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489 posts

Ultimate Geek

#272270 17-Jun-2020 12:06
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I am looking for a portable prefer folding solar panel to take camping.

I want to buy within NZ not overseas.
I have seen some folding one's at Jaycar.
Not sure how good they are ?
Want it to power a small camping fridge and a coffee machine.
Not sure of output of either but I think low.
And to charge a couple of devices.


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168 posts

Master Geek


  #2506519 17-Jun-2020 12:58
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I'm not sure you understand the realities of Solar?
It's great for 'trickle charging'
But you need a 'huge array' to run high draw items like a coffee machine (you are effectively running a heater to heat water.) - plus you want to run a fridge! (Oh & charge devices too...)

You probably would need a full sized 4 panel 'array' to do what you ask - without having battery storage - so say about $6000 worth of Solar gear & enough space to 'set it up at just the right angle to catch the sun.....

....but what about at night when the sun is not shining (for the fridge) - you can probably use a 1500va UPS & 2-4 Additional runtime battery's - to keep the fridge running over night & charging your devices.
(There goes another $5000 & 30kg in weight)

In short - I don't think what you are asking is feasible.

You would be better off getting a small 2000w generator = $2000-$3000.
Or leave the fridge & coffee machine at home.......

& get a couple of 20,000mAh Powerbanks to charge your devices 3-4 times each.

359 posts

Ultimate Geek

Lifetime subscriber

  #2506608 17-Jun-2020 13:47
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You need to know the load and voltage.  To determine the scale of the system that you need. 


I take it the cooler fridge can be 12/24 volt? The coffee machine? other devices?


Fridge/cooler generally need efficient compressor type, rather than thermo/condensing.


There are caravan/motor home/boat panel kits, probably 200w plus panels, charge controller, batteries, inverter to convert from the storage voltage 12/24volt to load. Will need some decent deep cycle batteries.


I only have a small shed setup to charge batteries, ebike, electric lawnmower, power lights and radio.  Would like a small fridge, but they seem a bit expensive for me.  





1 post

Wannabe Geek

  #2506693 17-Jun-2020 14:43
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This came through my inbox the other day .. it might suit?





1634 posts

Uber Geek


  #2506695 17-Jun-2020 14:50
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I bought one of these from this same seller.


Its alright. I get about 100W input into my Goal Zero battery (ie "solar generator") so about 50% loss.


I also have a 220W fixed panel on my office which gets me about 140W on a sunny day. So a bit more efficient.


As others have mentioned you still need something to store the energy and then output it to 12v or 220v electricity etc.


As per my office comment above, its "off grid" but I have power via the fixed panel and two Goal Zero batteries. The more expensive battery was $1200 and doesnt have a max surge load that would handle a kettle. It would probably handle a small fridge though. I use it to power my laptop, monitor, modem etc.







1634 posts

Uber Geek


  #2506699 17-Jun-2020 14:53
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This came through my inbox the other day .. it might suit?







Yep one of those would do nicely dont be fooled into getting a lead acid battery unit as You'll only get about 50% of the rated watt hours with lead acid. With lithium you can run it down much further than that (not that you should).


So that unit has a peak power of 1000W - this is to handle a surge of power for device start up (like a fridge).


The continous watts is 500W so you probably wont be boiling a kettle of having nespresso. My nespresso at least has a fast heat up which is too much of a surge.


Edit: It may pay to do some reading on that unit this website suggests the max input from solar is 30W which is terrible


Edit: Did some more reading on that unit and solar input is limited to 30W, which probably suggest that it doesnt have a solar charge controller or it has a really bad one. The problem with this is that say you are pulling 50W to charge all of your devices and run your fridge you are running a deficit and the battery will run out before its charged again. Goal Zero on the other hand have better charge controllers. As mentioned I get up to 140W on a sunny day while my setup draws around 60-70W which means the battery is in surplus or charging (unless its raining).

4684 posts

Uber Geek

  #2506716 17-Jun-2020 14:56
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beenz: Hi
I am looking for a portable prefer folding solar panel to take camping.

Want it to power a small camping fridge and a coffee machine.
Not sure of output of either but I think low.
And to charge a couple of devices.



More than you think,


this 35l camp fridge runs 1.4kwh/24h  that's a big battery to start with, let along panels to charge it,


A coffee machine that boils water is gonna kill you for its peak load... ( resistance heating is hard work)


Any array you have to power this lot, wont be folding or very portable....


Your best bet is to run the fridge on gas, and run a 12V immersion heater from a car outlet to heat a cup for instant coffee.... :) sorry....

