Using The Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA Compressor – Part One
A month ago, HAM brought you exclusive first coverage of the Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor. Why such a long wait? Well, it took me more time than I expected to fully investigate this interesting device.
The Traveler is one of the first examples of the low-cost, portable HPA compressor which many people see as the ideal partner for the increasing price/performance of the latest generation of (relatively) low cost PCP air rifles.
Let’s be clear. I think this has the potential to be a great product! Portable HPA compressors could be the “game changer” that moves a huge number of shooters to PCPs. At the right price, that is…
Very few among us enjoy using a HPA hand pump. But for many this has been the only practical way to fill a PCP. That – together with the price – is the reason why so many people purchase them.
And you can take them anywhere! HPA hand pumps are a portable solution for the “air anxiety” that every PCP owner understands.
However, hand pumps are hard work to use and have a reputation, as a class of product, for being not the most reliable of devices. They become very hot in use and heat tends to damage the O rings on which these pumps depend for their sealing.
Because most of them are used without any form of dessicant system, hand pumps are almost certainly the leading cause of internal damage to PCP airguns. Without some form of moisture-removal system attached to a hand pump, water vapor is transferred at high pressure into your air rifle.
Particularly if you live in a humid part of the country, the result is internal corrosion. This corrosion can be seen as rusting of the gun’s steel HPA pressure tube. But it also damages sintered filters and can ruin pressure gauges. The moisture also attacks Aluminum parts inside the gun, generating Aluminum Oxide. This builds-up unevenly under O rings, eventually causing leaks.
As you can probably guess, I’m not a fan of HPA hand pumps!
The Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor is thus a very interesting alternative to the HPA hand pump. It could also be a viable alternative to a portable HPA tank for some users. And don’t forget that that HPA tank has, itself, to be filled somehow…
Checking-out the Crosman website, we see that the Traveler Portable HPA compressor is listed at $649. This compares to $430 for a 90 Cubic Inch HPA tank and $190 for the Benjamin PCP hand pump.
That makes the Traveler around 3x the price of the hand pump and 50% more than the small tank. It’s the same price as a Benjamin Armada, to put things into perspective. But it’s significantly smaller, lighter and less expensive than any traditional compressor from a “brand name” company in the US market.
Yes, the Traveler Portable HPA compressor can be powered by domestic 110V power. It’s provided with a transformer that converts mains Alternating Current into the 12 Volts DC used by the device.
And yes, it works just fine in that mode.
But the Value Proposition for the Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor is that it is, well, portable.
So I was more interested to find out how well it operated running from the 12 Volt car battery. I had no doubt it would work. I was actually more interested in the logistics of filling a PCP air rifle in the field from a portable HPA compressor.
For this outdoor test, I decided to use the Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor with our Toyota Sienna van.
Now, it’s been raining a lot lately in Up-State New York. And particularly – it seems – when I want to go outside to test products and take photographs!
So here’s the first issue. This portable HPA compressor is not weather-proofed. I certainly didn’t want to use it in the rain. But is that really a problem?
Do I want to be outside shooting in the rain? Actually, no. So for me, that’s not a problem. Just something to be aware of.
Then there’s the physical connecting-up of the compressor to car to gun…
I decided to lay a gun bag on the ground and the air rifle on that. It seemed to me that the Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor also had to be on the ground because there was no suitable flat space under the Sienna’s hood to stand the compressor.
Added to that was the fact that the engine was HOT! So, on the ground was definitely the best place for the compressor.
As a next step, I connected the leads to the Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor, attached the clips to the battery terminals and pressed the on/off switch. It fires-up immediately so long as there’s enough battery power available.
Among other things in life, I’m not an automotive electrical expert. But the Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor’s specification plate states that it uses 350 Watts of power to operate. A rapid bit of math confirmed that this requires a draw of 29 Amps from the – nominally – 12 Volt car battery.
29 Amps seemed to be quite a high current to me. Yes, the filling time is just a few minutes – particularly if you’re topping-up your PCP, rather than filling it from empty – but I didn’t want to take the risk of draining the battery.
So I decided to operate the Traveler with the van’s engine running. Again, not a problem, just something to think about.
Then another logistical aspect to practicality raised it’s head. The Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor worked just fine for me. The Sienna has its battery at the front and has a low grille. The electrical jumper cables were long enough. But the flexible air tube was quite short, limiting the position in which I had to lay the gun for charging.
But what if I had a full-size pickup truck? Would the battery cables be long enough to cope with that situation? Does it work with a Prius, or similar hybrid which has a relatively small starter battery? Would it work with a vehicle having the battery at the rear of the engine compartment?
We’ll look at more practical aspects of using Benjamin Traveler Portable HPA compressor in Part Two of this test review.
Again, there’s no question that having your own compressor is an incredible luxury and one that you can’t live without once you’ve tried it. To have it working well in the field also, is luxury times two!