I spend around 7 months of the year in the bush and most of that time is camping under canvas. Spending so much time in the bush, I suppose, is one of the perks of working as a DVD presenter with 4WD Action. Our ‘work’ takes us all over the country to the best camping and 4WD destinations in Australia.
We might find ourselves in Cape York one week tackling the ‘Old Tele’ Track and then winching our way through thick snow in the Victorian High Country the next. It’s a dream job for somebody like me, who is extremely passionate about exploring the Aussie bush and travelling to remote destinations. When I’m not ‘working’ (I almost laugh out loud when I write that) you’ll typically find me out in the bush in my 4WD or out in the boat fishing offshore. Yep, I live and breathe this outdoor lifestyle and simply cannot get enough of it!
This is the first blog out of a series that I will write and my plan is to talk about some of the most important gear that I use out in the bush and in the process hopefully pass on some tips that you can use to help your own 4WD touring and camping pursuits. The first topic that I want to talk about is solar, and although it’s something that I’ve only recently got into in the last 5 years or so, it has been a complete game-changer for me.
I remember the very first time I hooked solar up to my 4WD clearly, as it was one of those moments that made a great camping trip better. It’s like the first time you unspool your winch or spend your first night under the stars, it’s a defining moment that sticks with you forever. I was camped up on a very remote creek in the Northern Territory, a few days drive from civilisation and our plan was to spend a week or more camped up and fishing the creek for barramundi.
Of course being so remote and being just out of the wet season meant it was very hot and my camping setup had to be top notch if this trip was going to be enjoyable and already, the freezer was always on cycle with the hot ambient temperatures. Although I had 2 x auxiliary batteries, this alone wasn’t enough to power my 12V fridge/freezer and camp lights of an evening for more than two days or so. Out came my REDARC red Amorphous solar blanket.
It was folded up and covered in red dust. Although this little folding solar blanket had clocked up a lot of kilometres in the back of my 4WD, I had never really used it properly or for extended periods of time, so I opened it up and draped it over my bonnet to catch the sun. Almost instantaneously my REDARC BCDC 1240 kicked into gear (as this dc to dc charger also acts as a very advanced solar regulator) and 5amps of charge was being delivered to my auxiliary batteries. That is more than enough charge to run the 65L fridge/freezer, plus give me enough extra charge to run my LED camp lights of a night.
It just worked and was one less thing I had to worry about, I could just concentrate on catching barra, knowing that my camp setup was working perfectly. This really opened up my eyes to solar as I could be confident of going off the grid in remote places anywhere the sun was shining, knowing that my batteries would always be kept charged. It’s a great feeling when you’re completely self-sufficient out in the bush.
Some five years on, and I’m still a huge advocate for solar on your 4WD or camper trailer. In fact, I’m just about to install a fixed REDARC 150W solar panel on the roof rack on my Landcruiser. That will always be hooked up to my auxiliary battery, via my Redarc BCDC charger and not only will my 2 x auxiliary batteries be always charged, but my fridge will never need to be turned off, whether or not I drive the vehicle or leave it parked outside for a month or so.
While this does seem extremely obvious, solar panels work a whole lot better when they are aimed at the sun. Around camp you can move your panels to follow the sun throughout the day, maximising your charge. When you are parked up with a fixed mounted solar panel, say on the roof of your vehicle, this can be a lot harder. If you park your vehicle facing north and can tilt your panel at a 45-degree angle, this will be your best bet to capture the most amount of sun for the day.
Shaun has recently been using the 150W Solar blanket SunPower Cells, watch his review