Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Bulletproof Coffee – Cheap Version!

As I get older, I find myself paying more attention to what I eat, and more importantly: how I feel afterwards. Climbing well, and being productive, is all about how much energy you have. When I was a younger guy, energy to do the things I wanted to do came naturally. As I get older I find myself calculating the consequence of that pile of rice, the carbs in that sandwich I’m considering, the aftermath of that beer (or 2 or 3…).

A couple years ago I heard of a new fad product called Bulletproof Coffee. I’ve read a little bit about it, where you take a premium coffee without mycotoxins, and combine it with MCT oil from Coconut oil and unsalted grass fed butter. It was supposed to give you extra energy, a sense of fullness, and overall just great for performance.

And now there have been upgrades to the original products, with something called XCT Oil, which is a better form of the original MCT oil, and Brain Octane Oil instead of using the butter. You can get into the marketing science of the whole thing, but I was just trying to figure out a way to test this without shelling out $32 for a bottle of oil. I mean, I’m paying $3 for premium gasoline for my car already! At gas prices, this XCT oil is $128/gal!

‘You get what you pay for…blah blah blah.’

Okay, I get it. If something works and you think it’s worth it the market will determine what it is worth. The origin of this coffee came from when “David Asprey developed his Bulletproof Coffee recipe after traveling to Tibet and tasting yak-butter tea drinks.”  “Butter tea is a popular drink in Tibet, where its high calorific content provides energy to those performing manual labor in a harsh environment.”
~ Source: wikipedia

Uhuh. Sounds like a great drink prior for climbing!

I’ve avoided coffee since it seems to affect my emotions by increasing my anxiety – not great for climbing sketchy routes! It also seems to lower my anger threshold, I find that I get mad at stupid things I wouldn’t if I was drinking, say, tea. Also, it seemed that sometimes coffee had the effect of making me tired, not energized – first with a spike and then a massive drop of energy.

And while I switched to tea I missed the taste and smell of coffee.

Sooo, I decided to just do an experiment, by just trying a version of the original idea: coffee with a tablespoon of grass fed unsalted butter, and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Then, see how I felt afterwards.

Let the experiment begin!

Ingredients:

Directions

  • Add a Tablespoon Bustelo Cafe for one cup of coffee in small French Press
  • After 3-4 minute brew time, press down the grounds in the French Press, and pour into a blender with the Tablespoon of butter, and Tablespoon of Coconut oil.
  • Blend till frothy
  • Drink!

Cafe Bustelo, muy bueno!

French Press, bien sur que oui!

Tres minutos!

French pressing

Will it blend?

Frothy, latte-like el cheapo – bulletproof me!

Well, I did, and I have to say I liked it! I felt alert, not drained, my hunger was sated, and no emotional rollercoastering! I had a productive morning blogging with no energy lows.

Initial test = positive results!

Cost:

So, $1.75 to make a cup of my El Cheapo version of Bulletproof coffee.

Not cheap, you say? Yeah, that’s what I thought. That Kerry butter was a surprise at $2/ounce. And an ounce of Organic extra virgin Coconut oil is no slouch at $1/ounce (a Tablespoon is half an ounce, btw).

I guess the real el cheapo version is just coffee, at 25 cents per cup. But, I wasn’t willing to compromise on the Extra virgin organic coconut oil – it’s what I would use personally, and the grass fed butter seemed like an analog to the Yak butter from the Tibetan steppes.

Well, what if you go premium with all Bulletproof brand products? Let’s do the math:

So, $2.36,  or $.61 more, or 34% more for the premium version.

Hmm…not all that much more than my so-called el cheapo version, actually. Makes me interested in trying the “real” version, with the “Brain Octane Oil” or the “XCT Oil” (either can be used instead of the Coconut Oil – more info here), and the mycotoxin free premium “BulletProof coffee”.

I mean, if my so-called el cheapo version felt pretty good, for an additional .61 cents, I wonder what the expensive premium version feels like? Sure, the el cheapo cheapo (just coffee) version is just a quarter, but it just doesn’t seem to work well for me. And we’re talking performance here!

For just 61 cents more maybe I too could climb harder faster stronger!

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Best Climbing Jeans: Bulletprufe

I own about 6 pairs of these jeans. The first one was so good I stopped buying other brands.

