Best Portable Solar Panels For Camping In 2022
The best solar panels for camping are now incredibly affordable.
You can easily find a quality solar charger for recharging smartphones for under $50.
Or, you can go all out and spend several hundred on a top-of-the-line setup that pairs portable solar panels with a portable power station.
Today, Im going to break down all the different options.
Well start with my top recommendations for both solar chargers and solar panels in 2021 before moving onto a basic rundown of what makes these solar power devices tick.
Installing Solar Panels On Your Rv
Installing rigid solar panels on your camper van will require a few pieces of mounting hardware and a handful of holes. Fortunately, the process is relatively simple and wont do a lot of damage to your rooftop.
Z-Bracket Mounts are one of the easiest ways to hold your panels in place. You can attach them to roof rack rails or directly on top of the roof.
To get a proper seal, place a strip of Eternabond tape beneath the bracket and fill the mounting holes with a dollop of lap sealant before tightening the hardware down.
If youre installing panels on a fiberglass roof: substitute the included small washers with larger ones on both sides of the fiberglass to spread the load and prevent cracking.
Adjustable tilt mounts can get you better efficiency on the roof, or work as a stand if you are using portable panels. With an adjustable tilt mount, you can install solar panels with or without a z-bracket.
Solar cable glandsbridge the gap between the roof and the interior of your van. They are small, weatherproof covers that you can run solar cables or other wires through. They can be attached with glue, sealant or screws.
Lap Sealant should be used to weatherproof your install. Seal any remaining gaps or holes in your rooftop with this to prevent future leaks.
Rockpals Sp002 Foldable 60w Solar Panel
The ROCKPALS SP002 Foldable 60W Solar Panel is another model that guarantees fast charging and a host of several other features. The solar panel features in-built TIR-C technology for enhanced functionality. This feature automatically adjusts to the current, which gives you fast charge. The solar cell also features crystal silicon that guarantees greater efficiency of up to 20%.
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Topsolar Solarfairy 100w Portable Foldable Solar Panel
Here’s another excellent portable solar panel for RV that’s worth buying. The Topsolar SolarFairy 100W Portable Foldable Solar Panel has all features that you can expect from high-end models. For starters, it comes with a 19V DC port and connectors for enhanced performance. The features make this solar panel an excellent choice for use as a portable power station. Additionally, you’ll like the fast charging technology. It features dual USB ports, and the charging option is compatible with any tablet or smartphone.
As for the design, the solar panel features ETFE materials and advanced laminated technology. The combination ensures durability and long-term performance. Just like other high-end portable RV solar panels, this unit is foldable. When folded, it measures 9.84 x 7.87 x 2.36 inches, so you’re sure of a compact unit that won’t consume much space. Also, the included smart IC adds to the functionality by preventing overload or overcharging. What’s more, the inclusion of adjustable brackets gives users the freedom to change the angle for better power output.
Hqst 100w 12v Solar Panel
Heres another solar panel that offers 100 watts running at 12 volts, this time from HQST. The panels are designed with iron-tempered glass in multiple layers. Thus, it is stiff and tough, resisting impact for fewer damages throughout the years.
The framing is also quite sturdy, seeing as how its fashioned to resist corrosion. Because of this, you can use these panels outdoors for extended periods.
There are bypass diodes in the panel that allow it to keep working just as efficiently, even without direct sunlight. This ensures that the power will still be up and running even as we pass by dim and shaded areas.
Another thing I love about this solar panel is that the accessories that come with the kit are excellent. The junction box is built with IP65 technology, making it waterproof. Meanwhile, the cable connectors are about 2 feet long. This makes your solar system more mobile and gives you more flexibility as to how you want to set everything up.
- Made with iron-tempered glass to be extra stiff and resist impact
- The panels sturdy framing resists corrosion
- Contains bypass diodes to ensure sufficient power in low-light areas
- Has a junction box that is IP65 waterproof for minimal damage
- The connectors are 2 feet long, for more mobility and flexibility for set-up
- Large, so they can be tricky to position on smaller vans
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Renogy 21w Solar Panel Foldable Charger
Renogy is a well known name in the off-grid solar world. They produce a wide range of products including charge controllers, full size panels, and battery systems. Their 21W portable solar panel uses a folding design for maximum portability.
Its 5.9 x 11.8 inches when folded and weighs just over a pound. This makes it one of the lightest panels available for the watts produced. It uses high efficiency monocrystalline solar cells coated with a durable PET plastic cover.
It has two USB ports optimized with Smart Charging capability to provide the optimum charging conditions for any device. Theyre each capable of providing up to 2A of power.
The Renogy 21W is a lightweight panel from a quality manufacturer. It offers excellent performance at a very affordable price.
