by Graeme R. Bell
Power to The People!
If there was one thing I learned traveling West Africa (other than it is a really, really terrible idea to travel the entire West Africa, with kids, in the wet season, with an unreliable old Land Rover), it is that if your onboard electrical system is not up to the task of providing auxiliary power where and when you need it, well, you are going to be miserable. Our electrical system struggled to keep up with the demand due to a few factors, not least of which was the severity of the terrain. What we needed was a compact, robust, portable and reliable power system; if only we had invested in a Wagan Cube!!
Eighteen months and half a pandemic after completing that journey, we left the Defender in Cape Town and flew to Miami, where we loaded up an old Range Rover and drove up, down, and across the Lower 48. The Range Rover had only one battery but did not need another as we had sourced a Cube 1200 from Wagan. That Lithium Cube took care of our fridge and all devices while charging via the cigarette lighter (the Cube allows pass-through charging) and powered our fans at night, a lifesaver in the southern swamps. This product substituted a dual battery system, was portable and would charge effectively from a portable solar panel!
The Cube 1200 has a full-color LED display, 2 x USB C (100-watt PD and 27-watt PD), three AC outlets, two DC power ports, a 12-volt DC socket, four USB power ports, and an Anderson connector plug! It is affordable, reliable, robust, compact, stackable, and good-looking. What could be better? Another one! Only this time smaller.
The Cube 325 joined us for a journey across Mexico and Central America and, while smaller than its big brother, still packed a punch. Even though we now drove a Nimbl camper with an excellent electrical system, we encountered a problem with the system after driving too many horrendous roads. Far from civilization, we were still able to solar and vehicle charge the cubes, which in turn would charge and run our phones, laptops, and cameras while charging other accessories until we repaired the onboard power system.
Because I am a writer with a large workload, I could often find a camp without mains electricity and then remove myself from the commotion of my family, find some shade and sit and work with the Cube beside me, charging my laptop while it charged via the portable solar panel (we also use the Cubes for other mobile applications such as running a water pump when sourcing water to fill the water tank or powering a hair trimmer for an ocean side hair cut).
And the cherry on top? When we camp on the beach, we enjoy a sundowner or two. With ice from the freezer, I could stroll over to the wonderful young couple we were traveling with, whip out the blender, plug it into the Cube, and make delicious Pina Coladas while charging the phone and the little boom box, which we never play louder than conversation.
The other Wagan products we rely on daily (and nightly) are the camp lights, which not only light the camp but are also power sources for charging phones and tablets, and the V10 iOnBoost. The iOnBoost offers great peace of mind as not only is it a portable power pack, its primary function is to jump-start a depleted vehicle battery, many times on a single charge. The iOnBoost is supplied with smart jumper cables and a storage case and features two USB ports, a 12-volt DC socket and a flashlight.
Our experience with Wagan Tech products over the last year has informed how we will prepare future vehicles for long-term overland travel. While a functional dual-battery system will form the basis of the electrical system, the Cube 1200 would be essential to support the built-in battery system and alleviate the power demand while providing mobile functionality.
About the author
Graeme Bell was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together with his wife and two children he has spent much of his adult life chasing momentous experiences and campfire smoke across five continents. He has traveled overland to Kilimanjaro from Cape Town, circumnavigated South America, explored from Argentina to Alaska, Europe to Asia, and across the entirety of coastal Western Africa, all in a trusty Land Rover. Graeme and the family are now encouraging their self-built Defender live-in camper (and permanent home since 2012) to find a way from Cape Town to Vladivostok. Graeme is a member of The Explorers Club, the author of five excellent books, and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015.