Whether you are a hardcore camper who goes off-the-grid for days at a time, or just want to be prepared in case of an emergency, one thing is certain: it’s vital to have backup power.
Your car battery will only last so long before it needs recharging or replacement, but with a portable solar panel, that needn’t be the case any longer.
In this article we look at some of the best portable solar panels available today. First we take a quick look at how they work and go over their benefits and disadvantages compared to other types of power sources. Then we take a look at five different models – two foldable ones and three others – and explain their features. Finally we give our overall opinion on them.
So let’s get right into it!
How Portable Solar Panels Work
A portable solar panel functions by converting the sun’s energy into electrical power. The photons that make up sunlight are transferred to electrons, which are then collected in photovoltaic cells. It is not an easy process – it requires a full day of being out in direct sunlight for the average solar panel to store enough energy to charge your phone or laptop once. This could be less or more depending on factors such as weather conditions and time of year, but there are ways around this problem…
Increasing Power By Adding More Panels And Charge Controllers As you can imagine, having just one small panel is far from enough if you want to produce a good amount of energy. Luckily, there are charge controllers available that can be used to connect several panels together in order to yield more power. The challenge here is making sure the circuit you are using doesn’t get overloaded with too much electricity…
On the downside, if your panels are not powerful enough they will deliver insufficient power, resulting in very slow charging times or even preventing it altogether. They also require direct sunlight to function properly.
The Advantages Of Portable Solar Panels
There are many benefits of owning a portable solar panel – some obvious and some not so much:
1. No Need For Batteries: Going hand-in-hand with point number one, by harnessing the sun’s energy for power you don’t need to waste money on batteries. This is particularly useful for people who live in remote places where purchasing supplies can be costly and difficult. For this article, the two foldable solar panels we review produce 7 watts of energy each (which is enough to charge smartphones, tablets, game consoles etc.).
2. No Need For Electricity: There are certain areas that don’t feature electricity lines or even any buildings at all! Having a portable solar panel could mean the difference between having power when you need it most, or remaining helpless in an emergency situation (and let’s face it: there are worse things than being without your technology!)
3. Environmentally Friendly: By using renewable energy from the sun, you will never have to worry about running out of energy or dealing with harmful emissions.
The Drawbacks Of Portable Solar Panels
There are a number of disadvantages to portable solar panels, but they usually come down to one thing: price. They might be cost-effective and better for the environment than electricity or gasoline power sources, but the upfront prices aren’t exactly cheap (though we also review some more affordable models). Let’s look at what you can expect from them: 1. Less Power Output One problem with portable solar panels is that they only produce between 3 and 7 watts of energy each (if manufactured by a reputable company such as Goal Zero ). Although this isn’t very much compared to home setups (which can generate up to 11000 watts), it should be enough for most purposes.
A common solution to this problem is buying several smaller panels and connecting them together with a few (or even one) charge controller(s). This can be an effective option, but it also has its downsides: 2. More Expensive The more solar panels you add, the more expensive your setup will be. Let’s take for example someone who wants to power their entire home using solar energy: It could get very pricey if they decide to buy enough panels and other equipment to meet their needs. On the plus side, once you have everything in place you should enjoy free energy without having to pay any monthly fees… 3. Less Portability Of course, the whole purpose of these portable solar panels is that you can easily move them from one place to another as needed. However, the more panels you add, the heavier and bulkier your setup will be (and that’s something that might affect your ability to move it around).
Types Of Portable Solar Panels
When it comes to portable solar panels there are two main types: Foldable Solar Panels : these are usually smaller, more affordable models perfect for quick fixes or emergencies. They usually have a relatively low energy output (3-7 watts), but they are lightweight and compact enough to be easily carried with you on camping trips or anywhere else you need power . Minimal assembly is required too – just unfold them when you get where you’re going!
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are generally better than the cheaper, less reliable polycrystalline ones. However, monocrystalline models are also more expensive and take up more space (which is why they aren’t as portable).
