Eight weeks on the road

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
No problem I want you to ask I need all the help I can get! It might be the floor of the back seat.
Ok, here's what you'll need:
Compressor fridge of choice
A flat surface to put the fridge (maybe the back seat folded down? or is it up?)
A battery box to fit your AGM
Various Connectors
Your Solar panel with charge controller

The trickiest part is designing the connections. We basically want
1. To be able to plug into a cigarette lighter socket that will keep the AGM battery topped off
2. Power the fridge from the Battery
3. Be able to switch to the solar panel setup and off the cigarette lighter.

Technical mumbo jumbo:
To keep costs low, we need to be able to use the same charge controller for both the solar setup and the car setup. The solar charge controllers are step down, they cannot function if voltage is below the voltage of the battery (most of them anyways). Strangely uncommon in production, I've only found the goal zero charger that has a 12v step up converter that they use to charge their yeti's from the vehicle. What we want to do is step up the vehicles voltage to the point where the solar charge controller sees enough voltage to begin the charging cycle.



Then it is just the matter of unplugging the solar charge controller from the vehicle charging setup and switching to the solar panel. Your fridge should see no difference as it will be on the AGM battery the whole time.

I'll take some pics of my test setup.
 

Susan Premo

Super Active Member
Nov 5, 2020
1,130
Minnesota
Ok, here's what you'll need:
Compressor fridge of choice
A flat surface to put the fridge (maybe the back seat folded down? or is it up?)
A battery box to fit your AGM
Various Connectors
Your Solar panel with charge controller

The trickiest part is designing the connections. We basically want
1. To be able to plug into a cigarette lighter socket that will keep the AGM battery topped off
2. Power the fridge from the Battery
3. Be able to switch to the solar panel setup and off the cigarette lighter.

Technical mumbo jumbo:
To keep costs low, we need to be able to use the same charge controller for both the solar setup and the car setup. The solar charge controllers are step down, they cannot function if voltage is below the voltage of the battery (most of them anyways). Strangely uncommon in production, I've only found the goal zero charger that has a 12v step up converter that they use to charge their yeti's from the vehicle. What we want to do is step up the vehicles voltage to the point where the solar charge controller sees enough voltage to begin the charging cycle.



Then it is just the matter of unplugging the solar charge controller from the vehicle charging setup and switching to the solar panel. Your fridge should see no difference as it will be on the AGM battery the whole time.

I'll take some pics of my test setup.
The Renogy 100 watt solar panel, AGM battery, 12 volt. Includes charge controller. That's the package I'm looking at, does that sound good?
Thank you!!! It's so nice to have such great help. 👍
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
The Renogy 100 watt solar panel, AGM battery, 12 volt. Includes charge controller. That's the package I'm looking at, does that sound good?
Thank you!!! It's so nice to have such great help. 👍
Yes. You will need some fittings and stuff to make this easier. Just get a battery box to fit the AGM battery. (just so nothing shorts out!)

Are you getting the folding panel or the fixed panel? (it doesnt make a difference but it does make a convenience difference.. )
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
Actually, if your getting the "charge controller included", it should not be connected to the back of the panel. If it is, it limits your mobility. It isn't a deal killer though.

BTW, if your buying off amazon, I suggest you put the renogy in your cart, and "save for later". My 120W setup is currently listed at 300(down 20 dollars from last week) but I only paid 150 for it. The price is always changing.

I'll take a demo using a renogy wanderer charge controller, so you can see what im doing with it. You can always wait on the solar until later. I've taken many 2-3 day trips and never bothered to deploy the solar, because it wasnt needed.
 
Last edited:

Susan Premo

Super Active Member
Nov 5, 2020
1,130
Minnesota
Actually, if your getting the "charge controller included", it should not be connected to the back of the panel. If it is, it limits your mobility. It isn't a deal killer though.

BTW, if your buying off amazon, I suggest you put the renogy in your cart, and "save for later". My 120W setup is currently listed at 300(down 20 dollars from last week) but I only paid 150 for it. The price is always changing.

