What Size Solar Generator Do I Need For A Camping Trip?

portable solar generator for camping

According to Statista, over 50 million people older than 6 years of age went camping between the years 2021 and 2022. 

Both regular camping with tents and RV camping has increased in popularity tremendously over the last 2 years. 

Camping products are also in high demand (naturally). According to Pattern, there has been a 33% increase in people shopping on Amazon for camping tents this year when compared to Pre-Covid 2019. Other outdoor gear high in demand are lanterns, backpacks, camp stoves, and, you guessed it, solar generators. 

Campers are looking for ways to produce electricity on these outdoor excursions to stay out for longer or camp in areas that don't have power. 

This article talks about solar generators and how you can choose the right size for your camping trip.

Components Of A Solar Generator

solar generator for camping

Before purchasing a solar generator, it is important that you know what components they are made up of.

Most modern solar generators are made up of the following major parts: 

  • Charge Controller
  • Inverter
  • Battery

Charge Controller 

The charge controller comes in two types, Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT). 

MPPT devices are more efficient than their PWM counterparts. In fact, MPPT charge controllers can be up to 30% more efficient.

BLUETTI solar generators only use MPPT charge controllers. 

What do they do? 

Charge controllers are responsible for looking after the solar generator's battery when charging. Essentially it regulates the voltage and current produced by the solar panels and ensures the battery is not overcharged. 

Inverter

Inverters come in a few different types, we won't list all of them here, but the most efficient type on the market is the Pure Sine Wave inverter. 

BLUETTI solar generators only use Pure Sine Wave inverters. 

What do they do?

The inverter is an extremely critical component of your solar generator. It is responsible for transforming the Direct Current (DC) of your battery into Alternating Current (AC). 

This is important as all the appliances you want to use with your solar generator require AC electricity in order to function. Therefore, without the inverter, you wouldn't be able to power anything. 

Inverters come rated in watts and are very important to establishing the correct size solar generator for your needs (we will touch on this later).

Battery

The key component in any solar generator is its battery. Batteries come in so many different types it would take a while to list them all here. If you are interested in learning about these types, take a look at this Wikipedia article

BLUETTI solar generators use Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries in their solar generators. The same type used in the Tesla Model 3. 

What do they do?

Most of us are already familiar with what batteries do. They store energy. The chemistry of a battery determines how that energy is stored though this is why it is very important that you know which battery your solar generator has.

Additionally, batteries come rated in their capacity to store energy. This is shown as the unit of measurement Watt Hours (Wh). 

This metric is incredibly important as it notes how much energy your solar generator can store and, thus, how long it can power your camping appliances.

What Size Solar Generator Do I Need For Camping?

best portable solar generator for camping

When sizing a solar generator, you are going to want to pay attention to both the inverter power rating (W) and battery capacity (Wh). 

Inverter Power Rating

The inverter determines what appliances you are able to power. For example, let's say you want to power a coffee machine on your camping trip. 

You need to ensure that the wattage of the appliance you want to be powered coincides with the inverter power rating of your solar generator. 

For example, if you buy a 500 W solar generator but want to power an appliance rated at 1000 W, you are going to have a problem. The solar generator will simply not function. 

Battery Energy Capacity

The next unit of measurement to pay attention to is the energy capacity (Wh) of your solar generator. This is going to determine how long you can power certain appliances. 

There is a really simple formula you can use in order to determine the run times of certain appliances based on the energy capacity of your generator. 

It looks like this: Run time = Battery capacity × DoD × η ÷ Device rated power. DoD refers to Depth of Discharge, and η is local inverter efficiency.

BLUETTI solar generators have DoD and η of 90% (thanks to that LiFePO4 and Pure Sine Wave inverter). 

Two Ways to Size Your Solar Generator

Option 1.

You can make a list of all the appliances you wish to power on your camping trip. In doing so, you will see which solar generator best suits your needs.

Your list will need to include their wattage, run time, and energy usage. Energy usage can be calculated by multiplying the wattage by the run time.

Appliance Wattage Run Time Energy Used
x5 LED Lights 25 W 5 125 Wh
Fan 10 W 4 40 Wh
Laptop 60 W 3 180 Wh
95 W N/A 345 Wh

With this table we can now see the total wattage (assuming we want power everything at the same time) and the total energy required to power said appliances for their proposed run times. 

With this in mind the BLUETTI EB55 would be the perfect sized solar generator for this camping trip. 

Option 2. 

You can use the formula we mentioned above. 

Run time = Battery capacity × DoD × η ÷ Device rated power.

For this you will need to have a solar generator in mind, let's say you are thinking of buying the BLUETTI AC200P. This is rated at 2000 Wh. 

Now you want to power a small camping TV rated at 100 W. 

Here's the formula in use: 2000 Wh x 0.90 x 0.90 ÷ 100 W = 16.2 hours. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see option two rather allows you to figure out how long your chosen solar generator can run appliances for, where option 1 gives you an idea on what size solar generator you would need to power your proposed appliances.

Nevertheless, both options can be used to help size a solar generator for your camping needs.

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