Portable Solar Panels or Fixed Solar Panels? Why Not Both!

Are portable solar panels and solar powered camping setups really worth it, you ask? By reading this article, you can make up your own mind.

Remember the good old days of camping? When the sun would fall beyond the horizon, the Kookaburras would start laughing, the stew would start bubbling on the fire, and just as you’d take that first sip of cold beer, your neighbour would start up a great big angry generator!?

No one found that situation pleasant. Not the campers trying to enjoy a peaceful night, or the generator culprit, who knew the entire camp was cursing him, but desperately needed the power for a successful trip. These kinds of situations threaten the very reason we all go camping - to reset, recharge and enjoy nature at it’s peaceful best. The serenity underpins the real benefits of camping.

With today’s portable solar panels and solar camping options, that’s a thing of the past. The nightly generator at least. The setting sun, cold beer, fire cooked meal and sounds of nature can still enjoyed, but in peaceful, generator free bliss!

In this article, we explain why solar powered camping is so good, and how solar power and portable solar panels are integrated into a Trayon slide on camper set up.

Portable Solar Panels and Solar Powered Camping

Safe to say, there is no shortage of sunshine in Australia. Dorothea MacKellar coined those famous words in her 1908 poem “I love a sunburnt country”, and she wasn’t wrong! It is definitely sunburnt!

Here’s the fall out of our sunburnt lifestyle:

1 - The Australian sunscreen industry is smiling all the way to the bank; and

2 - We have a constant, reliable and renewable source of power!

While debates rage about the potential for a renewable base domestic power supply, there is nothing stopping you from utilising this power source while camping.

In fact, any modern camping set up which doesn’t make use of that reliable and renewable power source is behind the times, and missing out on revolutionary camping opportunities. Portable solar panels in particular have come leaps and bounds from when they were first developed.

Here is a few of the key advantage of going with a solar camping rig:

The 10 Key Advantages of Portable Solar Panels and Power

  1. You have a power source almost anywhere, even when fuel is not available.
  2. Fuel can be saved for getting in and out of your favourite places.
  3. There is one up front purchase price, followed by free power generation indefinitely.
  4. It’s easy to maintain by simply keeping panels and electronics clean and dust free.
  5. Battery technology has progressed, making for faster and more efficient recharge times
  6. There is no carbon footprint (and whether you’re worried about climate change or not, less fuel pollution entering natural environments is always a good thing!).
  7. There is no flammables involved so it is a safer option.
  8. It is a lighter option than a heavy generator and the extra fuel required.
  9. It is completely noiseless.
  10. It is easier to store and maneuver around camp.

Generators may still be required for intensive energy use in the remote outback, for example air conditioning or any appliance which requires electric heating like a hair dryer. However for the most part, they are defunct. Their use is now banned in many national parks, and they are frowned upon by many peace seeking campers. Plus, your car can provide that back up energy generation role if desperately required due to extended periods of thick cloud or shadows blocking sunlight.

How Much Solar Will Satisfy Your Camping Needs?

The last decade has revolutionised solar technology. These days, to power an average camping setup with a 12V fridge, some LED lights at night, and a few other 12V appliances (which don’t require electric heating), a good 120w solar panel with sufficient sun exposure can keep you going.

For intensive camping setups, a 200w 12V solar panel might be needed, or you can have a 120w solar panel plus one or two portable solar panels.

Use Australian Sun with Trayon Australian Made Campers

Here at Trayon we have incorporated a couple of different solar options into our slide on camping setups. They cater for different camping needs and budgets.

Each of our solar setups will perform differently depending on which type of battery setup you have installed, which we will explain in more detail shortly.

Type 1 Solar Configuration (Outhouse Mount)

The Type one solar configuration includes a 120w solar panel permanently mounted the back of the Trayon double Outhouse (on the back wall of the shell). When you extend the outhouse while camping, it brings the solar panel horizontal and ready to absorb sunlight.

To maximise exposure to sunlight, it’s best to point the back of camper to the north.

Why Do We Mount it like this and Not on the Roof?

We prototyped roof mounted solar setups a long time ago. In fact we prototyped it before other camper companies even existed!

We found that permanent roof mounted solar panels have too many flaws. Being mounted permanently on the roof exposes them to a large amount of damage, for example:

  • Branches, twigs, and leaves on overgrown tracks. While a Trayon’s unique finish is extremely scratch resistant, the surface of a solar panel is not. And when a solar panel gets scratched up, it’s charging efficiency can go way down.
  • They are a target for birds and bats 100% of the time, and bat droppings in particular can be very damaging for the solar panels finish.
  • Always exposed to dust and rain, or even worse, hail (and the out-of-reach location makes it very hard to clean!).

The nail in the coffin of the roof mounted prototype was the extra weight it added to the folding out process of a Trayon. We like to ensure the folding out process is as easy as possible, and a roof mounted solar panel just wasn’t practical.

Do Portable Solar Panels Provide the Solution?

To combat the swathe of roof mounted issues, many people turn to a setup based around portable solar panels. However this then exposes them to theft. Solar panels are often the easiest targets for thieves, and it is not uncommon to wake up and find they’ve been knocked off! Plus, you need long leads to allow you to move the portable solar panels around with the sun, and longer leads can mean less charge making it from the panel to the battery.

Here’s The Ultimate Solar Solution

To negate all of these issues, we came up with a completely unique design. The type 1 solar configuration, like many other traits of a Trayon, is simply a better way of doing things.

