Every time you are planning to go off-grid camping (no power available), you are facing the challenge to keep the lights on, the laptop charged, the food fresh and the drinks cold to name a few. You need to plan ahead and there are different strategies you can choose from, of which solar power is an option.
In Southern Africa we are blessed with high quality sunshine for most of the year, so its no surprise solar power is the choice for many campers and overlanders to keep their appliances running while off-grid camping.
If you are starting out with camping or don't have solar yet, one of the first questions is "how much solar do I need?".
To get an answer for that, the user or the sales person embarks on the obvious path by listing every item multiplying its Watts by hours run time per day. Adding all items up and voilà, I get a pretty good idea how much solar is required.
Makes sense, right?
In our 15 years experience of talking to campers, the above method gets it more often wrong than right. Resulting in either too much power than needed (over-capitalized) or the opposite, hopelessly underpowered.
Some of the contributing factors are being too cavalier about small load such as LED lights or not knowing the true consumption of the DC fridge. In our view though, the biggest handicap of above tally method is it does not recognize real life performance. Factors including ambient temperatures, orientation of solar panels to the sun, partial shading of solar panel, overcast, how many times the DC fridge is opened and left open (my kids are world champions in that), age of battery, faulty equipment are not included.
We follow a slightly different path by compiling real life feedback to three questions below: