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Old 04-16-2020, 07:10 AM   #1
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Name: Scott
Trailer: Scamp - Gently Used
Kentucky
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Zamp, Go Power, Or Renogy

I've been looking into getting an all in one solar kit or "suitcase". We don't have room to install anything on the roof, so it would have to be portable. It sounds like most of the market share around the site here goes to Renogy, but if you all have experience with Zamp, Renogy or Go Power, i would love to know about it.

What's your setup?

If you looked at multiple types, what was the deciding factor?

Thanks,
Rogue
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Old 04-16-2020, 09:56 AM   #2
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I also have a portable panel.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RogueIT View Post
What's your setup?

If you looked at multiple types, what was the deciding factor?

Thanks,
Rogue
I like to park in the shade, place the panel out in the sunlight and re-aim the panel until the batteries are charged. Remember that the regulator should be as close to the battery as you can (Mine is on the panel for convenience, but thatís not the most efficient way to do it.) and that the wire between the panel and the battery should be a large gauge, (mine is 25 feet of number 12). At the time I purchased mine, they could be found for about $1 / watt on Amazon. I transport it strapped to the side dinette/bed in a Scamp.
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Old 04-16-2020, 10:01 AM   #3
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Trailer: Scamp 13 ft 1982
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogueIT View Post
I've been looking into getting an all in one solar kit or "suitcase". We don't have room to install anything on the roof, so it would have to be portable. It sounds like most of the market share around the site here goes to Renogy, but if you all have experience with Zamp, Renogy or Go Power, i would love to know about it.

What's your setup?

If you looked at multiple types, what was the deciding factor?

Thanks,
Rogue
Before you spend the extra money on a Renogy Suit case. I would look to buy 2-Renogy 100 Watt compact panels. you will save money and double your charging input. The thought of were to store the 2 panels? What is your tow vehicle? You could make a portable out of 2-50 watt panels and save money. I have 4 Renogy panels. 3-100 wats panels, and 1- suitcase. I would the suitcase for a quick trip.

Tom C
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Old 04-16-2020, 10:23 AM   #4
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Trailer: 2016 Bigfoot 25RQ
Lanesboro, Minnesota, between Whalan and Fountain
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First of all, I don't like portables, but...................... Our 170 watt GoPower panel on our roof could not get sun a couple of times this winter, so we purchased a 100 watt portable panel from Renogy for $199 shipped (on sale).

The portable stores in a convenient protective case so we don't have to worry about damage when traveling, and it's always protected when unused.

The Renogy portable came with MC4 connectors, that are intended for permanent connections, like how the 170 panel is connected on our roof. MC4 connectors are not easily disconnected. It's best if you use a MC4 disconnect tool. I don't want the carry a tool. We wanted at least 40' of cable to reach the sunny spot and didn't want one 40' cable so purchased two 20' cables from Renogy. The MC4 cables are not meant to lay on the ground where they can be stepped on. They will break easily. Powerpole connectors can be easily broken if stepped on too.

Was also disappointed to find Renogy sells copper coated aluminum wire, not copper. Copper coated aluminum is larger diameter than copper and would not stay put in Renogy's controller.

I sent the Renogy cables and controller back.

We also don't want the line loss from a controller mounted in the panel with 45' of cable since the lower the voltage the larger the cable should be. That's one reason why manufacturers want the solar controller as close to the battery as possible!

We decided on three, 10 gauge, SAE connectors/cables from Zamp and a Zamp port. SAE connectors are very robust and can survive being stepped on. The wires from Zamp are copper, not copper coated.

We also purchased a Victron SmartSolar 100/20 Controller for the portable, mounted less than 2' from the batteries ($152 shipped). We still run our 170 watt panel with the GoPower controller. You can have multiple sources to charge your battery.

We're very happy with the Renogy Portable Panel, the Victron controller, and the Zamp port and cables.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 04-16-2020, 10:46 AM   #5
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Name: Robert
Trailer: 1987 Bigfoot B-17'
Washington
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Im mostly a Renogy guy. Iím not inclined to split hairs and I really donít need much. My system is so simple in my 30+yo Bigfoot trailer. I find Renogy tech support adequate tho I waited 20 minutes once on the phone.
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Old 04-16-2020, 12:35 PM   #6
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Name: dave
Trailer: no longer looking at Parkliner,04 Honda Odyssey
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Go Power

