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portable solar panel

Portable Power – Solar more connected than Kevin Bacon

 

2015 Update: We have an all new improved solar set up. Click the button to see our most recent upgrades:

 

Rooftop solar is awesome (and we have plenty of it) but sometimes you just need to park it in the shade, especially when it’s 95+ degrees outside, which means the rooftop solar isn’t going to work so well.  This is where a portable solar kit comes in to save the day.

We have the GoPower! 120watt portable solar kit and have come to two conclusions:

  1. If you don’t have any solar, a portable kit is the perfect (least expensive and invasive) way to start.
  2. If you have rooftop solar and don’t have a portable kit, you need one.

Here’s why:

You can park in the shade and still get the juice.  When a random heat wave hits (or you willingly endure 100+ temps to experience Burning Man or an Arizona Summer) you shouldn’t have to choose between melting with power or staying cool with no power.

It’s the early bird and night owl all in one.  When the sun is super low on the horizon (like early morning and late evening), you can tilt and angle the panel in any and every direction to catch all of those power producing rays!  It’s also a great addition during the winter months when the sun sits lower on the horizon.

It has wicked self control (unlike our drinking habits).  The nifty built in 10 amp charge controller makes sure your batteries never over charge (which can lead to serious damage, much like drinking).

It’s more connected than Kevin Bacon.  Ok, maybe not, but the kit does come with 15’ of cable and several types of connectors (clamps, direct wire, hard wire…) and the optional trailer adapter and extension cables (available in September) give you multiple degrees of connectivity.  So whether you want power for tent camping, car camping, RV’ing, ATV’ing, boating or all the above, it goes where you go.

Size does matter.  They’re compact, come in a durable case and there’s three different sizes 120, 80, and 40 watts (40 watt available in August).  With all of our camera gear and computers for work (yes, we actually work sometimes) we opted for the big daddy 120 watt kit.  It keeps all our gear charged no problem.  If you’re a tent/car camper, or if you simply want to charge the batteries while you’re rig is in storage, the 40 watts should be more than enough.

If you want to research (or purchase) we’ve found the cheapest rates on are Amazon, here’s a link to our portable solar panel: Go Power! 120W Portable Kit

How to connect More than one PSK to a battery bank

We received several questions about connecting 2 or even 4 portable panels to one battery bank. Of course this type of install would be helpful for those who don’t want to install solar on the RV roof, or for those who camp in the trees and still want to get a solar power. Anyway we asked GoPower to draw a quick connection “map” and here’s what they drew for connecting 2 Portable Solar Panels to a 2 12v battery bank.
Connecting two PSK to two 12 volt batteries
Here’s a little more detail from GoPower about the drawing:
In the drawing it is two 12 volt panels in parallel. We are connecting the 2 PSK’s to opposite ends of the battery bank. The reason for this is we are able to use the battery bank as a voltage buffer so the solar controller on PSK #1 does not get fooled by the voltage coming from PSK #2.In a series set up (two 6-volt batteries in Series) we are not able to connect to different sides of the battery because there is only one positive that you can connect to and one negative. Putting two six volt batteries together in series essentially make one big 12 volt battery. You cold however connect to four 6-volt batteries that are in a series parallel set up. You would connect the same way I have suggested in the drawing (just think of each set of 6 volt batteries as a single 12 volt battery.

 

So, there you have it.  Got questions or comments?  Post them below in the comment box!

Disclosure:  Go Power! provided us with a complimentary panel for review purposes and helped fund the production costs of this video.  As always, we are free to say whatever we want and have only written our honest opinions.  If we didn’t love it, we would give it back and tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine…but we do love it and they can’t have it back.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (61)

  • Ross Cornell

    As always, great article and super-helpful. Question for you guys: is there any issue connecting your portable panel directly to your batteries when you have your rooftop solar kit hard wired with its own charge controller?

    reply
  • Ron

    Good info I am hoping to buy a smaller rv and you have helped me in what to look for rr

    reply
  • tim

    Quick question about the portable panel .On the go 120 watts system the controller is on the back of panel. How does this give you real volt level at the batteries ? Is there not a volt drop going through the wire? How do you know batteries are at full charge? Is another controller needed at batteries?

    reply
  • Now that you have an army of roof-mounted solar panels, would you be interested in selling your portable GoPower unit? 🙂 Please email us if so. Thanks!

