The great outdoors is always right around the corner.
However, going out without a plan for powering devices is impractical these days. Solar panels offer free energy to those who use them and provide a simple solution to the problem.
The issue then becomes picking the correct one for your favorite adventures.
Below is a table summarizing the 10 best portable solar panels for camping. In total, they go from 16 watts all the way up to 100 watts of power. Due to the difference in power, the panels naturally vary in weight and size.
Quick View - 10 Best Portable Solar Panels for Camping
|Model||RAVPower Solar Charger 16W||Rockpals 100W Foldable Solar Panel||Nekteck 21W Portable Solar Panel||BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger||Anker 21W 2-Port USB Portable Solar Charger||Jackery SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel||Renogy 100W 12V Portable Solar Panel||Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Eclipse Solar Suitcase||Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase||ALLPOWERS 100W Portable Solar Charger|
|Weight||1.12 lbs||10.8 lbs||1.12 lbs||1.35 lbs||0.9 lbs||11.62 lbs||26.6 lbs||20.3 lbs||25.9 lbs||5.29 lbs|
|Size (Folded)||10.83 x 6.89 in||20.5 x 14.2 in||6.3 x 11.1 in||11.1 x 6.3 in||11.1 x 6.3 in||22.5 x 26 in||19.9 x 27.2 in||21.5 x 21.5 x 3.1 in||20 x 26.75 in||12.6 x 7.5 in|
Before getting into each solar panel, there are several benefits added to your camping experience when utilizing a portable solar panel.
The Benefits of Camping Solar Panels
The benefits of using solar are numerous. By making this choice, you are likely to increase your own enjoyment of the great outdoors and help keep our outdoors clean.
Solar charging is a practical option to keep devices full of battery. Whether you enjoy walking through the woods listening to the classics or using rechargeable tools around the campsite, there’s a solar panel built to work with that activity.
Many can even charge multiple devices at once, which is a practical option for groups.
These days everyone needs to be reachable. When you’re outside, though, it’s not about the next message. Instead, having a working phone is a matter of safety.
There is no way to predict an emergency and being able to summon aid is paramount.
Solar energy exists, whether it is harvested or not. By selecting a solar option, you are mindfully selecting a different form of power as compared to a gas generator reaction whose sole purpose is to provide power.
By choosing solar, you’re selecting the eco-friendly solution that protects the outdoors you love.
Solar chargers and generators are significantly quieter than their conventional counterparts, and in many cases, are even silent.
When the goal is to enjoy the great outdoors, not having an interrupting generator whir helps to give you more pleasure.
Solar panels have existed for more than 60 years, during which time the technology has been tested repeatedly. With solar panels, there are no fumes or moving pieces.
Not only does this reduce the breakdown rate, but it also makes solar chargers safer.
After the initial investment in the right gear, there are no additional costs to harvest solar energy.
There is simply nothing more affordable than free. Even though the panels are an investment, many will last ten years or more.
The 10 Best Rated Solar Panels for Camping
RAVPower Solar Charger 16W Solar Panel
- Weight: 1.12 pounds
- Size (Folded): 10.83 in by 6.89 in
- Size (Unfolded): 9.4 in by 25.3 in
- Wattage: 16 watts at up to 3.2 amperage
- Solar Efficiency Values: 21.5% to 23.5%
The RAVPower solar charger offers a foldable, waterproof solution for on the go power.
These panels can generate sufficient power to charge two handheld devices at the same time. It is not, however, powerful enough to power laptops and other high-intensity devices.
The RAVPower solar charger offers two built-in USB ports that connect directly into the array. The device uses a combination of iSmart technology, which detects the type of device, and smart IC which moderates how the charge is sent to the charging device.
RAVPower solar chargers automatically adjust, so the two devices charge at the maximum rate possible with the right available safely.
You’ll like the light and compact design. This solar charger is light enough to backpack with but versatile enough to use every day.
It’s fabulous for a range of different outdoor excursions. When it’s folded up, you can easily attach it to one of the carabiner hooks for easy storage.
The built-in USB chargers are also an asset.
Every handheld device you have charges off USB ports these days, regardless of the maker. The charger’s practical solution means that you rarely need to carry extra adapters. When every ounce counts, that’s good news.
