LAST UPDATED: October 16, 2020
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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PUBLISHED 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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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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
When you need a powerful camping solar panel with go-anywhere versatility, we recommend turning to the BigBlue Foldable Solar Charger. This 28-watt panel uses three USB ports to charge electronic devices without the risk of overcharging, overheating, or short-circuiting. The panels’ polymer surface protects them from moisture and light rain. This system weighs only 20.6 ounces, and the 11.1-inch by 6.3-inch by 1.3-inch charger unfolds to reveal four panels. Buckles allow it to be suspended at the campsite or strapped to a backpack while hiking to maximize exposure to sunlight.
This camping solar panel does not store energy, so you’ll need to charge devices directly or use it to charge a standalone battery during the day. The manufacturer offers a two-year warranty.
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.
Even if you plan on packing light and making every ounce count, the compact GoerTek Solar Power Bank can charge your next camping trip. The durable housing weighs 1.18 pounds and measures just 7 inches long, 3.8 inches wide, and 1.1 inches thick. This battery backup can be charged by a plug-in adapter or the solar panel, and stores enough energy to charge smartphones up to seven times. Three USB ports allow multiple devices to be charged simultaneously.
The side opposite the solar panel contains a large LED light, capable of functioning on three brightness settings. This solar charger’s compact size and LED light make it a useful tool for camping, travel, and emergencies. When not on the trail, this is something we’d keep in our glove box.
The Nekteck Portable Solar Panel Charger strikes a balance between functionality and price, making it a great value. The 21-watt solar panel uses USB ports to rapidly charge up to two devices at a time and includes a zip-up pouch to keep them secure while attached.
This charger can operate so efficiently by using a microchip to detect what type of battery is being plugged into it and adjusting power delivery to minimize charging time based on each device’s parameters. When not in use, the four solar panels fold into a 6.3-inch by 11.1-inch by 1.1-inch package that weighs just 18 ounces. This solar panel does not have a battery, so devices must be charged with direct sunlight.
When your camping budget is tight, you can still travel with a quality solar panel — thanks to the FEELLE Solar Charger. This compact tool is nearly the same size as your phone and unfolds to reveal three solar panels and a battery backup. It can charge smartphones up to 10 times on a single charge and two devices at the same time using side-by-side USB ports.
The reinforced case and durable panels are waterproof and shock-resistant. When no sunlight is available, the battery can also be charged via USB. A bright LED with steady, SOS, and strobe modes make this a great tool to take wherever you go. The outer case is available in black, blue, and orange with matching stitching around the solar panels.
For maximum stationary power, the TP-solar 100W Foldable Solar Panel Charger Kit is the solar power option for you. This solar panel kit unfurls into a very large array that efficiently inhales the sun and produces power — 100 watts of power, which is more than enough to keep the entire campsite’s devices fully charged. That is what this kit is best for, as it is too large to be useful on the go.
But while this high tech piece of equipment is over 4 feet long when operating, the entire assembly folds into a pouch smaller than most laptops. This makes transport of this large solar array extremely easy.
The Ryno-Tuff Portable Solar Charger for Camping is as tough as it sounds, and when you’re away from civilization with perhaps the only thing keeping your devices charged being a solar panel, that solar panel had better be tough. The solar panels on this solar charger are protected by heavy-duty 600D PVC canvas. The highly durable canvas acts as a shield, but the panels are protected against more than just light impacts and canvas-side scratches.
The entire assembly is waterproof, which is frankly a must for electronic camping equipment of any sort. The solar panels are Sunpower X-Series panels and combined, they put out 21 watts of power. In as little as two hours, they can charge almost any modern device.
The Kingsolar Portable Solar Charger is a tough and versatile charging system for just about anything that uses a USB charger. The panels are 23 percent efficient and provide 21 watts of power to a pair of USB ports. Each port can provide up to 2.4 amps of power to a device hooked into them, charging most devices in just a couple hours.
The stand the panels rest on can be easily adjusted, and the panel’s casing is rugged enough to stand up to just about anything you can reasonably throw at it. That said, while the casing is tough, it is also quite elegant, with leather accents providing a mature flair that makes the panels as stylish as they are practical.
As long as the sun is up, the Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel provides power on demand. The SolarSaga portable solar panel is designed to be a simple, tough, and practical unit. This panel can easily charge portable power packs for overnight power or charge up devices on its own throughout the daylight hours.
Despite its small size, the panel puts out an impressive 100 watts of power. This power is distributed to two output ports, one being USB-C and the other being a standard USB-A plug. The USB-C plug can pump up to three amps of power into a phone, at five volts. Practically speaking, there are few better portable solar panels than this for dependable use.
With up to 3 amps of power being captured under direct sunlight, the Anker 21W 2-Port USB Portable Solar Charger gives far more oomph than expected from a little portable power station. This solar charger uses three high-efficiency panels encased in tough polyester canvas and covered by an industrial-grade transparent material. All these measures ensure the panels are well protected in potentially hostile environments and can produce the power needed to keep your devices charged and ready.
Capable of providing enough power to charge two devices at once, this solar charger is best in terms of toughness and efficiency. The 18-month warranty offered with the charger doesn’t hurt either and is proof positive of the quality therein.
- 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.