Off grid extra batteries / solar or generator? - Fiberglass RV

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Old 01-23-2018, 12:53 PM   #1
the_fixer's Avatar
Name: Dave
Trailer: Scamp
Posts: 98
Off grid extra batteries / solar or generator?

2017 scamp 13 with bathroom
3 way fridge
Gas cook top
Gas heater

We are going to be camping at sites with no hookups about 1/2 of the time this summer and I am wondering how to make the power last for a week long trip where you do not have access to power.

Our use would be

A few interior LED lights at night for a few hours

Maxfan while cooking or to cool the scamp down in the evening

A quick shower every few days (water pump)

Charging cell phones

Heater fan for a short bit if it is cold in the morning

We currently have the larger group 27 battery but not sure how long it will last with the above listed usage. We spent 14 days in it last fall but we're at sites with hookups most of the time.

Do you think I could get away with just adding batteries? If so what kind and how many?

Add a small portable solar panel? My major concern would be if we were in a shady site and if it would charge the battery / batteries enough to be worth while.

What about a small generator like the Honda 2000?

Would love to hear what you are doing and hear recommendations. Feel free to point me to reading material as well.



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Old 01-23-2018, 01:10 PM   #2
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Name: Tony
Trailer: Bigfoot
Posts: 177
Good points Dave.
In all cases of dry camping the three methods you have pointed out can all achieve longer times between powered sites.
Where you have one Group 27 battery today, the RV industry has pretty well adopted to dual six volt route this gives a substantially higher storage capability. If you have the room. For single battery application, about all you can do is go to a Group 31 which would give you a BIT more retained power.
Solar is great! So many folks using these days it is almost a standard. Prices have come down a lot. Roof installed systems or ground temporary panels all helpmto charge during the days. I prefer roof mounted systems but a lot of people are adamant about having no holes in their Fibreglass trailers! I believe if the panels are PROPERLY installed that holes are not a problem.
LOVE Original Honda and Yamaha Generators! Best camping unit in my opinion is the Honda EU2000i. It, unlike solar, doesn’t just charge your batteries but now gives you access to 120 volt power for many devices.
You couldn’t go wrong by doing all three of these upgrades.

2017 Bigfoot 25B25FB
2017 F-150 2.7 EB
Full Time RV Living
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Old 01-23-2018, 01:27 PM   #3
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Name: Huck
Trailer: ParkLiner
Posts: 648
I have a 100 watt solar panel and 2 12v batteries and have boon docked for a week with no problem. This was in the summer, so didn't run the heater fan. I was in full sun, but I have an additional 100 watt panel that is portable, so if trailer is in shade, I can hopefully move the panel where it gets sun.

You should get a fair amount of energy even during days that are overcast. I would think if you double your battery power and get a panel that you can move to a sunny area, you should be good.

The drawbacks of a portable panel are you have to store it some place during travel, probably move it a time or 2 to keep it in the sun, and security problems. It is really convenient to have it mounted on the roof and not have to worry about it.
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Old 01-23-2018, 01:37 PM   #4
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Name: Dave
Trailer: Scamp
Posts: 98
What about lifePo4 batteries? I know they are more expensive but maybe worth it considering the lack of storage space in the scamp.

Any idea how long I could expect the single battery to last with the usage listed above?

Good to know that the generator will not charge the battery, I was thinking I could turn it on for a while during the day and charge.
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Old 01-23-2018, 02:15 PM   #5
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Name: K C
Trailer: 1971 Trailswest Campster
Posts: 1,766
A generator should get you through your needs just fine as long as you make sure not to use a lot of power hungry items after quiet hours. Sometimes the places you camp will restrict the time of day when you can use a generator.

You really are not going to completely understand what your needs are until you have some experience of being off grid for extended times. Having followed various blogs and vlogs of full timing RV people one thing I have seen is that they are always revising their power supply systems with trying it first one way, then another way. Many of them do end up using a generator even when they have solar and more than one battery. A lot of that has to do with the weather. Not enough sun equals not enough power.
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Old 01-23-2018, 03:56 PM   #6
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Name: Steve
Trailer: Scamp 13
Posts: 1,579
I use 1 standard Walmart Everstart group 27 battery. Its close to 5 years old now but still going strong. When boondocking with no hookups I use (2) 30 watt solar panels to keep my battery up. the 2 smaller panels fit through the escape hatch on top. so easy to place up there or move if we have too.

Here in the south west we don't camp in the shade and have sun all the time or at worse partly cloudy. As soon as I stop to camp I put up my 2 solar panels on the roof. Fridge runs on propane, furnace runs on propane and 12 volt for the fan. My lights are all led. I run a small portable DVD player most of the evening into late at night. This weekend at Quartzsite it was pretty nippy at night so the heater was off and on from 6 PM to 8 am maybe came on an off a dozen times to keep heat at 65F inside. We have no bathroom inside so not much water use on the pump. We charge phones and tablets at will but seldom have reception.

This weekend was the heaviest over night draw down we have had and drew the power down in the battery to 12.2 over night. at the end of the day we came back and the battery was charged back up to 12.8 fully charged. with running the heater at night we usually draw down to 12.5 or so but with extra draw down from the heater starting at 6PM instead of 9 or 10 pm it drew down deeper than normal.

