While camping provides the perfect opportunity to switch off from technology and be at one with nature, you have to agree with me that it’s nice to have the option to use your devices.
Charging phones, tablets, and laptops in the middle of nowhere isn’t impossible. In fact, it’s super easy to achieve without any access to electricity.
All you need is a solar panel and daylight!
While there’s plenty of good solar panels on the market, I wanted to find the best portable solar panel for hiking trips.
In this article, I’m going to talk you through the pros and cons of the eight best solar panels for camping available in 2020.
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- TOP 8 Portable Solar Panels for Camping 2020
- Why do You Need a Portable Solar Panel?
- Things to Consider
- The Bottom Line?
TOP 8 Portable Solar Panels for Camping 2020
Suaoki Solar Charger
Review: The SUAOKI solar panel can charge smartphones, tablets, cameras, GPS devices, media players, and laptops wherever you are!
This compact panel outputs 60 Watt, which is enough power to charge two devices at once.
The panel also features overloading and overcharging protection technology, so you don’t have to worry about damaging your devices if you forget to unplug them.
Other product highlights include the splash-proof material, multiple connector cables, and the 2-year warranty period.
I particularly liked that while the SUAOKI panels are relatively large, the entire system packs down to briefcase size, making it one of the best solar panels for camping on the market.
- 60 Watt output.
- Overcharging protection technology.
- Dual 5V / 18V output.
- Can only be used when stationary as it’s too large when unfolded to attach your hiking backpack.
Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase
Review: The Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase is another impressive portable solar panel that folds down to briefcase size.
The panel features a durable aluminum frame, and the entire product weighs less than 25 pounds.
One of my favorite features of the Goal Zero panel is the removable kickstand. Choose between mounting the panels in a flat position or stand them upright to make the most of the sun.
Note that the panel only connects with 8mm jacks to ensure that the system doesn’t overheat or exceed the 12V output. Lucky for you, the panel comes with a six-foot 8mm cable so you won’t have to research compatible jacks!
- 100 Watt output.
- Safe connectors.
- Monocrystalline cells.
- The Goal Zero Yeti Portable Power Station is an add-on that you’ll have to purchase separately if you want to store power.
Goal Zero Nomad 28 Plus Solar Panel
Review: The Goal Zero Nomad solar panel produces 28 Watts, features a USB connecting port, and boasts a waterproof layer that makes it compatible with almost any weather!
Again, I really like the detachable kickstand as you have the option to easily stand the panels up or lay them down to make the most of the sunlight.
As for your devices, the Goal Zero can fully charge almost any electrical device that you’ll need when camping. So, what’s Goal Zero’s defining feature? Well, that’s a tie between the LED indicator and the auto-restart feature.
The LED indicator is a handy tool that displays solar conditions, speed of charging, and more, while the auto-restart allows the panels to automatically reboot themselves if they’re disconnected (which can and will happen when the sun drops behind a cloud for too long).
- 28 Watt output.
- LED indicator.
- Auto-restart feature.
- Better suited to small devices.
Jackery SolarSaga Solar Panel
Review: The Jackery SolarSaga is a California made solar panel with a high conversion efficiency rating for generating solar power.
The folks at Jackery claim that this particular panel generates 23% more energy than any other panel on the market!
Features include convenient stand brackets, two USB outputs, and a durable ETFE material that claims to make the panel’s surface transmit light at a higher rate.
While the Jackery SolarSaga does fold down into a rectangle and features a carry handle, it’s still quite big and perhaps not the most practical panel to take camping.
Whatsmore, it’s unlikely that you’d need the maximum 100 Watt output to charge simple devices such as phones, tablets, and cameras.
- 100 Watt output.
- Quiet generator.
- Packs away flat.
- Quite big to carry.
Kyng Solar Panel
Review: The KYNG 120 Watt solar panel is another nifty panel that folds down to briefcase size and is super lightweight, making it suitable for camping trips.
The panel uses iSolar technology and automatically adjusts to the current-voltage to deliver a fast and reliable charge.
Most importantly, the panel and its casing are fully waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about exposing it to the elements when hiking or camping.
My favorite thing about the KYING solar panel, however, is that it has 3 USB ports. The majority of portable solar panels have one or two USB connectors, so three is quite impressive.
- Compatible with most generators.
- Compact and lightweight.
- 1-year warranty.
- Excessively powerful for charging smartphones.
Paxcess RV Solar Panel
Review: Now I have to admit that the PAXCESS RV solar panel is a beast. While advertised as being portable, it’s likely far too big for you to take hiking.
However, if you’ve got an RV or you’re going car camping, then it could just be the solar panel for you!
With an output of 120 Watt, four different connectors, and compatible with most generators, the PAXCESS panel is a trusty power source. The 23% conversion rate offered by PAXCESS is quite impressive, too, and you can rest assured that all your devices will be charged in no time.
If you’re not in the market for this much power, consider PAXCESS’s sister, the 60W portable solar panel. You’ll lose 60W of power, but save yourself over $100.
- 120 Watt output.
- High energy conversion.
- Fast charge.
- Too big.
Soshine Camping Solar Panel
Review: If all the portable panels I’ve shown you so far are just too big for your camping needs, then take a look at this compact camping solar panel by Soshine.
This little pocket rocket folds down to 26.7 x 17.5 x 0.25 cm, roughly the same size as a magazine.
Of course, you can’t have a tiny solar panel without compromising on something, and in this case, it’s power.
The Soshine only provides 10 Watts of energy, so it’ll take a good few hours to charge a phone or a battery.
- Super small and easy to carry.
- Built-in IC chip offers smart charging.
- Lightweight (2 pounds).
- Minimal Watt output.
