Best Solar Panels
The best solar panels will make it easier to live off the grid. Not to mention, it is a great way to join the revolution for clean energy sources. Whether you are in the campsite or RV, among other places, lightweight and compact solar panels will provide electricity on the go!
From your smartphone to camera, solar panels will come in handy when you are in a place with no power. It is a great addition to your mobile home or tent. This is a good investment for outdoor lovers.
Choosing the best solar panels can be overwhelming. Read on and we’ll help you make the right choice! Here, we’ll be talking about portable solar panels that you can bring anywhere you go, and not the type that you install on roofs.
What is a Solar Panel?
A solar panel is a green alternative source of energy. It has an assembly of photovoltaic cells. It harnesses energy from the sun and converts it into electricity. Traditionally, these panels are heavy, bulky, and expensive. Nowadays, they are lightweight, compact, and affordable, especially the portable solar panels we’ll be talking about in this guide. You can easily transport these panels and use them wherever you are without requiring permanent installation.
How Does a Portable Solar Panel Work?
The portable solar panel has several photovoltaic layers, which are made of silicone. When sunlight hits the surface, the photons generate an electric field. The panels also have metallic strips, which is where the electric field will channel and send it to a battery. From the battery, this energy is stored and used to power appliances or gadgets connected.
While it works in a straightforward manner, it does not mean that you can directly connect a solar panel to your appliances. Depending on the brand and model of what you will choose, you need several accessories. For instance, you will need a charge controller, which is the one responsible for regulating power output. A battery and inverter are also necessary. In most products, a 12-volt battery will be more than enough, but you will need a larger capacity if you will run more appliances. The inverter, meanwhile, is the one responsible for converting direct current to alternating current.
Benefits of Investing in a Portable Solar Panel
The initial cost of solar panels can be quite high. However, think of the long-term benefits, and you will have compelling reasons to invest in one. Here are some of its advantages.
• Enjoy Power On the Go: With a portable solar panel, you can enjoy electricity wherever you are. It may not be as powerful as an inverter generator, but it is a good alternative power source when you are out of home.
• Eco-Friendly: Another good thing about portable solar panels is that you can enjoy electricity while cutting carbon emissions. Even in a little way, this is a good step to show your concern for the environment.
• Save Money: It can be quite expensive, but if you think of its long-term benefits, you will realize that it will be worth every dollar. You can save on electricity and gas. Not to mention, it is also cheaper compared to investing in a portable generator.
• Silent: This is a major benefit when compared to using camping generators. Solar panels will provide electricity without any noise. This means that you can sleep at night while staying comfortable without any distraction.
Choosing the Best Solar Panel
Do not be tempted to pick the cheapest portable solar panel. Go beyond the price! To help you make a wise decision, below are some of the most important considerations.
Type of Solar Panel
Not all portable solar panels are the same. The first thing that you need to do is to know the different types available and find one that is most suitable for your needs. Below, we’ll talk about the major options that you have.
• Monocrystalline: This is the gold standard when it comes to portable solar panels. It is popular because of its efficiency. To work, it uses a crystalline-based silicone that joins the panel in a single sheet. It uses high-purity silicone, which makes it more durable and high-performing. It can deliver the highest energy savings, making it a great option despite being the most expensive.
• Polycrystalline: It has several sheets of silicone that covers the panel. It is easy to recognize because of its blue color. It is made out of melted silicone fragments, which is also why it is affordable. Nonetheless, it is not as efficient as a monocrystalline solar panel.
• Thin Film: If you are looking for a lightweight and portable solar panel, then you should go for one that is made of thin film. Because of its weight and construction, this is not as powerful as the two earlier mentioned.
You can easily narrow down your choices by considering the power output that you need. This will depend on the gadgets or appliances that you wish to connect to the solar panel. The more you wish to power, the larger should be the solar panel. In turn, when the solar panels are exceptionally powerful, you might end up compromising portability. If it is just for charging smartphones and lights, then you do not need a lot of power. In contrast, you will need a higher output if you intend to run appliances.
