Camping Essentials - Solar Blanket

John Ford — 1 August 2022
A portable solar blanket can charge your battery even if you have no panels on the roof.

Ten or so years ago caravans were simple sleeping spaces to hook up and drag to your favourite caravan park . The vans didn’t need a surfeit of water and power because the park had a communal kitchen and a concrete amenities block on site.

These days, things are different and the idea of off-grid living is the norm.  And while a lot of vans are equipped with enough solar and battery power to last indefinitely, there are still vans with minimum solar or none at all. Most have a battery though, which is charged by the tow vehicle as you travel. Similarly, tow vehicles with a second battery for a fridge can benefit from extra charge when parked up for a few days in camp without needing to run the engine to recharge the battery.

The XTM folding solar system comes complete and ready to operate. It comes as 12 panels in a canvas blanket that folds down to 37cm x 37cm x 8cms that is easily stored. The kit includes the solar blanket, a 20amp pulse width modulator regulator and all the leads needed to plug into an existing Anderson plug or with alligator clips to a battery. 

All the plugs and connections seem sturdy and well made, and the blanket has loops to move it around.

The blanket is rated to 200w with a claimed maximum output of 11amps in optimum direct sunlight. In direct sun at midday at Streaky Bay in South Australia in April, I saw a charge rate of 6.6amps, and that was enough with the roof panels on the van covered to top up the twin 120ah batteries over the course of the day. I also charged the third 110ah battery that runs an Engle fridge in the Landcruiser using the regulator and it kept the system going for a couple of days without dropping charge or running the engine.

Two aspects of the blanket should be emphasised. Firstly, you need to connect the regulator - to the battery so it can work out what sort of battery it is -before connecting the blanket. Secondly, the blanket is not waterproof and there are sad tales of this style of blanket disintegrating after they get wet.

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Solar Blanket XTM Folding Solar System