How long will your RV battery last boondocking? What kind should you get for long trips off-grid? And what kinds of maintenance or tricks can help maximize its life? This article explores all these questions.
Boondocking with an RV can be a great way to get off-grid and explore nature. But you’ll need a reliable battery that can withstand the rigors of extended off-grid exploration.
An RV’s battery is the most important electrical system component. It supplies all the energy needed to operate when no other power source is available.
But how long will an RV battery last while boondocking?
That depends on several factors, such as:
- the type and size of your battery,
- how much energy you use, and
- environmental conditions.
While that sounds like too many variables, you can take a few things into account to get near as damn it estimates.
This post will look at the different types of RV batteries, how their capacity is measured, and what affects their performance.
Most importantly, we’ll help you figure out how much power you need so you can make an educated guess about how long your RV batteries will last.
By understanding how your RV electrical system works, you’ll be better equipped to get the most out of your RV battery for a successful boondocking trip.
Let’s get started!
How Long Will RV Battery Last Boondocking?
The most important thing to remember when boondocking is that you can’t take out more than you put into your RV batteries.
If you use more power than you can recharge, eventually, you will flatten even the largest lithium battery bank.
To figure out how long you can boondock, you need to know the answers to three questions:
- How Much Power Will You Use When Living In Your RV Off-Grid?
- How Much Power Can You Generate Each Day?
- What Battery Bank Capacity Do You Need (Or Have)?
How Much Power Will You Use When Living In Your RV Off-Grid?
The more power you use, the larger the battery size and the more recharging capability you need.
Deep cycle battery sizes are measured in amp hours. So you need to figure out how many amp hours you need each day.
There’s little point in asking fellow RVers what they have if their energy consumption isn’t like yours.
It’s a pretty simple calculation. For every electrical appliance in your RV:
- Note its wattage. For any appliance that runs on AC power, increase the wattage by 10%. Read more about using an inverter in a camper to learn more about that.
- Divide the answer by the voltage of your battery bank (usually 12v, but some campers run on 24v or even 48v).
- Multiply by the number of hours you will use the appliance daily.
Do that for every appliance. The total is the daily amp hours you’ll use.
How Much Power Can You Generate Each Day?
There are a few methods of generating power without hookup. (More on that below).
Whatever options you have, you need to figure roughly how much power you can generate.
You’re doing well if you can produce enough power to meet your demand.
Here are a few tips to consider when calculating it:
- Your location and the time of year determine how much solar energy you can produce. It’s all to do with “peak sun” hours and how high the sun is and for how long.
- If you plan to go boondocking in winter, use the worst-case scenario to assess if you can recharge your batteries.
- The energy you generate with a generator depends on its size and how well you maintain it. Use the manufacturer’s spec to determine the watts it can generate per hour.
- Don’t forget to account for the fuel cost to run your generator.
What Battery Bank Capacity Do You Need (Or Have)?
Now that you know the daily amp hours of power you will use and what you can produce, it’s time to figure out what size battery bank you need.
You need enough storage capacity in the battery bank to meet your daily needs and recharge it with the power you generate.
In reality, you’ll use some power as you generate it, so this isn’t an exact science.
Here are some points to consider when deciding what battery bank size you need:
- The amp-hour size of deep cycle batteries does not always represent their usable capacity. Only lithium batteries can be fully discharged.
- The usable capacity of your deep cycle batteries should be at least as large as your daily power consumption.
- The more usable power you have, the longer you can stay off-grid.
- No one ever complained about having too many house battery amp hours in their RV.
So, How Long Will My RV Battery Last Off-Grid?
Based on how much power you use, how much you can generate, and how much usable power you can store will determine how long your battery will last.
Let’s say you use 100 amp hours (ah) daily, can generate 75 ah, and have 200ah usable capacity. You set off on a boondocking trip with the battery fully charged.
You’ll deplete the battery by 25ah daily. So, a 200-ah usable capacity battery will last eight days.
But, if your ability to generate power is negatively affected or your use increases, that will reduce accordingly.
Types Of Batteries For Boondocking
Your RV’s deep cycle battery life can vary depending on what type of battery you have installed. Three main types of batteries are suitable for boondocking:
- AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat),
- Gel, and
An AGM is a lead acid battery and a popular choice for RVs because it can hold a charge for extended periods.
They’re designed to be more efficient and durable than flood-lead acid batteries. That means they’ll last longer and give you more power when needed.
AGM batteries can also withstand long-term use and frequent charging/discharging associated with boondocking.