The first time I saw someone climbing in jeans was my partner Mark:

Mark gazing at the Giant Dihedral

Mark in cut-off jeans

He always wore standard jeans, either full-length or cut off. I tried the same with a pair of Levi’s, but they didn’t have enough stretch, especially across the crotch, limiting my stemming action, yo! They were horribly constricting. But, I liked the look of his jeans – sorta old school, working class. Not the look of a B version Cirque du Soleil wannabe.

So, I decided to take a look around. I had some criteria:

  • Must be tough
  • Must have some stretch
  • Must have a a bomber zipper

Climbing is a full contact sport, and your clothing is the thin blue line separating whole cloth from a tattered rip. And a bad zipper is a pet peeve of mine – if the product’s zipper sucks, breaks down, is difficult to zip and unzip – then forget it!

Not a problem with these jeans! Bulletprufe lives up to it’s name with jeans made of ballistic nylon. Can it stop a bullet? Not sure I’m ready for that test, but I can attest to its rip-proofness against the sharp limestone of Shelf. And never had a problem with the zipper – always zipped!

Unlike the bright yellow, green, and electric blue of the Prana Ecliptic pants, these actually can pass for regular jeans, with more earthy colors like Olive Green, Serengeti Tan, and Tobacco Brown. You could wear these jeans as casual wear, and with a nice shirt won’t be turned away from nearly any venue!

Bulletprufe Tobacco Brown

Bulletprufe Tobacco Brown

And, after putting these pants through their paces from the granite of Clear Creek, the rough sandstone of Eldorado Canyon, and the sharp limestone of Shelf Road, I can attest to the toughness of the ballistic nylon these pants are made of. After my latest adventure I just throw these in the wash, and they come out looking brand new again!

I’m also impressed by the stain resistance of these jeans, from salsa to a full mug of coffee – the pants don’t stain. A standard wash in warm water seems to do the trick – every time!

And for something that can stop a speeding bullet, these are super soft and comfortable. Hard not to rave about them, they are so perfect for climbing!

And, oh yeah: did I happen to mention that the zipper is bomber?

From their website:

•10x Stronger
•Unsurpassed Abrasion Resistance
•High-Strength Triple Stitching
•Reinforced Yoke
•Quad-Blend Diagonal Stretch
•Breathable
•Baby Soft

I can attest to the “Quad-Blend Diagonal Stretch”. Not too much, hardly noticeable until you swing a high leg for some heel hook action, and the expected constriction just never appears. The jeans just seem to give when you need it to, without being overly stretchy. They are just really super-comfortable without seeming like anything other than regular jeans.

Like my partner says: Get a pair!

 

 

 

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Best Climbing Techniques DVD: Neil Gresham’s Masterclass

When I was first getting started in rock climbing, I was lucky enough to have a few good mentors. I also took what technique classes I could from different rock gyms in and around Denver. Both were helpful.

But, when learning from fellow climbers, much of it can be considered ‘Bro-learning’, which most of the time is what works well, and is the standard. Later I’ve found that some of the bro-tips and way of doing things were more specific to that particular climber, but sometimes was even an out-dated method, or even downright wrong.

Another thing is that when you go out climbing with someone, they may not be suited to teach – perhaps they have difficulty explaining how to do something, or just saying, “Just go up!” I’ve encountered that more times than I can remember, sometimes said jokingly, sometimes with frustration.

Your partner may also just want to climb. Teaching climbing can be a drag, and I’ve heard more than one person avoid newbies, limited to leading easy pitches, and supervising the newbies safety called ‘babysitting.’

I get it.

After learning how to climb with partners, classes and YouTube, one of the best ways I’ve found is through a good video training course. And the climbing techniques DVD I like the best is:

 Masterclass Part 1: Technique and Training: Improve Your Climbing with Neil Gresham

Neil Gresham, Masterclass Part 1

Neil Gresham, Masterclass Part 1, $18.37 Amazon

The Masterclass comes in two parts, with the main sport techniques taught in Part 1, and more advanced concepts taught in Part 2.

The reason I like this set is that Neil very lucidly explains the route problem and the technique that solves it, and then demonstrates both the right and wrong way of doing overcoming the problem.

The other thing I like about this series is that explains certain techniques in a way that I’ve never encountered before – even in one-on-one training. You can tell he’s thought through the concepts, as well as the best way to explain the how’s and why’s of doing the technique a certain way.

For example, I really didn’t understand the reason for using a front-flag – seemed more trouble than what it was worth. But the way he discusses balance, moving the leg in opposition to the hand and how it extended the body length – was where the lightbulb went off!

