With resources limited when you go out camping, an unreliable solar panel will be more of a liability than an asset. The best solar panels for camping are revered for their portability, high efficiency, power output, and weather resistance. Basically, every feature ensures the panels stay working in the wilderness. So, when putting this article together, we stuck with the said features as our prompt.
Our Top Picks
- Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel – Overall Best Camping Solar Panel
- Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design Solar Panel – Second Best Camping Solar Panel
- Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase Monocrystalline Solar Panel – Durable Camping Solar Panel
- Nekteck 21W Solar Charger – Best Portable Solar Panel for Camping
- IXNINE Solar Charger – Second Best Portable Solar Panel for Camping
- FEELLE Solar Charger – Third Best Portable Solar Panel Camping
- Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel – Best Lightweight Camping Solar Panel
So, why should solar panels for camping be portable? Well, when going camping, you’d surely have other items to take along. But if the solar panels are too heavy or too big to move around, you may have issues packing.
Low efficiency means your solar panel will not utilize much of the solar energy it gets. However, when in the wilderness, you will surely want to make the most of the freest power source you have. Generally, panels with monocrystalline cells are the most efficient types. So, they are usually the better option for camping.
You should also pay attention to power output. The best solar panels produce enough electricity to power your cell phone and multiple devices simultaneously. Then, of course, the solar chargers/panels will be used outdoors – where they are exposed to the elements. So, it goes without saying that they have to be weather-resistant.
Our List of the Best Solar Panels for Camping
Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel
Top on our list of best solar panels for camping is the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel. The Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable offers the same power output and similar portability as the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design and the Goal Zero Boulder 100. But it comes out top because it is more efficient and weather-resistant.
The Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel boasts an output rating of 100 watts and 12 volts. It is made up of 2 panels, and each one offers 50 watts of electricity. The only other products on this list with the same power rating are the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design and the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase Panel. So, with this product, you are getting top-notch output.
This product uses monocrystalline cells like the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design and the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase. It is the most efficient cell type. It has an efficiency rating of 21%, which is above average. To put things in perspective, most solar panels have an efficiency of 15-20%. So, with the Foldable Renogy Monocrystalline Solar Panel, you are getting more from the input solar power than usual.
As the name says, the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable is foldable and portable. When you want to get going, all you have to do is fold the two solar panels like a book. Then place it in the suitcase-like protective casing. The product weighs 26.6 pounds – heavier than every other panel on this list. Extra weight does not do much for portability, but 26.6 pounds is not too significant. So, this still qualifies as a portable solar panel.
The panels come with an aluminum stand. With the stand, you can set the solar panels in a position where they receive maximum sunlight. The stand is resistant to corrosion, and you can adjust it readily.
Besides the stand, the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable features a charge controller. The charge controller helps you regulate the charging process and ensure the longevity of your solar power system. The charge controller also features an LCD screen for easy monitoring.
If you are thinking weather resistance, the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable does quite well. The aluminum stand is rust-resistant, and the charge controller is waterproof. The solar panels are rated IP66. This means they are absolutely dust-resistant and they are highly waterproof. All in all, you would not have to bother about rain damaging the panels.
The solar panels work between -40 degrees Fahrenheit and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. So, regular changes in environmental temperature will not stop it from working.
- High output.
- Superior efficiency – only matched by the Nekteck Charger.
- Fairly portable but heavier than other products on the list.
- Highly waterproof.
- The panels come with a durable protective casing for extra protection.
- It could be lighter.
- Warranty support is sometimes unreliable.
Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design Solar Panel
The Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design comes in a close second on our list of best solar panels for camping. In contrast, it has high power output and remarkable portability that fall short of the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable in weather resistance and efficiency.
Like the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable, the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design uses monocrystalline cells. But its efficiency is just slightly lower. Nonetheless, it is still high efficiency and would capture a lot of solar energy within a limited space.
The Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design has an Ingression Protection code of IP65. At the same time, the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable is rated IP66. These codes mean both products are waterproof. But an IP66 rating means the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable has more resistance against water than the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design.
Nonetheless, the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design is built to withstand wind pressures of up to 2400 Pascals. So, even the uninhibited drifts of wind in the wilderness may not be a problem. The frame is made of aluminum – so it can never rust. Then the face of the panel is made of low iron tempered glass. Of course, with such material, the solar panels will lose less solar rays to reflection, and they will be more resistant to impact.
