Solar-powered tents are a growing trend in the camping world. People are becoming more and more interested in experiencing life outdoors while maintaining some of life’s modern luxuries. Dream or reality in experiencing the solar tent is a great adventure.
There are several different ways to incorporate solar power into just about any tent-based experience. All it takes is a little forethought, planning, and the right tools.
The most common setups for solar tents involve four tent types.
- Genuine Solar-powered Tent
- DIY Solar Tent
- Eco-Glamping/Canvas Solar-powered Tents
- Van-Life Solar-powered Tent Combo
Each one serves a distinct purpose and caters to a different crowd or need. Most will gravitate towards standard tents, while some may go out with a large canvas tent setup to supply enough camping electricity.
Generally speaking, each solar tent setup will need the tent, solar panels, power storage, and devices meant to utilize renewable energy. This can be as complicated, expensive, or as simple as you want it to be.
1. Genuine Solar Powered Tent
This is the pinnacle of cutting-edge solar technology when it comes to solar tents. These are camping tents that have solar panels built into the tent itself.
Unfortunately, it’s largely just a concept. Most of these concept tent builds aren’t commercially available to most consumers.
There are a few that become available occasionally in limited amounts. Then there are companies like the French Telecom company Orange that have some promising products even if they are only a concept tent design for certain music festivals.
Type of Tent
Solar concept tent builds have panels built into the fabric of the tent itself. These panels are foldable and very flexible, allowing them to collapse down with the solar tent.
While this concept tent is still in progress, products like the Orange Solar Tent have limited use and release. The Orange sees repeated appearances at the Glastonbury Festival. It’s been said to make festival-goers camping experiences much more luxurious.
Each solar tent has specially coated solar threads weaved into the fabric itself.
There is also less setup as the photovoltaic fabric is already part of the tent’s solar system.
Not to mention many places, like the Glastonbury Festival, probably don’t like the area cluttered with traditional panels. When integrated this way, the space of the solar tent and surrounding area provides great space and solar efficiency.
Solar power storage is part of the tent itself. This powers things like the central wireless control hub with its own touchscreen LCD screen. It provides free internet access and its own internal lighting.
It can also maintain a floor heating element embedded into the bottom of the tent to keep it warm at night.
That wireless control hub also has a wireless charging pouch to provide a solar power supply for small electronics and other portable devices.
This makes the solar tent incredibly convenient as it doesn’t require any third-party tools. The solar system is already set up and comes with wireless charging capabilities.
2. DIY Solar Tent
The cheapest option for creating a solar tent is incorporating a solar system with a regular camping tent. This is a solid option when backpacking or to keep costs low while still having some power usage.
Type of Tent
Any camping tent can make for a viable solar tent in this scenario. That being said, having a tent with an electrical access point is much more convenient. It enables power from the exterior solar system without having an open door or window.
The Coleman Sundome Tent is a great example as it allows a cord to enter through one of the bottom corners. Connect a battery to a solar cell and run a cord into the tent through this point.
A small portable solar panel is ideal for this setup, especially if backpacking, biking, kayaking. Once again, the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger is a great choice, given that it only weighs 1.18 pounds. It also folds up to the size of a laptop, which should fit in most backpacks.
Power storage can be a bit tricky as no one wants to lug a 12-volt battery while hiking. In this case, having a small power bank can be a great way to capture some of that power. The power banks can then be used to charge things like mobile phones later.
Having devices that power themselves through solar can also cut back on power storage needs. Carrying a solar-powered radio would mean one less device needs the solar system to charge.
3. Eco-Glamping / Canvas Solar-Powered Tents
Eco-Glamping is a growing fad where campers are renting large canvas tents with solar systems. They are set up to provide all the convenience of a cabin without impacting the environment. This could mean an outdoor experience with luxuries like solar refrigerators.
These could also service hunters who need a home base or volunteers operating out of a remote area. In reality, any group would like a place to sleep and somewhere to charge laptops or other devices.
The core element of this type of solar tent is a high energy demand for power-hungry devices.
Type of Tent
The ideal tent for this setup will require a large canvas tent with a sturdy roof. This is because the panels will be either mounted or hanging onto the roof to achieve direct sunlight.