To determine the power output, one of the most important technical specifications to understand is the wattage. For most people, a 100-watt portable solar panel works best. You will have the best of both worlds – power and portability. If you need to run appliances like electric cooker or portable air conditioner, then go for about 300 watts.
The best way to assess the durability of the solar panel is to look at the materials used. It is good if you can physically inspect the panels and have a feel of its materials. By touching the panel, you can determine how solid it is. It can be quite expensive, so you need to choose one that will last a long time. You should also take the time to read online reviews and learn from what other people are saying about a specific product’s durability.
Speaking of durability, you also need to look at the solar panel’s weather resistance. It must keep up with the demands of outdoor use. Whether it is rain, snow, or dust, among others, the panels must withstand the harsh external elements that can speed up its wear.
For your peace of mind, consider the warranty that the manufacturer offers. The standard is to offer one-year warranty. However, some are confident about the quality and performance of their panels, which is why they are recommending a more extensive coverage. Within the warranty coverage, the manufacturer offers free repair or replacement depending on the terms and conditions.
Tips and Tricks for Using Portable Solar Panels
Choosing the best solar panel is just one part of the story. Another part would be how you use it. Here are some tips that will let you maximize its benefits:
• Read the instructions from the manufacturer and follow them religiously. Different solar panels have different designs, so do things based on the recommendations of the manufacturer.
• Pick the right spot where you will install the solar panels. Remember, they rely on the heat of the sun. This means that the power it can store will depend on how much energy it can harness. So, position it somewhere it can absorb optimal solar energy.
• Pay attention to the care and maintenance of your solar panels. Keeping them clean is the secret to optimizing its benefits. Because of its outdoor use, it can easily get dirty.Wipe the panels using a clean cloth after every use. A soft brush or sponge will also help. Do not use water with high mineral content.
• Keep the panels secure so that they won’t fall. Start by assessing the wind direction so that you will know where to best position the panels. If the panels are not properly set, they will end up being blown by the wind.
• Monitor the performance of the solar panels to be sure that you are getting the most out of it. Invest in devices like an amp meter. Through proper monitoring, you can easily spot problems and solve them before they get worse.
Our Top Picks for the Best Solar Panels
Ready to start shopping? Below are ten of the top products that should be on your radar, as well as the features that make them impressive.
With a total of 120 watts of power, this is more powerful compared to the other options that are included on our list. From laptops to smartphones, it can charge multiple gadgets. It offers excellent value for the money not only because of its performance, but also because of the accessories included. Despite this, there are some complaints about how its durability can be better.
This is a plug-and-play solar panel, which means that it is ready to use out of the box. There is no need for complicated installation. All that you need to do is to find the perfect spot where the sun shines and you are ready to use the panel. Attach the necessary connectors and it won’t take long before you can make the most out of it. To add, it is compatible with most brands of portable generators.
Bring It Anywhere
The portability of this solar panel is also notable. Weighing only nine pounds, it is easy to bring wherever you are going. Even when you are hiking, the weight won’t be a significant addition to your backpack. It will never be a burden for you to carry this solar panel.
Exceptional Folding Design
This is also the reason why it is exceptional in terms of portability. It is sleek and lightweight when collapsed. To add, the folding design is also good when it comes to positioning the solar panel. It can double as a stand to support the entire body. This will let you customize the position of the panel based on the location of the sun.
Built to be Long-Lasting
You can expect this solar panel to withstand the test of time. It is made of long-lasting materials, making it worth every dollar. One of our favorites is the splash-proof surface. It is made of Oxford cloth. The bag, meanwhile, has durable and smooth zippers. The panels, on the other, utilize advanced lamination techniques to protect against wear. According to the manufacturer, the panels can last up to 15 years.
Basic Solar Controller
The solar controller that comes with this solar panel will show basic information you need to know. It also has dual USB output, so you can charge two gadgets at a time. There is a small digital display, which will show volts but not watts.