With a live class, you can only ask classes in the moment – as it occurs to you. But you don’t have anything on hand to review the lessons learned. With a DVD you can just pop it in and watch it again – to remind and reinforce the situations where one would use a particular technique.

Masterclass Part 2: Skills and Tactics for Sport and Trad Climbing: Improve Your Climbing with Neil Gresham

Neil Gresham, Masterclass Part 2, $23.69, Amazon

Neil Gresham, Masterclass Part 2

Part 2 gets into more advanced concepts such as deadpointing, roofs and trad techniques. Also a very good DVD climbing techniques series to have on hand.

I pop both of these DVDs in to watch, or reinforce a particular technique. I find that I can get sloppy after climbing on my own, overcoming routes with strength rather than technique. But technique can make the impossible possible. More routes can be climbed at strength because climbing with good technique is climbing efficiently.

Style, as Neil says, is important in climbing, as it helps a person climb more easily, and with grace. In Part 2, for example, he shows an example of himself climbing a roof which to untrained eyes may look correct – hey he made it to the top, right?

Compare his sloppy technique with another climber, Gabby, who demonstrates how to climb a roof in an energy efficient manner that harbors your energy by using straight arms, squatting at rest, heel hooks and making the turn of the roof without an unnecessary dyno.

Good stuff!

I recommend adding both DVDs to your climbing videos collection. They are both worth the price you pay in explaining and demonstrating rock climbing tips and techniques in an easy to understand manner. Highly recommended!

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7 Holiday Gift Ideas for Climbers

just in time for Christmahanakwanzika, is the GripandClip gift giving guide for the climber in your life! The items displayed here (except for the Panda Chalk Bag) are items I use when I rope up, and can attest to how great they are!

1. Bulletprufe Denim

Bulletprufe denim, $97.95 Amazon

When I want to wear something Jeans-like for climbing, but need some stretch, I reach for one of my trusty pairs of Bulletprufe denim. Did I happen to mention they are also constructed from ballistic nylon? Perfect for the scratchy crag!

From the Bulletprufe website:

•10x Stronger
•Unsurpassed Abrasion Resistance
•High-Strength Triple Stitching
•Reinforced Yoke
•Quad-Blend Diagonal Stretch
•Breathable
•Baby Soft

After trying on both the “Slim” and “Adventure” fit, I prefer the Adventure fit for climbing. For how tough they are, they are amazingly soft. And every crag coffee stain comes off in the wash. They have a great hassle free return policy, and free shipping!

2. Funny Climbing T-Shirt

Addicted to Crack T-Shirt

$27-32.95 Depending on Design. Addicted to Crack T-Shirt

Funny climbing t-shirts make for a great gift!

Shop the GripandClip Spreadshirt T-Shirt store, with t-shirts with sayings like “Free Belay Jobs!”, “Crack Addict”, and “My other Car is a Rope!” among other quips to declare your love of climbing! And if you’d like something a bit different, Spreadshirt even let’s you change the text!

3.  Panda Bear Chalk Bag

Panda Chalk Bag, $12.99, Amazon

Everyone else has a boring ol’ REI-Arcteryx-Mammut fill-in-the-blank generic chalk bag. Why not show some individuality and style with a Panda chalk bag?

4. The Rock Warrior’s Way (Book)

The Rock Warrior’s Way, $17.99 Amazon

I have to say, during a period of time where I was wrestling with some inner lead climbing demons, this book helped me sort some of those out. I recommend this book to anyone who rock climbs to set their head back on straight!

5. Sterling Evolution BiColor Dry Rope 70M

Sterling Evolution BiColor Dry Rope, $338.20 Amazon

I am not shy about saying that this is my favorite rope. 70M is a must to link together multipitch pitches, and to not get hung up on long routes like the 125′ Made in the Shade at the Canal Zone in Golden.

The sheath, not just the core, is dry-treated to keep both moisture, as well as dirt and grime, from destroying your rope.

And, after missing the halfway markings on partner’s ropes one too many times, one can see the benefit of having a nice visual change that a bicolor rope gives.

6. Metolius Ropemaster Rope Bag

Metolius Rope Bag, with integrated tarp, $140.25 Amazon

This is the bag I use. I’ve tried my partner’s bag, as well as experimented with tarps and the one integrated with backpacks, but I like to have a separate bag just for my rope. It has an integrated tarp, as well as straps for tightening the bag down into a size that can fit in your crag pag, or hang off the top straps of your pack. It also has a comfortable shoulder strap for carrying on it’s own.

