OK, maybe not in nearly so dramatic a way as my Prancercize lessons or dry-aged Tofu ribeye steak and wheat grass diet, but even still, I’m a happy camper.
You see, back in the day, I had to get my air cylinders filled at the nearest paintball center. I’ve been using a Benjamin 15” Charging System 4,500 psi cylinder and an Omega Air Cylinders 75 cubic-foot 4,500 psi tank. The folks at Charleston Paintball are great to work with and only charge a few bucks for a tank fill, but they’re located almost an hour’s drive from my house. Topping off the tanks, so I can top off my guns, requires some advance planning to say the least.
Commercial tank filling is not a bad system, even with the long drive, because those tanks go a long way, especially the 75 cubic foot Omega monster.
The gotcha is that I test a lot of new guns and many of them arrive near empty, so I’m using precious “hour-long drive” cylinder air just to get them up to the minimum fill level, and only after that, topped off to the point where I can shoot them. That’s a waste of perfectly good shooting air in my book. That’s where the Benjamin Traveler comes into play. Just to be clear, the purpose of this affordable mini-compressor is not to fill the tanks, but to fill airguns directly, thereby saving my cylinder air for when I really need it.
So, my new and improved life is characterized by unlimited air with no driving. If I am shooting at home or anywhere near a vehicle with a 12-volt battery system, I can run my airguns forever without using a single cc of precious cylinder air.
The Benjamin Traveler takes a new approach to the compressed air challenge. Traditional compressors were designed to fill everything from onboard gun reservoirs to giant air cylinders. As a result, they had to be built to handle the maximum load and volume. And that costs money. You’ll normally spend four figures on a good heavy-duty compressor.
To make an analogy, assume that you need a pickup truck. Sometimes you might use it to pick up a bag of mulch at Lowe’s. Other times you might need to haul 2,000 bricks to a job site. Because your worst-case use of hauling bricks would crush the bed of a Prius pickup, you’ll need to buy something purpose-built for toting tons of weight. If your primary need is the occasional bag of mulch, a compact, and less expensive vehicle will do the job nicely.
The folks at Benjamin are hell-bent of getting air compressors down into the “couple hundred dollars” price range, and the Traveler is the first product offering to move in that direction. The Traveler retails for just $549.99. Expect the street price to go lower than that as the company catches up with demand.
The Benjamin Traveler system consists of two boxes, an AC power cord, a DC power cord with alligator clips, and a high-pressure air hose with an integrated moisture filter. The central unit is roughly 10x10x6 inches and sports a carry handle on top. A small silver power unit handles the conversion of AC to DC power. If you’re running from a car or other vehicle battery, then all you need is the compressor unit and the right battery cables.
Here’s how it works.
For use in the home with AC, plug the power cord into the wall and connect the power converter box. Connect that to the compressor unit. The air hose ends with a female Foster fitting so that you can connect directly to a variety of airguns like the Benjamin Fortitude right off the bat. For other guns that use probes, you might consider connecting the probe to the appropriate male Foster adapter, so you can easily swap fittings.
After connecting your airgun, you’ll want to set the maximum fill pressure. The built-in manometer features adjustable minimum and maximum fill needles. When pressure hits the maximum mark you specify, the compressor shuts off and runs the cooling fan only. The Traveler also features an internal temperature safety shut-off. If the unit gets too hot, it will also stop the compressor and leave the cooling fan running. To test that, I lined up a pile of guns and ran the compressor hard with no rest. The system performed as designed and turned itself off when the temperature got too balmy. These built-in safety features are great, but you should always monitor the unit when in use. Safety first!
The Traveler is not as quiet as those big zillion-dollar units, nor is that a design goal. It’s for quick fills, even in the field, not for running in your home for hours on end to fill cylinders. No gripes here. I’ll take the price vs. noise tradeoff any day. As I said before, the convenience changes everything for the frequent air gunner.
The unit features an inline water filter. Inside is a cottony-foamy “plug” that traps water. After heavy use, you’ll notice that it feels damp when removed. Squeeze the water out and let it dry, and you’re good to go. Benjamin includes some spares as well.
I’m going to make a psychic hotline-worthy prediction here. You’re going to be tempted to fill cylinders with this little guy. Don’t do it. Here’s why.
If you go back to our truck and bricks analogy, a 1989 Nissan Hardbody “truck-let” will “fit” a whole bunch of bricks in the back, so you can certainly load them in with space to spare. However, it’s not designed for that type of crushing weight, so its lifespan will be reduced assuming you can get the rear axle off the ground. It’s the same idea with the Traveler and large cylinders. It’s not designed to run for hours on end. It will technically work, but it’s not only going to overheat and shut down, but you’ll also shorten its lifespan considerably. Just don’t do it. If you need to fill cylinders, get a larger compressor or visit your local dive or paintball shop.
I filled up some different guns and timed the results. Here’s a look at starting and ending pressures and the time required to top off these airguns.
(minutes / seconds)
Benjamin Fortitude .22 (135 cc)
Umarex Gauntlet .177 (213 cc)
AirForce Condor SS .25 (490 cc)
AirForce Texan SS (490 cc)
Here’s the bottom line. This little guy is handy with a capital “H.” As long as you buy it recognizing what it’s for and what it isn’t, I suspect you’ll be quite pleased with it.