightly better than its power, which is a shame. This cord is all set for 13 amps, 1,625 watts and 125 volts — it can handle many a job, but it’s not the best for the hardest work.
- Highly visible or hidden, depending on your choice.
- Durable for a cord that’s so affordable on a tight budget.
- Versatile — can be used for all kinds of tools, big and small.
- Light — 3.2 pounds.
- Female connector is very large — may not fit into some appliances.
- Sheathing is thinner than some would like.
- Only 16/3 — you’ll learn about this later.
Another Camco on the list, this one comes at 25 or 50 feet in sleek black, and it’s ready to perform — this cord is intended for use up to 125 volts and/or 3,750 watts.
This one is ideal for use with RVs and cars due to its powerful 30-amp connectors and 10-gauge wires. This is something not every outdoor extension cord can boast.
This cord shares much more than just great power with its 50-amp counterpart. It has a flexible shape and durable construction and hassle-free PowerGrip plugs. It’s protected from wear and tear and the elements, and once again comes with that cord organizer.
This cord weighs 10 pounds — over 20 pounds less than its counterpart, which makes storage and handling all the more convenient. Though still on the heavier side, at least you won’t cause any unexpecting shelves to come crashing down — you hope!
Your world may come crashing down with the female end of this cord, though. It’s a little on the larger side, so it may not fit with everything you want to use it for.
- Specifically advertised for use with vehicles.
- PowerGrip plugs.
- Flexible, yet durable.
- Fit for all weather.
- Bulky handle on the organizer/carrying strap.
- Female end may not fit all housings.
US Wire and Cable 74025 12/3 25ft Lighted Extension Cord — Highly Visible
The US Wire and Cable 74025 is a bright yellow cord with a lifetime warranty. This vivid color makes it easy to spot but compliments grass. This is a reliable, flexible cord with ends that light up when powered for further visibility.
The outer jacket is resistant to sunlight and moisture abrasion and deterioration. The material ensures the jacket won’t crack or break, even under strain.
The jacket is SJEOW TPE vinyl and is double-insulated. That’s a lot of protection for the powerful little wires inside.
The cord is fit for powering 125-volt, 15-amp and 1,875-watt demands. This power is available to you in several different lengths, too. It comes at 25, 50 and 100 feet long.
This cord — no matter what the length — was made specifically to meet the demands of contractors for a super-flexible solution. The plugs are quite the opposite — solid as rocks.
Though its ends are tough, this is still a light cord weighing 3.45 pounds, making storage and transport a breeze — that is, if you keep it coiled neatly.
However, though those connectors on the ends are strong, they’re not perfect. They have some issues with heating up, and can’t be fixed if they become faulty.
- Lighted connections.
- Connectors can’t be tightened if they come loose.
- Connectors are prone to heating up with prolonged use.
Southwire 2549SWUSA1 100-Feet Contractor Grade 12/3 Extension Cord — Made in the USA
The Southwire 2549SWUSA1 comes at 25, 50 and 100 feet. It’s a pleasing red, white and blue — boasting this patriotic combo because it’s proudly made in the USA.
The hefty, durable cord weighs 12.05 pounds, has reinforced blades and is the construction industry standard — the flexible vinyl jacket is water-resistant and protects the wires inside against abrasion and sunlight. Just what every outdoor cable should be doing when at its best.
This is the perfect extension cord for workshops, construction sites, warehouses and more. Its heavy-duty and the lightened end indicates when the power is on for the safety of all workers on site. This is needed because the cord itself isn’t that visible.
The cord’s construction is another safety bonus. The connectors are molded to be as water-resistant as the vinyl jacket, making this cord weatherproof head to toe. If you want some American-made quality, this is your cord, until it gets cold, at which it gets stiff.
- Made in the USA.
- Purchase supports a good cause — the company, Southwire, is a proud supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project.
- Suitable for construction sites
- Flexible, yet durable and weatherproof.
- Lighted end
- Not as visible as it could be.
- Becomes stiffer in cold weather.
Alert Stamping 5020TF-4C Retractable Extension Cord Reel — Best Cord With Reel
The Alert Stamping 5020TF-4C is a 20-foot extension cord, complete with reel. This is the only cord on the list to come with a reel, which is great for storage and transport. And even with the reel, the product manages to weigh only 10.05 pounds!
The light weight makes this cord easy to store. There’s a small loop at the top of the reel, making this perfect for hanging up when not in on-ground use. With its light weight for what it is, never fear about it pulling hooks out of the wall. This is also great hardware for wall and ceiling mounting.
The neatly storable cord is an even neater black. It’s not high-visibility, but it looks subdued and won’t draw attention if you use this at an outdoor gathering. The “ON” indicator illuminates when it’s supplying power, so at least there’s some visibility for you.
The power supplied is great, too. The cord is fit for 1,875-watt, 15-amp and 125-volt connections. It also has four outlets for you to utilize. If that’s too many for you, there’s also one with a single outlet available for a lower price.
This cord is as flexible as its outlet options. It remains flexible even in cold weather — manufacturers often forget to mention their cords won’t be as flexible when things get cooler.
