Yep, read it here first… the latest way to measure solar panels… what the!

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It’s the 21st century. Almost everything relies on electronic power of some sort – mostly 12-volt when you are removed from mains power. We tend to take all manner of those 12-volt gadgets to play with when we head out bush… navigators, camp lights, radios, DVD players; and the most power-hungry of them all – the 12-volt fridge.

The subsequent drain on my own triple-battery system (two in the 4X4 and one in the camper-trailer) is enormous, so we often need to rely on alternative charging methods. We’ve been using a folding solar panel kit from Projecta for a few years, and I reckon it’s beaut. Not because it packs more punch or because it does anything fancy that the other panels can’t do, but because the complete unit is so much smaller, lighter and more convenient than the others.

The briefcase-size Projecta kit measures just over the length of my forearm and weighs no more than a medium-size watermelon, but it unfolds to more than one of those huge slithery pythons long and is rated at 80 watts – that’s about the same whack as being stung by a bucket of box jellyfish. Don’t hook those jumper leads up to any part of your body (sensitive or otherwise … you’ve been warned).

Since buying my 80-watter a few years back, there are now two larger kits at 120 watts and a whopping 180 watts – and if I had my way I’d be choosing one of these larger units to help pump the batteries up even faster and to help overcome non-sunny periods where the panels aren’t working effectively. The latest kits also feature improved regulators offering four-stage controllers to help keep your battery in tip-top condition;
as well as scratch-resistant panels.

Being packaged in a heavy-duty canvas outer skin, my Projecta unit is soft and forgiving to the vehicle’s interior as it gets unceremoniously slid in and out of the Cruiser; plus we’ve even laid it out on our bonnet to use – all without a scratch to the duco.

To make it even more convenient and easy to use, the legs to prop the panel kit up at an angle are tucked into a canvas pocket along with the battery leads (complete with decent-size alligator clamps). Other than ensuring you don’t clip the nice chunky leads onto the wrong terminals, there’s nothing else to do other than kick back and enjoy the contents of the cold refrigerator, watch The Wiggles with the kids on the DVD player, listen in on the cackling of the two-way radio and check out the electronic maps on the navigator under the camp lighting to see how far we really are from civilisation. The further the better for all of you. You really don’t want to be listening to my kids arguing, whingeing or going off their brains just because one of them took the last cold drink from the fridge!

This compact, folding solar panel kit has quickly become my choice of panel and it almost never gets taken out of the Cruiser… just in case. Not only is it quick and easy to set up, but I can pack it behind the kids’ seats, saving room in the cargo area. Great, more space for the kids’ electronic toys!

RRP: 80W $499,120W $749,180W $1249

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