489 posts

Ultimate Geek

  #2506734 17-Jun-2020 15:23
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How does this unit compare to the one on TM above


1634 posts

Uber Geek


  #2506758 17-Jun-2020 15:34
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beenz: How does this unit compare to the one on TM above


Its fine. It includes a charge controller but you may not need it depending on what your inputing to. As mentioned the Goal Zero batteries include a charge controller so you literally plug the solar panel direclty into the battery.


Generall you only need a charge controller when you are doing a DIY battery solution.


Also dont forget you need an inverter if you are going DIY.


People always bag Goal Zero and other brands saying blah blah I could build that for half the price but they usually use a crap intervter and lead acid batteries (and rsik of electrocution)


So if going DIY you need;


Solar Panel + Charge Controller + batteries + intervter


OR get a all in one unit which is this;


Solar Panel + Unit

961 posts

Ultimate Geek

Lifetime subscriber

  #2506768 17-Jun-2020 15:46
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The smallest camping fridges use thermo-electric modules that are really inefficient. No point even trying to run one on a solar panel.


You can run compressor fridges off solar panel's but usually they are pritty big ones. Look at the size of the panel's mounted on campervan's...


To run the coffee machine you will need a really big inverter. They draw 2 - 2.4kW.


All the above is doable if you have a reasonable budget and are going to build it into a a camping car or 4x4. Latter is quite common in Australia. - Install second house battery into 4x4, compressor fridge freezer, inverter and any mod cons's that you want for multi week wilderness camping trips.




As others have said, if you don have the need or the budget for the above, consider going lower tech.


Either get a really good icebox and buy a few bags of ice every three day's, or get an LPG camping fridge (about $600) instead of the electric one.


Ditch the coffee maker, and boil water over a gas stove for your hot drinks.


Perhaps a couple of 20,000mah powerbank (or what you already have on hand) for device charging. Plus a few car chargers, so you can run your car for a few hours to charge them back up in the event everything goes flat.


Device charging is something you can do with solar, but expect to have to leave the charger in the sun all day every day:



1634 posts

Uber Geek


  #2506792 17-Jun-2020 16:08
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Yep really depends on your budget but be realistic about expectations on solar - its very variable.


If your budget was $1500 you could get this bundle;


That would at least allow you to run some electrical devices and still charge devices over USB. BTW there are new models inbound which have USB-C.


TBH the lessons I have learnt are;


1. Buy a good panel


2. Get something that can take advantage of the solar panel (i.e dont get something that charges over 30W when you have a 200W panel)


3. Dont under spec the battery or inverter. I did this - now I have two batteries (one for lights and one for laptop etc). I shouldve just bought one more expensive battery which wouldve covered the power draw and had a better inverter.




Alternatively to all of this, why not just get a powered camp site? I know its not the same but many of the regional council owned campsites in Wellington offered powered sites. Way less hassle and would cost less than setting all of this up.

1203 posts

Uber Geek

  #2506794 17-Jun-2020 16:14
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These folding panels have charging devices and running lights via relatively small batteries in mind. 


For several years one of my camping friends tried running his coffee machine off of his Ford Transit vans battery with several hundred watts of solar on the roof-rack and the solar simply couldn't keep up despite good weather. He was constantly jump-starting the van. 


LPG fridges are hard to beat when it comes to camping/glamping. Get yourself a nice coffee perk and use gas.



Devastation by stupidity
12275 posts

Uber Geek

Lifetime subscriber

  #2506902 17-Jun-2020 18:56
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Thinking outside the box a little, you can make a very effective solar evaporation fridge with some canvas and a good plan. And you can boil your coffee water quick time with a suitable parabolic reflector. You need bright sun for both, but you also need that for a solar panel.



I don't think there is ever a bad time to talk about how absurd war is, how old men make decisions and young people die. - George Clooney

10382 posts

Uber Geek

  #2507019 17-Jun-2020 23:00
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I had one of those folding panels - not from Jaycar - but Supercheap Auto who were selling the same ones.


Worked fine - for maybe 3 years. Wasn't working well this summer - in full sun had 0.8A output max (IIRC was a 45W panel).  Pulled it to pieces to have a look when I got home, there were 6 polycrystalline panels, wiring was all good, but each panel was only a few hundred milliamps, varied from panel to panel.  Closer inspection then you could see that internal wiring tracks had corroded, so I assume the "flexi" panels had either cracked and leaked - or leaked around the edges.  I chucked the lot away.  For occasional use - maybe they're pretty good.  Couldn't take the abuse I dished out.


People we know using the small compressor fridges need 100W of panels and a reasonable sized deep cycle battery to give a bit of safety margin for a couple of consecutive cloudy days in summer.  They'll only draw a fraction of what the "Dometic" type absorption fridges use, the small compressor chest fridges typically draw 0.8A average over 24h, the absorption fridges draw a constant 5A.  OTOH the absorption fridges are good used on gas - 3kg bottle should last a fortnight.

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