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Old 05-29-2023, 12:20 PM   #1
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For those who do Boondocking...

Question for those who do boondocking...

When Boondocking (3-4 days) with a 35ft 5Wheel, if I dont use the a/c, would you suggest should I get a generator or is a solar kit enough? I will be using evething else.
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Old 05-29-2023, 12:27 PM   #2
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You need a 'means' of recharging your batteries
They will probably be drained after day 2
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Old 05-29-2023, 12:38 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Old-Biscuit View Post
You need a 'means' of recharging your batteries
They will probably be drained after day 2
I would start with a generator, then batteries and then solar. It really depends on how much :Off Grid" capability you want and/or need.

With a Generator you will ALWAYS have power, especially with enough Batteries to carry you through the "Quiet Hours". Solar is just another way to charge your batteries and while very worthwhile is best considered after you know exactly what your usage is and has been.

Start small and work your way up with everything but the generator
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Old 05-29-2023, 12:52 PM   #4
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It all depends on your power consumption and the size of your house battery bank. The biggest issue is what kind of refrigerator you have. If you have an LPG/120V refrigerator, you're in pretty good shape since they use very little 12V power when running on LPG. If you have a compressor driven "residential" refrigerator, the answer is no, you'll definitely need a generator. If you have an electric stove you can pretty much forget it unless you use a camp stove while boondocking. Your heater, even though it's propane, will use a lot of 12V power. Many of us seniors have CPAP machines for sleep apnea. They, too, can be power hogs. If you have an inverter, turn it off and keep in mind that anything you run off of it is likely to be a power hog. Forget using hair dryers, electric coffee makers, etc.

We camped for years with 100W (eventually upgraded to 200W) of solar and two 6V golf cart batteries, but we came from a sailing background and were judicious in our power usage. The emphasis is on "camped", we weren't "RVing". We spent a lot of time outdoors, turned lights off when we weren't using them and read instead of watching TV. It's definitely doable but conserving power was second nature to us. We did find a 2000i Honda generator to be useful, not only to recharge our batteries on cloudy days but to use our microwave. We didn't, as some suggest, run it for hours a day to stay caught up and enable us to use as much power as we wanted. We boondock to enjoy the outdoors, not to listen to a generator all day. Nonetheless we were still much more comfortable than we would have had we been tent camping.
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Old 05-29-2023, 03:54 PM   #5
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With our 40' 5th wheel we can be off-grid for at least a week. We run the fridge on LP and our 170 watt solar panel will keep our batteries fully charged.
The only things that use any battery power are the lights, slides, and water pump.
We do of course need our genny if we want to use the a/c.
Just say no to the "payload" police.
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Old 05-29-2023, 05:23 PM   #6
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Get a generator. You will get more usage and be more versatile with that than solar.

With a generator all of your 5íer will have power, and you can use everything without worrying as much.

With just solar, you have to worry about how much batteries charge you have left, plus what you can and can use at times. 120 doesnít work unless you have an inverter with just solar. Microwave will drain your batteries very quickly even with an inverter.
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Old 05-29-2023, 06:47 PM   #7
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You've gotten a lot of good responses and info. You will need to determine WHERE you camp and how good you are with power management.

We went from the single deep cycle 12V battery to a set of 3 deep cycle AGMs, made a custom battery box. I started with 3-40w solar panels. I quickly discovered that was far from enough. I added 330W, 2 larger 165w panels. THAT works pretty good now.

It works very well, but we've had to camp in deep forest areas and solar only puts out what it gets, so it was only 20% efficient. I grew tired of the tiny 600W generator and bought a 3000w/3300w inverter generator on special for 600$ or so. It'll run the A/C if I want to. I try to avoid the generator if I can. I hate the noise and enjoy the peace the panels give us.

NOW we can do anything off grid anytime.
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Old 05-30-2023, 09:30 AM   #8
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Old 05-30-2023, 10:32 AM   #9
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Generators that will run your A/C are much heavier than the common 2000W, or so, variety. For example, the Honda EU2200i weighs in at 46.5 lbs, while the Honda EU3200i weighs in at 60 lbs. This doesn't sound like much until you've had to hoist it around for a while. One alternative is to get two smaller generators that can be "paired" or paralleled:


That way you only carry the extra weight when you need it.

