Image credit © David Thorndike
Looking for the right gear to power your next camping trip? David Thorndike
gives us the run-down of the best products on the market.
Keeping the drinks cold and the lights
burning brightly is just as important on
your camping holiday as it is on the home
front. Luckily, it’s getting easier every
year to keep your campsite powered up
properly, thanks to continued advances
in battery and solar-power technology.
While AGM batteries are still the best
all-round option for most caravans and
campers, more people are taking on board
the benefits of upgrading to lithium-ion.
This is especially true for those planning
extended trips free camping where there
won’t be access to 240-volt power.
Although the cost difference is still
significant (a lithium battery set-up can be
three to four times the cost of an AGM setup),
the numerous advantages associated
with lithium makes the choice an easy one
– as long as you have the cash to splash.
• A 100-amp-hour lithium battery can
be fully recharged in as little as two
hours with the right set-up, instead
of up to 12 hours with an AGM.
• You can discharge a lithium battery
up to 80 per cent of its capacity
before needing to recharge, instead
of only 50 per cent with an AGM.
• A lithium battery can be cycled
(recharged) up to 10 times more than
an AGM (i.e. 2000 cycles compared
to as little as 200). That’s a 10 times
greater lifespan, which affects the value
proposition around the initial cost outlay.
• The weight saving can be as much as 60
to 70 per cent with an upgrade to lithium.
With several of the top caravan and
camper manufacturers – including
Kedron, Bushtracker and Kimberley
Kampers – now including lithium
batteries as standard (all three use the
Enerdrive brand), it’s only a matter of time
before the rest of the industry follows
their lead. If you are looking to build your
caravan/camping set-up to the level where
you can free camp for a week or more
and not use your vehicle’s alternator to
recharge your battery, then lithium may
be the choice for you, particularly if you
are looking to run a large fridge/freezer as
well as other power-hungry devices, such
as washing machines and water pumps.
If you are running deep-cycle batteries
in your camping set-up, then you really
need a quality battery management
system (BMS) to ensure you monitor,
recharge and maintain your battery in peak
condition. If you are wondering where
to start, look into the Redarc BMS1230s2
(also known as the Manager30). At a cost
of around $2200, it’s certainly on the
more expensive side, however, it is top
of the range and incorporates AC, DC
and solar inputs so that your auxiliary
battery is always in peak condition. It
is purpose built for installing into your
caravan, camper trailer or motorhome,
and is the industry standard with many
of the most popular manufacturers.
When coupled with a pure sine
inverter, such as the Projecta 1000W
intelli-Wave, and two 100Ah batteries,
you will have more than enough power
to run and/or recharge some of your
can’t-do-without electronic devices, such
as your laptop and camera equipment.
A quality solar panel and regulator
connected to your BMS will ensure many
carefree days of camping if you have
planned out your daily energy
consumption on your main appliances.
There are a variety of solar-panel brands
available in Australia, so step one is to buy
from a reputable company. If you are
looking on eBay for the cheapest import,
be prepared for a possible dud, as the
industry is rife with cheap knock-offs.
The good news is that the technology is
constantly improving and most panels
these days are rated between 100W and
160W, which is enough to keep a standard
100Ah AGM battery recharged, provided
there has been a full day of strong sunlight
and you haven’t discharged your battery
past half way. Some of the most reliable
brands include Kyocera, Redarc and
Projecta, with a 120W panel averaging
While not considered as trendy as your
solar and 12V, LPG is still an essential power
source for nearly every camping set-up. It
takes care of your cooking, hot water and
can even keep your drinks chilled if you
have a three-way fridge. As well as being
cheap, reliable and easy to access, it can
also take a lot of the power burden off your
12V battery system when you are staying in
the one spot for extended periods. This is
because many fridge/freezers are far more
economical to run on gas than on DC. Do
keep in mind that if you are upgrading your
caravan or camper trailer with a three-way
fridge, you will need to get the gas
plumbing certified by an approved installer
for all permanent set-ups.
Battery World shares these
tips for your power:
Before choosing a battery, make a list of all the accessories
you need to run plus your motor’s horse power.
Make sure you discharge a deep-cycle battery 50 per cent
before recharging. Taking the battery below this
recommendation will dramatically reduce the performance
and service life.
If the boat goes with you on camping trips, be sure to get
your marine battery tested before heading out on the water.
This article appeared in volume 10 of Caravan & Camping with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.