Investing in solar panels for camping

Hi everyone. Heading up north to shark bay next month and just need some help on what type of solar setup i need for myself. recently bought a 80L fridge to take up however not sure how what type of solar panels i need to run the fridge. I dont have a second battery in my car so will need to buy a separate battery and battery box.

Any ideas will help


jighead's picture

Posts: 627

Date Joined: 03/02/12


Sun, 2020-09-06 17:35

How good is an 80l fridge freezer. Takes up most of the space in the back of the car but holds a good load of piss. I take two 70 ah deep cycle batteries in parallel with my panels to run the Engel on our marron trips which usually involve four or five days in deep bush. Not much full sun with all the trees but haven't run out of emf yet. Can't give the specs on my panels just now not at home. 

Posts: 33

Date Joined: 13/05/12

how many watts do you reckon

Sun, 2020-09-06 20:06

how many watts do you reckon i need for the solar panels? And also do i need a separate inverter

Happy Hooker's picture

Posts: 269

Date Joined: 12/11/08

First thing you need to do

Mon, 2020-09-07 06:11

Gday kingfisher ...How many max Amps does fridge draw ? Should be in its specs . Once you work that out ( and any other extras like lights etc that will draw current) you have a start point to work out your overall draw for 24 hrs and then take into account you will only be feeding the battery during daylight hrs with variances for cloudy days etc.

 Also are you mounting on roof or having a movable panel . Ask as the more distance and in turn cable between the battery / controller/ panel you have will lead to current loss . Biggest tip is to have decent wiring thickness to reduce the loss. Shouldn't need an inverter first just running's fridge if it's a 12v one Eg Engel or Waeco. 


Wes F's picture

Posts: 1015

Date Joined: 07/01/12

Ebay Panels

Mon, 2020-09-07 08:06

 I got a set of large solid panels from Ebay. These are 160 watts each from memory and keep my battery charged. Running a 60 litre Engel just above freezer (position 2 on dial) during the day and turn upto 3-4 at night. Also one may be two LED lights at night for upto 4 hours. I'm using only one battery but do have a second start battery for the peace of mind. Isolation is via a Cole Hersey switch. Lead on panels is about 5 metres and is handy so you can chase the best sunlight direction. no need for converter/inverter as hook directly to battery and the panels have a control unit in built. Do not go to low on wattage.


 Old fishermen never die they just smell that way.

Posts: 196

Date Joined: 22/08/11

 Yeah g'day kingfishermanI've

Mon, 2020-09-07 10:43

 Yeah g'day kingfisherman

I've got a KT 200w solar blanket. The reason why i went for this is because KT have really good solar regulators, most panels will come with one but you will need a good one that will last. I got the 200w purely if it is a bit overcast or you dont have as much time to set it up it will just pump a bit more in a bit quicker compared to a panels with smaller wattage, they do have a 250w but the fold out sizing wasnt want i was looking for. Being the blanket I found that it is easier to position for best sun, as I also use it out on my dinghy I needed it a bit more maneuverable. 

Hope this helps while you are looking, 


Posts: 127

Date Joined: 21/05/15

Too much is better than not enough.

Mon, 2020-09-07 11:42

 I run a 200w panel on my camper trailer and have another 160w portable that can be plugged in for additional if needed. Also have 2 x 100amp batteries wired in parellel and i run 2 x 40L fridges (1 as fridge, 1 as freezer). This setup enables me to free camp indefinatley (barring a battery shiting itself) and on many occasions could run a third fridge without a problem. 

I think a lot of ebay panels are fine although tend to be supllied with crap regulators which is no real drama as a decent regulator is not that expensive. As Happy Hooker suggested, you need to work out the amps that your fridge draws per hour as a starting point. 

Posts: 240

Date Joined: 26/12/09

 Gday,Are you trying to set

Mon, 2020-09-07 12:48


Are you trying to set up a stand alone system or purely a car fridge, and if in car, how often a day will you start it? Your alternator is a better charger than any solar panel, with in reason.

Ive got a variety of panels...BP solar, Primus, Kings solid and Kings solar blanket. Although cheap and convienient, non of my or my sons "Kings" panels have the output they are supposed too and have had a couple solar charges saying that theyre cheap and are doing the job


Solar controllers play a large part in getting the most out of your set up. A propper MPPT controller like a Victron really gets the most out of your panels. A lot claim to have MPPT contollers but are apparently only PWM and dont charge as well.

I use a 120w panel through a Victon 100/20 solar controller on 100amp deep cycle battery for a 60l Waeco on freeze and it has never run out of power.

Car has duel batteries and a 160w solar blanket (I think) and that has never let me down either. Bigger is better to a point but in my opinion spend some money on a really good solar controler like a victron.

