Dedicated phone/laptop charger vs. inverter

volkswagen
eurovan

#1

Hello. I will be going on a roadtrip soon. My wife and I will both have to do a bit of work while we’re away. So that means we’ll be bringing 2 cell phones and 2 laptops. We need a way of charging them on the road.



We have a VW Eurovan and will mostly be camping. But it isn’t a full camper, so we don’t have power hookups we can use (and will most likely be boondocking or camping in tent sites rather than camping in fancy RV sites). There is, however, a leisure battery powering a fridge/cooler.



I’m wondering what makes more sense:



1) A dedicated charger for the phones and laptops. The make “igo” seems to have cornered the market here; I would buy one charger for laptops, one for phones, and four tips to fit each device. This is a lot of cables and a lot of money.



2) An inverter plugged into either the cigarette lighter or the leisure battery, this gives me a standard outlet that I can plug our existing wall chargers into. Also, if I go with this option, I can either get a simple plug-into-a-12v-adapter inverter or a proper wire-it-up-to-a-battery inverter.



Many thanks for your advice.


#2

Both the cell phones and the laptops will need their own specific power packs. I’d suggest the 12VDC to (item specific) charging packs as well as converters for use with 115VAC wall plugs.

Neither cell phones or laptops need an inverter. Both are DC operated.

Basic rules:
A converter changes AC to DC.
An inverter changes DC to AC.
All battery operated devices are DC (one cannot store AC)
Power packs, of chargers, either convert AC from the wall socket to DC at the proper voltage for the unit in use (they rectify,“step down”, and filter) or “step down” DC from your car to the proper voltage for the unit in use.

If you were to plug an inverter and then a charger into your cigarette lighter, you’d be changing DC into AC and then changing it back to DC. Rather than support the inherent losses, it makes more sense to just get chargers designed to directly charge the devices from the 12VDC power outlet in the car.


#3

Buying inverters would be cheaper than buying the car chargers for the laptops and cell phones, but you would be essentially converting DC to AC, and then back to DC. That isn’t an efficient process, and you would run down your leisure battery pretty quickly. Spending more for the correct car chargers would mean you are converting one voltage of DC into the proper voltage of CD, and you could get more from your leisure battery.

However, I have to ask, on what kind of road trip do you camp and then spend all of your time on your computer and on the phone? It doesn’t sound very relaxing to me. Since all of these devices have their own batteries, you should be able to charge each one of them once a day. You shouldn’t need to plug them all in at the same time.

While you are boondocking, save your leisure battery for the refrigerator. Whenever you go somewhere, charge everything up. If you don’t go anywhere, once a day, start up the vehicle and charge what you have to for 20 or 30 minutes. You can use a cheap 100W or 125W inverter for one laptop at a time, but don’t use the inverters for the cell phones. Buy car chargers for the cell phones instead. Don’t use a splitter to plug in more than one inverter. The inverter should be plugged into its own outlet. However, two car cell phone chargers may be able to share one outlet if the splitter has a fuse for safety.


#4

lighter socket chargers for most phones are only $6 or $7 including shipping through Amazon.com sellers. I can’t speak for the computer portion though.


#5

If you’re going to be boondocking for more than 1 night at a time, you’re going to want to charge your computers and phones while driving, and not while camping. It’s much more important to run your fridge than your laptop.


#6

Get a cigar lighter socket powered 75 watt 12v to 120v inverter and you will then have what you need forever. These cost somewhere between 10 and 20 dollars. When you eventually get new cell phones and laptops that always come with wall outlet powered battery chargers, you will be ready.

Cell phone, laptop and other small device mfrs have made a mess by making too many connector types often requiring different cell phone chargers for each phone. In addition, there is no guarantee that the igo charger will have the correct adaptor for new products.