Looking again at our HardKorr 200w solar blanket and how it coped with three months hard travel in the outback.
The fact of the matter is… there are TWO types of camper in the world. There are most folks who go out for a weekend here and there and who have a two-week trip to the bush maybe once or twice an year; and then there are the crazy folks like us who decide to LIVE out on the road and camp full-time. And for these two types of camper, there are also two types of camping equipment. There is camping equipment that will LAST out on the road, in red dirt and dust, heat and extreme UV, and with the constant packing and unpacking which is such a feature of camping (even slow camping) life. And then there is the other sort of camping equipment, the stuff that is made to sell, the stuff that will certainly last for a week or two, but when faced with the extremes of the Australian bush, will just not hack it.
On the face of it, we thought that these Hardkorr 200w solar panels were going to be the business. Pumping out loads of lovely juice in even moderate sunlight, covered in a really tough ‘croc-skin’ hide and light enough to be able to fold away and pack easily.
Unfortunately… it was the folding away bit that was their Achilles heel. After only a few weeks in the bush, all that lovely juice had faded away and were only pumping, no trickling, less than 40w. Now, when you’re deep in the bush, and especially WORKING as a digital nomad, power is EVERYTHING. Without the extra power from these foldable panels, we were looking at disaster. Some, er, rather emotional phone calls to the Hardkorr warranty people (really excellent service, btw) later, and we knew that we had a lemon on our hands. The problem, was, in fact existential. It wasn’t down to Hardkorr’s excellent build quality; it was down to the hard (korr) fact that folding panels don’t last. We had tried various other folding panels previously, and they didn’t last either. It’s the folding itself that is the problem.
That’s what one of the experts at Redarc told me when I asked what type of solar they would recommend. They had tortured tested their own (very expensive) folding solar blankets in the field and well… that constant folding and unfolding, folding and unfolding was just too much for even their top-end system. Full-time campers, advised the Redarc solar guru, should stick to solid panels and leave the solar blankets to the weekenders.
It’s a shame for Hardkorr, for our experience with their other gear has been that it is absolutely first class; and their warranty and returns dept certainly deserve commendation.
As soon as got to a sizeable regional town we sent back our 200w solar blanket for a full refund (yes, it’s still a nuisance) and bought the best solid solar panels we could find. They’re much heavier than the Hardkorr unit and much less convenient; but folding them and putting them away puts zero strain on the unit. They’re solid, they’re super tough, and that’s what counts in the bush.