New York-based climber Gaz Leah is heading down to Parque La Huasteca near Monterrey, Mexico to develop and document new routes as well as introduce at-risk youth to climbing. We’re working with Gaz to power his new home, an Econoline van. He needs to power:

  • 2011 MacBook Pro
  • 36 Volt Drill (for installing bolts on climbing routes)
  • Lighting
  • Ceiling Fan (ventilation for cooking & cooling)
  • Phones and other USB Devices

Here’s the installation we did in about an hour. For more information on how you can set up your own van with solar visit our Van Life Solar Buyers Guide.

We mounted 2 x 17 Watt Solar Panels on the roof. Each of the panels has four magnets screwed into the corners. We don’t recommend driving with these at speed, but they will keep them on the roof for local driving and can be easily removed. The cool thing about this project is that you really don’t need that big on an array to charge the target devices. With the exception of the fan, we’re sticking with DC power so there is very little energy wasted going from the solar panels to the device.

solar panel on van

The panels connect to 4 foot extension cords with waterproof connectors and enter the van through a drilled hole that Gaz is going to waterproof.

solar panels magnet mounted van

Here are the extension cables coming into the van.


Each 17 Watt panel connects to a V72 laptop battery (now our upgraded V88 Battery Pack). We attached the V72 the side of a storage panel using industrial strength Velcro.

V72-velcro v72-attach

Here’s a V72 charging the MacBook.

batteries charging macbook in van

We split the output of the USB port on one of the V72s and connected to two Touchlights, one for the back (bedroom) and one for the front (kitchen).

usb light in van

For the drill with a mega-large battery, we had to get a little creative. We weren’t able to charge this directly from the panels or a single battery because of the high Voltage (36). We built this cable to connect 2 x V72s to an inverter so that you could fully fill the drill battery.


Finally, here’s the Fantasticvent Fan. It runs off of 12 Volts and we wired it up to the output of one of the V72s.

battery powered fantastic fan in van

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