Written by Terry Smith

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Best extension leads[UK]: Top outdoor cable reels with waterproof options – 15m,20m, 25m, 50m reviewed

This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 1:33 am

What is the best extension lead for outdoors that is waterproof?

Interestingly you’ll be surprised to know there are many different types of extension lead. Some have a softer rubber external. Others a cheaper, harder plastic coating more prone to becoming brittle. From there, some are better suited to wet and are more waterproof, while others are what they are based on price. Some have external or built in handles, some don’t have one at all! In this article you’ll learn to differentiate between the best extension leads and workout the value. It’s fair to say I’ve had dozens of extension leads over the years and two have remained in service for many many years, I’ll be highlighting those in particular in this review 🙂

A top top tip before you get picking the best extension leads and cable reels:

The most important thing to remember when picking a cable extension reel is how many metres do you actually need? A cable reel always performs best when it it is unwound as it’ll not overheat so quickly. You can then take full advantage of 13 Amps which is about 3000 Watts in power with a 230 Volt home circuit. So don’t buy more than you need or you’ll be unnecessarily winding in and out. A tiresome chore believe me!

My picks for the best extension leads and cable reels:

  1. Masterplug Pro-XT Four Socket Open Cable Reel Extension Lead with Winding Handle, Thermal Cut Out and Power Switch, 25 Metres – Best 25m cable reel extension if you need a lot of power draw
  2. Masterplug MSTHDCT50134 Four Socket Medium Open Cable Reel Extension Lead with Handle, 50 Metres Best 50m cable reel (personally use this daily) if you need a really long length
  3. Masterplug CT1510P/IPS-MP Weatherproof Outdoor Single Inline Socket Extension Lead with ‘H’ Frame Cable Tidy, 15 Metres best waterproof cable personally tested for outdoor use
  4. VonHaus Extension Lead/Splashproof Socket Reel 25m – 2 Sockets For Indoor/Outdoor Use – best alternative waterproof cable reel IP54 rated by UK law
  5. EXTRASTAR 1 Way Gang Single Socket Mains Power Extension Lead 13A Fused UK 3Pin Plug – 20 Metre Cable
  6. Centurion EXT1038 2 Way UK 3Pin Plug 10amp Extension Reel with 10 Metre Heavy-Duty Winding Cable and Safety Cut Out Switch
  7. Status S50M13ACRX1 13 A 4 Socket Cable Reel with Thermal Out
  8. SAFEMORE Extension Lead Vertical 8 Gang Surge Protection with 4 USB Ports extension lead with usb port alternative pick

Problems with using cable reels and extension sockets

As I just said a moment ago, extension sockets are often bought and used by people as they are cheaper than purchasing a proper live connection cable reel. However, this isn’t always a great idea if it’s to be used outside.

The main reason being, a lot of these cheap extension sockets are not 100% waterproof and obviously, this is potentially extremely dangerous. A sudden rain shower, splash with a hose, or even a spilled drink, can cause serious problems if the extension socket isn’t tested and certified waterproof, so it’s better to spend a bit more on one that is.

Another problem I’ve come across with low-cost extension sockets is the main cable breaking inside somewhere, and this leaves the product pretty much useless. Again, the solution is to avoid the cheapest extension sockets, and read up on the product to see if there are any design features that will lower the risk of the cable being damaged if stepped on or twisted.

Cable reels have their own issues too. For a start, they are usually quite big and can be heavier than you expect when fully wound with cable. Having said that, there are models which have been designed to be more portable, but they are generally still much larger than extension sockets.

Like with extension sockets, you need to make sure that the cable is good quality and durable. In fact, I would say it is more important on a cable reel as you will be winding and unwinding it often, and this causes stretching of the cable. Low quality products won’t take this forever and will break inside.

Cable reels are usually operated by a crank handle, but there are automatic models and other types out there too. Of course, this is another thing that goes wrong, leaving you to wind the cable by hand; a very monotonous job indeed.

You need to be careful when winding or unwinding a cable reel as it is so easy to get the cable twisted, knotted and tangled up without realising it until it’s too late. Then you have to spend some time carefully untangling it, and it can be really frustrating. This is a common problem with some self-retracting cable reels.

With both of these types of products you have to know the maximum power they can handle and then make sure you don’t overload them by plugging multiple tools or appliances into them that all require a lot of power. It will not only destroy your socket, but can also be a fire hazard.

What sizes do extension reels often come in?