• Includes multiple accessories
• Compact and lightweight
• Splash-proof surface
• Short cables
• Durability can be an issue
The price of this solar panel can easily discourage many people, but that should not be the case. There’s a reason why it is expensive. From its construction to its performance, you will have countless reasons to choose this over many of its competitors.
Among others, one thing that we like the most in this product is its top-notch construction, which means that you can expect it to withstand many years of use. It is made using ETFE material, with can withstand the rigors of the outdoor environment. This is also one of the reasons why it provides the best value for every dollar.
Power Wherever You Go
Aside from durability, we also admire this product because of its portability. At 9.1 pounds, it is easy to bring the panels wherever you are going. We also love the foldable design for space efficiency. Plus, it has a built-in carrying handle. This is unlike cheaper models that can be a burden for you to carry.
Easy to Position
More than being easy to carry, positioning the solar panel is effortless. Once unfolded, it won’t take long before it will provide the power that you need. We love the built-in kickstand, which will support the weight of the panels. This also allows users to position the panels properly depending on the angle that can absorb the most energy from the sun.
High Conversion Efficiency
Looking at the technical specifications of this product, one thing that captivates our attention is the high conversion efficiency, which can reach up to 23%. This will let it generate more energy compared to most of its competitors. This means that you can enjoy dependable electricity without waiting forever!
Comes with Two USB Ports
You can charge up to two devices when you are using this portable solar panel. The unit comes with one USB-A and one USB-C output. You can charge your phone and portable light at the same time. No need to choose which one needs to be powered first!
Offers Different Safety Features
To add, we love this solar panel because it comes with multiple features to ensure safety. For instance, it has overpower, surge, and short circuit protection. This will protect the appliances that you will connect as well as the panel itself.
• Lightweight and easy to carry
• Durable construction
• High conversion efficiency
• Power output can be better
Made to be compatible with solar generators, this is another product that can provide dependable power on the go. With a 100-watt power output, it can power several gadgets and appliances when you are outdoors. It is also weather-resistant, so you can have peace of mind when it comes to its durability.
Easily Bring It with You
We have seen a lot of solar panels that are frustrating because of their design. Luckily, this isn’t one of them. It is built with portability in mind, so you will not have a problem when bringing it outdoors. Once folded, it is compact and lightweight. Best of all, there is an integrated handle that will make it a breeze to carry.
Rugged Design for Outdoor Use
Solar panels are installed outdoors, and hence, they are easily exposed to external elements that can result in serious damages. Good thing, this solar panel is water-resistant – Take note that the junction box is not waterproof, so you need to keep it dry.
Charge Quickly and Intelligently
Another reason to choose this solar panel is that it charges gadgets quickly. You do not need to wait a long time before the battery is full. It has a more stable voltage output, which is why you can expect faster charging. To add, it has intelligent features that will protect both the panel and your gadgets. Some of its safety features include overload, over-current, over-charge, and over-temperature protection. These are some things that can also provide you with peace of mind.
Comes with Multiple Connectors
When you purchase this solar panel, you will receive multiple connectors. The sizes of the connectors will vary depending on the gadget or appliance that you would like to connect. This is a good way to save money, unlike in other solar panels wherein the connectors are sold separately.
Exceptional Conversion Efficiency
The high conversion efficiency is another compelling reason to choose this solar panel. This refers to the portion of energy from the sunlight that it converts into electricity. With an efficiency of 21.5 to 23.5%, it can satisfy the needs of most users.
• Compatible with most solar-powered batteries
• Smart charging technology
• Top-notch construction
• No supports for angling the panels
• Performance can be lower than stated output
For a portable and convenient power solution, Renogy has your back! Even in low light environments, the panels can absorb optimal energy from the sun, which will result in unmatched reliability. We also love how it is parallel capable, so you can add more panels to increase the power output.