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Renogy 100w 12v Solar Panel
Renogy is a reputable brand, so you can confidently trust its products for reliability, durability, and efficiency. The Renogy 12V Solar Panel is another great product from this brand. The model measures 19.9 x 27 x 2.8″ when folded. With the compact and portable design, travel enthusiasts will have an easy time moving with the panel. Better yet, this portable RV solar panel has an IP-66 rating, which guarantees normal performance even under rainy conditions.
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Best Flexible Solar Panels For A Camper
There are a number of brands that make flexible solar panels specifically for campers. Commonly, these panels can bend up to 30 degrees making them a good choice for curved surfaces like teardrop trailers or boats.
They are also lightweight and are much easier to install than rigid panels.
For the best flexible panels, we recommend ALLPOWERS, Renogy and Suaoki brands. They share many of the same features including a decent warranty, high efficiency, and resistance to extreme weather.
Benefits Of Rv Solar Panels When Rv Camping
Being sustainable is the thing to go, not only for camping but for everything in life. You cant really go wrong by residing and traveling in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, and really a lifestyle will undoubtedly save you money and provide you with a lot of enjoyment in the long run. If you want to know what makes going for a solar panel for RV camping such a good idea, we can talk about it here! Weve listed a few benefits of solar panels that are just some you can dwell on.
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Are Rv Solar Panels Right For You
It’s difficult to argue with the benefits of solar energy, but RV solar panels might not be right for everyone. If you live in your RV and often take it off-grid , then solar can be a convenient and eco-friendly alternative to gas-powered generators. However, solar might not be worth the investment if you only use your RV once or twice per year or only stay at campgrounds or RV parks.
More about solar panels:
Panel Selection And Cost
RV solar panels are available in a variety of sizes and configurations. The cost of RV solar will depend on the type and number of panels you choose.
In general, larger and more powerful solar arrays will be more expensive. However, they will also produce more electricity, which can offset the higher initial cost.
The average cost of a small RV solar panel system is around $600. A medium-sized system may cost between $1,500 and $2,000, while an extensive system can run upwards of $5,000.
Of course, these prices are just estimates, and your actual costs will depend on the specific products you choose and the installation costs in your area.
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Paxcess 120w Rv Solar Panel
RV owners looking to bring their adventures further from the road should get a portable generator. Unfortunately, portable generators do not pack unlimited energy. That is why you need to have a system that replenishes the generators power on the fly. The PAXCESS 120W RV Solar Panel fits the role perfectly.
This solar energy solution is every outdoor enthusiasts reliable power companion. It recharges portable generators up to 20 percent faster than conventional 100-watt systems. Not only does it supply your generator with clean energy. It can also power up your handheld and mobile devices because of a pair of integrated USB ports in the unit.
Most foldable solar panels come with a three-panel design. This product features four, each of which producing 30 watts of solar energy. The solar systems four-panel design makes it narrower than other brands when folded. Its design never compromises the solar panels ability to convert as much as 23 percent sunlight into clean energy.
At only 11.6 pounds and 0.2 inches thick when opened, this folding solar panel is one of the easiest to carry and set up. Outdoor adventurers will never complain about having to take this device uphill.
This product is not for people looking for solar panels for RV battery charging because it connects only to portable generators and similar power solutions. I think this product would have justified its price if it can also charge deep cycle batteries.
Best Rv Solar Panel Kits Reviewed
If you are a beginner in solar power or just want to avoid pulling the whole setup together, the good idea is to get a solar panel kit. Its a combination of solar panels and a battery bank connected via a cable to generate solar power.
Heres a list of the best solar kits for RV that will cover all of your electrical needs.
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Absorbed Glass Mat Batteries
Absorbed glass mat batteries are a relatively new battery available on the market, and they are a good choice as an RV solar battery. These deep cycle batteries are sealed, making them a maintenance-free choice for RV owners. Like gel batteries, AGM batteries would struggle to meet the energy demands of a household. But, the lower needs of an RV make them a good choice and compared to other battery options for RVs, the upfront cost is relatively low.
However, AGM batteries can be more expensive compared to lead-based batteries, making them a less attractive option in some cases. They can also be ruined by overcharging, and they arent as efficient as Li-ion battery options. With AGM batteries, RV owners need to ensure that their charge controller remains in good working order.
Dokio 100w Foldable Solar Panel
The DOKIO 100W portable solar power system for RV is a more rigid and more durable version of the FFSP-110 100W portable solar panel kit. It is an excellent solution for motorhome owners who want to take their adventures to a whole new level.
What may surprise you about this portable solar panel is its weight. It has the same components as other 100-watt solar panels on the market, yet it only tips the weighing scale at 18.5 pounds. Its folded dimension is also not that great, allowing for exceptional portability wherever you decide to camp.
