Battery/Power packs for camping

Submitted: Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 13:09
ThreadID: 101498 Views:22385 Replies:7 FollowUps:10
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Hi all, I camped with a chap who had one of the Arkcorporation battery boxes over Easter. He had it connected to a solar panel and he run a range of items from it ie fridge/freezer, lights etc all weekend and still had 94% charge on Monday.

I had a butchers at it and it seemed pretty straight forward to use. To me it would be good if you were in an isolated area for periods of time and if it was sunny enough a long period of time.

However are they as good as they seem or are they just a pimped up battery box and you could build your own or similar. Or are they the same or similar as having a dual battery system in your vehicle. I read on this forum about under and over charging issues with a second battery under the bonnet. I liked the portability and the " foolproofness - theres a new word" of the unit.

I am mechanically and wiring etc challenged so to build one is beyond my level of expertise.

I just feel they would be a good thing to add a bit of comfort to camping and keep the Ipad and phone charged for her who carnt be without it. lol

Any who, I appreciate your thoughts, wisdom and other levels of eggspertise on the subject.

The reason for my upbeat mood is its only a few weeks till 3.2 weeks of leave. mmmmm leave hooooh

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Reply By: ben_gv3 - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 14:30

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 14:30

That looks flash. The inverter is a little small though at 150W so has limited uses.

If you're not electrically-minded then I think they are a good option as it's all self-contained. Having said that if one had the skills one could make their own for a bit cheaper but it won't look as good.

I would say there's about $100 worth of materials there (retail prices) plus labour.
AnswerID: 508161

Follow Up By: pepper2 - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 14:53

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 14:53
Dereck from ABR is a member of this site and markets a similar unit perhaps compare the two
FollowupID: 785594

Reply By: Pathycop - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 16:29

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 16:29
Hi Trev. I have got a 100ah Thumper. Similar to the ark just different! I chose the Thumper after lots of research as it comes out of the box ready to run. It is simple in the extreme to use. I have mine setup in the back of the Pathfinder. It is charged directly from the alternator via the regular under bonnet battery. The kit comes with an isolator and fuse box and good 6 B&S cabling that is a synch to setup in your vehicle. I rum a CF 50 fridge from it in the car. When we go camping I can leave the Thumper in the car and run 12 v leads to lights or inverters etc and it all runs perfect. Well it does in our back yard where I have been running some testing this week before heading up to Western NSW Sunday for 2 weeks in a tent. I fully charged the Thumper and left the fridge on 2 degrees with drinks etc inside and also ran some led lights. I simulated some opening and closing through the weekend and left some lights running for a few hours. With no additional charging the low voltage alarm did not come on on the fridge till the 3 rd afternoon. When I switched down to the lowest voltage cutoff on the fridge it ran for another 6 hrs. So just about 67 hours none stop. Not very scientific I know but it works for me.
If you leave it connected to the car and run some revs either by driving or just sitting there it will add charge fairly quickly. From flat at 10.5 v back to full charge at 12.8v took just on 2 and 1/2 hours driving. I think if you had it connected to solar on site then the slow trickle feed is unlikely to overcharge the battery. But a good controller will safeguard you there. You do need a quality charger if charging at home to avoid damage so a Ctek or redarc will do the trick. I just use the car.
So I am happy with my purchase and have the confidence that we will have enough power for our trip. I got it off eBay for $629 including 2 strip LEDs with dimmers and a led spot light for the back of the car.

Hope that help.

Cheers. Graeme
AnswerID: 508167

Follow Up By: Pathycop - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 16:34

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 19:59

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 19:59
Unlike the Blue Apple Thumper, or Sidewinder Flyer, the ARK battery box doesn't appear to come with any means of charging the battery on the go.
The built-in charger is an AC-DC charger of 1.5A and therefore would take a long time to recharge. When camping away from an AC power source, you would need to rely entirely on a solar panel to support the battery.
The chances are your fridge would draw more current than what the charger can replenish, even if a 240vAC supply is available.

Both the Thumper and Flyer alternatives include in-car charging capability from the vehicle alternator and both include isolators to protect the primary vehicle battery.

Regardless of what you choose, be aware of the need for a low voltage cutout device to protect the battery from over discharge. The Waeco fridges have an on-board protector.
Other fridges require the addition of an add-on cutout device (about $25)

The only practical battery to use is an AGM type and they are quite expensive, compared to a standard wet cell battery. (Wet cell batteries vent potentially dangerous gases when charging and will spill if tipped over.)

If comparing prices and features, note that the Thumper has the battery (cell packs) already included.

I have both a Thumper and Flyer and they are both very good auxiliary battery solutions. Both connect to the vehicle alternator and are charged via included charging cables, etc.
The Flyer with a 100Ah+ AGM battery inside is quite a heavy beast.
Mine lives in the tub of my vehicle and runs the fridge while travelling.

The Thumper (mine is the 75Ah model) is more portable although of less Ah capacity and is the unit I use to run the 40 litre Engel fridge when using my tent. It is about as heavy as you can move as a truly "portable" system.


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AnswerID: 508185

Follow Up By: Michaeljp - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 20:38

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 20:38
you can buy a Arkpak DC-DC charger from BCF to charge the battery from the vehicle whilst driving
FollowupID: 785627

Follow Up By: Pathycop - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 20:52

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 20:52
Hi. Yup weight is pretty massive. My 100ah thumper is 35kg. Thumper is also an excellent emergency jump starter using heavy duty cables via a 150amp Anderson plug. You will be pushed to find better for under $600.