You can get almost any size cable reel: 10m, 20m, 25m, 30m, and 50m are the most common but you can even adjust the ones you buy. You can cut out excess and wire the plug back to the desired length – changing a plug is easy and always consult an electrician:

Remember though, you do not want to touch a waterproof plug whatsoever. You’ll break the seals! You’re stuck with the length you buy on those.

What safety features makes a top cable reel?

Before we talk about the obvious, the first thing you want to do is workout if the cable reel has the safety covers inside the socket that mean you need to push in a 3 pin plug for the cover to disengage. Have you ever wondered why some plug sockets are quite stiff? More often than not it is because of the safety covers that need to be disengaged at the same time.

Every cable reel should have the minimum safety of a thermal breaker. This means that if you don’t unwind the cable you’ll heat up the unit and it’ll cut out. It can still cut out when unwound but you’re more likely to pop the fuse if it’s fully extended. On a straightforward extension lead you would expect a fuse, ideally 13 amp so you can use a table top heater or wall mounted heater (perhaps something similar like a blow heater)

The thicker the cable, technically the safer it is. While 1.25mm2 is ideal, if you did have a 2.5mm2 cable then you would stand even less chance of the cable overheating. The issue with the thicker cable is purely down to cost.

1. Masterplug Pro-XT Four Socket Open Cable Reel Extension Lead with Winding Handle, Thermal Cut Out and Power Switch, 25 Metres High Visibility Cable , Green

The Masterplug Pro-XT Four Socket cable reel is a sturdy strong cable reel well equipped with a 13A plug and has 4 sockets with a thermal cut out with a reset button. It’s compact cable reel design is as you would expect, but that’s not what I like most about this reel, it’s actually when you’re reeling your extension cable back in, the guide is one of the best designs I’ve seen in a long while. Talking of winding in. The handle will turn in your hand making winding all the easier. The knob on the end is connected to some type of bearing. The guide can be seen below:

Masterplug extension cable reel guide is ver easy to use and stops winding around the sides which can be a pain to put right

Have you ever reeled in your cable, lost concentration and sent the cable around the side of the reel? Yep I have countless times. This guide gives you a bit of leeway on that. It doesn’t really matter if you lose concentration for a short while, you’ll get away with it. The pain it can be to undo this mess if you’ve wrapped around the side more than a couple of times 😀 The manufacture has made a pretty good demo of this unit before I break it down further:

Something unusual about this extension reel is the power switch. It’s more of a modern thing but I think it goes two ways. It benefits because you can cut power to the unit at the point of plugging in machinery, but it can also lead you into a false sense of security in terms of power still being live up to the unit. Also, it can be a pain if you flick the switch inadvertently when packing away, only to run indoors and check you’ve actually turned the power on at the wall (in my opinion the safest place to breaker your equipment).

With regards to this being waterproof it most certainly is not and should not be used in the wet. The cable is 1.25mm and you can send a sensible 3000 Watts of power through the lead without cutting out BUT make sure the cable is unwound. If the cable is still reeled and you put some hard work on it, then it’ll overheat and cut out. I had one that failed and actually melted the cable together once (not this model or manufacturer) but worth remembering just how important it is to unwind the cable.

Some claim to have run four 2000 Watt heaters on one lead. If they did, it wouldn’t be for long and defies science 😀 After all you have a max Watts rating of 13 Amps * 240 Volts (3120 Watts). One heater on full power, or two half power is the most you sensibly want to push through this power cord! If you do manage to overload the cable and pop the fuse then you’ll not have much trouble replacing, it is designed for easy swap over.

Overall it’s a quality unit, the number of unhappy customers is virtually zero and refreshingly there is a PLC behind this product on Amazon – Luceco plc. So you can expect sensible after sales care if something does go wrong.

Pros:

  • 4 sockets
  • reset over heating breaker
  • handy on off switch (unusual added feature).

Cons:

  • Not waterproof

2. Masterplug MSTHDCT50134 Four Socket Medium Open Cable Reel Extension Lead with Handle, 50 Metres, Blue

Second on the list and my top pick for a 50m cable reel is the Masterplug MSTHDCT50134. From personal experience I can tell you I prefer this design over the green one above. It’s actually harder to reel in and operate if you’re not concentrating, but if you are, this one is much smoother to operate after using both. The drum requires concentration or it will disappear down the side and cause you grief. You’ve been warned!

