Spending time in the outdoors is a rewarding and relaxing experience. However, along with the tranquility that the outdoors comes with there is still a necessity to have proper working devices to an extent, such as lanterns for ample lighting at night or even a charged GoPro to capture the memories.
Solar panels offer a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to making sure your essential electrical devices efficiently work. They supply even power for your outdoor activities without the high cost and depend on natural energy sources such as sunlight. Their portability also alleviates the heavy loads and inconvenience.
Listed below are the 10 best camping solar panels in 2021 each outlining their unique features and how they work for you in the outdoors. So, the choice is all yours on which to go for.
How To Choose A Camping Solar Panel – Buying Guide
When choosing the best camping solar panels, you should consider the type of solar panel you want. There are three types of camper solar panels — Polycrystalline, Monocrystalline, and CIGs. Polycrystalline solar panels use different silicon crystal sizes, and they tend to be less efficient than the other two types, so their pricing is also a lot more affordable.
Monocrystalline solar panels feature single-shaped silicon crystals. Their design gives them a diamond grid shape which enhances their efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels offer high conversion and efficiency rates of up to 25%. This, in turn, makes them the most expensive of the three types as well as the most efficient.
Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) solar panels feature thin-film technology. They use a wide range of materials and work great for portable and versatile panels. This is because they are easy to fold and pack without damaging their functionality. They are normally way less efficient, but they are great for low-powered and small devices.
To get the best camping solar panel for your intended use power rating should be examined. You want to invest in a solar panel with enough power rating to cater to your devices. The power rating and output of your solar panel are denoted by wattage/watts (W) and its efficiency. The higher the efficiency the more power it delivers and the more effective the solar panel is.
A solar panel with a power rating of fewer than 10 watts will only be able to efficiently charge smaller items that don’t feature high-power draining functions such as a watch or smaller flashlights. If you are looking for a compact solar panel to use during the day as you hike or backpack, a power rating of 10 to 40 watts is ideal.
This means you can comfortably recharge essentials such as your Smartphone. Plus, you can charge up to 2 or 3 devices at a time, meaning it also works great when shared with friends or family. For large capacity camping solar power, go for solar panels with at least an output of 100 watts. This allows the panel to power ample lighting and other smaller devices. A higher power rating sometimes means a small compromise on weight and size. This means that a larger power rating on your solar panel will mean more weight on it and a larger size.
Charging time also helps you to determine what solar panel to go for because this affects your activity planning. Some of the editions of the best solar panel for camping come with built-in battery systems. This means that when you go through their features, they will highlight how long the battery will power the panel. This all depends on the battery’s size and capacity.
Other solar panels, however, may not provide the information and don’t come with built-in battery systems. This is when you have to throw in your high school physics skills. You can easily determine the battery life of your solar panel by comparing the wattage and voltage of its specific battery to be used. Voltage and wattage give you current (measured in Amps) which then can be used to determine the time taken to charge your battery.
Charging time for both devices and solar panels itself depends on the source. For example, when there is high direct sunlight this means that your solar panel is receiving more energy and faster, in turn, enhancing the efficiency at which your device is charged.
Larger solar panels that are connected to batteries for power also receive more energy in a shorter time. Thus, charging your smaller device on a 100 W solar panel is faster than charging on a 15W solar panel.
The battery life of the solar panel depends on the battery’s capacity as well as the availability of the power source. Additionally, under direct sunlight, the solar panel can garner as much energy as on a less-sunny day.
Portability is an important feature when choosing the best solar panel for camping, hiking, or backpacking. Portable solar panels are designed to be thin and lightweight whilst their general sizing is also smaller. Their portability also allows them to be foldable and easy to carry.
Even if the smaller panels feature more than two hinges, this huge size can easily be folded for easy transportation, storage, and carrying around the campsite. When ready for set up and use, that’s when you can unfold them.
However, if you are looking for a larger capacity solar panel for camping with at least 100 watts, portability is a feature you will have to compromise on. Large capacity solar panels tend to be heavier and more difficult to carry around on your backpack. They are more ideal when using an RV or if you can pack them in your car. So, this means that the more portable the solar panel, the less the power rating.
This is the number one obvious feature to focus on after power rating of course. You don’t want to invest in a solar panel that cannot work with the device you want to charge. The majority of the best solar panels for camping which is portable and comes with lower power ratings can charge standard USB-powered devices. Typically, such solar panels are equipped with 2 to 3 USB ports.
The use of USB ports also allows you to plug them directly into their batteries. Larger capacity panels are more restrictive. This feature, however, comes with its perks. The solar panels come with specific connectors that only connect to only devices that can connect to direct solar charging, protecting sensitive devices.
Because camping solar panels are designed for outdoor use, you want them to be as protected as possible. When choosing a camping solar panel, go for those that come fitted with protective covers. Many portable solar panels can be carried on your backpack, so their cover should be water, weather, and dustproof.
The majority of solar panel covers are water-resistant, so they can protect your solar panel under normal rain and wet fog. The main focus of solar panel covers is to protect the more vulnerable battery.
Some well fabricated solar panels also come with a protective fabric and rubber covers to protect the USB ports. Typically, different kinds of fabrics are used from polyester, canvas, to Polyethylene. Individual solar panel covers boast their water-resistance ratings ranging from IPX4 to IPX8.
