Buyers Guide: Best Solar Panels for Camping (2021)
Solar energy systems for homes and businesses have become very popular in many parts of the world. However, there are also solar panels for camping and other off-grid situations, which can be taken on trips and used virtually anywhere the sun shines. This is much easier than traveling with a heavy diesel generator, which can run out of fuel when you're in the middle of nature.
In this article, we will review the best solar panels for camping in 2021 based on a detailed comparison of technical specifications, costs, durability and more.
The 5 Best Solar Panels for Camping
To narrow down our list of the best solar panels for camping, we looked at the industry's top products and ranked them based on factors including durability, ease of setup, charge time, run time, portability, total power output and cost. Based on our findings, these are the five top portable solar panels for camping on the market:
|Best Solar Panels for Camping||Our Award||Buy Now|
|FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank||Best Overall||Check Price|
|Renogy E.POWER Portable Solar Charger||Best Pocket Solar Charger||Check Price|
|Renogy E.FLEX Portable Solar Panel||Best Folding Panel||Check Price|
|Goal Zero Boulder 50 Watt Solar Panel||Best for Long-Term Camping||Check Price|
|Renogy PHOENIX Power Station||Best Camping Power Station||Check Price|
Below we will compare the main features and specifications of each portable solar panel system, along with its pros and cons.
Best Overall: FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank
The FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank has four panels that can generate 6W of solar power and fold down to a size slightly larger than a smartphone. There is a built-in lithium battery with a capacity of 25000 milliamp-hours (mAh), which is enough for around eight smartphone charges, with a charging time of about an hour. The device has dual USB ports to charge two devices at once, and it recharges its own battery at the same time when the solar panel is unfolded and in direct sunlight.
The FEELLE Power Bank has a tough waterproof enclosure, so you don't have to worry if it gets wet. It also comes with a powerful LED light built-in, which can be used as a flashlight after dusk, and protection against common electrical faults: overcharge, overvoltage, overcurrent and short circuit.
Even with all of these features, the charger only weighs 1.18 lbs, making it one of the best solar panels for camping trips and other outdoor activities.
- Foldable, lightweight and compact
- Waterproof and durable housing
- The 25000 mAh lithium battery can recharge smartphones several times
- Includes electrical protection
- Cannot power larger devices — designed for smartphone and tablet charging only
- The lithium battery bank is vulnerable to high temperatures
Best Pocket Solar Charger: Renogy E.POWER Portable Solar Charger
The Renogy E.POWER Portable Solar Charger is similar to the FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank, having dual USB ports and a built-in LED flashlight. The main difference is that the Power Bank unfolds into four panels (6W), while the Portable Solar Charger uses a single panel with a capacity of 1.5W.
The Portable Solar Charger has a 20000 mAh lithium battery pack, capable of providing four to six smartphone charges, and it can recharge itself and your phone at the same time when placed in sunlight. This device has an IP67 enclosure, which offers protection against dust and water splashes. It has a weight of only 1 lb while measuring about 7 inches by 3.5 inches.
- Compact and lightweight enough for backpacking
- Dust-tight and waterproof IP67 enclosure
- 4-6 smartphone charges with the 20000 mAh battery
- Capable of fast charging
- CE and ETL electrical safety certifications
- Not designed to power larger devices — only smartphones, tablets and its own LED light
- Low solar panel capacity (1.5W). The battery recharges quickly with a power outlet, but it needs 45 hours to recharge from 50% to 100% with sunlight alone.
Best Folding Panel: Renogy E.FLEX Portable Solar Panel
The Renogy E.FLEX Portable Solar Panel can unfold into a 30-watt power source, and it converts 22-25% of sunlight into electricity, matching the high-efficiency performance of the best home solar panels. This portable solar panel can recharge a cellphone or action camera in two to four hours, and a tablet in four to six hours. It can charge three devices at once thanks to its triple USB port.
This portable solar panel comes with a 25-year power production warranty and a 5-year material and workmanship warranty. It weighs only 1.6 lbs and measures a compact 12 inches by 6 inches when folded.
- Lightweight and water-resistant design
- Can generate up to 30W of power
- Charges a smartphone or camera in two to four hours
- CE and ETL electrical safety certifications
- No battery, so it can only charge devices while it's in direct sunlight
- Only designed for mobile device charging; does not power large devices like laptops
- Vulnerable to piercing and squashing, so must be handled with care
Why Buy: The Renogy E.FLEX Portable Solar Panel has the same efficiency as the best rooftop solar panels while being lightweight and foldable. It can charge up to three devices at once.
Best for Long-Term Camping: Goal Zero Boulder 50 Watt Solar Panel
The Goal Zero Boulder 50 Watt Solar Panel is designed for long periods in the wilderness. This is a tough and durable solar panel, with an aluminum frame, a tempered glass covering and a kickstand for easy setup. When combined with a portable power station, it can provide electricity for many types of devices, from phones to laptops to even mini-fridges.
The Boulder 50W solar panel has monocrystalline solar cells, which are the most efficient solar panel cells, and three units can be connected to generate up to 150W of power. Each panel has a weight of 12.4 lbs while measuring roughly 22 inches by 27 inches.
- Heavy-duty battery charger with an aluminum frame and tempered glass covering
- Can generate up to 50W of power, or up to 150W by connecting three panels
- Larger and heavier than other solar panels for camping
- Requires a chargeable power station and is not designed to connect devices directly
- Due to its rigid enclosure, it cannot be folded
Why Buy: The Goal Zero Boulder 50 Watt Solar Panel is a reliable electricity source for long-term camping, thanks to its tough construction and high power output.
