We recently added these wonder twins to our mobile lifestyle and they’ve already made a huge difference! As our mobile business has grown over the past couple of years, we have found ourselves needing just a bit more power – especially during those cloudy and rainy days when we often hunker down and get some focused writing and video production work done.
We’ve had Renogy’s 100W Monocrystaline Solar Suitcase for many years and loved it, but we were always curious if the smaller and lighter weight (yet more efficient!) 100W Eclipse version would make enough of a difference. In addition to upgrading our panel, we added the Phoenix 300 Power Station to our bag of tricks to give us a boost of portable power that charges in a wide variety of ways.
Over the past month while traveling across the US, we’ve used the heck out of this combination of new components and have found them to be the perfect pairing to boost our small 200W solar power system – allowing our mobile life and business to thrive wherever we may be. We offer our comprehensive review of both the 100W Eclipse Solar Suitcase and the Phoenix 300 Power Station. This blog contains affiliate links for Renogy products; save 10% by using our CANLIFE promo code at checkout!
Eclipse Foldable Solar Suitcase
What is a Solar Suitcase?
Simply put, it’s a very durable, portable solar panel that can be used by itself, or paired with a rooftop solar system. It is hinged in the middle so it easily folds in half, stows away in a durable carrying case, and has a sturdy handle. It comes with an attached 3 ft cord, and you can very easily add a 20ft 10AWG extension cord to it so that you can park your rig in the shade and put the panel out in the sun.
What are the major differences between the Monocrystalline Solar Suitcase and the Eclipse models?
While you can buy both the monocrystalline or the Eclipse in either 100W and 200W and each are offered with or without an attached charge controller, there are some key differences between the two models.
- Overall, the Eclipse has a smaller footprint and is lighter weight than its monocrystalline cousin. When comparing the 100W versions side-by-side, the Eclipse model is 1.3 sq ft smaller and about a pound lighter than Renogy’s monocrystalline solar suitcase. While that doesn’t sound like much, we’ve found that it’s a bit less awkward to move it around throughout the day as well as lift it in/out of storage.
- While slightly wider, the Eclipse is shorter (in height), making it less likely to get blown over in the wind. This is a real plus for those of us who find ourselves out and about in all kinds of weather!
- The Eclipse model is made with the latest and most efficient available solar cell technology. When plugged in side-by-side in the full sun, our monocrystalline (and slightly older) suitcase produced 79W while our new Eclipse produced 89W.
- The Eclipse is more expensive, but the price difference (as of April 2022) is $80, so if you are trying to make a decision between the two models and price isn’t the deciding factor, go with the Eclipse – you simply get more bang for your buck in the long run.
Why do you have a solar suitcase in addition to flexible panels on Hamlet’s roof?
Good question! We keep the Eclipse tucked into its protective case in the back of our truck, but within easy reach when we need it. We use it in 3 different ways, making our mobile lifestyle not only possible, but highly efficient.
- 1. When we want to park in the shade on a hot day and still need to charge our batteries, we simply put the Eclipse solar suitcase on a 20ft extension cord, and we are charged back up in no time! Or, on a cloudy day, the greater the surface area of panels you have, the more power you can produce. So, if our 100Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate house battery is low and Mother Nature just isn’t cooperating, we plug the Eclipse into our system using the MC-4 connector “pigtail” located on our camper tongue. We often get a good boost, even on a cloudy day.
- 2. We installed a Dual Input DC to DC Charger in our truck bed that charges an auxiliary battery which runs our ICECO refrigerator. While our truck’s alternator combined with this charger do the heavy lifting to keep our 50Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate battery charged and the fridge running, we occasionally need an extra solar boost – especially If we have not driven the truck in a few days and the weather is warm, causing the fridge’s compressor to run constantly. We just plug the solar suitcase into the MC-4 connector “pigtail” in the back of our truck and we are charged back up in no time. This system works so flawlessly, even we are amazed at how easy it is! Note: While this small set-up is all we need, we’ve met other RVers who use this same method to install an additional fridge/freezer if they need to keep enough food/drinks on hand for a large group or are boondocking for an extended period of time. Watch our video of this installation.
- 3. Finally, we use our 100W Eclipse Solar Suitcase to charge up our Phoenix 300 Power Station. We keep this power station charged up and ready in case we have a few days without sun and need an extra boost.
Phoenix Power Station
What is a Power Station?
