3 Best 12 Volt Battery Chargers

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Hey there campers and welcome to my post covering my three best 12 volt battery chargers to keep things powered this year. When it comes to camping, there are a number of things that we use these days that can be run from a 12 volt battery. And of course if you are using one of these, then there is a good chance that you may need to charge it from time to time – especially before you leave so that you can keep things running when you get to your campgrounds.

Now any of you who have dealt with batteries in the past will know that there are a few variations to both battery and charger. So to assist you in your endeavours here I have had a look around and come up with some options below. Let’s check them out…

My three recommended 12 volt battery chargers

I will review these in more detail below however if you just want to get moving without all the carry-on, my recommended products are listed here for your convenience:

 12V Battery ChargerPriceGet it
best 12v battery chargers - NOCO GeniusNOCO GENIUS1 Fully-Automatic Smart Charger$CURRENT PRICE
best 12v battery chargers - Battery Tender Plus 12V Battery Charger Battery Tender Plus 12V Battery Charger and Maintainer$$CURRENT PRICE
best 12v battery chargers - CTEK - 40-206 MXS 5.0CTEK – MXS 5.0 Fully Automatic Battery Charger and Maintainer$$CURRENT PRICE

What are 12 Volt battery chargers?

A 12 Volt battery charger is an essential piece of equipment for anyone who regularly uses this type of battery. The most common use for a 12 volt battery is in a car or boat however here we are discussing their use for camping where they can be used to run fridges, lights, electric cookers or even as a place to charge phones etc.

And as with any battery that is rechargeable, there will be a need to attach a charger to them from time to time. In many cases, this can be achieved via the use of a solar panel or generator however as we will discuss below, you also have the option to use a made for purpose battery charger as well.

So in short, 12 volt (12V) battery chargers connect to the terminals of your battery and plugs into a power outlet or camping generator. Once connected, most will charge the battery in one of three ways:

  1. Maintenance charging: This is also known as ‘trickle charging,’ sending a small amount of electricity to your battery to keep it healthy while stored for extended periods. Another term for these is a ‘smart charger’ where the charger will increase or decrease charging power depending on the need of the battery.
  2. Conventional charging: This method sends power to your battery to charge it from a low amount of power. It takes between 6 and 24 hours to charge a battery fully depending on the size.
  3. Engine start function: This is equivalent to jump-starting your car. It requires a lot more power and is typically found on heavier-duty chargers.
best 12v battery chargers - CTEK charger

What should you be looking for?

Below are some of the main factors you should take into account as you shop for a good 12v battery charger:

  1. Battery type
  2. Battery charger type
  3. Voltage
  4. Amp hours (AH)/Watts
  5. Automatic or manual charging
  6. Weatherproofing
  7. Additions

Battery type

In general, when it comes to 12v batteries, most chargers will do the trick. However, if you are not sure what you have, here is a quick explanation of the two major battery types that you may have:

Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM)AGM batteries (also known as Sealed Lead Acid or SLA), are lead acid batteries that are sealed, leak-proof and maintenance free. They are generally quick charging, last longer on a charge and have a longer life-span.

These batteries are generally deep cycle – meaning that they are designed to discharge small amounts of current over a longer period of time. Almost all chargers will work on AGM batteries – given they are effectively the standard these days – but always worth a check anyway.

Lithium-ion batteries: These are a newer technology on the market and work in the same fashion as your mobile/cell phone battery. They are more expensive than the others but are also generally smaller and lighter. They will handle being charged and discharged a lot better and have a much longer cycle life (number of times charged and recharged) as well.

Not all chargers are suitable for these types of batteries so do your homework before purchase.

Battery charger type

In this feature, there are at least three types of battery chargers that you should know about:

  1. Charger – This battery charger, as the name implies, that can replenish the charge in a car battery even if it has been completely discharged. Basic chargers are widely available in the market today and it is usually possible to find the ideal charger for your battery depending on its size, shape, and amperage.
  2. Maintainer – Battery maintainers or smart chargers are designed to keep car batteries from completely discharging. Battery chargers with this feature are helpful for a quick “fill-up” and for maintaining the product’s overall health.
  3. Restorer – Battery restorers breathe new life into old batteries. As contaminants accumulate in a battery’s cells, the battery loses its effectiveness. Restorers can break down these contaminants so that the battery can once again hold a charge.

To be honest however, most general chargers on the market can handle all three of the above requirements in the one unit – as long as they match the battery type as above.

Voltage

Voltage determines whether or not a particular charger will be able to fully and safely recharge your battery. This essential characteristic tells you about the measurement of the charger’s electric strength. Fortunately, selecting the correct voltage is simple: most ‘car’ batteries run on a 12-volt electrical system, so you will need a 12-volt charger.

Amp hours (AH)/Watts

12V batteries are stamped with an ‘Amp Hour’ rating which is a unit of electric charge determined by the number of amps being pulled from the battery divided by the total AH rating of the battery. For example, a battery that is rated at 100AH will give 100 amp hours of power when fully charged. So if a portable ridge is pulling 10 amps of power from the battery, then it will last approximately 10 hours until it ‘runs out’. i.e. 100hours/10amp = 10 hours.

When it comes to charging a battery, charger capabilities are recorded in watts or amps. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster your battery should charge however if the wattage is too large for the battery, it can damage it.

