When we go camping, most of us desire to ‘disengage’ from the world and its crazy going ons. In fact, avid campers choose routine camping over long weekends and even during vacations to re-connect with their souls in a way that modern cities don’t give us any such opportunities.
However, with our work also becoming a part of us since the advent of emails and other business communication technologies, it has become very important to be able to communicate with the world wherever you are.
Benefits of Portable Solar Panels for Camping:
This catch 22 situation is a tricky one for many but the power of the sun is thankfully here to help us. Solar power technology is rapidly evolving and dependable devices that can last are now in the market. Some of the benefits of portable solar panels include:
- Charge Devices – Reliably charge all your devices, including smartphones, camping lanterns, portable power stations, and more.
- Communication – Keep your smartphone charged up for use in emergency situations while camping.
- Eco-Friendly – Portable solar panels are much more environmentally friendly than gasoline generators for camping.
- Safe & Quiet – Unlike generators, portable solar power is quiet and safe. There is no noise, no hazardous fumes, and no moving parts.
- Affordable – Not only is the initial cost of the best solar chargers affordable, but using them is very cheap. You don’t even have you plug them in for electricity. All you do is rely on the power of the sun to keep your devices charged.
How to choose the best Portable camping solar panels:
You need to consider a few factors when choosing the best portable camping solar panels. The following points will help you:
- Your Devices – What types of devices do you hope to charge with solar power? Tablets and smartphones have much different power requirements than mini-fridges, air conditioners, winter tent heaters, and other large appliances.
- Power Output – The higher the number of watts, the more electricity the solar panel is capable of generating. Most portable models generate anywhere from 5 watts up to 40 watts. Power output correlates directly with the type and number of devices you wish to charge.
- Number of Users – More users typically means more devices to charge. A larger solar charger with a higher power output is ideal for multiple people that plan to use the same solar setup while camping.
- Style of Camping – Camping, backpacking, and boondocking all require different types of portable solar power. A small, lightweight charger is ideal for backpacking while a robust, more powerful system is best for RV boondocking.
- Trip Duration – A portable solar charger without a battery pack works for short backpacking trips but a higher watt model with a portable power station does wonders for longer camping trips.
- Camping Location – Solar power for camping is ideal in wide-open locations, yet most panels don’t work as well in shade, such as dense woodland. Make sure your devices will get enough sun by considering your preferred camping terrain before making a purchase.
- Mode of Travel – Solar chargers are most effective when left in one place. They are less effective when you’re moving. If you plan to charge a device while backpacking, canoeing and kayaking, or cycling, look for a model built for on-the-go charging.
Now with a better idea of what would meet your needs, a few of the most important portable solar panel features to look at during the buying process includes:
- Rigid or Flexible – A foldable solar panel is the best option for most backpackers and campers as it allows you to quickly fold it down for storage or transport. A rigid model is best suited for use with RVs and camper vans.
- Output Capacity – Power output is measured in watts. Match the output capacity of your solar charger with the devices you’ll use. Generally, you need at least 5 watts to charge a smartphone, although more watts does increase charging speed and also enables you to charge larger devices.
- Surface Area – Small solar panels are lightweight and compact but typically have a slower charging speed. Larger solar panels, on the other hand, are able to collect more sunlight for faster charging. Foldable solar panels enable you to collect a lot of sunlight but fold down for compact transport and storage.
- Size & Weight – The best backpacking solar panels are lightweight and compact. Most fold down while not in use for further space savings. Alternatively, many RV and car campers choose larger solar power systems with built-in batteries to provide multiple device charging.
- Storage Type – Most backpacking solar chargers do not have built-in batteries. Instead, they simply use the converted energy to immediately charge your devices. If you prefer a model that stores converted energy, look for one with a built-in battery pack. You can also buy a portable power station to act as a separate battery.
- Durability – Your solar power source should be rugged and durable to stand up to the rigors of regular outdoor use. However, some ultralight backpackers prefer to sacrifice some durability in favor of additional weight savings.
- Features – Some portable solar chargers come with a single charging port while others come with multiple to charge several devices at once. Other features include hooks for hanging or daisy-chaining compatibility to link several portable solar panels together.
How to Set Up the Solar Panels When Camping
Keeping your devices charged (and charging) while camping used to be challenging, but with the incredible improvements in power storage and solar efficiency it has become very easy to set up your own portable power grid to take with you on the trail, in your car, or in/on your overlanding rig.
