Solar Charging Panel on Tent Trailer Roof?

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
#1
So what solar charging panels are available and practical for my tent trailer roof? I'm a pretty dumb monkey but I think the power of the sun could extend the life of my two tent trailer batteries if staying far from from the plug in sources. The Mrs and I are used to being far off the grid, but that was a long time ago. The girls now are much more tolerant and I think such adventures are in our future this summer and for many summers ahead. Thanks.
 

Jerry Daschofsky

Moderator
Staff member
#3
I'll check and see if my Stepmom still has our extra kit. We had one for a charger on our cabin batteries. I bought my Dad a bigger panel (higher draw batteries then you'd have on your tent trailer), and he had the old kit torn down and in garage. Was there last time I saw it.

But back on target (if it's gone), Camping world has them ready to go for your batteries (and mounting hardware). Easy install. Probably want to mount it on the roof near the seals (so you don't put a hole in your roof to do it, just plumb it into the trim piece on I'm presuming a hardtop popup).
 

Dan Nelson

Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum
#4
Brunton solar products aren't inexpensive, but they are durable and powerful -- many of my friends and colleagues have used them on climbing expeditions into the Himalaya, Karakoram and Andes. But these are compact, portable panels so you pay for that technology, too (I really like this one: http://store.bruntonoutdoor.com/portable-power/panels-and-chargers/solaris-reg-12/ --- it will power my laptop and a small lantern while I work).

I don't have any personal experience with panels for permanently mounting to an RV / camper, but my friend at Camping Life magazine says this is a popular RV/camper add-on product that has a good reputation for quality, durability and functionality:
http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/item/sunforce-rv-solar-charger-kits/31287
 

Jerry Daschofsky

Moderator
Staff member
#5
That's funny Dan. The one you pictured is similar to the one I bought for my Dad that we used on the Cabin. He had one of the cheaper ones in the link above before (think it was like a $200 one until I bought the one above, I paid about $500 for it a few years back).
 

bennysbuddy

the sultan of swing
#8
I've tried all these green methods to charge the batteries on my coleman evolution tent trailer. They will all work ,But I'm not into reinventing the wheel or makeing camping an ordeal . I found that a nice & quite honda 2000 watt generator is faster more convenent , still works after dark,and most important will power any damm thing the missus seems to think we need on a camping trip, it takes a lot of juice to recharge cell phones, laptops , hair driers ( it's important to have dry hair & a curling iron, just putting on a hat won't do )
 

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
#9
Buddy of Benny, I'm contemplating the honda generator option too. I know they are wicked quiet. Not sure how much fuel I'd need to carry along on the trip and I'd rather go greener than lose space to fuel containers. Eventually I'll make up my mind on which route to go. Maybe both will have their place in my family comfort camping future.

Thanks all. The advice is great.
 

Dan Nelson

Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum
#10
Mumbles,

Here is another bit of information that might be helpful as you go forward. Story on installing solar into an RV/camper/trailer from the may 2011 Camping Life magazine (full disclosure: I didn't write this but I am a frequent contributor to the magazine).
 

Jerry Daschofsky

Moderator
Staff member
#13
Hmmm, if you're using electricity, are you really camping? Nothing like roughing it with the ol' black-and-white TV!
Everyone has their definitions of camping. Unfortunately at one time I was married to a woman who thought our 30' self contained Prowler with central heatt and AC was "camping". Only way to get her near the outdoors. Thankfully she's gone. But had a buddy who thought using a tent wasn't camping. Sleep under the stars or a lean to tarp only. And no sleeping bags. Larry only slept in a bedroll (pretty much a couple of heavy wool blankets).
 

Dan Nelson

Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum
#14
Hmmm, if you're using electricity, are you really camping?
Come on, now. Electricity is just another form of fuel/power. Compared to kerosene, white gas or even propane, electric lanterns (powered by solar-charged batteries) would have a lot of advantages. And remember, Mumbles is talking about camping in a travel traveler. The use of what is in essence a small, self-contained HOUSE would be a more reasonable reason to suggest the activity isn't camping, rather than focus on a small source of electricity. :)

If we stick to a purist's definition, then to do some "real camping", you'll need to do more than reject electricity. You'll have to leave your car behind and start walking with only what fits on your back. And, I guess, leave those headlamps and flashlights behind -- that's electricity in them thar batteries after all! :rofl:
 

Mike

Active Member
#15
Instead of putting something on top where you may have directional problems make a solar briefcase. I saw something that the UN was using to power sat fones and stuff so copied it and made my own. Take 2 40 watt panels and hinge them together (giving you a total of 80 watts), put hanldles on them and wire them in parallel. That will keep the voltage the same but double the amperage. When you are camped someplace open it up, point it to the south and connect it to the batteries (you will need a charge regulator that you can get on Amazon for $25). I stole an image off of the web of a similar item that is produced for sale, but you can do it yourself.