7. Armaid Arm Roller

Armaid, $110 Amazon

This device totally cured my recurring elbow pain. A lot of the issue was the tightness of my forearm muscles pulling on the tendons of my elbows. With a short session with the Armaid rollers I stopped having the debilitating pain, and could climb the next day on a climbing trip in Rifle.

Conclusion:

There you go! 7 Holiday gift ideas ranging from a $12.99 Panda Chalk Bag to a $338 Sterling Evolution 70m Dry Rope.

Happy Christmahanakwanzika!

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Soapstone – Can it heat your Casita?

I was on the Casita Owners Facebook Page awhile back, and I saw a post about using a small soapstone tortilla press to heat up a Casita. I was intrigued that a person could simply heat a small soapstone press and then use it as a radiant heater for small spaces.

Well, I have a small space! At 13′, I have the smallest Casita fiberglass camper trailer that is sold today!

After researching different soapstone presses, I found a Soapstone Bacon Grill Press through Amazon:

Soapstone Bacon Grill Press (Photo: Amazon.com)

Soapstone Bacon Grill Press (Photo: Amazon.com)

Unfortunately, it is not currently available. But with a little searching I’m sure you could come up with something similar. Here’s what the packaging for mine looks like:

Sparq Soapstone Bacon Press

Sparq Soapstone Bacon Press

The wood handle keeps the soapstone cool to the touch

The wood handle keeps the soapstone cool to the touch

I wanted something with a handle, since with heating the soapstone would potentially get too hot to handle.

soapstone04

The dimensions are 6.5″ wide x 10.2″ tall, and 3.9″ on the handle side. It weighs 3.4 lbs.

I then proceeded to place the Soapstone press on my propane 2 burner stove to heat it up and test drive how effective it would be for heating up my 13′ Casita camper.

Soapstone on burner

Soapstone on burner

Long story short…

While the soapstone gave off heat for a long time (felt warm to touch after an hour), it was not useful for heating a small space, such as my Casita. I think if you had the idea to use this as a furnace substitute, or even to just take the edge of cold off, you’d be sorely disappointed.

I think a more appropriate use of the soapstone grill would be to heat it to 105-110 degrees farenheit and use it as a foot warmer. This is what small soapstones were traditionally used in the past, and for this use it is totally appropriate!

So, this particular press is not available, but this pizza stone is still available, and if you only heat it to 105-110 degrees you should be able to handle it either barehanded, or with a small cloth:

SPARQ Home Soapstone Flat Bread Pizza Stone, 12 by 16-Inch 

Soapstone Pizza Stone

In any case, testing this was useful for me so I could see what its appropriate use would be. Heating a Casita, at least at this size, is inappropriate. But as a bedtime foot warmer I could see it as very effective. It gives off a nice warmth for extended periods of time (at least an hour in my brief test). Enough to get to sleep, or for a night time read. But if you are looking for a furnace alternative, this soapstone would not work for that purpose.

 

 

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The Best Climbing Rope!

After over 6 years of climbing, I’ve owned 4 different ropes, and have climbed with several from my friends, and my latest rope may be my last: the Sterling Evolution Velocity BiColor 70M.

In the universe of different climbing ropes, why do I like the Sterling Evolution Velocity BiColor 70M in particular?

Five reasons why a Sterling Evolution Velocity BiColor 70M rope is the Best rope:

    1. 70 meters or about 230 feet. Some of my more favored routes are longer routes, and on multipitch I often want to link pitches for speed (and fun)!
    2. BiColored – If I’m rappelling off a route, the BiColor saves me time in locating the midpoint. And when reeling off rope on a trad belay, it’s often helpful to let the leader to know they’ve reached the halfway point so they can figure out how high they’ve gone (35M or ~115 feet). They can then calculate whether to build an anchor, or to start searching for the anchor bolts. This also gives a distance reference to figure out if you can linkup pitches on a multipitch, or not.
    3. 9.8mm – This width is a good balance between light and strong. The thinner the rope, the less it can withstand wear and tear. But I’ve found 10mm and above to feel too thick and heavy for my taste, and under 9.4mm feels too thin on belay, and I start to have trouble slowing the reel off (not enough friction on using a  GriGri).
    4. Dry core AND Dry sheath – The dry sheath and core is not only useful for ice climbing, but it also keeps the rope protected in case of rain or the errant puddle. Someone may say, “Well, I never climb in the rain, so I don’t need it…” Really? You’ve never been caught out in the rain with your rope? You sir, are a luckier person than I! But also, a dry sheath also protects against the incursion of the ever-present dirt and grime, keeping your rope both looking and feeling brand new.It has a good hand as they say, feeling good in the hand, feeling smooth, and adds a beneficial stiffness to the rope to help keep it untangled. This also makes it much easier to make clips on sport and trad routes.
    5. Good amount of stretch – Not a ridiculous amount, just enough. Belaying my friend with a different rope after a fall on the second clip I felt like the stretch would never end, risking him decking. The Sterling Evolution, on the other hand, has the perfect amount of stretch, reducing the impact force of a fall without being overly stretchy.