Like the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable and the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase Monocrystalline, this portable solar panel offers an output power of up to 100 watts. This is the top offering of any product on this list.
On the portability front, the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design does better than the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable. It comes with a shorter, lighter panel. The solar panels of the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design weigh about 14.3 pounds per unit. On the other hand, those of the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable weigh up to 26.6 pounds. It is pretty easy to spot which of them is easier to move around.
While the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design offers many top features, its operating temperatures fall below those of the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable. Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design operates between -40 F and 176 F. But the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable can operate up to 185 F.
- Highly efficient but slightly less efficient than the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable.
- High output – on par with Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable.
- Remarkable durability but not as waterproof as the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable.
- Decent portability. It is lighter than the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable and the Goal Zero Boulder 100.
- The operating temperature range could be higher.
- You may have to buy assembly tools separately.
Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Besides being highly durable, this Briefcase Solar Panel is one of the best solar panels for camping on this list. It boasts superior power production, decent efficiency, and decent portability.
As the name says, the Boulder 100 Briefcase comes as 2 portable solar panels crafted to form a briefcase. So, whenever you have to pack it up, you just close the panels like a briefcase. Apart from that, the product weighs around 25.9 pounds. It is lighter than the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable. The Boulder 100 Briefcase also comes with a protective bag. This foldability, the canvas bag, and the relative lightness of this product make for easy portability.
The surface of the Boulder 100 Briefcase is made from strong tempered glass. With strong tempered glass, you get some degree of impact resistance. You also get to worry less about losing sun rays from reflection. The frame of the panels is anodized aluminum fitted with corner protections. With anodization, you know the aluminum will resist corrosion and wear while maintaining its form for longer. Then the corner protections provide extra sealing to the structure, keeping out moisture and dust.
The combination of the tempered glass, the anodized aluminum, and the corner protections offers durability and rigidity. This is why Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase is our durable camping solar panel.
The Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase uses monocrystalline cells like the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design and the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable. So, it certainly is efficient. Like the referenced products, the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase Solar Panel can give off up to 100 watts. Each one of the solar panels contributes 50 watts to this total output.
If you ever need to adjust the solar panels for maximum exposure to sunlight, the stands will help with that. The stands are also made with anodized aluminum. So, they are durable too.
Without a doubt, the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase Solar Panel is quality. But the price is a bit steep. To get the best of these panels, the manufacturer recommends getting a mobile battery bank or battery pack with them. But, of course, that will cost you extra.
- Very durable.
- Easy to move around. It is lighter than the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable.
- High power production. It is the same as that of the Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable and the Renogy Monocrystalline Compact Design.
- It is pretty efficient.
- It is relatively expensive.
Nekteck 21W Solar Panel Charger
The Nekteck 21W Solar Panel Charger is not just a portable solar panel. It is a solar charging panel. It is the best portable camping panel on our list because of its minimal size, foldability, and lightweight. But beyond the said qualities, the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger has other benefits to offer.
First off, the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger weighs only 18 ounces (1.13 pounds), and it is foldable. When folded, it measures 6.3 x 11.1 x 1.06 inches – about the size of a tablet PC or an iPad. So, you should be able to carry it around with no worries.
Both the IXNINE and FEELLE Charger weigh 1.18 pounds. So, they are slightly heavier than the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger.
The IXNINE Portable Solar Charger and the FEELLE Portable Solar Charger are both foldable. They are also about the size of a tablet PC. But they are not the best portable solar charging panel for camping on our list for other reasons.
One of these reasons is power production. The Nekteck 21W Solar Charger has two USB output ports, and each one can produce up to 10.5 watts. Both the IXNINE and FEELLE Solar Charger only produce 6 watts.
The Nekteck 21W Charger uses 3 monocrystalline panels, so it is quite efficient. In fact, its rated conversion efficiency is between 21 and 24% – some of the highest efficiencies amongst solar panels for camping on this list. The efficiency of IXNINE Solar Charger and FEELLE Solar Charger falls short of the said range. The good thing about the high efficiency of the Nekteck 21W is that it gets relatively more solar power in a short time. So, even when the sun does not stay out too long, you should get a considerable amount of charge.
Undeniably, the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger comes with attractive features. However, unlike the IXNINE Solar Charger and the FEELLE Solar Charger, it has no battery. So, it does not store charge. If you want to store power with it, you have to get a power or battery bank or an external battery.
