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    • Direct to battery (sprinter van type install) normally have a controller that takes care of the charge and shade issues.
      My portable panel is pretty tough and not to difficult to set up, but having to reconnect if it gets some shade is a pain and limits it's use.
      My rack I built for my crosstreck was built with this as a possibility. 80/20 so the mounting plates would be easy to fit. Was going to rig a tilt mechanism, but the project has been put on the back burner for now. Plenty of holes to route the cable into the car where the extra battery could be installed.

    • Ah very cool!

      I Just remembered I always travel with a rooftop box, so that makes rooftop solar harder to implement. I imagine a rooftop box that has solar panels on top with a built-in battery and controller. How cool would that be?!

    • they make curved panels for sailboats, they also sell fabric panels, sounds like you need to break out the hot glue gun. A top box solar camp battery portable shower and gear storage thread coming soon.....

    • Man, this thread was super productive...especially with some of the technical wizards participating....I saw this at Costco yesterday for $79...and, for a solo dude who likes to car camp and does not require a ton of bells and whistles, this might be a perfect solution for me? I like the jump start feature....even though my Volvo seems to be smart enough to turn off any dome lights, etc, you never know and I do camp sometimes in remote areas... The SPECS do not really articulate how long a fully charged unit will last, but, any input would be appreciated.

    • Seems like it's a fairly run-of-the-mill charger/booster pack and equipped with a standard LA (Lead Acid) battery. That means it will require more attention to state of charge and its rate of free-air discharge will be a bit greater. It will last a few years at least but I wouldn't say more than 3 or 4 w/ a flooded acid battery onboard. If it's UL rated, there will be an "E" number somewhere on the identification label that might offer more insight as to whom the real manufacturer is in China. CAT doesn't have any interest in battery power manufacturing over there, so it's a certainty that they've outsourced it to a dedicated electrical/electronics factory (Xantrex, et al).

      From the operation manual:

      "CHARGING/RECHARGING Lead-acid batteries require routine maintenance to ensure a full charge and long battery life. All batteries lose energy from self-discharge over time and more rapidly at higher temperatures. Therefore, batteries need periodic charging to replace energy lost through self-discharge. When the unit is not in frequent use, manufacturer recommends the battery be recharged at least every 30 days.

      Notes:This unit is delivered in a partially charged state – you must fully charge it upon purchase and before using it for the first time for a full 40 hours or until the green LED Battery Status Indicator lights solid. Recharging the battery after each use will prolong battery life; frequent heavy discharges between recharges and/or overcharging will reduce battery life. Make sure all other unit functions are turned off during recharging, as this can slow the recharging process.In some rare cases, if the battery is overly discharged and the green LED lights immediately when the charger is plugged in, this indicates the battery is at a high impedance stage. If this occurs, recharge the unit for a period of 24-48 hours before use"

    • Personally, I feel strongly that my solar panels ought to be highly mobile. Mounting them onto a rooftop rack is ok...but I personally insist on arrangements where they are easily dis-mountable. Reason being...I *often* seek shade when I park my tent/trailer/RV/car. That is the *opposite* of what your solar panels need. And solar panel output drops precipitously when not in direct full sunlight. My boulder panels have a sturdy aluminum frame that can be jerry-rigged into a rooftop rack if you're ambitous. But I don't see the value of doing that. When I'm in my vehicle, typically I'm cranking an alternator...so...I'm getting my juice from the fuel I'm already burning. When my vehicle / trailer is parked, the panels get moved to where the sun is.

    • I'm not a fan of the lead acid backup batteries for mobile applications, because it's *primary* duty is readiness--keeping a mobile, always-there bank of juice for weeks and months, at-the-ready, and lead acid tech kind of sucks at that.

      In fact, the readiness functionality of one of these backup power banks runs counter to the very nature of lead acid batteries. They self-discharge pretty significantly over the course of months. More dramatically in the winter months too. And that leads to deep discharge, which shortens their life. And then people think "what a piece of crap" 9 months later when they actually need it to perform its 2nd duty (actively delivering the stored juice). They find that only a fraction of juice still remains, and whats worse, the oxidation of the lead plates means that it can't be fully charged anymore. They get frustrated, and they chuck out what could have been a useful piece of gear, if it was deployed in a better manner.

