What is the best RV & travel trailer battery for dry camping and boondocking?
Camping has been a favorite American pastime for generations. Who doesn’t like a peaceful weekend away? Especially when you have a roomy travel trailer (or other RV) to stretch your legs in. Over the years camping has evolved and thanks to new technology, campers are enjoying the new pastimes of boondocking and it’s not-quite-identical twin, dry camping.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the titles, chances are you’ve heard of this style of camping. Dry camping is simply camping without any hookups. You may be stationed at an RV park that still has a showerhouse, pool, and things like that to enjoy.
Boondocking is the same but completely off of campgrounds. You can boondock at a truck stop, a Walmart parking lot, a national forest, a visitor center or a wide variety of other options. Again, no electrical hookups, but this time no amenities at your disposal either. Now, what powers your stay and makes things enjoyable is a good, reliable RV battery set-up! Let’s dive into which batteries are the best for boondocking and dry camping.
Choose the Best Boondocking RV Battery: Know The Systems
What’s meant to bring a family or couple together can do the opposite without proper planning and execution. That’s why boondockers and dry campers arm their travel trailers (or RV) with a reliable battery. If you’re not sure what the best RV battery for your personal situation is, let’s start with the basics of your systems.
Your RV is powered by two systems:
120-Volt AC System: This powers the more luxury items such as your refrigerator, microwave, and air conditioning. This system takes electricity from shore power or your generator and channels it into the above items, and charges your battery bank when you plug it in as well. (For boondocking and dry camping you never plug into shore power but instead use either a generator or solar.)
12-Volt Deep Cycle Battery: Often referred to as your “house battery,” this is what powers the essentials such as your lighting, your water system, and overhead fans. For boondocking and dry camping this can be your only power source, if you’d like. But disconnected from all power sources your battery will only last so long before it runs out of charge.
Where power is concerned, the main thing boondockers need to nail down is how to choose the right 12-volt deep cycle battery (and if you choose to use a generator, that’s vital too). Your 12-volt battery is responsible for pumping water throughout your trailer, providing you with light, and powering your safety warning device among other things. Without a reliable and long-lasting 12-Volt DC battery, your adventure’s going to be cut short.
Afterall, besides a comfy bed and the lack of mosquitoes, your house battery is what marks the difference between boondocking and just sleeping in a tent. A trusted 12-volt house battery is an essential part of any successful boondocking or dry camping adventure.
How Long Will An RV Battery Last Dry Camping? (Examples)
Most boondockers and dry campers run two 12-volt batteries. To give you an idea, that would generally give you enough power to keep the lights on at night, run your vent fans during the day, charge your phones and other devices, use the water pump, and even run a propane furnace throughout the night (especially if your batteries are lithium). If you use four lithium (LiFePO4) RV batteries, well, that’s twice the power.
Depending upon what you power and how much, you can generally boondock for 2-7 days. But a lot depends on what type of batteries you use. If your batteries aren’t efficient, and don’t hold much charge, your trip will be shortened substantially. So it’s critical to choose the best battery for your needs.
Best RV & Travel Trailer Battery For Dry Camping & Boondocking? (Short Answer)
We’ll dig deep into the specifics below, but here’s the quick answer to the question, “What RV battery is the best for boondocking and dry camping?” If you’re on the extreme side of the casual camper spectrum (maybe you’ll only use your batteries every few years or something), you might consider going the cheapest route, which would be lead-acid RV batteries.
For most campers though, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck and enjoy your adventure for as long as you can. LiFePO4 batteries are safer and longer lasting, so for most people lithium is going to be the better option. Choosing a lithium battery will help you avoid battery woes and mishaps when you’re trying to have a good time.
That’s just the bird’s eye view though, let’s take a look at the details to help you determine what battery is the best for your boondocking adventure and why!
Questions To Pinpoint The Best RV Battery For Boondocking & Dry Camping
Did you know lead-acid was created in 1859? Invented by French physicist Gaston PlantéIt, the invention was a serious leap in technology. But 150+ years is a long time. A lot has happened since then; the evolution of batteries for instance. Lithium in particular is unlike any other battery technology on the market. Many boondockers claim it’s the way of the future, but we’ll leave that up to you.
When you decide which type of dry camping battery is right for you, it helps to ask yourself the following questions:
How long will my batteries last dry camping/boondocking? We covered this briefly, but lead-acid batteries last between 2-6 years vs lithium LiFePO4 batteries coming in strong at nearly 14 years and that’s if you’re using it every day (they’re rated to last 5000 cycles, that is, you can recharge the battery 5000 times).
How does my battery affect the environment? Lead-acid is known for toxic leaks. Lithium batteries are non-toxic and can even be brought to your local recycling center when you’re finished using them.
How heavy is your battery? When you’re packing all of your camping equipment, lugging around a heavy battery can make the process exhausting. Lithium weighs about ½ that of its lead-acid counterpart.
Is it Bluetooth equipped? This is one of the most exciting facets of a lithium battery. With Bluetooth technology that syncs to your smartphone, you’ll know exactly how much battery power you have left. No iffy calls and ruined boondocking adventures.
Our Conclusion: Lithium Batteries Are The Best For Boondocking & Dry Camping, Unless…
The quality of your battery is important, obviously. In the lithium vs lead-acid competition, lead-acid batteries fall short in providing a strong boondocking and dry camping experience, in pretty much every arena except one — short term price.
If you’re looking for the cheapest short term option, that’s going to be lead-acid. If you can’t quite afford lithium batteries at the moment, but you really want to start boondocking or dry camping immediately to say, test it out for a year, and maybe upgrade then, maybe it’s worth a temporary try.
That said, there are many reasons to do your best to go the lithium battery route. For one, they last twice as long. Lead-acid is difficult to maintain, are very heavy, need proper venting to avoid dangerous fumes, and aren’t efficient in the slightest. Lithium batteries are 100% maintenance free, light weight, non-toxic, safe to use, and are the most efficient of all battery types. If you’re looking for quality, you definitely want to go the lithium route. Again, mostly because they last longer and they’ll save you good money in the end.
The success of your dry camping or boondocking trip relies heavily on how well you prepared. Sure, having a comfortable bed and a bag full of snacks is important, but so is having lights when you need them, an overhead fan to keep you cool, and a water pump that functions. Without a reliable battery, things get hairy quick.
So soak up the sunshine during the day and embrace the star-filled sky at night with the confidence that your battery will enhance your boondocking experience to its full potential. Our conclusion? Powering your travel trailer or other RV with a LiFePO4 battery is the best way to go, whether you’re boondocking or dry camping.