Below, we discuss solar power for camping.
We look at what solar panels and solar products might be useful and suitable for camping activities, along with providing other information about using solar power during camping.
Solar Power For Camping
Portable Solar For Camping
Portable Solar Panel Kits For Camping – the different portable solar panel kits for camping, and who they are suited to + what’s in them
Below we will list and quickly explain:
- What portable solar panel kits are
- What portable solar panel kits you can get for camping
- What you’ll need in a basic portable solar panel kit to get started
1) What are portable solar panel kits?
Portable solar panels are solar panels that can be taken off grid i.e. away from the main electricity grid that powers your home.
They can be used in remote locations and provide power from direct sunlight.
The large portable solar panels (50 Watts +) are used to charge either 12 volt batteries for your large items like RV’s, camper trailers, camper vans, cars and boats.
The smaller portable solar panels (less than 50 Watts) are used for charging smaller handheld devices like tablets, phones, lights, radios, GPS systems etc.
They are highly portable as you can use them for activities like camping, backpacking, hiking, bike touring and kayaking.
A solar panel kit is a basic or advanced kit composing of a solar panel, and the accessories you need to charge whatever you need to charge.
2) What portable solar panel kits can you get for camping?
Larger solar panel kits come as one of the following:
Small solar panel kits are mainly folding solar panels like the Goal Zero Nomad 20 Watt panel.
3) What will you need in a portable solar panel kit to get started?
There would two types of portable solar panel kits you might look at getting.
The first would be a basic kit, and the second would be a more advanced or extensive kit that includes a regenerator and/or inverter.
1. Basic Portable Solar Panel Kit For Camping
A) A large basic portable solar panel kit (rigid, flexible and large folding panels) would consist of something similar to:
A solar panel
Connectors from the junction box
A solar controller (controls the charge coming from an 18 volt panel into your 12 volt battery for example – these controllers usually have a display to show you charge levels and performance)
Cables that run to your charging point
The battery you are charging – your RV camper van batteries for example
For rigid solar panels you usually have Z brackets that you’ll use to fix the panels to a camper van roof or surface
B) A small portable solar panel kit is usually just the panel, with an inbuilt charger chip and inputs/outputs where you connect your devices to. You might also get given a battery in the kit, and sometimes you might buy a separate DC charger cable to plug into your panel and your device.
2. Advanced Portable Solar Panel Kit For Camping
Whether you have a large portable solar panel, or a small one, the extras in an advanced kit are mostly the same. The most common extras are:
A) A Regenerator
A regenerator is essentially a storage battery that allows you to store DC energy from your solar panel, so that if it’s night time, or it’s a cloudy day – you have a source to power your devices.
Some regenerators just have round DC plug in points, while others also have USB points.
An example of a regenerator would be the Yeti Solar Generator models that complement the Goal Zero solar panel range.
B) An Inverter
As a basic explanation, an inverter converts DC energy to AC household energy for your devices that only charge or function from household electricity.
Inverters might come as a standalone device, but they often come as an inverter box that might also function as a solar regenerator.
For example, the Yeti 400 Solar Generator from Goal Zero comes with a 300 Watts pure sine wave inverter.
With both regenerators and inverters, make sure you buy the appropriate adapter cables for the devices you want to charge.
5 Portable Solar Ideas For Camping
For those who love camping and the outdoors, you’ve probably thought about the way you power your campsite before.
There are several traditional options like power packs, generators and generator inverters – all of which can power DC, and some AC devices.
However, there’s a good chance if you’ve landed on this article that you’ve considered portable solar energy.
And, it’s a good option because it’s environmentally friendly, along with being affordable.
Solar can be used for a number of things including but not limited to:
- Powering RV, trailer and car batteries
- Powering DC fridges/freezers
- Powering camp lights
- Charging small battery and USB devices like smartphones and tablets
- Heating water
Once you’ve got your solar setup – all you need is the sunlight to start charging.
5 Portable Solar Ideas For Camping
5 Portable Solar Ideas For Camping – if you want to use solar energy off grid while you’re out camping in remote areas
1. LED Solar Camping Lights & Lanterns
These are quite a useful little gadget.
The good solar camping lights and lanterns have both solar and USB charging capabilities.
You can charge the lights via USB before you leave, so that if it’s cloudy or rainy – you aren’t left out in the rain (see what we did there) with your power supply.
Of course, when the sun is out you can leave your light or lantern out to charge too.
We like the LED lights/lantern that are an accordion style and can fold down into a handy little handheld flashlight.
A great idea for those who want a flexible lighting device.
2. Solid/Rigid 100 Watt Solar Panels
This is more for those who go to a camp site with an RV or a camper trailer.
