Today I’m taking a look at the Ridge Ryder 100 Watt Solar Blanket. I’ve always liked the idea of solar panels, but up until recent years the amount of power you got out of them for the size and price didn’t seem worth it. I also like to travel as light as possible, I don’t have the space for a bulky panel.
That’s the main draw-card for the solar blanket I guess, it folds up to about the size of a ream of A4 paper and weighs about the same. Its actual size is 390mm by 270mm when folded up, and 1060mm by 770mm when unfolded. Ridge Ryder claims an unregulated output of 5.71 amps and 17.5 volts. However, you need a regulator as 17.5 volts will quickly damage a battery. A regulator is included which will maintain a correct charge voltage, and cost you a little in amp output. The cable with alligator clips comes in at about 7 metres. That should be plenty to chase the sun around with, unless you are camped under something massive like a Morton Bay Fig tree!
The build quality and stitching that holds the panel together is of pretty good quality. A pocket on the front holds the instructions, cable with alligator clips and the regulator. The output wires from the panel also come out from here. Unfolding the panel, I find that it is made up of 8 Mono-crystalline panels obviously wired together within the blanket. While the individual panels certainly seem to have a little flex to them, I say they could easily be cracked or smashed if you took the word ‘blanket’ too literally. Treat it gently as you would any other solar panel and you’ll be right.
After giving it a good once over, I set out to place the panel for maximum sun exposure. This is where I find the major downfall of the blanket over a traditional solid or folding panel; it’s very difficult to stand it up! There are loops sewn in all around the blanket which will help should you find somewhere to hang it. For the most part, I found that placing it over the windscreen or bonnet was most effective but that’s not much good if you’re parked in the shade!
As for power output, I don’t own a device to measure amperage; but I do have a dual battery monitor installed in my vehicle. Before attaching the alligator clips to my battery, the charge was at 12.8 volts. Once the solar blanket was connected, it rose to 12.9 volts. Throughout the day the battery voltage dipped to 12.8 and back to 12.9 corresponding to my old Engel fridge switching on and off. It essentially supplied enough power to run the fridge all day, but not quite enough to charge the battery as well.
So do I recommend that you purchase one? At the end of the day, I was happy to be able to pack up a solar panel that can fit right under my seat and not become a pain to carry around! Like everything in life, there are pros and cons. For a decent power output and excellent portability this solar blanket is an ideal choice, but moving it around to follow the sun will require some extra creativity. And of course, 100 watts might not be enough for some power hungry users. Certainly have a think about what you need from a solar panel, and put this one on your short-list!
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