Either way it has been working well for the 5 years or so since I cobbled the system up with a new battery and solar.

I think is is important to note: when we are not using the trailer it is plugged into 120 volts AC and using the PD4045 converter panel with charge wizard to keep the system charged and maintained. So I think this keeps the battery in top shape and ready for use at a moments notice. My battery has never been drawn down to 12 volts. It will be interesting to see just how long this battery will last.
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Old 01-23-2018, 04:28 PM   #7
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Name: Rod
Trailer: Scamp 16 Std Layout 4
West Virginia
Posts: 18
Dave, I think you misunderstood Tony's message, when you noted the generator will not charge your battery. He said the generator, unlike solar, WILL charge the batteries while also giving you other 120V power.
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Old 01-23-2018, 04:31 PM   #8
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Name: Dave
Trailer: Scamp
Posts: 98
Upon further review you are correct I totally missed that.

I was really scratching my head trying to understand why it would not charge the battery
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Old 01-23-2018, 06:36 PM   #9
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Name: John Michael
Trailer: Scamp 13
Madison, Wisconsin
Posts: 647

I think you can get about 4 days from your battery with the loads you describe. Add a second battery and extend to 8 days. Then put the discharged battery in your tow for charging if you make any sightseeing trips during your week and you can extend your stay indefinitely. Its a bit of a hassle moving batteries, but its the cheapest route to longterm boondocking. You could even leave the second battery in the tow and run a cable to your trailer allowing you to disconnect the house battery to save its juice. If you drive a bit every other day or so this will work for long term stays. And its much cheaper and quieter than a generator.

I carry this $66.00 35 amp hour AGM wheelchair battery in my tow just in case my solar panel is shaded for 4-5 days. The tow keeps it topped off if I ever need it. Weighing 22 pounds its more portable than the Group 27s. Plus you can use it to jump start the tow if ever necessary. See my set up here.


Pic of a calm day on Lake Superior's Minnesota shore.
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Old 01-23-2018, 08:51 PM   #10
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Name: Dave & Paula Brown
Trailer: Lil Snoozy
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Dave, I have had very similar results as Steve described in post #6, with our 13’ Scamp, a single group 27 battery and a 100 watt solar panel. We did not have a 3 way refrigerator, but rather a 12 volt only danfoss style compressor refrigerator that used up 35-40 amps per 24 hour day.
I think you’ll be fine with a small portable solar panel.
Dave & Paula
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Old 01-24-2018, 07:34 AM   #11
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Name: bob
Trailer: Was A-Liner now 13f Scamp
Posts: 2,739
steve our deal exactly one battery one propane tank. we use no water pump no tvs led lights we are just one step up from a tent really. we boondock 90% of the time we have no big needs thus no need for power!

life is good on the road

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Old 01-24-2018, 08:06 AM   #12
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Name: Alexander
Trailer: 1979 Boler B1300
New Hampshire
Posts: 326
Originally Posted by David B. View Post
Dave, I have had very similar results as Steve described in post #6, with our 13’ Scamp, a single group 27 battery and a 100 watt solar panel. We did not have a 3 way refrigerator, but rather a 12 volt only danfoss style compressor refrigerator that used up 35-40 amps per 24 hour day.
I think you’ll be fine with a small portable solar panel.
Dave & Paula
Dave, I have a similar setup to Dave and Paula's that works fine. I also bring an 8 amp Duracell battery charger and a power inverter that can run it. I camped at a shady campground for almost 1 week and ran the charger from my car for about 1 hour total every other day since I wasn't getting full power from my solar panel and I don't have a 7-wire harness to charge directly from the tow vehicle. It's a lot quieter than a generator which my neighbors appreciated.
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Old 01-24-2018, 09:21 AM   #13
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Name: Martin
Trailer: 1993 CASITA 16SD
Posts: 29
First off ... I hate generators! There's no excuse for them outside of running an AC unit. I don't go camping to listen to someone's infernal machine wrecking the quiet. Hauling fuel is another set of headaches I don't need.

That said, I have two 100 watt roof mounted solar panels feeding two AGM 12 volt batteries. I can use and charge just about anything even on a cloudy day including a 1000 watt inverter to power my microwave and even a small dorm style 120 volt refrigerator on occasion. I've never even come close to running out of power even with 2 inches of snow covering the panels and the furnace keeping me toasty.

When it's AC weather I just head up in elevation, north to cooler climes, or to parks with hookups.

The whole setup cost about the same as a first class generator with me doing all the installation work. Do us all and the environment a favor and really research how cost effective it is to go fully solar.
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Old 01-24-2018, 10:54 AM   #14
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Name: Dave
Trailer: Scamp
Posts: 98
Honda EU2000i is about $999 from multiple sources and sounds like it will do the job.

I am also interested in the Solar option so help me figure out what I can get for a similar price point with the following considerations

1. I do not want to roof mount it we do not plan on owning the scamp long term and will upgrade so additional holes in the Shell are not desirable.
2. Should be portable and include all of the major components for a self install.

I am a proponent of Solar and my wife has several patents that are responsible for setting world record efficiency so it would be a fun project for us.

Are the kits like Zamp worth it?

Or is it better to source then parts and build?

Ideas to secure a portable unit?


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