Tips for Dry Camping

We’ve learned a few tricks from some recent dry camping we’ve done and I thought we should share them with all our camping friends.

LED Bulbs

Most trailers still ship with incandescent bulbs that use around 18 watts. Power consumption like that will make you feel some pressure to limit the number of lights you have lit and for how long. The best option is to replace these with LED bulbs which only use a minimal 1.5 watts so there’s no more pressure about limiting the lights. We bought this pack of 10 from Amazon but there’s many different types and styles so you’ll want to confirm what your trailer currently uses. Just beware of potential interference from these lights for radio and TV signals.

USB Batteries

Whether tenting or trailering a USB battery is a must to keep your tablets and phones charged in your tent or around the fire. You want to look for a device with at least one 2.1 amp port so you can charge most devices at full speed and the higher the mAh value the more charges you’ll get before the battery is exhausted. Here’s a good model from Monoprice with dual USB ports and a 16,000mAh reservoir that can charge an iPhone more than six times and an iPad twice.

DC Power Plug

Most trailers have a DC power plug, also referred to as a cigarette lighter plug, close to where a TV could go. These are very adaptable and can be used to power lots of different accessories, so many that the first thing you’ll want to buy will be a Y plug adapter so you can plug in multiple devices. Make sure it doesn’t have too many lights that will drain power and keep you awake at night. You might also want an extension in case your plug isn’t in the most convenient spot. You’ll also want a multi-port USB car charger to power everything from your phone and tablet to USB batteries and fans. Also, don’t forget all the 12 volt accessories such as fans and vacuums that can be found at Flying J, The Source and others.

TV

If you have a television with an external power brick you can likely replace the AC power brick with a switching power DC converter. If you read the power brick label it should provide some guidance on the required voltage and amps. For example, our TV runs on 12 volts and at up to 3 amps so we need to set the converter to regulate at 12 volts and buy a model that can provide at least 3 amps. The power brick can also provide some guidance on the tip polarity and size of the barrel connector. If there isn’t a power brick for your TV then you’ll need to use an inverter which will be less efficient as you’ll be converting from DC to AC and then back to DC again inside the TV.

Things to Avoid

The first thing isn’t something to avoid as much as it’s something to be very careful with. Inverters can be fantastic for allowing you to use your AC devices on DC power but they’re often only 80% efficient so you’re wasting power right out of the gate and AC devices might also draw a lot of power that may drain your battery quickly. Further some DC plugs are only rated for 8 amps and you’ll blow a fuse if you draw above that. Electric coolers should also be avoided, instead take a cooler filled with ice for your dry camping trips. Electric coolers and mini-keg coolers work great in your vehicle while the engine is running but they use a lot of watts and will kill your battery within a day unless you have an expensive, 245Ah group 8D battery and potentially a large solar panel to replenish it. We only have a group 24 battery connected with around 84Ah of capacity.

These tips might not let you use your microwave or air conditioner while camping without AC but hopefully they’ll let you have an otherwise enjoyable dry camping experience.

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