Photo by alekseystemmer via iStock
If you’re like me and you camp with a trailer or RV, you’ll need a deep cycle battery to run gadgets like your fridge and freezer, trailer lights, water pump, and so forth.
But the question is, which deep cycle battery is best for your camping situation?
This guide will explore two popular options – AGM batteries and lithium batteries – and determine the best bet for your dollar.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- What is a Deep Cycle Battery?
- Do You Really Need a Deep Cycle Battery?
- What Deep Cycle Battery Options are There?
- So, Which Deep Cycle Battery is For You?
- Recommended Overlanding Gear
What is a Deep Cycle Battery?
A deep cycle battery, like the Ultimatron 100Ah battery shown above, offers reliable energy at a steady rate over the course of a long period of time. If we contrast this with a car battery, you can see the difference – a car battery is made to give maximum power in a very short burst to start your vehicle. A deep cycle battery does the opposite.
Since these batteries give you long-lasting power, they’re ideal for camping. You can be out for several days and rely on the battery’s power to continue powering your gadgets. If you have a means of recharging the batteries (e.g., solar), you can extend your stay well beyond that. You can’t do that with a car battery!
Do You Really Need a Deep Cycle Battery?
Photo by welcomia via iStock
Clearly, some camping situations don’t require that you have a battery in the first place. If you have to hike into your camp spot, obviously, you aren’t going to strap a 50-pound battery to your backpack.
Likewise, if you take quick overnight trips and sleep in the back of your car, you don’t need to invest in a deep cycle battery of any kind.
But…if you have a travel trailer, RV, or a utilitarian off-road trailer with a rooftop tent (like I do), having a quality deep cycle battery is a must.
Even basic trailers with rooftop tents often have electrical systems, outdoor lighting, plugs and ports for your gadgets, and so on, all of which need reliable power. You can reliably store that power in a deep cycle battery or two.
So, in other words, your need for a battery depends on your specific camping situation!
PREVIEW PRODUCT RATING 13 Pcs Camp Kitchen Cooking Utensil Set Cookware Kit RoverTac Multitool Hatchet Camping Tool Vont 4 Pack LED Camping Lantern, LED Lanterns LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness 163 Pieces First Aid Kit Waterproof Coleman Camping Chair with Built-in 4 Can Cooler
13 Pcs Camp Kitchen Cooking Utensil Set Cookware Kit
RoverTac Multitool Hatchet Camping Tool
Vont 4 Pack LED Camping Lantern, LED Lanterns
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness
163 Pieces First Aid Kit Waterproof
Coleman Camping Chair with Built-in 4 Can Cooler
What Deep Cycle Battery Options are There?
There are several options to consider when shopping for a deep cycle battery. Let’s have a quick look at a few popular options.
Lead Acid Batteries
Lead acid batteries have been around for a long time and come in several varieties, like AGM, gel, and wet. Of these, AGMs – like the Renogy 100Ah AGM battery shown above – are the most common in camping applications and are often the type of batteries included with trailers and RVs from the dealership.
AGM, which stands for Absorbed Glass Material, are more popular than wet varieties because they are far more durable, have improved vibration resistance, and have a deeper level of discharge.
Likewise, AGM batteries are often very low maintenance, if not maintenance-free, so you can spend more time enjoying the great outdoors and less time worrying about what your batteries are doing.
Photo by photoschmidt via iStock
Another benefit of AGM batteries over wet types of lead acid batteries is that they’re sealed, so they can be installed in many different orientations without worrying about leakage. These batteries can go in the tongue box of a trailer, in battery boxes, inside a storage cubby in a trailer or RV, or even inside the living quarters.
AGM batteries also charge quickly (and at a lower voltage), are capable of a greater charge current, and their self-discharge rate is relatively low, so they can sit in your trailer for several months without needing a recharge.
Lithium is a newer deep cycle battery option for your camping adventures, which offers many advantages over lead acid batteries like AGMs.
For starters, lithium batteries have a far greater energy capacity than AGMs while also being smaller and lighter. As we all know, space is at a premium when camping and overlanding, so saving space and weight with your batteries is certainly a bonus!
Lithium batteries also have a much longer life cycle than lead acid options. For example, you might get 1,000 cycles out of an AGM battery. Still, many lithium batteries, like the Ultimatron 100Ah batteries I have installed in the nose of my Turtleback Expedition Trailer (shown above), offer up to 5,000 cycles.
You get better power output from a lithium battery than a lead acid battery as well. For example, you can run devices that draw more amps using the same-sized battery. Lithium batteries are the way to go if your rig has heavy-duty power needs like a microwave or air conditioning.
Another advantage of a lithium deep cycle battery is that you can run them all the way down to dead without damaging the battery. Granted, doing so reduces the number of life cycles, but if you’re in a pinch and need to tap all the battery’s power, you can do so.
Of course, you have to charge your lithium battery at some point, and you can do so quickly. In fact, you can fully charge the battery while you drive and do so in a few hours. So, by the time you get to your next destination, your lithium deep cycle battery will be topped off and ready to rumble.
Some lithium batteries even have features like self-heating for use in cold environments, built-in battery management systems, and Bluetooth capabilities that allow you to monitor the battery’s performance from your phone. It’s features like these that compelled me to replace my trailer’s batteries with the Ultimatron 100Ah batteries I mentioned earlier.
So, Which Deep Cycle Battery is For You?
As I said earlier, the type of battery you need depends on your specific camping setup. If you only camp occasionally and need minimal power, an AGM battery might suit your needs just fine. But if you have more significant power needs and camp frequently, an upgrade to lithium batteries might be in order.
I can tell you from experience that camping with my trailer with two AGM batteries was a lot less functional than camping with two Ultimatron lithium batteries. The improvement in power output, the availability of a greater depth of discharge, and the bonus features like self-heating and Bluetooth monitoring have made these batteries one of the best upgrades I’ve made to my trailer.
Now, lithium batteries are much more expensive than AGMs, so if you’re on a tight budget, AGMs might be the better (or only) option. However, since lithium batteries have a vastly superior life cycle, you will likely have to replace your AGMs two or three times (or more) by the time lithium batteries need replacement. Just a little food for thought!
Recommended Overlanding Gear