Solid/rigid solar panels can be mounted to your RV or camper trailer, and can be used to charge one or a bank of 12 volt solar batteries.
These panels are usually mounted to the roof with brackets, and are used with a solar controller in between the panel and solar generator.
3. Flexible 100 Watt Solar Panels
Flexible panels are made of a plastic laminate, and most of them can flex or bend to uneven surfaces.
Flexible panels can be mounted temporarily or permanently to most surfaces, or even hung up on a tent.
They are best for charging 12 volt DC batteries, and can be used with a solar generator which is useful with either an AC inverter or USB outputs.
Depending on the capabilities of this inverter – you’d be able to charge lights, phones, tablets, generators and fridges from it.
The great thing about flexible solar panels is that they can be used for a range of other applications outside of camping like charging marine batteries and being used on cabins for example.
4. Small 5-30 Watt Folding Solar Panels, and Large Folding 120 Watt Solar Panels
Small Folding Solar Panels
Small folding solar panels are fun!
They are very lightweight, durable and can be carried around with you if you want to leave the camp site and go hiking for example.
They’re great for charging items like smartphones, radios, a GPS, tablets and even LED lights.
If you have a USB camera like a GoPro – they can usually charge them too.
The thing that’s great about these solar panels is how they are able to fold up and be stored in a back pack, or folded out and mounted to a backpack or kayak for example.
Very well worth looking at if you only want to charge small devices.
Large Folding Solar Panels
120 Watt large folding solar panels will usually be stored away in a travel case, and then folded out at a campsite.
They are mostly used for charging RV, camper trailer and ATV/car type 12 volt batteries.
So, if that’s how you do your camping – these are an option.
Large folding solar panels will fold out and sit on a metal stand on the ground.
5. 2-5 Gallon Solar Shower
So, solar showers do not use a solar panel per se.
They hold water in a contained/sealed unit or bag which then heats up if you place it in the direct sun.
Very handy for those who will be spending a few days out camping and don’t have a water source or shower facilities nearby.
Flexible Solar Panels For Camping
The Best Flexible Solar Panels For Camping, inc. reviews, & a guide about flexible panels for camping for your tent, rv, car & even home!
Flexible solar panels can be a more cost effective portable solar panel option for some campers than folding solar panels.
The best flexible solar panels for camping aren’t as portable as a folding solar panel, but will generally provide you with more power at a lower cost.
If you are spending most of your time around your campsite, or you don’t need to take a solar panel with you hiking, riding, or kayaking while out camping for example, a flexible solar panel could be great for you.
Flexible solar panels may or may not be bendable up to around 30 degrees – having the capability to bend is important if you want to install it curved or uneven surfaces.
Let’s look over the best flexible solar panels for camping …
Top Rated Flexible Solar Panels For Camping List
Best Flexible Solar Panel For Camping – Windynation 100 Watt Bendable Solar Panel (on Amazon)
Update – since first publishing this guide, ALLPOWERS and Renogy seem to have two of the better flexible panels on the market (which are worth you checking out). The Renogy panel is a 160 Watt panel currently.
Best Flexible Solar Panels For Camping: Reviews
Windynation 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
We already reviewed this flexible solar panel in this guide.
But, some of the things that make this a good flexible marine solar panel are:
- Works at 18 volts and can charge 12 volt lithium and lead-acid batteries – good for RV’s, electric bikes etc. > use it with a solar controller though
- Can be curved to a maximum 30 degree arc
- Very lightweight – only weighs 4lbs – easy to transport, install and remove
- Frameless design, and 6 pre-fab metal reinforced mounting holes which can use temporary or permanent fixings
- Can be mounted using adhesive or velcro as well
- Weather resistant
- Comes with connectors and connector cable
So you know how much room to make space for on your marine vessel:
Panel dimensions are 41.7″ (length) x 21.3″ (width) x 0.1″ (thick)
Where Can I Check This Solar Panel Out? View the Windynation 100 Watt Bendable Solar Panel (on Amazon)
Best Flexible Solar Panels For Camping: Buyer’s Guide & FAQ
What Are Flexible Solar Panels?
Flexible solar panels are a type of portable solar panel.
They are not permanently fixed like a glass solar panel – they can be installed and uninstalled quite easily.
On the other hand, they can’t be carried around on a backpack and aren’t designed to stand up to sharp and rough objects as much as folding solar panels.
Flexible panels are usually very thin and light, being made of laminate or a plastic type material.
Some flexible solar panels are designed to bend up to a certain point, whilst others aren’t.
What Are Flexible Solar Panels Used For When Camping?
Flexible solar panels can be installed or hung on most surfaces.
They can be hung on a tent, or installed on your car, RV, camper van, boat, cabin or any surface which won’t rip or scratch the plastic.
