(Caution: this post is based on speculation, not experience.)

We need to recharge our cell phones and tablets.  The easy way is to use the wall wart that came with the phone - plug it in to the inverter and away we go.  But we would be wasting energy by converting 12V DC to 120 AC and then converting 120 AC to 5V DC.  Why not get a car charger and only have to make one conversion?

This gadget would allow us to charge several phones and tablets at once:


Has anyone had experience with this device or a similar one?

Note that it should be plugged into a power point rather than a cigarette lighter plug  (as Jason mentioned about the inverter).

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i suppose it depends on how many USB devices you need to charge at any one time. I have three, a phone, and two tablets, but rarely need to charge more than two devices at once. So, a simple, small two-outlet charger works fine for me.

There are dozens of these gadgets available if you search "USB car charger" on Amazon. I would look for "smart" devices, with circuit design that "protects against over-heating, over-currents, over charging and short circuit; charging stops when battery is full." Some of the fancier units have LEDs which monitor your voltage and battery drain, but then you're adding an additional drain to your battery.

A problem with all of them is that you lose your cigarette/accessory outlet! Many 12-volt appliances come with a lighter-style plug. Splicing a USB unit directly into your vehicle's electrical system is probably something any competent mechanic can do, if you can't do it yourself.

I saw one unit on Amazon which fits a coffee cup holder and, in addition to three USB ports gives you two additional cigarette/accessory outlets!

A great place to shop for these gadgets is Vast variety and great prices. Have a look.

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IF you are running your van a little each day (like driving) you are not "wasting" energy because the alternator is going to create enough energy to keep your battery charged whether you have it running the inverter or not. With the inverter system you can actually eliminate keeping up with this extra gadget you are discussing IF you wanted to. We use both (as you are planning to) depending on the number of items we want to charge at once. With the inverter we do phone, camera and computer simultaneously when van is on, when not running though it would be easier on the van battery to have the direct dc charger in the 12 volt outlet.
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Jason, what do you think of this inverter?  

I noticed the inverter that you link to in your book travel store section has only one outlet.  The above inverter looks like it meets your criteria for a built in fan though not sure what the other jargon means: over voltage, overload, over-current, under-voltage, overheating, short circuit protection...does any of that mean low battery shutdown?  I noticed the picture of your inverter shows it's from radio shack.  Do you still have it and if so, would you mind telling me the model?  How many watts do you have on your own inverter?  

I'm getting started on exploring this lifestyle.  Retiring next year and telling myself it's not too late to ditch it all and have an adventure, but do have a lot to learn.  

Thanks, I'm really enjoying your book!

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I'm not familiar with that brand but hit has very high review ratings so I would go for it. I have had NO luck with direct wiring to the battery and the 2 foot cord that comes with this device wont be long enough any way so hopefully your "cigarette" lighter socket is good enough for this. I use a 12 volt plug in receptacle which some people say is the same thing but I don't think so. My original inverter died after 6 years so the new one I use still comes from RadioShack but has two recepticles.
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But i guess it's not good for your phone battery health, some times using other brand chargers to charge your gadgets is harmfull....  i always use original charger to charge my gadgets....
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