The Best Portable Solar Panels (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Take energy with you wherever you go with these top-rated portable solar panels.
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BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON February 16, 2021
Solar panels harness the power of the sun and turn it into consumable energy. Over the years, solar panels have seen significant changes to make them more efficient, powerful, and easier to use. Solar panels are used to power energy grids, houses, boats, and small equipment. Eventually, the need for portable solar energy sources became apparent, and some of today's solar panels can be carried anywhere you need to go.
Today, solar panels are relatively inexpensive, are available in various sizes and styles, and can be easily moved from place to place. Of course, like all products, some are better than others. A good portable solar panel will have the ability to harness a great deal of energy, be simple to maneuver and carry, be safe, and be versatile. Check out some of the best portable solar panels available.
Featuring a user-friendly stand and a large surface area, this portable solar panel folds down to a compact form.
- Efficient energy conversion rate and a large surface area
- The stand supports the face and directs it towards the sun
- Small yet highly effective
- On the heavier end, this solar panel is a bit tedious to bring around
- While effective, it takes up a lot of space
With a small structure and folding ability, this is a convenient and affordable solar panel.
- Easy to fold and carry
- Creates enough energy to charge a small smart device
- Easy to connect and works reasonably quickly
- Requires a lot of direct sunlight to work properly
- It may reduce the amperage when limited in terms of sunlight access
Petite and efficient, this is a really easy charger for travel. It folds easily and is lightweight enough to bring almost anywhere.
- Quickly charges portable electronic devices
- The connections are durable
- The angles of the panels themselves encourage maximum solar ray access
- Though it is lightweight, it is also vulnerable to scratches when the panels are exposed
- It is only compatible with certain USB cords and may require an adapter
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Benefits of Portable Solar Panels
- Eco-friendly power source. By relying on solar energy, you can contribute to the overall reduction in your carbon footprint. Even using it sporadically can reduce the reliance on more detrimental power sources.
- Lightweight and portable. Unlike wall-outlet power (or that which uses a chemical battery), these solar panels can travel with you. It lets you charge in a car or anywhere else and not rely on a regularly flowing power supply.
- Ideal emergency supply. In survival situations, solar panels give you the chance to keep your electrical systems running. While most can only power the essentials, it lets you call for help or sustain yourself longer in emergencies. https://www.thedrive.com/reviews/3
- Works well for travel. From hikes to camping to time on the boat, there is no shortage of solar panel applications. Simply prop them in the sun and use the flow of power to keep your devices working.
- Encourages self-reliance. Instead of depending strictly on power companies and urban transformers, solar panels let you stay in control of your power source. The sunlight is an open resource, and these tools let you channel it.
- Safe and easy to use. Unlike a lot of devices, solar panels are really easy to work with. There is no struggle with wiring, and the setup is almost always straightforward. User-friendly, simply pop the panel under some sun rays and plug in your equipment.
Types of Portable Solar Panels
This solar panel type uses structured pieces of silicon to craft a catch for the sun’s rays. Usually, the cells are brought together in lines on the panel. This type of panel has the most complex structure. Typically, this design is capable of generating a lot more power due to increased efficiency. It tends to be heavier and more difficult to fold. As a result, even the portable options are a lot bulkier.
Perhaps the most common material in portable solar panels, the thin structure type is made out of blended materials. Usually it is a mix of elements, each lending a different benefit when capturing rays. Common materials include silicon, gallium, copper, indium, and selenide. By incorporating a different range of ingredients in different concentrations, the panel becomes more or less efficient. It also means there is more wiggle-room in terms of weight.
Earning its title by cutting a silicon crystal instead of using fragmented cells as in the polycrystalline counterpart, this type of solar panel is fairly common. Though they usually run a higher price tag, the structure can take in a lot of the sun’s rays. It is very energy efficient, thanks to the focused lines in the design. The panels come with a film over the top of the silicon parts since they need to be protected.
Focusing on renewable power, Renogy opened its doors in 2016 after its inception by students at Louisiana State University. With a wide range of energy-efficient products, this has become a leading name in solar technology. A top offering is the Renogy 100 Watt Eclipse Panel.
As a Chinese business that’s been involved in technology for quite some time, this Shenzhen company has expanded into solar power. With a range of smart equipment and modern electronics, Anker is quickly becoming a household name internationally. A top selection is the Anker Portable Solar Panel.
Dedicated to the provision of solar technology, ALLPOWERS is a business based in the Guangzhou part of China. It has a wide range of offerings, gearing towards the portability of solar devices. One of its most popular selections is the ALLPOWERS Portable Foldable Charger.
Portable Solar Panel Pricing
- Under $100: Portable solar panels in this price range use a trickle charge and are usually very small. Folding compactly, they work only for minimum energy requirements.
- Between $100 and $300: Most portable solar panels fall within this price range. You can find options of all sizes and all three types. Depending on efficiency, the price varies within this spectrum.
