Hey van-dwellers! As most of you have already realized by now, solar energy is the way to go if you plan on full-time van life.
Surely, your alternator charge can be useful, but that requires some continuous driving. If you want to spend more time camping & hiking than driving, then it’s almost mandatory that you go solar.
Solar energy is the most eco-friendly, efficient type of energy. The one you want to use when living in your van or RV. You don’t know where to start or how to set you up for it? Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out with that.
In this guide, we’ll tell you about 10 absolutely cannot-miss solar products to make your van life a piece of cake. Once you finish reading this guide, you’ll know the essentials that make solar energy the best choice for van lifestyle.
With that said, let’s get started with the 10 best solar products for van life and their reviews for 2019.
We definitely have to start with solar panels, right? And if we talk about them, then Renogy’s renown series is the absolute way to go for setting up your own solar system. Let’s get something out of the way: you want to go solar, you need your solar panels to be good.
Renogy’s best and most popular product is all about efficiency. If you’re looking for the real deal and want some solid return on investment, then this solar panel is absolutely the way to go.
It weighs only sixteen and a half pounds and, please take a moment to look at its dimensions: Length 47.3″ / Width 21.3″ / Height 1.4”. Ideal for your RV, whatever its size.
It has TPT back sheet, which enhances cell-performance and longevity. What is more, it has a corrosion-resistant aluminium frame for extended outdoor use. All of this makes it a very durable, very reliable product. And we don’t have to emphasise on how important that is when spending in your solar system.
Its pre-drilled holes make it super fast to mount and to secure. It’s really that efficient. We recommend this solar panel mostly because it’ll make your life easier, beginning on the setup. And that’s something to seriously consider if you’re not an expert on the matter.
Renogy is quality and you should aim for this particular kind of quality when spending on your solar system. If you live in your van or spend most of your time traveling in it, then you have, sooner rather than later, to go solar. And this is the first step you have to take in order to do it efficiently.
If you are a beginner, we also recommend you to read some book on the matter, mostly to properly understand how solar energy works and best practices to handle it to your interests and to know where and how to set your solar system up.
So, if you have solar panels installed, what you need now is a portable solar power generator. The solar power generator will convert the DC your solar panel creates into AC to power…well, anything you want (or kind of).
And if you’re looking for the ideal portable solar power generator, then the Goal Zero Yeti is the product we recommend for you. As with the solar panels, your power station is essential to your solar system and something you can’t just choose not to have.
This generator has the word ‘value’ all over it. Sure, you can go and buy the 1400 Model if you want, which is absolutely the best in the market, but first, take a moment to compare the prices.
To recharge it, it comes with a cable, which you can connect to your solar panel and, in a matter of hours, you are ready to go. If you want to know how much energy you have left, it comes adequately equipped with an LCD little display showing that information among other relevant specs.
Solar power generators are not only ideal but mostly mandatory, especially if you’re thinking about spending time in energy-deprived environments. They are really important as a backup plan and you should definitely mind about having, at least, one of these.
Solar energy is not only the way to go if you decide to live in your van or RV, but also the most eco-friendly. It can be expensive to get you set up, but you don’t have to buy all the equipment in this article at once. Just start with your solar panels and the Yeti power station and go on from there.
Pros & Benefits:
Value, value, value
Can power up to 7 devices simultaneously
LCD display for specs and battery life
Light-weight, super portable
3. SmartSolar MPPT 100/50 Charge ControllerYou have solar panels installed? Good. Also your power station ready? Great! Now you need a charge controller! Why? Well, it’s imperative to convert the voltage received from your panel into the ideal voltage needed for your battery. If you don’t, things can go wrong pretty fast.
If you’re going to buy one, you have to strongly consider two aspects. First, you want it to be MPPT, which stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking, which is what allows your panel to optimize its extraction, even in winter times. It also prevents you from wasting any energy when you are fully loaded.
Second, consider the charge controller to be a Victron Energy product. This product is top-notch, great technology and ideal for all you monitoring, energy-saving, charge-controlling stuff.
A charge controller is something delicate, a tool that has to proper work because it’s measuring all the time, so it’s much better to spend your money on proven technology.