Is this the last rope you will ever need? Well, you might get a more focussed rope, say a static rope for indoors, or a shorter or thinner rope for twin rope, alpine, or multipitch tag line, and so for a specific task I can see doing that. But for an all-around great rope that is suitable for single or multipitch sport and trad it’s just about perfect!

And while you might think this not suitable for Alpine and other task specific climbing activities –  this rope is increasingly my go to rope for the majority types of climbing I may do.

Product Reviewed

$338.20, Sterling Evolution 70m Dry Sheath and Core, BiColor

  • Low impact force
  • Smooth Tight sheath
  • Firm hand for easy clips

Product Specifications

    • Rope Weight: 9.56 pounds
    • Dry Sheath and DryCore
    • BiColored
    • 70M (other lengths available)
    • ASIN: B003L6NP1Q
    • Item model number: EV0-VR

 

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Metolius Alpine PAS – Review

Light is Fast is Safe

When I attended the Steph Davis Crack Climbing Clinic last October, I noticed that Steph advocated for the use of the Daisy Chain rather than the Personal Anchor System (PAS). Her reasoning was that reports of the Daisy failing and killing people was not accurate, and that it was an internet rumor that really wasn’t true.

I’m glad she brought this up. We need to look at news and common understandings critically, especially in this day and age of fake news.

And in my research, I found that to be true; I couldn’t find a single confirmed case where a person had either died or was severely injured due to the improper use of the Daisy Chain. (Please let me know in the comments below if I am incorrect in thinking this).

The instances where it can supposedly fail is when it is used incorrectly, which she said she would never do. Black Diamond has a good page outlining the danger of incorrect use of a Daisy Chain here. The video shows how this incorrect use of clipping between loops where the stitching can fail. And it looks like it would be pretty easy to do, especially in a fatigued state of mind.

But, in the face of using a PAS where the supposed incorrect use is countered by a chain loop system (versus stitched long strip that forms the loops) that prevents this type of incorrect use by design, why wouldn’t you use a PAS? Metolius has even created a PAS (the Ultimate PAS) which is also designed for aid (normally a Daisy Chain use), as well as for anchoring.

Well, it seems as if the major concern for many is: weight. The standard Metolius PAS at 3.3 ounces, while pretty light, is considered too bulky and heavy for many who have the light-is-fast-is-safe ethic.

The Critical Counter-Intuitive

I get the idea of keeping things as light as possible, especially on multipitch where dragging extra ounces really starts to add up. Climbing light can be a higher safety issue than “safer” methods which may use heavier gear. This is not just counter-intuitive, it is the critical counter-intuitive, where doing something out of the norm can often be safer than the norm done for supposedly safety reasons.

Hauling extra weight can cause fatigue, which can all by itself makes us less strong than we would be while using lighter equipment. And, at 3.3 ounces, a Metolius PAS is 1.79 ounces heavier than the Black Diamond Dynex Daisy Chain (1.516 ounces).

But technology marches on, and companies increasingly make lighter, stronger, faster equipment.

Behold: the Metolius Alpine PAS

Photo: metoliusclimbing.com

Photo: metoliusclimbing.com

Weight: 1.7 ounces.

Not quite the 1.516 ounces of the Black Diamond Dynex Daisy Chain, but half the weight of the Black Diamond Nylon Daisy Chain (3.456 ounces). It also has a 22kn rating, which is strong as many ropes.

So, I guess it depends on which heavier PAS you’re talking about? Because if you’re talking about the Metolius Alpine PAS, then we can end that discussion right now: it’s as light as the lightest Daisy Chain, with no danger of clipping incorrectly. So why wouldn’t you pick it over a Daisy?

Single Use device

The other criticism I’ve heard of the PAS is that it is a single use device. But, when multipitching at Red Rock Canyon, the guide there told me that he also uses the PAS to extend his rappel device, which allows a prussik backup to be connected below the ATC.