Our unique Outhouse mounted solar panel hugs the back of the Trayon when folded away for travel, and is permanently attached when folded out and in use, which means:

  1. It can’t be stolen.
  2. It’s out of harm's way when travelling on overgrown tracks.
  3. It’s no longer a moving target for birds and bats (they know exactly what they are doing!).
  4. If it gets covered in dust when travelling, it is easily accessed and can be wiped down in a flash!

Our wiring system also allows for more panels to be integrated into the system. So, if you need more power, you can add portable solar panels as well. You simply attach them via an anderson plug so they work in tandem to your solar on the Outhouse Double. When you leave camp, you drive the vehicle out from underneath the Trayon, pack-up your portable panel (to protect against theft) and the permanent solar setup keeps charging while you’re away on adventures! So you get the best of both worlds.

The Redarc battery management system you get with a Diesel Deluxe Trayon slide on camper manages everything. It multi tasks to maximise the charge you’re getting from the permanent outhouse mounted solar panel and any portable solar panels you have added.

Tip: If you have the Redarc battery management system fitted in your Trayon, and you want to use an aftermarket solar kit, you will need to remove any any regulator that comes with them because the Redarc IS a regulator itself.

Type 2 Solar Configuration

If configuration 1 doesn't suit you, we sell small compact solar kits to plug in by themselves (there is no permanent solar component). These are soft canvas portable solar panels which are the latest generation of portable solar camping technology.

You can can hang them from the annex as a solar charging windbreak, lay them out on the vehicle’s bonnet, or configure them in any other way to maximise sun exposure. When in storage, they are about the size of a small business briefcase, so they don’t take up much space at all. Just remember to avoid leaving them around camp when you’re not present.

And in worst case scenario, if there is no sun, just start your vehicle up and use it as a jenny for a little while on idle.

Battery Options

We have two different battery setups available to pair with your Trayon and it’s solar setup.

  1. The 120 Amp Hour AGM deep cycle standard battery, or
  2. The 100 Amp Hour Lithium LiFePO4 power system.

You can also have these doubled if you need extra storage capacity, to make a 240 Amp Hour AGM battery setup, or a 200 Amp Hour Lithium Ion battery setup which is just about the beez knees when it comes to the ultimate battery setup.

What's the Difference Between AGM and Lithium Ion Batteries?

Primarily, it is in the charging. A Lithium setup will revolutionize your camping experience by charging back up to the max extremely quickly. AGM systems simply can’t compete.

An AGM battery uses chemical reactions to charge, which causes a rise in temperature. If a battery gets too hot, it can cause damage. A Redarc battery management system will sense a rise in temperature, and manage it by regulating the charge. When the battery gets too hot after prolonged periods of charging, the Redarc will start slowing down charge, even when the battery isn’t fully charged (and even if there is still five Amps coming in through solar panels or some other source!). It quite literally spoon feeds the battery. If it didn’t, the battery could be permanently damaged.

Ambient temperature further affects an AGM battery when charging. On hot days, the battery temperature will rise more quickly, and the Redarc will be forced to slow down charge earlier.

In contrast, a Lithium battery doesn't heat up, because it is a dry cell system. The Redarc won’t slow down the charge, so the battery will be topped up far more quickly. It will always be able to accept the charge coming in from solar panels or other sources resulting in far quicker charging times.

And finally, Lithium batteries have a much longer lifespan, they are lighter, smaller, and they aren’t affected by any discharge sag. As an AGM discharges, it can slowly experience a lowering in voltage. If voltage drops too low, it won’t supply enough power for your 12V appliances, for example a 12 Volt fan or fridge.

The Lithium Ion Option

For these reasons, 2x100 Lithium battery packs is by far the best option. They will store enough power for anything you need when everyday camping, and will charge up incredibly quick compared to an AGM setup. The Lithium option is modern camping tech at it’s energized best.

Trayon actually teamed up with industry leaders REDARC Electronics and Revolution Power Australia to develop, prototype and field trial the lithium LiFePO4 power system. It delivers almost twice the usable power at one third the weight of an AGM battery.

REDARC BMS1230S2 lithium battery upgrade

You can check out this Lithium battery system in out list of Trayon accessories.

The Overall Best Solar Configuration/Battery option

Without a doubt, your best solar to battery configuration is Trayon’s type 1 solar on the Outhouse, plus the double Lithium battery setup.

For the best all round setup, add one or more portable solar panels, add you’ll never be worried about power shortages while camping ever again. Even in extended periods of cloud you won't have issues.

The type 2 solar and AGM battery setup is our budget option. While it will satisfy most needs, it is miles behind the revolutionary type 1 solar configuration and a lithium Ion battery system. In periods of no sun, you will probably need to supplement your power using the vehicle.

Solar Powered Conclusions

These solar options ensure a Trayon is ahead of the solar powered camping game.

Once again, our testing and development process has resulted in a completely unique and effective option to fit anyone’s camping needs.

To make your camping power as flexible as possible, check out our inverter options to feed that solar power into just about any appliance or device you need. The end result will be a quiet, lightweight and robust camping power system to run a perfect camping setup.

With our ‘turnkey’ service, we can integrate these solar options into a Ute/Trayon combo to make a full swing expedition vehicle! It’s not limited to slide on campers either. For a next level off road camping rig, check out Trayon’s new off road trailer.

A Trayon solar powered setup will provide you with a perfect home away from home in Australia’s most beautiful and remote locations.

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