Every solar grid is comprised of two main components: solar panels and storage (batteries). Panels are rated by efficiency and how much power they can output. Batteries are rated by how much power they can store and how flexible they are with their inputs (how they are charged) and their outputs (how many things can be plugged into them while drawing power), and secondarily by how much they weigh, which is the primary limiting factor on their use and why lithium is so much better than lead-acid.
You’re going to use a certain amount of power every day, depending on what electrical accessories you want to run. To maintain healthy batteries, you have to be able to replace the power you’ve drawn. Starting with fully-charged batteries after your drive to camp will definitely help here, but being conscious of your power draw throughout the day is essential to avoid killing your batteries.
First, consider how long you’ll want to stay at the campsite. If it’s for more than a day or two at a time, you need more solar capacity. Then you need to think about what you want to run. Someone with low power requirements might simply want to run a couple of LED lights, a small 12v fridge, and a small 12v fan, and may only need to replenish 20Ah of capacity a day. If you’re running bigger fridges, a TV with satellite dish, multiple fans, and lights you may find yourself using three or four times that amount.
Where a lot of vanners go wrong is not accounting for cloudy weather. In almost all cases it’s always better to have more solar power on hand than you think you’ll need. When the sun’s shining, you want to pump as much power into your batteries as possible!
Other factors to consider
- Solar requirements will differ whether you’re heading away for a quick trip and want to keep your batteries topped up, or whether you’re relying on solar to power your whole campsite for weeks on end.
- The size of your battery bank is also vitally important because you need to be able to store power for when the sun’s not shining.
- Solar blankets are quickly gaining popularity for their lightweight compared to folding panels, and when setting up your system you should always place your regulator as close to your batteries as possible for maximum efficiency.
Best Portable Solar Panels for Camping in 2022
Below is a list of the best portable solar panels for camping:
- ACOPOWER 120W Portable Camping Solar Panel
- SUAOKI 60W Camping Solar Panel
- Renogy 50 Watt Flexible Camping Solar Panel
- DOKIO 80 Watts Foldable Camping Solar Panel
- Instapark Mercury 27 Foldable Solar-powered Battery Charger
- TCXW 100 W Solar Panel
- Ryno Tuff 21W Solar Charger
- BigBlue 28W
- X-Dragon 40W
- Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus
- Goal Zero Boulder 100
- Renogy 15,000maH
- Nekteck 21W
- Anker 21W
- Voltaic Systems Arc 20W
- Windy Nation 400W Kit
Reviews of Best Portable Panels for Camping 2022
ACOPOWER 120W Portable Camping Solar Panel
Our overall best portable camping solar panel is Acopower 120 W solar panel that comes with a charge controller. ACOPOWER 120W solar panel is a popular brand among campers and offers a 120W portable and foldable solar panel kit that has a lightweight and compact design. As one of the best solar power kits for camping, the product uses monocrystalline cells from the most efficient and remarkable brand of the industry (SunPower) with a performance that increases the conversion of efficiency up to an amazing 25%.
The solar charger and all of its components are contained inside a suitcase that weighs 8.4 lbs. When we compare this weight to a solar panel with a similar power output module (21 lbs.), we will notice a big difference between both options. There is also the possibility to choose other available sizes such as 50W, 70W and 105 W.
Moreover, there is also a 10 A LCD Charge Controller included with two 5V USB ports and MC4 connector cables to safely charge an external battery (not included) at 12V.
Since it is all pre-wired and ready for connection, you would only need less than 10 seconds to mount the solar panels and connect them to your car battery, a marine boat battery, or another 12V lead-acid battery type such as AGM, flooded, sealed or GEL.
The best solar panels for camping must be lightweight, foldable, and have as much power available to charge your appliances. The Acopower solution meets all these requirements!
SUAOKI 60W Camping Solar Panel
Our second best camping solar panel in this 2022 list is the Suaoki 60-watt panel. This portable foldable solar panel can be expanded to obtain a 60W power output with up to a 20% conversion efficiency that will generate enough power to charge two electronic devices simultaneously.
The suitcase has two output sources. The first one is a 5V USB output that is intended for small electronic appliances and the second one is an 18V DC dual output that can be used for charging 12V deep cycle batteries or also for laptops.
The USB port of this briefcase includes a built-in smart TIR-C technology that automatically identifies and optimizes the exact current needed to charge your equipment and speed up a safe charging process.
An interesting feature of this product is that you will have included up to 10 connectors which are suitable for charging most laptops (except Macbooks) and power station solutions in the market (Yeti, Webetop, Paxcess, Rockpals, Suaoki).