The thing is, it’s good to know different methods, and test out their usage for yourself. Many climbing guides I’ve met do not use a PAS, only slings, since with a sling it has multiple uses, but at the Crack Climbing Clinic all the instructors used them.

I’ve used both the rope as well as the PAS as a tether, and there are reasons why I use one or the other based on the type of climbing I do. On multipitch I may be more inclined to just use the rope, especially if I’m doing an multi that is more than say, 5 pitches. But the convenience of simply clipping in the PAS, as well as the ease of removing myself from the system, I often choose to use a PAS.

But, if you’re thinking of using the weight argument, well…

…with the Metolius Alpine PAS you’ve got another “think” coming!

Note: The Alpine PAS, according to the manufacturer, should only be used for tethering.

Item reviewed:

Metolius Alpine PAS

Other gear mentioned:

Black Diamond Dynex Daisy Chain

Metolius Personal Anchor System

Black Diamond Nylon Daisy Chain

Metolius Ultimate PAS

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Lasko MyHeat

 

Review of the Lasko 100 MyHeat Personal ceramic heater

Last night I slept in Conchita, my 13′ Fiberglass RV Casita. The temps nowadays went to a low of 30 degrees overnight (November 27, 2016). I thought that would give me a good opportunity to  test drive the Lasko 100 MyHeat personal ceramic heater.

Sometimes I test drive...in my driveway

Sometimes I test drive…in my driveway

Reading the forums, and some of the fiberglass RV specific Facebook groups I heard of this product as a suitable heater to use when plugged in to shore power.  Some even said it’s low voltage use  is suitable for using on 12 Volt DC. It’s small size (The front is about the size of my hand) also lent itself well for tiny RV living, such as my 13′ Casita.

I knew I had to test drive this!

Well, it did blow out a warm stream, but at least in the 30 degree temps I experienced it didn’t really warm the place up. I did think it took the harsh edge of cold off, but as far as completely warming the Conchita I think I’ll have to look at a different product. I’ll keep it around for cool (but not cold) days.

Get the Lasko 100 MyHeat Ceramic Heater

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Flexible Solar Panel Install – an additional 100 watts!

After testing the solar power in Moab, Utah, and in my driveway, I came to the conclusion that while the hot sun of Utah kept the battery topped off I noticed that in my shadowed driveway that the battery would slowly drain. If I hope to boondock for longer periods than a couple days I think a second 100 watt flexible solar panel attached to the roof would serve me well in keeping the battery topped off.

solar-in-desert

The rigid solar panel will have a flexible solar panel buddy on the roof of my 13′ Casita!

 

Flexible Solar Panel

I had previously used the Renogy 100 Watt Solar Kit with Adventurer Charge Controller. The panel that came with the kit is the regular rigid kind that is within a metal frame. I decided that a flexible solar panel would suit the roof of my Casita better than the regular rigid version as the flexible solar panels are lighter. I decided on the HQST 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel:

It’s a quarter of the weight at 4 lbs vs 16.5 lbs.

3M VHB Tape

I’ve also decided to not use screws to attach the panel, but to use 3M VHB tape:

VHB stands for “Very High Bond,” and they have several videos of manufacturers using the tape in place of rivets and other mechanical attachments, saving both time and money:

3M video on VHB tape. Will use this to attach the 100 watt flexible solar panel.

3M video on VHB tape. Will use this to attach the 100 watt flexible solar panel.

That two of the testimonials are from RV manufacturers (Yetti and Showhauler ) which bodes well for a rooftop install!

My concerns with a mechanical attachment, such as screws, are additional holes in the roof. I’d like to avoid that, if possible.

I consulted a 3M representative who recommended 3M VHB version # 4945 (or #5952) after I described the surface materials (gel-coated fiberglass, and the flexible solar panel plastic). He did mention that the tape would only be as strong as the gel coat and paint, rather than the fiberglass, and recommended considering abrading the surface down to the fiberglass, cleaning the surface with a combination of isopropyl alcohol and water, and then using an adhesive primer on the back of the panel prior to applying the tape:

So, attaching with the 3M VHB tape and using a lap caulk around the edge seems reasonable:

EDIT:
I decided instead to use Eternabond instead of VHB and Lap Caulk. Tape is just less messy than using lap caulk, and Eternabond seems to be sufficiently strong and waterproof for my application: Eternabond

What about the wires?

