Tag Archives: off-road caravans

180W Flexible Solar on a Camper Trailer Roof


The 180W Super-Light flexible solar panels have these benefits:

  • 12-14A maximum output.
  • For a typical 6 hour peak solar day with northern orientation, without moving the panels, this will give 45-60 Ahrs of power
  • This is the perfect size solar for a single 80L fridge, hot water, lighting and stereo
  • It perfectly compliments 210Ahrs of battery capacity

Photo shows 180W flexible solar panels on a Kimberley Kamper off-road camper trailer. It can be any model in the wide range.

The tropical roof on a Kimberley Kamper off-road camper trailer provides these benefits:

  • Airflow between the roof and the tropical roof keeps the Kamper cool on hot days
  • Air gap between the two also eliminates condensation in the winter months
  • If you are camping in the snow, the snow accumulates on the tropical roof
  • When you pack up the Kamper, there is no moisture transfer to the bedding from the roof

And now Kimberley have combined these 2 products with these added benefits:

  • The tropical roof opens automatically as you open the Kamper. The photo on the right shows the Kamper half way through the opening process.
  • The Super-light solar is concealed inside the kamper, emerging automatically as it opens.
  • The flexible solar panels can move and flex inside.
  • The super-light flexible solar panels are only 2.2 kgs per panel. This has negligible effect on the shape of the roof.
  • The flexible solar panels have an integrated solar optimizer for shade balance between panels.
  • The solar output is to an on board MPPT solar controller for maximum output.
  • Set and forget the solar system with less likelihood of theft.
  • The super light flexible solar panel has a fluorocarbon plastic base that is white and does not absorb heat.
  • The panels can be manually removed and setup as a portable solar system if required.
  • There is no impact on any other canvas accessory like the toilet suite, ensuite or second bedroom.

The best feature is the value of this flexible solar and tropical roof combination by:

  • Utilize a single MPPT controller upgraded to 20A that is switchable between the 25W glass solar panel on the front for constantly trickle charging the battery and this tropical roof system
  • Attach the panels with Australian designed “stay put” canvas to canvas toggles that allow the super-light panels to either “stay-put” or be easily removed.
  • Reducing the weight compared to glass solar panels by over 80%.

Weight saving with flexible solar panels is a key benefit:

180W Glass Portable
Solar Kit

24 kgs  

180W Super Light

4.4 kgs 82.3% weight reduction compared to glass panels

The price addition for this combination on top of the standard tropical roof is $990 incl GST

(this includes the upgrade to the 20A Mppt Solar controller which is switched from either the front 25W panel to this solar system as required. The 25W solar is generally under cover while camping)

More Technical Information:

  • Now there is an even lighter technology for semi-flexible solar panels:
  • The backing sheet is a Fluorocarbon Plastic, UV stable and taken from the marine industry.
  • This is the technology used on world travelling yachts as it is light and withstands consistent heat and UV conditions.

The Super Light 180W array consists of 2 x 90W panels that have eyelets around the edge and attach to the canvas backing through these eyelets. The panels weigh only 2.19kgs each, which is a 80% reduction in weight compared to glass panels.

180W Glass Suitcase 180W Super Light
Technology: Glass Mono crystalline SunPower cells on Fluorocarbon Plastic
Weight in Kgs 23.6 kgs 4.38kgs

In addition, the solar cells are “SunPower Cells” which are the highest efficiency in the Industry. Photos show actual panels with “shipping protection plastic layer” on the front, which is removed. SunPower makes the world’s most efficient production solar cells – 24%, which result in the most efficient modules of about 20%. These high efficiency cells result mostly from the back contact design which avoids grid lines of metal on the front of the cell and therefore more light gets converted to electricity.

There will be a digital optimiser installed with each panel, which is the latest technology for shade and balancing effects.

Read about SunPower cells here: http://solarcellcentral.com/companies_page.html

The panels have a panel output of 23.3V and 3.91Amps for each 90W panel.

