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How to Choose the Best Portable Solar Panels for Camping

Getting power out in the forest doesn’t require loud generators or home-charged battery packs. Set up some solar in the sun! To find the best portable solar panels for camping, you should have some idea of what you want to charge.

Two of the recommendations on this list are smaller, cheaper solar panels sufficient for phones and not much else. The other two recommendations are larger power stations that can handle RV setups and refrigerators.

The Top Recommendation

Renogy Solar Starter Kit

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit with 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel + 30A PWM Charge Controller + Adaptor Kit + Tray Cables + Mounting Z Brackets for RV Boats Trailer Off-Grid System

Renogy’s starter pack is all you need for a great camping solar setup, including a negative grounding controller to protect the electronics you hook up to it.

The Upgrade Option

Renogy Solar Panel Suitcase

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Off Grid Portable Foldable 2Pcs 50W Solar Panel Suitcase Built-in Kickstand with Waterproof 20A Charger Controller

Renogy’s suitcase is one of the great portable solar panel kits for camping. The entire system folds down into a compact, easy-carry suitcase.

The Value Option

Hiluckey Solar Charger

Solar Charger 25000mAh, Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank with 4 Solar Panels, Fast Charge External Battery Pack with Dual USB Outputs Compatible with Smartphones, Tablets, etc.

The Hiluckey Solar Charger is a foldable solar panel that will charge your phones without draining your finances. Four solar panels fold out for a great surface area for sunlight, and two USB ports charge 2 devices at a time.

How to Choose The Best Solar Panels for Camping

When looking at camping solar panel reviews, there are a few different specs you need to consider. Most importantly, you’ll want to know what you want to charge. Solar panels for camping vary greatly in power and cost, and you don’t want to overpay for phone charging.

What do I want to do with the solar panel?

Two of the items on this list are $200 and above, and the other two are around $50. This is because the cost of the ideal camping solar panels varies depending on what you’re trying to charge. If you’re looking to jump car and RV batteries, power fridges, and run an electronics store amount of electronics–you’ll need one of the expensive ones.

If you want a camping solar panel to power a couple of appliances and make sure your phone doesn’t die, the cheaper ones should be sufficient.

Also, think about where you want to put it. You can set it up at your campsite, sure, but you can also easily mount it on your car, as this video shows.

Cost

The small solar panels on this list are about 50 bucks a pop, while the larger ones will run you 200 and 300 respectively. These price points are pretty standard when looking at solar panels for campers. Something to charge your phone will be about 50, and trying to get 12V will push you closer to the 200 mark.

If you keep these price points in mind when looking for the right amount of solar panels, you probably won’t overpay for your wilderness power.

Size and Aesthetics

While camping solar panels aren’t exactly string lights for the bedroom, you should purchase a panel that is appropriately sized and doesn’t look ugly. Why should it not look ugly? People don’t like ugly products–if you buy an ugly solar panel, you’ll want a new one in a year, trust me. Get something sleek, and something you’re proud to pop open in front of your friends.

The Renogy suitcase and GoerTek solar bank definitely look the coolest, and both of them are appropriately sized for their respective powers. The suitcase folds into a small carry size and is only 30 pounds. Meanwhile, the GoerTek fits in your backpack.

Durability

All of the products listed here are technically waterproof, but the solar panel suitcase has a control panel that is not waterproof. The Renogy starter kit is fully waterproof and ready to go.

Power

The most obvious factor. Check the voltage requirements on the devices you plan on charging. If you’re under 5V and USB compatible, a smaller system might do the trick. But if you want to charge a handful of electronics or anything over 5V, go for one of the bigger options.

Best Portable Solar Panels for Camping Reviews

Quick Take: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR Portable Solar Panels for Camping

Best Overall Option

Renogy Solar Starter Kit

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit with 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel + 30A PWM Charge Controller + Adaptor Kit + Tray Cables + Mounting Z Brackets for RV Boats Trailer Off-Grid System

Folds down into a compact suitcase for easy packing and easy maneuvering.

Best Upgrade Option

Renogy Solar Panel Suitcase

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit with 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel + 30A PWM Charge Controller + Adaptor Kit + Tray Cables + Mounting Z Brackets for RV Boats Trailer Off-Grid System

Powerful enough to run everything from consumer electronics to a full refrigerator.