The main advantage of the SmartSolar version of this solar charge controller is that you can control it via Bluetooth with your smartphone.
Yes, that’s right, you connect your phone to the charge controller via VictronConnect and voilá: you start getting all kinds of information about your solar energy extraction. That’s awesome and its users have already begun praising this feature.
Last but not least, it has a feature called LifeBattery, which helps a lot with your batteries, preventing them from getting damaged. It lets you configure SmartSolar to disconnect a load when the voltage reached your set limit.
The system will try to recharge 100% every single day and if it cannot, the amount of voltage needed to get disconnected will rise and it’ll stop when the battery is completely charged.
Can’t afford MPPT technology for the moment? No problemo. The ALLPOWERS 20A solar charge controller will be your best friend, so look closely at the picture because you will love this guy.
Let’s start with the price. It’s a more than an affordable piece of material that will not only save you lots of money but also solve you lots of problems. Then again, MPPT or not, you have to optimize the way you are using and storing your energy.
Your batteries and your solar panels will be struggling with each other and that will, sooner or later, strain your equipment to the point you’ll have to buy a new one. This charge controller will let you monitor all the energy activity and compensate, so minimal to no strain is done to your batteries.
It’s really simple to use, with a built-in display that shows you all that matters in real time. It also has multiple electric protection and good heat dissipation. For that price, you cannot really ask for much more.
If you can afford an MPPT model, go for it. But if you can’t, don’t worry because this is a more than fine option that will suit your needs.
One of the most important things you could wish for when adopting van life is to get your hot shower, especially when camping or hiking in cold environments. And if you are planning on going solar, then why not use a solar shower?
Coleman is the real deal in this aspect and its five-gallon solar shower is already a classic for adventurers, campers and van-dwellers.
First of all, you have to know how to ration, because five gallons is not a lot of water. However, if well used, it can serve you for multiple showers. Piece of advice: try it a little bit in a warmer zone, so you can have an idea of how much time you can spend showering while not depleting its contents.
The way it works: you leave it in the sun and it’ll charge and warm the water, keeping it in at 120 F degrees to use when needed. Awesome, right?
It also has a really good handle, which makes it very easy, not only to hang it, but also to transport it around. You can set in up in a rope, in a tree, in a post, etc. It’s really convenient and you’ll be able to adapt it to your surroundings without much effort involved.
It also comes equipped with an on/off valve which, connected to the head shower, will make it easier for you to take your shower while minimizing the amount of water spent.
A solar fan system is kind of ironic but nevertheless much needed in the summertime. In those hot days in the van or camping without a river of a lake nearby, you need relief, and the Cowin Solar Fan System is your best shot at it.
First of all, functionality. You have access to three different speeds ranging between 1000 RPM and 1350 RPM and the fan can be charged either with DC Power from your solar panel or, if lacking sunlight, with the help of an AC adapter, included in the package.
Its battery can be recharged and has protection in cases of overcharging or even discharging. This is important, mostly due to its preservation and durability. Going solar doesn’t mean you have to resign reliable or durable items.
It also comes packed with USB port to charge other devices, remote control in case you’re not close or don’t want to get up from your chair and, last but not least, a LED light for night use.
All in all, this fan is perfect for van life and any outdoor activities during the summer. It’s handy, portable, can be adjusted to your preferences and the DC/AC functionality is a plus when you have decided to go fully solar. This fan is really complete.
When it comes to outdoor solar lighting, the KK.BOL Portable Solar Led Light Bulb is a must to have in multiples. It’s efficient, it’s handy, it’s super easy to charge and illuminates any space you need for a 5-hour period when fully charged.
It charges itself with USB, so there’s an array of charging methods you can use. You can do it on your laptop while working, you can use your power bank, you can use a normal USB charger or you can connect it directly to your solar panel.
It comes with its own photovoltaic solar panel and a built-in lithium battery, which makes it not only durable, but also very low power consuming.
It’s also built with a very handy hook, making it very easy to transport and ideal for almost any kind of circumstance. You can mount it almost anywhere you need illumination from, making it perfect for van life, outdoor nights and even for hiking at late hours.