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  • Debbie

    Hello Nikki & Jason, just have to tell you that, your blog & “Wheeling It” are my favorite blogs! Not only entertaining but informative as well! We are planning out FT adventure & are saving for solar investment. I would like to have 800-1000 watts of panels, enough battery bank, everything else we need. Do you feel $10,000 is a rough estimate to save for. I understand lithium batteries are more expensive. I just want a ball park figure to shoot for! We really want the freedom of wild camping & not depend on crowded, noisy parking lot campgrounds! Thanks, Deb

    reply
  • Richard Voyles

    Hope you trip has gone well since I met you at the county park outside Chattanooga – spring ’15. I’m en-route to PEI – Prince Edward Island.
    In your diagram of connecting to batteries – with everything so interconnected anyway, does it really matter to which + and – you connect ? ? If so – what’s the criteria – power must flow through the entire system ie positive on one end countered by neg. on the other end of the system ? If this does matter – would the inverter connection also make a difference ?
    Thanks for your input !

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    • DAVID PHILPOTT

      It really doesn’t matter, electricity they are the same points just different ends of the strap.

      reply
  • Martin Innes

    Nikki,that set up1 is so cool 1 can you tell me where You got the solar setup! I’m north of the 49thNo! We don’t all live in igloos! lol But even if I can get hold of the manufacturer and the retail store between the two I should be able to find out if I can purchase the setup! from them or they may have a distributor in Canada. Thx. Martin

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  • Burke

    How long of a cord do you recommend to the portable panel? I have a little teardrop camper I park under trees, so want the panel to be able to go out in the sun. I’m thinking 50′ (I will size for less than a 2% voltage drop). Thoughts?

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  • Jenn

    hi guys! First, thanks so much for your website. You’ve helped inspire us to go full time. We’re about a month in and we’re loving it.

    I have a solar question for you…

    We have an existing 100 Watt (one panel) roof-top system from Zamp Solar. And we bought the 120 Watt Go Power Portable kit. I emailed Go Power about using both together and it seems like we can but they sent me this diagram for using the Portable Kit with the existing solar and I’m hoping not to have to do it this way:

    http://gpelectric.com/files/gpelectric/Docs/General/PSK-Solar-Kit-Installation.pdf

    I see in your video that you guys just plug it into that little plug on your RV. Can you explain to me how you guys connect your portable kit to your roof top system? I’d like to have that type of plug installed if possible, since that seems super easy.

    I also have the seven pin adapter but I don’t think I can use this type of connection (I’m waiting to hear back from go power to confirm).

    thanks again!
    Jenn

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    • Jenn,
      The diagram they sent you is correct. You need to use the “ring terminal” connector plug that came with your PSK. Attach the ring terminal connectors to the opposite posts that your current solar is connected to, then install the plug somewhere so you can just “plug in” the PSK. Does that make sense?

      reply
      • Jenn

        I think that makes sense 🙂

        The ring terminal connectors attach to the batteries (opposite posts) and then the plug attaches to those so I can then just plug in the PSK.

        I’m going to have the guys who installed our solar do it since we’re totally not handy, I just wanted to make sure I understand too.

        Thanks again!!!

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  • "...nice man from Germany"

    You guys just crack me up….!!! 🙂 Bernard

    reply
  • bryan k

    hello,

    I understand that the Excursions have a membrane/rubber roof on the exterior. Is it difficult to mount the panels up there ?

    tks, Bryan

    reply
  • Mr and Mrs Wynn, what type of inverter would you recommend for a 100 watt solar panel with 2 12 volt batteries

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  • Jason, we have an electric refrigerator. Would the larger portable solar panel give our batteries the needed charge to leave the frig on all the time? Where can we go to understand all the electrical terms to see if we can figure out how to use solar with our frig? The whole watt, amp thing is confusing.

    Thanks,
    Pam

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      • Thanks so much, Nikki!

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      • Bill Cole

        Aahhhh ha…a power calculator, just what I’ve been looking for. This will go a long way toward helping me determine how much SOLAR power I need

        reply
  • Mike

    That looks great but surely the wiring is too small to do any effective charging?

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    • Charges pretty darn well in full sun. Obviously the thicker gauge wire the less resistance, but the cables seem to work just fine. I only use the extension when I need to get the panel away from the RV, but most of the time the included wire is plenty long enough.

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  • Pamela

    Can you use more then one portable 120w kit at a time? Because of the places we camp we would rather have all our panels portable instead of mounted on our roof. So we would be interested in using 3 or 4 at a time. Is that possible?

