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Portable Solar Panels for Family Trips, Sea and Land

solar panel on top of boat

Family vacation and trips in the outdoors, short or extended, are a great way to spend free time. Families who enjoy the green earth and fresh air spend weeks and months in the outdoors, some setting up home-base campsites in beautiful locations and taking single or multiple-day outings from there. During off-grid camping, especially for prolonged periods of time, the issue of electricity may come up. Families vary in their requirements for electricity, ranging from those who require no to little power to those who cannot live in the absence of the comforts of home. The list of possible electronic devices that families bring along during their camping trips is as varied as the campsites they choose. Just to mention a few – cell phones, tablets, small battery chargers, communication radios, flashlights, camping lanterns and other lighting systems, small TV’s, laptop computers, portable refrigeration and freezer units, electric heaters, hair dryers, water heaters, electric cooking devices, GPS, night vision systems, digital and other cameras, satellite phone, electronic games, electric pumps to inflate mattresses, rafts, and small floats, water filtration and purifier systems, desalinators for salt water, and many more.

There are limited methods to provide electricity during extended outdoor family trips, including generators that use liquid or gas fuel, motor vehicle and RV batteries, wind generators, and portable solar panel systems. Generators that burn fuel create annoying exhaust smoke and produce a lot of noise, neither of which are good for the environment and/or ones neighbors. They require a constant supply of fuel, so that must be available. They are heavy and require maintenance. When a lot of power is needed at a family campsite, fuel generators are sometimes the only solution. On the other hand, portable solar panel systems can provide variable amounts of power, are silent, exhaust and smoke-free, have few to no moving parts, and can be as lightweight as needed. They are totally dependent on the presence of sunshine, and in circumstances of poor weather, they are not very useful. Any solar power system can include a USB solar charger that provides power for popular USB-charged devices. As long as the end user brings their usual USB charging cables for their devices, they are good to go. In the morning when the sun comes up, one can lay the solar panel(s) in direct sunlight, connect it/them to the battery, and charge away. As long as the water-sensitive electronics are sheltered from potential rain and other sources of water, one can leave behind the portable solar panels deployed in sunshine all day. When the sun goes down at night, one can use the batteries that have been charging all day to power up ones’ electronic devices. The USB solar charger can provide power for music in the evening, LED lights, small battery chargers, cell phones, etc.

solar panel on rock wall

When families venture out on the ocean, one must prepare for the corrosive effects of salt water and salt water mist. Solar panels should be resistant to salt water, and ones’ electronic devices should be protected against the salt water and mist. This issue influences ones’ choices of solar power components and parts. Enclosing sensitive electronics in waterproof hard cases is an option. Aluminum-framed, tempered-glass, roof-type solar panels are superior in the salt water environment, but they are large and heavy, so sometimes are not an option. There are good choices in lightweight foldable solar panels that are usable in salt water environments. Portable solar panels may be positioned on the roofs of boats, the sides of tents, or on nearly any support structure that one can build. The electronics can be sheltered indoors, inside tents, or in protected locations on a boat.

When Powerenz is approached by a family or group who would like a portable solar panel system for an extended camping trip, we like to have a full understanding of the details of their trip, including the exact location in order to estimate conditions of sunshine, and a list of electronic devices and hours of use per day. What will the trip and daily activities look like?

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