Portable solar panels camping – fridges, reviews

Portable solar panels camping – if you’re thinking about a portable solar panel purchase for your campsite – to power laptops, charge phones, or even run a small fridge – you’re on the right article! Let’s take a look at the three main styles of portable solar panel and which you should choose.

Portable Solar Panels Camping

You have three main choices with regards to portable solar panels – and your choice depends on your unique circumstances.

Portable Folding Panels – the best option if you only camp a few times a year or you’re on a budget. These panels are quite heavy and inflexible, but they’re very simple to move to find a spot in the sun. Unless you’re a pro, we generally recommend starting here. 

Solar Blankets – the mid-range choice. More expensive than portable folding panels but worth the extra investment if you’re a frequent traveller – especially if you’re concerned about space and weight. It’s extremely simple to hang a solar blanket over the hood of your car, over your tent, on a nice sunny rock…

If you are going to have a look at the solar blanket option make sure you pay a little extra for a quality brand as these solar blankets aren’t the cheapest to begin with. If you’re going to invest in them it’s worth your while to get something that will last!

We can recommend the 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS from Redarc. 

Solar panels camping - 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS Redarc
Solar panels camping – 112W SOLAR BLANKET AMORPHOUS CELLS (source: REDARC.com.au)

Fixed Panels – for the grey nomad or the frequent traveller, fixed panels have very low setup and are very easy to get working. You do need to park your trailer (or however/wherever you have fixed them) in the right spot to get as much sun as possible – which can be a little annoying. But in terms of performance vs. ease of use, these are the Cadillac of portable solar.

Alternatives for Portable Solar Panels

Although Portable folding panels, solar blankets and fixed panels comprise the bulk of what we’ll recommend for solar camping, there are a couple of caveats we should mention befor eyou go and buy anything.

If you’re not sure how much power you’ll require we can recommend the REDARC Solar calculator selection tool which is a fantastic tool for those planning a getaway!

If you want something simple just to charge a phone or a power bank we recommend giving Solar Paper by YOLK a look.

Any questions or feedback on any of these products? Do you have an issue with your solar powered camp? Please let us know in the comments and we’d be happy to help!

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Container Roll Out Solar System – Portable Solar

ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) have awarded a grant to ECLIPS Engineering to design, manufacture, and test its ‘diesel killer’ portable solar offering, the Container Roll Out Solar System (CROSS). 

Container Roll Out Solar System – ECLIPS

Container Roll Out Solar System CROSS
Container Roll Out Solar System CROSS (source: eclips.engineering)

ECLIPS Engineering (formerly Sea Box International) are a Canberra based engineering firm hoping to do their part to help Australia do away with diesel generators in situations where a temporary power supply is required. They have created factory assembled 20 and 40 foot long solar panel arrays which fit in shipping containers and have minimal setup / teardown time. 

According to RenewEconomy, each 20ft unit has 2.1kW of power, and 7 of them can fit in a shipping container. The 40ft units has up to 4.3kW and can also fit seven to a container. 

ARENA have given CROSS $703,468 to to help the project, which has aims more lofty than just replacing diesel generators at work sites – the Container Roll Out Solar System could also help in defence situations, disaster recovery, for humanitarian needs, or for ‘temporary network augmentation’ (i.e. helping the grid if it’s malfunctioning or under severe stress).

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht spoke about funding the project, and how they hope to see an eventual replacement of diesel generators in 99% of cases:

“CROSS units can be deployed in off-grid and fringe-of-grid areas, displace or offset diesel consumption and improve the security of existing networks,” he said.

“These renewable options can reduce some of the barriers to entry for potential renewable power users in remote locations, including short project durations and where power systems need to be periodically relocated,” Frischknecht said.

“Renewable energy can provide an emissions-free, silent energy system that could replace diesel generators in the long run.”

We’ve already reported on the Maverick by 5B, which is another prefab, low-cost ground mounted solar array – it’s great to see some more options available to try and minimise the amount of diesel generators used as a temporary power supply. 

We’ll keep you posted how the project goes and what the next steps are!

