You’ve got your camping setup dialed in, and you want to extend the weekend to milk a little more out of your trip. But you also want to charge your phone, run your 12V Fridge overnight, light up your camp, and bang out a little work on your laptop so your boss doesn’t get testy while you’re out hiking through canyons on a workday (whoops).
Portable power is a great addition to modern camping setups. There are many companies catering to this need (e.g., Goal Zero, Anker, etc) but these products can range from $300-$500 — not exactly cheap.
In this post, we’ll show you how you can easily build your own 35Ah portable battery box with 12V outlets that you can charge with your car’s cigarette lighter or solar panels for under $125.
DISCLAIMER: We are not electricians, and we do not make any claims as to the longevity or safety of this setup.
We’ve used this in our own camping setup and have never had a problem — but please consult a professional if you have any concerns about the setup.
That being said, let’s do this thing.
Building Your Own DIY Battery
Our goal was to create a portable power system that we could easily bring camping, charge while driving, and that would power our 12V portable refrigerator overnight. We also wanted something that would provide power for other small devices, like lights or phones.
We’ve chosen to use a 35Ah battery, but you can use another size battery according to your needs.
To build a portable camping battery you need:
- A battery (duh)
- Some outlets to use the power, and
- A charge controller that takes power from an outside source (like a cigarette lighter or solar panels) that efficiently charges the battery.
Here’s your parts list:
Total cost: $121
How to Assemble Your DIY Portable Battery
Now that you’ve got all your parts together, it’s time to plug in all the pieces.
Attach the charge controller and 12V outlets to the outside of the battery box. We just use small screws, but you can also drill small holes into the box to use nuts and bolts.
Wire the battery to the charge controller. Cut off about 12-15” from the 12V plug cable and use this. Attach the leads to the battery (red=positive; I drilled a hole in the battery box to thread the leads through. In the photo, we drilled the hole near the top, but would suggest drilling it near the bottom where the controller is).
Then, strip the free ends and insert them into the battery terminals on the charge controller.
Wire the 12V outlets to the battery in the same way Again, we drilled a hole and left the fuse on the outside of the box.
Finally, attach the 12V plug to the charge controller by stripping the free ends and inserting into the “solar” leads on the controller. (Note that charge controllers are designed to accept varied electrical current and output a “controlled” current to charge batteries. The controller we’re using is designed to accept up to 18 amps of current, so it works with most vehicles’ cigarette lighter. If your vehicle puts out more than 18 amps from its cigarette lighter plugs, you may need a different controller).
And just like that, you’ve got portable electricity to power you through your next outdoor adventure. We won’t be shooting for a patent with this thing, but it’s one of our many DIY camping hacks that have helped make our time sleeping under the stars just a little brighter (okay, a lot brighter).
Looking for more expert camping tips? Look no further than our 10 genius camping hacks that will revolutionize your next camp trip >