We’ve recently improved our self-sufficient setup for camping. It started with Dixie receiving an XTM 120watt solar blanket for a recent birthday. To complement the blanket we purchased a Redarc BCDC 1225D to help keep our auxiliary battery fully charged. We also upgraded our fridge due to necessity.
On a recent quick weekend at Willowbrook Farm, we purposely chose an unpowered site to test out our new additions. As the sun rose on Saturday morning it was a good opportunity to get the solar blanket out. We laid it on the windscreen of our Landcruiser facing east. Immediately we could see charge going into our battery. Without solar power, most people will find that camping with a fridge, at some point you will either need to run your car or a generator to top your battery back up.
As the sun moved higher we moved the blanket onto the roof rack. Within a couple of hours, the battery was fully charged. What impressed us the most was late afternoon it was very cloudy, the sun had disappeared, with a multimeter we could measure the solar blanket still making over 20volts of charge.
We run our fridges and LED lighting from a 102ah auxiliary deep cycle battery. Previously we charged the auxiliary battery via a Redarc SBI12 smart solenoid. It is a fairly reliable and cheap setup. However this style never fully recharges the battery in the ideal way. So we researched DC to DC chargers.
There are several brands of DC to DC chargers but due to its quality reputation, we decided on a Redarc BCDC 1225D. The next challenge was mounting and wiring up the BCDC. We could not find an off the shelf bracket to mount the charger in our 105 Landcruiser, so we had to fabricate one.
A bit of cutting, drilling, welding and painting and we had our bracket. We chose to mount it behind the grill, in front of the radiator to help keep it cool. Redarc recommends mounting it here to prevent the BCDC getting too hot. The hotter they get, the less they output.
The next job was to wire up the charger. The Redarc kit comes with most of the terminals, cable and heat shrink required for an average install. Using a quality crimping tool we had the charger wired up and ready to mount in a couple of hours. We plugged the solar blanket in via the Anderson plug to test the new setup, instantly seeing results.
The next upgrade was a new fridge. We had an old Engel 32L and a Waeco CDF35 (31L). For 1 or 2 nights we could get away with one fridge, 3 or more nights we would run two fridges. The old Engel retired itself this year so we were down to the old Waeco, which has done a lot of hard work.
We chose a Dometic CFF45 (42L) for a few reasons. The price was a big influence, they are fairly reasonable for a 42L fridge. Another major factor was the ease of modification to the rear storage setup of our Landcruiser to get the CFF45 to fit. The fridge also has an internal light and digital controls, which are new luxuries for us. It does not have the Bluetooth capabilities like most new fridges do these days, but we can survive without it.
Another cheap upgrade was the addition of a homemade stainless steel drop-down table on the rear door. It is a great new improvement that doesn’t really impede on any storage space. Aluminium would be a lighter option however, using stainless steel means we can prepare food straight on the table and wipe it clean.
Now, all we need is more time in the bush.