If you want to go boondocking in your camper, there’s a lot to consider to outfit your rig for off-grid use – one of them being what kind of deep-cycle batteries you should get to support your boondocking adventures. So, what are the best RV batteries for boondocking on solar power? There is nothing quite like dry camping, so getting great batteries for your off-grid solar setup is a huge priority for those of us wanting to camp out in nature, but your RV battery setup will depend on your budget and power needs.
With so many different battery types, from lead acid to lithium ion and sealed deep cycle batteries, all starting at different costs, it’s hard to pick the best RV battery for boondocking. That’s what I hope to help break down for you in this post.
Boondocking RV Battery Basics: Technology
Before picking a battery type, you need to understand the types of RV batteries, materials, and technologies, and how those will fit in your rig and hit your wallet.
The bigger your RV battery bank, the longer you’ll be able to hold power even if you don’t have access to a generator or RV solar panel power. However, many traditional lead-acid deep cycle RV batteries are usually large and very heavy, and that weight can limit the number of amp-hours you’re able to safely carry in your RV. So first, let’s get into a comparison of each type of boondocking battery, which you need to understand before making a decision.
There are 3 main types of batteries that can work to power the house of your RV on 12 volt electricity. From least to most expensive, the battery types are lead acid, AGM, and lithium.
Lead Acid Batteries for RVs
Lead acid deep cycle batteries are affordable and widely available, but are heavy, offgas fumes, and require maintenance in the form of watering. The normal voltage for these batteries is 12.6 volts, and the amp hours (capacity) you’ll get out of the battery will depend on the size you get. In order to avoid killing the battery permanently, you should not discharge or use more than 50% of the available amp hours before recharging.
The most popular lead acid battery for RVs is the Trojan T-105 6 volt batteries. By tying two of these together in series, you get a 12 volt battery. Lead acid batteries have lead plates inside and the thickness and maintenance of these plates impacts their lifespan, and they need to be regularly checked and maintained with distilled water.
These 2 Trojans below have 120 amp hours of usable capacity when put in series to make 1, 12v battery. That is just over the capacity of one 100ah Lithium battery that go for about $200 these days on Amazon and weigh about 1/3 of a single one of the Trojans. To put it another way, buying 3 Lithium batteries will be cheaper, weigh less, and give you 3 times the capacity!
Another budget choice for a lead acid battery is the Costco deep cycle golf cart battery. These flooded lead acid batteries are made by Interstate and by tying two 6 volts together in series, again, you have a 12 volt battery, and when you tie a few of the series together in parallel, this is a good RV battery bank option for dry camping if you’re on a serious budget. Many users online are quite happy with this setup – but depending on your storage space for the batteries and the amount of power you need, you might need more capacity. For example, if you need to run a portable blender in your RV or even a small dehumidifier, or any other high powered devices or appliances, you might need more battery power.
Keep in mind these batteries are also not fully sealed, so they will require maintenance more often than maintenance free batteries like lithium, and you have to be careful not to fully discharge them as they are considered “dead” when discharged to 50%, and going any further can damage the batteries.
AGM Batteries for RVs
Next up on the rung are sealed AGM batteries. These gel batteries are spill proof because they are fully sealed, and they are in the middle of the price ranges for RV batteries. AGM stands for absorbed glass mat, and these are a gel version of lead acid batteries. Deep cycle AGM batteries are a step up from lead acid in terms of cost and quality, and they don’t require as much babying and maintenance as lead acid batteries – in fact some are maintenance-free and leak free. Still, these are not massively better and should only be chosen if your batteries won’t be accessible or will be in a place that off-gassing is not acceptable. Once again, these often come in 6 volt versions which means you need to add a battery and tie it together in series to get a complete 12v battery – so one set of 6v AGMs is really one 12 volt battery.
Lithium Batteries for RVs
Lastly, we have the most efficient best RV battery for boondocking and truly the best type of deep cycle batteries for RV boondocking: lithium batteries, and more specifically LiFePo4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate).
With these, there are many advantages – you can use the entire amp hour capacity without killing the battery and really extend your dry camping trips. They’re also completely maintenance free, spill free, and very long lasting. For example, if you have 100 amp hours of lead acid batteries, you have only 50 usable amp hours. If you have 100 amp hours of lithium batteries, then you actually have 100 usable amp hours.