High-Quality Panel Construction
As noted earlier, monocrystalline is the best option for solar panels. It can be quite expensive, but it trumps other materials in terms of durability and efficiency. You can expect it to deliver long-term, functionality, which is one thing that makes the high price worth every penny. These German-made panels are sure to impress any buyer.
Speaking of durability, the built-in stand is equally impressive. It is built using corrosion-resistant aluminum, which is ideal even for outdoor use. This can help fight external damages. The best thing about the stand is that it is customizable. You can adjust the position depending on the surface, making sure that it is level to the ground.
Designed for Expansion
To provide the best bang for the buck, take note that it already comes with two panels. They can deliver 100 watts of power. If this is not enough, then you can buy another one. With its parallel capability, you can connect another solar panel to double the power output.
Compatible with Different Batteries
One thing that makes this versatile is its compatibility with different batteries. Regardless if you connect lithium, sealed, flooded, or gel battery, you can expect that it will deliver the same reliable performance.
Packed with Safety Features
Another reason why this is one of our favorites is that it is packed with innovative features to ensure safety. For instance, it comes with 20A built-in 5-stage solar charge controller. The latter is the one responsible for protection against overcharge. This will minimize fire hazards. To add, it has a negative-ground charge controller. More so, there is a low-voltage system, which lessens the likelihood of electric shocks.
Easy to Carry Design
Portability is highlighted in the design of the solar panel. Aside from being lightweight and compact, there is a convenient carrying case. It is made of premium rugged canvas for exceptional protection from dust and dirt. To add, it has corner protector to prevent damages.
• Comes with an adjustable stand
• Works with a wide array of batteries
• Avoids electrical shock
• Poor warranty service
• Controller is not waterproof
Wrapping up our list for the best solar panels is one product that can provide the best value for the money. It is quite expensive, but that should not be a problem since it comes with three panels in a foldable design for portability. It also comes with a fast-charging capability, which is up to four times quicker compared to many of its competitors.
More Power with a Parallel Connection
This solar panel can deliver only 60 watts of power. While it is good for charging phones and tablets, it is enough for running appliances. The good news is that it is parallel-ready. What this means is that you can connect it with a similar solar panel, and as a result, you will double its power for more demanding applications. When you purchase this product, the parallel connector is already included in the kit.
While there are many reasons to love this solar panel, one thing that we would like to highlight is how it charges quickly. It has one USB QC 3.0 and USB C output. Compared to conventional USB ports, this can deliver up to four times faster charging. The manufacturer promises that you will get the most power in the least time. You don’t have to wait a long time before your gadget is fully charged!
Convenient and Portable Design
This is also an excellent choice if portability is what you are looking for. It comes with three panels, but once folded, it is sleek and easy to carry. There are snap-on buttons to secure the closure. It also comes with a large handle, so it will be easy to hold even when you are walking. Plus, another notable design feature is the adjustable kickstand. You can customize its position to gather maximum energy from the sun. When it is angled, it can absorb up to 25% more sunlight compared to what it can when it lays flat on the surface.
Built for the Outdoors
More than being portable, this solar panel is also known for being durable. It is built with outdoor conditions in mind. The panel itself is water-resistant, so it can withstand light splashes. It also has an Oxford cloth cover that protects the panels from dirt and dust. However, take note that its junction box is not waterproof. To maintain its peak performance, make sure that it does not get wet.
• High conversion efficiency
• Can discharge your battery
• Low voltage
This solar panel is designed to be compatible with most brands and models of generatorson the market. To add, it has different connectors, so you will have one suitable for the generator you are suing. More so, it is praised by many of its users because of its portability, efficiency, and durability.
With the design of this solar panel, it is compatible not only with a wide array of generators but also with different devices. It comes with three built-in USB ports, which will allow you to charge your gadgets at the same time, as long as they do not exceed the stated capacity of the solar panel, which is 60 watts.
