Hey there campers, and welcome to my post discussing my three best portable solar panels for camping this year. For most of us, especially those with kids, keeping our batteries running and electronics charged up in remote areas when camping poses a serious challenge. There are a few ways to deal with this including solar energy, which is an excellent, environmentally safe option for keeping our gadgets powered on the go.
The thing is, traditional panels are bulky and designed to stay in one location. However, portable solar panels are lightweight, powerful, and built to withstand the elements making them perfect for our needs. Some are even small enough to keep in a drawer for use in an emergency power outage.
To save you some time, I have had a good look around and come up with some good options below – Let’s check them out…
My three recommended portable solar panels for camping
I will review these in more detail below, but if you just want to get moving without all the carry-on, my three are listed here for your convenience:
|Portable Solar Panel||Price||Get it|
|ROCKPALS SP002 Foldable 60W Solar Panel||$||CURRENT PRICE|
|Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel||$$||CURRENT PRICE|
|DOKIO 300 Watts 18 Volts Portable Foldable Solar Panel||$$$||CURRENT PRICE|
What are portable solar panels?
Portable solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity or heat. Each panel has smaller cells, each of which is composed of thin layers of silicon. They come in various sizes, with portable options able to be carried anywhere and are easy to install.
When it comes to camping, portable solar panels are often available as a kit that includes additional tools such as a stand, cable, storage case, solar charge controller, inverter, and battery and depending on their size, can produce up to 320W of power. When the user is off-grid, portable solar panels can also operate with a battery and an inverter to power appliances.
In most cases when it comes to camping, a solar panel’s main purpose is to keep your 12V batteries charged so that they can run your lights, camping fridges and phone chargers etc. Smaller models will take care of charging requirements without need for a battery whilst some larger models provide enough power to run a solar generator, camping power station or a few 120/240V appliances as well – especially if a gas powered portable camping generator is out of your price range.
For purposes of this post, we will discuss solar panels as use for both battery charging and appliance use purposes.
What should you be looking for?
Below are some of the main factors you should take into account as you shop for portable solar panels for camping:
- Type of Solar Panel
- What other features it has
Type of Solar Panel
Solar panels come in three types:
- Monocrystalline – Panels like this have a single bigger-than-usual silicon crystal. Monocrystalline panels are arguably the most efficient because they can generate significant power even when sunlight is scarce. Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency. While they are the most expensive of the three types, they are also durable and resistant to high temperatures.
- Polycrystalline – The solar cells on polycrystalline panels are blue rather than black. This appearance is because the silicon wafers came from melted crystal fragments rather than a single silicon crystal. This manufacturing process lowers the price however can decrease the energy output. Polycrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are more efficient than thin-film solar panels.
- Amorphous – Also known as thin-film panels, these have a spreading of silicon across a large bed. They’re popular because they’re less expensive than the first two options while being more flexible and allowing for more installation options. On the negative side, they can take up approximately three times the space of polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels while producing the same power.
For portable solar panels, efficiency applies to the amount of solar energy converted to DC electricity. Efficiency values are commonly expressed as a percentage. Higher efficiency means that the panel weighs lighter and takes up less space while producing a reliable output.
Obviously you need an option where the electrical production exceeds what is required to power your electronics meaning you must consider:
- The climate in which you will conduct your adventure – cold weather reduces efficiency.
- Direct sunlight – No matter the model, the more sunlight the more efficient the panels are, if this is not an option then you may need to go with a more expensive option (as discussed above) to keep your appliances covered.
At the end of the day, I recommend purchasing a solar panel with the most power while taking up the least space that your budget can handle.
For camping, this probably goes without saying but as you will need to transport the panel from the car etc. to the campsite, you should ensure that you are physically capable of doing so. This means the more portable it is the better .
Additionally, you will need to consider transportation. Solar panels are generally strong but not unbreakable so anything with a protective case or bag will keep your panels safe.
There is a lot to this however in general, as with anything to do with electricity, the power producing capabilities of a solar panel is measured in watts. In simple (very simple) terms, the higher wattage output a panel has, the more likely the panel is to be able to charge a battery and power several electronics simultaneously. Some examples include:
- 100 aH 12V battery – 240 Watts
- Cell/mobile phone charge – 2 – 6 Watts
- 60L camp fridge – 288 Watts per hour (based on running via a 12V battery)
Below are some common wattage ratings for selected portable solar panels:
- Mini 45-watt panel — This is enough to charge cellphones, music players, Ipads, tablets, and other small devices.
- Portable 120-watt panel — The power this panel provides can operate LED lights and home appliances such as a small fridge. You could also plug the pump into your air mattresses!
- Portable 160-watt panel — This type can power systems and appliances of an RV.
- Portable 320-watt panel — This portable solar panel, along with an inverter and battery, generates electricity powering appliances as you enjoy your camping trips.