Posts: 33

Date Joined: 13/05/12

thanks guys for your input,

Mon, 2020-09-07 13:57

thanks guys for your input, just had a look at my fridge and it says it uses 2.9 amps/hr. Also was thinking of getting the kingz solar panels but as hairyone said better spend the money on better quality

scotto's picture

Posts: 2316

Date Joined: 21/04/08


Mon, 2020-09-07 19:22

I have a 160w eBay panel that feeds a 120a/h lead acid battery, and run my 60L Engel on freeze. It generally runs very well, but rotating the solar panel directly into the sun is pretty important.  I got better economics by turning it off at night, which was fine if the Engel was full.

Otherwise I bought one of the small Chinese 1kva 4 stroke sine wave generators, which is deadset fucking awesome. About half the size of a milk crate, 2L fuel lasts 8 hours and would run 2 Engels (60L on freeze, and 32L on fridge), charge both 120a/h batteries, as well as charge phones, torches, etc. perfect for when it's overcast or stormy for a few days. 

Swompa's picture

Posts: 2867

Date Joined: 14/10/12

I ran my caravan + a 65l

Tue, 2020-09-08 05:36

I ran my caravan + a 65l Waeco CFX running as a freezer off a 160w fold out panel. It was charging a 125 AH battery. Keep rotating your panel every hour to follow the sun and you should be fine.

I turned my freezer down to -20 during the day and -4 at night and my battery didnt fall below 12.8v. The day i forgot to pump the freezer down when the sun was shining, it continued to chip away overnight and my battery went down to 12.3v.


Posts: 33

Date Joined: 13/05/12

what size battery do you guys

Tue, 2020-09-08 21:12

what size battery do you guys recommend, i was told anywhere from 120-135 will be good

Swompa's picture

Posts: 2867

Date Joined: 14/10/12

Century 125 AH. Occasionally

Wed, 2020-09-09 07:37

Century 125 AH. Occasionally Super Cheap Auto have really good deals and I got one for $165. 

Deep cycle is best way to go. 

From experience, buy a brand name battery such as Century. I have had numerous batteries (AC Delcor - dropped a cell while camping, RAC didnt last the distance, Bosch - didnt last the distance) across my boat/camper/caravan and car and now have Century in everything and live happily ever the moment.


Posts: 637

Date Joined: 21/05/12

 agree on that swompa century

Wed, 2020-09-09 12:59

 agree on that swompa century or amaron batteries is all i now buy

i rate the amaron better than century 

had one for 11 years now in a mates boat - which get used 3 times a year its been standing uncharged for 6 months( left nav lights on)  still goes like new

Swompa's picture

Posts: 2867

Date Joined: 14/10/12

I believe that the Repco

Wed, 2020-09-09 14:14

I believe that the Repco batteries come from the same factory as the Century ones though i wasnt game to have issues. 

Ultimately you will get immediate enjoyment out of a cheaper product, it will just potentially a pain in the arse further down the line. 

I suggest finding the battery you want and then googling it. Thats how i saved myself a shit tonne. 

Posts: 150

Date Joined: 23/09/14

 +1 for supercheap. They also

Wed, 2020-09-09 11:39

 +1 for supercheap. They also price match so find the cheapest battery you can online in the model you want that they stock and they'll price match it. If its interstate they'll also match but including the postage.

Posts: 2909

Date Joined: 27/12/06


Wed, 2020-09-09 14:35

If its within your budget don't waste your time with the lead acid and hybrids go for an AGM type battery such as a Full river, they are far superior for this type of application, they prefer a better quality of battery charger though for giving them a proper top up from time to time, feeding flat 12V is fine.

I have had one in the back of my car as an auxiliary since 2013, I gave it a load test recently and it ran my engel for 9 days on fridge just sitting in the shed, and that point I just turned it off

Posts: 240

Date Joined: 26/12/09

 Ive noticed a few people

Fri, 2020-09-11 06:02

 Ive noticed a few people sugesting turning your freezer down at night and back up during the day? I cant understand why? -10 degrees or whatever you select is -10 wether its day or night.....your thermostat governs the run time and turns your fridge off when not needed....turning it off when needed only increases the temp inside which is what you dont want?

Best way to increase economy is to keep it in the shade, keep it full, and dont open it. I leave home with it full of bait, frozen food and water and as you need room use the water in your esky or for drinking and replace with fish if youre lucky enough, otherwise I make ice in small amounts during the day....cheers

Swompa's picture

Posts: 2867

Date Joined: 14/10/12

When the sun is shining and

Fri, 2020-09-11 09:23

When the sun is shining and solar is charging batteries then it is 'free power' to work your freezer hard. Overnight, it will gradually warm up though not drain your battery.

My Waeco loses 6 degrees across the 10 hours of darkness so effectively just sits in idle and keeps everything frozen and doesnt draw anything from the battery.

Each to their own though I found it very benificial. 


Caza's picture

Posts: 185

Date Joined: 05/01/11

 Have a look at a power hub

Sat, 2020-09-12 17:27

 Have a look at a power hub by projecta if you can spend a bit brother inlaw runs one and it is great he just has a 200w blanket to top it up but will run his 40l Engel for 4 days 


My names mark and i'm addicted to fishing