There are so many variations to calculation out there (albeit based on the same science) that my eyes went crossed in about 5 minutes, but I have found a formula that I think can give you the basics in therms of amp changing requirements:

Amps

  1. Determine the battery voltage – generally 12 volt
  2. Locate the Amp hour rating for the battery’s capacities (AH)
  3. Determine your preferred re-charge time requirements (6 hours minimum, usually 24 hours maximum – if not known, assume 10 hours)
  4. Divide total Ah by the re-charge time to get charging current – e.g. 100Ah / 10 hours = 10 Amps.
  5. Add 20% to allow for battery in-efficiency – e.g. 10 AMPS + 20% = 12 AMPS

best 12v battery chargers - battery charging

Automatic or manual charging

Two charging methods are available for battery chargers – automatic and manual:

Your battery charger will handle the entire process for you if it is an automatic type. When your battery reaches full charge, these chargers immediately shut down or enter maintenance mode. If you plan to do other things while your battery charges, it is often easier to use an automatic charger.

Manual chargers on the other hand just charge at one ‘speed’ until you turn it off whether the battery is charged or not. In reality, unless your charger is really old, you will struggle to find one these days that does not incorporate some sort of automatic on/off capabilities.

Weatherproofing

Since you will use the battery during your outdoor excursions, a basic level of exterior protection can keep the charger in good working order for a long time. Water and dust resistance is an important feature, often denoted by the IP rating system, which measures how resistant something is to these elements. Basic heat protection can also help protect a charger’s interior components.

Additions

Other potential additions include:

  1. Temperature compensation – This feature describes the charging process, which extends battery life by dynamically adjusting voltage based on ambient temperature. In colder weather, it ensures maximum UPS battery charge. In warmer operating conditions, it reduces the risk of overcharging. This quality is essential because we know how the temperature fluctuates when camping.
  2. Reverse polarity protection – This is another feature that you can also look for in purchasing a 12 V battery charger. It is a safety feature that prevents electrocution or sparks from flying if the cables are accidentally connected to the wrong end of the battery.
  3. Ease of connection – It shouldn’t be difficult to connect a charger to a car batter. Most are relatively simple, with a red and black alligator clip used to connect to the battery. Some however also come with optional connectors such as Anderson plugs or even USB cables which are particularly useful if your battery is stored in a designated power box.

What do I use?

I use a 100AH 12V battery to run my fridge freezer and LED light strips when we camp ‘off grid’. It is charged with a solar panel whilst we are camping however at home, I use a CTEK MX5.0 Smart charger with specifications as follows:

  • Type: Smart Charger
  • Amps: 4.3
  • Charge time: Roughly 12 – 24 hours via an 8 step, fully automatic charging cycle

It charges my 100Ah battery in about 12-24 hours. And as it is a smart charger, it runs up my kayak trolling motor battery as well.

My three recommendations broken down

So based on the information above and my own experience, I recommend the following options:

1. NOCO GENIUS1 Fully-Automatic Smart Charger

This first product is designed to charge a wide array of car batteries and utilizes temperature compensation technology in its charging process. You can even use this charger to bring your dead batteries back to life. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: Noco
  • Type: Charger and maintainer
  • Battery type: All
  • Weight: 0.77 pounds
  • Dimension: 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Amperage: 1 Amp (up to 10 amp options available)

Other inclusions:

  • Automatic charger
  • Temperature compensation technology
  • Auto-detection
  • Spark proof
  • 3-year warranty

Why have I chosen it?

This product is a popular choice due of its excellent charging capabilities allowing you to charge any 12 V battery of various vehicles or equipment. It will charge 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries, including flooded, gel, AGM plus lithium-ion batteries. It is also equipped with safety systems to avoid any charging accidents as well. This will not charge as fast as some others but is the perfect option for getting batteries ready for travel when time is not of the essence.


2. Battery Tender Plus 12V Battery Charger and Maintainer

This next product is known for its low maintenance and straightforward use utilizing a 4-step charging program that ensures an optimized charging service to your battery without damaging it in the process. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: Battery Tender
  • Type: Charger and maintainer
  • Battery type: Lead-acid, flooded, AGM, and gel cell batteries
  • Weight: 2.29 pounds
  • Dimension: 11 x 4 x 11 inches
  • Amperage: 1.25 Amps

Other inclusions:

  • Spark proof
  • Quick disconnect harness
  • Reversed hook up protection
  • LED light indicators
  • Ring connector and alligator clip options

Why have I chosen it?

The product is a smart charger adaptable to all 12V lead-acid, flooded, AGM, and gel cell batteries. It includes a quick connect ring terminal harness for difficult-to-reach areas as well as alligator clips for an alternate connection. This is a great simple portable option for those looking for a quick and easy to use charger.


3. CTEK – MXS 5.0 Fully Automatic Battery Charger and Maintainer

The last charger is the option I use and is equipped with an advanced microprocessor that controls battery charging regardless of the ambient temperature. The product has a battery desulfation technology prior to the charging process, which guarantees peak charging and revival of fully discharged batteries as well. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: CETEK
  • Type: Charger and maintainer
  • Battery type: Lead-acid, flooded, AGM, and gel cell batteries
  • Weight: 1.79 pounds
  • Dimension: 11.02 x 5.91 x 2.36 inches
  • Amperage: 4.3 Amperes

Other inclusions:

  • Built-in automatic temperature sensor
  • Short circuit proof
  • Reverse polarity protection
  • Splash and dust proof

Why have I chosen this?

The battery charger is portable and offers four different charging programs. Due to its advanced technology, you can literally “connect it and forget it” as it runs through its eight step charging process. Each is specifically designed to provide optimal charging without damaging your battery. I purchased this one on the recommendation of a friend and found it to be the perfect option for my camping and kayaking needs.

Conclusion

And there they are, my top 12V battery chargers for your camping power needs this year. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual, let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

Paul

3 Best 12 Volt Battery Chargers - Pinterest
Gear Up For The New Year @ Bass Pro Shops

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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Paul