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Old 07-07-2020, 08:35 AM   #1
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Looking for suggestions on building a solar suitcase

I did some searches and didn't really find much so I thought I'd just toss the question out there. Like others, when we camp sometimes we're parked in the shade so the roof mount panels don't get much/enough sun to keep the battery up. I want to create a "suitcase" out of two 100W panels and I'm looking for some suggestions.

I'm not really interested in recommendations of particular panels, I want to know how you built the suitcase itself. Did you hinge it so the cells are "inside" when closed to protect them? What sort of components did you use to create the legs/stand that hold the panels up and angle them correctly? What sort of hardware did you use for the latches that hold the suitcase closed? Last but not least, did you incorporate any sort of security feature so you could lock them up while they were deployed?

Just trying to get some ideas. Thanks!
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Old 07-07-2020, 09:32 AM   #2
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Two Renogy Eclipse 100W panels wired in series (Victron SmartSolar 75/15 MPPT controller inside trailer), stainless steel 2" hinges and clasps. Hinges are bolted with S.S. hardware. Clasps and carry handle are pop riveted.

Legs and corner protectors were robbed from our old 100W Renogy suitcase, but some people use casement window hinges.

Case is a kids sleeping bag and a nylon portfolio soft carry bag.

We only have them out when we're around our trailer, don't leave them unattended, so no security features required in our particular case.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1












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Old 07-07-2020, 10:45 AM   #3
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When I was looking at solar options a few years ago I was having the same issue as you. Not many options and the chance of theft with a suitcase just seem too easy. I opted to buy one large solar panel.
Using aluminum angle iron, I built a frame which held a satellite dish pole mount onto the panel. I use a pole and long framing Stakes(2) in the ground Slide the pole over the top. I have also toyed around with mounting it to the trailer jack Pole. However, it doesn't do as well in the wind as the stakes in the ground method. Now the solar panel is off the ground and that in itself makes it harder to just grab it quickly. I have yet to have a problem in 2 years.Click image for larger version

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Old 07-07-2020, 02:37 PM   #4
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Thanks 01tundra - very good looking setup and I really appreciate the detail on the hardware!

NotTobyG - I thought about a pole mount to the TT frame but that wouldn't get me out of the shade in some of the sites. Your take idea might be the compromise for that though - Thanks!
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Old 07-07-2020, 04:00 PM   #5
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I wanted a suitcase model like 01Tundra built. I'm not as handy as he is, so I bought one just like the one he built. You will notice that the solar panels open to the outside when closed. To make a long story short. The suitcase arrived with damage to the box and when I opened it, one panel was completely smashed. At least they accepted the return quickly. After that, I decided to use a flexable panel unit that was 2 - 100w panels. It worked just fine for me and it weighed a whole lot less. I now also have a smaller suitcase with flex panels to charge my computer. And 2 power bank that use solar for my cellphone.
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Old 07-07-2020, 04:03 PM   #6
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Could the diy suitcase worked the same with the panels facing each other when folded? I think that was one of the OP's questions and I would like to know also. I see with them facing out when folded the wires are all tucked in neatly.
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Old 07-07-2020, 05:45 PM   #7
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Could the diy suitcase worked the same with the panels facing each other when folded? I think that was one of the OP's questions and I would like to know also. I see with them facing out when folded the wires are all tucked in neatly.
When hinges are mounted so cells face out when folded they keep the panels straight when deployed. This allows for the "legs" to only be mounted in opposite corners when set up. If hinges were mounted so cells were facing in when folded the panels would sag in the center requiring either a center leg or stiffener bar across the top.

You can make either way work.
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Old 07-07-2020, 07:19 PM   #8
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When hinges are mounted so cells face out when folded they keep the panels straight when deployed. This allows for the "legs" to only be mounted in opposite corners when set up. If hinges were mounted so cells were facing in when folded the panels would sag in the center requiring either a center leg or stiffener bar across the top.

You can make either way work.
Good to know, hadn't thought of that.Thanks for that info!
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Old 07-07-2020, 08:09 PM   #9
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Hereís my new setup.
2 100 watt Renogy panels connected with a piano hinge and mounted on a Rockwell work tripod. The piano (continuous hinge) is mounted so the panels face each other for protection. The tripod allows for easy up/down and angle adjustment. I took the idea from a YouTube video where the gentleman had modified a DirectTv dish mount. I'm just using the standard rattle can paint top to optimize the panel angle. When time permits Iíll finish the wiring to my battery from the new Renogy Rover 30amp MPPT charge controller.
Sorry about the sideways pics.
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Old 07-07-2020, 10:08 PM   #10
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portable Solar

I chose not to install on roof, we mostly camp in shade, I used a 10' 30 amp AC power cord, male on the panel for the panel plug, the rest 9' connected to the solar controller, slid under belly, this way I can add another 10' 15' or even 20' to get to the sun, most RV'rs have plenty of these 30 amp power cords, 2 x 160 Renogy panels, a $54 bike rack, 1-1/4" aluminum angle, 1-1/4" round aluminum tube, wheels from Harbor Freight, some 1" pvc pipe and fittings, hinges to fold panels, I did mount my spare under trailer to lesson weight on bumper. I can get any tilt on the panels. Hopefully my pics were uploaded
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Old 07-08-2020, 06:35 AM   #11
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Renogy 100w times 2

Renogy 100w panels, Wanderer 30A PWM controller, 75 feet cable and plugs also from Renogy. The panels are joined with piano hinges, the adjustable legs are aluminum tubing and PVC plumbing "tees". The wires are permanently attached to the controller and tucked away in a stowage compartment when not in use. The panels fold flat with the legs tucked inside. I built a cubby inside the rear stowage compartment where the panels slide in and close tight tacking little if any of my storage capacity.
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Old 07-09-2020, 12:08 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simiHal View Post
Hereís my new setup.
2 100 watt Renogy panels connected with a piano hinge and mounted on a Rockwell work tripod. The piano (continuous hinge) is mounted so the panels face each other for protection. The tripod allows for easy up/down and angle adjustment. I took the idea from a YouTube video where the gentleman had modified a DirectTv dish mount. I'm just using the standard rattle can paint top to optimize the panel angle. When time permits Iíll finish the wiring to my battery from the new Renogy Rover 30amp MPPT charge controller.
Sorry about the sideways pics.
These are great everyone, I ordered 2 HQST 100W panels last week and should have them soon. I was planning on building my own suitcase too.

How does that work tripod "work"? Is that a clamp on the head of it?
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Old 07-09-2020, 12:48 PM   #13
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Looked into that Rockwell tripod, coolest damn tool I've seen in a while! I bought one on eBay, it's a bit different in that it doesn't have the micro-adjustment but works the same way. Great tool to have around the house and that clamp on the top is a great idea on holding onto the frames of the panels.

Thanks for the idea.
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Old 07-09-2020, 03:29 PM   #14
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Looked into that Rockwell tripod, coolest damn tool I've seen in a while! I bought one on eBay, it's a bit different in that it doesn't have the micro-adjustment but works the same way. Great tool to have around the house and that clamp on the top is a great idea on holding onto the frames of the panels.

Thanks for the idea.
Yes, the tripod is pretty versatile. It has a micro adjustment for up/down just not the horizontal angle. There are holes in the feet that will handle tent stakes or in my case 3/8 x 10 lag bolts drilled into ground. For me, the piano hinge worked better because I felt the stress on the frame would be distributed more evenly. I keep the L sections unattached until setup because the panels when folded together will fit in the original shipment box for protection.
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