Solar is one of the cheapest and cleanest ways to charge a caravan’s battery or batteries. After the initial outlay, a solar panel won’t burden your wallet any further, provided, of course, you buy the right size and type for your needs from the outset.
For Kakadu, we chose Camec’s latest-generation monocrystalline 120W Folding Solar Panel. Weighing 12kg, it didn’t impose an unreasonable weight penalty on our rig, and its dimensions of 1094x820x35mm meant it fitted nicely in the storage space beneath the van’s mattress. It also came with a carry bag to protect the panel from damage.
Why opt for a portable panel over the fixed array? There are good reasons to choose either, but touring the Top End at the height of the Dry all but guaranteed we’d be racing for the shade at each campground. The 5m lead of Camec’s 120W panel allowed us to park the van in the shade and position the panel directly facing the sun.
Solar technology has progressed significantly over the years, resulting in numerous varieties of panels, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous. Monocrystalline panels remain one of the most efficient ways of divining power from the sun.
Solar panels typically deliver more power than a battery can accept, hence the importance of a regulator to control the charge. All of Camec’s 12V solar panels come fitted with a 10A regulator – no need to do anything, just unfold the panel, fix the alligator clips at the end of the 5m lead to the relevant battery terminal (positive/negative) and let the sun do the rest. Sure, you’ll need to reposition the panel as the earth moves around the sun, but that’s easy enough.
An especially handy feature of the Camec setup is that the lead has an inline Anderson plug, so if your van is so equipped there’s no need to clip it directly to the battery. Unfortunately, since my van didn’t have one, and with the battery being located beneath the dinette, I had no choice but to haul it out each time I wanted to charge it using the solar panel. The benefits of the Anderson system, therefore, are clear.
Solar panels are rated by their wattage – in good sun, our 120W panel delivered that amount per hour. However, Camec sells a separate cable kit that comes with a splitter that allows you to link two folding panels together for greater output. Higher outputs may require a 30A regulator which can also be purchased from Camec. For our power needs, however, one 120W panel was sufficient.
If you’re in the market for a portable solar panel, this is an excellent product – it did everything promised ‘on the box’ and the frame upon which the panels are mounted is good and sturdy. Aside from power, it gave us peace of mind. And when you’re in the bush, that counts for everything.
Camec 120W Folding Solar Panel
RATING: 4.5 / 5
More info: www.camec.com.au