Portable solar panel in use (Photo credit: Home Accessories Shop)
Portable solar panels revolutionized the concept of mobile power—and this continues to thrill campers and hikers. They usually pair with solar generators to give significant backup power. For many, the birth of portable solar panels was the death of noisy diesel generators around the camp. Also, portable solar panels gave nature lovers the freedom of spending more time in the wild rather than cutting short their fun to find a source of power. While this is exciting, the increasing number of products on the market is making the selection process daunting.
If you are already feeling excited about portable camping solar panels, you need to understand that all solar panels are not created equal. For portable solar panels, there is no one-size-fits-all. You need to find one that fits your travel style. We want to make the job easier for you. Therefore, we have compiled a list that doesn’t just present the best portable solar panels but also tells you which is more suitable for a particular purpose. Have a look.
Review of the Best Portable Solar Panels
Portable solar panels evolved from the mounted solar panels which are either fixed to rooftops or ground-mounted to a property. They are lighter and some are foldable for easier movement. There are basically three types of portable solar panels namely monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Each of these products has its pros and cons. We also put this into consideration while developing our list. Without further ado, here we go!
ECO-WORTHY 120 Watt – Best overall
- Pre-installed 20A charge controller
- 30A alligator clip
- Adjustable aluminum stand
- Wattage: 120W
- Weight: 24.5 pounds
For us, the best portable solar panel is the one that strikes a balance between performance and price. ECO-WORTHY 120 watts foldable solar panel easily stood out. It has a unique suitcase design with a carrying handle that makes transportation and storage easy. It has a preinstalled charge controller behind the panels that protect your battery from overcharging, over-discharging, overload, and reverse connection. It also allows you to monitor the performance of the system.
With the kickstand, you will be able to position this panel in a way that you will get the best solar exposure—and performance. Thanks to the accompanying alligator clips, you can simply open up your panel and connect it to a battery bank. The design of this solar panel gives it a wide application including in RV, caravan, greenhouse solar panel system, solar pumps, and so on. Overall, it is safe and highly efficient.
Carrying this product would have been a lot safer if it had a carrying case. There are also multiple complaints that some of the products are delivered broken. To avoid this, make sure you only order your product from a reputable supplier. If you ever run into problems with this unit, getting hold of customer support can be a serious challenge. If these are not deal breakers for you, ECO-WORTHY 120 watts is one product you will enjoy.
- Moderate weight and folds into a briefcase for easy carrying
- Comes with a pre-installed charge controller
- Moderate pricing
- Kickstand for better sun positioning
- Compatible with multiple battery types
- Multiple reviews about dead on arrival deliveries
- Poor customer service
Goal Zero Boulder 200 Watt – Best briefcase solar panel
- Tempered glass and aluminum frame
- Protective canvas bag
- 2-year warranty on all elements
- Wattage: 200W
- Weight: 42 pounds
Goal Zero Boulder 200 watts foldable solar panel is arguably the best briefcase solar panel. The problem with other products with briefcase designs is that their joints are usually cheap with limited protection for the panels. This one boasts of tempered glass covering that makes the panels weatherproof. It also has an anodized aluminum frame and added corner protection. At a glance, you will agree that this product is made to last.
The built-in kickstand allows you to position the panels in a way that it gets optimal solar exposure. Interestingly, this product is suitable for temporary or permanent installation. When you purchase this unit, you will get a canvas bag for easy carrying and transport. With the Goal Zero Boulder 200 watts, you can effectively charge your solar generators within a few hours so you get to enjoy backup power all night long.
Sadly, if you have back pains, the weight of this portable solar panel will only make your situation worse. Just like the physical weight, this unit also has a hefty price tag. Budget buyers simply have to look elsewhere. Another common complaint is that this product often arrives damaged. However, the manufacturers tried to make up for all that trouble with a 2-year warranty on all elements. Hopefully, this will help to cushion the huge price in the long run.