I use one battery and a Go Power 120W suitcase whose cable plugs right into a 2 prong plug on the side of the camper. I like the suitcase because, unlike a roof mount, I can gain maximum efficiency by lining it directly to the sun although the ☀ (sun) indicator on the controller, mounted on the rear side of the suitcase, is fully lit even in daytime shade and even on cloudy days, and seems to be charging. I mostly only use my electric (12V only) for water pump, all LED lights, sound system and phone charging. Reefer and stove are LP. I have used it for a week at a time and never had a discharged battery. Only problem ever was a loose wire going into the controller. EZ fix with a tightening of connector screws. I will never need to own another obnoxiously noisy generator. Or gas. Or StaBil. Or oil. Or worrying if it will start or stink. Happy trails!🍻🥂😎
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Old 04-16-2020, 12:48 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perryb67 View Post
First of all, I don't like portables, but...................... Our 170 watt GoPower panel on our roof could not get sun a couple of times this winter, so we purchased a 100 watt portable panel from Renogy for $199 shipped (on sale).

The portable stores in a convenient protective case so we don't have to worry about damage when traveling, and it's always protected when unused.

The Renogy portable came with MC4 connectors, that are intended for permanent connections, like how the 170 panel is connected on our roof. MC4 connectors are not easily disconnected. It's best if you use a MC4 disconnect tool. I don't want the carry a tool. We wanted at least 40' of cable to reach the sunny spot and didn't want one 40' cable so purchased two 20' cables from Renogy. The MC4 cables are not meant to lay on the ground where they can be stepped on. They will break easily. Powerpole connectors can be easily broken if stepped on too.

Was also disappointed to find Renogy sells copper coated aluminum wire, not copper. Copper coated aluminum is larger diameter than copper and would not stay put in Renogy's controller.

I sent the Renogy cables and controller back. We have three 15' Zamp cables with SAE ends. We also don't want the line loss from a controller mounted in the panel with 45' of cable since the lower the voltage the larger the cable should be. That's one reason why manufacturers want the solar controller as close to the battery as possible!

We decided on 10 gauge SAE connectors/cables from Zamp and a Zamp port. SAE connectors are very robust and can survive being stepped on. The wires from Zamp are copper, not copper coated.

We purchased a Victron SmartSolar 100/20 Controller for the portable mounted less than 2' from the batteries ($152 shipped). We still run our 170 watt panel with the GoPower controller. You can have multiple sources to charge your battery.

We're very happy with the Renogy Portable Panel, the Victron controller, and the Zamp port and cables.

Enjoy,

Perry
Keep an eye on those SAE connectors. I have a couple of sets of them in the chain between my portable panel & the Victron 100/30 solar controller in the trailer. One trailer mounted panel connector, and, because I wanted to be able to use or bypass the controller on my portable 160 watt panel, another set on the panel.

Noticed this winter that wiggling either connector made a considerable drop in current. I fixed the in line connector on the panel with a squeeze of the female side with a pair of pliers, but that doesn't work with the panel mount on the trailer.

I just ordered the parts to switch the entire system over to PowerPole connectors.
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Old 04-16-2020, 01:05 PM   #8
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Name: Perry
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Lanesboro, Minnesota, between Whalan and Fountain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Vermilye View Post
Keep an eye on those SAE have a couple of sets of them in the chain between my portable panel & the Victron 100/30 solar controller in the trailer. One trailer mounted panel connector, and, because I wanted to be able to use or bypass the controller on my portable 160 watt panel, another set on the panel.

Noticed this winter that wiggling either connector made a considerable drop in current. I fixed the in line connector on the panel with a squeeze of the female side with a pair of pliers, but that doesn't work with the panel mount on the trailer.

I just ordered the parts to switch the entire system over to PowerPole connectors.
I did a lot of research before deciding on SAE connectors. None of the three (MC4, PowerPole, or SAE) are perfect. You need to choose the connector that best fits your needs.

The SAE part that seems to be the most problem is the Zamp port. They're cheap, easy to replace, and at less than $10, I have a second.

Because I originally received the Renogy with MC4 connectors I have an MC4 to SAE adapter on the panel. It will be easy to replace if needed too.

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 04-16-2020, 01:08 PM   #9
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Name: RogerDat
Trailer: 2010 Scamp 16
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I bought a 40 watt suitcase. Not Renology. Was a touch over $100 has a controller built in.

The good:
I can use Velcro commander attachments to stick the panel carry bag on the side of the scamp 13 pantry with the base on the dining seat/bed. It may fit on floor but I have big feet, two dogs and a wife (that was in reverse order of importance) I didn't want to risk kicking it so haven't checked. I also travel with some items on floor sometimes.

