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Power Anytime, Anywhere: Battery Systems for Camping Comfortably

When you go camping, one thing you will probably need is battery power. Of course, if you’re “roughing it,” you don’t really need anything. But, most campers these days don’t go into the wilderness, or to a campsite, without some kind of juice.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to battery packs and setups, but which one will give you the most power and the least hassle?

Isolating Systems

An isolating system comes in two flavours. First, there’s the solenoid isolator. This is probably the oldest design. It’s controlled by the vehicle’s ignition switch. And, while it’s a proven design, it’s also not the most robust, especially for camping.

Not the most robust, especially for camping.

The other design is the smart solenoid system. This system is similar to the ignition-switch-driven system except that the smart solenoid uses circuitry that prevents spikes in power. It also monitors voltage so that the solenoid is switched off automatically.

These smart systems will run all day long in a 4WD setup, and are safer than the simpler, older solenoid system.

On the horizon is a new technology that will help with charging the battery – a DCDC charger. These chargers are similar to chargers you might use at home, but they use power from the vehicle’s main battery to charge a second battery. Since the primary battery is charged with the alternator, you have a sort of duel battery setup, though these systems are not customised for the vehicle and often require some amount of fabrication.

Starting Battery

A starter battery is the stock battery your vehicle comes with. These deliver the standard 12 volts and are capable of powering accessories in your vehicle. The benefit of them is that they have a lot of cold cranking amps – good for starting a vehicle.

The downside to them is that they don’t like to be cycled and doing so can shorten the life of the battery.

Deep Cycle Battery

A deep cycle battery is designed so that it will also deliver 12 volts, but it can be drained and recharged multiple times.

They are fully capable of starting a vehicle, though they may not fair as well during extreme cold snaps and they take a long time to fully charge once they have been discharged.

To see more details, check out RVside and their recommendations.

Combination Batteries

Combination batteries are exactly what they sound like. They are batteries that can provide high cold cranking amps as well as allow for deep charging cycles.

Photo Credit: Mapping Megan

These are a little quicker to charge than a normal deep cycle battery and, while you can discharge them, they don’t like to be discharged as much or as deeply as a true deep cycle battery.

Solar Powered Systems With Battery Bank

A solar-powered system is nothing more than solar panels that charge a battery. Usually, panels are used to charge a battery bank. However, some campers use solar panels to charge the primary battery, or even a secondary battery.

Solar systems are not very reliable in the sense that you must have enough sunshine to capture and convert to energy. On the other hand, if you do have the sunshine, you have “unlimited” power.

Single Battery Systems

Single battery systems are comprised of just one battery. Usually, this will be your vehicle’s primary battery. Obviously, the risk in this setup is that you may run out of battery power.

It’s also very taxing on a battery that must be used for critical systems like the starter. Some campers will upgrade the stock battery, but this doesn’t solve the main problem of a single-battery setup.

Duel Battery Systems

These systems are specially designed for camping needs because they separate the battery into two systems. There are actually two batteries – one for critical vehicle functions, and one battery for accessories.

These systems may or may not be daisy-chained, and the second battery is typically completely sealed so that it can be placed anywhere without concern for venting or battery acid. In daisy-chained systems, the battery is connected to the primary battery and is charged by it, while the alternator charges the primary battery.

With non-linked systems, the secondary battery is a stand-alone battery and must be charged either directly by the alternator or by some alternative method.

Finn Fairbairn is an avid outdoorsman and camper. When the weather won’t permit pitching a tent, he likes to share his insights with others. You can read his entertaining articles on many websites and blog sites today.

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