Dokio Solar Panel
Review: The DOKIO 150W solar panel is one of the more affordable solar panels on the market, and it hasn’t even compromised on size or energy output.
The DOKIO folds down to briefcase size, weighs less than 10 pounds, and has a comfortable carry handle.
The DOKIO prides itself on producing more power than a standard solar panel, despite being smaller. The panel’s monocrystalline solar cells are apparently to thank for this feature.
I particularly liked that the panel comes with a solar controller and a solar charger for 12V batteries, meaning you don’t have to spend any more time or money to enjoy the panel’s full power.
- Portable design is practical to carry.
- High conversion rate.
- Includes batteries.
- Excessively powerful.
Why do You Need a Portable Solar Panel?
Portable solar panels are traditional modules that can easily be folded away and safely set up. The modules are far smaller than a solar charger and are particularly popular with hikers and backpackers in need of a little energy!
As most campsites have electric hook-ups these days, you might be questioning why you’d ever need a portable solar panel.
Frankly, there are several reasons why a solar panel should be on your camping to-buy list, but the two biggest reasons are to save money and to help save the planet!
When purchasing a solar panel, you’ll pay a one-off purchase fee and be left with a product that you can use for years. When you go camping, you won’t need to pay an additional fee each night to use the onsite electricity as you can generate your own!
Over time, a solar panel is far more economical than repeatedly paying for the use of campsite electricity. Solar panels also have low maintenance costs, so long as you take care of it.
As for the environment, solar power is 100% clean, renewable energy. That means it’s an eco-friendly way to produce electricity and help reduce the effects of global warming.
So as long as the sun keeps on shining (and it’s scheduled to do so for a further 5 billion years), you’ll be able to keep charging your devices without damaging the environment.
Another significant benefit of having a solar panel as opposed to booking an electric pitch is that you have the freedom to camp in remote areas.
Your solar panel allows you to camp in the middle of nowhere and provides peace of mind that your devices will always be charged!
Things to Consider
Charge Interruption Recovery
When the sun is beating down consistently, there’s no doubt your solar panel will be charging your devices at full speed.
But what happens when the clouds come over, or the sun is only partially out?
Find out whether the portable solar panel you’re considering purchasing can handle a drop in sunlight. Solar panels that have a greater wattage or a built-in battery to store and even out the energy usage are usually the best at providing consistent charging.
It’s all very well being able to charge your devices in the middle of nowhere, but you need to know how fast your solar panel can spring into action.
In general, the higher the output power of a solar panel (wattage), the quicker it will charge your device. 20 Watts is a good level of power.
Similarly, if you’re looking to charge two devices at once, you’ll need to double-check the wattage. I’d suggest something of 15 watts or more at a minimum.
As mentioned, wattage (W) is the term used to describe the amount of electrical power generated by a solar panel.
High wattage solar panels are great for fast charging, but they’re also ideal if you’ve got multiple devices to charge at once.
I recommended you purchase a solar panel that has the capability of producing a larger wattage than the wattage you require.
This way, when the clouds roll in, you won’t be as disappointed with the drop in wattage.
Make sure your portable solar panel is up to the challenge and doesn’t warp or whiter after months of direct sunlight.
As there, sole purpose is to soak up the sun, and with developments in technology, it’s unlikely you’d purchase a solar panel that struggled to perform in consistently high temperatures. That being said, it’s not unheard of.
As you’ll likely be carrying your solar panel in your backpack (or on your backpack) most of the day, the panel’s weight is pretty important.
Anything that’s too heavy or bulky to pack is a no-go, while something lightweight and collapsable is a big win-win.
In general, anything below 50 pounds is a manageable weight for backpacking.
Before purchasing a portable solar panel, double-check what devices it’s capable of charging. Most will cover smartphones, laptops, and LEDs. Bonus devices include speakers, coolers, fans, lanterns, and cigarette lighters.
Most portable solar panels come with a USB adapter, but make sure you purchase additional adaptors for other devices.
Some solar panels also come with charging controllers that regulated the output of power to each of your devices.
It’s also worth purchasing a long-length table if you want to set your solar panel up in sunlight but sit in the shade while using your devices.
Are solar panels hard to assemble?
The beauty of portable solar panels is that they’re designed with campers in mind. Setting them up is easy, and most can be up and running in a matter of minutes.
If you have an RV or campervan and are looking into larger solar panels, the set up can take a little longer than a portable device.
How heavy are portable solar panels?
Most portable solar panels are built using lightweight aluminum or similar materials and weigh anywhere between ten and 50 pounds.
Do solar panels store charge for later?
No, solar panels don’t store charge. They produce power when exposed to sunlight. However, you can get add on power-chargers for solar panels (like the Goal Zero Boulder 100 Briefcase), and these can hold unused power for hours.
What devices will a solar panel charge?
Most portable solar panels have the power to charge your tablet, smartphone, laptop, camera, batteries, and more.
The Bottom Line?
So there you have it, the 8 best solar panels for camping available in 2020!
My favorite has to be the Goal Zero Nomad 28 Plus Solar Panel. It’s compact, lightweight, and features neat auto-restart technology, so you don’t have to check your device is still charging constantly.
If you’re on a budget and are after a simple solar panel to charge your phone every now and then, consider the compact Soshine amping Solar Panel 10W. While I liked the DOKIO 150W Solar Panel price, I’m a little dubious as to how it can perform better than the 120 Watt panels on the market yet cost less.
If you’ve not found the perfect solar panel to suit your camping needs, you might want to check out my review of alternative portable charging devices here.
Once you’ve settled on a portable solar panel, it’s time to get your devices in order. Browse through my favorite electronic organizers here.
Own one of the above portable solar panels?
Share your review! Leave your comment below and tell me the pros and cons of your solar panel from personal experience.