Packed Solar Panels vs. Stretched Solar Panels
The second main type of portable solar panel consists of packed or stretched panels – this refers to how you have to assemble them before using them . If you’ve ever seen a model that required assembly before use, then it was probably one of these two types:
1. Packed Solar Panel First things first: what does “packed” mean? When manufacturers talk about packed panels they usually mean ones that come with all the components pre-assembled and ready to use. Assembling them is usually a simple process that just means you have to attach or install the solar cells in some way or another (usually through screws, ties, or zippers).
Packed panels are great for people who don’t want to spend time assembling their set-up – they can pop out of the box and be ready to use within minutes. However, if you’re bad at putting things together then you might want to avoid buying one of these models:
2. Stretched Solar Panel: These panels require assembly before use , but it’s not as complicated as it sounds. All you really need is a little bit of elbow grease and maybe a screwdriver (for tightening and bolts). The main reason why manufacturers produce this type is that it’s more cost effective: since you’re doing the assembly all by yourself, they don’t have to hire someone else to do it for them.
The downside is that if you aren’t very experienced at putting things together (or don’t like assembling furniture), then you might end up breaking some components or damaging the entire setup . If this sounds like something you think would happen to you too, then I suggest buying a packed solar panel instead:
Top Portable & Small Solar Panels
Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
- Adjustable, Corrosion-Resistant aluminum stand as well as a heavy duty handle and latches for longevity. Folded size: 19. 9 x 27. 2 x 2. 8 inches. Ideal output: 500 Watt hours per day (depends on sunlight availability)
- Compatible with gel, sealed, Lithium, and flooded batteries. Charge controller with LCD display for displaying operating Information and data
- 20A built-in 5-stage Solar charge controller provides overcharge protection, reducing Fire risk.Operating Temperature: -40°F to +185°F
- Negative-ground charge controller for compatibility with your RV, boat, trailer, etc.
- The low-voltage system avoids electric shock hazards
FlashFish Foldable 50W 18V Portable Solar Panel
- DC Adapter Made For Solar Generator - With our included different size of connectors(8mm /5.5 * 2.5mm /3.5 * 1.35mm/5.5mm*2.1mm dc adapter), compatible with most solar generator on the market such as Goal Zero, Suaoki portable generator, Paxcess portable power and all of Flashfish portable generator.
- USB Smart Charging Technolog - The build-in smart IC chip intelligently identifies your device, and maximizes its charging speed while protects your devices from over charging and overloading. The charging current of USB ports (5v/2.1A Max) is monitored and automatically adjusted according to the sunlight level. Good for charging smartphones and tablets(iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy), GPS, digital cameras and other 5v usb devices.
- High Conversion Efficiency - Constructed of high-efficiency solar arrays, convert up to 21.5-23.5% of solar power into free energy.
- Fold Up As a Briefcase – When folded, the solar charger looks like a briefcase (17.7 x 17.7 inches) easy for transport and will weigh just about 3.66 pound; When unfolded (17.7 x 35.4 inches), , it can hang on your RV, tent, or just spread out on the beach to gives you instant charge from sunlight.
- Use The USB And 18V Ports at The Same Time – The solar panel will split the incoming solar power between the two ports to charge devices simultaneously.5V USB and 18V DC dual output keep your USB/DC devices full of juice, without having to rely on a wall outlet, or a power bank, and brings you an unplugged lifestyle.
Jackery SolarSaga 100W Portable Solar Panel
- Founded in California in 2012, Jackery specializes in providing outdoor green power solutions for explorers. Jackery portable power station, power outdoors.
- QUIET GENERATOR & ECO-FRIENDLY CLEAN POWER: Build up your Portable-Solar-Generator System together with Jackery Solar Saga 100W and Jackery Explorer 160/240/500/1000 power station (sold separately). Ideally suited for the outdoor life and even unexpected power outages.
- HIGH CONVERSION EFFICIENCY SOLAR GENERATOR: High conversion efficiency up to 23%, generate more energy and perform better than conventional panels in hot weather.
