While some people have decided to tame the wilderness with a simple backpack and tent, most people enjoy camping with more comfort.
Every year, around 40,500,000 Americans take at least one trip into the great outdoors through camping, RV trips, and renting cabins. Many of the comforts we take for granted involve being plugged into the wall, allowing two choices to new campers: go without electricity or bring it with them.
Unfortunately, you can’t simply plug your phone or heater into a car battery, and a standard generator runs the risk of damage if not controlled.
While portable power sources, such as those found in RVs and campers, use automotive batteries to store electricity, this power is changed from DC to AC, allowing you to plug your normal devices into an outlet.
What does that all mean?
AC or DC?
Electricity is ions that are either positively charged or negatively charged, most commonly produced through magnetic charges. When you plug something in, these ions carry energy to the device and allow it to be used.
Electricity is found in two forms: alternating currents (AC) or direct currents (DC). Direct current is used in batteries, such as your vehicle, laptop, phone, and most lighting, while alternating currents are found throughout your home.
If our home’s outlets are AC, and the same power is wired to our lights, how do they work?
When thinking of direct current, let’s consider a flashlight as a great source for understanding.
Direct current is named based on the flow of electricity since power only flows in one direction.
Amps (or ampere) are best represented as flow. As energy is stored in a battery, it creates “pressure,” which pushes the ions forward, carrying power through the cables.
Direct currents maintain voltage rating and remain steady until the battery becomes “dead,” or the energy of the ions is used by the light. When looking at a graph, this means you will see +1.5 volts straight across, and as the battery runs low on milliamps, the flow will decrease and begin to lower the voltage.
To create a longer-lasting power source, add more batteries or more space. This can be seen in your vehicle. Automotive batteries are made up of 6 individual cells holding 2.1 volts each for a total of 12.6 volts. Smaller car batteries such as those in a sports car will physically be smaller in size. If you were to use one of these batteries in a large truck, the capacity would be drained rapidly.
For larger trucks intended to pull trailers or campers, you often find two large automotive batteries. Larger trucks such as Semis often have three or more batteries.
DC is extremely important for items like electric fans. Positive flow causes the fan to flow in one direction. If you were to flip the battery backwards, the fan would spin in the opposite direction.
When looking at an electrical graph, you will see a zero, along with a positive and negative voltage. Alternating currents get their name as they are able to travel in both positive and negative directions.
This means a power source representing 5 volts would be seen as;
+5 +4 +3 +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5
This constant flow will happen rapidly but would cause items such as lights to flicker and electric motors such as fans to constantly switch directions and not work.
When power is used but not stored, such as in your home, AC power is easier to produce and travels further over long distances, like power lines.
How Are DC Currents Used In Homes
Even with AC electrical currents flowing through your walls, you can use DC devices like your computer. If these two are often not compatible, how does this work?
Each of these devices stores bits of electricity and convert the power from AC to DC with a device known as a converter.
As the AC power reaches positive charges, the converter collects these charges and stores them in a device known as a capacitor, which acts as its own battery. The electricity can then be used as DC.
How Can I Use Outlets From Batteries
Like a converter used in the electrical devices in your home, electricity can be converted from DC to AC with an inverter.
While batteries may be heavy, they remain a great portable source to take on small trailers, in a vehicle, or on a boat to bring the greatness of power to nature.
Inverters are essential for camping since electricity is commonly stored in automotive batteries.
When generators are used, especially mounted generators, the power is transferred to stored batteries, which can be used even when the generator is powered off.
Generators produce AC power, which will be converted to DC to be stored within the battery. The power will then be converted back to AC to be used with standard outlets.
Best Generator Inverters
Inverters are found in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on their use but are always required to use DC power from batteries.
Cigarette Lighter Inverters allow you to plug items like laptops into your vehicle. They are small and limited to the power output of your vehicle. Be cautious when using these inverters with the vehicle off since they may kill the battery.
Since generators produce AC power, inverters may not be needed, although controllers will be used to maintain a stable power source. This method only allows you to use the electricity when the generator is running, which could cause issues with fuel and when it’s appropriate to run the generator. You may not want the noise from a generator running through the night as you sleep.
AIMS 8000 Watt Inverter
When considering an inverter that nearly anyone can install, the AIMS 8000 Watt Inverter is a great option. The DC power supply is wired to the batter sources, while the AC supply consists of 4 standard wall outlets. This is a great source for smaller campers, allowing you to run extension cords to use as outlet sources.
This large power output allows you to run the entire campsite on one source.
Very minimal electrical skill is needed to use this inverter safely. Always use caution when attaching the DC terminals.
Cobra 1500 Watt Portable Power Inverter
The Cobra 1500 Watt Inverter is equipped with a digital display, three standard outlets, and a USB port.
This compact inverter measures just 9.25 inches long by 8.75 inches wide by 3.25 inches long, with its white and grey color allowing this inverter to be mounted out in the open with pride. This inverter remains a safe power source with five safety levels, avoiding overheating or causing damage to your devices.
Wagan EL3746 8000 Watt Inverter
Intended to power a camper van, RV, or motorhome, the Wagan EL3746 8000 Watt Inverter is equipped with both plug-in and high output hardwire terminals. This inverter displays both Volts and Amps using LED displays. Remove the need to access the panel with a remote on/off option.
With a 54% decrease in size from their previous model, this inverter is only 9 inches wide by 12 inches long and just 5 inches tall.
WZRELB 3000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter
When looking for an inverter to fit your needs, look no further than WZRELB’s line of inverters ranging from 2000W to 5000W to be used with generators and solar panels. The WZRELB 3000W Inverter is simple to wire to your battery source and allows you to use plug-in and hard-wired power sources.
The volts are displayed on a large easy to read LED display. This inverter can be turned on and off with a large toggle switch.
Xantrex 806-1220 1800 Watt Inverter
A great choice for boating, camping, and other recreational activity, the Xantrex 806-1220 Inverter allows you to plug in standard plugs and USB ports. This power source is great for simple electronics.
The simple LED display makes this a great option to mount in view. The simple and safe electrical setup makes this a good choice even if you have no electrical experience.
Even when inverters are considered safe and simple to use, always use caution when managing and connecting electricity.
Inverters allow you to take power on the go, even to the most secluded natural areas. Electricity has remained not only a leisure but a safety tool worth the investment. Understanding the potential risks and needs for your destination will keep you safe and enjoying every minute. Always be prepared for what you can’t predict.
With so many great products on the market, you can be sure to find an inverter that meets your exact needs of portability, power output, and safety.
If you have additional questions, send them our way!