It’s important to notice that it is not waterproof, but for its price, you really couldn’t ask for more. If you plan on living in your RV or van and like to camp or hike buying a couple of these bulbs will make your life a lot easier.
If you are going to live in your van or RV, it’s highly possible that you have a big refrigerator installed in your vehicle, which you’ll use for most daily needs. However, having a portable refrigerator or freezer is ideal for the summertime or if you want to go hiking.
The Dometic CFX-28 Portable Electric Cooler Refrigerator is not only that, but it can also be powered on solar energy, which is extremely valuable if you’ve decided to go fully solar.
The CFX-28 can be run on AC (120-volt) but also in DC (12-volt or 24-volt). You decide how to charge it and where. You can set it up next to your Yeti 400 and have some refreshments while enjoying the daylight.
It’s very portable but also big on the interior, holding up to thirty-one 12-oz cans, so you can set it up for whole cold meals, beverages included. It’s worth mention that you can refrigerate anything, not only food and drinks, making it even more useful for long hikes.
When talking about the temperature, the Dometic CFX-28 can be set from -8 degrees F to +50, giving you a wide range of possibilities and you won’t have to worry about ice for your outdoor activities anymore.
It also comes equipped with an interior LED light, so you don’t have to carry your solar bulbs every time you want to grab a beer or soda and it has USB port, which comes in handy for charging some small devices when needed.
You have your solar lighting in the form of bulbs or outdoor LED lights. That’s necessary and awesome. But why not torches? You can have a romantic meal with a nice touch of solar technology.
They are 43 inches tall and require a minimum setup: you just find somewhere to aim the pointy end and that’s it. You can easily set them up in the ground or in the sand without much effort. You can enhance your outdoor night experience in no time.
You can vary its size, removing some middle parts, whether you want them to be very tall or closer to the ground. You don’t need any wiring.
Just leave them directly under the sun for 8 hours and they will get charged. As soon as they are loaded, its light lasts for 12 hours without interruptions.
They are a high-quality product, built to last and to resist rain, wind, and all kinds of heavy weather. If you want to mimic real flames, this is your best shot at it and it’s a really good one.
Let’s be honest: sometimes, light bulbs make your forest setting less attractive. Try these solar outdoor torches from Gold Armour.
Last but certainly not least: you have to eat. So if you’re going full solar, why not use solar energy for cooking your preferred meals? Living in your van doesn’t mean that your diet should be based on canned food and sandwiches. This solar cooker by GoSun is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
The GoSun Sport portable cooker is a marvel of technology and design. It’s built to work with ultraviolet rays, so you can almost always use it. It will get your dish prepared in less than half an hour and can reach temperatures as high as 550°F (290°C) when in complete sunlight.
The best part: it doesn’t use fuel of any kind. Sun in the sky, a meal prepared. As simple as that. That is important when thinking about your budget and how much money you’d have to otherwise spend on fuel material for cooking your meals.
It has a tube cooking chamber in which you put whatever you want to prepare. Then with the help of two parabolic reflectors, it works its magic to get your meals prepared in no time and as good as a regular kitchen.
It’s completely portable. You can deploy it in no time and carry it in your back if you want to go hiking. You can move it to the dining-table without worrying about getting burned. Its system prevents any fire hazard.
With the GoSun Sport you can have you hot meals ready in very little time, follow a diet that best serves your metabolism and you don’t have to worry about any extra expenses because it’s fuel-free. Go get it.
Pros & Benefits:
No fuel required.
Easy to handle. Easy to set it up
Cook anything you want in little time
Works with ultraviolet rays.
It’s been a wild ride but we got there. We have chosen and recommended 10 products you absolutely cannot miss if you plan on going full solar with your van lifestyle.
There are obviously a ton of other solar gadgets and products you can consider if it suits your needs. Solar-based technology is growing and will continue to do so, making the solar catalogue bigger and bigger every year.
Once you get used to using solar power energy, once you mastered all the basics and the fundamentals and start living off the sun, you will see its benefits for yourself.
We hope that you have enjoyed this list and let us know if you have any doubts regarding it or any comments you want to make.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the 10 best solar panel products for van life in 2019. See one that’s not on the list and should be? Let us know in the comments below.