Durability on your solar panel is an important functional feature. Solar panels tend to be very sensitive with just a small crack on the panel rendering them useless. Thus, to ensure the durability of your solar panel, special care should be taken when using, transporting, or carrying them. Invest in a protective, fool-proof, and water-resistant cover if your solar panel doesn’t come with one, and always handle them as delicately as possible.
When it comes to their construction about durability, amongst power supplying devices, solar panels are perhaps the safest and most reliable kinds. High-quality solar panels are constructed with delicate and high functioning electric connections however they are well protected with sealing equipment to protect the inside components and the user on the outside.
The use of waterproof covers offers an extra layer of protection to your battery and connector. They also go a long way to preserve your panel’s longevity. Even when inserted with a waterproof outer cover, ensure your solar panel is not exposed to rainfall for long or immersed in water. Furthermore, even when housed in a casing or fall-proof casing, the impact is still a risk for solar panels. An accidental fall or bang can dent crucial components that disrupt its operation.
Battery storage is a feature worth examining before purchasing your ideal solar panel. There are three common battery storage options for solar panels: the external battery charger, built-in battery charger, and a charger that requires you to separately purchase a battery. This last option tends to be a lot more cumbersome, time-consuming, and more likely to result in an error when choosing the right battery to go with it.
Built-in battery chargers allow your solar panel to be more versatile in terms of power garnering. On rainy days or at night, an inbuilt battery charger comes in handy because this means that the battery can preserve energy that was received from direct sunlight from a sunny day. The larger the battery capacity, the better for you. You can use them for multiple days without requiring a recharge.
Solar panels with chargers only come with connection ports to directly connect your device. The majority of portable and smaller solar panels come with this design. This means that their capacity will be very minimal, and their charging will entirely depend on the availability of sunlight with no chance of pre-charging for later usage. These types of solar panel battery storage options work best for hikers or backpackers that need to charge small items only — such as GPS, phone, and watch.
Design is an important feature to determine how your solar panel will work for you in the outdoors. Smaller and portable solar panels, for example, need to be designed with carabiners and loops to make them easy to mount on your backpack or tent so you can efficiently expose them under direct sunlight. Some of the best solar panels come with legs for enhanced and proper positioning.
Water-resistant coverings also make it safer for your solar panels especially smaller ones that you carry around. Furthermore, set up is also crucial. Because you move around with portable solar panels and most only work under direct sunlight, you want them to be easy to set up and use as much as possible. You don’t want to be caught in the trail fumbling about with your panel because this is definitely inconvenient and will slow you down.
Some of the best solar panels even come with automated features such as auto on and off which automatically switches on the panel after detecting sunrays. Some even feature safe electrical designs that disconnect charging upon detection of full-charge or overheating.
If it helps, go through camping solar panel reviews and the functional features list for the specific solar panel you are thinking of investing in, so you can fully understand its design and what it offers. The user guide and manuals that are provided with purchases also help you to fully understand the benefits that come with it.
Q: What are Portable Solar Panels?
A portable solar panel features an assembly of silicon crystals or thin layers of film in a form of cells that attract sunlight energy and transform it into a power supply. Portable solar panels are an alternative to traditionally large and heavy ones, as they are much smaller, portable, and easier to carry around — even on your backpack.
Solar panels work by attracting sunlight which hits the surface of the cells thus creating an electric field between the panel layers. The electric field is moved through thin metal strips within the solar panel and stored as the power in the panel's battery or converted directly to power a device (for charger-only solar panels).
Portable panels, concurrent with their smaller design are ideal for outdoor use such as hiking and camping. They do not possess the power to fully supply a household.
Q: Is it Better to Use a Solar Panel or a Power Generator?
There are many reasons why solar panels offer a better option than power generators. Some of the most common benefits include:
- They are way more affordable than power generators
- They are easy to set up
- They don’t need extra resources such as fuel for power generators
- They are environmentally safe and don’t pollute the environment — they only utilize direct sunlight without any bi-products
- They are relatively lightweight compared to power generators
- They offer a varied choice — you can go for as low as 10W enough to only power smaller devices
- They pose minimal electrical hazards
- Low maintenance costs compared to power generators
Q: What is the Optimal Battery Life?
It all depends on the battery and solar panel type. Portable chargers will only charge under sunlight, and depending on the design of the solar panel, for a 1A Smartphone, such solar panels will charge it in 2-3 hours under direct sunlight. Solar panels with batteries will typically boast battery life up to 8 – 10 hours depending on power supplied by the direct sunlight. Larger capacity batteries for larger solar panels will last longer (up to several days) before requiring recharge however this all depends on usage.
Globo Surf Overview
The camping solar panel reviews outline how these outdoor gems come in handy and how they offer convenience in the outdoors. Their cost-cutting operation also makes for a great addition to your budget and action-packed outdoor expedition — be it hiking, camping, backpacking, or even water or snow sports. Their ingenious design is incorporated to adapt to any size, build, and capacity as well as enhance their functionality according to the scope of your activity.
The buying guide above further delivers the know-how information to choosing the best unit to fit your needs and preferences. The list of the 10 best camping solar panels above provides an exciting route to start with no matter the capacity you’re looking for, be it a solar panel to charge your hiking watch or one to light up your tent at night!