The RAVPower solar charger also offers secure attachment to a variety of surfaces with its four hooks. The unit is designed to attach to backpacks for on the go charging needs.
However, it’s just as easy to attach it to a tent or tree while in camp. That’s the kind of versatility a fun outdoor adventure requires.
The first thing you may have noted was that the RAVPower unit only has USB chargers.
Unfortunately, that limits the types of charging you can accomplish. Plus, if the common charger changes in the future, the unit itself will require new or additional adapters and may even become obsolete.
Additionally, there is no battery pack in the device. The solar charger directly charges the devices attached to it. However, any power it generates beyond that is lost.
That works against you if you have several wet or rainy days during the trip. While the unit is efficient enough to continue charging on a cloudy day, it slows dramatically.
Since the pack does not have a battery, it can also pose a problem for smartphones. Many smartphones have a safety shutoff built-in case of fluctuating power levels on the grid.
Sometimes, the intermittency in solar collection triggers that feature.
The solution is simple; you only need to unplug and re-plug the device. In any case, doing that multiple times a day can become annoying.
Rockpals 100W Foldable Solar Panel
- Weight: 10.8 pounds
- Size (Folded): 20.5 in by 14.2 in
- Size (Unfolded): 20.5 in by 64.5 in
- Wattage: 100 watts at variable amperage
- Solar Efficiency Values: 21.5% to 23.5%
Rockpals 100W foldable solar panels are designed to work with both solar generators and individual devices.
The panels come with a wide variety of connectors for the various solar generators. The junction box also contains three USB ports equipped with quick charge and intelligent device recognition powered by TIR-C.
The panels themselves fold up into a briefcase-sized package. The panels are waterproof, and the cover is water-resistant. The junction box must be kept dry for safety.
The panels offer enough surface area to be effective even on cloudy days.
The Rockpals panels are incredibly versatile. The built-in USB ports offer you the option to charge handheld devices quickly.
Meanwhile, being able to plug these panels into a solar generator can create enough power for whole campsites. That kind of versatility is hard to come by.
The three USB ports are beautifully incorporated. The pouch containing the ports can store all the necessary cables and connectors, so they’re never separated from the panels.
This collection will make camp setup infinitely more comfortable, and you never need to worry about where you left the bag of connectors.
These panels are large enough to generate 100 watts under optimal conditions. The foldable panels are generally efficient and easy to set up at a campsite.
Plus, the folding capability means it fits in the car well with your other camping gear. The panels are also durable enough to handle the moving and jostling required during an off-road trip.
Many different connectors link the Rockpals panels to various solar generators and devices.
While the packages have storage for these connectors, there is still the possibility of losing the one that works with your generator.
Despite having all these connectors, the panels do not work with some generators, such as the Jackery 440.
Additionally, when folded, the panels are the size of a briefcase. This feature makes them suitable for car-based excursions, but not backpacking.
Also, you may need to be creative when rigging the panels off the ground because of their size. While there are loops for easy connection, finding a spot that holds ten pounds in direct sunlight is, at times, a problem.
These panels are also not designed to be parallel capable. That means the solar devices cannot work together to generate more power, and each must hook into a solar generator directly.
If you want a more extensive power network, that can become difficult to wire.
Nekteck 21W Portable Solar Panel
- Weight: 1.12 pounds
- Size (Folded): 6.3 in by 11.1 in
- Size (Unfolded): 26.2 in by 11.1 in
- Wattage: 21 watts at up to 3 amps
- Solar Efficiency Values: 21% to 24%
This Nekteck portable solar panel is designed to be rugged, with a PET polymer cover and waterproofing that meets IPX4 standards.
It’s also designed to be lightweight and compact. The foldable panel and sturdy attachment points make it perfect for outdoor adventures.
The solar panel connects to your devices through two USB ports built into the design. These ports have smart IC technology.
Smart IC recognizes what devices are connected and charges them at their optimal rate when possible. This technology is all built into an easy use pouch in the canvas cover.
Nekteck portable solar panels are lightweight, which is beneficial regardless of your planned adventures.
This piece of gear weighs a little over a pound, folds small, and has a rugged design. It is ideal for backpackers but would not be out of place around a campsite.
The pocket design on this solar panel is useful. The USB charging ports are located inside the zippered pocket. You can plug the devices into the solar panel, zip them into the pocket, and then hike all day without worrying about where those devices are.
