Portable solar panels are great for off grid applications – and there is more than one type of portable solar panel available to choose from.
There are solid solar panels, flexible solar panels, and the small and large versions of the folding solar panels.
These solar panels, especially the smaller ones, are often referred to as solar chargers.
They are great for activities such as:
- Marine Use
But, which portable solar panel is the best for you, and the activity/activities you want to use your solar setup for?
Well, let’s quickly run through each…
Which Portable Solar Panel Is The Best For You?
1) Rigid/Solid Solar Panels
If you want the best value for money, and to buy from the most established and well resourced portable solar companies – a rigid solar panel is a good option.
They are called rigid/solid, because they are stiff panels with usually aluminium frames.
50 or 100 Watts is a common size for a rigid solar panel, and they can be stacked in systems up to about 400 Watts, or 4 x 100 Watt panels.
They function with a solar controller (the cheaper PWM solar controllers are usually rated up to 400 Watts), and 1 x 100 Watt panel is usually good for a 12 volt DC battery.
Rigid solar panels are usually fixed using Z brackets – so once they are fixed, the panel generally stays there.
They are great for:
Marine Batteries and Boats
Any flat surface where you want a fixed solar panel
2) Flexible Solar Panels
Flexible panels are frameless, and are usually made of a laminate with the solar cells layered in between them.
They are often called stick on, or bendable solar panels, because some models can be adhered to a surface, and most of them will bend or curve to say around 30 degrees or less.
They are good in this regard for uneven or curved surfaces.
Flexible solar panels are very lightweight, and a benefit is that they can be temporarily fixed, or even hung up on a tent for example.
Flexible panels are good for charging 12 volt DC batteries (with a solar controller) where you want a panel that can be temporarily installed, and have more flexibility of a solid panel.
They are particularly good for:
Marine Batteries and Boats
Camping and tents
Curved and uneven surfaces
3) Large Folding Solar Panels (50 Watt and above)
Large Folding solar panels most commonly come in about 100-200 Watt models – 120 watts is popular.
Large folding solar panels are like a rigid solar panel, except, instead of being installed with brackets, they fold out and sit on a metal frame on the ground.
They are versatile and convenient because whilst they have lots of power for a 12 volt battery, they can easily be folded out or packed away in a travel case.
A large folding solar panel is used to great effect by those with RV’s and trailers – although you’ll want long connector/extension cables so you can extend the cords between the batteries and the panel.
You will need a solar charge controller for large foldable solar panels
4) Small Folding Solar Panels (~ 5 to 30 Watts)
These panels are becoming very popular – they are referred to as solar chargers.
They are for small handheld battery, and USB devices, like mobile, tablets, GPS systems, LED lights and GoPro’s.
They are especially good for any activity where you need to be on the move like:
Survival type activities
Any activity where you want to charge small devices
They even come in waterproof models for kayaking and water based activities.
Small folding panels are usually extremely rugged, durable and light enough to carry around or attach to a backpack.
They mostly have in built charge microchips, and it can be a good idea to get a charge regenerator with them for charging when the sun isn’t out.