With the massive increase in alternative energy, in California solar companies grow day by day, you may want to consider a portable solar panel as a power source to add to your arsenal. Not only is it a great addition to any camping set, but they are a brilliant addition to any prepper, too. You can use them for keeping in our bug-out bag, or you can install them into more fixed locations such as vehicles. Therefore, we are going to take a look through the best portable solar panels that money can buy.
In this article, we will look at what the best options you have are, and also look at what you need to consider when you are buying one. Of course, depending on what you want your solar panel for, you will need to decide on which you should buy.
Best Portable Solar Panels – Benefits
Before we get into the specific items on the list, we will take a look through why you should consider buying a portable solar panel, or two.
- Eco-friendly. – Of course, the first thing is that they do not use regular fuel.
- Quiet. – As you have seen through many of our other articles, discreetness is a significant consideration for many times. If you are a prepper, you will know that people will want what you have, unless you keep it quiet. If you are not a prepper, you are still unlikely to want to keep a generator running right next to you.
- Charging. – The main reason that you would want a solar panel is to charge your devices, phones, rechargeable torches, etc.
- Affordable. – The initial outlay of a portable solar panel is a lot less than any other portable power supply.
Portable Solar Panel Buying Guide
There are a few considerations that you need to think about when you are buying a portable solar panel. In this section, we will look at what they are and what you need to think about before buying one.
- Power output. – Power output is measured in Watts. The higher the number, the better the solar panel will perform for you. Not only will a higher wattage solar panel perform better, but you will be able to charge more devices at the same time. The majority of solar panels will provide you with between 5-40 Watts, and the higher the output, the more devices you can charge at once.
- What you want to charge. – Some devices require USB outputs, and others need regular plug sockets or cigarette lighter 12v sockets. If you are only ever going to charge your phone or tablet, then a USB output is ok. However, the further up the spectrum you go, the more options you will have. For example, a charger with a plug socket is likely to have USB sockets, too.
- The number of devices. – The more devices that you are going to charge, the higher the wattage you will need. The higher the watts, the bigger the solar panel you will need.
- Duration. – You will be able to use a standard solar panel charger if you are only going on a short trip. However, for anything longer, a charger with a battery pack is much more preferred.
- Location. – Where you are going is one of the most significant considerations. If you know that you are going into an ample, open space, then a solar panel will work fine. However, if you are going to be in a more shaded area, you will need to gather some solar energy on the way there. And that leads us onto the final point.
- Robustness. – Some solar panels are quite flimsy, while others are a lot more robust by design. If you need to strap your solar panel to the top of a truck, you will need to have a battery pack and a robust solar panel. If you are hiking, you may get away with a lighter weight, less robust charger.
Of course, you need to think about each of these points carefully so that you know exactly what you are looking for before you buy it. The last thing that you want to do is end up spending money on something that is useless.
How To Choose The Right Portable Solar Panel
Now you know what you want to use the solar panel for, you need to look at the features that you are going to get with your purchase.
- Output Capacity. – As we have already said, the output capacity is your primary consideration. 5 Watts is usually enough for a regular smartphone. However, if you want to charge multiple devices or larger items, you will need a higher output capability.
- Flexible or rigid. – If you are going to store your solar panel in your bug out bag, then you will want a flexible, fold away option. However, if you are looking for a solar panel for a truck, then you will want something rigid and a lot more sturdy.
- Size. – Again, if you are looking to carry your solar panel with you all of the time, you will want something compact and lightweight. Foldaway panels may be the best option; however, you need to remember that they are not likely to have battery storage, so you will only be able to charge your devices while there is sunlight.
- Surface area. – Along with the size, comes the surface area. Generally, the larger the solar panel, the more surface area it will have to collect light. The higher the surface area, the faster the charge. Foldable panels are an excellent option for high surface area, as they are compact when not in use.
- Battery. – Some solar panels have built-in batteries so that you can charge the battery while you are out in the day, and charge your device at night if they need it. However, some others only have a “direct charge” capability, meaning that you can only charge while there is sunlight. If you like the option of having a lightweight solar panel without a battery, but think that you need a battery, you can always consider charging a power bank.
- Durability. – Possibly the most important aspect of anything that a prepper or camper will need is ruggedness. The wilderness is not a soft place, and your equipment will take a beating. So, I would always advise that you have something sturdy. There are the few people that prefer things that are light over rugged, so the decision is yours.
- Extra features. – Some solar panel portable chargers only have a single USB charging port. While others have additional features that improve usability, some of those features are additional charging ports, hooks, velcro, and linking compatibility.
There is certainly enough to think about while you are searching for the best portable solar panel for camping or prepping. Therefore, keep those points in mind while you are picking the right one for you.