Charging optimization technology is also practical. Since each device is different, using the different charging rates decreases the probability that a device will do a safety cutout.
It also allows the panel to charge the machines as fast as possible, which is very useful when you’re moving around.
The most significant disadvantage to the Nekteck solar panel model is the lack of an internal battery.
This lack limits the panels to active charging, which means what the panel converts right then is what’s available. This distinction can become annoying as you thread through tree-lined trails or under the occasional cloud.
Many devices have a safety cutout built-in if the charging current is too low or too high.
Without a battery to even out the current, walking under trees or clouds can cause the charging to cease until the device is unplugged and plugged back in. That is less than ideal when hiking.
The way around this is charging portable batteries instead of the devices directly, but more batteries add more weight to the trip.
The other disadvantage is only being able to connect the panel via USB. While most devices charge off of USB these days, there are still some oddball devices.
Requiring an adapter decreases the efficiency of charging for most devices and negates any benefits from the smart IC technology.
BigBlue 3 USB Ports 28W Solar Charger
- Weight: 1.35 pounds
- Size (Folded): 11.1 in by 6.3 in
- Size (Unfolded): 11.1 in by 33.1 in
- Wattage: 28 watts at up to 4.8 amps
- Solar Efficiency Values: 21.5% to 23.5%
There are four buckles for easy attachment just about anywhere. The panels also offer built-in current protection and smart charging as extra safety measures for the charging devices.
The design itself is designed to be both rugged and useful. The panels have a PET polymer coating for water repellency, while the case offers IPX4 standard level waterproofing.
The three USB hubs are located inside a pocket that works with a waterproof port protector to keep everything running.
The BigBlue solar charger is both lightweight and rugged.
The built-in hooks make it easier to attach to backpacks than some other models of the solar charger. Its folded dimensions make it easy to store in the pack or on the carabiner hooks once everything is fully charged.
This solar charger is specially designed for handheld devices. This category includes phones, music players, and camping devices, such as rechargeable headlamps.
It’s also possible to charge camera batteries, such as those used by a DSLR, with the right connector. Being able to capture all the moments from your outdoor trips without worrying about the battery is incredibly useful.
While BigBlue does offer current protection, it does not have a battery.
That means it needs to be in sunlight to charge devices, and any changes in the intensity of the sunlight can alter how fast machines charge.
While the current protection technology does help keep the devices safe, it doesn’t help keep a charge going.
Additionally, there is limited compatibility. This solar charger does not connect to any sort of solar generator or any battery that does not have a USB connection.
It also does not work on bigger devices, such as tablets and laptops. Depending on the purpose of your excursion, that makes it significantly less useful.
The design itself also either works for you, or it doesn’t. If you’re used to working with mini-bungees and carabiners, the attached buckles can require some working around.
Additionally, the pouch which houses the USB ports is secured with Velcro. Some adventurers find that their device is not secure enough with the single strip of Velcro and falls out of the solar charger.
Anker 21W 2-Port USB Portable Solar Charger with Foldable Panel
- Weight: 0.9 pounds
- Size (Folded): 11.1 in by 6.3 in
- Size (Unfolded): 11.1 in by 26.4 in
- Wattage: 21 watts at up to 3 amps
- Solar Efficiency Values: 21.5% to 23.5%
The Anker solar charger is designed for rugged trips. The solar panels themselves are equipped with PET polymer, while the canvas they are attached to is a heavy-wear weight.
Additionally, the eyeholes or grommets are stainless steel and resists rust, which holds up well even after it has become wet.
The solar charger features two USB charging ports tucked into a pouch. The ports have PowerIQ, which replicates the charging device’s original protocols for the best charge available.
The ports also include short circuit and surge protection technology, so the charging devices are safe regardless of sunlight changes.
The Anker solar charger is designed to be rugged and lightweight. This design makes it ideal for outdoor adventures, whether they require a daypack or a backpack.
The lightweight and small design are easy to carry and store while not in use. The steel grommets also hold up better, regardless of where on a pack it’s attached.
The other advantage is Anker’s charging technology. Anker has an extensive range of products that all use the same charging tech.
When put into the dual charge configuration, both devices receive the optimal electrical current for them. This optimization is a huge advantage when trying to charge phones, batteries, and handheld camp items.
