Adapters vs. Converters: An Overview

In today’s digital age we may find ourselves relying on electronic devices, even when we travel. Odds are that if you’re planning an exciting vacation you’ll at least take a digital camera to capture the memories of your trip, or an iPod to keep you entertained on long flights. Though electronic devices make our travels easy and comfortable, it’s often unclear as to what devices are necessary to safely charge electronics outside of the country. There are 2 devices you could possibly need. Let’s start by explaining what each device does:

Sea to Summit Adapters

Adapter: These devices slide on to the end of your power cord and make it possible for your appliance to plug  into a different outlet configuration. For example, I can slide a round 2-pin European adapter on to my US camera charger. This will allow me to plug the charger into the wall. It is crucial to remember that adapters do not change electrical current. They simply make it possible to plug a device in.

Converter: A converter (also known as a transformer) literally changes the voltage of the electrical current. The United States runs on 120 volt electrical current, but much of the world runs on 220 or 240 volt currents. If you plug an appliance designed to run on 120 volts to an outlet which provides 220 volt current, you will fry your device.

Before leaving the country you need to consider 3 things to determine whether you’ll need  a converter, an adapter, both devices, or none of the devices.

1. What does the country’s outlet look like? If the outlet at your destination looks different from the outlet you have in your house you need an adapter. If it looks the same, you do not need one.

2. How many volts does the country’s electrical current run on? The United States runs on 120 volt electrical current, so if the country you’re visiting also runs on 110 or 120 volt currents you will not need a converter.  If you are visiting a country that runs on a 220 volt current or higher, you may need an adapter. This depends on whether or not your appliances are dual voltage.

3. If your destination runs on a higher voltage current, determine if your appliances are dual voltage. All appliances have this information written on them. Typically, this information is listed  in tiny embossed lettering near the end of the cord where the plug is.

  • If the appliances says something like “Input 110/240V” then your appliance is dual voltage and you will not need a converter, though you may still need an adapter. If your appliances are dual voltage do not plug them into a converter; it will ruin them.
  • If the appliance only says something “Input 110V” and does not mention a number above 220V then you will need a converter. In this case, check to see how many watts the appliance runs on. This will ensure you buy the appropriate converter.

Other things to consider about adapters and converters:

  • Many electronics are made to be dual voltage. These typically include computers, smart phones, digital cameras, tablets, eReaders, iPads, iPhones, and iPods. If you are using these appliances chances are you’ll only need an adapter.
  • Personal care appliances like electric toothbrushes, shavers, curling irons, hair dryers, and straighteners are usually not dual voltage. In this case, you will need to buy a converter or purchase a dual voltage version of the appliance.
  • Universal adapter sets are very handy, but they do not include the South African plug. If you are planning a safari in or near South Africa you will need to ensure that you have the appropriate adapter.

As always, if you have any questions about converters and adapters, please stop in the store or give us a call at 303-786-8406 and we will be more than happy to help you determine what you need for your trip!

Happy travels!