(Image: Century Overlander 4x4 Battery.)
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
One of the most common questions that prospective camper trailer or caravan owners have is about how large a battery and power system they will need. It seems that many RV manufacturers are trying to add the latest functionality just for the sake of it or to outdo their competitor. Is it really adding value to our camping experience? Many of these extra features require power, and this has a snowball effect in adding to the battery and charging systems needed.
Do we all really need the same modern conveniences as what we have in our homes? For different people that answer, obviously, will be different depending upon your circumstances and what you are trying to achieve on your travels. It’s difficult to give a definitive answer on power needs when they can vary wildly depending on how much you ask of the system.
When it comes to figuring out how much capacity you’ll need, it’s helpful to divide your devices into a few categories and from there decide which are needs and which are wants. That will help you decide whether you can get away with a single 120amp battery and a 150-watt solar panel to charge it, or if you need to have four times that or more.
Arguably the most important category, this obviously tends to be one of the key selling points. Any device that is proven through independent testing (as compared to manufacturers claims) to improve the handling and safety of towing caravans or campers is a serious consideration — a ‘need’. Just as we all look out for ANCAP ratings on car purchases, considering key safety features that are enabled through tech is critical.
Electronic Sway Control is probably the most obvious choice in this category. We also strongly recommend technology that can better offer safety or convenience in trailer breakaway systems, for example automating the connection and checking serviceability functions. Safety really falls into the ‘needs’ section.
(Image: Camec 12v 120AH Sealed Lead Acid Battery.)
This can land in both the ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ category. Consider carefully what you believe will add value or comfort to your trip. Coffee machines and hair dryers may seem essential to some, unnecessary luxuries to others.
Convenience is probably the final category, and this definitely falls into the ‘wants’ category for those who want the latest gizmos and gadgets built into their RV. Everything from voice activation to apps for absolutely everything. Unless you are ready to accept the extra price or increased potential for things to go wrong, stick with simplicity — after all isn’t that what ‘getting away from everything’ is all about? Do you need to have your van ‘smarter’ than your home?
In summary, safety first is a ‘need’ followed by power and then convenience. Sort out the offerings along these lines and you’re more likely to be enjoying trouble-free travels. Every device that you can forego means less battery capacity needed to stay off-grid.
(Image: Sentry lithium battery.)
ACID VERSUS LITHIUM
Another key debates today is between older style lead-acid batteries versus newer, more expensive lithium batteries. There are many key advantages to the new style. Lithium batteries are less than half the weight of the environmentally unfriendly lead-acid batteries, making them an obviously better choice in small RVs where weight is precious. Lithium batteries also have a longer lifetime, with lead-acid batteries needing to be replaced five times before a lithium one will be. Lithium also offers faster charge and discharge speed, meaning you can recharge batteries faster.
Lithium offers some great advantages and will become more widely used in caravans and camping as it gets cheaper. Lithium batteries can make life easier, more reliable and actually cheaper in the longer term. I guess a similar analogy would be the investment you place in your tyres on your caravan. Quality costs more but you should be able to get more value from it. The tyres will last longer, provide better traction in wet conditions and overall be a safer option when towing. It’s just a matter of whether the higher initial outlay is in your budget.