In this day and age, there’s not much we can’t do if we utilise solar. On a recent 8 week trip with our Landcruiser and Ultimate camper trailer in tow, we left Adelaide to make our way to the tip of Cape York in far north Queensland. On the way, our aim was to chase down the remote and isolated tracks, rather than sticking to the conventional black top.
For this trip, we relied on a combination of our vehicle’s alternator and one fixed solar panel on our camper, along with two portable solar blankets (1 x 150 watt and 1 x 190 watt), to keep our batteries in good working order.
From the outset, we knew from the nature of this trip that we would use a lot of 12v power. We were travelling with 3 fridges of various sizes on board, and our freezer was loaded with meat for everyone in our travelling party.
But our needs didn’t end there. We also needed good camp lighting at night to cook up a storm, plus we had many other devices for this trip - cameras, video equipment, and other assorted accessories that would need recharging. We also travelled with a 1500 watt inverter for recharging 18v power tools, and we were even travelling with a little luxury this trip – a bread machine which we would run every now and then.
As it turns out, this trip saw us doing a lot of stop/starts, as we’d often go off exploring for hours at a time. On other occasions, there would be days where we would set up base camp for a couple of days, and then head off in our rigs to check out a range of gorges, river systems, and generally explore the region.
So to keep the power up to all our appliances when stationary for long periods, we would use the 12v solar blankets that easily plugged directly into our battery management system via dedicated wired Anderson plugs.
Storing the solar blankets was really easy as they folded up to around the size of a laptop bag and fitted neatly inside our drawer system. Setting them up was also super easy, when we only needed to take the solar blanket out of the box, plug the Anderson lead in, and position the solar blanket either on the ground, or hang it from the camper using the eyelet holes and some hooks. So it really couldn’t get much simpler.
Using The Manager30 allowed us to instantly view the solar blankets’ performance, and we could see how long (in hours) it would take before returning to 100% fully charged. And having two portable blankets allowed us to put two together to increase the performance when needed.
A typical daily example would see us stopping to go off hiking for a couple of hours. While one of us would assemble the backpacks and camera gear, the other would be placing a solar blanket on the windscreen of the vehicle, or up on the roof rack. In the time it took to get our hiking gear ready, the solar blankets would be set up in place and making power.
We found our system to be very balanced; meaning by the end of each day, our batteries would be 100% recharged or very close to it. Of course there was the odd day when we didn’t have the appropriate sunlight hours available which saw us making adjustments to the accessories we would recharge on those days.
The great thing we love about our blankets is they are so much easier to store than the rigid glass fold up panels. Being lighter is an added bonus, and coming with an Anderson plug connector makes them so versatile to plug into the battery systems either in our camper, canopy, or under the bonnet of the vehicle. We just need to add a regulator to the leads, and we can use the solar blankets to recharge other 12v systems on other set ups.
So with our 8 week trip to the top of Australia now complete, we had a sensational time! Never at any stage did we have a situation where we didn’t have enough power to meet our needs. The solar blankets worked a treat, and being smaller to store and light in weight, they ticked all our boxes for outback touring.
We look forward to our next trip when we’ll use them with our caravan set up to see how they perform using the portable regulator.
Catch you next time.
Grant & Linda
My Aussie Travel Guide