Unless you’re really roughing it, off-the-grid entirely, most campgrounds will include some form of electric service for your rig. Those hookups give you everything you need to be able to power and charge your RV while you’re camping.
When you’re boondocking, however, you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. No powerlines, no buzzing, nothing to keep your rig up and running except your battery. And while a battery will hang on and keep you comfortable for a while, it can’t and won’t last forever. A battery needs to be recharged.
But thanks to that bright, shining star in the sky, we can harness energy wherever the sun is shining. This helps us power all of our stuff—from the television to a coffee machine to your RV’s onboard battery. Solar power for your RV is a smart way to bring energy with you, recharging your battery power along the way.
The Realities of Solar Power
While harnessing the power of the sun seems like a no-brainer, it is an investment. And not always a cheap investment, at that. Unless you’re a regular boondocker, regularly go off the grid, and tend to stay away from power sources, solar may not be a worthwhile effort.
If you mostly stay at campgrounds, if you’re regularly in populated areas, or only boondock once in a while, a generator might be a better option for your needs and your wallet. Choosing the right generator is easier than you think. Use our guide to choosing the right generator for your RV to find the perfect match.
However, if you find yourself wanting to venture out a little further, to stay a little longer, and crave the peace that comes along with remote destinations, then solar power is an option to help you get there.
The Investment in Solar Power
For being a source of free energy, acquiring it doesn’t come for free. There are multiple components to a solar system: panels, a charger, a battery monitor, additional batteries, an inverter, and then labor for installation. Some newer RVs come “solar prepped” and may have the foundation of a solar package built into the vehicle.
Keep in mind, despite solar’s upfront investment, you’ll certainly save money in camping fees—and be able to go more places for longer periods of time. Weigh these costs against each other to determine whether solar-powered energy systems are right for you.
The Perks of Solar Power for Camping
Don’t be afraid of going solar. Even as an investment, solar power comes with a lot of perks. Here are few:
- Quiet. Generators are noisy—even the “quiet” ones. Solar panels, on the other hand, are completely silent. They’re not going to bother you or your neighbors.
- Easy to use. Generally, you don’t have to think about them once installed. You may choose to aim them toward the sun, or if you’re really strategic, set out ground panels in optimal positions throughout the day. Otherwise, if the sun’s out, you’re collecting energy.
- Clean. Solar is considered clean energy. But solar panels are also easy to clean (when and if you need to). There are no fumes and no potential fuel spills to consider.
- Open spaces. With no reliance on hookups to an electrical grid, you can go more places, see more things, and worry less about remaining comfortable while you’re doing it.
If you have an interest in going solar, the best advice you can get is to do thorough research. Determine how much energy you may need, and find the level of solar power you would require to meet those needs. Ask a Camping World associate for more information and advice on solar-powered RVing.
The Best Solar-Powered Gadgets for Camping
Since solar camping is becoming increasingly popular among the RV community, there are more solar-powered accessories than ever before. The best solar gear can gather a charge even in cloudy weather and, with the sun as your charging device, you’ll essentially never run out of power. Check out the items below that will help take your next camping trip completely off the grid without being in the dark, or browse all kinds of solar-powered products from Camping World.
Nature Power 440W Complete Solar Kit
This kit comes complete with four 100W monocrystalline solar panels with heavy-duty aluminum frames that provide strong weather resistance and easy, permanent mounting. You also get a 30A digital charge controller, DC/AC 750W power inverter, and connecting cables for an all-in-one introduction to RVing with solar power.
Go Power! 30-Amp Dual Bank Bluetooth-Enabled Digital Solar Controller
Pairing this Go Power! Dual Bank Solar Controller with the Go Power! Connect app, you can monitor the status of your battery and its charge from the palm of your hand. Not only is this controller convenient, but it works hard so you don’t have to by maintaining the life of your battery while protecting it from overcharging. Plus, it’s capable of charging one or two battery banks.
The best solar panels are pretty ineffective without ample energy storage. You’ll need a lithium battery bank to harness the energy captured by portable or roof-mounted solar panels.
