Off-Grid Camping: Greener on the Go

These 20 nifty products let you go off-road and off-grid camping in your tent, camper or RV.

| August/September 2004

Want to escape crowded campgrounds with those growling RV generators and get off the beaten path? We’ve got your plan all mapped out. The self-sufficiency travel advice and products on the following pages will allow you to make your tent, camper or RV more comfortable, safe and energy efficient while you travel.

My husband, Shawn Schreiner, and I are full-time back roads and backwoods wanderers: We live and work on the go in our 20-foot-long RV, traveling from place to place as our whims and work dictate, so being as independent as possible is always part of our strategy. Today’s compact renewable energy technologies and hand-powered gadgets liberate travelers like us from the electrical umbilical cord without sacrificing all of our creature comforts.

We’ve selected 20 travel tools and products that are solar- or human-powered, low maintenance, portable and durable. These 20 nifty products let you go off-road and off-grid camping in your tent, camper or RV.

Solar Power

One of the benefits of having a home on the road is boondocking, which is free camping away from commercial campgrounds and energy hookups. Being completely energy independent with a photovoltaic (PV) system gives you the freedom to park your camper or RV almost anywhere, with the landowner’s permission.

A small PV system easily can supply enough power to run a few lights, a water pump and a few other small electric gizmos. PV systems are quiet, lightweight and require almost no attention — just keep the solar panels clean, and they’ll keep on producing power. Panels can be mounted flat on the RV’s roof or set into a tilting mount, which improves the power output by as much as 10 percent to 20 percent.

The average RV user with some basic 12-volt appliances consumes about 40 to 50 amp-hours of power per day. PV panels, which cost between $300 and $500, can produce about 20 to 35 amp-hours per day for you, depending on how many hours of sunlight the panels receive. They can be wired directly to charge a battery and power your 12-volt lights and pump, or you can add an inverter, which transforms DC energy to AC electricity, to power your small standard appliances.

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