They are useful because they are very easy to transfer from say the roof of your RV, to your tent, and then back to the RV.
Flexible panels are suitable for providing output to 12 V lead- acid and lithium batteries – marine batteries, rv batteries, bike batteries, tools, lights etc.
NOTE: flexible panels and panels with a high wattage should be used with a solar regulator so you don’t damage 12v batteries.
Which Flexible Solar Panel Should I Get For Camping – How To Choose?
Flexible solar panels are mostly the same.
Two things to consider in helping you pick a flexible solar panel though are:
Decide what Wattage of solar panel you want – 50 watt, 100 watts?
Decide if you want a flexible solar panel that bends – usually they can bend up to about 30 degrees
Best Folding Solar Panels For Camping
The Best Folding Solar Panels For Camping, including reviews, & a buyer’s guide about panels for camping that can be packed & unpacked
Folding solar panels are the most portable panels there are.
The best folding solar panels for camping will enable you to carry the panel in a backpack, or attach it a tent or kayak for example.
They are usually smaller than other solar panels, and very durable to weather, sharp objects and scratching.
There are large foldable solar panels available too – which lack the portability, but have more power for charging rv batteries for example.
Let’s have a look at the best folding solar panel brands for camping …
Top Rated Folding Solar Panels For Camping List
Best Portable Folding Solar Panel For Camping – Goal Zero 12004 Nomad 20W Solar Panel (on Amazon)
- Can take with you hiking, backpacking, kayaking & more. For charging small mobile devices
Best Large Folding Solar Panel For Camping – Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp Solar Controller (on Amazon)
- Can fold out at your campsite, and for charging multiple items at once like a small-medium fridge, camp lights, radios, tv’s, OR charging trailer & RV batteries & more
Best Folding Solar Panels For Camping: Reviews
Goal Zero 12004 Nomad 20W Solar Panel
We already reviewed this 20 Watt folding solar panel in our guide on folding solar panels.
But, some of the features and design elements that make it good for camping are:
- Can be used at the campsite OR for backpacking, hiking, camping, kayaking and adventuring
- Allows you to power handheld USB and 12 Volt devices
- Good for charging phones, GPS devices, and emergency gadgets
- Very easy to set up and pack away in a backpack
- Mono crystalline solar panels which are about 17-18% efficient
- Design is durable and weather proof
- Has stitches/loops that allow it to be fastened to tents, back-packs, kayaks and more
- Allows you to power handheld USB and 12 Volt devices
- Very lightweight – 1.1 kg
Where Can I Check Out This Panel?
Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Folding Solar Kit with 10 Amp Solar Controller
We already reviewed this 120 Watt folding solar panel in our guide on folding solar panels.
But, some of the features and design elements that make it good for camping are:
- 120 watt output with built in 10 Amp controller
- Easy to fold out at your campsite and pack away
- Anderson style battery charging connectors – can be used for maintaining RV or trailer battery while on the road, or trickle charging your car, ATV or boat battery
- 25 year warranty for the solar panels, and 3 year warranty for the controller
NOTE: some extras like the extension cable and pin trailer adapter have to be bought separately.
Where Can I Check Out This Panel?
Best Folding Solar Panels For Camping: Buyer’s Guide & FAQ
Types Of Folding Solar Panels For Camping
Smaller folding solar panels that can be carried around – usually 5 to 20 watts
Larger folding solar panels that are folded out at your campsite – usually 80-200 watts
What Are Folding Solar Panels Used For When Camping?
The smaller folding solar panels are mainly used for charging small USB and 12 volt battery devices – phones, GPS systems, lights, tablets etc.
They can be used while at your campsite, or while hiking, riding, kayaking and place on or in your backpack.
The larger panels are for charging multiple smaller devices at a time, or for charging medium sized camp fridges, RV batteries, laptops and larger devices.
Larger panels can simply be folded out at your campsite, and they usually have a steel backing stand to prop them up.
How To Choose A Folding Solar Panel When Camping – Which To Get?
If you only need to charge smaller USB and 12 volt battery type devices, you can get a 7 to 20 watt folding solar panel generally.
You would also get one of these smaller solar panels if you intend on having a portable folding solar panel you can carry around and attach to backpack for example.
If you want more output for larger devices and batteries, you can get a 120 watt unit or larger.
Camping Folding Solar Panel Accessories
Recharger batteries – to store the energy and use it later when the sun isn’t out
Power inverter – allows you to turn 12 volt DC energy to 240 volt AC household energy for charging devices that run on that power
Extensions and connector cables
Features and Things To Look For In Camping Folding Solar Panels
You can read about important features to look out for in our guide on folding solar panels.