 

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Solar Camping Roundup – Products for Camping/Hiking

If you’re an avid camper or hiker, I’m sure you’ve already seen some of your fellow outdoor lovers using portable solar to charge their electronics while on the trail or at the campsite. Gone are the days when using a heavy (and expensive!) generator, wasting your car battery, or, even worse, using traditional non-rechargeable batteries were the only ways to charge electronics or run lights at the campsite. Solar camping is the way of the future! 

The rapid proliferation of advancements in solar panel technology has led to some exciting new ideas in the world of portable solar panels. So if you enjoy hiking, camping, (or you do and your family can’t live without their phones!) have a look at some of the options which are available to people who want to use recharge with renewable energy when they’re out in the wild. 

Buy Camping Solar Products in Australia

There a number of retailers in Australia offering a huge range of great products, from portable solar panels, foldable solar panels, solar torches, power banks to store the energy in, and much more. Quality can vary quite considerably so make sure you do your due diligence before purchasing anything too expensive. 

Kathmandu have a small range of products for campers and hiker such as the Goal Zero range of panels and some Kathmandu branded Power Banks and Hand Torches. 

Solar Camping – Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Panel and GoalZero Solar Battery (source: kathmandu.com.au)
Solar Camping – Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Panel and GoalZero Solar Battery (source: kathmandu.com.au)

 

Tentworld offers a range of foldable and rollable solar panels from brands such as Goal Zero, PowerFilm, Engel, and OZtrail. 

Some other amazing products we’re interested in (let us know if you’d like us to do a full review on any of these so I have an excuse to buy them!)

  • Eton Scorpion – A radio with 3.5mm input, a solar panel, and a hand crank which powers the device and even external USB devices. Don’t expect massive power, but very hand to have in a pinch. 
  • Earl Tablet – A camping gadget with a GPS chipset, connects to a VHF and UHF transceiver, can connect to analog and digital frequencies, and can provide up to 20 hours of battery life after five hours of sunlight charging. 
  • Lumos Solar Backpack – A solar camping backpack with a 3 watt solar panel and a 2200 mAh battery built in. Very reasonably priced, too! 
  • Companion Deluxe Portable Solar Shower – A 20L bag you fill up and leave out in the sun during the day. Built in water temperature gauge. 
  • Energizer Solar 4LED Rechargeable Spotlight – A simple rechargeable solar flashlight. Runs for 3.5 hours after 5 hours of charge and is totally waterproof.
  • Rock Out 2 Solar Rechargeable Speaker – A waterproof solar powered Bluetooth speaker which provides 10 hours of surprisingly quality sound on an 8 hour charge. 
  • Solar Car Battery Charger – An inexpensive 1.5 watt panel which can help ensure your battery stays charged when you’re away from your vehicle. Clip it onto your battery or plug it into the cigarette lighter. 
  • Solarmonkey Charger – A lightweight, waterproof and shock resistant portable solar panel. Will charge in around 8 hours and has an internal lithium-ion battery which stores a respectable 3500mAh.

Solar Powered Tents

Cinch Pop Up Tents offer an addon called the Cinch! Solar Power Pack which connects to the top of their extensive range of tents. The power pack includes a flexible silicon panel and a power bank so you can use the energy generated at night. They even have LED tent pegs so you won’t lose your tent or knock into one in the dark! 

Have a look at their promotional video for the Cinch solar tents below:

Solar Camping Panel Product Reviews

Is there a product you’re interested in buying and would like a review on? Leave your request in the comments and we’ll take a look for you! 

Alternatively, have you tried one of the products mentioned here and have an opinion? What did you like and what don’t you like about it? Please let us know, we’d love to hear about how you went. 

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Solar Paper by YOLK – solar phone charger.

Solar company Yolk have released their ‘solar paper’ mobile phone charger. This lightweight, portable solar charger pairs with mobile phones, tablets, and powerbanks with high efficiency and a reasonable price. 

About Solar Paper

YOLK Solar Paper
YOLK Solar Paper (source: yolkstation.com)

The Solar Paper product was launched via a successful Kickstarter in 2015 where they raised over $1 million – it’s now been brought to market and you’re able to purchase one from the official YOLK website.