- Built tough and sturdy to withstand environmental elements
- Inbuilt kickstand for better positioning
- Suitable for temporary or permanent installation
- Offers 2-year warranty on all elements
- Extremely heavy
- Huge price tag
Renogy 200 Watt – Best solar panel kits for camping
- Corrosion-resistant aluminum stand
- Free solar controller
- Included solar panel connector to an alligator clip
- Wattage: 200W
- Weight: 35.9 pounds
Perhaps, you are heading out for a camping experience with your solar generator and need a solar panel kit to go along with it. Look no further because Renogy 200 watt foldable solar panel has all that you need. Firstly, this panel folds into a nice-looking briefcase that is both aesthetically appealing and easy to carry. Then, it has an adjustable corrosion-resistant aluminum stand that allows you to properly position this unit for maximum solar impact.
This unit is compatible with all battery types. To make this possible, it comes with a Renogy Voyager 20A negative-ground PWM charge controller. In addition to allowing you to monitor the input and output voltage, the controller protects the battery from overcharging and lowers the risk of fire outbreak. It will also interest you to know that the charge controller is waterproof making it safe for outdoor use.
The first thing that seems like a setback with this device is its large weight. This greatly lowers its use flexibility. Another great flaw from the manufacturer is the use of a 10A fuse in the positive battery connector for a 20A charge controller. You need to replace this immediately before use or they will melt on first use—and this is potentially dangerous. Getting hold of Renogy customer assistance can be a serious challenge too. Nevertheless, it is a pretty solid product that was properly built. ‘
- Good wattage with fair pricing
- Includes free 20A PWM charge controller
- Comes with a kick-stand for better positioning
- Charge controller has IP67 waterproof rating
- Poor customer service
- Pairs smaller 10A fuse with 20A controller
- Large weight lowers use flexibility
DOKIO 300 Watts – Best portable solar panels for RV
- Waterproof bag
- Free solar controller
- High energy conversion
- Wattage: 300W
- Weight: 16.5 pounds
A recreational vehicle usually comes with energy-intensive appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners. Therefore, the perfect solar panel for an RV should have massive energy output. DOKIO easily fits into that picture with 4 massive foldable solar panels. The combination of foldability, lightweight, and waterproof bag with carrying handle makes it easy to move this around in your RV. When not in use, you can easily tuck it away in your trunk.
Interestingly, this unit comes with a free PWM charge controller with bulk, boost, float, and equalization settings. This controller is designed to improve your battery life and improve system performance. Also, it offers protection from short circuit, overcharging, over-voltage, and reverse current. The charge controller has 2x USB-C ports where you can plug your smart devices to charge directly from the panel. Alternatively, you can use the solar panel to directly charge your portable generator.
DOKIO 300 watts portable solar panel comes with the necessary cables and 5x DC plugs to get you started. Considering the wattage and accompanying accessories, it is fair to say that this unit has moderate pricing. The major issue has to do with the difficulty in positioning this panel. Also, some parts of the panel appear shabbily done and come off quickly—and there is no warranty cover for that. If these are not deal-breakers, this is a good bargain.
- Large wattage rating
- Foldable and lightweight with carrying bag
- Comes with a charge controller
- Included accessories
- Moderate pricing
- Difficult positioning the panel due to lack of stand
- Durability is questionable
Jackery SolarSaga 100 Watt – Best portable solar panel for camping
- Two USB charging ports (USB-A and USB-C)
- Made of ETFE
- High energy conversion (23%)
- Wattage: 100W
- Weight: 10.38 pounds
If you are planning a long camping experience, include Jackery SolarSaga 100 watts portable solar panel on your itinerary. It is lightweight, foldable, and comes with a kickstand that makes it easy to position it towards the sun. However, the most unique feature that makes this the best portable solar panel for camping is its chainability. You can join two of the panels together using a SolarSaga Y parallel cable. With this, you can charge your solar generator faster.
Unlike the regular solar panels, this one is made with durable ETFE material which has a higher light transmittance. It is also one of the reasons why this portable solar panel is lighter than most of its competitors. Another cool feature that is hard to miss is the inclusion of two USB ports (1x USB-C and 1x USB-A) so that you can charge your devices straight from the panel. However, the USB-C port doesn’t support PD charging.
