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MyronL 10-05-2014 03:50 PM

Does solar really beat having a generator?
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Wherever we go we near always dry camp. A key reason is price. Our recent trip to Wahweap campground at Lake Powel is a case in point. Full hookup sites, or, dry camping (tent) sites there were the only thing available. The full hookup price with AAA discount was $44.00/day. Tent site? $13.00. At 19 ft our trailer fits nice in a tent site. A few days later, dry camping at North Rim of the Grand Canyon was $9/night with the Geezer card. So it’s a no-brainer for me. I can carry a two gallon jug of water from a spigot with the best of ‘em.

My only issue is worry about over using electricity for the furnace, or the water pump, or if the propane runs out. How many days could we go before them twin 6 volt batteries show a critical 12.1 volts? Probably 3 to 4. Getting portable solar panels to replenish batteries have therefore been on my mind. Have never considered buying a generator.

Our recent stay at the North Rim, however, has changed my thinking. There, we were camped solidly in the shade. It does seem shaded campsites are more common…OK, depending where in the country you are. There may be no shady spots anywhere in southern Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, etc. Full sun sites are also hotter sites.

Don’t I have to shift them around with the shifting sun? Would I want to go off during the day leaving my charging solar panels exposed to theft?

At North Rim we saw a number of campers recharging their batteries in the late afternoon with small, surprisingly quiet generators. They are put away after a couple hours, done doing the job the solar panel does.

I was told the best one, the Honda generator, costs over eleven hundred dollars. For me that’s an instant deal killer. I was in Costco the other day and saw this, priced at $599.99. The brand is “Smarter Tools gasoline 2000W inverter/generator Sine Power Pro.” It has the Yamaha MZ80 engine and claims a sound rating of 51 to 59 dB. Weight, 47 lbs. Me beginning to like.

Anyone got one?

dbailey 10-05-2014 04:16 PM

One thing to consider... some tent sites don't allow generators at all.

To my mind, it doesn't matter how quiet they are. Even the quietest ones disturb your immediate neighbors. I decided this fall, after a weekend in the Adirondaks, to always get a site with electrical when in a popular campground -- not because I want the electrical, but because I don't want to be in a campground with generators... (or to find one of the tenting sites that doesn't allow generators at all, of course)

jamman 10-05-2014 04:17 PM

We also prefer mostly no hookup camping. In our former Casita (single 12V battery) we could go 3 nights as long we limited furnace use and 4-5 with no furnace use. With dual 6V batteries I figure we could do much better.

There have been several solar panel attached vs portable discussions. Read em and weep. (Sorry couldn't resist a bad movie line.)

Read the discussions of the WFCO charger that ETI installs. It is NOT the best at quickly (aka generator for an hour or 2) charging dual 6V batteries - but it is better with 12V batteries.

We have dual 95W ETI solar panels, dual 6V ETI batteries, and I have swapped out the WFCO converter for a Xantrex as documeted on this forum. And I have a brand-x (Boliye) quiet inverter generator. I do not normally travel with the generator - it is primarily for air conditioning in hot weather. (And I am more likely than you to buy more expensive ready made solutions.)

If you decide to go with the generator, 1000 watts is enough to charge the batteries. (But more watts is not necessarily bad.) AND I would replace the WFCO converter or buy a high capacity stand alone battery charger (I think I got a 40 amp model for under $100.)

MyronL 10-05-2014 04:50 PM

One of the first things I installed was a Xantrex 600 Watt ProWatt Inverter. At North Rim I didn't notice the guy next to me was running his Honda until after supper when walking Ben. I was amazed.

Vermilye 10-05-2014 04:54 PM

I've survived with a pair of 6V batteries & the 95 watt optional solar installation for 3 years of mixed dry & utility camping. This summer I added a portable 160 watt panel for the situations where I was parked in the shade or used lots of amp hours with low angle winter sun.

Overall, there were a few times I wished for a generator to run the AC, but they were rare. I've dry camped for over a month in the deserts of Arizona & California, and managed to keep the batteries charged with just the rooftop panel, but have to admit I'd probably want to power the AC in the southeast during summer. My solution when the heat got too oppressive was to head to a campground with hookups for a few days, but, again, I've only felt the need a couple of times over 600 days on the road.

I have to agree with Doug - some of the nicest campgrounds (or loops in campgrounds) were ones that didn't allow generators.

PGDriver 10-05-2014 05:00 PM

We are looking at the Honda 2000 as it is probably one of the quietest. Most Parks Canada campgrounds up here allow you to run generators for a little while in the morning and then again in the afternoon. That said we also like camping out in the bush and there is usually no one around to bother. There is also that connivence factor, power when you want it regardless of the weather/sun. It is nice if the weather gets really hot, you can run the A/C.

yardsale 10-05-2014 05:09 PM

We are using a propane fired Yamaha generator plus the 160w solar panels. I wish we could have installed the movable brackets to better orient the solar panel in the fall and winter but ETI declined to do this for us. Perhaps a retrofit next summer.

jamman 10-05-2014 05:40 PM


Originally Posted by MyronL (Post 69042)
One of the first things I installed was a Xantrex 600 Watt ProWatt Inverter. At North Rim I didn't notice the guy next to me was running his Honda until after supper when walking Ben. I was amazed.

I was talking about the ETI installed converter, not an inverter. (Xantrex TrueCharge2 - under battery chargers.) The WFCO converter which charges the 12V batteries from 110V does so very slowly.

gbaglo 10-05-2014 05:46 PM

Being too lazy to hook my Honda 1000 genset directly to the battery, I would just plug the trailer into the generator and charge via the converter. I found I could go from 12.34 V to "full" charge in about an hour.
I now have two 40 watt portable solar panels in addition to the generator. I haven't really put the panels to the test so I'm still carrying the generator as backup.
The test will be running the furnace in the fall when the sun is low.

hotfishtacos 10-05-2014 06:21 PM

Yes! Solar really beats having a generator!

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