Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Batteries for boondocking


Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking. 

Hi Bob,
Thanks for the great information. Mike and I prefer to boondock and stay away from campsites whenever possible. I think this spring I’ll need to replace our batteries. They are going on their 4th season and last week when I gave them a midwinter charge they would not charge completely. I don’t know if that’s because of the cold or age. For primarily dry camping what battery setup would you recommend? We have a travel trailer and our batteries are out front. I have a large platform where a generator would go, so I can do two 6v golf cart batteries instead of the two 12v I have now. Thoughts? Thanks. —Amy

Hi Amy,
Maybe this short “Battery 101” will help in your decision and also be helpful to other RVers with basic battery questions.

Most RV batteries use lead-acid technology. This is where lead is immersed in an acid/water solution. You have to fill it up every once in awhile, as a little of the solution disappears with each charge. Gel-type batteries are also a good choice for deep-cycle batteries.

The 6-volt, golf cart battery is a popular choice to use for RV house batteries. They are very rugged, and two can be wired together to form a 12-volt power source. This is ideal for the house batteries found in an RV, but you do need to use them in pairs.

Trojan 6-volt batteries

But comparing 6 volt to 12 volt: Both are lead-acid batteries and both contain 2.1 volt cells – three cells in the 6-volt battery and six cells in the 12-volt battery. The 6-volt battery has more space per cell than the 12-volt hybrid so the plates are thicker and will last longer. The 6-volt will be able to discharge deeper than any hybrid 12-volt deep-cycle. Two 6-volt deep-cycle batteries are a much better buy than two hybrid 12-volt batteries.

When installing two 6-volt batteries wired in series, the amp hours remain the same and the voltage is doubled. Example: Two 200-amp-hour 6-volt batteries wired in series equals one 12-volt 200-amp-hour battery.

When working with two 12-volt batteries wired in parallel, the voltage remains the same and amp hours are doubled. Example: Two 100-amp-hour 12-volt batteries wired in parallel, makes one 12-volt 200-amp-hour battery bank. Flooded-cell, deep-cycle, golf cart batteries will give you 6 to 7 years.

Lithium-Iron-Oxide batteries are more expensive (I have never used them) and you would have to talk to RVers that have installed them to see how they like them (maybe a couple will comment here). I have used Trojan 6-volt golf cart batteries and was completely happy with them and would recommend them in your situation.

Read more about boondocking at my BoondockBob’s Blog.
Check out my Kindle e-books about boondocking at Amazon.

Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .





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pete (@guest_21026)
5 years ago

Has anyone on here have experience with using Gel-Cell batteries?

Mark Elliott (@guest_20124)
5 years ago

I’m only in the planning stage for hitting the retirement road so from a practical perspective I’m about as ignorant as anyone can be on this topic but from everything I’ve read about conventional Lead Acid and Lithium batteries it seems like there is no question as to which is superior.

If my bookish assessment is correct I wonder why so many people use easy to kill, slow charging, high maintenance, short lived and heavy(!) lead acid batteries as compared to lithiums which are superior in most every way?

chris p hemstead (@guest_20081)
5 years ago

I have a 48v 100ah Lithium battery pack. As said above, light and don’t lose voltage with high loads. I went to higher voltage because when running high-draw appliances (even a/c) batteries and wires can heat up quickly pulling all that amperage. Smaller wire is nice to work with.

Bill (@guest_20021)
5 years ago

I meant, AGM. thanks

Bill (@guest_20018)
5 years ago

Lastly, if you have enough solar atop–mine is 200 watts/12 amps–wouldn’t that be enough to keep an arm, say, charged when boon docking??

Bill (@guest_20017)
5 years ago

A group of Leisure owners has already converted to two 12v lithiums. They like. However the price of the battle born brand at $900 each is scary. They tout the ease of recharge and many more cycles available. Battleborn has now come up with a 6v lithium that fits in may RV trays. that’s even more, around $1,000 each. The price is also scary. how does it compare with AGM or wet? If one changes out the 6v every 5 years or so at $160 a shot, that would be 20 years or so of batteries before reaching that $2000 mark.

Bill Semion (@guest_20016)
5 years ago

Hi, what about 6-volt AGM golf cart batteries? I have 12-volt AGMs in my boat and am very, very happy with them. I have two interstate 6v wet batteries in my Leisure, and when they give out, plant to change over with AGM, unless someone says “STOP! 😉

Tommy Molnar (@guest_19974)
5 years ago

Someday I may look into the ‘new’ technology. I’ve been totally happy for over 20 years using 6 volt golf cart batteries. I had one set last just under 10 years. I think that was because of judicious use of power, especially at night, and having solar panels constantly charging the batteries even when parked at home.

BOb (@guest_19967)
5 years ago

Lithiums, aside from the cost have a huge number of advantages in dry camping use.
1. Lighter than similar lead acid
2. Very low voltage sag during high discharge making then great for supporting large inverters
3. Very high charge acceptance making them very very fast to recharge.

These factors make them a completely different ball game and best use involves reconsidering charging systems to take advantage of these factors and that includes chargers tailored to take advantage of and protect these characteristics.

For cold weather camping, the lithium batteries need to be installed in the climate controlled part of the camper, requiring a change in battery location from stock.

Several companies now have “drop in ” lithium batteries that have a form factor similar to the lead acids they are replacing, AND that have protection circuits they protect them.

I replaced my 2 grip 24 hybrid OEM batteries with 2 100 AH group 27 lithiums and went from about 60 ah usable capacity (50% to 80 % soc) to 160 ah of lithium with the same charging regimen.

Of course, you need to look at the whole system in order to optimize how you approach this. For example, my motorhome alternator puts out about 80 ah when the engine is idling, far more than my generator running and my converter charging. For my lead acid batteries, this 80 ah would quickly slow down as the batteries reached 14.x volts and the regulator started tapering off. With the lithiums, the 80 ah would stay steady until the batteries were close to 95 % full. Big difference.

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