The Simple Life
Whether it's an overnighter fishing on the beach, a few days trek along a 4WD track or a cross state road trip, you don't tend to stay in one spot for more than a night or two and prefer to keep things moving.
When you're on the move most of the time, and just want to keep the fridge cool for a night or two (and even then you tend to go for a drive and explore nearby), you don't need to over spend on hundreds of watts of solar and multiple batteries. For a set up that you can rely on, the three items you will need are a battery and DCDC charger, plus a solar panel if you choose to pull up for a few days.
Your starter battery is not designed to be used to run a fridge, so a second battery is a must. What type of battery will depend on how often you go camping, or whether you intend to run your fridge full time even when not camping (great for impromptu shopping trips, eating out for the day, or keeping a few coldies on hand).
If you only camp a few times a year, then an AGM will do fine. We recommend going with a good quality AGM or calcium battery, with a decent warranty. If you're looking to install in the engine bay, we recommend the Delkor 100ah, it is a calcium battery and is warranted for engine bay use. Alternatively, the Full River 120ah AGM can sit comfortably in the canopy/rear of your fourbie, and will significantly outlast those eBay cheapies.
If you're a serious camper (or fisherman), heading out every other weekend, or wanting to run your fridge full time, then investing in a lithium battery is your best option. While the upfront cost is about double that of a good quality AGM, the AllSpark 100ah Lithium Battery has a design life 5-7 times that of an AGM, not to mention it is a quarter of the weight, has charging efficiency 20% better than AGM and is physically smaller in size. It can also be charge at higher current rates compared to AGM.
If you're after one to pop in your engine bay, while the entire AllSpark Lithium range is warranted for under bonnet use, the 200/500A model fits most N70 size battery trays, and can be used to jump start your car....should you leave that stereo on or leave the lights on...
As you're moving a lot, much of your battery charging will come from your alternator, however most alternators cannot get your battery past about 75-80% due to the limited voltage they produce. A DCDC charger will keep your storage battery topped up while you are driving. It increases the voltage received by sacrificing a small amount of current to make sure the battery is charged to 100%. Which one you go for depends on what battery you are charging, where you want it placed, and then your budget.
Next up is the Intervolt DCDC, which has unlimited solar input, but is restricted to 25A output, so anything over about 430W will be overkill (not that you will need that much for the type of trips you do). Unlike the IDC25, this unit comes with a remote screen, allowing you to keep an eye on volt and amp output.
Then there is the Enerdrive EN3DC40+ DCDC, which is programmable from 5A to 50A and adjustable voltage from 13.8V to 14.6V. It can take up to 600W (using up to 20Voc panels or 800W using 43Voc panels). It comes with an LCD screen, showing the amps and volts coming in from the solar and alternator, and what it is sending to the batteries. It also offer's charge profiles for all batteries (including lithium), so if you have AGM at the moment, but are thinking of switching to lithium in the future or adding another battery later on, this would be your best option given the flexibility.
From here you get into the REDARC range, known for their exceptional quality and performance. The BCDC1225D will suit systems with up to 150ah of battery capacity (for the weekend traveller or day trips, 100ah is plenty). Alternatively you can go for the REDARC Manager 30 (for either the 100ah or 150ah lithium or 120ah FullRiver batteries). The Manager 30 is the only 4 in 1 unit on the market with charging from alternator, solar (MPPT), AC mains charger and battery monitor all in one. It has charge profiles for all battery types including Lithium. Bare in mind this can be paired with the 100ah Delkor battery but the charge current must be adjusted to 20A down from 30A which can be changed in the Manager 30 advanced settings.
Unless you're particularly savvy, DCDC chargers need to be installed by an auto electrician or experience 12v accessory installer. You're looking at around 3-5 hours labour (depending on where it is to be mounted - more hours for a Manager 30), with an hourly rate of anywhere between $90 and $140 an hour. Ask questions when choosing an auto sparky, get a recommendation if you can, be sure they understand and install 12 volt charging gear regularly.
You may travel most of the day and only rock up to camp late in the arvo/early evening. Your DCDC charger will ensure your batteries are fully charged throughout the day, so when you arrive you will have enough to get you through the night or 1-2 days.
However, if you roll into camp at lunch time or spend the day in one spot, solar is needed to keep your batteries topped up as your fridge continues to pull amps out over the day and night regardless of whether you drive or not.
The general rule of thumb is 120W for up to a 40L fridge, 160W for 50/60L, and 200W for anything over 60L. Now this will be enough for your fridge, charging a phone or two, and running an LED light bar at night. If you're needing to charge anything else (a drone, camera, tablets), going up a size will ensure your batteries will be fully topped up come night fall. Portable blankets also allow you to adjust the angle and follow the sun throughout the day and catch that early morning and late afternoon sun. The AllSpark range uses genuine premium grade SunPower Maxeon Gen III ultra performance cells, which produce power early in the day and later in the arvo than any other cell on the market.
If you're looking for a fixed panel option, flexible panels will keep your weight to a minimum, and can be mounted to your canopy or roof rack, otherwise glass panels will do the job, just keep in mind they are about 4 to 5 times the weight of flexibles. Our AllSpark flexible panels are also manufactured using genuine premium grade SunPower Maxeon Gen III ultra performance cells, and can be purchased with a pre-fitted polycarbonate corflute backing panel with 3M VHB tape, making installation as simple as clean, peel and stick.
So there you have it, the three things that will keep your beers cold and your phones topped up for your weekenders or day trips. We offer these items at discounts off the regular prices when purchased together in a package, and can organise cables and fuse protection should you need it. Contact us here to discuss your options if installing yourself, otherwise use the code:
"SIMPLELIFE" at the checkout for 10% off ANY COMBINATION of SOLAR, DCDC AND BATTERY*.