Renogy’s line of Phoenix Power Stations come in two sizes – 200W and 300W. These power stations include a charge controller, battery, and inverter, all in one very small unit. Weighing in at 6.4 pounds and 7”W x 5.5”H x 6”D, the 300 version is a tiny powerhouse that can charge/run a variety of small appliances and handheld electronic devices.
Both of these Power Stations come with a variety of built-in AC and DC inputs (to charge it) as well as AC and DC outputs (to use the power). The Phoenix 300 has a variety of outlets to charge various devices, including: 2 110-120V AC outlets, 3 USB outlets (2 @ 2.4A, 1 @ 3A), a 60W USB Type-C outlet, a 12V utility/cigarette outlet, and a D-Tap outlet to charge camera/video equipment. There are also a couple of different charging input ports, including: a 60W Type-C port to charge up the unit with a standard household 120V outlet and a DC port to charge while driving with a 12V utility outlet or off of a solar panel like the Eclipse 100W solar suitcase.
What can the Phoenix 300 run?
While this is not a complete home system by any means, it is a very powerful little box. We’ve used it to charge our laptops, phone, portable speaker, run a string of outdoor lights, charge AA/AAA batteries, electric shaver, and even run an immersion blender! You could also run a CPAP machine, small TV, video projector, fan, a 12V fridge, or any household appliance using less than 300W.
One key thing that really sold us on the 300 version is that it is powerful enough to run, and charge, our video production laptop (which in and of itself is an energy hog at 250W!) for about 3 hours. When the Phoenix 300 reaches zero, we’ve still got a fully charged laptop, so the work can keep going. No other small power station that we’ve used has been able to accomplish this!
The Phoenix is also a perfect small and lightweight option for a group or family camping trip – no more leaving your electronics plugged in at the campground office or bathhouse or running your car engine just to charge your flashlight, phone, tablet, or Kindle.
One other important feature to note is that you can simultaneously charge the Phoenix while running appliances with it, so you don’t have to deplete its battery before recharging it. That’s a game changer in and of itself.
How does the Phoenix recharge?
Simply plug it into the wall at home, then keep it charged in a variety of ways. We often plug it into our utility port in our truck and charge while we are driving from one place to the next or while out running errands. Or, we can plug it into our 100W Eclipse Solar Suitcase directly if we are hanging around the campsite during the day. Finally, we recently added a 12V utility port inside Hamlet, so that when our 100Ah Lithium Iron Phosphate house battery is 100% full (and the sun is still shining), we can make use of that extra power coming in to charge up the Phoenix.
Here are the charging times that we’ve experienced while traveling across country:
- 110-120V AC Outlet: ~ 4.5 hours
- 12V DC Utility Port (in Hamlet): ~ 7 hours
- 12V DC Utility Port (in truck): ~ 7 hours
- 100W Eclipse Solar Suitcase: ~ 5 hours in optimal solar conditions
The product specs on the Renogy website mention that you can reduce the charging time to 3.5 hours if you combine charging methods.
If you have a 100Ah LFP house battery, why do you need additional power?
Another great question! Simply put, sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t keep our writing and video production schedule in mind. If the sun hasn’t been plentiful for a few days, and we have a lot of work to get done, we need an alternative way to keep our laptops running. While we enjoy coffeehouses and public libraries and have used them to supplement our mobile home office, sometimes we are in the middle of nowhere and don’t want to drive into a city just to continue working.
As digital nomads, sometimes we want to work outside on a nice day and we need to take some back-up power with us to recharge our laptops, camera, or phone. The Phoenix 300 Power Station is so compact, it even fits in a backpack!
These 2 new components have been a great addition to our overall solar power set-up and highly recommend both products to anyone living a mobile lifestyle or going on a long camping road trip. Check out our video reviews of both the Phoenix 300 and 100W Eclipse for some additional tips and details!
In 2012, Shari Galiardi & David Hutchison left behind careers and a comfortable home in North Carolina to travel with the vintage camper trailer they lovingly restored, outfitted with solar, and named "Hamlet." What began as a short break from careers and responsibility quickly turned into a love affair with roadlife. They have parlayed their higher education backgrounds, desire for life-long learning, and thirst for adventure travel into writing, photography, video production, and public speaking gigs from coast to coast. Known to their friends as simply Shari & Hutch, you can learn more about their full-time, solar-powered adventures on their website at freedominacan.com. Or, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube as “Freedom in a Can, LLC.” Note: All links contained within this blog contain affiliate links provided by Freedom in a Can.