Comes with a cord that has a plug for cigarette lighter style plug or two clamps for battery. I can easily park in shade and position panel out in sun and use built in legs to prop upright.

Has a controller attached to the back so ready to go. Nothing to install.

40 watts will put approx. 10 amp hours back into a battery daily if it is decently sunny. Sufficient for my modest needs.

The bad:
Carry bag isn't a case and the glass portion faces out not in so unprotected. Hard to break the glass but still.

The multi-headed clamp, plug end is a poor choice for the camper. One plug is always dangling and has power so not ideal.

Controller at battery is better than at panel, not uncommon but if building your own you could do it differently.

Wire is ok for ground use but not especially heavy duty. I have read where voltage drop at these distances is insignificant but hey less drop is less drop.

40 watts in a foldable for the cost of at least a 50 if not a 100 watt panel. Storage was the issue for me. I would expect more than 20 amp hours a day from a 100 watt panel. If I had 12 volt draw from water pump, tv, heater, blow dryer etc. this could fall short.

Those built in legs are not terribly robust. Workable but if I was making it, or have to repair it I'll use better materials and a slightly better design. I am still debating if I want to improve the ones it came with.


What I did to improve it:
Replaced the multi-headed clamps and plug with a two prong trolling motor plug. Have one wired to battery on tongue of camper that comes out from battery case. One on the original plugs in case I want to use them. One on the wire from the panel charge controller to deliver power. I really wanted to preserve the ability to hook the panel up to any battery with the clamps so I just put the same plug on the pigtail of wire I left on them.


I mean someone might leave something on and discharge the vehicle battery so having the clamp connector on a plug-in pigtail allows me to put some charge back into vehicle battery. That seemed desirable, or charge someone else's battery. Not that I would know anything about a dead tow vehicle battery.

If wired correctly in the first place one can't plug those two prong male/female paired plugs together wrong.
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Old 04-16-2020, 01:09 PM   #10
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Name: Alex
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I have a Renogy suitcase (Edited to add: 100 watt model).
Good:
  • It all fits in the nice case
  • Came with a waterproof charge controller
  • It fits in the Bigfoot's "basement"
Bad:
  • The cables are too short to get out of the shade sometimes
  • Cheapo clamp on battery connectors
  • More expensive than separate components
So I upgraded by adding an Anderson connector in the battery compartment, and got 30' of 10 gauge wire. Since we don't stay in one place for too long, this works nicely for us.
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Old 04-16-2020, 01:48 PM   #11
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I just upgraded to a 100W panel that I'll be using mounted on the rack of my tow vehicle. This way I can charge while driving and quickly remove to position it in the sun when I'm parked. It's charging a single 100Ahr wet cell via a 10A Epever MTTP controller.
Although the panel came with MC4 connectors, I made an adapter to connect to the Anderson 30amp Powerpoles I'm using on the rest of the circuit.

This should be plenty to meet our needs.
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Old 04-16-2020, 01:59 PM   #12
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I have the Renogy suitcase. I made some extra cables that attach to a pigtail from the battery compartment. I kept the original cable with alligator clamps in case someone needed to borrow the panel. I used MC4 and I'm able to disconnect them w/o the tool. IIRC I did use the tool to assemble the connectors. The whole apparatus is bulkier than I would like and the legs are sort of fiddly. A handier person might be able to build something better.
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Old 04-16-2020, 02:33 PM   #13
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The advantage IMHO of the Renogy Solar Suitcase is its well made, it has nice adjustable legs for setting the tilt, and it comes in a nice carry case.

I dislike those MC4 things and ran my own battery side wires, using Marine 12/2. I left the MC4's on the panel-to-controller side as I left my controller on the back of the solar suitcase.

