As I am sure you already know a solar panel is a device designed to absorb the sun’s radiation as a source of energy, for generating electricity or heating. Now, a portable solar panel is this device that can be moved, transported and can also be easily powered.
For a hiker or a camper, the best portable solar panels have the ability to power and recharge batteries for a wide range of devices. The best part with these contraptions is that you can choose to go solo or link several panels together for maximum energy, depending on your needs.
Important features to consider
If you consider improving your next outdoor expedition with one or more portable panels, it’s important to know what you want. Below we’ll discuss some of the most important features that must be included in the decision-making process.
Ease of use
A portable solar panel must be easy to install and operate since you don’t have a specialist with you. Everything must be as simple as opening the panel, placing it in the sunlight, and charging your devices. No fuss, no complicated instructions, no brain teasers.
Just think about this situation: your phone is dying and you need to call for an emergency situation or you need to check your GPS coordinates. In such a situation, you need access to quick energy and you don’t have the time or the will to decipher complicated instructions.
You don’t need a panel that will weigh you down as you go up the path – after all you might be climbing a very steep mountain! If you are biking, hiking, or even rock climbing, your panel shouldn’t weigh over one pound. It must also be quite easy to make small and stuff inside the backpack.
However, if you are boating or driving, weight doesn’t really matter so you can go wild with your choices. Still, some of the models we’ll discuss today can be used on a backpacking trip and on a boating trip.
This means that your panel must be easy to move around and transport. As you will see, the models in our reviews can be easily folded up and carried around without worries about damages suffered during transportation.
Most models today can charge more than a certain type of phone or tablet. Due to the smart charging technology available today, most models can understand the devices you’re trying to charge and can offer the right amount of electrical power. This makes portable solar panels extremely versatile and quite easy to have around.
The most sought after accessory is an external battery (I think you can imagine why). However, there are other things to consider like standing supports that allow you to position the panel easier, hooks so you can hang it over your backpack, pockets that protect your devices, cables, adaptors, and others.
Just take a look around and you’ll see a wide range of accessories. Still, make sure you only buy the ones you need so you won’t load you backpack too much.
Top Products: Reviews & Useful Tips
After learning what are portable solar panels and what features should be considered before buying, we give you a list of our favorite products on the market and their characteristics, along with a buying guide.
GOAL ZERO 42020 VENTURE
Dimensions: 350 x 695 x 12 inches
Solar capacity: 8-10 V
No of simultaneous devices: 2
Special features: 3 USB ports (one micro and 2 standard), inbuilt cable to avoid misplacing the USB
Best use: Ideal for phones, tablets, and cameras
The Goal Zero 42020 Venture is quite an interesting solar panel to have around. First of all, it comes equipped with a textile case for easy transportation and has a built-in tangle-free tip so you won’t have to keep the cables separately. This way, you simply connect the devices and wait for them to charge.
The panel is waterproof so, if you forget outside overnight and it rains, it will stand the test. This means you can also use it near rivers or even on a boat. However, it is not highly portable as it only folds in two while still remaining pretty big.
INSTAPARK MERCURY PANEL
Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 2 inches
Solar capacity: 10 Watts
No of simultaneous devices: 2
Special features: 2 dual USB ports, foldable design
Best use: Ideal for phones and tablets, emergency preparedness, outdoor activities
The Instapark Mercury panel is versatile and very easy to transport wherever you go. You can use it on the roof of your car or on the top of the highest mountain and you won’t feel the difference in weight.
The panel is extremely lightweight and folds up into a small and thin package that can be easily placed inside a backpack. It also has high-efficiency and you can simply lay it down on the grass for collecting sun power.
The great side is that the dual USB port allows you to charge any type of devices from Apple ones to Android. This makes it a 100% green energy provider since it doesn’t need any external batteries for specific devices (usually Apple).
To make things even more interesting, the panel comes equipped with a USB battery pack, capable of producing 3000 mA/h. This is great for cloudy days or nighttime when there’s no sunlight.
SUAOKI 100W 18V 12V SOLAR PANEL
Dimensions: Opened (550 x 264) mm / closed (153 x 264) mm
Solar capacity: 18 V – 12 V
No of simultaneous devices: 2
Special features: Innovative technology, water resistant, semiflexible design
Best use: To charge devices that don’t ask for more than 5 V
This type of solar panel is designed with monocrystalline chips to ensure a high conversion efficiency of solar energy to electrical energy by up to 25%. Also, the innovative solar cell technology keeps the energy even during the night which is a very nice addition. The Suaoki Solar Panel has a maximum contact with the sunlight due to its great design that exposes the panel completely which makes it great to mount on the roof of a tent or an RV.
The panel can be used during traveling, on camping, or anywhere you can find a bit of sunlight.