A further positive is that the cord is oil-resistant, which most companies don’t boast about, focusing only on water. There are a few corrosive components — sulfur, bacteria and organic acids, to name a few — that can be found in crude oil, so knowing you’re safe against them is a relief.
However, despite being oil-proof, the cord doesn’t state anywhere that it’s weatherproof. You may want to keep it out of high temperatures or harsh rain.
- Manufacturer describes it as “cold-weather flexible.”
- Reel for tangle-free use and storage.
- Multiple outlets.
- Illuminated when turned on.
- Mid-weight, so not too heavy to hang.
- Doesn’t state it’s weatherproof.
- May take multiple tries to retract the cord into the reel.
- Cord length isn’t fully suitable for ceiling mounting.
GoWise Power 50 Feet 30-Amp RV Extension Cord with Molded Connector and Handle RVC3002 — Made for RVs
The GoWISE cord is a heavy-duty cord, with a power capacity fit for powering RVs. This cord model also comes with different length and power options — 25 feet 30 amp, 25 feet 50 amp, and this 50 footer, 30 amp.
All versions of this thick, black cord are extreme-weather proof, and this one weighs 14.2 pounds. It’s not the lightest for hanging or shelf storage, but the hefty weight is proof of its durability.
If carrying it around is hard for you, the cord is equipped with a grip on the handle for easy plugging out. Both plugs sport a bright, orange sheen, making finding them easy — no fear of losing where the connection to the RV or tool is.
A twisting lock ensures a solid connection when this is in use. Be sure to place it correctly so it works to the best of its ability, or you’ll be in for a surprise when you find your RV is without power!
However, you should look deeper into it before buying this cord to power your RV. It’s not compatible with all models, and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive guide.
At least one thing you can count on is the bright orange cord organizer that’s also included. This makes storage and keeping it coiled neatly a picnic.
- Fit for use in extreme weather.
- Cord organizer included.
- Visible plugs.
- Gripped plug.
- Lock may appear to be cheap and unworking if you don’t place it correctly.
- Not compatible with all RVs.
Yellow Jacket 2737 SJTW Locking Extension Cord — Protected Against Strain
Another yellow cord for safe and excellent visibility, this one is available at 50 or 100 feet. Its PVC jacket is weather and water-resistant and is suitable for use in the construction, institutional and entertainment industries. However, although it’s a highly flexible cord suited for indoor and outdoor use, the flex stiffens in cold weather.
Despite its lackluster flex-performance in the cold, the cord’s jacket is heavy-duty and protected against strain, giving it a longer life. Your working session will have a long life, too — the locking plugs keep everything connected, so there’s no unexpected loss of power if you jerk too hard.
And these long sessions shouldn’t weigh you down if you’re dragging the cord around behind you. It’s 6.31 pounds in weight, so it’s not too much of a drain on your energy to move and store.
- Great locking mechanism.
- Flexible, most of the time.
- Not as flexible when cold.
- No illumination feature.
- Jacket isn’t bonded to the wires.
For a lightweight yet hefty cable that will last you through the years and elements, we suggest the US Wire and Cable 98050 14/3 50-Foot Extreme All-Weather Extension Cord — Best Value.
If you need a cord that should withstand storms and stampedes, we have to recommend the Camco 50-Foot PowerGrip Heavy-Duty Outdoor 50-Amp Extension Cord — Best Heavy-Duty.
If you’re on a budget but need to power up some tools outside, we recommend the AmazonBasics 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord — Best Budget.
Buyers’ Guide for Outdoor Extension Cords
This is your guide to the technical jargon surrounding extension cords. Stick with us as we guide you through each one with — we have some bonus info for you at the end to help your shopping easier!
What Does SJTW Mean?
- S stands for service.
- J is for junior.
- T is for thermoplastic, or vinyl.
- W (or W-A) is for weather-approved.
Basically, this means it’s a hard service cord with a thermostatic plastic-constructed jacket and is weather-resistant, fit for outdoor use.
What Does 12/3 Mean?
- 12: The gauge wire rating, or wire diameter.
- 3: Three wires, or conductors, powering the cord inside.
If you didn’t know, the gauge determines the amount of electrical current the wire can carry safely. Let’s use up to 125 volts or 1875 watts as an example related to one of our reviewed cords. It also relates to its electrical resistance and weight.
12/3 wires are often used on construction sites. They’re used to power big machines, multiple tools and industrial equipment. These are very powerful cords!
What Does 14/3 Mean?
- 14: The gauge wire rating, or wire diameter.
- 3: Three wires/conductors, powering the cord inside.
These cords are usually heavy-duty outdoor extension cords — you can power up your tools and charge your electric car; that kind of thing.
You may also use these to power multiple appliances at once outside — heaters and speakers at an outdoor gathering, for example. Also, they may be used for some domestic exterior construction not requiring a 12/3.
What Does 16/3 Mean?
- 16: The gauge wire rating, or wire diameter.
- 3: Three wires/conductors, powering the cord inside.
16/3 is the most common type of wire you’ll find since most household appliances use these cords. Vacuum cleaners and even large kitchen appliances have cables with a 16-gauge rating.
