Power options for camping?


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My $9 VSR-isolator set up has not failed me in the past 25 years :)



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My isolator is wired through the ignition, when driving both batteries are being charged, when ignition is turned off only the aux. battery is running lights/fridge so there is no chance of flattening the starter battery.....That is why I have the twin cig. sockets and Anderson plug - 1 cig. socket for fridge - one cig. socket for light - Anderson plug for solar panel to keep battery charged for longer stays.


Active Member
Can be done cheap i bought $150 vsr kit, $180 100ah battery, $300 60lt companion fridge (2ndhand of facebook) and maybe $50 in wiring. so whats that $680 and everything works perfect even the fridge is pretty good.
Have to say after having a fridge i'd never go back to eskies. They have their place but its not camping..


Well-Known Member
Robbie, I guess a good place to start is by asking,
are you tackling this yourself and are comfortable wiring everything up on your own?
How much are you likely to spend or want to spend ?

Those 2 things are likely to make a big difference to the options available to you.

For me a dc-dc charger with a solar input made sense and simplifies the wiring requirements by using one.
It will switch between charging the battery of the alternator when driving and turn to the solar when you're stopped.
If your confident in doing the job yourself, improvements can be made by having dedicated units for alternator charging and solar.
That will add a bit of cost and complexity. Not that hard though.
I've got a projecta dcdc/solar in the car and a supercheap dcdc and epever solar controller in the caravan.
Neither set up is at the top of the cost spectrum but both have worked well for me thus far.

For me I choose second hand solar panels from house installs. With the right solar controller benefits can be had from panels with higher voltage outputs and can be had dirt cheap.
I recently picked up 2 240w panels for 50 bucks each.

Batteries ? choose your poison based on price. I use giant batteries which are well priced and have mates who use them as well.
No failures yet.

re the fridge, as said once you have one you will never go back.

That said, I HIGHLY recommend against a 3 way fridge and would say ONLY buy a compressor fridge.
They have their place but in the back of a hot car isn't that place.
They only drop the temp around 20 degrees below ambient.
Run that in your car on a 40 degree day.... you get the point. Plus they will suck the life out of your battery.
My caravan one runs at 9amps constantly.
Whilst my solar set up on the van can run that easily during the day, add clouds or over night and your battery is flat or worse dead.

You don't need to spend a fortune on the fridge. Second hand can be a bargain and the cheaper end of the spectrum can be reliable as well.
If you have the bucks, an engel or waeco tend to be the picks.
I've got a giant (cheaper) and a waeco with friends who have ebay cheapies.
All are doing what they're meant to do.

I've got a series of videos on installing a dcdc and solar into my Paj if that helps.

I hope all this info that is coming at you is making sense.

cheers Brett


Well-Known Member
what is VSR and DC DC and how do you determine which you have?

I like watching youtubes as a part of researching things like this & this video is quite well put together.

I am actually leaning towards this battery box/rear tray set up over an under bonnet set up.

Sure its exxy but there is no mucking around trying to fitting VRS's & trying to get a tray to fit.
I mean its around $160+ just for a dual battery tray for my MN & then when you buy all the hardware needed to you do it basically in most cases it goes with the vehicle when you sell it.
I am leaning more & more to a portable AGM pack like in the video.


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thats a good plan Triton.
I always install mine in the rear of my vehciles and when I move to a new one, everything comes out and gets moved across.
It's a fair effort to strip everything but its saves you having to buy everything again and you can begin to accumulate stuff over a number of vehicles.


Active Member
I am looking for some advice on a power setup for my travels / camping.

I am based in Brisbane and most of our camping involves driving 2-3 hours to our destination, camping for 2-3 days, then driving home.
My needs are similar, although I seem to travel alone; here is my set up... bearing in mind it is for one person

Waeco 18L Fridge/freezer ($530)
Kings Battery box ($69)
$50 for extra sockets and a switch for the battery box. This makes for tidier setup when needing more than one 12V power feed
Batteries (10 x 5.5AH) which fit in perfectly; I got for free out of a UPS
Waeco 80W solar panel ($230 on special at BCF). This is a quality unit. and more than adequte for my small setup
In dull light it was outputting to the battery box.
I could have bought bigger panels for less money elsewhere; but I wanted reliability.