While this unit has impressive features, it also has its drawbacks. Firstly, it comes at a stiff price which will leave many people thinking, “Is this really worth it?” Secondly, it is not waterproof. Therefore, you must be extremely careful when you take it outdoors. Also, it appears the USB-C port is not compatible with some devices. Nevertheless, it is still one of the best solar panels on the market.
- Allows you to link two panels together
- Foldable and lightweight makes it a camping essential
- Made of ETFE material which has numerous benefits
- Features a USB-C port
- USB-C port doesn’t support PD charging
- Product is not waterproof
Nekteck 21W – Best budget
- Two USB charging ports
- PET polymer surface protection
- High energy conversion
- Wattage: 21W
- Weight: 1.12 pounds
This is arguably one of the lightest and most affordable solar panels out there—and it comes with several perks. The first on the long list of perks is the inbuilt USB ports. There are two of them which allow you to charge multiple devices at once. It was built based on the SunPower Maxeon technology with up to 24% conversion efficiency—but that is not all.
It comes with an advanced smart IC chip technology that detects when you plug your device into the USB ports. It automatically adjusts the current to the ports to provide fast charging while preventing overheating. The foldable nature in addition to its lightweight makes it a great hiking companion. In fact, the holes for the attachment hook make it easy to hang it on a backpack. With an IPX4 waterproof rating, you can be confident using it outdoor knowing that it can resist the elements.
This solar panel is designed to directly charge your devices. It doesn’t have a backup therefore you can only use it under the sun. However, you can navigate through this limitation by storing up power in a power bank. Also, you cannot use this unit to charge a solar generator. For this panel, you have to keep it directly under the sun. The smallest shade will cut off the power leading to the draining of your battery. Apart from these limitations, this will make a great camping asset.
- Comes with 2x inbuilt USB-A ports for charging directly off the panels
- High energy conversion efficiency
- Extremely lightweight and affordable
- Offers IPX4 waterproof rating
- Features smart charging technology
- Requires a power bank
- Absence of blocking diode can lead to draining of battery in shade
Jackery SolarSaga 60 Watt – Best portable solar panel by reviews
- 1x USB-C and 1x USB-A charging ports
- High energy conversion
- Carrying bag
- Wattage: 60W
- Weight: 3.3 pounds
If you are the type that shops based on reviews, Jackery SolarSaga is one portable solar panel that you will hardly miss. With over a thousand and a half reviews it still maintains a 5-star rating—and the reason is not hard to see. The solar panel has a high conversion efficiency of up to 23%. The lightweight design and the extra junction box protection make this product ideal for outdoor life.
This unit has a kickstand at the back that allows you to adjust the angle to get maximum impact from the sun. It has a carrying case that makes it more convenient to make this product your camping partner. Perhaps, this is one of the few portable solar panels that offer USB-C and USB-A ports. This means you can charge more devices—and faster too. It is important to mention that Jackery SolarSaga is compatible with most solar generators.
This portable solar panel is made of durable ETFE material which also has a higher light transmittance. Although not the most expensive product out there, Jackery SolarSaga still costs a fortune. The lower wattage rating also limits what you can charge with this panel. It is important to mention that although it is rated 60 watts, you will likely not get more than 45 watts under a full sunny day.
- Extremely light and easy to carry
- Comes with a protective carrying bag
- High conversion efficiency of up to 23%
- Offers USB-A and USB-C ports
- Made with ETFE material with numerous benefits
- Smaller power output can limit its use
Go Power GP-PSK-80 80W – Best travel trailer solar panels
- 25-year output warranty
- Included SAE plug and XLR-style plug
- Inbuilt 10-amp charge controller
- Wattage: 80W
- Weight: 19 pounds
For a travel trailer, you need a superior solar panel with a sturdy design to withstand the environmental elements. In this case, Go Power will make a great ally. The portable solar panel has thick aluminum frames with hard plastic reinforcements at the corners. This helps to protect your panel from damage if you ever bump into anything. If the reinforcements don’t impress you, the 25-year warranty that comes with this product should.
This unit has an inbuilt 10 amp solar charge controller that allows you to monitor both the input and output voltage. Go Power 80W is designed to be plug-and-play. That is, it comes with all you need to get started including XRL and SAE solar plug adapter. In order words, you won’t need the services of an expert for installation. The panel is foldable. Once you open it up, it has a stand at the back that helps you to properly position it towards the sun.
