Monday, April 9, 2018

Gear Review-Renogy Suitcase and Power Pack

Some things are baby steps. For us, getting into boondocking means that solar power is among those baby steps.

We started with a couple basic solar items that we can continue to use regardless of adding a permanent system. Since we purchased these two so close together, I’ll roll it into one review. (Caveat: This is a first glace review…after we’ve really put it through some paces with some boondocking, we’ll do an update.)

Renogy 100-Watt Solar Suitcase with Controller

This is our first step into solar (after we updated all 12-volt interior lights to LED that is-that post is here). After some research it felt to be the best bet for us. And when we got it…we were very pleased.

The pluses:
Solid and well built. We really liked that it had the aluminum frame as opposed to plastic.
Easy to set up
Impressive case. Seriously…solid, molded to fit and well made.
Size-it easily fits into a storage bay
Even on a cloudy day, we were getting almost 20 volts (as per Chris’s volt meter)

The Minuses:
Battery clips. You use these to connect the panel to the battery. That part is obvious. However, it would be nice if they were better quality. Cables are great, but the clips themselves feel a tad flimsy, and the plastic insulation on one the handles fell off.

Owner’s manual is pretty worthless…print is so small you can’t read it without a magnifying glass! We got more help from YouTube on doing the initial setup. (Good thing we had internet available here!) That’s where we learned it’s almost just plug n play. Once you connect it to you 12-volt battery bank, you access the menu on the controller to be sure the right battery type is selected and to set your temperature info to Celsius or Fahrenheit. Renogy should consider replacing that manual with a basic quick start guide.

Renogy 400-Watt Rugged Power Pack

We added this to our solar mix as an additional unit to store power (we currently have a basic two deep-cycle battery bank for house power). We thought portable power would be a good plus and we could charge it off the solar panel in addition to the 120-volt power when we have electricity available in a campground.

And yes, so far we like it. We have tested it a bit with Chris’s keyboard, CPAP machine, recharging electronics, etc., and have recharged it via shore power and 12-volt power. It proved to be a good, steady power source.

Well built
Lithium Battery, so it can store anywhere.
Easy to read display
Clear Connection points
Compact size, easy to carry

Wish we knew this before, but you can’t charge it off the suitcase solar panel with a built-in controller as the power pack has its own controller and they cancel each other out. Chris made a modification to the panel’s wiring and once we run the Power Pack down a bit and we get a fairly sunny day we’ll test that out. At this point, it looks like his adaptation will work. (Yes, we will be sure to let you know whether or not it does)

The controller is not waterproof. (Since we purchased this, they have come out with a waterproof one…guess we should have waited) But if the weather’s bad…you wouldn’t have it out anyway, right?

But even with these minuses, we’re pretty pleased with the Solar Panel and Battery.

An update: We use the Power Pack to power our Patriot 2 Brake System when towing instead of using the Jeep's battery...and it works great!

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