Explore Camping World’s RV battery selection.
Single COB Solar Motion-Activated Security Light with Integrated LED
Off the grid doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your safety. Have extra peace of mind — and visibility — with this solar motion-activated security light. There are three different dials to customize the amount of light, motion sensitivity, and duration. The light is activated by motion up to 40 feet away and automatically reacts starting at dusk.
Solar-Powered LED String Lights
What’s camping without a little ambient lighting? These solar-powered LED string lights can run up to 12 hours on a full charge giving you plenty of time to hang out around the campfire and make lifelong memories before the dark sets in. They’re waterproof and, the best part, they turn on at dusk automatically so you have light exactly when you need it. The perks of solar power are endless.
If you’re ready to look on the sunny side of things, Camping World can help equip your RV with the solar panels and equipment to keep you out there, wherever your camping adventures take you.
What questions do you have about solar for RV camping? Share in the comments below.
This is more of a question. I am going to be moving into a travel trailer with my daughter and was thinking of doing solar panels. We are going to be living in a park with full hook ups. My question is that is it worth it to put solar panels on or not? Any advice is welcomed. Thank you!
Here is another super energy saving device that uses the sun to cook your food. We have several solar items that we carry when camping in our RV. We use a “Sun Oven” solar cooker to prepare our food (it is like a solar powered crock pot), and a solar shower to heat water. All of these devices add up to saving energy and make for good conversation for passers by. We have conducted low impact camping discussions at many federal, state and private parks. It is a simple way of decreasing our carbon footprint while travelling in our RV..
When considering solar power for your RV, look at remote, foldable panels. You can park your rig in the shade and place your PV panels in the sun. I have two 60 watt panels that fold together and we store them in the cloths closet when not in use. We also have 50 foot cord that connects the PV panels to the RV battery. Permanent roof top panels force you to park your rig in the sun if you want to make power. Who wants a hot rig just to charge your battery?
When considering solar power for your RV, look at the advantages of foldable remote panels. You can park your rig in the shade and place your PV panels in the sun. I have two 60 watt panels that fold together and a 50 foot cord that can connect the panels to the RV battery. The panels conveniently fold together and I store them in our cloths closet when not in use. Roof top panels force you to park your rig in the sun if you want to make power.
Great Article ***
I have a 2003 40′ Alfa SeeYa and have installed a 600 watt solar system on my unit. I have a (12) battery system, 6-6volt House, 4-6volt Inverter and 2-12volt Chassis in my system. My inverter and solar controller work together and are basically set in float mode to maintain all my system batteries. Just because I dry camp more than not, and I need to store power without shore power both out and about and in storage. I also have a 3-12volt deep cell battery backup I can direct to start a 330 Cat diesel or my 8 kw generator set, just in case all else fails whilst in the boonies, without shore power to save my bony backside in the wilderness and I am sure one or two of you out there can relate!! In addition, I have converted ALL my driving lights, inside and outside coach lighting to LED (Not Cheep Either) but has cut my power demand by 80%… I have been able to go off-grid for weeks at a time (in fair weather that is) without generator or alternator back-up (Note, do not park under trees, LOL! There, I am happy but the real challenge for me today is water, both in and out. My Love Nuggets loves to stay and keep everything fresh and clean, and 100 gals. of water only goes so far, so-to-speak and that folks is my next challenge, to reduce the cost of handie-wipes, dump fees, let alone the storage of Black & Grey water etc… LOL!. Yes, for me solar was and is worth the cost. A side benefit of Solar is you more than double the battery use life by keeping them fully charged and maintained…! Solar has been a win/win for us.
V/R, and “SeeYa”
Kent M. Whitney
Goal Zero has suitcase solar panels and a lithium battery inverter. For 600 watts mentioned above, a complete system will be half of the price in the article
The most basic and easiest solar use is light. Get a few solar yard lights at the dollar store and you can hang them high or use them inside (with no flame risk or replacement battery cost).
Very good helps to save !!!!
Can you live in an TV using solar for heating , cooking and freezer, what about a power pack. I don’t like propane, thanks.