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Which is the Best Leisure Battery for a Campervan?

Buying the right campervan leisure battery can be a minefield, with so many products on the market with contrasting features and prices.

This Snappy Start guide collates all the information you need to choose a great camper leisure battery to keep your camping trips running smoothly.

What is a Campervan Leisure Battery?

Camping leisure battery products work differently from car batteries - they provide a steady supply of power for longer periods to run things like your lights and cooking equipment.

A leisure battery camper is made for longer uses and deep-cycling, where it will be fine if you run the charge down to around 50% - provided you recharge after that.

How Do I Choose the Best Leisure Battery for Campervan Trips?

It's impossible to give a straightforward answer because your requirements may differ from the next person, depending on:

  • How often you camp away from electrical hook-up points.
  • Whether you have any heavy-duty appliances on board (and their power rating).
  • The type of car you use to tow your caravan.
  • Whether you need a dual-use campervan leisure battery.

We'll explain each of the priorities below to help you narrow down the right campervan leisure battery for your needs.

The Main Types of Campervan Leisure Battery

There are many campervan leisure batteries on the market, so it's worth knowing what they mean and the contrasts in performance.

  • Open lead-acid camper leisure battery models are fairly basic and have a sulphuric acid solution inside. They are very heavy and require topping up with distilled water to maintain functionality.
  • Sealed lead-acid campervan leisure battery units require zero maintenance (and they're our preferred model at Snappy Start!). They are sealed for safety.
  • Absorbed Glass Mat or AGM leisure battery camping products are built with fibreglass mats to avoid pressure build-up and are almost leakproof. However, they can be expensive and last a shorter time than conventional models.
  • Gel leisure batteries for camper units are leakproof and have a longer service life. However, they are also not normally available in the UK and are better suited to hotter Mediterranean climates.
  • Lead crystal campervan leisure batteries are fairly similar to AGM models, but cost around double the price of a normal battery and are not easy to buy.

Picking the Right Size Camping Leisure Battery

Size matters in both the physical camper leisure battery size and the AH (amp-hour) rating.

The first step is to measure the tray space for your campervan leisure battery - you need a battery that will fit in the tray, although some vehicles have a bit of extra room.

Next, you need to think about your required AH leisure battery for camping.

The lowest AH available is 70 AH. Most go for a larger battery than that, with 100 AH as our smallest available model.

Less powerful campervan leisure batteries are only suitable if you tend to use mains hook-up sites and have the battery solely as a backup.

Off-grid camping will require at least 100 AH to keep your appliances working.

How Heavy Should Campervan Leisure Batteries be?

Weight is important because most camper leisure battery units are pretty heavy and need to comply with the maximum load weight in your vehicle.

Overloading can cause no end of problems, and a typical 100 AH camper leisure battery will weigh about 25 kg.

Some of the larger leisure battery for camping units weigh as much as 90 kg, although you can also get lightweight lithium campervan leisure batteries, weighing approximately 13 kg.

It's also essential to think about where you will store your camper leisure battery. If the space is near the front, it might affect the nose weight of the vehicle.

Most campervan leisure battery slots are found above the axle, where the vehicle has more ability to support the weight.

How to Charge a Leisure Battery for Camping

The best way to recharge a leisure battery camping model is through your main power supply at home.

You can also recharge a leisure battery for camping at a pitch hook-up.

Charging a Leisure Battery Camper at an Electrical Hook-up

Charge rates vary between campsites and depend on your campervan's onboard charger.

Some sites offer low 6A chargers, up to 16A for full power, so it's worth investigating the quality of the hook-up and whether it's suitable for your campervan leisure batteries before you plan your trip.

Charging a Leisure Battery for Camping While Driving

Most cars will allow you to preserve the charge in your camping leisure battery while you drive - although charging from the vehicle is rarely efficient because it can take a considerable amount of time.

Modern cars are often unsuitable, but you can check this when buying a leisure battery for camping.

Are There Alternative Ways to Charge Campervan Leisure Batteries?

You might opt for a portable charger to keep your leisure battery camper running, which isn't particularly expensive and means you have more flexibility about when and where you recharge.

Another alternative is to fit solar panels, which can charge a leisure battery camping unit as you drive - but you need to have the right number of solar cells depending on the type of camper leisure battery you have.

How Much Should I Spend on a Camping Leisure Battery?

Like most campervan accessories, you could spend very little or an awful lot on your leisure battery for camping, so it's best to set a budget and stick to it.

Think about the most important factors - in terms of performance, capacity, longevity and recharging requirements, which should help shortlist the most appropriate leisure battery camper models.

You don't need to spend thousands to get a decent camper leisure battery, but a high-performance unit with a professional warranty is your best bet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you'll find the answers to some of the common questions about choosing the best leisure battery for campervan vehicles.

Do I Need Campervan Leisure Batteries for Camping?

Not necessarily, but they come in very handy! Technically, you could rely on electrical hook-ups at campsites or use a standard battery in a pinch - but it's not advisable.

Normal starter batteries would last substantially less time, start to erode quicker, and could even cause permanent damage, so it's never a good idea unless you're stuck.

Can I Overcharge a Leisure Battery for Campervan Vehicles?

It's not normally a problem. The only reason you'd have an issue with overcharging a camper leisure battery is if you use a battery that isn't compatible with the charger built into your motorhome.

Could Hot or Cold Weather Impact My Leisure Battery Camper Performance?

It may do, yes. If it's very hot or very cold, your camping leisure battery is also unlikely to work correctly.

Manufacturers usually test a leisure battery camper at around 25 °C to 35 °C, which is fairly hot and accounts for indoor camper temperatures if you have a heating unit on.

Low temperatures can mean you lose as much as 20% of the capacity from your campervan leisure batteries, so bear this in mind when you select a model.

Can I Run a Kettle From a Camping Leisure Battery?

Yes, if you have a 12V camping kettle, you can boil this with your leisure battery for camper vehicles - although note that these kettles can be very slow.

Another option is to use a gas stove to make teas and coffees since they don't deplete a battery nearly as much.

Leisure batteries are also fine to use to power a microwave, although you'll need an inverter of between 12V and 230V, depending on the capacity of your battery.

What is the Most Common Type of Leisure Battery for Campervan Vehicles?

There are many manufacturers and brands, but the most common is a sealed lead-acid battery because they're safe, simple and practical.

It's possible to buy a larger camper pre-fitted with an AGM battery, which is more likely if the vehicle has a motor mover installed that requires a more robust unit (which is equally more expensive).

Some EU campervans have gel leisure battery models because they have a lower discharge level of about 80% capacity so that you can camp away from organised sites.

Can I Fit Multiple Leisure Battery Camping Models?

If your caravan has the space and weight capacity for more than one camper leisure battery, you can carry two or more units.

If you want to install more than one leisure battery, you'll need to have a multi-connection that can charge both simultaneously.