I'll take a demo using a renogy wanderer charge controller, so you can see what im doing with it. You can always wait on the solar until later. I've taken many 2-3 day trips and never bothered to deploy the solar, because it wasnt needed.
I was going through Renogy their site . I don't know if it's connected, I'll check it out. I'm curious about the Inverter, how come I won't need one, what does an Inverter do?
I wrote down the battery box.
I was just looking at my notes, I have written down: renogy 100 watt 12 volt solar starter kit w/wanderer 30 Amp charge controller.
It's funny every time I write to you, I keep checking to see if you wrote back.
We camp in national forests, no electricity, we're usually up there for at least 2 months, if i had my way we'd be there for 3 or 4. I feel like we're living in the forest! I absolutely love it.
Thanks so much!
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
I was going through Renogy their site . I don't know if it's connected, I'll check it out. I'm curious about the Inverter, how come I won't need one, what does an Inverter do?
I wrote down the battery box.
I was just looking at my notes, I have written down: renogy 100 watt 12 volt solar starter kit w/wanderer 30 Amp charge controller.
It's funny every time I write to you, I keep checking to see if you wrote back.
We camp in national forests, no electricity, we're usually up there for at least 2 months, if i had my way we'd be there for 3 or 4. I feel like we're living in the forest! I absolutely love it.
Thanks so much!
An Inverter (as generally used for these conversations) is a device which takes power from a direct current power source (DC) like your battery, and converts it to Alternating current (AC) which is like your household outlet. They come in a variety of sizes, designs, and quality.

You would need one if: You need to run a microwave/hair dryer/induction cooktop/etc, or if you have particular electronics that cannot run direct from a DC power source. However if your running those larger items you'd need not only a large Inverter, but a bank of batteries.

BTW, do you have a battery on your A-liner as well? How do you charge it if your out in the woods for 2 months?
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
In general, when running these fridges will draw anywhere from 40-65W. How long they spend running is a question of how cold you have it set, and the ambient temperature in the truck. Assuming it has to run 20 min every hour (it can be much less or it can be more) it will consume 300-400W in a 24 hour period. If you have good sun you should be able to put that back in after a decent day. a 100AH battery will give you a worse case scenario of 800w (80% discharge) of power, which is around 2-3 days without sun. If it gets that bad, you can just take a nice drive to walmart and back (each hour of driving adds about 100W back in). It is the limit of the wiring for cigarette lighters.
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
I am personally running a combined 150AH. I've had somewhat lackluster output from solar (cloud, shade, tree, etc). Trying to throw a microwave in the mix of things!
 

Susan Premo

Super Active Member
Nov 5, 2020
1,130
Minnesota
An Inverter (as generally used for these conversations) is a device which takes power from a direct current power source (DC) like your battery, and converts it to Alternating current (AC) which is like your household outlet. They come in a variety of sizes, designs, and quality.

You would need one if: You need to run a microwave/hair dryer/induction cooktop/etc, or if you have particular electronics that cannot run direct from a DC power source. However if your running those larger items you'd need not only a large Inverter, but a bank of batteries.

BTW, do you have a battery on your A-liner as well? How do you charge it if your out in the woods for 2 months?
We got lucky last year, the camp host became a friend, he'd come over and use his generator for us, but I really wouldn't want to have to rely on that and don't want a generator. Thanks for the information. Yes we have a new battery, we only use it sparingly, for lights.
Great info, and great help!
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
I am going to suggest that you consider getting two panels (one for the aliner and one for your truck). The 200w folding panels start getting quite large (3ft by 25") and become a bit more burdensome. The thinner (tri and quad folding) are easier to handle, but dont have the heft or the durability of those single fold aluminum frame ones (my opinion only!)

the reason for getting two panels is that even being used sparingly you ended up needing to charge your system- lead acid and agm prefer to be at the top end of their charge. You can also consider getting a panel permanently installed on the aliner. Those can be had considerably cheaper and you wouldnt need to worry about ever "deploying" it. Just a thought!

The connectors it comes with are MC4's- their almost universal for solar panels. They work, and they make a water tight seal. I disconnect quite often so I like anderson (its large enough I can actually kinda grab by making a fist rather than relying on a pinch). There are so many types of connectors; solar loves mc4's, military loves another, andersons are preferred for other applications. Many people also love the XT60's and XT90's.
 
Last edited:

Susan Premo

Super Active Member
Nov 5, 2020
1,130
Minnesota
I am going to suggest that you consider getting two panels (one for the aliner and one for your truck). The 200w folding panels start getting quite large (3ft by 25") and become a bit more burdensome. The thinner (tri and quad folding) are easier to handle, but dont have the heft or the durability of those single fold aluminum frame ones (my opinion only!)

the reason for getting two panels is that even being used sparingly you ended up needing to charge your system- lead acid and agm prefer to be at the top end of their charge. You can also consider getting a panel permanently installed on the aliner. Those can be had considerably cheaper and you wouldnt need to worry about ever "deploying" it. Just a thought!