And stay away from the "open frame" construction site generators. They're much cheaper and much, much noisier than the type. You'll tire of it and your neighbors will hate it. Hondas are still the gold standard but several other manufactures have come out with less expensive generators with similar specs.
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Old 05-30-2023, 11:01 AM   #10
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As someone who likes quiet I still believe everyone’s first move should be a quiet 2000 watt or so inverter generator to run a few hours to charge battery’s.or directly run 120volt appliances. Like microwave dinner etc while charging at the same time. Beyond that I’d look at increasing my battery capacity to allow longer quiet time before recharge. That also brings in possibly switching to lithium which last longer and I think more important reason unlike lead acid can be fully ( almost ) drained while providing over 12 volts constant power . Plus the advantage of dramatically quicker recharge and far less generator time. Lastly I’d look to add solar to possibly “almost” eliminate the generator. That’s not how I did it , but what I would do if I could do it over.
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Old 05-31-2023, 05:29 AM   #11
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I suggest 2 Honda 2200i's. Maybe start with one and "feel" your way with that to see if you need more power.

As others said - you ALWAYS have power with a generator.

I've used 2 Hondas for at least 20 years now and have had good experiences with them.

Maybe get some batteries that will get you through the night (without air conditioning) i case there are "quiet hours" with no generators allowed. I suggest one good 200 amp Lithium.
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Old 05-31-2023, 06:36 AM   #12
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Solar works great, until it doesn't. Meaning, it can't be counted on because you can't control the clouds, or necessarily where you park which may have shade. Some folks are OK with accommodating that by shutting things off or limiting use. If you're OK with that, then solar is for you. If you don't want to have to decide between running the fridge, turning on lights or having heat at night, then you want a generator. My opinion is that if you're going to carry a generator around anyway, then why bother with solar but that tends to become a religious debate with some. You *can* make solar work but it's a time and money investment to achieve the goal of being autonomous, if that's your goal. Mine is to go camping, and playing power management isn't in my top five things I want to do on my vacation. Decide what your goals are, then you can architect a system that works for you.

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Old 06-01-2023, 08:05 AM   #13
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My advice is not jump into Lithium or more specifically Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) until you're sure you're going to be frequently camping without shore power and are adequately educated. The initial cost is high and possibly involves a new charging system. Their advantages, lower life-cycle costs, faster charging and more usable amp hours are pretty much undisputed. Their costs have been, and will most likely, continue to come down. You have to be careful with the lower cost batteries, sometimes their are hidden defects and quality issues.

Will Prowse is a well-regarded Youtuber who evaluates LiFePO4 batteries, including teardowns. These teardowns often uncover poor construction, missing sensors, etc. Personally, I wouldn't buy an LiFePO4 battery that hasn't been favorably reviewed by him. He's given a number of relatively inexpensive LiFePO4 batteries good reviews. Beware of many of the LiFePO4 batteries that are hitting the market in the $300 or lower price ranges. He also has a video on DC-to-DC chargers for RVs. Here's a link to his battery teardowns:

You haven't told us anything about your current battery bank or how much solar you're considering. This would greatly help us along with info on your fridge, etc as I addressed in post #9. Also, who's camping, you and your partner, children, grandchildren, etc? How often do you think you'll be boondocking.
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Old 06-01-2023, 08:36 AM   #14
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There are those who are advocates of enjoying the quiet of a boondocking experience, and those who don’t mind running a generator 24/7. Sure, you’ve gotta have a small generator when you depend on solar and encounter more than a couple of consecutive days With no sun, but that rarely happens. And if you have a large enough battery bank, it becomes meaningless. So it all comes down to three factors.

1. What kind of fridge you have
2. How many consecutive days do you want to boondock without running generator
3. How large is your battery bank.

Generally, the larger your battery bank, the less solar you need. A modest size battery, like a 200w LFP pairs well with 300w of solar. That combination gives our camper virtually unlimited consecutive days of boondocking, and we do have a 12v compressor fridge. The fridge consumes on average about 50 ah per day. So if you’re judicious with other draws, you can go for 3 days without generator and zero sun on this setup. The exception is cold weather and snow. Furnace blower gobbles lots of watts. Want more days? Just add another panel or two, or hook up a portable panel.

And I disagree with those who say it’s expensive. If you have no solar, and just a single Marine deep cycle, upgrading to 200w solar, and 200ah LFP will cost between $1,200-1,500.

For generator, consider a small dual fuel and run it on propane. No need to haul messy, stinky gasoline around. And it’ll run one A/C if your A/C is equipped with a soft start. With a good charger, you can put a day’s worth of amperage back into your battery in less than an hour of run time. That’s pretty tolerable, even if you hate the noise.

So, bottom line, if you’re gonna be boondocking more than 10 days a year, it’s well worth the cost of jumping in with both feet to gain the comfort, convenience, and QUIET, of not having to run your generator. After you upgrade, your attention will shift to fresh water replenishment, and waste water removal.
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