180W Solar Using 20Amp MPPT Controller Battery Voltage Maximum Current charging Comment
Charging Batteries in perfect solar conditions 13.8V 12 amps Battery needs to be less than 90% full to get full charge current

This kit includes 5 components:

  • 2 x 90W Super Light Solar panels weighing only 2.19 kgs
  • 20 Amp MPPT controller which can be selected for AGM or Lithium Batteries
  • Digital optimizer for shade conditions

The system folds up with the Kamper when packing it up; (or they can easily be removed and used as a portable system in which case they can still be stored in the Kamper when folding up)

Here is what you can get from 180W of super-light flexible solar panels with an MPPT solar controller:

Fridge in Kamper Other Electrical items in Kamper Fridge in rear of vehicle Total per day
Typical power consumption per day 20-40 Amp Hrs 5-10 Amp Hrs 20-40 Amp Hrs 45-90 Amp Hrs
180 W solar with 6 hours of sun with northern orientation angle with 6 hours of sun with northern orientation angle but not moving the panels during the day. 45 -60 Amp hrs per day
210 Amp Hours AGM Batteries Will mean 4-6 days independence if fridges are using 90 Amp Hours per day & virtually total independence if efficient fridges are used at the total of 45 amp hours per day.
100 Amp Hours Lithium These charge 40% faster than AGM and therefore allow for faster recovery by solar when full sun is available.

Interested? Go see a Kimberley Dealer or visit us at shows!

Emergency caravan braking requires a learned skill!

caravan-braking-on-cornersHave you had to do a emergency caravan braking on a sharp corner? Or have you found that stray animal in the middle of the road at a bend and you have to brake and turn? If you have done this successfully you would most probably have applied the caravan or camper trailers brakes remotely from the vehicle first, then applied the vehicle brakes. Why?

If you apply the vehicle brakes hard and fast and turn the wheel, the vehicle will turn but the caravan or camper trailer is still in a straight-line. It will tend to push the rear of the vehicle out and induce a dangerous spin inertia on the vehicle.

If you apply the caravan brake hard and fast just a second or 2 before the vehicle, there is the reverse effect. The caravan or camper trailer acts like a large parachute on the rear and slows the whole turn inertia down. You feel more in control to get out of a difficult predicament.

Platinum offroad camper trailer

Platinum offroad camper trailer

For this to happen, you need 2 things:

  1. The brake controller in your vehicle has to be so close to where you normally keep your left or right hand. You need to be able to locate and slide/activate it fully without taking your eyes off the road.
  2. You need very good brakes on the caravan or camper trailer  that can apply fully braking and not fade.

For the first point, there are many electric brake controller installers that want to install the manual controller “out of the way” or on a dummy dash position that has minimum impact on how the vehicle looks. Please say “no thanks” unless it is the perfect position. If looks are a concern, here is an alternative: On a fairly expensive Range Rover, the author has a “hard shell velcro strip” on the top of the brake controller and this presses up on a discrete metal bracket with the matching “hard plastic” velcro. This sits just under the dash 100-150mm from where the left hand is on the wheel. It can be applied as fast as a flash. Several practice runs are made at the start of every trip to get the reflexes and “feel” just right. On every trip so far it has been used at least once!

Compliance-to-ADR-rules-for-brakingThe second point is the most important. The Australian Standard on braking stipulates a measurement of the effectiveness of the braking with a tow vehicle. The problem with this measurement is if you have a powerful tow vehicle, the caravan or camper trailer braking test will probably pass every time. The 6 pot disc brakes on the Range Range will even pull up an un-braked trailer within the standards. So this doesn’t give good assurances for emergency caravan braking when you are applying JUST the caravan brakes.

offroad-camper-trailer-air-suspension-2862-600x400-resized-600.jpgA simple way to measure how effective your brakes are is by doing an emergency “pit stop” at a low controlled speed and then measuring the distance covered. This is broadly how the Australian Design Rules describe the testing of Caravan and camper trailer brakes. Rule 128 stipulates the exact testing process. Manufacturers should do this on each model to ensure that they comply. Then do this on the caravan brakes only and you can compare it to our findings below. Please do this in a safe section of private road with no traffic. Use a maximum speed of 35klm/hr. No faster please!

Brake manufacturers issue guidelines from what they estimate their brakes should be able to achieve but we have never seen these documents state compliance to the Australian standard brake tests. Why not?

There are 9 factors that link the braking capability of your caravan or camper trailer with the braking outcome as described by the standard:

  1. The size of the wheels and tyres: a larger rolling diameter requires higher braking capacity
  2. The weight of the caravan or camper trailer: the heavier the weight, the higher capacity required
  3. The weight of the vehicle: The heavier the vehicle, the stronger the stopping capacity if the vehicles brakes are more effective
  4. The matched balance between the drivers and passenger’s side braking components and/or the electric signalling system: Any imbalance and the caravan or camper trailer will push to one side regardless which can be dangerous.
  5. The speed of the vehicle: the faster the speed the greater the braking capacity need. For double the speed, it is 4 times the capacity required.
  6. The road conditions: Uneven loose stones give less grip
  7. The weather, specifically if it has been or is raining: water can cause aquaplaning and brake fading
  8. The vehicle’s braking ability: How many pots and what size on the vehicle?
  9. The change in drawbar weight when the braking is applied; and the effect this has on the rear brakes of the vehicle: if the nose goes down because the caravan or camper trailer brakes are highly effective, there is more pressure on the rear of the vehicle for potentially a better result.

