Inland Crossing

ArkPak

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The ArkPak is a portable 12VDC/120VAC power source. I picked up this unit used, intending to use it to power some ham radio equipment for portable operation, to use around the camp, or to power a vehicle refrigerator later on. The ArkPak can be charged using an AC charger, a 12VDC vehicle charger, can be wired into a dual battery vehicle system, or charged from a solar panel.

The unit charges and maintains a number of battery types, including lead-acid, AGM, and gelcell. The ArkPak has a number of features:

  • 2 12VDC 10A accessory sockets
  • 12 VDC 50A Anderson socket
  • 150 watt 115 VAC socket with USB port
  • External battery terminals
  • Battery temperature sensor
  • External AC power supply
  • Control panel with LCD display
  • Fuses for the main charger, 115VAC socket, and 12VDC accessory circuits

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The first use of the ArkPak was during the LBL trip, where it was used around the camp to provide portable 12VDC power. The idea was to not have to plug devices into the vehicles and have cables running through vehicle windows and to be able to charge devices within reach. The 10A 12VDC sockets on the front of the ArkPak proved adequate for most devices, however the air inflator for the air mattress exceeded 10 amps and blew a fuse, necessitating inflating the mattress from the Jeep’s power socket.

The Anderson connector socket is the solution for this type of problem. Anderson connectors have become a standard in ham radio and are finding uses in other areas as well. Unfortunately at the time, I did not have Anderson connectors of the right size to take advantage of the 50 amp service this provides.

An issue with the Anderson connector ports on the ArkPak is that they are not clearly marked for polarity. Additionally, because the negative and positive female sockets don’t use the standard spacing between them, each male positive and negative connector must be inserted separately (Anderson connectors are designed so that the positive and negative connectors clip together. This allows them to be connected or disconnected as a pair). The danger with unmarked polarity is that its possible to insert the connectors in a manner that reverses polarity, thereby risking damage to expensive electronics. In the picture below, the 50 amp connectors alongside the 30 amp connectors (which are clipped together in the standard configuration).

 

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Another option for drawing higher power from the ArkPak’s battery is to tap onto the battery terminals located on the left side if the case. These are direct, unfused connections to the battery itself. These terminal posts are large enough to accommodate jumper cables or heavier gauge wires with ring connectors. The plastic divider between the positive and negative posts are a nice safety feature to prevent inadvertent shorts.

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The control panel provides for an initial setup of a battery type and indicates status with respect to charging, conditioning, and maintenance. A battery isolator switch permits a disengagement of the battery. Each time the ArkPak is started up it asks whether a new battery has been installed, then walks the user through menu options to configure itself accordingly.

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The battery compartment contains the fuse block and three wires for connections to the positive terminal, negative terminal. and a temperature sensor to regulate charging.

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Overall, the ArkPak is useful for light-duty AC needs (150 watts), such as a lamp or solid state device, and more useful as a 12VDC power source, given the features given for 10 amp, 50 amp, and direct battery connection options. I didn’t task it with multiple day scenarios, and your mileage there will vary with the type and capacity of battery that is installed.

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