Best Portable Solar Panels For Outdoor Use
In this section, we are going to take a look at the chargers and solar panels that we have found to be the best. Here is a quick rundown of the top eight:
- Renogy 15,000maH
- Voltaic Systems Arc 20 Watt
- BigBlue 28W
- Anker 21W
- Ryno-Tuff 21W
- Goal Zero Nomad 7
- Renogy 100 Watt
- WindyNation 400 Watt Solar Kit
Because of the different uses of each, and the requirements of different users, I have not put these in a specific order. But we will go through them and see what is good and bad about each.
The Renogy is a very good, compact portable solar panel charger. It has a 2-watt solar panel built into the battery pack, so it certainly is one of the most compact designs here. However, that can compromise on its output.
The best aspect of this charger is that it is so small that you can fit it almost anywhere. Furthermore, it has a pretty good charging ability, and it is possibly the cheapest on the list, too. It is not the smallest of solar panels/battery combos that you can buy, but that is why we like it. Having something too little will not charge as well as this. However, another up-side to this is that it has two USB ports so that you can charge two devices at once.
One downside to it, though, is that the capacity is not huge. Therefore, you would not want to use it as your primary source of power. If you need one to strap to your bug out bag, this could well be the ideal purchase to charge your phones.
- Rugged construction
- 2 USB ports
- Not quite man enough as a sole charger
Although this is one of the more expensive on the list – it is undoubtedly worth it. It is one of the more powerful that you can buy. Although we do have more powerful options on the list.
This product has more in mind than simple phone charging, as it has the capability to charge laptops and other larger items with larger batteries. Do not think that it is only suitable for those though, it still has USB ports for regular phone charging, too. Furthermore, the large 24,000 mAh battery will store the charge so that you can use it even when the sun goes down. It is also one of the most robust chargers on the list, too. So, if you are looking for something powerful and sturdy, this could be the charger for you.
While it is one of the best that you can buy, there is a distinct disadvantage to it. That is that charging directly from the solar panel itself. You are much better to charge the pack first, and not rely on the panels to charge your device. Therefore, make sure it is charged before you go anywhere with it, as the last thing you want is to have a dead battery and no sunlight to charge.
As I have already said, it is more expensive than some, so unless you need a laptop charger or one for many devices and charges, you may want to consider a more affordable model.
- Made for laptops and other large items
- Highly durable
- Multiple charging options
- External battery pack
- Slow charging directly from the panel
Yet another fantastic solar charger is the BigBlue 28W. As you can see, this is the most powerful on the list so far; however, it is only for use with USB devices, unlike the Voltaic.
This flexible, yet rugged solar charger has 3 USB ports, each offering 5v at 2.4A max outputs. It is a compact system when it is folded away, yet it has a pretty large surface area when unfolded. The eyelets allow you to tie it to your backpack so you can charge on the go, too. However, one downside to this product is that it has no battery pack with it. Therefore, you will need to keep it connected to your device when in use.
It is pretty waterproof, so you do not have to worry about packing it away unless you are in torrential rain, in which case it is pretty useless anyway. The solar panel technology in this system does have some pretty high conversion rates, as the minimum amount of sunlight converted into useable power is 21.5%, so you know that you will get some pretty decent charging. One thing I would suggest, though, is that you use it with a power pack for optimal charging ability.
- Large surface area
- Eyelets for handing on bags, etc.
- No built-in battery
- Only for USB charged devices
Anker is a pretty big name in the portable solar panel game, and for a good reason. This product is one of the best lightweight solar chargers on the market.
The main benefit of this charger is its weight. At only 13.2 ounces, you will hardly even know you are carrying it. That makes it a superb choice for backpackers, or anyone else that has to carry their kit around with them all of the time.
Further to its lightweight design, it has the ability to quickly charge all of your USB devices with its 21 Watt panels, and can even do so in partially cloudy weather. Furthermore, you can charge two devices at the same time. One thing that we really like about that ability is that you can charge your phone and a battery pack at the same time, meaning you have stored power for night time as well as day.
Don’t think that this is flimsy either – just because it is light, it is still one of the more robust and durable items on the list. It has eyelets for hanging on our bag, and like the BigBlue above, it is waterproof and has a pocket for your phone while you are charging it.
It’s not even expensive, either, and as an added bonus, it has an 18-month warranty, should it go wrong, which it is unlikely to.
- Charge multiple devices
- Long warranty
- Pocket is too small for some larger phones
Another portable solar charger in the ~20-Watt range. However, what makes this different, you ask? The power conversion rate of these solar panels is a massive 25%, meaning that you can get a full charge in a few hours. Of course, that will depend on the weather, and what size battery you are charging, though.