Specifically for folding solar panels for camping, you want to check:
The level of weatherproofing of the panel setup
What it is designed for specifically – what activities
Best Portable Solar Panels For Camping
The Best Portable Solar Panels For Camping, including reviews, & a buyer’s guide about panels for camping activities & camping uses
The best portable solar panels for camping will differ depending on your preferred camping activities.
The three types of portable solar panels most suitable for camping are:
- Flexible Solar Panels, and
- Foldable Solar Panels
- Solar Blankets
If you want a solar panel to leave at the camp site and is easy to install/uninstall – the flexible solar panel might be better for you.
If you want a solar panel that you can carry with you while hiking for example, and is extremely rugged and durable – the folding solar panel might be a better pick.
Solar blankets for camping are a bit of a hybrid between a flexible and foldable solar panel.
Let’s jump into it and look at the best camping solar panel & blanket brands and products …
Top Rated Portable Solar Panels For Camping List
Refer to guides below
Best Portable Solar Panels For Camping: Reviews
Best Portable Solar Panels For Camping: Buyer’s Guide & FAQ
What Does Camping Involve?
Camping traditionally involves taking a car and tent, or an rv to a remote location. However, when you’re there, you might choose to:
Sit around a camping base and enjoy nature
Go boating or fishing
Go 4 wheel driving/off roading
+ many other activities
What Types Of Portable Solar Panels Are There For Camping?
Flexible, semi-flexible and bendable solar panels – usually made of laminate that might have the capability to bend up to 30 degrees depending on the model
Folding solar panels – are smaller, more durable and have better portability
Solar blankets – are a mix of the two above – they can durable like folding solar panels, but are best for staying in one spot like a flexible solar panel.
What Are Solar Panels Used For When Camping
Solar panels are used as a supplement or replacement for a generator or powered sites when camping.
Solar panels are used for two main purposes when camping:
1. To charge and power 12v batteries, or USB devices
2. To power 240v mains appliances
When powering 240v house mains appliances, you need a solar inverter to turn 12v DC battery power, to 240v AC household power.
Common camping items that require power are fridges, lighting, mobiles & GPS systems, tv’s and laptops.
The specific solar panels are used in the following ways for camping activities:
- Flexible, semi-flexible and bendable solar panels
Flexible and bendable solar panels can be mounted on uneven surfaces like the top of a car, rv or campervan.
They can also be hung up on a tent, or laid out in the sun at your camping site.
Flexible and bendable solar panels, because they are made of laminate, are much more vulnerable to sharp and rough objects than folding solar panels.
They can be installed/uninstalled from a surface easily, but can’t be carried around.
They are used for charging 12 V lead- acid and lithium batteries – marine batteries, rv batteries, bike batteries etc.
- Folding solar panels
Folding solar panels come as freestanding kits that can be folded, unfolded, stored in backpacks or attached to surfaces like bags, kayacks etc.
They are extremely weatherproof (usually rated for rain and snow), and can usually handle bumps and scratches quite well.
Because folding solar panels are so portable and durable, the sacrifice you pay for example about the same price for a 20 Watt folding solar panel that you do for an 80 or 100 watt flexible solar panel.
However, most folding panels can charge USB devices whereas flexible solar panels mostly only charge 12 volt battery devices.
There are large rugged 120 watt folding solar panels that are too heavy for carrying around, but they are quite expensive.
- Solar blankets
Solar blankets are usually made of some type of canvas material like a folding solar panel – this makes them very durable and rugged.
However, they are best for leaving in one spot like a flexible solar panel.
Flexible and folding solar panels are usually mono or polycrystalline, whereas solar blankets can have amorphous solar panels.
How To Choose A Solar Panel For Camping – Which To Get?
1. List how many devices you will be using, and how often you’ll be using them
2. Calculate how much power each of those devices draw/use
3. Consider whether the devices are 12 volt battery devices, USB devices, or 240 volt house electricity devices
4. Pick a solar panel with the Wattage rating you need, and consider buying more than one panel
5. Consider whether you will need a folding, flexible or solar blanket solar panel setup – based on where and how you’ll be using the solar panels
For example, a camp fridge draws about 4amps and some LED camping lights that draw about 0.25amps each.
For that setup, a 120 watt solar panel would be fine – with a regulator and 100amp deep cycle battery.
Features & Things To Look For In Solar Panels For Camping
Guides on the following coming soon which have camping solar panel features:
Best Folding Solar Panels For Camping
Best Flexible Solar Panels For Camping
Best Solar Blanket For Camping
What Bits, Accessories & Extras Do You Need With Solar Panels When Camping?
Extension or connection cables
Tips For A Good Camping Solar Power Setup
Tips For A Good Camping Solar Power Setup – information on solar charging options available to you, for your situation, when camping
It’s always good to have some power during camping 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