Anyone who’s spent more than a bit of time off-grid knows that to live comfortably you need power, and a great way to get endless power while living and working remotely is through solar. There’s something about being in the middle of nowhere, putting the 12v solar panels out and being powered purely by the sun. We caught up with travel photographer, Dan Kiritsis to find out how portable solar panels allow him to work off-grid.
Being setup to live totally off-grid is a satisfying feeling. But having all of that power means nothing if you don’t have the ability to recharge and maintain it, especially when you're traveling to remote destinations and want to be setup and work for a few days at a time.
Where to start with solar?
Choosing a 4x4 solar panel setup for your 4WD can be more than confusing with the multiple options and varieties out there. The three most common solar options are fixed panels, portable panels or a portable blanket type option. All have their pros and cons of course.
In my setup, in a Volkswagen Amarok, I opted for a REDARC 150w portable folding solar blanket. To me, this is easily the most versatile option out there and perfect for powering all my gear. One of the biggest pros of this type of setup is that you don’t have to always be parked up in the sun like you would with a fixed panel mounted on the roof of your 4x4.
The benefits of a blanket
When you’re out camping you don’t always want to be parked up in the sun 24/7, especially during the warmer months when you’re trying to work outdoors. The beauty of adding a portable solar blanket to my setup means I can park my car and setup camp anywhere, without even thinking of sunlight and directions etc. I paired the solar blanket up with a 10-20 metre Anderson cable, which means I can set up camp in the shade and run the panel away in the sun and absorb optimal sunlight throughout the entire day, keeping my battery topped up!
If you’ve done any research around 12v solar panels for your 4WD or camping rig, you’d be aware that you can’t just connect a solar panel directly to your auxiliary battery, you need a solar panel regulator. A solar regulator controls the current flowing from the solar panel into the battery to avoid overcharging the batteries.
Keeping batteries charged and work powered
In my case, I opted for a REDARC BCDC1240D DC to DC battery charger. This smart charger is connected via my 150amp hour AGM battery and not only does this have a built in MPPT solar regulator, allowing me to connect my solar panel to it, but it also connects my starter battery to the auxiliary battery to keep it charged whilst on the move. Another beauty of the BCDC is that being a 40amp charger, it’s so quick to recharge the battery whilst driving.
I’ve been setup for 5 days straight charging cameras, drones, phones, and laptops daily along with the usual 12v gear including my fridge and camp lights and have been able to maintain optimal battery charge the entire time. In past setups I’ve been caught out having to turn the car on and run it for long periods of time throughout the days and or nights just to keep the fridge running. This means that not only am I able to stay off grid but I always have plenty of power to keep my work setup running.
I’ve been running this setup for a while now and not once have I been caught out with a drained battery. If you’re thinking about a similar setup for your 4x4, I couldn’t recommend this enough.