Automatic Adjustments Based on Your Device
If you are looking for an intelligent solar panel, then you have another good reason to choose this over many others. It works as if it has a mind of its own by making automatic adjustments depending on what is connected. The power output changes in an instant, which is also what will make it more energy-efficient. This is also the reason why it can deliver the fastest charge possible.
Compact Design for Portability
The main point of using a portable solar panel is that you can bring it with you wherever you go. Good thing, this product meets such a requirement. It is compact and lightweight, so you can expect nothing but the best when it comes to portability. We also appreciate how it comes with a built-in carrying case. Even if you are hiking, you will not have a hard time bringing the solar panel with you.
Your Safety as a Priority
The manufacturer knows how important your safety is, so they took the liberty to add notable features in this solar panel. It has short circuit and surge protection, which will prevent damages to the gadgets you will connect to the solar panel. Additionally, it has been through a series of third-party tests and given several certifications to prove its safety.
High Conversion Efficiency
When you are looking for solar panels, conversion efficiency is one of the most important technical details to consider. This shows how efficient it will be in converting solar energy. It has 23% conversion efficiency, which means that you can make the most out of it.
• High conversion efficiency
• Designed with a built-in carrying case
• Has three USB ports
• A bit heavy
• No parallel connectivity
If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the products mentioned above, this is one worth considering. This means that even when you are on a budget, you can enjoy decent performance. The operative word here is decent. Admittedly, it is not as high-performing as its higher-end counterparts.
Comes with a DC Adapter
For those who need a solar panel that is compatible with a solar generator, this is a great option. It comes with a DC adapter. More so, your purchase is inclusive of connectors with different sizes. This is compatible with the most popular brands of solar generators in the market.
Smart Charging Technology
Despite its price, it packs a couple of innovative features. One of our favorites is the smart IC chip. This is built-in on the unit, which can identify any device that connects to the solar panel. In turn, it regulates its power output depending on what you need. this is also a major reason why this solar panel is energy-efficient. This will prevent overloading and overcharging.
Briefcase-style Folding Design
Folding and unfolding the solar panel is a breeze. The fabric bag is directly attached to the unit. This means that once it is folded, you are good to go. There’s no need to worry about manually putting the panels in a bag. If there’s one thing that we did not like about this, however, it would be that the fabric used in the bag easily gets wet.
We also love how it comes with two ports, so you can charge two gadgets at the same time, making sure that they are compatible with the plugs. It has a USB 5V port and DC 18V port. This means that you do not have to wait for one gadget to be charged before you connect another one.
High Conversion Efficiency
Like most of the top-rated options that you will find in the market, it has an incredibly high conversion efficiency. This represents the energy that it absorbs from the sun and converts into electricity.
• Lightweight and compact
• Comes with different connectors
• Plastic film is different to remove
• Attached to a fabric bag that easily gets wet
Whether for backpacking or hiking, this is another portable solar panel that should be on your list. It is perfect for people on a budget! Nonetheless, take note that the power output is only ten watts, which makesit one of the least powerful of the products in our recommendations. If all you need to do is charge your smartphone or powerbank, this will be more than enough.
A Budget-Friendly Alternative
As earlier mentioned, this is designed for those who do not have the luxury of a huge budget.Nonetheless, price is directly related to its performance. The power is enough only for small devices, such as your phone. If you need to connect appliances like a heater or portable air conditioner, you need to choose a more powerful alternative.
The overall construction is impressive, and one of our favorites is the built-in kickstand. It is made of a solid material, which makes it capable of supporting the weight of the solar panel. We also like how the kickstand is adjustable. This way, you can change the angle of the panel depending on what will make it absorb the most energy from the sun.
Built to Withstand Many Years of Use
Goal Zero is known for the high-quality products they are offering, and this solar panel is no exemption. With its rugged design, you can expect it to withstand the rigors of outdoor use. Even after years, it will remain functional, as long as you pay attention to proper care and maintenance.
The versatility of the solar panel’s design is one more thing that we would like to highlight in this short review. It comes with built-in loops on the corners, which will make it easy to secure on your tent. These loops will also be handy if you want to connect it to your backpack.