Like many backpacking solar chargers, Anker lacks its own battery. That means the charge is based on the sunlight the panels are absorbing right that second.
Some devices, including certain battery packs, are not capable of adjusting to these fluctuations when connected to the Anker. The result is wasted charging time. Your devices were dying while you thought they were charging.
The Anker solar charger also has some compatibility limitations. The manufacturer lists no compatibility with iPod nano, iPod Classic, iPod Shuffle, HP TouchPad, and Asus tablets, to name a few. If those are your go-to pieces of travel gear, that’s problematic.
Another flaw some travelers find annoying is the shortness of the Velcro on the pouch.
Some find that the device they are charging does not remain within the bag when they’re moving around. Continually needing to adjust the charging pouch detracts from your outdoor experience.
Some people even found it so annoying that they replaced the Velcro with another closure mechanism.
The last hitch with the Anker solar charger is the manufacturer recommending it be kept away from all water to protect the electronic components.
Minimizing water exposure is excellent in theory, but you cannot control the weather during your trips.
Similar: 10 Essentials to Carry on a Day Hike
Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel for Explorer 160/240/500/1000
- Weight: 11.62 pounds
- Size (Folded): 22.5 in by 26 in
- Size (Unfolded): 22.5 in by 43.4 in
- Wattage: 100W at variable amperage
- Solar Efficiency Values: up to 23%
The Jackery SolarSaga is designed to work with solar generators through a DC connector.
However, it also has both a USB-C and a USB-A port built right in for those quick charge situations. It has built-in circuit protection as well. The device is FC and ROHS certified for safety.
The panels have a PET coating and are designed to operate at higher temperatures than many similar solar kits.
The panels are attached to durable cloth covers. The hard handle and durable zipper round out the carrying features. These panels have two adjustable kickstands attached to the back for easy angling towards the sun.
The biggest benefit to these panels is the increase in available power. These panels are powerful enough to work with a solar generator effectively.
However, they maintain the ability to work with smaller devices when you do not want to haul a generator around. The product line is even designed to work in parallel, so there is even more power available.
These generators are designed to be transported in cars and over short distances.
They’re fabulous for a campground trip or even a fishing trip where you will be in the same area the whole day.
The available power allows for charging devices, batteries, and more, which makes your trip a little more comfortable.
The Jackery panels are remarkably easy to work and maneuver. Each panel simply needs a connector plugged in and a little work on positioning.
Using the kickstands, that’s achievable in a matter of minutes. The design also includes grommets if you wish to secure your panels to a tree, tent, or vehicle. These panels are also just as easy to take down as they are to set up.
The size is the biggest con for these panels. They are not easy to transport over long distances, even folded up. If you’re pairing the solar chargers with a generator, then it becomes a real workout.
Unfortunately, the size can also lead to wind tipping if the panels are not adequately weighted or tied down.
The manufacturer does not specify that the panels are waterproof. While user anecdotes indicate that the solar kits can survive a light rain, waterproofing is essential for the outdoors.
After all, the weather is unpredictable in the best of times.
One of the other faults is connections to products outside of the Jackery line.
In many cases, the built-in connectors do not fit as snugly to generator units. This looseness can, in turn, lead to charging difficulties and weak current.
Renogy 100W 12V Portable Foldable Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- Weight: 26.6 pounds
- Size (Folded): 19.9 in by 27.2 in
- Size (Unfolded): 39.7 in by 27.2 in
- Wattage: 100 watts at 10 amps
- Solar Efficiency Values: up to 23%
This Renogy panel features a foldable suitcase design for easy transportation. It also includes corrosion-resistant aluminum kickstands for easy positioning.
This unit is designed to work with batteries rather than individual devices and offers MC4 connectors that are compatible with many battery types and adapters.
These panels also offer a built-in, waterproof Voyager charge controller. This controller creates a low voltage system, which is much safer to use.
The controller provides overcharge protection while it regulates the amperage. The controller also offers a positive ground line, making it compatible with RVs, boats, and other recreational options.
The Renogy panels offer broad compatibility with gel, sealed, Lithium, and flooded batteries. The package includes alligator clips for use where necessary.
The controller can distinguish the different cells, so there is no need for constant monitoring. The Renogy panels can keep a camper’s batteries topped off through most normal activities.
