Camping and overlanding are about getting back to nature and away from it all. But in today’s modern world, stepping entirely away from life’s everyday amenities can be a challenge, and your adventure can often be a lot more enjoyable if you have a reliable power source along with you. With the cost of solar falling and solar equipment becoming more accessible, more and more overlanders and campers are turning to off-grid systems to power their campsites and make their next adventure a little more modern. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about using solar power the next time you head out into the wilds.


What Are Your Options?

If you think that all solar power systems have to have huge, bulky panels, think again. While solar panels are obviously necessary for solar energy, the technology used to create these panels has come a long way, allowing manufacturers to not only create compact solar panels in various sizes, but ones that are flexible and foldable as well. This makes them much more transportable than they used to be, and opens up several options for bringing solar with you everywhere you go. There are 2 primary setups that people tend to rely on when camping, RVing, and overlanding:


  1. Mounted solar panels – This setup is a smaller version of the rooftop solar arrays you’ll see on residential homes. While this type of system is obviously easiest to use on an RV or other vehicle that has plenty of roof space for panels, you don’t have to feel restricted by the size of your vehicle. Transportable solar panels and inverters can be carried along and set up when you arrive at your destination, enabling you to create a fully functional off-grid solar system out in the wild.
  2. Solar power generators – Generators have been a common choice for overlanders and campers for a while. However, fuel-powered generators are bulky, noisy, and require you to bring a fuel source with you (typically either gasoline or propane). Solar generators, on the other hand, have a small, folding solar array attached to them instead. All you have to do is open up the array, and your generator can start creating power from the sunshine.


Both of these can be excellent options for any overlanding or camping adventure. Whichever you choose though, you should thoroughly research the pros and cons to ensure that you’re selecting the solar power source that best meets your needs.


Considering Nighttime Power

Obviously, the main hang-up with solar power is that it’s only available to you during the day. This means you need to provide some careful consideration for how you will power any devices at night. Some campers will opt to just go without electricity during the nighttime hours, while others will find a secondary power source. With off-grid solar power, battery storage is something you can consider, allowing you to store up solar energy during the day, then continue to use it at night.


If you’re using a solar generator, there are versions of these systems that have rechargeable batteries built into them. For example, SimpliPhi manufactures Big Genny and Little Genny emergency kits that have a portable, rechargeable generator that can store electricity from your portable solar panels. Available in various sizes, this battery can provide you with steady energy output to power lanterns, charge phones, and run any other electrical devices you might bring along with you.


If you’re using portable solar panels and an inverter, you will likely need to purchase a separate solar battery if you hope to store energy for use when the sun is down or obscured by cloudy weather.


The Right Size for Your System

As with permanent solar power systems for homes, sizing matters for portable solar systems for camping and overlanding as well. Of course, your power consumption while you’re out adventuring will be much lower than it would be in your home—you are trying to get back to nature after all. Typically, most people just need to be able to charge their phones, run some lights, and perhaps keep a refrigerator running to keep food cold. 


Make a list of all the electrical devices you’ll need to power with your solar generator or solar panels and inverter. Check their power requirements, and add up the amount of energy they require to help you determine how much power you need throughout the day. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to round up to a higher-powered system, helping to ensure that you don’t wind up losing power frequently on your trip.


Placing Your Solar Panels

The positioning of your solar panels (whether they’re attached to your vehicle or a solar generator) is incredibly important for maximizing power output. You want your panels to be position in direct sunlight and angled in a way to capture as many rays as possible. Often, this can be difficult on a camping or overlanding trip, as most people want to set up camp in a nice, shady spot. Just make sure that you have a sunny space close by where your solar panels can be positioned.


If you have portable panels that you set up on the ground, you may need to reposition them throughout the day to maximize their power output and avoid shading. If your panels are on the roof of an RV or overland vehicle, repositioning is a bit more difficult but you may still want to consider it if the panels are being heavily shaded later in the day. Opting for a slightly larger system will help with this, as it will be more likely to meet your needs without constant repositioning—which means more time relaxing and enjoying the experience, and less time moving your panels around. Be sure to opt for slightly longer cables to give yourself plenty of wiggle room with panel placement.


Design the Perfect Solar Power System for the Outdoors

Whether you’re a camper, overlander, or RVer, having a solar power system that you can bring with you can make your next adventure far more enjoyable. Contact us today to speak to a solar expert, who can help you to design the perfect solar power system to meet your needs. Whether you choose mounted panels and an inverter, or a solar generator with its own solar array, The PowerStore, Inc., will provide you with the guidance, advice, and equipment you need to harness the sun’s energy wherever your next adventure might take you.