There’s a big shift in towards Induction Cooktops for camping, and I find it interesting. We made the move about a year ago now, and have been using it full time for at least 6 months while travelling on a Big Lap of Australia.
Ask different people about it though, and you’ll get a heap of different responses. Some people think its ludicrous, and others would never go back to gas for cooking when camping. Regardless of where you fall, I’m here to tell you one thing; if you rely entirely on induction cooking, you will eventually find yourself in trouble.
Before we get into that though, I want to share our comparison between gas and induction cooking for camping, and our experiences with an induction cooktop.
Why do you need a backup method of cooking?
The first is simple; you only need one major component to go wrong, and you’re no longer cooking with electricity. That could be your lithium batteries, the inverter, or the induction cooktop itself.
I reckon gas is more reliable, and despite having no issues with our electrical setup in our camper (we had our Dmax inverter fail) or the cooker, it is possible, and if it failed we’d be able to go back to our camper trailer gas cooker (and we still use this occasionally).
Lack of sunlight
The second, and primary issue with running induction cooking is that it absolutely kills the power. Until you’ve used it, and seen the battery percentage dropping like a rock, its hard to explain. You will get bad weather, and when you do, there are very few electrical systems that can recharge enough juice to supply an induction cooktop full time.
On our car, we have a 230aH DIY lithium battery, and in the camper we have 340aH of Renogy Lithium Batteries. I reckon in 12 months of travel around Australia so far, we’ve had about 30 days where we’ve had to go back to gas, because our 570aH of lithium batteries hasn’t been enough to keep going on induction. I think its fair to say there would have been a few more if we weren’t able to cook on a fire, or use the Weber Q too, which saves a good chunk of power consumption from our lithium batteries.
There are days where when it is properly overcast, you’ll struggle to get 150W of solar generation out of 1000W of solar panels, and that makes induction completely unfeasible. We have 720W of solar on our Camper that is permanently running, which isn’t a small amount.
We then have a 200W panel on the Dmax, and a 200W solar blanket that I can put out if we are desperate (or camped in the shade), but its still not enough to keep induction cooking running full time.
A 200W solar blanket (which many only do around 120 – 150W), isn’t going to generate much more than 70 – 90aH during the day, and you will consume that running an induction cooktop in 33 – 40 minutes of induction cooktop use a day. Think 40 minutes is enough? It might be if you are a single person cooking, boiling water and doing dishes for yourself only, but no way for a family of 4.
Beyond this, who wants to be setting up endless solar blankets just so you can run an induction cooktop? No thanks; if that’s what we had to do I’d go back to gas.
So, I can already hear you saying, just run your car. Yep, you can do that, and the funny thing is that so many people do this just so they can run an induction cooktop. Unless you have a substantial sized alternator, and decent DCDC, you’ll be idling your car for hours.
Our Renogy 50 amp DCDC only does 25 amps an hour, which is about 10% of the battery capacity. I don’t think our alternator is even capable of delivering 50 amps, even if I unplugged the solar and let it try.
The bottom line is this; you’ll need to watch your energy consumption like a hawk if you’re using induction cooking.
Induction is amazing
Now, if I’m putting you off Induction cooking for camping, sorry. I absolutely love it, and would not go back to gas permanently unless I absolutely had to. In our outdoor kitchen in particular, an induction cooktop is nothing but pure magic. It literally reduces our time cooking or waiting for water to boil by a huge amount of time every day, and I dread going back to gas.
In the mornings if we are running gas it can take 15 minutes to boil water for 4 hot drinks, and I can do it in under 3 with the induction cooktop. Yep, you’re camping, and should be relaxing, but with two young kids efficiency is the key to comfortable travel, and induction is a big part of it.
If we have some sun, the 720W of panels on the roof easily keeps up with our demands, and that’s without using our Dmax lithium battery. However, when the sun isn’t there, I’ve seen big vans with 1200 – 1600W of solar on the roof struggle to survive on electricity only, so get yourself a backup!
That could be a cheap gas burner, or a nice jet boil, or a weber, or something else, just don’t rely entirely on an induction cooktop or it might just bite you in the backside. We’ve been there!