One of the first things we did when we bought our pop up camper, was buy a battery. The camper didn’t come with one, but we we knew we needed electricity when we were dry camping, so we started shopping for a good battery. We kept hearing that we should buy the biggest battery we were able to afford. After a little research, we ended up with a group 27 deep cycle marine/RV battery. I was pretty satisfied with our purchase. It got us through our huge summer road trip with zero issues. The battery would charge while we were driving, and we’d be good for a few days of camping. It seemed pretty easy and worry free. What more did we need to know?
We even installed a battery monitor to keep track of our usage and let us know how much battery life we had left while we were off the grid. I felt pretty confident with our system. We took a few more camping trips to state parks after our big summer trip. Every place we stayed had hookups, though, so we didn’t really need to use the battery much this winter, and it sat unused a lot. Over spring break, we decided to load up the camper and take the kids to Chiricahua National Monument. There were no hookups, but we had our battery and our fresh water tank, so we thought we were set.
We plugged in the trailer the day before we left, confident that it would top off our battery and we’d have enough power for the weekend. After an unexpected flat on our tow vehicle and few other unexpected delays, we finally hit the campground at 8pm. We had never set up in the dark before, so this was new territory for us. We were pretty confident we knew the ins and outs of our little camper well enough to set it up by lantern light. We got the trailer popped up, pulled up the galley, and turned on the lights. Imagine our surprise when we found out that our battery was completely dead. No lights, no water pump, and no heater. It made for an interesting evening. Mr. TypeTwoFun’s parents were actually camping a few spots away and had a generator, so they loaned us a battery the next day. We limped through that trip, and we had a great time, but when we got home, I decided it was time to learn everything I could about battery maintenance. I was pretty shocked to find out that I really knew absolutely nothing about how a battery works. So, in case you are just like me, I decided to share what I learned here with you! 😛
There are a variety of ways to set up the battery system in your camper, and I’m not the definitive expert on batteries. We decided to go with one 12V battery for our camper, because it seemed to fit our needs best. If you do more boondocking than we do, there may be a better system for your needs. This just happens to be what works best for us… and it was fairly inexpensive, which also works for us.
Purchasing a Pop Up Camper Battery
What type of battery do I need?
You’ll want to make sure you’ve selected a deep cycle battery. Deep cycle batteries have less starting energy than the type of battery you’d use to start your car, but they have a greater long-term energy delivery. Deep cycle batteries are also designed to be discharged down as much as 80% and then recharged time after time. That’s important when you are camping for several days, because you’ll put a significant drain on that battery. There are different types of deep cycle batteries that require different types of maintenance. The cheapest, and the one we decided to purchase, is the wet cell (flooded) lead acid battery. These batteries require a little bit of maintenance, but they are much cheaper than their maintenance-free counterparts.
What size deep cycle battery should I purchase?
Deep cycle batteries are divided into different “groups” based on physical size and terminal placement. You can also get a few more amp hours (I’ll cover that in a bit) from a larger battery. Common deep cycle battery sizes are groups 24, 27, and 31 (although there are other sizes). The battery box on our camper fit a group 24 battery, but we realized we’d really like the extra amp hours we’d get from a larger battery. We decided to purchase a group 27 deep cycle marine/RV battery from Costco. Although I know there are some better batteries out there, this one only cost us about $90, and you really can’t beat Costco’s return policy. Of course, we had to purchase a bigger battery box, so if you choose to upsize your battery, make sure you purchase a new box and that the new box will fit on the tongue of your camper.
What are amp hours?
Yeah, that confused me for a while. All deep cycle batteries are rated in amp hours (AH). The amp hour rating is basically, how many amps the battery can deliver for how many hours before the battery is discharged. Amps times hours. The standard AH rating is usually for 20 hours. This means that the battery is discharged down to 10.5 volts (when a battery is generally considered dead) over a 20 hour period while the total actual amp-hours it supplies is measured. A battery that can deliver 5 amps for 20 hours before it is discharged would have a 100 amp hour rating. 5 Amps X 20 Hours = 100 Amp Hours. A typical group 24 deep cycle battery has a rating of 70-85 amp hours, whereas a typical group 27 deep cycle battery has a rating of between 85-105 amp hours. If you do a lot of dry camping or you have a number of things running off your battery when you camp (A/C unit, heaters, lights, phone chargers, etc.), it makes sense to buy the biggest battery you can afford–or your camper can accommodate.
Now that you know about battery basics, let’s talk about Maintaining Your Pop Up Camper Battery.