The only hole drilled will be for the wires to go into the trailer, protected by a cable entry gland:

Flexible solar panel wiring will enter through the roof with this cover.

Gland for the flexible solar panel wiring.

I’ll use the tape as well as the caulk for that as well.  The panel wires will go through the “glands” sideways. It acts as a waterproof cover, and will be nicer than a caulk covered hole in the roof!

No looking back(?)

Here’s the thing: I can always add a mechanical attachment. The holes will still be available to add a screw, so the adhesive will just be an additional attachment method.

I’ve seen other people saying they used this method, with no remarks that it failed. I have heard of industrial hook and loop (velcro) attachments failing, with solar panels flying off onto the freeway!

The tape can (with effort) also be removed.  You’ll need a 3M SMART Removal tool, as well as a 3M Stripe off wheel…but hopefully I won’t need to do that!

Only time will tell if this method will work well. But, I figure that If this does work, then I won’t have additional holes for rain to seep through, and can offer this as an alternative to drilling more holes in your RV.

Rain seems to be the universal destructor of RVs, and I’d like to do what I can to eliminate water entry points.

Check out the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/ZKQqHoT0fDw

Products used:
HQST Flexible Solar Panel
Eternabond tape
Link Solar Cable Entry Gland
RENOGY 5 Pair MC4 Male/ Female Solar Panel Cable Connectors Double Seal Rings for Better Waterproof Effect
1″ hole saw

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Solar – from start to finish!

In this article, I am going to show you how I was able to install the Renogy 100 Watt Solar kit – from start to finish!

But first, here’s the video with all the steps I outline in this article:

I want to emphasize that, much like William Hung, I have had no professional training:

I am not an electrician, nor do I represent myself as anyone other than an amateur that has managed to connect everything together in a way that works for me. Follow my directions at your own risk, and ask the advice of a professional if you have any concerns.

Okay, enough of the disclaimer, let’s get on with the Renogy Solar Panel Kit Install!

Step One: Lay out the Renogy Solar Kit with Adventurer Charge Controller.

Renogy, give me more energy!

Renogy, give me more energy!

The kit contains Solar Panel, Charge Controller, Battery, and a Power Inverter.  As I outlined before, the components work like this:

  1. The Solar Panels collect the solar energy and uses it to generate an electric charge.
  2. The Charge Controller, both controls the charge coming from the solar panels, as well as tests the battery energy levels and coordinates so that the appropriate amount of energy from the panels go to the batteries. If the batteries are topped off it will shut down the energy stream from the panels to the battery. Alternatively, if the batteries are low, then the floodgates will open to send more energy from the panels to the batteries. Think of the Charge Controller as the gatekeeper of energy from the panels to the battery.
  3. The Batteries store the solar energy for use.
  4. The Power Inverter “inverts” the power coming from the battery from 12 volt DC to ordinary household power: Alternating Current or AC.

Remember: Don’t freak out!

Sean Connery: Shafety firsht

Sean Connery: Shafety firsht

Seeing the box full of wires and unfamiliar electrical boxes that did dangerous electrical things gave me pause. But a few calming breaths later (and the watching of a few thousand YouTube installation videos later) and I was able to pull myself together and start. Frankly, there’s a bunch of crap videos that only show the finished product, not the crucial parts one would like to see when installing one of these on one’s own. But there are enough clues within them, as well as online articles to piece together everything.

Frankly, I didn’t look at the manual until AFTER I completed the kit. This speaks volumes more on how Renogy put together the kit than any mechanical ability on my part. I simply spread out all the components out and figured out what end of the wire goes where, and realizing that they only could go in one way.

Step 2: Lay out the components

Panel in the...aisle

Panel in the…aisle

The Solar panel has two wires attached in back that are labelled with a “+” sign for positive, and a “-” sign for Negative. They have male and female ends, which shouldn’t be confused with polarity, they just mate with their opposites. As long as you know which wire is Positive, and which wire is Negative the different male and female ends make it fairly idiot proof. And, like I said, only the set of wires with the corresponding ends could possibly work with the panel.

Female end, not necessarily the "Negative" end. A distinction with a difference!

Female end, not necessarily the “Negative” end. A distinction with a difference!

The Panels connect to the Renogy Charge Controller:

Charge Controller - Renogy Adventurer

Charge Controller – Renogy Adventurer

The Charge Controller controls the charge that goes from the panels to the battery. In the back of the Charge Controller there are squeeze terminals to put in the bare wire ends. The slim guide that comes with the kit is actually useful in this case as it identifies which openings are for the batteries.