Renogy 50 Watt Flexible Camping Solar Panel
Another best solar panel for camping in this list is Renogy’s 50-watt system. This is a very flexible solar panel that can be used in many applications. This product is extremely lightweight and thin, making it easy to transport and install. It also has a high conversion rate at 22%. The lamination on this panel is only 1/10 of an inch thick, making it one of the thinnest panels available on the market today. This product weighs 70% less than conventional solar panels, making transportation and installation a breeze!
DOKIO 220W 18V Foldable Solar Panel Kit for Camping
This solar panel photovoltaic packs 220W of power yet is only 0.9inch (2.4cm) thick and weighs only 9lb (4.1kg), making it easier to mount, transport, hang and remove. It’s perfect for outdoors and hiking – with a .85ft (3m) cable length from panel to controller, it can be used with most power stations (Jackery, Goal Zero, Ecoflow, Paxcess) and 12-volt batteries(AGM, LiFePo4, Deep cycle)
The BigBlue 28W is chief among the best value portable solar chargers for camping.
For a very reasonable price, you’ll get a foldable solar panel that’s durable, reliable, and offers one of the fastest charging speeds out of the devices we tested.
It boasts 28 watts and a large surface area for a quick charge. Exclusive SmartIC Technology detects the type of device you’re charging to deliver the fastest charging speed possible. Not only that, but two USB outlets enable you to charge two devices at once.
Durability is also at the forefront of this BigBlue solar charger’s design. High-quality, waterproof materials prevent damages from the bumps and bruises of camping. Thanks to its weather resistance, it’s a good choice for camping in the rain.
The downside to this durability is a little too much bulk and extra weight. At nearly 24 ounces, this solar charger isn’t the best option for backpacking.
The X-Dragon 40W is one of the best laptop-compatible solar chargers for camping on the market today.
Right from the get-go, however, it’s necessary to point out that this is one of the largest portable models we reviewed. Not only is it heavy, but it’s cumbersome and bulky as well.
But this large size does have its benefits. The X-Dragon 40W is among the most powerful portable solar chargers available thanks to its large panel surface area and 40-watt output capacity. It’s powerful enough to maintain performance even in partial sun and clouds.
In addition to smartphones and similarly small devices, this solar panel charger is specifically designed to charge laptops. For the most effective and reliable laptop charging, you must pair the X-Dragon with a compatible portable power bank. Charge this battery with the solar panel and then your laptop with the battery.
Overall, this solar power charger is too cumbersome, bulky, and heavy for most campers (don’t even think about it, backpackers). It’s best for basecamps, off-grid living, van campers, survival preppers, and the like.
Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus
The Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus is one of the best ultralight solar chargers for backpacking, period.
It weighs in at just 12.8 ounces total. A compact, foldable design complements this lightweight construction. Fold open for a larger solar surface area or fold closed to stash in your pack.
A weatherproof outer layer helps the Nomad 7 Plus excel in lackluster conditions. Designed to shed rain and snow, you can even use this portable solar charger while camping in the winter.
As the name implies, this Goal Zero portable solar panel boasts an output capacity of 7 watts, more than enough to efficiently charge smaller devices like smartphones, GPS units, and headlamps. Do note that there is no built-in battery pack to store a charge for later.
Additional highlights include the built-in LED indicator that displays current solar strength, an included kickstand to achieve an optimal charging angle (and provide a shady place for your charging devices), and easy compatibility with many other Goal Zero portable power devices.
Goal Zero Boulder 100
Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase is another popular solar-powered products manufacturer and is certainly one of the top in the market.
In this case, we are evaluating the Goal Zero Boulder 100W solar panel briefcase which is stronger and more powerful than previous models from the brand.
The modules are designed with a tempered glass that protects the highly efficient solar cells from damage, moisture or dust. They also integrate enforced corners to ensure the maximum protection for the PV module as it stands on the ground.
Optional kickstands are also included and they will allow you to change the tilt angle of the module to nearly 45° to ensure a good optimization of solar energy production for the US. If you rather mount them on your van, RV or boat, you can avoid the kickstands and mount them on a flat position.
An important difference with other modules in the market is that the Boulder 100W solar panels do not have compatibility with MC4 connectors. Instead, they have an 8mm barrel jack terminal that only allows to connect the PV modules in parallel to ensure a 12V output at all times and maximize security for the user. Each 8mm barrel jack will be able to connect up to 4 solar panels in parallel.
