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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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8,956 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So I have caught the camping bug and have started collecting items to make camping as convenient as possible. One thing I was kind of taken afar by was the dismal selection of decent lanterns unless you spent at least 70-80 bucks for some LED mamajama... So I was in the garage the other day looking at these 4", 800 lumen floods I had on the back of the Jeep. I was going to incorporate them into my expedition trailer when I had an epiphany to make them portable.

But how?

I was perusing the Expedition Portal looking at these 50 cal ammo box stereos when it hit me. Thats what I needed to pull this off.

Items used:

50 caliber MilSurp ammo can.
(2) 12vdc sealed auxillary backup batteries.
Illuminated toggle switch (thanks Rigid)
Molex connecters (a dozen or more male and female with pins if you want plug and play)
Wiring.
Lights (this would work with virtually any LED light like D1's, Solo's, etc.
An inline fuse.

Pictures.

Supplies.


Wiring.


Switch in place and powered up.


Switch, output port, and splitter in place. (If I remove the splitter I can connect one light and get a longer run time.)


Everything connected and working.


The lights and harnesses pack into the can.



The batteries charge using a standard 12vdc car charge set to 2amp trickle, I will get a maintenance charger or maybe even a 1watt solar charger to keep it topped off on the trail during the day.


All done and ready to use.


I did a little test before this build and with a single battery (3ah 12vdc) I ran a single light for 3 hours with very little voltage loss so with two batteries in parallel even with two lights, I could potentially light up camp for most if not all night on one charge or several nights before sleep for a couple of hours. The only thing I need to decide is how I want to mount and stand the lights. I was thinking a simple miter cut round steel tube with a light tab at the top and some wing nuts to tighten everything up, then just pound them into the ground and mount the lights to them. I have also made provision in the design to create an alligator clip attachment harness to charge this using the Jeeps charging system in a pinch.

Looking forward to testing these out.
 

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That's pretty resourceful, Chris. And I don't want to take anything away from your creativity or the quality of your build, but a couple of issues:

First, why do you need that much light at camp? 1600 lumens total? There's no way in hell I'd want to camp anywhere near someone with that much light. Most people who go camping feel a big part of their enjoyment comes from enjoying the stars and escaping from the lights and noise of civilization. I find that one or two LED lanterns is more than sufficient for preparing meals, getting the tent or camper organized, and any other activities that can't be handled by either the lights on the Jeep or a personal LED headlamp. I could see this being useful if someone had to do some serious repairs on their rig, but the fact is, that we've rebuilt entire front axles and welded driveshafts on camping/wheeling trips by the light of a lantern.



Second, though your setup is a nice, reasonably compact and very self-contained unit, it is still too heavy and bulky to carry far from the rig, so its not like you're going to be carrying it miles through the woods. You already have a battery in the Jeep. Upgrade (if you haven't already) to an Optima or Odyssey battery, or better yet, go with dual battery setup using two Optimas or Odysseys, and you've got plenty of juice to run whatever lights (or other stuff) you need.

Third, you were complaining about lanterns costing $70, then you proceeded to build a setup that costs well over $100. A pair of $25 Rayovac SE3DLN lanterns and some D-Cell 10,000 mAH rechargeable batteries would have been more cost-effective.

Of course now that you made it I can offer you some suggestions on improvements. :)

  • A potentiometer in series with the Molex connector so you can dim the LED's. That will keep your neighbors handy and extend the runtime on your batteries, since you will rarely need all that light.
  • A cigarette-lighter receptacle so you can plug-in other 12V accessories, such as a fan for your tent or camper.
  • A DC power receptacle (center-pin hot + outer ground ring) so you can plug-in either a solar panel or charger without opening the box.
  • 12V to USB 5V/3A adapter for recharging your cell phone, tablet, music player or camera.
 