Given these factors, it is impossible for a braking component supplier to make a compliant statement with respect to the standard without a practical test. It is the caravan or camper trailer manufacturer that should do a practical test for the peace of mind of their users!

The test describes a precise way to calculate the braking deceleration of the combined vehicle and caravan or camper trailer. There is a standard of braking level of 3.8 metres per second per second that has to be complied with. Don’t be concerned with this number, we will give you practical meter distances in this article for you to compare with.

Before looking at some data, consider again the impact of your vehicle size.

At Kimberley we use a Hilux Diesel with a GVW of 1650kgs and a Toyota 200 Series with a GVW of 2650kgs. Both vehicles are at least 5 years old and fairly represent a “typical” tow vehicle in their class. Neither have been modified nor have non-standard braking systems. This gives a fair range of results and representation for users.

The results are in meters apply brakes with an off-road camper trailer or off-road caravan.

Distance to perfect stop in a straight line from 35km/hr to zero.   Vehicle and 1.2 tonne Kimberley Kamper power assisted Disc Brakes   Vehicle and 2.1 tonne Kimberley Kruiser S Class  power assisted Disc Brakes   Vehicle and 2.8 tonne Kimberley Kruiser T Class  power assisted Disc Brakes
 With Hilux Dualcab Ute  towing (Amarok Dual Cab Ute with T Class Kruiser) (1.65 tonne)  6.05m  5.7m  4.84m
 With Land Cruiser 200 Series
(2.65 tonne)
 5.55m  5.43m  4.59m

There are some interesting points here to note. The power assisted discs are very powerful brakes. Infact the stopping power is in excess of the independent report published by “AL-KO Sensabrake TM” for their own braking system (we calculate the deceleration from their report).
The Tandem axle braking is superior to the single axle caravan because the double braking capacity outstrips the additional weight.

The other interesting thing is the Heavier single axle Kruiser is less than the Kamper with the 200 Series. Why is this? The weight distribution on the Single axle S Class is just perfect for maximum braking. The wheels don’t lock and the brakes are right on the money. This is 220% of the requirements of the Australian Design Rules!

The results in meters of applying the brakes manually on the off-road caravan or camper trailer ONLY and stopping on just these brakes.

So the vehicle brakes are not used and this is a measure for emergency caravan braking.

STOPPING USING THE CARAVAN OR CAMPER TRAILER BRAKES ONLYDistance to perfect stop in a straight line from 35km/hr to zero.   Vehicle and 1.2 tonne Kimberley Kamper
power assisted Disc Brakes
  Vehicle and 2.1 tonne Kimberley Kruiser S Class
power assisted Disc Brakes
  Vehicle and 2.8 tonne Kimberley Kruiser T Class
power assisted Disc Brakes
 With Hilux Dualcab Ute  towing (Amarok Dual Cab Ute with T Class Kruiser) (1.65 tonne)  7.95m  20.02m  14.95m
 With Land Cruiser 200 Series
(2.65 tonne)
 10.95m  21.0m  16.54m

There are some interesting points here to note. The lighter combined vehicle mass with the caravan or camper trailer gives the best result. This is to be expected.

The Tandem axle braking is superior to the single axle caravan because the double braking capacity outstrips the additional weight.

These results are at 35 km/hr. If you are going much faster you need a much longer distance. But this data gives you a practical guide of the “parachute” effect of apply the caravan or camper trailer brakes ahead of the vehicle.

Winter warmth comes with 4 heater types in an off road camper trailer

kimberley offroad camper trailers header

Winter warmth by camp fire with off road camper trailer resized 600We all love campfires! They are one of the few touchstones to our primative past and so popular with young and old. The social environment is relaxed, and you can just sit back and enjoy the stars, watching the embers curl upwards into the night sky. You would be reluctant to leave this and step back to your camper trailer bed… unless… you have bought a Kimberley.

(Have you spotted the guitar in the background of the campfire shot… how many of you carry one with your camper trailer?)