Its monocrystalline solar panels can provide 600 volts of maximum DC power, with an operating voltage of 18 volts. It is sufficient to charge lead-acid, gel, AGM, and even lithium batteries, allowing you to run your motorhomes appliances and devices.
There is also no need to worry about overloading your system or wasting stored energy in your battery. The systems PWM controller takes care of that intuitively, without any input from you.
This product is as strong and stable as a rock. It can withstand snow loads of up to 5,400 Pa or about 125 pound-feet per square foot. The solar panel can remain standing even with strong winds of up to 2,400 Pa or about 130 MPH. Its aluminum stand also resists corrosion for added durability.
- Use only as a battery charger.
- Short cable
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Using Flexible Solar Panels On A Stealth Camper Van
If youre trying to build a stealth camper van, any panels mounted to your roof are going to be a giveaway that someone is living in a van.
There are various ways disguise this with roof racks and flush-mounted flexible panels.
When youre living in a van, hiding yourself has as much to do with your location as it does how your van looks. In neighborhoods that are wary of the homeless, just having a vehicle above a certain height will get the cops called on you.
Other areas of cities have full Class C RVs parked in broad daylight and no one blinks an eye.
This is all to say that we dont think that its worth sacrificing a lot of effort and resources trying to hide your solar as you may be thinking. If you have solar panels, hiding them helps in only a small percentage of situations.
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Solar Panel Formula For Rv
Finally, we have created a formula that you can use to determine the number of solar panels your RV need.
Dont let this bit of mathematics scare you off, I promise it is very easy to grasp once you get used to the different metrics used.
Okay, so to figure out how many solar panels your RV will need we will use the formula above.
Monthly electric usage ÷ monthly peak sun hours x 1000 ÷ solar panel power rating.
Lets start with an example.
You plan on driving your RV across Arizona. This state experiences on average 5.7 peak sun hours daily or 176,7 monthly.
So, lets apply the formula.
First, you need to convert your electricity consumption from Wh to kWh, so 4,848Wh = 4.8kWh.
4.8kWh x 31 days = 148,8kWh monthly.
148,8 ÷ 176,7 = 0,842 x 1000 = 842 watts.
842 ÷ 200 = 4,21
Using our formula you can see that an RV driving through Arizona with 4,8kWh monthly electricity consumption will require x4,21 solar panels to offset all their energy usage. Now of course there are no half panels, so we would recommend rounding 4,21 to 5.
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Monocrystalline Vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels For Rv: Which One Is Better
Both these types could provide rig owners with usable solar power for many years. But choosing which ones better comes down to your circumstances. For instance, RVers looking to travel in foggy places regularly should invest in monocrystalline solar panels.
Monocrystalline solar panels tend to work better in low light situations and are more efficient, which could benefit many rig owners. But these models are more expensive than polycrystalline options.
As a result, most rig owners proceed to pick polycrystalline options because of their low cost and only slightly less effective performance. Youll have to decide whether you value higher efficiency or bargain prices to determine what type best fits your preferences.
Go Power 130 Watt Portable Solar Kit
The 130 watt portable solar kit from Go Power! is ideal for RVers who do not want to install a roof-mounted solar system. With its adjustable legs and carrying case, the foldable, 130-watt panel is simple to store and deploy.
A 10 Amp PWM charge controller, cabling, and battery clamps are also included in the kit. The panel is covered by a 25-year warranty.
Because it is lightweight, foldable, and comes with a storage case, Go Power! is our choice for best portable RV solar kit. Furthermore, it can be used in conjunction with an existing rooftop system or as supplemental power.
What else could you ask for in a portable solar panel?
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Renogy 100 Watt Rv Solar Panel
If you intend on camping off-grid, Renogys 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline RV Solar Panel is an excellent option. This model has one of the most effortless installation processes among the products on our list.
You can attribute its easy installation to pre-drilled holes on the panels back. As a result, the mounting and securing process becomes much easier. I was thrilled with this products compact design that makes the installation much more comfortable, as well.
Rig owners looking to add more panels in the future should also consider this model. It comes equipped with solar panel connectors and a junction box to ensure this task is done quickly. Its always a good idea to prepare ahead of time with devices like these.
As for the solar panels performance, this model is one of the most reliable available. Its made from advanced encapsulation material and contains multi-layered sheet lamination to maximize cell performance.
Both these features will also increase its durability and ensure it lasts a long time. Its strength is another area where it excels as its known to handle heavy snow loads and high winds. Theres no reason to believe this solar panel wont be usable for many years.
The products versatility is another winning trait, as it has been known to offer excellent performance in various situations. I cant envision a single scenario where this device wont function to its maximum ability.