Dual Battery Systems for Camping - Portable Power Is Probably Better May 22, 2015 10:11
Camping is like a lot of other things in life: increasingly digital. If you want to be able to communicate with the outside world, it's a good idea to bring your cell phone. If you want to be able to entertain the kids during a surprise rainstorm, it's a good idea to bring a laptop that plays DVDs or a portable DVD player. If you want cold drinks and don't want to mess with an ice chest, you might want to bring a portable refrigerator. Etc.
All these items require electricity, and most campsites aren't wired with electrical power (at least not yet). Many people choose to run their "stuff" off their vehicle's battery system, and in order to prevent killing the main battery, campers, overlanders, and other outdoor enthusiasts will often install dual battery systems on their vehicles.
But here's the thing: dual battery systems are outdated. Here's why.
First, Here's How a Dual Battery System Works
Basically, a dual battery system is a supplemental battery and an original starter battery. The two batteries are connected to one another during normal vehicle operation, allowing them both to charge off the vehicle's alternator system. If/when the vehicle's engine is off, a dual battery setup will automatically disconnect the main starter battery from the electrical system. That way, accessories can be plugged into the 12V outlets on the vehicle's electric system without fear of killing the starter battery.
Most of the time, dual battery systems are found on off-road vehicles, or vehicles with a lot of accessories to charge. They can come in handy for winches, crazy sound systems, and things of that nature. But the thing to understand about dual battery systems is that they're very much outdated, at least now that the ArkPak has arrived.
The Problems with Dual Battery Systems
There are three main problems with dual battery systems:
- They're complex. Properly installing a dual battery system is usually complicated. You've got to run cables, make connections, update or replace existing harnesses, and then test it all to make sure it works like it's supposed to. Often times, the 2nd battery in a dual system has to be mounted in the vehicle rear, which means you're running cable from one end of the vehicle to the other.
- They're expensive. A cheap dual battery setup - one that doesn't include any sort of regulator - will only set you back $100, assuming you buy a basic wiring harness and a generic battery mount. But you'll have a hell of a time getting it installed, and without a regulator it's just not that useful. A more typical dual battery system - one that includes a regulator and is custom designed for your vehicle - will cost 3-5 times that amount.
- They're not portable. Installing an extra battery in your vehicle means that you'll have power for accessories, etc., as long as you're camping with your vehicle. But what if you want to setup camp 100' away from the parking spot. Are you going to walk to the vehicle every time you want a drink from your fridge? What if you want to take your fridge boating - are you going to install another dual battery system in your boat?
Dual battery systems tie you to your vehicle for power, they're expensive (at least when you buy a good one), and they're often difficult to install.The good news is, there's an alternative.
The ArkPak is Like A Dual Battery System, Only Better
Functionally, the ArkPak is a sophisticated charging/battery management system in a portable box. Provided you get the 12V DC-DC connector with your ArkPak, it can be incorporated into your vehicle's electrical system just like a dual battery. Yet unlike a dedicated dual battery system, you can use the ArkPak wherever you want (your boat, at a camp site far away from your vehicle, etc.).
The ArkPak holds a standard 12V lead-acid battery up to the Group 31 size, which means the ArkPak will have 100-130ah of energy capacity. While the box can get relatively heavy (upwards of 80lbs, depending on the size of battery you install), it's smaller than a standard cooler and generally very portable. If you can carry a cooler full of ice and drinks, you can carry an ArkPak.
Portable power is important. You never know when or where a battery pack will come in handy. If you can pick up a battery system and carry it with you, your options are unlimited.
You can charge an ArkPak with the sun. If you want to add a solar panel system to your ArkPak, you absolutely can! Harvest nature’s power source and store it for when you need it — charge it during the day and use it at night. Or use the solar power system in case of emergencies, you never know!
Lots of charging options. If you want to use the ArkPak to charge your phone or any other USB device, you can because there are ports for that. There’s also a 12V power socket and 120VAC plug for any other devices.
Emergency options. The ArkPak can be used as a jumpbox and/or a source of supplemental power when your winch is engaged. It can also be used if your home were to lose power to charge phones, computers, run LED lights, etc.
While there are specific uses where a dual battery system comes in very handy (a true dual battery system can flow more current than the ArkPak's 12V DC-DC connector), these uses aren't terribly common. For most people, the ArkPak is simply a better option than a dedicated dual battery system.