FollowupID: 785628

Reply By: bibtracker - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 00:41

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 00:41
Trevor, you give two links about the Ark. They lead to two totally different products. The first, with the hinged lid and blue clips, retails for $175, so the ebay price of $199 is a bit cheeky. I have three of them, never used yet, but I had an email exchange with Ark in which they admitted that charging the battery from vehicle while driving was difficult (the main reason they remain unused).

The second link is to a new product with all sorts of bells and whistles, but it sells, from memory, for $400 to $500.

Cheers, Tony
AnswerID: 508222

Reply By: evaredy - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:44

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:44
You will not FULLY charge a battery purely from the engine, you need to install a DC to DC charger for that.

I have a little Weaco 36ah as our tent battery, it's a lot lighter to carry and does the job quite nicely.
AnswerID: 508226

Follow Up By: Pathycop - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:21

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:21
Hi Evaredy,

I would have to disagree with your assertion about charging. My thumper fully charges from the the alternator via the blue apple supplied car charging kit and has been doing so for sometime. Never been on a charger or solar of any sort as yet.

My only advice to the OP would be to go for the 75 Thumper as my 100ah Thumper is very heavy and my wife can not even lift it out of the car!


FollowupID: 785695

Follow Up By: evaredy - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 11:09

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 11:09
I would assume the Thumper has a built in DC to Dc charger then?

I'm no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but everything I have read in regards to charging an aux battery from the vehicles alternator states that the alternator will not fully charge a battery to 100%, it will get it to approx 80% but using a dc to dc will allow the alternator to get it to 100%

FollowupID: 785708

Follow Up By: Pathycop - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 13:04

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 13:04
Hi everedy. Im no expert either! Lol

I can only give you my experience with the product and the documents that came with it. The Thumper has a digital readout on it that displays the voltage. Docs say flat at 10.5v and 100% at 12.8v.
I have deliberately run it down to flat to test run time on my fridge, plugged it into the car and recharged in 2-3 hours driving back to over 12.8v, so assume that is fully charged? When charging the display shows an input of between 13.4 and 14v which settles to a steady 12.8 when turned off and left for 10-15 mins. There is no dc-dc charger involved at all.
I know from this forum there are now some newer vehicles out there that now have alternators with lower output that are not capable of servicing an aux battery but mine works fine without. I checked that with Blue Apple before I bought it after being alerted to the issue on here. I think also if the aux is a long distance from the alternator such as in a trailer then the voltage drop may mean that a charger is also required. That may be what you have read I dont know?
I had asked the question on a previous thread and the 12v experts on the forum have educated me with the above knowledge for which I am grateful.

FollowupID: 785724

Reply By: phantom - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 09:30

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 09:30
Hi Trevor,
we have a 75 ah thumper with in car charger (as supplied with the thumper unit) and have a 140W folding solar panel off ebay for $189.
We did a 2 month trip recently with no power hassles whatsoever. Spent 5 days in the Vic high country over Easter and the Solar panel kept the battery fully topped up by mid morning each day, even with rain and overcast conditions, running a 40 l engel, charging cameras, phones and running lights.
We chose the 75 ah thumper as larger sizes were too heavy to be truly portable.
Have found that this set up meets all our power needs for extended camping


AnswerID: 508254

Follow Up By: phantom - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 09:32

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 09:32
All of our camping is in tents where we can move the thumper to our campsite, leaving it in the car only when we are travelling to our next destination.

FollowupID: 785681

Follow Up By: Pathycop - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:33

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:33
Hi Phantom,

Thumper = Excellent bit of kit without a doubt. I have the 100ah Thumper and would agree about the size, weight issue. If I was buying again would go for the 75ah version. Got myself sucked into "bigger is best" after worrying about my familys power needs!

FollowupID: 785698

Follow Up By: Member - Broodie H3 - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 12:30

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 12:30
Hi Phantom, I am another for the 75 thumper we nearly got caught up in the 100 buy, my wife couldn't lift it so settled for the seventy five very happy with it and it is charged through the car
Broodie H3
Have car will travel

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FollowupID: 785718

Reply By: Peter From Vic - Saturday, Apr 06, 2013 at 17:32

Saturday, Apr 06, 2013 at 17:32
I have a ArkPak and can recommend it. It has a inbuilt 7 stage smart charger and comes with a 240 volt to 24 volt dc power pack which you plug into a connector to charge it. I also have a optional DC TO DC power pack to fully charge it while driving. Just plugs into an 12 volt outlet in back of vehicle. Also I can hook up my solar panel via the Anderson plug when camped.
You can fit the type of battery you want from 75 ah to 130 ah. AGM, Calcium etc. you program unit for battery size and type. If battery fails easy to fit a new one yourself.
It also has a digital screen to supply information such as voltage, hours before fully charged, temperature etc and also indicates charge discharge graphically.
I paid $410 not cheap but worth it IMHO.
I use it to power my Waeco CFX 50 litre fridge. It also has two auxiliary outlets and connection for heavy duty cables. Eg jumper leads depending on battery fitted.
It is also portable and easily swapped between vehicles or moved to where you want it and yes with a 130 AGM Battery installed is very heavy.
I did consider a Thumper but as I understand it it is difficult to replace battery yourself.
AnswerID: 508342

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