The module weighs 25.9 lbs. and has a 12-month warranty. Finally, is perfectly compatible with portable power stations from Goal Zero like the Sherpa 100 Power Pack (3-4 hours of Sun), the Yeti 150 (3-6 hours of sun), or the Yeti 400 (8-16 hours of sun for a complete charge).
Buying Guide for Solar Panels for Camping
How to Choose Solar Panels for Camping
Solar panels for camping are usually portable and weatherproof. They can be used to keep camping equipment like walkie-talkies, phones, fans, lights, laptops, and other devices fully charged while you spend the weekend near your favorite natural pool or lake. You can take them along on an outdoor picnic or fishing trip to use with collapsible tents, lanterns, seats and heaters. Solar panels for camping are great to have on hand while you camp or while walking your dog in the wilderness.
Below are features to look for when selecting a solar panel for camping;
- 1. Size and Weight: Solar panels for camping can be as big as a briefcase or as small as a wallet. They vary in weight from 1 pound to 20 pounds. Smaller units are easier to store and transport but don’t pack as much power as larger ones. Larger panels usually have four times the power of smaller ones and can charge multiple devices at once.
- 2. Capacity to store power: Batteries are important for storing power. Some will hold enough energy to fully charge a cell phone three times over, while others can completely recharge a tablet or laptop computer in 1-2 hours. The average solar panel for camping will fully charge an iPhone in about 3 hours.
- 3. Power Output: Solar panels for camping come with different power outputs which indicate how fast they can charge devices in optimal weather conditions with limited sunlight. The more powerful the charging ability, the faster it will recharge your device under most conditions (i.e. if there is no cloud coverage or wind). This depends on the size of the solar panel and how many watts it can produce.
- 4. Ruggedness: Solar panels designed for camping are made to be weatherproof, durable and vandal-resistant. If you’re using your device outdoors in extreme conditions, look for a ruggedized product that will withstand the elements.
- 5. Warranties: Warranties vary from one manufacturer to another. Before buying a camping solar panel, check the manufacturer’s warranty terms and make sure it will meet your needs.
- Folding ability: Not all solar panels for camping are foldable. If you plan on putting one inside your backpack, make sure it’s easy to transport.
- Panel types: Portable solar panels come with different types of technology depending on their main purpose. For example, there are flexible, rigid and portable monocrystalline solar panels that are specifically designed for outdoor activities. Check to see if the solar panel you are considering buying has an integrated stand, so it can be placed in an optimal position while charging your devices.
Devices Can You Power or Charge with Solar panels for Camping
- Phones: Most portable solar panels for camping come with USB ports that can be connected to any cell phone. Simply plug in the appropriate charging cable and press start to charge your phone or other devices.
- Tablets: Some solar panels for camping will power or recharge tablet computers. Tablet-size chargers weigh about 1 pound and produce 5 watts of energy output. They can fully recharge a tablet battery in about 2-3 hours in optimal weather conditions.
- Lighting: Solar panels for camping come with built-in LED lights that provide approximately 50-100 lumens of lighting power. This will allow you to read at night, set up your tent, or cook your food without using other energy sources.
- Lanterns: Solar panels for camping will power or recharge most LED and fluorescent lanterns and lights. Many come with built-in USB connectors that can be connected to any lantern or light designed for outdoor use.
- Camping Heaters: Portable solar panels for camping are great to have on hand during cool evenings by the fire. They can be used to power or recharge propane heaters and outdoor appliances like grills, lanterns, and portable stoves.
- Backup Power: One of the most powerful uses of solar panels for camping is providing emergency backup power during storms, hurricanes, or other dangerous conditions. If you live in an area that will experience bad weather throughout the year, having a solar panel to charge your phone or rechargeable lanterns for emergency lighting can make a big difference.
- Computers: Regular solar panels for camping may not power or recharge notebook computers but to charge your laptop or netbook, consider getting a large-sized panel that will provide more energy output. Get those with more than 100 Watt capacity
What Is a Good Number of Solar Panels For a Camping Trailer?
A typical solar array, which has a power output of around 100 watts, generates 6 amps per peak sun hour on average. This may be represented by 30 amp-hours each day. In that case, you’ll require two solar panels (about 100 watts each) to recharge or supply full power to your RV on an average day.
What Size Panels Should You Buy?
This will depend on the voltage you require to use your appliances and other equipment. For a 12-volt system, buy two panels that have a combined power output of 150 watts or more because the starting point for sizing is 50 watts if you want to supply full power day by day. You could also opt to buy three 75 watt panels instead of two 150 watt panels. This will depend on your budget and the size of your battery bank to use at night or during cloudy weather.