The firs thing that will surprise you when picking this up is the weight. The heavier the unit the thicker the wire, and the better the quality is pretty much how it goes. The wire in this case is 1.25mm2 – they kindly place this all over the wire so you’re sure! The cable is very strong. I’ve caught it in my van door and done absolutely zero damage – a personal testament to my stupidity and the quality of the lead 😀 And I’ll say this, I use it with a 2000 Watt router and 1200 Watt extractor for extended periods of time. If I leave any wire coiled it’ll start to warm up. You’ve definitely got to uncoil completely if you want to use the full Amps. So make sure you really need the 50m is what I’m getting at here! 😀

Also on the power, you’ll see there is a thermal reset switch on this model too. When you compare them you can quite clearly see they are almost identical in that respect. I just prefer the feel and wind of this slightly different model.

as far as safety is concerned I have only seen one issue – a user tried to charge up their car and it melted the plug. Long before that happened the fuse should have blown so I am not quite sure what happened there but most cars charge on 30 Amps or more, and since this cable is only rated for your standard 13 Amp household, I highly advise not to misuse the product. It is certainly not safe beyond its rating!

Pros:

  • Super price for 50m lead
  • Strong cable can take a knock
  • Thermal breaker

Cons:

  • Would like to see Masterplug make a truly high end cable reel with 2.5mm2 wire.
  • Some struggle with the cable reeling down the sides of the drum

3. Masterplug CT1510P/IPS-MP Weatherproof Outdoor Single Inline Socket Extension Lead with ‘H’ Frame Cable Tidy, 15 Metres,

I thought I would go with trusty and reliable Masterplug for the out and out best waterproof extension lead you will be happy to use in the garden in wet conditions. It has a IP54 weather rating which means by law it can withstand splashing of water, and dust ingress but that’s probably not quite so important to you. But aside from that, I’ve left this outside by accident in the rain (not powered up) and had no problem at all. No leaks of any kind around the socket point so its as close as you’ll get to an outdoor permanent extension lead though I must point out, that is not ideal but will work for a while.

The first thing you’ll notice though is how easy the H-frame is designed to undo and get the cable out quickly when compared to a cable reel. It’s probably also easier to fold back in as opposed to wind back up too. In terms of carrying, the handle is pretty square and not the best but given it’s light, not a hindrance. I also think the H frame plastic is a bit light weight, but holding up so far. We will have to see when one of the kids knocks it off the side and stands on it 😀

The lid has a catch that locks and can easily be done up and undone. It seals nice and tight so no worries on water ingress as I mentioned before. Given its 15m in length you’d say it’s ideal for a smaller garden. You don’t want to join them either. That makes more joints for water to get into pretty obviously.

Like the other extensions in this review, the max power rating is 13 Amp so 3120 Watts which will cover you for almost all household garden tools and heating. Something I noticed and well worth a mention – just be aware that the very thickest cable you’ll find (so 2.5mm2) will struggle to fit in the holder and close properly. I’ve known some people to put this between mains power and their car to charge an electric vehicle. I must say, while it did the job, I don’t feel comfortable with it as that’s far too much electric. I’d rather see a 2.5mm2 cable for that as opposed to the 1.25mm2 that you get as standard with almost all power reels and extensions these days.

Pros:

  • Genuinely confident about leaving out if wet
  • Well priced
  • Easy to lay out and fold back in
  • Thousands of people in the UK who own one too agree with my stance on this extension lead

Cons:

  • Handle a bit boring but works
  • Not a fan of the plastic casing

Vonhaus have started making some cracking tools and the power lead extension is no exception. they had to really. They needed a power lead that could work in roughish UK weather conditions alongside their superb Vonhaus electric garden leaf blower. With that being rated at 3000Watt and believe me, it uses all of that, they needed to build a decent lead to accompany it!

Being IP54 rated means it’s protected from water spray in any direction by law. Needless to say, electric and water don’t mix so when you are done with your power outside, absolutely ensure you unplug the power inside the house first and disconnect any electric from the unit if it’s been splashed or you got caught out and rained on etc. Don’t make the mistake of thinking waterproof means safe! An absolute golden tip is to stand your power reel upright and have the plugs facing down vertically so water runs down and off the plug. If you just lay it on its side water has a far better chance of getting in!

So you’ll like the design – as you place in your plug, the lid will come down and encapsulate the plug creating a water tight seal. Here’s a look at that:

Vonhaus waterproof extension cable reel with lid closed sealing plug from moisture

To break the seal you’ll need to press firmly on the portion of the button that says ‘open’ – look close enough you’ll see that:

Open and close on waterproof extension cable reel

The earlier models seemed to be a bit flimsy and were prone to break or come off. There haven’t been any recent reports of this at all.

It’s got the usual cut out thermal breaker which is expected. the plug is standard so easy to remove and contains a 13 Amp fuse as expected as well. And while it doesn’t say, given the weight is 3.3kg, it’s almost impossible for the wire to be any thicker than 1.25mm2 – would be great if they clarified that though.

