A power inverter converts 12 volt power input to a 240 volt output. This allows you to run or charge low wattage appliances using a car or camper battery. It also means you don’t need separate car chargers for everything you want to plug in.
Most travellers we met on our trip around Oz had some form of inverter. It is one of our essentials whenever we go camping. Having an inverter gave us the freedom to free camp for much longer periods.
The capacity rating of an inverter relates to how much power it can convert at a time. So, the higher wattage inverter, the more powerful appliance you can plug in.
We had a 300 watt unit, which covered our basic power charging needs. If you go for a “can” inverter (usually around 100-120 watts), you are pretty limited with what you can charge. Even the most basic laptop would probably draw too much power for a can inverter.
find out how much power an appliance draws, look on the product itself or the
charger supplied with it.
* Eventually we bought a universal USB / cigarette lighter charger that we could use with any USB power lead, like those for our phones. This freed up the inverter for charging other stuff.
Also, some people told us you could buy generic 12-volt laptop chargers from a specialty 12 volt shop. If you had one of these, you could charge your laptop without an inverter too. We haven’t tried this though.
We have a modified sine wave inverter, which has been fine. But since coming home, we’ve had trouble with our laptop charger overheating, which might be from all the 12 volt charging on our trip. But who knows – a new lead might be cheaper than the extra cost of a pure sine wave inverter!
We generally kept our power inverter in the car and charged everything while driving. This saved the camper battery for our everyday power needs (mainly lighting) – which meant we could camp unpowered for ages.
When we needed to charge a few things at once, we used to plug a power-board into the inverter. Then we’d plug each item into the power-board so they could all charge at the same time.
Treat your inverter as something to run or charge small appliances. After all, it still draws power from your battery. The more you draw, the faster you drain your battery. If you really need to use a microwave (1000w), or kettle (2200w), or other high-powered stuff – consider a generator.
If you bought individual 12 volt chargers for all your essentials, including your laptop – then you might be able to live without a power inverter. But for $80-100, I think it’s worth the convenience and flexibility it gives you.
Plus, I’m a coffee addict, and grinding our own beans guaranteed me a delicious coffee…and saved me hundreds of dollars!
Trip around Oz › Equipment › Power inverters