As a result, AGM batteries are ideal for weekend campers or those who don’t plan to be off the grid for extended periods.
Gel batteries provide similar performance to AGM batteries but are a little more expensive.
They are known for their ability to hold a charge well over extended periods and handle multiple discharge/recharge cycles without any decrease in performance or capacity.
Gel batteries require minimal maintenance and provide excellent run times, making them perfect for those who frequently dry camp or live off-grid with their RV.
Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are the best option for those who intend on living off-grid or going on long boondocking trips.
These lightweight batteries offer superior performance in managing power input/output levels and providing maximum run times with minimal maintenance required.
On top of that, they also offer protection against overcharging and discharging, so you don’t need to worry about damaging your RV’s electrical system while camping out in remote areas.
Factors Affecting Battery Life While Boondocking
When deciding on how long an RV battery will last while boondocking, several factors will come into play, including:
The size of your battery and its capacity determines how long it will last when you don’t have access to a reliable shore power supply.
Generally speaking, the larger the battery’s amp-hour capacity, the longer it will last.
If you want to go on a great camping trip, it’s important to prepare properly. That means making sure your batteries are the right size for what you plan on doing.
For example, if you have lots of devices plugged in or using appliances that use more power than usual, then you may not be able to use them for as long as expected.
To ensure your camping adventure isn’t cut short, make sure your batteries can handle all the activities you plan to do!
The type of battery you use on your RV can also impact how long it will last when boondocking.
For example, lithium batteries have much faster charging capabilities than lead-acid batteries. That means if the sun is shining on your solar panels for only a few hours in the day, you’re more likely to recharge them fully.
That can be a game changer, especially during poor weather conditions.
Figuring out how long your RV battery will last when boondocking also depends on how you use it. The battery will drain faster if you run many appliances, such as a fridge or air conditioner.
Likewise, if you cannot charge it with solar power or a generator throughout the day, it will be less able to meet all your needs.
When choosing a battery size for boondocking, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and go larger. Then, even if your usage is higher than expected or charging is slow due to bad weather, you won’t find yourself stranded without power.
Environmental factors can also affect how long an RV battery will last when boondocking.
Sunlight, cloud cover, and dust can all affect the amount of energy your solar panels absorb, which then impacts how quickly you’re able to charge up your batteries.
If you’re in a particularly dusty environment or your panels are dirty, they won’t be as efficient at charging. Then you could run into issues with your battery running out sooner than expected.
To help avoid this problem, keep your solar panels clean and dust-free, so they’re working at their full capacity!
Tips to Extend Battery Life When Boondocking & Dry Camping
When you’re out in the middle of nowhere, relying on your RV’s battery for power is a must.
But it may not last as long as it should if you don’t know how to properly use and maintain your battery.
Here are some tips to help ensure that your RV’s battery lasts for years and provides consistent power when boondocking.
Choose The Right Type of Battery
No matter what adventure you’re planning, you must consider the type of battery you choose for your RV.
AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries are a good choice because they can stay charged even when you’re not plugged into power. Plus, they have lots of charge cycles, so you won’t need to replace them as often.
Gel batteries are similar but more expensive.
The top option is lithium batteries—they last the longest and give the most efficient charging options when you’re boondocking in remote spots or living off-grid!
Limit Electrical Usage
No matter what type of battery you have installed in your RV, limiting electrical usage is key if you want it to last longer while boondocking.
Try reducing current draw by turning off unnecessary lights and appliances whenever possible and keep electronic gadgets like laptops and tablets charged before setting out on your journey.
Only use higher draw items when absolutely necessary, as they’ll quickly deplete the battery stores.
Switch To LED Bulbs
Switching to LED bulbs in your RV is an easy and effective way to save battery power.
LEDs last much longer than traditional incandescent or halogen lightbulbs and use far less power.
This cuts down on the amount of energy being used—not only do LED bulbs use less electricity than traditional lighting options, but because they last longer, fewer bulbs need to be bought.
Furthermore, LED bulbs generate less heat than their counterparts! This reduces the energy wasted by cooling the space when it’s hot out.
Avoid Unnecessary Use Of Your Propane Furnace
Avoiding using your propane furnace too much is a great way to save battery power in an RV.
Even when running on low, propane furnaces demand a lot of electricity, often more than your charging system can keep up with.
Instead of relying solely on your furnace for heat, you can do many things to help keep warm without zapping your precious battery stores.
