The Best Camping Solar Panels (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Solar panels can make camping into an even better adventure in the outdoors
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BY William Irvin Lewis / LAST UPDATED ON October 16, 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.
A large 28-watt foldable solar charger that uses three USB ports to safely and quickly charge your devices.
Great portability, safety systems, and more than enough power to charge even the most electricity-hungry devices.
While powerful, it's not exactly affordable to everyone who could use it.
An extremely portable 21-watt charging solution that is tough and mobile, as well as quite inexpensive.
Low price and high durability mean this charger is incredibly practical for keeping devices charged away from wall power.
The price is great, but the maximum wattage of just 21 watts may not be enough to charge multiple devices.
An enormous portable solar array with enough power for multiple people to use at their campsite.
Huge power for a portable array, enough to keep everything powered up, from laptops to phones to tablets.
Large size means it is not usable while moving, and its bulkiness keeps it from being easy to load and unload from vehicles.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 2021
- 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.
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.
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.