Contents: Best Deep Cycle Battery for Camping
- What Kind of Battery Is Best for Camping?
- Why AGM & Lithium Batteries Are Best for Camping
- Benefits of AGM Lead-Acid Batteries
- Benefits of Lithium Batteries
- AGM vs Lithium Batteries for Camping
- How Big of a Deep Cycle Battery Do I Need?
- How Long Will a 100Ah Deep Cycle Battery Last?
- Conclusion: Are Deep Cycle Batteries Good for Camping?
What Kind of Battery Is Best for Camping?
When learning how to build your own off-grid solar system for camping, you’ll often be recommended 1 of 2 types of deep-cycle batteries:
- AGM-sealed lead-acid batteries
- lithium batteries
Both AGM and lithium batteries are great options, but which one is best for camping?
And is there an easier solution than buying a deep-cycle battery and building a solar system from scratch?
I’ll answer all of these questions (and more) in this post. Keep reading!
Why AGM & Lithium Batteries Are Best for Camping
Lithium batteries are known to be maintenance-free but most lead-acid batteries are not. However, AGM (absorbent glass mat) sealed lead-acid batteries are the exception.
Although AGM batteries are more expensive than most other kinds of lead-acid batteries, they’re maintenance-free and typically last longer than other lead-acid batteries.
Other types of lead-acid batteries, mainly flooded lead-acid batteries, require routine maintenance of electrolytes, must always be upright in orientation to prevent electrolyte leakage, and needs a ventilated environment to diffuse gases created during cycling.
I couldn’t be bothered with trying to maintain those batteries!
Both lithium and AGM batteries are clean and safe, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance or keeping them upright. They’re worth the extra money!
Benefits of AGM Lead-Acid Batteries
The main reason most people will choose AGM batteries is that they have a lower upfront cost compared to lithium batteries.
But you can expect lithium batteries to have roughly 5 to 6 times more lifespan than AGM batteries. So lithium batteries are cheaper in the long run if you’re going to use them daily or on a regular basis.
However, both AGM and lithium batteries will degrade naturally over time. So if you’re only going to use your battery occasionally (like only every summer), cheaper AGM batteries can be a good choice.
Another reason why AGM batteries are great is that they tend to handle cold, freezing weather better than other types of batteries. (Weather can affect battery performance, especially when it comes to winters.)
Benefits of Lithium Batteries
Lithium batteries are known for their amazing cycle life. (A battery’s cycle life is the number of charges and discharges that a battery can complete before losing performance).
With a sealed lead-acid battery, you’ll have around 900 to 1200 cycles. (One battery cycle involves discharging the battery by a certain amount and then recharging it to full the amount.)
However, with a lithium battery, you can have around 5000 to 8000 cycles!
Compared to AGM batteries, lithium batteries are commonly more expensive initially but they have a better cycle life. So lithium batteries are cheaper in the long run.
Also, you can discharge a lithium battery 100%. But with a lead-acid battery, you really should only discharge it to 50% before you start negatively affecting the battery’s lifespan (although this varies depending on the battery).
So, if you can only discharge a lead-acid battery to 50%, that only gives you half of the electricity stored in the battery. Meanwhile, you’d be able to access 100% of a lithium battery’s stored electricity.
Lithium batteries are also much more efficient with electricity than lead-acid batteries.
When you put electricity inside a new sealed lead-acid battery and then you take it out, you lose about 10 to 15% of that electricity. That means you only get 85-95% of that electricity back. But when you put electricity in a lithium battery and then you take it out, you’re getting 99% of that electricity back.
Lithiums also give off electricity way easier than AGM batteries, so it’s more efficient at powering large household appliances (like your washer and dryer).
Lithium batteries are about 30% the weight and 70% the size of an AGM battery.
That’s why you’ll see things like portable power stations, meant for bringing power on your hiking and camping trips, built with lithium batteries. Consumers want to have smaller, lighter products when they’re looking to buy portable power.
A lithium battery will also outperform an AGM battery because the voltage will stay constant, no matter how much it’s discharged. So if no matter if a lithium battery is 100% charged or 1% charged, it’ll have the same voltage.
However, the more you discharge an AGM battery, the more the voltage will drop which affects its performance.
AGM vs Lithium Batteries for Camping
If you don’t expect to discharge your battery more than 50% and you’re only going to use your battery occasionally (like the occasional camping trip where you don’t need much power), then the cheaper AGM batteries are definitely a good way to go.
However, in most cases, I recommend that people buy lithium batteries if they’re going to be using them constantly. (I like Renogy’s LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery because they’re affordable and do the job.)