I recently did a 3day/2 night camp in hot weather and no problems.
I will never go back to ice and eskys after using my setup. Chilled drinks on a hot day...Cant beat it!

For a bigger setup; besides buying a bigger fridge, I'd put an MPPT solar charge controller in the battery box, instead of the present PWM controller on the panels, and if a big jump up in fridge size; increase battery capacity as well.

LED lighting strips I bought from 4WD Supercenter...1 Mtr strips in a weatherpropf sleeve, and dimmable for about $50 IIRC.
Quite versatile as have velcro straps and hooks to mount anywhere, and a very long cable
Quality is varied.. One unit draws about 10mA on low whereas the other one was about 40mA.
On max I think they draw about 800mA each but are quite bright


Well-Known Member
My $9 VSR-isolator set up has not failed me in the past 25 years :)


That's nota vsr champ. It's just a switch. A vsr is a voltage sensitive relay and it opens and closes dependant on the voltage from the feed side.

A set up with just a dumb switch is not going to be doing either of your batteries any favours.

That said if you're happy with it, all good.


Well-Known Member
That's nota vsr champ. It's just a switch. A vsr is a voltage sensitive relay and it opens and closes dependant on the voltage from the feed side.

A set up with just a dumb switch is not going to be doing either of your batteries any favours.

That said if you're happy with it, all good.
Yeh, I'm not that uneducated I don't realise that it's just a switch. I was simply throwing in a cheap manual option for isolating the second battery into the mix. Before I progressed to a switch I used to just pull the inline fuse between the main and second battery in my old Landcruiser to ensure I didn't accidentally discharge the main/starter battery when camping (worked OK for 15 years :)). My point restated, is that it works for me and I've not noted any harm to batteries from using a manual switch rather than a VSR.
Of course, if I had more complex 12 volt charging requirements (e.g. charging multiple batteries, high power demands, solar panel charging permanently connected, etc.), I would look at different options/solutions (e.g. VSR, split charge relay, DC to DC charger). Or, if I don't want to take the risk that I may forget to manually isolate my main/starter battery then I'd fit a VSR.


I have started calling a few places re getting an secondary battery installed..

My local auto electrician quoted $750 to supply and fit secondary battery (with an outlet in the back), the ARB wanted $1500 (there was a slightly cheaper option).

Why such a big difference?


Well-Known Member
Some would be ARB tax
but you also have to make sure your getting the same thing
eg Battery brackets, battery type, charging setup (eg isolator or DC/DC)


Active Member
For the type of camping your doing, I would install a second battery under the bonnet but not bother with wiring up a dual battery system. Run your cable to the back for the fridge and buy a 120w solar panel plus a decent solar regulator. 24 hrs before you leave fire up the fridge and fill it with food. Put the 2nd battery on a decent charger overnight before so before you leave its full. The solar panel will almost keep up over 3 or so days. When you get home, put the battery on the charger again.


Well-Known Member
a voltage sensitive isolator is easy to to install and will keep the battery mostly full (unless you have a smart alternator)

If you were not going to bother with that then you might as well get a portable battery like a thumper


New Member
Hi, New to this forum so I thought I'd put my two cent worth in on my set up which works great, at a budget price, I have a 75 Series ute with a canopy, on top of canopy I've mounted a cheap $85 250 watt 12v panel in a Aluminum frame with an axle in one end with two gas struts and two link pin that locks the panel down when driving, this system is 40% more efficient when the panel is raised to 25deg, with a cheap $65 20 amp MPPT solar controller the system puts out 14 amps which more than covers the camp fridge LED strip lighting, TV and other item, I also run a $225 120AH giant battery, with a cheap $120, 20 amp Renogy DC to DC charger when the engines running, I've been camping for ten days with out starting the vehicle, the system never dropped below 77% and was back up to 100% with in 3hours of sun light, the whole system with cable purchased on Ebay for around $550. Regards Scott
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