Solar power isn’t just for homes and businesses – with portable solar panels, you can use the power of the sun on the go. From portable solar panels and solar generators for RV trips to solar phone chargers, there are many kinds of moveable solar products on the market today.
Key takeaways about portable solar panels
- Portable solar panels are best for camping and RV trips if you need power on the go and don’t want to use a generator
- There are many types of portable solar panels – phone chargers, foldable setups, and more for every need
- Explore portable panel options on Amazon or other online retailers, and your home solar-plus-storage options on the EnergySage Marketplace
An overview of portable solar panels
Any solar panel that can be moved around and used for power away from your primary home can be considered “portable.” Portable panels are most commonly used for backup power generation on camping and RV trips. These panels are smaller than typical rooftop or ground-mounted panels – standard residential solar panels usually produce between 250 and 365 watts of power per panel, while portable panels produce closer to 100 watts.
Solar chargers are another version of portable solar; they are smaller, easily transportable solar devices used for charging phones and other small electronics. Most solar phone chargers generate between 5 and 20 watts of power.
While portable panels will never out-perform your typical residential or commercial solar panels head-to-head, they offer a few specific benefits in a few specific use cases compared to traditional options. Aside from being highly mobile and able to be moved to wherever you may need power at the time, portable solar panels are a low-cost way to benefit from solar energy while you’re off the beaten path. While they won’t provide enough energy to power much other than small appliances, a portable solar setup is a great way to use the natural energy of the sun for your on-the-go power needs during a camping trip, hike, or long RV drive.
Because of their smaller size, some portable panel options may come with unique features, such as a kickstand or foldable design that make for easier use on the go.
Portable solar panel product reviews
Charge Kit by Zamp Solar
If you’re looking for a solid portable panel setup from a reputable brand, one Zamp’s Solar Charge Kits are an ideal place to start. With 80, 120, 160, and 200 watt models available, Zamp has the right sized panel system for most situations. All models are weatherproof and come with a handy zippered nylon case for easy transport. The larger models can get heavy, but this also makes them able to withstand wind and stay put on the ground where you set them up.
The Zamp kit has kickstand legs that tilt up to 45 degrees, giving you fine control of how you orient your panels. Additionally, the system comes with a solar charge controller, allowing you to view the status of your panels and their power output.
Portable Folding Solar Kit by Go Power!
Go Power! is another respected brand in the portable solar panel world, and their Portable Folding Solar Kits are good products for people looking to take solar power on the go. Like Zamp’s panels, these monocrystalline panels can be propped up with durable kickstand-like legs so you can rotate them at will and capture the most direct sunlight at any hour.
Also like Zamp’s Solar Charge Kit, the Go Power! portable panels collapse down and fit in a protective carrying case. With a built-in solar charge controller, these panels can be used right out of the box with minimal extra setup.
Head to our Best Portable Solar Products page to learn more.
What to consider when buying portable solar panels for camping
Efficiency: whether it be driving across the country, or visiting a camp site for the weekend, portable solar panel efficiency is an important thing to consider in your buying process. A solar panel that reaches maximum efficiency while taking up as little space as possible is the name of the game in the portable panel market. Your portable solar panel efficiency can be affected by many things, namely your natural surroundings like shade and weather patterns during your trip, so it is important to choose an efficient panel to get the best output.
Size: depending on your plans during your camping trip, and what you may need portable solar energy for, size and portability may be at the top of your priority list. If you are hiking, walking, etc, you may need a panel with less size than one you may need to generate electricity for other activities like cooking. And if you plan on attaching a solar panel to your RV or camper, weight is also a factor to consider.
What are the best ways to use portable solar panels?
Portable panels are useful for some smaller solar projects, but won’t be able to provide enough power for your home. If you are interested in maximizing your electricity savings with a rooftop or ground-mounted solar energy system, the EnergySage Solar Marketplace is the best place to start getting quotes and comparing your options.
That being said, if you’re looking for a small amount of on-the-go solar power, portable panels are a solid option to consider. Here are some of the cases when portable solar panels might be right for you:
Camping and RV trips
A portable solar setup is a great option for RV owners who spend long periods of time off-grid (known as boondocking or dry camping). With a few portable panels, you can recharge a solar generator whenever the sun is shining and use that energy to run some appliances while on a trip. Portable panels allow you to leave that noisy gas-powered generator at home and enjoy the quiet natural landscape you’re traveling through.
Just like a rooftop solar system, portable solar panels need several accessories to produce and store solar energy. You’ll need the proper cables, a battery or solar generator, an inverter, and equipment to keep your panels mounted and secure when they’re in use. While portable solar panels can be useful in many circumstances, it is important to make sure you set them up correctly to reap their full benefits. It’s always a good idea to consult a professional electrician when starting to use any portable solar product for your RV or camper.
What are solar generators?
The best way for campers and RV owners to most effectively reap the benefits of a portable solar setup is to pair panels with a solar generator, which is a battery equipped to pair with solar panels. With a solar generator system, you can use your portable solar setup to produce free energy whenever the sun is shining, and store that energy for when you might need it later.
Check out our page on solar generators for a more in-depth look.
Charging your phone on the go
Portable panels aren’t only useful for serious adventurers. You can purchase small solar chargers that fit in a backpack or your pocket and use them to harness power from the sun. These devices don’t generate and store much energy, but you can use them to recharge a phone or a laptop.
Unlike portable panels used for camping and RVs, solar phone chargers are usually all-in-one devices, meaning you don’t need to do any additional setup to start using solar energy. Simply place your charger in the sun to collect energy, and plug your phone or other devices into the charger when you need to power it up.
Products like the X-Dragon Solar Charger and the Wildtek Portable Charger offer clean energy on the go at a reasonable price for small electronic devices. These won’t power appliances like a microwave, but they can keep your phone up and running for much longer than it’s battery life alone.
Set your home up with solar today
You can use solar energy on the go to keep appliances and small electronics up and running, but solar will save you the most money when you install a rooftop or ground-mounted solar installation to cover as much of your electricity needs as possible. If you want to understand and compare your options for a solar installation on your property, sign up on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. By registering your property, you can get multiple free quotes from high-quality, local installers. If you want to start with some quick numbers on the savings you could see by going solar, check out our Solar Calculator.