This portable solar panel comes with a carrying case for easy storage in your travel trailer when it is not in use. On the downside, the price of this solar panel is high—and this can be discouraging. Also, some advertised parts are often not included in the package. Likewise, the charge controller is a potential source of worry. Many reviewers report that it failed after short use. Nevertheless, this is one of the best portable solar panels you will enjoy using.
- Offers 25-year warranty
- Comes with necessary accessories for a plug-and-play experience
- Thick aluminum with extra plastic reinforcement
- Inbuilt charge controller for effective system monitoring
- Charge controller is potentially problematic
Zamp solar Legacy series 140 Watt – Best portable solar panel with carrying case
- 25-year output warranty
- Included alligator clips and SAE plug
- Inbuilt 10-amp digital charge controller
- Nylon carrying case
- Wattage: 140W
- Weight: 40.2 pounds
The absence of a carrying case is one of the reasons why people are finding it difficult to move around with a solar panel. If you fancy a carrying case, Zamp solar legacy series is your best bet. This unit is handcrafted in the USA and offers a 25-year output warranty. Also, when you get this product, you don’t need to go about looking for an installer because it doesn’t require installation. It can be used to charge most 12 volt batteries including Li-ion batteries.
This product is designed to be plug-and-play. In other words, it comes with all you need to get started on your solar journey. This includes alligator clips, SAE plug, and integrated 10-amp digital charge controller. The controller helps to protect your battery from overvoltage, short circuit, and so on. It also allows you to monitor your power input and output in real-time. Arguably the most exotic feature of this panel is the durable carrying case.
Also, the inclusion of support legs allows you to tilt the panel to an angle for best solar positioning. Notwithstanding all the cool features, Zamp solar legacy series is not perfect. Firstly, this product is extremely expensive. The weight is on the high side too. Is this product worth the huge price tag? Absolutely! The long warranty should make up for the stress over time.
- Offers 25-year output warranty
- Comes with all necessary connector cables
- Built-in 10-amp charge controller
- Carrying case included
- Support leg for better sun positioning
- Extremely expensive
- Large weight can limit use flexibility
BigBlue 28W – Best folding solar panel for hiking
- Triple USB charging ports
- PET polymer surface protection
- High energy conversion
- Wattage: 28W
- Weight: 1.34 pounds
One important feature that hikers seeking on-the-go power lookout for when buying a solar panel is the weight. The best portable solar panel for them is usually the paper-thin one. BigBlue 28W stands out in this regard with a weight of just 1.34 pounds. In addition to that, it is designed with eyelets that help you to attach it to your backpack. Therefore, you will keep harvesting solar energy even while you are hiking. You cannot also dispute the fact that this portable solar panel is aesthetically appealing.
BigBlue 28W foldable solar panel shines in terms of energy conversion. Just like SunPower panels, this product has an energy conversion of up to 23.5%. An ingenious addition to this solar panel is the 3x USB ports. These ports are compatible with all smart devices including phones, tablets, and cameras. The ports are designed to smartly recognize your device and produce the optimal charging speed for the device. This means it can vary the charging speed depending on the device you plugged.
This portable solar panel is relatively affordable, comes with weatherproof protection for the ports, and offers protection from over current, over-voltage, and short circuit. However, this unit is not without its flaws. Firstly, once the sun’s intensity drops too low, it stops charging. You have to unplug and plug in your phone again to restart. Therefore, on a cloudy day, you will be almost confined close to the unit. Also, there are multiple complaints about its durability. Nevertheless, it is resourceful when functional.
- Relatively affordable
- Extremely lightweight with hooking carabiners
- High energy conversion and efficiency
- Weatherproof with smart charging technology
- Offers 3x USB ports
- Lacks auto-restart ability
- Multiple complaints about durability
Buying Guide for the Best Portable Solar Panel
Your choice of portable solar panel will likely vary depending on what you want to power and how you intend to use it. For example, if you need a solar panel for camping or hiking, weight will be an important consideration. However, for the person that needs it for an RV, the weight will not be so much of an issue. Likewise, the inclusion of special features like a USB port will either be useful or not depending on how you want to use it. Nevertheless, there are features that you must consider regardless of how you want to use your panel. These include;
Solar panel type
There are three main types of solar panels mainly monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous. Each of these solar panel technologies has its pros and cons. While monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient, they are also the most expensive. However, when you have limited space and want to make the most use of it, a monocrystalline solar panel will be your best bet.