Direct Charging Capability
You will enjoy the convenience that the solar panel can offer. With its direct charge capability, you can connect your device and it will charge instantly. It has a 5V 15A USB port. From phones to power banks, you can connect them to the USB port.
• Easy to use
• Has an adjustable kickstand
• Minimal power output
• Customer support is horrible
This is the second product from Renogy that is included on our list, which shows how this is indeed one of the best companies out there. This solar panel is known for being efficient, portable, and durable. Nonetheless, with just 50 watts, some of you might find the performance to be underwhelming, especially if you will need to run large appliances.
Delivers Exceptional Efficiency
One of the best reasons to choose this solar panel is its monocrystalline construction. This is way better compared to polycrystalline or other materials. The result is that it increases module efficiency to provide reliable power even when you are outdoors. Another reason for its efficiency is the presence of bypass diodes, which will prevent the loss of power that can be caused by shade. Nonetheless, given that the output is only 50 watts, do not expect much.
Designed to Impress
At first glance, you will already love this solar panel. It has no grid lines on the panels, which will give it a cleaner appearance. It is also worth mentioning that it comes with a built-in kickstand. This provides the support that the solar panel needs. To add, this will also allow you to customize the angle depending on the optimal position.
Renogy is a reliable brand, so you can expect that the construction is top-notch. It is impressive because of the advanced encapsulation material. This is even made better by the multi-layer sheet laminations. The result is that it improves the overall performance and serviceability.
The construction also makes sure that there will be no spot heating that can damage the surface material. It is also worth highlighting that it can withstand even heavy wind and snow. Speaking of durability, the panels are covered with high-impact glass. More so, there is an IP65 rated junction box, which is protected from harsh weather elements.
Crafted for Portability
Like the other options that you will find on our list, portability is emphasized. It is small and lightweight, so you can bring it anywhere you are going. If there’s one minor drawback, however, it would be that it does not come with a carrying case or bag.
• Comes with a built-in kickstand
• Offers exceptional value for the money
• Impact-resistant glass
• Power output can be lesser than stated
• Does not come with a case
On a budget? Then this is a great option for top-rated portable solar panel. However, since it is an economical product, expect that the technical specifications will be underwhelming. At only 21 watts, this will not power portable appliances. It is best only for smartphones, tablets, and similar devices.
For anything that is cheap, we always think that durability is an issue. With this product, that is unnecessarily the case. Even if it is affordable, it has exceptional features that will ensure its longevity. For instance, it has a waterproof layer, which will protect the panels from damages that rainwater might cause. It is also dust-proof. Some parts come with leather. To add, the snap-on buttons for closing the bag that contains the solar panel is rust-proof.
Comes with a Built-in Stand
As it is common with most of the products in this review, it comes with a built-in stand. This provides the support that the unit needs. You do not need to find anything that will allow it to stand freely on the surface. Even better, the stand is adjustable, so you can customize the angle depending on where the heat of the sun comes from.
Offers Smart Charging
With the built-in smart IC chip, you can expect intelligent charging from this solar panel. This is the one responsible for automatic adjustments depending on the device that is connected to the panel. As a result, it will be energy-efficient. Despite this, however the charging speed is quite low, which is one thing that we can also attribute to the small power capacity of this product.
Dual USB Output
With dual USB, you can charge two devices at once. Both outputs have 5V capacity. You can plug the cord directly, which is also great in terms of simplicity. There is no need for complicated assembly before the solar panel can deliver the power that you need. It is also worth noting that it comes with a stable voltage, so you can protect your electronics.
• Easy to use
• Has a built-in stand
• Small power output
• Slow charging
The best solar panel is a must-have, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. As noted above, we are not talking about the kind of panels for permanent roof installation. Instead, we reviewed those that are compact and lightweight, which you can bring wherever you are. Keep an eye on our recommendations above and you can charge your smartphone, run a portable fan, or turn on camping lights, among other things.