Lets look at all the heating options you have available:

Underbed membrane Heater: The most eco-friendly and lowest cost to operate:

The under-bed membrane heater is a thermo-plastic that operates on 12V and is placed under the mattress. It is very low heat (48W max) but operates off the battery system. This means that during the day, if you operate with solar, the solar power will run this heater. You can continue to use it during the night as well. It is most effective if let running all the time during winter, even when you are driving. The photo below shows the membrane heater before the mattress is placed on top. Here is how it works:

off road camper trailer membrane 12v heatingThe heater is a 2mm thin plastic membrane developed in Norway (for car seat heating). It slowly heats the mattress or to be more preceise the air captured in the mattress as well as the mattress internal materials (like the coil springs). This “drys” the mattress out as well as pre-heats it. The membrane temperature is close to 40 degrees (remember the body is 38 degrees). So the membrane just gets the mattress to body temperature and can hold it there while it is running.

This makes a very comfortable sleeping environment for those people who hate “electric blankets” that just get too hot or have spot heating.

It is great for people who are affected by an mould in the mattress as the drying out every night eliminates the build up of body moisture in the mattress.

The disadvatage is if you forgot to turn on! However, there are timers you can program!

Diesel Space heater: very eco-friendly and quiet as it “recovers’ heat from the hot water system

Kimberley Space HeaterThis gem is a heat recovery device about the size of a large box of tissues. It has a 1.2kW capacity which is high and it uses a very quiet ball bearing fan to move the air through the heat exchanger. It gets its heat from the Diesel hot water heater in the Kimberley. It doesnt use the actual “hot water” circuit, but the heated glycol fluid that is used to heat the hot water. A stanless steel heat exchanger is used in the hot water system in a kimberley so that you can pump from any water source no matter what the quality directly into the hot water system for those endless hot showers! To do this you HAVE to have a heat exchanger. 

The Space heater is programmed for 30mins or 60 mins operation which is ideal before going to bed or turn it on at 4am when it is coldest. You can run it all night with a slight modification but most people find this is not necessary.

The diesel comes from a small 3.5l tank in the Kimberley Kamper. Typically, most people find this lasts for 4-6 weeks before topping up. Because it is diesel, it is easy to use the same fuel as the vehicle. It is the lowest cost source of heating because it burns so efficiently. 

The best place for these space heaters near the rear of the bed circulating warm air throughout the camper trailer tent (and second bedroom if it is attached).

Diesel Air Heater: Hi power and long lasting

Air heater for off road camper trailerIf you want the toastiest experience, then go for the 2kW Diesel Air heater. This is also the size of a box of tissues and takes the diesel fuel directly then exhausts it outside the camper trailer through a metal exhaust system. It has a hi speed fan and really moves the air around. In the Kimberley Kruiser, we duct this in with thermstat controls, but in the Kamper we fit a hand held remote control where you “dial up” the required output power and fan speed.

The author has camped with one of these in a Kimberley kamper in the Rockies (USA) with a dusting of snow on the tropical roof and the awning. The heater heated up the inside the Kamper and the complete annex. It was T-Shirt conditions!

These heaters use a little more fuel and if you run them for hours to heat the annex as well. The diesel tank may require filling once a week. It still only costs less than $6 to fill. That is very economical for complete heating compared to gas.

The utimate heater: a folding wood heater fireplace with chimmney inside the annex

Roof Jack 3 resized 600We have shipped several of these to the USA.The wood burning fireplace is a compact metal folding unit with a long chimney. We sew a special gasket material into the annex awning roof. This appears to be “rubber” but it is a special heat proof material that forms a seal around the chimmney. These are typically 200mm to 250mm diameter. The portable fireplace is assembled and the chimney placed through the roof.

The canvas used in these units is a special flame proof canvas that is not available normally in Australia. We have to get 5,000m of it made at a time and certified. It is slightly heavier and a little stiffer as it is impregnated with flame retardant material.

If you light a corner of the canvas, the flame just goes out!

Now this is just as well, as sparks and embers from the portable fire would be flying up that chimney and most likely come down on the tropical roof or the Awning roof. This flame proof canvas is nearly double the cost but in the USA they camp in the snow and go fishing at the beginning of the spring when it is still very cold. They camp in the one location for a week at a time so the setup time is worth it!

The Photo below is a 2007 Model Kimberley Kamper – for the eagle eye, notice the kitchen is reversed in this model!off road camper trailer with wood stove inside annex

Where is the fine line between Authentic camping and an Oasis in the Bush?Download this free eBook on Design for Comfort with Caravans and Camper Trailerscovering Water, Heating Air-conditioning and more!

Design for comfort Water Heating and Air conditioning for off road campers and caravans 1

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