Saturday, June 2, 2012

Solar or Generator for Camping??

usbackroads product--Solar or Generator for Camping?

When I first started working as a Forester and camping in the backcountry the only thing we had that Lewis and Clark did not was a Coleman White Gas Stove.  It was the summer of 72 on the Clearwater National Forest and it is highly likely that Lewis and Clark passed through within a mile of our camp in 1805.

The camp was pretty spare.  A wall tent with  sheepherders stove and oven and  another with cots for sleeping.  Water came from the creek in a large milk can.  It was cold and wet.  A Forest Service radio for work and emergencies and a good AM and shortwave radio for night time news of the outside world.  I am sure that Lewis and Clark would have been astonished at the luxury of that camp.

In all my working years, I never used a generator or solar panels for electricity.  The slippery slope started when we bought a tent trailer with a water pump for the hot water shower and a fan for the furnace!!  Now we needed to make sure that we never ran out of electricity!  In my late 30's I discovered I hated sleeping dirty all those years so that shower was a required accessory!!

So I bought a 30-watt solar panel to insure that I had a hot shower every night before bedtime.  The 30-watt panel worked great in summer.  It was too small for fall and winter camping.  Besides it was about this time I discovered that I needed to keep my laptop charged and I believe a cell phone showed up shortly after that.

Slowly, the need for electricity on a daily basis grew and now it seems a "necessity" rather than a luxury.  The next panel I bought was 125-watt and it fit on the bicycle rack on the tent trailer.  Now I had enough power for everything in the tent trailer including that furnace fan on those cold fall mornings.

Well, then the 5th wheel arrived with all "those" items.  So we bought a Honda 2000 generator.  That ran the lights, TV and the microwave.  Oh, and that water pump for the hot shower!!  We also discovered that we needed the generator to charge up our electric bicycles.

So what do you need for camping these days?  Well, it depends.  But my recommendation is both!!  Remember solar works great, but you need 67 of those panels to generate the same power  as that generator.  And yes, those panels will only match the generator on a sunny day for about four hours.  So you can easily see why you would want that generator.

One other reason for purchasing a 2000 watt or so generator is power tools around the house.  I stick my Honda on a little red wagon and use it to run the hedge trimmer, power drill, power saw and of course, that all important electric chainsaw.

IF you have a trailer with microwave and other goodies a generator is simple to hook-up and everything runs. We found that we only ran the generator at night for a few hours to cook dinner and read.  But it is very handy to have everything hooked up electrically so you just flick a switch.

I strongly recommend a Honda or Yamaha generator due to the quiet factor.  We run a Honda 2000 generator and it is an impressive product.  I have used Yamaha generators on forest fires and you cannot go wrong with them either.  Just make sure your generator is VERY quiet.

So if I have a generator do I need a solar panel?  Yes.  When we travel in the 5th wheel we use the generator at dinner time, but the rest of the day the little 30-watt panel keeps the computer charged as well as the cell phone and all those rechargeable AA batteries.  I even converted my fishing boat to solar with the 30-watt panel so I can troll for the monster trout.  Notice that I use the same panel and battery for fishing!!

If we take the tent trailer I will lug the 125-watt panel along and use electronic zip ties to fasten the panel to the bicycle rack on top of the tent trailer.  That size panel keeps the battery charged even in late October in Washington state.  My friend that trolls with an electric motor uses it to charge his trolling batteries.  That is much more efficient that using the Honda Generator.  The 125-watt panel stays home when we travel with the 5th wheel.

Next stop.  Solar panels.

1 comment:

Merri said...

I love the Honda EU2000i and we'll definitely be getting another one once we get the TC. I have no problem using one while out camping/sightseeing, they're really not that loud.