This tent should also have lots of interior space for the people and devices. If it’s the kind of setup whether using solar power or a generator is a question, then these are the kinds of solar tents you’ll want.
Something like the WHITEDUCK Regatta Canvas Bell Tent would be a good choice. It has multiple solar panels that can be hung on the roof and support multiple people.
The best panels for this solar system will be lightweight to mount or hang on the tent itself. Something like the Nekteck 21W Solar Charger would be a great choice as it only weighs about 18 ounces. Having a couple of these strung up on the roof would provide plenty of power for various devices.
Alternatively, using a larger, possibly stationary solar panel will provide more watts. The Renogy Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Panel, for instance, provides 100 watts. This would be a good choice to power lots of devices or something more power-hungry.
Storing the excess power in batteries is ideal to avoid letting anything go to waste. It also ensures the power stays on even when the sun goes down. With Eco-Glamping, lots of storage is ideal for running everything from the tv to the laptops and refrigerator.
If it’s something simpler like a hunting trip, then a single 12 volt could be sufficient. This should be enough to keep flashlights and gear topped off.
4. Van-Life Solar Tent Combo
These types of solar-powered tents have a van or other vehicle to act as the power bank. This may be a great choice for bigger people who wouldn’t sleep comfortably in a van. This will also provide luxury while attending music festivals or other activities.
A great example is festival-goers on the road. They can park their car, set up the solar tent, and have everything they need in minutes.
This solar tent system is perfect for those on the go and who need a basic supply of power.
Type of Tent
Generally speaking, there are two types of solar tents with the van-life solar tent combo. Tailgate tents and rooftop tents
Tailgate tents, like this Tent, affix onto the back of the vehicle. This utilizes the interior of the car for sleeping and storage.
It can also make tapping into the solar system easier as the car’s USB ports are more readily accessible.
Another option is the rooftop tents where the solar tent sits on top of the vehicle. The Raptor Series 100000 Offgrid Voyager is an example of one of these rooftop tents.
A potential downside with this setup is it takes up the roof space. Placing the solar cells here would provide maximum efficiency. However, this does take up less space than the tailgate tent.
The solar tent can have the panels routed directly through the tent itself. A car battery can also have the panels routed directly to it. These devices would then receive their charge through the car battery through the USB ports or car charger.
There are pros and cons to both methods. The right choice largely comes down to the festival goers’ needs and technical abilities.
In either case, pick a simple foldable solar panel to sit on the SUV itself. Something like a Jackery SolarSaga 60W Solar Panel would do nicely. Alternatively, it could also be set up on the ground if using a rooftop tent.
The beauty of a van-life solar tent combo is that the vehicle comes with power storage. Solar panels can route the power directly to the 12-volt battery in the car.
Of course, this would mean running cables from the hood and runs the risk of draining the car battery. But with enough panels and some careful use, it can prove to be a convenient option.
Alternatively, the tent can have its own dedicated battery to avoid any issues. Using devices like solar flashlights to minimize the drain on the car battery also helps.
Creating Your Own Solar Tent Setup
The type of tent you choose should be in line with your camping needs. A week-long hunting trip with several people using lanterns and other devices will use a lot of power. It probably makes more sense to use a large canvas tent with a more complex solar system.
If it’s backpacking over the weekend, then a DIY solar tent or, ideally, the genuine solar tent setup is the best bet. This allows the entire setup to be mobile and easy to put together and take down.
The necessary solar cells will also depend on the chosen solar tent type and their need for power. If it’s a large Eco-glamping tent, then a hefty solar system with lots of watts will be needed. For a van-life solar tent combo, something simple to rest on the hood or roof should do the trick.
Then finally, how to store the excess energy for the solar tent is a consideration. Larger setups like the canvas solar tents will need several batteries. The DIY solar tent can get away with a few power banks. Genuine solar tents will often have their own storage.
Arguably the power requirements will largely dictate which type of solar tent system to use. If you need a reliable power supply to power a CPAP, then a DIY solar tent won’t cut it. In this case, eco-glamping would be a better fit.
For festival-goers, a canvas tent might be a bit extreme. A genuine solar tent or the van-life solar tent combo would be more appropriate.
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