Other potential additions include:
- Inverter – In short, an inverter is the device that turn your camping battery’s direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) – which is the type of current that runs most household appliances. Should you be wanting to use your solar panel for this purpose, then you will need it to include as inverter that the appliances can plug into as well.
- Carrying case – Since many portable solar panels are foldable, you can place them inside a carrying case for convenient moving of the item. Some even have pockets where you can store connectors and small gadgets.
- USB ports – These allow you to plug and charge your smartphones, tablets, and other similar devices directly via the solar panel.
- Stand – Solar panels should be placed at specific angles for the optimal harnessing of the Sun’s energy. Most portable solar panels have a stand that results in absorbing 25% more sunlight as they are set up for an optimum angle.
- Connectors – As above, most portable solar panels are used as a means to keep 12V batteries charged. Many solar panels include charging cables for this purpose.
- Charge controller – Certain solar panels today include a charge controller. A charge controller, also known as a charge regulator, aids in regulating the voltage/current your gadgets receive. Consequently, this addresses overcharging issues that may damage your devices.
What do I use?
Ok, so when I go camping I use a 100aH 12V battery to run 3 LED light strips and a 60L portable fridge/freezer. My solar panel provides an output of 300 Watts with 3 USB ports and charge controller.
In full sunlight it will keep the battery at full charge as well as running the above and charging 3 phones and a power pack. The only downfall with this model is that its Polycrystalline cell build loses efficiency at a rapid rate should any shade falls across the panels.
My three recommendations broken down
So based on the information above and my own experience, I recommend the following options:
1. ROCKPALS SP002 Foldable 60W Solar Panel
This first option is for those wanting something extremely light that will keep electronic devices charged as well as running a few small light strips as well. It has a built-in smart IC chip that intelligently recognizes attached devices and optimizes its charging speed while protecting it from overcharging and overloading. The panel is compatible with tablets, cameras, and cell phones. Its specifications are as below:
- Brand: ROCKPALS
- Wattage: 60 watts
- Product dimensions: 14.57 x 14.57 x 3.15 inches
- Weight: 5.66 pounds
- USB charging ports: 3
- Compatibility: Compatible with most solar generators and power stations
- Operating temperature: 0 to 120 F (-18 to 49 C)
- Includes cables for solar generators, power stations and smart phones/tablets
- Panels made of high-efficiency solar arrays that convert up to 21.5-23.5% of solar power into free energy
- Water resistant
Why have I chosen it?
This is a great option for those for adventure lovers as it folds up into a briefcase for easy transport and can even be placed outside of the bag to absorb solar energy as you are hiking. Its conversion efficiency is a solid 21.5-23.5% efficiency making it a perfect companion for campers who need their phone or camera with them at all times.
2. Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel
The item may be classified as mid-range, but its monocrystalline silicon solar cell build equals its high-end counterparts providing 100W with a conversion efficiency of up to 23%. It will charge a 12V battery, solar generator or power station without any problems making it perfect for those outdoor camping trips where you want your fridge cold and some lights on at night. See its specifications below:
- Brand: Jackery
- Wattage: 100 watts
- Product dimensions: 22.83 x 19.69 x 2.36 inches
- Weight: 5.5 pounds
- USB charging ports: 2
- Compatibility: Compatible with Jackery Explorer 300/500/1000/1500 power station
- Operating temperature: -4F to 122F (-10 to 65C)
- FCC certification, RoHS certification, overpower protection, surge protection, short current protection
- IP65 water-resistance
- Fold out kick stand
Why have I chosen this?
This is a great option for those who want to maintain portability and still run a little extra within their campsite. As above, It will connect most electronic devices as well as running the camping basics within a robust and durable case making it suitable for everything a camping trip could throw at it.
3. DOKIO 300 Watts 18 Volts Portable Foldable Solar Panel
This final product is a great high end option for those who want powerful charging and power options whilst maintaining portability for camping. It’s Monocrystalline panel build contains all of the extras listed above and will charge batteries, power stations and generators with ease. Its specifications are as follows:
- Brand: DOKIO
- Wattage: 300 watts
- Product dimensions: 21 x 41 x 1 inches
- Weight: 16.5 pounds
- USB charging ports: 2
- Compatibility: Compatible with most generators and power stations
- Operating temperature: Not stated
- Charge controller for 12V battery charging
- Connections for most generators, stations and batteries
- Intelligent charging protection against reverse polarity, overcharging, short-circuit, and reverse current
Why have I chosen this?
This is a great option for those who like to take all their appliances with them when they camp and charge everything else once they get there. It is robust, water resistant whilst still maintaining great portability. Highly recommended for camping of all types and locations.
There you have it, my three best portable solar panels for camping this year. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual, let me know of your experiences with them.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time