KINGSOLAR 150W SEMI FLEXIBLE SOLAR PANEL
Dimensions: 61 x 20 x 87 inches
Specific features: Transferable output power warranty, waterproof.
Solar capacity: 7 W
Peak Power: 150 W
Best use: charge tablets, phones, and even backpacks. Can be used in other places like boats, yacht and also a marine.
This solar panel has a high power efficiency (23.5%) meaning that it can convert about 80% of the sun’s radiation into electrical energy. A first time user of the KingSolar 150W Panel can easily install the equipment because of its simple inbuilt design. The presence of flexible stands enables curving of the panel to a maximum angle of 30 degrees which is perfect for when you’re dealing with a tough spot.
SNAN 21W SOLAR CHARGER PORTABLE AND FOLDABLE SOLAR PANEL
Size: Folded 11.4 by 6.4by 1.8in / Unfolded 27.5 by 11.4 by 0.55 in
Material: Polycrystalline silicon
Frame: Anodized aluminum alloy
Power: 2 USB ports with 2 A
Best use: Camping and hiking
The SNAN 21W Solar Panel comes with a conversion efficiency of 23.5%. This means that your devices will charge quite fast during a sunny day and the panel will manage to squeeze some juice even on a cloudy day.
Even more, the panel can be easily folded, which is fantastic news for the day-to-day traveler who needs lots and lots of space in his/her backpack. You can hang it over your backpack so you’ll charge your devices as you go, or you can use the available stands to find a fixed location.
The SNAN panel is water resistant and can withstand some pretty powerful winds too. It is also equipped with smart charging technology – this means the panel communicates with your devices and learns the type of amperage they need so it can feed the optimal energy level.
KINGSOLAR 50W SEMI -FLEXIBLE PANEL
Dimensions: 61 by 20 by 87 in
Peak Power: 50 W
The KingSolar 50W panel is equipped with the same properties as the KingSolar 150 W we discussed earlier. The only difference is in the power it produces (50 W instead of 150 W).
Just like the product above, the panel a high efficiency of 23.5%. Also, due to the presence of a diode that prevents reverse draining of current during the night you will be able to charge your devices during night time as well.
The panel is lightweight and perfect for traveling. It is also designed to have round corners to prevent it from being scratched as one carries it around.
BIGBLUE 28W OUTDOOR CHARGER 3-PORT
Dimensions: 11.1 by 6.3 by 1.3 inch
Power peak: 28 W
Ports: 2 USB x 2.4 A and 1 USB x 1 A
Special features: Contains an attached micro USB for apple device.
The BigBlue 28W panel has a solar efficiency of 21.5-23.5%, a fast charge technology due to its built-in intelligent chip and also a polymeric fabric to increase its strength and protect the panel on rainy or foggy seasons.
The panel is foldable into an easy-to-carry pouch and can be easily snucked in any type of backpack. It is also equipped with a protective pocket so you can charge your devices right under the sunlight.
In terms of devices it supports, the panel is designed with a micro USB cable which goes with almost all Android devices and even some DSLRs. The fast charging technology offers steady current to a wide range of devices so you don’t have to have more than one solar panel.
FORTY 2 PRO SOLAR GENERATOR
Peak power: 500 W
Voltage: 110 V
Special Features: 2 USB port, solar system has mono-crystalline photovoltaics
Best use: Car camping, RVs, boats, emergency power supply for storms
The Forty 2 Pro Solar Generator is slightly bigger and chunkier than all the products above. It is actually designed as a mini suitcase with solar panels on the inside. So, when you open it up, you have two powerful solar panels facing the sky.
Even though you can’t easily stuff this product into a backpack, the features are quite interesting. But first, you should know that this unit can quickly charge high-energy devices like laptops, tablets, freezers, and even TVs.
This is definitely the unit to have around in case of an emergency!
A few final words…
Before you start considering products, you should also know the following:
- The devices’ charging time depends on the size of its internal battery.
- As you are charging the solar panel cell you can also charge your device but its efficiency is reduced to 70%.
- Do not place the portable panel against any glass material, it only uses direct sunlight.
- Panels are made to be rain proof, but it is recommended to avoid rain for as much as possible.
Advantages of portable solar panels:
- After purchasing the equipment, there are no ongoing costs.
- The unit is green and no fossil fuel is consumed.
- Maintenance has zero costs.
- The main disadvantage is that energy cannot be created during the night time.
- Generated power is lowered during cloudy.
- Solar cells only convert 20% of the input solar energy.
The sun is one of the most powerful sources of energy that one can use, it is eco-friendly and readily available. As a camper you can comfortably enjoy your trips with the help of a solar panel, but you must make sure to select the best one for your needs.
So, if you’re interested in a portable solar panel, don’t waste any more time! Make your decision today so you can have great times on your next outdoor trip!