The Solar Paper comes in four models (all prices are in USD):

  • 5 Watts ($148)
  • 7.5 Watts ($198)
  • 10 Watts ($248)
  • 15 Watts ($348)

It’s able to output 5V, with 500mA regulated output per panel. The device is modular (extra panels can be connected via magnets) and additional 2.5 watt solar panels are $60 each. 

According to the official site, Solar Paper measures 9 x 19 x 1.1 cm when folded, and each panel weighs 65-75 grams (2.5 oz). Watt-for-watt, that makes it 70% smaller and lighter than competing products (no word on which products they’re speaking of, though). Solar Paper is 1.1 cm deep at its thickest point, making it suitable for a multitude of uses, like camping, hiking, or carrying around in backpacks/handbags. 

It has auto reset technology – so you don’t have to unplug and replug the cable every time you step into the shade (usually a drop in voltage would cause your device to ‘uncouple’ from the charger, requiring manual repairing).

The product is IP54 water resistant and includes an LCD meter to show how well the panels are working. One thing to note is that it doesn’t have any sort of storage included – so you could couple it with an inexpensive power bank such as one of the Xiaomi models so you can charge that if your phone is full. 

It won’t be able to charge something like a Macbook due to different voltages. You could, however, charge a power bank that’s suitable for Macbooks and then charge through that!

About YOLK

Korean based YOLK launched their first solar charger “Solarade” in 2014 via Kickstarter – it raised $72,000 and was moderately successful. Since then, they’ve been focusing on making solar power as portable and cheap as possible. The reviews on Amazon are good and the founding team (Sen Chang and Lim Sam) have since expanded rapidly. No word on their next product but hopefully it won’t be long! 

Buy YOLK Solar Paper 

The YOLK Station website has the Solar Paper + Pouch available for purchase worldwide – with a flat shipping fee of $22 USD. Cost ranges from $148 USD – $348 USD.

You can also purchase them on Amazon by clicking here

If you want a cheaper option, the Anker 21W solar charger is also available. We’ll do a review on them next! 

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Maverick by 5B – a prefab, low-cost solar array.

Australian company 5B have launched the Maverick (MAV) portable solar farm – their easily-transported large-scale portable solar farm with a continuous array design. Because of this, a solar farm built with MAV can generate between 180 – 200% more MWh per hectare than fixed tilt or single axis tracking designs. This could be a game changer for farmers, remote communities, film crew, or anyone who needs to use a large amount of power and don’t have grid access. Launched in July this year, the ‘solar farm in a box’ has been gaining traction for anyone looking for portable solar in Australia. 

Maverick Portable Solar Array by 5B
Maverick Portable Solar Array by 5B (source: 5b.com.au)

Maverick Portable Large-Scale Solar Farm

The Maverick is a continuous array, which means DC cables don’t need to be trenched, saving setup time and reducing the potential for any errors when setting up. According to the 5B website, two people are able to roll out a 12kW MAV in ten minutes with ‘standard site vehicles’. Here are some further stats on the MAV:

  • Ground mounted DC solar array of 32 or 40 PV modules.
  • Any 60/72 cell standard framed PV module can be used if you want to choose (they come with Jinko panels by default).
  • Each MAV weighs approximately three tonnes. 
  • MAV is 5m wide and 16m/20m long (32/40 modules) once deployed.
  • Modulates oriented in a concertina shape at 10-degree tilt (electronically configured and ready for integration at site).
  • Simple deployment via a forklift and 2-3 people. As per the 5B tagline – “100 kilowatts fully installed before lunch, and 1 megawatt in a week” – pretty impressive!

They’re modular as well; you can ship four 32-module MAVs in a standard ISO 20 foot container (similar to the Renovagen solar carpet we discussed yesterday)

Click here to download the MAV product brochure. You can also view a video from 5B below which shows how the Maverick solar array works. Have you had any experience with the MAV? How did you find it? Please let us know in the comments. 

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