If you are planning to go camping off the grid, you will need one or more travel batteries.
While using a camper van or RV to go boondocking, you will need a source of energy for heat, lights, or to keep your refrigerator running. When used under normal conditions, a 12V RV battery will typically last two to three days before it requires recharging. But it is always a good idea to bring along extras or backup energy sources to ensure you will never be without your necessities.
You can also do several things to conserve your battery’s energy if you only have one battery to rely on.
Tips on Conserving Your Travel Battery’s Power
There are a few things you can do before your camping trip and during your trip to conserve your battery’s power. Before you go, you should make sure all batteries are fully charged, and you have packed all the necessary resources for backup if needed.
Upgrade Your Lighting to LED
Changing all the bulbs in your RV to LED lights will reduce the amount of energy consumed by them. A traditional incandescent bulb will use 18 watts while on. If you have 25 incandescent bulbs in your RV, you are using 450 watts of power if they are all on at once.
If you switch all your incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, you will get the same amount of light but consume much less energy at just 1.2 watts. Even if you were using every light in your RV, you would only use 30 watts of energy if they were all LED lights.
That is the same amount as using two incandescent lights at the same time. If you use many lights while camping, this upgrade will help you conserve your battery life.
Not only do LED bulbs last longer, but they also stay cooler and are more durable than incandescent.
While driving, you could hit a bump in the road and cause your incandescent bulbs to shatter. LED bulbs, however, are solid-state and are better capable of withstanding life on the backroads.
Turn Off the Water Pump When Not in Use
Your water pump is another item that uses a lot of electricity. While it is essential to have water available, you do not need instant access to it at all times, especially while you are out on a hike and enjoying nature during the day.
Turning off your RV’s main water pump while not using it will conserve energy because the pump is no longer using power to provide water on demand.
Decrease Your Heat Usage
Using your RV’s furnace will consume a lot of battery power. By setting your thermostat back to a cooler yet still comfortable temperature, you can help save on battery power. Most people sleep better when they are in a cooler environment, and you can always add on more blankets.
If you need heat during the day, you should set it back a few degrees once your thermostat reaches your desired temperature. Doing so will ensure the heat doesn’t kick on every 15 minutes. When you need to heat the RV again, turn up your thermostat to where you want it to be and back down again after.
This technique will cut down your battery usage significantly.
Also, adding insulation to the vent cutouts in your roof or your skylights is a great way to prevent heat from escaping the RV.
Upgrade Your Batteries
The batteries that are installed in your RV when you purchase it are usually 70 amp-hour 12V batteries. There are usually two installed, and they are available in two sizes for the deep cycle. The different sizes are Group 24 and Group 27.
- Group 24 batteries have approximately 81 amp-hours each, which total 162 amp-hours in all.
- Group 27 batteries have approximately 88 amp-hours each and a total of 176 amp-hours in all.
If you purchase a set of 225 amp-hour 6-volt batteries, you could double the voltage to 12 volts and still keep the amp hour rating at 225. That will give you 40% more battery life than you had before.
How to Charge Your Travel Batteries
Most RVs and campers will come with a converter/charger that will power the 12v battery system while you are plugged into shore power and charge the batteries simultaneously. Look for a 3 stage charger when purchasing a new one.
These can provide you with bulk charging capabilities. It will charge your battery up to 80% at high voltage and also perform an absorption charge that charges the remaining 20% at a slower rate. Then there is a Float charge that helps maintain the battery when it reaches full charge.
Keeping Your Travel Batteries in Optimal Condition
Here are a few maintenance tips that will ensure your RV batteries remain in excellent working condition for years to come.
- Always store your batteries indoors during the winter months.
- Keep up battery maintenance all year long.
- Keep your RV batteries fully charged.
- Be sure to monitor the water levels regularly. Weekly with regular use or monthly when your batteries are in storage.
- Do not drain your batteries below 50%.
- Follow directions and use all appropriate charging methods when charging your battery.
- Remove any corrosion that appears on the battery terminals.
Do Travel Trailer Batteries Charge While You Are Driving?
Most RV batteries with 7-pin connectors will have a hot lead that goes to the battery, allowing it to charge while you are driving.
These can provide you with bulk charging capabilities only at a much slower rate. If you are driving for several hours, you may be able to charge your battery completely. Keep in mind that because the RV will also be using power from the alternator and the battery while it is charging, there will not be much power left for your RV.
Therefore, while it’s possible to charge your RV battery while you are on the road, it is not the most reliable way to do so. You could end up wearing down your alternator if this method is used often, and that is an issue you don’t want to face while you are camping far from home.
FAQs About Travel Batteries
Travel batteries are a hotly debated topic, so let’s take a look at some of the other questions that get asked around this topic.
Is it Possible to Plug in a Camper Without a Battery?
You can plug in your camper without a battery, as long as a converter or charger is installed. The converter helps supply power to your system while you are plugged into an electrical outlet. However, if you have a charger installed without a converter, you will have to have a battery.
How Long will a Battery Last While Day Camping?
A 12V battery will usually last between 2 to 3 days if it is fully charged before heading out for your camping trip. You can extend this amount of time if you limit your heat and light usage.
Do I Need a Battery for my RV?
Yes, you will need a battery for your RV even if you are not camping off the grid. While most of your components will operate if you are plugged into shore power, some things will only work off a 12V battery.
How Can I Reduce Battery Drain?
Unplug items that are not in use, such as your microwave, TV, or clock. You should turn off your master switch when you leave your RV for a few hours and do not leave any lighting or other items on while you are away.
The longevity of your travel battery depends on how many items are draining energy from it and how often it is used. Shutting off your lights, A/C, or heat when they are no longer needed are excellent ways to conserve energy if you only have one battery to rely on.
But you should always consider bringing along extra batteries or other energy resources on your camping trips, especially if you plan to stay in an area with little or no access to electricity.