[Product Review] The ARB Maximum Performance Portable Air Supply

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, tire pressure management is an essential skill for every overland adventure enthusiast.  It’s one of my ‘Ten Essentials‘ and I’ve even written a stand alone article on it.  Needless to say, when looking ahead to the 2019 season I knew I needed to up my tire pressure management game.

It was like Christmas, but in March!

This article is a product review for the ARB Maximum Performance Portable Air Supply.  In the name of full disclosure, I will be straight up and tell you ARB has come on board as an equipment level partner for this season. However, let me assure you there is a reason I’m sought out a partnership with ARB.  Read on for the review of the portable compressor…

What’s in the box?

If you follow me on social media then you know I love playing a game called, “What’s in the box?“.  In most instances I can leave people guessing for a few hours, or days if I’m feeling up for it, just to have a little fun.  However, “What’s in the box?” is also a great question when looking at overland gear.  Some kits are more comprehensive than others.  Some, like this compressor kit, come with everything you need.

This is what showed up.
No denying who sent it, but the question was what was inside it?
Such a gut wrenching scene, but it’s all part of the game.

The core of this kit is ARB’s Twin High Performance Air Compressor.  With a maximum CFM rate of over 6 cubic feet per minute, and 100% duty cycle rating, it’s clear this compressor is built to work.  This of course comes at a hefty 50 amp current draw when the compressor motors draw max power.

It’s a nicely packaged kit and everything you need has a place.
The core of the system is ARB’s tried-and-true twin compressor.
Usually reserved for vehicle-mounted onboard air systems, it’s finally made portable by this kit.

Attached to the compressor is a one gallon tank.  This makes this kit the best of both worlds.  It has the flexibility of a portable system, but the air reserves typical to an onboard air system.  Coupled with the high CFM rate and full duty cycle and this kit has no problems turning air tools.

Air tanks are the number one advantage when it comes to onboard air systems.
The air reserve capacity makes it possible to run air tools (in short bursts).
Although 1 gallon may not seem like much, it’s enough to get a quick trailside repair done in a pinch.

Also included in the kit are all the little do-dads you need to actually make the compressor work.  High quality power cables to connect to your vehicle’s battery with inline fuses.  It also has ARB’s quick-release coupler, an air line, and a basic air chuck.  One neat little piece included with the kit is a blow-gun.  Very useful for cleaning dust our of air filters after a long day on the trail.


These clips are massive, as are the fuses. Easily handles the high amp draw of the twin compressor.
Everything you need to air up your tires comes in the kit.
Including a blow gun for those particularly dusty days.

All of this is wrapped in a heavy duty plastic tote with a very comfortable handle.  If there’s any drawback to this kit is it’s size.  For a portable system it is on the large side.  Not going to lie.  However when you realize what is crammed into the suitcase sized box, it’s an amazingly compact system.

As for the case itself, it’s rugged molded plastic with sturdy latches.
The handle is thick and comfortable in the hand.
It’s a little off-balance due to the compressor sitting off-center, but it’s not unwieldy.

Why portable and not onboard air?

In the past I’ve run an onboard air system.  You might be asking why the switch to a portable system. Truth be told I loved having onboard air.  Having the security and reliability of a build-in air system is super nice.  The only downside is, well, it’s built in.  I can’t move it from one vehicle to another.  If someone wants to borrow my OBA they are pretty much borrowing my whole Jeep.  This can be a little annoying since I’m always that “nice guy” willing to let other people play with my toys.

Going portable means more flexibility in that regard.  Another reason I’m going portable is for educational reasons.  As you know when I go to events I teach classes.  Whether it’s a big show (like Overland Expo) or a smaller show like a regional event (like the Roof Top Tent Rally) most of my time is spent teaching.  With ‘Tire Pressure Management‘ and my ‘10 Essentials‘ workshops being my most popular I figured it was time to go portable and take my toys to the classroom.

I promise I’ll get my own action shots soon.
Do I need flannel?
Photo courtesy of ARB USA
Another reason I’m making the switch has to do with the Jeep itself.  If you remember I installed my previous OBA system on the driver-side wheel-well of the LJ.  For the first few years I was running exclusively with a hardtop.  Last year I (finally) got a soft-top and a duster cover for the back of the Jeep.  In a topless/doorless configuration my old OBA system interfered with the cover.  It also made a prime target for an easy theft behind a plastic zip-in window.  Going to a portable system which is easier to secure and can be packed “out of sight” means a little more piece of mind for me when I travel.
The final reason for going portable is that the LJ is first and foremost my daily driver.  Having a portable system means I don’t have to have the OBA system mounted in the back of the Jeep taking up space all the time.  I can grab the portable when I need/want it and not worry about it when I don’t.  If I had a larger vehicle, or the ability to stash the compressor somewhere out of the way (like under the front passenger seat in a JKU, or in the bed of a pickup), I might stick with OBA, but for now I have no regrets going portable.

Initial Impressions

Since I just got the compressor I will confess I have limited experience with this particular kit.  However, the ARB twin compressor is nothing new to me.  I’ve used them multiple times over the years in a variety of different vehicles.  Jimmy has one in his Ram 3500, and both Chad (First State Overland) and John (New Horizons Overland) have them in their JKU’s.  I’ve always been a bit jealous of the high CFM rate so I knew when it came time to get a new compressor, the ARB twin was the top of my list.

Stats:

$893 MSRP
100% Duty Cycle
6.14 CFM @ 0 psi
4.68 CFM @ 29psi
50 AMP draw at max load
Builtin Pressure & Temperature shutoffs
As previously mentioned what I like most about the kit is its comprehensive nature.  Right out of the box the compressor is ready to use.  Connect it to a battery, attach the air hose, insert a chuck and it’s party time with the flip of a switch.  The case is very nice as well.  The latches close tightly which helps mitigate any dust or moisture build up in the case during transport.  It’s strong enough to be at the bottom of a gear pile (unlike some of its bagged competitors) and will no doubt hold up to more than a few years of use and abuse on the trail.

The kit’s air-chuck (in the middle) is as basic as a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
It works and will get the job done, but let’s face it, there are better options out there.
I highly recommend ARB’s Digital Tire Inflator as an add-on to any air system, portable or otherwise.
The only drawback in the kit is the air-chuck.  While functional it’s just, well, functional.  It’s as basic as basic can be.  Luckily ARB makes a really nice digital gauge that is a perfect companion to the portable compressor kit.  While not included in the kit, I knew it was an upgrade worth paying for.

Stay Tuned!

As with past product reviews, this is just the first in a series of articles.  I will be doing two other reviews of the kit and maybe even a video once I have some time to put it through its paces.  It will no doubt get a lot of use this summer while I travel.
I would like to take a moment to thank ARB for coming onboard as an Equipment Level Partner for the 2019 season.  I know product reviews for “sponsors” are always taken with a grain of salt, but this is one instance where I relentlessly pursed ARB because this is a product I honestly believe in as well as a company I believe in.  I already have an ARB 12v Fridge, the 2500 series Awning and Deluxe Room Kit, and of course a pair of camp chairs.  I also recently picked up one of their Tire Puncture Repair Kits (and of course an Air Tool Bag to go with it thanks to my friends at Blue Ridge Overland Gear), and a set of their gloves.  If they hadn’t come onboard as a partner I would have bought one of these compressors anyway.  So it might seem like I drank a little too much of the ARB coolaid, but rest assured that I was onboard the ARB train long before they jumped on the ECOA train.