- Insulate An RV For Winter Living – Adding insulation to your RV can help keep cold air out and warm air in. This will reduce the energy you need for heating, saving battery power.
- Use Blankets and Hot Water Bottles – To conserve energy, consider using blankets and hot water bottles instead of running a space heater or furnace.
- Turn Off Unused Appliances – To further reduce your energy consumption, turn off all appliances and lights when not in use. This will help keep your battery stores from depleting quickly.
- Don’t Compromise On Ventilation – Poor ventilation can lead to condensation, mold, and other moisture problems in an RV. Investing in a fan or dehumidifier will help keep these issues at bay.
- Protect The Underbelly With RV Skirting – In summer and winter, consider adding skirting to the underbelly of your RV. In winter, it will help prevent cold air from entering and warm air from leaving, helping keep your battery stores full. In summer, the skirting will deflect heat away from your RV, reducing the demand for air conditioning.
Properly Store & Maintain Your Battery
Proper storage is essential if you want your RV’s battery to last as long as possible while dry camping in remote areas.
Ensure your battery is securely mounted inside an insulated compartment where temperatures don’t reach extreme highs or lows that could affect its performance over time.
Additionally, regular maintenance is vital. Do regular inspections to ensure no visible damage to the battery casings, leaks, or corrosion around the terminals.
Upgrade To Lithium Batteries
Upgrading to lithium batteries in your RV is an excellent way to stay off-grid for longer.
You can use 100% of a lithium battery’s capacity compared to only 50% of an AGM’s. That means they’ll last much longer away from campgrounds or hookups. The charging process is also much faster and more efficient.
On top of that, they’re lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about sacrificing storage capacity for extra power.
We recently upgraded to lithium batteries and can confidently say it’s made a huge difference.
Use 12v Appliances Instead Of Household Appliances
Using 12v appliances instead of household appliances is a great way to save battery power in an RV.
In most cases, utilizing 12v devices is much more energy-efficient than their 110v counterparts.
This can include everything from fans and lights to microwaves and TVs!
By switching out your regular plugin appliances for 12v devices, you’ll be able to conserve a lot of energy and prolong your time off the grid.
How To Charge An RV Battery When Boondocking
The ability to charge your battery bank means extending your boondocking stays for as long as you run your electrical appliances.
One of the most common ways to charge an RV battery is by connecting solar panels. This method is excellent because it’s renewable and efficient. Plus, once you install the necessary kit, there are no running costs.
However, you must ensure that your solar panels receive direct sunlight throughout the day. Otherwise, they won’t be able to generate enough energy to charge your RV battery effectively.
You can read more about setting up solar panels on your RV in some of our other articles:
- 7 Best Solar Panel Kits for RVs
- Solar Panel Mounting Ideas for RVs
- How To Install Solar Panels On An RV
Another way of charging an RV battery while boondocking is using a generator. Generators need fuel but can provide quick and consistent charging for extended periods (depending on how much fuel you have).
The downside is that some generators are noisy and produce emissions, so they don’t make for the most pleasant campground experience.
Portable Power Stations
Portable power stations cannot power up your entire motorhome and its appliances. These are essentially backup batteries that can run a few gadgets for a few hours.
Portable power stations are great for when you want to take a few of your appliances on the road and still stay off-grid.
They’re perfect for powering things like:
- CPAP machines,
- lights, and
- other low-power devices
without making too much noise or producing any emissions.
Plus, many modern ones can charge them using solar energy, so you can easily keep them topped up while out and about.
They’re also incredibly safe since they don’t use gas or propane – no risk of fire or explosion here!
All in all, portable power stations are a great choice if you need a backup source of electricity while away from the grid. Especially if you want to try boondocking without installing an entire 12-volt electrical system.
How long RV batteries will last when dry camping or boondocking is determined by how much energy you generate, use, and store.
By choosing the best RV battery technology and taking efficient measures like installing solar panels, using 12v appliances, and utilizing a generator or portable power station, you can make sure your RV stays powered up for as long as possible.
So don’t let a lack of electricity stop you from having an awesome time while boondocking! With the right equipment and energy-saving habits, you can stay away from the grid as long as you’d like.
Graham is a seasoned marine electrical engineer with two decades of experience designing customized electrical systems for plant machinery and converting campers and overland vehicles. His expertise has led him to author the reputable Campervan Electrics Handbook and become the chief designer of the RV Wiring Design Tool. As a knowledgeable figure in the field, his YouTube channel, blog, Facebook group, and newsletter, offering electrical advice and product reviews, reach more than a million users each year.