The charge controller itself is also a massive benefit. The device has a backlit LCD screen so you can see what your panels are putting out in terms of power.
This feature is especially useful when you’re positioning the panels for the day. You know immediately what kind of charge your battery is getting.
That this controller is waterproof and does not need to be pulled in every time the clouds gather is also beneficial.
While this Renogy is an excellent option for RVs and stationary campsites, it is heavy. Weighing in at almost 30 pounds, positioning the panels can require significant maneuvering.
If you intend to place them on a roof, you may even need a buddy to get them up there safely.
The second issue many consumers find is cabling. This set of panels is designed to work with installed batteries.
The distance between the sunny spot and the batteries may be more significant and may require rigging a cable extension to get the panel out into a suitably bright spot. With more cables comes more risk of breakage when you’re into deep woods spots.
These panels also have no method for regular device charging.
Many solar panels offer USB ports for direct charging of handheld devices in a pinch. Without that feature, you’re reliant on your batteries charging up quickly and all the extra weight of them.
Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Eclipse Solar Suitcase
- Weight: 20.3 pounds
- Size (Folded): 21.5 x 21.5 x 3.1 in
- Size (Unfolded): 43 x 21.5 x 1.57 in
- Wattage: 100 watts at 20 amps
- Solar Efficiency Values: up to 23%
The Renogy solar panels are sturdily built for your next outdoor adventure regardless of where it may take you.
The panels themselves meet IP66 waterproof standards, which means they can be subjected to water jets without suffering damage. A little rain is no problem for these panels.
The panels are also equipped with adjustable corrosion-resistant aluminum stands. The rugged case has a handy candle and can stand up to anything the solar kit can.
The Voyager charge controller is also waterproof, so being outside is smooth. The controller has an LED-backlit screen, so it’s readable everywhere.
You can even use it to ensure the panels are placed in the perfect sun gathering position.
The controller offers overcharge protection, regulation, and the ability to tell what the battery is charging. There is also a 4-stage battery charging algorithm, which includes bulk charge, boost charge, float charge, and equalization.
The entire apparatus is kept at low voltage for safety. The panels come with 10-foot tray cables with alligator clips, perfect for most batteries.
The set also includes a negative ground charge arrangement, so it’s compatible with RVs, trailers, boats, and other recreational options.
This Renogy array is compatible with many different styles of battery.
The array has been specifically tested for performance with gel, sealed, Lithium, and flooded batteries. The charge controller recognizes the battery types and provides the best charging protocol for each with the sunlight available.
The complete waterproofing of the unit is also advantageous. A light rain no longer means that the panels must be pulled in.
If you have left the panels out while you’re on a day trip, the clouds no longer cause alarm. You can even determine if it’s worth leaving the panels out quickly.
The Renogy array is highly adaptable. While the built-in features can charge batteries directly, it’s also compatible with a wide variety of recreational vehicles.
The grounding arrangement ensures the power is acceptable to the RV, boat, or trailer while the easy hook up means you have more time to explore.
The downside to this Renogy package is the single connector. While it’s useful for battery compatibility, it’s not a universal advantage.
If you have existing gear and the connector does not match, you will need to create a cabling workaround. Of course, doing so could reduce the effectiveness of charging.
Additionally, the cable which comes with the solar panels is only ten feet long. Depending on what you’re using the solar kit with, the cabling is likely to need an extension.
For example, a roof mount on an RV might need fifteen feet of wiring. Extending the cords and adding connections means it loses a little efficiency. This challenge also poses difficulty in keeping the batteries and anything else attached to the panels out of the sun.
This Renogy package is also heavy. While this means it works well in slightly adverse conditions, it also makes maneuvering more difficult. If the solar panels are on a roof, putting it up and taking it down may be a two-person job.
Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase, 100 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel (For Goal Zero solar generators)
- Weight: 25.9 pounds
- Size (Folded): 20 in by 26.75 in
- Size (Unfolded): 40 in by 26.75 in
- Wattage: 100 watts up to 7 amps
- Solar Efficiency Values: up to 23%
The Boulder 100 is a solidly built pair of solar panels hinged together for maximum power. The panels are tempered glass and mounted on a lightweight aluminum frame.
The modules come with removable kickstands for proper angling without the hunt of the right sized rock to lean them against. The panels also come with a built-in handle.