These cords certainly don’t lack power — look at all the enormous refrigerators people often have. They may not be as tough as the others, but 16/3 definitely doesn’t mean the cord is weak concerning how much power it can handle.
12/3 vs. 16/3 Extension Cord
Going into this blind, you may be thinking that a 16/3 is the most powerful cord out there. It’s the highest number, and higher is better, right? Well, that’s where you’re wrong.
A 16/3 outdoor extension cord is one you’d typically use for your power tools. So if that’s all you need it for, don’t disregard our budget pick! This 16/3 cord on our list is very much able to handle outdoor duties like powering lawnmowers and drills.
The 12/3, on the other hand, is for someone with bigger fish to power-supply, and hopefully, not fry.
12/3 vs. 14/3 Extension Cord
Unless you work construction or have big, fancy equipment to power, 14/3 is probably all you need. There are a lot of 14/3 cords on our list, and a few 12/4. Not all of these cords give you a specific gauge rating, but you can assume it’s one of these two.
The 12/3 is the one to go for when it comes to bigger jobs. Although a 14/3 may say it’ll work with an RV or electric car, if you want to be safe, go one up.
These are the best of the best, and two out of the three most common types of cords.
What Gauge Extension Cord Do I Need?
It’s better to be safe than sorry when investing in what you feel is the best outdoor extension cord money can buy. So, take a look at your needs when seeing what’s for you.
A 14/3 will do your more powerful tools justice, where 12/3 will laugh at how little work it has to do. That is, until you plug in 10 more, then your 12/3 will get a workout. In that situation, the 14/3 might just start crying, and it’s not pretty when they blow.
A 16/3 will do you just fine if you treat it well and are careful not to overload it. Try not to plug in more than one appliance at a time with one of these.
If it’s easier for you, here it is broken down into three types of people.
The Casual DIY’er — 16/3
Suitable for a casual DIY’er who likes to keep the garden looking nice and builds the occasional birdhouse with the kids. They’ll power a drill building the bird house — then crack out the weed eater so the kids can play in trimmed grass waiting on the birds to come.
The Socialite, Workshopper or RV Owner — 14/3
- Likes to throw outdoor gatherings, with music and heaters and screens.
- Wants to build a shed or extend the deck — uses high-powered tools often. They might also have a workshop for projects requiring drills, or electric saws and woodworking tools.
- Someone with a nice little RV to power.
The Construction Worker, Or Someone With a Bigger, Fancier RV Than the Last Guy — 12/3
- Someone with a big, chunky RV needing lots of juice.
- Works in construction; all workers complaining their tools aren’t being powered to the max — they need a cord that will let them work more efficiently and to their highest potential.
What Is a Grounded Extension Cord?
Extension cords will have either two or three prongs. If you see one with three, don’t worry; you haven’t stepped through a wormhole and are suddenly in Great Britain.
The third prong is what makes a grounded connection. This provides a return path for excess electrical currents. It prevents damage to the appliance and prevents users from getting an electrical shock. Most heavy-duty extension cords will have a grounded connection.
About Amp Ratings
The flow of the electrical current through the cord is measured in amps.
The amperage, or amp, rating of the cord relates to a few different aspects of the cord.
- The gauge.
- Number of currentcarrying conductors
- Cord’s length.
The amp rating is the maximum current in amps that can be carried continuously. For example, the Camco 50-Foot PowerGrip Heavy-Duty Outdoor 30-Amp Extension Cord with its 30-amp rating.
Amp ratings are quite complex, and much of the time, an amp rating will depend on the cord’s environment.
Bare copper will have a much higher rating than an insulated wire. This is because — although weatherproofed in most cases — the insulation can still be damaged in extreme temperatures.
If you cover any wire under material that restricts the dissipation of heat to its surroundings, the rating is affected and is less than something without insulation.
Putting a wire next to other heat-generating wires will also affect its rated ampacity.
What Are Extension Cord Letter Designations?
Letter codes are used to describe various attributes and ratings of portable extension cords. There are a number of combinations — SO, SOW, SOOW and SEOW, as examples.
The letter code is designated by Article 400 by the UL — Underwriters Laboratories — and the NEC — National Electrical Code.
The letters that go into forming codes and their meanings are:
- S — Severe service cord
- SJ — Junior severe service
- SVT — Vacuum cleaner/light-duty cord
- T — Tinsel cord, if T is the first letter of the code
- T — Thermoplastic, if T is not the first letter of the code
- H — Heat-resistant
- HH — High heat-resistant
- N — Nylon outer-jacket material
- E — Elastomer
- O — Oil-resistant outer jacket
- OO — Oil-resistant outer jacket and oil-resistant interior insulation
- P — Parallel cord
- V — Vacuum cord
- W/W-A — Weather-resistant
Now you know the technical side of it, you should be even better informed when making your decision. We’ve provided you with nine fantastic options and the information to understand them.
Most outdoor tools and uses will require a 12/3 or 14/3 cord, with a decent amp rating. The nitpicky bits like letter designations don’t matter as much unless your needs are really specific. For the most part, you don’t need to be an electrician to decide which one is best-suited to your needs.
Our top four choices for the best are:
Last update on 2024-02-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API