Tips For A Good Camping Solar Power Setup

If you’re on this page, we don’t have to convince you that camping is great.

The smell and sight of the outdoors scenery, the wildlife, the weather (how good is rain on a tent when you’re sleeping!).

Despite how relaxing nature can be, it’s always good to have some power for things like refrigeration, lighting, and to charge big and small batteries.

If you’ve been looking into solar, you’ll enjoy these tips for a good camping solar power setup.

You can use solar on it’s own, or together with a generator – just be aware of the pros and cons to each type of setup.

 

Tips For What A Good Camping Solar Power Setup Looks Like

When it comes to solar setups for camping, there is probably three main ways you’ll get your solar power.

You could use one or a combination of all three setups at your camping site – it would depend on your requirements and intended use as to which you go with.

Let’s have a look at these three camping solar setups:

 

1. Large Portable Solar Panels Setup

When we say large portable solar panels, we are talking usually panels that are:

  • Around 50-60 Watts +
  • Are intended to charge 12 volt batteries on your bigger items like RV’s, camper trailers, cars, boats etc.

These larger portable solar panels come in three main types:

 

  • Rigid/Solid Solar Panels

If you are using rigid solar panels for camping, you’re most likely to mount them to an RV or trailer roof on brackets.

You’d use them to charge 12 volt DC batteries in your RV or camper trailer – the 50 or 100 Watt 18 volt panels with a charge controller would be good for this.

You can use one, or several of them.

Because of the quality and performance of these panels, and what’s in the starter kits, these might be the best value for money panels on a cost to power received basis.

 

  • Flexible Solar Panels

Flexible solar panels are very versatile.

They are made of a thin laminate, and most of them (not all – so check that when you are looking) can curve or bend up to around 30 degrees – which makes them better for uneven or curved surfaces than say a rigid panel.

They can be temporarily fixed on most surfaces, permanently fixed, or even hung up on your tent.

Fixing could be with metal fixings, zip ties or even an adhesive to stick the panels down.

Flexible panels are mostly used to charge 12 volt batteries in RV’s, boats and on-road vehicles – but you might be able to hook them up to a regenerator or inverter as well (check product instructions). In this case – if the regenerator/inverter has inputs/outputs for mobiles and USB devices, you’d be able to charge them from the one central point.

They come mostly in 50 and 100 Watt 18 volt models, and are used with a solar controller.

 

  • Folding Solar Panels 

The large folding solar panels come in an array of sizes – 60, 80, 100 and 120 Watts.

They are mainly used in camping situations for charging 12 volt RV, van, camper trailer and car batteries.

Large folding solar panels are usually stored in a travel case, and are easy to unfold and set up by folding out with metal support leg on the ground.

We profiled the Renogy Solar Suitcase vs the Go Power! 120 Watt Folding Solar Panel – and the Go Power! in particular has the ability to hook up directly to the batteries, or via Anderson connectors to a power input/output you might have externally near the tow bar for example.

 

2. Small Portable Solar Panels Setup

Small portable solar panels when used for camping are mainly for charging small and handheld battery and USB devices.

The small folding solar panels are usually anywhere between 5-50 Watts, and come with most things you need to get charging.

One of the great things about these types of panels, like the Goal Zero 20 Watt Nomad for example, is that they are completely lightweight/durable and you can carry them around while backpacking or hiking.

They can attach to your backpack, or you could fold them up and put them inside the backpack.

They can also be purchased with regenerators that store charge for you to use later, and inverters to convert solar to AC energy.

 

3. Solar Products Setup

The third setup you might have to get solar energy is using products that have in built solar chargers or utilise the sun in some way.

There are two examples of this:

 

A. LED Solar Camping Lights or Lanterns

Smaller devices like lights or lanterns might have solar charging capabilities – with very small solar panels built into them.

You can leave them out in the sun during the day, and then use them at night.

Some also have a USB charging point so that if you know in advance there isn’t going to be much sun where you’re going, you still have a device with charge in it.

 

B. A Solar Shower

Solar showers are simply a shower device that hold water, and you place the shower device in the sun to heat up.

You then have access to water heated by the sun.

They are handy if you only have access to cold water, and you want a warm shower while you’re in a remote area

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