The package also includes a carry case for even more mobility. The Boulder 100 panels take a no-frills approach to panels, so no extra wires are hanging around or bulky controllers.
The panels are specifically designed to work with other Goal Zero products, so the 8mm connector fits snugly and securely with them. Goal Zero designed the panels to work alone or in combination for even more power.
The Boulder 100 is more straightforward to transport than many similar wattage products. The designers took the time to create a lightweight frame, which helps cut the weight.
While few people are going to set these up with one hand tied behind their back, the maneuverability is welcome while setting up a campsite.
The Boulder 100 is specifically designed to work with other Goal Zero products, and specifically power stations.
By narrowing their focus, Goal Zero optimized what the power stations get out of the solar panels. Additionally, the connector is designed with increased precision, so it is safer to use in adverse outdoor weather.
Additionally, Goal Zero designed the Boulder 100 to run either alone or with other units.
Combined technologies make it easy to place the panels and get the most juice possible flowing through the power station. This feature is especially useful when there are less than optimal levels of sunlight available.
Like many solar panels this size, there is no battery and no direct charging of handheld devices. Unless your outdoor adventures include the associated power station or a cabling workaround, the panels are not usable.
Additionally, the panels lack a controller unit, as Goal Zero integrates those with the power stations themselves.
There have also been problems with storing the panels. When the panels are folded closed, the glass is on the outside.
The case is not exceptionally well padded, so any bump can damage the panels. This problem is compounded by the carry case only opening on one side, so getting the solar cells back in the case can be rough on them.
The kickstands can also be slightly problematic. The locking position for the panels when open is only 45 degrees.
While this works well in many locations, it is not a universal position. In many areas, the angle for optimal sunlight capture is higher.
Since the cables are built into the Boulder 100, there are some issues with length. Many devices charge best when kept cool and out of direct sunlight.
The shorter cable may not have the range required and using an extension cable causes small power losses.
ALLPOWERS 100W Portable Solar Charger
- Weight: 5.29 pounds
- Size (Folded): 12.6 in by 7.5 in
- Size (Unfolded): 37 in by 46 in
- Wattage: 100 watts at variable amperage
- Solar Efficiency Values: up to 23.5%
The ALLPOWERS solar panel offers PET panels sewn into durable canvas fabric. The unique feature of this device is the way the solar panels are laid out.
Rather than having large solar cells, the design incorporates a higher number of smaller panels. This choice makes the solar charger incredibly foldable and easy to carry.
While the overall design is lightweight, the outputs are versatile. The device offers two USB ports and a DC output.
Included in the package are a variety of connectors, ranging from a car battery to a cigarette lighter adapter to various laptops.
That kind of diverse usability makes it an excellent option for outdoor adventures. The solar charger can also be compatible with solar generators.
ALLPOWERS solar charger features iSolar technologies. This technology allows the charger to sense the device on the other end of the connector and supply power in the way that charges that device fastest.
Since you can choose to charge a cell phone from the 100-watt panel, it is important, so the device does not overload.
The overall design is highly foldable. It is also dust and water-resistant, which is useful for the great outdoors. The solar charger has several eyeholes and loops for easy attachment, whether that’s a tent side or a backpack.
The availability of direct charging ports is useful for powerful solar panels. It allows the device to operate without a solar generator or charging station.
In the case of backpacking, that’s a lot of saved weight. In the case of cars or recreation vehicles, that’s a significant amount of space. Regardless of the outdoor adventure, it’s a benefit.
ALLPOWERS also built-in exceptional device compatibility. The technology behind the charger determining what is on the other end of the cable is exceptional to manage all of this.
The basic package includes ten laptop connectors, DC 5.5×2.5mm to 5.5×2.1mm cable, USB cables, carabiners, and a cigarette lighter plug, The combination is both useful and easy to work with, whether its personal electronics, laptops, or generators.
The biggest issue with this product is what allows it to be so foldable. There is no robust framework in the solar charger.
This feature makes putting the cells at a significant angle to catch sunlight difficult. While they do work well on the ground, that position does not offer maximum solar efficiency, and charging may suffer.
Additionally, there is no controller unit included in the package.
Instead, the solar charger relies on the controller built into the generator or power station. While not inherently dangerous, that means lugging a separate controller if the device does not include one.