The connectors it comes with are MC4's- their almost universal for solar panels. They work, and they make a water tight seal. I disconnect quite often so I like anderson (its large enough I can actually kinda grab by making a fist rather than relying on a pinch). There are so many types of connectors; solar loves mc4's, military loves another, andersons are preferred for other applications. Many people also love the XT60's and XT90's.
So if I buy 2 panels w/ aluminum frames I really wouldn't know where I'd store them, my husband has a bad right hand so not as handy as he use to be, and we store our aliner about 300 mi. From home. Maybe I'll have to go with folding. And the come with the connectors ? What is the Anderson thing? Sorry it's Greek to me. I start to understand it, then I don't. But with all your help I'm sure I'll get there.
Just thinking I guess we could stow them away in the camp kitchen, or we wete thinking of bringing our little 4 man tent to use like a garage! Whichever you think is best, I trust your abilities. Thanks.
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
Good morning! I actually wanted to give you another option, though there are some limitations depending on sun conditions.

I found this:

BLUETTI Solar Generator EB3A with PV120 Solar Panel Included, 268Wh Portable Power Station w/ 2 600W (1200W Surge) AC Outlets, LiFePO4 Battery Backup for Outdoor Camping, Trip, Power Outage​

The Good: Bluetti is a decent name in these portable power stations. The package comes with a 120W folding panel, and the cells are configured in a way that can still provide decent power even when partially shaded (not all of them do that). Its based on a safer and longer lasting lithium technology- LFP. It also provides charging for all your electronics without additional adapters. In a pinch it can even run some AC devices. (600W, but 1200W surge).
In a pinch, you can charge from 0-80% from an outlet in about an hour. It has a better solar charger built in (MPPT vs PWM), which makes more efficient use of the Solar energy available. The LFP has a better columbic efficiency (it is more efficient at storing the power that it is given).

The bad: Its 599 (but right now has a 140 off coupon). That means it comes out to 460. The other issue is capacity- this is equivalent to about 20AH. However, you can freely use all of it without a major impact on battery longevity. (2000+ recharges). When compared to a regular deep cycle battery they recommend using no more than 50% capacity. For AGM, if you discharge at 80% Optima says they are rated for 680 cycles. (more at 50% discharge, but not significantly more). The other part is that AGM or deep cycle, they like to be topped off quite often- and that is a difficult feat as the last 5-10% requires a long time to reach.

When I was doing the math, This may still be a better deal. A decent branded AGM deep cycle group 27 is over 200. It will 50lbs. You still need connectors (50-60), a battery box (20) folding solar panel (200) a MPPT charge controller (50-100, not the cheaper one I had recommended before) .

I would love to recommend one with 500-600W of storage, but that increases the cost significantly to 699. This package without the weight of the solar is around 10 lbs.

to charge from the vehicle you just need the vehicle adapter (goes into the solar port). Thats not included.

Annoyances: Many settings can only be done by the app. Thats a bit annoying.

You certainly don't have to jump on this deal- there will be others I am sure. If your close to like a public shower/bathroom a lot of them also have outlets. Fast charging options give you the ability to bring the battery with you (in case of a ridiculously long period without sun ) and do a quick top up. Not all makes and models have that feature.
 

Susan Premo

Super Active Member
Nov 5, 2020
1,130
Minnesota
Good morning! I actually wanted to give you another option, though there are some limitations depending on sun conditions.

I found this:

BLUETTI Solar Generator EB3A with PV120 Solar Panel Included, 268Wh Portable Power Station w/ 2 600W (1200W Surge) AC Outlets, LiFePO4 Battery Backup for Outdoor Camping, Trip, Power Outage​

The Good: Bluetti is a decent name in these portable power stations. The package comes with a 120W folding panel, and the cells are configured in a way that can still provide decent power even when partially shaded (not all of them do that). Its based on a safer and longer lasting lithium technology- LFP. It also provides charging for all your electronics without additional adapters. In a pinch it can even run some AC devices. (600W, but 1200W surge).
In a pinch, you can charge from 0-80% from an outlet in about an hour. It has a better solar charger built in (MPPT vs PWM), which makes more efficient use of the Solar energy available. The LFP has a better columbic efficiency (it is more efficient at storing the power that it is given).