Best Value Option

Hiluckey Solar Charger

Solar Charger 25000mAh, Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank with 4 Solar Panels, Fast Charge External Battery Pack with Dual USB Outputs Compatible with Smartphones, Tablets, etc.

If you just want a light and a phone charger, this might be the best solar panel for you

Best Alternative Option

GoerTek Solar Power Bank

No products found.

A great, cost-effective way to charge your phone while camping.

Renogy Solar Panel Suitcase

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Off Grid Portable Foldable 2Pcs 50W Solar Panel Suitcase Built-in Kickstand with Waterproof 20A Charger Controller

Unquestionably the best foldable solar panel for camping, Renogy’s 100 Watt 12 Volt behemoth folds down into a 2 x 3-foot flatscreen sized carry case that weighs only 30 pounds. Powerful enough to charge RV and car batteries, and get the electricity up and running at your campsite. Runs DC power which can be converted to AC for powering TVs and laptops if needed. It’s powerful enough to run a refrigerator all day!

Pros

  • Folds down into a compact suitcase for easy packing and easy maneuvering.
  • Waterproof panel for those rainy afternoons.
  • Once the 12-volt battery is fully charged the device automatically switches to maintenance mode to keep you at full power.
  • Strong enough to run a refrigerator all day as long as there is enough sun.

Cons

  • The massive price tag makes it ideal only for the frequent camper who needs some serious power.
  • May actually deliver more power than you need, at 100 watts and 12 volts. Don’t overpay for power!

Renogy Solar Starter Kit

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel Starter Kit with 100W Monocrystalline Solar Panel + 30A PWM Charge Controller + Adaptor Kit + Tray Cables + Mounting Z Brackets for RV Boats Trailer Off-Grid System

An excellent choice for getting into the solar camping game, Renogy’s starter pack is powerful enough to charge all your electronics and features a grounding controller to protect them. It’s a little unwieldy for packing but provides the power to back up space it takes up. Can be mounted permanently on an RV or boat, or carried around to your next camping adventures.

Pros

  • Powerful enough to run everything from consumer electronics to a full refrigerator, if you’ve got the batteries for it (a 100ah battery running at 6.5 amps per hour will give you about 15 hours of refrigeration).
  • The entire system, including the cables and connections, is waterproof and built to withstand outdoor weather conditions.

Cons

  • Still fairly expensive. While it’s cheaper than the Renogy suitcase charger, it’s still more than the other 2 options.
  • ​Not as much charge as the Renogy suitcase, and once you’re already paying hundreds for a solar panel, you may want to just get the better one.

Hiluckey Solar Charger

Solar Charger 25000mAh, Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank with 4 Solar Panels, Fast Charge External Battery Pack with Dual USB Outputs Compatible with Smartphones, Tablets, etc.

Foldable solar panels give you a quick charge time and great exposure without taking up space in the backseat. Dual USB outputs are sufficient for a couple of phones on a full sunlight day. It’s a great price, but you’ll also get what you pay for.

You can only charge electronics under 5V, and the charge time is slow and eats up a lot of sunlight to do it. Great charger if you’ve got a phone you want to keep boosted on the go, but definitely not a campsite power station.

Pros

  • One year warranty
  • Can’t beat the price. A great, cost-effective way to charge your phone while camping.
  • Compatible with any device that’s under 5V.

Cons

  • Only two USB outputs limit the charge ability. Really only suitable for phones and tablets, and small USB fans.
  • Long charge time–can take from 12 to 24 hours to fully charge a single phone. Not a good long term phone charging solution, as it can take 30 hours of sunlight to fully charge the battery pack.
  • All four panels need to be exposed to absorb sunlight, and little clouds or shade can hurt your charge time.

Conclusion

It’s so hard to recommend a solar panel when they range from refrigerator-powering super panels for $200 to small phone chargers at $50. If you need a phone charger, snag the GoerTek. But honestly, you might want to spring for the Renogy Solar Starter Kit to give yourself some options down the road.

Sure, right now you only want to charge your phone, but it gives you a higher ceiling later on. Mastering solar energy can bring some great new options to your camping game, and closing yourself off by limiting your power supply to USB cords isn’t a long term option.

If you do a decent bit of wilderness adventure, you probably want to invest in the solar panel that will keep devices and appliances powered down the road.

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