Advice on Choosing the Right Panels for Your Adventures
The critical part of choosing the right product to compliment your outdoor trips is understanding all the factors.
Without due consideration, you may end up with a solar charging panel that does not meet your needs or sacrifices too much portability.
Number of Devices and Users
The devices you intend to charge plays a big part in what sort of solar power you need. For example, a phone requires far less energy than a heater does.
The other important factor is how many devices and users will be relying on the panel. If there is only one panel for a group of six, charging time may get a little competitive.
The more watts a unit generates, the more electricity can be created. Accounting for the sunlight availability fluctuations, this power determines how many devices can charge.
The output of portable models will vary, so make sure to test it out at home using the set of gear you intend to take on your next outdoor adventure.
What type of adventures you favor also plays a part in which solar chargers will work best for you.
Each style of camping, from backpacking to RVing, has different power requirements. The requirements for backpacking are typically limited to mobile phones, and portability is paramount.
Meanwhile, car camping and RVing may use a few more devices, all of which need charging.
Solar panels are reliant on being placed in the sunshine. If you love a good beach or plains campout, there’s nothing to worry about.
However, once you introduce woodlands, finding the open space required to set the panel in the sun becomes more difficult, but certainly not impossible.
Finding sunlight in dense woodlands requires some ingenuity at times. Fortunately, most solar chargers come with a variety of attachment points.
This variety allows you to rig the panel to take advantage of any sunlight available, whether it’s up a tree, against a rock, or even on your own pack.
After a time, trip duration does matter when choosing a solar charger model. The models without batteries or power stations work well for weekend getaways.
However, the inconsistent availability of sunlight can hamper device charging over a more extended trip. The convenience factor must be considered when it comes to having power when you need it.
How the Charger Gets There
Some panels fold up into a little pouch, while others are about the size of a briefcase. If you plan on hiking ten miles a day with a briefcase-size panel, chances are you’re going to be picking up that panel unused on your way back down the trail.
It’s important to consider how the charger is going to get where you need it before you buy one. Larger models are more suited to car camping.
Storage is another major consideration for camping solar panels. Many fold up and fit into pouches.
However, you need those pouches to have a home while not in use. Ideally, this location shields them from temperature extremes and rough handling until your next outdoor adventure.
Tips for Using Camping Solar Panels
Solar panels require a little more finesse than merely plopping them in a sunny area. Angles and placement play a significant part in how efficient the solar units are. Additionally, there are safety measures to observe, regardless of the solar charger model.
Stationary or Moving
Stationary or fixed solar panels attach to the tops of RVs, the lawns of homesteaders, and everywhere in between.
These panels always face the same direction. While this has the advantage of less labor and attention required, it is also less efficient. Since the angle to the sun does not change, a suboptimal amount of sunlight is captured and converted.
Moving or mobile solar panels, on the other hand, tend to be more efficient at sunlight collection.
Using a portable panel means you can reposition it throughout the day for maximum efficiency. You could even save it from rain showers. However, this model of solar panels requires attention and rearranging to work well.
Generally, solar panels must be placed in a way that prevents the underside from heating up.
While there’s no way to avoid the sunlight, you can avoid putting the panels on surfaces that heat up, such as concrete or sand.
Instead, aim to raise the cells off the ground by attaching them to a backpack, tent, or tree. This position will also help with solar efficiency if done correctly.
Many people worry about their solar chargers walking off with some unscrupulous individual while they’re away from camp.
Fortunately, many solar panel designers have also considered the possibility. Looping a bike chain through the eyeholes of the panels and then attaching it to something immovable should deter a casual thief.
While solar chargers tend to be low wattage systems, they do still require some electrical safety. When working with electricity, it’s vital to complete the circuit before running power through it.
With solar chargers, that means connecting all the cables and chargers before exposing the panels to the sun.
If not done this way, the initial surge could harm the internal components or even shock you. Treating electrical burns in the wilderness is not advisable.
In some cases, you may discover that the device you would like to charge has a safety feature that prevents it from charging effectively off the fluctuations in a solar charger.
In this case, it is often easier to charge a portable battery or power bank off the solar charger.
Then you can charge devices off the portable power bank at your convenience. This method can save a lot of frustration, especially in changing weather.