(After my first few camping trips in the van, I quickly realized that I was going to need some way to keep all of my various electronics charged up (cell phones, laptops, etc). I first tried a inverter which I wired into my first Auxiliary battery setup. The power draw was too much on my wimpy Auxiliary battery at the time and I needed the Aux battery to also power my lights and fridge at night so another solution was needed.
After lots of research, I came across a company called Goal Zero (www.GoalZero.com) which sells a variety of solar products. Their Yeti 400 model (here) immediately caught my eye.
First off, it has a ton of connections on the front including 2 x 120v outlets, 2 x USB ports, and a 12v cigarette adapter.
Next, what I really liked is the LCD display on the front. This display shows you the current level of charge, how much is currently being drawn, and how much current is being inputted.
For inputs you can either plug it into a standard wall outlet to charge, or you can add a solar panel (they sell a variety).
I opted for the Boulder 30 model (here)as it seemed to be a good compromise between price and output. I've since decided that I should have gone with a higher output panel as the charge time at 26-52 hours on the Boulder 30 is way too long. Probably their Boulder 90 (here) would have been a better option as it has a listed charge time on the Yeti of 9-18 hours.
Typically I can charge my iPhone about a gazillion times, and run a laptop (13" Macbook Pro) for about a day on a full charge of the Yeti. I've also used it to power hand tools, a soldering iron (for roadside electrical repairs) and various other electrical gadgets. As I typically don't go more than a couple of days without access to shore power this hasn't been too much of an issue for me.
The Yeti 400 costs approx $450 and the Boulder 30 about $200. So at $650 for the system I have, it's not a cheap set up. However for that money you do get a product that is exceptionally well made, well thought out, and well engineered.
I recently installed a 100 Watt Renogy Solar Panel, Solar Controller, and added a second 110 amp hour Deep Cycle battery to my Auxiliary battery system (review to come soon). In many ways it's a superior set up to the Goal Zero for my particular uses. However my Yeti is something I never go on a trip without. Its combination of cuteness, utility, and quality have endeared it to me. I have no doubt that it's a product i'll enjoy for many years to come.
PROS: Build Quality, Thoughtfully Designed, Lots of Ports, Long Battery Life for Charging Gadgets with low power draw, Multiple ways to Charge it.
CONS: Expensive compared to DIY solar options, Takes a relatively long time to charge off Solar.
Of all of the accessories i've purchased for my Westfalia, there's one that gets more attention than all the others.
My ladder. Seems silly to me, although perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised, it's handy as hell. Early on in my van build out I decided that I needed to have a Yakima Rocketbox. This required purchasing my roof rack setup, and locating a sweet used Rocketbox.
It was only upon installing the Rocketbox that I realized it was next to impossible to reach from the ground. A solution was needed.
Meet the Rocky Mountain Westy Vanagon Ladder (here). This handy, super simple ladder mounts to the rear jack point on the bottom and to the rain gutter on top. Its powder coated a textured black, and looks sharp. In my opinion it beefs up the look of that side of the van. Most importantly though, it makes reaching stuff on the roof (in my case my Rocketbox) a snap.
At $249, it's not exactly a cheap solution, but it's well made and has held up well. There are other ladders out there, GoWesty sells a ladder kit for their Universal Carrier (Shown supporting my Spare Tire in the photo above), however that solution would put me behind the box, which wouldn't have solved my issue.
I really like the side mounted ladder versus the rear mounted ladder and I think you might too.
PROS: Sturdy, Lightweight, Well Constructed, Looks Cool, No Drilling Required
CONS: No way i've found to secure it to the van for Anti-Theft purposes. The ladder does break down easily for stowage (although i've never done this)