Lithium batteries are smaller, lighter, will last longer, perform better, and (in the long run) will be cheaper than an AGM battery if used regularly.
If you’re now wondering what kind of lithium battery you should buy, check out my post: What Is the Difference Between Lithium-Ion and Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries?
How Big of a Deep Cycle Battery Do I Need?
Here’s a guide to help you figure out big your deep-cycle battery needs to be.
First, let’s do a rough calculation of how much electricity you’ll be using while camping.
Start by creating a list of all the appliances you’ll be using, like a portable compressor cooler (Amazon), laptop, phone, and lights. Now, write down how many watts each appliance uses*. Then figure out how many hours each appliance is used during the course of one day.
* It is easy to find out how many watts an appliance uses. The wattage is usually listed on a label on the appliance (sometimes listed next to “output”).
If the label only shows you volts (V) and amps (A), just multiply the two values together to get watts. For example, if you have a device that is 12 volts and 1 amp, it will use 12 watts of power. If you have a device that is 120 volts and 10 amps, it will use 1200 watts of power.
For smaller devices, you might see mA, which means milliamps. You can convert milliamps to amps on google and then just multiply the amps with the volts.
If you can’t find a label on the appliance, you can also find the watts by looking online.
Once you finish your list of appliances (with watts and hours used), you then want to multiply the watts and the hours for each appliance to get watt-hours.
Here’s an example:
30 watts x 24 hours = 720 Wh (watt-hours)
Charging a Chromebook
45 watts x 1 hour = 45 Wh
3 LED Light Bulbs
30 watts x 5 hours = 150 Wh
This totals 915 Wh.
So you would think that if you and your family use about 915 Wh per day while camping, something like a 1,200 Wh solar system (with a lithium battery) would have more than enough power for your family! Right?
Nope! Not so fast..
Even though you might think that you only need a solar system that can supply you with around 1000 Wh every single day, you also want to have enough backup power for when there are cloudy, rainy, or snowy days.
When it’s not sunny outside, your solar system is not going to optimally charge your batteries. So, typically you want 3 to 5 days of power stored in your batteries for those gloomy days.
If you live in the United States where you can sometimes get up to 3 days of rain, you would multiply your energy needs (in this case, 10 kWh) by 3. If you live in a cold climate, let’s say in Northern Canada, then you might want to multiply your energy needs by 5. If you live someplace where there’s a lot of sun, like Las Vegas, you can probably multiply your energy needs by 2.
So let’s say we decide that 2 days of backup power is good for us because we’re only camping on the weekend. So, we multiply 915 Wh by 2 to get 1,830 Wh.
So now we know we need a battery big enough to hold 1,830 Wh.
Keep reading and I’ll show you how to pick the right size battery…
How Long Will a 100Ah Deep Cycle Battery Last?
Let’s continue from our previous example and we know we want a lithium battery that can store 1,830 Wh for a weekend of camping, rain or shine.
Which battery do you choose?
Let’s say we find a 12-volt (12V) Renogy battery online, and it says “100Ah” on it. To find out how many watt-hours that battery can store, you simply multiply the volts and the amp-hours (Ah). So, in this case, we multiply 12V by 100Ah.
12V x 100Ah = 1,200 Wh
So, to go back to the example above, if we want a battery with a capacity of at least 1,830 Wh, this won’t do.
But what about a 12-volt battery that has “200Ah” marked on it?
12V x 100Ah = 2,400 Wh
This battery would totally be big enough for us to enjoy a whole weekend of camping!
Conclusion: Are Deep Cycle Batteries Good for Camping?
Deep cycle batteries definitely great for camping.
However, if you don’t want to install a DIY solar system yourself, and you’re only looking for a small solar system with minimal electricity required, there’s another easier alternative.
Solar generators (Amazon) with lithium batteries!
With a solar generator (also called portable power station), you can get off-grid, rechargeable, mobile, solar power by just plugging in solar panels directly into the generator! That’s it! The generator acts as the charge controller, battery, and inverter!
Solar power stations are truly an all-in-one battery-powered system that is safe to use indoors or outdoors, completely mobile, quiet, and you don’t need to learn about building solar systems!
No matter if people are camping or boondocking in tents, trailers, campers, RVs, motorhomes, caravans, or whatever, solar generators are great! So, it’s definitely something to think about if you really want to enjoy your camping.
Check out Ecoflows portable power stations (Amazon). They’re my favorite solar generators because they charge super fast, you really get your money’s worth, and they have many sizes to choose from! Whether you’re camping for the weekend or you’re living off-grid, Ecoflow has something for everyone.