Published Jun 30, 2022 6:29 PM
Camping off the grid comes with a lot of challenges, from gray- and black-water management to simple safety in the woods, and depending on a reliable RV battery without worrying about powering in-the-coach appliances offers many campers needed peace of mind.
Most RVs derive their off-grid power from a two-battery relay that generally just powers the basics—lights, water pumps, propane furnace fans, and the like. It may seem like a small task, but these electrical demands add up, and most RV batteries can’t handle the extra amenities that come with camping. However, the best RV batteries for dry camping can support the constant trickle of power required over multiple days to keep phones charged through USB ports, charge up the kids’ tablets, and ensure, when all is said and done, that the water pump works when it comes time to flush to the toilet.
Things to Consider Before Buying a 12-Volt RV Battery
Buying an RV battery for dry camping amounts to starting a very important relationship. RV batteries, when in use, endure multiple demands over the course of life of their charge. They power everything from water-heater pumps to furnace fans and even some of the best camping accessories. In some higher-end RVs, they’re counted on to power small electric heaters and in-coach refrigerators. If you’re going to do a lot of dry camping, it pays to invest in a solid pair of batteries for your camper or fifth-wheel.
How often do you use your furnace? If you camp where it gets cold at night—like dispersed campgrounds in the Rocky Mountains—you will likely run your furnace all night long. And, while the furnace is likely a propane appliance, the fan used to push the heated air into the coach is electric.
Consider how often you might need hot water or how often you’ll use the RV’s plumbing system. Most water heaters are gas-fired, but some have an electric-gas hybrid setup. Regardless, water pumps that pull water from the fresh-water tank into the plumbing system (and into the water heater) are electric. Propane may be your primary fuel when you’re dry camping, but your batteries and their taxed electrical storage capacities should make the whole system run flawlessly.
Number of Campers
Honestly, if you’re a solo camper, and you don’t need a daily shower, or you can bundle up at night to stay warm, you can likely get by with lower-rated RV batteries. But if you camp with others, particularly kids, it’s likely worth it in the long run to invest in a quality pair of batteries to power your coach.
- Weight: 66 pounds
- Materials: Lead-acid, AGM
- Dimensions: 13 x 6.8 x 9 inches
Why It Made The Cut
The Renogy Deep Cycle AGM 12-volt battery is a dependable and powerful RV battery that offers higher-than-normal discharge currents that give RV owners some flexibility in power management.
- Powers small appliances and even larger ones like refrigerator or a microwave (for a short time) if necessary
- Holds a charge for a long time
- Maintains discharge ability in temperatures as cold as 5 degrees
- Recharges quickly
- Unwieldy to install
The Renogy Deep Cycle AGM 12-volt RV battery is a completely contained, leak-proof pure gel battery that eliminates the danger of acid leakage and the need to add water. It’s performance ratings are top-notch—Renogy boasts that the battery can power the average 70-watt television for seven hours or a 130-watt fridge for 12 hours.
While its output numbers are impressive, it’s not a small investment for any RV owner at just under $300. For a two-battery inline setup, that’s a big chunk of change. The good news is, that initial investment, an RV owner can reasonably expect up to seven or eight years of performance from this battery (the company claims it has a 10-year shelf life) so long as it’s kept on a charger frequently.
While it is heavy (at 66 pounds), it comes with two easy-to-grip handles that make transporting it a bit easier. Once you install it (assuming you’re using it as part of a two-battery inline system), you can reasonably expect a couple of days worth of normal power supply, even in adverse climatic situations. And the battery functions acceptably well when temperatures drop below freezing or get into the triple digits.
- Weight: 65 pounds
- Materials: Sealed lead acid
- Terminal: M6
Why It Made The Cut
The Universal sealed, lead-acid 12-volt RV battery delivers reliable power to the average RV and offers serious safety assets to owners who may have experienced acid leak issues with older-generation products.
- Powers basic RV needs for the better part of two days
- Only loses 36 percent of its power capacity after being stored for a year
- Maintenance free
- More affordable than most competitors
- Super heavy
- While it can power a coach effectively, it likely won’t last more than 20 hours without a charge
The Universal Battery sealed, lead-acid 12-volt RV battery is a great choice for RV campers who might need to only go a night or two without plugging into a generator for a recharge. Its power is reliable and consistent, and in a two-battery inline setup, campers can expect to be able to do the basics and maybe a bit more over the course of a short trip.
One potential shortfall of this product, particularly if you camp where it gets cold or during a late-fall hunting season: the battery might struggle in really cold weather. While it can be stored in temperatures as low as five degrees, it won’t take a charge if the weather’s below freezing.
On the whole, however, it’s an economical and reasonably environmentally friendly product (given its sealed and leak-proof construction). And, while still a pricey investment, it’s a worthwhile one, especially compared to most RV batteries on the market.
- 1,000Wh capacity
- Two 100W solar panels
- 3 AC and 5 DC ports
Why It Made the Cut
Given its dimensions, weight, and recharge time, this device can power almost anything—even high-wattage appliances—in a pinch. But it’s best suited for low-power needs when you’re off the grid or need something charged or powered for a short window of time.
- Lightweight (22 pounds)
- Variety of output ports
- Emits some noise
- Long recharge time
- Panels aren’t weather resistant
Contrary to the old saying about taking anything with you beyond the grave, when it comes to the best solar generators, you want to take it with you, wherever you go. That’s what makes the Jackery 1000 somewhat of a “jack” of all trades. Compared to most units, it’s lightweight (22 pounds), extremely quiet, and loaded with possibly every output port you’ll ever need (AC, USM, 12V, 5V, USB-C, and Quick Charge 3.0). Though the recharge time takes a while, this unit’s two Solarsaga panels can recharge your power banks and run small devices and appliances for hours on a full charge. – Ben Romans
Q: How long will a battery last while dry camping?
Generally speaking, RV campers can expect to get two or three days’ worth of coach power out of a two-array set of 12-volt RV batteries.
Q: How many batteries do I need for dry camping?
Most RVs are prepared and ready for a two-battery, inline set up for 12-volt batteries.
Q: Where should I buy rv batteries?
You can buy good RV batteries anywhere batteries are sold, but you’re likely to get a better understanding of RV-capable batteries at an RV dealership.
Q: How can I tell if my rv battery is bad?
You can tell when your batteries start to fail by simple output. Tasks that the batteries used to handle without issues can become more of burden (raising and lowering the camper using the electric jack, for instance) or when your RV power is diminished.
This was a tough call for me — I only had one of each product to test, so I had to get creative. Instead of installing the battery on my camper with a companion battery with different specs, I simply attached each battery to a converter and put it through the paces of overnight use in a fairly remote area that still offered cellular data service. Thanks to this, I was able to stream two hours of television per night, with the 70-watt TV plugged into the converter that was attached to a completely charged battery.
Then, it was time for the real test. I plugged my CPAP machine into the converter and went to sleep. Both batteries, thankfully, lasted the night, but the Renogy product retained about 10 percent more of its initial charge. As I said, both products performed very well, but one performed just a bit better than the other.
Both batteries I tested performed admirably and are some of the best RV batteries for dry camping, and I’d be pleased to have either product connected with its twin on my own tow-behind camper. If I had to pick one as the winner, I’d likely go with the Renogy Deep Cycle 12-volt RV battery, simply because it offers a bit more flexibility in terms of climatic conditions, and it didn’t draw down quite as much as the Universal Battery product did during my test.