In this case I have a single Interstate SRM-27 Deep Cycle battery:

Interstate 27 size battery

Interstate 27 size battery

Interstate Batteries are not sold through Amazon, but Amazon does have an equivalent battery.

The last step in the energy journey goes from the battery (12V DC) to the Pure Sine Wave Inverter. Pure Sine Wave is important if you want to run delicate electronics such as Laptops and Cell phones. You don’t want a dirty, or even modified sine waves screwing up your electronics!

Invert me!

Invert me!

Step 3: Decide where to place the Charge Controller and Inverter

Frankly, this took me some thinking. You want the Charge Controller to be as close to the battery as possible, so that there is minimal energy loss. You also want the Charge Controller to be in a place where it is fairly easy to view the LCD screen, so you can monitor the energy as easily as possible. I placed both the Controller and Inverter in the front of my Casita RV, near the Battery which was located on the trailer tongue outside of my Casita.

Cables exiting the battery box

Cables exiting the battery box

Controller and Inverter, together in perfect harmonyer!

Controller and Inverter, together in perfect harmonyer!

You can decide to mount the Controller and Inverter at this point, or do as I did, which is left them loose until I connected everything and verified that it worked first. If you determined that your wires are long enough, then I don’t think it matters which you do first: mount the boxes now, or after testing.

Step 4: Connect the Batteries to the Inverter

You might be thinking, “Don’t I want to connect the Solar Panels to the Battery first?” You could, but I decided to do the simplest thing first. An inverter will work regardless of whether you have a solar panel or not. It simply inverts the DC power to AC so you can use a standard plug with AC devices like your computer. You simply connect battery cables to the inverter and test. If your electrical device doesn’t work, you may have your polarities crossed.

Once the battery is connected, flip the switch and a red light should come on:

Scotty, we need more power!

Scotty, we need more power!

You can test the outlets by plugging in a small electrical device, in my case I use a small bathroom bulb:

Cap'n, I'm giving you all she's got!

Cap’n, I’m giving you all she’s got!

Step 5: Connect the Solar Panels to the Charge Controller

I covered the panels so that the outgoing charge would be low:

Panel cover

Panel cover

I then connected the panel extension wires, female to male, and male to female, making sure I knew which one was positive.

Solar Panel wire connectors to Charge Controller

Solar Panel wire connectors to Charge Controller

I fed the wires through the hole I drilled and capped with the conduit squeeze connector:

Drill, baby, drill!

Drill, baby, drill!

Fiberglass hole, yo

Fiberglass hole, yo

 

Electrical squeeze conduit

Electrical squeeze conduit

Wires going from Solar Panels to the charge controller, and charge controller to the battery.

Wires going from Solar Panels (black pair) to the charge controller, and charge controller to the battery (red and black pair).

Step 6: Test the connection!

I added a kill switch both for the Solar Panels going to the Charge Controller, as well as the Charge Controller to the Battery:

Kill kill switch

Kill kill switch

Once I was ready I uncovered the Solar Panels, and threw the kill switch to “On.” Then I checked the Charge Controller to see if the panels were registering a charge:

Power up!

Power up!

“PV” stands for “Photovoltaic” and “V” indicates the volts, in this case 14 volts.

Yow, I’ve got power! Enough to run my laptop and charge my cell phone while boondocking.

Macbook powering up!

Macbook powering up!

Solar...in the Sahara...with you!

Step 7: Enjoy!

solar-in-desert

Solar…in the Sahara…with you!

I took my setup to Shelf Road near Canon City, Colorado, as well as Moab, Utah during my solar shakedown trip during Steph Davis’ Crack Climbing Clinic she was running in October.

It worked very well, I was able to power my laptop and cell phone with no problem, especially in the bright desert sun of Moab. I found I could park in the shade and pull my panel to where the sun was unimpeded by shade trees, maximizing my solar input and output.

I did see that when the sun was not so strong, say in my driveway, the single panel in my test wasn’t sufficient in keeping the battery topped off. I’ve read warnings that in order to keep your deep cycle batteries healthy it is best to not let them dip past 50%. In my shady driveway I was not able to do so.

My next plan is to add an additional 100 watts to the roof in a semi-permanent installation. I think that this should take care of most issues in getting enough power to charge the battery. That, and possibly getting a second battery, but for now I will just see how effective a second panel will be.

Solar - from start to finish!

Solar – from start to finish!

Stay tuned!

 

Gear:

 

 

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