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How to calculate power requirements for overlanding

When you’re looking to Overland for an extended period of time and be completely self-sufficient, you quickly learn to be very organized in how and when you go about doing daily chores. One of those challenges is managing and balancing 12v power needs.

Grant and Linda, the couple behind My Aussie Travel Guide have set themselves up with a 12v dual battery system for their overlanding travels. This includes the addition of a second battery and a dc battery charger to keep their auxiliary batteries fully charged, and allowing them to use on-board accessories when on the road.


How we manage our power requirements for our overlanding vehicle

Our strategy was to have portable gadgets; cameras, phones, tablets and emergency portable battery packs fully charged during daytime vehicle touring. As this would occur via the vehicle’s alternator charging circuit, we needed to add additional charging outlets into the vehicle.

For night time camping requirements, we needed our two 75-amp hour batteries at 100% before stopping for the day. This would leave us with enough capacity in our battery bank to meet our evening power needs (plus a safety margin to allow being stationary for a number of days).


Calculate 12v power needs

The key to getting a successful result is to understand what the demands and expectations are for the amount of power you’ll require on a daily basis, a weekly basis, and for how long a period you can remain stationary without the need to recharge your auxiliary camper house batteries.

We set aside some time to work out theoretical answers and thought through and planned what our usage demands are. 

The result included using 2 x 75A/hr deep cycle batteries in the camper with a correctly wired-in circuit for a 40amp REDARC BCDC battery charger for recharging. We opted for some simple 12v display gauges to give us an idea of the available battery capacity.

The strategy behind our truck camper build was to get a solution we could install ourselves that kept things simple and straightforward. The aim was to have enough 12v and USB outlets so all our daily 12v charging requirements would be achieved whilst driving and touring during the day.

We added a 400w 110v pure sine wave inverter into the car which was powered from the camper’s auxiliary batteries. This meant our personal accessories such as laptops, portable electric shaver, LED headlamps, battery tool packs, and some of the camera batteries that needed 110V power, could also be charged while touring. Plus, we could easily see the status as we drove due to the charging station location was close by.


Benefits of a portable overlanding fridge 

We also fitted a second fridge freezer to the rear seat area of the vehicle, which could be easily accessed from the vehicle’s rear door. Our aim was to use it to prepare breakfast and lunch out of, as well as to get the evening meal out of the freezer. This meant we had no need to open the camper during the day. The power for this fridge freezer was also supplied by the camper’s 2 x 75A/hr auxiliary batteries.

The BCDC1240D could supply enough charge to auxiliary camper batteries, the fridge and the inverter loads whilst daytime touring, and have our batteries at 100%* capacity before stopping for the day. 

The REDARC dc to dc charger has been wired in readiness for future solar panels to be added, which will extend our ability to remain at a base camp for longer periods.


Simple overlanding power management

Our solution for our touring vehicle is focused on keeping things simple; having a separate circuit for charging the camper via the dual battery charger means we don’t risk having our cranking start battery ever going flat on us. With some flexibility and capacity for extended base camp stays, along with our approach to charging our portable accessories only with the vehicle running, means we always have our items charged and ready to go.

This article was written by Grant and Linda from My Aussie Travel Guide. A couple of committed and experienced overlanders who turned their hand to US based travel. You can read their overland trip planning tips here or visit their website

If you're starting to think about your ideal truck or RV setup and not sure what products will help you power your future adventures, check out our epic Toyota Tacoma build. 

*Large capacity battery banks may require a few cycles to fully charge.