New to solar and not sure how much is needed for camping?

New to solar and not sure how much is needed for camping?

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.

Mojave150 solar panel

 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:

1. which items do you need / want to power while off-grid?
2. for how long do you want to be able to power those?
3. how did our suggested solar panels meet your requirements?
Over time we were able to put together solid data to suggest solar sizing based on real life performance. The data is based on 2.000+ client feedback collected over 10 years (and counting). The result is visualized in the flow chart below. The flow chart helps to narrow the choices of solar panels. It is a suggestion only. Actual user consumption, time of year, location are some of the variables. It assumes proper battery capacity, all appliances working well and not defective, full day sun with optimal orientation of solar panel to the sun.
Important: every camper is individual and there is no "one size fits all" solution. We don't claim to be spot on. We aim to talk to campers new to solar helping them taking away possible fear of the unknown and to help making informed decisions. We hope, they find the chart below useful.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You may also like View all