- $300 and up: High-end solar panels almost exclusively use poly or monocrystalline structures. A bit bulkier, these are suitable for extreme energy demands and longer outdoor trips.
The panel itself is probably the most essential feature. It is the component that uses raw elemental traits to convert the sun’s rays into electric energy. The type of construct largely dictates the quality and type of the panel. Most portable panels use a thin-film design, letting it bend and stay lightweight. Look at the surface area and overall structural integrity when investigating this feature.
Solar panels inherently take up a lot of space. The larger the surface area, the more rays can be absorbed. When it comes to portable selections, however, there is a balance between mobility and efficiency. Most portable options fold down, meaning they are less likely to use a crystalline structure. The thin-film is less vulnerable to bending and lets you tow it more easily.
Whether the unit folds onto itself or comes with a backrest, there needs to be a way to prop it in the sunlight without risking damage. Instead of leaning it flat on the ground, even a small level of elevation can improve access to rays. Take a look at the style of the stand and if it's easy enough to adjust. This will ensure that you don't have struggles with accessing the raw energy source and preventing impact damage.
Though it is less common on portable options, many solar panels include a power bank. It holds onto the charge in battery form until you are ready to use it. This adds a lot of value since you no longer require full sun exposure and a trickle charge. Usually, if the portable option has a power bank, it will be very small.
Finally, you need to be able to extract the power from the panel. There needs to be a viable outlet to use electrical energy. Most options rely on USB connections, though there are some which are compatible with car adapters. It is less common to see portable adapters with AC outlets since users would usually just use the electrical grid. However, it isn’t unheard of and can be useful in survival scenarios.
- Size: When you make your pick, keep in mind the size you are willing to deal with. A huge factor in portability is the sheer size and structure. Check the dimensions on the solar panel to be sure that it will fit with your regular gear. Also, consider how much room it will take up when expanded and in use. This will determine how much utility you can get from it.
- Weight: Another way to measure portability is to consider how heavy the solar panel is. Think about whether you need a solar panel for an RV or boat or will be trucking it around in a backpack. Consider how heavy an item you are willing to bring with you when you go to make your choice.
- Maintenance: Next, take a look at the upkeep needs for the solar panel. All of them need to be wiped down, avoid scratches, and be stored somewhere safe. Naturally, the larger the panel, the more work and care are required. While maintenance needs are fairly limited, consider how much time you can afford to spend on the task.
- Supply: It may seem obvious, but take a look at the power demand of the devices you plan to charge. Try to work with real numbers in terms of wattage and amperage. The wattage speaks directly to the amount of power you get. In most situations, it takes a large surface area to get up to 100 watts.
- Time Investment: Finally, think about the transfer rate between the solar panel and the technology you’re charging. For this, you want to direct your attention to the amperage. It speaks to the electron flow rate during charging. Lower amperage means you will spend more time waiting to get the charge you seek.
Best Portable Solar Panel Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Keep your solar panel in direct sunlight. While ambient rays may cause a small-scale effect, the real results come from the brightest beams. If possible, use it as close to high noon as you can.
- Clear out the outlets with pressurized air to prevent dust from occurring. Be careful when plugging in your devices to avoid issues with the circuitry and connection.
- Position it properly relative to the sun’s place in the sky. These panels work best when receiving the most access to sunlight. Use the stand and angle it correctly.
- Prevent scratches to the panel and the protective layer. These scratches impede the energy efficiency of the overall system and often can’t be repaired.
- Don’t let dust build up on the panel. Wipe it down after using it, or if you see it get too dusty. It might seem like a small layer, but it directly impacts the sunlight’s uptake.
- Try to charge only one device at once. While most panels have multiple outlets, it draws power from the same source. To dedicate more amperage to your device, make it the only one charging.
- Unplug your device once it’s done charging. Though most modern versions have a chip to prevent overcharging, it is best to play it safe and take out your device once it’s ready.
- Check the compatibility beforehand to ensure that you can use your chosen devices with that solar panel. In most cases, you can get an adapter if there isn’t a good fit.
- Understand that the efficiency is a reference to the maximum output and not a representation of what you are sure to get. It depends on the sunlight and environmental conditions.
Q: What is the best portable solar panel?
The best portable solar panels are lightweight and fold down to a compact structure. Ideally, they have a high level of conversion efficiency. They should be compatible with your devices and have enough surface area to catch sunlight with ease.
Q: How long do portable solar panels last?
With standard solar panels, you can expect decades of performance. Portable options, however, are more subject to wear and tear. The circuitry is unlikely to break, though the USB connection ports can get damaged. The more you use it, the more likely it is to get scratched or broken. Given proper care, you can extend the lifespan significantly.
Q: How do I choose a portable solar panel?
Select your ideal solar panel by first determining the amount of power you will need. Ensure that the conversion rate is high enough (aim for upwards of 20 percent) and check that it is light and compact enough to bring with you. There are many good options, so long as you keep an eye on durability and overall quality.
Do you have a story about solar power? Share your adventure in the comments below. All the power to you!