When camping in a caravan or camper it’s important to understand battery life and how we can extend it when we’re camping off-grid. In this article we outline a few hints and tips that will extend the life of your batteries.
The one item that you can use efficiently that will save your battery time is your fridge. This is by far the most resource-hungry appliance in your camper or caravan. These days everyone seems to have one. They’re inexpensive compared to years ago, so it’s within the means of all of us to have a portable fridge. Now, to use your fridge efficiently, before you go camping what you should be doing is running your fridge down to temperature before you pack it in the camper ready to go away. Plug it into 240V and stock it with everything you’re taking, that way all your goods will be down to temperature and the batteries in your trailer will have to do a minimum to maintain that temperature.
Some of the other things to consider are, a full fridge is easier to keep cool than a half empty one. Each time you open the lid you’re not exchanging warm air for cool air. By filling it up completely, having all those goods pre-cooled before you leave, it will stay at temperature using a lot less power. Now, how do we do that? What you can do is freeze all your water in plastic bottles before you go, and even in the fridge section, pack frozen bottles of water in the empty space once you’ve packed all the food in there, or underneath it. Because it’s frozen, the fridge will take its time before it cuts in to cool that section because the frozen water is taking care of it. For the freezer section, any room that’s not taken up by your frozen goods, again, pack frozen bottles of water in there. You’re going to drink it later, it’s a great way to carry it, and simply defrost them when you’re ready to drink.
Run it for a day, at least, preferably two days before you go. If you’re using a three-way fridge, which runs off gas and electricity, 240 and 12V power, run that for even longer. Run it for probably three days before you go away, get everything working really good. They’re not as efficient as compressor fridges. They will use a lot more power and they operate a lot better on gas than they do on 12V, so that’s something that you can do to maximise. Remember, your fridge is the most resource-hungry thing that you will carry in your camper, much more than your LED lighting, that sort of thing. A fridge, of average size will use about an average of just over 2amps per hour over a 24-hour period. When it cycles in, it uses a lot more, then it shuts down for a period, but on average this fridge will use 50Ah battery of power in a 24 hour period. So by cooling it before you go, getting everything down to temperature, packing it correctly, it will use less power and you’ll be able to stay off-grid longer.
Also, something that uses power that you may not realise is some of the electronics in your camper or caravan. Let’s have a quick look at those. Items in your caravan and camper such as chargers and inverters, they’ll use power as well. You need to switch off your inverter if you’re not using it, and that will reduce your power consumption. Believe it or not, your charger will have a slight back draw on the batteries while it’s left connected, so if you are able to set it up so you can isolate the battery from the charger when you’re not using it, it will save you that tiny little bit of power that might make all the difference.
Then there’s things like appliances, TVs, that sort of thing. If they’re using power on standby, unplug them or isolate the circuits to those power outlets, then they won’t be drawing any current from your battery at all. Any circuits that you’re not using, say during the day, lights, et cetera, switch them off at the control panel because some of the light switches will have a little backlight, again, you can slightly reduce the power consumption. The absolute best way to get longer battery life when you’re off-grid is solar power. You cannot beat solar power for topping up your batteries or maintaining their condition while you’re off-grid.
A portable solar panel, like a folding type, is very inexpensive these days. They don’t cost much. Most of the MDC campers will generally come with a solar panel when you purchase them. They’re very easy to use. They have an Anderson plug fitted to them, it’s a 50A plug. Simply plug this into the Anderson plug on your drawbar and away you go. It’ll charge your batteries. You just move the panel around during the day, make sure you’re capturing the most amount of sunlight you can and they’ll do a fairly efficient job. However, that won’t work on your Robson XTT, because that has a DC to DC charger and the Anderson plug on the drawbar is purely for drawing power from the car. If you want to add solar panels to your Robson XTT, there’s a video that you can watch to explain how you do that efficiently. But generally, on your camper, a regulated panel will do the job. A solar panel of about 160W will give you about enough power to turn a two-day weekend into a four or five-day weekend before your battery levels start to come down where they’ll need additional charge.
Unless you’re having moderate weather, they’ll do a really good job and should keep you off-grid for about a four to five-day period, if you’ve got multiple batteries in your camper trailer, perhaps even longer. That’s how we get the most out of our batteries and keep ourselves off-grid longer. Always remember, your fridge is the biggest resource taker of your battery power, so make sure you use it efficiently.
So, there are some ideas on how you can get the most out of your battery life when you’re camping off-grid. Always remember, your refrigerator is the most resource hungry appliance in that trailer. The more efficiently you pack and prepare with your refrigerator, the less power you’ll use once you set up out in the bush. For more great Masterclass tips, head across to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook and you’ll get first view as they come up.