- SOLAR CHARGER WITH USB OUTPUTS: Equipped with 1* USB-C(5V,3A) output port and 1* USB-A(5V, 2.4A) output port, charging multiple small devices at the same time, including smartphones, tablets, digital cameras and more. Please note that USB-C port can not support PD charging.
- WHAT'S INCLUDED: 1*Jackery SolarSaga 100W Solar Panel.
Aeiusny Portable 60W Solar Panel
- MADE FOR SOLAR GENERATORS - Compatible with most solar generator on the market. With our included different size of connectors(8mm DC Adapter for Goal Zero, 5.5 * 2.5mm DC Adapter for Suaoki portable Generator and 3.5 * 1.35mm DC Adapter for Paxcess portable Power Generator), and 5V USB devices, including smartphones and tablets, GPS, digital cameras, etc.
- HIGH CONVERSION EFFICIENCY - Adopting solar panels imported from the United States, convert up to 25% of solar power into free energy, conversion efficiency is 60% higher than ordinary crystalline silicon solar panels.
- 3USB ADVANCED INTELLIGENT TECHNOLOGY - Built-in smart IC chip, intelligent circuit, matching output stable current, can't damage the charging device. 1*QC3.0, reducing charging time and giving you faster power.
- EASY TO CARRY&FORDABLE - When folded, it looks like a laptop bag (13.78x12.79 inches), easy to carry, when unfolded (57.87x13.78 inches), it can be hung on your RV, tent, or on the beach, letting you instantly Charging.
- WATERPROOF AND DURABLE - Waterproof, corrosion resistant, high temperature resistant, ideal for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, hiking, picnics. Please note: the junction box is not waterproof, please keep it dry.
SUAOKI Solar Charger 60W Portable Solar Panel
- DESIGN FOR MOST POWER SUPPLY: compatible with most battery pack on the market, building up a Portable-Solar-Generator System together with Suaoki/Enkeeo/Goal Zero Yeti/Webetop/Paxcess/ROCKPALS power source. For smartphones and tablets(iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy), GPS, digital cameras, etc. Ideally suited for outdoor life and even unexpected power outages.
- UPGRADE CHARGING TECHNOLOGY: the solar panel charger generates 60W output with up to 20% high conversion efficiency under 4.0W Lux, providing enough power to charge two devices simultaneously; 5V USB and 18V DC dual output keep your USB/DC devices full of juice, without having to rely on a wall outlet, or a power bank, and brings you an unplugged lifestyle.
- SUAOKI TIR-C TECHNOLOGY: foldable solar kit built smart IC for the USB port, maximizes its charging speed while protects your devices from over charging and overloading. The charging current of USB ports is monitored and automatically adjusted according to the sunlight level.
- FOLD UP AS A BRIEFCASE: when folded, the solar power charger looks like a briefcase (11.5 x 6.3 inches) easy for transport; when unfolded (11.5 x 65.7 inches), it can hang on your RV, tent, or just spread out on the beach to gives you instant charge from sunlight.
- WHAT'S INCLUDED: 1*SUAOKI 60W Solar Panel, 1*Car Charger, 1*10-in-1 Connector Cable for Laptops, 1*SAE-to-Clamp for Storage Battery, 2*DC-to-DC Cables, 1*DC-to-SAE. 24-months product warranty backed with our friendly customer service available 7×24 hrs.
Other Things To Keep In Mind
Here are a few other important things worth noting when shopping for portable solar panels: Capacity : how much power does the unit output? How many watts of energy will it give me every hour/day?
Ampere-hours : the higher the better. Inverter or Battery? This is something to keep in mind if you’re going “off-grid” and don’t want to use batteries . On the other hand, if you do plan on using batteries then make sure your inverter can work with them!
Warranty : good quality portable solar panels always come with a warranty. Choose one that comes with at least 5 (preferably 10) years of protection for maximum durability.
Design : what kind of design does it have? Is it lightweight enough to carry around whenever needed? What about easy maneuverability? How bulky/big is the entire system – will I be able to take it anywhere easily?!
Mounting options (if necessary): some portable solar panels require installation on a roof or frame. Make sure you’ll be able to attach the entire system wherever you want before buying!