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How to choose the right solar panel for free camping

How to choose the right solar panel for free camping

It’s no secret that adding solar to your campsite proves to be one of the easiest and efficient ways to get that extra bit of power back into your batteries so you can keep on drinking those cold beers and stay that extra night at your favourite remote destination.

But if you’re new to this concept or are only just starting to consider it, choosing the right solar solution can be confusing and even overwhelming. After all, solar technology has come such a long way that there are hundreds of brands out there in various options, sizes and prices.

So we have taken out some of the guesswork for you by creating a quiz to help you find out which solar solution is best based on your travelling lifestyle.

 

1. How many times do you travel a year?

a) Only a few times, mostly on long weekends.

b) We make it an effort to get away a month or two at a time.

c) We are frequent travellers. You could say we are ‘grey nomads’.

 

2. How important is it for you to invest in recreational accessories long-term?

a) Not very important, we don’t see the benefit in buying expensive accessories that we would only use a handful of times. 

b) Somewhat important, as we would like to be able to travel more frequently and for extended periods. 

c) Very important, we need to ensure we can rely on our equipment when we are remote. 

 

3. What kind of travel do you like?

a) Powered sites. We like to ensure we have somewhere that has power so we can still power our gadgets if we need to. Our needs don’t require for us to have our own dual battery set-up.

b) Remote travel. We have a reliable dual battery set-up, so we like to make the most of that when we can and get away from the hustle and bustle of powered sites.

c) A little bit of both. We like to travel to remote places but then like to get back to the familiarity of powered sites and giving the batteries a chance to recharge up again.

 

4. How much does convenience play a part when setting up camp?

a) I don’t mind having to adjust/move things around my camp-site to get things working to their optimal levels.

b) I don’t mind moving things around if I have to as long as I don’t have to do it too often.

c) Once I’m set-up, I just want to sit back and relax.

 

5. How much would performance play a part when purchasing a solar panel?

a) Performance is important but we also don’t want to break the bank. Something that is middle of the road will suit our needs.

b) We like to get the best that we can afford, quality is important to us. We like something that will be able to perform all year round no matter the weather conditions.

c) We know that a lot depends on the position of the van, the angle and the weather conditions, so we’re realistic with our expectations when it comes to harnessing the power of the sun.

 

6. How much does the total weight of your vehicle and/or caravan factor in your travel plans?

a) Not very much. We’re not too concerned about overloading our van or vehicle as we only bring the essentials. 

b)  A lot. Anywhere we can save on weight and size goes a long way. 

c) Solar is important to us so we want to factor this as part of our caravan/vehicle set-up.

 

The results

If you answered mostly A’s…….

Portable folding panels are a great option if you are on a budget and are only looking to travel a few times in the year. Although they are heavy and bulky, that won’t pose too much of an issue as an infrequent traveller and if you’re just taking the essentials with you. In addition, they are easy to set-up and angle in order to follow the sun, thanks to the adjustable legs. When the sun’s not coming out to play, you can still easily move the panel from one side of your camp to the other to make the most of any patches of sunlight coming through.

 

Our portable folding solar panels in 120 and 160-watt ratings, can be easily moved to capture the best energy from the sun.

If you answered mostly B’s……

If you are a frequent traveller and space and weight is an important factor for you, then solar blankets are the way to go. Yes, they may be on the more expensive side, but that’s what you get when buying quality and convenience. You are also investing in a product that will likely last you a lifetime.

Look for a brand that does specialise in SunPower Monocrystalline or Amorphous cells as they tend to be higher in quality, are lighter and more compact than the alternatives and provide the best performance in all conditions.

In addition, they are really easy to set-up and even easier to pack-up and store away. Drape it on the bonnet of your car, or hang it off the side of the awning to start soaking up those rays. Then when it’s time to go, fold it away and it will fit nicely underneath your car seat – it is that simple.

Whether you go for portable solar panels or the solar blankets, you really can’t go wrong with either as they have very similar benefits in use, being highly portable and harnessing the best output. It all really knuckles down to your travelling lifestyle, budget and frequency of use.

Our range of solar blankets packs a punch in a small, lightweight package.

If you answered mostly C’s……

You’re likely a grey nomad or full-time traveller. How lucky are you? If that’s the case, then fixed panels will make your day. For cost effectiveness, simplicity and being able to sit back and relax once you get to your campsite, fixed panels are a great option. Being fixed, you don’t have to worry about any adjusting or setting up. This is great if you have an injury or are otherwise incapacitated to lifting heavy items like you would need to do with portable solar panels.

However, you do compromise on convenience and flexibility. In order to get the best results, you have to park the van in full sunlight – and who wants to do that when it’s 30+ degrees? In addition, the panel works best when the sun is directly overhead so you don’t take advantage of as many sun hours.

Our advice is to pair your fixed panels with a battery management system that uses solar, so that way you are getting charge into your batteries as you drive to your next destination.

Our fixed solar panels feature double channel aluminium frame and tempered glass coating, so when the going gets tough you'll be all set to handle whatever 'straya throws at you

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s of the best quality you can get in your budget, as the last thing you need are for the beers to go warm or worse still, stranded in the middle of nowhere. Now that you know which solar solution is right for you, why not try our solar calculator to determine the right wattage for your power needs?

 

 

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