With the advent of smart phones, touch pads, and digital cameras, 12 volt USB charging sockets are not only in high demand in today’s homes, but also in today’s campers. Fortunately, truck camper manufacturers have finally caught on to this important need by installing a minimum of one dual USB charging socket in each new camper, but there are thousands of older truck campers out there without these badly needed charging sockets. Furthermore, many of the truck campers being built today have only one USB charge socket and that one is usually mounted behind the TV in the cabover, not exactly what one would call a convenient location. Truck campers should have a minimum of two charging sockets, one in the cabover and one by the dinette, but more is better. That’s where this modification comes in. We’ll show you how easy it is to install a 12 volt USB charging socket that will not only provide greater convenience, but also improve your truck camper’s overall charging capability.
When we ordered our Northstar Laredo from the factory we ordered four 12 volt charging stations, three in the cabover and one in the kitchen. Having these installed at the factory is highly recommended. It’s much easier having the factory do it since the wiring can be run in between the walls, floors, and ceiling while the camper’s being built. When we ordered our charging stations from Northstar, we thought we were getting dual USB charge sockets in each location, but, unfortunately, we got only one—in the kitchen. All three charging stations in the cabover were the basic 12 volt “cigarette lighter” charging socket, none of them had USB charging ports. Fortunately, this wasn’t a major issue for us as technology had come to the rescue. We simply converted the two sockets on either side of the bed to dual USB charge stations by using an Anker USB car charger. These car chargers work great, are rated for 4.8 amps total, and at $10 a piece you can’t go wrong with the price.
When it comes to the dual USB charging stations installed in its truck campers, Northstar does it right. Northstar uses an excellent “Charging Center” by JR Products with a large 12 volt “cigarette style” charging socket on the left and a dual USB charging socket on the right. Like I said, this charging station is excellent, but Northstar installed it in probably the worst possible location in the camper—the kitchen. I could go on and on about how terrible this location is, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, this Charging Center really should have been installed in the dinette area, so that the electronic devices that are charging from it won’t be in the way when using the kitchen.
Fortunately, finding a suitable location to mount an aftermarket USB charging station around the dinette proved rather pretty easy. The front bench of the dinette shares space with the step up to the cabover where the camper’s 40-gallon fresh water tank is located. On the front of this enclosure and bench is where I decided to mount the new charging socket. I thought about installing another charging center like the one Northstar used in the kitchen, but, ultimately, decided against it due to its size. Instead, I opted to go with one of the best, low profile charging units that you can buy in the market, the Dual USB Charging Socket by Blue Sea Systems.
The Blue Sea System Dual Charging Socket is a quality unit. The socket is rated for 2.1 amps total, puts out 5 volts, and has a parasitic current draw of only 15 milliamps. It provides not only built-in reverse polarity protection, but also short-circuit protection. At $29 each, the socket is pretty expensive, but Blue Sea Systems’ marine-grade products are incredibly stout and have a lifetime warranty. Not only that, but a good number of the Blue Sea Systems 12 volt charging products are interchangeable, meaning that this dual USB charging socket can easily be converted into a large, “cigarette lighter” charging socket that Blue Sea calls a “dash socket.”
Like any 12 volt device, there are two ways to run the wiring—tap into an existing pair of wires or run a new pair of wires to the 12 volt fuse panel. Since the fuse panel is located only 3 feet from where I wanted to mount the socket, and since I had three open slots in my 12 volt fuse panel, I decided to go this route. For the project, I used 12 AWG wires. Yeah, I know that this wiring is way over-size for a 2.1 amp socket, but I purposely oversize all of my wiring anyhow for safety, plus I might decide to change out this socket sometime in the future for a dash socket. Running the wires for this project was extremely easy. The positive wire was run to the 12 volt fuse panel and was zip tied to a large grey water drain pipe, which runs inside the water tank enclosure. For the negative lead, I simply tapped into the negative wire for the CO/LP Gas Detector mounted nearby. I protected this circuit with an oversized, 15 amp fuse.
Mounting the new Blue Sea Systems charging socket turned out to be the easiest part of the project. I used a small 1 1/8-inch circular hole saw attached to my Ryobi drill to cut the hole into the wood paneling near the bottom of the dinette. I purposely drilled into one of the 1×4-inch wood supports to provide a good mounting surface for the charging socket that requires two wood screws to mount. The size of the hole turned out to be absolutely perfect for the charging socket. The hardest part about mounting it was trying to slip my hand in the small opening behind the socket to screw on the backing plate and to attach the two wires.
Overall, this is a VERY easy modification that anyone can do. The mounted USB charging socket looks professional and works flawlessly. If you own an older truck camper, from say the early 2000s, then you’ll more than likely need to install one or more of these charging sockets. The hardest part of any installation like this one is the planning, including where to have them mounted. The easy part is choosing a quality charging socket for your camper, I highly recommend going with those made by Blue Sea Systems or JR Products. You can get both online at Amazon.com.