You’ll like the carry handle, it’s probably the nicest of all reviews on this article and because it’s a sealed unit the cable can’t disappear down the side of the drum making it pretty much fool proof.

So on a price perspective and crucially safety as well as performance (remember this is designed to put up with extended periods of the 3000 Watt leaf vacuum) I would say this is the best alternative water proof cable reel and extension lead in the UK at the moment. Vonhaus service team are also pretty quick to respond to enquiries which is a plus and I expect that to improve as they continue to expand their range of equipment.

Pros:

  • IP54 waterproof rated by law
  • Easy to change fuse
  • Easy to reel in and carry

Cons:

  • Older models seemed to break on the plug covers

5. EXTRASTAR 1 Way Gang Single Socket Mains Power Extension Lead 13A Fused UK 3Pin Plug - 20 Metre Cable

The EXTRASTAR power extension lead is well built and robust. It definitely deserves a mention and worth considering if the Masterplug Pro-XT Four Socket isn’t in stock or you prefer to hand coil your cable as opposed to a reel setup – the only question is can you hold 20m? I think yes and its a good design and length. The cable feels nice through the hands too.

Before I go any further, I want to point out this isn’t your cheap rubbish. It has the security type shutters on the socket so as you push in a 3 pin plug they all disengage and you can force the plug in. Yes this does make pushing the plug in slightly stiffer but on the massive positive side, your kids won’t be able to force in a sharp object.

In fact, for me apart from the most obvious attributes, the hand coil is the biggest advantage. If you coil up well after use, laying your cable reel is a matter of seconds. It doesn’t need to be untidy either. If you use the old over under method you’ll not damage your cable either. Here’s a good tutorial. I know the guy is American but I’ve fast forwarded you to the right point in the video and you only need watch a few seconds to get the idea:

So with that said this is simply put a really solid and quality self coiling power cable. If I didn’t need a cable tidy then this would be right up there for a top pick.

6. Centurion EXT1038 2 Way UK 3Pin Plug 10amp Extension Reel with 10 Metre Heavy-Duty Winding Cable and Safety Cut Out Switch

Just looking for a low-cost extension reel to plug the lawnmower or hedge trimmer into at the bottom of the garden? Well, the Centurion EXT1038 might be the kind of thing you are looking for.

At the time of writing this article, the centurion EXT was on sale for around 15 quid. That’s not bad at all for a ten-metre cable reel, fully enclosed in a plastic casing. Of course, with the low price come a few minor faults, but for simple home use it is fine, and a lot of people don’t want to spend the Earth for their extension leads.

When fully wound, the cable has a maximum current of 3 amps, or 720 watts, which isn’t a great deal and probably wouldn’t be enough to run your lawnmower without getting too hot. However, once you unwind the cable, that maximum current jumps to 10 amps (2400 watts) which is much more practical and should allow you to run two electric garden tools at the same time without issue.

If overheating does occur, the safety cut-out function will automatically kick in and switch the cable reel off to prevent any damage from occurring. We tested this and it worked as it should, so no complaints there.

There are two AC outlets on the side of the Centurion EXT, and they are 3 pin sockets to be used with UK standard plugs. Unfortunately, I could not see any internal covers in the socket holes to protect from dust and debris, but for such a low-cost product, that is not that surprising.

I liked the slim design of this cable reel, and it certainly makes storage really easy, but it also has its downsides. Because of the way the cable is packed inside, it is easy to get twisted or jammed, and with it being encased in plastic, it is not easy to see what or where the problem is.

Although this is advertised as ‘heavy duty’, you should take it with a very large pinch of salt. The plastic used for the casing and other parts isn’t the best, and in some parts felt a bit loose or less than robust.

 The cable itself seemed fine to me, but the outer housing probably wouldn’t take much of a beating, so you’ll have to be careful about dropping or standing on it. I also wouldn’t ever use this outside in wet conditions.

As I already said, this is a budget product and so has some flaws, such as the quality of the plastic. Apart from that though, it is quite a decent little product and fine for giving you greater range with your garden tools on dry days.

 

The bright green design of this cable reel from Status is something you’ll either love or hate, but beyond that, this competitively priced cable reel is definitely one worth some serious consideration.

First of all, there’s the price tag. At just over 40 quid for a 50-metre cable reel, it is hard to beat, and what’s more, it doesn’t look as if Status have cut any corners to get that price down either.