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Gunnery Sergeant USMC (ret)
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22,098 Posts
Nice build chris. You bringing that down on the 17th? At least the bears will know where you are at.:thefinger:
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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8,956 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
@ Bump - thanks for sharing. You didn't read my thread. It cost me 15 dollars, everything else was scavenged from someplace else. Still cheaper than your upgrade suggestions. Where I plan to camp I doubt other people will notice if I have some effective camp lights when I decide to use them for cooking or some other function. I like having the option of bright lights when I need them. As far as heavy and bulky? Really? Its a 50 cal ammo box with a few pounds of hardware stuffed inside. I could lug it a few miles if I had to, but why would I want to, this would be stationary. This can also be used around the house during power outages, backyard work where I don't have light available without stringing extension cord, and many other outdoor uses and it's just as portable as a camping lantern.

Not that I have to justify why I made it to you, I would like to mention that you should maybe learn to call a spade, a spade. Your post was anything but complimentary. Why bother with the apologetic preface to your long rant about why this thing sucks and how you could make it better?

@Jim - Still trying to work it out.
 

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Cool project! Are the batteries 12v?

Would be easy to add a male or female cig lighter plug and the Jeep would keep them topped off and you could run straight off those if need be.
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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8,956 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Cool project! Are the batteries 12v?

Would be easy to add a male or female cig lighter plug and the Jeep would keep them topped off and you could run straight off those if need be.
Yes, there is actually two 12v batteries in there wired in parallel and that thought did cross my mind, just didn't have enough material on hand to execute anything else. It is set up already with molex plugs on the charging side for addition of an accessory port or external charging connection. So as sourpuss up there stated, I can charge it withough cracking it open.

Thanks for the compliments guys, I think this should be pretty handy and way better than some cheap chinese made lantern.
 

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Gunnery Sergeant USMC (ret)
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the only thing I would change is the plug sticking out. I see that thing getting broken off in a full jeep or trailer.
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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8,956 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
the only thing I would change is the plug sticking out. I see that thing getting broken off in a full jeep or trailer.
Truth. I had it in my mind that the panel mount tabs on these specific connectors would place it closer to the mounting plane. Not so, it will probably get shoved in a few times befores I get irritated and change it.

Seems overkill... but I love overkill
Who doesn't love overkill?? This is a site that eats, drinks, and shits overkill! Surprised anyone is complaining about being excessive.
 

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Who doesn't love overkill?? This is a site that eats, drinks, and shits overkill! Surprised anyone is complaining about being excessive.
I gotta admit, I did find it commical that guys spending thousands on big lifts and 35s for their daily drivers are talking about a 15 dollar light project as being excessive.
 

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R.I.P. Mr. Nibbles!
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8,956 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
I did a battery lifespan test finally, this holds up pretty well, got 5 hours at full output and then the battey voltage dropped below 9 volts which is the minimum operating voltage of the LED lights. Then they were just dim. To make note of, I hadn't fully charged the battery so it was at 12.12 volts which was its resting voltage after building it and messing around with it. At 12.60 volts and fully soaked, I would think 5.5 - 6 hours would be possible. With one light I would hope to get 8 plus hours of light.

Went camping this last weekend in the high country and the three people who saw this set up all liked it, especially when we actually wanted to see what might be in the perimeter of our camp as it got late and much darker. I'm pleased with the performance of this setup.
 

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I did a battery lifespan test finally, this holds up pretty well, got 5 hours at full output and then the battey voltage dropped below 9 volts which is the minimum operating voltage of the LED lights. Then they were just dim. To make note of, I hadn't fully charged the battery so it was at 12.12 volts which was its resting voltage after building it and messing around with it. At 12.60 volts and fully soaked, I would think 5.5 - 6 hours would be possible. With one light I would hope to get 8 plus hours of light.

Went camping this last weekend in the high country and the three people who saw this set up all liked it, especially when we actually wanted to see what might be in the perimeter of our camp as it got late and much darker. I'm pleased with the performance of this setup.
Hell yea had to make sure the old man of the woods wasn't creepin' back up on us! The set-up worked great, especially for what Chris mentioned, throwing light out into the woods when the dogs would get agitated about something. I'm thinking next trip we do a trip wire to trigger them, Congo style, lol!
 

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Super Moderator
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I am planning to camp with Marcy in your driveway next year.

Would this create sufficient light to be able to find her passed out in the bushes or in the dirt?

Thanks for your input.

Cleanly executed and compact. Really dig the ingenuity! :idea:

:beer:
 
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