The power output is certainly another important factor to consider when choosing a portable solar panel. However, you need to first understand the amount of power you need. The more devices you want to run, the higher the wattage of the solar panel you should aim for. For example, if you are hiking where you only need to charge your phone, there is no need to get a 200 watts solar panel. If you are on an extended camping expedition and need a solar generator, you need to get a compatible solar panel for your generator.
Some solar panels are only compatible with certain types of batteries. If you already have a battery bank or a solar generator, you need to be sure that the solar panel that you want to buy is compatible with your battery.
Some portable solar panels are more portable than others. If you are going to be moving your solar panels often, make sure it is foldable. Also, solar panels with a carrying bag and handle are more portable than those without this feature. In terms of portability, you also have to consider how easy it is to install and use them.
A good part of portability has to do with weight. The lighter the solar panel, the easier it will be to move them from one area to another. Campers and hikers will need really light solar panels so that it doesn’t weigh them down.
A USB port can be a priceless feature on a solar panel depending on how you want to use it. If you don’t want to carry a bulky solar set up with a backup battery around, a USB port on a solar panel can be the solution to your problem. Also, getting a solar panel with a pre-installed charge controller can save you lots of money.
With multiple reports about dead on arrival products and products not performing as they should, going for portable solar panels with good warranty cover is a smart move. You can easily return such products at no extra cost if anything should go wrong.
Typically, higher prices are usually associated with higher qualities. The rule is the same for portable solar panels. The more money you are willing to spend upfront, the more you will be rewarded with extra features like durability, better warranty, and efficiency.
Benefits of owning a portable solar panel
There are numerous benefits you stand to enjoy by using a portable solar panel. Firstly, it is a humane act that helps to protect the environment. Also, they have limitless possibilities. Even more interesting is the fact that they can last an upward of 25 years. Other benefits include;
- They allow you to have prolonged camping or outdoor time without having to worry about getting disconnected.
- Solar panels don’t require special maintenance making them good for country places
- In the absence of power, they can help you to live your normal life by running all types of electronic devices
- Unlike diesel generators, they do not give off fumes that pollute the environment.
- They operate your appliances in the same way as the transformers
Frequently Asked Questions
- Are Portable solar panels worth it?
For campers, hikers, and those on an RV road trip, portable solar panels are a great asset. It is best for those who need on-the-go power. Ideally, it is not suitable for homes because they won’t provide enough energy to power big appliances.
- What should I look for when buying a portable solar panel?
You need to make sure it is made of sturdy materials that will withstand wear and tear. Also, make sure it is waterproof and easy to install. We covered all the key features you should pay attention to when buying a portable solar panel in our buyer’s guide section.
- How long does a portable solar panel last?
A good solar panel should be able to last 25 to 30 years before its power output will begin to drop. Nevertheless, a solar panel should still maintain about 90% efficiency after 20 years.
- Do solar panels need maintenance?
Once set up, solar panels require little or no maintenance almost throughout their productive lifetime. However, if something should go wrong unexpectedly, the long warranties that come with the best portable solar panels should provide some relief.
- Do solar panels work well in winter?
Yes, solar panels work well in winter. However, due to lower solar radiation, you will also experience lower energy output. Also, snow can temporarily shut down or significantly lower output. Nevertheless, cooler temperatures help to improve efficiency.
One of the most common portable solar panels is the ones with a 100-watts rating. Consequently, people often ask, will a 100-watt solar panel charge a 12-volt battery? Well, the simple answer is yes. However, if you want your battery to charge faster, you may need to chain additional solar panels. While some solar panels are more efficient than others, it is important to mention that the solar intensity can affect how fast your battery would charge. Backed with this knowledge, nothing will ever stop you from making the right decision.