One of the primary benefits of the Ryno-Tuff is as the name suggests, it is incredibly rugged. The PVC canvas is super durable and will protect the panels and internal circuitry from all kinds of mishaps that are inevitable while out in the wilderness. It is waterproof too, so no need to pack it away for a quick downpour.
This solar panel has taken the eyelets to the next level and included two carabiners, so you do not have to go and buy them separately. As with the Anker above, this can charge two devices at once, but it also doesn’t come with a battery, so we advise you to get one to allow for extra charging capabilities.
Two of the main features that we love about this Ryno-Tuff product, though is the lifetime warranty, and they will plant a tree for every sale. What is not to love?
- Lifetime warranty
- They plant a tree for every sale
- Dual device charging
- High power conversion
- Extremely rugged
- No battery pack
The Goal Zero Nomad 7 is one of the best portable solar panels for backpacking that you can buy. It is super lightweight, at only 12.8 ounces, and foldable and compact in design.
As it is so lightweight and foldable, you can easily carry this with you even when the weather doesn’t allow you to have it charging something. However, as it is waterproof, you can leave it on the outside of your backpack at any time of the day, come rain, snow, sleet, or any other adverse weather.
It isn’t as powerful as some of the others on the list; however, it is still ample for charging some of your smaller items, such as phones, GPS, torches, etc. There is a number of charging options that you have with the Nomad 7, such as USB or various 12v cables.
There is a large netted zip pocket to store your device while charging, and you can use the 12v and USB at the same time. However, do note that this is only 7-Watts, so you may want to have a battery pack with it, too.
- 5V or 12V charging
- Multiple device charging
- Not as powerful as others
Now we are getting into the big boys of the portable solar panels. However, what that does mean is that they are not quite as compact as the others. The Renogy 100-Watt system is much more powerful than any other on the list so far, but it is also bulkier, too.
Because of the size of this solar panel, it is only designed for camping and other activities where you use a vehicle. However, the suitcase design does allow for easy transportation, and the kickstand will make positioning it simple. Furthermore, it comes with a waterproof 20A controller to provide overcharge protection for your batteries or devices.
You will need extra cables with the Renogy if you wish to charge other items, such as phones, etc. However, as it comes with crocodile clips, you can use your vehicle charging systems for those devices, as you are not going to be carrying this thing about in the woods.
The size of the unit is a downside to it, but the power that it produces is second only to the next item on the list, so the power to weight ratio is undoubtedly worth it.
- Super powerful
- Suitcase design allows for more comfortable transportation
- Built-in kickstand
- Easy to use
- 20A controller
- Heavy (13.6lbs)
If you are looking for the best RV solar panel kit, then you have just found it. This kit has everything that you need to power RVs, campers, and boats, all in one.
However, although that was the design idea, it is not the only use. You can install this into permanent fixtures such as cabins, or other bug-out locations. Unlike the other items on this list, the WindyNation kit is not exactly portable, but it does have the ability to be installed into mobile locations such as vehicles.
This kit is amazingly durable and extremely efficient at converting the sun’s energy into power. There are various packages that you can choose from, but you will get everything that you need to install it into your RV or anywhere else. That kit will include all cables, controllers, batteries, etc. The warranty for this product is pretty amazing, too; 5-year solar panel warranty. 25-year power output warranty. 1-year warranty on all other included components.
It is certainly not for a backpacker, or for putting in your bug-out bag. However, it is undoubtedly the best option you have for more permanent, mobile or fixed uses.
- Complete kit
- Highly robust
- Great warranty
- Not for carrying about
While solar panels are fantastic additions for any bag, tent, RV, or anywhere else you need power, they are still only one part of the puzzle that you need to complete. In some instances, you can use only the solar panel pack to charge your phone (like the Renogy 15,000maH at the top of the page). However, in other situations, you will need to consider some other things like cables and accessories.
One of the primary considerations for all of these portable solar panels is that you should buy a battery pack to go with it. That is because, if you have a full phone charge while the sun is out, you are wasting precious energy. However, if you combine the portable solar panel with a battery pack, you store the energy for use later, when you need it.
Always ensure that your power bank or battery is compatible with the charger you buy, and check for the output available for each model. There is no point in buying one with only 5V USB outputs if you need to charge a laptop.
I am a massive fan of the Ryno-Tuff 21W panel for camping and in my bug-out bag. I also love the warranty and the fact that they will plant a tree for each sale. However, I also love the WindyNation 400-Watt system for more permanent fixtures.
Honestly, you will have a hard time trying to see me without one of these portable solar panels if I am out of the house. They are the most versatile way of collecting energy wherever you are in the world, providing the weather is good enough.