Keeping auxiliary batteries charged using camping solar panels has been something camping enthusiasts have know about and done for years. Here at Outbax, using solar energy as a backup power source for camping is a well-discussed topic.
We have written why it is a good idea, why you as a camper should use solar panels and we have identified the ways you can create a safe, comfortable camping experience using portable solar panels as power sources.
But what most people would love to know is exactly how much solar power they will need for camping. In this post, we will break down everything that you need to know to get you started.
What solar panel wattage do I need for camping?
If you have been asking the question above, the truth is there is really no fast answer to it. This is because no two camping set-ups are exactly the same. Your camping needs are different from your next door neighbour's. Add the fact that there are so many different types of solar panels and solar panel accessories in the market, so it can be a little overwhelming to get started.
Find your amperage requirements
The first and most important thing you need to learn is that all electric devices – from refrigerators to phone chargers – are measured in Amps. Amps are the measure of how quickly electric current flows in the device. So, a bigger current equals more electricity.
How does this relate to you? You have to determine just how much of an electrical load you will need and the total amount of amps that those electric devices will draw from your auxiliary battery. You can easily find this information in the device’s user manual or their packaging.
Also, knowing the amperage will help you determine just how big an auxiliary battery you will need. Assuming of course, you do not have one yet. Rule of thumb: the bigger the current/amps, the bigger the battery.
Determine how long you will use the electric device(s)
You need to take note of how long you are going to use each electrical device over a period of 24 hours. This will give you the total daily amp hour requirements (Amp hours = Ah).
So, Amp hours is the total number of Amps drawn for the number of hours that you need to draw that electricity.
This means that the amount of solar power you need (or number of solar panels to get) is determined by the total number of charge that you have to return to your auxiliary batteries during daytime hours every day.
So again, what solar panel wattage do I need for camping?
The best way to answer this question is to compare different types of solar power by their wattage or power ratings. Wattage is the unit of power that measures how much electricity a solar panel can generate. Here is an example:
You need to replace 75 Amp hours (Ah) of charge back into your auxiliary battery to keep on running a 12 volt system (this could be a camping cooler, lights, whatever). Let’s say that you have a total of 6 hours of good sunlight every day that you are out camping. So by crunching the numbers, you need:
75 Amp hours X 12 volts = 900 Watt hours
900 Watt hours ÷ 6 Daylight hours = 150 Watts of solar panel magic.
The rule of thumb is to always go beyond your Amp requirements by 20% or so. So, the number you are looking for should be around 180 Watts. That’s the solar panel you need.
Is there something else that I need to complete my solar panel set up?
Every solar panel setup should be used with a solar regulator. Solar panel accessories like this helps you make sure that the electricity that is produced and transferred to your auxiliary batteries remain stable and safe.
You can easily get a solar regulator as well as other accessories through online retailers like Outbax. If you are looking for a more convenient and easier, plug and play approach, you can check out other types of solar panels – solar mats and blankets in particular – that already come with their own solar regulator. Keep in mind though that because these are more portable, they may not have as much power output as their bigger counterparts.
So, what is the best size solar panel for camping?
Again the answer depends on what type of camper you are, and what electric devices you plan to use for your trip. If you are a backpacker and just need something to keep your phone charged and power LED lights at night, mini solar panel kits and solar blankets would be sufficient.
These are very portable and solar blankets usually have an integrated bag and handle, for convenience. Keep in mind though that they may not have the capacity to power bigger electronic devices for longer periods of time.
On the other hand, if you enjoy bringing the comforts of home with you and do not mind setting up a solar panel system while you are at camp, the fixed or folding solar panels are better choices. These have higher wattage and can be used to power electric devices for a longer time.
Just because you are camping doesn't mean you have to forego being comfortable and safe in your campsite. And using solar panels to charge your auxiliary battery that powers up electric devices is by far the safest and most eco-friendly way to go camping.
While it is understandable to feel overwhelmed with all the available choices in the market, our team at Outbax will be happy to help you find the perfect solar panels for your next camping trip. Give us a call today and let us help you get your outdoor gear together.