Best Camping Power Station: Renogy PHOENIX Power Station
The Renogy PHOENIX Power Station can power electronics and small appliances, delivering up to 200W in total. The Power Station is compatible with many types of devices, thanks to its multiple outputs: 110V AC, 12V DC, 3x USB-A ports, a USB-C port and a CIG port.
The Power Station has a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 17500 mAh and two LED flashlights. Its total weight is 4.6 lbs while measuring roughly 7 by 6 by 5.6 inches. The Power Station can be charged with a wall outlet, car socket or solar panel. When combined with a 50-watt solar panel, the unit recharges in seven hours.
- Provides up to 200W of power
- Compatible with many types of devices (USB, 12V DC, 110V AC)
- Recharges with wall power, car socket or at least 30W solar panel
- Includes a 17500 mAh lithium-ion battery
- Compact design
- CE and ETL electrical safety certifications
- Depends on an external solar panel or other power source to recharge
- When used at full power (200W), its charge is depleted in less than one hour.
Why Buy: The Renogy PHOENIX Power Station provides up to 200W of energy, and it can power many types of devices — USB, 12V DC and even 110V AC.
Why Get Camping Solar Panels?
Portable solar panels for camping make trips safer, since they can be used to recharge smartphones and emergency devices when you're off the grid. Many of them have built-in LED flashlights, which are useful at night, and larger models can power small 110V appliances.
Diesel generators can also be used for this purpose, but they have several disadvantages: they're loud, they're polluting, they can be dangerous and you must also carry their fuel. On the other hand, solar panels are completely silent, which means they will not disrupt the natural environment. They also run with a free resource that is found everywhere.
Types of Solar Panels for Camping
Solar panels for camping can be classified into two main types:
- Stand-alone solar panels generate electricity but do not store it. They can be used to charge devices directly when sunlight is available, or they can be used to charge an external power station. Some of them are foldable, while others have a rigid construction.
- Solar panels with built-in batteries can store electric charge, which means they don't depend on an external power station. These panels are generally smaller than stand-alone units, since high-capacity batteries are heavy. When you need more solar battery capacity, a rechargeable power station with external panels is easier to handle.
Cost of Portable Solar Panels for Camping
The cost of solar panels for camping depends on many factors, especially wattage. For example, you may find pocket solar panels below 10W for less than $40, but you can expect to pay over $100 for a larger panel with an output over 30W. Things like durability and sunlight conversion efficiency also affect the price of portable solar panels.
Additionally, there are larger systems available, and prices increase accordingly. For example, if you're looking for a 1,500-watt power station with its own solar panels for recharging, the price can exceed $2,000. This may sound expensive, but it can be well worth it if you're using solar panels for RV camping or need a reliable long-term setup.
How to Choose the Right Solar Panels for Your Camp Setup
Any solar expert will agree that purchasing the right product is key — this applies for both portable solar generators and fixed installations. When comparing solar panels for camping, you should look for products that are durable and easy to use. Since you're dealing with electricity, safety is also important — the risk of electric shock is higher when using low-quality solar panels.
The following are some other important factors you should consider before purchasing portable solar panels for camping:
- Size and weight: Solar panels with a higher wattage can power more devices, but they are also larger and heavier. Carrying a larger system is viable if you take your car, but a lightweight and foldable solar panel is a better option when hiking.
- Design: Before purchasing a portable solar power system, make sure it has the right connectors and wattage for the devices you want to use.
- Portability and ease of setup: Compact solar panels are lightweight and easy to use, but most are limited to smartphone charging and LED lighting. Chargeable power stations with larger panels require more work to set up, but they also provide more electricity.
- Durability: If your portable solar panels will be exposed to dust and water, you must look for a product with a suitable enclosure.
- Power output and amperage: Portable solar power systems should provide the voltage, current and wattage required by the devices you plan to use.
- Charge time and run time: There are two important charging times to consider when purchasing solar panels for camping: the time needed to charge your devices and the time needed to charge their own batteries. If you plan to go camping for several days, you need a solar panel system that can recharge daily with the available sunlight.
- Cost: As mentioned above, many factors determine the cost of portable solar panels for camping. With a higher budget, you can get more watts of solar power and more watt-hours of battery charge.
FAQ: Best Solar Panels for Camping
How many solar panels do I need for camping?
If you choose the right wattage and battery capacity, you only need to carry one or two solar panels. For example, you can look for a compact and foldable 6W panel that fits in your pocket, and it will produce enough power for your smartphone and an LED flashlight. On the other hand, a 50W panel produces enough electricity for several smartphones and small appliances.
What is the best solar panel for camping?
We picked the FEELLE Portable Solar Power Bank as the Best Overall, since it unfolds into a 6W panel that meets the most important needs — smartphone charging and lighting. You will need a larger system if you want to use small appliances. For example, you can use the Renogy PHOENIX 200W Power Station with a 50W solar panel to power most camp amenities.
Are portable solar panels worth it?
Yes, portable solar panels are silent, safer and easier to use than diesel generators. In addition, there is no need to carry diesel when using solar panels. When compared with standalone power banks, the advantage is that they can be recharged over and over again without a wall outlet.
How do you use solar panels while camping?
Solar panels for camping are designed to be user-friendly and can be set up without needing a professional electrician. The smallest foldable panels fit in your pocket or backpack, and you can simply unfold them and connect your smaller devices. On the other hand, larger panels are normally connected to a portable power station, which includes connectors for many types of larger devices and appliances.