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Answering Your Battery and Power Questions

Open camper trailer with a man sitting

Despite what avid camping-enthusiasts have to say, there can be no denying the fact that camper trailers are the most comfortable way to experience camping and travelling on the road.

And for good reason, your camper trailer is basically a small home on four wheels, packed to the brim with all the essentials you need for a comfortable experience.

People sleeping in tents only have the option of using an uncomfortable sleeping bag and fire they can’t get too close to for keeping warm. But with a camper trailer, you have a warm bed, 4-burner cooktop and much more to keep you comfy.

However, before you can enjoy all the perks of taking a camper trailer to your next outing in the woods, you have to first set up the one system that essentially provides you with all these small luxuries outside your home; the electrical power system.

You might argue, “But hey! My camper trailer already has a power system fit inside it, why do I need to set anything up if a perfectly working system is already in place?”.

Well, you may be right, and the most you may ever have to worry about your power system is just knowing where the socket to charge your phone is and how to recharge your battery after use.

Nevertheless, as is often the case, your current power system may not be able to support the kind of usage you’d want from your trailer, and you could be looking at a dead battery in the middle of your camping trip if you’re not careful.

Also, not knowing when and how to distribute your electrical load might result in you damaging your power system in the long run.

So, you’re better off knowing at least the basics of how your trailer’s electrical system works and how you can maintain it to ensure it keeps working smoothly.

The Most Common Appliances You’ll Be Running In Your Trailer

Setup camper trailer

 Though the exact appliances you’ll be using in your trailer is entirely up to you and will vary from person to person, there are a couple of electrical appliances almost everyone will use in their camper trailer. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Lights, both inside and outside your camper trailer. You’d want to make sure these are LED lights since they are the most efficient regarding power consumption while being the brightest kind available commercially.
  • An electric water pump to help you feed water from your trailer’s tank or any external water source into your camper’s toilet or sink for use.
  • TVs, laptops and other consumer electronics for when you want to relax inside your trailer.
  • A small portable fan to keep you cool at nights or a built-in cooling or air conditioning system if you’re camping in a warm area.
  • An electric heater to keep you warm at night if you’re camping in a colder area.
  • A small refrigerator or freezer for keeping your drinks cold and your food frozen till the time it is required, along with an inverter to convert the 12V supply from the battery to a 120V AC supply to be fed into the freezer.
  • An electric stove or kettle to help make your food and coffee (though in this case, we recommend you use propane gas tanks and a small gas stove if you’re looking to conserve electrical power on the go).

The first three items on the list above won’t really cause you any trouble. Your camper trailer battery is designed to handle these appliances going throughout a camping trip.

Where you may run into issues is when you’re using appliances that are designed to cool or heat up things in your camper trailer — these are often used over time for hours on end and can seriously drain your camper trailer battery.

Will your basic electrical system be able to put up with this kind of load for a camping trip that lasts more than one day? Let’s take a look.

What Your Basic Electric Rig Looks Like

Open camper trailer against green trees

Though the exact specifications provided by your camper trailer will vary from model to model, the average camper trailer comes with these basic features:

  • A 12V battery to power the trailer (somewhere between 70Ah to 100Ah capacity, but it can always be upgraded).
  • Basic cables to let you carry power to different parts of the campground, plus a set of Anderson leads and plugs to power those high-current devices.
  • A simple power control panel with switches to help you manage which parts of the trailer should get power, with a rudimentary voltage and current measurement panel attached. (You can get a better panel that offers you greater control for a little extra money. Some panels even come with a smartphone app to let you control and monitor the power flow with ease).
  • 12V power outlets in the form of regular plugs and switches, and even USB outlets to directly charge your phone and other electronic devices

Of all these basic electric facilities, your battery is the most important component, and you can just use its capacity to figure out whether or not your camper is going to have enough juice to last the entire camping trip.

Is It Enough To Run All You Need?

Camper trailer utilities box

We’ve been harping on and on about how the exact specifications vary from person to person in the previous two sections, but nowhere is this subjectivity more prominent than in your usage.

Two people using the same appliances, on the same set up can have vastly different results when it comes to overall performance and how long the battery lasts, depending on how they use their electronics.

Luckily, there’s a pretty simple way to determine, to a fairly accurate degree, the kind of output you can expect from your battery and electrical system, using some simple arithmetic and a little high school physics theory (cue the groans).

Pick up a pen and a piece of paper and note the DC amps each appliance in your trailer takes up when in use; if you can’t find anything written on the appliance itself, you can always look up the product or something closer to it to find an approximate reading. Total them up and determine the number of total DC amps you’d be using per hour.

For example, you may find that your total need comes out to be somewhere around 10Ah, meaning a battery with a capacity of 100Ah could last you around 10 hours of regular use. Which doesn’t sound all that bad for anyone but those of us who like to go on especially long trips. So, if you prefer longer trips, then you should consider the following points:

  • You shouldn’t discharge your battery to lower than 50% of its capacity during continuous use or you’ll risk damaging it and lowering its output in the long run. So, a 100Ah battery is actually a more modest 50Ah one in practical use (talk about false advertising, eh?).
  • Something like a 10Ah usage is really only possible if you’re not using any of the heavy appliances in your trailer. To put this into perspective, an overhead air conditioning system in your trailer uses 13 amps alone, while something like a freezer can easily draw 55Ah from your battery. A 100Ah battery is laughably useless in this scenario.
What Can I Do If I Need More Power?

Slide out camper trailer storage

Having done all your calculations and finding out your current setup can only realistically power your camper for a couple of hours max, there are a couple of steps you need to take to up its output.

The first thing you can do is to upgrade your battery, investing in something like two 100Ah batteries instead of just one small 70Ah battery. You can attach your batteries in parallel to make them last longer or use them in succession, charging one while you use the other, so you never really run out of power in your trailer.

You could also look into getting solar panels installed on your trailer’s roof and basically run all your appliances directly off of the power you generate, keeping your batteries charged and available for use during the night or under shade.

You should get a 2W solar panel for every 1Ah you use (so if your use was around 20Ah, you should get panels that can supply 40W of electricity) but many people believe that’s overkill and you could make do with slightly less.

A Word Of Advice

Camper trailer kitchen with 4-burner stove

Reading this article, you may have come across quite a few terms you were unfamiliar with, and if you’re someone who has a hard time understanding these technical details, constructing your own setup may sound too overwhelming of a task. That’s completely alright, though.

If you feel like you still need some help setting up your trailer’s electric system, we highly recommend you consult an electrician certified to deal with trailers. Attempting to do this on your own won’t just put your trailer’s electronics at risk, but would also put your own life in danger, as you’re dealing with high amperes of electric current.

The Next Steps

If you need help choosing the next camper trailer or are thinking about upgrading your existing one, contact the Mars team today. We’d be happy to help and answer any inquiries you have about your camper trailers.

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See the Answering Your Battery and Power Questions in person at your nearest Mars Campers showroom or simply get one of our specialists to call you back and provide you more info.

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