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Best Camping Solar Panels (Buying Guide) 2020

We spend all week staring at screens, punching clocks, and insulating ourselves from the elements. Any time we can venture out and enjoy the outdoors is a gift.

 

Whether you find yourself at a trailhead or RV campsite, wearing a backpack or backing in a camper, something is liberating about cooking over a campfire and sleeping under the stars.

 

One thing that doesn’t change is the importance of being prepared. As much as we love to detach and get off-grid, choosing equipment that allows us to rely on electricity is a game-changer. Being able to charge a phone in the wild enables us to consult digital maps, take pictures, and even call for help in an emergency. Having access to a large power source opens the possibility of air pumps, fans, heaters, and more.

 

The best way to take technology with you is to pack a camping solar panel. These powerful generators come in a range of sizes. Some are standalone products, and others require separate batteries. Whatever your next adventure holds, there’s one for you.

Best Camping Solar Panels Reviews & Recommendations 2020

Benefits of Camping Solar Panels

  • Charge devices almost anywhere. The main selling point of portable solar panel chargers is that they offer power lifted out of thin air. More specifically, the light that passed through said thin air. Still, having power as long as the sun is up is a big deal when camping.
  • Capable of charging batteries. While it is true that solar panels alone can only charge devices when the sun is up, solar panels are great to pair with rechargeable power pack batteries. That way, you can have power throughout the night, as well as in the daylight. 
  • More peaceful than generators. Solar panels don’t make noise, and they don’t need fuel. While generators can provide more power, they can also disturb the peace.

Types of Camping Solar Panels

Multi-Fold

These solar chargers are generally the largest when fully unfolded, not because each panel is large, but because there are many panels. While they are typically made to fit a substantial solar collecting surface area into a tiny and extremely transportable package when folded up. However, when unfolded and collecting energy they are anything but mobile and portable.

Multi-Panel

These solar chargers are made to be portable, whether charging or not. Solar chargers with three or four panels with canvas casings can be worn over backpacks and charge devices even when the wearer is on the move. Conversely, solar chargers that have stands and plastic or metal cases can survive significant punishment.

Top Brands

Jackery 

Jackery was founded in California in 2012 and has proven itself as a leader in providing innovative power solutions for the outdoors. These include large rechargeable batteries and solar panels like the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel.

Anker

Founded in 2011 by Steven Yang, Anker is a Shenzhen-based company specializing in high-quality charging. Offering a wide array of products capable of charging just about any device in any circumstance, one of its most popular products is the Anker 21W 2-Port USB Portable Solar Charger.

Camping Solar Panel Pricing

  • Under $100: These solar chargers are tough and portable, but not the most efficient or powerful. 
  • Over $100: More like stationary solar panels; less portable, but more efficient and powerful.

Key Features

Efficiency 

Most good solar panels operate with almost a quarter of the sunlight that hits them being transformed into useful power. Twenty-three percent and slightly higher is the domain of high-end portable solar panels, while lower quality solar panels will be around 20 to 21 percent efficient in most circumstances.

Portability

Portable solar panels are only any good if they can be used where you need them. There is an important distinction between those which hang over a backpack while hiking and those that are best just set up and left to work.

Other Considerations

  • Charging ports: Most portable solar chargers only have two USB output ports. This is fine if you only need to charge one or two phones during the day, but more solar panels will be required for the extra juice if you have more power needs. Also, if you are charging a battery, one of the ports will be unusable. 
  • Amperage: Many solar chargers only have 2.4 amps of power at the output port, and will not quickly charge newer devices. Only higher-end solar panels provide the ability to charge phones and devices that require more amperage quickly. Make sure to check how much amperage your chosen solar panel can provide.

Best Camping Solar Panels Reviews & Recommendations 2020

Most Powerful

Renogy 100-Watt Monocrystalline Solar Suitcase

For more established campsites with greater electricity needs, you can rely on the Renogy 100-Watt Monocrystalline Solar Suitcase. This is the most expensive option on our list, but it’s also vastly more powerful than the next alternative, with a 100-watt rating (a 200-watt option is also available). The corrosion-resistant aluminum stand and heavy-duty hardware make this a great solar panel for long-term campsites. It’s perfect for RVers, campers, and mobile homes. 

This system can be used to charge gel, sealed, lithium, and flooded batteries, like those you’d find in a car. A charge controller keeps the system working safely, and an LCD lets you check its performance. Safe operating temperatures range from negative four degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The kit folds into a 25.9-inch by 35.6-inch by 3.1-inch case and weighs approximately 40 pounds. A charging cable with positive and negative alligator clips is included.

Tips

  • If your budget allows, buying a rechargeable battery pack to hook your solar panel can dramatically increase the solar panel’s versatility.
  • When selecting a campsite, be sure to survey where your solar panel might best be exposed to the sun.

FAQs

What is the best solar panel for camping?

A: The BigBlue Foldable Solar Charger is best, as it provides reliable power and is tough enough to survive out in nature.

How do you use solar panels when camping?

A: Set up the panel where it is most exposed to sunlight, and plug in the devices you would like to charge

Do solar panels work when the grid goes down?

A: As long as sunlight is hitting the solar panel face, it will produce power. Anywhere, anytime, and especially when the electrical grid is down.

How many watt solar panel do I need for camping?

A: The 20- to 25-watt solar panels will do the trick for most, but more power is available from higher-end panels for those who need it.

Final Thoughts

Solar panels make excellent tools for independent living, especially when out camping. When it comes to the best panel sets to get your hands on, the BigBlue Foldable Solar Charger is a great overall option, but the Nekteck Portable Solar Panel Charger offers value that is hard to beat.


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