I terminated my 12/2 with a PP30 powerpole connector, and I have PP30 pigtails with battery clips, ring terminals, even a SAE (although I have to watch the polarity with that one), also a PP30 'extension cord' of 30 feet of 14 AWG lamp cord.
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Old 04-16-2020, 04:09 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by John in Santa Cruz View Post
The advantage IMHO of the Renogy Solar Suitcase is its well made, it has nice adjustable legs for setting the tilt, and it comes in a nice carry case.
...
Agreed.. I built a "suitcase" from two 50 watt glass panels. That was not great idea. I should have paid a little more for the lighter weight, case, legs, etc.
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Old 04-16-2020, 05:41 PM   #15
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in my Casita, I use a Zamp 100 W portable panel and I installed swing out legs out of 1/2 CPVC pipe and am able to go full time off grid, being fugal with the electricity
All LED lights and fridge on propane.
Made the circuit trip around the country last summer and only had shore power about 20 days on the 4 month journey.
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Old 04-16-2020, 10:17 PM   #16
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I have an 80 watt Go Power suitcase c/w what must be a 30 ft “extension “ and a short 7 pin male adapter that connects the panel, via the extension cord, directly into the 7pin female plug of the trailer.. Very simple and easy to set-up and take-down.. Highly recommend as it’s also durable as can be, comes with a 5 year warranty on the controller and 25 years on the panel and the padded, zippered storage/carrying case does it’s job very well..
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Old 04-17-2020, 09:02 AM   #17
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in my Casita, I use a Zamp 100 W portable panel and I installed swing out legs out of 1/2 CPVC pipe and am able to go full time off grid, being fugal with the electricity
All LED lights and fridge on propane.
Made the circuit trip around the country last summer and only had shore power about 20 days on the 4 month journey.
Am I the only one who is feeling the clammy hand of the green eyed monster of jealousy on their shoulder over this post?

Does highlight a good point I think. One has to consider daily power draw to determine size of panel that will put that amount of power back in. One might also take into account if they can run a deficit. You have 50 amp hours of reserve in the battery (100 amp hour to 50% discharge). So even if your solar panel comes up 10 amp hours a day short you can still go 5 days until you are out of power.

Weekend camping I may not be keeping the battery fully charged. I don't have to care. The reserve in the battery would do a weekend without problem, a 4 day weekend? Then the solar is my guarantee of those extra nights with power.

One reason a 40 watt works for me is low daily draw. The other reason is my tow vehicle is wired to charge house battery while I drive using a battery isolator. That is what one of the wires on the 7 pin plug is for. I tend to do only a few days before I'm moving again. Driving charges trailer.

I think this may have been the case with someone who mentioned using a female 7 pin from their solar panel so they just plug the camper into it and use the existing trailer wiring intended to get power from tow vehicle.

The maths:
A 40 watt panel can put in 10 amp hours a day. Imaginary trailer uses 20 amp hours a day. In 5 days with solar they have used up the 50 amp hours reserve the battery provides. With no solar the batter gives them 2.5 days.

A 100 watt panel can put in 22 amp hours. Keeping the same imaginary trailer with its 20 amp hour a day draw fully charged. Even with output reduced by half due to overcast still provides power needs for an additional 2.5 days for a total of 5.

How much you draw and how long you camp boondock and can you charge while you drive all help determine the solar solution you need. Mine is modest right now. Extend the time I can stay at rustic campgrounds or national forest. Now a 4 month trip? Or 3 season camping with a furnace? The cost of a larger and better quality solar solution would be of greater value.
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Old 04-17-2020, 09:15 AM   #18
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Agreed. I have one 100w Renogy panel on my Bigfoot, and my battery is nearly always full from May-September, full-timing. I park where I get partial shade.

Depending on your use, you can get away with very little.

As you can see this stuff gets into the weeds really, really fast. If you really just want advice between those three companies: all of them have quality products. Renogy upgraded their panels over the last couple years but from what I hear their charge controllers and connectors leave a bit to be desired. For your use, you may never notice. My Renogy system (panel, wiring and charge controller) aren't quite a year old yet, so I can't give a great review other than "it works so far".

I had a suitcase portable setup for years. 90W. The company went out of business but I'm sure it was similar to Renogy. It came with several connections. If you don't want to do any modifications, you just want "plug and play", that's something to look for. I don't prefer the alligator clips. My portable setup came with alligator clips, a cigarette lighter plug-in, and round connections that mounted to the actual battery terminals, secured under the nuts that hold your trailer wires to the terminals. I liked that connector. It was always there, and I just had to take out the panel and connect the wires.

Like Shelby, I kept the other connectors (alligator clips especially) in case someone else at camp needed the solar more than I did. Easy to hook up to their battery for a few hours.
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Old 04-22-2020, 12:39 PM   #19
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Trailer: Scamp
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Renology 50w mono solar

Renogy KIT-STARTER50D 50 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit with 10A PWM LCD Charge Controller has performed well. Everything I need to hook up to the battery and keep the battery charged even on cloudy days. I move the panel once or twice a day to keep the best angle to the sun. Pack it in the cardboard box when transporting and it takes up little space. Comes with all the cables you need too.
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Old 04-22-2020, 12:49 PM   #20
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I would look at the Samplex 90 watt tri fold suitcase. It folds up a tad smaller but works like a charm.
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