For many of us, camping is the ultimate method of getting away from our regular 9 to 5’s to go out and connect with nature. Unlike a traditional hotel, you are not confined to a room, limited spaces, or set meal times. Instead, mother nature is your host, and the wilderness is your place of stay. It’s a truly unique experience that we think everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime.
Camping outdoors opens up a world of possibilities, but it’s not without its challenges. You have to set up shop, make your own food, and maybe even get a barbeque going, and settle down with a chilled drink. The only problem is, how do you keep the cold drinks cold? How about a solar powered fridge when camping?
We live in an era where it is almost essential for us humans to be within the range of some sort of electric power outlet. Whether it be to charge our phones, laptops, or other electrical devices that keep us connected, access to electricity is virtually non-negotiable. Having access to a power supply ensures connectivity is maintained, and in terms of vacationing, it may ensure that we’re able to keep in touch with work, family, and friends. But how do you ensure a steady supply of electricity when you’re out in the wild? The answer is simple, and it goes by the name of solar power.
Having small solar panels for camping will ensure that some of the most essential pieces of equipment in your campsite are up and running. That also includes your refrigerator, or could even extend to a solar panel fridge.
Having a running fridge at your camp will ensure that you keep your food fresh and your drinks cold. This guide will introduce you to a variety of portable solar panels, how they can be used with a camping fridge or freezer, as well as some examples of solar panel fridge to keep you well informed in preparation for your next camping trip.
But if you’re wondering how many solar panels does it take to power a fridge, is there a solar fridge, or what solar generators can power a refrigerator, then you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for camping solar systems, this is your guide!
What is a Solar Panel?
Solar was first commercially available in 1881 but was highly inefficient due to the lack of proper research and technology at the time. Solar panels consist of a number of solar cells that are spread across an area, working together to convert sunlight into electricity that we use. The cells inside a solar panel are called a photovoltaic module or PV module for short. These PV modules rely on sunlight to produce solar electricity. Today, solar panels are used famously across the world and even in space as we, the human race, look to capitalize on natural energy for a greener future.
Types of Solar Panels
Like many other experienced campers, if you plan to use a source of energy for your campsite and are concerned about your carbon footprint, then a solar panel may be the answer. But wait, as mentioned before, we have come a significant way since the first solar panel was introduced, and that means that there are several types of solar panels that you can choose from. Below is a list of the best portable solar panels for camping:
Folding panels, also known as portable solar panels, are ideal for those looking for a solar solution without incurring too great of a cost and don’t plan on using it as often. Such tech could be an ideal addition to your solar panel camping set-up.
Sure, they are slightly heavier than the others on this list, but what you lose in weight is gained by usability. Folding panels are straightforward and easy to set up and can be angled to catch that perfect ray of sunlight. Besides, if you plan to camp in a smaller vehicle and/or have limited space, a portable/folding solar panel is the best option for you.
If you’re looking for the best solar panels for camping, then consider these smaller solar blankets. Just like the name suggests, these panels are made with soft material that makes them foldable — just like a blanket. This makes them an excellent choice for you if space is one of your primary concerns. They should give enough juice to power a solar powered beverage cooler.
Another added advantage is that these panels can be hung, making them a versatile addition to your solar panel camping setup. That means you can place them over your windscreen as a sun guard or drape them over the grass near your campsite. Sure, it might be a bit pricey compared to other options, but user-friendliness and space allocation justifies the cost.
If you’re looking for the ultimate solar panel camping setup, or just wondering what size solar panel for a fridge is needed, then you might want to consider a fixed panel. A fixed panel is one of the most popular options in the market, especially amongst professional 4×4 and camping enthusiasts looking to build the ultimate survival machine.
Pair it with the correct battery, and you’ve got the ideal power supply on the go. However, you might want to keep in mind that fixed panels live up to their name — they can’t be moved and will take up a considerable amount of space on the top of your vehicle. Another factor to consider is that you will have to physically park your offroader in the sun for the best results.
Different Types of Solar Fridges You Can use During Camping Trips
You may wonder if a solar panel can run a camping fridge? If your main concern when going camping is to keep your food fresh and your drinks cold, then you may not need to waste your cash on purchasing a solar panel. Instead, opt for a solar-powered fridge or beverage cooler.
A solar panel fridge is pretty much the same as any old regular portable refrigerator, with the exception of an included battery, which is powered by PV panels connected to the top. This may sound like a wired juxtaposition, but this is the easiest way to get ice-cold drinks using sunlight. Below are three different types of solar fridges you should consider.
Thermal Energy Solar Fridge
Thermal energy is a product of high temperature over a surface area that causes its molecules to collide. The use of thermal energy for refrigeration was first realized somewhere around the mid-’90s when the possibility to power a refrigerator using thermal energy that can be produced through solar power was discovered.
Thermoelectric fridges are one of the most inexpensive on the market, mainly because they use thermoelectric chips as opposed to a battery. This technology, however, has its limitations, as it will only allow the refrigerator to cool down to about 35 degrees lower than the outside air temperature. If you’re looking for a device that can sustain or produce ice, you might want to skip this option.
Lithium Battery Solar Fridge
Just like our smartphones, this candidate houses a lithium battery that can be recharged using solar power or a regular power outlet. Some lithium battery refrigerators can last for days on a single charge. Pair that with a steady supply of solar energy, and you’re good to go.
Benefits of using Solar panel vs. Solar Powered Camping Fridges
By now, you must be wondering if you should be investing in a solar panel or just a solar-powered fridge. As mentioned throughout this discussion, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s focus on some of the most significant ones here.
At first, it might be a more sensible option to go for a regular solar-powered mini fridge to keep your beers cold, but if you are a frequent camper and explorer who might need electricity for more than a chilled drink, then solar panels are best. You never know what could go wrong out in the wild, but a constant supply of energy is a never a bad thing to have.
You might also want to keep in mind that if you opt for a solar fridge, then you might end up carrying a noisy old gasoline-powered generator for more extended expeditions to power whatever other ancillaries you’re looking at powering. And let’s face it, that’s something nobody wants to do. Sure, gasoline engines cost less and produce more power, but if you look at it in the long run, what you get from the initial high investment in a solar panel is unlimited free energy that doesn’t leave a carbon footprint and doesn’t drown out the sound of nature.
In summary, if you are looking for something to just keep your drinks cold during an occasional camping trip, a solar fridge should suffice. Still, If you are on an extended mission to explore the unknown, a small solar panel could go a long way.
To conclude our discussion on solar-powered equipment and its uses to us on our outdoor adventures, let’s consider the primary factor, which is intended use. Purchasing solar panels and fridges, both have their pros and cons but can be sufficient if you first scale its capabilities with your requirements. For light use (that use being keeping drinks and food cold), a solar fridge is good enough. But for serious campers who are looking for an uninterrupted source of energy that they will frequently be using and could be utilized in many different ways, a solar panel will be the perfect investment that you are will not regret.