Several years ago we joked about building a portable welder version of the famed Pocket Fisherman. We imagined that our pocket welder would be powered by static electricity produced by rubbing your hand on your pant leg. It would weld up to 1/4-inch steel, making Jeep-related trail repairs a possibility anywhere. Unfortunately, our pocket welder never came to fruition for obvious reasons. But Hobart Welders may have come about as close as you can get to a pocket welder with the Trek 180.
The Trek 180 is a cordless, wire-feed, flux-core welder that features two built-in, sealed lead-acid batteries which provide enough oomph to weld 1/4-inch steel in a single pass. At 51 pounds, it doesn't exactly fit in your pocket, but its many features far outweigh its slightly portly yet still portable size.
Don't let the small size or portability fool you, though. The Hobart Trek 180 can quickly become a full-blown shop welder by simply plugging in its 115-volt power cord. Once the unit is connected to utility power for welding, the welder automatically recharges the batteries and operates at a typical duty cycle. The internal charger feeds current to the batteries even during the welding process. When the unit operates on battery power only, welding continues until the batteries are nearly discharged (the Low Battery light illuminates). Once at the shop (or in the field if you desire), you can convert the Trek 180 into a real MIG welder. This truly is the one welder that does it all.
The Trek 180 is backed by Hobart's 5/3/1 Warranty. If for some reason you need replacement parts and service, you can actually get it, unlike some of the import welders out there. If you need a trail/camp welder and a shop welder but can only afford one, the Trek 180 might be just what you need.
On the Trail At 17x11x13 inches (length x width x height), the Hobart Trek 180 can be stored easily in most Jeeps. When welding is needed, the cables and gun can be removed from the storage bag and easily attached to the front of the welder. The batteries provide enough juice to complete many small trail repairs, or a couple of major repairs on thicker material. With a full charge you'll get about two minutes of weld time on 1/4-inch-thick steel, or up to 30 minutes on 20-gauge steel. In a pinch, you can use it to weld multiple passes on thicker materials such as axle housings. Once back at camp the welder can be recharged by a wall socket or generator. You can even recharge the welder's batteries on the trail using an inverter with a minimum power rating of at least 400 watts, although an inverter with a power rating of 1,000-2,000 watts will greatly reduce charging time. Generally it only takes 15-30 minutes to charge the Trek 180 to 80-percent power, so you can get back to work quickly if a repair requires more than one charge.
In the Shop With a 20-percent duty cycle at 120 amps, the Hobart Trek 180 is no slouch when welding at home and plugged into a 115-volt 15-amp socket. Its performance is better than most 115-volt welders and comparable to many of the 220-volt welders available today. The ability to unplug the welder and take it wherever you need to is a real convenience bonus. Along with a jumper link connection change, simply adding a gas bottle, regulator, hose, and switching to solid wire turns this flux-core welder into a formidable MIG welder. With the correct shielding gas and welding wire, you can weld stainless steel as well. For maximum battery life, the welder should be plugged into a wall socket when not in use.