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Campfire tales: All charged up

14 November 2017

Okay, so customising that 4×4 for overland travel is an expensive hobby. Sometimes the thickness of your wallet determines how many accessory boxes are ticked, and how many are not. As one family found out though, a dual-battery system should be right near the top of that list.

There they were, one happy over-land family. Driving a rigged Toyota Prado, the Kruger family* had been overlanding for only a few days when they landed up at a remote campsite in Zimbabwe. Not that this was a problem because this Prado was fitted with almost every overlanding gadget under the sun. From a fancy roof-top tent system, to a 270-degree awning and fancy suspension to big mud terrain tyres and a winch. There was even a high-end fridge/freezer system. Unfortunately, the budget had run a bit short towards the end of the build (one has to keep some dollars in the bank for beer, too, of course) so the planned dual-battery installation was postponed until sufficient funding was available.

The fridge/freezer ran only when the Prado’s engine ran, using the standard 12V charging point. And it worked reasonably well, the family buying fresh meat and vegetables as they went along. Importantly, the beer was pretty much cold when the Prado stopped for the night. So back to that remote camping site in Zimbabwe. The Prado was parked, the fridge disconnected from the 12V power jack, tents were pitched, and some beers were enjoyed. That evening the family all went to bed happy and content; this overland trip was just amazing. Fast forward to the next morning. One of the Kruger sons jumped into the Prado’s cabin and retrieved his tablet.

Dad, sitting lazily around the campfire, waiting for his pot of moerkoffie to brew, remarked: “Do you have to use that thing so early in the morning?” The young lad retorted, his feelings a bit hurt: “Well, I haven’t been able to use it since yesterday afternoon, you know… it’s been charging in the Toyota the whole night.” With that, his dad’s face turned a few shades greyer. Charging in the Prado? The whole night? He jumped up from his camping chair, opened the driver’s door and turned the ignition key: Click. Click. Click. The Prado’s battery was kaput, completely drained by the charging tablet. Now, if he had fitted a dual-battery system, he could have used the second battery (a deep-cycle unit) to reroute some 12V juice back  to the Prado’s battery  in the engine bay, and turn the starter and  fire up the engine. But there was no back-up, and no rerouting of volts.

To cut a long story short, the family spent the next three days at the campsite before another vehicle came past. Jumper cables were eventually tracked down, and the Prado was returned to life again. The family told that story around many campfires on the rest of their travels… and that story always ended with how they, at the first opportunity after this incident, had a proper dual-battery system installed. Never mind that they had to have a few beers less to drink.
*Not their real name

The real deal
You get dual-battery systems and dual-battery systems, as well as deep cycle batteries and deep cycle batteries. Speak to your expert 4×4 outdoor accessory or in-car fridge consultant about getting the correct gear for your requirements. Cutting a few corners to save a few pennies is normally not a good game plan in the long run.