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      • Jami

        Love your site! Did you ever get a response on this? I am wondering the same thing.

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    • Pamela,
      We spoke with GoPower! and they said it is possible to string multiple panels but it must be wired in a very specific way in order to work.
      They claim linking 2 panels is pretty easy, I’m waiting on a drawing to show the wiring.

      reply
      • Helen

        Has Go Power provided the additional info about connecting multiple portable solar panels together yet. Awaiting the schematic on that question!

        reply
    • Pamela, Jami, and Helen,
      I have updated the post with the correct wiring for putting 2 Portable Panels on 1 battery bank (you can find it towards the bottom of the post in the toggle). Hope this helps. GoPower! does not recommend connecting more than 2 portable panels.

      reply
  • What a wonderful couple you guys are! I mean this sincerely, we have been looking for bipartisan advice regarding our upcoming RV adventure and I find myself checking in a couple times a day to read older blogs regarding your lifestyle decision (some people may find this creepy, lol). We are a family of 5; my wife and I, 3 boys ages 7, 5 and 4, and a 135lb Bullmastiff puppy). We are also hippies and treehuggers living more natural lifestyles then most people are accustomed to 🙂

    Now that we have introductions out of the way, we purchased a 32 foot bunkhouse travel trailer as our “starter” home on wheels and plan to upgrade to a bigger RV down the road (Class A or C, really undecided). I plan on boondocking quite a bit with the family but our budget is small to start.

    My question for you guys is two-fold; 1-Do you guys recommend boondocking on generators to start while we build up to take the solar plunge? 2-I saw on amazon.com that Go Power offers some what of a starter kit for around $1600 but is more designed for the weekender. Do you think this would be a good starter kit to kickstart this RV lifestyle?

    We are super-duper excited about our decision and look forward to your advice…Thanks for all you do…The Breaux’s

    reply
    • Hello Breaux Fam!
      We’re happy to provide a little insight and inspiration for your upcoming adventure. Here’s my take on your questions:
      1. Boondocking on Generators – I personally feel you should have a gene on board no matter what! You might want to see if your Gene has an “auto genstart”. This will keep your batteries from dropping below a set value, the less you drain your batteries the longer they will last. I do not like running the generator because it’s noisy, smelly, and it can annoy your neighbors and create unwanted attention. No matter what you should look into a good converter/battery charger, often times the charger that comes from the factory is extremely inefficient at charging, especially when charging from a Generator.
      Here’s a link to the charger we have: Go Power! GPC-75-MAX 75 Amp 4-Stage Converter/Battery Charger

      1. Solar Install – I would recommend purchasing the Portable 120 watt kit. There’s no install and it’s easy to use. We call it the “gateway solar drug”, once you have it you’ll want more! Here’s the link to our portable solar post: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/portable-solar-kit

      Hope this helps get you started!

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      • Jason, thanks for the prompt response! Our TT did not come with a generator but we were looking into one.

        Would there be anything special that would nee to be to the TT to prep for purchase of the portable solar kit or does it just connect to the battery?

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        • Our pleasure to help guys. Super Easy to connect, in fact I believe they recently launched a trailer connection so you have literally ZERO install product # GP-PSK-7PIN and while you’re ordering get the extension cable, it will make life easier product # GP-PSK-X30.

          Make sure you purchase from Amazon, it’s much less expensive than a dealer: Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Solar Kit

          reply
  • THanks for this post. Nice to meet you today in the Alabama Hills. After reading this article and watching the video we went out and purchased the same 120 Watt portable panel. Our first. It really works well and seeing how you connected it to the underside halped us in figuring out same for our RV.

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    • Kent it was so nice to meet you both, glad you’re dipping your toes into solar…we love our portable kit.

      reply
  • I’ve loved reading about all of your solar power. Would love to convert. This would be a great wy to “dip my toe in”.

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    • Lin, this is the “gateway drug” for solar as we like to call it.

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  • Hello Wynns, I envy your life! Thanks for all the info on solar. I’m a big believer.

    I blog about micro living and one of my reader’s comments got me interested in mobile micro-living.

    Can you tell me is it possible to power an RV solely by solar power, without gas? I notice you use gas for driving and solar for everything else. Right?