Both the metal stand and the plastic reel feel strong and sturdy, and the cable is 13A high quality stuff, not the 10A that is sometimes used in low-cost products claiming to be heavy duty.

The cable is surprisingly flexible, and I ran into no big issues with winding and unwinding it, although there is something to keep in mind. To get the most use out of a cable reel, you need to fully unwind it. for example, fully wound, the maximum current on this model is 1200W. Fully unwound it is 3120W. So, you have to fully unwind 50 metres of cable to use it safely with multiple appliances at the same time.

Now, if you have a smaller garden, the idea of unwinding 50 metres of cable might sound like a bit oof a nightmare, but thankfully, this product is also available in smaller sizes of 20 and 25 metres.

The four, 3 pin AC sockets are protected by a thermal cut-out system, and if this is tripped, you can quickly and easily reset the device by pushing the red button, and the cable reel is ready to use again. I would give it time to cool off first though.

The main thing that I think will put people off is the bright green casing and cable. Personally, I didn’t really like it, and thought it made it more difficult to see the cable in the grass. It did make things easier when the sun went down though, so I guess it comes down to personal opinion.

There is no splash protection for the sockets, not any internal protection for dust or anything to stop little kids’ fingers getting in there, so you do have to be careful about how you use this product. Apart from that, and a couple of other minor grips, I have nothing but good words for the Status 4 socket cable reel.

 

Another popular option for light duties is this extension socket from Safemore, which has a host of great features for a reasonable price.

I’ll just start off by saying that this product is very, very, similar to the Bestek tower extension socket we already reviewed further up the page. IS that a bad thing? I certainly don’t think so, and the lower price tag attached to this Safemore model might just convince more than a few people to opt for it over the Bestek.

Another thing that this product has over its rival is the power cable. At 3 metres long (9.8ft) it is much longer than the 1.8m cable found on the Bestek extension socket, and that extra metre or so does come in handy.

With 8 Ac sockets and 4 USB ports, there is plenty of space for everyone’s smartphones, earbuds, etc. and again, the USB ports offer smart charging that will detect the type of device and charge accordingly.

To protect those expensive devices, this extension socket incorporates systems that help with too much voltage, overcurrent, anti-static, short circuit, and there is also 1050 joules surge protection. All of this will ensure there are no problems, and the maximum consumption of 3250W, is more than enough for the majority of homes and families.

If you have babies or pets, you’ll know that sockets give you nightmares, but just like with the Bestek extension socket, the Safemore model has safety features in place to prevent accidents, and there are two power switches for the upper and lower levels, so you can turn one off when not in use.

The casing of the Safemore extension socket is made from strong and fire-retardant ABS plastic, but I still wonder about how it would hold up to being knocked of a table a few times. Having said that, on the bottom of the device there are actually ant-slip rubber pads so this is less likely to happen.

With diameters of 160mm tall and 135mm wide at the base, this Safemore product is nice and compact, and the modern design actually makes this a cool looking device to have on top of the coffee table, or even under the parasol of your patio garden furniture.

This is another great extension lead for use in the house or out on the patio in good weather. It is not really suited to be used in a heavy-duty way, but there are other products available if that’s what you’re looking for. Just don’t expect all the features found on this one.

  

Examples of uses of cable reels and extension sockets

To be honest, I never use extension sockets outside of my home, shed, or garage, but I do make good use of them indoors.

For example, there is always one on my workbench in the shed, and I have even created a little area on the far corner of the bench with small pieces of wood to stop the extension socket from slipping or getting knocked off by some clumsy idiot such as myself. This socket comes in really handy for the lamp that is pretty much a permanent feature on my bench, as well a great place to plug a small fan into when those rare heatwaves roll into town.

I also use it for smaller power tools like my drill, but when I switch to my larger toys such as my circular saw, plus one or two other things plugged in at the same time, I prefer to use a heavy-duty cable reel that can handle more power safely. I have recently bought an extension socket that can handle over 3000W though, and I think it would be able handle the load. When using either of these products, I always try my best to keep the cable out of the way, and preferably off the floor to prevent tripping or stepping on it. Just grabbing some strong tape and sticking the cable to the wall as you go can help reduce the risk of accidents by a substantial margin. Obviously, this is not ideal if you’re moving around a lot as you’d be sticking and unsticking tape all the time, but I would still say it’s better than leaving the cable trailing on the floor.

If I do have to have a long trail of cable, I try my best to leave it running along a wall or fence, again to make it less likely it will be stepped on or tripped over. Taping the cable into place on the floor instead of leaving it loose is preferable, but it could still be a hazard.


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message: info@gardentoolbox.co.uk

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