DIY Vagabond / power pack parts list

Started Dec 7, 2006 | Discussions thread
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virtuamike Veteran Member • Posts: 3,569
DIY Vagabond / power pack parts list

I figured this would be easier than writing this out every time I get an email about it.

The functional components are a true sine wave inverter, a sealed lead acid battery, and a charger. You want to make sure that you're using a true sine wave inverter. Cheaper modified sine wave inverters don't put out clean power. If you use a modified inverter with your strobes, you'll run the risk of either misfiring or frying your equipment. Blown caps smell bad.

The Vagabond uses this -

It's a 150W Samlex. They're cheap, but anyone that uses the Vagabond can tell you that the 150W continuous current can be limiting for recycle times especially for more powerful units (AB1600, X3200). I strongly recommend stepping up to the 300W Samlex. It's not that much more expensive, and 300W continuous will cut down your recycle times.

If you have a Fry's Electronics locally, they'll have them for $130.

Next you need a 12V battery. Sealed lead acid is cheap so it's the most economical way to go. The higher the AH rating, the longer it'll last and the heavier it'll be. It's up to you to figure out what the best compromise is for weight vs battery life. The Vagabond uses a 15AH battery. In testing I've found that it's best to stay above 10AH at a bare minimum. If you need them shipped, either one of these would work -

If you need something more heavy duty and don't mind the weight, then pick up a motorcycle or car battery at your local auto shop. Another good place to check locally would be a hobby shop.

There are plenty of options for battery chargers. If you want to prolong the life of your battery, then go with a "smart" multistage charger. They adjust according to what charging stage your battery is in, and they're safe to leave plugged in to maintain storage charge. The Battery Tender is a solid unit, and it's international.

Then again, SLA batteries are cheap and life span is 3 years max. If you have more than 1 battery to charge at a time, going with cheaper chargers might be a more practical route.

I'd avoid fast chargers though.

Here's a simplified overview of SLA charging -

After that, all that's left is to wire everything up and find something to store it in. Your local auto or electronic shop will have all the cables and connectors you need. Wire gauge from your battery to your inverter will depend on the length of the run. If it's short then you don't need anything super heavy duty - 14-16ga will be fine. For smaller capacity batteries, 1/4" spade connectors (.250) will fit the battery terminals. Bigger capacity batteries will have ring terminals. It all depends on what you go with, but it's not hard to find.

NEC requires a ground circuit. Local and state laws will vary, but the reason the Vagabond comes with a ground is a CYA. The Samlex instruction manual will show you where to attach a ground cable on the inverter chassis. Your auto store has ground cables and spikes for sale. Then again, it's probably a good idea to avoid using faulty cabling and equipment in the first place.

Toolboxes work great for storage. Walmart has a 22" plastic Black & Decker for under $10. Anything will work as long as it's sturdy and waterproof (though I do recommend plastic in order to avoid shorting anything if your cables come loose).

This is what mine looked like when I got done. The wiring's a little different because I used 5AH batteries in parallel. I also used fast disconnects for everything to make swapping batteries and plugging in chargers easier. They sell them at Fry's.

And that's about it. It's fairly straight forward and it'll save you money. A DIY power pack with 300W inverter, 12-18AH battery, charger, and misc parts should run you less than $250 easy (compared to $350 before shipping for the 150W Vagabond and $500 for the 300W version, which is 2 150W inverters instead of a single 300W).

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