      In fact, the one exception I have to my distaste for mobile lead battery banks is when it's deployed the smart way--like...for instance...in the manner in which all lead acid batteries are incorporated into cars & RVs.

      Paired with a means of recharging, and a charge controller, lead acid batteries can give you good bang for the buck, and if you have a vehicle to carry its weight, who cares that it weighs a ton. Then you don't just have a battery bank, you have a whole system thought out. But aside from RVs, police cars, and tow trucks, I rarely see anyone implementing such an ambitous mod. You never see packs likt that Cat Jump starter sorted out with its own charge controller, & plugged into an onboard alternator for frequent automatic top-ups. But open the hood of tow truck and RVs and sometimes you'll notice that they're equipped with a 2nd battery and even a 2nd alternator (all optional OEM equipment, by the way) under the hood doing exactly that. Those are good mobile 2ndary power sources.

      If you do get the jump starter, I recommend you get in the habit of putting a reminder on your calendar maybe every other month...top that sucker up on a fairly frequent routine.

    • Thanks for the input.....I was reading some reviews and it guess this cannot be overcharged...so, I was thinking just keep it plugged in stored in my garage and then when I head out on a single multi-day adventure, throw it in the back.

    • Ya, that'd be a great way to use it.

      I don't have many lead acid battery-powered gizmos, but one that I've had for years is an el-cheapo LED spotlight. It has a relatively beefy SLA battery housed in it. It's charge controller sucks (always on), so I have it on a 4 times a year charge routine. Every changing of the seasons...I pull that thing out and charge it up. If you pair it up with the maintenance routine it needs...it'll do its job.

      I even took it apart to see what the battery spec was, and made myself a little reminder (the manufacturer actually publishes great specs for their batteries). Manufactured in 2008. I've been religious about topping it up. Still serves me well.

    • For anyone who doesn't actually plan on multiple days away from a power outlet or super heavy loads, there's cheaper simpler options, once you let go of the idea of solar charging.

      If you're always going to juice up from a 120v power outlet, and the max load you really care about is, say, a laptop--getting your hands on a laptop-oriented power bank might be all you need. Maybe less flexible...but within its limited scope...great bang for the buck. And sometimes...dirt cheap.

      The distinct value of going w/ something that charges itself off of a dedicated power cord is simple... 30 W wall chargers gives you *fast* recharge time. 6-8 hrs over solar panels? Psshhh... AC baby...

    • One benefit of lead acid is it can be used for jumpstarting a car. Do we know if lithium ion batteries can jump-start a car without destroying/damaging the battery?

      I'd like to also have a portable power solution that I can use to start the car if its battery is dead. It would be awesome if there's something that would fullfill all my needs.

    • For backpacking you of course wouldn't want anything like this, though I do sometimes carry a small USB power pack if I want to keep a phone charged.

      I also camp in an a-frame camper, often off the grid. The camper has an on-board battery, but I'm usually also powering a laptop and astronomy equipment.

      One of the pictured units would probably work for me, but for a cheaper solution I use a deep cycle battery. It's in a plastic battery box (like you would have on a camper for for a trolling motor), where I've added fused 12V power ports (power poles and auto DC sockets) and a volt meter. It's heavy, but lasts a long time.

      I recharge both the camper and battery box using a 100W solar panel and charge controller. I just hook it up to whatever needs charging for the day and leave it out.

    • I bought one of these from Costco for $79 for one of our cars and it turned out to be so handy, we bought one for every car. Works great. I dunno how many jumps we get per charge, but I'm guessing 6.

      We have old cars and if the kids leave a door ajar or something, we need to jump.

    • Actually these days I don't do as much... I was doing astrophotography, so I needed to power an equatorial mount and laptop, and dew heaters if needed.

      These days though I'm doing more visual astronomy. My thinking is that I shouldn't spend time outside staring at a computer screen when I could be looking up!

    • There are a few tricks you may want to try to see if it's up to the task. If your battery is really dead, often I find that it takes more than a minute for enough energy to transfer to the dead battery to crank the engine. Also making sure the clamps have sufficient surface contact to support a decent amount of current. The more surface contact you can make with the clamps, the less patience you'll need. But regardless you will need *some patience* . Only after you've waited a while would I try the ignition switch.