The bad: Its 599 (but right now has a 140 off coupon). That means it comes out to 460. The other issue is capacity- this is equivalent to about 20AH. However, you can freely use all of it without a major impact on battery longevity. (2000+ recharges). When compared to a regular deep cycle battery they recommend using no more than 50% capacity. For AGM, if you discharge at 80% Optima says they are rated for 680 cycles. (more at 50% discharge, but not significantly more). The other part is that AGM or deep cycle, they like to be topped off quite often- and that is a difficult feat as the last 5-10% requires a long time to reach.

When I was doing the math, This may still be a better deal. A decent branded AGM deep cycle group 27 is over 200. It will 50lbs. You still need connectors (50-60), a battery box (20) folding solar panel (200) a MPPT charge controller (50-100, not the cheaper one I had recommended before) .

I would love to recommend one with 500-600W of storage, but that increases the cost significantly to 699. This package without the weight of the solar is around 10 lbs.

to charge from the vehicle you just need the vehicle adapter (goes into the solar port). Thats not included.

Annoyances: Many settings can only be done by the app. Thats a bit annoying.

You certainly don't have to jump on this deal- there will be others I am sure. If your close to like a public shower/bathroom a lot of them also have outlets. Fast charging options give you the ability to bring the battery with you (in case of a ridiculously long period without sun ) and do a quick top up. Not all makes and models have that feature.
Well I thought you dropped off the face of the earth, glad you're back! We don't camp anywhere that has electricity. We go to national park campgrounds. I like the sounds of both the options you've given me, I just have to be able to understand them!
 

Patrick w

Super Active Member
Aug 13, 2021
763
I hope I didn't come out sounding ungrateful, I am very grateful, I appreciate your help more than you can know.
No no.. I wasn't ignoring you, I just want to make sure the options you have are easy and within your price range. I want you to have something reliable and able to get at least a good 5-7 years without any serious issues.

As much as I day dream about "being out there" the reality is that I spend less than 20 days a year- nothing like the duration you spend.

What I can't figure out is how you kept your food cold previously. I'm assuming a 3 way with propane.

Here is the issue; you want to size the solar larger than your needs; and depending on your conditions, you might need larger or smaller. I tend to think of 100w more of a maintenance charge. You need to figure out the contingencies if you run out of energy that means a larger battery.


How is your camper battery btw? Good shape?
 

Susan Premo

Super Active Member
Nov 5, 2020
1,130
Minnesota
No no.. I wasn't ignoring you, I just want to make sure the options you have are easy and within your price range. I want you to have something reliable and able to get at least a good 5-7 years without any serious issues.

As much as I day dream about "being out there" the reality is that I spend less than 20 days a year- nothing like the duration you spend.

What I can't figure out is how you kept your food cold previously. I'm assuming a 3 way with propane.

Here is the issue; you want to size the solar larger than your needs; and depending on your conditions, you might need larger or smaller. I tend to think of 100w more of a maintenance charge. You need to figure out the contingencies if you run out of energy that means a larger battery.


How is your camper battery btw? Good shape?
Yes, the battery is hanging out with another battery that belongs to our friend, he's maintaining them both. He and his wife live in Chisholm, Minnesota, nearer the area where we camp, boundary waters area.
I kept the food in the 3 way fridge, but couldn't maintain the battery. I really don't want a generator so I figured I'd give solar a try with asking nice people like you and a woman on a camp site for aliners, she suggested the apicool to me and then you took over for me. Otherwise last fall I made a homemade yeti cooler version. I place pipe insulation in the bottom of our cooler, then all around the sides, put the meats and dairy in separate tall narrow containers and surrounded them with these big gel packs that stay frozen for about 3-4days. They stayed longer than that because it was chilly out. In late summer I'd add ice all around, the containers have covers, their food grade too! So, that's why I really would like 2 100 watt renogy solar panels, with the 2 batteries that you suggested, I think having them be able to move them is the best because we do stay sometimes in sort of shady sites.
I need all of the help your willing to give, I'm glad for it very much. I hope that it's OK to pick your brain and you ok helping me out. You seem to be fine with it.
So if I go with the set up I mentioned do you think it sounds good? The lady I was talking with said it's basically their set up.
 




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