Zamp 160 Watt Portable Solar Kit

There is no end to the sometimes expensive but must have gadgets that I think we need to survive if we are to full time in Shiny.

As a fiddler I love to go to Old Time music festivals. We can spend a week or more boondocking in the middle of a field. Sue and I are pretty conservative when it comes to amp hour usage. We use flashlights at night instead of the lights in Shiny for instance. One thing we don’t skimp on is the electric water pump as the use of public porta johns can be rather REPULSIVE! In any case the two 12 volt deep cycle batteries in Shiny will last about 3 days before the need of recharging. We try not to discharge the batteries more then 50% as damage to them will occur if they are drained more than that.

A generator is not feasible at Old Time music events because of the close proximity to  other festival attendees, most of whom reside in tents.


Also, come January we plan on doing a whole lot of boondocking so some sort of solar array was imperative. Well, at least as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

This leads me to our first must have gadget accusation. A Zamp 160 Watt portable solar panel kit. We paid around $650 for it. Truth be told we already had a Renolgy 100 Watt suitcase which we paid about $160 for. It was adequate for the job but one day on the way to Mt Airy in May of this year it stopped charging. So we bought the new Zamp at more then four times the price of the old Renolgy. The only difference between the two (besides quality, wattage and weight) is that I had to use alligator clamps right on the batteries while the Zamp has a handy dandy connector that connects directly to Shiny.

My friend Cliff Riggs told me that I was taken in by the warning sticker on the front of Shiny which states “Only use Zamp …”.



The idea that I was a fool was reinforced when I discovered that the only thing wrong with the Renolgy was a blown inline fuse. Can you say DUMB!

BTW, I e-mailed the Airstream dealer and they wanted $2350 to install a 160 watt solar array on Shiny’s roof. Ouch! They said;

160W solar panel pkg install is $2350.00, that does not include the upgrade of AGM batteries. You do not have to upgrade your batteries to the glass mat batteries unless you intend on doing alot of boon-docking. The AGM will take a faster charge and have a longer draw life. The AGM’s are $250.0 each.”

We decided to hold off on the AGMs until we need to replace the Deep Cycle batteries that came with Shiny.

I was able to sell the Renolgy setup at Mt Airy for $100 so I recouped some of my money. If I knew then what I know now I’d have most likely spent the buck on a new fuse and still be dealing with the alligator clamps.

That being said, I do love the Zamp. It’s far better constructed and more rugged then the Renolgy. We were 12 days boondocking at Mt Airy with sun on the Zamp only from 2:00 pm on and it kept the batteries well charged. It stores nicely in Shiny’s closet with a shower curtain rod holding it in place.

If you have a late model Airstream, looking for a portable solar system, and starting from scratch, then go for the Zamp if you can afford it.



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