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Road test: Solar panels

While the aim of this epic lap around Australia was to live simply, there was no way we could have had an enjoyable or efficient trip if it wasn’t for solar power. We’ll tell you about the factory-fitted caravan and supplementary solar panels installed on our towing vehicle, but to first read more about how Drew installed the solar panels, check out this post.

Towing vehicle

The 120W portable solar panels permanently fixed to the car’s roof rack power a 100Amp/hour deep-cycle battery.

We rely on these panels to power our 40L fridge and LED lighting in the car, as well as charge our laptop and mobile. Most importantly we can keep our camera fully charged at all times so that we don’t miss out on capturing any photo-worthy moments.

Caravan

The caravan has one factory-fitted 60W solar panel that powers a 75Ah deep-cycle battery. This allows us to operate incandescent lighting, 12V appliances and the water pump.

Cost savings

Having a constant source of solar power has allowed us more freedom when choosing a spot to camp. We rarely fork out cash for powered sites and we definitely save money on gas as we don’t require it to run our van fridge or lighting.

We are also thankful that we are not reliant on a generator as many travellers are. Generators can be costly to buy and run, and in our opinion their noisy buzz ruins what should be a peaceful experience.

Sun-shining-powering-our-van-solar-panels

We’ve seen other campers relying on eskies to keep their food cold, even in the heat of the Kimberley region – certainly something we wouldn’t want to do for 10 months, particularly given we’ve seen ice sold for $14 a bag!

Slaves to the sun

An obvious limitation to going solar is the fact that we can’t control the weather. We’ve experienced some minor hiccups with the fridge temperature rising due to lack of solar charge, but luckily the van has a gas fridge we can quickly turn to, so no food goes to waste.

Solar power has been an absolute necessity for us, not only to save money on this otherwise expensive trip, but to keep everything running as it should. Having solar power on both the caravan and towing vehicle is certainly making for an efficient and fuss-free journey.

Drew and Court are a Melbourne couple who are travelling around Australia for the next 10 months. They’ll be writing about their experiences for Without a Hitch, giving us the real story of life on the road.

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