Nekteck 21W Charger comes with a PET cover. The cover has an ingress protection code of IPX4. It means that it offers resistance to water splashes from various directions. Beyond that, this cover will not offer sufficient protection from the rain. Nonetheless, the portable solar panels of the Nekteck Charger are waterproof to a fair degree.
- For a solar charging panel, it is quite efficient. It matches the efficiency of Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable.
- The power produced is remarkable for its size. But it falls short of the output of the 3 preceding products.
- It is the most portable product on this list.
- It is not very weather-resistant.
- It does not include a power bank or charge-storing device, unlike the IXNINE and the FEELLE Chargers.
IXNINE Solar Panel Charger
The IXNINE Solar Panel Charger comes in as our second-best portable solar charger. It comes in just behind the Neckteck 21 W Solar Charger while edging out the FEELLE Solar Charger slightly.
Why did the IXNINE Solar Charger edge the FEELLE Solar Charger? The price. It was hard picking the better option of these two. They basically offer the same features. But IXNINE Solar Charger comes at a lower price.
Both the IXNINE Solar Charger and the FEELLE Solar Charger offer a power output of 6 watts. They both come with a 25,000-mAh capacity Li-polymer battery. So, you can store the charge from the solar charging panels and use them on your devices later.
Interestingly, both products have the same weight – 1.18 pounds. While the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger weighs less, 1.18 pounds is not heavy at all. The IXNINE Solar Charger is also foldable. It is just about the size of an iPhone. So, you should have no problem carrying it around. You may even be able to keep this in your pocket.
On the weather resistance front, the IXNINE Solar Charger is about average – nothing exceptional. It can resist splashes of water but might not be able to handle rain.
The IXNINE Solar Charger comes with 2 USB ports. You can charge multiple devices simultaneously with it, including your phone, tablet PCs, and rechargeable lights. IXNINE solar chargers an inbuilt IC chip. This chip regulates output current based on the connected device. It also prevents surges and offers protection against short circuits. So, you would not have to worry about your phone or other devices going bad because of this solar charging panel.
- Very portable – only slightly heavier than the Nekteck Charger.
- Fair power production for this size.
- It comes with an IC chip for safety.
- It’s relatively inexpensive.
- It comes with batteries with which you can store charge.
- It is not very durable.
- The power production could be higher.
FEELLE Solar Charger
The FEELLE Solar Panel Charger shares virtually the same qualities as the IXNINE Solar Charger. However, it is slightly more expensive. This is why we rated it below the IXNINE Solar Charger.
Like the IXNINE, the FEELLE Solar Panel Charger comes with 4 foldable panels that produce up to 6 watts of power. It is also equipped with a 25,000-mAh Li-polymer battery. So, you can store some power for use later.
The FEELLE Charger is pretty lightweight, weighing 1.18 pounds – the same as the IXNINE. When folded, you can pretty much place it in your pocket and get going. So, portability is not a problem with this product.
FEELLE Charger also comes with 2 USB ports like the IXNINE. This way, you can charge multiple devices or more than one phone at a time. The FEELLE Charger comes with a flashlight at its rear, so if you ever need an emergency light, you’ve got one. The flashlight can be operated in 3 modes: strobe, steady, and SOS.
While the manufacturer claims the FEELLE Solar Charger is waterproof, note that it can only resist water splashes. It may not withstand exposure to high-pressure streams of water such as rain.
- Very portable – almost as portable as the Nekteck Charger.
- Fair power yield – on par with the FEELLE Charger.
- It comes with batteries for charge storage.
- It is not very waterproof.
- The power yield could be higher.
Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel
Amongst our list of camping portable solar panels, the Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel offers the best power output for its weight. But as you would expect, we did not include it on this list for just its weight. The Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel also has high efficiency and considerable power output.
The Jackery SolarSaga 60W Panel weighs just about 3.3 pounds. This is very light compared to the two Renogy Solar Chargers (Foldable & Compact Design) and the Goal Zero. Apart from its lightness, the Jackery SolarSaga 60W Panel is foldable. It comes with a stand, and it also has a handle. The combination of the features makes it a portable solar panel.
On the durability front, the Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel does not offer too much. Yes, it is made with an ETFE material, making it resistant to corrosion. But it is not waterproof or impact-resistant. The Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel operates between 14 degrees Fahrenheit and 149 degrees Fahrenheit. This operating temperature range falls short of those of the two Renogy Solar Chargers and the Goal Zero.
The Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel offers as much as 68 watts of power. This power production is second only to the two Renogy Monocrystalline Panels (Foldable & Compact Design) and the Goal Zero. Also, if you consider the size of the panels, this output is pretty remarkable.
The Jackery SolarSaga 60W Panel has got that too. It has a cell efficiency rating of 23%. As you know, only high-quality cells are rated as high as that. Thus, even when the sun does not stay out too long, you should be able to cop high levels of solar power.
The Jackery SolarSaga 60W Panel features 2 USB ports. So, you can charge two devices directly from the solar panel at once. The Jackery SolarSaga is unlikely to develop electrical faults that can affect your devices.
This portable solar panel does not come with a battery bank or battery pack. But you may get one to enjoy the product to the fullest.
- It is very portable. Not as portable as the Necteck Charger. But it makes up for the extra weight with superior power yield.
- Remarkable power yield.
- Superior efficiency. It has the highest efficiency of any product on the list.
- It comes with safety chips.
- It is not waterproof.
- For a portable solar charger, having a battery pack or battery bank would have been nice.
A Camping Solar Panels Buyers Guide
Features of a Great Camping Solar Panel
A camping solar panel is no good if it severely limits how many items you can take along with you. For this reason, you should look out for small-sized and lightweight panels. You might even check for a foldable panel. With a foldable panel, you will not have to compromise too much on the surface area. Also, there will still be enough space to pack other items.
The wattage of your solar panel determines how many devices you can power with it at once. Accordingly, the more power the panel produces, the more devices it can power simultaneously. You get even more advantageous if the solar panel comes with batteries so that you can store some of the power for later.
Solar panels generally come with either monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film cells. Of these options, monocrystalline cells offer the highest efficiency even though they are slightly more expensive.
The efficiency of monocrystalline cells is such that they maximize more of the solar rays they get than the other two types of cells. In other words, monocrystalline cells of a given surface area will generate more power than polycrystalline or thin-film cells of the same surface area.
So, in line with the need for portability and high power output, panels with monocrystalline cells are the best for camping.
As with any other type of solar panel, solar panels for camping are used outdoors. So, it is only right that they are made with materials that resist elemental deterioration.
To this end, look out for the ingress protection code of the product you intend to buy. This code gives an idea of how much resistance the product will put up against the water. Generally, materials rated IP 65 to IP68 offer some of the best water resistance.
Apart from the IP code, opt for aluminum frames over other types. Aluminum frames are generally resistant to corrosion. But apart from that, they are lightweight, and they offer decent resistance to impact.
How Many Watt Solar Panel Do I Need Camping?
The power rating of the panel you need when camping depends on the power capacity of your electronic devices. It also depends on the number of hours of direct sunlight available in the camping location.
Here is how it works:
Say you have a device with a battery rated 4000 mAh, 5 volts. Its power capacity would be (5 x 4000)/1000 = 20 Wh.
Then in the camping location, if you get 5 hours of direct sunlight. The number of watts you will need is 20/5 = 4 watts.
To get the total number of watts, you will need, repeat the steps above for each of your devices. Then add up the total number of watts.
It is advised that you overestimate the number of watts you need by at least 20%. So, if you calculate a total power requirement of 100 watts, opt for a panel with an output of at least 120 watts.
Is a Solar Panel Worth It for Camping?
If you get one of the best solar panels for camping, then you will certainly get your money’s worth. When you go off-grid – to a location without electricity – solar panels will come in handy in helping you harness solar power. With the power from the panel, you can recharge your devices and run some low-power devices.
Do you know what is even better than a solar panel? A solar panel kit. Such solar panel kits come with battery packs that store some power. So, even without the sun, you have some electricity.
When choosing portable solar panels, weight and size are the essential features to look out for. Your solar panel kit will only be easy to carry around when it is light and does not take too much space. But apart from that, the best solar panels are also highly efficient. They can utilize more solar power than the average type. So, look out for efficiency when making a choice. Furthermore, when off-grid, you need enough camping solar panels to meet the power requirements of your devices.
Therefore, calculate how many watts your devices need, and let that guide your choice. Weather resistance is also vital. But it does not matter too much. Since the panel will be portable, you can just pack it up when it starts to rain.
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