Another benefit is that these batteries are far more compact and lightweight, meaning you can easily fit far more power on any rig without worrying about weight. One of the only drawbacks of these batteries is the cost, as they are the most expensive – but if you do a lot of boondocking, it’s really worth it.
The prices of lithium batteries for RVs have PLUMMETED in the past couple years, and are making them in line with AGM battery pricing, which makes AGM not as enticing anymore. Battleborn brand batteries were the gold standard for RV lithium batteries for years, but now there are many viable, much cheaper, alternatives to them readily available on Amazon. Check them out below.
The 6 Best RV Batteries for Boondocking
Battleborn LiFePo4 Lithium Batteries
Battle Born Batteries LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery - 100Ah 12v with Built-In BMS - 3000-5000 Deep Cycle Rechargeable Battery - Perfect for RV/Camper, Marine, Overland/Van, and Off Grid Applications
Redodo LiFePo4 Lithium Batteries
Redodo 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery, Rechargeable Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery, Built-in 100A BMS, 4000 Cycles Battery for RV, Camping, Solar Home etc
Chins LiFePo4 Lithium Batteries
CHINS LiFePO4 Battery 12V 100AH Lithium Battery - Built-in 100A BMS, Perfect for Replacing Most of Backup Power, Home Energy Storage and Off-Grid etc.
Renogy LiFePo4 Lithium Batteries
Renogy 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Lithium Battery, over 4000 Cycles, Built-in BMS, Backup Power for RV, Marine, Off-Grid System, Maintenance-Free
$636.99 in stock
Best Budget Option: 2 Golfcart Batteries (Lead-Acid) From Costco
If you just need some cheap, basic lead acid batteries in your RV without changing any other parts or wiring, these might fit the bill.
RV Boondocking Battery FAQs
What’s the difference between my house battery and starter battery?
Your RV house batteries are what power the living portion of your camper. These are the boondocking batteries you’ll need to be able to dry camp, because they power everything from your lights, to your fridge, your pumps, and anything else within the living area.
Your starter battery is like a car battery, but for your RV’s engine. If you have a fifth wheel or a travel trailer, you don’t have a starter battery. But if you have a motorhome, you have a battery near your engine compartment that powers the vehicle electronics and the engine when in motion.
Do I really need to pay more for a lithium battery set?
It depends on how long you will be RVing and what your power supply needs are. If you plan to be off grid for long periods of time, or if you plan to full-time RV for a few years, lithium batteries are well worth the investment because they will last longer, weigh less, and power much greater loads for the amount of weight and space that they take up.
Why do I need batteries to boondock?
Boondocking, otherwise known as dry camping, is where you’re camping without any hookups. This means the only power supply you’ll have is your battery bank, plus any additional power sources you’ve installed or brought along such as a portable generator. Some RVs also charge their house batteries while driving. Either way, you will need to power your home while out in nature, and electricity has to be stored somewhere. The battery is the foundation of every solar installation, because even if you have all of the solar panels in the world, each night when the sun is down you’re limited to what’s stored in your batteries.
Should I get 12 volt (12v) or 6 volt (6v) deep cycle battery?
If you get 6 volt batteries, you will still need to tie them together to create a 12 volt battery to be able to power your RV, since most RV power systems are 12V systems. So it doesn’t really matter whether you choose a 6 volt or 12 volt option. Just keep in mind that when you tie two 6 volt batteries together, you double the voltage but keep the same amount of Amp Hours. So for example 2 100AH Lifeline Batteries at 6 volts, tied together to be 12 volts, still only has 100AH of capacity – just at a higher voltage. Generally speaking, lead acid deep cycle batteries are found in either 6v or 12v, whereas lithium RV batteries are most commonly found in 12v, and there are even a growing number of 24v and 48v options as well.
How do I maintain my batteries when not boondocking?
Many batteries such as lithium ion and AGM versions are maintenance free which means you don’t need to keep them filled with distilled water, but every battery will go bad if you let it go dead and stay dead for extended periods of time. This is important because the metal plates inside will sulfate and die if they’re not kept charged.
It’s important to maintain the charge of your batteries when you’re not camping, either by using the built in solar panels or by using a plug-in trickle charger, or a battery charger that you use every few weeks while your RV is in storage.
What do you think of these battery options, and which would you choose as the best deep cycle RV battery for your boondocking needs? If the budget allows it, we recommend lithium batteries!