    Thanks, Patricia
    thetinyapartment.com

    reply
    • As far as we know there are no options for a totally solar powered RV. There might be stories of people outfitting their Prius or something, but it’d be difficult to live full time in such a small space. I think the main issue is the sheer weight of an RV. I do know an RV company named Thor was testing a hybrid RV a couple years back however they scrapped the project due to the immense costs. On another note some towns are using Bio Diesel Hybrid buses for public transport, specifically towns like Eugene, OR and Breckenridge, CO. There is a small van conversion company that is currently making a “green” RV called the Roadtrek RS E-Trek, I personally don’t know much about it but it might shed some light on the topic for you.
      We do live completely off the Grid while staying in BLM or National Forest, but when we stay at a campground with power we plug in, especially when it’s extremely cold or hot, which is the beauty of an RV: when it gets hot you go north and when it gets cold you head south.
      I hope this helps get you started.

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  • Randy Bruhn

    Hi Guys, I enjoy reading your articles and find them very informative as well as your videos. Regarding the 120w portable solar panels, I would prefer to plug in and not use the battery clamps. I have a 30amp plug on the outside of my van, what would I need to do to use the plug in supplied on the panel kit?
    Thanks,
    Randy

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    • Randy,
      We didn’t like the clamps either so we installed the direct connect plug that you saw in the video. All you need to do is screw the wires onto the battery terminal and mount the clip somewhere on your van. As far as I know you cannot just plug the solar panel directly into your 30a plug…although that would be extremely convenient.

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  • CC

    Can u run your A/C via solar, inverter and batteries??

    reply
  • Phil

    What happened to the logos on the side of Windy? Was this video made before you got them?

    reply
    • Nice catch Phil, we made this video right after we picked up Windy from service at the Monaco factory in Coburg, OR. She had some paint and body work that had to happen so we lost the logos for a few weeks. Don’t worry we got her all fixed up now so she’s not naked anymore.

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  • Jason

    Solar power works as I use a solar cover on my pool and 100 feet of black warmed by the sun gives me extra 6 0 to 90 days use of pool. Looking foward to visit with you and Nikki!

    Grandpaw

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  • mike

    Good post on solar. Have you ever considered wind power? I’ve been thinking it could be an option for dreary days, but haven’t seen that many people doing it.

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    • We have considered wind in the past however you will need to run a pole over the tree line (10′ – 20′ high). This means building a telescoping pole that you would drive over to stabilize, I’ve seen it done but it’s a crazy setup. Also a turbine won’t pull in as much power as solar so the value wasn’t quite there for me at the time of research (which was 2 years ago, so maybe things have changed?!?).

      reply
  • Stephanie

    don’t know if you can get into this but how do you connect the portable solar panel to connect with the RV, I have a Roadtrek 170 versatile . Or can you refer me to a good article to learn if i can do it… I’m mechanically challenged…

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      • Stephanie

        thanks so much, i can handle that!!

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    • Stephanie,
      there is a very basic video on their website and some additional content that shows how to connect the Portable Solar Kit: http://gpelectric.com/products/portable-solar-kits

      Trust me, adding a portable kit is super easy. If you can have someone install the direct connect plug like we did, it will make connecting the panel is as easy as plugging in a toaster!

      Happy Camping!

      reply
  • Dick Epler

    Doesn’t seem like there’s any way to lose. So I just ordered a GP-PSK-120 portable solar kit from Go Power for my Vesta motorhome. That should open up more boondocking opportunities for our upcoming trip this winter. Even where commercial power is available, however, this should save money as last year we were paying about 17 cents/kWhr.

    Based on your experiences, I’m still considering a compost toilet …

    Anyway, Jason and Nikki, thanks for providing a very useful service to us snowbirds.

    reply
    • Thanks Dick. We have been playing the plug and unplug game ever since we had our kit installed. When we have shore power we keep the RV unplugged and rely on our solar…until it gets too hot…then we plug in and run the A/C. It’s amazing how much less shore power we are using now.

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  • Sarah F

    This may sound silly – do you ever worry about someone stealing the portable solar unit because it’s so portable? Anyway, thanks for the video, it’s extremely informative and fun to watch!

    reply
  • Gary

    This was the best video ever. You guys just make me laugh so much on the positive side of course. Great editing Jason. Thanks for making my day.

    reply
    • Thanks Gary, glad you enjoyed the video. We did our best to make this educational/informational video casual and fun…best part is we really enjoyed putting it together! Have a great week!

      reply

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